The economic news has turned decidedly negative globally and a sense of ‘quiet before the storm’ permeates the financial headlines. Arcane subjects such as a Hindenburg Omen now make mainline news. The retail investor continues to flee the equity markets and in concert with the institutional players relentlessly pile into the perceived safety of yield instruments, though they are outrageously expensive by any proven measure. Like trying to buy a pump during a storm flood, people are apparently willing to pay any price. As a sailor, it feels like the ominous period where the crew is fastening down the hatches and preparing for the squall that is clearly on the horizon. Few crew mates are talgking as everyone is checking preparations for any eventuality. Are you prepared?
What if this is not a squall but a tropical storm, or even a hurricane? Unlike sailors, the financial markets do not have the forecasting technology for protection against such a possibility. Good sailors before today’s technology advancements avoided this possibility through the use of almanacs, shrewd observation of the climate and common sense. It appears to this old salt that all three are missing in today’s financial community.
Looking through the misty haze though, I can see the following clearly looming on the horizon.
Since President Nixon took the US off the Gold standard in 1971, the increase in global fiat currency has been nothing short of breath taking. It has grown unchecked and inevitably has become unhinged from world industrial production and the historical creators of real tangible wealth.
Do you believe trees grow to the sky?
Or, is it you believe you are smart enough to get out before this graph crashes?
Apparent synthetic wealth has artificially and temporarily been created through the production of paper. Whether Federal Reserve IOU notes (the dollar) or guaranteed certificates of confiscation (treasury notes & bonds), it needs to never be forgotten that these are paper. It is not wealth. It is someone else’s obligation to deliver that wealth to the holder of the paper based on what that paper is felt to be worth when the obligation is required to be surrendered. It must never be forgotten that fiat paper is only a counter party obligation to deliver. Will they?…
I met with Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism on the weekend, at a superb Japanese restaurant that only New York locals could find (and I’ll keep its location quiet for their benefit–too much publicity could spoil a spectacular thing). Yves was kind enough to post details of my latest academic paper at her site in a post she entitled “Steve Keen’s scary Minsky model“.
Yves found the model scary, not because it revealed anything about the economy that she didn’t already know, but because it so easily reproduced the Ponzi features of the economy she knows so well.
I have yet to attempt to fit the model to data–and given its nonlinearity, that won’t be easy–but its qualitative behavior is very close to what we’ve experienced. As in the real world, a series of booms and busts give the superficial appearance of an economy entering a “Great Moderation”–just before it collapses.
The motive force driving the crash is the ratio of debt to GDP–a key feature of the real world that the mainstream economists who dominate the world’s academic university departments, Central Banks and Treasuries ignore. In the model, as in the real world, this ratio rises in a boom as businesses take on debt to finance investment and speculation, and then falls in a slump when things don’t work out in line with the euphoric expectations that developed during the boom. Cash flows during the slump don’t allow borrowers to reduce the debt to GDP ratio to the pre-boom level, but the period of relative stability after the crisis leads to expectations–and debt–taking off once more.
Ultimately, such an extreme level of debt is accumulated that debt servicing exceeds available cash flows, and a permanent slump ensues–a Depression.
There are 4 behavioural functions in the model that mimic the behaviour of the major private actors in the economy–workers, capitalists and bankers. Workers wage rises are related to the level of employment and the rate of inflation; capitalists investment and debt repayment plans are related to the rate of profit; and the willingness of banks to lend is also a function of the rate of profit.…
Thousands of police officers have been laid off all across America since the current economic crisis began. Thousands more are getting ready to be laid off. So could we be on the verge of a new era of chaos and anarchy in America as crime runs wild and there are just far too few police to respond to it all? That is the message that one blood-smeared billboard in Stockton, California is trying to get across. Paid for by the Stockton, California police union, the message of the billboard is chillingly clear: "Welcome to the 2nd most dangerous city in California. Stop laying off cops." As state, city and local governments across the United States continue to be devastated by the ongoing economic crisis, budget cuts are becoming much deeper and police forces have suddenly become a very popular target.
