Showing posts with label housing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label housing. Show all posts

Monday, December 30, 2019

WEEKEND WRAP HOLIDAY EDITION: Recapping: Stocks Up, Bonds Fluctuate; PMs Stable

Thank goodness, 2019 is nearly over and done. It's been a crazy 12 months, hasn't it?

With Washington in turmoil (think impeachment), Wall Street stepped up to the plate and hit stocks out of the park. It was a banner year for equity investors, one of the top three of the new century, and, with two trading days left, it has a chance to be the best year since 1997 on the S&P 500.

The NASDAQ has shown weekly gains in 11 of the last 13 weeks and the S&P has finished on the upside in 11 of the last 12 weeks.

Fresh all-time highs were attained by the major indices as early as April (NASDAQ), May (S&P), July (Dow), and as late as December for the NYSE Composite.

Bonds were up-and-down as the Fed began lowering the federal funds rate after raising it. Yield on the 10-year note was as high as 2.79% (January) and as low as 1.47 (August, September), but have steadied into a fairly tight range of 1.75% to 1.93%, the latter, higher figure reached just days ago.

Precious metals, have, for the ninth consecutive year, failed to break out of their doldrums. Holders of gold or silver have had a rough go of it this second decade of the 21st century. Silver continues to be stuck in a range between $17 and $18 per ounce, while gold presses up against resistance at $1500. Neither has been able to make any substantial progress other than sporadic, spasmodic moves in either direction.

Housing in the US continues to become more and more unaffordable for most people as wages can't keep pace with rising costs. Wealth inequality and the pauperization of the middle class is becoming a major issue that could balloon into campaign sloganism in 2020. Other than that, no predictions for next year, except to remark that the stock rally shows few signs of slowing any time soon.

If you're looking for predictions, go see a palm reader. What will happen in 2020 is fluctuation in all markets, some balkanization, especially in real estate and globally, in commodities.

Only two trading days remaining in 2019. Happy New Year!

At the close, Friday, December 27, 2019:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 28,645.26, +23.86 (+0.08%)
NASDAQ: 9,006.62, -15.77 (-0.17%)
S&P 500: 3,240.02, +0.11 (+0.00%)
NYSE Composite: 13,944.14, +3.74 (+0.03%)

For the Week:
Dow: +190.17 (+0.67%)
NASDAQ: +81.66 (+0.91%)
S&P 500: +18.80 (+0.58%)
NYSE Composite: +54.89 (+0.40%)

Sunday, December 2, 2018

WEEKEND WRAP: Powell Puts Positive Spin On Rates, Economy; Stocks Respond With Banner Gains

As much as stocks were flattened last week, they gained back this week, and then some, rebounding mainly off the lips of Fed Chairman Jerome Powell, who uttered two words which are sure to become ensconced within the annuls of great Fed Chairman one liners, such as Alan Greenspan's notorious "irrational exuberance."

Having a way with words, especially concise two-word constructs, Powell uttered, in a speech at the Economic Club of New York, that interest rates were "just below" neutral, sending stocks spiraling upwards on Wednesday.

Those gains followed two prior sessions with more pedestrian advances, the Wednesday push a 617-point blast on the Dow which sent the industrials into positive territory not only for the month, but for the year as well. The week's gains were capped off by a window-dressing close on Friday, with the Dow posting a nearly 200-point gain, all of which came after 1:30 pm ET.

Events of the week - from Powell's speech to Trump's dealings at the G20 in Buenos Aires - managed to put a positive spin on the outlook for stocks going into the final month of the year and the holiday shopping season.

Effectively, what Powell's statement on interest rates did was virtually assure a 25 basis point hike in the federal funds rate and then a pause at what would have been the next logical rate increase, at the March FOMC meeting, and beyond. Whether the Fed's members actually believes that an overnight rate of 2.25-2.50% neither hinders nor aids the US economy is a question open for debate, as most believed that more rate hikes were necessary per the minutes of the last FOMC meeting earlier in November.

That sentiment put a bit of a damper on the market when released on Thursday, but, as Wall Street memories seem exceedingly short these days, the flattish close didn't have any lasting effect.

Once into 2019, the Fed is likely to continue to spin positively, as Janet Yellen's honorable mention entry in the two-word scrabble that is Fedspeak, "data dependent" should be rolling off the lips of more than a few Fed officials in the cold months of winter.

Undeniably, a dovish Federal Reserve can be nothing but good for stocks, which are the de facto underpinning of the US economy. The Fed - and Powell in particular - may have been taking a sideways glance at the housing market as well, another pillar in the economic construct. Rising mortgage rates have shut down advances in new and existing home sales, punishing home builder stocks like Lennar (LEN), D.R. Horton (DHI), and KB Home (KBH). A stagnant housing market may have been instrumental in the formation of Powell's suddenly-accomodative stance.

Even with the rebound this week, stocks still have a pretty large slope to scale to get back to September or October's all-time highs. The NASDAQ still has issues with falling tech stocks and GM's announcement that it was shuttering five factories and laying off 14,000 workers had a chilling effect on what was an overwhelmingly positive week.

Elsewhere, oil continued to hover at the $50 level for WTI crude, precious metals remained flat to negative, but other global markets perked up a bit.

When the FOMC meets on December 18-19, there will be little doubt about their direction. A rate hike of 0.25% is practically baked into the cake. After that, however, it certainly appears the Fed will consider its work done, for now, at least. The next rate hike - and there is almost certainly to be one or two in the next 12-18 months - will probably come after some gaudy economic data or fresh highs in the stock market.

Until then, the skies are blue and smooth sailing is ahead.

Dow Jones Industrial Average November Scorecard:

Date Close Gain/Loss Cum. G/L
11/1/18 25,380.74 +264.98 +264.98
11/2/18 25,270.83 -109.91 +155.07
11/5/18 25,461.70 +190.87 +345.94
11/6/18 25,635.01 +173.31 +519.25
11/7/18 26,180.30 +545.29 +1064.54
11/8/18 26,191.22 +10.92 +1075.46
11/9/18 25,989.30 -201.92 +873.54
11/12/18 25,387.18 -602.12 +271.42
11/13/18 25,286.49 -100.69 +170.27
11/14/18 25,080.50 -205.99 -35.72
11/15/18 25,289.27 +208.77 +173.05
11/16/18 25,413.22 +123.95 +297.00
11/19/18 25,017.44 -395.78 -98.78
11/20/18 24,465.64 -551.80 -650.58
11/21/18 24,464.69 -0.95 -651.53
11/23/18 24,285.95 -178.74 -830.27
11/26/18 24,640.24 +354.29 -475.98
11/27/18 24,748.73 +108.49 -367.49
11/28/18 25,366.43 +617.70 +250.21
11/29/18 25,342.72 -23.71 +226.50
11/30/18 25,538.46, +199.62 -23.71 +426.12

At the Close, Friday, November 30, 2018:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 25,538.46, +199.62 (+0.79%)
NASDAQ: 7,330.54, +57.45 (+0.79%)
S&P 500: 2,760.17, +22.41 (+0.82%)
NYSE Composite: 12,457.55, +68.18 (+0.55%)

Dow: +1,252.51 (+5.16%)
NASDAQ: +391.55 (+5.64%)
S&P 500: +127.61 (+4.85%)
NYSE Composite: +421.31 (+3.%0%)

Friday, November 24, 2017

Stupid Money for a Stupid Country

It's Black Friday, the day known in America as the day to get the best deals on just about anything, from computers, to wide-screen TVs, to clothes, to toys, to, well, you get the picture.

Big TVs are all the rage in fat-a$$ America, as usual. People just can't seem to stop plopping down on the couch or easy chair to gaze at oversized images of overpaid actors or athletes doing things the average Jane or Joe calls "entertainment."

As far as network shows are concerned, they're the epitome of immorality and trashiness these days, as multi-cultural stupidity has overtaken the airwaves. Homosexuals, deviants, people of diverse backgrounds overpopulate network fare. In the sports arena, it's mostly minorities doing the running, throwing, diving, catching, and, especially in the NFL, kneeling during the national anthem.

Ordinary people watching the millionaire thugs, bullies, wife-beaters, and serial abusers of self and others has taken a bit of a hit this season, with both attendance and TV viewership lower, but there are still millions of people who - for whatever reason - cannot separate themselves from the stadia or the television, despite the paucity of good play, the obligatory self-congratulatory on-field celebrations, and the obscene amounts of money that help pay these goons, sell their merchandise, and fill the stands.

Thankfully (yes, let's not forget that yesterday was Thanksgiving), perhaps, people are paying for their entertainment, trinkets, TVs, and trash with equally worthless money. Federal Reserve notes (debt instruments) are the medium of choice (make that demand, by force, by the federal government) for payment in the former land of the free. The value of the almighty dollar has fallen precipitously since its inception in 1913, when the Federal Reserve System took control of the monetary affairs of the country.

