Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Stocks Erase Most of Monday's Gains; Dow Closes Down for the Quarter, Year

Well, that escalated quickly...

After booming on Monday, Tuesday's players must have had a case of buyer's regret, selling back 2/3rds of what was bid up just a day earlier, very odd, considering that the last trading day of the month usually ends up positive, due to "window dressing" by fund managers.

That did not happen today. In fact, the markets reversed course right at the open, but really accelerated the selling in the final hour of trading.

Reasons? The Fed? Mountains upon mountains of un-payable debt? Iran? Yellen? Bueller?

Tracking the foibles and fantasies of the Wall Street crowd on a daily basis can be a thankless task, especially under the conditions which are currently reigning over the market. Levels of uncertainty are reaching a fever pitch, between various conditions in Europe (Draghi's failing QE, Ukraine, Turkey tuning totalitarian, Greece), the Middle East (ISIS, Syria, Iran) or the troubles bourn at home in the US, ranging from gay upset in Indiana, crumbing infrastructure, fracking drillers facing bankruptcy, insolvency of college grads with high student debt loads (a catastrophe waiting to happen), chronic underemployment or a host of other nagging circumstances which don't add up to recovery after six years of waiting.

The good news is that the credit spigots are wide open, though many individuals, having been burned by financial institutions or failed investments in the past have been wary to expend much energy spending money they don't have on things they don't need. Credit card companies have been unduly generous of late, the number of 0% interest cards offered having swelled in recent months.

Additionally, auto loans and leases are becoming as easy to obtain as water from a faucet, but default rates are also rising as consumers continue to be tapped out on the road.

Gas prices are low, sings of Spring are everywhere, but somehow, the major indices - at least for today - are not feeling the love.

Something is wrong, but we're not going to wait around to find out what it is. Anyone who hasn't divorced his/herself, at least in some part, from the credit-debt-tax-cycle-slave-system is missing the proverbial boat, which may sail off into the horizon at any time.

Americans, especially older ones, are becoming more detached from the system as the system disappoints and disillusions many who have played and paid and are seeing their paltry incomes stagnate and savings threatened by seven years of a low-interest regime engineered by the Federal Reserve.

And, with markets closed on Friday, who exactly will be able to react to the March non-farm payroll data? At least tomorrow, ADP will issue their March jobs report, which mirrors the NFP report to a degree.

Making matters worse, the Dow Industrials closed the quarter lower than at the start of the year, the S&P and NASDAQ posting fractional gains (less than one percent) for the quarter and the year so far.

So much to ponder and so little time. Tax day is April 15. What fun!

Dow 17,776.12, -200.19 (-1.11%)
S&P 500 2,067.89, -18.35 (-0.88%)
NASDAQ 4,900.88, -46.56 (-0.94%)

Monday, March 30, 2015

Everything Is Coming Up Roses...If You Live on Wall Street

Today's Markets:

Dow 17,976.31, +263.65 (1.49%)
S&P 500 2,086.24, +25.22 (1.22%)
NASDAQ 4,947.44, +56.22 (1.15%)

The results of trading today in New York (and just about everywhere else in the world) show that if a trend gets started for no good reason, people will follow along blindly.

There's no good reason for stocks to go up like they did today, especially in the face of weak economic data in the US and in many countries around the world. However, this is the normal conclusion to the debasing of currencies. If money is free to obtain, then it is not regarded as anything of value.

Worse, when markets and morals are manipulated (see gold and silver, primarily) or goosed by computer algorithms which actually do the bulk of the trading, this is what happens.

Should one take the time to research the companies that are being traded these days to higher and higher valuations, one may find an odd, but, nevertheless, disturbing trend among them: that earnings per share are being led higher by stock buybacks, which reduce the number of shares outstanding, so that the same, or even lower, earnings result in the same or higher, EPS. Or, one might discover that many of these same companies' earnings are actually falling, yet, in a complete break with logic and core investing principles, investors are willing to pay more per share for them.

This kind of trading, based on nothing but vapidness and the delusion of crowds, was once thought to be able to continue only for a short while, because, as investors discovered the reality of assets without any basis in reality, they would bail out, sell, and cause a wicked market correction or crash. That hasn't happened in six years of this kind of activity.

While the future is unknown, it can be assumed that whatever is guiding stocks to new high after new high will some day end. The trick is getting the timing right. For most, that would be impossible. For some it will be dumb luck, but, for the many, they will be stuck with stocks without any value.

On Friday, the BLS will release the non-farm payroll report for March, and everyone will happily accept the fiction that 250, 000 - 300,000 net new jobs were created during the month, or, failing that, some excuse, like "weather" will be invented, but stocks will soar to new highs again.

Some things, you can bank on them.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Stocks Finish Friday with Gains, but Down More Than Two Percent for the Week

Stocks finished up for the day, but down for the week, with the Dow Industrials retracing all of its gains from the prior week, losing 414.99 points, a 2.29% decline.

The S&P 500 lost 47.08 points, 2.23%, roughly the same as the Dow. Both indices are trading below their 50-day simple moving average.

The NASDAQ had the best gains of the past two days, but still finished the week down 135.20 points, and 2.69%. It is still hovering just above the 50-DMA.

Other than the third revision to 4th quarter GDP, there was little in the way of economic news on the session, which made for a dull time, except for the final thirty minutes, in which most of the gains were made. The revision was not revised at all, finalizing the fourth quarter GDP at 2.2% and the year at a squeamish 2.42%, not much to write home about or encourage rate hike hawks on the Fed.

There was a notable lack of volume in the final session of the week. With two trading days left in March, the focus will be on the Monday and Tuesday sessions, to see if the quarter can end positively. While the NASDAQ is clearly in the green for the year, the Dow and S&P are about even. Small losses on either or both days could tip them into the red.

If you held gold or silver for the week, you're way ahead of the stock-picking crowd.

Dow 17,712.66, +34.43 (0.19%)
S&P 500 2,061.02, +4.87 (0.24%)
NASDAQ 4,891.22, +27.86 (0.57%)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Individual Investors Should Not Be Confused About Volatility and Market Noise

Famously, John Pierpont (J.P.) Morgan, financier, banker, philanthropist and art collector who dominated corporate finance and industrial consolidation, when asked what the market would do, wistfully answered, "It will fluctuate," and that is the kind of sage advice by which individual investors should be guided.

Markets, whether they be stocks, bonds, commodities or baseball cards are continually in a condition of fluctuation, buffeted about by popular opinion, spin doctors, general sentiment, analyst opinions and the prevailing economic conditions of the time, and this time, like any other, is subject to the same market forces.

Volatility in markets generally is of benefit only to a small, elite group of active traders who are rabid in their pursuit of true value propositions and correct assumptions of price discovery. While the current regime of Fed-induced interest rate and bubble-manic equity markets might be confusing to some, they need not be to the astute, patient and prudent individual investor.

Today's events were dominated by turmoil in the Arabian peninsula - specifically, the fall of order in Yemen and subsequent armed invasion by the Saudis and Egyptians - which first sent stocks down, then up, then down again, etc., and the price of oil up, and only up. However, these knee-jerk reactions are meaningless in the larger scheme of things. A two-dollar rise in the price of WTI crude oil isn't going to affect the purchasing habits of millions of motorists, just as a one or two percent move in major averages like the Dow Jones Industrials or S&P 500 will influence investment decisions.

Military action today will likely be replaced by peace tomorrow, or, at some later date, and prices and markets will return to some semblance of normalcy. Enthusiastic journalists and commentators on CNBC and/or Bloomberg TV might have panic in their voice and fear in their eyes, but they are largely for entertainment purposes only and should never be considered when actual money and investment decisions are at hand.

