Friday, September 30, 2011

Third Quarter a Stinker for Stocks; NASDAQ, SP Down 14%

The Markets

The third quarter officially ended today on September 30, and, unlike the usual quarter-ending, window-dressing ramp job, stocks suffered through their worst day of the week, in a month and quarter that was one of the worst of recent memory - and there have been some bad ones, recently.

The Dow Jones Industrials ended the quarter off more than 12%. The S&P and NASDAQ were rocked lower by 14%.

In simple terms, anybody in an index fund with $100,000 at the end of June, now has somewhere between $86,000 and $88,000. That may not sound like much, but $12-14,000 is roughly equivalent to the wages for a minimum-wage worker for a year. That's not a good sign for the bottom income earners in American society, because it means that the "wealth creators" so often cited by Republican office-seekers, have one minimum wage job less than they can create, should they now choose to part with some of that hard-earned (and easily lost) cash.

On the day, stocks started lower, stabilized, but fell off a veritable cliff into the close. There was no window dressing, no PPT push, no ETF re-balancing or anything to keep stocks afloat into the close. Nobody seemed willing to take significant positions in stocks, even though the 4th quarter is historically the best for stocks. The levels of gloom and doom rival those of the disastrous 4th quarter of 2008, when the global financial crisis was first realized and stocks gyrated lower and lower and lower.

Not only were stocks affected negatively during the month and quarter, but most commodities also fell by extraordinary percentages, especially gold and silver, which were whacked roughly 16 and 25% respectively. There was no place to hide for even the most conservative investors. Yields on Treasuries fell like rocks off a precipice. Bond yields for the 2-year, 5-year and 10-year note fell 40-45% in the quarter. The benchmark 10-year note closed out the quarter at a yield of 1.90%. The 30-year bond was the best performer of an ugly bunch, with yields falling only 35% since the end of June.

Crude oil was down 17% in the quarter, though gas prices at the pump have barely matched the decline. With gas prices nearly $4.00 a gallon at the beginning of summer, the average price - if 17% is the expected decline - should be around $3.35, though the AAA Fuel Gauge Report has the national average at $3.44. For perspective on how high real gasoline prices are, the price at the same time last year was a celebratory $2.69.

In company news, Eastman Kodak (EK), once a proud member of the Dow 30, fell 54% on the day amid reports that the company had hired the law firm Jones Day to discuss reorganization plans or a bankruptcy filing. Shares of Eastman Kodak dropped 91 cents to close at 0.78, an historic low.

Bank of America (BAC) plans to begin charging debit card users a $5 monthly fee in January, 2012, due to changes in the amounts banks can charge merchants per debit card use. BAC finished the day 23 cents lower, at 6.12.

Big corporate bankruptcies are dead ahead, likely to commence in the fourth quarter and accelerate through the first three quarters of 2012. Third quarter earnings reports kick off on October 11, when Alcoa (AA) reports after the bell.

Thank goodness for the baseball playoffs and football. Yeesh!

Dow 10,913.38 240.60 (2.16%)
NASDAQ 2,415.40 65.36 (2.63%)
S&P 500 1,131.42 28.98 (2.50%)
NYSE Compos 6,791.65 183.26 (2.63%)
NASDAQ Volume 2,081,539,875.00
NYSE Volume 5,323,945,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 1442-5118
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 31-515 (look out below!)
WTI crude oil: 78.65, -3.47
Gold: 1623.80, +7.90
Silver: 29.94, -0.73

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Bull Trap Has Been Set for US Stock Investors

The Markets

If you're like a lot of people, confused by the volatility of the stock market and the herky-jerky, up-down pattern that has persisted for over two months, you are not alone. Most people simply have given up on stocks and may take a look at their 401k or investment plan statement from time to time, but the day-to-day fluctuations are simply too severe and too random for anybody to really get a grasp on what's going on with stocks.

Fear no more, because Some technical analysis and a couple of definitions from Investopedia explain the condition to the letter. After studying the pattern, it is clear that what we have been experiencing is nothing more than a Bull Trap with a series of Fakeouts built into it.

Using the Dow Jones Industrials as a guide, we know that after the initial decline from 12724 on July 21 to 10720 on August 10, a loss of 2000 points in just 14 sessions, the Industrials have generally traversed a range from 10733 to 11613, a mere 900-point range which the markets cannot seem to penetrate either on the upside on downside. In other words, it's been hovering - up and down - closer the bottom, setting up the classic Bull Trap and offering a series of fakeouts when in an uptrend, only to collapse.

One can take the news of world financial events at face value or ignore them at this point, because unless something truly extraordinary occurs, the global financial conundrum won't matter to the market, as the trap has already been set and the next move will be lower, below the range and below 10733, probably down to 10200 or 9400 before it's finished.

Of course, the timing is everything, and this sideways trading could continue for a few more months or the final breakdown could happen over the next few weeks. It will appear as if the world is coming to an end, but it won't be, as there will still be at least 9000 Dow points underneath as a base. Those caught buying in here will be hung out to dry, with lots of overhead resistance, trapping them into losing positions for six months to possibly a few years, depending on which individual stocks one has bought.

So, the correct strategy at this point is to short near the top of the range, or the middle, but be prepared to wait. Options players may be interested in long-dated, out-of-the-money naked puts on the Diamonds (DIA), which tracks the Dow. A tiered strategy starting in November, December or January may be the best way to go, depending on one's own risk appetite.

That's all for today, some food for thought, as stocks finished in a very diffuse manner again, though in reality it was nothing but another failed rally.

Dow 11,153.98, -143.08 (1.30%)
NASDAQ 2,480.76, -10.82 (0.43%)
S&P 500 1,160.40, -9.34 (0.81%)
NYSE Compos 6,974.91, -97.97 (1.42%)
NASDAQ Volume 2,329,045,750
NYSE Volume 5,151,046,000
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 4292-2216
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 15-367 (still screaming SELL)
WTI crude oil: 82.14, +0.93
Gold: 1,617.30, -0.80
Silver: 30.52, +0.39

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Stocks End Three-Day Win Streak; Shopping the Dollar Stores

The Markets

Another day passed by without Europe imploding from excessive debt and they're still drinking plenty of Ouzo over in Greece, even as the country dives into desperation and poverty.

The economic climate hasn't much bothered the titans of industry and banking who populate the environs of Wall Street, but maybe the lingering doubt and uncertainty over economic issues is starting to get to them a little bit. Days like today show the strain a long, drawn out economic slide can have on markets. Stocks and indices don't just do straight down in a day or two; bear markets, like all good things, take time and patience to play out and this current one, which started just a few short months ago, looks to have a lot of downside over many months ahead.

There was little in the way of news concerning the global powers and their attempts to deal with the continuing crisis. No mutterings of sentiment from the ECB or Angela Merkel or French president Sarcozy. Even our own President Obama was pretty hushed up, and for him, that's saying something.

It was like the Harry Potter movie when they speak about "he who shall not be named"; nobody was interested in talking about the economy any more, but it surely was on the minds of traders, who sold off everything as the market entered the home stretch, making all the talk about a bounce, or end of quarter window dressing sound a little foolish.

Perhaps it was just more old-fashioned profit taking, by those who know that it's best to get out of the way of oncoming trains, like the one coming when third quarter earnings reports begin to hit the Street.

Whatever it was, stocks took a pretty solid body blow and after enough of these, with conditions still uncertain or deteriorating, volatility high and the leaders of the civilized world unable to get themselves and their banker buddies out of the mess they created, stocks and indices will stay down, move lower and not recover for a long time.

The happy part is that there will then be bargains galore amid a stock pickers paradise. Good companies will fall alongside bad ones, and prices will be so cheap and the competition so slim, that bargains stocks will appear all over the market.

All that has to happen is for the political leaders and global banking interests to make a few more policy mistakes and WHAM! stocks will be hit with the same ton of bricks that have already shuttered hundreds of thousands of small businesses around the world. Money will be scarce, people scared and unsure and institutions and governments will tumble.

Start making plans now, because this great drama of economics is playing out in the present and conditions for it getting really ugly are already in place.

Have faith in the bankers and politicians. They've screwed up before, and they're certain to do so again.

Dow 11,010.90, -179.79 (1.61%)
NASDAQ 2,491.58, -55.25 (2.17%)
S&P 500 1,151.06, -24.32 (2.07%)
NYSE Composite 6,876.94, -166.18 (2.36%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,912,622,750.00
NYSE Volume 4,787,752,000
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 1179-5322
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 16-231
WTI crude oil: 81.21, -3.24
Gold: 1612.00, -37.70
Silver: 29.96, -1.92

Idea: Shop Dollar Stores for Big Savings

We all know people who refuse to shop at, say, Wal-Mart, in the belief that they are somehow superior to the rest of the inhabitants of the planet and the low-cost experience is "beneath them."

When the economic tsunami blows through their part of the world, they'll likely be unprepared to make do with less or reconfigure their lifestyle to accommodate the new financial realities. For the uninhibited types and those without pretensions, there is life after Sak's, the GAP and JC Penny's and it can be found at strip malls and shopping centers around the country. They are known as dollar stores, where everyday items are sold at a discount, every day.

In case you missed it, Wal-Mart doesn't really promote their "lowest price" guarantee much any more, and that's because they're often not the lowest. The dollar stores - particularly Dollar Tree, Dollar General and Family Dollar - crush Wal-Mart and all other competitors on general merchandise all the time.

Whether it's laundry detergent (you do wash your own clothes, occasionally, no?), tomato juice (who doesn't love a good Bloody Mary?) or sunglasses, you can find good deals ($1 is good no matter what it is.) at these bustling retail establishments, plus hundreds of everyday items from cookware to spices to party and gift ideas to personal grooming products and much more.