In 1913, a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk would cost somebody about 38 cents. Today - or rather, in 2008, according to this handy chart - those items would cost roughly $5.37, an increase of over 1400%.

A new car, in 1913, could be had for about $500. In 2008, new cars averaged over $27,000. An average house cost $3,400 in 1913. Today, one can have multiple walls and a roof over one's head for a mere $206,000.

People will protest that these numbers are hogwash or some other kind of whitewash, eyewash, or mouthwash, because wages were lower back in 1913 and cars and houses are better today than back then. Such an argument would be hard to maintain when one considers the materials going into new homes and the massive amounts of plastic needed to build a new car. Back in the day, houses were mortar, plaster, wood, brick, pipe and other durable building materials. Today's homes are pressed wood, plastic, sheetrock and other flimsy stuff that probably will be mostly done with after fifty years.

Further, milk and eggs are pretty much the same (actually they were better, more nutritious, and more wholesome back in 1913) then as now, but we pay much more for them.

Another argument can be made that Disposable Income in 1913 was $1,283.04; $30,465.50 in 2008, an improvement of 2,374%. OK, but, how about the federal income tax? In 1913, it was 1%. In 2008, it was roughly 18.5%, an increase of 53,414%, but, who's counting? Good thing the government accepts only fiat Federal Reserve Notes for payment of taxes, and it's no wonder that they try to collect more and more of them every year because, well, they're not holding their value very well.

So, go shopping. Buy junk you'll throw away in a few years. Pay for it with dollars that aren't worth much. You'll be rewarded for such foolish behavior by having to pay more and more every year, especially in taxes, because the government - yes the government of which halls of congress are populated by molesters, liars, crooks, bribe-takers, and miscreants of all stripes - just can't get enough.

And you keep paying them, and paying them, and paying them.

Go ahead. Spend those nearly-worthless Federal Reserve Notes.

It's Black Friday.

At the Close, Wednesday, December 22, 2017:
Dow: 23,526.18, -64.65 (-0.27%)
NASDAQ: 6,867.36, +4.88 (+0.07%)
S&P 500: 2,597.08, -1.95 (-0.08%)
NYSE Composite: 12,390.83, +4.95 (+0.04%)

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Everybody, Limbo!

Stocks and oil slumped, while gold and silver held their own as the market took another pause to reflect on the possibility of a Trump presidency, housing prices which seem to be reaching an affordability limit and a two-week wait until the next FOMC meeting.

For the Trmpster, Las Vegas is a second home to him, so it's only fitting that he's expected to win Tuesday's caucuses in Nevada handily.

The S&P/Case-Shiller index for December, 2015, showed gains in prices for median homes increasing month-over-month and year-over-year.

Stocks appeared to be charting their own course, with stocks falling into the red early and staying near the lows of the day for much of the session. After ramping from losses two weeks ago, the current mini-rally has run out of steam, and there doesn't seem to be much on the bid to push prices higher in the near term.

The price of crude fell by more than 4 1/2% as recent talks of a production freeze by Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran (depending upon which source you wish to believe) turned out to be - like the cease-fire in Syria - all bluster and no bite.

Midweek, stocks are looking at a slight bias to the positive, as Tuesday's losses failed to overcome Monday's winners. Markets are ostensibly entering a late-winter limbo phase, as volatility and geopolitical tensions have leveled off.

S&P 500: 1,921.27, -24.23 (1.25%)
Dow: 16,431.78, -188.88 (1.14%)
NASDAQ: 4,503.58, -67.02 (1.47%)

Crude Oil 31.85 -4.61% Gold 1,227.50 +1.44% EUR/USD 1.1018 -0.07% 10-Yr Bond 1.7450 -1.19% Corn 362.25 -1.43% Copper 2.10 -0.76% Silver 15.31 +0.80% Natural Gas 1.83 -1.61% Russell 2000 1,012.15 -0.94% VIX 20.98 +8.26% BATS 1000 20,682.61 0.00% GBP/USD 1.4021 -0.92% USD/JPY 112.0950 -0.76%

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Deflation, Followed by More Deflation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who knew?

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

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

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Biggest Bubble of All Time is About to Be Popped

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

The handwriting, so to speak, is all over Wall Street. What has been the biggest financial bubble in the history of the world is on the verge of busting, or, what could be better still, slowly deflating.

After the crash of 2008-09, the Federal Reserve, in conjunction with central banks around the globe, injected massive amounts of liquidity into the fiat world currency markets, bolstering everything from junk bonds to consumer credit, but especially equities, otherwise known as stocks.

Since March 9, 2009, the major equity indices in the US - and, to a large degree, around the world - have rebounded on the strength of the Fed's largesse, nothing else. Now that the Fed has begun unwinding QE, the "juice" is being withdrawn. There will be no backstop for equities in the guise of unlimited liquidity from the Fed. The plan - already underway - is to reduce the amount of asset (bond) purchases by the Fed from their high of $85 billion per month, to zero. While it is unlikely the Fed will ever get to zero without reversing course or, at least, slowing the pace of their withdrawal, the March FOMC meeting will mark the third consecutive lowering of the monthly purchase level, timed in accordance with the 10-per-year FOMC schedule.

The Fed first announced in December, 2013 that it would be reducing purchases in January, 2014, and did the same in their first meeting of 2014, in January, lowering their purchase level to $65 billion in February. Since there was no meeting in February, they are expected to announce another $10 billion reduction at the March meeting next week (March 18-19). If they carry through with this expected drop to $55 billion, the market cracks which first occurred in January of this year, may turn into wholesale breaks, sending index levels below their recent lows, highlighted by the January 31 selloff.

With the S&P recovering all of its January and February losses and making new all-time highs earlier this month (the NASDAQ also made new 14-year highs), the Dow Jones Industrials did not, setting up the scenario for a bear market, according to strict Dow Theory.

If the Dow, having fallen short of its most recent high (16,588.25), continues on its path lower, exceeding the interim low of 15,340.69 (Feb. 4), this will confirm that a change in the primary tend has occurred, and a secular bear market is underway. This bear market could last anywhere from five to 20 years, possibly longer, because the recent, primary bull market - the second longest in market history - was built upon a foundation of incredibly easy money, low interest rates and global fiat currencies, unprecedented in financial history.

The fallout could be severe, popping the biggest financial asset bubble of all time, in stocks, affecting everything from individual stocks to your pension, IRA or 401k to muni bonds. In other words, be prepared for the biggest financial collapse of all time, because the last five years have been nothing but pure financial fantasy, and it's all about to come crashing to an end.

There are sure signs that the global economy is shrieking and straining to remain relevant and above water, but after blowing bubbles recently in dotcom stocks (1997-2001) and real estate (2003-2007), the Fed has reflated the economy with trillions of paper dollars, augmented by similarly spurious activities in Europe, China and Japan. The financial bubble created by central banks is of a magnitude much larger - possibly four to six times larger - than the sub-prime-induced housing meltdown, putting the figure of financial assets seriously at risk somewhere between $20 and $40 trillion dollars, an amount so unfathomable that nothing short of pure currency collapses can sufficiently make account.

(As this post is being composed (March 13, 2014, 1:10 pm EDT), the Dow Jones Industrial average has broken through its 50-day-moving average, down 194 points on the day.)

Beyond just charts and the scary finances of the central banks, China is the linchpin by which the financial dam may be breached. For the past two to three months, data out of the world's second-largest economy has been trending lower, especially in the areas of industrial production and exporting. In fact, China actually released data that showed it suffered a current account deficit, with imports exceeding exports, a very frightening development for one of the world's few export economies and a major trading partner with the US and Europe.

What the China data underscores is the overall weakness in US and European (developed) markets. The fraud of financialization has finally produced a result incompatible with the ponzi-scheme-like mantra of the central bankers. Consumers have been and are strapped for cash, a result of over-exuberant government spending, massive income disparity between the rich and poor and stagnant or declining wages in the middle of a labor shortfall crisis.

There are signs everywhere that the global economy is about to be brought back to reality, including, but by no means limited to, recent poor US unemployment data, a false housing recovery (inundated with cash buyers, flippers and speculation), inability of the government to prosecute bankers and financial operatives for mortgage and other frauds, declining adherence to the constitution and the trampling of civil rights, bogus car sales data with channel stuffing rampant, blaming the weather for poor economic results (seriously, the holiday shopping season was a complete bust), and overvaluation of speculative IPOs, tech stocks and other momentum stocks, enterprise valuations of stocks in the billions of dollars, based on nothing but pure speculation.

Nothing will stop the wreckage that the Fed and global central banks working in collusion have set in motion. The numbers are ghastly and overwhelming and the warnings have been written about for years. The time to prepare was yesterday, though there is still time, but thought processes must change. Status and wealth should not be measured by the size of one's McMansion, the price of one's car or the depth of one's stock portfolio. True wealth consists of something along these lines: a fully-paid-for home on five or more acres of land, two-thirds of it arable, food and water storage to last at least a year, a horde of cash, gold and/or silver, absolutely ZERO DEBT, and the ability and weaponry to defend it all.