In a world far away and long ago, that being prior to televised financial nonsense and noise, stocks were relatively calm and decent places in which to park excess cash. Today's monumental stupidity caused by too many people paying attention to talking heads on television and exacerbated by headline-scanning algorithms employed by HFT firms makes for markets that are irrational in the short term and less-than-reliable on a short-term basis, but, when viewed from a six-month or longer perspective, all the bumps and grinds of fast money (and yes, that is a swipe at CNBC's show by the same name) get smoothed out and wrung dry of volatility.

Unless and until there is a major market-moving event like the liquidity and solvency melt-down in 2008 and 2009, or the housing boom and bust that preceded it and extended beyond it, markets will behave in somewhat of a normal fashion. Looking at stocks over the past six years, starting with the bottom in March 2009, they've done nothing but perform brilliantly, and anyone who had simply bought and held the major indices correctly would have handsome profits today.

Oil and other commodities have behaved rather radically over the same time period, but what can be said about some may be applied to all. They are more volatile and subject to price swings. And, when one considers currency - because, honestly, parking all your cash in a single currency could be a bad idea - diversity is the key, though anyone considering a safe play might want to take a serious look at gold, and an even deeper peerage into the value of silver.

Both of the popular precious metals are really nothing more than alternative currencies, and, though they may not be quite as liquid as a stock of $100 bills, they also bear no counter-party risk and have been relatively stable over the near term, residing mostly near bottoms. That both gold and silver are bouncing around low levels is worthy of further consideration, because, beyond being currency, they can also be collateral and they may even offer some gain in terms of rising price. At the worst, either metal may suffer a small decline from current levels of maybe 10-15%, but in no way will they ever be worthless.

They are useful hedges and alternative currencies and not nearly enough investors and individuals have taken advantage of their purposefulness, though the fact that they are tightly held may be a part of their charm.

Overall, days like today and weeks and months in which one has to be subject to the whims and fantasies of speculators, newscasters, pundits, analysts and fools, aren't worth wasting one's time upon. It's far easier to make a few strident choices and be done with it. Life is indeed too short to worry about money, or even about the value of it. The world today seems preoccupied with it, though it should be remembered that it is only a means to an end, and not the end itself.

Dow 17,678.23, -40.31 (-0.23%)
S&P 500 2,056.15, -4.90 (-0.24%)
NASDAQ 4,863.36, -13.16 (-0.27%)

P.S.: If you did absolutely nothing today, i.e., made no trades, you out-performed 70% of the day-or-day-to-day-traders. Give yourself a pat on the back.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Warren Buffet Really Gets Under Your Skin; Big Market Decline Probably Means Nothing

Warrenn Buffett bears a
striking resemblance to the Wizard of Oz.
Announced today, the merger of Kraft and Heinz creates the fifth largest food company in the world and the third-largest in North America.

At the center of this mega-merger is none other than America's cuddliest billionaire, Warren Buffett and his squid-like Berkshire-Hathaway corporation. With this, Buffett now touches nearly all aspects of the average American's daily life, and, most essentially his or her food consumption.

Buffett, it was pointed out by a wily poster on a popular financial website, needs only to buy a significant interest in Monsanto or ADM and Newcomer Funeral Homes and he would have his had firmly in a "cradle to grave" solution for every man and woman in the United States, growing GMO-laced food products which deny nutrition and selling them nationally, slowly killing humans, and then taking a share of their post-breathing lives with embalming, burying or cremation.

Thus, Mr. Buffett has finally gotten under the skin of the average American consumer, and not in a good way. The combination of Heinz (John Kerry's wife, Theresa Heinz is a major owner) and Kraft would have been subject to severe scrutiny by regulators under an effective anti-trust regime, but the antiquated notion of competition has been slowly squeezed from the national conscience long ago.

In our new dystopian world, we will have but a few providers of every necessary service. Reference the merger of Charter Communications and Time Warner Cable, Staples and Office Depot, et. al. Fewer choices, fewer decisions to make. What a wonderful world.

As far as the massive market declines on the day are concerned, they are probably about the same as the last dozen or twenty or so that have occurred since March of 2009, when the current bull market began when the FASB abandoned all reason and did away with mark-to-market accounting. Since then it's been all fraud, all the time, with no end in sight.

Today's big dips in stocks are nothing more than a continuum of the controlled demolition of the global economy, led by the United States stock markets. Sell-offs are nothing more than profit-taking efforts by the controlling interests and their whiz-bang computers, to be followed, in short order, by concentrated buying and new all-time highs.

Nothing new under the sun. And nothing to see here. Move along, now.

Meanwhile, the Atlanta Fed predicts the first quarter 2015 GDP growth at 0.2%, WTI crude oil futures were up 3% on the day in the face of a string of the largest crude stockpile supply growth ever, but likely the cause/result of a falling dollar. Durable goods for February were down for the second straight month.

Some of this actually makes sense, but only on a selected basis.

Dow 17,718.54, -292.60 (-1.62%)
S&P 500 2,061.05, -30.45 (-1.46%)
NASDAQ 4,876.52, -118.21 (-2.37%)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

What China is Making, the World Isn't Taking

With not much in the way of company news or economic data to spur stocks in any particular direction, stocks - if you believe there is still a viable market out there - may have taken their queues today from China, where manufacturing slipped to its lowest level in nearly a year.

HSBC's purchasing manager's initial survey for March fell to 49.2, signaling contraction, from January's reading of 50.7, the worst reading in 11 months. The survey is designed so that numbers above 50 indicate expansion, under 50, contraction.

This should not have been a surprise to anyone on Wall Street, because they know how China's dumplings are boiled. They're reliant on exports of manufactured goods, primarily to the United States and Europe.

Therefore, if those two consumer groups are not buying, China isn't selling. And that's exactly what has been going on for months now, if not years. Economic numbers in all areas of the world are slightly skewed by regional and political preference, but when China, widely regarded as the world's engine of growth in the 21st century, actually shows manufacturing in decline, it's likely much worse than reported.

There isn't much about boosting manufacturing that the central banks of the world haven't already tried and found to not work, so it's likely, at this point, up to individuals to get out and spend.

Not. Gonna. Happen.

Europe is bankrupt. The USA has gone, in sixty short years, from being a creditor nation, to debtor nation, to where we are today, on the cusp of becoming a deadbeat nation.

In popular parlance, a deadbeat is somebody who borrows and doesn't pay back its debts. Well, the good, old USA can do attitude hasn't been getting it done for a long, long time. Which is why we have a federal debt of over $16 Trillion. The government doesn't pay off its debts; it rolls them over into new debt, something that, if you or I or your neighbor tried to do, we'd be laughed all the way to the nearest courthouse.

The US government has seemingly been intent upon destroying the country, the currency, and the popular notion of being the "land of the free." The failure of politicians to even attempt to fix the various parts of our fiscal condition that are broken is at the bottom of not only the Fed's Zero Interest Rate Policy (ZIRP) but also is tearing away at the fabric of the nation, and people are beginning, at last, to notice, and worse, they're doing something about it.

They're not buying. They're not buying Chinese products. They're not buying politicians' promises. They're not buying Wall Street's scams. They're not buying government statistics because people in America don't consider themselves statistics. They consider themselves people.

People matter. Governments come and go. It may be getting close to the time that some of the bigger ones get up and leave.

But, they'll probably need a little push... over the cliff.

Dow 18,011.14, -104.90 (-0.58%)
S&P 500 2,091.50, -12.92 (-0.61%)
NASDAQ 4,994.73, -16.25 (-0.32%)

Monday, March 23, 2015

19 CENT CHEESEBURGERS, Ted Cruz and a Dow Mystery

We have a bad monetary system. A shaky one at the very least, but, probably just plain bad.

McDonald's menu, circa 1965
It would take a tome longer than Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations to explain why. However, in today's world, we have technology, which is, by most accounts, an improvement to the general welfare and happiness of the people of the world, or so we think.

