Showing posts with label Fed. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fed. Show all posts

Friday, June 19, 2020

The Fifth Rail of Your Own Protest Movement and Freedom Is Solar Power

Thursday's post, How to Become Your Own Protest Movement, received very favorable responses and readership, as four ways to escape the tyranny of government were presented as Planting a Garden, Starting Your Own Business, Homeschooling, and Investing in Gold, Silver and Cash.

The cursory overview supplied plenty to expand upon, but with those four key components, overlooked was a key component to freedom, Becoming Your Own Energy Producer.

A brief overview of yesterday's fake, controlled, contrived, Fed-and-algo-induced markets will come at the end of this post, but let's take a look at the obvious energy source for independent thinkers, solar.

Solar power has been with us a long time. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter had 32 solar panels installed on the roof of the White House. They were used to supply hot water for the first family and White House cafeteria.

In 1986, President Reagan, not a fan of solar power, had them removed. But, in 2002, the Bush administration installed solar water heaters on the Cabana’s roof to heat the White House pool and more solar photovoltaic panels were also installed on the White House roof in 2014 and they remain in use today.

Over forty years have passed and solar technology has exceeded all expectations, to a point at which it is now on a par - or in some cases cheaper - than energy produced by traditional coal or natural gas power plants.

Single-family use of solar panels has been on the rise for years, and prices for photovoltaic panels are now approaching $1 per watt, which is pretty cheap, or for a 100-watt panel, about $100. A single 100-watt panel can produce nearly a kilowatt (1000 watts) of clean power per day, and many panels now work well even on cloudy days.

Solar panels will even produce a small amount of electricity on clear nights with a full or nearly full moon. There are even solar panels designed to be efficient at generating electricity from moonlight.

There are countless studies on solar and it's efficiency, all of them showing vast improvement from the early pioneering days of the 1970s.

Connecting to the power grid is also optional, though many advanced users are now powering their homes almost completely with solar and the amazing power of lithium-ion or lithium-polymer battery banks which can store the power produced by the panels and convert it from DC to AC.

Of course, as more people convert to at least partial solar power, governments and power companies have fought the trend with various tax bills, permitting, and penalties for people who generate their own power and, in 2016, congress extended the tax credit for solar installations, but the credit is reduced to 26% (from 30%) in 2020, and to 22% in 2021. After that, the credit will be 10%.

In addition to providing cheap, renewable power, solar panels and an operating inverter/battery system can increase the value of your home.

This topic cannot be sufficiently explained in one article. There are many varied uses and types of solar power available to consumers. Those will be covered in subsequent posts, but adding energy independence to your cache of freedom materials is a sure-fire way to thwart the unequal system of governance and economy the US and other countries have promoted.

Instead of everybody relying on one big power producer, solar offers a distributed system whereby individuals, families and businesses can produce their own power at very reasonable costs. The fluctuations of a voltage regulator attached to your own solar panels serves as a near-constant reminder that you are freeing yourself from the corrupt, slavish system.

As far as stocks are concerned, they were nearly flat on Thursday, but Friday being a quad-witching day, there's likely to be a pretty good lift via the algorithms and some Fed pumping.

Oil, which continues to stubbornly increase in price despite constant nibbling away of demand is currently testing $40 for WTI crude, a ridiculous number that should have everybody thinking electric cars powered by home solar panels. The price of oil will continue to rise as countries and industries dependent on pumping it from the ground refuse to face reality and cut production, limiting supply. The oil market is probably more crooked than stock markets and has little to do with actual supply (there's a huge glut) and demand (it continues to decline).

Oil should be $20 a barrel or less in the US, and gas at the pump should be approaching $1.25 a gallon. Instead, both prices continue to rise as oil companies and state and federal tax revenues are choking to death with lower prices. Expect major disturbances and disruptions in supply and price over the coming months and years as the world transitions away from oil.

Gold and silver continue rangebound as the manipulators suppress the price of precious metals over fears that they will replace their unbacked currencies.

Change must happen. Those who oppose change will be effected with severe consequences.

At the Close, Thursday, June 18, 2020:
Dow: 26,080.10, -39.50 (-0.15%)
NASDAQ: 9,943.05, +32.52 (+0.33%)
S&P 500: 3,115.34, +1.85 (+0.06%)
NYSE: 12,072.59, -13.91 (-0.12%)

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Markets Skid, Ending Three-Week Win Streak As Rally Falters; Gold, Silver Continue Abusing Futures Pricing; Treasuries Rally

Stocks broke off a streak of three straight winning weeks courtesy of a trend-reversing, cascading selloff Thursday that erased all or most of June's gains.

The downdraft followed two straight days of minor losses and may have put a punctuation mark on the market's 11-week rally. The NASDAQ, which made a fresh all-time closing high on Monday (9,924.75) and crested over 10,000 on Wednesday, took a 517-point collapse on Wednesday. Like the Dow, which lost over 1800 points, the loss was the fourth-highest one-day point decline in market history. For both indices, the three higher point losses all occurred this past March.

Friday was snapback day, though the gains were paltry compared to the prior day's losses. Stocks gained back less than a third of what was surrendered on Thursday.

The late-week action prompted market observers to question the solidity of the recent rally, which, in V-shaped manner, took the markets straight off their March lows and out of bear market territory. Stocks had gained even as entire states were in lockdowns and the COVID-19 virus raged across America. Stocks continued to rise in the face of nationwide protests against police violence in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. Many of the protests turned violent, as disruptive elements rioted and looted stores.

Fueled by emergency lending by the Fed, stocks seemed to be out of touch with mainstream economics, a condition not unusual for Wall Street types. Thursday's turnabout was broadly-based and unsparing of any sector though banking and tech stocks were leaders to the downside.

Coincidentally, protesting fell off as well, probably due to uprising fatigue. After two weeks of marching around in hot weather, the movement became somewhat pointless and many lost interest in reform toward better policing, though success was claimed in some areas, such as Minneapolis, where the city council decided to defund and disband the police, and New York, where measures were take by legislators to ratchet down the heavy-handed tactics of its force.

In Louisville, Kentucky, the city council voted to ban no-knock warrants. The resolution was passed in reaction to the death of Breonna Taylor, who was killed in a March no-knock raid at the wrong address.

One city in which protests have not tailed off is Atlanta, the scene of widespread rioting and looting early on, where chief of police, Erika Shields, has resigned on Sunday after officers fired upon and killed 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks Friday night.

And, in Seattle, the madness reached a climax on Monday as officials decided not to defend a police precinct, resulting in protesters, led by Black Lives Matter (BLM) taking over a six-block urban area and renaming it the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ).

All of this is a backdrop to pent-up emotions and outrage that were magnified during the coronavirus lockdowns. Some people, took issue with Wall Street's rapid rally, citing it as an affront to societal mores and economic inequality. By the looks of where markets were heading on Thursday, the impact of the lockdowns and protests finally have reached lower Manhattan.

Treasuries staged a solid rally at the long end of the curve through Thursday, with the 10-year note yield falling from 0.91% to 0.66% and from 1.69% to 1.41% on the 30-year. On Friday, bond prices fell, with the 10-year closing out at 0.71%; the 30-year bond finished at 1.45%.

Precious metals rose early in the week, but were tamped down as the week drew to a close. Gold reached $1742.15 before ending the week still elevated at $1733.50. Spot silver was as high as $17.87 an ounce, closing at $17.62 on Friday. Spot and futures prices continue to trend toward irrelevance as premium prices for physical metal and shortages continue into a third month. Many dealers show popular items out of stock or with significant delivery delays, a condition that has persisted for retailers since the onset of the coronavirus.

eBay continues to light the way for purveyors and buyers alike, with calculable prices (at premiums over spot) and rapid, reliable deliveries. Here are the most recent prices on select items from ebay sellers (prices include shipping):

Item: Low / High / Average / Median
1 oz silver coin: 25.50 / 36.20 / 31.00 / 29.90
1 oz silver bar: 19.95 / 35.20 / 29.32 / 29.88
1 oz gold coin: 1,837.00 / 1,900.52 / 1,857.86 / 1,855.40
1 oz gold bar: 1,806.00 / 1,880.00 / 1,840.52 / 1,832.63

As far as stocks are concerned, after the FOMC meeting concluded Wednesday and the Fed committed to keep the federal funds rate at or near the zero-bound at least until the end of 2022, investors got a little jittery over their engineered V-shaped rally, the overall stability of the global economy, and valuations heading into the end of the second quarter and some supposedly horrifying earnings figures coming the second week of July.

The coming week may be epochal or apocalyptic as Friday offers a quad witching day as stock index futures, stock index options, stock options, and single stock futures expire simultaneously. There should be some volatility showing up at the convergence of day-trading, options players and real-time economics all roll together.

While Thursday's massive decline in stocks sent shock waves through the markets, Friday's returns were uninspired and had the look of a an exhausted rally on its final legs. Trading was sluggish at best and flatlined around 2:00 pm ET only to be saved by late-day short covering and the usual hijinks by backroom operators (NY Fed).