Ask yourself, who among you can make claim to that, because that is real wealth, not the paper promises from Wall Street or Washington.

It's coming. And it may be approaching even faster than anyone wants to consider (think Ukraine).

Good luck.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Stocks Higher on Assumption That Fed Will NOT Immediately Taper Further

On the eve of Ben Bernanke's final FOMC meeting as Chairman of the Fed, stocks perked up in anticipation that the Fed will NOT decrease their monthly bond buying by another $10 billion.

The reasonings behind this are numerous, but mostly rely upon some poor economic data, dating back to early January's release of December non-farm payrolls, which were an admitted disaster.

Piling upon the low job creation and further decline in the workforce participation rate were Monday's new home sales for December, which fell by seven percent in the month, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 414,000, as reported by the Commerce Department. In November, sales fell 3.9 percent, making December the second consecutive monthly decline.

Hopping on the decline bandwagon Tuesday morning, the Case-Shiller housing index showed a month-over-month decline in November, something professor Shiller had been warning about since last May. The Standard & Poor's Case-Shiller index of home prices in 20 top cities fell 0.1% in November. A separate 10-city index also fell by 0.1%, though prices were higher by more than 13% on year-over-year data.

Perhaps the most overlooked piece of data also came forward prior to the opening bell, in the form of a massive miss on Durable Goods for December, down 4.3%. The decline was the largest since July. November was also revised lower, from 3.5% to 2.6%.

What that did for stocks was give investors further confidence that the Fed would not decrease their monthly allotment of bond purchases past the $75 billion mark come tomorrow afternoon, when the rate policy announcement is offered at 2:00 pm ET. The currency splashdown in various emerging economies - Venezuela, Argentina and Turkey, in particular - has been, in part, caused by the Fed's "tapering", withdrawing liquidity at a time when most sovereign economies are weak, at best.

A further tapering come tomorrow seems to be out of the question, according to the stock market's "bad news is good news" reaction on Tuesday. The rally could prove to be quite ephemeral, however, as stocks may very well add on more gains Wednesday after the Fed's announcement, but the condition persists. The Fed and most of their central banker brethren have been backed into a corner, wherein they cannot exit their market-propping QE policy, lest markets collapse.

With Bernanke handing over the chairmanship to Janet Yellen, there's at least some good odds that the new Fed chairwoman might even reverse course and begin adding even more QE to the mix, which would, naturally, lead to even more speculation in equities, commodities and rare works of art and real estate, sending the global economy further into the debt spiral from which it seems escape is impossible.

After the bell, AT&T modestly beat earnings expectations, and Yahoo beat on the bottom line, showing fourth quarter earnings of 46 cents on expectations of 39 cents. Revenues were in line, though shares of the oldest search portal were seen down more than five percent in after hours trading. Rumors that profit expectations fell short were being discussed as a primary cause for the selloff.

Additionally, the central bank of Turkey was expected to raise interest rates by as much as two to three percent in order to stave off further decline in the value of the Turkish Lira. The midnight meeting was taking place as of this writing though no news reports were available at the time of this posting.

DOW 15,928.56, +90.68 (+0.57%)
NASDAQ 4,097.96, +14.35 (+0.35%)
S&P 1,792.50, +10.94 (+0.61%)
10-Yr Note 99.93, +0.62 (+0.63%) Yield: 2.76%
NASDAQ Volume 1.85 Bil
NYSE Volume 3.35 Bil
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 4069-1635
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 68-64
WTI crude oil: 97.41, +1.69
Gold: 1,250.80, -12.60
Silver: 19.50, -0.29
Corn: 432.00, +0.25

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Dow Fades Into Close for 5th Straight Losing Session

Issues persist in global financial markets and investors are beginning to shift assets back into fixed income, since yields are rising and should continue to do so, though chances that the Fed will begin tapering in September appear to be diminishing as economic data and corporate reports are not suggestive of a strengthening economy.

The Dow, which, along with the other major indices, was positive all session long, finally succumbed to selling pressure in the final minutes of trading, ending the day with a minor loss, though still the fifth straight session in the red.

What's not being talked about much is where the Dow Industrials currently are settled, well below the 50-day moving average (roughly 15,275) and in danger of sparking another rout in stocks. Additionally, Dow stocks are largely among the best dividend-payers, just the kind of risk asset that investors are shunning, with interest rates on the rise and fixed income carrying much less perceived risk than even blue chip stocks.

The Dow components aren't exactly going to be sold off in wholesale fashion - there's too many diversified investors in them - but they have obviously been under pressure since the start of August, despite Fed incantations and deliberations over QE tapering beginning sometime in the near future.

For gambling types, the biggest question is whether the Fed will actually begin tapering its bond-buying in September, or, at some later date. Some suggest that the economy is so weak, and the Fed terrified of causing a market panic, that tapering will not and cannot occur in the current environment. The secondary issue of by how much the Fed will taper is also in play. Being that the Fed is now so trapped and dovish, the tapering might be an inconsequential number, like $10 billion, reducing their total bond purchases to $75 billion a month, still an enormous liquidity lift.

In such a case, wherein the Fed reduces QE by a mere $10 billion a month, in either September or October, and then continues to cut down on bond purchases at a rate of around $10 billion a month every two to three months, would probably be enough to rattle markets a bit without causing a correction or crash. Of course, the US and global economies are currently in such a weakened state that markets may crash and burn on their own, despite what the Fed and other central banks conspire in their rigging.

The outlook remains the same, with the bias toward the downside. September, with the Federal government politicians back from their extended, annual August recess, is shaping up to be momentous, what with budget negotiations and an expected fight over raising the debt ceiling again, with the outlier that the Republican Tea Partiers may be so inclined as to stall negotiations on both issues to a point at which the government is shut down. On top of the already-expanding sequester, these kind of childish hissy fits from our political elite might be enough to topple the markets into bear territory.

It's an eventuality, as the bull market is approaching the 54-month mark, which it will reach on September 9. The week of September 8-15 figures to be dramatic, with the anniversary of 9/11 and expected hijinks in the corridors of power.

One thing is for sure: the housing market is already under stress and, unless interest rates suddenly reverse course (unlikely), the so-called recovery in housing is over, dead and done. Real estate prices nationwide should experience a fairly sharp pullback over the next three to 12 months, because there are not enough qualified purchasers out there, interest rates are driving up the cost of buying and carrying a mortgage, and, the number of homes still held off the market by the banks continues to be an enormous, unseen force driving down real estate. Bargains are out there, but one has to look hard and long for the right ones at the right entry price. This is not a market for bold speculation, but rather for considered, strategic purchasing of the right property, be it for housing, farming or simply to escape the madness which is headed toward everyone within 10 miles of a major population center.

Major shifts in the economies of billions of people are underway and will play out over the next five to seven years, transforming the economic landscape beyond what most people can imagine.

Dow 15,002.99, -7.75 (0.05%)
NASDAQ 3,613.59, +24.50 (0.68%)
S&P 500 1,652.35, +6.29 (0.38%)
NYSE Composite 9,421.56, +35.67 (0.38%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,285,024,000
NYSE Volume 3,266,316,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 4827-1777
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 75-316
WTI crude oil: 104.96, -2.14
Gold: 1,372.60, +6.90
Silver: 23.07, -0.095

Monday, March 4, 2013

Central Bank Bubbles Cause Dow to Hit 2nd-Best All-Time Closing High

There's been an ongoing debate over whether there is a bond bubble and whether - and when - it will finally burst.

With the Fed carrying the water for the US Treasury to the tune of 40-45% of all new debt issuance there's abmple evidence that Chairman Bernanke and his henchmen and women have had the bubble-blowing pipes surgically implanted into their collective mouths. They've managed to keep all interest rates at historically-low, bargain basement prices for the past four years, though the net results of their efforts have been widely different depending upon one's perspective.

For the nation's largest banks, Fed largesse has meant easy money with which to rebuild their badly-damaged balance sheets after the real estate debacle which ended in the 2008 crash. This easy money has also inspired rampant speculation by those very same banks and has trickled down to hedge funds, the marginal buyer in this runaway stock market.

Whether the bond bubble will eventually burst is a matter of conjecture and even more speculation, though one can be relatively assured that if such a bubble exists and does burst, rates will escalate higher in a disorderly fashion which will make any previous stock market crash look like a summer picnic. In sum, higher interest rates would wreck the global economy. Everyone from the marginal student lender to the great sovereign nations of the world would be unable to service debt at higher - and rising - interest rates. Cue the oompah band from the days of the Weimar Republic.

