by ilene - February 27th, 2011 8:22 am
Here’s the latest edition of Stock World Weekly: Irresistible Forces Meet Immovable Objects. - Ilene
On Saturday, February 27, the Security Council of the United Nations (UN) voted unanimously to institute sanctions on Libya, including travel bans and freezing the assets of Muammar al-Gaddafi and others associated with his regime. Protests have dragged into their twelfth day, and protestors refuse to yield in the face of utterly horrific retaliation by Gaddafi’s loyal forces. U.S. ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice said, “When atrocities are committed against innocents, the international community must act with one voice – and tonight it has.”
The Telegraph reported over the weekend that Gaddafi apparently made good on his threats to trigger a civil war, using irregular forces largely composed of hired mercenaries to launch a counterattack against protesters. “Anywhere we go there is danger,” said one woman, a 28-year-old mother of four who asked not to be named. “All we want is food and fresh water for our children but it is impossible to find. Security is the only concern of the authorities.”
An accurate report of the death toll is impossible to obtain at this time, but on Wednesday, Italy’s Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini said, “We believe that the estimates of about 1,000 are credible.” The situation in Libya has deteriorated since then. Multiple stories coming in from all over the country have cited dozens to hundreds of casualties in each city. It appears that Libya has slipped into the abyss of complete social breakdown and civil war.
This is just one example of the tide of popular unrest that has been unleashed in the wake of the Federal Reserve’s and other central banks’ inflationary policies. The chart below shows the U.S. Adjusted Monetary Base increasing from $1.75Tn in 2009, to $2.0Tn in 2010, and now nearing $2.3Tn, an increase of $300Bn in just two months! This represents an increase of 35% in less than 18 months. (The U.S. Monetary Base is the total amount of currency that is circulating in the hands of the public or in the commercial bank deposits held in reserves of member banks of the Federal Reserve System.)
by ilene - January 30th, 2011 8:23 am
Here’s this week’s Stock World Weekly. Enjoy! Comments welcome.
Mubarak’s Acts of Cowardice; Obama Calls Mubarak for 30-Minutes; Cell Service, Internet Total Shutdown; Anarchy in Cairo; How Long can Mubarak Last?
by ilene - January 29th, 2011 3:04 pm
Courtesy of Mish
The situation in Egypt has gone from bad to worse. Cairo is in a state of near-anarchy and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s cowardly disruptions to the internet and cell phones have made things worse.
Egyptian citizens unable to get news on the internet or cell phones have only one place to get it now, the street.
President Obama called Mubarak in a 30-minute phone call. Obama’s message was "Ultimately, the future of Egypt will be determined by the Egyptian people."
If that was a hint, Mubarak did not get it. Instead, Cairo is in flames as protesters have turned more defiant.
Mubarak Orders Crackdown, With Revolt Sweeping Egypt
The New York Times reports Mubarak Orders Crackdown, With Revolt Sweeping Egypt
With police stations and the governing party’s headquarters in flames, and much of this crucial Middle Eastern nation in open revolt, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt deployed the nation’s military and imposed a near-total blackout on communications to save his authoritarian government of nearly 30 years.
Friday’s protests were the largest and most diverse yet, including young and old, women with Louis Vuitton bags and men in galabeyas, factory workers and film stars. All came surging out of mosques after midday prayers headed for Tahrir Square, and their clashes with the police left clouds of tear gas wafting through empty streets.
By nightfall, the protesters had burned down the ruling party’s headquarters in Cairo, and looters marched away with computers, briefcases and other equipment emblazoned with the party’s logo. Other groups assaulted the Interior Ministry and the state television headquarters, until after dark when the military occupied both buildings and regained control. At one point, the American Embassy came under attack.
Six Cairo police stations and several police cars were in flames, and stations in Suez and other cities were burning as well. Office equipment and police vehicles burned, and the police seemed to have retreated from Cairo’s main streets. Brigades of riot police officers deployed at mosques, bridges and intersections, and they battered the protesters with tear gas, water, rubber-coated bullets and, by day’s end, live ammunition.
