Showing posts with label banks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label banks. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Stocks Fail to Extend Rally; Oil Flat; JP Morgan, Wells Fargo Declare 1Q Earnings

Last week's furious rally failed to extend over into Monday's trading as news flow trended negatively.

Given the number of new cases and deaths worldwide from COVID-19, the pain and suffering of millions around the world out of work and isolated in their homes, it's surprising that Wall Street can even muster enough capital for any kind of rally.

Conditions have not changed from the onset of COVID-19's spread, only the Federal Reserve's commitment to suspend reality and boost stocks through various band-aids and stop gap measures has. The only reason stocks managed to gain any ground last week was due to trillions of dollars pumped into the hands of primary dealers via repos, debt purchases, foreign debt purchases, and promises from various Fed presidents to keep the currency spigots wide open.

The lunacy of these efforts is astounding. Desperate to save face and completely devoid of any tools to bring the economy back to their stated mandates of full employment and no inflation, the Fed has expanded its own balance sheet to the point at which it needed funding from the US treasury, a backhanded bailout of the central bank, using some $400-500 billion from Treasury's Exchange Stabilization Fund.

Oil prices barely budged after the hurried agreement by OPEC+ and other countries will slash production by as much as 10 million barrels a day, roughly 10 percent of global supply. WTI crude closed Monday at $22.41. Efforts to raise the price of oil worldwide were seen as mostly a publicity stunt, as the problem is more a lack of demand than of oversupply. Producers would be best served to stop pumping as storage facilities are near capacity already and the lockdowns in major countries remain weeks away.

Treasury yields rose on the long end, with the 30-year bond at 1.39% and the 10-year note rising three basis points to 0.76%. The curve steepened slightly to 122 basis points.

JP Morgan Chase (JPM) announced first quarter earnings prior to the opening bell Tuesday that were the lowest since 2013, warned of a fairly severe recession ahead and set aside $8.29 billion for bad loans, the biggest provision in at least a decade and more than double what some analysts expected.

The bank reported EPS of 78 cents on revenue of $29.07 billion. Net interest income was flat at $14.5 billion.

Wells Fargo (WFC) reported EPS of 1 cent per share on revenue of $17.7 billion as a $3.1 billion reserve build accounted for 56 cents per share and a $950 million impairment of securities accounted for 17 cents a share. Net interest income fell 8% to $11.3 billion. This bank is essentially insolvent, as is the Federal Reserve, the ECB, BOJ, PBOC and hundreds of other money center banks.

Other money center banks also report this week. Wednesday Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, and Citigroup release their reports. Morgan Stanley’s announcement is scheduled for Thursday.

(Reuters) - Johnson & Johnson on Tuesday beat analysts' estimates for first-quarter profit on higher sales of its cancer drugs and consumer products including Tylenol, while slashing its full-year forecast due to the coronavirus shutdowns.

Shares of the company, which raised its dividend by 6.3% to $1.01 per share, rose 3% to $144 in trading before the bell.

The company now expects 2020 adjusted earnings per share of $7.50 to $7.90, compared with its prior estimate of $8.95 to $9.10.

Gold and silver posted modest gains on the day. In case anyone was skeptical over Money Daily's call for $100 silver and a 16:1 gold:silver ratio in Sunday's Weekend Wrap (below), perhaps a gander at Mike Maloney's call for $700 silver a few years ago at, may be in order:

At the Close, Monday, April 13, 2020:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 23,390.77, -328.60 (-1.39%)
NASDAQ: 8,192.42, +38.85 (+0.48%)
S&P 500: 2,761.63, -28.19 (-1.01%)
NYSE: 10,949.53, -187.08 (-1.68%)

Friday, November 8, 2019

Scam Alert: PayPal Credit, Synchrony Bank Playing Hide and Seek With Special Financing Purchase Offers

by Fearless Rick Gagliano, editor, Money Daily

     When it comes to banking in general, most Americans (Europeans and Asians, as well, we might assume) are skeptical about institutional sincerity and customer care. After all, it was just a decade ago that some of the biggest banks in the world were caught up in a messy triage with overzealous rating agencies and absent regulators that sent global finance to its knees.

Image result for PayPal credit logoSince the Great Financial Crisis (GFC) of 2008, there have been more than few dubious practices entertained by major banks. Wells-Fargo comes to mind, whose employees, paragons of virtue all, no doubt, opened accounts in people's names without their knowledge, among other scandalous activity.

Certainly, the annals of banking history are rife with examples of financial trickery, pandering and assorted crimes and misdemeanors carried on by monied institutions, all in the name of profit and greed.

With the advent of the internet age, banking has become more streamlined, varied and accessible to anyone with a smartphone, tablet or computer. Offerings from non-bank institutions abound. The leader among transactional vendors being PayPal, the the online business-consumer, peer-to-peer middleman company founded in part by Elon Musk, Max Levchin, and Peter Thiel made its name by offering online accounts to anybody who could "fog a mirror" and with a few nickels to rub together.

With an IPO in 2002 and subsequent acquisition by online auctioneer eBay, PayPal became the de facto standard for online payments. Reacting to a squabble from investor Carl Ichan, eBay divested itself from PayPal in 2014 and since then PayPal has been a stand-alone company. It was late in 2008 and early 2009 that PayPal, after acquiring the company known as Bill Me Later, began to offer credit to consumers. Aptly named PayPal Credit, a complete credit and debiting system aimed at the massive consumer audience worldwide was established.

Among their many marketing tactics, PayPal Credit offered a wildly popular option called special purchase financing, bearing zero interest for six months on purchases of $99 or more if paid in full during the allotted time. That promotion still exists today, but the present and recent past are where the issues of dubious claims and incomplete disclosure of terms begins.

Enter Synchrony

Image result for Synchrony logoPayPal partnered with consumer credit giant, Synchrony Financial, to offer credit cards to PayPal account holders in 2004 and took the relationship even further in 2017, when it sold $5.8 billion in consumer credit receivables to Synchrony Financial, effectively yielding control over the operation of PayPal Credit to Synchrony.

It was around that time in 2017 that how payments on PayPal Credit accounts were allocated was altered. When parent company PayPal was operating PayPal Credit, allocations of payments on accounts were handled roughly as anything over the minimum required payment on the entire account was then allocated to the special purchase financing.

For example, a PayPal Credit account holder, with, say, $1000 existing outstanding balance and a minimum monthly payment of $40, makes a purchase for $500 and takes advantage of the Zero Interest for Six Months if Paid in Full Special Financing Purchase. When the account holder makes a payment, say $100, $40 would cover the outstanding minimum credit payment and the remaining $60 would be applied to the Special Financing Purchase. That was pretty standard, and logical.

