by ilene - July 10th, 2014 6:50 pm
Courtesy of David Stockman of Contra Corner
The S&P 500 jerked higher yesterday afternoon when the Fed minutes revealed no new information on the dreaded day when interest rates begin to rise. In other words, the stock market is one sick puppy—utterly addicted to the Fed’s baleful regime of ZIRP.
And it is a regime. We are now in month 68 of essentially zero interest rates in the money markets. There is nothing like it in post-war history.
The argument for the dangerous absurdity of providing zero cost funding to carry-traders and speculators is that the US economy was smacked by a 100-year flood type event during the 2008 financial crisis and, therefore,”extraordinary monetary accommodation” is required to heal the damage. But that is a bogus rationalization.
The financial crisis was caused by the Fed, and then became an excuse for extending and intensifying an interest rate pegging regime that has been in place for 27 years—essentially since the Greenspan Fed panicked after the Black Monday stock market meltdown in October 1987. Indeed, Bernanke didn’t gum about the “zero-bound” inadvertently; it was, in fact, the end game of the Greenspan Fed’s core premise: Namely, that the business cycle can be flattened (if not eliminated) and macro-economic performance improved by pegging prices in the money markets; and that there will be no untoward effects from supplanting market price signals and allocations with a regime of administered money.
In truth, the Fed’s quarter century march to yesterday’s pathetic rerun of yet another episode of “lower for longer” has produced virtually the opposite of the Greenspan Fed’s premise. That is, macro-economic performance has worsened, while the negative side-effects—serial financial bubbles and massive extension of debt and leverage in all sectors of the US economy—have been monumental.
As to the macro-economic effects, you can’t find any discussion of them in the Fed’s minutes because they are essentially a short-term economic weather report. But the ticks in the U-3 unemployment rate or blips in the monthly rate of gross capital spending tell almost nothing about the trend performance and health of the national economy. Janet Yellen was perhaps unintentionally correct in her “noise” comment, but simply neglected to note that this characterization applies not just to last month’s CPI, but to the entirely of the “incoming data” which the Fed obsesses about.
by ilene - July 10th, 2014 5:31 pm
Courtesy of ZeroHedge
Two weeks ago we highlighted just how "screwed" Las Vegas is due to the catastrophic drought that is occurring (combined with almost total ignorance that this is a problem). As Bloomberg's James Nash reports, about 55% of Nevada, already the nation’s driest state, is under “extreme’’ or “exceptional’’ drought conditions, the worst grades on the U.S. Drought Monitor; but recently the situation has got even worse. Lake Mead, the man-made reservoir that supplies 90 percent of the water for 2 million people in the Las Vegas area, has been reduced by drought to the lowest level since it was filled in 1937, according to the federal government who explained "It concerns us all very much," as it is a resource used by 3 states. Simply put, The shortfall is endangering water supplies to the residents and 43 million annual visitors to the driest metropolitan area in the country.
We discussed in detail just how dire the water situation is in Las Vegas here, but as Bloomberg reports, things are deteriorating fast…
Lake Mead, the man-made reservoir that supplies 90 percent of the water for 2 million people in the Las Vegas area, has been reduced by drought to the lowest level since it was filled in 1937, according to the federal government.
The lake, now at 39 percent of capacity, has been dropping since 2012, according to U.S. Bureau of Reclamation data, as much of the western U.S. has suffered the most serious drought in decades. The shortfall is endangering water supplies to the residents and 43 million annual visitors to the driest metropolitan area in the country.
Lake Mead, created by the Hoover Dam in 1936 and 1937, holds mountain snowmelt from the Colorado River for farms, homes and businesses predominately in southern Nevada, southern California and most of Arizona. No metropolitan area depends on the lake more than Las Vegas, which lacks groundwater or other local sources.
by Market Shadows - July 10th, 2014 4:52 pm
We closed out our only August Position in the Virtual Put Writing Portfolio. Quest over.
Market Shadows Virtual Put Writing Portfolio had sold one option contract on laboratory testing firm Quest Diagnostics (DGX) back on Feb. 19, 2014, when the shares were trading for $52.47.