Cairo in Near-Anarchy
The Washington Post reports Cairo in near-anarchy as protesters push to oust president
The Egyptian capital descended into near anarchy Friday night, as the government sent riot police, and then the army, to quell protests by tens of thousands of demonstrators determined to
Food Inflation Comes To America: General Mills, Kraft And Kellogg Hike Prices On Selected Food Products
by ilene - January 20th, 2011 8:20 pm
Courtesy of Tyler Durden at Zero Hedge
After denying for months that surging food prices will eventually come to the consumer, hoping that instead food companies could absorb the margin drop, sellside research is finally capitulating to the reality of what is really happening in the retail store. In a note discussing General Mills, Goldman Sachs says the company raised prices on snack bars some 7% last week. Goldman further clarifies that "this reportedly followed a comparable increase taken by K on its snack bars in mid-December. In addition, KFT has reportedly announced a 6% increase on select Planters branded nut products. We expect more price increases to be announced by the food companies in the coming weeks." Maybe, but the Chairman sure doesn’t. And the Chairman is always 100% correct.
Other observations from Goldman on what are now seen as inevitable price increases across numerous food verticals.
These pricing actions support our Food sector view that price momentum will continue to build as 2011 progresses, driven by easing promotional spending and list price increases (see our 1/5 report, Time to embrace inflation; Upgrade Food to Neutral, GIS to buy). This should drive top-line acceleration and margin stabilization over the course of 2011. Evidence of the progression is already apparent in retail scanner data (see our 1/11 report, Progression to a ‘less bad’ promo environment continues). Scanner data is likely to continue to show a measured pace of price growth. That said, we acknowledge that the growth is likely to build gradually as the pass-through of list price hikes to retail shelves lags and the reduction of promotional spend takes time to execute.
As a reminder, in December, the food component of the CPI increased by 0.1%, the lowest amount since July…
And just to complete the circus, Goldman now views price pass throughs as a good thing. See: it resolves the margin issue. Uh, yeah. But someone should explain to Goldman that when calculating revenue, one multiples Price (P) by Volume (V). And in a stagflationary economy, and increase in P results in a more than commensurate decline in V, offsetting all margin boosts.
GIS (Buy) remains our top Food pick and snack bar price hikes reinforce our conviction. To our knowledge, Mills has now executed price increases in categories that account for roughly half of its US retail portfolio (and we think there may
by ilene - January 18th, 2011 3:51 pm
Courtesy of Michael Snyder at Economic Collapse
The stunningly violent food riots in Tunisia and Algeria show just how quickly things can change. Just a few months ago, these two northern Africa nations were considered to be very stable, very peaceful and without any major problems. But now protesters are openly squaring off with police in the streets. Many of the protesters are throwing "fire bombs" or are shooting fireworks at the authorities, and the police are responding with a tremendous amount of violence themselves. In Algeria, several protesters have been killed by police and several others have actually set themselves on fire to protest the economic conditions. In Tunisia, more than 100 people have been killed and the president of that country actually had to flee for his life. But on a global scale, food shortages have not even gotten that bad yet. Yes, food prices are starting to go up and food supplies are a little bit tighter right now, but much worse times than these are coming. So what in the world are the cities of the world going to look like when we have a very serious food shortage?
Just as we saw during the food riots of 2008, when people get to the point where they can’t even feed themselves anymore, they tend to lose it. In the video posted below, you can really feel the desperation of these young Algerians as they riot in the streets….
This next video is of the food riots in Tunisia. You will not want to let any young children watch this video. In fact, if watching police beat and smash protesters laying on the ground upsets you, then you might not want to watch this video either. The massive food riots that have erupted in Tunisia have left many city streets looking like war zones and at this point it is being reported that the violence has left over 100 people dead. The president of Tunisia has left the country because of the rioting, and an interim president has been sworn in. It is hoped that this will help restore order. This video is absolutely stunning….