Where there exists a bona fide, can't miss, no-doubt-about-it bubble is in stocks. Friday will mark the four-year anniversary of the bottom of the 2008-09 slide into the abyss. In those four short years, the major indices have embarked upon one of the longest uninterrupted stock rallies in global history. The Fed's insistence to throw $85 billion per month at the market through the purchase of Treasury and mortgage-backed securities is like traders drinking from an endless champagne fountain, drunk in the knowledge that any slight pullback will be shortly erased by the ungodly amounts of capital flowing into the markets.

Because the Fed has crushed interest rates (and with them, savers), stocks are the only financial instruments by which one can expect a return in excess of inflation, which is, after all, the key to maintaining and developing a wealth portfolio.

One method by which one can identify a bubble is by watching the dips and subsequent rebounds. In the stock market, this phenomenon is readily apparent. Just looking at today's intraday loss of 61 points and the middday reversal and eventual positive close is evidence enough that - turning an old adage on its side - what goes down will go up.

Last week's 200-plus-point drop on Monday was snuffed out and overwhelmed in the next two days of trading. The pattern is unmistakable and repeatable throughout the four years of excessive Federal Reserve easing and zero interest rate policy. To say that such extraordinary measures are unsustainable would be the understatement of the millennium. Never before in recorded history have interest rates been held so artificially low for such an extended period of time.

The problem with the Fed's policies are that they are reckless and untried in practice. Based entirely upon a groupthink methodology of Keynsian economic theory, the Fed has taken a free-market demand economy and turned it into a manipulated, command-driven socialism experiment, and the results are not and will not be understood until there is an attempt to undo whatever good or damage has been done and return to a semblance of "normalcy," a term becoming more quaint and misunderstood each passing day.

Other than stocks and bonds, the Fed has created - with ample assistance from the inept federal government apparatus - a bubble in student loans, which last year exceeded the total amount of credit crad debt outstanding, approaching a trillion dollars.

One can argue that an education is a worthwhile investment, though, comparing to credit cards, at least most people would have something tangible to show for their monthly statement of debt-slavery. For the graduates and soon-to-be grads, they have a peice of paper attesting they have some rudimentary knowledge in some broad field of endeavor. In an economy long on promise and short on actual paying jobs, those sheepskins are, and maybe become even more, worthless.

The US Federal Reserve is not alone in blowing bubbles, though one can rest assured they were cheering the Chinese all the way toward creating what now must be considered the most massive real estate bubble in the history of the world, dwarfing the sub-prime fiasco by a matter of degrees.

As mentioned by many over the year and documented by CBS' 60 Minutes on the Sunday, March 3rd broadcast, the Chinese have created at least a dozen "ghost cities" complete with high-rises, shopping malls, streets and thoroughfares, infrastructure and amenities, just no people. The simple fact is that the Chinese people were sold a bill of goods by their own versions of snake oil salesmen, buying up properties in developments on the outskirts of most major cities, even though the apartments, housing and commercial rental units are far beyond the reach of the average Chinese working-class individual or family. The 12-minute clip is embedded below.

Whether the timing of the 60 Minutes report was coincidental or just dumb luck (being of the conspiracy mind, we think it's the former), the Chinese central government has imposed new rules designed to slow down the real estate frenzy or the piercing of the bubble, which will, without a doubt, eventually burst. The question is simply a matter of how long and how well Chinese officials can lie and obfuscate the reality that they have created a bubble that has - during the buildup - resonated worldwide, and will do the same as it deflates.

The new measures, which involve higher down payments and higher interest rates on second home buyers and a 20% capital gains tax on the sale of any housing unit that is not a primary dwelling. The Shanghai Composite lost 3.7% on the day, with a number of property development firms down the maximum allowable one-day drop of 10%.

With those results in tow, US stocks began the day lower, but, thanks to our own financial fantasy-land bubble machine, ended higher.

Once again, it seems the three most basic tenets of investment practice have been ignored: buy low, sell high, and do your own due diligence. People never seem to learn.

Oh, well. It's only money.

Dow 14,127.82, +38.16 (0.27%)
NASDAQ 3,182.03, +12.29 (0.39%)
S&P 500 1,525.20, +7.00 (0.46%)
NYSE Composite 8,901.07, +26.88 (0.30%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,716,599,625
NYSE Volume 3,701,113,250
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 3483-2956
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 411-81
WTI crude oil: 90.12, -0.56
Gold: 1,572.40, +0.10
Silver: 28.50, +0.006

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Forget the Sequester; Bernanke Has All the Cards (and all the money)

Nothing like a couple of days in the woods - away from the Sturm und Drang of the neo-rational markets and shrieking media pundits - to offer a bit of perspective on not only the economic realities of the day, but the human condition in general.

What appeared to be the inevitable swoon the naysayers have been long-hoping-for on Monday, with markets taking their most violent downturn of the year, was quickly overruled on Tuesday and absolutely trumped and superseded with the third-best gain (on the Dow, at least) of the year on Wednesday.

Not that there wasn't a good share of associated nonsense and rationale for each of the directional market moves, but, in the end, it was a wash and a win for the erudite chairman of the Federal Reserve, Mr. Ben Bernanke, who availed himself of the opportunity to alternately receive and give both praise and chiseled criticism to both chambers of Congress in his annual Henry Hawkins testimony and the adjoining question and answer periods. We rest assured that the Chairman is content that not only are his policies of ZIRP and QEternity the correct ones for the US and global economies (because as goes the US, so goes the world at this juncture), but also that he has convinced most members of congress that they are working. Besides, there's nothing the congress nor the president nor any other person or assemblages can do about said policies, right, wrong or otherwise.

He is, for all intents and purposes, master of the financial universe. So be it.

Noting the chairman's unadulterated power to influence and control the economics of the world, skeptics still advertise their discontent, brining up the untidy details of the unwinding of his easy money regime, but this argument is a chimera, a cloak for ineptitude, a misunderstanding, a falsity, an impotent attempt to fleece power from the unbridled king of money, because the chairman and his cronies at the Fed are not at all concerned with unwinding anything. Their policies will remain in effect until the next chairman and governors are appointed/elected, and then such unwinding - if there ever is one at all - will be their problem.

For the rest of us, who do not enjoy the luxuries of appointments or elections, but rather suffer the daily slings, swings and arrows of outrageous fortune (or misfortune), a plan is a necessity, though those offered by the shysters and criminals populating the financial services industry might not always be in our own self-interest, if only because they contain the notion of conceit that markets are always optimized and correct, risk is always contained and humans always make rational decisions.

History will prove all three of those basic financial tenets absolute falsehoods. That is why we have booms and busts, successes and failures, joy and tears. Existence is not guaranteed and a fruitful existence is only attainable at some others' expense, such is the basis of capitalism.

So, a note, as the congress and the president sit upon their fattened hands awaiting the monster of their own creation - sequestration - which commences on March 1st, but in reality is more a boogie-man-in-the-closet apparition than an actual threat to the economy, especially on a local, individual, human level. It's something on the order of a two percent cut in the discretionary budget - domestic programs (not welfare, Social Security Medicare or Medicaid) and defense spending - thrown against the background of a baseline budgeting process which automatically increases the spending on these programs by three to ten percent in the upcoming continuing resolution process (which has displaced the budget process for five years now) due to commence by mid-March. In effect, the sequester is a non-sequitur - it is utterly meaningless.

Still, a plan one must have for the Ben Bernanke era, so make one, and make sure it includes not buying a new car unless you are willing and able to pay for it in cash or can get 0% interest for the life of the loan (hey, the banks get that rate, why not you?) which should be no longer than five years. Your plan should also include the paying down or clipping up (or maybe both) of all your credit cards except one for dire emergencies, unless you have $10,000 or more in cash safely hidden away in your back yard or sock drawer (though a safe would seem a more prudent place).

Those are the starting points, but check to see if you are playing more than 1/3 of your net income (after taxes) on housing. If you are, move. Downsize. There are plenty of deals available at excellent prices, even though the housing market in many places has yet to bottom.

And here's something that bugs the heck out of some people: It doesn't matter if you make $20,000, $200,000 or $2,000,000 a year. Spending four to five dollars on a cup of coffee is stupid. Stop it. Put Starbucks out of business. And stop all the other dumb, extravagant, ludicrous things like lottery tickets, day spas, dining out and "entertainment." Well, you don't have to stop them altogether, just be sensible about your spending. A very wise man (my father, RIP) once said, "it's not how much you make, but how much you spend." That kind of depression-era advice can go a long way these days (since we're in another depression but don't really know it. Shhh... the banks are faking it).

Remember at all times that financial news - even news on specific stocks - is marco-news, and, thus, will have little effect on your own personal condition.

Save. Don't invest. Save 5-10% of your gross income and put it into cash or physical gold or silver or tangible assets which will hold their value no matter what (a tough find).

Grow yourself some herbs, fruits or vegetables. Seriously. There's nothing like the taste of something you've nurtured from seed or seedling or sapling to a ripened delicacy. And, it's relatively easy. Nature does most of the work. Wall Street has nothing that compares to the return you get from a handful of seeds, sunshine and rain. Beyond that, you will be the envy of your neighbors, who aren't nearly as smart or thrifty or nature-loving as you. There's something to be said for that.

