Archives for November 2013

Black Friday: A Shameful Orgy Of Materialism

Courtesy of Michael Snyder of Economic Collapse

Black Friday It has been called "America's most disturbing holiday".  Black Friday is the day when millions of average Americans wait outside retail stores in the middle of the night in the freezing cold to spend more money that they do not have for more cheap Chinese-made products that they do not need. It is a day when the rest of the world makes fun of Americans for behaving like "rabid animals."

It truly is a shameful orgy of materialism.  It is being projected that approximately 140 million Americans will participate in this disgusting national ritual this year. Sadly, most of them have absolutely no idea that they are actively participating in the destruction of the economic infrastructure of the United States.  If you don't understand why this is true, please be sure to read this entire article.

The amount of merchandise that is purchased on Black Friday is staggering.  For example, just consider how much stuff is sold at Wal-Mart alone:

Wal-Mart said it recorded more than 10 million register transactions between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. Thursday in its stores and nearly 400 million page views that day on walmart.com. It sold 2.8 million towels, 2 million televisions, 1.4 million tablets, 300,000 bicycles and 1.9 million dolls. Big-ticket electronics like big-screen TVs and new videogame consoles were among the top sellers.

Every year, Black Friday seems to bring out the worst in many people, and this year was certainly no exception. The following are just a few of the national headlines about the rioting and the violence that were witnessed…

-"Holiday shopping season kicks off with fights, arrests"

-"Violence flares as shoppers slug it out for best Black Friday deals"

-"Watch Screaming Mobs Fight Over Televisions At Wal-Mart"

-"Two Arrested After Stabbing Over Parking Space At Wal-Mart"

-"Rialto Walmart Thanksgiving brawl sends one police officer to hospital"

-"Walmart Ejects Customer For Filming Violent ‘Black Thursday’ Mobs"

-"Cops: Shoplifting suspect shot after dragging officer"

And sometimes the violence extends out into the parking lots and into the surrounding neighborhoods. In Las Vegas, a man that was carrying a big-screen television home from Target was shot in the leg…

According to police, a man purchased a big-screen television from the Target store near Flamingo Rd. and Maryland Pkwy. While he was walking to a nearby apartment complex, a man approached and fired a warning shot, causing the victim to drop the television, police said.

Officers tell 8 News NOW the gunman then took the television to a nearby car that was waiting, where a second man helped the gunman load the TV into the car.

The victim approached the two men and tried to get the television back. That prompted the gunman to fire several more rounds, shooting the victim in the leg.

Every year I go over to YouTube to check out the madness that breaks out on Black Friday night all over the nation.  Posted below is the best compilation video from Black Friday that I could find.  In particular, I love how this video compares American shoppers to zombies…

And there is one more video that I wanted to share with you.  In this video, activist Mark Dice dresses up like Santa Claus and mocks Black Friday shoppers for being "parasites" and for ruining Thanksgiving…

Meanwhile, as retail stores all over America actively encourage this zombie-like behavior, police are actually cracking down on other groups of Americans that are actively trying to make this country a better place. For example, a Christian group in Lake Worth, Florida was kicked out of a public park for trying to feed the homeless on Thanksgiving.  Of course this kind of thing happens all the time.  In fact, dozens of major cities all over the country have now passed laws that make it illegal to feed the homeless.  For much more on this, please see my previous article entitled "One Lawmaker Is Literally Smashing The Belongings Of The Homeless With A Sledgehammer".

At the beginning of this article, I stated that those who go shopping on Black Friday "are actively participating in the destruction of the economic infrastructure of the United States".

How could that possibly be? Aren't they helping the economy by spending their money?

Actually, it isn't that simple.

Just think about it for a moment.  Where are most of the "advertised specials" that people go crazy over on Black Friday actually made?

If you guessed "China", you would be correct.  In fact, it is very difficult to find any "Black Friday specials" that are actually made in the United States.

When you buy stuff made in China, you support workers and businesses in China.  As I mentioned in a recent article, the U.S. economy loses approximately 9,000 jobs for every 1 billion dollars of goods that are imported from overseas.

Overall, the U.S. has run a total trade deficit with the rest of the world of more than 8 trillion dollars since 1975.

So when you look around and see lots of unemployed people, it should not be a surprise to you.

Right now, the labor force participation rate is at a 35-year-low and more than 102 million working age Americans do not have a job.  That number has increased by 27 million just since the year 2000.

Because the American people are not supporting American businesses, our formerly great manufacturing cities are being transformed into rotting, festering hellholes. Just take a look at Detroit.  At one time Detroit had the highest per capita income in the entire nation, but now it is a dying, bankrupt ghost town.

And of course this is happening to manufacturing cities all over the nation.  Since 2001, more than 56,000 manufacturing facilities in the U.S. have permanently shut down and we have lost millions of good paying manufacturing jobs.

Back in the 1980s, more than 20 percent of the jobs in the United States were manufacturing jobs. Today, only about 9 percent of the jobs in the United States are manufacturing jobs.

Good job America.  And the following are some more facts from one of my previous articles about how our massively bloated trade deficit is absolutely killing our economy…

-There are less Americans working in manufacturing today than there was in 1950 even though the population of the country has more than doubled since then.

-Back in 1950, more than 80 percent of all men in the United States had jobs. Today, less than 65 percent of all men in the United States have jobs.

-When NAFTA was pushed through Congress in 1993, the United States had a trade surplus with Mexico of 1.6 billion dollars.  By 2010, we had a trade deficit with Mexico of 61.6 billion dollars.

-Back in 1985, our trade deficit with China was approximately 6 million dollars (million with a little "m") for the entire year. In 2012, our trade deficit with China was 315 billion dollars. That was the largest trade deficit that one nation has had with another nation in the history of the world.

-According to the Economic Policy Institute, America is losing half a million jobs to China every single year.

-According to Professor Alan Blinder of Princeton University, 40 million more U.S. jobs could be sent offshore over the next two decades if current trends continue.

Unfortunately, most Americans never stop to think about what happens when we buy stuff from China. When we buy stuff from them, our money goes over there. At this point, they are sitting on trillions of our dollars and they have purchased more than a trillion dollars of our debt.

Up until now, Chinese demand for our dollars has helped keep the value of the U.S. dollar artificially high.  This is one of the reasons why Wal-Mart can sell you those Chinese imports so inexpensively.

And up until now, Chinese demand for our debt has helped keep long-term interest rates artificially low.  So the U.S. government has been able to borrow money at ridiculously low interest rates and U.S. home buyers have been able to get mortgage rates that are well below the real rate of inflation.

But no irrational state of affairs ever lasts indefinitely, and the Chinese recently announced that they are going to quit stockpiling U.S. dollars.  Many analysts believe that this means that the Chinese will soon stop stockpiling U.S. debt as well.

So enjoy those super cheap "Black Friday specials" while they last. That era is coming to an end.