If stocks fail to close higher next week - as this week marked the end of a three-week uptrend - damage could become more or less permanent. While many placed hope in the Fed's power to purchase as many types and varieties of bonds that confidence was shattered on Thursday and should lead the way back to some fundamental rethinking of market dynamics.

Nothing goes up or down in a straight line, but this week should provide some clues as to the ultimate short-and-long term market direction.

At the Close, Friday, June 12, 2020:
Dow: 25,605.54, +477.37 (+1.90%)
NASDAQ: 9,588.81, +96.08 (+1.01%)
S&P 500: 3,041.31, +39.21 (+1.31%)
NYSE: 11,867.17, +208.00 (+1.78%)


For the Week:
Dow: -1505.44 (-5.55%)
NASDAQ: -225.27 (-2.30%)
S&P 500: -152.62 (-4.78%)
NYSE: -774.27 (-6.12%)

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Fed To Keep Rates At ZERO Through 2022; Are Gold and Silver Investors Batty?; Implications of Global Madness

If Forex is in your wheelhouse, you've no doubt noticed the recent decline in the US dollar against other major currencies. The Dollar Index has been pretty shaky as of late, but the current trend in the aftermath of the worst of the coronavirus pandemic is lower, with no bottom in sight.

After sinking to 94.89 on the 3rd of March, the dollar leapt back to an interim high of 102.82 on March 20th. Wednesday's quote was 95.96, a decline of nearly seven precent, most of that happening within the last three weeks.

That's not surprising, given that American cities have been beset upon by hordes of protesters, complete with rioters, looters, cop killings, tear gassings, rubber bullet maimings, autonomous zones (Seattle's Capitol Hill is one, recently claimed and occupied by protesters as police vacated the 3rd Precinct) and general lawlessness, making dollar holdings somewhat of a risky bet in the near term and, as dollar dominance recedes, maybe for much longer.

At the conclusion of the Fed's Tuesday and Wednesday's FOMC policy meeting, Chairman Jerome Powell made a definitive statement on interest rates, saying that the overnight federal funds rate would remain at the zero-bound at least until 2022. That kind of central bank sentiment doesn't exactly inspire confidence in the world's reserve currency. It indicates nothing less than a failure of financial system underpinning, a condition that first appeared in 2007, was not adequately addressed and has now become a systemic crisis without hope of positive resolution.

While the Fed still has the monetary muscle to backstop financial assets it does so with counterfeit, a fictional fiat currency without backing that eventually will be worthless. History has shown this to always be the case. Fiat currencies die and a new financial system is erected. Normally, the new system is backed by gold or silver, or a combination of the two. This time is no different than any other. The Federal Reserve and other central banks can continue their charade for only so long. Eventually, income disparity results in runaway inflation and widespread poverty, prompting clamor from the masses, which we are witnessing on a global scale today as an epochal societal revolution.

Such incalculable convulsions encourage escape from the clutches of unfair finances promulgated by central banks. People seek refuge from currencies that are losing value rapidly. Housing, health care, and eventually, food become unaffordable to the vast swath of middle and lower classes. Alternatives are sought. Gold and silver are the most readily available to the public. Silver becomes particularly of interest due to its lower price points. The availability of metallic money becomes a point of contention as people with limited means crowd into the space, which is exactly what's happened since the onset of the coronavirus.

A 10 troy ounce gold bar at Apmex.com is offered for $18,255.90. At Scottsdale Mint, the popular one ounce silver bar dubbed "The One" starts at $25.05 and goes down in price to $23.42 depending on quantity and method of payment. Of course, given that one would be willing to pay a price that carries a premium of seven dollars over spot, one would be out of luck, as "The One" is currently out of stock.

These are just a few examples of what happens when a confluence of events (pandemic, endless fiat currency creation, summer-long protests, high unemployment, rampant inflation) strikes the minds of people with money and assets. They either go with the flow and stay in stocks or look to gold and/or silver for some safety. With bonds yielding little to nothing - sometimes less than that via negative rates - and default risk rising (hello, Argentina!), precious metals offer a reasonable alternative.

Futures and spot prices for the precious metals might as well be cast upon stones for what they fail to deliver in terms of price discovery. Being holdovers from the failing fiat regime, they are being left behind as physical holdings dominate the marketplace. Prices are exploding on eBay and at dealers, as shown in the examples above. Money Daily tracks prices on eBay for one ounce gold and silver coins and bars weekly in it's Weekend Wrap every Sunday.

Other ways to deploy currency are in art, collectibles (comic book prices are through the roof), vintage automobiles, commodity futures, real estate, ad other asset classes, but none of those share the characteristics of precious metals as real money, except possibly cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.

Wall Street, the Federal Reserve, and the federal government are hanging onto their prized positions of monetary and political authority by their teeth. It's only a matter of time before all of it fails. The nationwide protests are proof that the federal government is losing control of the country in manifest ways. Unrelenting gains in precious metal prices - and the attendant, repeated attempts to contain those gains in the futures markets - is evidence of the Fed's desperation, just as Wall Street's recent snapback rally is a mirage based on easily available fiat currency and nothing else.

It's all tumbling down and there's nothing that can stop it. The demise of the dollar has been an ongoing orgy of dislocation for decades. Trillions of dollars added to the Fed's balance sheet, euros at the ECB, yen at the Bank of Japan, yuan at at PBOC are mere stop-gap measures which do not address the underlying solvency issues. If the stock market crash in March wasn't enough to scare people out of stocks and fiat, the coming wave will surely devastate those who failed to heed the warning. Via the Fed's emergency measures, Wall Street has given investors a golden opportunity to diversify out of stocks. Those who fail to take the opportunity will suffer a heavy economic blow.

At the Close, Wednesday, June 10, 2020:
Dow: 26,989.99, -282.31 (-1.04%)
NASDAQ: 10,020.35, +66.59 (+0.67%)
S&P 500: 3,190.14, -17.04 (-0.53%)
NYSE: 12,449.22, -170.30 (-1.35%)

Sunday, May 10, 2020

WEEKEND WRAP: Fed Fiat Funny Money Has Managed to Short-Circuit the Crisis, for Now

Against a backdrop of Great Depression-like numbers - 33 million Americans out of work and an "official" unemployment rate of 14.7% - equity investors enjoyed a remarkably positive week, with all major indices rising by at least 2.50%, with the NASDAQ leading the way with a six percent gain.

The NASDAQ's advance was not only remarkable, but it is also ludicrous. The tech-heavy index has advanced beyond both its 50 and 200-day moving averages and is within 720 points of its all-time high. Investors in the speculative sector of the market have either divorced themselves from reality or are seeing something the rest of the world is missing. Money has to go somewhere, even money from the Federal Reserve, released to companies across the investing spectrum, but most of it appears to be heading toward Silicon Valley.

No doubt, chasing momentum has amplified the absurd move to the NASDAQ, which is likely a dangerous precedent. Many of the companies moving higher sport P/E ratios well above the norm, even the norm in a major bull market, a position that was shattered eight weeks ago.

Some of the standouts in the nebulous NASDAQ unicorn universe include Alphabet, parent of Google (GOOG), bottomed out at 1056.62 on March 23, and closed Friday at 1388.37.

Netflix (NFLX) fell out at 298.84 on March 16, but has since rebounded to Friday's close of 435.55.

Amazon (AMZN) reached an all-time high of 2474.00 on April 16, after dropping to 1676.61 on March 12, an amazing gain of 47.6% in just over a month. Amazon may be a superb, dynamic company, but it's arguably extremely overvalued, with a P/E of 113.

Facebook (FB) finished at 146.01 on March 16 and closed at 212.35 on Friday.

Some investors have been getting fat while the larger economy has, for the most part, imploded.

As almost all states (47 of 50 as of Saturday, May 9) have at least partially reopened their businesses and relaxed stay-at-home and other restrictions on the populace, anecdotal reports show that business is still a long distance from anything approaching normal, i.e., prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wall Street is pushing a narrative that the country and the economy is all well and good, the recovery - in terms of stock prices - well underway, even as cases of coronavirus are still prevalent and rising in some cases and deaths continue at a run rate of over 1,000 a day. How well that works out for investors won't likely be known for some time. For now, investors, and the companies getting the most attention, are sitting pretty.

Crude oil continued to be under pressure from both a supply glut and slack demand, hovering in the mid-20s throughout the week. The June contract on WTI crude rose from $19.78 last Friday (May 1) to $24.74 a barrel this Friday (May 8). The contract expires within two weeks and there hasn't really been much improvement on the supply side of the equation, though demand has improved as the United States and most other countries around the world have begun getting back to business.

The treasury curve steepened over the course of the week. The entire complex is covered by 129 basis points as of Friday, up from 117 the prior week. All of the yield gains were at the long end. As money rushed out of bonds and back into stocks on Friday, the 10-year note added six basis points, to 0.69. The 30-year bond yield gained from 1.31 to 1.39.

