Showing posts with label Ben Bernanke. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ben Bernanke. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

The COVID-19 Cure Figures To Be Far Worse Than The Disease As The World Enters A Global Depression

Incredible. Surreal. Amazing. Ludicrous. Ridiculous.

Those are just a few of the choicest words to describe Tuesday's equity rally in US stocks. Nothing says "out-of-touch" better than a nearly four percent gain on the NASDAQ when 75% of the world's population is under some form of restrictive lockdown, quarantine, or other form of social suppression.

While millions of soon to be extinct working class Americans citizens patiently wait at their homes for a $1200 check from the federal government, their future taxes flowed to Wall Street in currency supplied by the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve, lining the pockets of billionaires with even more filthy lucre.

As nothing was learned from the Great Financial Crisis of 2008-09, the Federal Reserve has become the de facto World Central Bank (hat tip to the Robin Hood of Wall Street, Gregory Mannarino, for that new coinage), backstopping stocks and bonds and ETFs and any kind of financial instrument not tied to a physical asset such as gold or silver. The Fed is buying, hand over fist, treasury debt, mortgage-backed securities, commercial paper which funds the day-to-day needs of major corporations, foreign debt, and even junk bonds.

This is what the so-called Modern Monetary Theory looks like in practice. Markets rigged via infinite quantitative easing (QE), according to Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari, whose main claim to fame is as the overseer of TARP, the $700 billion bailout of the banking system in 2008. Forget free markets. Forget fair wages and salaries. Forget the Bill of Rights and your guarantees of free speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion. All that is gone, thanks to the worldwide worship of the world currency, the US Dollar.

Want to see somebody lie with a straight face? Watch Kashkari's 60 Minutes interview from March 23. During the interview, Kashkari mentions printed currency on a number of occasions, saying things that suggest physical cash will be available through banks and ATMs. This is a patent untruth. There are only $1.7 trillion physical Federal Reserve Notes in circulation, enough for just more than $5,000 for every American citizen, an impossibility, since much of the printed bills circulate overseas.

Here's another bit of wisdom from a former Fed Chairman:
"And higher stock prices will boost consumer wealth and help increase confidence, which can also spur spending. Increased spending will lead to higher incomes and profits that, in a virtuous circle, will further support economic expansion."
― Ben Bernanke (2010)

Kashkari's ravings aside, the Fed probably couldn't print enough actual cash - besides it being the job of the US Treasury Department - to satisfy the ongoing needs of American business. However, via the brilliance of underfunding the Main Street bailout for small business (the so-called "forgivable" loans) in the bill recently passed by congress and signed by President Trump, when the effects of lockdowns and business closures are finally assessed, there won't be that many small businesses to fund. Current estimates suggest there is only enough money in the $349 billion allocated to finance the payrolls of less than half the small businesses in America for six to eight weeks.

In a recent survey by Lending Tree 64% of small business owners who applied for emergency funding reported that they were having trouble getting approved.

Meanwhile, employers' doors are closed in counties where there have been only a handful of coronavirus cases reported. Its overkill on a grand scale, and what's being killed is small business. While many owner-operated restaurants have been forced to shut down, the Burger Kings, McDonalds, and Dominos of the world have remained open, offering deliver or drive-through service and advertising heavily. Americans face a future of limited choice, and those choices aren't very appealing.

With the president and governors of various states arguing over who gets to call the shots on re-opening the economy, small businesses are going broke and out of business permanently. The closed up storefronts that have been a familiar sight in small towns across America for the past decade are soon to become a feature of cities and once-healthy suburbs. The commercial real estate market is going to collapse along with residential real estate. Thinking that the process of foreclosure in the aftermath of the sub-prime crisis was a nightmare, what happens in real estate and property rental markets over the next few years is going to be mind-blowing.

The coronavirus is real. Government response, complete with lockdowns, travel restrictions, violations of civil rights, business closures, and assorted "stimulus" packages, is a hoax, put in place to cover up the massive bailout needed to keep Wall Street's stock market above water. Stocks clambered down more then 20% in March only to rise from those losses in April, while the entire country is virtually out of business. This is the kind of government Americans get for electing people who serve only themselves and their campaign contributors.

Some day, Americans will be going back to work. Not all of them, maybe not even half of them. The current condition is only the beginning of a depression that will rival the 1920s. The coronavirus may kill 60,000, but the "cure" will kill millions.

At the Close, Tuesday, April 14, 2020:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 23,949.76, +558.99 (+2.39%)
NASDAQ: 8,515.74, +323.32 (+3.95%)
S&P 500: 2,846.06, +84.43 (+3.06%)
NYSE: 11,172.20, +222.67 (+2.03%)

Thursday, October 17, 2019

IMF Warns Pension Funds, Insurers, Shadow Banking On Overvalued Stocks

At last, some honesty.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank, holding its week-long annual meeting in (where else?) Washington, DC from October 15-20, has issued a report about stock valuations and the dangers faced by pension funds, insurers, and institutional investors.

Because low interest rates in many parts of the world are cause investors to reach for yield, the IMF sees inherent risk of overvaluation and imprudent borrowing as potential pitfalls should an economic downturn occur.

Their solution would be for more stringent regulation and closer monitoring of large institutional investors and so-called "shadow banking" outlets like insurers and non-bank financial companies. Obviously, the chiefs at the IMF have not read their history well enough, as there's ample proof that during ties of loose monetary policy, central bankers have a tendency to look the other way, fall suddenly into deep sleep, or simply miss obvious signs of trouble developing.

Famously, leading up to the Great Financial Crisis, then-chairman, Ben Bernanke, dubiously opined on May 17, 2007, "The subprime mess is grave but largely contained." A year later, the global economy was in tatters, fending off complete collapse.

While there are certainly signs that stocks are overvalued, and those signs have been apparent for a long time, years, in fact, the conceptual framework currently in use by investors is that the Fed and other central banks, fully in control of markets, will not allow any serious decline in equities, particularly in developed nations, and especially int eh United States.

That's the kind of certitude and unabashed frothiness that leads not-so-directly to insolvency, like trying to catch a falling knife.

It's laudable for the IMF to issue such a report and offer potential solutions to problems which may arise, but who's listening?

At the Close, Wednesday, October 15, 2019:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 27,001.98, -22.82 (-0.08%)
NASDAQ: 8,124.18, -24.52 (-0.30%)
S&P 500: 2,989.69, -5.99 (-0.20%)
NYSE Composite: 12,994.89, -11.15 (-0.09%)

Friday, February 10, 2017

Bubble Superfecta: Dow, NASDAQ, S&P 500, NYSE Composite All Close At New Records

As the week comes to a stunning close, it's official, every market in America is officially in deep into bubble territory.

Consider that the major indices all closed at all-time highs today and that the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up a whopping 2200 points since election day, November 8, 2016. That amounts to a gain of just over 12% in three months. At that rate of ascent, 22,000 on the Dow should be a no-brainer by the end of 2017.

Nothing other than stupidity, other people's money, greed, and momentum were needed to foment one of the most rapid rises in the history of the Dow. The other indices have surely been along for the ride; even the broad measure of the entire NYSE Composite cracked to a record close today.

Not to suggest that a reversal is imminent (been that way for 6 years at least), but for some perspective, let's examine where these markets were at the depths of the Great Financial Crisis (GFC), on March 9, 2009.

Dow: 6,547.05
NASDAQ: 1,268.64
S&P 500: 676.53
NYSE Composite: 4,226.31

In the span of eight years, during what has ostensibly been the weakest recovery after a recession since the Great Depression, the Dow and S&P have more than tripled, the NASDAQ has more than quadrupled, and the poor old NYSE Comp. is just short of tripling.

So, if you missed it you missed it, but there still may be time to get in. Nobody knows where this is going to end, but we can all thank Ben Bernanke and Janet Yellen for oodles of free cash injections worldwide (QE), zero interest rate policy (ZIRP) and the most reckless economic policies the world has ever witnessed.

It's still ongoing, though. The ECB and BOJ are still pumping money into their markets, and, unless you missed it, none other than the Swiss National Bank holds more than $64 billion in US equities.

Who said these central bankers don't know what they're doing?

Enjoy the weekend!

At the Close, Friday, February 10, 2017:
Dow: 20,269.37, +96.97 (0.48%)
NASDAQ: 5,734.13, +18.95 (0.33%)
S&P 500: 2,316.10, +8.23 (0.36%)
NYSE Composite: 11,377.72, +50.04 (0.44%)

For the Week:
Dow: +197.91 (0.99%)
NASDAQ: +67.36 (1.19%)
S&P 500: +18.68 (0.81%)
NYSE Composite: +50.04 (0.44%)

Monday, April 11, 2016

Amid Economic Unease, Former Fed Chair Bernanke Proposes MFFP (aka Helicopter Money)

We must be nearing the end of the current monetary system, since there is no growth, no prospects, and the entirety of the future has been mortgaged to the tune of $19 Trillion in US debt, and much, much more in unfunded liabilities via entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid.