No more. Now, when that same account holder (or any account holder) with an existing outstanding balance makes the same transaction, the entirety of his or her payment goes toward the account balance and NONE is allocated to the Special Financing Purchase until the final 60 days of said Special Financing Purchase. In the meantime, interest accrues on the Special Financing Purchase at the full amount, in our case, $500. If the Special Financing Purchase balance is not paid off in full at the expiration of the six months, all of the accrued interest becomes part of the account balance due.

Nowhere in the terms and conditions of Special Financing Purchase is this made obvious or even mentioned to consumers. It is only revealed when (as our Editor found out) one questions PayPal Credit customer support by phone or by online chat. The response to why this devious practice is maintained, is that PayPal Credit and/or Synchrony Financial uses best practices in allocating funds in this manner. It's almost a certainty that said best practices are what's best for the bank, not the consumer, and here's why:

Beyond the failure to disclose this in-house allocation rule, the bank (Synchrony, in this case), has interest accruing on that Special Financing Purchase (remember, ZERO interest for six months if paid in full) at the full amount of the purchase, not at a lesser amount if account holder payment allocations were done the old way, in a moral, reasonable, and logical manner. It also sets up the casual account holder for a shock, when he/she looks at the Special Financing Purchase and realizes that with two months left to pay off the Special Financing Purchase at Zero Percent he or she still owes the full amount.

Unless one is careful enough to scrutinize the monthly statements generated by PayPal Credit, this poor or mis-allocation of payments - done in the name of best practices - can easily go unnoticed, especially if one makes automatic or automated monthly payments, a practice which all banks and credit card companies strongly encourage.

There is some relief, maybe.

Calls to PayPal Credit on this or any credit account issue result in referral to Synchrony. The supervisor with which Money Daily spoke on Thursday, November 7, elicited the response that payments can be allocated to the Special Financing Purchase if one calls Synchrony at 1-844-373-4961 and requests the payments be directed according to the wishes of the account holder, and NOT in the manner usually employed by the BANK (Synchrony). Synchrony says they will honor such requests and process them, but allocations will not show up on online accounts for "a few days."

Additionally, none of this would apply to anybody who isn't carrying a balance (the wise and fortunate 20-30% of account holders) with PayPal Credit and the only purchase made was a Special Financing Purchase. In that case, all of the monthly payment would be applied to the deferred interest financing because that's all there is.

Therein lies the problem. Instead of doing business in a morally correct, logical, reasonable, responsible, and customer-friendly manner, Synchrony Financial has chosen the usual path of 21st century bankers: deceit, incomplete disclosure, "gotcha" terms and "special financing" with in-house rules designed to maximize the bank's profitability, the customer be damned. To do business in what would normally be considered the "best practice" for the consumer, the account holder has to go out of his or her way to make a special phone call, jump through hoops, listen to all of the recordings and prompts to get what should have been done automatically. This is, after all, the age of high-speed communications and the internet, not Ma Bell's twisted copper.

If this practice isn't illegal, it would be no shock today. Financial institutions have been afforded wide latitude in their dealings with the public, to encourage loans, credit, and debt in a wide array of products and offerings.

In a world in which sanity, fairness, and reasonableness would be the norm, this kind of operation might be considered fraud at worst, bait-and-switch at best. But today, in our world of glorification of all things money and financial, where the dollar sign is revered and worshipped, it barely registers a "lookie here." It's a sad commentary on the state of morality and banking when gigantic, faceless institutions are able to run roughshod over consumers. It goes against the public interest, an interest, incidentally, that nobody - from bankers to consumer credit agencies to politicians - seems to be even remotely interested in protecting.

So, what do you think? Is this practice just run-of-the-mill deceit and standard underhandedness by PayPal Credit and Synchrony Financial, or does it rise to or border on criminal mischief, something banking regulators or congress should address? Comments are open, and are moderated.

Anybody experiencing issues such as those outlined above should call Synchrony at 1-844-373-4961 and complain loudly.

Be polite, but overall, be careful.

UPDATE: Found a thread on the PayPal boards dealing with this very issue. Many are fuming about it.
See here:

UPDATE 11/27/19: This issue will remain, as the actions of Synchrony are guided by Regulation Z. See the updated blog post:

At the Close, Thursday, November 7, 2019:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 27,674.80, +182.24 (+0.66%)
NASDAQ: 8,434.52, +23.89 (+0.28%)
S&P 500: 3,085.18, +8.40 (+0.27%)
NYSE Composite: 13,395.55, +43.98 (+0.33%)

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Stocks Flatlining In Advance of Bank Earnings

In the most recent Weekend Wrap, the flatlining of stocks over the last 21 months was discovered and discussed, but Monday's trading amplified the condition, with stocks stuck in a narrow range throughout the session.

The Dow Industrials traded in a range of 125 points for the full day, but, after the first half hour, the range was no more than 100 points in either direction. The same range-bound condition was true for all the major indices. Trailing into the close, the three majors (Dow, NAZ, S&P) were all down by less than 0.15 percent.

This was likely due to the observance of Columbus Day, which saw the bond market closed, though the lingeing effects of so much central bank tinkering must be playing on the minds of more than a few seasoned traders.

While markets are unlikely to completely seize up, there is the potential for individual stocks to go bid-less for extended periods. Market volume and breadth has been on the skinny side of thin, to say the least. Volatility has been wrung out, except for the occasional algo bounce directly tied to the up and down, on and off trade disputes between the United States and China. This false narrative moves markets, but not in any consistent pattern except for that of a knee-jerk.

The week ahead will feature third quarter results from the banking sector, sure to add some dynamism to an otherwise flaccid affair.

At the Close, Monday, October 14, 2019:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 26,787.36, -29.23 (-0.11%)
NASDAQ: 8,048.65, -8.39 (-0.10%)
S&P 500: 2,966.15, -4.12 (-0.14%)
NYSE Composite: 12,896.22, -30.70 (-0.24%)

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%)

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Anticipating Federal Funds Rate Slash, Fed Conducts Repo for Cash-Strapped Banks

In case you missed it, on Tuesday, the Federal Reserve conducted a repurchasing event - known in the business as a "repo" - to inject cash into the system, which had run low on reserves.

Essentially, the primary dealers, among them the nation's largest banks, found themselves a little short on cash and needed to sell some bonds back to the Fed. In all, the Fed took back $53 billion and the system survived a rare liquidity crunch. It was the first repo auction since the great Financial Crisis of 2008.

This kind of activity may not be so rare going forward. The Financial Times reports that the Fed is holding another repo auction on Wednesday morning, offering up $75 billion in cash in exchange for various types of bonds, most typically, Treasuries or Mortgage-backed securities (MBS).