This technology allows us to share images such as the one shown in this simple blog posting.

The point, or points, as there are many diverse levels to this discussion, is that our monetary system is based upon, in no particular order, debt currency, inflation and death.

Ponder, if you will, the fact that the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell roughly 50 points in the final minutes of trading today, and the price of a cheeseburger, roughly 50 years ago, was 19 cents. The question is why did the Dow fall so precipitously at the close and what does that have to do with the price of cheeseburgers?

Yes, 19 cents. Your editor ate many of them, as there was a McDonald's and competing burger joints near his high school.

19 cents, people. Grow up.

Dow 18,116.04, -11.61 (-0.06%)
S&P 500 2,104.42, -3.68 (-0.17%)
NASDAQ 5,010.97, -15.44 (-0.31%)

Sub-note: Consider this: today Ted Cruz, a first term senator from Texas, announced his candidacy for president, officially kicking off the campaign season for the 2016 presidential election. This election is, as of today, 19 months away. In't it time we put limits on when politicians can campaign? Isn't 19 months prior to an election just a tad too early to start thinking about who will be the next president? Mind you, a presidential term lasts four years. Must we spend half of one president's term deciding who should be his or her replacement?

Today, sadly, we have more questions than answers. If we had the answers, assumably, we would probably not be spending time asking questions on a blog.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Weekend Thinking: After Friday's Stock Ramp-fest, Nothing About Which to Worry

Editor's Note: Apologies for the late post. An unrelenting schedule is causing disruption to the usual appointed tasks. This condition may persist for a few months and posts on Money Daily may not - for a while - be as timely and/or detailed.

Friday's trade was all about getting back to the preferred narrative following the "prudent" nature of the latest FOMC release and Fed news conference, that of everything being just peachy, rosy and wonderful in the land of fairy tale economics, where flying unicorns discharge fiat from rainbow skies.

Reality may beg to differ with the ongoing assessment of the national and global economies, but, for the time being, the clowns, gamblers, skimmers and scammers are in control. What will wrest away domination of the markets from the hands of the manipulators is at best uncertain, at worst unknown, but all are aware that adam Smith's "invisible hand" is lurking, ready to snatch back sanity and price discovery to a state of natural order.

What is understandable at present is that Fed policy will remain neatly tucked into its quasi-accommodative commode for at least another six months and very likely longer. It is, in fact, beyond seven years since the past rate increase, and, as has been proven by other central banks, negative yields remain an unexplored horizon. Like the discovery of a new world, the Fed may be eyeing the current 10-year note yield of two percent as merely the shoreline, with untold riches and possibilities lying within the lower bound.

A socialist fantasy dream, bond yields that would cost savers and benefit spenders could be a panacea that eventually turns economic theory completely upon its head and ushers in a new world order of wealth redistribution under some mystical, benevolent oligarchy.

The future may well be one which attempts to disregard the past. And that new world would be brave indeed.

Dow 18,127.65, +168.62 (0.94%)
S&P 500 2,108.10, +18.83 (0.90%)
NASDAQ 5,026.42, +34.04 (0.68%)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Stocks Give Back Some Gains

We took a personal day today, but did notice that the crooks gave back some of the money they stole yesterday, a la the old pump and dump routine.

Most of us had to work, but who could blame anyone for taking some time off to check out NCAA tournament early games.

Oil fell back to earth simply because there was no fundamental reason for oil to gain in price yesterday, as interest rates have about as much to do with the price of oil as saddle soap has to do with masochism (don't get any ideas).

Bottom line is that rich guys who play with other people's money (your pension fund) skimmed and scammed their way to a new car or maybe a year's tuition for their "special" princess.

Whatever. Week ends tomorrow, full report.

Dow 17,959.03, -117.16 (-0.65%)
S&P 500 2,089.27, -10.23 (-0.49%)
NASDAQ 4,992.38, +9.55 (0.19%)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Fed's Yellen, FOMC Spark Enormous Rally on Dow, Nearly 380+ Points, Oil Up Too

Seriously, this is just plain nonsense.

Print money out of thin air, issue it as debt, give some to the nation's biggest banks and return 1/2% to them on Billions of dollar in excess reserves, constipate the entire lending transmission function, make minute, detailed changes to your statement every month or so, trot out your Chairwoman - who looks like your grandmother - every three months, keep the federal funds rate at ZERO and continuing raping the wealth and resources of your country, forcing everybody into stocks (mostly), bonds and commodities.

It's absolutely brilliant. The banks don't have to pay interest on savings (whatever that old, quaint concept happens to be), and everybody except the general population goes home happy.

The Fed won't raise the federal funds rate for at least six more months, and probably not until 2017. Seriously. It's broken. Grag some gold, guns and land and head for the hills, unless you are a welfare (FSA) mooch, then, live in a city slum, or a suburban slum, which are popping up all over the country.

What a monstrously sad joke is being played on the American public. Too bad it's not funny.

Whether you're old or young, you're getting taken to the cleaners and it's not about to change any time soon.

The Dow Jones Industrials were off by more than 130 points just prior to the FOMC statement at 2:00 pm EDT. It closed up 227.

WTI Crude oil - of which there is an historic oversupply - was under $42/barrel in the morning. By the end of the trading session it was approaching $47/barrel. Supply and demand, my BEHIND.

Dow 18,076.19, +227.11 (1.27%)
S&P 500 2,099.42, +25.14 (1.21%)
NASDAQ 4,982.83, +45.39 (0.92%)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Stocks Confused in Advance of Yellen, Fed Rates; A Glimpse into the Collapse of Upstate New York

Shockingly, the Dow industrials were lower on the day while the momentum-chasing NASDAQ stocks finished with a gain on the day before Janet Yellen and the FOMC issue a rate announcement.

Obviously, rates are not going to move at this meeting, but, what most market observers will be glued to come 2:00 pm EDT on Wednesday is the wording of the FOMC statement, specifically, the use of the "patient" in terms of how the Federal Reserve is viewing their pre-announced rate increase.

The Fed has been careful not to give an exact date or attach any hard figures to any proposed rate increase, only to remain in a prudent position of non-committed bliss.

That they prefer to be shrouded in this kind of monetary mystery has been more than a little disturbing to markets. Many operators would prefer the good old days of endless QE and ZIRP without any mention of a dreadful, future rate increase. However, the Federal Reserve has itself backed into a corner in which it will damage the equity markets with a rate increase and potentially upset the delicate bond-balancing act which has kept rates too low for too long.

It is self-evident that the Fed must do something. The only questions remaining to be answered are what will they do and when will they do it. Traders, speculators, and gamblers of all stripes are hoping to glean some knowledge from the Fed's statement tomorrow.

In the meantime, many are saying this prayer:

The FED is my shepherd, I shall not want.
They maketh me to lie down in fields of digital plenty; they leadeth me to financial liquidity;
They safeguard my portfolio; they leadeth me in paths of security for their financial sake.
Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of default, I shall fear no Credit Default Swaps,
For they art with me; their words and actions comfort me.
They have prepared a table of ZIRP and QE before me, in the presence of China and Russia; they have annointed me with POMO; my balances runneth over.
Surely, the American reserve currency shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the House of the Almighty Dollar forever and ever.

...and hoping for the best.

A Glimpse Into the Collapsing Nature of Upstate New York

Up here in Rochester, NY, there's a 1/2 hour show every Sunday by the area's largest real estate firm, called the "Nothnagle Gallery of Homes."

It's a good idea to catch it every week, because it provides a fascinating insight into a market that predominantly is a shuffling from one generation to another, without growth, and nearing death thoes due to a variety of economic ad social forces.

At the start of the show are the nice, expensive, executive homes, all over $400,000, some of them pretty decent with acreage, about half of them vacant. As the show continues, they display the moderately-priced category, 135k-250k. Not so good, smaller lots, older houses, more than half vacant, but, this week, a twist. They showed two houses under construction. Really, with the Tyvek™ showing and all. Priced over 200K.

