Showing posts with label New York. Show all posts
Showing posts with label New York. Show all posts

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Fed Expands MLF Program To States, But Rates Are Too High For Widespread Participation

The Federal Reserve's MLF (Municipal Liquidity Facility) is yet another way the nation's central bank is picking winners and losers in the struggle to survive economic collapse.

By offering fresh currency to struggling states and municipalities, the Fed - having already expanded their balance sheet by more than $3 trillion in just the past three months - says it wants to help out by buying issuance from states, cities and now, public transit, airports, toll facilities, and utilities, becoming the buyer and lender of last resort for everything from your local bus company to your regional energy supplier.

Not that the Fed may have some evil intentions of owning everything in America, they also want to be paid well for it as well, which is why most states won't take the Fed up on their generous offer.

Those states with poor credit ratings, like Illinois (BBB), New Jersey, California, and Kentucky are the likeliest candidates to use the facility, as they are offered better rates by the Fed than they would find in the usual muni bond market.

According to Standard and Poors, only nine states have credit ratings lower than AA, meaning the vast majority of states will not probably need backing from the Fed unless the muni markets seize up and rates skyrocket, a situation that was made somewhat more of a known risk during the coronavirus lockdowns.

Funding needs by the states are generally considered among the safest bonds available. In most cases they can be held tax-free, another reason for their popularity. Thus, most states are going to say "thanks, but no thanks" to the Fed, as their funding needs are going to be largely fulfilled in the open market.

A BofA Global Research report on Wednesday projected borrowing under the MLF with its current terms would only total $90 billion. That's out of $500 billion allocated to the program.

The Fed also said it will support lending to multi-state entities and revenue bond issuers, or RBIs.

"Eligible notes issued by eligible issuers that are not multi-state entities or designated RBIs will generally be expected to represent general obligations of the eligible issuer, or be backed by tax or other specified governmental revenues of the applicable state, city, or county,” the Fed said. “If the eligible issuer is an authority, agency, or other entity of a state, city, or county, such eligible issuer must either commit the credit of, or pledge revenues of, the state, city, or county, or the state, city, or county must guarantee the eligible notes issued by such issuer."

Again, the Fed wants its pound of flesh, in the above instances, via actual tax receipts or guarantees.

Because response to the program has been tepid, the Fed has also lowered the bar for participation, allowing states with smaller populations to make choices for eligibility based upon their own populations.

"A governor that has the ability to designate one designated city or designated county may choose either (i) the most populous city in his or her state that has less than 250,000 residents or (ii) the most populous county in his or her state that has less than 500,000 residents," the Fed said in a statement.

Illinois was the first issuer to access the Municipal Liquidity Facility, with a trade of $1.2 billion of one-year general obligation notes and a rate of 3.82%. That deal is expected to close June 5.

New York's MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority), which operates the city's subway and commuter trains, last week asked the Fed for direct access to the program. Legislation is pending.

In their grand scheme to save the world, the Fed may want to own everything or at least have every entity on the planet in debt to them. With interest rates in the toilet, they're going to have to offer better deals to execute their plan. With that knowledge in hand, how long will it be before negative rates become the de facto norm?

Stocks ramped higher on Wednesday after ADP released its May private sector employment report. The private firm said the econly lost 2.76 million jobs during the month, far less than expectations of 7.4 to 8.6 million, based on weekly reports of initial unemployment filings.

ADP's figures, so far from expectations, had investors drooling over prospects for a less-substantial number from the government's non-farm payroll data due out on Friday. The thinking is that many firms rehired people in May, offsetting the number of people who lost jobs or were temporarily furloughed. It's just another way for skewed data to shift sentiment away from the prospect of long-term damage done to the economy by the coronavirus and lockdowns and toward the event being a one-off from which the economy will quickly rebound.

With that in mind, gold and silver were slaughtered after making substantial gain in the paper markets. Supply issues remain, however, with premiums for both metals well above the paper prices and normal range. Gold, which was pushing $1750, fell back below $1690 on Wednesday. Silver retreated from as high as $18.30 to $17.64. Both gold and silver were rebounding in overnight trading.

Thursday's release of another round of initial unemployment claims is unlikely to have a material impact on stocks, which will probably take a breather in advance of Friday's May non-farm payrolls.

At the Close, Wednesday, June 3, 2020:
Dow: 26,269.89, +527.24 (+2.05%)
NASDAQ: 9,682.91, +74.54 (+0.78%)
S&P 500: 3,122.87, +42.05 (+1.36%)
NYSE: 12,302.19, +255.79 (+2.12%)

Sunday, May 31, 2020

WEEKEND WRAP: Violent Protests... What Did You Expect? Civil Unrest Sweeps Across America

Twenty percent unemployment. 20%.

That's the number likely to be presented when the monthly data series, non-farm payroll is released Friday one hour before the opening bell.

More than 40 million Americans are out of work. Another 12-24 million are underemployed, meaning they are working at jobs in which they are overqualified or their work doesn't provide a full week's employment (under 35 hours). Add to that the millions on welfare or disability and what you have is roughly half the working age population - with the bulk of them under 40 years of age - with no work, either no income or income of a size insufficient to service their expenses, lots of time on their hands, and anger building.