Adding to the belief that the end is nigh, former Fed chairman, Ben Bernanke, now working for the Brookings Institute, penned a blog post today entitled, What tools does the Fed have left? Part 3: Helicopter money, wherein he openly advances the idea of direct money drops to the public. That would, ideally, include you, me, your poor uncle Tony, aunt Gracie, your neighbors, the weird guy in the run-down house on the corner, and everybody else who could use a few extra c-notes in the mail, ostensibly, tomorrow, and maybe, a few times a year, or month, or maybe even weekly...

You see where this is going, right? Bernanke is not convinced that US economic growth is kaput, yet he throws this out there for public consumption because, well, maybe he's grown weary of downloading porn, or he has to do something to make him seem relevant to the people paying his salary, or, perhaps he actually believes this is a realistic solution should the US economy completely stall out, or, heaven forbid, enter recession (like the one we've been in for the past eight years).

Not to make too much fun of the poor, old coot, but Bernanke was the Fed chairman during the last financial crisis, and his policies didn't do much to relieve anybody but the one percenters from economic repression, so it's unlikely that anything he suggests in his new role as wizened sage overseeing the global economy from some ivory tower will accomplish anything more than perverting the economy more than it already has been.

The most favored paragraph from Bernanke's flight of fancy is this one:
In more prosaic and realistic terms, a “helicopter drop” of money is an expansionary fiscal policy—an increase in public spending or a tax cut—financed by a permanent increase in the money stock. [4] To get away from the fanciful imagery, for the rest of this post I will call such a policy a Money-Financed Fiscal Program, or MFFP.

Yes, he coined a new acronym, MFFP, which I, Fearless Rick, a junior economist at best, reconfigured to mean Mother-(a vulgar word for copulating)-Foolish-Policy, and I think my naming makes more sense than anything any former Fed chairman could conjure. After all, I have been a writer for newspapers and blogs for many years, while Fed-heads only talk about money, interest rates, and other arcane foibles of economics. They're not very creative; I have to be (or I'll die, but that's another issue for another time).

So, choose whichever wording your little heart desires, I think Bernanke's just another old fart with a Ph.D., which these days are a dine a dozen. Being a doctor of anything these days isn't what it used to be. Doctors don't make that much, especially since the US has adopted a socialized system of medicine, which you all know and swear at when you receive your monthly health care statement, as Obamacare.

Being a doctor is over-rated. So is the Fed. What a bunch of morons. Seriously.

My point is simple. Handing out money, no matter to whom you bequest, or whatever you call it, or whatever cutesy acronym you paint on it, or whichever "mechanism" you use to do it, is just bad policy, and just plain stupid.

Moreover, Bernanke exposes himself as a completely dull ignoramus for even suggesting "money drops," not once, not twice, but now at least three times in his esteemed career as a monetary theorist. As Mark Twain once said,
It's better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than open it and remove all doubt.

I guess Bernanke never read that line, or worse, failed to understand it.

Geez. Just put your hand out. Somebody will magically fill it with cash. Yeah, and the queen of England is a babe.




Today's market noise:
S&P 500: 2,041.99, -5.61 (0.27%)
Dow: 17,556.41, -20.55 (0.12%)
NASDAQ: 4,833.40, -17.29 (0.36%)

Crude Oil 40.38 +1.66% Gold 1,259.40 +1.25% EUR/USD 1.1408 +0.05% 10-Yr Bond 1.72 +0.23% Corn 356.75 -1.52% Copper 2.08 -0.19% Silver 15.93 +3.55% Natural Gas 1.93 -3.07% Russell 2000 1,094.34 -0.27% VIX 16.26 +5.86% BATS 1000 20,682.61 0.00% GBP/USD 1.4233 +0.77% USD/JPY 107.9395 -0.11%

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Wall Street Sulks as Fed Is Not Dovish Enough

In the aftermath last month's federal funds rate hike - the first in eight years, and, a paltry 0.25% at that - the Fed held their first FOMC rate policy meeting of the year and the reaction from Wall Street was nothing short of derisive.

While the Fed governors did their level best to hem, haw, and dance around their policy "mistake" - which has taken US stocks roughly seven percent lower and cratered confidence - market participants apparently wanted more, as in a complete roll back of the hike and a return to ZIRP, the policy that had prevailed since the fall of 2008.

Stocks were trading close to the flatline until the 2:00 pm announcement by the Fed. After a small amount of see-sawing, sentiment turned radically negative, with all indices taking a punch to the gut that extended into the close.

The Fed cannot escape its fate. It will be overseeing the utter calamity of a global currency crisis, brought about by their excessive credit policies from the Greenspan and Bernanke eras. Janet Yellen, the current Fed Chair, will be scapegoated, and rightfully, as she is completely tone deaf to the needs of the US and global economies, which are screaming deflation at every turn.

The best Ms. Yellen can hope for in her sure-to-be-short tenure as Chairwoman of the Federal Reserve is for Japan or Europe to somehow come to the rescue with additional QE in coming weeks and months, which will buy her additional time to exit in an orderly manner.

The handwriting is on the wall and the handwringing can be seen on the faces populating the video screens from CNBC and Bloomberg TV. Nobody wants stocks, and soon enough, nobody will want dollars, at least not for long. But first, the powerful grip of deflation will have to work its way through the system, crushing the investor class while shoring up those at the bottom of the societal and economic ladders.

That process has been underway for at least a year, as shown by the price of crude oil. It will eventually infest all consumer goods, crushing corporate profits in manufacturing and retail. The systemic underutilization will commence until governments fall, first in emerging markets, then developed ones.

There is no escaping a monetary event such as what is coming. Gold continued to ramp up. Silver is lagging, but will eventually follow and then surpass the gains made by gold.

Today's closing quotes:
S&P 500: 1,882.95, -20.68 (1.09%)
Dow: 15,944.46, -222.77 (1.38%)
NASDAQ: 4,468.17, -99.51 (2.18%)

Crude Oil 32.19 +2.35% Gold 1,124.90 +0.42% EUR/USD 1.09 +0.32% 10-Yr Bond 2.0010 +0.35% Corn 369.75 +0.14% Copper 2.06 +1.08% Silver 14.50 -0.44% Natural Gas 2.15 -0.51% Russell 2000 1,002.75 -1.50% VIX 23.11 +2.71% BATS 1000 20,083.96 -0.92% GBP/USD 1.4245 -0.72% USD/JPY 118.63 +0.18%

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

China Steel Exports To USA Subject To 256% Tariff

Remember, folks, the US Department of Commerce has your backs.

The department is recommending that the United States impose a tariff on steel imports from China of 256%, because they feel China has been dumping steel on the market and causing a severe disruption in the price, negatively affecting US steel producers.

Gee, really? What's next, tariffs on electronics, cars, just about anything you buy at Wal-Mart or nearly anywhere in America?

Where's the great Ben Bernanke when you need him? You know, the former Chairman of the Federal Reserve who is an EXPERT on the Great Depression.

Why do we need the Big Bernank now? Because, his expertise would prevail on our glorious government goofballs that protectionism is exactly what made the Great Depression so (not) great.

You take depressed markets overfull of inventory, tack on tariffs and you get exactly what the Fed wants in order to hide its horrible policies: velocity of money at zero, falling wages, layoffs and now, the kicker, goods too expensive for anybody to buy. Pure genius, these guys looking out for all of us little people.

This is just the beginning. Expect to see more trade protectionism going forward and more countries falling into recession. Add it all up and you have Great Depression 2.0.

It's not going to happen all of a sudden, because the Fed is still fighting deflation. But, when the going gets rough, really rough, like when Wall Street (hell) freezes over and commits suicide in a crash of stocks of companies that have been repurchasing their own shares for the past six years and they lay off millions of workers, that's when the government will move in full force with trade restrictions and tariffs so that Americans can't purchase anything from the evil Chinamen.

Maybe somebody should have thought about this before we sent all of our manufacturing base over to the Red Dragons. Then again, maybe they did.

Meanwhile, the Santa Claus rally continues on Wall Street. The S&P gained enough today to show a small profit for the year and the Dow Jones Industrials are closing in on being black for 2015.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Yellen's Rate Hike Timing Might Be A Little Off... Like Five, Six Or Seven Years

Now that the Fed has restored its own venerable credibility, the markets seem to think, "well, yeah, the fed is credible, but still wrong." Fed Chairwoman, Janet Yellen, will go down in history as the worst chairperson in the 102-year history of the Federal Reserve, followed closely by her predecessor, Ben Bernanke.

Hiking the federal funds rate even a measly 1/4%, as they did on Wednesday, seems to be anathema to all kinds of markets, except maybe the dollar index, which, unlike just about everything else, rallied today.

Stocks erased all of yesterday's gains and then some, sending the Dow Jones Industrials and S&P 500 into the red for the year. For investors of all stripes (and most importantly, hedge fund managers, who have gotten murdered this year), what's worse is that the year is almost over and there doesn't seem to be a catalyst available to overcome what damage the Fed has done with its unmistakable policy error.