Now that the Chinese have stolen tens of thousands of our businesses, millions of our jobs and trillions of our dollars, perhaps they feel that there is not much more looting to be done.  Our economic infrastructure has been essentially gutted at this point.  Moving forward, China can afford to let the value of the U.S. dollar fall and the value of their own currency rise because even Barack Obama admits that "those jobs are never coming back".

And every single American that went shopping on Black Friday and bought Chinese-made goods actively participated in the ongoing destruction of the U.S. economy.

Good job America. You are a nation that is utterly consumed by materialism and greed, and you don't even realize that you are destroying yourself with your own foolishness.

Provision in Obamacare Likely to Force Up Cost of Many Family Plans

Courtesy of Mish.

In an ongoing trend, unrelated to Obamacare, companies have been passing on more and more healthcare costs to employees.

However, an ACA gotcha has impacted the way costs are passed on, with families taking a bigger hit than individuals at many companies.

Please consider Companies Prepare to Pass More Health Costs to Workers.

Many employers are betting that the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that all Americans have health insurance starting in 2014 will bring more people into their plans who have previously opted out. That, along with other rising expenses, is prompting companies to raise workers’ premium contributions, steer them toward high-deductible plans and charge them more to cover family members.

The changes as companies roll out their health plans for 2014 aren’t solely the result of the ACA. Employers have been pushing more of the cost of providing health insurance on to their workers for years, and firms that aren’t booking much sales growth due to the sluggish economy are under heavy pressure to keep expenses down.

A quirk of the Affordable Care Act could make it more appealing for companies to raise rates for family coverage than for individuals, said Vivian Ho, a Rice University health-care economist.

Starting in 2015, companies employing 50 or more people must offer affordable health-care coverage to anyone working 30 hours a week or more. But affordability is measured using the cost of individual coverage, capping the cost at 9.5% of income, Ms. Ho said. Raising family rates could help companies recoup costs without running afoul of that limit, she said.

Gannett Co., which owns more than 80 newspapers and 23 television stations, expects one factor in its increased health costs to be the addition of more employees to its insurance plans due to the ACA rules, according to a person familiar with the company’s projections.

To address an overall increase in costs, Gannett has replaced the two plans for families it used to offer its workers with a single high-deductible plan that requires employees to pay the first $3,000 of medical costs each year, according to workers at the Indianapolis Star, one of the company’s papers. For those with individual coverage, who make up a little over half of Gannett’s insurance pool, the figure is $1,500.

The company also scrapped a sliding scale that let lower-income workers pay lower premiums. For some employees, the result was a 60% jump in monthly premiums for family coverage, to $575 from about $360.

Gannett said more than half of its employees will see premiums fall by 12%.

United Parcel Service Inc. made headlines in August when it said that it would bar spouses from its nonunion health plan if they could get coverage at their own jobs. The company said it expected to see an increase in its health-care costs in part from adding employees to its plan who currently opt out….

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Is Janet Yellen Smarter Than Me?

Courtesy of EconMatters

Yellen`s Talking Points

During Janet Yellen`s Senate Banking Committee testimony to paraphrase she said that she doesn`t see a bubble in stock prices based upon some of the metrics they utilize at the Fed, and she mentioned that the rise in the 10-year Bond Yield approaching 3% caused the Fed to delay their previously telegraphed taper move in October.

There are a couple of disturbing points that came out of her take on bubbles and the rationale behind not tapering a mere 10 or 15 Billion dollars given the monthly commitment of 85 Billion in Fed Purchases every month. 

Since when did the Fed outright Buying of Bonds become Normal?

Just the mere notion given the history of markets and the Fed`s participation in Markets that the Federal Reserve buying $85 Billion of Monthly Asset Purchases is somehow normal or not just an exceptionally unusual participation in financial markets is quite troubling. 

First problematic issue is that they do not think this policy is extraordinarily unusual, and second problematic issue is that such an extraordinary policy might not have some unintended consequences or side effects for financial markets. 

Are Markets Free or Social Instruments?

The Federal Reserve has no business whatsoever in affecting market prices of stocks and commodities, and it seems that the original purpose of easing monetary policy by lowering the Fed Funds Rate to near Zero is one thing, and yes this derivatively will effect Bond Prices and the Bond Markets, but they have no business artificially influencing the Bond Market through outright purchases of government Bonds.

This is far overstepping their purview and it vastly distorts market prices, which is bad enough in and of itself, markets exist for a reason to set prices given fundamentals of supply and demand that reflect economic conditions in the real world. 

But to not expect the massive influencing of the Bond Market to then have derivative effects into other markets like commodities and equities and that somehow prices could appreciate to unsustainable levels that come crashing down once the intervention is discontinued is just the height of irresponsibility and short-sightedness.

Market & Trading Experience in Short Supply at the Federal Reserve

Anybody that has actual market experience, someone who regularly through good and bad business cycles trades stocks, bonds, commodities and currencies recognizes how these instruments trade under all conditions. 

This is what the Fed lacks is any understanding of what constitutes normal price discovery in financial markets. Economic theory may be great for setting interest rate policy from a Macro level, but once the Fed started directly intervening in Markets, then they need some trading experience to spot bubbly conditions of asset prices, i.e., how the instruments normally trade versus the current market price action.

Distorted Price Discovery in Markets

Whenever traders get to the point where they know they can buy every dip for the last five years because the Fed was always going to bail them out either by restarting another QE Initiative, or the current backstop of 85 Billion of Direct Market Asset Purchases this distorts in a highly artificial manner true market price discovery.

It also leads to borrowing heavily on margin further incentivized by exceptionally low borrowing costs that adds additional fuel to the fire in elevating asset prices to unusually highs levels relative to the actual fundamentals of the market under normal price discovery conditions. 

Isn`t this the same Methodology & Psychology of the Last Bubble Cycle?

The most irresponsible portion of this behavior is that this is precisely the behavior that led to the financial crises, the housing crash and resultant mortgage, bank and financial system bailouts of Wall Street firms like AIG, Bear Sterns, Lehman Brothers and Citibank. 

Every regulator, politician, Fed Policy figure and Bank Executive all agreed that they had learned the lessons of using excessive leverage, excessive risk taking, and that the Federal Reserve especially was going to set the precedent of “Moral Hazard” in that they were going to go out of their way to avoid the monetary policies of excessive intervention that led to the overly disproportionate risk taking responsible for the Housing Bubble. 

And yet in just five short years we have forgotten all this wisdom and learning points and have thrown prudent risk management strategies regarding monetary policy out the window and summarily fail to recognize the Fed`s hand in creating a massively unsustainable bubble in financial markets once again.

10-Year Yield & 3% Threshold – Really?

If the Federal Reserve was threatened by the 10-Year Bond yield approaching 3% so much that they couldn`t taper a mere 15 Billion dollars, then what does that foretell for the future of these markets? The Fed ought to ask themselves this very question, and it ought to keep them up at night! 