Precious metals continued to be among the most-desired asset class since the onset of the pandemic. Both gold and silver are selling at massive premiums (up to $200 for gold, 40-80% for silver) and dealers are still experiencing supply issues with many popular items out of stock, though available to order. Delivery times have come back a bit, with gold and silver in quantity available within two weeks of placing orders.

Here are representative recent prices (5/9-5/10) on eBay for standard gold and silver coins and bars (prices include shipping):
Item: Low / High / Average / Median
1 oz silver coin: 24.45 / 38.00 / 30.58 / 30.48
1 oz silver bar: 23.00 / 30.95 / 26.77 / 26.20
1 oz gold coin: 1,750.00 / 1,946.65 / 1,854.84 / 1,841.99
1 oz gold bar: 1,799.99 / 1,871.52 / 1,843.90 / 1,851.47

In cryptocurrency-land, the Bitcoin Halving approaches. Fr those unfamiliar with the concept, the "halving" is the predetermined moment when Bitcoin’s block subsidy gets cut in half. The halving of Bitcoin’s block subsidy occurs every 210,000 blocks (approximately every four years) and is a key feature of Bitcoin. It is because of the Halving that there is a capped supply of 21 million bitcoin that will ever exist. The halving is scheduled to take place Monday at approximately 6:49 pm ET.

Bitcoin surpassed the $10,000 mark in US dollars, but fell back to the $8850 range in anticipation of the event.

And, just to throw another spanner into the works, the government of Argentina failed to reach agreement with creditors by its self-imposed Friday deadline, essentially defaulting on $65 billion worth of bonds, though talks between the two sides are continuing. Argentina will formally default on May 22, as it missed a $503 million payment last month and the grace period is expiring.

Talks were extended through Monday in hopes that Argentina could avoid its ninth sovereign default.

At this juncture, everything is at risk. According to recent economic data, the global economy is flat on its back. Most developed countries are either in a recession or about to enter one. The response to the coronavirus has ramped up unemployment and knocked down GDP estimates.

Thanks to massive infusions of capital from the Fed and other central banks to both business and individuals, the crisis has been managed to a degree, but the future remains a guessing game. Whether or not QE to infinity will save the day - and the underlying currencies - is a real gamble.

At the close, Friday, May 8, 2020:
Dow: 24,331.32, +455.43 (+1.91%)
NASDAQ: 9,121.32, +141.66 (+1.58%)
S&P 500: 2,929.80, +48.61 (+1.69%)
NYSE: 11,354.34, +232.68 (+2.09%)

For the Week:
Dow: +607.63 (+2.56%)
NASDAQ: +516.37 (+6.00%)
S&P 500: +99.09 (+3.50%)
NYSE: +295.77 (+2.67%)

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Deflation, Inflation, Hyperinflation, Signal to Noise Ratio, Gold, Silver, and the End of the Dollar

Everything that has happened so far was predictable.

The worldwide government response to the COVID-19 pandemic was as easy to see for cynics and skeptics as the eventual lying that would take place. First, back in January and early February, the federal government told the public that the threat to Americans from the coronavirus that was ravishing China was minimal. Gradually, that advice was replaced by travel restrictions to and from mainland China, then to and from Europe, until finally, infections and deaths from the virus began to multiply in America.

By mid-March and into the first days of Spring, the veil had been lifted and the virus was spreading rapidly across the United States, thanks to millions of international travelers on ships and airplanes that had been allowed to come and go as they pleased through the winter. Individual cases turned into clusters and clusters to severe outbreaks, especially in New York City, not surprisingly a hub for international travel.

By the time congress got around to passing emergency legislation, lockdowns and shelter-in-place recommendations were put into play by governors of the individual states. The legislation contained the usual: massive injections of currency into Wall Street (because we can't have a stock market crash), a pittance for the public, and payments to hospitals for treating patients infected with COVID-19: $13,000 for each patient admitted; $39,000 for each patient put on a ventilator.

Anybody who has been following government and Federal Reserve policy knew that the response would be to throw massive amounts of currency at the problem because that's all they know about how to handle crises.

And here we are. The government is now readying a fourth "stimulus" bill, chock full of more handouts, bailouts, and currency drops. This time, the public gets nothing. States and municipalities are going to get tons of currency to bail out their broken, drained public coffers and keep millions of teachers, cops, firemen, and paper-pushers on the job and their pensions partially funded because having the Fed backstop municipal bonds simply wasn't enough. Hospitals will get more currency. Small businesses will get another tranche of loans, pressing cynics to respond that cities get grants, while businesses have to pay it back.

All of this currency printing and government deficits won't amount to a hill of beans because the transmission mechanism for the velocity of money is broken. Cops, teachers, and firemen will get paid, but they'll be scared to take on new debt and will spend much of their money paying down credit card bills and overpriced mortgages. After another crash to lower levels, the stock market will stabilize.

The US will have deflation, widely, in big-ticket assets like stocks (market crash), bonds (rolling defaults), real estate (forbearance today leads to foreclosure tomorrow), trickling down to things like furniture (no interest for 5, 6, 7 years), cars (rebates, cash back, 0% financing), and appliances (oversupply). Food, especially meat, which is getting a bit pricey right now due to chinks in the supply chain, will not be affected much. Food was the one thing that didn't go up or down much during the Great Depression of the 1930s. It was cheap enough so that people didn't starve, though meats were generally considered close to being luxuries, so no worries there, until hyperinflation. Besides, even if you have a tiny back yard, you can grow some vegetables of your own to offset any price rises in meats. Why do you think your mother was always telling you to eat your vegetables? Sometimes there just isn't enough meat.

After six to 18 months of deflation, all the while the Fed printing dollars like maniacs and the government running massive deficits (probably over $8 trillion this fiscal year alone (through September 30), prices will seem to stabilize. By this time next year (2021), many will think the crisis has passed, mostly because that's what they'll be telling you on TV. But, it's just a lull. Inflation will return as all that currency begins to be spent into the economy. As the velocity of money ramps up, the Fed will respond by raising interest rates, but it won't matter. The game is on, with hyperinflation underway, the currency will continue losing value and eventually, there will be a massive default on dollar debt.

Forget, for for a few weeks or a few months what's happening on a day-to-day basis. It's mostly noise. The signal to noise ratio (SNR or S/N), a measure used in science and engineering that compares the level of a desired signal to the level of background noise, in today's economy, politics, and society, is very low, meaning the signal is barely transmitting the message as it is being drowned out by the noise.

In terms of decibels, to hear what's really happening in the world, the signal has to be about 60, the level of sound as conversational speech. If the noise is that of a rocket launch (180), the SNR is 0.33 and the noise drowns out the signal. When the SNR gets to above one (1), the signal can be heard. Putting that in perspective, a signal sound of a balloon popping is 125, a toilet flushing is 75, producing a SNR of 1.67. Those are appropriate today, as the balloon popping can metaphorically represent the debt bubble bursting and the toilet flushing the sound of US dollars losing value, going down the drain. That hasn't happened yet, but, as time progresses, the SNR will rise, pass 1.00 and the signal will eventually be loud and clear, one that everybody can hear. That's when inflation proceeds to hyperinflation, with prices rising faster than the Fed can print new currency.

It is at that point that you'll want to have gold, but especially, silver, because it will outperform the currency, just by standing still. Truth of the matter is that gold and silver don't really rise in price. An ounce of silver or a gram of gold is still an ounce or a gram. But the purchasing power of the currency is falling because there's more money circulating. Thus, in a very natural correspondence, gold and silver rise in value as the currency falls, which is why three 1964 dimes (90% silver) can buy more gas at the pump today, in 2020, than in 1964.

In the year 1964, the average retail price of gas in the U.S. was $0.30. So, back then, you could put a gallon of gas in your car with three 1964 (or earlier) dimes. Today, three dimes from 1964 or earlier are worth a silver melt value of about $1.10 each, so, with gas prices currently deflating to around $1.50 a gallon, you could buy more than two gallons of gas, even with silver (and gold) prices being suppressed. That's deflation. One could buy just one gallon and use the other roughly dime-and-a-half to help pay for the increased price of pork or beef. That's inflation. Inflation and deflation can and will occur - in different products or services - simultaneously.

Silver, even under the severe constraints imposed by the futures, central banks, the BIS, and other manipulators, has increased in value 1100% since 1964, an annual, non-compounded return of 16.67%. Try getting that from stocks or bonds. And silver is going higher. Much higher. The price of an ounce of silver in dollars is likely to double in the next few years, then double again, and again, as the dollar is gradually debased, losing all that's left of its purchasing power. Your 1964 dime will buy at least a gallon of gas or the equivalent in bread or beef or whatever items you wish to purchase. It will have value, as precious metals have for more than 5000 years. The dollar, and with it, the pound, yen, euro, yuan, and any other currency not backed by or tethered to a tangible asset (it doesn't have to be gold; it can be anything) will revert to its intrinsic value of ZERO, or close to it because every other country will be going through similar scenarios as the United States.