Dead stop. Builders around here are nailed to a cross with with steel. Population is declining, there's a glut of bank REO that's been sitting and deteriorating for years and about 20-30% of everybody in the metro area is either in foreclosure, pre-foreclosure, about to be, underwater, or owes back taxes of two years or more. A massive implosion is coming to upstate NY (Syracuse and Rochester; Buffalo already in the proverbial pooper) which will take down not only the real estate market but the city governments and some of the older suburbs (hopefully state .gov too, but that's another story). Population decline and aging, lack of jobs, crumbling infrastructure, huge municipal pension costs and ineffective (and that's being nice) local governments are feeding the descent into chaos. Rochester, Syracuse and Buffalo's inner cities are crime-ridden, FSA (welfare) strongholds. The city school districts are a complete and utter disaster. High wages for teachers, low graduation rates, scandals, union vs. administration fights are common, as are fights, stabbings, gun confiscations, etc. TPTB are trying to ship some of the little minority cretins out to the suburbs in what they call something like "city-county partnership opportunity" or employing some other liberal wonderland imagery, but the voters in more than a few suburbs have shot down the school board recommendations, saying, in effect, "keep my schools white."

Trouble is brewing here, where the property taxes are the highest in the nation. Shocked was a fellow from South Carolina last week when told that a 30-year mortgage on a $100,000 house here would cost less monthly than the taxes.

That's the truth from an area of the country that's been stripped bare of manufacturing over the years and suffers from too many social programs, sponsored by too few - and becoming fewer every week - taxpayers.

Dow 17,849.08, -128.34 (-0.71%)
S&P 500 2,074.28, -6.91 (-0.33%)
NASDAQ 4,937.44, +7.93 (0.16%)

Monday, March 16, 2015

Stcks soar on No News; Michael Hudson's Scathing Remarks on Wealth Inequality

On a day in which there was an absolute vacuum of substantial news concerning the economy or stocks in general, markets did what they have become used to doing on such days in the era of ZIRP and QE. Stocks went straight up at the open and added to gains throughout the day.

It is specifically on days like today that the banks and brokerages make their best money, capturing the gains right at the opening bell, without interference from retail riff-raff, and holding them up with small trades during the session. Anybody even thinking about shorting or playing puts against the small tide of buyers gets what's come to be known as having one's face ripped off.

As gruesome as it sounds, the reality of losing money because one is not a member of the 1% tribe and does not believe stocks should be trading at astronomical levels, is painful to the pocket and a cause for many small-time investors and traders to throw in the towel completely.

Such is the nature of markets completely under the control of the biggest and most well-heeled players, complete with front-running HTF computer algos that are able to nab 20% or more of any gains simply by being there a millisecond ahead of any order. while that fact may not be disturbing to some, it should be a concern to anybody who feels that wealth inequality is consistently changing the nature of society, markets and money, and not in any good way.

To that effect, professor Michael Hudson recently provided a glimpse into the new world of finance - unregulated, unbalanced and utterly destructive - in an article published at Counterpunch called Quantitative Easing for Whom?

Hudson, a distinguished research professor of economics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, was interviewed by SHARMINI PERIES, and his commentary spells out in detail how zero interest rates and quantitative easing has helped the elite to the detriment of the rest of society.

It's quite a read and elegant in its straightforward honesty and truthful simplicity. Perhaps the most poignant phrase is the following:
Banks lend money mainly to transfer ownership of real estate. They also lend money to corporate raiders. They lend money to buy assets. But they don’t lend money for companies to invest in equipment and hire more workers. Just the opposite. When they lend money to corporate raiders to take over companies, the new buyers outsource labor, downsize the work force, and try to squeeze out more work. They also try to grab the pensions.

or this:
...when hedge funds and the big banks – Goldman Sachs, Citibank – see a pension fund manager coming through the door, they think, “How can I take what’s in his pocket and put it in mine?” So they rip them off. That is why there are so many big lawsuits against Wall Street for mismanaging pension fund money.

It's a very good read for such a short article, and points up just how enslaved the middle class (what's left of it) has become and how government and the Fed have completely distorted the economy to the exclusive benefit of a small handful of very, very wealthy families.

The condition of the world is sad and true.

Dow 17,977.42, +228.11 (1.29%)
S&P 500, 2,081.19, +27.79 (1.35%)
NASDAQ 4,929.51, +57.75 (1.19%)

Friday, March 13, 2015

Week Ends Poorly for Stocks, as PPI Indicates Deflation, Euro Falls, Dollar Rallies

Since stocks are close to all-time highs, there isn't much in the way of analysis to explain marginal moves in one direction or another, except along the lines of anticipatory buying/selling in the face of a potential Fed rate hike in June... or September... or never.

That's why it was a little surprising to see stocks fall on news that the PPI registered an outsize negative number this morning, indicative of outright deflation, the one thing of which the Fed and the government are deathly afraid.

PPI had dropped 0.8 percent in January. In the 12 months through February, producer prices fell 0.6 percent, the first decline since the series was revamped in 2009. February PPI, measured on a month-t-month basis, fell 0.5 percent.

Falling prices mean less spending, and less spending begets lower prices in a competitive environment (according to economics 101) and lower prices, as part of the spiral, means lower wages, or, at least no raises in wages, but it's what has been occurring, more or less, since the last financial crisis in 2008-09. One need only know where to look for deals and bargains; they are out there.

But, lower prices cause all kinds of problems for the Fed, already at the zero-bound on rates, because the have no tools to fight deflation, since the entire banking regimen depends on at least some inflation, all the time and everywhere.

Lower oil prices were just the first symptom of the deflation problem, or, maybe the second, following stagnant wages and a lack of job growth (forget the unemployment figures - they're a sham) and now the decline in the price around which everything else revolves has gotten the vicious cycle working overtime. The dollar rising is another ancillary symptom of a moribund economy, one which is about to keel over and die for good, something it should have done in 2009. The other shoe is dropping, and the Fed isn't going to be able to catch this one before it hits the floor with an awful thud. Imports are becoming cheaper, due to just about all our trading partners desperately devaluing their currencies.

The Dollar Index shot up over 100 today, closing at 99.41, a twelve-year high. The euro dipped below 1.05 again. It is rapidly approaching parity with the dollar, and will likely be worth less than a greenback within mere months.

Without inflation, people save instead of spend, pay down debt instead of incurring more, and generally speaking, life gets better for the average Joe or Jane consumer. The honest truth is that banks - at the heart of our global economic malaise - don't want people out of debt, they want them deeper and deeper in debt.

And, if wages stagnate or decline, and people get laid off, the government collects less in taxes and - boo-hoo - they can't service the debt (they can't anyhow, that's proven by our $18 trillion national debt, but that's another story) or provide needed (or unneeded) services.

So, rock, meet hard place. And that's why even if a stinking bad economy keeps Wall Street flush with fresh money from the Fed printing press, it's still a bad economy that is, in the end, unsustainable.

That is about the best guess as to why stocks sold off today, even on BAD news, which was supposed to be GOOD.

Stocks were also down for the week. The Dow fell 107.47 (-0.60%); the S&P shed 17.86 (-0.86%) and the NASDAQ led the downside move, losing 55.61 (-1.13%). It was the second straight weekly loss for the NASDAQ and the Dow, the third in a row for the S&P.

Closing Prices (3/13):
Dow Jones 17,749.31, -145.91 (-0.82%)
S&P 500 2,053.40, -12.55 (-0.61%)
NASDAQ 4,871.76, -21.53 (-0.44%)

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Stocks Gain Wildly On Weak Retail Sales, Bank Buyback Plans

Part of the reason Money Daily ceased publishing on a daily basis last year was because of the total ad complete idiocy of markets which have given up control to the Federal Reserve.