This says more about the problem that the Fed has gotten itself into with regard to this unusual monetary policy initiative to intervene in financial markets – than at what price level constitutes bubbly conditions in stock prices. 

They cannot even approach un-intervening in markets because they have overstepped any normal fed policy boundary or any market policy for that matter that the level of artificial influence is to such a high degree that they basically are the entire market in certain pricing dynamics – unless they are prepared to be the market (whole other set of unintended consequences) then going from an interventionist market back to a free market means absolute chaos – and the classic example of an artificial bubble!

This is the 10-Year Bond Yield; the fact that a 3% yield threatens the Federal Reserve is absurd. This is not the 1-Year Yield, we are talking about a 10 year time period; shoot the Fed Funds Rate was 5.5% just 6 years ago! 

Get a grip Fed because you’re worried about the least worrisome dynamic of your Fed Policy`s unintended consequences – what happens when you have a Bond Market after five years of intervention that returns to market forces all the sudden and the US is facing a 12% interest payment on its debt? This is what the Federal Reserve should be worried about down the line. 

My parents actually had mortgage rates in the 18% range during their lifetime – this degree of escalation in higher yield is not so unprecedented as some might think. It can happen once again!

This isn`t my First Bubble Rodeo!

I have been a market participant for the last fifteen years and have seen the Tech Bubble, The Enron-World Com Bubbles, The Housing and Financial Crisis Bubbles, and I can tell Janet Yellen asset prices including stock prices are in bubble territory. 

When I look at how easily the Google’s, Tesla, Netflix, Priceline’s, Twitter, Amazons of the world have reached these lofty price levels over the last five years the Fed has set the stage for massive price depreciation in stocks and people`s portfolios once the interventionist Fed policy is taken away – these are not normal market conditions Janet Yellen! 

Accordingly you may have an economic background, and have economic and financial models that lead you to believe that stocks are not in bubble territory Janet, but from a trading perspective, someone with actual experience in buying and selling financial assets over the last fifteen years – there is no true price discovery, i.e., instruments don`t trade in a two-sided pricing discovery process.

It is Risk-On all the time with no consequences yet for the inevitable unintended consequences of such behavior – the inevitable crash when conditions get unsustainable under any intervention policy.

Now or Later – That is the Question!

This is the real danger to forestall the cessation of intervention for longer, to delay the stepping away, to the point where asset prices get so elevated, that even with an $85 Billion Monthly Asset Purchases, the decline and losses from such elevated levels, means that stocks just crash right through levels in humongous freefalls.

This is the scenario where losses exacerbated by out of this world leverage, cause that 85 Billion to be nothing but a mere entry point for more shorting, as the Market Crash takes hold, and stocks freefall dropping chunks of losses along the way that has fund managers selling without Algos – just get this stuff out the door at any price – this is where we were in 2007 with 15 Billion Quarterly Write-Downs by the Banks! 

Hence you can pay now or pay later, but you’re going to pay Janet! So until you get some actual market experience, you keep to worrying about how to create jobs, and let me tell you when there are bubbles in stock prices Janet! 

Yes Janet, I am smarter than you when it comes to Stock Market Bubbles, and we are currently in a stock market bubble. Consequently when do you want to Pay, Janet – it is going to cost you either way, Pay now or Pay Much More Later on down the line!

Black Friday Roundup: Walmart has 10M Transactions in 4 Hrs; Exhausted Shoppers Head Home; Fights Break Out at Walmart; Real Fight is Online

Courtesy of Mish.

In some locations, people pushed, shoved, and fought their way through the shopping aisles. In other locations, traffic was normal.

All in all, I suspect people once again bought more junk they do not need and cannot afford.

Here is a sampling of the news.

Walmart Processes 10 Million Transactions in 4 Hours

The New York Times reports Exhausted Shoppers Head Home, Replaced by the Next Wave.

While some malls across the country were busy during the traditional postholiday shopping on Friday, the crowds at others seemed sparse to some regular customers, who compared them to a regular weekend’s atmosphere. Perhaps it’s possible that the earlier Thanksgiving hours and the increase in online shopping — with so many e-tailers offering competitive deals — had lessened the desire to peruse racks of clothes inside some physical stores.

Still, customers sensed there were deals to be had on both days, and parking lots at some malls were jammed again on Friday. On both Friday and Thursday, some customers complained about their fellow shoppers. Holly Schneider, another shopper at the Leesburg outlets, said prices were far better than consumer behavior. “People are rude, just really rude,” Mrs. Schneider said. “There’s no personal space. It’s like you’re not even there. They’re bumping into you, knocking you down. They don’t see you. They see where they’re going.”

IPad Airs and several televisions sold out on Target.com by midmorning on Thursday. Walmart announced that the company had sold 1.4 million tablets on Thanksgiving Day. Walmart also said it had processed more than 10 million transactions at its registers from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday, including lower-tech items like nearly two million dolls.

Over all, online sales were up nearly 10 percent over last year by Black Friday afternoon, according to IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark.

Walmart Black Friday Fight

What would Black Friday be without a fight? 


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China Is On A Debt Binge And A Buying Spree Unlike Anything The World Has Ever Seen Before

China Is On A Debt Binge And A Buying Spree Unlike Anything The World Has Ever Seen Before

Courtesy of Michael Snyder of Economic Collapse

When it comes to reckless money creation, it turns out that China is the king.  Over the past five years, Chinese bank assets have grown from about 9 trillion dollars to more than 24 trillion dollars.  This has been fueled by the greatest private debt binge that the world has ever seen.  According to a recent World Bank report, the level of private domestic debt in China has grown from about 9 trillion dollars in 2008 to more than 23 trillion dollars today.  In other words, in just five years the amount of money that has been loaned out by banks in China is roughly equivalent to the amount of debt that the U.S. government has accumulated since the end of the Reagan administration.  And Chinese bank assets now absolutely dwarf the assets of the U.S. Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank, the Bank of Japan and the Bank of England combined.  You can see an amazing chart which shows this right here.  A lot of this "hot money" has been flowing out of China and into U.S. companies, U.S. stocks and U.S. real estate.  Unfortunately for China (and for the rest of us), there are lots of signs that the gigantic debt bubble in China is about to burst, and when that does happen the entire world is going to feel the pain.

It was Zero Hedge that initially broke this story.  Over the past several years, most of the focus has been on the reckless money printing that the Federal Reserve has been doing, but the truth is that China has been far more reckless

You read that right: in the past five years the total assets on US bank books have risen by a paltry $2.1 trillion while over the same period, Chinese bank assets have exploded by an unprecedented $15.4 trillion hitting a gargantuan CNY147 trillion or an epic $24 trillion – some two and a half times the GDP of China!

 Putting the rate of change in perspective, while the Fed was actively pumping $85 billion per month into US banks for a total of $1 trillion each year, in just the trailing 12 months ended September 30, Chinese bank assets grew by a mind-blowing $3.6 trillion!

