Showing posts with label taxes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label taxes. Show all posts

Sunday, October 27, 2019

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

For equity investors, the week was all about Friday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Caveat Emptor.

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

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

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Donald Trump Is Goldilocks In Disguise; Stocks Rally; Treasury Yields Rocket Higher

Odd thing about politics: As soon as one man comes into the picture promising to fix everything that's broken with the US economy, all the other politicians instantly hate him, fight him, and actively try to get rid of him... by any means necessary.

That man, of course, is none other than the current president, Donald J. Trump, who has fended off non-stop assaults from Democrats, members of his own party, even having to defend himself against attacks from within his own administration, such as the FBI and the Justice Department.

Meanwhile, Trump, while he hasn't kept all of his election promises, has delivered on a good number of them, especially those dealing with the economy, trade, and taxes.

Trump has cut taxes for many, he's re-negotiated bad trade deals such as NAFTA, and he's presided over an economy that by most accounts is booming.

Yet, the vast majority of politicians, bureaucrats, and Baltway insiders still want him gone. They'd love to impeach him, shame him into resigning, or otherwise undermine his America First policies.


Because they're jealous, and they're petty, and Trump has exposed them as swamp dwellers whose sole interests are enriching themselves at the public's expense and getting re-elected.

Trump has delivered - with assistance from the Federal Reserve and some members of congress - the United States into the goldilocks economy: not too hot, not too cold, just right. Stocks are up, yields on treasury bonds are rising, but inflation and unemployment are low. There's so much good going o in the US economy it's actually difficult to find problem areas.

401k accounts are fatter, paychecks have less tax taken from them, incomes are rising. Just what about all of this isn't to like? Ask Diane Feinstein, Chuck (sellout) Schumer, Nancy Pelosi or any of a handful of petty thieves masquerading as honorable congress-people. They have no answer and they're worried about losing their prestige and power in the upcoming mid-term elections. That's why they and their lackeys in the media are so intent on tearing down everything related to Trump and his successes. They accuse his Supreme Court nominee of sexual assault that supposedly happened more than 35 years ago, when Brett Kavenaugh - who will almost surely be confirmed by the Senate - was a teenager in high school.

The attacks and assaults will continue up to the November elections and beyond. Russia and collusion will be thumbed up again by the wicked special prosecutor from hell (and hopefully soon to return there). The New York Times will continue to run stories in vain attempts to tarnish President Trump's image. None of it will work. The American people see results and see through the media attacks, the howling senatorial rhetoric, and the baseless accusations. Jobs are plentiful. Money is flowing. Things are good, very good.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at yet another record high today, despite backing off substantially from intra-day highs. The yield on the benchmark 10-year-note reached the highest point in more than a decade, at 3.16%, a number that has Fed officials smiling, lenders beaming, and most consumers and small business owners a little bit piqued, but still not worried or upset. Interest rates are still low compared to other times; mortgages are reasonably priced. With business prosperity, the cost of money should be a little higher and it's not at a point that it does damage to one's bottom line.

Goldilocks has arrived and his name is Trump.

(Plus, baseball playoffs are underway and Alabama is #1 in college football.)

Dow Jones Industrial Average October Scorecard:

Date Close Gain/Loss Cum. G/L
10/1/18 26,651.21 +192.90 +192.90
10/2/18 26,773.94 +122.73 +315.63
10/3/18 26,828.39 +54.45 +370.08

At the Close, Wednesday, October 3, 2018:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 26,828.39, +54.45 (+0.20%)
NASDAQ: 8,025.08, +25.54 (+0.32%)
S&P 500: 2,925.51, +2.08 (+0.07%)
NYSE Composite: 13,118.55, +12.54 (+0.10%)

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Dow Lower Again As Investors Ponder Fed Wisdom

Well, if you're content with having a bunch of highly-paid academics controlling your finances, you're in luck. The Federal Reserve has been hard at work for over 100 years to guarantee that they get a cut of everybody's money, mostly because they create it themselves, out of thin air, with no backing with tangible assets, like gold, or silver, or anything like that.

As it says on their debt instruments, full faith and credit.

Therein lies the problem. Most people, if they understood how the Federal Reserve operates - mostly in secret, and outside the boundaries of government (it is a private banking system, after all. Shhh!) - would pine for foregone days when gold and silver were the coin of the realm, so to speak, when people and businesses weren't amortized and taxed to the bare bones of their existence.

Full faith is something the Fed takes for granted, assuming that 99% of the public has no idea how money works. Credit is their life blood. Every dollar created by the Fed is a debt, which is why the so called "national debt" can never be repaid. If it was, there would be no money. Everybody would be broke.

Is that what is occupying the minds of the great investors and traders of Wall Street and their bankers, brokers, cronies and insiders? Probably not. They're more interested in getting and keeping as much of the Federal Reserve money they can, investing it in more stocks, bonds, debentures, options, futures and maybe along the way, some real assets like real estate, gold, silver, art, vehicles, machinery.

Almost nobody really cares about how the Fed or other central banks operate. It's a fact. Most people are caught up in the matrix of jobs, bills, rents, taxes, and debt. They don't have time to study the intricate workings of central banks, which, of course, is how the central bankers wish. The less scrutiny on them, the more they and their member banks (all the big ones) make, unaudited and without interference.

What the traders on the exchanges today were contemplating was whether or not the Fed will actually raise the federal funds rate (the rate banks charge each other for overnight loans) to 2.00-2.25% tomorrow at 2:00 pm EDT when the FOMC policy rate decision is announced.

The simple answer is that they almost certainly will. The market has priced this in. At the least, the 10-year treasury note has gotten the memo. It's holding pretty steady at 3.10% yield, anticipating the Fed's very well-telegraphed interest rate ploy.

To many of the top traders and investors, the Fed's bold actions, in the face of a somewhat gradual economic improvement, are already too much and too soon. Some analysts are suggesting that with the 10-year note over three percent, big money will forego the risks inherent in the stock market and shift more money into bonds. The 10-year is a benchmark. Better returns can be made in corporate debt offerings, junk bonds, shorter term offerings, or munis, all of which carry more risk, but not significantly so.

Thus, the market will tell everybody, including the wizened old men and women at the Fed, what the federal funds rate should be by voting with their feet. If stocks continue to rise, it gives the Fed a free pass to increase rates another 25 basis points in December. If the market declines, the Fed will be on its own.

The Fed has raised rates at a very steady pace since December 2016, adding 0.25% every quarter, in March, June, September, and December. They may be nearing a point at which they need to take a break.

The questions are whether or not they will see it, understand it, and how they will act upon it.