Anybody with brain cells saw this coming well in advance. The global economy is virtually on its knees and the Fed thought it was time for a hike in interest rates. The hike amounted to the political equivalent of a punt. There was nowhere else to go, so they went through the only door open. Bad mistake, especially since that door had been open since 2009.

What were they thinking? Maybe the question should be "what were they not thinking?" because they ignored the obvious signs of slowing, not only in emerging markets, but in commodities, high yield bonds, corporate profits, sales, housing, and a plethora of other indicators that were signaling recession ahead rather than recovery accomplished.

The Federal Reserve is comprised of some of the worst thinkers on the planet, whose sole interest is in keeping their credibility intact, and they are quickly losing control over that. They've managed, in the short span of seven years - thanks to their dual policies of zero interest rate policy (ZIRP) and quantitative easing (QE) to completely dismantle the fabric of capitalism, enriching only the upper, upper crust of wealthy individuals while dashing the hopes and savings of millions of would-be retirees.

With any luck, the Fed's failed policies will lead to outright rejection of the currency, not just around the world, but right here in the United States as well. These are control freaks, and they've lost control, implying simply that worse decisions are already in the making.

In case anybody's paying attention, the Federal Reserve is busy wrecking what's left of the global economy by bringing the US economy into line with the rest of the world, which, if one would like to take a look at Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico, is already suffering deeply.

Global depression and a debt jubilee are on the plate for 2016. You can have it served directly or order it to go. Zombie banks, which should have gone out of business in 2008, don't deserve to be repaid again, as they've already stolen so much taxpayer money that they've bankrupted the US government.

It's a good thing there's only a few weeks left in the year, because the losses for 2015 will stop suddenly on December 31.

Sadly, those losses will resume promptly, when markets reopen on January 4, 2016.

In advance, Happy New Year (if we make it).

Friday, January 31, 2014

Stocks End January in Ugly Fashion with All Major Indices Down for the Month and Year


Friday capped off an extremely volatile week in stocks and world economics, though astute investors and money managers should have known this kind of activity was coming all along, as soon as the Fed began reducing its bond purchases last month.

With January in the can, one might be obligated to kick it, for it was one of the worst months in some time, in fact, the January decline was the worst since February of 2009. It was also the first January decline for stocks since 2011, and that turned out to be a very rocky year, so caution is advised for those with a bullish bent. Fund flows from emerging market stock and bond funds were massive over the past two weeks, as were equity outflows in US-based funds.

What really troubled markets this morning, when the Dow fell by more than 220 points in early trading, were outflows of capital from emerging markets everywhere, from Russia, to Hungary, to Poland, South Africa, Turkey, Argentina, Indonesia, India, Brazil and China, and that's just a partial list.

Adding to the woes was an earnings warning from Wal-Mart (WMT), which is viewing the passage of the farm bill in the House of Representatives as very detrimental to their business, as it will strip out $8 billion in food stamps, the life-blood of the Wally World economy.

As the Fed is committed to slowing their bond purchases and eventually ending quantitative easing (QE) over the next six to eight months, it will be instructive to view the new chairmanship of Janet Yellen, who has inherited the legacy of Ben Bernanke's reckless money printing and zero-interest rate policies of the past five years. Yellen, who by some measures is even more dovish than the white-tailed Bernanke, will, as is usually the case with a new Fed head, have to deal with a crisis condition in her first days as chairwoman and beyond, and there's really no telling how she may react to financial upheaval in not only the emerging economies, but also the developed ones.

Looking forward to next week, markets will have to digest official China PMI, released later tonight, then work through central bank policy meetings in England, the EU, Australia, Poland and the Czeck Republic before dealing with the potentially-devastating January non-farm payroll report on US jobs, due prior to the bell on Friday, making the first week of February no less nerve-wracking than all of January.

Here's how the major averages ended the week:
Dow -180.26 (-1.14%)
S&P 500 -7.70 (-0.43%)
NASDAQ -24.29 (-0.59%)

...and the month:
Dow -877.81 (5.3%)
S&P 500 -65.77 (-3.6%)
NASDAQ -72.71 (-1.7%)

It's not pretty, and, as expressed through post after post on Money Daily this month, it's almost certain to get worse, as huge imbalances turn into ugly dislocations of capital in every nook and cranny of the finance. The Fed, in its infinite wisdom, has gone too far since 2009 in trying to fix things that were broken by covering them up with wild slugs of capital and debt. Now, it is time to pay the piper, so to speak.

View the video below for Jim Grant's explanation of how the Fed distorts markets. His simple explanations provide deep insight for anyone who believe Keynesian economics has met its match in Ben Bernanke and the current crop of central bank "experimenters."

While this short clip is indeed concise and to the point, perhaps the most eloquent statement made on live TV by Mr. Grant was when he chided the erstwhile Steve Liesman with this pithy piece of pragmatism: "The FED can change what things look like, but, the FED can never change what things are." Our hats are permanently tipped to Mr. Grant. And with that, enjoy the weekend and the Super Bowl. The world may look the same come Monday, but, if one could see through eyes unclouded by hubris and propaganda, what a wonderful world it might be. DOW 15,698.85, -149.76 (-0.94%) NASDAQ 4,103.88, -19.25 (-0.47%) S&P 1,782.59, -11.60 (-0.65%) 10-Yr Note 100.86 +0.71 (+0.71%) Yield: 2.66 NASDAQ Volume 2.09 Bil NYSE Volume 4.05 Bil Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 1941-3780 Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 129-128 WTI crude oil: 97.49, -0.74 Gold: 1,240.10, -2.10 Silver: 19.12, -0.006 Corn: 435.00, +0.50

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Bernanke's Departure Marks the End of the Bull Market as Stocks Slump Again

There were so many moving parts to the economic and trading landscape since yesterday's close, it may be most instructive to review them in chronological order.

First, around 5:00 pm ET, the Turkish central bank raised overnight lending rates - along with all other key rates - from 7.75% to 12%. That's the overnight rate, the rate at which the central bank lends to member banks. Ouch! The move immediately sent US stock futures soaring, as though the global economy had been saved by this one clumsy, desperate stroke of policy.

At 9:00 pm ET, the impostor-in-chief, Barrack Obama, gave his fifth state of he union address, grossly misrepresenting the overall health and stability of the United States and glibly calling on American businesses to give employees a raise.

The euphoria spread to Asian markets, which were higher on the day, the Nikkei gaining more than 400 points on the session.

However, by the time the sun began to rise on Europe, the glad tidings had turned back to fear, as the Turkish Lira began to come under continued pressure from other currencies. Most European indices were trending lower, though marginally, with losses of under one percent on the majors.

By early morning in the US, the trend had completely reversed course, with stock futures deeply negative. At the open, the Dow Jones Industrials fell by roughly 120 points and held in that range until the 2:00 pm ET Fed policy announcement.

Widely expected to taper their bond purchases by another $10 billion per month, dropping the total to $65 billion, the Fed did exactly that, to the ultimate dismay of equity investors. Those who had made the correct call prior to the action continued pulling money out of stocks, rotating, as it seemed prudent, into bonds, which continued to fall in the aftermath of the Fed's announcement.

By the end of the session, stocks had put in severe losses once again, with the Dow leading the way lower. Bonds reacted by rallying sharply, the 10-year-note finishing at its lowest yield - 2.68% - in more than two months. In addition to bonds, the main beneficiary of the Fed's reckless monetary policy at this juncture were precious metals, as gold and silver rallied throughout the day.

What becomes of equities, sovereign currencies and the global economy as the Federal Reserve says good-bye to Ben Bernanke (this was his final FOMC meeting as Fed chairman) and hello to Janet Yellen, is now an open question, though with obvious clues.

If the Fed continues to taper its bond purchases by an additional $10 billion per month, they would be completely out of the market sometime around September, though it is unlikely that the Fed's path will be so resolute and straightforward. Already, it's apparent that stocks are going to suffer in the short term, while bonds enjoy a day or two in the sun. With returns on equities becoming more and more risky endeavors, bonds will appear as a safe have, forcing more investors to rush in, thus, sending yields lower.

While a crash in the equity market may not exactly be what the fed had in mind, it may be unavoidable, as there is no neat way to unwind their massive QE program which unfolded over the past five years and should come to an end. As reckless as was Bernanke's policy directives of QE and ZIRP, unwinding these programs is going to cause massive economic disruptions and further fuel a gathering global deflation trade. It only makes sense. If the Fed withdraws liquidity, economies will suffer. At least it's a plan that makes some sense, though nobody really wants to endure the pain that comes from such an unwinding. In the long run, it may be the only way back to something resembling normalcy.

The pain will be acute - and already has been so - in emerging markets, where most of the hot money had been headed during the Fed's money-printing spree. Look for developed nations to maintain an aura of stability, while the rest of the world, in places as diverse as South Africa, Turkey, Argentina, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, India and eventually, China, become somewhat ungled, economically-speaking.