I was curious to see what all of this debt creation was doing to the money supply in China.  So I looked it up, and I discovered that M2 in China has grown by about 1000% since 1999…

M2 Money Supply China

So what has China been doing with all of that money?

Well, they have been on a buying spree unlike anything the world has ever seen before.  For example, according to Reuters China has essentially bought the entire oil industry of Ecuador…

China's aggressive quest for foreign oil has reached a new milestone, according to records reviewed by Reuters: near monopoly control of crude exports from an OPEC nation, Ecuador.

Last November, Marco Calvopiña, the general manager of Ecuador's state oil company PetroEcuador, was dispatched to China to help secure $2 billion in financing for his government. Negotiations, which included committing to sell millions of barrels of Ecuador's oil to Chinese state-run firms through 2020, dragged on for days.

And the Chinese have been doing lots of shopping in the United States as well.  The following is an excerpt from a recent CNBC article entitled "Chinese buying up California housing"…

At a brand new housing development in Irvine, Calif., some of America's largest home builders are back at work after a crippling housing crash. Lennar, Pulte, K Hovnanian, Ryland to name a few. It's a rebirth for U.S. construction, but the customers are largely Chinese.

"They see the market here still has room for appreciation," said Irvine-area real estate agent Kinney Yong, of RE/MAX Premier Realty. "What's driving them over here is that they have this cash, and they want to park it somewhere or invest somewhere."

Apparently a lot of these buyers have so much cash that they are willing to outbid anyone if they like the house…

The homes range from the mid-$700,000s to well over $1 million. Cash is king, and there is a seemingly limitless amount.

"The price doesn't matter, 800,000, 1 million, 1.5. If they like it they will purchase it," said Helen Zhang of Tarbell Realtors.

So when you hear that housing prices are "going up", you might want to double check the numbers.  Much of this is being caused by foreign buyers that are gobbling up properties in certain "hot" markets.

We see this happening on the east coast as well.  In fact, a Chinese firm recently purchased one of the most important landmarks in New York City

Chinese conglomerate Fosun International Ltd. (0656.HK) will buy office building One Chase Manhattan Plaza for $725 million, adding to a growing list of property purchases by Chinese buyers in New York city.

The Hong Kong-listed firm said it will buy the property from JP Morgan Chase Bank, according to a release on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange website.

Chinese firms, in particular local developers, have looked overseas to diversify their property holdings as the economy at home slows. Chinese individuals also have been investing in property abroad amid tight policy measures in the mainland residential market.

Earlier this month, Chinese state-owned developer Greenland Holdings Group agreed to buy a 70% stake in an apartment project next to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., in what is the largest commercial-real-estate development in the U.S. to get direct backing from a Chinese firm.

And in a previous article, I discussed how the Chinese have just bought up the largest pork producer in the entire country…

Just think about what the Smithfield Foods acquisition alone will mean.  Smithfield Foods is the largest pork producer and processor in the world.  It has facilities in 26 U.S. states and it employs tens of thousands of Americans.  It directly owns 460 farms and has contracts with approximately 2,100 others.  But now a Chinese company has bought it for $4.7 billion, and that means that the Chinese will now be the most important employer in dozens of rural communities all over America.

For many more examples of how the Chinese are gobbling up companies, real estate and natural resources all over the United States, please see my previous article entitled "Meet Your New Boss: Buying Large Employers Will Enable China To Dominate 1000s Of U.S. Communities".

But more than anything else, the Chinese seem particularly interested in acquiring real money.

And by that, I mean gold and silver.

In recent years, the Chinese have been buying up thousands of tons of gold at very depressed prices.  Meanwhile, the western world has been unloading gold at a staggering pace.  By the time this is all over, the western world is going to end up bitterly regretting this massive transfer of real wealth.

Unfortunately for the Chinese, it appears that the unsustainable credit bubble that they have created is starting to burst.  According toBloomberg, the amount of bad loans that the five largest banks in China wrote off during the first half of this year was three times larger than last year…

China’s biggest banks are already affected, tripling the amount of bad loans they wrote off in the first half of this year and cleaning up their books ahead of what may be a fresh wave of defaults. Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. and its four largest competitors expunged 22.1 billion yuan of debt that couldn’t be collected through June, up from 7.65 billion yuan a year earlier, regulatory filings show.

And Goldman Sachs is projecting that China may be facing 3 trillion dollars in credit losses as this bubble implodes…

Interest owed by borrowers rose to an estimated 12.5 percent of China’s economy from 7 percent in 2008, Fitch Ratings estimated in September. By the end of 2017, it may climb to as much as 22 percent and “ultimately overwhelm borrowers.”

Meanwhile, China’s total credit will be pushed to almost 250 percent of gross domestic product by then, almost double the 130 percent of 2008, according to Fitch.

The nation might face credit losses of as much as $3 trillion as defaults ensue from the expansion of the past four years, particularly by non-bank lenders such as trusts, exceeding that seen prior to other credit crises, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. estimated in August.

The Chinese are trying to get this debt spiral under control by tightening the money supply.  That may sound wise, but the truth is that it is going to create a substantial credit crunch and the entire globe will end up sharing in the pain…

Yields on Chinese government debt have soared to their highest levels in nearly nine years amid Beijing's relentless drive to tighten the monetary spigots in the world's second-largest economy.

The higher yields on government debt have pushed up borrowing costs broadly, creating obstacles for companies and government agencies looking to tap bond markets. Several Chinese development banks, which have mandates to encourage growth through targeted investments, have had to either scale back borrowing plans or postpone bond sales.

This could ultimately be a much bigger story than whether or not the Fed decides to "taper" or not.

It has been the Chinese that have been the greatest source of fresh liquidity since the last financial crisis, and now it appears that source of liquidity is tightening up.

So as the flow of "hot money" out of China starts to slow down, what is that going to mean for the rest of the planet?

And when you consider this in conjunction with the fact that China has just announced that it is going to stop stockpiling U.S. dollars, it becomes clear that we have reached a major turning point in the financial world.

2014 is shaping up to be a very interesting year, and nobody is quite sure what is going to happen next.

Sorry, Folks, Rich People Actually Don’t ‘Create The Jobs’

Sorry, Folks, Rich People Actually Don't 'Create The Jobs'

Courtesy of Henry Blodget of Business Insider

Dust Bowl

AP

As America struggles with high unemployment and record inequality, everyone is offering competing solutions to the problem.

In this war of words (and classes), one thing has been repeated so often that many people now regard it as fact.

"Rich people create the jobs."

Specifically, by starting and directing America's companies, rich entrepreneurs and investors create the jobs that sustain everyone else.

This statement is usually invoked to justify cutting taxes on entrepreneurs and investors.  If only we reduce those taxes and regulations, the story goes, entrepreneurs and investors can be incented to build more companies and create more jobs.