Now, you can go to Home Depot and spend $2 to $3 for a roll of duct tape or buy two or three rolls of comparable quality for the same price. You can buy your snacks and chips at the local supermarket chain for $1.79 and up, or find the same selection for less at any of the dollar stores. These places are popping up all over the place.

In fact, Family Dollar plans to open 450-500 new stores in the coming twelve months. The others are expanding at a steady clip, even in this down economy. These companies have found a niche market that will only get bigger as the economy deteriorates and will hold their own in any economic environment, because there are always going to be people who will seek out bargains.

Bankruptcy Can Happen to Good People

In today's economic environment, it's difficult for average Americans to make ends meet, no matter what line of work you're in or how frugal your home life has become. Prices for essentials, such as food, heat and utilities, gas and rent have either stayed high or gone higher during the current three-year financial meltdown.

Sometimes, people try their best, but still can't pay all their bills, either because of the lack of employment, divorce or health issues (one of the leading causes of financial stress) and have to take the last resort, bankruptcy.

If you've never been through the bankruptcy process, it can be frightening and embarrassing, though it doesn't have to be either. Bankruptcy laws were put on the books in America many years ago, with the intention of giving people a fresh start.

The first step - after you've determined that your current condition isn't sustainable - is to find good representation, like a solid Omaha Bankruptcy Attorney, who can guide you through the myriad of rules and explain the different types of personal or business bankruptcies.

A competent Nebraska Bankruptcy Lawyer can help you understand your rights under Chapter 7, 9, or 11 of the bankruptcy code without making you feel as though you've failed or done something wrong with your life.

Bad things happen to good people all the time, and lawyers who understand life and the bankruptcy code can guide you to a better situation with the knowledge and skill only trained professionals can provide.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Rally Fades After Euro Rift is Exposed; Prepare for Third Quarter Earnings Bloodbath

US markets for equities and commodities have been held captive for the better part of the past three years - by high frequency traders, insiders with more knowledge (and money) than the general public, uninterrupted meddling by the PPT or other quasi-government agencies, but mostly, for the past nine to twelve months, by news from the Euro-zone.

It seems like every day there is a different story coming out of Europe concerning the debts of various nations and how the ECB, EIB, EFSF or any of a multitude of alphabet-soup acronyms react and intend to dispose of or attempt to solve the problem of the day. Today was no different as a late-session story from the Financial Times killed off a perfectly good short-covering, end of month window dressing rally inspired by absolutely nothing.

Stocks had been rolling along after a massive gap-up at the open, with the Dow ahead by as many as 325 points, but everything did an abrupt about-face when news erupted from Europe around 3:00 pm EDT over a rift between the nations aligned to bail out Greece - again.

According to the Wall Street Journal's story:
Stocks pared gains in the final trading hour after the Financial Times reported a split has opened in the eurozone over the terms of Greece's second bailout package. As many as seven of the bloc's 17 members are arguing for private creditors to swallow a bigger writedown on their Greek bond holdings, the FT said, citing senior European officials.

That was enough to finish off all the naked enthusiasm for the day and send stocks reeling into reverse. Though the averages finished the day with healthy gains, the froth at the top - and middle - were blown off by one story concerning something everybody already knows is a financial disaster, the continuing struggle over whether Greece should be allowed to fail or, by keeping it afloat, potentially take down the entire EU and maybe the rest of the global economy with it. The central banking powers and politicians around the globe are about at wit's end over the crisis in Europe, and are seemingly capable of saying or doing just about anything to stave off the eventual collapse of the Euro as a viable currency.

Sadly, for them and for the rest of us, eventualities do occur despite the best efforts of bright people to change the course of reality. It's so obvious to everyone now that Greece has to go, and soon, and they will take down untold numbers of European-based banks and spread the default contagion far and wide. Welcome to the 2008 redux.

For those who make a living trading, this environment is conducive to massive profits if one is nimble, smart and engaged, though at the end of the day all the swaps, hedges and protection aren't going to matter one whit when the financial tsunami crests upon first Greece's pristine shores and continues along the Mediterranean to Italy, Spain and Portugal. Once it races through the Straits of Gibraltar, all nations will be at risk, though the most isolated may be the best-insured. Countries out of the way, like Russia, India, Indonesia and Canada, may be spared the brunt of the blows, though general commerce will be affected globally.

It's coming. Everybody knows it. Most are in denial. That's how we get miracle rallies out of the blue and smashing declines on real news.

What to watch for are waves of large bankruptcies, like that of Saab, recently, sure to be followed by smaller suppliers and next by maybe a Chrysler or General Motors, which has traded below its IPO price for a solid six months after being bailout out by the US taxpayer. Nobody is buying new cars, and they're especially steering clear of GM (aka Government Motors) models. We are in the final stages of financial collapse, the first wave coming in 2008 and truncated by massive capital injections by the Federal Reserve, other central banks and governments from Paris to Beijing.

The financial paradigm of debt-issued money being created out of thin air, fractional reserve banking and crony capitalism has been broken and will soon find itself in complete and utter chaos. Events such as today's turnaround on Wall Street serve as apt reminders that the system is broken beyond human repair. It will take an act of God or an invasion from outer space to fix the mess and neither of those potentialities are on the horizon.

Adding insult to injury, analyst Meredith Whitney cut her third quarter earnings estimates on Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley late in the day. Whitney, a highly-respected banking analyst, cut Goldman Sachs (GS) from 3.39 per share to a mere 31 cents, a 90% haircut. Morgan Stanley (MS) was cut from 53 cents to 28, so it would be best to be prepared for a third quarter earnings bloodbath, not only for banking stocks, but for a host of other well-known names. Results from the previous quarter and year-ago will be hard to match for many firms, with the 4th quarter looking even more devilish.

Dow 11,190.69, +146.83 (1.33%)
NASDAQ 2,546.83, +30.14 (1.20%)
S&P 500 1,175.38, +12.43 (1.07%)
NYSE Composite 7,043.12, +102.31 (1.47%)
NASDAQ Volume 2,109,385,500
NYSE Volume 5,515,045,000
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 5195-1451
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 37-102
WTI crude oil: 84.45, +4.21
Gold: 1,652.50, +57.70
Silver: 31.54, +1.56

Monday, September 26, 2011

Nothing Has Changed Except Prices of Stocks; Silver, Gold Still Being Punished

The start of the week was another one of those sessions that made little sense in the grand theme of things, unless you're one of those poor, misled types who believe the Fed and central bankers are working for your benefit, not their own, and can magically pull rainbow-belching unicorns from their nether parts.

The rest of us just marvel at the machinations of the market amid the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and laugh or cry, depending on our moods and personal situations.

Volatility is the trader's friend, but an investor's nightmare. Stocks jumping around, up and down, without regard to fundamentals - exactly what's been happening in US equity markets since mid-July - does not make for a friendly investment environment. Your money is just as easily chewed up whether you are long or short. Only the best investors, or those with inside knowledge, like our hedge fund and banking friends running the computer algos on Wall Street, will survive. The small investor literally has no chance of turning trades into profits as the deck is stacked against him or her by the big money players.

So, we watch and wait for Europe to implode, the US government to shut down, or the massive federal debt to either be defaulted upon or paid off (yeah, that's a good one!). Sooner or later, all the debt will bury all the assets of stocks and investors will be left with worthless paper. Or it won't. One never knows what Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, President Obama or the insipid, asinine congress will do next, but one thing's for sure, if it's the congress or the president, it's not likely to amount to anything, and even Bernanke's magic touch seems to be a little less deft these days. Confidence is what makes markets, and almost all confidence has been destroyed by decades of borrowing and spending without control, lying to the American people (it happens in Europe, Japan and China too) about the state of the economy while the ringleaders of the criminal banking cartel walk freely.

One item from the weekend was interesting. It seems the Federal Reserve has put out a RFP for a Social Media monitoring system. This is nothing less than an attempt to quell negative public opinion (maybe they can start with Rep. Ron Paul) about the workings and dealings of the Fed. Since the Fed is a private bank, their snooping and interloping is pretty scary stuff, considering they are running the ship that creates monetary policy for the US, and, to a degree, the entire planet. You can read the RFP here.

From the Salon article linked above:
Federal Reserve Bank of New York has issued a "Request for Proposal" to suppliers who may be interested in participating in the development of a "Sentiment Analysis And Social Media Monitoring Solution". In other words, the Federal Reserve wants to develop a highly sophisticated system that will gather everything that you and I say about the Federal Reserve on the Internet and that will analyze what our feelings about the Fed are. Obviously, any "positive" feelings about the Fed would not be a problem. What they really want to do is to gather information on everyone that views the Federal Reserve negatively. It is unclear how they plan to use this information once they have it, but considering how many alternative media sources have been shut down lately, this is obviously a very troubling sign.

Are you worried? You shouldn't be, so long as you say nice things about the Fed, like, "they're the greatest central bankers ever!"

See, not so bad.

Dow 11,043.86, +272.38 (2.53%)
NASDAQ 2,516.69, +33.46 (1.35%)
S&P 500 1,162.95, +26.52 (2.33%)
NYSE Composite 6,940.81, +170.08 (2.51%)
NASDAQ Volume 2,018,322,875
NYSE Volume 4,553,576,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 3898-1762
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 16-431
WTI crude oil: 80.24, +0.39
Gold: 1623.50, -33.70
Silver: 30.73, -0.20

Note that the New highs - new lows are still screaming "SELL" every day. We are in a trough and the stocks can't seem to get out of this range. The best guess is that the next move is down and into bear market territory, at least that's what "old reliable" new high - new low data is saying.