While these unemployed Americans were forced to stay home over a period stretching anywhere from three weeks to two months (and counting) because of ordered lockdowns due to the coronavirus, they watched the US stock markets crash and recover, aided by trillions of dollars thrown to market makers, banks, brokerages, corporations, and financial intermediaries from the Federal Reserve. The unemployed were assisted in their plight by an additional $600 a week in benefits and a one-time $1200 special payment, which for many took weeks to arrive. All along, the people at home watched the stock market recover at a record pace, wondering how long it will take for their jobs, their lives to recover back to somewhere near prior levels.

On Memorial Day, when four policemen in Minneapolis murdered George Floyd in broad daylight right in front of protesting bystanders, the fuse was lit for an explosion of pent-up frustration and anger. By Tuesday, people in Minneapolis took to the street to vent and the result was widespread violence, looting, burning of buildings, and utter disregard for authority as the police actually retreated from the swelling, uncontrolled mobs.

Wednesday through Saturday saw the protests turn violent in other cities. Denver, Atlanta, Louisville, Kentucky, New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Washington, DC, Portland, Oregon were among dozens which witnessed growing mayhem. By Saturday night, protests were witnessed in more than 75 cities and curfews imposed - with varying degrees of effectiveness - in 30 cities.

At a very early point the protests became no longer about George Floyd and police mistreatment and more about the disproportionate distribution of wealth, substandard living conditions, and a host of related issues.

For the most part, Americans don't like being told what to do or when to do it. By nature, Americans are bred for independence and freedom. The lockdowns and shelter-in-place orders clamped down on freedoms and shredded free speech, the right to assemble, freedom of choice, and freedom of movement. Prior to the violence of the week just past there were already anti-lockdown protests all over the country.

Now that we are amidst the overwhelming civil unrest that many had predicted, it's important to step back and view the carnage with an eye toward analysis and understanding. Authorities, such as the Democrat governor of Minnesota, Tim Walls, have asserted that as many as 80% of the people demonstrating in the streets are not locals, but imports from other areas of the country, their intent to spread unrest and wreak havoc on cities.

While this may or may not be true - it actually sounds ludicrous considering the sheer numbers - it's unlikely that the same numbers would apply in other cities. After all, with protests in more than 30 cities, the outsiders would have to have come from somewhere. Besides it being logistically inefficient, there would have been massive traffic spikes on the interstates. It just doesn't add up.

No doubt there are outside agitators, but there would also be agents provocateur from the authoritarian side of the equation.

The killing of George Floyd set this episode of violence into motion, but there's evidence that the main protagonist, officer Derek Chauvin, who pressed his knee into Floyd's throat for more than eight minutes, should have been aware of the death of Eric Garner, who was killed under similar circumstances in New York city in 2014. At least one or more of the other three officers holding down the handcuffed Floyd had to be aware of the similarities. These police knew exactly what they were doing. To believe otherwise is naive. Floyd's death, in a city notorious for mistreatment of minorities by the police, was very likely a set-up, to engender a violent reaction, just as the lockdown orders were conditioning of the public by authorities.

By the way, Floyd's supposed "crime" was passing a counterfeit $20 bill at a convenience store. Is it simply a coincidence that the image on the $20 bill is that of Andrew Jackson, "Old Hickory," who shut down the Second National Bank of the United States on September 10, 1833, and survived an assassination attempt on January 30, 1835? Coincidence? Maybe. Irony? Absolutely.

Gentlemen, I have had men watching you for a long time and I am convinced that you have used the funds of the bank to speculate in the breadstuffs of the country. When you won, you divided the profits amongst you, and when you lost, you charged it to the bank. You tell me that if I take the deposits from the bank and annul its charter, I shall ruin ten thousand families. That may be true, gentlemen, but that is your sin! Should I let you go on, you will ruin fifty thousand families, and that would be my sin! You are a den of vipers and thieves. I intend to rout you out, and by the Eternal God, I will rout you out.

– Andrew Jackson (1767-1845)

When the violence began in Minneapolis, the police either backed off in fear of their lives or stood down purposely, allowing looting and burning of buildings, cars, and trash receptacles to take place without limit. Law and order proponents have made reference to left-wing groups such as ANTIFA for inciting the riots, but for whom does ANTIFA actually work? The case can be made that their agitation serves the interests of authorities in government. As the violence and mayhem spirals out of control, the mayors and governors build up their forces with more manpower and firepower, and now, military support, as nearly a dozen states have activated the National Guard.

California, Georgia, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Washington state, in addition to the District of Columbia have called in Guardsmen to help quell the uprisings. Martial Law is the next logical step as the protests continue though there is likely to be a pause followed by random acts of civil disobedience on a massive, if unorganized scale. People have had more than enough of a financial systems that favors the rich over the poor and middle class, a two-tiered judicial system - one for the rich and connected, one for those who are not, extreme inflation in housing and educational costs, rising taxes without sufficient representation, injustices by the elite and the governing class going unpunished, and their emotions are boiling over into untenable conditions across the nation.

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.

-- President John F. Kennedy

Television media continues to push a narrative that the protests and violence are an outgrowth of racial tensions, rather than address the truth that the protests are more about generational and institutional inequality as evidenced by the massive numbers of black, white and Hispanics engaged, the vast majority of them under 30 years of age.

As cities burn, the obnoxious culture that is Wall Street is certain to respond, most likely in the wrong manner. All that matters in the realm of the economics of big business and central banking is higher share prices for the most-favored public corporations. While 40 million people were being laid off, fired, disengaged from jobs and income, the stock market indices gained back more than half of the losses initially incurred in late February and March. In the pretzel logic that is the inexorable ties between the Federal Reserve, the Treasury, and Wall Street, major cities erupting in riots and fires might be reason enough for fresh all-time highs in equities.