We received $5.10 per share for the Aug. 16, 2014, $55 put. Today, with the shares out of the money at $58.97, we closed out the position for the asking price of $0.60.
It’s likely that this option would have gone on to expire worthless next month but we are no longer enthusiastic about the company. Our timing was good on the front end of the transaction as DGX was near its 12-month low back in February.
Closing now is the conservative path in a choppy market. We netted a $450 profit on the trade. We freed up $5,500 in buying power that can now be redeployed into a new, more exciting idea.
Follow all our completed and open option trades by clicking here Virtual Put Writing Portfolio.
by ilene - July 10th, 2014 3:55 pm
By John Mauldin
Having taken Thomas Piketty to the cleaners a few weeks back (see “Gave & Gave … and Hay”), Charles Gave now redresses the balance with regard to the issue of economic inequality in today’s Outside the Box. He makes a forceful case that “poverty matters for capitalists”:
Every US recession that I can recall was preceded by a fall in long rates, and I doubt the next will be much different. As such, do not expect the next US downturn to arise from the Federal Reserve pushing rates higher, an overvalued dollar or even mal-investments. Expect it to result from a decline in the income of the working poor. Early warning signs are likely to show up in the shopping aisles of stores such as Walmart, average driving miles, and the price of houses at the cheaper end of the market. I suspect the lesson that will eventually be learnt is that in a modern industrialized economy there are few worse things a central bank can do than deliberately attack the spending power of the poor.
Charles is clearly tying the economic struggle of the working poor to Federal Reserve policy. As he says, “negative real rates amounts to the Fed imposing a regressive tax on the poor although it lacks the authority to collect taxes.”
Income decline among the least wealthy in US society is not just an economic issue, he asserts:
At a moral level, I would also question the validity of a system that no longer allows its weakest members to get by. This is why I contend that the post-2010 policy of ZIRP has had little to do with protecting the health of the capitalist system, but rather has been a ruse to protect the rich. The policy is not only failing to deliver growth, it is also immoral.
And that income decline has been drastic since 2000, and particularly since 2010. Charles has created what he calls a “Walmart CPI,” which tracks the prices of rent, food, and energy (the things the poor must spend nearly all their income on); and he uses it to demonstrate the effects of negative
by ilene - July 10th, 2014 3:43 pm
There's only something wrong with the chart if you start with the premise that the GDP and the S&P 500 are positively correlated. Once you rid yourself of that archaic notion, there is NOTHING wrong with the chart. ~ Ilene
Courtesy of ZeroHedge
The consensus estimate for US GDP growth in 2014 has collapsed. Four months ago, the world of serial extrapolators and mean-reverters prognosticated that 2014 GDP would reach the lofty heights of 2.9%. Today – on the heels of numerous micro- and macro-fundamental realities, consensus US GDP growth for 2014 has been marked down to 1.7%.
Is it any wonder US equity markets are within 1% of their all-time highs?
Don;t worry though – the Fed is still bullish:
- *FED'S GEORGE SAYS 2014 U.S. GROWTH TO BE IN 2%-2.5% RANGE
You can't make this stuff up!!
by ilene - July 10th, 2014 2:50 pm
Submitted by Tyler Durden.
A few days ago we finally closed the door on any argument who the marginal buyer in the US luxury housing segment was – the answer: Chinese oligarchs, scrambling to launder their "hot" domestic money abroad (as we predicted first two years ago) and now that Switzerland is no longer a safe offshore venue where one can park cash, they picked US luxury housing as the best money laundering alternative.
This means that far from indicating a recovery, as the recent surge in the high end of the US housing segment had long been touted, all the relentless move higher in ultraluxury properties prices was simply a recycling of China's hot money, which unlike in the US, never made its way into the Chinese stock market (explaining why the Shanghai Composite has barely budged in years) and merely ended up in US real estate. If anything, this is simply another confirmation of the epic capital misallocation, and the complete lack of "trickle down" resulting from failed global central banking policies.
So now that the "who" has been answered, just one question remained: "how?"