Dow Jones Industrial Average September Scorecard:

Date Close Gain/Loss Cum. G/L
9/4/18 25,952.48 -12.34 -12.34
9/5/18 25,974.99 +22.51 +10.17
9/6/18 25,995.87 +20.88 +31.05
9/7/18 25,916.54 -79.33 -48.28
9/10/18 25,857.07 -59.47 -107.75
9/11/18 25,971.06 +113.99 +6.24
9/12/18 25,998.92 +27.86 +34.10
9/13/18 26,145.99 +147.07 +181.17
9/14/18 26,154.67 +8.68 +189.85
9/17/18 26,062.12 -92.55 +97.30
9/18/18 26,246.96 +184.84 +282.14
9/19/18 26,405.76 +158.80 +440.94
9/20/18 26,656.98 +251.22 +692.16
9/21/18 26,743.50 +86.52 +778.68
9/24/18 26,562.05 -181.45 +597.23
9/25/18 26,492.21 -69.84 +527.39

At the Close, Tuesday, September 25, 2018:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 26,492.21, -69.84 (-0.26%)
NASDAQ: 8,007.47, +14.22 (+0.18%)
S&P 500: 2,915.56, -3.81 (-0.13%)
NYSE Composite: 13,161.64, -0.42 (0.00%)

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Weekend Wrap: Stocks Stuck In Limbo As Rise In Yields and Oil is Relentless

Anybody looking for volatility on Friday's options expiry was sorely disappointed with the rangebound markets and little change as a dull week came to an even duller finish.

What did move dramatically for the week was bond yields and oil, both of which spiked at the expense of the equity markets, all quite predictable.

As the case for a bear market in stocks continues to grow every day the January 26 high on the Dow of 26,616.71 gets further and further away, so the denial of the Wall Street crowd and pension fund maniacs which know nothing other than stocks, stocks, and more stocks, all the time, everywhere.

As the Money Daily Dow Scorecard below clearly shows, the 30 blue chip stocks were down for the week, though the losses were contained. None of the indices fell by more than one percent, the nearest to that the NASDAQ, with a loss of 0.66%.

Since the early February selloff, stocks have gone exactly nowhere, a point of emphasis for the bears who contend that despite the narrative of "full employment," a growing economy (2-3% is barely keeping pace with inflation; real growth is somewhere in the range of -3 to -5 percent), tax breaks and a strong dollar, undermining the false bravado of the bulls is oil soaring over $71/barrel for WTI crude and notching above $89/barrel this week for Brent crude, plus the 10-year note spiking to 3.11%.

Rising bond yields - which compete with stocks in the relative risk paradigm - and rising fuel prices make a very challenging environment for stock holders, especially those trying to beat the indices, which shouldn't be a tough job, though it has become so as everything is falling and the component parts are falling faster.

Stock pickers may find their task all the more challenging by crowded trades in favored sectors. Tech and consumer non-durables have been hammered recently, but the energy sector has fared much better, up something on the order of 8% on the year. Basic materials have been a disappointment for the most part, and dividend-carrying stocks are, again, barely keeping up with inflation.

It's a no-win market just about everywhere for those who only can go long, so the bears once again have the upper hand.

Dow Jones Industrial Average May Scorecard:

Date Close Gain/Loss Cum. G/L
5/1/18 24,099.05 -64.10 -64.10
5/2/18 23,924.98 -174.07 -238.17
5/3/18 23,930.15 +5.17 -233.00
5/4/18 24,262.51 +332.36 +99.36
5/7/18 24,357.32 +94.81 +194.17
5/8/18 24,360.21 +2.89 +197.06
5/9/18 24,542.54 +182.33 +379.39
5/10/18 24,739.53 +196.99 +576.38
5/11/18 24,831.17 +91.64 +668.02
5/14/18 24,899.41 +68.24 +736.26
5/15/18 24,706.41 -193.00 +543.26
5/16/18 24,768.93 +62.52 +605.78
5/17/18 24,713.98 -54.95 +550.73
5/18/18 24,715.09 +1.11 +551.84

At the Close, Friday, May 18, 2018:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 24,715.09, +1.11 (0.00%)
NASDAQ: 7,354.34, -28.13 (-0.38%)
S&P 500: 2,712.97, -7.16 (-0.26%)
NYSE Composite: 12,717.42, -30.41 (-0.24%)

For the Week:
Dow: -116.08 (-0.47%)
NASDAQ: -48.54 (-0.66%)
S&P 500: -14.75 (-0.54%)
NYSE Composite: -44.40 (-0.35%)

Friday, December 29, 2017

Stocks Sink to End Year as Santa Claus Rally is Kidnapped by Grinch; Gold, Silver Push Higher

As trading drew to a close for 2017, a banner year for stocks was blemished buy a final bout of selling which rendered three of the four major averages lower for the week.

Only the NYSE Composite managed to eek out a gain for the shortened, four-day week, but even that was marginal, up less than a tenth of a percent. The NASDAQ was the most serious casualty, losing nearly one percent for the week. The Dow suffered its worst one-day loss since November 15.

Much of the selling came in the final hour of the session, suggesting that it was largely programmatic, a rebalancing of select funds for end-of-quarter or end-of-year purposes.

For the S&P and the Dow, the day's decline was the fifth in the past eight, though the S&P still managed to close out the week - and the year - just 21 points away from its all-time high.

Whether or not this late-month selloff continues into January 2018 is questionable, given that markets are still buoyant and money, by and large, is still on the cheap side. Thus, it would not be out of the question to see stocks gallop out of the gate on January 2nd.

Perhaps more compelling than watching stocks do an imitation of drying paint the past two weeks was the activity in precious metals, as gold and silver each took off as the year drew to a close. After being beaten down the first part of December, both metals rallied sharply down the stretch.

Silver hit a triple-bottom, six-month low of 15.67 per ounce on December 13, only to rebound to end the year at a respectable 17.01 on Friday. Gold, which was beaten down to 1240.90 (also December 13), hitting a five-month bottom, advanced smartly through the final two weeks, ending the year at 1302.50. Silver's eight percent rally and the five percent move in gold were the best two-week showings for the metals since July.

Some of the rally in metals was undoubtably due to the demise of the dollar, which closed out the year at 92.30, close to its September 8 low-point of the year, 91.35. It traded as low as 91.10 on the day but strengthened into the close.

If there's any meaning to be drawn from the past two weeks of trading, it could be that a sudden whiff of caution may have taken markets by surprise after the Republicans in congress and President Trump managed to push through a tax reform bill right after the Fed raised rates for the third time this year. After all, with Fed on a path of rising interest rates and the federal deficit poised to explode higher in the latter half of 2018, there may finally be a good, factual reason to bail out of stocks.

Despite the best efforts of a deeply-divided congress, fiscal policy is anything but disciplined. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve is committed to massive bond dumping onto a market which can scarce absorb it.

2018 may indeed be one best described as a collision course of correcting bad monetary policy with tightening and loose fiscal policy. One cannot have the best of all things.