What triggered the double-dip into repo-land is the unusually high volatility in bond markets, which have been whipsawed of late. The benchmark 10-year-note, for instance, has yielded as low as 1.46% and as high as 1.90% just this month, and currently sits at a yield of 1.81%. The high rate at which bonds are turned over by the primary dealers and others may have left some banks upside down, or wrong-footed, this week.

The second repo has taken place, ending before 8:30 am, Wednesday morning.

The results were less-than-encouraging going forward. The auction was oversubscribed by $5 billion, meaning somebody has a short-term cash flow problem. The Fed offered up $75 billion and $80 was bid, so somebody didn't get what they were seeking. $5 billion is a lot of money, no matter how you slice it. This is going to show up somewhere and it won't be pretty. Prepare for bank failures at an increasing rate.

Otherwise, the markets stay relatively calm on the surface, with futures modestly in the red. At 2:00 pm ET Wednesday, the FOMC will announce their policy directive, ending a two-day meeting. They are widely expected to decrease the federal funds rate by 25 basis points, from 2.00-2.25 to 1.75-2.00.

If the idea of a range, rather than a distinct point for the federal funds rate seems different, it is. The Fed used to just set the rate at a distinct point, like 2.50%, but now they issue a range. That change occurred in 2008, when they dropped the rate to zero, or actually, 0.00 to 0.25. The Fed didn't like the rate being exactly zero bacuse that would have sent a bad signal, so they changed to a range.

What really happened is that the global fiat currency economy broke in 2008. ZIRP and the various forms of QE were bandages when a splint and a cast were needed. The system is still broken, moreso than in 2008 and the injury, once a break, is now amplified with a fever, an infection, and the hospital is out of meds.


At the Close, Tuesday, September 17, 2019:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 27,110.80, +33.98 (+0.13%)
NASDAQ: 8,186.02, +32.47 (+0.40%)
S&P 500: 3,005.70, +7.74 (+0.26%)
NYSE Composite: 13,131.41, +23.43 (+0.18%)

Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Long and Short of the Approaching Recession (Depression)

For those out there reading this short missive, a warning that time and space are constraints upon the lives we live, the bread we bake, the food we eat, the products we produce, the jobs that sustain us and the government that pretends to cater to us.

Time and space - according to most adherents of pure physics - are not constraints upon thinking, thought, creativity and imagination.

Indulgence should be given more, in these days of financial peril and social inequality, to solutions derived in the mind, translated to the body by practicality and functionality.

In both the long and short discussions of current finance, there can be little doubt that the system of capitalism by which the developed world has grown and prospered is under severe strain and the solutions offered by the central bankers and government entities who pretend to know how it all works are nothing more than stop-gap measures intended solely to prevent, or at least, delay, a complete collapse of a fragile, human-made system.

Economics, being mostly theoretical, and therefore, unbound, unfortunately needs to operate in a closed, bound, system, restrained by those old devils of time and space. As has been frequently mentioned in higher-level economic discussions, "infinite growth is unsustainable in a finite world."

With that in mind, this weekend edition of Money Daily offers but a brief insight into the unraveling of the world order of finance already well underway.

On the whole, Friday was a washout to a week in which the major indices - with the notable exception of the NASDAQ - vacillated around the unchanged line. In the current nomenclature, stock indices - wherein the vast bulk of trading is performed by computer algorithms and central banks - are a control mechanism. So long as they are stable or going higher, the general population feels comforted and won't look around for cracks in the not-so-golden facade of global finance. As such, this week was very much like the previous six, or eight, or eighty. It was, in general terms, a big nothing-burger.

But, what does the outsize gain on the NASDAQ tell us, when the other indices were going exactly nowhere fast?

It says that the NASDAQ is where the speculation exists, where all the funny money or phony money is going to seek yield, mostly in tech-land, but also in energy stocks and in short-squeezes on the most-shorted list. It's how the game is being played at the top. If shorts are numerous on a particular equity, that where the money flow will be most pronounced, on the long side. Boom! Instant profits and a great weekend in the Hamptons awaits.

For the rest of us, we are placated with the rest of the market going sideways. At least - we comfort ourselves in saying - it didn't go down, much.

An expanded view looks at a couple of issues. Oil took another beating this week as the glut continues, though this fact is not to be promulgated to the general population. We are led to believe that oil is scarce and the price of gas with which to fill our cars should remain at elevated levels.

Nothing could be further from the truth. A variety of factors, including, but not limited to, better fuel consumption, an aging population, alternative energy sources, stagnant or slowing employment, and a more stay-at-home, economically-depressed middle America, is leading to the reality of oversupply meeting slack or declining demand. Oil will continue to fall until it becomes apparent that the big energy companies are squeezing every last nickel and dime out of consumers in the form of stubbornly high gas prices. At some point, the price of gasoline will merit a meeting with reality and then, gas will average, nationally, under $2.00 a gallon, notwithstanding the absurdly-high state and federal taxes on each and every gallon pumped. It's coming. It cannot be denied.

Overseas, the demise of two Italian banks on Friday was, typically, underreported. Banca Popolare di Vicenza and Veneto Banca, with combined assets of roughly 60 billion euros, were green-lighted by the ECB on Friday for liquidation. In other words, these banks are belly-up, bankrupt, kaput!

The Wall Street Journal, Reuters, Bloomberg, the AP, all reported the story. The mainstream media, such as ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, et. al., i.e, the fake news propagandists, did not.

There you have it. The general public will not be told the truth about the fraility of the banking system for fears people would recall the horrors of the GFC of 2008-09.

Two Italian banks failing may not make the radar of disinterest parties such as the 98% of Americans who don't pay attention to nor understand economics or finance. Neither did the closure of two Bear Stearns funds back in the Spring of 2008. You are now forewarned and forearmed, with knowledge.

The world'd financial system is unwinding and the pace is quickening. Disruptions are already apparent in the forms of capital controls - mostly overseas, but heading to US shores soon - supply chain disorder, falling tax receipts, social unrest, and, most importantly and glaringly obvious, income disparity.

Stay informed, not from the mainstream sources, but from outside. The internet is s treasure trove of information that you're not supposed to know about. It will help you form opinions and strategies by which you can deal with the coming hard times.

Your thoughts and ideas have no limits. Time and space cannot prevent you from thinking, strategizing and planning for your won welfare.

At the Close, 6/23/17:
Dow: 21,394.76, -2.53 (-0.01%)
NASDAQ: 6,265.25, +28.56 (0.46%)
S&P 500: 2,438.30, +3.80 (0.16%)
NYSE Composite: 11,733.20, +20.68 (0.18%)

For the Week:
Dow: +10.48 (0.05%)
NASDAQ: +113.49 (1.84%)
S&P 500: +5.15 (0.21%)
NYSE Composite: -38.83 (-0.33%)

Friday, February 3, 2017

What Wall Street Wants, Wall Street Gets; Trump Slashes Dodd-Frank

There's no better way to put it than to say that the Wall Street banks - Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, and Citi - have Donald Trump's "get out of jail free" card in their back pockets.