Today was another shining example of the absurdity of that proposition, but, fear not, Money Daily will be here tomorrow, next week and on into the future, boldly going where no central banker has gone before.

Prior to the opening bell, the government announced retail sales for the month of February, which came in at a -0.6%, marking the third straight month of declines in retail sales, the worst such string of misses and losses since the collapse of Lehman Brothres back in 2008.

Add to that, on the back of the government's stress tests on capital formation for the largest financial institutions, these big money centers announced upwards of $55 billion in share repurchase plans, led by Morgan Stanley, which announced a repurchase plan of $3.1 billion of it own stock. Remember, stock buybacks serve one purpose: to decrease the number of shares outstanding, which makes the EPS look better by comparison to either the prior quarter or the prior year. Beyond that, there is only a little - questionable - reasoning for such moves in a business sense.

The response to what can only be described as negative news, was a galloping rally right out of the gate for all indices and just about every momentum stock, income stock, growth stock, tech stock, tick tock and sock puppet.

There's no bubble. Uh-uh.

The whole concept here is that if the economy is weak, then the Fed may delay raising interest rates, with the Federal funds rate currently - and for the last six years - sitting at ZERO. The Fed has hinted that they'll raise rates in June, probably by 25 basis points.

That's what has Wall Street all riled up and excited. Imagine if we actually had a functioning economy.

Dow 17,895.22, +259.83 (1.47%)
S&P 500 2,065.95, +25.71 (1.26%)
NASDAQ 4,893.29, +43.35 (0.89%)

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Stocks Try Rally, Fade Late; 28 of 31 Financial Institutions Clear Stress Tests

After yesterday's huge downbeat, investors and speculators were hopeful for some upside momentum, or, at least, a dead cat bounce.

Well, the cat bounced, but it turns out it was made of glass, as the major indices could not maintain gains, even though Europe was ecstatic over the second round of QE-Euro, with the ECB scooping up whatever dribs and drabs of debt they could find (liquidity is an issue).

One of the dullest sessions of recent memory was punctuated by bank stocks, which were mostly higher by one or two percent, in advance of the second round of Fed-mandated stress tests, which would determine the readiness of the TBTF banks to offer dividends and return to shareholders.

The results of the tests, released at 4:30 pm EDT, showed that 28 of 31 of the major financial institutions subjected to the Fed's nanny-ism, submitted capital plans that passed muster. The three which failed, were Santander, Deutsche Bank and Bank of America, the last of which must re-submit its plan by the end of the third quarter.

Largely, the tests allowed those which passed to increase dividends and engage in the latest Wall Street scam, repurchasing of shares. To that point, Morgan Stanley (MS) will repurchase $3.1 billion of its own shares; other banks had similar ratios.

Beyond the moribund inter-workings of major financial institutions, what moved markets on the day were dollar strength and euro and yen weakness. The dollar is at its strongest valuation against other currencies in over a decade, while the Yen and Euro are hitting 12-year lows against the greenback. The euro is approaching parity with the dollar, trading in the 1.05 range.

Also of note was the first quarterly report of Wall Street darling Shake Shack, which is trading at some ungodly valuation like $700 million per store. The SHAK returned a five cent loss per share for its most recent quarter. Shake that.

Dow 17,635.39, -27.55 (-0.16%)
S&P 500 2,040.24, -3.92 (-0.19%)
NASDAQ 4,849.94, -9.85 (-0.20%)

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

NASDAQ Celebrates 15th Anniversary of All-Time High with Brisk Sell-Off, Closes Down 82 Points

On this day, fifteen years ago, stock speculators were having a field day, thinking the free ride in equities would never end.

Such foolishness has been witnessed before on Wall Street and in markets not as crazed as the dotcom days of the NASDAQ, and, this time, despite protestations from fast-money hucksters everywhere, it would not be different, because, within a few days the NASDAQ fell some 400 points, from its intra-day high of 5,132.52 and close on March 10, 2000 of 5,048.62, to a close of 4,610.00 just 10 days later.

But, the carnage was only beginning. Here are the closing figures for the NASDAQ for selected year 2000 dates:
April 4: 4,148.89
April 14: 3,321.29
December 21: 2,340.12
December 31: 2,470.52

Many of us remember what happened post-2000, as the NASDAQ lost more than half of its value and the portfolios of the tech boom were turned to burnt bits and bytes. Following the explosion and crash of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, the US exchanges were shut down for nearly a week. On September 21, five days after resumption of trading, the NASDAQ cratered to a close of 1,423.19, having lost more than two-thirds of its value in just a year-and-a-half.

The road back to euphoria has been long and bumpy, and perhaps it was fitting that today, the NYSE's opening bell would be rung by its biggest bozo booster, the unflappable and egregiously uber-bullish Jim Cramer, he of CNBC and Mad Money fame.

Just after Cramer pushed the magic button, vigorous selling began, taking the NASDAQ down 43 points, the Dow lower by 145 and the S&P off by 17. Before 10:00 am EDT, the NAZ had shed 55, the Dow, 200, the S&P, 21.

At 10:00 am EDT, the market got a whiff of bad news (which, in the perverse parlance of Wall Street, interpreted as good, because any indication of weakness in the US economy might delay the Fed from raising rates) when Wholesale Sales came in at a -3.1% for February, the third straight month-over-month decline, comparing back to March 2009 when the metric registered the last of five straight monthly drops.

The news was barely helpful, however, with European markets struggling, European currencies crashing (the euro was under 1.07 and falling) and US treasuries ripping.

Shortly after noon, the Dow hit new lows, -270; the NASDAQ was off 73 points, the S&P broken through support at 2060, trading at 2050, down 29 points.

Yra Harris, who pens the Notes From Underground blog, may have said it best when speaking with Rick Santelli on CNBC, referencing Simon and Garfunkel, with a message for the Fed, the ECB and central bankers globally, warning, "all my words come back to me in shades of mediocrity..." (see below for video)

Stocks on all indices hugged the bottom of the day's trading range for the remainder of the session. What was surprising to some - though not to all - was the lack of buyers coming to the rescue with the old "buy the dip" response. Selling accelerated into the close.

Maybe because the NASDAQ, in particular, has suffered losses in four of the last six sessions, notably, right on the heels of the index breaching the 5,000 level to the upside on the first trading day of March. There's an old saying that goes along the lines of, "nobody rings a bell at the top,; though that mystical, magical 5,000 handle might have been all the top-thumping some traders felt necessary to unload at a profit.

One could hardly blame anybody bailing out at these lofty levels. Six years and one day ago, on March 9, 2009, the NASDAQ stood at 1,268.64. It has nearly quadrupled since that moment in market history.

Well, Happy Anniversary!

Dow 17,662.94, -332.78 (-1.85%)
S&P 500 2,044.24, -35.19 (-1.69%)
NASDAQ 4,859.79, -82.64 (-1.67%)

Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel Homeward Bound Central Park concert

Monday, March 9, 2015

With the Release of the Apple Watch, Have We Reached a Peak in Stocks and Stupidity?

Well, now, really, we all know the answer to the question posed in the headline, don't we?

Stocks are reaching extreme valuations, and, since the old adage, buy low, sell high always and everywhere prevails, right now might seem like as good a time as any to get the heck out of Dodge and cash in some of those high-fliers, if, that is, you still play the iStocks game on your iMac or iPhone.

Gold Apple watch $10,000 retail
Even id stocks have not reached their peaks, it's simple math and history to know that they will, at some point, and the downtrend will likely be abrupt. Or, the major indices could just meander along in a narrow downward channel over an extended period, like we had in 2000-2001, until the World Trade Center was blown up and collapsed. That's what most around at the time consider a market bottoming event, so, one does not want to be heavily invested when some kind of calamity shuts down the exchanges for a few days, or a week, or longer.