At the Close, Friday, December 29, 2017:
Dow: 24,719.22, -118.29 (-0.48%)
NASDAQ: 6,903.39, -46.77 (-0.67%)
S&P 500: 2,673.61, -13.93 (-0.52%)
NYSE Composite: 12,831.78, -21.31 (-0.17%)

For the Week:
Dow: -34.84 (-0.14%)
NASDAQ: -56.57 (-0.81%)
S&P 500: -9.73 (-0.36%)
NYSE Composite: +11.38 (+0.09%)

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Stocks Slip As Congress Readies Tax Bill For President Trump's Signature

In what can only be described as a premature "buy the rumor, sell the news" moment, stocks gave up early gains and ended uniformly on the downside as the House and Senate passed the tax reform bill that's been the focus of news and speculation the past three weeks.

With only a minor tweaking needing to be handled by the House on Wednesday morning, the bill will travel to the president's desk for his signature, confirming a promise to have a tax bill before Christmas and essentially ending the individual mandate for the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) by reducing the penalty for not having health insurance to zero ($0.00).

The inclusion of the mandate-crushing language in the bill was a masterstroke for Republicans, who failed to repeal (and replace) the morally-flawed Obamacare legislation earlier in the year, but manages to effectively make non-compliance a victimless violation.

While Democrats are furious over this development, which will undeniably send premiums even further into the stratosphere, those millions of people who neither can afford nor need healthcare coverage (think healthy people in their 20s through 50s) will be freed from the tyranny of a law that never should have been.

Otherwise, the tax reform legislation is great for corporations and marginally good for individuals, depending upon income level and family size. Overall, the fresh 500 pages of tax code will likely make the United States more competitive in global markets and put more money in people's pockets.

Wall Street, which has been pricing in the tax plan nearly every day in December, is poised to take its gains, take a few days off, and continue next week with a bona fide "Santa Claus rally" which will extend the gains for the year.

If stocks take the indicated course, January should commence with some serious tax-selling profit taking. After that, it's anybody's guess how much longer the bull market can continue.

At the Close, Tuesday, December 19, 2017:
Dow: 24,754.75, -37.45 (-0.15%)
NASDAQ: 6,963.85, -30.91 (-0.44%)
S&P 500: 2,681.47, -8.69 (-0.32%)
NYSE Composite: 12,747.54, -38.28 (-0.30%)

Friday, December 15, 2017

Stocks Stumble As Marco Rubio Voices Concern Over Republican Tax Plan

Appropriately, with the latest installment of the "Star Wars" franchise opening in cinema theaters around the country, Wall Street sensed a disturbance in the "force," the force being Janet Yellen and her merry band of storm trooping central bankers, the disturbance being upstart senator "little" Marco Rubio, who inadvisably pondered that he may not cast his vote in favor of the magnificent GOP tax plan that's been bandied about the halls of congress for months.

The former presidential candidate and current senator from Florida, Rubio voiced concerns over a minuscule detail in the overall grand scheme, the child tax credit, and on Friday morning made it clear that unless the amount of the credit that is deductible ($1,100 of $2,000) is increased, he's voting against the plan.

Notwithstanding Rubio's need to be seen, heard and appear important on occasion, his grandstanding is purely designed as entertainment value over the weekend for the cable news outlets. A final rollout of the bill and votes will come next week, just prior to congress' two-week holiday vacation.

Also adding to the folly is John McCain, who was hospitalized this week with complications from his cancer treatment, may not be present for a vote, should his condition worsen. Republicans cannot survive more than two defections, and Senator Bob Corker, the statist senator from Tennessee is staunchly opposed to the measure, purely out of hatred for president Trump.

Failure of the bill's passage would be a blow to Wall Street being that the measure approves a reduction of corporate taxes from 35 percent to 21 percent, something for which major corporations - many of which pay little to no federal tax already - have been lobbying for years.

Thus, with doubt overshadowing the happy passage of bellwether legislation, stocks took a notable turn for the worse on Thursday. The loss ended a string of five straight days higher on the Dow, and an overall run-up from 23,200 to beyond 24,600 over the past month.

As is the usual case, there's probably nothing about which to worry, since the Fed has Wall Street's back, front, and middle, and little tolerance for anything more than a few hundred point drop on the hallowed Dow Jones Industrial Average.

With Christmas a little more than a week away, neither congress, the Fed, nor Wall Street want to appear as Scrooges or Grinches, much less a poor likeness of Darth Vader or the death planet, especially with heavy upside bets on options and futures, which expire today. Trying not to mix metaphors - but failing badly - Friday is a quad witching day.

Happy trading, and happy Friday.

At the Close, Thursday, December 14, 2017:
Dow: 24,508.66, -76.77 (-0.31%)
NASDAQ: 6,856.53, -19.27 (-0.28%)
S&P 500: 2,652.01, -10.84 (-0.41%)
NYSE Composite: 12,629.07, -70.41 (-0.55%)

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Stocks Are Up Because... Trump's Tax Plan? Maybe, But for all the Wrong Reasons

Every day the market is open, especially since the advent of financial news networks like CNBC, there always has to be a reason for stocks to go up, down, or sideways.

Usually, the reason is a political event - like Wednesday's release of the Trump tax plan - or a weather event, or, for heaven's sake, an actual financial event, like the Fed hiking or lowering the federal funds rate.

Generally speaking, however, the reasoning for general market advances or declines is just a cover story, and usually nonsense. Stocks go up because some greater fool is willing to pay more for shares than the previous fool. They go lower when there are the fools are selling, usually to people wishing to catch falling knives, buy the dip or any of a number of cliche rationales.

So, with Wednesday's broad advance, the financial media was giddy over the prospects for an overhaul to the federal income tax regime. That's the story, and the talking heads are sticking to it.

What belies their fabulous innuendo is the reality that the tax plan was only released as an outline and is sure to undergo great debate (if congress can be said to do anything "great") and numerous revisions before it ever comes out of committees, onto the floors of the dual chambers and sent to the president for his final signature.

The plan released on Wednesday was the result of months of wrangling and preparing by the so-called "Big Six," which includes House Majority Leader Paul Ryan, House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, all Republicans.

The plan may have sounded good on the surface, but only to the ultra-heathy in the top tax bracket, who get a reduction in their rate, from 39.6% to 35%. While the plan reduces the number of brackets from seven to three, the lowest rate goes from 10% to 12%, which is supposedly going to be offset by a near doubling of the standard deduction and an increase in the child tax credit. The devil is in the details, however. The higher standard deduction is attained by taking away the personal exemption. It's a swap-out, and a swindle that's not being properly reported.

The other windfall for the upper crust is a reduction in the corporate tax rate, from the current 35% to 20%. Superficially, that's a big cut, but it is also widely understood that very few, if any, corporations actually pay at that level, thanks to an assortment of loopholes and very loose policies on deductions and amortizations.