Today's action by the President, an executive order slashing most of the regulations put on banks by the Dodd-Frank act under past-president Obama and the useless congress, paves the way for even looser regulations and more wild risk-taking by Wall Street.

And the celebration got underway right after the stupid BLS jobs report and the opening bell, boosting all major averages to within spitting distance of all-time highs.

Should anyone wonder if Mr. Trump knows anything about economics, one has only to look at his Treasury nominee, Steven Mnuchin, who led a group of investors in the take-out of IndyMac, later changing the name to OneWest while it became a serial abuser of mortgage financing and foreclosure laws.

While the former Goldman Sachs partner is not yet assured of passing muster in Senate confirmation, the appearance of yet another Goldman alumnus at the top finance job in the administration should be all one needs to know. Trump has long-standing associations with Wall Street, Goldman Sachs and financiers in general, so it isn't really a surprise.

Business will do business, whether or not it's moral, fiduciary, or based upon sound best practices. Wall Street retained control when Trump was elected, and would have even with Hillary as the president, so there's a bit of a silver lining in that at least the office of the president isn't occupied by a serial liar and psychopath. President Trump is better than the alternative, probably by more than anyone imagined.

After all the whipsaw activity of the past week, the major indices ended relatively unchanged. So, jobs data, the Fed, Trump, the EU, Japan, and the UK central bankers didn't actually add up to much at all.

Caveat Emptor

Carry on and Mind the Gap.

At the Close, Friday, February 3, 2017:

Dow: 20,071.46, +186.55 (0.94%)
NASDAQ: 5,666.77, +30.57 (0.54%)
S&P 500: 2,297.42, +16.57 (0.73%)
NYSE Composite: 11,311.74, +96.36 (0.86%)

For the Week:
Dow: -22.32 (-0.11%)
NASDAQ: +5.98 (0.11%)
S&P 500: +2.72 (0.12%)
NYSE Composite: +27.52 (+0.24%)

Monday, April 11, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

Thursday, February 4, 2016

BTO: Bespoke Tranche Opportunities; Look Out Below

Global economies are blowing up, led by BTOs, AKA Bespoke Tranche Opportunity.

Yahoo, as predicted here years ago, is kaput. One of the worst investments ever, and especially since the Gal from Google took over as CEO.

IRS hardware failure. Probably the best news of the day. Unless you are a sheeple. With a pension. And health care ripped from your paycheck. You. Are. Screwed.

The global economy is unraveling right in front of your eyes and you don't see it.

Don't forget to smell the roses and see the forest through the trees.

Maybe the worst condition is not knowing what a hard asset is. Maybe worse is spell-checking on blogger.

Keep prepping. If you're in a city, move.

Monday, March 16, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The condition of the world is sad and true.

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

Saturday, January 25, 2014

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

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

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

Yes, Cry for Argentina

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

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

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

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

Turkey Stew?

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

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

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

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

The Wider View

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Technicals Matter

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

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

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

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

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

Forward Thinking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Cyprus Banks Re-Open; S&P Makes New All-Time High

Not certain which of these two historic events will eventually bear more weight, but the banks in Cyprus opened at noon (Cyprus time) on Thursday after being shuttered for more than two weeks and the S&P made an all-time closing high.

For investors, the S&P event is a watershed moment, capping a long bull run of just over four years that began at 666 on the index and now closes nearly 100 points better.

For the citizens of Cyprus, the events of the past two weeks and the reopening of the banks today will have great weight, but in the opposite direction. Now that the banking situation in the Mediterranean island nation are more or less "normalized" - with uninsured depositors (over 100,000 euros) likely to lose 40% or more of their deposits - and the country headed directly into a depression, the contagion, for now, limited, though anybody with large deposits in any European bank has to be walking on eggshells presently.

The limits for Cypriots are stiff: withdrawals from banks are limited to 300 euros per day; checks cannot be cashed, only deposited; leaving the island with more than 3000 euros is outlawed. Welcome to the Cyprus debt prison and hotel. Payrolls are exempt from limits as the banking officials want to see money circulating to some degree, though people will be surely more frugal in their spending habits.

The Dow closed at another record high and ends the quarter (Markets are closed Friday) up 11%, marking the best quarterly returns since 1998. The S&P was right behind, clocking a 10% return for the quarter.

As the market has shown throughout the four-year bull run, news doesn't matter; it's all good on Wall Street. The Chicago Purchasing Managers' Index fell to 52.4 in March, down sharply from the 56.8 reported in February.

Initial jobless claims also cam in worse than expected, rising to 357K, up from 341K in the prior week.

Monday is the start of a new month and a new quarter, as well as being April Fool's Day, which begs the question: who will be the fools, those who exited on the record high today or those looking to squeeze more gains out of the long-running bull market?

The highs on the S&P are nominal ones, slightly above levels hit in 2000 and 2007, more commonly known as a triple top.

It's never a good idea to buy high, because you're likely to end up selling lower, but it's really tough to bet against Ben Bernanke and the Fed printing presses churning out $85 billion a month in free money. The sprinters are far ahead at the moment, but investing is more of a marathon. And, don't forget, this rally has been built not only on quickly depreciating greenbacks but on horrifyingly low volume. Additionally, the advance-Decline line has been exhibiting much less breadth than one would normally associate with a raging bull.

Pick your poison, but don't keep all your eggs in one basket.

Happy Easter!

Dow 14,578.54, +52.38 (0.36%)
NASDAQ 3,267.52, +11.00 (0.34%)
S&P 500 1,569.19, +6.34 (0.41%)
NYSE Composite 9,106.83, +36.38 (0.40%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,555,418,875.00
NYSE Volume 3,481,085,250
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 3865-2537
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 557-32
WTI crude oil: 97.23, +0.65
Gold: 1,594.80, -11.40
Silver: 28.32, -0.289

Monday, March 25, 2013

Hurrah! Boo! Cyprus is Saved! Cyprus is Doomed!

There are so many angles to the story of what happened to Cyprus over the past week or so that it boggles the mind to consider just a few of the long-term ramifications, but, clearly, the deal struck late, late Sunday evening by the ECB, IMF and the European Commission, deferred to by the president of Cyprus - who really didn't have much say and actually threatened to resign (he should have) - was a game changer in more ways than one.

First, the deal.

Instead of making everybody pay, which was the original plan foisted upon the Cypriot parliament and summarily dismissed in a unanimous vote, the brain trust that is the ECB worked out a plan that would fold up one insolvent bank - Laiki - and reorganize another (Bank of Cyprus), impose capital control limiting withdrawals to 100 euros, and force depositors with over 100,000 euros - because there are so few bond holders - to pay down the bank's debt, with a levy of up to 40% on those deposits.