That's where this is all headed. Price deflation with currency inflation through Spring or Summer 2021, relative calm from 2021 to maybe the beginning of 2023, but likely before then, with inflation ramping up; then hyperinflation for two years before a complete monetary system reset is the only solution. It's not the length of time for these varying processes to occur that's importance, it's the sequence (deflation, calm (some inflation), inflation, hyperinflation) and the ability to spot the subtle changes that matters most.

Completely wrecking a global economy takes time. The Fed's been at it since 1913, and in 107 years have reduced the purchasing power of the dollar by about 97%. The last three percent - and the sopping up of all the malinvestment and toxic assets will take time... about three to four years.

Anything that has more upside than downside from random events (or certain shocks) is antifragile; the reverse is fragile.

We have been fragilizing the economy, our health, political life, education, almost everything… by suppressing randomness and volatility. Much of our modern, structured, world has been harming us with top-down policies and contraptions… which do precisely this: an insult to the antifragility of systems. This is the tragedy of modernity: As with neurotically overprotective parents, those trying to help are often hurting us the most.


-- Nasim Taleb

It would be nice if we started listening to the people who have been right rather than the people who have theories.

-- Mike Maloney, The Hidden Secrets of Money, Episode 7, Velocity & the Money Illusion

At the Close, Wednesday, May 6, 2020:
Dow: 23,664.64, -218.45 (-0.91%)
NASDAQ: 8,854.39, +45.27 (+0.51%)
S&P 500: 2,848.42, -20.02 (-0.70%)
NYSE: 10,999.99, -135.41 (-1.22%)

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Recession Arrives as First Quarter GDP Contracts By 4.8%; Companies Cutting Dividends at Record Pace

Dispensing with the usual diatribe over coronavirus and the botched government response, today's edition of Money Daily will focus on stocks that pay out quarterly dividends, the mother's milk of investing, as Larry Kudlow might phrase it.

But first, US first quarter 2020 GDP was just announced at 8:30 am ET, and the result was as Money Daily predicted, a decline of 4.8%. A few weeks back, various analysts from the likes of Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs were making projections for second quarter GDP losses, somewhat overlooking what we considered obvious: a negative number for 1Q GDP. While the corporate analysts were busy downplaying the effect of a nationwide lockdown on business activity, they were missing an existential point.

Assuming that the second quarter was going to be in the red, a decline in first quarter GDP would satisfy the textbook requirement for a recession, which is two consecutive quarters of declining GDP growth. The definition is something of a non sequiter because nothing in nature actually grows at a negative rate. A truer definition might be worded as "two consecutive quarters of contraction," and that's now in play meaning one might as well assume that there's already a recession, and it started roughly the second week of February, when the world started to become focused on coronavirus and how to halt its spread.

Thus, we have the first quarter contraction of 4.8%, which will be revised twice, in late May and again in late June, though the number is so far into the red that there's no practical probability of it being revised into the positive. Second quarter GDP will be an outright train wreck. Figure on something on the order of -40% just for openers. That kind of number will have even the most ardent equity investor seeking safe harbor and scurrying away from stocks. Even today's figure should give everyone pause, and, in normal times, stocks would be falling into the ocean, but, thanks to the generosity of the Federal Reserve, the major indices will likely post more gains.

Underscoring the absurdity of the Fed's fool's errand - one in which they will bankrupt themselves - stock futures all soared higher on this morning's GDP announcement. How's that for in-your-face obstinance and stupidity?

Along with higher stock prices (unbelievable), the political ramifications are stupendous. This places the economy and a recession as front-and-center issues for the election season. Second quarter results will be in place come late July, and they will be undeniably ugly, since April was a complete washout and May isn't going to look much better. There are still vast swaths of the economy that are not operating at even 50% of optimal productivity and others that are not operating at all. Small businesses were shut down across the country for roughly six weeks to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars in lost revenue and GDP, to say nothing of the lack of velocity in the economy. From late March through all of April and into May, velocity was basically stalled out.

What this means in terms of elections is the very real possibility of a President Biden and a takeover by the Democrats of the Senate, which would give the socialist movement firm footing in the three important branches of the federal government, the presidency, the House, and the Senate, which spells doomsday for America because socialist ideology will only exacerbate the already horrid condition of money-printing and profligate spending. It's doubtful that any of this has been factored into the Wall Street calculations. Current prices on the major indices and in "recovering" individual stocks reflect that, glowingly.

With the opening bell just minutes away, Money Daily will wrap here for Wednesday morning, cutting a little short the look at dividend stocks.

Wolf Richter of WolfStreet.com penned a noteworthy post on Tuesday, titled, Dividend Massacre in This Crisis is Already Breaking Records, But it Just Started, within which he details the number of companies which have already slashed or canceled their dividend payouts and how 2020 compares to other recent years in which dividends were targeted, 2001, 2008, and 2009.

What investors often lose sight of in times of financial turmoil is how mathematics deceives and often leads to false conclusions when considering buying a particular stock.

Picking up this theme on Thursday, along with the latest unemployment figures, the 30 stocks that comprise the Dow Jones Industrial Average - all of which pay dividends - will be examined, with considered opinion on whether or not these companies will maintain, increase, reduce or cancel their normal dividend payouts.

For today, the recession has arrived, though many in the know already think we're at the beginning of what is being hailed as "The Greater Depression."

At the Close, Tuesday, April 28, 2020:
Dow: 24,101.55, -32.23 (-0.13%)
NASDAQ: 8,607.73, -122.43 (-1.40%)
S&P 500: 2,863.39, -15.09 (-0.52%)
NYSE: 11,319.70, +54.86 (+0.49%)

Friday, April 24, 2020

Banks Profit From Coronavirus; Governments Equivocate; Fed Keeping Stocks Afloat

Since there is too much information being thrown around on the coronavirus crisis, here are some of the top headlines:

Stocks rallied again after another 4.4 million people filed for unemployment relief, but the gains were wiped out when the World Health Organization (WHO) leaked a report that suggested trials on Gilead Science's (GILD) treatment drug, remdesivir, were not going well. Gilead finished down 4.2%, and the entire US stock market complex finished the day essentially unchanged.

Thursday, as the House pushed through $484 billion in round two of the bailout loan program for small businesses, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase and other big banks raked in $10 billion in fees for processing the first round of small business PPP loans. As they usually do, the federal government made sure to take care of their major campaign donors. One burning question: since Ruth Cris is returning the $10 million loan they received, is JP Morgan Chase returning the $100,000 fee they "earned" for processing the loan?

Then there's this video that shows Fox News reporter John Roberts and New York Times photographer Doug Mills in the White House coronavirus press briefing room this past Tuesday caught on a hot mic. The two discuss the fatality rate of the virus, with Roberts saying it's between 0.1 and 0.3 percent, and Mills responding that it's in line with the ordinary flu. Some news outlets are characterizing the video as misleading, suggesting the two are joking. Judge for yourself.

According to a study by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) which highlighted Thursday's White House press briefing, warm weather, sunlight, and low humidity could have mitigating effects on coronavirus. This theory has been bandied about since the early days of the pandemic, and there's been no substantial evidence to claim that normal summer weather will slow down the spread of the virus or kill it completely, though most flu viruses are negatively affected by warmer weather.

The best evidence is likely anecdotal, as countries with warm climates in the Southern Hemisphere and near the equator have actually been less-severely affected by COVID-19 than more northern countries like the United States, Russia, most of Europe and Canada. For instance, Australia, which first began reporting cases of the virus in February (similar to Northern Hemisphere's July), has had 6,674 reported cases, but only 78 deaths. Malaysia, whose capitol, Kuala Lumpur is situated 350 km or 217 miles from the equator, has reported 5,691 cases but only 96 deaths. This suggests that while the spread may be slowed somewhat, the virility, or severity, of the virus may be diminished. Time will tell, especially in the US and Europe, as warmer weather approaches and states and countries begin reopening their economies.

Since April 7, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the index of 30 leading US companies, has traded in a very thin range between 22,634 and 24,232, a mere 1,598 points in an extremely volatile market. The COBE Volatility Index, or VIX, which tracks volatility, has been below 39 just two times since March 5. Normally, the VIX holds between 10 and 18 with great regularity. Anything above 20 is considered to be edging toward extreme and readings over 40, which have been common during the coronavirus campaign, are rare. On March 18, the VIX registered a reading of 85.47, exceeded only by a high mark of 89.53, on October 24, 2008, at the height of the Great Financial Crisis.

Managing to keep the Dow in such a tight range can only be due to the Fed's massive inputs of cash to primary dealers via various funding vehicles created during the coronavirus crisis. Trillions of dollars have flowed to banks, who routinely put that currency to work buying stocks and keeping blue chip equities in a fairly well-defined pattern. Stocks go up, they go down, they go back up. The Fed is in control of what used to be a free, fair market. Freedom and fairness in publicly-traded stocks hasn't existed for quite some time. Now they are virtually extinct entities.

What most of the headlines and alternative media narrative suggests is that the global public is being used, abused and largely misinformed. Governments in developed nations are employing the virus and public lockdowns as cover for the failed global fiat currency economic system that will have to be replaced shortly, within six months to three years, depending on how long those in power can keep people from overthrowing the entrenched oligarchs, kleptocrats, cronies, and assorted liars and thieves in government, business, and the media.