One of the more controversial parts of the plan is the scrapping of almost every deduction at the personal level, except those for mortgage interest and charitable contributions, an odd combination, since people who have mortgages often don't have much left over to help out others in need. Additionally, the plan caps the deduction for state taxes, which will largely affect people who live in high state income tax states like New York, New Jersey, and California.

So, for the lower and what's left of the middle class, the changes don't really add up to much, except that if you're really on the lowest rung of the income ladder, you may not have to file at all, though the government will make sure to deduct 15-18% of your earnings every pay period in order to fund the failing entitlements of Social Security and Medicaid/Medicare. Of course, most people won't see that much deducted, as their employers pay half. Still, the government is already in the people's pockets before they get to cash their paltry checks.

The winning side is obvious in this case. People making over $250,000 or whatever the low end of the top tax rate will be, are going to save bundles of cash under the new rates. An individual or couple earning $500,000, will see a 4.6% reduction in their tax, or $23,000. That's an entire year's earnings for somebody at or near the bottom.

That poor schlub, will pay 12% on $11,000, instead of 10%, or $1320 instead of $1100. How paying another $220 in taxes exactly helps out the lower class is a mystery.

With tax reform like this, it's a wonder more people don't simply incorporate themselves. The tax rate is lower, the deductions greater and more liberal, and there are more ways to save and hold profits and losses over years than those offered to the simple plebeians.

Without a doubt, the plan as rolled out benefits only people in upper income brackets and the rhetoric from President Trump about creating more jobs and helping out the middle class is shameful, to say the least.

More of the same. Americans can change their president every four years, but loosening the tax noose around their collective throats is obviously a tougher proposition, one which the president's advisors and the plotters and planners in congress want to keep as tight as possible around the necks of the lower and middle classes.

At the Close, Wednesday, September 27, 2017:
Dow: 22,340.71, +56.39 (+0.25%)
NASDAQ: 6,453.26, +73.10 (+1.15%)
S&P 500: 2,507.04, +10.20 (+0.41%)
NYSE Composite: 12,157.65, +29.73 (+0.25%)

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Stocks Split, But Down On The Main; Valuation Could Be At The Root

Something is upsetting the markets, but it's difficult to find an appropriate culprit for the current nausea.

Maybe it's an overhang from tax filing day, even though that is now two days in arrears, still, the amount of taxes Americans pa to federal, state, and local governments has probably never been higher. If taxes rates are not the largest they've ever been, they're certainly close to being so.

It takes 113 working days for the average American worker to earn enough money just to pay off the taxman. That day arrives - for most people - around mid-May, so perhaps the realization that one hasn't yet worked enough just to stay even with the bloated governments that regulate every conceivable activity might be a cause for upset.

Falling stock prices cannot be attributable to the current employment situation because we've been told over and over again that there are plenty of jobs in America. What we're not told is that many of those jobs are part time,
or low-paying, or otherwise dissatisfying. So, maybe it could be that.

One doesn't see to many corporate CEOs suffering, so there is virtually no possibility that these titans of industry are panic selling their shares.

What could it be?

Maybe the idea that stocks are currently trading at some of the highest valuations in history is giving some with more savvy investing skills than the average fund manager cause for concern. These people have seen tops and bottoms before, so they might just be looking for an exit and these high prices seems like a good place to take one's leave, or, as the case may be, profits.

If that's all there is to the sideways trading since mid-March, then it's probably not much to worry about, unless one is looking for a place to invest. In that regard, buying would be quite out of the question, thus solving our quandary: there are more sellers than buyers.

It could be that simple.

At the Close, Wednesday, April 19, 2017:
Dow: 20,404.49, -118.79 (-0.58%)
NASDAQ: 5,863.03, +13.56 (0.23%)
S&P 500: 2,338.17, -4.02 (-0.17%)
NYSE Composite: 11,342.42, -36.16 (-0.32%)

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

If It Isn't Already, The Stock Market Should Be Rigged

Seriously, shouldn't stocks just go higher all the time given that the central bank has everybody's backs?

Makes sense if you are invested in establishment slave-labor and tax policies that have crippled the middle class.

After Labor Day Bonanza (stocks were down early, but we can't have that):
Dow Jones Industrial Average
18,538.12, +46.16 (0.25%)

5,275.91, +26.01 (0.50%)

S&P 500
2,186.48, +6.50 (0.30%)

NYSE Composite
10,891.15, +34.23 (0.32)

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The World According To Morons

Noting the popularity of the new smart phone game, "Pokemon Go," and its coincident release with fresh all-time highs on the S&P 500 and Dow Industrial Average, it can be safely assured that the civilized nations of planet earth have entered the final stage of self-destruction, in which morons - not zombies - take over the planet.

In some ways, the process of moron-izing the population is already well underway.

We are led to believe that voting for representatives in government actually is an expression of our freedom within a working democracy. When these representatives, from the president and members of congress on down to the local code enforcement officer, are proven to be solely interested in either re-election, amassing a fortune, or advancing their career paths and not working in the public interest we are called cynical or pessimistic.

Year after year, school budgets are increased while the quality of education is diminished. Normally intelligent-looking people vote to pay more in taxes to support a system that fails on a regular basis.

We pay good money for cable TV or other entertainment delivered to our homes or workplaces to watch people who are vastly overpaid do stupid things or play sports.

Investment professionals routinely lose money on investments with our hard-earned money and yet are hailed as experts within the financial community.

The vast majority of people can't raise a decent garden, hammer a nail or turn a screw. Still, they all complain that the infrastructure of the country is falling apart.

These are but a few examples of the lunacy that has nearly completely gripped our nation. The truth is that the people running things - politicians, bankers, CEOs - aren't all that bright. In fact, most of them are morons, versed only in maximizing their incomes, pensions and perks, but we follow them and aren't too overly distraught that they make 50-70 or 500 times what we do.

We should be, but it's getting a little late in the game to do anything about it. Besides, most of your contemporaries are morons with their noses stuck on their "smart" phones, playing the latest game app.

What can be done? Plenty.

Stand up, do something you haven't tried. Fix something that's broken. Pay less for things you usually buy, or just change your buying habits a little. Save the money, a little at a time, which will grow over time into something more substantial.

Stop voting. Period. Just stop. It only encourages bad behavior by the winners and losers alike.

Spending on frivolities is maybe a favorite of yours. As you grow older, you'll discover that spending money - often money you don't already have (credit) - is a behavior to be avoided. Spending on things you don't need, but only want, can be destructive to your finances.

A way to combat the incessant need to spend, foisted upon us by the media, commerce and ad industry, is to institute no-spend days. This can start as an experiment, as in a "No-Spend Sunday," and expanded to multiple days. It's pretty easy to do. Just buy what you'll need for a few days, and then don't spend any money over the next few.