OK? Stay with me here. Because the plan is not a bailout, but a reorganization, the parliament of Cyprus will not have to vote on it. There. All fixed.

Except that mush of the money that's going to be "levied" in the "reorganization" is Russian money, laundered or otherwise, and the Russians are not very happy, even though Angela Merkel is. Hmmm... Russians unhappy, Germans happy. That doesn't sound familiar, does it?

Further, banks in Cyprus are supposed to open tomorrow, but probably won't, and even when they do, the flight of capital will be intense, even at the absurdly tiny levels of 100 euros a day. This story is still very, very fluid and has a multitude of effects on all of Europe and the rest of the world, so, stay tuned.

As far as the markets were concerned, news of a "solution" to the Cyprus problem was greeted with hallelujahs and buying, with the futures of US indices all heading skyward and the Euro ramping up against the dollar.

Stocks in the US (and Europe) opened higher, leveled off until, until, Dutch Finance Minister and recently-appointed head of the ECB, Jeroen Dijsselblom, went on the record to say that the Cyprus solution may well be a "template" for other troubled banks in the Eurozone.

Uh-oh. markets tanked. The Dow, which was up 51 points, went negative by 128. European bourses revered. The EUR/USD FX pair went negative in a big way. Impairment of depositor money (government-sanctioned theft) is not what rich people want to hear. Never mind the poor and not-so-poor with deposits of under 100,000 euros, which are guaranteed by the bankrupt ECB, it's the rich people's money that's going to bail out banks in the future Europe.

Ouchie! But, that's what should happen. Insolvent banks should be wound down first by smacking the junior and then senior bond holders and, if that's not enough to cover the debts, uninsured depositors pony up the balance.

So, that's Cyprus, the future of Europe and the global financial system all rolled up into 12 or 14 neat paragraphs. If you've got over 100,000 euros in any bank these days, you are either as nuts as our Federal Reserve chairman or a big business that needs that amount of capital to meet payroll, expenses, etc. For those, there is no alternative (well, there is, but what business really wants to keep that much cash lying around?).

For people with less than 100,000 euros or the equivalent in dollars (about $129,000 right now), how much do you want to risk in any bank, any bank which could be closed indefinitely in case of a financial crisis or emeeeeeeergency, with no access to your funds until the "officials" deem the situation resolved?

Let's just say that the answer for most people would be, "not much."

Well, that just raises another fearsome looking ugly head in the form of capital controls (you can only take out "so much" today) or, outright loss. The answer is bank runs of the kind not seen since the Great Depression, when, remember, banks were closed for weeks and longer and some never reopened. IT CAN HAPPEN HERE because it already did.

So, where do you put all that extra cash of yours, lucky you? Most Americans have sums of money in "investments" which are just promises and based upon given market levels which change from day to day. Trust. It's a fun term.

Others have money in banks. Best advice is, if you must keep your dough in a bank, spread it around. A better solution would be to invest (you have enough money, right?) in a very heavy safe, a good alarm system, a coule of good firearms and maybe a couple of alert, healthy guard dogs. Yeah. Old school, like medieval days, which is to where the world is headed. Maybe a moat filled with crocodiles, drawbridge and turrets should be the new home design for the 2020s?

You laugh. Don't. Money in banks, as proven by the bizarre and brazen moves of the psychopathic leaders of the ECB, IMF and EU. is not as safe as you'd like to think. Ask anyone who lived through the Great Depression. Most people kept more money stuffed into their mattresses than in their local banks, and, with good reason. The banks failed and their money was gone. Poof!

The choice is yours, dear readers, play the game of chicken with the elites, who have no taste nor mercy for the likes of you and yours, or take action. keep in banks only what you need, because, when you think of it, the FDIC insures deposits of up to $250,000 in the US. That went up from $50,000 prior to the crash in 2008. Why? Because people smart enough to understand what was going on were taking their money out and the government and the banks would really have gone bust in a huge way had there been real banks runs like in the 1930s.

Without looking it up, the FDIC budget is something along the lines of $50 billion. The amount of deposits in US banks is on the order of $14 TRILLION. Do the math.

That's it for today. We're all Cypriots now.

Dow 14,447.75, -64.28 (0.44%)
NASDAQ 3,235.30, -9.70 (0.30%)
S&P 500 1,551.69, -5.20 (0.33%)
NYSE Composite 9,022.95, -42.85 (0.47%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,665,435,625
NYSE Volume 3,539,278,250
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2714-3624
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 489-49 (straining)
WTI crude oil: 94.81, +1.10
Gold: 1,604.50, -1.60
Silver: 28.82, +0.117

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Situation in Cyprus Still Unresolved; European, US Stocks Hit

If Americans could pull themselves away from their TV sets and the NCAA tournament for a few moments, some of them might come to the realization that what's happening in Cyprus might just have huge global implications in the not-so-distant future.

While the story so far consists of a multitude of moving parts, what is known so far is that Cypriot banks - oversized in relation to the nation's GDP - are in deep, deep trouble and that the "troika" (EU, ECB and IMF) has given the tiny island nation until Monday to come up with a viable plan.

Cyprus has been told it must raise 5.8 billion euros ($7.5 billion) if it is to receive 10 billion euros ($12.9 billion) from its fellow eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund.
In the meantime, the banks remain closed, ostensibly to reopen on Tuesday of next week.

Many ATM machines have already run out of cash and one bank (Laiki) has already imposed capital controls, limiting withdrawals to 260 euros ($340) per person to conserve its dwindling funds. Rumors have it that Laiki will be folded into one or two of the other major banks in the nation, even though reported by CNBC, those reports have not been verified by reliable sources. The situation remains fluid with European officials, Russia (whose residents are responsible for the bulk of deposits in Cyprus' banks) and the Cypriot parliament are busy concocting ideas to rescue the banking system and the government, though nothing seems to be working particularly well at the moment.

Possible outcomes for Cyprus are varied and somewhat indecipherable at present, but what is known is that depositors almost certainly will be forced to surrender some of their funds via a tax, or levy, because there aren't enough bondholders in the banks to make up for the shortfall. Normally, those holders of bank debt would be first on the hook, but this situation is different from what has already occurred in Ireland, Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy.

Nonetheless, whatever happens in Cyprus will have ramifications across Europe and the world. If the troika's plan to tax deposits becomes reality, it will almost certainly cause some degree of bank runs in the aforementioned countries that are already in trouble. The damage done to confidence in the system will be more severe. Banking and finance, largely based upon trust, cannot withstand wholesale looting of depositor accounts, no matter how small or seemingly trivial the amounts. The expectation is that banks are a safe place to park funds and the potential of either not having access to funds or having money appropriated (read: stolen) in order to bail out the bank itself or the government, is not part of the agreement.

