Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Wonder: Getting Past Greece, the Euro, Varoufakis, Travie McCoy and My Best Friends (BFFs)


It's a beautiful word. Maybe not as beautiful a word as White or Bird (It's a Wonderful Day... it's all right, go ahead and listen), but one should always be in wonder at the world -- if only because we DO NOT KNOW.

Events of recent weeks have left some - not many, and certainly not all - bewildered, confused, and wondering what is next to come. Life in Greece has become complicated because of their commitment to debt, and that is the only reason. Not politics, not currency, but only debt has enslaved the peoples of the southern European archipelago, and only because they continue to accept it as a constant, as a commitment, a purpose, an underlying principle of existence.

Long ago, in the days of Aristotle, Plato, Pythagoras and Socrates, Greece became the cradle of Western civilization and democracy. Culture flourished with fresh ideas. Freedom of speech, freedom of identity, freedom of thought found roots, grew, and prospered.

The secret of happiness is freedom. The secret of freedom is courage.

-- Thucydides

Today, as the European Central Bank (ECB) and the IMF divvy up the remnants of a once-great culture and country, there is no secret, no happiness, no freedom. The Greeks are slaves to money, to the Euro, to the US dollar, and that condition will not change because the Greeks themselves - and all of Europe - have lost their ways, their wills, their collective courage. The 20th and 21st centuries have been witness to the willful slavery of entire populations, a kind of "Stockholm Syndrome", in which vast swaths of people are overwhelmed by money, power, greed, corruption and debauchery. It has happened before - in Rome, in London, Berlin, Tokyo - but never before has it happened as quietly and easily as today.

Without will, people have nothing. The people of Greece have no will. Even their "courageous" vote to reject the demands of their creditors a week ago was directed, will-less and rhetorical. As we have seen since then, voting meant exactly nothing, as it always has, when the choices are bad, or worse. Greece chose "bad." By decree of the technocrats and debt-holders of the EU, they are to receive "worse."

Greece Matters.

Greece matters because it is our fate, our shared existence, our future. Anyone believing that "it can't happen here," or "Greece is contained" is a dunderhead, a dolt, a fool, or a psychopath bent on escapism. The woes of Greece will visit every shore. First Europe, then South America, Australia and New Zealand, Asia, and eventually, North America. Canadians may be spared the worst of it, especially those in the hinterlands, but come it must, devour assets it must, devalue life it must. Greece is coming home to you, and me, and yours.

Not wanting to sound depressing or disheartening, but only realistic, this prose offers comfort to those who take heed. Not all is evil. There is good in the world. Life in the United States of America, for instance, has neve been more prosperous, full and enjoyable. If not for odious debt, the USA would be paradise on earth. But it is the odious debt, all $18 billion on the official books and the countless billions in loose, unfunded liabilities such as Social Security and Medicare, that threatens with slavery of the masses. The rich will escape, virtually unharmed, The middle class will be skimmed, as always, without protection. The poor will suffer.

Central banks, which control the capital, have offered solutions. BUY STOCKS. WITH BOTH HANDS. Since March of 2009, Money Daily has been right to some degree, but wrong on a large account, decrying stocks as risky, unsound, unfair, unfulfilling, and dangerous.

Stocks, verily, the riskiest of them all, have never been more wildly valued, but they also have never been more protected than today. An article by John Hussman, here, spells out the current conditions for investment opportunities in lurid detail. While Greece may, and likely, will, get a haircut proportional to that of former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis (a complete sellout and traitor to the people of Greece), the remainder of the world does not have to suffer a similar fate.

One only has to play along with the monetary authorities and the central banks for a time, and then... release. Such an investment strategy will require a heavy doses of discipline, and certain timing, which is why most will not even try, and many of those who do will try and fail, and fail, and fail.

The lucky, the daring, the living, and the brave will survive, and prosper, but only if they act boldly, with the conviction in their heart that all is fleeting, money is worthless, and hard assets are still worth having. The single most important asset one can hold, now, and generally, throughout history, is LAND. Real Estate. It's called that because it is REAL and it is an ESTATE asset. The only liability to owning real estate is taxation, which is why the choice of purchase should be well considered, and, beyond living quarters, consist of raw acreage.

Silver and gold one can hold in one's hand, but they cannot produce a single carrot, potato, bean or spinach.

It would also be wise to have good friendships, and to nurture them, cherish them, and honor them. Good friendships will outlast all manners of currency or money, bring more joy and happiness than blood relationships, and sponsor more spiritual wealth than all the gold that even King Midas could conjure.

Good friendship is why I write, why I live, why I try to spread some wisdom, if there is any to be spread.

I have three friends. Two are dogs. The other... I leave to the imagination of the reader.

Go now. Buy stocks, and prosper. Even better, play options or bet on horses. Use massive leverage if it is available. If you lose, you can blame me, because I don't actually care. I will only be here a short while. Besides, there are countless methods for recovery. The central bankers have made it as easy as a day at the beach.

I urge everyone to become self-sufficient. Some solar power and a garden are requisite to peace and happiness.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Buy More, Pay More Non-Economy of Oversupply

Rampant stupidity.