You see, the truth is that it is not just in the United States that people are becoming angry at government. All over the world, frustration is boiling over. But unlike the United States, where food
by ilene - November 8th, 2010 4:59 pm
The next chapter in the quantitative easing drama takes place in the ag commodity neighborhood.
Over in Britain, the Guardian posted a full-scale freakout piece tying in Bernanke’s policies to a sharp spike in food costs…
UK food prices were 9.8% higher last month than a year ago, the biggest annual increase since October 2008, according to the Office for National Statistics. Imported food prices climbed 4.5% on the year, the fastest rate since October 2009, pushing up the price of bread and margarine. Prices are likely to be pushed higher in coming months, with refined sugar reaching a record of $783.90 a tonne today.
Greg White over at Clusterstock has a very worthwhile slideshow (can’t believe I just wrote that phrase) illustrating the food cost spike by commodity. Corn, for example, is just completely absurd and very scary if you are in the business of feeding large quantities of animals (or addicted to Crackerjacks) :
The agflation beat goes on.
Pic credit: Jr. Deputy Accountant
by ilene - October 30th, 2010 5:10 pm
Courtesy of asiablues at Zero Hedge
By Dian L. Chu, Economic Forecasts & Opinions
Marc Faber, publisher of the Gloom, Boom & Doom report, discusses the potential impact of further quantitative easing (QE2) by the U.S. Federal Reserve in a Bloomberg interview on Oct. 36 (clip below).
Correction Triggered by QE2?
Faber sees Democrats--"sadly enough"--would get a shot at still retaining the majority, which would mean the monetary and fiscal policy will most likely stay on its current course.
Equity has done well in Sep. and Oct months; however, Faber thinks the markets are stretched in the inflation trade, and weak dollar, high commodity and precious metal prices, along with high equity valuations, all suggest a correction is overdue.
Now, with QE2 being largely priced in, anything less than $1 trillion from the Fed would disappoint the markets and may trigger a correction in U.S. stocks, which could result in more quantitative easing.
But the correction should provide a buying opportunity for investors leading to an up cycle, instead of another bear market.
Equity Better for the Next Decade
Looking at investing for the next ten years, equities, emerging economies in particular, would be a relatively better place to invest than U.S. government bonds, and cash. However, Faber advises against financial, auto, and aircraft. He’s been in the high tech sector and likes Microsoft (MSFT).
Precious Metals Due for Pullback
Faber is currently recommending agriculture commodities, and the accumulation of precious metals. On precious metals, he thinks they are overdue for "some kind of correction" by year end, and expect the next leg up in 2011.
Dollar Near An Inflection Point
Faber says dollar is oversold, while in contrast, some of the foreign currencies such as Yen and Franc are overbought. So, an inflection point could be near for a short-term dollar rally which could temporarily push down asset prices.
He warns investors to be very careful about shorting dollar and long assets as the trade has become quite crowded.
Expect a Strong Pullback of Chinese Economy
Although not quite gloom and doom, Faber does expect a "strong pullback" on the Chinese economy due to its many imbalances.
According to Faber, the 0.25% interest rate hike effective Oct. 20 by the PBoC is "meaningless," because of skyrocketing property prices, and the cost of living inflation has gone up much more than the official figure.
by ilene - September 12th, 2010 6:27 pm
Scientific American has done a great summary of peak commodity levels as well as depletion projections for some of the most critical resources in the world including oil, gold, silver, copper, not to mention renewable water, as well as estimating general food prices over the next half century. Generally speaking, regardless of whether one believes in peak oil or not, the facts are that stores of natural resources are disappearing at an increasingly alarming pace. And instead of the world’s (formerly) richest country sponsoring R&D and basic science to find alternatives, the US government continues to focus on funding a lost Keynesian cause, debasing the dollar and perpetuating a system that will do nothing to resolve any of these ever more pressing concerns. Furthermore, as by 2020, the US will have around $23 trillion in debt (per CBO estimates), the government will be far too focused on using anywhere between 50-100% of tax revenues to cover just interest expense, than funding science and research. Then again it is probably only fitting that future generations will be saddled with not just $100 trillion in total sovereign debt, but will be running out of water, will see sea levels rising ever faster, will have no flat screen TVs, and will be using Flintstonemobiles to go from point A to point B. All so a few bankers and ultra-wealthy individuals don’t have to recognize total losses on their balance sheets filled with trillions in toxic debt.