(I'm currently in the midst of a three-out-of-four no-spend days. After a successful no-spend Saturday and Sunday, I realized I needed beer and ice on Monday, so I reluctantly spent $12.76. Today, Tuesday is a no-spend no-brainer).

It's a rewarding habit, as you end up with more cash in your pocket and a sense of accomplishment, when you actually accomplished little, other than not buying anything.

But, of course, morons won't understand this simple concept.

Until next time,

-- Fearless Rick

Today's markets were horribly dull, likely the result of central banks doing most of the trading over the past few weeks, months, years(?). They decided to not goose the markets any more, since they got over the desired all-time highs, for now. That should work until the next financial non-event, like Brexit, scares out the weak hands or causes some Alphas in the herd to take profits.

The S&P traded in a 10-point range over the entire session; the Dow, 75 points; the NASDAQ range was 33 points.


At the close:
Dow Jones Industrial Average
18,372.12, +24.45 (0.13%)

NASDAQ Composite
5,005.73, -17.09 (-0.34%)

S&P 500
2,152.43, +0.29 (0.01%)

NYSE Composite
10,734.16, +7.38 (0.07%)

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Wealth Building Suggestions In The Age Of Idiocy

Here are some pretty simple ideas for building and preserving wealth. When it comes to debt, not all is bad, though excessive debt is a non-starter for most people. Manage debt wisely. Any business will tell you they needed a loan or an equity partner to make money; people aren't very different.

Here are a few suggestions:
1. Buy silver (dollar cost average; buy a certain amount, be it $20 or $2000, per month, regardless of price.
2. Hide silver (self-explanatory) and don't touch it. This is your secret stash, outside the govenment's hands.
3. Find a business you can operate from home, even if it's a little more than just a hobby. Deduct all allowable expenses. I've been telling people to do this for years and the number who have listened and done it approaches ZERO. The tax code makes it easy to deduct substantial portions of your expenses.
4. Read "The Richest Man In Babylon." Follow the book's advice. Here's's a PDF online.
5. Never buy prepared foods at a grocery. Total junk, and a huge ripoff. Cook meals at home.
6. Have a garden. Even a 6x6 garden can produce a significant amount of produce.
7. Never stop learning. Knowledge is power.
8. Spend money like you don't have much. Always ask for a discount or deal.
9. Never, ever hire an investment advisor. If you think you don't know enough about investing, see #7 and educate yourself. The fact that you are reading this post makes you a candidate for being your own investment advisor and money manager.
10. Be a Boy Scout. Their motto is "Be Prepared."
11. Never panic, in either buying or selling situations. Trust your gut.

There are many more...

As far as the markets are concerned, Thursday was a repeat performance (by agents of central bankers) of Wednesday, with early losses rapidly erased and the major averages making a diagonal line from lower left to upper right on the charts.

Truly disturbing behavior from some exceptionally disturbed people.

S&P 500: 2,105.26, +5.93 (0.28%)
Dow: 17,838.56, +48.89 (0.27%)
NASDAQ: 4,971.36, +19.11 (0.39%)

Crude Oil 49.15 -0.04% Gold 1,213.10 +0.04% EUR/USD 1.1149 -0.04% 10-Yr Bond 1.81 -1.90% Corn 414.75 -0.12% Copper 2.07 +0.17% Silver 16.00 -0.16% Natural Gas 2.78 0.00% Russell 2000 1,170.58 +0.65% VIX 13.63 -4.01% BATS 1000 20,677.17 0.00% GBP/USD 1.4405 -0.10% USD/JPY 108.9500 +0.08%

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the meantime, many are saying this prayer:

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

...and hoping for the best.

A Glimpse Into the Collapsing Nature of Upstate New York

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

SOTU 2015 Recap: Drink, Drink, Chug, Vomit; Oscar Wilde For The Win

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.

Just to be fair, we didn't exactly keep pace with the president in our SOTU drinking game.

Having chosen the top four words from our Top Ten list - taxes, jobs, Middle Class, and, economy - President Obama brought down the house on the jobs number, using that specific word (either in the singular or plural form) 24 times before we stopped counting. Smartly, he only said "tax" or "taxes" five times, used the term, "Middle Class" four times, "economy" 13 times and never once used the word "rich."

Where the president excelled, however, actually overwhelming even our rosiest expectations, was in the bonus chugs segment, in which he mentioned ten countries specifically, not including the United States (or America), which technically didn't count, and was, obviously, one of the more frequently used words in his hour-long speech to the nation.

Obama got off early with mentions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and, though it took a while for him to come up with the third county, Japan, he took charge with a quick rattling off of Syria, Russia, Ukraine, Cuba, Iran, Israel and China in short order.

What took the whole drinking effort to new levels was the president's expert rendering of the terrorist naming bonus, in which we instructed that the mention of three terrorist groups would constitute a chug command. Though Obama specifically named only one group by name, he nailed the ISIS-ISIL bonus at 9:45 pm, 35 minutes into the speech, calling his favorite Mideast thugs by their pet name, ISIL, invoking the rule of our game to promptly end in a spellbinding, chug-til-you-puke crescendo.

So intent was the president on getting the nation massively inebriated that he intoned "ISIL" again just one minute later. Strangely enough, his wording was actually foreshadowed by Mrs. Alan Greenspan (aka, Andrea Mitchell), who mentioned ISIL just minutes before the president made his way to the podium. We applaud the otherwise droll Mrs. Greenspan for her literary bravado.

Aside from yet another successful SOTU drinking panacea - Obama's sixth - the president's rhetoric was little more than a rehash of his last two SOTU addresses, replete with promises that will be broken and high-minded principles to which congress and the administration will find difficult, if not impossible, to personalize.

Generally, while we agree in principle with a good deal of Obama's vision of America (though free community college and health care coverage for everyone are a bit too far out on the socialist agenda for our tastes), we have grown tired of waiting for either the president or the congress to come through with specific actions. Empty rhetoric becomes tiresome in short time. Repetition of such tends to be unbearable.

On the humorous, if not tragic, side, the president made the bold claim that inflation was at its lowest level in 50 years, at the precise time that the Federal Reserve is in a death match to avert outright deflation. While the president wishes to point out that low inflation is a grand intention - and it is - the pedals of public policy are being pimped and pumped by the pervicacious pedants at the Fed in exactly the opposite direction, with, thankfully, limited success.

Perhaps, in a perverse and fateful way, the wisdom and wit of Oscar Wilde is prescient:

"There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it."

By all appearances, neither the Fed, the president, nor the American public's aspirations will be satiated.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

State of the Union Drinking Game 2015: Multiple Choice, Top Ten Version, with Bonus Chug Words

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.