How did millions of Chinese "buyers" manage to get tens of billions of yuan or dollars out of the mainland – a country which as is well-known has strict capital controls when it comes to individual and corporate offshore outflows? Under Chinese law, citizens are allowed take only the equivalent of US$50,000 out of the country each year: hardly enough to buy a storage closet in any of New York City's Central Park West duplexes.
Today we learn the answer and it has to do with officially sanctioned "money laundering" services by not one but two of China's largest banks: Bank of China and also Citic.
As Hong Kong's SCMP reports, a day after Bank of China (BOC) was accused by China's state broadcaster of breaking foreign exchange rules by helping people take money out of the country, it has emerged a second state bank has also been offering the service.
Amazon Charges Penny for Shipping Following France Ruling Shipping Cannot Be Free; “No Competition” Laws
by ilene - July 10th, 2014 1:05 pm
Courtesy of Mish.
Under “unfair competition” laws France has decided it is far better for consumers to pay full price for goods than to receive a discount. Striking out at Amazon, France passed a law dubbed the “Anti-Amazon Law”, that banned free shipping. Amazon’s response was to charge a penny, but sadly it can no longer offer discounts on books.
The Wall Street Journal reports Amazon Shelves French Book Discounts.
Amazon.com Inc. ended all book discounts in France on Thursday, and began charging a token penny for shipping books, bowing to a new French law aimed at protecting local bookstores from what they had described as “unfair competition” from the U.S. online retailer.
The new law, which went into effect Thursday morning, essentially forbids online booksellers from applying government-regulated discounts to the cover prices of books. They can mark down shipping under the new law--often called the “Anti-Amazon” law--but they cannot offer it free.
The new law is the latest step by European governments--particularly France’s--to rein in what they see as the growing power of a group of largely American tech companies. The French government said last month that it aims to propose new regulations at a European level to ensure a “level playing field” for European companies against U.S. firms.
Amazon has been under particular pressure lately. The European Union is looking into its tax arrangements in Luxembourg. In Germany, its unions have been striking over wages. The company is also in the midst of a bitter dispute with Hachette Book Group, part of France’s Lagardère SCA FR:MMB -3.44% , over e-book pricing, in which its negotiating tactics have included removing preorder buttons on coming Hachette titles.
“Publishers and bookstores are organizing against the unacceptable commercial pressure exercised by Amazon,” France’s main bookstore association, which had lobbied for the new law, said in a statement. “We have repeatedly denounced the ‘dumping’ and unfair competition by online retailers, particularly Amazon.”
Books and bookstores have long been a cause célèbre in Europe, where many countries including France and Germany regulate book prices. The underlying law modified on Thursday dates back to 1981, and forced vendors to sell books with a maximum discount of 5% off the cover price. The law aimed to protect France’s still vibrant array of smaller bookstores against bigger chains,
by ilene - July 10th, 2014 11:24 am
Courtesy of Pam Martens.
There’s no question that there’s a lot of sharks swimming about those dark pools being run by the mega Wall Street investment banks which are operating as privatized, unregulated stock exchanges operating in the dark. Any hopes that Wall Street’s captured regulators are going to harpoon those sharks anytime soon were dashed on July 1 when the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) announced a bizarre settlement with Goldman Sachs over misconduct by its dark pool, Sigma-X. The settlement popped up out of the blue three years after the alleged trading violations were documented by FINRA and the settlement was so devoid of facts as to create its own dark curtain around an already opaque arena.
As is typical, FINRA made the sweeping claim in its press release that “In today’s highly automated trading environment, FINRA has no tolerance for firms that fail to have robust policies and procedures to protect against trading through protected quotations.”
Based on the few details we could extract from the settlement document, FINRA has an enormous tolerance for dark pools that deny their customers a fair execution on their trade.
According to FINRA (which you should know is a self-regulatory agency with financial industry representation on its Board), its staff in Market Regulation conducted an investigation of Goldman Sachs’ dark pool, Sigma-X, from July 29, 2011 through August 9, 2011. Keep in mind that’s only eight trading days. The investigators found that the dark pool denied its customers a trading price equal to the National Best Bid and Offer (NBBO), which is what they are required to do under law, on 395,119 transactions.