This argument ignores the fact that taxes on entrepreneurs and investors are already historically low, even after this year's modest increases. And it ignores the assertions of many investors and entrepreneurs (like me) that they would work just as hard to build companies even if taxes were higher.

But, more importantly, this argument perpetuates a myth that some well-off Americans use to justify today's record inequality — the idea that rich people create the jobs.

 

Income Inequality 1997-2008 hi-res

Economic Policy Institute

In the last 15 years, almost all of the income gains have gone to the richest Americans.

Entrepreneurs and investors like me actually don't create the jobs — not sustainable ones, anyway.

Yes, we can create jobs temporarily, by starting companies and funding losses for a while. And, yes, we are a necessary part of the economy's job-creation engine. But to suggest that we alone are responsible for the jobs that sustain the other 300 million Americans is the height of self-importance and delusion.

So, if rich people do not create the jobs, what does?

A healthy economic ecosystem — one in which most participants (the middle class) have plenty of money to spend.

Over the last couple of years, a rich investor and entrepreneur named Nick Hanauer has annoyed all manner of rich investors and entrepreneurs by explaining this in detail. Hanauer was the founder of online advertising company aQuantive, which Microsoft bought for $6.4 billion. 

What creates a company's jobs, Hanauer explains, is a healthy economic ecosystem surrounding the company, which starts with the company's customers.

The company's customers buy the company's products. This, in turn, channels money to the company and creates the need for the company to hire employees to produce, sell, and service those products. If the company's customers and potential customers go broke, the demand for the company's products will collapse. And the jobs will disappear, regardless of what the entrepreneurs or investors do.

Now, again, entrepreneurs are an important part of the company-creation process. And so are investors, who risk capital in the hope of earning returns. But, ultimately, whether a new company continues growing and creates self-sustaining jobs is a function of the company's customers' ability and willingness to pay for the company's products, not the entrepreneur or the investor capital. Suggesting that "rich entrepreneurs and investors" create the jobs, therefore, Hanauer observes, is like suggesting that squirrels create evolution.

Or, to put it even more simply, it's like saying that a seed creates a tree. The seed does not create the tree. The seed starts the tree. But what actually grows and sustains the tree is the combination of the DNA in the seed and the soil, sunshine, water, atmosphere, nutrients, and other factors that nurture it. Plant a seed in an inhospitable environment, like a desert or Mars, and the seed won't create anything. It will die.

So, then, if what creates the jobs in our economy is, in part, "customers," who are these customers? And what can we do to make sure these customers have more money to spend to create demand and, thus, jobs?

The customers of most companies are ultimately American's gigantic middle class — the hundreds of millions of Americans who currently take home a much smaller share of the national income than they did 30 years ago, before tax policy aimed at helping rich people get richer created an extreme of income and wealth inequality not seen since the 1920s.

50s housewife

She'd like to create jobs. But she can't afford to anymore. Click to see how extreme inequality has gotten.

America's middle class has been pummeled, in part, by tax policies that reward "the 1%" at the expense of everyone else. 

It has also been pummeled by globalization and technology improvements, which are largely outside of any one country's control.

The prevailing story that justifies tax cuts for America's entrepreneurs and investors is that the huge pots of gold they take home are supposed to "trickle down" to the middle class and thus benefit everyone.

Unfortunately, that's not the way it actually works.

First, America's companies are currently being managed to share the least possible amount of their income with the employees who help create it. Corporate profit margins are at all-time highs, while wages are at an all-time low.

Second, as Hanauer observes, America's richest entrepreneurs, investors, and companies now have so much money that they can't possibly spend it all. So instead of getting pumped back into the economy, thus creating revenue and wages, this cash just remains in investment accounts.

Hanauer explains why.

Hanauer takes home more than $10 million a year of income. On this income, he says, he pays an 11% tax rate. (Presumably, most of the income is dividends and long-term capital gains, which carry a tax rate of about 20%. And then he probably has some tax shelters that knock the rate down the rest of the way).

With the more than $9 million a year Hanauer keeps, he buys lots of stuff. But, importantly, he doesn't buy as much stuff as would be bought if his $9 million were instead earned by 9,000 Americans each taking home an extra $1,000 a year.

Why not?

Because, despite Hanauer's impressive lifestyle — his family owns a plane — most of the $9+ million just goes straight into the bank (where it either sits and earns interest or gets invested in companies that ultimately need strong demand to sell products and create jobs). For a specific example, Hanauer points out that his family owns 3 cars, not the 3,000 cars that might be bought if his $9+ million were taken home by a few thousand families.

If that $9+ million had gone to 9,000 families instead of Hanauer, it would almost certainly have been pumped right back into the economy via consumption (i.e., demand). And, in so doing, it would have created more jobs.

Hanauer estimates that, if most American families were taking home the same share of the national income that they were taking home 30 years ago, every family would have another $10,000 of disposable income to spend.

That, Hanauer points out, would have a huge impact on demand — and, thereby job creation.

So, if nothing else, it's time we stopped perpetuating the fiction that "rich people create the jobs."

Rich people don't create the jobs.

Our economy creates jobs.

We're all in this together. And until we understand that, our economy is going to go nowhere.

SEE ALSO: The Truth About Tax Rates: Rich People Have Rarely Had It So Good

France Minister of Industrial Renewal has New Target in his Sights

Courtesy of Mish.

Arnaud Montebourg, Minister of Industrial Renewal of France, has a new target in his sights, the French public procurement group UGAP.

Here is some background information about UGAP. Montebourg’s complaint follows.

The Union of Public Purchasing Groups (UGAP), the French public procurement centre operates under the supervision of the Ministries of Economy and Finance and the Ministry of Education. UGAP’s overall objective is to strengthen the social and environmental performance of public procurement, without increasing the cost of services offered.

Alice Piednoir, Sustainable Development Policy Officer & Purchasing Manager, says “We centralise applications and mutualise costs in order to propose offers that are financially successful. We ensure that the inclusion of social and environmental requirements in our bidding do not cause additional costs to the services offered.”

Montebourg Targets UGAP Over “Made in France”

Montebourg is upset that UGAP does not supply enough products made in France, and he threatens to dissolve the group.

Via translation from Le Monde, Arnaud Montebourg Targets UGAP Over “Made in France”

Arnaud Montebourg has a new target in his sights: UGAP, the main central purchasing agency for state and local communities.

UGAP does not provide enough support for French companies in the eyes of the minister of productive recovery . In response, Montebourg threatens to apply for dissolution of the company.

“I consider that there is a serious problem with patriotic UGAP ,” thundered the minister Tuesday, November 26 , before the presidents of the regions he received at Bercy. UGAP has a global order book except for France .

Montebourg is willing to overpay for everything as long as it’s made in France.

Is it any wonder French government spending accounts for 56% of French GDP, highest in the EU (not that there is anything productive about that setup).