Cars and trucks are not the only commodity that is in oversupply.

Went to the local grocery the other day and wanted one of those "salad in a bag" deals. Sign said, "Buy 1 get 2 free." Since I am single, and camping for the summer, one bag is all I needed and the other two would likely go bad within days. Price for the "deal" was $3.89. These bags normally go for $1.25-1.50 each, so no big deal.

Went to the manager and complained. Ended up buying one bag for $1.30, but, but, but, I had to sign a non-disclosure statement and produce my driver's license. Additionally, I was banned from ever shopping in the store ever again upon threat of death or incarceration.

OK, everything after the $1.30 in that last sentence is there for pure entertainment value, but I did have to check out at the customer service desk and received an undeniable, disparaging glare from the store manager (owner). The twithead didn't even have the cajones to introduce himself or talk to me; just a mean stare, as if to say, "you're not supposed to be smart or question our pricing policies."

My take is that the new brand of "Shure-fine" salad bags which replaced the "Dole" bags are in severe oversupply and the store is wishing to unload them ASAP because they don't keep longer than a few days before spoiling. Trouble is, we're deep in farm country here and every other house has a garden and probably are producing more than enough of their own lettuce and vegetables.

So, oversupply from the good folks at Monsnto, Cargill, et. al., and "no salad for you" unless you buy lots of it.

Oversupply is "the" problem of the 2010s. We are in year six or eight of a 15-18-year depression and it's likely to get worse before it gets better.

In 2012, I said I'd wait until silver hit $17 to buy more. Acutally waited until it hit $15. My next purchase will be at $12, then maybe $6, when the bottom falls completely out of the oversupplied commodity market.

In Ameri-whoopie-i-o-yah-Ka, at least, we have too much of everything except common sense (h/t to Mencken).

The soon-to-be-rammed-down-our-throats-job-killing TPP will accelerate the process of bringing American wages in line with the rest of the planet. Cops, politicians, bankers and schoolteachers will be wealthy in coming years, but as many begin to retire, the defaults on pensions will also accelerate.

Can't fix stupid and can't beat math. A rigid dichotomy, for sure.

All the best. Eat well, live well, die hard.

Editor's Note: Fearless Rick has been and continues to spend the summer months camping at a secret location (Sodus, NY) and will be posting irregular snippets about life in farm country.

Friday, June 5, 2015

At Belmont, American Pharoah Faces Serious Challenges in Quest for Triple Crown

American Pharoah looks a likely winner in the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, but he’s impossible to bet flat at 3-to-5 odds.

Main challenges come from a trio of horses he has met and defeated in the past. The Baffert trainee will be hard-pressed and jockey Victor Espinosa will have to use all the guile and skills of his exceptional riding career to win the first triple crown of American racing in 37 years.

The eight-horse field consists of six who contended in the Kentucky Derby, won by American Pharoah with a stalking trip and furious stretch run to defeat Firing Line, whose handlers chose to pass on the Belmont after being thoroughly thrashed in the washed-out slop that was the Preakness, finishing half the stretch back, seventh in the eight-horse field.

Of Saturday’s contending field, only Tale of Verve (a deep-closing second in the Preakness, but never a threat to front-running Pharoah) and Madefromlucky were not in the Derby. Tale of Verve’s stunning second was likely doe to the sloppy track and the futile running styles of the other entrants. He should not be close in the Belmont and is not considered a strong contender. Fourth place could be in the cards for him, but no better. Tale of Verve is also the only horse other than American Pharaoh to emerge from the Preakness, suggesting that the connections of the other ponies from that race feel overmatched here.

The other non-Derby entrant, Madefromlucky, has a shot at defeating American Pharoah, though the latter bettered him twice at Oaklawn Park. Pharaoh won the Rebel Stakes and Arkansas Derby in succession. Madefromlucky was a close second in the Rebel, and followed with a fourth-place finish in the Arkansas Derby.

However, Madefromlucky skipped the first two legs of the Triple Crown races, opting for the Peter Pan on May 9th. He won that race in a five-horse field, sitting off the pace and finishing in a gallop to win by a driving length. Incidentally, Madefromlucky earned a Beyer speed figure of 94, the sixth-straight improving Beyer in his racing campaign. The horse needs a good pace scenario, but is maturing gradually, and should be at the top of his game with nearly a month off since his last encounter on the track. Additionally, he owns a win over the surface (the Peter Pan), which suggests that trainer Todd Pletcher has had him pointed for just this upset scenario.

Another horse that should be of concern to American Pharaoh’s quest for the Triple Crown is Frosted, the Kiaran McLaughlin trained stallion that finished fourth in the Derby, but was closing with a flourish. Frosted skipped the Preakness, giving him extra time off to relish the extra distance of the 1 1/2 mile Belmont Stakes. His breeding - by Tapit from Fast Cookie - suggests he will devour the distance and pose a major threat to American Pharoah, himself no slouch in the breeding department, especially with the presence of the grand sire, Pioneer of the Nile on the stud side.