Europeans are now looking at events in Cyprus through jaundiced eyes. The crisis is nigh upon four years old and the peripheral countries are still in recession, as is the whole of Europe. To date, all the plans of the EU, ECB and the IMF have amounted to only playing for time, and time is running short, both on the patience of the populaces and the viability of various governments.

The fear is that once the genie of appropriating depositor funds comes out of the bottle, it will be hard, if not impossible, to put back and will likely spread. No matter the eventual deal struck in Cyprus, capital flight is a certainty, the question being from where and to where the money will flow.

There's a certain unfairness about all of it, and a general sense of fear that hit markets this week with a thud. In the US, the damage has been downplayed thus far, but today's losses were the worst of the week and sent the major average to their lowest closes in nearly two weeks.

With the situation still unresolved, the anxiety on Wall Street and in other money centers around the globe is palpable. Unrestrained money printing, QE, low interest rates and other assorted "emergency" measures will not be able to trump a wholesale loss of confidence in the financial system itself, a condition which is likely long overdue.

Naturally, one cannot expect ordinary citizens and businesspeople around to world to immediately and simultaneously catch onto what's really occurring, but word is spreading, and quickly.

A piece of advice to everyone would be to watch one's finances carefully and keep a stash of cash outside the banking system, just in case. After all, it was one of our founding fathers - Benjamin Franklin - who opined, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." And the cure has yet to be found.

Also of note is that traditional "safe havens" - gold and silver - have been appreciating slightly, with today's moves the most significant.

Dow 14,421.49, -90.24 (0.62%)
NASDAQ 3,222.60, -31.59 (0.97%)
S&P 500 1,545.80, -12.91 (0.83%)
NYSE Composite 9,009.66, -71.43 (0.79%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,691,711,000
NYSE Volume 3,571,124,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2138-4254
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 303-28 (stretched)
WTI crude oil: 92.45, -1.05
Gold: 1,613.80, +6.30
Silver: 29.21, +0.395

Monday, January 7, 2013

Something is Broken

Ever get that nagging feeling that something isn't quite right, you don't know what it is, but you're sure something important is broken, and it's going to cause problems?

That seemed to be the sense of things today. This marking the first day of the first full week of trading, and, after that spectacular, fiscal-cliff-solution-induced-rally last Wednesday, stocks have been just spinning their wheels.

Maybe it's the end of the holidays and getting back to reality, or, for those of us up in the North country, the dreary, dank, dark and depressing days of winter (only 73 mare days until Spring!), but there's a problem out there lurking that's bigger than the upcoming debt ceiling fight, the next unemployment report or whether we dip back into a recession.

It's the kind of feeling that pervaded Germany during the rise of Naziism, in which people didn't trust each other any more, everybody was on guard against some unseen, invisible, but just under the surface threat.

To put one's finger on it exactly would be a stroke of luck - or genius - but let's take a stab at it.

The house of cards the US has built up after the fall of the TBTF banks back in 2008 seems to be crumbling, and, like a house of cards, it starts at the top, where those on the bottom or even in the middle, can't see the collapse coming.

After the nonsensical debate and drawn-out rhetoric over the so-called "fiscal cliff," congress delivered a solution that was only half a solution, that being the taxation part. The hard part, cutting spending, is still ahead, and anybody who knows anything about how Washington has worked for the past thirty years knows that the congress and the president aren't willing or able to cut programs in any meaningful way.

So, the political structure at the top of the pyramidical structure called our society isn't working, and that's going to cause problems down below. The bankers, politicians and corporations currently at the top of the food chain don't seem to have adequate answers, only mildly appeasing artical solutions and glad=handing all around while the suppress and repress the rest of society. Eventually, one little slip up, one mistake, one good blow of wind from out of the blue takes the top cards off the structure and down tumbles everything into a massive, wrecked heap.

How long can the nation survive with clowns twirling dishes on stoks and juggling balls in the air at the top of the structure? So far, about four years, but it hasn't been pretty. There's just this feeling that it's all going to get worse.

Maybe if we turned Dow theory on its head, and noticed that the transportation average had moved to a technical, secular bear market back in July and August of 2011, and hasn't recovered to exceed the previous highs, and the Industrials since then have made a concerted, upside move based on nothing but short-covering rallies, asset inflation thanks to continual pumping by the Federal Reserve, that would give us all a clue to where things are going.

Or, maybe the Federal Reserve, the OCC and Fannie Mae all settling up with the banks on the first Monday of the New Year is a what? Coincidence? And nobody is concerned?

Maybe it's the breakdown of the relationship between the A-D line and the new highs vs. new lows. Maybe it's the flu. Maybe it's gold being constantly hammered down, or silver stuck in perpetuity at $30/ounce. And, maybe those are just symptoms.

Something is broken, for sure. Nobody is sure exactly what it is, but it could be everything.

Dow 13,384.29, -50.92 (0.38%)
NASDAQ 3,098.81, -2.85 (0.09%)
S&P 500 1,461.89, -4.58 (0.31%)
NYSE Composite 8,636.91, -30.77 (0.35%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,702,506,875
NYSE Volume 3,513,878,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2852-3657
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 286-15
WTI crude oil: 93.19, +0.10
Gold: 1,646.30, -2.60
Silver: 30.08, +0.136

Monday, June 25, 2012

Europe's Pain Keeps World Markets in Red as Week Begins Badly

Back in the headlines again, Europe's continuing woes took front and center position in Monday's investment landscape.

Spain kicked off the festivities with a formal request for aid of up to 100 billion euros for their busted banking sector as they await a ratings cut from Moody's on all Spanish banks, expected to be delivered after the close of US equity markets.

The reality of another bank bailout by the EU and the rumors of the Moody's downgrade was enough to send all European indices lower, lead by the Athens Index Composite, which fell 6.84%. The Swiss Market was harmed the least, down on 0.75%, while the French and German bourses fell by more than two percent.

Greece added to the downside momentum as newly-appointed Finance Minister Vassilis Rapanos resigned his post due to ill health. The tiny island nation of Cyprus became the latest victim, telling the EU that it needs a bailout for its banks - heavily exposed to Greece - and its public sector economy. Estimates call for immediate funds of between 5-10 billion Euros to keep the nation banks and government operating.

US markets fell out of bed like a drunk with a bad hangover, down right from the opening bell through to the close, with the NASDAQ leading the way lower, followed closely by the S&P 500.

Stocks staged a small, uninspired rally near the end of the day, but there was little support to the buying. The evidence that the world is on the brink of a catastrophic global depression are simply too obvious to mask further. Investors are running scared money into the meat-grinder that is otherwise known as the capital markets in hopes that the European leaders will offer some kind of plan to end the crisis, one which has already spread across the nations on the southern periphery.