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com

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25% of Spanish Would Consider Leaving Spain for Economic Reasons; But Where Would They Go?

Courtesy of Mish.

The employment and pay situation in Spain is so bad that 33% struggle to pay their bills. More importantly, 25% would consider leaving the country for better opportunities.

Via translation from La Vanguardia, please consider One in three Spaniards have no money after paying their bills.

One in three Spanish claims to have no money left after paying the bills, according to a report on consumer payments. The study further reveals that 25% would be think of emigrating because of their economic situation. The same percentage say do not have enough money for a decent life.

Those are the most conclusive findings in the study Consumer Payments 2013, made by the Credit Management firm Intrum Justitia which surveyed 10,000 consumers from 21 European countries with the aim of understanding their payment behavior.

In regard to Spain, the percentage of citizens who say they have no money after paying the bills is higher than the European average, which stands at 26 percent, although some countries like Greece, Estonia and Hungary reach 40 percent.

If they have to prioritize in order to pay bills, the Spaniards choose to pay for the latest mobile phone and internet purchases. And if they can get savings on their household budgets, 79% do so by reducing leisure and clothing  expenses.

Another revealing statistic is that 25% of Spaniards say they do not having a sufficient amount of money for a decent life.  Estonia leads this ranking with 52%, followed by Hungary with 47% and Greece with 44%.

Eight in ten think that the Government lacks good financial control, compared to an average of 60 percent for the EU.

Trapped in Spain

25% would leave for better opportunities, but where would they go? The same question applies to Greece, Portugal, and Estonia.

The answer is nowhere. There are too few jobs elsewhere,  and plenty of xenophobia in France and other countries that are struggling as well.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com

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Too Much Oil: U.S. Storage Set to Pass the 400 Million Threshold

Courtesy of www.econmatters.com.

By EconMatters  


Trend is to Store more Oil 
A year ago oil in storage stood at 374.1 million barrels, and with another robust year of domestic production, and despite curtailed imports, the US Oil Inventory stands at 391.4 million barrels and climbing.

We are still technically in the building season for oil supplies which peaked in late May just shy of 400 Million Barrels, before the drawing season kicked off with the exporting of gasoline through increased refinery utilization led by the gulf coast refiners with their increased capacity to take advantage of the spread differential and cheaper operational energy in natural gas to export refined products more competitively than peer nations.

New Records Coming Soon
The domestic need for refined products was stagnant at best, the real demand was in the export market, without a robust export market for refined products, oil supplies would have crushed the 400 Million Barrier this summer, and prices at the pump would have been much cheaper here stateside. 

So the drawing season accounted for roughly a 40 million barrel retracement in US supplies, and we are not even close to the  middle of the building season, which even by conservative estimates should continue until mid-March of 2014. 
We might have some year-end selling of US inventories due to tax reasons, especially in Texas, but after all is said and done, if we go by the recent historical barometer of last year where we added roughly 25 million barrels of oil supplies to inventories, this puts supplies around the 416 Million Barrels of Oil level in the heart of the building season.
If domestic production continues ahead of pace and imports are not properly managed then maybe 425 Million Barrels in storage is possible, all modern records at this point in the data.
Fundamentals & Price: A Path Less Traveled in Recent Years
What effect this has on Oil prices is an entirely different matter as the Oil market is one of the most manipulated markets in the trading world, just look at the Brent-WTI Spread Trade this year for proof of that, and over the last 4 years for that matter.  


All markets are pretty bad these days when it comes to market shenanigans, and when the Federal Reserve has basically gotten into the business of artificially created wealth through artificially pushing up asset prices all bets are off when it comes to predicting price adhering to fundamentals in the marketplace. 
Fundamentals have become irrelevant in most markets these days. But some of us analyst types like to do fundamental analysis just for old time`s sake, who knows it might become a useful tool again sometime in the future once markets lose this unprecedented liquidity injection phenomenon.  
Domestic Production
In looking at Domestic production, the US produces over 8 million barrels per day compared with 6.8 million this time last year, quite a significant jump year on year, and ahead of where my most optimistic forecast was for this metric earlier in the year in March of 2013. This increase in Domestic production is being offset by a reduction in Oil imports with the US importing 7.7 Million barrels per day versus over 8.1 million barrels this time last year.

Managing Imports
So the goal is to control supplies through managing imports to align with the substantial increases in Domestic production over the last several years, and this trend continues to play out at present. How far this strategy can go before world oil prices start reacting with considerable downward pressure is anybody`s guess but definitely something to keep track of in 2014.

But the last several months have had several weeks where Domestic production is more than Imports, and this milestone is quite an achievement for an ‘Outsourcer’ Nation with its core economic strategy of the last 30 years for goods and services. 
2014 & Oil Metrics
Thus if we go by recent historical trends is the 9 million barrels per day of Domestic Oil production really possible for 2014? Can the US hit the 9.5 Million Barrel per day mark? And if so what does this mean for Global Oil prices? 
All these dynamics will be worth watching in 2014, to be sure there are other factors revolving around China, Iran and Venezuela not to mention Saudi Arabia`s strategy in regard to Oil production, but nonetheless 2014 ought to be an interesting one for the Oil Market.

Please click here to read more articles at EconMatters.

Things That Make You Go Hmmm… Like Japan’s “Economics Of The Hopeless”

Courtesy of ZeroHedge. View original post here.

Submitted by Tyler Durden.

The definition of the term Hail Mary as it pertains to football, provided here by Wikipedia, does a sterling job of setting the stage for this week's topic:

A Hail Mary pass or Hail Mary route is a very long forward pass in American football, made in desperation with only a small chance of success, especially at or near the end of a half.

Ah…

Yes, the Hail Mary is used in desperation, near the end of a contest when there is only a small chance of success…

When Abenomics was unveiled in Japan upon the re-election of Shinzo Abe as prime minister in late 2012, it is safe to say that, having been mired in a 20-year deflationary spiral and with debt totaling 240% of GDP, Japan was nearing an endgame of sorts.

For two decades the country had watched the yen strengthen and endemic deflation thwart any and all attempts to generate even moderate inflation, as repeated bouts of quantitative easing failed to administer the desired antidote to Japan's ever-increasing debtload.

Realizing just how late in the game he found himself, Abe promised to change all this, but in order to do so he needed to pursue a high-risk strategy with a low probability of success.

The press (ever hungry for a new, catchy portmanteau word) dubbed it "Abenomics."

Grant Williams, in his excellent letter below, prefers to call it "Avenomics": the economics of the hopeless.

Abe's opening (and perhaps his most important) gambit was the politicization of the Bank of Japan. Without a complicit governor quarterbacking Japan's printing press, any attempt at reaching the endzone would be futile.

[The story twists and turns]

So here he is — Japan's great hope — with time about to expire and the pressure mounting.