When the new world currency is announced, it will likely be all digital (blockchain technology) because paper and coin currency is "dirty" and "may carry viruses." At least that would seem to fit the accepted game plan that's being etched out on an ongoing basis. It will be up to individuals - not governments - to either accept or reject new currencies offered by the same people who destroyed the old system or opt for alternatives like gold, silver, bitcoin, and the tried and true efficacies of bartering goods and services.

There may indeed be more than one global currency: one for international trade and governments, and one for everyday commerce by the people. Whatever occurs, the next few years are likely to be convulsive and disruptive to what most people consider normal.

At the Close, Thursday, April 23, 2020:
Dow: 23,515.26, +39.44 (+0.17%)
NASDAQ: 8,494.75, -0.63 (-0.01%)
S&P 500: 2,797.80, -1.51 (-0.05%)
NYSE: 10,916.67, +8.11 (+0.07%)

Sunday, April 19, 2020

WEEKEND WRAP: Americans Angered Over Lockdowns, Unfairness; Government Proposes Re-Opening

Was it a coincidence that the president released his guidelines for states to reopen their economies just as civil unrest was percolating across America?

Probably not. Very little happens by chance in the hyper-charged world of politics. The timing was no accident. From the looks of the well-prepared document sent out by the White House, these guidelines had been thought out and processed well in advance. Whether the co-mingled events of Thursday constitute conspiracy or just good planning is a debatable topic.

Whatever the case, most Americans won't be going back to work any time soon. The presidential guidelines call for 14 days of declining trajectory of COVID-19 cases or other criteria. Presently, the numbers are still rising in most states, so expect the level of unrest amongst the working class - what's left of it - to only increase in coming days.

At the same time, the fetid morass that came out of the recently-enacted relief bill is cause for even more dissent. While public corporations received government largesse instantaneously, small businesses suffering from shutdowns cited distressing experiences dealing with banks charged with administering their loans, and that was before the funding dried up and was gone. The so-called Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was availed to a very small percentage of businesses needing assistance, falling well short of anything approaching appeasement. Some lucky individuals began receiving $1200 direct deposits from the feds, and a good number of the 22 million unemployed started getting the extra $600 in weekly unemployment payouts.

Frustration with the rollout of the PPP small business loans was possibly ameliorated by the extra cash afforded unemployed people. There are more than a few people presently reporting a weekly windfall far in excess of what they were making while actually working, so where is the incentive for businesses to keep employees on the books - with the mandate of employers providing up to three months of paid family leave during the crisis - when the government is offering a better deal?

Again, the clashing narratives of extra unemployment compensation and forgivable loans to small business was not happenstance. It is no accident that the federal government gave generously with few strings attached to bail out Wall Street's darlings while confounding and confusing small business and wage earners.

It would take a monumental leap of faith to overlook either the government's gross incompetence or purposeful negligence. From the start, the entire coronavirus affair looks like, smells like, and feels like a deceitful scam, perpetrated to gloss over a multi-trillion dollar scheme to rescue the money center banks and their big corporation, stock-buyback, campaign contributing cohorts.

It worked, and so well that Americans are now clamoring and demanding to get back to their wage-and-tax slavery, otherwise known as a steady job. On Thursday, when the Labor Department reported another 5.5 million new unemployment claims, boosting the number since lockdowns and stay-at=home orders went into effect to over 22 million, stocks managed small gains on the day, but closed out the week on Friday with massive gains.

Over the course of the four weeks in which large numbers of unemployed were reported, stocks gained in three of them, accosting middle and lower class wage earners with an unhealthy kick in the teeth each time for their "sacrifice." The unfair collusion between big business and big government apparently is being tolerated for the time being, though the restlessness of the citizenry has become palpable, the bad taste becoming less palatable with each passing day of isolation and perceived abuse.

A less civil society would have already manned the ramparts and forced the issue. In Michigan, at least, the state house was under assault by thousands of protesters in what may be a sign of things to come. Americans shouldn't stand for such out-and-out double dealing by their government, but it looks like they will, at least until the unemployment money runs out. Or the food runs out. As it stands, they have already taken away Americans' right of assembly (banning large gatherings) to free movement, freedom of choice, and as the crisis commences, governors and bankers will be picking winners and losers, denying re-openings and/or loans to businesses that are deemed "non-essential."

When the Roman Republic transitioned to becoming the Roman Empire the will of the people waned and government fiat became law, with little to no public input or appreciation. Juvenal, a poet of the late first and early second century, decried the dreadful state of affairs in his satires, his most famous phrase coining the term for pacifying the masses, panem et circenses.

... Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions — everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses.

-- Juvenal

Since the government of the United States - and elsewhere around the world - has already mandated an end to the circus aspect of American life by outlawing public gatherings such as sporting events - no baseball, no basketball, hockey, or soccer, and no fans - how soon they take away the bread (food), or price it at unaffordable levels, remains to be seen. The audacity and mendacious aspects of the government response - federal, state, and local - to the coronavirus pandemic puts into play a popular uprising in opposition to government that is increasingly being viewed as unfair, uncaring, and unaccountable.

This viewpoint is not held in isolation. It is shared by many. For perspective, the most recent Keiser Report gives an outstanding testament for the general outrage. It may be Max and Stacy's best effort ever produced (and this is episode 1529). The message is clear, concise, and to the point. Having the brilliant economist, Dr. Michael Hudson, in the second segment is a significant bonus. America, and likely, the rest of the world, is about to enter a new age of unbridled financial repression unless the citizenry rises up to smite the government and rentier class. Max and Stacy hit the nail hard and directly on the head.



Now, to recap the week in what used to be markets, everything is either broken, controlled, or manipulated. Precious metals can no longer be realistically priced by the futures. For decades, they have been manipulated by central banks and the bank for International Settlements (BIS). If there is any doubt, read the extensive body of work done by the Gold Anti-Trust Action Committee (GATA). Be forewarned. It is voluminous. Likely the most accurate, true market for gold and silver is on - of all places - eBay, where private parties and dealers buy and sell precious metals in an open, largely unregulated market.

Here are recent (April 18, 19) prices for 1 ounce silver and gold coins on eBay* (quote order is LOW, HIGH, AVERAGE and MEDIAN):
One troy ounce silver coin: 25.50, 61.00, 36.19, 31.89
One troy ounce silver bar: 23.75, 33.00, 27.74, 27.38
One troy ounce gold coin: 1,860.00, 2,004.19, 1,919.82, 1,917.97
One troy ounce gold bar: 1,826.00, 1,905.37, 1,860.95,1,858.34

*Prices were generated using eBay's sold (recently ended) function for the 12 most recent sales of standard (non-numismatic) bars, rounds and coins. Prices included shipping (often free).

Compare the public market price (eBay) to the futures prices and judge for yourself which standard should be used when pricing precious metals. In addition to many dealers being sold out of many popular items, for the past month to six weeks dealers have been imposing minimum order amounts and shipment delays of 15-45 days.

Futures (fake) prices (April 17):
Silver: $15.20/troy ounce
Gold: $1686.50/troy ounce

How about some US Treasury bonds for your portfolio? The benchmark 10-year note yielded between a record low, 0.61%, and 0.76% for the week, closing out on Friday at 0.65% The entire yield curve is 115 basis points end to end, from the 30-day (0.12%) and the 30-year (1.27%). The best that can be said for the treasury yield is that it's better than all other developed national debt, most of which offer negative yields through to 10 year bonds.

Those with faith in government might still want to drop $10,000 on a 10-year note for a whopping return of $76 a year and a grand total of $760 if held to maturity. Others might be hedging that the yield will drop even lower or into negative territory and then sell the bond at a profit. For such a paltry return, neither scenario offers much upside potential.

The one bright spot for the global population is the price of oil and gas. Some states are selling gas at the pump for under $1.00 per gallon as the price of WTI crude closed out last week at $18.12, the lowest in decades. That's overtly deflationary.

At the Close, Friday, April 17, 2020:
Dow: 24,242.49, +704.79 (+2.99%)
NASDAQ: 8,650.14, +117.78 (+1.38%)
S&P 500: 2,874.56, +75.01 (+2.68%)
NYSE: 11,208.29, +390.29 (+3.61%)

For the Week:
Dow: +523.12 (+2.21%)
NASDAQ: +496.57 (+6.09%)
S&P 500: +84.74 (+3.04%)
NYSE: +71.69 (+0.64%)

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Stocks Continue to Soar as Threat of Global Pandemic from Coronavirus Fades

US stocks are so hot right now it's difficult to keep up with all the records and new all-time highs. Suffice to say that the Fed continues to pump billions of dollars into the hands of primary dealers, hedge funds, used car dealers, slot machines, you name it.

This market, because of the continuous flow of funny money from the central bank, is as phony as an Iowa caucus, but, if you're long, it's infinitely more enjoyable.