Some key highlights from Scientific American, as well as the year in which a given resource either peaks or runs out:
Oil – 2014 Peak
The most common answer to "how much oil is left" is "depends on how hard you want to look." As easy-to-reach fields run dry, new technologies allow oil companies to tap harder-to-reach places (such as 5,500 meters under the Gulf of Mexico). Traditional statistical models of oil supply do not account for these advances, but a new approach to production forecasting explicitly incorporates multiple waves of technological improvement. Though still controversial, this multi-cyclic approach predicts that global oil production is set to peak in four years and that by the 2050s we will have pulled all but 10% of the world’s oil from the ground.
by ilene - August 30th, 2010 9:45 am
With concerns about surging food prices recently inflamed courtesy of the series of fires in Russia and the halt of grains exports out of the country, several heavy hitters have come out recently to discuss their views. One among them is the man with the best YTD performing macro hedge fund according to Bloomberg, Hugh Hendry, who appeared on BBC’s ever-informative Newsnight to discuss potash, food prices, and other scarce resources.
On whether the world is facing a massive food shortage, Hugh’s conclusion is that as long as Asia does not have a recession, things are ok, otherwise "in due course there would be great pressure on the food supply." As for Potash, Hendry says that China and Canada "hate each other [in the space]. There has been a profound game of roulette – Chinese consumption of Potash is 35% less than used in Western agriculture. At these prices, the Chinese haven’t been consuming in the manner in that they should and they risk an absolute collapse in their yields… China does have a vulnerability in feeding itself which we don’t have because we embrace potash at productive levels."
As for geopolitics, the topic arises of what African quid pro quo demands for having the most arable land should be and sending products over to China. The observation is that Africa’s bargaining position is negligible (those Goldman offices in Ethiopia, protecting the interests of the locals, are oddly missing).
All this and more in the below clip:
by ilene - April 23rd, 2010 11:34 pm
Courtesy of JESSE’S CAFÉ AMÉRICAIN
Mr. Obama’s speech at the Cooper Union today was remarkably unsatisfying. It seemed to be given from weakness, and almost obsequious as the American President politely asked his largest campaign contributors to please stop flouting the law, defrauding the people and their customers, and spending millions per day lobbying the Congress to buy changes in the reform legislation to provide them with the ‘right regulators’ of their choice and convenient loopholes to render it ineffective.
The reform making its way through the Congress is unlikely to be effective given the process in place, despite the political kabuki dancebeing conducted by the Congress and the Banks.
The solution is to put simple and effective regulations in the hand of stronger, independent, ad highly capable regulators to bear on the financial services industry, and to understand that the regulations must evolve with a dynamicly evolving business. The idea that you can erect some impregnable and unchanging Maginot line against bank fraud is laughable, a farce.
As William K. Black disclosed in his testimony the other day, the regulators always had the power to shut down the frauds, and to resolve the financial crisis without having to give away billions. They lacked the will, and the motivation.
You want to wipe that smirk off Lloyd Blankfein’s face? Nominate Eliot Spitzer or Elizabeth Warren to be the head of the SEC, or the CFTC, and provide them with a adequate budget and a staff of financial experts and a few experienced prosectors.
Even with strong regulations, unless you have capable and motivated regulators, there are always ways to evade the rules, especially if they are complex and provide exceptions. The simpler they are, the stronger the regulations will be, provided they are flexible enough to be amended and expanded efficiently to match the changing and dynamic nature of the industry that they are overseeing.
This is not that difficult, and these jokers are not that smart, although part of their con is to paint themselves as the smartest, the best, and practically unstoppable.
The root of the US financial crisis is always and everywhere regulatory capture, political cronyism, and fraud. It really is that simple.