The precious metals were shoved all over the map again today. In Thailand, the silver futures exchange was shut down via a circuit breaker when the metal traded down more than 10% in the opening minutes. The CME announced higher margin requirements on both metals. Odd, because they are already down so much over the past week. This is the global banking cartel at its worst.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Precious Metals Mayhem; Gold Down $100; Silver Slammed

There are plenty of theories on what took place in precious metals markets over the past few days, but the best possible explanations really don't hold up to closer scrutiny.

Some say that there were margin calls in stocks and that traders trundled out of gold and silver, though that would not explain why the biggest hits were today, unless there were some overnight desperation calls.

Others suggest that this is all a coup by central banks in anticipation of a major monetary event, such as a Greek default or a major Euro-zone banking collapse, or possibly even the shutdown of the US government, which, if our nitwit congress-people have it in their power (and they do) may just occur as early as October 1 (nice that it falls on a weekend, too).

That maybe makes more sense, as anyone with half an interest in current geopolitics knows the central banks are working in a coordinated fashion these days, knowing that the time left for successful fiat money may be measured in days or months, no longer in years. With the Fed turning 100 in 2013, that would seem a fitting date to implode the entire global ponzi fractional reserve scheme, smack dab in the first year of a new president's term.

Of course, there is still the famous short silver position of the fabled Blythe Masters of JP Morgan, which could explain quite a bit, especially in terms of the solvency of that fine financial institution, in particular.

Whatever the case, haters of real money are having a field day, supposedly impressed that gold has fallen back to levels last seen at... hmm, the beginning of August (yes, less than two months ago) and silver is currently where it was at the start of 2011. These short-sighted individuals should bear in mind that all of the major indices of US stocks are BELOW where they began the year.

The public lovers and hoarders of silver and gold have been making "back up the truck" references all day long, seeing this latest price movement as either a liquidity or solvency event and are prepared to scale in buying at these levels while hoping the price foes even lower. With them, there is overall agreement that whatever is causing the price of the precious metals to shudder over the past 48 hours has more to do with the sustainability of current political and monetary factions rather then the intrinsic values of two metals which have stood the test of time as currencies for the past 5000 years.

Whatever the cause, it should be seen as a buying opportunity, with caution to purchase only physical metal, not ETFs or mining stocks, and to scale in according to your risk perspective. With the weekend on hand, prices should firm up in a few short hours, and the metals are currently well off the lows of the day, when gold was down my more than $100 briefly and silver had printed - for a short time - at a $29-and-change handle.

That was where all the action was today. Stocks were essentially flat, which is something of a surprise, following a day-and-a-half of vicious selling pressure.

A good idea would be to head to your local precious metal outpost and make the best deal you can on gold or silver, bars or coins, take your pick, because there is going to be a break between the paper prices of the EFTs and the physical market, which is splintered amongst thousands of coin and bullion dealers scattered around the globe. The CFTC has done nothing to protect PM investors from raids like these, allowing big outfits (like HSBC, JPM and central banks) to run naked shorts in violation of position limits without so much as a quiet "no, no." And, when the fiat currency regime ends, as have all paper currencies backed by nothing but "trust" which has now been broken a thousand times over, gold and silver will re-emerge as "real" money.

Precious metals prices may go even lower in a deflationary environment, but, as the central banks engage in more easing, money printing and currency debasement, gold and silver will take on their own lives as legitimate currencies and soar in value. Any way you look at it, this is a godsend for anyone underinvested in precious metals, because, unlike stocks, currencies or bonds, they are not debt-based instruments and there is no counter-party risk.

God Bless Ron Paul!

Happy Friday!

Dow 10,771.48, +37.65 (0.35%)
NASDAQ 2,483.23, +27.56 (1.12%)
S&P 500 1,136.43, +6.87 (0.61%)
NYSE Composite 6,770.73, +44.11 (0.66%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,987,216,125.00
NYSE Volume 5,639,933,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 4195-2340
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 11-477
WTI crude oil: 79.85, -0.66
Gold: 1655.00, -81.50
Silver: 31.15, -4.69

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Market Crash Alert... Oops, Too Late, Dow Drops 391 Points

Editor's note: Switching over to first person singular tense for today, as it seems to work when I'm happy and the market is not. Some may be confused as to why I'd be happy over a market crash. That will be explained below.

The Markets

Today was another one of those doozies that come along... well, about once a week these days and I really wanted to issue a crash alert yesterday after the close, but didn't, even though I was alarmed over the number of new lows in relation to new highs. Anybody who reads this blog on a semi-regular basis (that's you, Dan K.) would know that the new lows - new highs is my favorite - and highly reliable - sentiment and direction indicator and it was flashing red at the end of the day on Wednesday.

Sure enough, Thursday turned into an all-out rout for equities on significantly higher volume, to say nothing of what happened to gold and silver (well, you can't have everything). Asian markets started the ball rolling downhill, with losses between 2 and 4%, then Europe kicked in with average losses of about 4.5% on the various exchanges.. The US declines were tempered by the usual late-day rally, in this case taking the Dow up about 130 points off the lows of the day, set at about 3:20 pm EDT.

The catalysts for the sell-off were various, but by no means, exclusive. Most market commentaries are blaming the Fed for their squeamish "Operation Twist" maneuver, which, upon further inspection, is a worse program than originally thought when we noticed this statement from yesterday's FOMC release:
To help support conditions in mortgage markets, the Committee will now reinvest principal payments from its holdings of agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities in agency mortgage-backed securities.
The Fed is becoming the buyer of last resort for toxic and other MBS, the Wall Street concoctions which started the whole financial contagion back in 2007. We wish them well with their purchases, especially since housing is about to embark on another 10-15% price decline over the next year to two years. The conditions for residential real estate have not changed much materially in three years, and, despite some cheerleading headlines, prices continue to slide and will until the entire mess is wiped from the books of our favorite zombie banks, which, if the Fed and the banks have their ways, will be never.

The more telling stories came out of China and Europe. China's PMI (Purchasing Managers Index) for the month was 49.4, down from 49.9 in August. In Europe, the PMI dropped to its weakest level since July 2009 with a reading of 50.8. Anything under 50 indicates contraction, so the Chinese are already moderately contracting (read: recession), while Europe is right on the cusp. Their PMI's are at levels very similar to those in the US.

Speaking of the banks, the biggest of them, the TBTF types, took more body blows on the day. Our personal favorite, Bank of America (BAC) sold down to 6.04 at the close, making Warren Buffett's $5 billion investment look pretty stupid, along with the warrants to buy to up 750,000 shares for $7.14. Mr. Buffett used to be one of the wisest investors of all time, but after investing $5 billion in Goldman Sachs - also with similar underwater warrants - and now BAC, he seems to have lost the Midas touch. Of course, Mr. Buffett normally makes better investments than the ones he has been forced into by President Obama.

So, stocks are down big again, and closing in on bear market territory, and the future looks pretty grim. Those of you still putting your money into a retirement fund or IRA, having not heeded my advice from August of 2007 (you can check) when I advised to cash out, take the penalty hit and move on, are probably looking at a 20% loss over the past two months. That is more than the usual early withdrawal penalty, so, sure, you made some dough in 2009 and 2010, but you're about to be giving it back now.

There seems to be little left for stocks to do but go down, so long as the following conditions exist (see if you can find a positive catalyst in this list):
  • US banks have been recapitalized since the collapse of 2008, but are still not lending and still are holding scads of bad loans both on and off their books, plus some have significant exposure to Europe - notably Morgan Stanley (MS) which is set to implode on the first whiff of a Greek default.
  • Unemployment is officially at 9.2% and heading higher, though the real number is somewhere North of 17% and there doesn't seem to be much of a rush in Congress to pass comprehensive tax reform or jobs program.
  • Congress, the President and the leaders of most of the nations of the world are blithering idiots, a fact made worse by the level of inbreeding among the elite class of society.
  • Foreclosures are on the rise again, and the glut of homes on the market remains at or near record high levels.
  • There is oversupply in just about everything, from gas and oil to houses to computers to automobiles. Prices are being or will be forced down in nearly every consumer class.
  • Banks are still reluctant to lend to anyone except the biggest and most secure individuals and companies, leaving little room for start-ups and small businesses, the real drivers of job growth.
  • Europe has more problems than one can imagine. The Germans are upset over having to guarantee such a large portion of the Greek bailout, now on its second time to the trough, with Italy, Spain and Portugal waiting in the wings.
  • The federal government will continue to run deficits of over a trillion dollars per year for at least two more years.
  • State and local governments are just now catching up to the private sector, laying off thousands of employees a month.
  • The US poverty rate is at an all time high.
  • The number of people receiving food stamps is at an all time high and still rising.
  • Did I mention the people in congress and the president are nitwits?

All of this sounds pretty gloomy, like a coming recession and a deflationary depression on the front burner, but there is hope, and that hope explains why I cheer when stocks look like they're about to crash (when they actually do crash, I really start to party!). The reason for this is pretty obvious from my perspective. I've been pretty much out of stocks since August of 2007, and completely out since the fall of 2009. There's too much risk involved for my simple tastes.

I'm also an independent businessman who fights red tape and higher prices constantly in order to keep the doors open. It's a struggle, but, as I say, it beats working for a living.

When the deflation and depression become full-blown, there's a very real possibility that the banksters and politicians will be eating each other's lunches, and I suspect there is some of that going on already. The public backlash against the kleptocracy of fractional reserve banking and ridiculous levels of taxation (like the 15% Social Security tax ponzi scheme) will be ferocious and many of the people in power will be knocked from their perches.