Besides trading at somewhat lofty valuations, stocks have also been trading on extremely thin volume for quite some time (this being the sixth anniversary of the 2009 bottom, that would be six years), which is also, generally speaking, a negative signal, though the pumpers at the Fed and central banks around the world have done a bang-up, jolly good job of keeping prices elevated while entire national economies are collapsing.

Some say that the markets reached a climax with the IPO of Alibaba (BABA), a dubious claim and an even more dubious event, now that allegations and proof has emerged that BABA's books were cooked by phony sales and the entirety of their public offering turned out to be nothing but a cash-out for Jack Ma and some of the top executives. We will never learn.

But, maybe it's not too late. Apple (AAPL) just had their big, big product roll-out of the new Apple Watch, an unwelcome and unnecessary accessory to the entire universe of iJunk gadgets floating around, and, beyond the watch's 18-hour battery life (huh? it's a watch, and as far as anyone can tell, there are still 24 hours in a day), price ($349 and up, all the way to the gold-plated $10,000 unit), and general uselessness, the Apple Watch may be just the ticket to grab on your way out of the Wall Street casino.

The Apple Watch does everything your iPhone does, except smaller, and you have to wear it, as a sign that you are a useless moron with excessive amounts of cash on hand with which you know not what to do, much like the major corporations in America, buying back their own stock at nose-bleed prices.

On the day, Apple's stock traded up to 129.57 (buy the rumor) prior to the release event, then fell as low as 125.06 (sell the news) as CEO Tim Cook showed off his company's latest gadget. To be fair, people are not impressed. The stock closed at 127.08, up "officially" 0.48 on the day, but, assuredly, this was not Apple's finest moment (that was 1984 when they brought out the Macintosh (Mac) computer).

Steve Jobs, bless his soul, turned over in his grave, but it's been rumored he did have a good laugh with Al Einstein and Tom Edison when they saw the new Apple Watch.

Peak Apple? Possibly.

Peak stocks? Maybe.

Peak Stupidity? We're already well past that.

Dow Jones 17,995.72, +138.94 (0.78%)
S&P 500 2,079.43, +8.17 (0.39%)
Nasdaq 4,942.44, +15.07 (0.31%)

Friday, March 6, 2015

GOOD=BAD; NFP +295,000, DOW -278.87, NASDAQ -55.44, S&P 500 -29.78

As bizarre as global economics has become, almost nothing compares to the algo-crazed stock markets in the United States, where computers are programmed to interpret diverse news report headlines and respond accordingly.

One of the more perverse actions was visible today, when, after the BLS announced, in their monthly non-farm payroll release, that the US had created (mysteriously, magically) 295,000 net new jobs in the month of February stocks traded sharply to the downside and continued that trend for the remainder of the session.

At issue is the proposed June 0.25% increase (that's right, 25 bips) to the federal funds rate that the Federal reserve has been hinting at for the better part of the past two years. Maybe they've been hinting about this seminal event for longer, but, honestly, one has only so much patience for the garbled issuance of verbiage from the masters of misinformation.

Supposedly, the argument on Wall Street is thus: if the economy is truly improving and gathering steam, then the Fed will raise interest rates, meaning that inside players like the big banks, insurance companies and some hedge funds are going to find it much more difficult to make money, because, when you're borrowing billions of dollars at almost nothing, and investing it in dubious stocks and other investments that might not pan out as you had expected - unless the Fed has your back - and, leveraging up those investments 10, 20, maybe 30 times, any increase in your cost of borrowing might bring on disastrous events.

So, as soon as the bells and whistles went off signaling the opening of trade on the final day of the first week of March, the selling ensued, and did so with resolute alacrity and vigor not seen when the markets were going up (all of the past six years, on low volume).

The whole set-up is patently absurd and it's purely the cause of the Fed, which has kept rates too low for too long, and now must reap what they have sewn, so welcome to the great deflation, part two, which began in 2008, and was interrupted by the Fed and Wall Street in March of 2009. If stocks sell off like this merely on the rumor that the Fed will hike rates a measly 1/4 percent, imagine what kind of carnage will ensue when they actually do it.

Where the absurdity begins is difficult to ascertain, though the Fed, through their continued press releases after FOMC meetings, has linguistically backed themselves into a corner. They've repeatedly maintained that they will raise interest rates on a data-driven, unspecific schedule, and the data released today by the BLS was undeniably good, showing strong job growth and an unemployment rate at the lowest point in nearly a decade, at 5.5%, which, to almost anybody's eyes, is pretty much full employment.

There's one little problem with the figures the BLS releases the first Friday of every month: they're BULLS--T, garbage, manipulated, massaged, goal-sought, and thoroughly distort the true nature of the labor market. In other words, there's almost no way there were 295,000 new jobs created in the US last month, and the figures for the past year, and the year before that and before that, etc., are even more misleading. The US economy has been hollowed out, and, while it may be better here than it has been in years, it is not much better.

Now, the Fed knows these figures are made from pure cloth, but they are tied to them. Call today a test of the algorithms, a dry run for the main event, which should occur around the middle of June or by early July. The Fed and the government have to continue to spread the lie that the US economy is strong, vibrant and growing, and, because of that, while most other countries in the world are lowering interest rates (because they honestly know their economies stink), the US is prepared to embark upon one of the more ludicrous propaganda and financial experiments in the history of mankind.

The Federal Reserve, should they go through with their supposed plan to begin raising interest rates in June 2015, will be attempting the impossible, and doing a most dangerous thing: they will be trying to slow down an economy they proclaim - and would like everyone to believe - is growing, which in reality is contracting and deflating.

Our money is heavily on the side of reality winning that argument.

Related trades today concerned all US treasuries, which sold off, sending yields higher. Oil, gold and silver were all lower.

Dow Jones 17,856.85, -278.87 (-1.54%)
S&P 500 2,071.26, -29.78 (-1.42%)
Nasdaq 4,927.37, -55.44 (-1.11%)

Ironic notes: Today was Alan Greenspan's 89th birthday; Apple will replace AT&T in the Dow Jones Industrials on March 18 (just in the nick of time?)

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Mario Draghi's Bold QE, Bank Stress Tests and February Payrolls

Thursday was a fascinating day for the world of finance ad markets (what's left of them), kicked off by the ECB rate announcement and finished up by US bank stress tests, released, cynically, after the close of equity markets.

And, the markets were largely unresponsive to what was happening in Europe because of their anticipatory stance toward the February Non-farm Payroll data due out on Friday.

Consequently, there were no major catalysts to propel markets in either direction generally, though, if one were to believe in the gospel according to Draghi (Mario Draghi, head of the ECB), al of Europe should be celebrating the prospect of EQE (European Quantitative Easing), because Draghi ad his cohorts see inflation rising by 1.5% in 2016 and GDP in the eurozone galloping ahead once the bond flow gets eaten entirely by the ECB.

This view is highly ignorant of facts, despite Draghi and the ECB having access to the best data in the world outside the Federal Reserve. First, the ECB should be well aware that QE has not driven either growth or inflation either in the United States or Japan (where they've been QE-ing it up for 20 years). Second, the amount of issuance of sovereign debt that the ECB proposes to purchase from the various government comprising the Eurozone might cause some significant crowding out of legitimate buyers of such debt.

QE is nothing more than a classic Ponzi scheme, with some big, fat-cat organization - be it the Fed, the BOJ or the ECB - striding atop government cash calls (bonds=debt). The central banks distribute the proceeds back into the system in whatever haphazard ways they can, the usual transmission mechanism being repos and open market "operations" directly to primary dealers (TBTF banks) that ends up in equity markets.

