by ilene - January 12th, 2011 3:39 pm
Courtesy of CULLEN ROCHE of The Pragmatic Capitalist
Another earnings season is right around the bend and it’s shaping up to be very similar to the last 6 that we’ve seen. In short, cost cuts have created very lean balance sheets and corporations are leveraging up these lean balance sheets to generate respectable and “better than expected” bottom line growth. The result is an environment that continues to be unappreciated by the majority of investors.
The largest single cost input for most corporations is labor. During this recession we’ve experienced a near unprecedented decline in unit labor costs. As I mentioned yesterday, this massive cost cut is causing extraordinary pain on Main Street, but is actually helping to generate healthy margins for Wall Street. Although the cost cutting appears to have troughed in the last few quarters labor costs remain very low by historical standards. Rising input costs have started to put pressure on balance sheets, however, on the whole we should see fairly stable margins as long as unit labor costs remain low.
Revenues have been unspectacular in recent quarters, but low single digit domestic growth combined with double digit growth from Asia is helping to drive S&P 500 revenues per share in the right direction. So, we’re seeing continued cost cuts and relatively good revenue growth.
What does that mean? It means nice fat margin expansion. Although margins are still off their all-time highs they are fast approaching those levels. I would expect to see some stagnation in margins in the coming quarters as revenues continue to tick higher and costs continue to move north, however, with margins at record highs we can expect to see continued profit expansion.
What does it all add up to? It likely means we’re in for another quarter of “better than expected” earnings. The deeply negative sentiment and solid bottom line growth has created an investment environment that is ripe for outperformance. This is best reflected in my Expectation Ratio which has now forecast very strong earnings trends since Q2 2009. Based on the recent reading of 1.45 we can be quite confident that the state of corporate America remains quite strong.
by Phil Davis - November 5th, 2010 8:06 am
I feel like I’m driving in a gasoline truck at a 100 mph and towards an brick wall, says Brian Kelly. And Ben Bernanke just lit a match. I can’t help but worry that this ends badly. - Fast Money’s Brian Kelly
I also remain skeptical, adds Steve Cortes. The unanimous opinion sees to be the market can not go lower and I find it reminiscent of the rhetoric we heard right before the tech bubble burst.I want to know what the Fed sees that’s so dire that it’s required them to take drastic steps, muses Guy Adami. I guess it doesn’t matter because the market just wants to go higher. But the market action has the feeling to me of a blow-off top. I don’t know when it ends, but I suspect it ends extraordinarily badly.
[Pic (left), credit: Elaine Supkis Culture of Life News]
David Stockman sums things up very nicely, saying:
Today the Fed is scared to death that the boys and girls and robots on Wall Street are going to have a hissy fit. And therefore these programs, one after another, are simply designed to somehow pacify the stock market, and hoping to keep the stock indexes going up, and that somehow that will fool the people into thinking they are wealthier and they will spend money.
The people aren’t buying that. Main Street is not stupid enough to believe that engineered rallies as a result of QE2 stimulus are making them wealthier and so they should go out and buy another Coach bag. This is really crazy stuff that I can’t say enough negative about…The Fed is telling a lot of lies to the market… it is telling all the politicians on Capitol Hill you can issue unlimited debt cause it doesn’t cost anything.We have $9 trillion of marketable debt. Upwards of 70% of that has maturities of 5 years or less down to 90 days. All of those maturities are 1% down to 10 basis points. So from the point of view of Congress, the cost of carrying the debt is essentially free. When you tell politicians they can issue $100 billion of debt a month for free, how do you expect them to do the right thing, and ask their constituents to sacrifice… I think the Fed is injecting high grade monetary heroin
Paul Farrell On The One Thing Buffett, Gross, Grantham, Faber, And Stiglitz All Agree On: “Bernanke Plan A Disaster”
by ilene - November 2nd, 2010 2:50 pm
Paul Farrell On The One Thing Buffett, Gross, Grantham, Faber, And Stiglitz All Agree On: "Bernanke Plan A Disaster"
Courtesy of Zero Hedge
By now it is more than obvious except to a few economists (yes, we realize this is a NC-17 term) that QE2 will be an absolute and unmitigated disaster, which will likely kill the dollar, send risk assets vertical (at least as a knee jerk reaction), and result in a surge in inflation even as deflation on leveraged purchases continues to ravage Bernanke’s feudal fiefdom. So all the rational, and very much powerless, observers can do is sit back and be amused as the kleptogarchy with each passing day brings this country to final economic and social ruin. Oddly enough, as Paul Farrell highlights, the list of objectors has grown from just fringe blogs (which have been on Bernanke’s case for almost two years), to such names as Buffett, Gross, Grantham, Faber and Stiglitz. And that the opinion of all these respected (for the most part) investors is broadly ignored demonstrates just how unwavering is the iron grip on America’s by its economist overlords. Which brings us back to the amusement part. Here are Farrell’s always witty views on the object which very soon 99% of American society will demand be put into exile: the genocidal Ph.D. holders of the Marriner Eccles building.