FINRA does not tell us the most important detail about these transactions; how far off from the proper trading prices were these 395,119 trades? Are we talking about 5 cents or 50 cents or more than that? Neither does FINRA give us an idea as to what percentage of all trading done by Sigma-X in that eight-day period these improper trades represented.
FINRA has just in the past four weeks, apparently under pressure from the revelations in the Michael Lewis book, Flash Boys, begun to release the weekly volume of trading done in dark pools. For the most recent week reported, the week of June 16, Goldman Sachs shows 955, 636 transactions…
by ilene - July 10th, 2014 11:00 am
Tyler Durden reports on The Container Store's recent weakness in sales. See also: Container Store Warning.
On the heels of Wal-Mart's dismissal of the "great" jobs report, The Container Store CEO yesterday explained how Q1 weakness was "not just the weather" but an overall 'funk' in consumer spending. Last night we had a second firm – the much more integrated into the housing recovery, Lumber Liquidators – come out with some heresy about Q2 bounce backs and the weather…"demand strengthened for 30 days beginning in mid-March. But in May demand slowed and further weakened in June. We were somewhat surprised by the magnitude of the continued weakness in the stores designated as impacted by weather in the first quarter." There goes Q2 GDP…
Q2 was worse that Q1!!
As we discussed on our first quarter earnings call customer demand strengthened for 30 days beginning in mid-March. But in May demand slowed and further weakened in June. We were somewhat surprised by the magnitude of the continued weakness in the stores designated as impacted by weather in the first quarter, particularly relative to all other stores.
When weather impacted comparable stores, net sale decreased 12.9% driven by both a 9.6% decrease in the number of customers invoiced and a 3.3% decrease in the average sale. In all other comparable stores net sales decreased 2.1%, nearly all due to a lower number of customers invoiced.
Forget the idea of "Pent-Up" demand – once it's gone, it's gone
The impact that weather can have on a flooring purchase is very different compared to other large ticket purchases. A flooring purchase is generally a large ticket discretionary purchase that most residential homeowners make infrequently. It is disruptive to the household and can be a complex undertaking for the customer. Our research indicates that the average length for the entire process from interest, initial interest to sale is approximately 100 days.
Wood flooring is a product that must acclimate to the house and room before being installed. As a result our customers typically plan well in advance for the inconvenience of removing
by ilene - July 10th, 2014 9:08 am
Courtesy of Larry Doyle.
Information is everything.
The other day a reader left a comment with the following inquiry:
I would love to join any other advisors who have issues with FINRA. I am a former CPA.PFS financial advisor with Morgan Stanley. I too went through a long and expensive FINRA process.
In addition, we filed two whistle blower cases to expose MSSB’s unfair and unethical business practices. The difference, we have over thirty thousand pages of material collected in our case, including some damning e-mails. It is time that someone stood up to these firms who apparently believe that because they have unlimited access to shareholder money, they can always get their way. Let’s come up with some ideas on how to use the legal system if we can, and social media if we cannot, to educate the public on this travesty of a business model. One that cannot even tell its’ own clients that it will “act in their best interest.”
I am confident there are many takers, including those who have collaborated on a new magazine entitled Unsung Heroes: Truth, Support, and Free Speech for Financial Advisors:
It is a bi-monthly digital publication for financial advisors and a community forum for intelligent conversation about subjects that, until now, have rarely been covered. In addition to content that will help advisors make a secure, safe move, we will detail FINRA abuses and criminal acts as we shine a light into the dark corners of the industry. We will put honest, ethical and hardworking financial advisors — who have done no wrong — in the limelight.
Industry writers, reporters, and experts will bring you a series of revealing interviews that other publications are not brave enough to publish. Unsung Heroes will present opinion pieces, Point/Counterpoint articles, educational stories, and arbitration cases in detail. Resources and referrals will soon be available. We are also creating an emergency relief fund for advisors who are in need after losing in arbitration and facing bankruptcy.
There is certainly strength in numbers and in sharing information. I commend Sydney LeBlanc, editor-in-chief of Unsung Heroes, and the board members for this initiative. I welcome providing a link to the…