Presto! Government expands, stocks soar, while the general economy flummoxes, falters and fails. As is the usual case with all Ponzi schemes, everywhere and always, the last "investors" are left holding the bags of worthless paper. With the massive bond-buying monetization of government debt, the eventual losers will be regular people, whose pensions will be raided, whose cost of living will be untenable, whose lifestyles will be unstable, whose bank accounts will be bailed-in, whose futures will be null and void.

So, pay close attention to what's happening in Europe and Japan, because it eventually will find its way across both big ponds to the shores of North America. There is no doubt that QE and its after-effects will be crushing to ordinary people. The worst part of the story is that there will be nowhere on the planet to hide.

Well beyond the close of the moribund US equity markets, the Federal Reserve unleashed the current round of stress tests for the significant financial institutions.

All 31 banks passed. Halelujah!

These "tests" are nothing more than job security for CFOs and other executive who hang out in cushy corner offices. They are completely meaningless, especially since bank balance sheets are so opaque nothing of substance can be seen.

As far as the February, 2015 Non-farm Payrolls (due out at 8:30 am on Friday) are concerned, they'll contian the usual lies nd obfuscations that the BLS has become so famous for over the years. Ideally, the US will be shown to have created a couple zillion new jobs, but everybody will know that the numbers are wholly fiction and the economy is on its last legs. Wall Streeters will rejoice and send the major indices into the stratosphere, so that Fed Chair Janet Yellen can echo Greenspan and Bernanke by proclaiming the goodness of the "wealth effect."

Of course, most Americans will hardly notice said effect, as they struggle to make car and tuition payments.

Dow Jones 18,135.72, +38.82 (0.21%)
S&P 500 2,101.04, +2.51 (0.12%)
Nasdaq, 4,982.81, +15.67 (0.32%)

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Deflation, Followed by More Deflation

In its simplest terms, deflation is defined as a decline in the money supply, but, because of central bank meddling such as QE and ZIRP (Zero Interest Rate Policy), money supply isn't really an issue, but, where the money is going turns out to be the bogey.

For all the pumping the Fed and other central banks have done since the Lehman crash in 2008, inflation and growth have failed to materialize because the money is stuck in transmission lines between the central banks and the TBTF banks, who don't want to take the risk of loaning money to real people, preferring instead to speculate in stocks and reward their cronies with fat bounties, otherwise known as bonuses.

The three trillion dollars by which the Fed has expanded its balance sheet since 2008 hasn't found its way into the real economy. Meanwhile, governments, from municipalities on up to the federal level, have done their best to over-regulate and over-tax working people, causing further strain on the bulk of consumers. So, if money, on one hand, is stuck in transmission, and taxes and fees are going up on the other hand, with incomes stagnant or falling, people have less to spend, and make their spending choices with just a little bit more prudence.

Depending on your age and circumstances, you may or may not be experiencing a bout of deflation this winter.

It really depends on what you spend your money on, where you live, where you shop, and what you do for a living.

Obviously, despite the best efforts of oil price manipulators to keep prices above $50 per barrel, the price of a gallon of gas has fallen precipitously over the past six months. That's a plus, as is the low price of natural gas. Consumers in the Northeast, experiencing one of the coldest winters in history, haven't had it too bad, because the cost of heating a home has dropped like a rock. It would be even better if Al Gore had actually been right about Global Warming. (Well, he did invent the internet, so you can't expect him to be perfect.)

Food prices have moderated, and, because fewer and fewer consumers are dining out, restaurants have been offering more specials. Food is one of those things that you really can't manipulate much, as it does have limited fresh shelf life. A decent summer growing season has kept a lid on food prices.

However, if you've got kids at all, and especially kids in college, you're likely feeling the pinch of higher tuitions and cost for college text books. Health care costs haven't moderated as much as the government would like you to think, either, so, if you have health insurance (Doesn't everybody? It's the LAW!), you're paying more.

Housing prices have moderated a bit, and bargains ca be found, especially in the Northeast and in rural areas. Farmland prices are coming down dramatically.

Behind all of this is the strong dollar, helped by the rest of the world, which is cutting interest rates and debasing currencies at a furious pace.

Thanks to Zero Hegde for the complete list of 21 central bank rate cuts so far in 2015:

Uzbekistan's central bank cuts refi rate to 9% from 10%.

2. Jan. 7/Feb. 4 ROMANIA
Romania's central bank cuts its key interest rate by a total of 50 basis points, taking it to a new record low of 2.25%.

The Swiss National Bank stuns markets by discarding the franc's exchange rate cap to the euro. The tightening, however, is in part offset by a cut in the interest rate on certain deposit account balances by 0.5 percentage points to -0.75 percent.

4. Jan. 15 EGYPT
Egypt's central bank makes a surprise 50 basis point cut in its main interest rates, reducing the overnight deposit and lending rates to 8.75 and 9.75 percent, respectively.

5. Jan. 16 PERU
Peru's central bank surprises the market with a cut in its benchmark interest rate to 3.25 percent from 3.5 percent after the country posts its worst monthly economic expansion since 2009.

6. Jan. 20 TURKEY
Turkey's central bank lowers its main interest rate, but draws heavy criticism from government ministers who say the 50 basis point cut, five months before a parliamentary election, is not enough to support growth.

7. Jan. 21 CANADA
The Bank of Canada shocks markets by cutting interest rates to 0.75 percent from 1 percent, where it had been since September 2010, ending the longest period of unchanged rates in Canada since 1950.

The ECB launches a government bond-buying programme which will pump over a trillion euros into a sagging economy starting in March and running through to September, 2016, and perhaps beyond.

9. Jan. 24 PAKISTAN
Pakistan's central bank cuts its key discount rate to 8.5 percent from 9.5 percent, citing lower inflationary pressure due to falling global oil prices.

10. Jan. 28 SINGAPORE
The Monetary Authority of Singapore unexpectedly eases policy because the inflation outlook has "shifted significantly" since its last review in October 2014.

11. Jan. 28 ALBANIA
Albania's central bank cuts its benchmark interest rate to a record low 2%. This follows three rate cuts last year, the most recent in November.

12. Jan. 30 RUSSIA
Russia's central bank cuts its one-week minimum auction repo rate by two percentage points to 15 percent, a little over a month after raising it by 6.5 points to 17 percent, as fears of recession mount.

13. Feb. 3 AUSTRALIA
The Reserve Bank of Australia cuts its cash rate to an all-time low of 2.25%, seeking to spur a sluggish economy while keeping downward pressure on the local dollar.

14. Feb. 4/28 CHINA
China's central bank makes a system-wide cut to bank reserve requirements -- its first in more than two years -- to unleash a flood of liquidity to fight off economic slowdown and looming deflation. On Feb. 28, the People's Bank of China cut its interest rate by 25 bps, when it lowered its one-year lending rate to 5.35% from 5.6% and its one-year deposit rate to 2.5% from 2.75%. It also said it would raise the maximum interest rate on bank deposits to 130% of the benchmark rate from 120%.

15. Jan. 19/22/29/Feb. 5 DENMARK
Incredibly, the Danish central bank cuts interest rates four times in less than three weeks, and intervenes regularly in the currency market to keep the crown within the narrow range of its peg to the euro. (The won't last. See Switzerland.)

16. Feb. 13 SWEDEN
Sweden's central bank cut its key repo rate to -0.1 percent from zero where it had been since October, and said it would buy 10 billion Swedish crowns worth of bonds.

17. February 17, INDONESIA
Indonesia’s central bank unexpectedly cut its main interest rate for the first time in three years.

18. February 18, BOTSWANA
The Bank of Botswana reduced its benchmark interest rate for the first time in more than a year to help support the economy as inflation pressures ease. The rate was cut by 1 percentage point to 6.5%, the first change since Oct. 2013.

19. February 23, ISRAEL
The Bank of Israel reduced its interest rate by 0.15%, to 0.10% in order to stimulate a return of the inflation rate to within the price stability target of 1–3% a year over the next twelve months, and to support growth while maintaining financial stability.