By now, most of you know the rules about State of the Union Drinking Games, but, to briefly recap, it goes something like this:

We stole this image, but,
we liked it, so we kept it.
1. Prepare your favorite adult beverage, be it beer, wine, or a mixed concoction. Keep refills close at hand.

2. Settle into a comfortable chair or on your couch and get ready for the annual ritual monologue from whomever it is that has been selected (recall that elections are so 20th century, done away with the Supreme Court's decision in Gore v. Bush, circa 2000; now it's all managed by your black box friends at Diebold et. al.) to give the State of the Union speech, always this is the president, so we get Mr. Obama for the sixth or seventh time this year. Honestly, we've lost count because we've been so drunk most of the time.

3. Choose a word (or words) you think the speaker will utter a number of times, and prepare to take a swig or (dangerous, unless you're swilling peach brandy or some other fru-fru-umbrella-type drink) do a shot when the word (or words) is uttered. Those of you pounding 151 Rum or Rumplemintz, you are our heroes.

4. Turn on TV. Prepare to be bored, then angry, then drunk, and probably angrier.

For this year, we decided to list the top ten words we think will be the most popular ones to come off the teleprompter and then the lips of the President, and, no, we did not get an advance copy of the speech, though there have been leaks about the direction the president will be taking the speech.

Now, we are disappointed that the speech will be televised live on the major networks beginning at 9:00 pm ET, which is a little late for those of us in the working class or past middle age (seniors). As for the latter group, seniors, you should plan on eating a little later this evening, say, waiting until maybe 6:30 instead of the usual early-bird 4:25 pm.

If you're a working guy or gal who has to be up at 5:00 am or earlier, well, welcome to 21st century slavery. There are alternatives, you know, but, most of you are suffering from a severe case of normalcy bias, so we'll just let you alone, for now. In any case, many of you may want to warm up with a few cold ones or mixed ones or straight ones or neat ones beforehand. Whatever blows your hair back is fine by us. Warm-up drinks are advised, but just don't overdo it. President Obama is a verified crowd-pleaser when it comes to drinking games.

OK, here's the recommended Top Ten list, from what we* here at Money Daily think the president will toss out of his mouth, in descending order, from the most frequent to the least. We've also included some bonus chugs for those of you who wish to get completely inebriated or fall into a deep trance or become comatized before bedtime.

  • 1. Taxes
  • 2. Jobs
  • 3. Middle Class (since it's two words and doesn't really exist anymore, we suggest taking two drinks whenever this term is used)
  • 4. Economy
  • 5. Russia
  • 6. Terror or terrorism
  • 7. Child or children
  • 8. Congress
  • 9. Education (always popular, but, in reality, a massive charade)
  • 10. Stocks or Stock Market

It's suggested that if you really want to get your swerve on, you use all these words, but, for the majority of us, picking three or four should be sufficient.

For bonus chugging we're throwing in a couple of caveat words. If the president mentions the "rich," in a negative connotation, as in, "the rich need to be taxed heavily because they've glommed up more than half of everything in the world..." then it's a bonus chug. Also, if the president names three  or more specific countries during his speech, that's a bonus chug on the third country mentioned and another bonus chug for each subsequent country mentioned (no cheating rule: if he says the same country over and over, as in, "Iran must not get nukes, Iran must not sell oil, Iran must not mess up our planned obsolescence in Syria, Iran must be bombed into submission, like Ukraine..." that (Iran) only counts as one country, not three or four, but, since he mentioned two other countries there, chug.).

So, if the president says, in one part of his speech, "I love Canada," then follows up later with "Syria's president, Assad, must be droned," and then goes on to say, "Russia, is, has been and always will be, our mortal enemy," that's three and you chug. If he goes onto say something like, "members of the European Union, France, Germany, Spain, etc.," well, we can only suspect that Mr. Obama has read this blog and is just trying to get everybody in America hammered before he gets to the really good lying about how "exceptional" America is and how he's going to work with congress and all that.

And, if he mentions any terrorist groups by name, like Hezbolla, or Boko Haram, and especially ISIS, which will no doubt get mentioned, one chug per group, per mention.

And, for the killer bonus, if the president calls ISIS by their favorite name, ISIL, it's game over, drink until you puke.

OK, make your choices carefully, and remember, drink, but don't drive, or, for that matter, use power tools, for God's sake.

And don't even think of posting your results in our comment section. We literally don't care.

*Actually, it's just me, Fearless Rick, but "we" sounds so much more officious and monumental and, well, bigger.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Situation in Cyprus Still Unresolved; European, US Stocks Hit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Washington Comes Alive Past Last Minute; Fiscal Cliff Averted... for Now; Wall Street Rejoices

Well, Money Daily was right. There was no fiscal cliff deal by midnight, December 31, 2012, but, those wily congress-critters once again outfoxed everyone by playing past the deadline and passing a bill that was, by and large, a deal, though it certainly didn't address any long-term issues, nor did it include any meaningful spending cuts.

Congress and the president - now back in Hawaii, playing golf, presumably - made sure that all the handouts would continue being handed out, extending unemployment benefits and keeping the Bush tax cuts in place for individuals earning less than $400,000 per year ($450,000 for couples), while raising the tax on those making more than that from 35% to 39.6%, which is a pretty big bite.

The "deal" also raised capital gains taxes from 15% to 20%, but only on those earning more than $400,000, a bit of relief for the 99% gang.

Scoring by the Congressional Budget Office and others put the cost of this deal at an increase of some $4 trillion to be added to the national debt over the next ten years. Nice job, boys.

Everybody's taxes will go up, however, because the deal did not extend the 2% tax holiday on Social Security payroll deductions, which was cut from 6.2% to 4.2% last year and will go back up to 6.2% this year. So, if you make $1000 a week, the feds will be taking an extra $20 out of every paycheck.

Foreclosures and short sales will continue to prosper in 2013, as the deal extended the 2007 Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act, which allows homeowners who experience a debt reduction through mortgage principal forgiveness or a short sale are exempt from being taxed on the forgiven amount.

Yippie! Our "Free houses for everyone!" motto lives on.

Wall Street was enthralled by the deal, sending stocks rocketing to their biggest gains of the year (Money Daily expects this will be the largest one-day gain for stocks in 2013, so bookmark this page now!).

The major indices made back all of the losses they took in the final ten trading days of 2012, and then some in just the first trading day of the new year.

At issue is how long the rally will last, whether this is just a one-day wonder or whether stocks can still remain the darlings of investors with 4th quarter earnings season on the horizon and the new congress (and same old president) having to deal with sequestration, deficit reduction and a debt limit increase within 60 days.

Since, according to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, we've already exceeded the debt limit, the feds will be borrowing from government pension funds to fund the government in the interim. A huge fight is ensured in February, as congress, if the latest fiasco offers any clue, won't want to deal with these issues until late in the game.

For now, though, roll with it. The Federal Reserve has the government's back, standing at the ready to print billions more in greenbacks at the hint of any troublesome developments.