With money fleeing these former hotbeds of investment, their currencies will devalue against the rest of the developed world, Japan, the US and Europe remaining as the centrist states and most stable currencies... for a while. The risk is contagion from the emerging markets into the developed, as the destruction of deflation engulfs the globe.

Bonds should fare well. An expectation of the US 10-year note below two percent would be rational. However, carry trades, such as a Euro-Yen or Dollar-Yen might lose much of their luster, the better plays to be short the emerging currencies.

Of course, with dislocations of capital everywhere, gold and silver should be afforded a top-shelf position, though their advance will, as always, be suppressed by the concerted efforts of the central banks. Still, in a devaluing environment, the ultimate price of the precious metals, as measured against various currencies, may indeed become a top choice for wealth preservation.

With the current path of the Fed set in place (for now, because they can, have, and will move the goal posts), it would be safe to conclude that the bull market in stocks has come to an abrupt end and money in 401k and other accounts of storage will become victims of a nasty, clawing bear that has no regard for the future, only a perception of the unfolding present, complete with companies that are presently overvalued, have limited earnings growth potential and have to be unwound.

Unless the major indices can find a way to turn the tide and rally past recent highs, the bull market, spurred on by vast wasted sums of money from the Federal Reserve and other sources, is over.

From a technical perspective, Wednesday's trade was an outright disaster. Declining issues led advancers by a 7:2 margin and new lows exceeded new highs for the third day in the last four.

DOW 15,738.79, -189.77 (-1.19%)
NASDAQ 4,051.43, -46.53 (-1.14%)
S&P 1,774.20, -18.30 (-1.02%)
10-Yr Note 100.26, +0.97 (+0.97%) Yield: 2.68%
NASDAQ Volume 2.05 Bil
NYSE Volume 3.93 Bil
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 1289-4441
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 66-128
WTI crude oil: 97.36, -0.05
Gold: 1,262.20, +11.40
Silver: 19.55, +0.049
Corn: 427.50, -4.50

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Saturday Afternoon Quarterback: The Day After the Great January Stock Slide

OK, it's Saturday, and the world hasn't ended, but what's important is to keep abreast of developments over the weekend in places like Argentina and Turkey, both of which are experiencing significant currency issues.

The other part of today's exercise is to see if there is anything that might give a clue to the future, and as to whether the massive selloff on Friday (and all week on the Dow) was a one-off, or if it is going to lead to more dislocations in stocks, a further decline, a 10% correction, or a bear market, which is where the fun really starts for those bent on restoring some semblance of sanity to stock valuations.

Yes, Cry for Argentina

Argentina, a country already shut off from foreign credit markets (could be a blessing in disguise) after the financial collapse of 2001-2002, has been in crisis mode for most of the past three years, with citizens unable to purchase US Dollars with their local currency, the peso, except on black markets, where the going rate is roughly 11-1 or 12-1.

Other restrictions on the movement of money have been imposed by the autocratic government of Christina Kirchner during the recent past, but on Friday, the government was said to be lifting the ban on the purchase of dollars, with an official rate of 8-to-1, and a 20% surcharge, pushing the "official" exchange rate closer to black market prices, though not equal to them. The new policy is said to take effect on Monday, though local chatter is that the government won't have enough dollars available by then to meet expected demand.

The black market is thriving in Argentina's cities, the Euro and US Dollar being the main currencies accepted for millions in hidden transactions. With inflation running at about 30% over the past year, this crisis seems to have legs, eventually resulting in full-blown currency rejection, prompting various economic, social and political problems, likely precisely what the overlords at the World Bank and IMF have in mind.

Argentina is Greece writ large, without bailouts. The take-away is that this is nothing short of economic warfare, with the citizenry being the victims via inflation, social unrest, political uncertainty, with the goal being having the government succumb to the demands of international bankers, who will grind the country down with crushing debt packages disguised as "aid."

Turkey Stew?

In a nutshell, Turkey, a country that is a geographic crossroad between Europe, Asia and the Middle East, is at more crossroads - economic, social and political - than its current leaders can handle. While the country is mostly Sunni Muslim, most of its neighbors to the South (Syria, Iran and Iraq) are Shiite. On the other side to the West is Europe, and the struggle to admit Turkey to the EU has been ongoing for nearly a decade.

The rapid devaluation of the lira, the country's official currency, was a design of European technocrats, who seek to weaken the country's finances to a point at which acceptance of the Euro as the "new" currency would be greeted with cheers of economic progress and stability, though opponents of entering into full-blown Euro acceptance consider that a move characteristic of failure, and point to the loss of sovereignty that would result.

To the North, lies Georgia, Russia and, across the Black Sea, the Ukraine, which has descended into a condition close to civil war, mostly over the issue of whether to join the European Union or throw in with Russia, which holds sway over the country's gas supply. This is somewhat of the same situation facing the Turks and makes the situation all the more confusing. With so much turmoil in the region already, it wouldn't take much of a spark to turn Turkey into a pretty large battlefield, some of it, mostly the southern region, already torn up by the Syrian conflict.

It doesn't take much imagination to see the Turkish situation spiraling wildly out of control. Al Queda already runs arms and terrorists through the country, and Russia also smuggles weaponry to Syria through it. If Turkey were to erupt into violence, one could easily see a wide swath of nations - from Egypt all the way to the Ukraine - as a war zone, much of it already engulfed by violence.

The Wider View

If the situation in Turkey, Syria and the Ukraine wasn't enough to destabilize markets, Argentina and the brewing banking crisis in China certainly have to be rankling the money-handlers.

Here is a brief clip and transcript (about eight minutes) that describes the shadow banking problems in China. Essentially, shadow banking enterprises are financing loans made to companies who borrowed from official channels and have run out of credit or the ability to borrow more on good terms from China's official banking system has been exhausted. The issue is one of rolling over credit in order to avoid default, but, as the article explains, China is going to slow and some industries will be negatively affected, and whole businesses shuttered.

With the difficulty of getting straight information out of China still a huge problem, it's unclear how bad China's debt-to-GDP ratio has become, though it is certainly more than the officially reported 125%.

Of course, with debt-to-GDP at that level or higher in the bulk of developed and emerging nations, China's problems just add to the mix, though it's like dropping a whole stick of butter into a small bowl of flour and milk. It's so big, it threatens to clog up the entire operation and that's what is most worrisome.

There are, naturally, many more reasons why stocks plunged on Friday, from Italy's unemployment at an all-time high of 12.7%, to Spain's unemployment dwarfing that, at 26.8%.

Other indicators include the Baltic Dry Index (BDI), which collapsed in the two weeks after the holidays by an unprecedented amount, and, China's most recent PMI, which the financial media give a wide berth for the cause of the selloff in US stocks. The PMI fell to 49.6, indicating contraction in the manufacturing sector, the lifeblood of the Chinese - and to a great degree, the global - economy.

Here at home, retailers are feeling the pinch from a horrid holiday shopping season, the worst since 2008. JC Penny and Sears have already announced store closings and layoffs. Target and Wal-Mart announced layoffs on Friday, though they were small in number.

Technicals Matter

Technically, US indices are in pretty good shape, overall. The Dow and S&P had been making new all-time highs at the end of 2013, but the performance in the first three full weeks of 2014 are not encouraging. With Friday's decline, the Dow ripped right through its 50-day moving average. On just Thursday and Friday, the Dow more than tripled its losses for the year. The two-day decline was more than 500 points, a number that represents a roughly 3% loss, but, since the index has risen so high, the point total of over 300 points on Friday has a psychological impact.

Imagine the Dow Jones Industrials as a 1600-pound animal, maybe a small hippo. A one-percent loss in weight - 16 pounds - wouldn't seem to matter much, but a 3% loss is close to 50 pounds, possibly worth notice. If the animal were to lose 10% (a correction, in market terms), or 160 pounds, veterinarians would be consulted, and, if a 20% loss in weight were to occur (indicative of a bear market), some might the 320-pound loss in weight was indicative of the animal having a severe disease.

The S&P likewise fell through its 50-day moving average, though the NASDAQ remained in suspended animation above its 50-day moving average, buoyed by Netflix and Google in recent days, though that position may be in jeopardy if the declines from the past few weeks persist and morph into something larger.

Key support areas on the Dow are at 15,450 and 1700 on the S&P, both the 200-day moving averages.

Also, the number of new lows exceeded new highs on Friday, the first time that has happened this year.

Forward Thinking

With earnings season in full gallop, next week should provide more fireworks. Apple and Google will be reporting, and those will be the big ones to watch. Since they are techs, they'll likely give the markets some pause and reason to ignore the declines of the past week, but the big enchilada is the two-day FOMC meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday, January 28 and 29, Ben Bernanke's last.

While the Fed didn't expressly say so when it announced the tapering of their bond purchase program by $10 billion last month, the fear on the Street is that they will announce another $10 billion reduction, bringing their monthly purchases down to $65 billion in February, from $85 billion in December.