In a deflationary environment, cash and specialized skills will become more valuable. So too, gold and silver, we hope. Oil will - must - go lower, and along with it, gas, meaning more money in everyone's pocket to spend on other things than just basic transportation. Prices and wages will return to more manageable levels and business will eventually boom. It's all relative. If you're making $50,000 a year and you get cut down to $30,000, if prices have declined by 40% in general, it's a wash.

So, yes, I firmly believe that bank failures and a stock market crash will eventually result in a stronger, better-balanced economy, after a lot of pain and suffering, of course, but nothing good has ever come from anything earned without commensurate sacrifice.

(Oh, and I almost forgot, minus signs are easier to type than plus signs - no shift key required.)

Dow 10,733.83, -391.01 (3.51%)
NASDAQ 2,455.67, -82.52 (3.25%)
S&P 500 1,129.56, -37.20 (3.19%)
NYSE Composite 6,726.62, -254.71 (3.65%)
NASDAQ Volume 2,928,526,750
NYSE Volume 7,893,035,000
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 928-5812
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New Lows: 10-1385 (yes, you're reading that right)
WTI crude oil: 80.51, -5.41 (yippie!)
Gold: 1737.70, -45.20
Silver: 35.85, -3.84 (buying opportunity)

Quick note on silver. I believe it will go lower, possibly materially lower, as no true support for anything exists in a deflationary environment, of which we are clearly entering. Silver could crash all the way back to the mid-20s, depending on the severity of the overall global crash, so I would advise scaling in at this bargain point, and using dollar cost averaging to keep your basis reasonable. Eventually, silver should top out at well over $100, possibly even more, especially of much of the world finds the wisdom to return to real money.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Stocks Sell Off after Bernanke, Fed Disappoint Wall Street

The Markets

The entire process of Central Bank watching and anticipation is just so ludicrous, especially when a central bank such as the Federal Reserve overtly telegraphs most of their moves well in advance.

The secrecy, the waiting and then the immediate market reaction is simply so annoying, one would almost hope that the process and the players be done away with, once and for all. That sentiment is, in fact, what would happen under a monetary system operating under a gold standard. There would be little need for the Federal Reserve and much less attention paid to their arcane machinations. However, since the United States has been officially off a gold standard since 1971 and under the thumb of the debt-crazed Fed since 1913, hope for change any time soon is slim, though under a monetary breakdown, much like the one begun in 2008 that hasn't yet been resolved, possibilities exist.

After tow days of meeting, the FOMC of the Federal Reserve finally came out today, shortly after 2:00 pm EDT, with another one of their insipid statements, outlining their plans to "save the world" from financial ruin. while some on Wall Street hoped for a resumption of some kind of quantitative easing, what the Fed delivered was not unexpected and something of a disappointment to the money-hoarding bankster types populating lower Manhattan.

In additions to keeping the federal funds rate at ZERO, the Fed announced plans to sell $400 billion of its shorter-term Treasuries to buy longer-term Treasuries through June 2012 in a plan based on a failed 1960's plan known as "Operation Twist," the effect of which will be to bring down longer-dated interest rates. If successful, the program will flatten the yield curve, with short-term rates already well below historical norms, and longer term rates down, but with more room to decline. The economic effect ought to be limited or nearly invisible, which is what sent the Wall Street bears into selling mode after the announcement.

Stocks had hovered around the flat line in anticipation of the announcement and sold off sharply on strong volume afterwards and into the close. All of the major indices finished at or near their lows of the day all but wiping out the gains from last week's phantom, options-induced rally.

Stocks continue to be a very unsound and unsafe choice for investors.

The bond market reaction was swift and decisive, with two-and-three-year bill yields rising and longer-dated bonds, the 10-and-30-year maturities collapsing. The 10-year closed out the day with a yield of 1.85% and the 30-year at 3.01%.

Dow 11,124.84, -283.82 (2.49%)
NASDAQ 2,538.19, -52.05 (2.01%)
S&P 500 1,166.76, -35.33 (2.94%)
NYSE Composite 6,981.33, -236.19 (3.27%)
NASDAQ Volume 2,180,005,500
NYSE Volume 5,446,355,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 1135-5427
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 26-562 (OUCH!)
WTI crude oil: 84.76, -2.16
Gold: 1782.10, -22.70
Silver: 39.69, -0.05

A couple of items caught our attention today. One was an excellent summary of decades of manipulation in the price of gold by Chris Powell, Secretary/Treasurer, Gold Anti-Trust Action Committee (GATA) at the 18th CLSA Investors' Forum, Grand Hyatt Hotel in Hong Kong.

For pure emotion and unbridled rage that captures the pent-up feelings of millions of middle and lower-class Americans, nothing beats the Best of walstreetpro2 (greatest f---ing hits) - 3 of 3 Warning: the video cntains great amounts of vulgarity, adult language, truth about the US economy and the destruction of many consumer goods. All in all, a classic.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Rise and Fall of US Stocks All in One Day; Making a Budget and Sticking to It

The Markets

Stocks did an about-face midday on Tuesday, shaving away all of the morning gains as the afternoon wore on and word from Europe was mixed. The Dow Jones Industrials and S&P 500 each made a run at the lower end of their 50-day moving averages, hit resistance and failed, badly.

All of the averages made suspicious-looking early moves between 10 and 11 am EDT, hovered near the highs, made new highs around 2:00 pm and then fell remarkably into the close, with not even a hint of a closing bounce.

From a technical point of view, meeting resistance at the 50-day MA makes perfect sense and the indices will likely take another run at it in coming days, though it seems a hurdle too high to surpass, considering all of the significant headwinds facing companies (lowered earnings forecasts) and nations, especially those in the Eurozone - Greece, Italy, Portugal, Ireland - to say nothing about the current poor economic conditions in the USA.

Stocks have been mired in a basically directionless trading range for the better part of two months and that's making people even more nervous and keeping significant amounts of money out of stocks and into treasuries, corporate paper, cash and equivalents, gold and other tangible assets. The fear surrounding a default by Greece and the associated fallout to other European countries and banks has the market in a condition of near paralysis.

Until the sovereign debt issues are resolved one way or another, stocks will be unlikely to advance as investors are simply too afraid to stake out new, large positions.

On the data front, housing starts fell to a three-month low, from 601,000 annualized in July to 571,000 in August. With such a glut of cheap foreclosures and bank REO property on the market, in addition to the nearly 300,000 residential homes held by Fannie Mae, hope for a recovery by the end of this year are fading fast. With the onset of colder weather and the usual seasonal downturn, one could easily suggest that housing will dive even lower or bounce around the bottom until Spring of 2012 at the earliest. Of course, such numbers didn't faze Wall Street in the least. Optimists pointed out that building permits rose from 601K in July to 620K in August, though it's only a 3% move, barely more than a rounding error.

So, with Europe still a basket case and the US close behind, the markets are stuck in neutral, awaiting some kind of announcement from the FOMC, which began a two-day meeting today with a rate announcement due out tomorrow around 2:15 pm. The wording of the FOMC statement is unlikely to change dramatically, though many on the street believe the Fed will either outline some new policy such as "operation twist" in which they purchase longer-dated securities in order to drive long rates lower, or announce another round of quantitative easing, which would be dubbed QE3, though that concept, having already failed to goose the economy twice in the past two years, is unlikely to gather much traction within the Fed circle.

All should be expecting something from the Fed, even though many believe that they have exhausted nearly all of their policy tools.

Dow 11,408.66, +7.65 (0.07%)
NASDAQ 2,590.24, -22.59 (0.86%)
S&P 500 1,202.09, -2.00 (0.17%)
NYSE Composite 7,217.11, -17.52 (0.24%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,942,335,500
NYSE Volume 4,250,461,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2261-4207
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 85-189
WTI crude oil: 86.89, +1.19
Gold: 1804.80, +26.30
Silver: 39.74, +0.09

Idea: Making and Sticking to a Budget

We've all heard forever that making a budget for household and/or business expenses and income is a smart and necessary step toward financial freedom and fiscal responsibility, but, taking our lead from Washington, few people seem able to keep the process honest or reach desired outcomes. Our federal government is probably the worst example of budgeting known to man, as the process is riddled with partisan politics, fudged calculations, unrealistic expectations and projections and extraneous falderol like earmarks, off-balance sheet expenditures and unfunded liabilities like Social Security and Medicare.

Household budgets are a bit simpler to make though not quite as difficult to keep. The best approach is to go for a monthly outlook, as most of us have recurring expenses that serve as a baseline. Things like utility bills, phone and cable bills, car payments, mortgage payments (though some of us have eliminated those recently) and credit card expenses come due at some time or another during the month and have to be paid in a reasonably timely manner.

After that, items such as food, clothing, entertainment, (liquor and cigarettes if so inclined) and other variable expenses should be calculated out on a monthly basis as best as possible. That way, one can readily see where overspending or potential savings might occur. The regular bills, known in the business world as "fixed expenses" aren't going to change much, if at all, month to month, and one will find that over time, even variable expenses don't bounce around very much.

Once one has all the monthly expenses lined up, then it's time to match it against income (if one still has any) and see how it balances out. If you are one of the lucky few who have an extra $5,000-$2,000,000 on the income side of the ledger, you can stop reading right here. You don't need a budget; you need a financial advisor or a beach house.

If, however, you're like most people, you'll see where all that money goes, and when you stop crying, you might find a little bit left over. Anything more than 10-20% above your monthly regular expenses would be a great sign. If you find yourself a few hundred dollars short each month, then there's work to do.