For the week, stocks continued their ten-week-long rally, tacking on 1.75 to over four percent on the major averages. The NASDAQ is within four percent of reaching all-time highs.

Over the shortened four-day week, treasuries were volatile with yields on the long end rising over the first three days but recoiling back on Friday as protests spread nationwide. The 30-year bond yield rose from 1.37% last Friday to 1.47% on Thursday, only to drop down to 1.41% Friday. The 10-year note closed out the week at with a two-week low yield of 0.65%.

Overall, the curve steepened to a spread of 125 basis points between the 2-year and 30-year with inversion between the six-month (0.18%) and 2-year (0.16%), indicative of recessionary conditions.

Oil prices seem to be consolidating. The July futures contract on WTI crude oil closed at $35.34 on Friday, in a range that appears to be suitable for all parties, considering the unlevel conditions on the ground.

The most volatility was evidenced in the precious metals space, especially silver, which advanced from a low of $16.80 per troy ounce to $18.05, closing out on Friday at $17.84. Gold finished up at $1728.70, off recent highs ($1748.30, May 20), though much improved from the week's low of $1694.60 per troy ounce.

On eBay, premiums remain elevated as shown by the most recent sales of one-ounce coins and bars:

Item: Low / High / Average / Median
1 oz silver coin: 25.50 / 39.71 / 28.47 / 27.47
1 oz silver bar: 18.49 / 43.90 / 30.36 / 29.70
1 oz gold coin: 1,853.63 / 1,975.49 / 1,882.36 / 1,876.89
1 oz gold bar: 1,658.20 / 1,883.81 / 1,828.94 / 1,849.35

Looking ahead, it's incredible how quickly the media focus changed from the fading coronavirus to the escalating street unrest. These are macro-issues, covering large swaths of people who are neither coalescing nor collectively unifying. If leaders emerge from the city protests, which is natural in large public movements, then it can be safely assumed that these protests and the background issues are real. If no leaders emerge, it's all more fakery and planned demolition of society, just like the pandemic, aka plandemic.

In the 1960s protests, leaders and organized groups were plentiful. Jerry Ruben, Abbie Hoffman, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Jane Fonda, Tom Hayden, Malcolm X, Eldridge Cleaver, Huey Newton, Angela Davis, and others are among the more memorable individuals from the era. Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the Weathermen, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Black Panthers and many more splinter groups comprised peaceful and violent elements.

Songs expressed the prevailing movements of anti-war (peace) and civil rights. Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Arlo Guthrie, Judy Collins, Pete Seeger, Peter Paul and Mary, the Byrds, Country Joe and the Fish, and many of the groups that played at Woodstock in 1969 were among the more prominent voices among the peace and civil rights movements.

One would expect leaders and groups to emerge and musicians to show the way forward. While it might be considered cynical to believe that current events are orchestrated by a devious deep state or other bad actors, it is not outside the realm of possibility. As the world has learned so often in recent times, conspiracy theory often emerges as conspiracy fact.

At the Close, Friday, May 29, 2002:
Dow: 25,383.11, -17.53 (-0.07%)
NASDAQ: 9,489.87, +120.88 (+1.29%)
S&P 500: 3,044.31, +14.58 (+0.48%)
NYSE: 11,802.95, -1.97 (-0.02%)

For the Week:
Dow: +917.95 (+3.75%)
NASDAQ: +165.29 (+1.77%)
S&P 500: 88.06 (+3.01%)
NYSE: +470.98 (+4.16%)

Sunday, October 27, 2019

WEEKEND WRAP: Green Lights for Stocks; Flight From High Tax States Varies US Landscape

For equity investors, the week was all about Friday.

After flailing about the prior four sessions, US indices got a sizable boost on the final day of the week, sending traders home satisfied with a positive result for the week.

With the Dow, NASDAQ, and Composite mere percentage points short of all-time highs, the S&P 500 is within three points of its record closing high, recorded earlier this year, on July 26 (3,025.86).

So, with all the uncertainty surrounding geo-political events - impeachment, Brexit, trade war - stocks continue to perform magic as solid investments in a ZIRP and NIRP environment.

With the Fed committed to "not QE" through the second quarter of 2020 (at least), stocks have in front of them a glowing green light signaling fresh all-time highs. The FOMC is expected to cut another 25 basis points at its meeting this week, the second to last of the year.

In commodity trading, WTI crude oil was bid, closing out the week at 56.63 a barrel after slumping down to $52.45 over the prior two weeks. Gold and silver, both sluggish over the past month, finally were bid on Thursday and Friday. Gold was as high as $1518 on Friday, settling in at $1504, while silver crested above $18 per ounce and closed right on that number Friday.

Ten-year treasury notes continued to be shunned, finishing out the week with a yield of 1.80%, with some correlation to ongoing cuts in the federal funds rate. Bond traders are expressing a preference for short-term maturities, with 1, 2, and 3-month bills nearly at the same yield as the 10-year. While the yield curve has returned from inverted to a rather dull slope, there's certainly no consensus on direction. With the 10-year yield at its best level since August, it is still well below the average 2.72% which prevailed in the first quarter.