With the Dow up more than 1000 points in three days, most analysts and reporters have run out of superlatives.

Apparently, the threat of a global pandemic from the novel coronavirus has been discounted. Almost all of the reported infections and deaths have been centered in China. Only two deaths outside of China have been reported as having been due to the virus.

On Wednesday, President Trump was acquitted on both impeachment charges. Next time (probably in a few months or so) the Democrats might want to try accusing him of something more concrete than Abuse of Power or Obstruction of Congress, neither of which are crimes, much less high crimes. The only things high were the Democrat deep operatives who dreamt up their poor attempt at a coup d'etat.

In what has to be one of the more amusing stories of the past few days is the unprecedented rise and fall of Elon Musk's Tesla (TSLA) stock, which ran up from a close of 650.57 per share on Friday, January 30, to 887.06 at the close on Tuesday, February 4, and finished the session at 734.70 on Wednesday, the 5th, a loss of 152.36 points (-17.18%), and continues to fall in pre-market trading. One of the most widely-held and most-shorted stocks listed, everybody's a winner with the exploding electric car company.

Just in case there isn't enough juice in the markets to keep the rally alive, China announced overnight that it will cut by half tariffs on 1,717 goods imported from the United States beginning February 14 as part of its agreement to Phase 1 of the US-China trade deal.

Oil continues to hold steady near $50 per barrel of WTI crude, having fallen into a bear market from $64 just a month ago. The US national average for a gallon of regular unleaded gas is $2.47 a gallon, according to GasBuddy.com.

At the Close, Wednesday, February 5, 2020:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 29,290.85, +483.22 (+1.68%)
NASDAQ: 9,508.68, +40.71 (+0.43%)
S&P 500: 3,334.69, +37.10 (+1.13%)
NYSE: 14,024.86, +162.02 (+1.17%)

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

One Down, One Up, and Now Comes the Fed

After two days of turmoil, the roller-coaster ride that has been this week's stock market is about to take another twist, or turn, or bump, or dive, or rise...

Nobody knows where it's going with the Federal Reserve's FOMC set to announce its first policy directive of the new year at 2:00 pm ET on Wednesday.

Monday's coronavirus-inspired deflation was followed by a miraculous revival on Tuesday, as if somebody had found a sudden cure for the deadly outbreak that has spread across China and been exported - at last count - to at least 15 other countries, including the United State, Canada, France, Germany, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Cambodia, Japan and many others. Being mostly unchecked and having an incubation period of up to 14 days, it's probable that the virus will circle the globe within the next month.

The Dow lost some 450 points on Monday and regained less than half of that on Tuesday. With the virus still highly infectious and the death toll rising to 132, the Fed standing pat on interest rates would seem to be about as consequential as a water hose in a rainstorm.

Beyond the spread of the coronavirus, the other big story in play this week is the impeachment trial of president Trump, being played out in the US Senate. Both sides have presented their cases, though the Republican's defense took less than half the time as that of the Democrats and was more focused on law and reason than the House managers' mangled miasma of mistaken misappropriations.

Where the Democrats sought to emotionalize the proceedings, the president's legal team toned it down, making the case, alternatively, that the articles of impeachment were vague and thus void, or that no crime had been committed, emphasized by professor Alan Dershowitz's impassioned, eloquent, well-researched argument on Monday night that the founders intended impeachment to be narrowly focused, rather than nebulous and amorphous as are the Democrat charges of Abuse of Power and Obstruction of Congress, neither of which are criminal.

Despite the apparent readiness of the Republican side, the media spin spent the week twirling around speculation over a piece of manuscript leaked from former advisor John Bolton's upcoming book, spuriously-timed to intercede in the Senate proceedings. Bolton's claim that he had a personal conversation with Mr. Trump, in which the president explicitly tied the delay of aid to Ukraine with the need for that country to dig into the affairs of Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, concerning their dealings with the corrupt natural gas company Burisma, was all-too-conveniently timed to overshadow the defense team's presentation of facts and legalities.

Thus, instead of examining the case for or against the president based on the best arguments from both sides, the media has attempted to shift the attention of the American public from real arguments to a false paradigm over calling additional witnesses, none of whom would be likely to move the needle in either direction very mch at all.

Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, who said once that he may not have the votes to stop additional witnesses and evidence, has also said that the votes are there to defeat any such motion on Friday, when the issue will come to a vote of some kind, after two days of questions from senators to either side - or both - on Wednesday and Thursday.

If he Democrats succeed in their desire for additional testimony, it would likely extend the trial for weeks if not months, given that some witnesses, including the testimony of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, would likely be subject to executive privilege, a matter that would end up in the hands of the Supreme Court. Arguments for and against the invocation of privilege would likely take weeks to draw up and more weeks to argue before the court could issue a ruling. It's a real can of worms that the Democrats threaten to open.

Cooler heads may prevail in the Senate. Having heard enough to make a reasoned decision, there may come a vote on Friday - if the vote for additional witnesses fails - up or down on the president's guilt or innocence, which would end the trial and allow Senators Klobuchar, Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren enough headway to get back to campaigning in Iowa, where the first primary caucus is set to wrap up on Monday, February 3.

While the Senate plays paddy-cake with the future of the nation and its precedents, the coronavirus will no doubt spread fear, death and potentially-huge economic ramifications around the world. Whatever happens in the Fed decision or the impeachment matter is likely to take a back seat to the carnage a virulent, unchecked, highly-contagious virus can unleash.

At the Close, Tuesday, January 28, 2020:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 28,722.85, +187.05 (+0.66%)
NASDAQ: 9,269.68, +130.37 (+1.43%)
S&P 500: 3,276.24, +32.61 (+1.01%)
NYSE: 13,877.61, +108.00 (+0.78%)

Monday, January 20, 2020

WEEKEND WRAP: Virginia Lobby Day and Trump Impeachment Trial Take Center Stage

It being Martin Luther King Jr. Day, markets in the US are closed, but that didn't stop what looks to be more than 50,000 (actual number was about 22,000) patriots from heading down to Richmond, Virginia for the state's annual "Lobby Day," usually an opportunity for Virginia citizens to meet with their legislators and discuss various agendas facing the state.

This year, most people won't even get a chance to see a legislator, as Governor Ralph Shearer Northam (he of blackface shame) last week declared a state of emergency for the state capitol from January 17 to January 21, over fears of violence stemming from the gun rights crowds expected.

Northam was wrong to declare the emergency. After all, beyond the extra police presence, there are so many well-armed citizens in attendance, anybody thinking of causing trouble would probably think twice.

It's still early, and very chilly, in Richmond right now, but so far, the crowds have been peaceful. The day should end without incident unless something gets stirred up by anti-gun reactionaries like Antifa or a false flag event staged by one of the three-letter agencies overseeing the ongoings.

With many live streams being broadcast and thousands of people with cell phones, it's unlikely anything underhanded should happen, and if something does happen, it's likely to be recorded. This isn't going to be a rerun of the melee at Charlottesville back in 2017.

If Virginia's Lobby Day doesn't produce any grotesque footage for the fake media, then Tuesday, all eyes will turn to the impeachment trial which opens in the Senate. This is another made-for-TV type event, but Republicans led by Mitch McConnell (R-KY) are doing their level best to blunt the desired effect the Democrats are seeking, which is to drag out a long trial, complete with new witnesses, demands for documents, calls of a cover-up, issues of executive privilege ruled upon by the Supreme Court and other such nonsense.

The impeachment of President Trump was a sham from the start, when Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff launched a plot and counseled a "whistleblower" over a single phone call made by Trump to Ukraine president Zelensky.

Drawing from shades of the Bill Clinton impeachment, there never was, nor never will be any "there" there.

If cooler heads (Republicans) prevail, this sorry escape into stupidity should be all over in less than two weeks. Many Americans wish it could end in two days, if not sooner.

With all the tumultuous political theater taking place it's a wonder that stocks move at all, especially in an upward direction, though the recent buying spree - which began in September 2019 - has been aptly aided by continuous money printing and liquidity being shoved into the REPO market by the Federal Reserve. Until the Fed ceases its now-daily operations, stocks will never suffer losses. It's just a matter of fact. Like Warren Buffett supposedly quipped, "Give me a trillion dollars and I'll show you a good time, too."

Meanwhile, inflation will be ramping up sooner, as per the wishes of the Fed, whose various voices and charts keep telling the American public that the US economy hasn't yet met their target of two percent inflation, as if higher inflation were a good thing (it's not). All along, however, inflation has been raging in health care, education, and housing, but those factors are not apparently part of the Fed's purview. Therefore, they continue to print at a rate faster than previous bouts of QE while Chairman Jerome Powell insists this round of liquidity pumping is "not QE."

Sure, we'll buy that. And that horse over there is actually a rabbit.

Just how hard has the liquidity pump been working?

Since mid-October, on a weekly basis, the Dow has been up 10 weeks, down three; the NASDAQ, since late September, 14 weekly gains, two weeks with losses; S&P: 13 up, two down; NYSE: 13 up, two down.

That's a nice-looking rabbit ya got there. Mind if I ride him?