Where most people get into trouble is in making exceptions, overspending (usually caused by not thinking and acting on emotion), and bogus projections, like "I'll get a raise soon," or the classic fail, "when I start receiving Social Security checks..." as wishful thinking almost never returns positive results.

Another trap is not counting the little things that add up to big headaches without one noticing. Things like that morning latte - and doughnut, bagel, croissant or McDonald's McBiscuit - the extra tip for the heavenly lunch waitress or waiter, tolls, parking fees, snacks, bottled water, the occasional needed home item, more expensive gas than calculated, all contribute to budget busting in all but the most frugal environments.

There are remedies for those items, such as keeping receipts for everything or a log book exclusively for "little" expenses, but the best way is to take your monthly expense total and add 10% to it, calling it the miscellaneous expense column. If you're judicious and cautious, you'll find yourself spending less than that 10%, but it's doubtful it will add up to very much. The key concept is that every dime and dollar counts, even those $200 binge nights out with the guys or gals.

In the end, we'd all like to earn more and save more, the goal eventually being filthy rich and not having to worry about money any more. Since that's an unlikely event for the vast majority, taking a little time each month to review and preview income and expenses gives one a clearer outlook on where one's been, where one's money is going and what can be done about it.

There are an assortment of online tools and sites which can provide some assistance. Here's a good place to start, with brief reviews of some of the best budgeting websites.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Stocks Down on Greece, Bank Issues

The Markets

There were just two simple reasons for stocks to start out the week as miserably as they did: banks and Greece.

Naturally, there's more to it than just that, though those two catalysts have been driving the markets - in one direction or the other - for about the past year-and-a-half. There was also the concept, disclosed here on Friday, that last week's five-day rally was based upon pure nothingness, much like our fiat American currency. Coming at the end of options expiration, the market action for the week was completely suspect, and today market participants were treated to the big winners squaring their books.

But fears of a Greek default (it will happen. It must, because Greece is broke.) and its effects on the banking community worldwide clearly pushed Eurpean stocks lower and so too with US indices. The Dow dove more than 250 points in the early going, taking the rest of the market down with it. Of course, there was the obligatory, short-covering, melt-up rally at 3:00 pm, which cut the day's losses roughly in half, but today will look like a picnic compared to what's on the event horizon in the not-so-distant future.

That's really it. There was no real substantive news of any kind, outside of President Obama droning on about taxing the rich in a morning speech. The markets continue to experience great stress, but if the banks in this country are feeling the pain, all one can say is that it couldn't happen to a more-deserving group.

In news you won't see covered in any depth by the mainstream media, Ron Paul took the California Republican Party straw poll by a landslide, winning 44.9% of the vote, and seven are arrested during third day of Wall Street protests.

The latter story was reported by Bloomberg, and, as much as we like the company founded by the current New York mayor, they're still a bit outside the establishment mainstream of the large TV network apparatus.

Dow 11,401.01, -108.08 (0.94%)
NASDAQ 2,612.83, -9.48 (0.36%)
S&P 500 1,204.09, -11.92 (0.98%)
NYSE Composite 7,234.63, -113.55 (1.55%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,900,534,375
NYSE Volume 4,224,766,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 1497-5053
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 47-185
WTI crude oil: 85.70, -2.26
Gold: 1778.50, -34.00
Silver: 39.65, -1.01

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Most Unimpressive Five-Day Rally Built on Sand

Even the excitement of options expiration on Friday - which explains just about everything about the week-long rally - could not keep stocks from registering a fairly unimpressive Friday showing.

Normally, on options expiration days, like today, volume spikes and the market generally takes off or sells off. Today's trade could best be characterized as choppy and sloppy, with all the major indices finishing close to their highs of the day thanks only to a spirited short-covering-into-the-weekend sprint in the final fifteen minutes of trading. The Wall Street criminal syndicate must have had their computers whirring at warp 10 at the end of the day.

The main reason the week-long rally was so unimpressive was threefold: first, the starting point came off a three-week low, the averages are stuck in a fairly enduring trading range, and the fact that options expired at the end of the week gives the impression that smallish short-term gains were all the focus. Nothing about the "sharp" rally was particularly exciting or indicative of any longer term trend.

The following recap shows, with links to charts, that trading stocks has been even less than a zero-sum game for the better part of the past two months.

First, the Dow, which closed today less than 25 points from its daily high, started off the week from a low point of 10,992, gaining what looks, at first glance, to be an impressive 517 points for the week, though considering it is still hovering below its falling 50-day moving average, which itself is blow the 200-day MA, shows that it's just another cyclical bear market, momentum move. Actually the recent rally from August 22 to 31 - 8 trading days - was broader and larger. Look what happened to that. It fell apart.

Besides that, the Dow remains well below the mid-July high of 12724 and even further down from the April 29 high 2011 high.

The NASDAQ was a bit more robust, the best-performing index of the bunch, today finally getting past its 50-day MA, though it remains below the flat-lined 200-day MA. It kicked up 154 points for the week, but, like the Dow, is still far short of the 2858 close on July 22 and down further from the April 29 high.

As for the most widely-watched S&P 500 index, it too came off a three-week low at the end of last week, picked up 62 points and is touching its 50-day MA. Like the other major indices, the 50-day has crossed under the 200-day MA. The S&P is 140 points below its early July high and that's a long way to go.

Obviously, the factors influencing the market movements this week were largely concerning Europe, which is still a basket case on the verge of total calamity, despite the best efforts of central bankers to paint a rosier picture than the stark reality of a Lehman-like debt implosion. The other factor, which should not be discounted in the least, was the quadruple-witching options expiration on Friday. With risk still quite high in the current environment, many a hedge fund and major trading firm is heavily invested in the options market and pushed their positions to winning spots all during the week. To see a continuation of this rally on Monday would be quite remarkable, considering that it is wholly fabricated by the few remaining players with the ability to move more than just individual stocks, but entire indices whichever way they please.

Since the correction which began in early July, stocks have gone sideways for the past six weeks, and, despite this marvelous, low-volume pump job, show no real signs of breaking out, over and beyond the 200-day moving averages and above the recent highs. Traders made money here, but investors are just as nervous as they were at the end of last week. Considering the dour economic data and the continuing credit, sovereign and currency crunch on the European banking establishment, any elongated upside should be considered a long shot.

Dow 11,509.09, +75.91 (0.66%)
NASDAQ 2,622.31, +15.24 (0.58%)
S&P 500 1,216.01, +6.90 (0.57%)
NYSE Composite 7,348.18, +19.08 (0.26%)
NASDAQ Volume 2,662,978,250
NYSE Volume 5,098,945,000
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 3404-3109 (no breadth)
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 69-69 (seriously!)
WTI crude oil futures: 87.96, -1.44 (hurrah!)
Gold: 1810.10, +20.30
Silver: 40.65, +0.74

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Coordinated Central Bank Intervention to Save European Banking System

The Markets

Yes, matters in the European banking sector were getting just a bit panicky over the past few weeks; so much so that the world's largest central banks were forced to step in and provide liquidity to pressured banks across the European continent.

Striking like a lightning bolt, the European Central Bank, Bank of England, Bank of Japan, Swiss National Bank and the US Federal Reserve jointly vowed to provide three-month loans denominated in dollars for the remainder of the year.

With this move, the worlds inhabitants can clearly see that the empire of debt has now encompassed the entire planet, and not only do we have zombie banks in Japan, England and the United States, but now the major banking institutions of Europe have joined the club. France's Societe General and BNP Paribas, Germany's Commerzbank and Deutsche Bank are among the largest banks needing a fresh infusion of capital in order to service maturing debt and continue providing loans to the nations of Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Italy and others. Many of these same large banks and smaller ones already have been the recipients of US and Central Bank largesse in the past, receiving trillions of dollars in 2009 and 2010, when the financial contagion begun in the United States spread globally.

Oddly enough, this stunning development occurred three years to the day that Lehman Brothers failed, sending economic shock waves around the world, and it is proof enough that all Central Bank intervention, loans, guarantees, swaps and programs have not solved the fundamental problem facing most major banks and sovereign states: solvency.

Zombie banks, like Bank of America and Citigroup in the US, are customarily burdened with bad loans, have trouble borrowing in the open market and will only advance loans to the biggest and most financially secure customers in a severe risk avoidance maneuver. Expect the same results from this action as what happened in the US after TARP, TALF and a dozen other Fed programs designed to stimulate economic activity merely provides a cushion for the banks, bigger bonuses for their executives and no relief for the general population or small business, the engine of job creation.

Europe, like Japan over the past twenty years and the US for the last three, will suffer the same kind of economic stagnation. Of this, there is little doubt because the nations the loan to are nothing more than deadbeat borrowers, who fail to address the fundamental issues facing their governments, which is simply too much debt and not enough revenue, a condition that is likely to only worsen in months and years ahead.

The Central Bank intervention today will only provide some cover for a short time. Eventually, bad debts need to be written off, investors take losses and the financial system cleansed. It is one part of the business cycle the central banks continually deny and have not addressed, preferring instead to paper over losses with more debt, delaying and dampening any chance of real economic recovery. It is indeed unfortunate that these grand macro-economic thinkers have so embraced the Keynesian principles of borrowing, taxing and spending, they've forgotten that households constitute the backbone of all economies, not the banks, which they are so eager to keep from failing while millions - perhaps billions - of people are thrust from the middle class into abject poverty.

Along these same lines we have the president's proposed American Jobs Act, which is currently dead on arrival in the congress. House Republican leader John Boehner predictably took aim at the president's proposed $447 billion jobs package, labeling it as a "poor substitute" for polices Boehner and many House members prefer. Boehner referred to the president's policies as "short-term gimmicks" as opposed to fundamental changes in tax laws and reductions in regulations that are strangling American businesses.