From Paul Farrell’s latest: Sell bonds now, Fed’s QE2 is doomed to fail.
Warning, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s foolish gamble to stimulate the economy will backfire, triggering a new double-dip recession. Bernanke is “medding” too much in the economy, say Marc Faber, Bill Gross, Jeremy Grantham, Joseph Stiglitz and others.
The Fed is making the same kind of mistakes Japan made that resulted in its 20-year recession. The Washington Post says Larry Mayer, a former Fed governor, estimates that to work it would take QE2 bond purchases of “more than $5 trillion …10 times what analysts are expecting.”
Bernanke’s plan is designed to fail. And, unfortunately, that will make life far more dangerous for American investors, consumers, taxpayers and voters.
“I’m ultrabearish on everything, but I believe you’ll be better off owning shares than government bonds,” said Hong Kong economist Marc Faber at a recent forum in Seoul. He sees a repeat of dot-com-bubble insanity today. Faber publishes the Gloom, Boom & Doom Report.
And Warren Buffett agrees,
SIGTARP Calls Out Tim Geithner On Various Violations Including Data Manipulation, Lack Of Transparency, “Cruel” Cynicism, And Gross Incompetence
by ilene - October 26th, 2010 1:53 am
SIGTARP Calls Out Tim Geithner On Various Violations Including Data Manipulation, Lack Of Transparency, "Cruel" Cynicism, And Gross Incompetence
Courtesy of Tyler Durden
SigTarp Neil Barofsky has just released the most scathing critique of all the idiots in the administration, with a particular soft spot for Tim Geithner.
On the failure of TARP to increase lending:
As these quarterly reports to congress have well chronicled and as Treasury itself recently conceded in its acknowledgement that "banks continue to report falling loan balances," TARP has failed to "increase lending" with small businesses in particular unable to secured badly needed credit. Indeed, even now, overall lending continues to contract, despite the hundreds of billions of TARP dollars provided to banks with the express purpose to increase lending.
On TARP’s sole success of boosting Wall Street bonuses:
While large bonuses are returning to Wall Street, the nation’s poverty rate increased from 13.2% in 2008 to 14.3% in 2009, and for far too many, the recession has ended in name only.
On TARP’s failure in general:
Finally, the most specific of TARP’s Main Street goals, "preserving homeownership" has so far fallen woefully short, with TARP’s portion of the Administration’s mortgage modification program yielding only approximately 207,000 ongoing permanent modifications since TARP’s inception, a number that stands in stark contrast to the 5.5 million homes receiving foreclosure filings and more than 1.7 million homes that have been lost to foreclosure since January 2009.
On the Treasury’s scam in minimizing publicized AIG losses, and on Geithner as a Wall Street puppet whose actions are increasingly destroying public faith in the government:
While SIGTARP offers no opinion on the appropriateness or accuracy of the valuation contained in the Retrospective, we believe that the Retrospective fails to meet basic transparency standards by failing to disclose: (1) that the new lower estimate followed a change in the methodology that Treasury previously used to calculate expected losses on its AIG investment; and (2) that Treasury would be required by its auditors to use the older, and presumably less favorable, methodology in the official audited financials statements. To avoid potential confusion, Treasury should have disclosed that it had changed its valuation methodology and should have published a side-by-side comparison of its new numbers with what the projected losses would be under the auditor-approved methodology that Treasury had used previously and will
by ilene - October 14th, 2010 2:36 pm
Courtesy of The Pragmatic Capitalist
I am so torn on the foreclosure debate. On one side, you have homeowners who made bad bets and are now getting kicked out of their homes and onto the streets – that’s a horrible thing no matter how you cut it. On the other side you have the big banks who also made bad bets, but arguably made these bets in good faith. They were essentially building models based on the fact that US housing prices never go down – totally irrational in retrospect of course, but at the time this did not seem so crazy to most people (aside from yours truly who advised his parents not to purchase several houses in 2006 and was ignored).
The homeowners obviously made a bad bet, but I find it hard to believe that the banks were intentionally trying to fleece the American public. After all, if they had known that 2008 would occur they never would have sold all that bad paper to one another. It was more a case of greed run amok. The fees and income generated from this business were too easy, too consistent and too abundant for any greed loving banker to ignore. Likewise, the homeowner wanted to profit from rising home prices and did little due diligence on the most important purchase of their life. The banks were equally ignorant in that they clearly did not do their due diligence either (some of the banks hedged their exposure which seems like a prudent thing to do after the fact. Whether that was legal or not is not for me to decide….)