20. Jan. 15, March 3, INDIA
The Reserve Bank of India surprises markets with a 25 basis point cut in rates to 7.75% and signals it could lower them further (they did, yesterday, to 7.50%), amid signs of cooling inflation and growth struggling to recover from its weakest levels since the 1980s.

21. Mar. 4, POLAND
The Monetary Policy Council lowered its benchmark seven-day reference rate by 50 basis points to 1.5%.

There will be more rate cuts and currency debasement, especially once the ECB gets its own QE program going. Note that all of these countries want to reflate, inflate or otherwise spur demand. The problem, as discussed above, is that people just aren't buying it, and they aren't buying. People have been paying down debt and saving, because, in an era of unprecedented central bank intervention and government regulation, the average Joe and Jane is uncertain about the future. It's a social phenomenon the economists can't compute.

Perhaps, in a free market without central bank meddling and government intervention into every aspect of one's life, capitalist economies might just have a chance.

Who knew?

Bottom line, central banks hate deflation, because it causes debt-driven economies to seize up and die, which is exactly why consumers should appreciate it.

Dow 18,096.90, -106.47 (-0.58%)
S&P 500 2,098.53, -9.25 (-0.44%)
Nasdaq 4,967.14, -12.76 (-0.26%)

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Are We Recovering Enough?

Editor's Note: Money Daily stopped being a daily post blog in March, 2014. Well, it's now March, 2015, and, after a year off, little has changed, but Fearless Rick is once again re-charged to begin making daily (Monday - Friday) posts. This is, with hope, the first of many...

The following list is courtesy of the good squids over at Goldman Sachs.

From the start of February through March 2, these are the misses and beats of various US macro data.


1. Personal Spending
2. Construction Spending
3. ISM New York
4. Factory Orders
5. Ward's Domestic Vehicle Sales
6. ADP Employment
7. Challenger Job Cuts
8. Initial Jobless Claims
9. Nonfarm Productivity
10. Trade Balance
11. Unemployment Rate
12. Labor Market Conditions Index
13. NFIB Small Business Optimism
14. Wholesale Inventories
15. Wholesale Sales
16. IBD Economic Optimism
17. Mortgage Apps
18. Retail Sales
19. Bloomberg Consumer Comfort
20. Business Inventories
21. UMich Consumer Sentiment
22. Empire Manufacturing
23. NAHB Homebuilder Confidence
24. Housing Starts
25. Building Permits
26. PPI
27. Industrial Production
28. Capacity Utilization
29. Manufacturing Production
30. Dallas Fed
31. Chicago Fed NAI
32. Existing Home Sales
33. Consumer Confidence
34. Richmond Fed
35. Personal Consumption
36. ISM Milwaukee
37. Chicago PMI
38. Pending Home Sales
39. Personal Income
40. Personal Spending
41. Construction Spending
42. ISM Manufacturing


1. Markit Services PMI
2. Nonfarm Payrolls
4. Case-Shiller Home Price
5. Q4 GDP Revision (but notably lower)
6. Markit Manufacturing PMI

OK, so the US economy is going backwards at a 7:1 ratio of Misses to Beats, but stocks, since the beginning of February, have been roaring (today excluded).

The point is that stocks are ignoring the somber truth that the US economy is running on fumes and Wall Street is running on pretty much less than nothing (kinda like the motto for the NY Lottery - a dollar and a dream).

There are collapsing scenarios unfolding everywhere, from the disgusting behavior of executives at Lumber Liquidators (LL), who were exposed on 60 Minutes this past Sunday. There, the CEO says he didn't now that the below-cost flooring coming out of China didn't meet California (and much of the rest of the US states) standards for toxic emissions, especially formaldehyde. Sad fact is that after being punched down on Monday, the stock rallied more than 5% on Tuesday, but, worry not, it was at nearly 70 about a week ago, and was punished well before the TV coverage, down to around 40 now. Somebody knew something and obviously was front-running. Nothing new there, move along...

The award for most disgusting public display over the past few days is split between three distinct candidates:

  • 1. The US congress, for cheering on the speech of Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in a joint meeting.
  • 2. The utter stupidity of millions on Twitter over whether some dress was white and gold or blue and black. Hasn't anyone ever heard of distortion?
  • 3. The cops who shot the homeless guy in Los Angeles.

Like I said at the outset, not much has changed over the past year (or five years, for that matter). We're still kicking the can down the road, entrapped in a senseless bout of normalcy bias which is allowing the elite segment of society (Wall Street and DC, mostly) to trample on our freedoms and steal every last cent from the middle and lower classes, along with every shred of dignity.

Yep, like I said when I stopped writing daily diatribes a year ago, nothing is going to change until the Fed stops pumping money into the system. Well, they actually did stop, in the third quarter of last year, but the QE baton was quickly raised by Japan, and will shortly be taken up by the ECB, so, don't expect much to change any time soon. We've got at least a year and a half before the federal funds rate (you know, that one that seems to be permanently stuck between 0 and 0.25%, the rate at which the TBTF banks borrow) gets anywhere close to one percent, and even that could cause a panic in stocks.

In the meantime, the Baby Boomers are trying to figure out how to retire without any interest income, and that's an increasingly difficult trick, since the only reasonable yield one can get is at the far end of the curve, in 30-year bonds, currently hovering around 2.75%. $100,000 invested at that rate returns a whopping $2750 a year, so, you have to put up (and tie up) a million bucks just to live barely above the poverty level. Not much fun when you're 70 years old.

Deflation... it's what's for dinner (after the cat food).

Dow: 18,203.37, -85.26 (-0.47%)
S&P 500: 2,107.78, -9.61 (-0.45%)
Nasdaq 4,979.90, -28.20 (-0.56%)

More tomorrow...

Monday, March 2, 2015

Blowing Bubbles: NASDAQ Cracks 5000... Again!

Money Daily stopped being a daily post blog in March, 2014. While the name remains the same, the posts are now on an intermittent basis, as conditions warrant, though it is advised to read the archives (from 2006-2014) regularly, even daily, for insights and historical perspective.

It took nearly 15 years, but the NASDAQ Index finally has clawed its way back above the magical 5000 mark, closing today at 5008. The last time the NASDAQ closed over 5000 was on March 27, 2000, but, back then, it was going in the opposite direction, as the tech bubble was popped and investors were scrambling to hold onto gains in companies with no earnings, like Pets.com, Alta Vista and NetZero.

Today marked a 295% increase from the lows seen in March, 2009, so, conceivably, if one had the patience to hold the QQQs from then until now - just six short years - a near-quadrupling of one's money could be in hand at the close today. Of course, not even the most savvy investor, speculator or degenerate gambler could have been so lucky; stocks in the NASDAQ have been churned and turned, so the index looks quite a bit different than it did in 2009, even more so from 2000.

The NASDAQ of today is not quite as zippy as it was in the late 1990s. Volume is down dramatically and ten stocks - such as Apple, Google and Netflix - have provided more than 75% of the gains overall, so, it's likely that many investors were still stuck with moribund returns while the HFT algos ground higher for the one-percenters who control the market.

This nominal event evokes thoughts of the tech bubble and housing bubble, and shows some comparable characteristics. Special to the most recent rally of the past six years has been the incredible amount of liquidity provided by the Federal Reserve, an effect to which many ascribe the totality of the gains since 2009.

Whether we are once again in bubble territory remains not to be seen, but only to be verified. Talk, being the cheap commodity that it is, says loosely that stocks today are much better values, though recent macro data on the general economy, plus geo-economic conditions, seem to be pointed in a completely different direction.

Money Daily, convinced that we are once more headed for a collapse of astounding proportions, will resume regular daily postings with this writing.

Stay tuned. More information on the deformation of the markets is forthcoming.