Internals suggested that today's moves could be a turing point for US markets as losers led gainers by a more than 3:1 margin and new lows outnumbered new highs by nearly 2:1.

The new highs to new lows reading, which has been consistent over the years as an early indicator of bullish and bearish trends has recently vacillated between positive and negative, so a sustained period in which new lows exceed new highs would point toward a more severe downturn and a return to bear market conditions.

As of today's close, the Dow is resting at 6% below the May 1 highs, so a move below 11,000 would have to be reached before true bear market conditions (-20%) would prevail. With the situation in Europe continuing to unravel and conditions in the US not gathering any momentum and actually, according to the latest data, already showing signs of stress and weakness, a downturn of that severity cannot be ruled out through the summer months, which are traditionally a slow period for stocks.

Whether the pain comes in the form of a sudden event or as a slow, painful, prolonged ordeal depends greatly upon how panicked investors become. With news and events so highly unpredictable, but bordering on crisis levels, a major happenstance could come from any quarter, be it Syria's upheavals, Germany contentious position or the collapse of Greece or Spain or even the unthinkable, Italy or France.

Once again, it cannot be stressed too much that events may be politically manipulated to coincide with the US presidential election in November, so great caution is urged, especially into the latter stages of the election cycle, late September into October.

Of course, media control being practically omnipresent, the outbreak of war or economic apocalypse could be spun into a positive, though that kind of propagandizing would only satisfy the controllers wishing to make a quick killing as it would likely be unsustainable in light of the true picture.

Following Friday's phony fermentation to the upside on global banks' repudiation of Moody's massive, across-the-board downgrades, it's a very good possibility that the manufactured rally was nothing more than another scam on the public to the profit of the banking cartel, who went long and then short, winning on both sides of the trade.

With that kind of perfidious behavior prevailing in nearly all capital markets, day-to-day movements should be greatly discounted and longer term trends the focus of greater scrutiny.

Dow 12,502.66, -138.12 (1.09%)
Nasdaq 2,836.16, -56.26 (1.95%)
S&P 500 1,313.72, -21.30 (1.60%)
NYSE Composite 7,491.90, -124.69 (1.64%)
NYSE Volume 3,433,923,250
Nasdaq Volume 1,432,183,125
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 1362-4261
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 87-163
WTI crude oil: 79.21, -0.55
Gold: 1,588.40, +21.50
Silver: 27.52, +0.86

Friday, June 22, 2012

15 Global Banks Downgraded by Moody's; Stocks Rally (Really!)

Wrapping up the week that was, it can truly be said that the level of fraud and deceit by the banks and brokerages is matched only by the complacency of the general public.

Fifteen major global banks were downgraded by Moody's late Thursday afternoon - after markets had closed, though news of the downgrades had been leaking out all say - setting up denial central, in which the very banks' downgraded criticized Moody's for being, among other things, "unwarranted," "arbitrary," and "backward-looking." Too bad these scammers can't take honest medicine, even from a firm that is purportedly "one of their own."

Readers should recall that during the sub-prime scams of 2005-09, Moody's was one of the select ratings firms that deemed the obtuse and overtly fraudulent residential MBS as AAA-rated.

In an outlandish market reaction, financials led Friday's early advance. So much for fundamental analysis. Ratings, upgrades and downgrades now count for about as much as Jamie Dimon's hat size, which we have heard is rather enormous.

The list of downgrades (which took more than a half hour's time to locate) includes Bank of America, Barclays, Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, Credit Suisse Group AG, HSBC Holdings, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, Royal Bank of Scotland Group, BNP Paribas, Credit Agricole, Royal Bank of Canada, Societe Generale and UBS AG. That's all 15, though Moody's website features a grand runaround to find the list including the actual levels of downgrades (we gave up because apparently, this information is not conducive to the free flow of information and markets).

In a fitting riposte, Max Keiser channels Friedrich Neitzsche in this interview, intoning, in the finest guttural indignation, "Banks are Dead!"

Stocks registered broad gains during the session, especially on the NASDAQ, which outpaced the other indices handily. Volume was heavy.

In closing, our steadfastness in calling banking and financial institutions criminal enterprises is often chided, but sometimes brought to light as truth. In a fascinating story by Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone, the details of how Wall Street gangsters (dressed like bankers) skimmed millions of dollars from states, cities, towns and villages all across America is revealed.

OK, just one more: Our friends at Zero Hedge report that the ECB Officially Announces Easing Of Collateral Rules, essentially confirming that Europe has run out of assets.

Go easy on the champagne, kids, and have a great weekend!

Dow 12,640.78, +67.21 (0.53%)
NASDAQ 2,892.42, +33.33 (1.17%)
S&P 500 1,335.02, +9.51 (0.72%)
NYSE Composite 7,616.59, +50.48 (0.67%)
NASDAQ Volume 2,801,777,000
NYSE Volume 4,210,423,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 3892-1703
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 117-81
WTI crude oil: 79.76, +1.56
Gold: 1,566.90, +1.40
Silver: 26.66, -0.18

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Positive Rumors Drive Speculative Bets Higher

While world leaders at the G20 conference in Los Cabos, Mexico, dithered over Syria and mostly glad-handed each other over a draft outline for a closer European Union (isn't it already a "union?" How much closer can these failing countries and their failing economies get?), both European and US stock markets looked to the rumor mills for reasons to buy more stocks.

They found them in the usual places: various reports suggesting that the Federal Reserve would commence another round of QE with their announcement of ZIRP - for the umpteenth time - Wednesday, just after noon; ideas being floated around that Greece is close to forming a government that would agree to austere terms dictated by Germany and stay in the Eurozone; and, more elitist propaganda that Spain's banks would somehow be saved, thus keeping the Spanish government in power and that Germany would find a way to soften its stance on that awful austerity in Greece.

Some of the nonsense being thrown around world financial news desks may actually come to fruition, most likely among them the Fed's unwillingness to stop printing worthless US dollars non-stop and the European impulse to keep Spain's insolvent banking system from imploding - at least for a few more weeks or months.

With rumors running rampant on a day that was largely devoid of real news, speculators took the signals (make that, "the HFT algos were tuned up to high volume risk on frequencies") and bid up stocks to a five-week high on the Dow, with the other major indices following along for the ride, before fading late in the session and into the close.

It appears that the markets and their insider specialists are trading on some faint hope that the global financial system will not be melting down over the long, hot summer, and the first signs should be available as early as non-ish on Wdnesday, when the Fed makes a policy statement.

We shall stay tuned.