Facing the rush of a moribund economy, entrenched price deflation, an aging demographic that has drawn down its savings and actually likes the idea of lower prices, and a debt mountain that eclipses that of every other major economy on earth, is it any wonder that Abe-san has decided to hurl the ball into the endzone and hope that a helpful pair of hands hauls it in for a TD?

Of course, popular thinking goes that, since Japan has been doing the constant-stimulus thing for two decades without any noticeable consequences, all will be well; but the problem lies in the fact that, throughout the nineties and noughties, Japan was basically scrimmaging on its own practice field — alone, behind closed doors.

Now they find themselves in a competitive game with every other major economy in the world suited up and also needing higher inflation, weaker currencies, and genuine growth after littering the field with trillions in stimulus.

Say a prayer for Shinzo Abe, folks. For Avenomics to score, he's gonna need a miracle.

Full Grant Williams Letter below:

TTMYGH – Avenomics

3 key facts about Japan’s deteriorating demographics

3 key facts about Japan's deteriorating demographics

Courtesy of SoberLook.com

While there is a great deal of detailed discussion in the blogosphere about Japan's unsettling age demographics (see example), it's worth pointing out three key facts that add some urgency to the issue.

1. With zero immigration and falling birth rates, Japan's working-age population is declining sharply and is now at a level not seen in 30 years. The decline also seems to be accelerating.

 

Wells Fargo: – While the overall population has only recently begun getting smaller, the labor force has been shrinking for more than a decade. This has serious implications for both the size of Japan’s future workforce and for domestic demand. According to the IMF, the size of the working-age population is projected to fall from its peak of 87 million in 1995 to about 55 million in 2050. If realized that would roughly equal the size of the Japanese workforce at the end of World War II.

2. As a result, the percentage of Japanese who are over the age of 65 has risen above 25% for the first time (and the growth in that ratio also seems to be accelerating.) A quarter of Japan's population is now over 65. That compares to about 14% of Americans who are over 65 (see stats).
 

Source: Japan Statistics Bureau


Just to put this in perspective, the total sales of adult diapers in Japan is about to exceed that of baby diapers (see story). Also see this amazing story about "a program to promote the use of nursing care robots to meet expected increases in demand in the face of Japan’s rapidly aging population."

3. According to Wells Fargo this is creating some material distortions in Japan's domestic interest rates. In fact (and this is an amazing fact indeed), Japanese seniors are having a greater impact on bringing down JGB yields than BOJ's unprecedented QE effort (see post).

Wells Fargo: – In addition to reducing potential growth, the aging of the population in Japan is having a downward influence on interest rates [chart below]. According to the IMF, elderly households prefer to avoid risk and feel more comfortable with safe assets such as Japanese Government Bonds; so much so that the downward effect on rates from elderly purchases has a bigger impact than purchases by the Bank of Japan.

10y JGB yield (source: Tradingeconomics.com)

 

 

5 Things To Ponder Over Thanksgiving

Courtesy of Lance Roberts of STA Wealth Management

With the "inmates in charge of the asylum" during this holiday shortened trading week, it seemed to be an apropriate opportunity to share a virtual cornucopia of topics while enjoying the delicious delicacies, and subsequent tryptophan-induced comas, of a traditional Thanksgiving.

As I discussed earlier this week in "30% Up Years: The Case For Cashing In:"

"If the markets rise to 1850 by the end of 2013, which I believe is entirely possible as managers chase performance, it will mark the 11th time in history the markets have attained that goal.  I have also notated that each 30% return year was also the beginning of a period of both declining rates of annualized returns and typically sideways markets.  It is also important to notice that some of the biggest negative annual returns eventually followed 30% up years."

1) Margin Debt Soars To New Record via Zerohedge

"The correlation between stock prices and margin debt continues to rise (to new records of exuberant "Fed's got our backs" hope) as NYSE member margin balances surge to new record highs. Relative to the NYSE Composite, this is the most "leveraged' investors have been since the absolute peak in Feb 2000. What is more worrisome, or perhaps not, is the ongoing collapse in investor net worth – defined as total free credit in margin accounts less total margin debt – which has hit what appears to be all-time lows (i.e. there's less left than ever before) which as we noted previously raised a "red flag" with Deutsche Bank. Relative to the 'economy' margin debt has only been higher at the very peak in 2000 and 2007 and was never sustained at this level for more than 2 months."

Zero-hedge-margin-debt-112713

 

2) Thanking The Fed For Investors' Bounty via Bloomberg Businessweek

"Thanks to outgoing Fed Chairmen Ben Bernanke and the nominee to replace him, Janet Yellen, and their colleagues taking down interest rates to near-zero five years ago and keeping them there—on top of the Fed's nearly $4 trillion of creative asset purchases—investors have enjoyed the restoration of more than $13 trillion in U.S. equity market value. That's called the multiplier effect. And it's also called remorse, if you were one of the record numbers who bolted stocks altogether and are scrambling to get back in now, after indexes have more than doubled. It's also called financial repression if you're a saver having to eat negative real rates on your hard-earned cash.

Any wonder why capital markets threw a summer temper tantrum merely on signaling (arguably) from the Fed that it could soon reduce the size of its asset purchases (not end them, mind you—much less hike interest rates). Either way, the lame-duck Bernanke Fed opted to hold off."

 FedAssets 2006-13

"If it shows what it appears to show," says University of Texas economics and government professor James Galbraith, "then it's not difficult to grasp why the Fed's tapering has acquired the habit of ever-receding into the future."

3) Need To Laugh, Read "Getting Back To Full Employment" via Forbes

"They say that laughter is the best medicine. If so, "Getting Back to Full Employment", a revised and updated book by economists Dean Baker and Jared Bernstein, might just be able to save Obamacare. Read it, and see if it doesn't make you laugh out loud.

Of course, Bernstein, at least, has experience in economics comedy writing. Along with Christina Romer, he wrote "The Job Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan," which was the blueprint for President Obama's 2009 "stimulus" program.

In their "Recovery" study, Romer and Bernstein confidently predicted that shoveling $862 billion of borrowed money into the gaping maws of various Democratic interest groups would prevent the unemployment rate from going above 8%, and would push joblessness down to 5% by, well, now.

As they say in text message land, ROTFLMAO! Adjusted to the labor force participation rate that Bernstein and Romer assumed in their study (that of December 2008), the unemployment rate peaked at 11.5% in mid-2011, and it was still at 11.4% last month.

Baker and Bernstein begin by waxing nostalgic over the year 2000, when America reached effective full employment. The official "U-3" unemployment rate bottomed out at 3.84% during April of that year, while a record-high 64.74% of working-age Americans had jobs.

If that was full employment, we are 15.8 million jobs distant from it now. On a full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs basis, the shortfall is even worse: 16.6 million FTE jobs.

Unemployment and underemployment are not laughing matters. The humor is contained in Baker and Bernstein's bizarre ideas for getting America back to full employment. After extolling the glories of Bill Clinton's second term, they go on to recommend policies that are the exact opposites of the ones that worked so well during that period."