Earnings reports have been unreassuring, with as many misses as those topping estimates. Overall, mega-corps are still making money, just not so much to boost their prices significantly. In this environment, banging out 5-8% year-over-year gains has to be considered pretty solid, being that the current economic cycle is well past the mid-point and may be nearing an end.

Recession talk has subsided for now, though different regions throughout the vast US landscape offer varied results. In general, flight from high-tax states - New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland, Connecticut, Illinois, and California, in particular - to Southern enclaves continues apace. Retirees are taking their money and running for the state line, seeking reduced property, income, and estate taxes in more conservative states.

States that have not raised their minimum wages significantly are experiencing an influx of new residents, and with that, housing, roads, and commercial spaces are being constructed at a hot pace. Meanwhile, the Northeast continues to suffer from an overabundance of taxation, regulation, and handouts to the indigent at the same time its infrastructure is crumbling and best residents are leaving.

New York is a prime example of the dangers of liberal policies causing middle and upper class flight. While undocumented (illegal) migrants (aliens) are offered free food, housing, and education, long-suffering native New Yorkers are feeling put out, footing the bill for government largesse while good jobs are scarce and property taxes are near the highest in the nation. Home values are depressed, despite low interest rates and job creation is limited by the excessive minimum wage and other requirements of employment paid for by companies.

New York leads the nation in lost manufacturing jobs in 2019, estimated to have shed 10,000 positions through the first nine months of the year. The Empire State has also suffered significant losses in the hospitality and construction industries, due to the higher minimum wage and lack of growth in commercial and residential building.

These so-called "high tax states" are going to face a cash crunch, as higher paid workers are replaced with low-skill, low pay employees. The revenue will not be enough to sustain the high costs of state agencies and pensions. A major bust has been building for years in many states who will have to face the reality that the days of big promises are over and government staff reduction and budget cuts are on the table.

The United States is a big country, and, similar to the nations of Europe, some states may be booming while others are failing.

Caveat Emptor.

At the Close, Friday, October 25, 2019:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 26,958.06; +152.53 (+0.57%)
NASDAQ: 8,243.12, +57.32 (+0.70%)
S&P 500: 3,022.55, +12.26 (+0.41%)
NYSE Composite: 13,146.24, +27.33 (+0.21%)

For the Week:
Dow: +187.86 (+0.70%)
NASDAQ: +153.58 (+1.90%)
S&P 500: +36.35 (+1.22%)
NYSE Composite: +139.60 (+1.07%)

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Caution Thrown To (Bitter Cold) Wind, As Investors Ignore Tech and Weather Threats

Across the board gains were the order de jour on the second day of trading in the new year.

As on Tuesday, the NASDAQ outpaced the other major averages, continuing its meteoric rise beyond the 7,000 mark with tech stocks leading the way despite an admission from Intel (INTC) that their chips have a serious flaw, affecting nearly all chips made by the company over the past ten years.

The world's largest chipmaker was not immediately taken to the woodshed and whipped, though shares of the company were down more than three percent and are off another one-and-a-half percent in pre-market trading on Thursday.

Rival chipmaker, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), was the main beneficiary of the Intel news, its stock advancing more than five percent on the day, though it appeared that AMD chips are also vulnerable, though not to the same extent nor by the same exploits as Intel chips.

While the immediate impact may be slim, the long-term repercussions of this revelation may be significant. The world's major chip manufacturers may be facing a black swan event once hackers devise attacks that could legitimately effect computers and servers worldwide, for years.

Traders were not on the defensive, however, as the lure of early gains overwhelmed any concerns for troubles ahead, such as the massive snowstorm and bitter cold that is expected to affect most of the Northeast in days ahead. The storm - being called a Bomb Cyclone - is primarily focused off the Eastern coast of mainland North America, though New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts were making preparations for a major winter weather event which has already bettered Southern cities such as Charleston, SC, and Savannah, GA.

The apparent complacency of equity speculators is somewhat confounding, given the potential for severe disruptions from weather and technology in coming days.

On the other end of the asset spectrum, precious metals responded to a slight rise in the dollar index, blunting a strong run for gold and silver over the past three weeks, though the selling seemed to be transitory, with the metals recovering early on Thursday morning as the dollar fell to fresh lows (91.933).

On Thursday morning, prior to the opening bell on Wall Street, ADP private payroll data for December showed a massive 250,000 job gain for the final month of 2017. While the AMD numbers are preliminary and subject to revision, they are sending a strong signal in advance of Friday's BLS non-farm payroll dataset for December.

With caution being thrown largely to the (bitterly cold) wind, Friday and/or Monday could be a day of "selling the news," or, as has been the case for the past nine years, the stock market rally will not be impeded by facts nor insinuations of negativity.

At the Close, Wednesday, January 3, 2018:
Dow: 24,922.68, +98.67 (+0.40%)
NASDAQ: 7,065.53, +58.63 (+0.84%)
S&P 500: 2,713.06, +17.25 (+0.64%)
NYSE Composite: 12,957.28, +54.55 (+0.42%)

Monday, May 16, 2016

Sideways Trade Continues As Markets Respond - Like Magic - To Nothing

There was absolutely nothing upon which to base trades upon today, other than the concept that on Friday the Dow fell to the low end of the recent range (i.e., 17,500-18,000).

Therefore, it was incumbent upon market participants - meaning the Fed and their agents, particularly, Citadel - to boost asset prices to a more reasonable level in terms of keeping the charade going.