All hail the great Bernanke! Amen.

Dow 14,075.37, +175.24 (1.26%)
NASDAQ 3,162.26, +32.61 (1.04%)
S&P 500 1,515.99, +19.05 (1.27%)
NYSE Composite 8,875.33, +109.15 (1.25%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,726,024,500
NYSE Volume 3,911,747,250
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 4528-1799
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 252-38
WTI crude oil: 92.76, +0.13
Gold: 1,595.70, -19.80
Silver: 28.94, -0.317

Friday, August 10, 2012

Our Dysfunctional Economy Won't Be Repaired Until Bankers Go to Jail

The popular phrase, "it's better to light a candle than curse the darkness," was once spoken in public by Peter Benenson, the English lawyer and founder of Amnesty International, at a Human Rights Day ceremony on 10th December 1961. There are disputes over the origin of this nugget of wisdom, some attributing it as an "ancient Chinese proverb."

Whatever the case, Mr. Benenson, and the American Christopher Society, which adopted the phrase as its motto, certainly had meritorious intentions in keeping to the spirit of the words.

When it comes to our current economic climate and the out-of-control, corrupt worldwide banking and political liaison, the cabal of bankers and politicians are the darkness, and, as much as one tries to be at all times civil, they need to be cursed.

Market manipulations aside, this week could well have been the utter, disgusting end of years of rigging, price, fixing, fraud and associated crimes, none of which having been prosecuted.

It's been mentioned in this space before that the end of manipulation is eventual failure or stagnation and this week was a prime example. Sure, it's summer and the height of vacation season, but the entire range of trade over the past five days on the Dow Jones Industrials was 115 points. On the NASDAQ, 45 points, while the S&P 500 vacillated between a low of 1391 and a high of 1406, which, incidentally, was close to where it closed on Friday. The S&P finished higher every day this week, though the biggest gain was a whopping seven points.

By the way, all of todays gains were made in the final 40 minutes of trading and the day's volume was embarrassing. Free and fair markets - that's what we used to have in the United States. What we have now is a dangerous, insider-controlled contrivance.

Were there a way to "light a candle" amidst the fraud that has enveloped our financial, political and media systems, it would probably be blown out in an instant. We the people are seemingly bred to watch, listen, obey and not ask questions. The banking elite, however, can do no wrong, as evidenced by a number of stories which emerged from the flotsam of the week that wasn't.

On Tuesday, the CFTC shut down a four-year-long investigation into silver market manipulation, focusing on JP Morgan and HSBC, saying there was insufficient evidence to bring any charges.

Thursday, the US Department of Justice decided not to pursue criminal charges against Goldman Sachs or any of its employees on mortgage securities fraud, concluding "that the burden of proof to bring a criminal case could not be met based on the law and facts as they exist at this time.” The investigation, which took over a year, was prompted by Goldman Sach's CEO Lloyd Blankfein testifying to a congressional panel that the firm actually took the opposite sides of trades that they sold to their clients. But, that's not sufficient for the bought-and-paid-for invisible man, Eric Holder, to bring a case forward. (Here's an idea: to help balance the budget, why not just shut down the DoJ? They apparently aren't interested in prosecuting anybody connected with the financial industry for anything. Big savings there.)

Thursday night, CBS ran, as the second story on their nightly national "news" broadcast, that the housing market was finally recovering (this probably was the sixth or seventh time over the past two years the shills at CBS had run such a story). Why then does Gary Shilling suggest that existing home prices could fall another 20%?

Flood of Foreclosures Could Cause Home Prices to Drop 20%: Gary Shilling

So, make up your own mind. Is the banking system, government oversight and the media working for you and your fellow citizens? Or are there two levels of justice in the USA (and probably everywhere else): one for rich bankers and one for the rest of us? Can we really trust our leaders to do the right things for the people? Or are we caught up in a fascist corporotocracy that feeds upon individuals for the benefit of the rich and powerful?

Go ahead and curse the darkness, because it needs to be cursed. Then light a candle. Take care of your family and friends and do something for yourself, like buying some raw land, growing some of your own vegetables, or investing in physical gold or silver.

To close out the week, or, if you're in need of additional reinforced rancor over the weekend, check out the latest Keiser Report, with Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert, below:

Dow 13,207.95, +42.76 (0.32%)
NASDAQ 3,020.86, +2.22 (0.07%)
S&P 500 1,405.86, +3.06 (0.22%)
NYSE Composite 8,042.59, +17.58 (0.22%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,568,909,750
NYSE Volume 2,586,105,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2753-2759
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 153-43
WTI crude oil: 92.87, -0.49
Gold: 1,622.80, +2.60
Silver: 28.06, -0.04

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Sandy Weill, Hypocrite Bankster; Apple Sends S&P, NASDAQ Lower, Housing Bottom, NOT!

Like mountains that are climbed, we watch CNBC because it's there, not because they offer something other than the capitalist-claptrap-company-line of "buy stocks and keep buying stocks." They don't, usually, unless Rick Santelli is ranting or somebody like Sandy Weill says something so hypocritical that it cannot go unchallenged.

Weill, the former CEO of Citigroup, was the man most responsible for the repeal of the Glass-Steagall act during the Clinton administration years, which set in motion the deregulation of banks, ungodly high leverage, the sub-prime circus and eventually the global catastrophe of international finance through which we are all currently suffering, was polluting this morning's air with calls to break up the big banks.

Weill was on this morning's "Squawk Box," the normally tiresome pre-market news show, opining that the big banks need to be broken up. This is quite the turnabout from the man who, back in the 1990s, engineered the business model of the banking/financial supermarket, where customers could purchase not only CDs and checking accounts, but stocks, bonds, and all manner of derivative products, and where the bank would securitize obligations, repackaging and reselling to willing investors.

One should note that Weill profited greatly from the deregulation of the banking industry and that he is still very rich, though now, more than 15 years hence, his PR team has probably advised him that calling for the breakup of the too-big-to-fail (TBTF) banks would be a marvelous boost for his personal profile. No doubt, Weill has a profit motive behind his pronouncement, or is keying in a on lucrative, influential government position, which is all America needs right now, is another hypocritical bankster who puts self-interest far above public service running the Treasury Department, or maybe the Office of Thrift Supervision.

There really is no end or outer limit to the hubris of the banker class, but Weill's sudden change of heart, no doubt politically expedient, is the worst form of hypocritical doublespeak imaginable. Even Orwell would be amazed, abused, or, amused.

After Tuesday's post-market-close earnings miss by Apple (AAPL), the markets did as obedient markets will, as the S&P and NASDAQ, of which Apple is a huge component of both, sold off viciously right out of the gate.

The NASDAQ was down a quick 22 points, the S&P shedding seven points in the early going, but, with Ben Bernanke and the Fed providing cover, ostensibly standing ready with their bazooka loaded with QE stimulus, stocks gained ground and eventually turned positive (the Dow was in the green all day), before fading into the close. The Dow gave up more than half its gains, even though Apple is not a Dow component.

The current idea - floated around yesterday afternoon by the Fed's chief propagandist, Wall Street Journal writer John Hilsenrath - was that the Fed may act as soon as their very next FOMC meeting, which occurs next week, July 31 - August 1. About all the Fed can do, besides buying up more worthless MBS or some vague extension of Operation Twist, or more simple jawboning, all ideas which have been tried and proven failures.

But, the market being as rigged as it is, (according to Paul Criag Roberts, all markets are now rigged), the Federal Reserve must come off not looking like the powerless goon it really is, but rather as an engaged participant ready to swing into action to save the American people.

Tripe. The Fed has been without bullets or a gun for the better part of the past two years, and now, like the boy who cried "wolf," nobody is bothering to listen. QE1 and QE2 didn't fix anything and likely made matters worse, so QE3 isn't going to matter one iota.

For those who think the housing market has hit bottom, again! today's data must have been a chilling reminder of not only where we've been, but where the millions of underwater homes are headed: deeper into the blue, after new home sales for June plunged to an annualized rate of 350,000, well below the expected 373,000. The drop was made worse by the upward revision of the May data, from 369,000 to 382,000, but it was still a mighty miss by any standards.

The real estate market being diverse, there are some areas of strength, but, overall, the heartland of America is still suffering from the worst housing bust since the Great Depression, and it's not over with yet.

So, some big numbers and events are coming soon. Friday will witness the initial estimate of second quarter GDP, expected to be anywhere from 1.5% to 2.2% to the good, then there's the FOMC meeting Tuesday and Wednesday of next week, followed by next Friday's July non-farm payroll data.

Among all the usual market noise, new lows exceeded new highs for a third straight session, but, as we know, it won't last, because the Fed is coming to the rescue.