Dow 12,837.33, +95.51 (0.75%)
NASDAQ 2,929.76, +34.43 (1.19%)
S&P 500 1,357.98, +13.20 (0.98%)
NYSE Composite 7,766.25, +103.97 (1.36%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,828,591,375
NYSE Volume 3,784,083,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 4529-1105
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 250-29
WTI crude oil: 84.03, +0.76
Gold: 1,623.20, -3.80
Silver: 28.37, -0.30

Monday, February 27, 2012

Dow 13,000. Fail. G20 Wants $2 Trillion Firewall; 1% Tip from a One-Percenter

Today was another in a seemingly-endless series of ridiculously small gains or losses for stocks, but, if one looked at the major indices early in the day, one would have thought any kind of gain or even getting close to unchanged was out of the question.

Stocks sold off right at the open, but suddenly, miraculously, once the Dow bottomed out with a 100-point loss, the entire market reversed and headed higher.

Some of the commentary surrounding the market reversal seem to suggest that it was due to the NAR's release at 10:00 am ET of pending home sales, which witnessed a 2% gain in January. Such commentary should be immediately dismissed as pure rubbish, for a number of reasons, the first being that real estate is such a small sliver of the US economy - and generally divorced from stocks - that the number doesn't move the Dow 120 points. Also, the January gain comes on the back of a 1.9% decline in December, and the warm weather this winter likely threw off all of the NAR's seasonable adjustments.

Probably the utmost reason that the theory concerning the move upward for the Dow being caused by pending home sales should be disregarded is that the bottom and subsequent move higher occurred 15 minutes before the NAR news. The Dow was already nearly 40 points off the bottom by 10:00 am.

No, the turnaround was more than likely the result of pump-priming by a gang of primary dealers, who, in a lightly-traded market, as this is, have more than enough firepower to move stocks in any direction they please, and the current pleasure is being positive, as it almost always is. The idea that the the major brokerages and big banks would like to engender more participation from individual investors, who have lost faith in Wall Street since the financial crash of '08 and haven't returned, is real, and the best way to get investors back in the mood - in the small minds of big bankers - is to manufacture rallies, such as the current one, which is about a 25% move since the start of October.

The trouble for the bankers is multitudinous. Nobody believes in their ways of doing business; there isn't enough disposable income in most households to really consider stocks as investments; there are too many headwinds, like Greece, the rest of Europe, Iran, high gas prices, lingering unemployment and more, and; the market sure looks toppy at this juncture.

Lastly, volumes for the better part of the last two months have been nothing but pathetic. Today was more of the same, so trying to entice individual investors back in is akin to finding volunteers for cliff diving. It looks dangerous, and nobody wants to go first.

To get an idea of how stalled out this market has become, consider that on Friday, February 17, the Dow closed at 12949.87 and today at 12,981.51. That's a move of less than 32 points in five days, and the repeating pattern of being down in the morning only to rally at some unknown time - though also in the A.M. - isn't exactly an inspiring feature.

So, after spending most of the day above the 13,000 mark on the Dow, the cheerleaders at CNBC will have to root again tomorrow, for the seventh day in a row.

Over the weekend, financial representatives of the G20 nations met in Mexico and came up with the notion that Europe needs to erect a $2 trillion financial "firewall" to keep its contagion from spreading. That's all they seem to know how to do, these top-level bureaucrats, spend money to keep Europe's debt conflagration from inflicting collateral damage. Next time you hear the word "firewall" your response should be "stupid," because a firewall, by definition, is purposely set up to keep everything enclosed. In other words, anything inside the firewall will burn to a crisp. The term, and the idea are almost as revolting and ignorant as the much-bantered-about term, "ring-fence."

Now that the globalist elitists have their global economy and things aren't going so well, they want to revert to feudalism. Well, at least, via their ancestry, it's something they actually understand.

And, finally here's a story about a one-percenter, a rich banker, leaving a waitress a - you guessed it - a one percent tip. Talk about callous.

Dow 12,981.51, -1.44 (0.01%)
NASDAQ 2,966.16, +2.41 (0.08%)
S&P 500 1,367.59, +1.85 (0.14%)
NYSE Composite 8,143.56, -8.41 (0.10%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,761,845,125
NYSE Volume 3,492,574,750
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2682-2894
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 230-25
WTI crude oil: 108.56, -1.21
Gold: 1,774.90, -1.50
Silver: 35.52, +0.19

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

European Banks Borrow $639 Billion From ECB; Oracle Tanks Techs

Santa Claus came and went. Apparently, his next stop was in Europe, where today, 523 struggling banks on the continent grabbed for $639 billion (489 billion euros) from the ECB's newest lending facility, which offered a sweetheart of a deal: 1% interest over three years. We should all be so lucky.

The huge amount of borrowing was frowned upon in the US. As the news hit America's shores, futures went into the tank on the perception that the amount borrowed was much higher than originally forecast and the sneaking suspicion that although the European banking system was obviously weak, it actually was in much worse shape than originally thought.

Stocks sent almost the entire day underwater, as poor results from Oracle last night after the close sent shock waves through the tech sector. Though the Dow, which was down as many as 104 points, and the S&P finished marginally positive, the NASDAQ ended the day with a serious loss, though it too cut its losses roughly in half by day's end.

In Washington, there was still no progress on the bill which would keep the current social security payroll deduction at current levels and also extend unemployment benefits to about two million people, as the House of Representatives announced their work for the week completed.

The bill was soundly passed in the Senate, and rejected by the House, mostly along party lines.

Also in Washington today, the Justice Department announced a $335 million settlement with Bank of America (BAC), stemming from a DofJ claim that Countrywide - since acquired by Bank of America - discriminated against over 200,000 black and Hispanic mortgage borrowers by charging them higher rates and fees than white homeowners.

While the settlement was the largest of its kind ever, the amount is a mere pittance in comparison to the economic damage wrought by Countrywide and other lenders during the mortgage and housing bust. BofA will pay the money directly to the government and the DofJ will supposedly dole out the proceeds to individuals and families affected by the discriminatory practices.

Attorney General Eric Holder, who seems to only show up after his department settles a case, said, "With today’s settlement, the federal government will ensure that the more than 200,000 African-American and Hispanic borrowers who were discriminated against by Countrywide will be entitled to compensation.”

It should be amusing to track exactly where that money goes.

There are just two more trading sessions before Christmas, three shopping days and a total of seven trading sessions remaining in 2011. Most investors can't wait for the year to end, as stocks have flat-lined for the most part and actually are well off the highs set in late April.

Dow 12,107.74, +4.16 (0.03%)
NASDAQ 2,577.97, -25.76 (0.99%)
S&P 500 1,243.72, +2.42 (0.19%)
NYSE Composite 7,388.52, +27.55 (0.37%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,866,553,125
NYSE Volume 3,574,281,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 3153-2488
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 194-95
WTI crude oil: 98.67, +1.43
Gold: 1,613.60, -4.00
Silver: 29.25, -0.29