by ilene - December 18th, 2014 2:46 pm
Courtesy of Pater Tenebrarum of Acting Man
December FOMC Decree
Prior to the announcement of the FOMC decision on Wednesday, it was widely expected that the verbiage in the statement would be changed so as to convey an increasingly hawkish stance. Specifically, it was expected that the following phrase, which has been a mainstay of FOMC statements for many moons, would finally be given the boot and no longer appear:
“…it likely will be appropriate to maintain the 0 to 1/4 percent target range for the federal funds rate for a considerable time”
It is inter alia this bizarre focus on little turns of phrase in the FOMC statement that has caused us to compare the analysis of the actions of the monetary bureaucracy with the art of “Kremlinology” of yore. The Committee is indeed reminiscent of the Soviet Politbureau in many respects. It is unelected, it is engaged in central planning, and its pronouncements are cloaked in an aura of mysticism, akin to decrees handed down from Olympus.
While it is fairly easy (and in our opinion, absolutely necessary) to make fun of this, it is unfortunately affecting the lives of nearly everyone on the planet. The only exceptions that come to mind are Indian tribes in remote areas of the rain forest, since they don’t use money and possess no capitalistic production structure.
Fed chair Janet Yellen: “A couple. You know, a pair. What the Russians call “dva”, although I hear the Russians are no longer as familiar with such low numbers as they once used to be. My dictionary says it means “two”. One less than the number one is supposed to count to before throwing the holy hand grenade of Antioch after its pin has been removed. Not one, definitely not five, absolutely not four and not three either. Two.”
Photo credit: Agence France-Presse / Getty Images
So what has happened to the above mentioned phrase? It has indeed been altered. Instead we got this:
“Based on its current assessment, the Committee judges that it can be
by ilene - December 18th, 2014 12:47 pm
By Dennis Miller
In the spirit of the holidays, I’m sharing a happy truth: many people do, in fact, retire rich. Who are these rare birds and what can they teach us?
Rich Retire #1—The Pension Holder. If you have a large pension in 2014, you likely are or were a government employee. Many government workers receive pensions equal to 75-80% of their working salaries. In some government departments, it’s the unwritten custom for department heads to bump a worker’s salary 20% or so when he or she is a year or two from retirement. This boosts the employee’s base for his retirement pay.
Of course, in the private sector, pensions have gone the way of the slide rule. So let’s move on.
Rich Retire #2—The Small-Business Owner. If a self-employed person builds up a small or mid-sized business that he can sell when he’s ready to retire, that can fund a comfortable lifestyle during his nonworking years. Sure, it’s not “retirement investing” in the traditional sense, but it’s a path that’s worked for many entrepreneurs.
Rich Retire #3—The exceptional investor. Investors who lock in large boom-time gains are a step ahead of most. Those who resist the ever-so-tempting urge to spend that extra dough can watch it grow, and just like that, a rich retirement is theirs for the taking.
Rich Retire #4—The exceptional saver. A friend’s dad used to tell him, “Save 10% of your pay once you start working and you’ll be a millionaire by your mid-40s.” This friend’s dad was wrong. It didn’t take him that long. Ultra-disciplined savers live their lives this way, setting themselves up to retire rich without a last-minute race to the finish line.
Rich Retire #5—The former debtor who pays himself now. Except for those born independently wealthy, many of us spend years paying down sizable debts, such as a mortgage or educational loans. The rich retire clears those debts as soon as possible, but continues to make those payments… to himself.
by phil - December 18th, 2014 7:42 am
Wheeee – what a ride!
As we expected, the anticipation of the Fed doing something wonderful led to a big rally in the morning and the fact that the Fed didn't actually do anything at all wasn't enough to stop the party train once it left the station. My comment in yesterday morning's post (which you can subscribe to HERE) was:
At the moment, we are expecting the Fed to keep things going and we're long on the indexes again at 17,100 (/YM), 1,975 (/ES), 4,100 (/NQ) and 1,135 (/TF) but with tight stops below and, if any two are below the line then none of them should be played.
This morning, we are flipping SHORT at 17,500 on /YM (up $2,500 per contract from yesterday's call), 2,035 on /ES (up $3,000 per contract), 4,220 on /NQ (up $2,400 per contract) and 1,185 on /TF (up $5,000 per contract). We think the run is officially overdone at this point and we also added some Jan TZA calls back to our Short-Term Portfolio to hopefully catch another nice move down into Christmas.
Europe is up 2% and more on the Continent this morning as Putin gave a speech in which he assured his people that the country's economic troubles would pass in no more than two years. How that's considered rally fuel is beyond me but it's Christmas – people want the markets to go up – so they do. On the whole, it's all going according to plan. As I said to our Members into yesterday's close in our Live Chat Room:
They want to spin Yellen's comments as bullish as possible to get Asia and Europe to buy so we may be higher at the open (from Futures) but then I expect a sell-off from there.
So we're just following the plan and I drew up the lines from our 5% Rule™ on the Nasdaq to illustrate our expectations.
by ilene - December 18th, 2014 1:07 am
Courtesy of Marc to Market
by ilene - December 17th, 2014 10:00 pm
Courtesy of Robert Reich
This is the time of year when high school seniors apply to college, and when I get lots of mail about whether college is worth the cost.