If there was any news at all that would have affected equities, it was the Empire Manufacturing Index falling nineteen points from April to -9.0 for the May reading. It's obvious that business conditions in Andrew Cuomo's fairy-tale land of the $15 minimum wage are horrible. one only has to visit upstate New York communities such as Rochester, Syracuse or Buffalo to understand the depth of despair in the business community.

Nonetheless, Wall Street is disturbingly disconnected from the reality of Main Street America and even further removed from their upstate brethren.

Carry on.

Bad Joke of the Day: Recovery!
S&P 500: 2,066.66, +20.05 (0.98%)
Dow: 17,710.71, +175.39 (1.00%)
NASDAQ: 4,775.46, +57.78 (1.22%)

Crude Oil 47.86 +0.29% Gold 1,276.70 +0.20% EUR/USD 1.1316 -0.02% 10-Yr Bond 1.7530 +2.82% Corn 392.50 -0.38% Copper 2.09 +0.17% Silver 17.21 +0.33% Natural Gas 2.04 +0.44% Russell 2000 1,116.21 +1.25% VIX 14.68 -2.39% BATS 1000 20,677.17 0.00% GBP/USD 1.4419 +0.08% USD/JPY 109.05 -0.0046%

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the meantime, many are saying this prayer:

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

...and hoping for the best.

A Glimpse Into the Collapsing Nature of Upstate New York

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, February 14, 2013

St. Valentine's Day Mascara

No, that's not a misprint in the headline. The word is "mascara" - the stuff women apply to darken, thicken, lengthen, and/or define their eyelashes. It's a cosmetic, as in rouge, or lipstick, as in lipstick on a pig, which is exactly what the algos and buy-siders did to today's undeniably weak, directionless market.

Face it, Europe is a bona-fide basket case, Japan is devaluing its currency so fast that George Soros made nearly a billion dollars on the trade in just over three months.

The news coming out of Euro-fantasy-land was less than encouraging. Eurozone fourth quarter 2012 GDP fell by 0.6%.

Making matters a little more interesting - and more frightening - were the figures for the zone's three largest economies - Germany, France and Italy - whose own GDP fell by 0.6%, 0.3% and 0.9%, respectively.

The Eurozone, even after all the bank and sovereign bailouts, pledges of doing everything possible to promote growth by the likes of Germany's Angela Merkel and EU President Mario Draghi, has resulted in three consecutive quarters of negative GDP. Europe is already in the throes of an economic collapse, thanks largely to protectionism for banks and excessive liquidity from European central bankers (most of whom are Goldman Sachs alum, BTW).

While the GDP numbers may be bad enough, consider youth unemployment (ages 15-25) in the Eurozone to be spreading like the bubonic plague. Greece reported youth unemployment over 60%; Spain over 50% and Portugal just topped 40%. Thirteen of the 27 EU member states are reporting youth unemployment over 25%. Austerity: it's what's for dinner.

Europe is solid proof that the elite class is making up the rules as they go along, and the general public is viewed as collateral damage only. Here in the good old USA, we have our own concerns with the sequestration schedule to commence March 1, which will result in massive federal budget cuts. The president and congress haven't even begun to discuss how they'll handle that, though they uniformly say that sequestration (it doesn't rhyme with castration for no reason) is something they'd prefer to avoid.

Have they acted? No. Will they? Probably, but, like the fiscal cliff deal this past December, it will be a stop-gap measure and cost taxpayers more. Nobody ever cuts anything in Washington, only the rate of growth of programs, because what's important to them is keeping lobbyists and voters (government employees and beneficiaries of government largesse) dumb and happy.

So, on what does this algo-concocted market focus? Berkshire Hathaway's buyout of Heinz. Poor suckers that Americans are, they put ketchup on their chicken and pork hot dogs on day old buns while Uncle Warren reaps the profits. If ever there was a crony capitalist, Warren Buffet's picture belongs next to the definition.

Sure, unemployment claims were down - from 368K to 341K - but aren't those figures still too high? The new normal means just doing better than expectations, even if those expectations are sub-par. It's akin to taking your kid out for ice cream because he got a C in math instead of a D. As a nation, we've lowered our standards in everything from our political leaders to what passes for entertainment.

Along with everything else, we've lowered our standards for rational markets. Today's split decision is just another shining example of the truth hiding in plain sight. Sooner or later, even the talking heads on CNBC are going to come to the realization that making new all-time highs with a -0.1% GDP and unemployment at eight percent doesn't really pass the smell test. Someday. Maybe. Note the video below with Rick Santelli, everyone's favorite financial ranter, extrapolating out on what we've been saying nearly every day on this blog: that being a trader is nearly impossible under current conditions.

And, just as a side note, New York Mayor Bloomberg, who first banned drink containers larger than 16 ounces, has proposed a ban on styrofoam containers, and... it's likely to pass his rubber stamp city council.

Let's see, smokes are $10-12 a pack in NY, you can't smoke in any of the bars, night clubs or public buildings; you must drink from small containers and those soon cannot be made of styrofoam. All this makes one pine for the good old days of the seventies. Ed Koch was mayor. Son of Sam was shooting kids in parking lots. Reggie Jackson was blasting balls out of the original Yankee Stadium and you could buy just about any kind of drug - from weed to cocaine - on just about any street corner. Bloomberg. He's just not a fun guy.