Another possibility arises in Materiality, who will break from the outermost post, often an advantage to an early speed type such as he is. Materiality finished a disappointing sixth in the Derby, skipped the Preakness and shows up here as a main pace threat. Considering that he too is trained by Pletcher, expect jockey John Velazquez to press Pharoah early, setting up a hard stretch rally from Madefromlucky.

Pletcher, who is about as consistent a winner as can be found in the training ranks on the New York circuit. has his two main riders in Velazquez and Javier Castellano, who will be aboard Madeforlucky. Considering that Castellano has been Pletcher’s go-to guy the past few seasons, the tactics are about as obvious as they can get. Press Pharoah early and beat him late with a perfectly-coordinated pair that might as well be racing as an entry. Seeing both of them in the top three would be a fantastic finish, but Madefromlucky finishing a nose, a head, or even a few lengths ahead of American Pharaoh is a distinct possibility.

Of course, man’s best-laid plans after result in surprises from other sources, which is why Frosted looms a large threat here.

The 147th running of the Belmont Stakes should be an exciting event, whether American Pharoah ends the Triple Crown drought (last achieved by the great Affirmed in 1978 - I was there) or another hopeful fails in the ultimate test for three-year-olds.

The play is pretty straightforward, using American Pharoah on all exotic tickets except for radical savers in the unlikely event he is thoroughly trashed by a wicked pace or some other riding misfortune.

Here are the suggestions with running numbers:
Madefromlucky (3)
American Pharoah (5)
Frosted (6)
Materiality (8)

5 over 3, 6, 8
3, 6, 8 over 5
3, 6, 8 boxed.

5 / 3, 6, 8 / 3, 6, 8
3, 6, 8 / 5 / 3, 6, 8
3, 6, 8 / 3, 6, 8 / 5
3, 6, 8

I don’t like to spread it out too far in small fields and a few of those in the field, notably (1) Mubtaahij, (4) Frammento, and (7) Keen Ice appear outclassed by the remainder of the field.

My advice, as always, is, win or lose, live it up. Spend more on booze and fun than you bet on the race. At least that way you’ve got something to remember (or forget… or regret) other than a handful of torn up tickets and a hole indoor wallet.

Monday, May 4, 2015

FOMC (in)Action Does Nothing for Wall Street; 1Q GDP Weak

Apologies again for the brevity of this missive. We are currently under severe time restraints, though the thought of a more regular schedule appears for next week. -Editor

The week can be summed up as "much ado about nothing," as the FOMC again held the federal fund rate at near-zero and stocks were more or less unresponsive over the course of the week.

A preliminary reading of first quarter GDP showed the economy nearly slipping into recession, growing at a rate of just 0.2% for the first three months of 2015. The outlier was a three percent inventory build, without which the number would have been negative. Naturally, naysayers on the economy contend that the recession for the US economy never ended after 2009, and that the United States has been mired in a deep depression since the implosion of the financial system back in the fall of 2008 and that only extreme dosages of liquidity supplied by the central bankers of the world have saves us all from misery.

Wall Street continues to hum along with record amounts of stock buybacks buoying share prices for many firms, with growth and capital expenditures now becoming things of the past.

The first three days of trading were somewhat lackluster, followed by a huge downdraft on Thursday and a dead-cat monster bounce-back on Friday, which kept the major indices from outright implosion. Analysts are keeping a keen eye on the German DAX, which is coming close to correction territory.

The NASDAQ was the worst-performer, dropping nearly two percent as biotechs imploded and speculative money was coming off the table at a rapid rate.

For the week ending May 1:

Dow: 18.024.06, -56.08 (-0.31)
S&P 500: 2,108.29, -9.40 (-0.44)
NASDAQ: 5,005.39, -86.69 (-1.70)

Monday, April 27, 2015

NASDAQ Breaks Out in w/e April 24, 2015

Not much to report in terms of market activity, except that all the major averages were higher for the week, though remaining in a very tight range that has persisted since the first week of February.

The Dow Jones Industrials have vacillated between roughly 17,600 and the high of 18,288 (about a 700-point spread) for 11 weeks running, generating plenty of noise, but nothing substantial upon which to base future market-turning events.

Thus, the ongoing view is rather cool and contained, the bulls mostly winning the war, what with the Fed's continued blabbering over interest rates. Current outlook is for the Fed to keep rates at the zero-bound for as far as the eye can see, which would be until next year, maybe.

Sustained weakness in the US and global economies has kept a lid on any proposed rate hikes. Meanwhile, most of the stronger economies of Europe (an oxymoron if ever there was one) have fallen prey to negative rates and renewed fears of either a Greek exit from the EU (Grexit) and/or fears and outright signs of deflation.

Oil prices ramped back up to their highest levels in four months, dragging fuel prices at the gas pump higher, all occurring amid a record growth of reserves. The oil market is not - like most markets around the world - free from price-fixing and mauling by major manipulators.

For the week, the Dow gained 253.84 (1.42%); the S&P added 36.51 (1.75%); and, the NASDAQ popped 160.27 points (3.25%), breaking through to new closing highs not seen in 15 years (5092.08). Clearly, the real money is being made in momentum plays and the NAZ is where they are.

Irrational? We give you exuberance and euphoria.