Along with equities, expect everything else to keep getting pricier because there's really no easy way out of the monetary fix we're in. Next week, when life returns somewhat to normal, the angst will reemerge.

BTW: Money Daily was actually correct in predicting that everybody's taxes would go up under any kind of deal. They did. Check your paycheck in coming weeks for proof.

Dow 13,412.55, +308.41 (2.35%)
NASDAQ 3,112.26, +92.75 (3.07%)
S&P 500 1,462.42, +36.23 (2.54%)
NYSE Composite 8,631.18, +187.67 (2.22%)
NASDAQ Volume 2,071,100,625
NYSE Volume 4,634,567,000
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 5798-863 (wOW!)
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 679-21 (WOW! again)
WTI crude oil: 93.12, +1.30
Gold: 1,688.80, +13.00
Silver: 31.01, +0.78

Monday, December 10, 2012

Over the Cliff We Go, but Where Is the Fear?

America has finally been dumbed down enough so that the ruling elite can run roughshod over the nation unfettered by neither rule of law or unfortunate facts.

About a month ago, (first person singular here, so pay attention) I made a point (don't know whether or not I made the point in any blog posting or not) that my belief was that a deal on the Bush tax cuts' expiration and other "fiscal cliff" issues had already been cut. Today, I still hold to that belief and even more strongly than before.

Take, for instance, the measured pace of both the Washington politicians and the Wal Street traders. The politicians have done nothing, are no closer to a deal than they were a month ago and don't seem to be in a big hurry to resolve these "pressing" issues.

Wall Street, after a hissy fit bout of selling over "their man" Romney losing the election, have recouped most of the decline and keep gradually pushing stocks higher and higher, apparently oblivious to the threat of the entire nation falling (or being pushed) over said fiscal cliff come January 1, 2013.

The simple reason for believing that the politicians won't make a deal before January 1, 2013, are so obvious as to not even be worth mentioning and that is the exploding federal government deficit and ever-expanding national debt, due to surpass its limits within another month or so.

The government needs money. Let me say that again, with emphasis:

OK, maybe that was a little harsh on the eyes, but there's no doubting the veracity of that statement. And, since the government needs money, and, since the politicians express this nagging sentiment that they are two parties poles apart on ideology and methodology, when in fact they are one and the same party when it comes to self-survival, the best way to get more money is to raise taxes on everybody and blame each other, which, in the long run, means nobody gets blamed, nobody has to worry about torches, pitchforks and being run out of town on a rail, and everybody gets re-elected, eventually.

For Wall Street, it means more money for corporations, which can and do break every law imaginable in pursuit of profit, and largely get away with it. Or, the traders are just ramping up stocks on the backs of their muppet clients, while quietly cashing out and putting their money into tangible assets like gold, silver, real estate, or stashing it away in the Cayman Islands or some other off-shore tax haven.

Think, for a moment. According to recently released statistics, and demonstrated by this article, in August and September, over three times as many foodstamp recipients (over one million) were added to the economy as jobs (324,000). So, where's the recovery? For everybody who gets a low-wage, no-benefit, glorified part-time job, three people apply for and receive food stamps and become a burden on the working class.

Like so many other concepts and programs in these United States, this is unsustainable, yet the media keeps rminding us that all is well, and that we sould go out and buy the latest iWidget or iGadget for Christmas to keep the economy humming along. Really?

Take a look at the S&P Retail Index (^RLX), which, after a double bottom in late October and early November, has headed south again in the first six days of December.

This, my friends, is the Christmas season, the buying season, the make-or-break season for retailers. If everything is so honkey-dorey, then why is this index rolling over, right at the height of what should be its strongest season.

Maybe the market is just being counter-intuitive, but, more likely, the retailers are being slaughtered. Holiday buying is down, as some luxury retailers have recently expressed, like Tiffany and Nordstrom's, and Kohl's, a mainstream retailer, reported horrifying same-store sales last week. Cannibalization. Zombification. Call it what you will, but, if everybody - not just the rich, but, everybody - is going to pay more in taxes next year, because THE GOVERNMENT NEEDS MONEY, how then does the economy look going forward.

Happy Holidays my sweet, firm buns. We're heading over the fiscal cliff by design and the aftermath of crashing billions of dollars below is not going to be very pretty.

I may be completely wrong, but, believe what you like. By all appearances, the deal has already been struck, the politicians are just play-acting, and the deal is that there is no deal. Welcome to the next fork on the road to serfdom.

Am I the only one seeing this for what it is? Where's the fear of the economy rolling over into a recession in the first half of 2013, which the OMB has already expressed would happen were the Bush tax cuts to expire, unemployment benefits be allowed to expire, the reduced take out of Social Security be allowed to expire, and cuts in defense and other programs (the so-called "sequestration") occur all at once?

The congress is set to recess for the holidays on Friday, December 14, four days from now. There simply isn't time enough to craft a substantive deal before then, since nothing at all has been done.

Obama and the Democrats will blame House leader John Boehner and the Republicans, who will blame Obama and the Democrats, and the American people will be left holding the bag, once again, with less in it than before. Tax the rich, tax the poor, tax everybody in between and blame each other. What a plan! Absolutely brilliant!

Market Update at 4:50 pm ET...

Stuck on stupid is about the only way to describe today's market (non)activity. Narrow range (seriously, the Dow was between up 20 and 30 points for almost the entire session) on low volume with the full range of just 55 points was ugly. Totally dead money.

Dow 13,169.88, +14.75 (0.11%)
Nasdaq 2,986.96, +8.92 (0.30%)
S&P 500 1,418.55, +0.48 (0.03%)
NYSE Composite 8,322.68, +8.39(0.10%)
NYSE Volume 2,975,303,000
Nasdaq Volume 1,528,722,750
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 3095-2408
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 139-61
WTI crude oil: 85.56, -0.37
Gold: 1,714.40, +8.90
Silver: 33.38, +0.246

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Greek Debt Prison; Real Estate's Bogus Stats and Obama's Phantom Recovery

Let's Just Pretend.

That's what Wall Street, the EU and the central bankers of the world want you to do. Pretend.

Pretend there is a way out for Greece. Pretend that the US economy is growing, that the debtsof all nations will eventually be paid off through the magic of "growth," that your future, and that of your kids' will be secure.

None of it is true. The headlines from the likes of Reuters, Bloomberg and Dow Jones only parrot what the elite bankers and corrupt governments feed them. Journalism died during the Bush administration of the 2000s. The rule of law is being killed every day by the likes of the AG settlement, the non-prosecution of anybody involved in the mortgage/robo-signing/foreclosure scams and the constitution has been marginalized by congress and presidential orders.

What makes it even more frightful is that it seems to worsen every day. No statistics can be trusted and the words coming from the mouths of politicians ring hollow and void.