Dow 13,973.39, -9.52 (0.07%)
NASDAQ 3,198.66, +1.78 (0.06%)
S&P 500 1,521.38, +1.05 (0.07%)
NYSE Composite 8,951.33, -4.27 (0.05%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,884,832,750
NYSE Volume 3,867,864,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 3259-3130
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 505-39
WTI crude oil: 97.31, +0.30
Gold: 1,635.50, -9.60
Silver: 30.35, -0.516

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Markets Continue Dull Streak; Germany Slow Go on Gold Move

How dull is this market?

The Dow Jones Industrials hit their lows of the day just minutes into trading, losing 66 points, then rallied off that until stabilizing - though still in the red - around 11:00 am ET.

From that point until the close, the index traded in a range of just 25 points.

This is what happens when headline-scanning algos do 80% of the trading. When there's no news, nothing happens. So, if you're trading on fundamentals - things like price-earnings ratios, comparative advantage, free cash flow, etc. - you can just sit and wait until your particular stock of choice latches itself to a broad rally or makes some headline-grabbing news.

And, if that's what's become of our "free" markets, good luck, because the computers will beat you every time. They can find and scan a headline, react and trade in a matter of seconds, or, in much less the time an average web page takes to load.

Now, is there any reason at all for individual investors to trade stocks? One would believe no.

About all that was not moving the market today were a series of equally dull economic reports, like the CPI, at 0.0%. There's no inflation (really?) and no deflation, which, unless one knew better, would be defined as stagflation (or maybe lackflation).

The NAHB Housing Market Index remained steady at 47, whatever that means; industrial production bumped up 0.3%, which was down from last month's reading of an increase of 1.0%, and capacity utilization improved from 78.7% to 78.8%.

Outside of Goldman Sachs' (GS) huge earnings and revenue beat and JP Morgan's (JPM) narrow beat ex-one-time-charges (but of course), what may have put a pall over the session was the World Bank lowering its global growth (that's a joke, son) projection from 3.0% to 2.4%.

Seriously, the sloped-browed, slack-jawed dunces at the World Bank don't have a crystal ball, but, for some unholy reason, people believe they know what they're doing. Some of us are dubious. But, then again, some of us don't trust anything that comes out of the mouth of politicians or bankers or even stock analysts.

Ho-hum. It seems even the bright-minded Germans, who shook things up a little yesterday by wanting some of their gold back, really don't want it all that badly, after all. GATA reports that Germany will take all of seven years to repatriate some 300 tons of its gold from the Federal Reserve in New York. It will likely take a shorter period of time to remove all of its gold - 374 tons - from the vaults in Paris, but it plans on keeping whatever is in the London vaults there indefinitely, amounting of 13% of all its gold.

The plan is to hold 50% of its gold at home, the rest in London and New York. La-de-dah.

Dow 13,511.08, -23.81 (0.18%)
NASDAQ 3,117.54, +6.76 (0.22%)
S&P 500 1,472.57, +0.23 (0.02%)
NYSE Composite 8,710.22, -22.88 (0.26%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,648,059,375
NYSE Volume 3,198,232,750
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2775-3605
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 263-10
WTI crude oil: 94.24, +0.96
Gold: 1,683.20, -0.70
Silver: 31.54, +0.013

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Wall Street Reacts to the Devastation of Hurricane Sandy with Flat Session

It's morally repugnant that Wall Street would profit from the human suffering of others, though, in reality, it happens all the time. Stocks go up and down on the fortunes and foibles of people, many integral parts of larger corporations.

Thus, it was a time of joyous celebration for the professionals trading at the New York Stock Exchange that, for the first time in two days, equity markets were actually up and functioning. But, that euphoria, which resulted in a wholly predictable, end-of-month window dressing rally at the open, soon turned an eye toward the reality of the devastation and destruction left behind by hurricane Sandy.

Most of lower Manhattan is still without power, the NYSE operating off backup generators, and most of the areas contiguous to Wall Street for many miles to the North, South, East and West, are just beginning to evaluate the extent of the losses.

Most of the New Jersey coast is either underwater, under piles of sand or otherwise devastated; Long Island is a crushed, mangled mess as is Connecticut and most of the other New York boroughs.

Many in the area are still without power, which is slowly returning to some areas, but the losses sustained by people and companies is only now beginning to be felt. Restoration and reconstruction will take months and billions of dollars, the hit to the economy unmistakable, as Wall Street fully understands and began coming to grips with as stocks began to slide shortly after the initial burst leveled off at about 80 points to the good on the Dow.

The rapid turnaround was classic Wall Street hustle, as fund managers snapped up shares at the open to close their books for the month - some for the year - while the sharpies were already shorting the very same shares. There's profit to be made on the downside, and the environment is target rich and ripe for plucking by short-sellers, call sellers and put buyers.

By 10:30 all of the major indices were trading in negative territory, led by the NASDAQ, which itself was brought down by particularly vicious selling in Apple (AAPL), in the aftermath of the firing of two top executives by CEO Tim Cook. It's becoming apparent to everyone that the loss of Steve Jobs was not only a human tragedy, but nobody is there to replace his unique genius and business acumen.

In Europe, which remained open for business as usual over the past two days of Wall Street's shutdown, stocks were mostly down on Monday, up on Tuesday and rallying early Wednesday until finally giving up the ghost late in the sessions, the major indices - England's FTSE, Germany's DAX and France's CAC - all closing lower.