Officer Steve Leonesio, the president of the Stockton Police Officers Association, has announced that the police union plans to spend approximately $20,000 on at least 20 more billboards.
Why is the union putting up all of these billboards?
Well, it turns out that Stockton has been considering a plan to lay off 53 police officers in an effort to eliminate a $23 million budget deficit.
But law enforcement in Stockton has already been cut to the bone. Recently, the Stockton Police Department dropped this bombshell….
"We absolutely do not have any narcotics officers, narcotics sergeants working any kind of investigative narcotics type cases at this point in time."
Do you think drug dealers will be flocking to Stockton after they hear that?
But the truth is that so many of these local governments around the nation are just flat broke at this point.
Even major cities are having to admit that they have accumulated such large debts that they cannot even afford to provide the most basic services any longer.
In Oakland, California the battle over police layoffs has made national headlines over the past couple of weeks. Oakland has laid off 80 police officers, and now the police chief says that there are some crimes that his department simply will not be able to…
This relatively boring hearing suddenly turned exciting when Congressman Kevin Brady asked Tim Geithner to step down. The economic team that President Obama put in place (primarily Geithner and Summers) has been largely responsible for the current predicament. This is not to imply that the Republicans and President Bush did not play an equal (or greater) role in the economic crisis, but it’s truly astonishing that the people who helped cause this crisis are the same ones who are attempting to steer us out of it:
A recent piece of research from JP Morgan touches on some frequently asked questions by investors. I’ve provided their responses along with my own:
1) Is the crisis over?
The financial crisis is largely over. The economic crisis, only half so. The recession is over but the recovery has just started. Even the above-trend growth pace that we project for this recovery will require years to get us back to trend levels of activity. This means high unemployment and disinflationary pressures over the next two years.
I have to agree with JP Morgan here. The crisis and the days of 700 point Dow drops are long gone. But the recovery is going to feel a lot like a recession. In other words, jobs are going to be slow to come back, the consumer is going to be sluggish while stocks and the housing market are likely to be range bound for years. What JP Morgan doesn’t mention is that most of our long-term structural problems still exist. Wall Street is back to their old tricks while the consumer struggles under a mountain of debt, job losses and stagnant wages. The Fed is trying their best to keep the boom/bust market alive and well. More likely than not, they are simply inflating the economy in preparation for the next bust. Two years is likely a generous timeframe for the end of our secular problems.
2) Is the recovery sustainable?
Yes, odds are it is given unprecedented and synchronized global policy stimulus, low funding costs, a repaired financial system, and the massive need for inventory rebuilding into next year. What are the main risk factors we should monitor? For the recovery in the world economy and in risky assets to be sustained, the private sector will need to take the baton from the public sector. Corporates are in the driver’s seat here. We need to see them move from a precautionary into an expansionary mode. That means capital spending, jobs, and income creation. Watch these.
A potential Head and Shoulders top has formed. It will be a valid formation but the objective will not be activated until and unless the neckline is broken.
Volumes remain light, with lots of technical gamesmanship that contributes to quite a bit of volatility in the short term, aka a ‘daytrader’s market.’
There is quite a bit of ‘tension’ in the market ahead of the GDP report tomorrow. The consensus is for growth of 1.5%. We are still a couple of weeks short of the timeframe we have projected for a top and the beginning of a leg down in markets, but some data or exogenous surprise could accelerate this.
There is a de facto partnership between the government and the banks with regard to the financial system and the economy which is spilling over to the equity markets. This is a similar arrangement that brought us the housing bubble and the credit crisis after the tech bubble and crash of 2001, which itself was a reaction to the Asian and Russian currency crisis of the late 1990′s.