Take just a few of today's news items for instance. President Obama - to great fanfare - proposed new tax rates for businesses in the US. Never mind that they have less chance than Lindsay Lohan giving up drinking of ever being signed into law. Sure, they sound good (if by good you mean that the government is somehow entitled to the ridiculous amount of 28% of you company's net profits), but they will be twisted and broken and flailed about by a congress that knows nothing better than obfuscation, ridicule and deceit.

Then take a look at the January's existing home sales figures released by the NAR. Again, the trumpets blared that real estate is recovering, with the month's sales up 4.2% from December to an unadjusted 4.57 million, annualized (why do they annualize these figures in an age in which numbers can be recorded and crunched in an instant? It's easier to FAKE them that way.). Never mind that distressed properties boosted the number materially or that the rate of deals falling through continues to rise or that mortgage applications fell again this week.

But wait a minute. Last month's number was 4.61 million... Well, that was revised down to 4.38 million. So, that gain in December actually turned out to be a decline. Next month, the NAR can revise the January number down too, so that February shows a gain. It's a con. A shell game. And the American public is the mark.

And then there's the Greek deal, the third bailout for the nation in the past two years. It's not enough that the EU is "loaning" them another $172 billion ($130 billion Euros), but this one comes with various strings attached, such as a special account that requires Greece to pay its creditors before paying its own expenses; a permanent monitoring task force from the European Commission; private investors forced to eat 53.5% of the money they've already loaned (and are not getting back); drastic cuts to pensions, the minimum wage, defense spending, healthcare and public sector jobs; and more.

With these new conditions, Greece, for all intents and purposes, is no longer a sovereign state. Rather, it is a debt-slave, a ward of the European Union. Obviously, centuries of in-breeding among Europe's elite ruling class has taught them well how to subjugate the will of the masses.

But maybe there's hope. Since the signing of the Greek deal on Monday, stocks in Europe have done nothing but decline. There is little faith among professional investors that this arrangement will result in anything more than a temporary reprieve and an ultimate default.

In the US, stocks wandered around for the second straight day, though this time they finally bit the bullet and had to fall. Not by much, but any decline in stocks is a blow to the monied interests and they seem worried about Greece, about the price of gas and about the economy in general. And the volume was again absurdly low, because nobody but the banks, hedge funds and HFTs are playing.

They might even begin to worry that people are sick and tired of being lied to and are beginning to wake up.

Wake up, America. How much longer can these charades continue?

Dow 12,938.67, -27.02 (0.21%)
NASDAQ 2,933.17, -15.40 (0.52%)
S&P 500 1,357.66, -4.55 (0.33%)
NYSE Composite 8,094.39, -21.03 (0.26%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,676,971,875
NYSE Volume 3,608,714,750
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2032-3589
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 162-24
WTI crude oil: 106.28, +0.03
Gold: 1,771.30, +12.80
Silver: 34.25, -0.18

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Markets Down Without Cause; Bike Riding offers Solutions

The Markets

Stocks could not follow through - as expected - yesterday's momentum rally, despite there being a paucity of news - good or bad. The only actionable events were the pre-open release of weekly unemployment claims, which came in poorly again, at 414,000, up 2,000 from an upwardly-revised 412,000 in the prior week.

Other than that, the ECB and Bank of England kept key interest rates unchanged, so all there was to do was to sell those stocks which were profitable in yesterday's trading and sit in cash until after the president's 7:00 pm EDT speech in which he is supposed to unveil some sort of jobs program.

The Bernanke speech in Milwaukee was a disappointment to those who wished he would announce QE3 - it's not going to happen - and consisted mainly of the Fed chairman droning on about how weak the economy is and how the Fed stands vigilant to do whatever it can to fix it. The takeaway was that the fed really doesn't have much power any more, having used up all the bullets in their six-shooter. The speech, thus, was a big non-event.

While there's been a multitude of opinion surrounding what the president might say in his speech tonight, whatever his jobs program might be, it's proabably going to consist mainly of an extension of the payroll tax holiday, tax credits to businesses who hire new employees (a program that has great potential to be scammed heavily), some kind of infrastructure "bank" (read: borrow and spend, also great scam potential) to repair more highways, bridges and tunnels, and little else.

The president is relying on bad economic information, which he has since he took office. Mr. Obama neither understands the US economy nor the travails of the average American. If he truly wanted to fix things in this country, he'd force phone, cable and power companies to cut their exorbitant rates, put a nationwide cap of $3.00 per gallon on gasoline at retail, announce a larger and more-encompassing tax holiday, slash medicare and social security contributions and simultaneously cut the pay of every federal government employee by five to ten percent (the tax cuts would ease the pain completely), and repeal the monstrosity that is known as Obamacare.

That isn't going to happen, so expect the US economy to remain moribund for at least another year, probably 18 months, and quite possibly longer. Until the government gets it's act together and begins to understand that the problem is that there aren't enough real jobs in the country to re-employ the 14 million out of work and that borrowing more on band-aid programs aren't going to jump start anything any time soon. The time is right for fundamental changes to entitlements and the grotesque tax code. Whether there's the political will to make these changes is highly doubtful, especially when all the politicians are focused only on keeping their jobs and fighting for control of the White House. The election is still 14 months away, but that's all that occupies the minds of our beloved "leaders."

Dow 11,295.81, -119.05 (1.04%)
NASDAQ 2,529.14, -19.80 (0.78%)
S&P 500 1,185.90, -12.72 (1.06%)
NYSE Compos 7,257.36, -97.81 (1.33%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,951,654,250
NYSE Volume 4,277,785,000
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 1603-4886
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 58-56
WTI crude oil futures: 89.05, -0.29
Gold: 1865.80, +48.50
Silver: 42.34, +0.79

Idea: Ride a Bike Whenever Practical or Possible

It's been said that when you learn how to ride a bike, you never forget, and since most Americans grew up riding bikes as kids and teens, there's probably about 150-200,000 million of us who could get on one and ride without fear of falling off. For many, especially those whose diets have caused them to become grossly overweight or obese, a good, sturdy mountain bike and a two mile ride every day would go a long way toward reducing both their weight and future medical costs from everything from diabetes to heart disease.

The advantages of riding a bike are probably too numerous to mention, but beyond the obvious health benefits, bikes require no fuel at all, except that which comes from the furious pedaling of our little legs. With the price of gas hovering near $4.00 a gallon, every mile trekked on a bicycle is a savings in fuel use and expense. Not only does the savings accrue to the individual, but if enough people substituted driving their cars for trips of under two miles and instead rode a bike, it wouldn't be long before those ridiculous gas prices began coming down, providing a benefit to the whole country.

Economic change is usually accomplished at the fringes, and promoting bike riding as a health and financial benefit is right out there on the outer limits, where economists are generally blind.