As expected, Boehner and other Republican leaders have said that Obama's plan to pay for his jobs program with tax increases is a non-starter on the Hill, effectively killing Obama's plan before it even reaches the committee level. Once again, we will be witness to great wrangling for weeks or months over what's needed to kick-start the economy. While some of Obama's ideas are worthwhile, they are still likely to be ineffective in solving the nation's burgeoning employment crisis.

Additionally, in the early part of the day, both before the market opened and during trading hours, a stream of economic news and data - most of it bad - made its way to the Street. Included was another week of initial unemployment claims at 428,000, a jump of 11,000 from the previous week and the 21st week of the last 22 that initial claims have been over 400,000. CPI came in with a rise of 0.4% for August, a 4.8% inflation rate, annualized. Industrial Production inched up 0.2% and capacity utilization was nearly flat, with an increase of only 0.1%.

Two Fed districts reported sour economic data. The New York Fed released its monthly Empire Manufacturing Index, showing economic activity in New York state falling again, at -8.8 in September after a -7.7 reading in August. The Philadelphia Fed's Economic Index improved, but only form a horrifying -30.7 in August to a less-frightening - though still deteriorating - 17.5 in September.

With those sad numbers serving as a backdrop, Wall Street once again proved that it only pays heed to what it perceives as positive news, ramping up right out of the gate and posting large gains for the day on the promise of more free money for all banks, particularly those in Europe.

With all the momentum being built into the coming holiday season and the presidential election season due to heat up shortly after that, the chances of a catastrophic collapse are now more evident than ever. The bankers and politicians have contrived solutions that serve only them well and do little if any good to the common working man or woman. Institutions globally are under attack by angry citizens who have lost nearly all faith in the current regime of world leaders to actually make laws and progress that will heal the deep economic wounds that continue to be inflicted on once-great nations.

While the politicians focus on making speeches and posturing against each other in hopes of winning re-election, the rest of us are left wondering who will be around to cast the needed votes for these fools. Our economic malaise deepens daily and the fiat money system grows weaker with every new plan designed to keep banks and nations from facing reality. Denial is alive and well at the apex of our political and economic structure.

Dow 11,433.18 186.45 (1.66%)
NASDAQ 2,607.07 34.52 (1.34%)
S&P 500 1,209.11 20.43 (1.72%)
NYSE Compos 7,329.10 129.98 (1.81%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,986,520,875.00
NYSE Volume 4,462,452,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 4642-1857
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 50-74
WTI crude oil futures: 89.40, +0.49
Gold: 1788.10, -33.00
Silver: 39.84, -0.91

Chemical Investment M&A a Highly Specialized Field

In the high stakes world with mergers and acquisitions, investment banking is a highly specialized field in which industry knowledge and experience are the key elements in making deals work to the benefit of the acquirer and the company being acquired.

This specialty is usually relegated to a handful of well-capitalized and expert companies, most of which do deals in the multi-millions to billions of dollars range. One cannot walk into just any bank to do these kinds of deals. While many financial institutions may claim that they are "full service," in reality they are not equipped to handle complex mergers and large-scale deals.

M&A gets more complicated depending upon the industry. Expertise and years of hands-on experience is needed to understand the particular nuances and specific needs of various industry groups. Just as one would never go to an orthopedic surgeon to deliver a baby, companies undergoing a merger in the aerospace, computer or any other industry grouping would not go to a commercial bank.

That is why companies such as the Valence Group specialize in chemical investment banking. They offer a wide range of services including buy and sell-side advisories, expertise in dealing across international borders, defense of bids and unsolicited offers and the ability to properly value any deal in the chemical mergers and acquisitions space.

An independent company with offices in London, New York and Shanghai, the Valence Group offers investment banking origination and execution with a team of experts from the chemical industry alongside senior investment bankers.

Anyone considering a large-scale merger or acquisition in the chemical industry would do themselves a good turn by taking the time to meet with one of the Valence Group company advisors as they have successfully completed similar deals with a multitude of companies such as Wyeth, Johnson & Johnson, Celanese, and Hoechst.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Greece Will Not Default... This Week, Maybe Next

The Markets

All you need to know about today's "out of the blue" rally.

According to a Bloomberg report:

"Greece is an integral part of the euro area and recent decisions to meet budget targets will help shield the economy," the Greek government said in a statement today following a call between Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

...and with that, it was off to the races for the algo-spitting machines which double for a perfectly-functioning market.

Seriously, there was nothing other than that, oh, well, both PPI and retail sales figures were unchanged from the prior month, so nothing to see, there, really, move along. Something (not sure what) spooked the machines at about 3:30, just after the major indices hit their highs of the day and were careening toward an even bigger ramp up, but whatever it was, it took 140 points off the Dow and made today's extraordinary rally look... ordinary.

So, if reading the Wall Street tea leaves correctly, all that has to happen is for Greece not to default and we'll see Dow 20,000 in a matter of months. That appears to be the general herd mentality.

Just for a reference point, take a look at how far below the April highs the S&P, NASDAQ and Dow are and then rethink that strategy of buying everything that has momentum, like Netflix or Apple or maybe LuluLemon. Here's a hint: the Dow closed at 12810.54 on April 29, the high for the year, and, since we're checking, the close on Decembre 31, 2010 was 11557.51, so we're down for the year and about 1500 points off the high.

So, when Greece does default - because they surely will at some point - whether it be orderly or not, what will stocks be worth then?

Dow 11,246.73, +140.88 (1.27%)
NASDAQ 2,572.55, +40.40 (1.60%)
S&P 500 1,188.68, +15.81 (1.35%)
NYSE Composite 7,199.12, +89.17 (1.25%)
NASDAQ Volume 2,300,166,500
NYSE Volume 4,961,128,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 4804-1800
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 52-110
WTI crude oil futures: 88.91, -1.30
Gold: 1819.70, -14.50
Silver: 40.69, -0.44

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Calm Before the European Debt Storm

The Markets

An eerie calm settled over global markets on Tuesday. Maybe it was the mild late-summer weather, but most likely the dull, though uniformly positive trading sessions were not marred by any surprise announcements of China buying Italian debt or President Obama proposing another hare-brained multi-billion dollar stimulus program, and thus the machines went about their business of chasing momentum stocks into positive territory.

There actually was some somber news. It seems the 2008-and-beyond recession has yielded some stunning negatives on the American psyche. It seems, according the the Census Bureau, that the level of poverty in America has risen to its highest rate in 18 years, at 15.1 percent of all Americans, while the number of people living below the poverty line has risen to a record of 46.8 million in 2010. Both numbers are almost certain to be higher once they crunch the data from 2011.

Additionally, median household income in the United States in 2010 was $49,445, a 2.3 percent decline from the 2009 median, after adjusting for inflation.

Thank you presidents Bush and Obama, all the congresses of the past decade, rich bankers and uncaring CEOs one and all. You have succeeded in the first phase of turning a once prosperous, joyous nation into a third-world hell-hole. There's great certainty that the politicians, bankers and media will continue to pursue policies that are harmful to the lives of average Americans while at the same time denying them of basic human rights and those couched in the constitution. Please don't ever allow Rep. Ron Paul to speak during a presidential debate - all of which have been nothing more than jousting matches between two loser career politicians, Rick Perry and Mitt Romney - as he might awaken the slumbering middle class which you are going out of your way to destroy.

Of course, none of this meant anything to the wizards of Wall Street, who only see such statistics as meaning there will be more consumers for their goods and more government cheese and free money forever. Wall Streeters earn well beyond the median income. They cheat and steal even more.

These kinds of statistics are neither enjoyable to report nor meaningful in the fight against the government-banking kleptocracy because they simply don't care, have all the money at their disposal and will not change anything. Only when the monetary system finally implodes upon itself, when there are no more pigeons to fleece and no more suckers from which to take money will the government and business begin to function as intended, without interference and ridiculous taxes and entitlements.

Until then, we have Europe on our side, especially the Greeks, who openly oppose their government, willfully refusing to pay taxes and - for the most part - ignoring the doctrines and proclamations of the elitists. We should all take a lesson from them, just as their economy sinks into an inescapable indebtedness.

Dow 11,105.85, +44.73 (0.40%)
NASDAQ 2,532.15, +37.06 (1.49%)
S&P 500 1,172.87, +10.60 (0.91%)
NYSE Composite 7,109.95, +62.83 (0.89%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,943,776,750.00
NYSE Volume 4,648,729,000
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 4865-1635
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 25-114
WTI crude oil futures: 90.21, +2.02 (absurd)
Gold: 1833.30, +18.90
Silver: 41.01, +0.72

Monday, September 12, 2011

BUMMER: The Plunge Protection Team Is Back in Action!

The Markets

Let's face it. US equity and commodity markets are completely, irretrievably, unconscionably manipulated beyond any basic sense of fairness.

On the morning of the first trading day of the week, US equity scalpers were met with futures that forecast a dismal Monday. Every index in every foreign country was lower on the day. In Asia, the Hang Seng led the way with a loss of greater than 4%. European bourses, shattered for the better part of the past three months, were all lower, the French CAC-40 taking over from the German DAX in leading the way to oblivion with a 4% decline.

But here in America, we have advantages. We have Ben Bernanke, the brilliant, often uninspiring and always shaking Chairman of the Federal Reserve. We have Timothy Geithner, the diminutive (matching his brain power) Treasury Secretary who keeps a watchful eye over the nation's exploding debt.

And we have printing presses (actually, they've been replaced by computers) spitting out US dollars faster than a 9th Avenue hobo picks up pennies thrown his way.