Nowhere in its press release from last month
did the Fed even mention further cuts, so a reasonable expectation is that they will continue asset purchases at a rate of $75 billion per month, which, seriously, is more than enough, though market crybabies would like to see even more artificial stimulus.

Interest rates are also normalizing again, with the 10-year dropping to its lowest yield since prior to the "taper" announcement, closing Friday at a yield of 2.72%

Essentially, the turnback on Friday wasn't such a big deal, though any downturn is viewed with skepticism since the Fed is still supplying so much liquidity. If stocks can't maintain their current valuations, it means one of a couple of things. One, the Fed's policies are a complete failure, or, two, the economy is much weaker than anyone thought, or, three, stocks ran up to a highly overbought level and investors are just taking profits, albeit, at a rapid pace.

What's important to watch is how stocks act next week, the final week in January. The Fed announcement will be key, though they shouldn't influence markets considerably unless they taper even more, an unlikely event. If the major indices make it through the week without losing much or actually making gains, keep a close eye on the recent all-time highs on the S&P and the Dow. If these levels are not surpassed, that's a plain signal of a primary bear market. That should surprise nobody except perma-bulls, because this bull market will be a full five years old - 60 months - on March 9th. If the market makes a V bottom and rebounds past the highs (a correction and rebound), short at your own risk, because that would be a sign of a continuing liquidity-driven push higher.

One other indicator to consider is the January Barometer, which, at this juncture, looks certain to be negative. The direction of stocks in January has about a 90% correlation to direction for the rest of the year, so, unless there's a miracle rally this coming week, 2014 appears to be heading South.

For now, it's too early to call direction, but this brief summary of some of the key issues should provide background for all investors.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Fed Hangover Batters Gold, Silver; Stocks Flat, A-D Negative

After yesterday's glorious proclamation by the all-wise and omnipotent Wizard of the Fed, Ben Bernanke, the euphoria that was yesterday's nearly-300 point rally on the Dow fizzled into nothingness with a downside bias on the advance-decline line, with a 3:2 ratio favoring losing issues.

Gold and silver were beaten mercilessly for not cow-towing to the company line that everything is getting "better," the US economy is in the midst of a brisk recovery and the stimulus just reduced by the Federal Reserve is really there just for window dressing.

The "reality" for money managers and investors is that the precious metals are just not competitively priced in comparison to the absolute bargains in stocks, which, by the way, are at all-time highs, spurred there by massive stock buybacks, easy credit and compulsive labor reductions.

Remember that the actual reduction in the amount of bond purchases by the Fed hasn't even begun; that will happen in January, should economic conditions remain somewhat the same, but there were some cracks in the Fed's armor-plated monetary policy directives even as the market opened on Thursday with a massive rally hangover that lasted the full duration of the session.

Initial unemployment claims came in at an unexpectedly-high 379,000, the highest number since March, and mind you, this is in the middle of the holiday season, where part-time retail jobs and temporary work should be plentiful. It's an ominous development.

Additionally, existing home sales fell for the third straight month, down 4.3 percent last month to an annual rate of 4.90 million units.

Anybody with even a cursory interest in real estate understood that the combination of higher prices (median home prices were higher by 9.4 percent over the same period last year) and higher interest rates create an affordability issue, pricing out marginal buyers and slowing the momentum in housing.

Tighter credit standards also had an effect on the lower volume of real estate sales, as did the number of cash buyers decreasing slightly.

Interest rates were effected negatively, with the 10-year note yield rising to 2.93%.

With news like this, how can the Fed not taper? It's skittles and unicorns as far as the eye can see, which, coincidentally is about to that bridge over yonder, which I just happen to own and would like to sell you for the low, low price of...

DOW 16,179.08, +11.11 (+0.07%)
NASDAQ 4,058.13, -11.93, (-0.29%)
S&P 1,809.60, -1.05 (-0.06%)
10-Yr Note 98.48, +0.23 (+0.23%) Yield: 2.93%
NASDAQ Volume 1.66 Bil
NYSE Volume 3.47 Bil
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2250-3438
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 290-110
WTI crude oil: 98.77, +0.97
Gold: 1,193.60, -41.40
Silver: 19.19, -0.873
Corn: 430.50, +5.50

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Fed Tapers Bond Purchases, Loosens Policy Guidance; Markets Love It

In a masterstroke of monetary legerdemain, outgoing Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke delivered a final, resonant chord to his easy money policy of the past five years, announcing a reduction in the level of MBS and treasury bond purchases while simultaneously changing the guidance for rate policy going forward.

What the Fed has decided to do was to strike a delicate balance between the two policy initiatives currently employed. Bond purchases will henceforth be reduced from $85 billion to $75 Billion per month, shaving $5 billion from MBS and $5 billion from treasury purchases.

In its policy statement, however, the Fed took a different direction, emphasizing that the federal funds rate would remain at zero to 0.25% beyond the time at which unemployment falls below 6.5%. In other words, the Fed, as is their usual mode of operation, changed the game or moved the goal posts in terms of policy in order to accommodate a lower amount of bond purchases, in effect, maintaining equilibrium.

What the Fed is saying, somewhat tongue in cheek, is that their bond purchasing program (QE) has not quite brought about the desired results. The economy is not improving as rapidly as they anticipated, if at all, but, in order to not upset capital and equity markets with their bond purchase "tapering," they decided to loosen the language surrounding any future decision to raise interest rates.

It was quite the nifty move by the hands at the Fed, and both bond and stock markets behaved well along the lines anticipated by the manipulators of the world's money supply.

Stocks rose gratuitously, with the Dow and S&P closing at all-time highs; bonds remained distinctly calm. It was the perfect end to a reign of easy money that Bernanke has overseen, and gave the next man up, Janet Yellen, direction in which to pursue the Fed's policy directives.

The long and short of all the hype and hoopla over this final Fed meeting of the year and the last press conference by Mr. Bernanke is that the status quo was maintained and will be maintained for the foreseeable future. During his presser, the Chairman spoke of low inflation through 2016, with unemployment coming down gradually over a similar time period.

While the inflation expectations are well below what the Fed desires (2-2 1/2%), the 6.5% unemployment threshold has essentially been removed from all future Fed calculus.

When the world completes a couple more trips around the sun, at this time two years from now, it's expected that the Fed will no longer be purchasing bonds to the excessive degree it is today, and that unemployment will be much closer to "normalcy" at or near five percent.

In the real world, should everything proceed as the Fed anticipates, the economy, with interest rates still moored at zero, with 5% unemployment, the economy would be growing at a ripping rate so rapid that inflation would once again become a real problem.

Would it be so. The chances of everything working in straight lines toward a normalized economy is nothing more than a Fed fantasy. There will be disruptions and distortions and quite possibly another recession. Additionally, believing that pressures and changes from other parts of the planet would not be disruptive, is the purest height of folly.

The Fed hasn't really changed much at all. Reducing bond purchases by $10 billion per month is nothing more than a rounding error in the larger scheme of things. The punchbowl of free fiat has been left at the Wall Street party. Nothing has changed other than possibly, perception, and the person sitting in the Fed chair will be different.

The monetary can just got kicked down the road quite a stretch further. The new normal gets extended until something breaks.

DOW 16,167.97, +292.71 (+1.84%)
NASDAQ 4,070.06, +46.38 (+1.15%)
S&P 1,810.65, +29.65 (+1.66%)
10-Yr Note 98.78, -0.29 (-0.29%) Yield: 2.89%
NASDAQ Volume 1.83 Bil
NYSE Volume 3.74 Bil
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 4252-1467
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 311-112
WTI crude oil: 97.80, +0.58
Gold: 1,235.00, +4.90
Silver: 20.06, +0.219
Corn: 425.00, -1.75

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Why There's No Inflation and No Growth... (and why that's good for some)

Stocks were up modestly on Tuesday, as is the usual practice during the week of Black Friday Thanksgiving. There's a general feeling of well-being about, and, even though the gains this year have been the best since something like 1997, buyers of stocks know how to do nothing else, so they keep on buying. Actually, the turn-about in the inal half hour erased most of the day's gains on the Dow and S&P, especially. The NASDAQ finished above 4000, for the first time since 2000, when it crossed that threshold from the other side.

Stocks, bought with ridiculously cheap money via the Fed, are, and have been, producing fatastic returns for many investors and holders of pensions, 401ks, IRAs, etc., but the nagging suspicion that it can't really be this easy continues to gnaw at the fringes of consciousness.

For now, it really is this easy. There's no compelling reason to do anything but buy more stocks, not sell and keep watching them go higher. It's a very powerful positive feedback loop. The Fed's continuous debt-purchasing and zero-bound interest rates fuel the stock market, have contributed greatly to the rebound in real estate prices, but, stubbornly, unemployment simply won't go down appreciably, and that's an issue, though most of the barons of the financial world can't, or don't, really care about the ordinary citizens struggling to eke out a living.

Also troubling is the idea that all this debt-binge-buying by the Fed hasn't produced inflation, which, according to all Keynesian estimates on the topic, should be raging by now.