The answer is unequivocally yes, but with one big qualification. I’ll come to the qualification in a moment but first the financial case for why it’s worth going to college.
Put simply, people with college degrees continue to earn far more than people without them. And that college “premium” keeps rising.
Last year, Americans with four-year college degrees earned on average 98 percent more per hour than people without college degrees.
In the early 1980s, graduates earned 64 percent more.
So even though college costs are rising, the financial return to a college degree compared to not having one is rising even faster.
But here’s the qualification, and it’s a big one.
A college degree no longer guarantees a good job. The main reason it pays better than the job of someone without a degree is the latter’s wages are dropping.
In fact, it’s likely that new college graduates will spend some years in jobs for which they’re overqualified.
According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 46 percent of recent college graduates are now working in jobs that don’t require college degrees. (The same is true for more than a third of college graduates overall.)
Their employers still choose college grads over non-college grads on the assumption that more education is better than less.
As a result, non-grads are being pushed into ever more menial work, if they can get work at all. Which is a major reason why their pay is dropping.
What’s going on? For years we’ve been told globalization and technological advances increase the demand for well-educated workers. (Confession: I was one of the ones making this argument.)
This was correct until around 2000. But since then two things have reversed the trend.
First, millions of people in developing nations are now far better educated, and the Internet has given them an easy way to sell their skills in advanced economies like the United States.
by ilene - December 17th, 2014 7:27 pm
Courtesy of Robert Reich
A few years ago, hedge fund Level Global Investors made $54 million selling Dell Computer stock based on insider information from a Dell employee. When charged with illegal insider trading, Global Investors’ co-founder Anthony Chiasson claimed he didn’t know where the tip came from.
Chiasson argued that few traders on Wall Street ever know where the inside tips they use come from because confidential information is, in his words, the “coin of the realm in securities markets.”
Last week the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which oversees federal prosecutions of Wall Street, agreed. It overturned Chiasson’s conviction, citing lack of evidence Chaisson received the tip directly, or knew insiders were leaking confidential information in exchange for some personal benefit.
The Securities and Exchange Act of 1934 banned insider trading but left it up to the Securities and Exchange Commission and the courts to define it. Which they have – in recent decades so broadly that confidential information is indeed the coin of the realm.
If a CEO tells his golf buddy that his company is being taken over, and his buddy makes a killing on that information, no problem. If his buddy leaks the information to a hedge-fund manager like Chiasson, and doesn’t tell Chiasson where it comes from, Chiasson can also use the information to make a bundle.
Major players on Wall Street have been making tons of money not because they’re particularly clever but because they happen to be in the realm where a lot of coins come their way.
Last year, the top twenty-five hedge fund managers took home, on average, almost one billion dollars each. Even run-of-the-mill portfolio managers at large hedge funds averaged $2.2 million each.
Another person likely to be exonerated by the court’s ruling is Michael Steinberg, of the hedge fund SAC Capital Advisors, headed by Stephen A. Cohen.
In recent years several of Cohen’s lieutenants have been convicted of illegal insider trading. Last year Cohen himself had to pay a stiff penalty and close down SAC because of the charges, after making many billions.
SAC managed so much money that it handed over large commissions to bankers on
by ilene - December 17th, 2014 4:01 pm
Nick Murray says “The ability to distinguish between volatility and loss is the first casualty of a bear market.”
I turned to one of my favorite passages of his masterpiece Simple Wealth, Inevitable Wealth this morning as turmoil from overseas and the commodity markets made its way through the headlines. Nick relays a great anecdote about how much money one investor personally “lost” during the last Russian Ruble crisis in the summer of 1998…
Yes, that’s right, it’s six billion two hundred million dollars. A very large sum of money, wouldn’t you say? Now what, you ask, does it represent?
It is roughly how much Warren Buffett’s personal shareholdings in his Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. declined in value between July 17 and August 31, 1998. And now for the six billion dollar question. During those forty-five days, how much money did Warren Buffett lose in the stock market?
The answer is, of course, that he didn’t lose anything. Why? That’s simple: he didn’t sell.
In July and August of 1998, I was doing time at a brokerage firm on Long Island as a summer intern. The brokers were panicking and the partners began yelling at them to get off margin and help maintain order in the Asia Pacific technology stocks in which the firm made markets. It wasn’t working, from what I could surmise. The simultaneous meltdown of several Far East currencies and then the toppling of the Ruble proved too much for US markets and eventually the contagion found its way here.
People forget that, in the midst of the massive late 1990’s bull market, we had this two-month bear market episode in which the S&P 500 dropped by a quick 25 percent. The giant Nobel laureate-run hedge fund, Long Term Capital, imploded as a result and Greenspan was forced to slash rates overnight while the New York Fed arranged a Wall Street-subsidized bailout. Things got back to normal by the end of the fall, but, for a minute there, the panic was palpable and it eventually slammed everyone.
I bring this up because there are some parallels between then