At the end of the day it seems like a lot of people made bad bets and now they all want a government handout. And the government appears to be willing to give it to them. In other words, it’s more capitalism without losers. And now that the bankers got their bailout Main Street feels entitled to one as well (and rightfully so). I know it’s probably a harsh thing to say, but when you make a bad bet you have to face the consequences of that bad bet. One of the reasons I believe the US economy is such a mess right now is because we’ve attempted to create a marketplace where no one ever loses. It’s a ponzi approach…
by ilene - October 5th, 2010 3:52 pm
Courtesy of Zero Hedge
Some rather scary predictions out of Paul Farrell today: "It’s inevitable: Wall Street banks control the Federal Reserve system, it’s their personal piggy bank. They’ve already done so much damage, yet have more control than ever.Warning: That’s a set-up. They will eventually destroy capitalism, democracy, and the dollar’s global reserve-currency status. They will self-destruct before 2035 … maybe as early as 2012 … most likely by 2020. Last week we cheered the Tea Party for starting the countdown to the Second American Revolution. Our timeline is crucial to understanding the historic implications of Taleb’s prediction that the Fed is dying, that it’s only a matter of time before a revolution triggers class warfare forcing America to dump capitalism, eliminate our corrupt system of lobbying, come up with a new workable form of government, and create a new economy without a banking system ruled by Wall Street." And just like in the Hangover, where the guy is funny because he’s fat, Farrell is scary cause he is spot on correct.
Handily, Farrell provides a projected timeline of events:
Stage 1: The Democrats just put the nail in their coffin confirming they’re wimps when they refused to force the GOP to filibuster Bush tax cuts for billionaires.
Stage 2: In the elections the GOP takes over the House, expanding its strategic war to destroy Obama with its policy of “complete gridlock” and “shutting down government.”
Stage 3: Post-election Obama goes lame-duck, buried in subpoenas and vetoes.
Stage 4: In 2012, the GOP wins back the White House and Senate. Health care returns to insurers. Free-market financial deregulation returns. Lobbyists intensify their anarchy.
Stage 5: Before the end of the second term of the new GOP president, Washington is totally corrupted by unlimited, anonymous donations from billionaires and lobbyists. Wall Street’s Happy Conspiracy triggers the third catastrophic meltdown of the 21st century that Robert Shiller of “Irrational Exuberance” fame predicts, resulting in defaults of dollar-denominated debt and the dollar’s demise as the world’s reserve currency.
Stage 6: The Second American Revolution explodes into a brutal full-scale class war with the middle class leading a widespread rebellion against the out-of-touch, out-of-control Happy Conspiracy sabotaging America from within.
Stage 7: The domestic class warfare is exaggerated as the Pentagon’s global warnings play out: That by 2020
by ilene - September 22nd, 2010 3:51 pm
Brief review of why it’s about time Summers says goodbye. – Ilene
Courtesy of The Pragmatic Capitalist
It’s no secret that the economic recovery in the United States has been meager at best (and that’s assuming you believe this is not just one ongoing recession). While there is plenty of blame to go around for our current plight the buck ultimately stops with the most influential people in this
I’ve been highly critical of Obama’s economic team over the years because many of them were key players in helping cause the financial crisis. Tim Geithner was the head of the NY Fed when the banks were busy turning themselves into casinos. Ben Bernanke (who Obama should have never reconfirmed) failed to even acknowledge the potential existence of problems in the U.S. economy leading up to the financial crisis and then implemented his great monetarist gaffe which has now been proven to be what I called it from the very beginning – a bailout of Wall Street and a slap in the face for Main Street. He receives endless praise for helping to avoid a supposed second Great Depression. This is like the man who sees a fire in his front yard, ignores it, then when it’s finally becoming a widespread danger decides to save his own house from burning (the banks), lets all of the surroundings houses burn to the ground (Main Street) and then receives endless praise for his courage under fire.
But there have been few people in power over the last 25 years that have been more misguided and downright destructive than Larry Summers. This is a man who believes that women are intellectually inferior (I’ll tell you one thing – this economy wouldn’t be such a mess if it wasn’t run primarily by arrogant, narcissistic males) and has done more to help
by ilene - September 2nd, 2010 10:33 am
Rick’s updated economic charts are less than encouraging – consumer demand is not improving, nor is the recession over as measured by consumer demand for discretionary durable goods. But Rick would argue against a simple Great Recovery and possible a double dip, in favor of a continuation of the original, complex "dip" – The Great Recession. – Ilene
Courtesy of Rick Davis at Consumer Metrics Institute
The "Great Recession" that began in 2008 has had many nuances, some of which can only be seen in data with higher resolution than that provided by the BEA or NBER. Our day-by-day profile of consumer demand helps us understand triggering events while also making it clear that many recent changes in consumer behavior have begun to linger — much as the recession itself now appears to have done.