But, something un-funny happened on Ben Bernanke's way to the printing press. While the Federal Reserve and the behemoth banks have been busy leveraging up, the average American (and European) has been leveraging down, using the limited free money that comes their way to pay down debt, stop spending frivolously and horror of horrors, save.

Official statistics will deny that Americans are saving anything at all. Many, for certain, are not. In fact, HELOC loans are once again on the rise. But others, quietly, off-the-radar, have been squirreling away small amounts, mostly in cash, though some in gold, silver, bulk foods, and saving in other ways like repairing an aging vehicle instead of buying a new one, shopping at discount stores, buying online, bartering and other creative ways that are having an unseen impact because they are individually so small as to be unnoticeable, but collectively, they become huge.

Imagine, for a minute, the impact of 10,000 people individually not buying one Starbucks coffee per week. On the individual basis, it's three or four dollars. Collectively, however, it's $30-40,000. Then start adding up the other ways people are saving. Driving less or coordinating their driving to do many tasks on one trip. A couple of dollars a week. Home gardens that can shave $10 to $40 off a family's food bill in season is another hidden savings the statisticians can't capture with their computers. There are many, many more practical methods people are using today to save on everything from food to fuel to... well, you name it. Cut your own hair, heat with firewood partially, buy clothes at thrift stores, eat out less (or not at all), don't go to movies, and on and on and on.

The Fed doesn't get it. Wall Street doesn't get it. Most public employees don't get it. They're conditioned to be like their co-workers. Buy a new car, or lease one. Eat out for lunch. See the latest movies. Buy new clothes. They, and the 47 million on food stamps, are keeping the economy just clinging to life. But, despite the added liquidity by the Fed, it's not working so well. Corporations aren't beating their revenue figures. Bottom lines are good, but much of it is due to shrinking the number of shares outstanding via stock repurchase programs, which also add to the stock market boom.

But, there's a horde of people out there who are getting out of the system, cutting their cable bills, credit cards, magazine subscriptions, and, soon, because of the nightmare that is ObamaCare, their monthly health insurance bill.

Some, like economists at the Fed or analysts on Wall Street, might call these types an underclass. In reality, they are the new freedom class, untying the knot of debt, freeing their minds from the day-to-day toil and keeping up with the Joneses mentality that feeds the corporate machine.

The signs of frugality and savings - despite the overblown hype of Black Friday being bellowed by the big merchants - are everywhere. Gold, silver, bitcoin, eBay, Craigslist, barter exchanges, healthy, home-grown foods instead of corporate fast-food mulch, economy cars, hybrids and public transportation are all taking the bluster out of the Wall Street boom.

When the dust settles, when the Fed stops printing to infinity and the economy begins to normalize, there's an old adage used by printers, manufacturers and writers of software that will be apropos: "Garbage In, Garbage Out."

The garbage in is the cheap money the Fed has been printing nilly-willy. The garbage out will be a steady, possibly spectacular, stock market decline. It may not be a crash, happening all of a sudden, but there will be a bear market, eventually. After all, this bull run began in March 2009. It's now a 57-month old bull, which, by most measures, is a little long in the tooth. The signs are everywhere. Corporate profits are of exceedingly poor quality (garbage out).

When this era of cheap money comes to an end - and end it will - many who made money all along will be left holding stocks worth much less than what they paid for them. Many of the companies represented by these stocks will have upside-down balance sheets because of all the stock they bought back at nose-bleed prices. And that's going to be a real problem, causing more layoffs, consolidations, and bankruptcies (yes, we still have them). JC Penny will be the first to go. They're overdue and probably will file within months after the holiday season, which, for them, will be a disaster. They will be followed by Sears, and then after the retailers get moving in the wrong direction, the filings will snowball.

Garbage in, garbage out. Those who've been saving, rejecting the debt-slave system and prepping will be much less affected, already living well within their means and enjoying it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

DOW 16,072.80, +0.26 (+0.00%)
NASDAQ 4,017.75, +23.18 (+0.58%)
S&P 1,802.75, +0.27 (+0.02%)
10-Yr Note 100.36, +0.31 (+0.31%)
NASDAQ Volume 1.79 Bil
NYSE Volume 3.40 Bil
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 3292-2338
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 431-93
WTI crude oil: 93.68, -0.41
Gold: 1,241.40, +0.20
Silver: 19.85, -0.034
Corn: 424.75, -6.50

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Wall Street Pouts Despite Twitter IPO; Jobs Data on Deck

Busy day today for the gods of greed, buyers of bluster, falcons of fraud, purveyors of prevarication.

Wall Street was all a-twitter over the IPO of Twitter (TWTR), the latest Web 2.0 mega-fad company gone public, which opened today on the NYSE with a bang. The stock was issued at 26, but opened at 44, quickly ramped up above 50 per share and closed at 44.90, good for a 78% gain. The company - based on "tweets" of 140 characters - is valued at about 29 times sales, pretty rich, especially for a enterprise that's still losing money. Well, at least the founders are now billionaires... on paper.

Prior to the opening bell, there was a flurry of activity from across the Atlantic pond, as Europe's Mario Draghi, ECB president extraordinaire, announced key rate cuts of 25 basis points, leaving the base rate at .25 and the key lending rate at .50. Observers in America wondered what took the Euros so long, though one must consider that they have been in the business of wrecking their own economies and fleecing the public a lot longer than their American counterparts, so they can kick the old can-can a lot longer and down an even shorter road without causing much of a stir.

The response from traders across the continent and in the UK was resoundingly mixed, with the German DAX higher, Britain's FTSE lower and the French CAC-40 barely changed. Don't these people understand the concept of cheap money? Pikers, the lot of them, except, of course, for the stodgy, stingy, and oh-so-proper Germans.

At 8:30 am ET, the US blasted off a couple of economic indicators, releasing the first reading on third quarter GDP at a robust 2.8%, a ribald lie if ever there was one, but enough to scare the few remaining hairs off the head of Lloyd Blankfien and others of his balding ilk. Good news is once again bad news, it appears, and any growth approaching three percent in the US sends shivers up the spineless bankers' backs, because they believe their buddies, Mr. Bernanke and the incoming Mr. Yellen, may cease the easy money programs that has catapulted every dishonest banker into ever-higher tax brackets.

The most recent initial unemployment claims - which were down 9,000 from the previous week, at 336,000, remained stubbornly high, though apparently not quite high enough for the barons of buyouts. These dopes saw this as another sign of a strengthening US economy, so, shortly after the opening bell, stocks did an abrupt about-face and trended lower throughout the session, with little respite.

In other news, Goldman Sachs is under investigation for rigging foreign exchange (FOREX) trading and just about everything else they do, and, yesterday, the Blackstone Group began pitching its rent-backed securities.

Really. They did. And some people actually bought them.

The advance-decline line cratered, with losers leading gainers by a 7:2 ratio, and new lows continue to close the gap on daily new highs, a trend metric that may just flip over if today's losses are indeed presaging something un-funny about tomorrow's delayed October non-farm jobs data, due out an hour before the opening bell. The way to read this is that the government is likely to report that something in the range of 120-150,000 new jobs were created during the month, which would be more proof of economic improvement, exactly what the market doesn't want. Either that, or it's going to be a real stink-bomb, because the forecast is only for 100,000.

Business as usual, my friends. Monkey business, that is.

Dow 15,593.98, -152.90 (0.97%)
Nasdaq 3,857.33, -74.61 (1.90%)
S&P 500 1,747.15, -23.34 (1.32%)
10-Yr Bond 2.61%, -0.03
NYSE Volume 4,092,416,000
Nasdaq Volume 2,196,542,750
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 1276-4371
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 197-101
WTI crude oil: 94.20, -0.60
Gold: 1,308.50, -9.30
Silver: 21.66, -0.111
Corn: 420.50, -0.75

Friday, October 18, 2013

With Nothing Holding Them Back Stocks Will Keep Rising

Now that the government shutdown is over, there is no longer a debt ceiling - that's been suspended - the Fed is ramming $85 billion a month into the system and we're soon to have a Fed Chairwoman, Janet Yellen, who will print so much money as to make Ben Bernanke look like he was standing still the past five years.

Despite what the media says, Janet Yellen saw no danger from a housing bubble back in 2005, 2006, 2007 or 2008. It was only when it imploded did she consider it a problem. Hopefully, Mrs. Yellen will be the last Fed Chairman (or woman) ever, as she guides the global economy further into indebtedness which will never be repaid.

Then, when she is gone and the world's currencies are rest to something more reasonable, maybe we will have sane markets, free markets and stable economies, not the bloated wastelands that we are currently supposed to accept as "normal."

Since the Fed's relentless, continuous, non-stop money creation out of thin air is the only thing that matters, stocks are the place to be. Someday, they will be the place nobody wants to be, so, the question is, do you feel lucky, punk?

Do you?

