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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
Having exploded 18% higher in August (driven by, um, record high prices), September's new home sales printed at 467k (against expectations of 470k) and August's surge to 504k was revised lower to just 466k (busting the biggest beat since 2005 meme) revised 7.5% lower. After August's reported 50% MoM rise in The West, the region saw the rate of sales slow in September. The median new home sales price (at record highs last month) fell 4% YoY to $259,000.
The Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration (EIA) data on volume sales is over two months old when it released. The latest numbers, through mid-August, are now available. However, despite the lag, this report offers an interesting perspective on fascinating aspects of the US economy. Gasoline prices and increases in fuel efficiency are important factors, but there are also some significant demographic and cultural dynamics in this data series.
Because the sales data are highly volatile with some obvious seasonality, I've added a 12-month moving average (MA) to give a clearer indication of the long-term trends. The latest 12-month MA is 8.9% below the all-time high set in August 2005, a new interim low.
My title above is only half-kidding. Because everytime Wall Street pronounces “The Death Of” anything, that’s pretty much when it starts working again. But there is an important point being made in a new article at the Wall Street Journal about the current state of some of our biggest stalwart stocks and their underlying businesses, a point I made two days ago here…
Here’s the Journal:
A third of the companies in the Dow Jones Industrial Average have posted shrinking or flat revenue over the past 12 m...
There is lots of action in Southwest Airlines Co. November expiry call options today ahead of the air carrier’s third-quarter earnings report prior to the opening bell on Thursday. Among the large block trades initiated throughout the trading session, there appears to be at least one options market participant establishing a call spread in far out of the money options. It looks like the trader purchased a 4,000-lot Nov 37/39 call spread at a net premium of $0.40 apiece. The trade makes money if shares in Southwest rally 9.0% over the current price of $34.32 to exceed the effective breakeven point at $37.40, with maximum potential profits of $1.60 per contract available in the event that shares jump more than 13% to $39.00 by expiration. In September, the stock tou...
Last week brought even more stock market weakness and volatility as the selloff became self-perpetuating, with nobody mid-day on Wednesday wanting to be the last guy left holding equities. Hedge funds and other weak holders exacerbated the situation. But the extreme volatility and panic selling finally led some bulls (along with many corporate insiders) to summon a little backbone and buy into weakness, and the market finished the week on a high note, with continued momentum likely into the first part of this week.
Despite concerns about global economic growth and a persistent lack of inflation, especially given all the global quantitative easing, fundamentals for U.S. stocks still look good, and I believe this overdue correction ultimately will shape up to be a great buying opportunity -- i.e., th...
Now that bitcoin has subsided from speculative bubble to functioning currency (see the price chart below), it’s safe for non-speculators to explore the whole “cryptocurrency” thing. So…is bitcoin or one of its growing list of competitors a useful addition to the average person’s array of bank accounts and credit cards — or is it a replacement for most of those things? And how does one make this transition?
With his usual excellent timing, London-based financial writer/actor/stand-up comic Dominic Frisby has just released Bitcoin: The Future of Money? in which he explains all this in terms most readers will have no tr...
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What do falling energy prices mean for the US consumer? Sober Look writes a brief yet thorough overview of the consequences of the correction in the price of crude oil. There are good aspects, particularly for the consumer, bad aspects, and out-right ugly possibilities. For more on this subject, read James Hamilton's How will Saudi Arabia respond to lower oil prices? In previous eras, Saudi Arabia would tighten the supply to help increase prices, but in this "game of chicken," the rules m...
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Well PSW Subscribers....I am still here, barely. From my last post a few months ago to now, nothing has changed much, but there are a few bargins out there that as investors, should be put on the watch list (again) and if so desired....buy a small amount.
First, the media is on a tear against biotechs/pharma, ripping companies for their drug prices. Gilead's HepC drug, Sovaldi, is priced at $84K for the 12-week treatment. Pundits were screaming bloody murder that it was a total rip off, but when one investigates the other drugs out there, and the consequences of not taking Sovaldi vs. another drug combinations, then things become clearer. For instance, Olysio (JNJ) is about $66,000 for a 12-week treatment, but is approved for fewer types of patients AND...
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