Just about 12:30 pm EDT, a reminder of just how tenuous the entire situation around New York was came from Knight Capital, when the firm, operating under backup power in Jersey City, was forced to shut down for the day, citing that their generators were failing.

Volumes were moderate, considering that many traders were without proper equipment, cell phone service spotty and some traders actually functioning from alternate locations, at home or at satellite offices, though, by the close, the volume ramped up, and the day was one of the better recent volume sessions.

Midday, stocks balanced just above the lows of the session, but buying was timid. As has been the usual mode of operation around Wall Street, traders generally ignored the world around them, sending the S&P and Dow back into positive territory in the final hour, as if nothing at all had occurred, but the move proved unsustainable.

As it has for the past four sessions running, the major indices finished mostly flat, which is patently absurd, as there are corporations taking serious losses from the storm. Reality may set in as time carries onward, but there's no telling how the detached traders in lower Manhattan will treat what will eventually turn out to be one of the costliest natural disasters of all time.

Perhaps the psychology of the control crowd is to not panic, despite evidence to the contrary as pertains to investments, but there is a price to be paid, though, as usual, the analysts will simply lower their expectations for all, and when those are exceeded, will celebrate the great success of what are more and more becoming hollowed-out shells of companies.

There will be days if not weeks of lost productivity, wages and competitiveness across six states: Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Smaller pockets of destruction have hit West Virginia (blizzard) and some New England states, such as Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont, maine and Massachusetts.

Getting markets up and running is a fine accomplishment, but registering a slight decline is almost laughable, if the thought of it weren't so warped and disturbing.

Dow 13,096.46, -10.75 (0.08%)
NASDAQ 2,977.23, -10.72 (0.36%)
S&P 500 1,412.16, +0.22(0.02%)
NYSE Composite 8,221.40, +31.20(0.38%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,806,794,500
NYSE Volume 3,542,963,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 3106-2429
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 198-124
WTI crude oil: 86.24, +0.56
Gold: 1,719.10, +7.00
Silver: 32.32, +0.50

Thursday, February 9, 2012

50 State AGs Bend to Will of Banks in Foreclosure Settlement Deal

This is the kind of market that causes financial writers to suffer a severe case of "writers block," the disease that infests the creative part of the mind because there's simply no action in financial markets.

For the fourth day in a row, the major stock indices barely budged, but managed to produce marginal gains, except for the NYSE Composite, which was down slightly. The pattern was virtually the same, with a dip in the morning followed by a quick comeback and a flat to slightly rising curve through the session. One change was that the advance-decline line favored the downside, but guess what? Options expiry is next Friday, so expect the markets to continue climbing though the middle of next week. Bankers gotta eat, ya know?

There was a bit of news from Greece, where the government finally agreed to tougher austerity measures which will reduce wages, headcount, and pensions. The deal cleared the way for talks with the troika to resume, though there are still significant hurdles to be worked out with both the public funding sources and the private ones.

The agreement did little to move US markets, which have been stuck in a regimen of low volume and little movement all week (I mentioned that earlier, I know).

In the other major development of the day, the 50 state Attorneys General announced that their deal with the five major banks involved in the sub-prime, robo-signing mortgage and foreclosure fiasco had been finalized, with the holdouts from California, New York and Delaware finally coming around to see it the banks' way.

The $26 billion deal will provide little relief to underwater homeowners (maybe $1500-2000) and offers a $2000 cash bonus to people who lost their homes to fraudulent foreclosures between 2008-2011. Anyone who paid their mortgage on time, is currently in foreclosure or falls outside those chosen dates: out of luck.

That the deal was yet another windfall for the banks cannot be understated. These banks, through shoddy originations, poor (sometimes none) documentation, fraud and other nefarious tactics, bilked the American public, the US government and mortgage-backed securities bondholders of billions, if not trillions of dollars, worldwide. The paltry sum of $26 billion spread out over a three-year span is nothing more than a rounding error for these white-collar criminals.

If there's outrage to be heard from the general public, don't count on it amounting to much as the US populace has already put up with enough government and business malfeasance the past 12 years that the screamers and shouters are already worn out from 9/11, the security state, illegal wiretaps, TSA gropings, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, etc. The list goes on and on and the American public has virtually resigned itself to the fact that resisting the influence of a broken, fascist federal government is tantamount to economic suicide and hardly worth the effort.

Little by little, the feds have taken away essential liberties granted by the constitution (that "piece of paper" as GW Bush called it) and are in the process of shredding every last ounce of fight and goodness that typified the America of yesteryear. It's depressing, but blatantly obvious that the direction of the country is careening quickly toward an oligarchy in which the well-connected, well-heeled are treated far differently than the poor working slobs. Money is power and the feds know this well. This is the most corrupt government in the world and neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have a monopoly on the corruptive power as they both drink from the same hose: that of the rich, in deference to the citizenry.

The only potential upside to the plight of the average American is that the federalistas are hopelessly incompetent, so compliance with all their rules, regulations, edicts and taxes can generally be avoided with a little bit of ingenuity and a good dose of umbrage. The downside is that as federal tax revenues decrease (a logical occurrence and already well underway), the bureaucrats and oligarchs will become even more oppressive and brutal. Those of us wishing to stay and fight or hope for the best had better be prepared for another decade of distrust, distortions and dishonesty from the top down, though, as Americans - and others - have been noted for in the past, defiance of officials and mendacious governance can be a powerful elixir for those who have been harmed.