This is really beginning to get interesting.

Dow 12,676.05, +58.73 (0.47%)
NASDAQ 2,854.24, -8.75 (0.31%)
S&P 500 1,337.89, -0.42 (0.03%)
NYSE Composite 7,604.56, +13.94 (0.18%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,725,712,125
NYSE Volume 3,391,726,000
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 3085-2522
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 119-165
WTI crude oil: 88.97, +0.47
Gold: 1,608.10, +31.90
Silver: 27.47, +0.66

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Stocks Gain on No News; Barclay's Fined, Phil Falcone Nabbed by SEC

As this market has shown consistently over the past few years, no headlines, no problem, and it's off to the races we go.

With the EU summit still a day away and some nearly-positive news in the form of a May durable goods number that came in plus 1.1%, above expectations of 1.0%. There is also a buoyant attitude surrounding the housing market these days. After new home sales showed a boost on Monday and the Case-Shiller 20-City Index was up on a monthly basis, a 5.9% gain in pending home sales from April to May added momentum to home builder stocks.

For the second straight day, there was near silence from Europe, which served to keep stocks rolling right along throughout the session.

It was also a day for regulators to catch up with a couple of the crooks, and what better reason to bid up stocks, as the ROI on financial crime is stupendous.

Billionaire hedge fund operator, Phil Falcone, who made a ton of money in 2007 betting against sub-prime mortgage securities, was charged by the SEC with securities fraud along with the firm he founded, Harbinger Capital Partners. Sadly, the charge, among others, is civil, no criminal, and centers around Falcone's receipt of a $114 million loan from his fund to pay his taxes and other schemes, such as short selling and short squeezing.

Also, Barclay's has agreed to pay British and US authorities $453 million in a settlement over allegations the firm manipulated key overnight bank lending rates know as Libor. Being the first to be nailed in association with the probe, the door is now open for regulators to go after other financial firms who may have colluded to rig the Libor.

Laughably, the US Department of Justice said that its criminal investigation is ongoing and focused on a wide swath of banking interests which may have taken part in a conspiracy to manipulate the Libor. If any charges are ever brought, expect them to coincide with President Obama's re-election bid. Like local police who round up prostitutes just before a sheriff's election, the feds operate in much the same manner.

Stocks galloped out of the opening gate and closed near the highs reached in the middle of the day.

Dow 12,627.01, +92.34 (0.74%)
NASDAQ 2,875.32, +21.26 (0.74%)
S&P 500 1,331.85, +11.86 (0.90%)
NYSE Composite 7,597.99, +70.90 (0.94%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,550,569,000
NYSE Volume 3,249,099,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 4207-1385
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 180-76
WTI crude oil: 80.21, +0.85
Gold: 1,578.40, +3.50
Silver: 26.94, -0.10

Monday, April 30, 2012

Window Dressing Day Spoiled by Chicago PMI; Fantasy Economics Meets Reality

Normally, the last day of the month is marked by incessant buying of momentum stocks by fund managers and other hucksters hoping to impress clients by owning shares of the most popular companies, but today's shopping spree was truncated by a terrible Chicago PMI report, which weighed down markets, sending all of the major indices into the red.

The PMI report, which was released to the public just fifteen minutes into the session, printed at 56.2, the lowest number since November, 2009, missing expectations of 60.0 by a country mile.

Despite any and all opinions to the contrary, this number was just another in a string of disappointing economic data, highlighted by last week's first estimate of first quarter GDP of 2.2% annualized growth. While commentators have thus far downplayed the importance of the GDP figure, the evidence is stark, especially when reinforced by the PMI today.

Not wishing to face the bitter truth that the US - and by many measures, the global - economy has stalled out once again, Wall Street refuses to set about the arduous task of taking profits and marking stocks down to reasonable valuations, whatever those might be. Stocks have been trading far from fundamentals and investors haven't paid heed to the undercurrents of decline in Europe, Asia and here in the Western Hemisphere, though that line of thinking may be changing soon.

Sell in May and Stay Away goes the timeless adage. Why stocks should encounter such a seasonal variation is of questionable veracity, but if oil prices (which declined today) remain elevated as they have been through the summer, the banking and investing goons and their paid servants in Washington DC might get a dose of bad medicine courtesy of Mr. Market, delivered by Adam Smith's fabled invisible hand that routinely cycles in and out of market dynamics and pays special attention to bubbles and irrationality.

Beyond high oil prices, the US housing industry is still in a shambles, despite the clarion call to investors rushing in to snatch up foreclosed properties with the intent to turn them into rentals. This current calamity-in-the-making ignores the most basic tenet of community: home ownership is an issue of pride. Taking what were once owner-occupied dwellings and turning them into rentals (to whom and at what price we do not know) is a basic destructor of neighborhoods and communities. The dwellings fall into disrepair, the neighborhood deteriorates and eventually, the fine "rental investment" becomes a rat hole and drug house, surrounded by wary neighbors who decry their falling property values and eventually abandon the area.

Once a neighborhood changes from owner-occupied to rental status, the changes, though subtle, are irreversible, the tipping point likely reached when at least 40% of the properties assume rental status. The changes may take years or even decades in normal times, though in the current situation, in which home values have already been whacked for a loop, buying at bargain basement prices, while alluring to investors and productive of cash flow, may turn out to be just the beginning of a non-virtuous cycle. Renters move in, neighborhoods decline, property values continue to fall and recouping the original investment may never materialize. The next step in the process is that of the investors walking away, having milked the value from the properties via rental income, the community destroyed by their ravenous profit appetite. That's why neighborhoods become ghettos in the first place and stay ghettos, ever after. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Beside the ill-conceived notion that the real estate market has bottomed (a laughable and lamentable idea if ever there was one - it was the topic of a one-page feature in the current issue of Esquire, so there's that canard), the Fed is stalling on plans for more stimulus, which is apparently needed, even though it doesn't work long run, and Europe is fast-falling into recession. China's growth is being internalized, austerity policies haven't done squiddly-doo to revamp broken sovereign balance sheets and the debt bubble continues to expand.

Some day, the Keynesians in and out of government and the policy houses will finally be outed by forces of markets which are stronger than any academic noise and nonsense. The real world doesn't always cooperate with economic theory and we are seeing it played out at breathtaking pace.

There's truly only one solution for an overhang of malinvestment and debt: loss. And it will surely visit those who have the most to lose.

Mark down April as the worst month for stocks thus far, but lay bets that there will be worse to come.

Dow 13,213.63, -14.68 (0.11%)
NASDAQ 3,046.36, -22.84 (0.74%)
S&P 500 1,397.91, -5.45 (0.39%)
NYSE Composite 8,118.95, -32.96 (0.40%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,585,325,125
NYSE Volume 3,379,976,250
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2056-3568
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 190-40
WTI crude oil: 104.87, -0.06
Gold: 1,664.20, -0.60
Silver: 30.96, -0.39

Friday, January 20, 2012

Nice Day for Dow Industrials, Thanks to IBM; Housing Fix Not In

Stocks continued their happy saunter through the cold of January, with the Dow Jones Industrials posting another nearly-100-point gain, thanks in large part to IBM (up 7.98 to 188.50 (+4.42%) on solid 4th quarter earnings reported after the bell Thursday), which accounted for half of the Dow's gain all by itself.

The other indices lagged far behind the Blue Chips, courtesy of Google's (GOOG) worst earnings miss in six years, reporting a profit of $2.7 billion on revenue of $10.6 billion, well below Wall Street non-GAAP estimates of $9.50 per share versus an estimate of $10.46. Whoops! Shares of the internet behemoth were down 53.58 points, a loss of better-than eight percent.

Two other tech titans - Microsoft (MSFT) and Intel (INTC) - reported excellent quarters, helping to keep the montl-long rally going. The Dow, S&P and NYSE Composite were up each of the four trading days this week; the NASDAQ fell just short, losing 1.63, despite a valiant, last-half-hour rally.

Despite the outstanding gains from the last half of December through today, there are signs of trouble, and the fact that today marked options expiry, may lead to declines next week as more companies report. With just about 20% of the S&P 500 having reported, only 55% have beaten expectations, a ten year low. The average for the past ten years has been that 62% of companies beat street estimates. Considering that the big banks have all reported already - and all of them matched or beat - this does not bode well for the bulk of reporting companies which are set to report over the next two weeks.

Meanwhile, the Dow is back at levels last seen in mid-July, today's close just missing (four points) making a six-month high. It will be interesting to see if the Dow can crack through next week and continue onward toward exceeding the 2011 high of 12810.54 made on April 29. Yes, it's getting a bit frothy. The word for next week is likely to be "overbought," as in "we're market pumping day-traders who don't give a hoot about fundamentals, just making a profit."

So far, the advance-decline and new highs-new lows indicators are showing no sign of an impending correction, but, with the Dow up nearly 1000 points in just the past four weeks, a short correction would be something a healthy market would fully appreciate.