Dow 15,399.65, +28.00 (0.18%)
Nasdaq 3,914.28, +51.13 (1.32%)
S&P 500 1,744.50, +11.35 (0.65%)
10-Yr Bond 2.59% 0.00
NYSE Volume 3,625,746,000
Nasdaq Volume 1,854,716,125
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 3911-1727
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 852-32 (now, THAT's extreme)
WTI crude oil: 100.81, +0.14
Gold: 1,314.60, -8.40
Silver: 21.91, -0.034
Corn: 441.50, -1.50

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Government Shutdown Day 9: Wall Street Still Skeptical or In Denial

As is usually the case with the Wall Street racketeers traders, they continue to play their stock and options games despite the shenanigans going about in Washington DC.

One can hardly blame them, because if the government were to actually shut down or default on debt obligations (a very low probability of that ever happening, despite scare tactics by liberal news outlets), the businesses they routinely trade in and around would become even less-encumbered by laws and regulations and gain even more outsized market share than many already have.

It's the oddity of the Wall Street/Washington connection: The crooks on wall Street don't really need the criminals in Washington; they more or less use them, via campaign contributions, to enact legislation that either enhances their market/tax/competitive position or cripples others who might think about competing with them. Washington politicians have become so overly dependent upon Wall Street and their highly-paid K Street lobbyists for campaign and other favoritism money and gifts that they will do just about anything to please them, including shutting the entire federal government down, thus removing themselves from their vaunted positions of power. As foolish as that may sound, that's exactly what the politicians in Washington are doing at the present time.

They probably don't need to worry, however. The elections are bought and sold by the power brokers on Wall Street, the results easily manufactured to produce any outcome they desire via their control over the electronic voting machines.

If all of this sounds like the stuff of conspiracy, well, that's because it is. Big business, the media and the federal government have been in bed with each other so long, it's almost incestuous. Politicians have long ago given up on the idea of representing their geographically-assigned constituents; they are aligned with special interests and businesses who best line their pockets.

And that is why nothing much happened today in Washington or on Wall Street, though behind the scenes, bond markets are beginning to look a little worried, stretched, and, in some cases, like at the low end of the yield curve, inverted, which, as anyone with historical knowledge will readily affirm, is a 100% sure sign of an oncoming recession.

That's somewhat of a bad joke, since many people believe we're already in a recession, having never recovered from the financial tsunami that came about in the fall of 2008. There's a distinct term for what heppens when a recession occurs within an ongoing recession.

It's called a depression, and ours is just about to get started.

Not to be overlooked, President Obama officially nominated Janet Yellen - known as the most dovish of the dove-laden Federal Reserve board of governors - to be the next Chairwoman of the Federal Reserve. Good riddance to Ben Bernanke, and thanks for fu--ing up our country.

And, yes, the number of new highs was eclipsed by new lows for the second straight session. Hold onto your hats, ladies and gentlemen. This is going to be one wild ride!

Dow 14,802.98, +26.45 (0.18%)
Nasdaq 3,677.78, -17.06 (0.46%)
S&P 500 1,656.40, +0.95 (0.06%)
10-Yr Bond 2.65%, +0.01
NYSE Volume 3,566,030,500
Nasdaq Volume 2,159,485,000
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2541-2985
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 60-137
WTI crude oil: 101.61, -1.88
Gold: 1,307.20, -17.40
Silver: 21.89, -0.552
Corn: 443.50, +1.75

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Tick Tock... Waiting on the FOMC to Send the World into the Abyss

We all know what's going on here.

The markets are in virtual limbo, as the world awaits tomorrow's action by the Federal Reserve, due out with an FOMC policy decision (rates won't change) and an announcement that they will begin tapering their bond purchases.

That they'll make an announcement is known. Whether they decide to cut back on Treasuries or MBS is still an open question, though the smart money is on $10-15 billion less in Treasuries, beginning no later than December (possibly October or November).

The mortgage-backed portion of the portfolio will probably not be changed, as the Fed is the first and last buyer of MBS, the market having collapsed in 2008 when Fannie and Freddie went belly-up and the rest of the nasty stuff of the great collapse happened.

Until then, volume has been dead, though there's still plenty of speculation to the upside, in the clustered thinking that any Fed move has already been priced in (ha, ha, ha). How one prices in liquidity compression with stocks at all-time highs and at nosebleed valuations is a matter for market historians to ponder. While we certainly live in interesting times, they are also warped by the interventionist policies of central banks, who are losing their grip on the global economy, their long-standing franchise of greed over the whole of humanity.

The taper will occur, but the next best question is who will succeed Ben Bernanke on the sinking ship that is the global banking cartel. Since Larry Summers pulled his name from consideration to the top money-man post in the world and sharp-tongued politicians have recently decried the relative value of QE and zero-bound interest rates, a sacrificial lamb must be chosen by President Obama, and that choice is likely to be Janet Yellen, sure to be confirmed by the Senate because she is as clueless about economic policy as all of her predecessors and will be unlikely to make independent decisions, since she has never done so heretofore.

We anxiously await the Fed's announcement that the economy is trudging valiantly toward self-sustainability and that monetary stimulus by the Federal Reserve can thus be gradually wound down.

The time is upon us. Our breath may be baited, though the collective thirst has not been sated.

Dow 15,529.73, +34.95 (0.23%)
Nasdaq 3,745.70, +27.85 (0.75%)
S&P 500 1,704.76, +7.16 (0.42%)
10-Yr Bond 2.85%, -0.02
NYSE Volume 2,971,334,750
Nasdaq Volume 1,480,300,875
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 4406-2182 (2:1)
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 286-50
WTI crude oil: 105.42, -1.17
Gold: 1,309.40, -8.40
Silver: 21.78, -0.225

Friday, August 16, 2013

End-Game Begins as Stocks Are Sold, Bond Yields Rise, Precious Metals Take Off

What happened over the latter part of this week should be the stuff of history books for future economic historians, given there will even be an economic history after the worst crisis in history begins its second leg down.

Forget about Friday. That was mostly churn, finger-pointing, squaring of positions in options and a great deal of nail-biting by the financial elite and central bankers. The real action was on Wednesday and Thursday, and, more specifically, the close of the trading day Wednesday and the pre-market Thursday, when St. Louis fed president, James Bullard, made comments, first to a Rotary club in Paducah, Kentucky, at 3:15 pm EDT Wednesday, and then reiterated and expanded upon those comments Thursday prior to the opening bell.

Both attempts to jawbone the market back into a state of control were, as they say in current parlance, epics fails, because market fundamentals - those things like economic data and earnings reports - finally came to the forefront and overtook what little control the Federal Reserve had over markets - both stocks and bonds.

Wednesday was shaping up to be a painful session when Bullard attempted to soothe the pain by saying that the Fed needed more data in the second half of the year before committing to a slowdown in their bond-purchase program (aka QE) in September or sometime near that time frame. The market's knee-jerk reaction was a swift erasure of 30 losing Dow points, but almost as quickly, sellers swamped back in, with the Dow closing near the lows of the day.

After the close, Cisco (CSCO) released second quarter earnings, with a penny miss on EPS and a small shortfall in revenue. Making matters worse was the conference call afterwards, in which the company issued some negative guidance, as has been the mantra this earnings season, sending the stock down roughly 10% in after hours trading.

On Thursday morning, Wal-Mart (WMT) released their second quarter earnings report, eeril similar to Cisco's complete with negative guidance for the remainder of the year. Around 7:30 am EDT, when pre-market trading opened, Dow futures, already down substantially, took a nosedive.

Queue James Bullard, reiterating Wednesday's comments and adding some new verbiage, in a desperate attempt to satiate the trading community. Once again, Bullard's comments failed to incite any kind of rally in futures. The day was setting up to be a bad one for the bulls.

At 8:30 am, the final nail in the coffin was hammered home by the weekly unemployment claims report, which came in at 320,000, a six-year low and a complete misread by anyone thinking a better jobs picture would be a salve for jittery traders. It was the exact opposite, the thinking being that if the jobs picture was indeed improving, the Fed would be more than willing to begin curbing QE in September. Futures were pounded even lower and the market opened in a sea of red ink, the Dow quickly down 150, then 200 points, the other major indices following along in a coordinated dive. Interest rates spiked higher, prompting even the most steadfast into a selling frenzy.

The upshot is that unemployment claims, despite being at multi-year lows, is a complete canard. The jobs created over the past past year, and primarily the last six months, have been mostly low-paying, service-type, part-time varieties, due to the coming slaughter of the jobs market via Obamacare, which mandates employer-provided insurance for companies with more than 50 full-time employees. While there are no real new jobs being created, nobody's leaving to look elsewhere for work and the slack caused by full-time jobs being split into part-time increments means more jobs overall, just not good ones and, especially, not full-time ones.

Thus, unemployment claims henceforth must be viewed with a skewed eye, despite the glad-handing by the media, financial pundits and politicians. Evidence that the overall economy is not even close to the so-called "recovery" we've all been anxiously awaiting since 2009, was amply provided by Cisco and Wal-Mart, two huge employers and both Dow components.