The financial engineers will likely not abandon their efforts until they either succeed, or finally shake the real economy apart and destroy the US financial system and currency. How they define ‘success’ is likely to be stability at the price of freedom, a classic oligarchy with ‘enlightened despots.’ Their financial engineering will require ever greater control over policy and priorities to maintain its artificial equilibrium.
The banks must be restrained, the financial system reformed, and the economy brought back into balance before there can be a sustained recovery.
(ETFTrends.com by Todd Shriber): "Betting on insider buying is again proving to be an efficacious strategy as the Direxion All Cap Insider Sentiment Shares (NYSEArca: KNOW) has been noticeably less bad than the S&P 500 to start 2015. Add to that, investors are warming to the merits of KNOW's insider sentiment strategy." [Editor's note: KNOW tracks the Sabrient Multi-cap Insider/Analyst Quant-Weighted Index (SBRQAM)]. Read article
My virtual acquaintance New Deal Democrat has posted an interesting article on real (inflation-adjusted incomes) based on annual IRS tax data through 2013. His discussion includes some comparisons between the Census Bureau's median Household Income data and the Family Unit average income. A Family Unit is the term used for an IRS designated Tax Unit (e.g., a couple with dependents, or a head of household with dependents, or a single person).
At NDD's suggestion, I've created a chart that overlays the annual data from 1967-2013, the timeframe for which we have annual data from both sources.
Suppose you had the technical ability and raw materials to print up counterfeit dollars, euros or yen that were identical to the real things. Assume you could spend them as fast as you could create them with no fear of any repercussions.
Would you prudently print up only as much fresh currency as you needed for your current lifestyle? Would you create just a bit more than that to help relatives or those in need?
It is most likely you’d have your printing press running 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Becoming the richest person in the world would confer great power upon you.
You could rationalize this action because you plan to use the money for good purposes. Imagine the warm feeling you’d get by giving every person in America one million do...
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So as I was saying yesterday (Bitcoin: The Biggest Clown Show In History?), Bitcoin has several obstacles on the path to potential success as an alternative currency. But I forgot to mention hacking and theft at Bitcoin exchanges and other technical problems. This is related to the lack of government backing and the fact that the value of Bitcoins is based entirely on confidence.
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PSW Members - well, what a year for biotechs! The Biotech Index (IBB) is up a whopping 40%, beating the S&P hands down! The healthcare sector has had a number of high flying IPOs, and beat the Tech Sector in total nubmer of IPOs in the past 12 months. What could go wrong?
Phil has given his Secret Santa Inflation Hedges for 2015, and since I have been trying to keep my head above water between work, PSW, and baseball with my boys...it is time that something is put together for PSW on biotechs in 2015.
Cancer and fibrosis remain two of the hottest areas for VC backed biotechs to invest their monies. A number of companies have gone IPO which have drugs/technologies that fight cancer, includin...
Stocks got off to a rocky start on the first trading day in December, with the S&P 500 Index slipping just below 2050 on Monday. Based on one large bullish SPX options trade executed on Wednesday, however, such price action is not likely to break the trend of strong gains observed in the benchmark index since mid-October. It looks like one options market participant purchased 25,000 of the 31Dec’14 2105/2115 call spreads at a net premium of $2.70 each. The trade cost $6.75mm to put on, and represents the maximum potential loss on the position should the 2105 calls expire worthless at the end of December. The call spread could reap profits of as much as $7.30 per spread, or $18.25mm, in the event that the SPX ends the year above 2115. The index would need to rally 2.0% over the current level...
This is a non-trading topic, but I wanted to post it during trading hours so as many eyes can see it as possible. Feel free to contact me directly at email@example.com with any questions.
Last fall there was some discussion on the PSW board regarding setting up a YouCaring donation page for a PSW member, Shadowfax. Since then, we have been looking into ways to help get him additional medical services and to pay down his medical debts. After following those leads, we are ready to move ahead with the YouCaring site. (Link is posted below.) Any help you can give will be greatly appreciated; not only to help aid in his medical bill debt, but to also show what a great community this group is.
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