At the Close, Friday, January 17, 2020:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 29,348.10, +50.50 (+0.17%)
NASDAQ: 9,388.94, +31.81 (+0.34%)
S&P 500: 3,329.62, +12.81 (+0.39%)
NYSE: 14,183.20, +41.40 (+0.29%)

For the Week:
Dow: +524.33 (+1.82%)
NASDAQ: +210.08 (+2.29%)
S&P 500: +64.27 (+1.97%)
NYSE: +225.23 (+1.61%)

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Trade Deal Sparks Rally, Enough for New All-Time Highs

Approaching year end, Monday's trading was like a toast to prosperity.

"New highs all around," was the buzz, even though stocks had taken back half of the morning's gains by the closing bell. Still, it was enough to entertain thoughts of bigger Christmas presents, newer cars, more trinkets and shiny toys for the kids and assorted other trivialities.

Phase one of the US-China trade deal was delivered, with tariffs postponed or to be curtailed by both parties to the agreement and plenty of the details still to be worked out on either side of the Pacific.

The general consensus seemed to be a relief that something concrete was finally emerging from nearly eighteen months of haranguing, harassing, arguing, pointing, posturing and persuading.

China has apparently agreed to double its import of commodities from the US, among other conditions.

Markets were pleased, but not overjoyed. Tuesday, it's back to the grind of watching the Fed and its REPO operations for the year-end "turn," a situation that has more than enough nuance to spark off volatility in either direction. There's definitely a liquidity problem somewhere, maybe everywhere, but most of the participants - the central banks, commercial banks, and primary dealers, have chosen to be pretty much mum on the details.

The Fed will just continue with extraordinary measures with daily injections via purchases and loans through the end of the year and into the next, with announced activities extending through mid-January. How much of this freshly-minted capital gets put to use in stocks is still unknown. There are funding needs and tax payments to be made, but the overall appearance is that the Fed has a handle on it and will continue to monitor it until their overnight and longer term monetary assistance is no longer needed.

And there's the rub. After these auctions, purchases, loans, and repurchases are complete and we're into 2020, will the Fed be able to turn down the spigot to more reasonable levels and eventually turn it off altogether?

That's a query for the future, unanswerable in the present.

At the Close, Monday, December 16, 2019:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 28,235.89, +100.51 (+0.36%)
NASDAQ: 8,814.23, +79.35 (+0.91%)
S&P 500: 3,191.45, +22.65 (+0.71%)
NYSE Composite: 13,795.15, +97.81 (+0.71%)

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Fed Holds Rates Steady; Repo Madness Debunked

There was little reaction to the final FOMC policy decision of 2019, as the Fed chose to stand pat on the federal funds rate, adding that they expected to be no rate movement at all in 2020.

Keeping rates fixed for the next 12 months may be wishful thinking, but it also may be a level-headed approach, since, after all, 2020 will be an election year, the country has been through all manner of pain and suffering for the past three years, and a bit of stability would surely be welcome to many.

Coming from the Fed and the sobering mellow intonations of Chairman Jay Powell, the calming effect on not just markets, but society as a whole may provide a soothing tonic. With steady interest rates, businesses can plan with more confidence, individuals can maintain their standards of living and maybe balance their budgets for a change. It's a welcome relief.

At the press conference, Chairman Powell fielded one question on the intriguing REPO malaise, but didn't express any kind of apprehension or surprise. Perhaps the whole thing has been a little overblown by various pundits and press people. One article in which the Repo scare is debunked by Jeff Snider at Alhambra Partners suggests that there never was a reason to be worried about a market crash or any other unforeseen, nasty event in the first place.

So, as the holiday season continues apace, the Fed has apparently managed to calm the markets, albeit temporarily, but with an eye toward the future. If there are no interest rate changes in the coming year, that would be a feat worthy of high praise toward an institution - the Federal Reserve - that is normally the butt of jokes and the object of roundhouse criticism.

If, come late December 2020, the federal funds rate remains at 1.50-1.75%, we can call it a "Christmas miracle." For now, we can temper our optimism, relying on the scattered and unpredictable nature of world events and markets to prove the Fed wrong.

At the Close, Wednesday, December 11, 2019:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 27,911.30, +29.58 (+0.11%)
NASDAQ: 8,654.05, +37.87 (+0.44%)
S&P 500: 3,141.63, +9.11 (+0.29%)
NYSE Composite: 13,579.92, +34.62 (+0.26%)

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Waiting On The Fed Futility Amid Repo Crisis

Back in mid-September, as many will no doubt recall, the Fed had to step into the REPO market and provide liquidity via collateral auctions, mainly in the form of treasury bills and notes, and mortgage-backed securities (yes, the deadly MBS), which are still out there, floating around, handled like hot potatoes.

Since that time, the Fed has kept up appearances by continuing to provide POMO and TOMO (Permanent (P) and Temporary (T) Open Market Operations) to the tune of anywhere from $30 billion to $60 billion per day. That's right, PER DAY, and it's often been more. That's how big the overnight lending business is. Huge. The REPO market is also what triggered the Great Financial Crisis of 2008, when first, Bear Stearns, then, Lehman Brothers, were forced into bankruptcy by being unable to borrow from the overnight REPO market.

The problem with both Bear and Lehman was that their collateral consisted of highly toxic, dodgy MBS, or as is commonly referenced, sub-prime packaged loans. Lenders on the other side of the ledger were hesitant to lend to either, fearing that not only was the collateral of a suspect nature, the firms - Bear and Lehman - were buying more of them as an integral part of their business structure.

In 2008, this all blew up, the Fed stepped in, flooded the world with liquidity (buying up all the toxic MBS it could) and the collapse of the global financial system was averted.

Note that the collapse was averted, not solved, not cured, not by a long shot. The Fed's been busy keeping markets in some degree of stability ever since.

On Wednesday (today), the Fed's FOMC will likely announce no change n the federal funds rate, but that, besides being a foregone conclusion, isn't the real story. For that, in the interest of time and space, Money Daily bids adieu to this commentary, and offers a couple of links that may or may not render the REPO markets as something understandable to the reader.

First, this excellent video with Paddy Hirsh explaining just how the REPO market operates (about 8 minutes of time well spent):


Then, just to make matters a little more interesting, this ZeroHedge story featuring Zoltan Pozsar claiming that the REPO market is about to explode again, and that a stock market crash is imminent.

Take that ZeroHedge article with as many grains of salt or sugar your risk appetite will absorb, but bear in mind that Mr. Pozsar was, as ZeroHedge purports,...
instrumental during his tenure at both the US Treasury and the New York Fed in laying the foundations of the modern repo market, orchestrating the response to the global financial crisis and the ensuing policy debate (as virtually nobody at the Fed knew more about repo at the time than Pozsar), serving as point person on market developments for Fed, Treasury and White House officials throughout the crisis (yes, Kashkari was just the figurehead); playing the key role in building the TALF to backstop the ABS market, and advising the former head of the Fed's Markets Desk, Brian Sack, on just how the NY Fed should implement its various market interventions without disrupting and breaking the most important market of all: the multi-trillion repo market.

The Fed's FOMC policy meeting concludes at 2:00 pm ET on Wednesday, with the release of their statement followed by a press conference headed by Fed Chairman, Jay Powell, who will try his best to avoid answering direct questions dealing with the REPO market, for obvious reasons.

Party on!

At the Close, Tuesday, October 10, 2019:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 27,881.72, -27.88 (-0.10%)
NASDAQ: 8,616.18, -5.64 (-0.07%)
S&P 500: 3,132.52, -3.44 (-0.11%)
NYSE Composite: 13,545.31, -9.77 (-0.07%)

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Stocks Struggle Second Straight Monday; Paul Volker Passes

In what is beginning to look like a recurrent theme, stocks struggled to open the week, with all the major US indices down on the day.

This is the same condition that prevailed last week. Stocks were down hard to start the week, only to be rescued on Friday by a surprisingly good jobs report.

That may not be the case this time around. There will be no salvation by numbers later on the week. Market participants will have to deal with the troika of incessant impeachment hearings, troubling trade talks, and fruitless Federal Reserve operations.

It's no secret that the Fed has opened the spigots again, starting in September with what they're currently calling "not QE," a series of open market operations conducted on a daily basis that was originally intended to ease the malaise in overnight lending markets, and, while still performing that function, has morphed into another monstrosity, already having increased the size of the Fed balance sheet by some $300 billion.

And this will go on at least through the first quarter of next year, and probably further, because once the Fed shuts down the free money booth, there will be carnage, which is not to say there won't be carnage beforehand or that they will ever be able to completely close down their operations of largesse to the yield-starved banks.

Beyond the ordinary absurdities that has become the financial world, a moment of pause was given to mourn the passing of former Fed Chairman Paul Volker, who served in that post from August 1979 to August 1987, under presidents Carter and Reagan. Widely credited as the man to defeat the high inflation of the 70s and 80s through the use of tight money controls and ridiculously high interest rates, Volker was first seen as ridiculous, then hated, and finally emerged an American hero, rescuing the US economy from a terrific bout of inflation, unemployment, and a deep recession - caused, in part, by his raising of the federal funds rate from 11% to a record 20% - in 1981-82, that lasted 16 months.

