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?…
Quite possibly this has something to do with the fact that Arnie just had a very vivid Total Recall from the future in which California had filed Chapter 66 (a brand new invention in honor of the famous route), mere months after he had decided to institute the latest round of furloughs and once again paying using IOUs.
Increasing pressure on lawmakers to negotiate a state budget that closes a $19 billion shortfall, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency over the state’s finances on Wednesday.
In the declaration, Schwarzenegger ordered three furlough days per month beginning in August for thousands of state employees to preserve the state’s cash to pay the state’s debt obligations and for essential services.
California’s budget is several weeks overdue and Schwarzenegger and top lawmakers are at impasse over how to balance the state’s books. Analysts say it could be several more weeks before the Republican governor and leaders of the Democrat-led legislature reach an agreement, a delay that may threaten to lower the state’s already weak credit rating, now hovering just a few notches above "junk" status.
California undergraduates and their parents just got hit with a 32% increase in tuition by next summer.
With hundreds of angry students chanting outside their meeting at UCLA, the California Board of Regents approved the $2,500, two-step fee hike, which will raise the basic tuition at the 10-campus University of California system to $10,300 a year. That’s three times what it cost a decade ago. Other fees, books, and room and board adds an additional $16,000.
With the state $21 billion in the hole and slashing funding for education, the regents said they had no choice. At the same time, UC is restricting new admissions in a bid to save money.
More increases seem inevitable.
UC President Mark Yudof has asked for $913 million more next year for the UC system and says he "can’t make any promises" to not raise fees again if the state doesn’t come through. "When you have no choice, you have no choice," Yudof said after a regents’ committee endorsed the fee plan Wednesday. "I’m sorry."
California Deficit Hits $21 Billion
California is back in another deep hole. A $21 Billion Fiscal Shortfall Could Mean More Cuts, Higher Taxes and the Return of IOUs to Meet Obligations. Please consider Budget Gap Widens in Sacramento.
California is deep in red ink again, according to a new report projecting that the cash-strapped state faces a $21 billion budget shortfall through June 2011.
Facing so much fiscal red ink, Californians could see another round of spending cuts and tax increases. Since September 2008, state lawmakers have enacted three budgets to close a cumulative $77 billion shortfall. They closed the gap largely through spending cuts and tax increases, but also with federal-stimulus funds and one-time accounting gimmicks. At one point, California was so close to insolvency it was forced to issue IOUs.
The report’s conclusions now raise the likelihood of another lengthy impasse among the state’s hyper-partisan legislators that could threaten California’s solvency and force officials to again
You know, all this time we’ve been saying that the difference between California and the Federal Government was that California couldn’t print currency to get out of a pinch.
But really, isn’t printing currency exactly what issuing IOUs is? Granted, it’s not the most solid currency given with the state you’re dealing with, but it’s something.
Anyway, we’ll get to find out, because California has missed (surprise!) its deadline for closing its budget gap and is now set to hand out IOUs instead of actual money.
Reuters: The notes will mark the first time in 17 years the most populous U.S. state’s government will have to resort to the unusual and dramatic measure.
Democrats who control the legislature could not convince Republicans late on Tuesday night to back their plans to tackle a $24.3 billion budget shortfall or a stopgap effort to ward off the IOUs. The two sides agree on the need for spending cuts but are split over whether to raise taxes.
The state still has some cash, but that will be reserved strictly for its bondholders and education spending (the kids!). But vendors, college students, state agencies will get some paper.
Please, please, please let there be an after-market in these IOUs. We’d love to see how they’re valued and how businesses will conduct exchange using them.
In trying to assess the trajectory of the US economy, one is struck by the recent divergence between the manufacturing and the services sectors. Manufacturing in the United States has picked up steam recently in spite of some weather-related headwinds (see chart). The service sector on the other hand took a turn for the worse, which is negatively impacting the labor markets in this service-oriented economy (see story). A couple of key indicators point to slower non-manufacturing activity:
OvaScienceSM (NASDAQ: OVAS), a life sciences company focused on the discovery, development and commercialization of female fertility treatments, today announced the issuance of two United States patents covering its AUGMENTSM fertility treatment. AUGMENT is based on the Company's egg precursor cell (EggPCSM) technology and is being developed to improve egg quality and the success of in vitro fertilization (IVF). AUGMENT will be available in international IVF clinics this year.
“The new patents strengthen and extend the protection for AUGMENT in support of our efforts to offer a potential new fertility treatment option to women and families,” said Michelle Dipp, M.D., Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer of OvaScience. “We continue to aggressively pursue additional pate...
Before the market opened, the weekly unemployment report came in better than expected, although the reporting of new claims has skewed in both directions by weather (e.g., my home state). The S&P 500 rallied at the open and hit its morning high 30 minutes later -- one that it would beat by a tenth of a point during the noon hour, up 0.43%. The index traded lower in the afternoon and closed with a trimmed gain of 0.17%, but that's another record high.
Tomorrow's employment report for February will be closely watched by market participants, but the pattern of late has to write off weak economic news as weather-related and celebrate goo...
The Global X Social Media Index ETF (Ticker: SOCL) touched fresh record highs on Thursday morning, surprising no one given the top three holdings of the Fund are Hong Kong-based Tencent Holdings (12.678%), Facebook Inc. (12.506%) and LinkedIn Corp. (8.166%), which are up 130%, 160% and 22%, respectively, since this time last year. The SOCL reflects the performance of companies involved in the social media industry, including companies that provide social networking, file sharing and other web-based media applications. Shares in the ETF rose 1.3% today to a new high of $23.00, and have soared approximately 65% since this time last year.
Today brought three better than expected economic releases from Construction Spending, ISM Manufacturing, and Personal Income. The ISM figure was quite unexpected and Personal Income was well above expectations. If we ignore for a moment that the Final GDP reading for Q4 was lowered on Friday (which may or may not have been primarily caused by severe weather), we have had a week of better than expected economic numbers. Corporate earnings have also continued to exceed forecasts, albeit with a bit more cautious guidance.
Of course, none of that matters when the “war drums” start beating. Russia and the Ukraine are engaged in a serious game of “chicken” with a bear in the hen house. The Russian ruble has borne the brunt of the damage so far with a double digit drop today again...
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Ladies and Gentlemen, hobos and tramps,
Cross-eyed mosquitoes, and Bow-legged ants,
I come before you, To stand behind you,
To tell you something, I know nothing about.
And so the circus begins in Union Square, San Francisco for this weeks JP Morgan Healthcare Conference. Will the momentum from 2013, which carried the S&P Spider Biotech ETF to all time highs, carry on in 2014? The Biotech ETF beat the S&P by better than 3 points.
As I noted in my previous post, Biotechs Galore - IPOs and More, biotechs were rushing to IPOs so that venture capitalists could unwind their holdings (funds are usually 5-7 years), as well as take advantage of the opportune moment...
Welcome to the fouth update of the IRA Virtual Portfolio. First I am going to summarize the current state of the Portfolio then I will get into all the activity we had during September expiration.
Profit and Loss – Net of closed positions the portfolio is up a total of $769
Market Commentary – Last expiration I said, "I would like to put a total of $20,000 to work by the end of SEP expiration. If the VIX pops up to around 20 I plan to put about $50,000 total to work." The market didn't quite reach the goal but I did manage to deploy $15,000 of buying power. I still feel the market is too high and expect a correction during October. If the vix pops up to around 20 I still plan to put about $50,000 to work. If a correction doesn't happen I still plan to have a total of $25,000 in buying power put to work by October expiration. Now on to the act...
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