More than anything else, however, we have the fabled Plunge Protection Team (PPT), aka the President's Working Group on Financial Markets created by President Reagan in the aftermath of the LTCM blowup in 1987.

According to Executive Order 12631, the "Working Group" was established explicitly in response to events in the financial markets surrounding October 19, 1987 ("Black Monday") to give recommendations for legislative and private sector solutions for "enhancing the integrity, efficiency, orderliness, and competitiveness of [United States] financial markets and maintaining investor confidence.

In other words, when the markets are crashing, the Working Group, or PPT, springs, like trained attack Dobermans, into action to rescue witless investors from parting with their increasingly worthless cash.

Today, the PPT got busy early on. Stocks were hammered at the open, in response to the rest of the world in a near panic over Greece potentially defaulting and European credit market spreads blowing out all over the place. Stocks were down huge in the opening minutes of trading, as an extension of Friday's selloff and the continuing global debt implosion. The fact that Greece will eventually default on a large portion of their debt and ungraciously remove itself from the Euro standard (back to the Drachma) is unimportant to the functioning of the PPT. They buy futures. They buy stocks. They buy whatever is falling fastest, which on Monday, was just about anything that had a ticker symbol.

The PPT doesn't always prompt rallies. Their normal function is to keep US indices from falling too far, too fast, like today, like about six times in the past three weeks, like about a thousand times since the dotcom crash of 2000. And today was no different. They kept he markets in a sane neighborhood, down somewhere between a half and one per cent, until, that is, all the lights turned green.

Around 2:30, the Financial Times, another overstuffed relic from the days of ink and newsprint, ran a story that China was interested in buying Italian bonds, many of which will go up for bid this week as the Italian government seeks to finance its long-standing tradition of turning investor dough into pasta salad, along with assorted mafia side dishes and Berlusconi desserts.

Since noodles are noodles, whether they're doused in marinara or lobster sauce, the nitwits on CNBC were led to believe that this was a great idea, and the markets turned from merely moribund to miraculously magnificent in the final hour-and-a-half of trading. The US wins again. All of the US indices ended the day in positive territory.

Now, some may cheer that the US government has investor's backs, but the stark reality is that the PPT is all that's left between regular day-to-day life and a most serious, full-blown market crash of stupefying proportions. The global economy is on its knees due to too much debt, too many goods and too many currencies trying vainly to devalue themselves. The entire affair is deflationary in the most absolute sense as goods and services become more and more worthless, while the relative value of the currencies which buy such goods plummets into an phalanx of money-crunching debt.

Ah, for the good old days of really free, open markets, like back in the sixties and seventies, when a stock could be worthwhile returning a reasonable four to five per cent dividend along with annualized growth of 15-20%. A quarter point here, a half point there. We were all invested and looking forward to a safe, sensible and sane retirement.

Nostalgia. It's what one gets when one sees the fruits of labor lavished on the already rich.

And by the way, the day should not pass without acknowledging that Jaime Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase, thinks the Basel 3 rules requiring the largest banks, such as his, to hold 9.5% of tier one capital, are "un-American." Right. FU, Jaime. Is JPM the next bank to start selling off assets? Probably should, but probably won't. Hey, the world is an imperfect place, suitable for misfit rich kids like Jaime.

Dow 11,061.12, +68.99 (0.63%)
NASDAQ 2,495.09, +27.10 (1.10%)
S&P 500 1,162.27, +8.04 (0.70%)
NYSE Composite 7,047.12, +2.11 (0.03%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,994,098,375
NYSE Volume 5,034,112,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 3178-3364
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - new lows: 19-514
WTI crude oil futures: 88.19, +0.95
Gold: 1815.80, -42.80
Silver: 40.29, -1.09

Astute readers will understand what it means when all the major indices are up, but the A-D line is negative and especially when the new highs - new lows are tilted so heavily in favor of the lows. For those who still need guidance, it's a con, a complete, total, 100% sham. That oil futures are up while gold and silver suffer heavy losses really cinches it.

Idea: Fresh out, though working hard on "Making a budget and sticking to it," and "Saving 10% of your income." More tomorrow.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Obama Speech a Big Flop; Greece May Default Over Weekend

The Markets

The rhetoric in President Obama's address to a joint session of congress last night was so far over the top with his screeching, "Pass this jobs bill" over and over ad nauseam that the conclusion is that congress, though they may like some of it, will do everything in its power to delay, disrupt, debate and defeat Obama's American Jobs Act (AJA), and this time they would be doing everyone a favor.

Here's a Daily Kos blogger who lavishes on the praise for Obama's oratorial skill a bit too heavily (for our tastes), but basically has most of the details right.

Here's NPR's take:

The very last thing we need in this country is a bill wrapped in the flag (lest we forget the president advising congressional Republicans to put "country over party") which delivers little more than promises of tax credits to small business, but spends billions on teachers ($35 billion to be exact), repairing schools (the bulk of the $100 billion in infrastructure spending) and cuts the payroll tax contributions for both individuals and small businesses.

If this jobs bill is passed in any form, it's effect on unemployment will be minimal because businesses hire when they need work done, as in servicing more customers, and that just isn't happening in many small, medium and large American businesses. Consumers have been cutting back, and business cuts back to accommodate the slackening demand for their goods and/or services. Nobody hires because the government offers an incentive to do so, except those wishing to game the system, and there are plenty of those around.

No, the congress should delay and defeat any bill which proposes to spend more money we don't have. The first Obama stimulus - a much larger package - has already proven to be a failure, and this bill comes a number of months late and many dollars - and ideas - short.

The reaction from the markets on Friday was a collective sigh and a return to the "sell" button.

Obama's public bust was not the only item that rattled traders over the final session of the week. European markets were hammered down again, and that sent the dollar soaring against the Euro, which meant that the carry trade of shorting the dollar and buying stocks has gone up in smoke and the machines don't have an algo for that.

Persistent rumors that Greece was about to default, possibly over the weekend, sent European bourses down in droves and sent the US Treasury 10-year note to a record low yield of 1.92%. Also roiling markets was the abrupt resignation of ECB chief economist Juergen Stark, apparently over the continued buying of bonds by the ECB.

The combination of the European crisis escalating again and the failure of the president to offer any convincing plan to combat unemployment sent stocks back to levels not seen in nearly three weeks with the Dow closing below 11,000 for the first time since August 22nd.

The S&P 500 broke through several support levels and is only 31 points away from its August 8 closing low of 1119. The NASDAQ fared better, though not by much, finishing 126 points above its August 19 closing low of 2341.84.

If the rumors about Greece prove true, monday's markets could prove a bloodbath of monstrous proportions, but, even if the Greeks decide to play along, the European financial crisis won't simply fade away, nor will the sluggish environment in which the United States is currently embrolied.

Dow 10,992.13, -303.68 (2.69%)
NASDAQ 2,467.99, -61.15 (2.42%)
S&P 500 1,154.23, -31.67 (2.67%)
NYSE Composite 7,045.01, -212.35 (2.93%)
NASDAQ Volume 2,066,526,125
NYSE Volume 5,467,812,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 1083-5459
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 22-353
WTI crude oil futures: 87.24, -1.81
Gold: 1859.00, -10.60
Silver: 41.60, -0.74

The woes of Bank of America continue. They and other banks tied up in the robo-signing scandal may still face extensive civil and criminal charges after the 50-state Attorneys General reaches a "global solution" which has been rumored to be about $20 billion. New York AG Eric Schneiderman has been pursuing Bank of America through his own offices and is not participating in the investigation by the other 49 state AGs. Schneiderman is pushing to claim that BofA and others fraudulently transferred securities to investors, pledging the same notes to more than one group. His investigation continues.

Of all the bright guys out there who cover finance, bank analyst Chris Whalen, the founder and managing director of Institutional Risk Analytics, is among the very brightest of all, so when he says Bank of America (BAC) should file for bankruptcy, maybe CEO Brian Moynihan and others should listen. See Whalen make his case in the video below.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Markets Down Without Cause; Bike Riding offers Solutions

The Markets

Stocks could not follow through - as expected - yesterday's momentum rally, despite there being a paucity of news - good or bad. The only actionable events were the pre-open release of weekly unemployment claims, which came in poorly again, at 414,000, up 2,000 from an upwardly-revised 412,000 in the prior week.

Other than that, the ECB and Bank of England kept key interest rates unchanged, so all there was to do was to sell those stocks which were profitable in yesterday's trading and sit in cash until after the president's 7:00 pm EDT speech in which he is supposed to unveil some sort of jobs program.

The Bernanke speech in Milwaukee was a disappointment to those who wished he would announce QE3 - it's not going to happen - and consisted mainly of the Fed chairman droning on about how weak the economy is and how the Fed stands vigilant to do whatever it can to fix it. The takeaway was that the fed really doesn't have much power any more, having used up all the bullets in their six-shooter. The speech, thus, was a big non-event.

While there's been a multitude of opinion surrounding what the president might say in his speech tonight, whatever his jobs program might be, it's proabably going to consist mainly of an extension of the payroll tax holiday, tax credits to businesses who hire new employees (a program that has great potential to be scammed heavily), some kind of infrastructure "bank" (read: borrow and spend, also great scam potential) to repair more highways, bridges and tunnels, and little else.

The president is relying on bad economic information, which he has since he took office. Mr. Obama neither understands the US economy nor the travails of the average American. If he truly wanted to fix things in this country, he'd force phone, cable and power companies to cut their exorbitant rates, put a nationwide cap of $3.00 per gallon on gasoline at retail, announce a larger and more-encompassing tax holiday, slash medicare and social security contributions and simultaneously cut the pay of every federal government employee by five to ten percent (the tax cuts would ease the pain completely), and repeal the monstrosity that is known as Obamacare.