One other item that may be a canary in the coal mine is the nice rise in gold over the past few weeks, including a healthy advance today, and, finally, silver caught a bid over the past few sessions, finally breaking and holding over the artificial resistance at $30/ounce.

On CNBC today, the network featured a series of reports on housing, calling it, somewhat inappropriately, "The Big Fix." Hottest among the topics was the government plan to sell off Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's inventory of foreclosed homes (REO) to investor groups which will turn these single-family homes scattered across the country into rental units.

As is usual with government's half-baked plans, there are a rash of questions and arguments against, primarily centered around the whole fairness issue of kicking families out and then reselling - at what should be huge discounts - to well-heeled investors more concerned with turning profits than restoring blighted neighborhoods. The plan is still in the formative stages, but there are indications that the government will allow the investors to rent to whomsoever they please, which would include welfare and other social program recipients, meaning that homeowners ought to be on guard for the ghetto-ization and balkanization of their McMansion neighborhoods, such as is the case in other socialized nations, notably France, where the ghettos are in the suburbs, far from the uber-rich in the well-maintained cites.

One other problem is that the banks - if they actually do the right thing and write down these loans - will be facing far larger write-downs on bulk sales than anticipated. Since the US economy has been predicated for the past six years on keeping the banks free from losses, the government plan looks like a classic election-year crash and burn before it even gets going.

Dow 12,720.48, +96.50 (0.76%)
NASDAQ 2,786.70, -1.63 (0.06%)
S&P 500 1,315.38, +0.88 (0.07%)
NYSE Compos 7,829.34, +9.97 (0.13%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,979,837,250
NYSE Volume 3,911,913,250
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 3289-2274
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 182-26
WTI crude oil: 98.46, -1.93
Gold: 1,664.00, +9.50
Silver: 31.68, +1.17

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas Traders, Winners, Losers and Sitters

Stocks extended the Santa Claus Rally on the last trading day before Christmas, as there was light trading and not a peep out of Europe, which seems to have settled down after the ECB generously granted about $639 billion in loans to over 500 banks in the region. Additionally, many European stock exchanges and all US stock exchanges will be closed On Monday, in observance of Christmas (which actually falls on Sunday).

A couple of sets of economic data were released prior to Friday's open. Durable Goods Orders showed a 3.8% gain in November, but the number was drastically reduced when transportation was excluded, knocking the gain down to a disappointing 0.3%. Also troubling was the lowered capital spending by businesses, which was down for the second month in a row.

Personal income and personal spending showed gains of 0.1%, both disappointments.

According to the Commerce Dept. new home sales for November were up 1.6%, to an annualized rate of 315,000, an all-time low, coming after last year's dismal showing of 323,000 new homes sold. The small gain pushed the number of new homes on the market to an all time low as home builders have found few takers and even fewer who could qualify for mortgages.

In conjunction with the existing home sales from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) that came out on Wednesday, the housing market continues to show the damage done by the 2008 financial collapse and the now-five-year-long housing bust. The NAR also revised their existing home sales figures from 2007 to 2010 down 14.3%, citing errors in the collection of data, including double listings, a decline in for sale by owners and house flipping.

November sales rose 4% from the previous month and 12.2% from a year ago, though the figures are now much lower than what was previously expected. With the revisions, the NAR acknowledged that the housing slump has been longer and deeper than previously thought.

And, in Washington, the Republican House backed down and decided ot pass the stupid two-month extension of the social security contribution reduction. Good Grief!

Merry Christmas and good night.

Dow 12,294.00, +124.35 (1.02%)
NASDAQ 2,618.64, +19.19 (0.74%)
S&P 500 1,265.33, +11.33 (0.90%)
NYSE Composite 7,518.66, +57.91 (0.78%)
NASDAQ Volume 970,584,500
NYSE Volume 2,226,056,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 3491-2108
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 193-42
WTI crude oil: 99.68, +0.15
Gold: 1,606.00, -4.60
Silver: 29.08, +0.04

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

American Airlines Goes Belly Up; Housing Slides, but Confidence is Up?

AMR, parent company of American Airlines, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Tuesday morning in federal bankruptcy court in the Southern district of New York.

While it seems an inappropriate time for an airline to file for bankruptcy, the timing could prove beneficial to the airline, the last of the major carriers to undergo reorganization. The company, while it has over $4 bllion in unrestricted cash, has $9 to $12 billion in debts.

The company announced that flights would not be disrupted and no immediate layoffs were announced. AMR lost $162 million in the third quarter and has posted losses in 14 of the last 16 quarters.

A pre-packaged bankruptcy such as this sure sounds all bright and cheery on the surface, but these things have ripple effects, as some vendors and creditors are surely to get stiffed or be forced to take pennies or dimes on their dollars. American Airlines will survive, but unseen companies will be hurt down the line and many employees will likely lose their jobs. The American recovery lives on, but why didn't the government bail out AMR like they did General Motors? Maybe they've lost interest in business.

The current S&P/Case-Shiller 10-and-20-city indices both fell month-to-month and year-over-year, as housing continues to deteriorate Despite the lowest mortgage rates in decades, potential homeowners are largely shut out of the market by stringent underwriting standards and, more importantly, the lack of jobs needed to finance and support the payments on a home purchase.

Declining by 3.9% in the third quarter, the index showed a bit of relief from the second quarter's 5.8% decline, though there wasn't much hope in the report, which tracked sales through September. Only Detroit and Washington, DC reported gains during the period, of 3.7 and 1 percent, respectively. Home prices have fallen back to 2003 levels nationally.

Wall Street shrugged off the bad housing data and focused instead on the Conference Board's index of consumer confidence which rocketed up to 56 in October, from a revised 40.9 in September. It was the largest monthly gain in confidence since April 2003, though the current reading comes off a two-year low for the gauge.

Meanwhile, over in Euro-land, finance ministers kicked off a two-day summit designed to define a framework for the various entities - countries, the ECB and the ESFS - to deal with the ongoing debt crisis. Some of the ideas being floated around this time involve countries trading a bit of sovereignty for more bailout funding, and leveraging the ESFS roughly 2.5 times, to provide funding for stressed economies, mostly in the Southern part of the continent.

As usual, nothing concrete has - or will - come from these meetings, as European leaders inch closer to a complete currency collapse, which now, along with the breakup of the Euro currency partners, is rated by top economists as a 50/50 chance.

Here in America, the few traders still not completely scared away pushed stocks higher for a second straight day on the Dow and S&P, though the NASDAQ finished in the red. Trading volume was extremely thin. If there is to be a so-called Santa Claus Rally, it's not likely to awaken any sleeping children and will probably be sold off in a session or two, as the choppiness and extreme volatility is not likely to abate before the European crisis either is resolved or blows up completely.

Dow 11,555.63, +32.62 (0.28%)
NASDAQ 2,515.51, -11.83 (0.47%)
S&P 500 1,195.19, -2.64 (0.22%)
NYSE Composite 7,149.71, +29.16 (+0.41%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,621,070,500
NYSE Volume 3,951,292,750
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2486-3131
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 65-166
WTI crude oil: 99.79, +1.58
Gold: 1,713.40, +2.60
Silver: 31.85, -0.31

Monday, April 4, 2011

No Volume, No Follow-through After Jobs Data

With the markets closing Friday in a state of ebullience and optimism, the Monday morning hangover was worse than expected.

Stocks got out of the gate well, with the averages hitting their highs of the day early on, but there was no catalyst and thus, no enthusiasm for either buying or selling, though tech stocks suffered more than most.

Stocks drifted in listless fashion on what will almost certainly turn out to be one of the five lowest trading volume sessions of the year thus far. Appetite for risk has been muted by world events, the least of which being the continuing saga of the nuclear reactors melting down at Fukushima Daiichi facility in Japan.

High levels of radiation have been found hither and fro, even in the United States, where air and water readings were above safe levels in communities from the West coast all the way east to Pennsylvania.

As for Japan itself, the situation appears even more out of control, as both the government and TEPCO, the utility company responsible for the failures, have run out of viable options for containment. If not for the "fear factor" the mainstream media would be full of horror stories, but the prevailing wisdom is not to alarm the populace over what looks to be already as bad as or worse than the disaster of Chernobyl, 25 years ago, a man-made calamity now estimated to have caused over a million deaths and multiple times that number in birth defects, miscarriages, and diseases.

With Japan's nuclear woes - where the "dead zone" is expected to eventually be 30 to 40 miles in all directions from the plant - the general mood of the people is a thinly-disguised panic and a heightened level of distrust of authorities. Said distrust is with good cause. The officials handling the situation are either incompetent, stupid, afraid or a combination of all three, and have yet to reassure the Japanese people of anything, other than the situation remains a catastrophe with potential to become even worse.