We have previously reported that consumer demand for discretionary durable goods is now at recessionary levels after starting to contract on a year-over-year basis on January 15, 2010. On the surface this would indicate a "double-dip" recession following the 2008 economic event. We may have inadvertently promoted the "double-dip" aspect of 2010′s contraction by often graphing the two events superimposed upon each other in our "Contraction Watch" chart — as though they were independent episodes:
But to even a casual observer there is something unsettling in the above chart, especially if we’ve been told that the "Great Recession" was a once-in-a-lifetime event that required once-in-a-lifetime amounts of new national debt to fix. Clearly, the 2010 contraction already appears well on the way to equaling or exceeding the "Great Recession" in severity despite those "fixes."
By the end of August, the 2010 contraction had out-lasted the "Great Recession" in duration, and was contracting at a rate that we might expect to see only once in every 15 years. But it is highly unlikely that two fully independent contractions this severe would happen only two years apart — just as the 1937 recession is not generally thought to be just another closely spaced severe recession, but is rather seen in the proper context.
by ilene - July 28th, 2010 5:30 pm
History doesn’t always repeat but it often rhymes.
When I began writing ten years ago, I would offer that the opposite of love wasn’t hate; it was apathy.
I shared that thought after tech stocks dropped 40% in less than two months and then recovered half those losses the next two months. We all know what happened next; the tech sector melted 70% the next few years.
Wash and rinse, Pete and repeat; we’ve seen that sequel again and again and again. From the homebuilders (real estate) to China to crude oil, a “new paradigm” arrived. Every time was different and each offered a fresh set of forward expectations that would finally prove historical precedents need not apply
I traded all of those bubbles thinking quite sure they would follow the path of false hope and empty promises paved by their predecessors. That proved true as the real estate market crashed, China imploded under the weight of the world, and crude crumbled just as it seemed ready to stake claim to the new world order. (See: Oil of Oy Vey)
While those bubbles hit home for many Americans, they’re hardly unprecedented through a historical lens.
There was the tulip mania in 17th century Holland as Dutch collectors hoarded a hierarchy of flowers.
The Mississippi and South Sea bubbles of the 18th century emerged in the wake of Europe’s dire economic condition.
The roaring twenties, fueled by an expansive use of leverage, led to the crash and Great Depression while not necessarily in that order.
And there’s Japan, perhaps the most frequently referenced modern-day parallel of our current course. The land of the rising sun boasted one of the strongest economies on the planet before a prolonged period of deregulation, money supply growth, low interest rates, bad real estate bets, and “zaitech” (financial engineering) creating a virtuous cycle of speculative frenzy that ultimately collapsed the country.
Does any of this strike a chord?
If familiarity breeds contempt, the percolating societal acrimony shouldn’t come as a shocker. Albert Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. That most certainly applies to our financial fate…
by ilene - July 1st, 2010 12:31 am
Courtesy of ELLEN BROWN at Web of Debt
The financial reform bill agreed to on June 25 may have carved out some protections for consumers, but for Goldman Sachs and the derivatives lobby, the bill was a clear win, leaving the Wall Street gambling business intact. In a June 25 Newsweek article titled “Financial Reform Makes Biggest Banks Stronger,” Michael Hirsh wrote that the bill “effectively anoints the existing banking elite. The bill makes it likely that they will be the future giants of banking as well.”
The federal government and Federal Reserve have advanced literally trillions of dollars to save the big Wall Street players, to the point where the government’s own credit rating is in jeopardy; but Wall Street has not had to pay for the cleanup. Instead, the states and the citizens have been left to pick up the tab. On June 17, Time featured an article by David von Drehle titled “Inside the Dire Financial State of the States,” reporting that most states are now facing persistent budget shortfalls of a sort not seen since the 1930s. Unlike the Wall Street banks, which can borrow at the phenomenally low fed funds rate of .2% and plow that money back into speculation, states don’t have ready access to credit lines. They have to borrow through bond issues, and many states are so close to bankruptcy that their municipal bond ratings are collapsing. Worse, states are not legally allowed to default. Unlike the federal government, which can go into debt indefinitely, states must balance their budgets; and they cannot issue their own currencies. That puts them in the same position as Greece and other debt-strapped European Union countries, which are forbidden under EU rules either to issue their own currencies or to borrow from their own central banks.
States, of course, don’t even have their own state-owned banks, with one exception — North Dakota. North Dakota is also the only state now sporting a budget surplus, and it has the lowest unemployment and mortgage delinquency rates in the country. As von Drehle observes, “It’s a swell time to be North Dakota.”