That isn't going to happen, so expect the US economy to remain moribund for at least another year, probably 18 months, and quite possibly longer. Until the government gets it's act together and begins to understand that the problem is that there aren't enough real jobs in the country to re-employ the 14 million out of work and that borrowing more on band-aid programs aren't going to jump start anything any time soon. The time is right for fundamental changes to entitlements and the grotesque tax code. Whether there's the political will to make these changes is highly doubtful, especially when all the politicians are focused only on keeping their jobs and fighting for control of the White House. The election is still 14 months away, but that's all that occupies the minds of our beloved "leaders."

Dow 11,295.81, -119.05 (1.04%)
NASDAQ 2,529.14, -19.80 (0.78%)
S&P 500 1,185.90, -12.72 (1.06%)
NYSE Compos 7,257.36, -97.81 (1.33%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,951,654,250
NYSE Volume 4,277,785,000
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 1603-4886
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 58-56
WTI crude oil futures: 89.05, -0.29
Gold: 1865.80, +48.50
Silver: 42.34, +0.79

Idea: Ride a Bike Whenever Practical or Possible

It's been said that when you learn how to ride a bike, you never forget, and since most Americans grew up riding bikes as kids and teens, there's probably about 150-200,000 million of us who could get on one and ride without fear of falling off. For many, especially those whose diets have caused them to become grossly overweight or obese, a good, sturdy mountain bike and a two mile ride every day would go a long way toward reducing both their weight and future medical costs from everything from diabetes to heart disease.

The advantages of riding a bike are probably too numerous to mention, but beyond the obvious health benefits, bikes require no fuel at all, except that which comes from the furious pedaling of our little legs. With the price of gas hovering near $4.00 a gallon, every mile trekked on a bicycle is a savings in fuel use and expense. Not only does the savings accrue to the individual, but if enough people substituted driving their cars for trips of under two miles and instead rode a bike, it wouldn't be long before those ridiculous gas prices began coming down, providing a benefit to the whole country.

Economic change is usually accomplished at the fringes, and promoting bike riding as a health and financial benefit is right out there on the outer limits, where economists are generally blind.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Beginning of a Bear Market

Today was yet another example of the wickedness of having computer algorithms doing what humans used to do. The momentum play was on the upside after German court ruled that Germany's participation in the bailout of Greece and other cash-strapped European nations was constitutional, meaning, for the investing class, that the party of low interest rates, cheap money and free spending without responsibility would continue on the continent without interruption from annoying laws or moral hazard.

The rest of the day-long rally in equities was the work of machines, following the momentum flow of the day.

But what do these sharp rallies really mean? Are they signs of health in US equity markets and the global economy or are they false flag events designed only to be sold off minutes, hours or days later as a bear market commences?

The answer to those questions probably lies somewhere in the recent charts of the major indices, which all show the same pattern of a sharp drop-off at the end of July, followed by a series of volatile rallies and sell-offs, leaving the indices well below their 50 and 200-day moving averages (which have all already crossed over). The high bar for markets is to get back to those July levels, which seem like distant specs on the horizon from where the market now resides.

These high water marks are roughly 12750 for the Dow, 2875 for the NASDAQ, 1350 for the S&P and 8490 for the NYSE Composite. Just take a look below to see just how far stocks would have to rally to regain those levels and your thinking about whether or not this is a good time to invest in stocks might be changed radically because if they don't get there, technicians will call this environment a sustained correction - that is until the indices fall to 20% below their highs made back at the end of April, which would then confirm a bear market.

European indices are already in bear market territory, and the sharp rallies over there are nothing more than short-covering or knee-jerk rallies that belie the true nature of the environment, which has most of Europe falling into recession in the next quarter. If Europe goes, the US will not be far behind, and some say we're already there.

So, what will it be in the coming months? Recession and a bear market (and one which could be particularly brutal) or a sustained recovery, upon which the middle class of America has been waiting nearly three years? Choose wisely.

Bear in mind that today's rally, like so many before it, was punctuated by embarrassingly low volume.

Dow 11,414.86, +275.56 (2.47%)
NASDAQ 2,548.94, +75.11 (3.04%)
S&P 500 1,198.62, +33.38 (2.86%)
NYSE Composite 7,355.17, +207.04 (2.90%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,755,357,500
NYSE Volume 4,312,856,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 5655-944
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 35-46
WTI crude oil futures: 89.33, +3.31
Gold: 1817.00, -56.60
Silver: 41.64, -0.32

Idea: Buy Gold and Silver on eBay

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past decade, you know how gold and silver have outperformed stocks and bonds and just about all other asset classes (maybe all of them), but if you are reluctant to purchase some for your own portfolio, you might take a look at eBay's offerings and do a little bit of research into why gold and silver will continue to rise as fiat currencies devalue.

One fine site n which to do some research about pre-1965 silver coins is, which offers a nice selection of metals-related news and some great charts and tools to determine present and future value of mostly 90% silver coins, which just happened to be the standard way back when the US was a net exporter and a strong, growing nation.

After 1964, coinage was dramatically changed, with the percentage of silver in dimes, quarters, halves and silver dollars substantially reduced. Once you check out the values, head over to ebay and buy a few Morgans or Walking Liberties or Washington Quarters. Prices are fair and right around spot, including shipping and the sellers are 99.99% honest and fair dealers.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Swiss Shock Starts Stock Slide

The Markets

While most Americans were munching on burgers, hots and potato salads Monday, the rest of the world was working, and stocks took a major beating in exchanges across the globe. Both Asian and European markets suffered 3-6% declines, capped by a huge fall in the German DAX, as financial woes continue to spread globally, but are hitting the Eurozone especially hard.

On Monday, Asian markets were mixed, but all except the UK and Swiss markets finished in the red.

The workweek in the US began with news that the Swiss National Bank (SNB) decided to peg its "safe haven" currency at 1.20 Euros to stave off a recession and halt the strengthening of its currency that has proceeded at a swift pace since the collapse of Lehman Bros. in 2008.

"The current massive overvaluation of the Swiss franc poses an acute threat to the Swiss economy and carries the risk of a deflationary development," the SNB said in a brief statement. "The SNB will enforce this minimum rate with the utmost determination and is prepared to buy foreign currency in unlimited quantities."

"Unlimited quantities" indeed. The Swiss are prepared to match the Euro and US dollar print for print as the debasement of fiat currencies has now reached a new level of madness/stupidity/desperation (take your pick).

The Swiss move sent the US dollar soaring to two month highs (75.92), and dropped the 10-year note to an historic low yield of 1.91%. The 10-year ended the day at 1.98%.

The trading day began with steep declines, with the Dow off by 308 points at its lows and the NASDAQ shedding 66 points just prior to 11:00 am EDT. After that, it was an uphill climb with a huge ramp job in the final 30 minutes of the session, on either short covering or blithe spirits, though the former seems more appropriate.

With trading on the light side, cutting the losses on the major indices was probably easy work for the criminal Wall Street cartel. Shares will likely be dumped by Thursday when a troika of events - one by Ben Bernanke, one by President Obama and one in Europe by German Chancellor Angel Merkel when she must quell a threatened revolt in her own parliamentary bloc when the Bundestag begins debating the controversial expansion of the European rescue fund, which increases Germany's share of guarantees to up to €211bn (£184bn) from a previous €123bn – about two-thirds of the annual federal budget. Merkel will be first, prior to the open of US markets, followed by Bernanke in Minnesota, with President Obama's highly-anticipated, nationally-televised speech to introduce his jobs program to joint session of congress slated for 7:00 pm, hoping to avoid a conflict with the opening of the NFL season. The Green Bay Packers play the New Orleans Saints at 8:30 pm.

One sector that did not participate in the afternoon rally off the lows was financial, with bank stocks being hit hard once again. Bank of America pared some of its earlier losses, closing at 6.99, down 26 cents, but below the 7.14 price of 700,000 warrants recently offered to billionaire Warren Buffett as a sweetener to his $5 billion investment in the flailing bank. Message to Warren: Don't be in a hurry to own a big chunk of another bank.

Dow 11,139.30, -100.96 (0.90%)
NASDAQ 2,473.83, -6.50 (0.26%)
S&P 500 1,165.24, -8.73 (0.74%)
NYSE Composite 7,148.13, -102.60 (1.42%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,740,810,000
NYSE Volume 5,077,949,500
Combined NYSE, NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 1942-4640
Combined NYSE, NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 32-451
WTI crude oil futures: 86.02, -0.43
Gold: 1873.70, -26.60
Silver: 41.96, -0.91

Idea: Ready to get really scared?

How about a report by UBS, which outlines the frightening aspects of Euro dissolution, i.e., the end of the EMU (European Monetary Union) and the resulting chaos, civil strife and even civil wars. Full text below.


Then there's this post on a little-known blog called Nathan's Economic Edge, from March 20, 2010, which concludes, via the U.S. Treasury Z1 Flow of Funds report that the diminishing marginal productivity of debt (a well-understood, but not widely-circulated concept) reached debt saturation sometime in 2009, thus adding new debt, as the Fed and the federal government are always so eager to do, but the Tea Party wants stopped ASAP, produces negative results, as in lower GDP.

What that means is that the era of fiat currencies, without backing of any kind, is backfiring in a big way. The more money the Fed or the government throws at the problem only makes it worse and hastens the eventual implosion of the currency. However, these things take a long time to work themselves out, but we may be only years away from financial Armageddon.