Volker died Sunday. He was 92.

At the Close, Monday, December 9, 2019:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 27,909.60, -105.46 (-0.38%)
NASDAQ: 8,621.83, -34.70 (-0.40%)
S&P 500: 3,135.96, -9.95 (-0.32%)
NYSE Composite: 13,555.07, -33.22 (-0.24%)

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Earnings Not Carrying Stocks Higher

US companies are making money, just not enough to satisfy the investing appetites at this stage of the expansion.

Traders have been poring over third quarter reports for the better parts of two weeks now, and what they're seeing is unimpressive. Gone are the heady days of the early internet boom, when companies reported growth at torrid paces. Today's market is mundane, predictable, and eventually more conditioned to move on Fed-speak, rate moves, or geopolitics, rather than fundamentals, those boring profit statements from multi-nationals.

The good news is that stocks aren't experiencing another October like the last, when the indices tumbled day after day, wiping out most of the annual gains from 2018. That underlying fear of having a rug pulled out from under may be why nobody is either irrational or exuberant at this juncture.

This and next week are the busiest reporting weeks of the month. Unless there are some big negative surprises, one can reasonably expect markets to simply glide along until the Fed meeting at the end of October, when another 25 basis point cut in the federal funds rate is expected.

At the Close, Tuesday, October 22, 2019:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 26,788.10, -39.54 (-0.15%)
NASDAQ: 8,104.30, -58.69 (-0.72%)
S&P 500: 2,995.99, -10.73 (-0.36%)
NYSE Composite: 13,071.86, -16.76 (-0.13%)

Friday, October 4, 2019

September Non-farm Payrolls Fall Short; Stocks Brace for Selloff or Liftoff

Thursday's trading was another typical banker-assisted positive close on US indices. Stocks continued their descent from Tuesday and Wednesday's losses at the open, but quickly rebounded into positive territory. This pattern has been a feature for the Dow, S&P and NASDAQ since the late 1980s, when the PPT or President's Working Group was created, buoying stocks when losses appeared to be overwhelming.

Free markets? Probably not now and not in the near future. The Fed can put its fingers on the scales at any time, frustrating short sellers but acting as an artificial booster rocket for stocks. While the blatant manipulation is nearly-universally disliked, holders of 401k or retirement funds find the benefit of a backstop beneficial to the health of their portfolios.

That's why fundamentals really haven't mattered for some time, and especially since the GFC of 2008. The Fed or their proxies step in and stop the losses in their tracks. It's not exactly fair or transparent, but it is effective.

Prior to Friday's opening bell, September's non-farm payroll data was released by the BLS, showing an increase of 136,000 jobs for the month, below expectations of 145,000. August payrolls were adjusted upward to 168,000. Due to July's low numbers, the three-month average for payroll additions between July, August and September fell to 119,000, representing the lowest since 2012.

The jobs report sends a clear signal that the economy is slowing, but not yet going in reverse. The weak September report paves the way for the Fed to cut another 25 basis points from the federal funds overnight lending rate. Mixed signals are being sent as this produces a "bad news is good news" condition, as weaker economic numbers push the Fed to continue lowering rates.

TGIF.

At the Close, Thursday, October 3, 2019:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 26,201.04, +122.42 (+0.47%)
NASDAQ: 7,872.27, +87.02 (+1.12%)
S&P 500: 2,910.63, +23.02 (+0.80%)
NYSE Composite: 12,685.77, +77.34 (+0.61%)

Monday, September 23, 2019

Weekend Wrap: Cash Crunch Easing, Though Culprits Remain Anonymous

Ending a streak of three consecutive weekly gains, all major US indices took an about-face when Friday's quad-witching day sent stocks South.

Losses were not large, though they were widespread, as fear of a looming recession and confusion over the Fed's four straight days of repo auctions took away market enthusiasm.

Make that five straight days, as the Fed held another $75 billion repo auction on Monday, prior to the opening of equity markets in the US. Signs that the cash crunch was easing, only $66.75 billion was accepted as collateral by the Fed, making the auction officially undersubscribed.

On Friday, the Fed had also announced that it would conduct overnight repo auctions every day until October 10, and additionally would provide three 14-day term repo operations for an aggregate amount of at least $30 billion each, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday of this week.

While nobody is certain which banks - or single institution - is having a hard time balancing its nightly books, any sense of panic has been effectively blunted by the Fed's actions.

As markets open the final week of trading for the third quarter, it will be instructive to note how markets respond, especially on Thursday and Friday. With the close of the quarter, some firms traditionally buy stocks in favor, as so called "window dressing," though it appears that this quarter might have a wholly different tone, given the stress in the system.

In what could be a most important week for markets, any words from Fed speakers should also be quantified in relation to ongoing cash shortages and the global condition.

At the Close, Friday, September 20, 2019:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 26,935.07, -159.73 (-0.59%)
NASDAQ: 8,117.67, -65.21 (-0.80%)
S&P 500: 2,992.07, -14.72 (-0.49%)
NYSE Composite: 13,093.80, -17.50 (-0.13%)

For the Week:
Dow: -284.45 (-1.05%)
NASDAQ: -59.04 (-0.72%)
S&P 500: -15.32 (-0.51%)
NYSE Composite: -30.54 (-0.23%)

Friday, September 20, 2019

What the Heck is Phugoid Dollar Funding and Why Does It Matter?

So far this week, markets have encountered a major disruption in oil supply, an interest rate cut, three repo auctions, and the usual assortment of nonsense from Washington, DC.

Through all that, stocks have barely budged, leading up to a quad-witching day on Friday, with multiple options and futures expirations expected to add some volatility to the week. If it goes anything like the prior four days, the week will end with a thud, rather than a bang.

After the Fed's unsurprising announcement to lower the federal funds rate 25 basis points on Wednesday, a third straight repo auction was held Thursday morning, offering cash settlements on another $75 billion in collateral, mostly Treasuries and MBS.

While the repos signal some cash flow issues for some unidentified primary dealer banks, cause for the cash shortfall has not been ascertained.

Perhaps, as described in the link below, it is a case of Phugoid Funding, a condition which matches up pretty well with the current out-of-kilter global economy.

In an incredibly prescient post - although from April, 2019 - from Alhambra Investments (some of the brightest minds out there) about what is happening with the ongoing liquidity crunch that has the Federal Reserve conducting three consecutive repo auctions (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday), Phugoid Dollar Funding is explained in detail with an explanation of how it applies to current economic conditions.

At the Close, Thursday, September 19, 2019:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 27,094.79, -52.29 (-0.19%)
NASDAQ: 8,182.88, +5.49 (+0.07%)
S&P 500: 3,006.79, +0.06 (+0.00%)
NYSE Composite: 13,111.25, -8.05 (-0.06%)

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Stocks Flat; Britain Should Leave The EU ASAP

Markets - whatever is left of them - seemed to be running on fumes Monday, as no Trump tweets nor economic news were sufficient to move stocks in general either way.

This kind of quiet may be just what investors are seeking: less volatility, less media madness, a more sanguine environment and some degree of security and safety. With all the talk of recession, the past few months have spooked some of the more ardent longs, but the market is still not conducive to short trades in any form.

One could conclude from recent action that stocks will hold their ground and move to new highs, as has been the case throughout the run from 2009 (buy the dip philosophy), and with another 1/4 point rate cut from the Fed a sure thing next week, that is the likely trading strategy for the day-trader and short-termer. Long term investors should be seeking value or growth, best, a combination of the two. With interest rates so low, dividend-yielding stocks with long track records are the safest and surest, plus, many will survive well under difficult conditions, should a recession actually arrive.

Central banks still have control of markets, a condition that may persist for quite a long time. It should serve memory well to reconsider the aftermath of the 2008 crash, wherein central banks coordinated to save everything, even unworthy companies, from default.

This might be a prime time to move from passive to active investing, with individual stocks preferred over ETFs or mutuals. Expect some noisy ups and downs over the next few months, though the next major event is Brexit, with a hard-line, no-deal escape from the EU by Great Britain set for October 31 by Boris Johnson, the most recent Prime Minister of the country.

It's been more than three years since jolly ole' England voted to leave the EU. Parliamentarians and stubborn bureaucrats have delayed the wishes of the people for too long and the wait may soon be over. Anything short of England removing itself from the EU - without onerous conditions - will be very bad for markets. The hyperbole of the media and those on the "remain" side of the issue have played the hysterics card for all it's worth.

Time is up. Populism should prevail in England and the result of leaving the EU, while dramatic, does not have to be traumatic.

At the Close, Monday, September 9, 2019:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 26,835.51, +38.05 (+0.14%)
NASDAQ: 8,087.44, -15.64 (-0.19%)
S&P 500: 2,978.43, -0.28 (-0.01%)
NYSE Composite: 12,960.72, +27.34 (+0.21%)