Today's "settlement" with Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Ally Financial (formerly known as GMAC) is nothing more than a cover for the inadequacies of our elected Attorneys General, who found it more expeditious to glad-hand their political donors than follow the rule of law. What a shame. America used to be such a nice place.

Dow 12,890.46, +6.51 (0.05%)
NASDAQ 2,927.23, +11.37 (0.39%)
S&P 500 1,351.95, +1.99 (0.15%)
NYSE Composite 8,081.25, -1.73 (0.02%)
NASDAQ Volume 2,148,275,750
NYSE Volume 4,058,775,250
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2687-2940
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 289-13 (no comment)
WTI crude oil: 99.84 (really?)
Gold: 1,741.20, +9.90
Silver: 33.92, +0.21

Monday, October 3, 2011

Stocks in Panic Mode; Bankruptcy Lines Forming: High-Low Indicator at Extreme; Social Fabric Shredding

The Markets

Stocks began the fourth quarter the same way they ended the third, with waves of selling on fears of a Greek default and recession in the US and Europe.

After an initial lift from fair economic data, especially the ISM index posting a 51.6 number after a 50.6 reading in August and August construction spending showing a 1.4% gain, US stocks drifted lower throughout the day, with the final onslaught taking the S&P 500 to a close of 1099.21, the first time the widely-watched index closed below 1100 since September 8, 2010 (1098.87) and well below the recent low of 1120.76 (August 10). The S&P now stands (or slouches, as the case may be) less than nine points from official bear market territory, which would commence at 1090.89. The S&P is down 12.6% for the year.

The other major indices are also closing in on bear market territory. Another day like today would send the NASDAQ down more than 20% from its April 29 highs. The Dow Jones Industrials are faring best of the bad lot, though still just 375 points from marking a bear market.

Losses began overnight in Asian markets and cascaded through Europe and into the Americas. Most European bourses have been in bear markets for more than a few months.

News flows from Europe were not encouraging as the 17 countries which are backing Greek bailout funds met again on Monday but failed to come to an agreement on the second tranche of aid to the failing EU member.

That sent stocks into negative territory for the remainder of the session, closing at the lows of the day on very heavy volume in a broad decline. All 12 sectors were lower on the day, led by capital goods, financials and energy. WTI crude oil closed at its lowest price in over a year, fueling speculation that lower gas prices are on the way as weather cools and demand falls.

Dow 10,655.30, -258.08 (2.36%)
NASDAQ 2,335.83, -79.57 (3.29%)
S&P 500 1,099.23, -32.19 (2.85%)
NYSE Compos 6,571.45, -220.20 (3.24%)
NASDAQ Volume 2,523,549,250
NYSE Volume 6,714,723,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 772-5877
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 19-1405
WTI crude oil: 77.61, -1.59
Gold: 1654.40, +29.60
Silver: 30.33, +0.36

After the bankruptcy filing of Swedish automaker Saab last month signaled the coming onrush of large corporate bankruptcies, three companies have been making news on that front.

Eastman Kodak (EK), which has hired the law firm of Jones Day to explore "reorganization" possibilities, rallied back strongly after Friday's stock collapse. The company's shares are at a bargain-basement level of 1.34, a 77% gain on the day. Reports that creditors and investors are speaking to advisors have surfaced as the company continues to burn through $600-700 million annually off their broken business model, negatively impacted by the advent of digital photography.

Shares of American Airlines (AMR) were halted today amid rumors of bankruptcy filing. The oldest US legacy carrier lost 33% today, closing at 1.98.

The banking sector continues to be rocked by the continuing mortgage morass, new regulations and now, computer glitches. Bank of America's website and online banking functions were unavailable to millions of customers for a long time over the past few days, frustrating and infuriating its customer base just days after announcing that debit card users would face a five-dollar-per-month fee beginning in January for the privilege of spending their own money. Shares of the nation's largest bank closed down 59 cents, at 5.53, the lowest price since the depths of the financial crisis, when the stock closed at 3.12 on March 6, 2009.

Along with the S&P 500 breaking below 1100, the number of new lows today was a screaming signal to "get out of Dodge" as quickly as possible. Those 1405 new lows are at a level not seen since autumn of 2008, when the entire financial system was on its knees and needed a $700 billion "fiX" courtesy of a deal ripped from US taxpayers by then-Treasury Secretary (thief) Hank Paulson and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. No other indicator has been as reliable or accurate in picking crashes than the New high - New low indicator. According to the indication that has been flashing for weeks, a major down-leg is about to commence, especially with the NYSE, Dow, NASDAQ and S&P 500 all closing below support levels during the recent two-month slide.

This is a potentially world-shattering situation that has been developing for not just the past two months, but over the past three years. Stocks could free-fall as financial institutions in Europe, Asia and in the US face severe liquidity and solvency issues and sovereigns are unable to save them this time, concerned, rightfully so, with their own continued existence. The level of public distrust has risen to unprecedented levels. Over 700 people were arrested in New York, trapped on the Brooklyn Bridge (see video below) by New York City police funded by JP Morgan Chase.

This is only the tip of the news iceberg the mainstream media doesn't want the US public to see, hear or read. Peaceful protests in Boston, New York, St. Louis and Kansas City have taken on new life, resulted in mass arrests and are a threat to the ruling elite.

The entire human population of the planet is teetering on the brink of mass rioting and localized anarchy.