High gas prices have also put a damper on the proceedings worldwide, with both Brent crude and West Texas Intermediate (WTI) hitting 33-month highs on the day. Continued unrest in the oil-rich Middle East and North African countries - Libya, Bahrain, Kuwait, Yemen and now Ivory Coast - haven't helped slow down the oil rally and the onset of $4/gallon gas in the US.

So, little surprise that nothing is moving in the world of high finance.

Dow 12,400.03, +23.31 (0.19%)
NASDAQ 2,789.19, -0.41 (0.01%)
S&P 500 1,332.87, +0.46 (0.03%)
NYSE Composite 8,482.41, +13.07 (0.15%)

The level of disdain could be clearly seen in market internals. Advancing issues narrowly bettered decliners on the day, 3006-2630, though NASDAQ new highs soared against new lows, 222-30, while on the NYSE, the bias was the same, with new highs beating new lows, 259-15. As mentioned earlier, volume was extremely light.

NASDAQ Volume 1,679,897,000
NYSE Volume 3,273,874,500

WTI crude futures hit $108.47, a gain of 53 cents, the highest level since June of 2008. Prices above $4.00 per gallon for regular unleaded have been reported in New York, Chicago and various California locales.

Gold inched closer to all-time highs, gaining $4.10, to $1,433.00, while silver exploded to 31-year highs, ending the NY session on the COMEX at $38.49, on a gain of 76 cents (2%).

The stark comparisons between the economic climate today and that of 2008 could not be clearer. High oil and gas prices, a stagnating stock market close to multi-year highs nearing the end of a long bull run, ramping foreclosures and falling real estate values, and political uncertainty carry all the trademarks which eventually led to the great unwinding in Fall 2008.

Three years hence, after trillions of dollars in stimulus, the very same banks that caused the calamity before are still leveraged to the hilt, hiding liabilities off the books and still in denial over their true, illiquid conditions.

For mood to change so impressively from good to bad over the weekend is stunning. Americans and the world at large should be prepared for another round of asset-crushing deflation once the Fed decides to stop printing dollars into existence come June.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

While Japan Melts Down, US Stocks Melt Up

Though many doubted the thrust and wisdom of the Federal Reserve's QE2 and ZIRP efforts, the Fed can now claim some success.

That success, however, is limited to one's perception. If higher commodity, food and energy prices, a completely collapsed housing market and a stock market rally in which almost nobody participates is one's idea of success, then a big hand for Chairman Bernanke and his merry band of idiots otherwise known as the Board of Governors of the Fed.

It was reported yesterday in this space that trading volume had sunk to its lowest level of the year. Today's numbers were a mirror image, marking the two slowest trading days of the year, for sure, and possibly the lowest two-day total volume since sometime in 2009.

So much for the so-called wealth effect we hear so much about. The only investors actually trading are the Primary Dealers with their virtually-free POMO money. It's almost as though the markets have lost the confidence of the individual investor forever. Surely, those with pension funds tied to the market must be seeing better returns, but how long they will last is anyone's guess, though it's fair to say that as long as the Fed continues to throw $100 billion or more into the fray, stocks will keep rising. It's been about the easiest trade ever.

There isn't much more to say about today's gains other than they completely disregarded the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan, which is now almost completely out of control, as one reactor appears to have melted through its containment vessel.

The wild-eyed buyers of today also paid no heed to the S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city index, which confirmed that housing has entered the double-dip phase, falling for the sixth consecutive month. Of course, that would assume that one believes the first dip ever ended.

And everybody simply looked the other way when the Conference Board showed its index of consumer confidence fell to 63.4 this month, from a revised 72.0 in February.

Apparently, we mere mortals simply don't understand the stock market, where news is always bullish, no matter how bad it is. Supposedly, a comet obliterating all of Europe would be cause for a 1000-point rally according to the current metrics.

Whatever is going on down on the trading floors and at the desks of the biggest brokerages, it simply doesn't jibe with reality, but that's what we've got, a rogue market on its very own illogical trajectory.

Dow 12,279.01, +81.13 (0.67%)
NASDAQ 2,756.89, +26.21 (0.96%)
S&P 500 1,319.44, +9.25 (0.71%)
NYSE Composite 8,345.38, +48.86 (0.59%)

Advancers led decliners, 4381-2145. The NASDAQ reported 114 new highs and 27 new lows. On the NYSE, there were 117 new highs and 12 new lows.

NASDAQ Volume 1,610,826,875
NYSE Volume 3,856,315,250

Commodities were mixed, with oil up 81 cents on the front-end WTI contract, to $104.79. Gold slipped $3.70, to $1,416.20 and silver fell 10 cents, to $36.99 per ounce.

This represents one of the more confusing markets in history. Bad news simply will not move stocks to the downside, and any downward move is met with a rally in short order, wiping away any and all losses in a matter or days, or hours.

Hardly mentioned is the upcoming non-farm payroll data courtesy of the BLS on April 1, this Friday, though prior to that, on Wednesday, ADP will report their proprietary survey of private sector employment. That little nugget will be released at 8:15 am, EDT, though it's generally not a market mover, being widely discredited as being unreliable.

This is fun for somebody, but who that might be remains a mystery.

Monday, February 14, 2011

MERS can't assign mortgages, judge rules

A personal victory today for me - and possibly hundreds of thousands of homeowners - thanks to U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert E. Grossman in Central Islip, New York, who ruled, last Thursday, that Merscorp has no legal right to transfer mortgages.

Anyone following the fiasco that is the housing market knows Merscorp better by MERS, as they were the "nominee" on millions of mortgages written in the housing "boom" of the 2000s. What the judge's ruling does is essentially invalidate most mortgages written between 2003 and 2008 (and some before and after that), because that was the time period in which the largest lenders - Countrywide (now BofA), JP Morgan Chase, WAMU and others used MERS to end-run the county recording offices and save on fees, then packaged and resold these mortgages to witless investors.

Now, the banks have no standing in courts to foreclose and the buyers of those ugly securitized mortgages want their money back. Banks are being forced into a corner, even after being bailed out by the Federal Reserve, TARP and taxpayer money. The ruling from that bankruptcy court and others should serve distressed homeowners well in fights with the banks over ownership rights as they set strong precedents and are are likely only to be overturned by individual state legislatures.

Even then, any new laws validating the banks' practices would have to be applied retroactively, an activity expressly forbidden by the US constitution (remember that?).

This is, in reality, the end of the game for the big banks, which should have been allowed to fail in the beginning. The American public has spent Trillions of dollars keeping these bodies afloat and they are still sinking, and fast. Little by little, Americans are learning to stand up to the banks, city hall, the states and the federal government and demand their rights.

The ruling from this past Thursday stands as a marker in the struggle for resumption of the RULE OF LAW, which has been kept bound and gagged by the current and former presidential administrations. The American public is tired of being lied to and robbed from and the time has come to choose sides. Either you side with the government, the banks and their crooked politics and practices or you side with the people, and seemingly, the courts and the lawyers.

This is a nation governed by the rule of law, not by force or money or politics. Choose now!

Meanwhile, the circus kept running at Wall and Broad.

Dow 12,268.19, -5.07 (0.04%)
NASDAQ 2,817.18, +7.74 (0.28%)
S&P 500 1,332.32, +3.17 (0.24%)
NYSE Composite 8,405.15, +30.26 (0.36%)

Despite the marginal gains, advancing issues led decliners overall, 3686-2856. There were 286 new highs and 23 new lows on the NASDAQ and 355 new highs and 11 new lows on the NYSE. Selected stocks are clearly stretched to the limits of affordability, though with price discovery a lost art in the algo-following world of computer trading, this alone will not foment an imminent collapse of values. However, the volume on the NYSE made another new low point today, just a week after setting the low mark of the year. Rising indices without full-blown participation is the very first tool in the analyst bag, though the rules have been changed so dramatically over the past few years that nothing is certain today.

Still, market manipulations cannot last forever. The rules of economics will eventually take out all of the excess and malinvestment. It has to or the entire market is a fraud.

NASDAQ Volume 1,985,633,750
NYSE Volume 3,959,988,500.00

Note the divergence in commodities. Oil continued down again today, losing another 77 cents, to $84.81, while the precious metals gained. Watch for oil prices to continue their plunge back below $80 and beyond. demand has dried up once the price for US unleaded gas exceeded $3.15 on a national basis. Since the $4.00 shock of 2008, American drivers have made adjustments: buying more fuel-efficient vehicles, driving less, driving smarter, conserving, car-pooling.

Besides the obvious adjustments, the US economy simply is not strong enough - nor is the world economy, for that matter - to justify high fuel prices. There is little to no growth and slack demand. Ergo, oil and gas prices should fall accordingly.

As for the PMs, well, they've resumed their ominous climb. Gold gained $4.70, to $1,365.10, but still remains stuck in a range, though the bottom is in at $1350.00. Silver popped another 54 cents, to $30.53, approaching the 30-year-highs last seen in December.

The lid is about to come off the entire global system of financial fraud, again.