With the close on Thursday, the market was pointed for the worst week of the year heading into Friday, and, despite a lame attempt at tape-painting late in the session, it was delivered, with all of the indices closing marginally lower.

Treasuries hit their highest yields in two years, anathema to stocks and the housing market, further clouding the picture for the Fed and their plans for a graceful exit by Mr. Bernanke later this year. The Fed has lost control of all markets; they likely cannot slow their bond purchases in September, lest they risk a complete meltdown in stocks and melt-up in yields.

Gold and silver - especially the latter - had their best week in two-and-a-half years, with both hitting three-month highs and breaking out of the recent, depressed range.

Looking out a month to three months, the Fed is completely boxed in. On one hand, they can say that the economy is improving enough - even though the data doesn't remotely support such a claim - and begin tapering in September, even October. Or, they could face reality, admit their policies have been utter failures and continue the current pace of QE. Neither scenario is particularly bullish for stocks, the reality case the worst, as the decline off the August 2nd closing high has begun to accelerate with a strong downward trajectory, sending the Dow straight through its 50-day moving average, and the S&P closing out the week resting right upon its 50-day.

Nothing good will come from the politicians' return from their month-long hiatus, when they will once again entertain the markets with their rituals of piercing the debt ceiling and coming up with a budget or suitable continuing resolution. No matter what the Fed decides in September can be perceived as good, though from a trading standpoint, keeping QE at its current $85 billion per month will appear as a victory of sorts for the Wall Street crowd, when in reality it is admission that all has failed and the Fed can do nothing, other than continue debasing the currency until is ceases to exist.

The mathematical certainty that the experiment with fiat currency, back with nothing but promises and lies, will fail, is entering the second leg, or the third, after the crash in '08-09 and the nearly five years of false, liquidity-driven recovery. Any astute observer will immediately comprehend that lost faith in the currency foreshadows another crisis, this one likely more severe than that of 2008.

While many of the status quo will cringe at the prospect of the greenback's death throes and a complete collapse of the global economy, those fed up to their eyeballs with the current regime of lies, uncertainty, complete fraud by the major banks and totalitarian fear-mongering will welcome the change with open arms.

One can only hope that it won't drag on and out for years, as in europe and the Middle East, but the best advice at this point is to stay in precious metals, away from large population centers and hope for the best while preparing for the worst.

Other than those dire words, it looks to be a fine summer weekend in most of the US. Get out and enjoy some sun and taste the bounty of our land. Food, the fuel we humans - at the most basic level - need to survive, is still readily produced and relatively inexpensive. And that, my friends, is one shining silver lining.

Dow 15,081.47, -30.72 (0.20%)
NASDAQ 3,602.78, -3.34 (0.09%)
S&P 500 1,655.83, -5.49 (0.33%)
NYSE Composite 9,465.19, -24.10 (0.25%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,458,862,12
NYSE Volume 3,532,477,250
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2554-3882
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 77-369
WTI crude oil: 107.46, +0.13
Gold: 1,371.00, +10.10
Silver: 23.32, +0.387

Friday, August 9, 2013

More Churning as Stocks End Week Lower

Stocks disappointed this week, but after all was said and done, the damage was, at worst, marginal, or as Chairman Bernanke and his crony capitalists might call it, modest.

The same pattern of trading appeared every day of the week, typified by a weak start, a bottoming out before noon and a half-hearted rally - on exceptionally-low volume - into the close.

All said, the major indices barely budged.

For the week, the Dow was the biggest loser, down 233 points. The NASDAQ shed all of 29 points, while the S&P dropped a whole 18 points. All this may be indicative of is rotation out of dividend-payers to more speculative stocks, a kind of reverse shoot-the-generals move which is about as back-asswards as this market can get. On the other hand, why should it be any different? Even though the Fed has signaled - with both hands and feet and the waving of other extremities, ear-pulling, farting and goofy faces - that they're going to taper bond-buying in September, why should traders care. It's still a month away, more than ample time to do some shorting, dip-buying and re-selling.

Like a freight train without a locomotive, the market, and the economy, are going nowhere fast.

The whole enterprise is pretty damned stupid.

Meanwhile, silver had made a nice move over the past two days, up more than 4%.

Here's a re-posting of a comment left on another site:

Bravo to all who participate in keeping the spirit of America alive, while the government tears it down.

I should say that I think the tide is turning. These a-holes are visibly shaken on a daily basis and it's only a matter of time before the hackers, the self-employed, the thinking people in America bring this system crashing to its core.

Wall Street and the government (and I mean government at all levels, right down to towns and villages) are beyond corrupt. They are now so transparently out-of-touch and ugly to be contemptible. On a daily basis, I meet more and more people who are just refusing to play along any further, from the contractors who give discounts for cash payments, to landlords of homes in foreclosure, to simple, everyday working people whose loathing for this broken system has turned to disgust and disobedience.

Americans are a rare breed. We'll play along for a while, but, in the meantime, we work our own plans, and eventually there's a clash. Governments always fall. Free people who are willing to fight - by whatever means necessary - will always be free. Few are afraid any longer. The bogeymen of terrorism and national security are being laughed at by the masses.

Sure, there's still a lot of sheeple out there, but there are now enough people with backbone who are unafraid because they no longer want to endure this madness from people like Obama, Hayden, McCain, the banksters, etc., who will actually protect the sheeple from themselves and their nanny state government.

There used to be a poster here with the moniker, "CrashIsOptimistic," and that's now the status quo. The elites - fuck-ups that they are - will cause their own demise, hastened by the very people they wish to subjugate.

Grow your own, run your own, mind your business, and when the tax man or the repo man comes calling, play dumb. My experience with a bad mortgage has now run beyond four years and it's been a valuable learning experience, so much so, that other people are asking my advice, which, is simply, FIGHT.

Carry on. They can kill us all, but seriously, who wants to live under the thumb of tyrants?

Dow 15,425.51, -72.81 (0.47%)
NASDAQ 3,660.11, -9.02 (0.25%)
S&P 500 1,691.42, -6.06 (0.36%)
NYSE Composite 9,622.11, -12.59 (0.13%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,524,848,625
NYSE Volume 3,203,273,250
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 3006-3470
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 249-131
WTI crude oil: 105.97, +2.57
Gold: 1,312.20, +2.30
Silver: 20.41, +2.14

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Stocks Continue to Drift Lower as Fed Signals Tapering

Yesterday, the S&P 500 dropped below 1700. Today, the Dow Industrials broke below 15,500, both of those numbers officially in nose-bleed territory anyway, so it shouldn't be a surprise that, with Fed governors racing around the country giving speeches in which they hint about tapering in September, stocks should be falling.

Economic news has been fairly positive the past few months, so, despite the ungodly-awful employment reports and the coming disaster that is implementation of ObamaCare, the Fed sees fit to cut back its bond-buying from the current $85 billion a month, come September.

At issue is how much the Fed is willing to cut back on their bond-binge, be it by $10 billion, $20 billion or maybe even more.

They're not telling, so the traders are bracing for the unexpected, though most eyes are looking at the lower end of the range, maybe a $10 to $15 billion cut back.

That's not much consolation for holders of stocks for the long run, because the economy is still weak and sputtering along at - despite the official figure - sub-one-percent GDP, and that is not sustainable.

While praise for the Federal Reserve and chief money printer, Ben Bernanke, is nearly universal, the crooks and scoundrels on Wall Street don't want the party to end too soon, or, for most, at all. They'd be absolutely content with continuing bond purchases well beyond the markets' abilities to absorb them, fueling speculative trades as the underlying economy collapses.

They're not going to get that, but the Fed will relent and add back in more bond purchases if Wall Street wails loudly enough.

Up until now, there's been nothing bad about the direction the Fed has taken the markets and the country, but, unlike most fairy tales, the ending may not be so happy. The Fed may taper, but Wall Street isn't going to like it one bit, but it's the medicine most needed whether it crushes stocks and the economy, because all the malinvestments still need to be cleared, and there are a lot of them out there.

The selling pressure of the past few days may be a prelude to what's coming, but that's not going to happen this month, as DC politicians are on their usual, month-long hiatus and volume on the exchanges have been hitting the summer doldrums.

September will come, like the sun follows the rain, but it will be month of gnashing of teeth, incriminations and finger-pointing, everybody blaming each other for their own problems. When the pols get back, they'll be trying to raise the debt limit and put together a budget, two things that they've been unable to do successfully for some time.

Well, they can and have raised the debt ceiling, but at what cost?

Meanwhile, note that new lows outpaced new highs today. Could this be the market turn for which some have been calling?

Dow 15,470.67, -48.07 (0.31%)
NASDAQ 3,654.01, -11.76 (0.32%)
S&P 500 1,690.91, -6.46 (0.38%)
NYSE Composite 9,568.27 46.05 (0.48%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,616,177,250
NYSE Volume 3,087,253,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2049-4440
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 146-197
WTI crude oil: 104.37, -0.93
Gold: 1,285.30, -2.80
Silver: 19.51, -0.015