4) Goldman's Global Leading Indicator Collapses Into Slowdown via Advisor Analyst

"The best silver lining Goldman Sachs found when faced with the total and utter collapse in their global leading indicator swirlogram was – (probably) stabilizing. The only improving factor across all their global economic components was the US initial jobless claims (and that has been a farce wrapped in a debacle for 2 months of 'glitches'). Having led global industrial production for a few months, it seems the indicator is crashing back to reality as the summer's hopefulness is exsanguinated from hard and soft data around the world."

Goldman-Sach-Economic-Diagram-112713

 

5) In Fed Policy, Exits May Be Harder To Hear via New York Times

"Is it time for the Federal Reserve to start its exit from the extraordinary set of policies it has pursued over the past few years? That crucial question is on the minds of the nation's central bankers, as well as the stock and bond traders who follow the Fed's every move.    

In her recent testimony before the Senate Banking Committee, Janet L. Yellen, the eminently qualified nominee to lead the Fed, made clear she didn't think the time for an exit had come. With inflation running below the Fed target of 2 percent and continued weakness in the labor market, she argued, the economy needs all the help the central bank can provide. 

Many of the numbers back up that diagnosis. The unemployment rate is about three percentage points higher than it was seven years ago, before we got the first whiffs of the economy's financial problems. The employment-to-population ratio is about five percentage points lower, and it has not recovered much at all since the trough of the recession.

But that is only a small part of the story. A relevant measure is the employment-to-population ratio for those in the prime working age group —25 to 54. This statistic also shows the recession's lingering effects: the ratio declined to about 75 percent from 80 percent over the course of the recession, and has recovered to only about 76 percent today. So we have recovered only about a fifth of what we lost during the downturn.

These numbers indicate that there is still much slack, or unused potential, in the economy. In turn, this suggests that inflation is unlikely to become a problem anytime soon, so the Fed can delay its exit. But the labor market data are hard to interpret, because this recession has been so different from those before it.

How these conflicting signals are resolved will eventually determine the course of monetary policy. Because Ms. Yellen says the economy has a lot of slack, she isn't especially worried about inflation and isn't eager for the Fed to quit its stimulative policies. Many measures confirm her judgment, but this recession has been extraordinary, making historical norms hard to apply, and other statistics point to a different conclusion. Ms. Yellen may well turn out to be right, but as new data arrive, she had also better be prepared to change her mind."

Have a great Thanksgiving holiday, be safe and enjoy your family.

Cotton Balls Go Rotten; Bale of a Tale of State Planning

Courtesy of Mish.

Two years ago China amassed half the global supply of Cotton with huge price supports in an effort to encourage more cotton production. China “succeeded”.

Farmers produced, and the state paid more for cotton than farmers could get elsewhere. Worldwide supplies soared, but the cotton was withheld from the market.

China’s Cotton Policy “Success” Story

Bale of a Tale of State Planning

Please consider China Cotton: Bale of a Tale

It is never easy to put a positive spin on buying high and then selling low. Then again, the cotton that China plans to start selling from its vast state reserves this week, at a price below what it paid for this year’s harvest, might be rather hard actually to spin, period. Cotton can go brittle if stored for a long time. The China National Cotton Reserve will be auctioning bales that came off farms in 2011.

Still, what a marvellous monument to state planning has been created, even if the buying programme might finally end overall next year. China started its stockpiling to encourage farmers to plant cotton when prices looked set to go south two years ago (price volatility threatened a crisis for the nation’s cotton industry). But it has ended holding about 10m tons, or more than half of global inventory. It is now considering direct subsidies to cotton farmers instead.

Australia took a decade to get rid of every last thread of its wool reserves after ending its own farmer support policy in 1991. In the process, the farming industry suffered plenty of damage. But free-market innovation won out over state control in the end. The Australians probably made the fine merino wool in your suit. Not to spin a tale, but perhaps a similar process can work for the Chinese.

State Central Planning

In autumn of 2011, a clothing importer told me the price of clothes was about to soar because of a huge shortage of cotton. Clothing prices rose a few percent, but nothing like what many expected.

But there never was a cotton shortage. Rather there was huge accumulation of cotton by China at ridiculous prices. So now, what to do with it?

If China holds on to the cotton long enough, the matter will take care of itself as the “cotton balls go rotten”….

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Courtesy of Mish.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones!

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com

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China Gives Thanks For Cheap Gold

Courtesy of John Rubino.

Just a quick Thanksgiving morning update on China’s gold imports, which continued at extraordinary levels in October. To put the 131 tonnes in perspective:

  • Until recently there was an agreement in place that limited European central bank gold sales to 400 tonnes per year, because any more than that was seen as disruptive. Now China buys that much in a single quarter.
  • The world’s gold mines outside of China produced about 200 tonnes in October, which means China alone bought 65% of global gold production.
  • Since the beginning of 2012, China has imported over 2,000 tonnes of gold, an amount equal to about 2/3 of the official reserves of Germany.
  • China’s domestic gold mines produce around 300 tonnes a year, all of which stays in-country. So China’s total reported gold accumulation is 2,500 tonnes in just the past 22 months. And that does not include gold entering the country from other ports, which could be considerable.

China gold imports Oct 2013 final version

Visit John’s Dollar Collapse blog here >

Happy Thanksgiving 2013 from Sense on Cents

Courtesy of Larry Doyle.

With the wind whipping and temperatures dropping throughout much of the northeast, I sit here, pause, and reflect on the gifts that have been bestowed upon me and consider myself truly blessed.

These gifts begin and end with the gift of faith and also include the following great good fortunes: an incredible immediate and extended family (thank you to my beautiful wife and kids), countless great friends, and all those who visit and support my passion at this blog and have welcomed me into their lives.

Having reconnected with so many great friends through Sense on Cents and made endless numbers of new friendships is a gift that I have told many I would not trade for the world. To all these great people, a simple “Thank You” is hardly enough to express my gratitude.

I look forward to continuing to navigate the economic landscape with you as we collectively fight the good fight and pursue the truth wherever it may take us and whatever we may find.

Sincere best wishes for a beautiful and blessed Thanksgiving day with the great hope that we will have even more to be thankful for in the days and years ahead.

Navigate accordingly.

Let Me Tell You Something About The Internet Bubble …

Let Me Tell You Something About The Internet Bubble …

Courtesy of JOE WEISENTHAL at Business Insider

mark cuban wired Internet

Reuters

Matt Yglesias makes an important point here: Almost everyone talking about how there's a tech bubble these days has no recollection of what the late '90s was like. It was orders of magnitude more crazy.

Let me just share some observations, memories, and personal experiences from that time.

– The summer of my freshmen year, I put $2,000 into a SureTrade account. By Christmas of that year (1999) I had ballooned that to about $30,000, enabling me to pay for much of my college education.

– This feat was accomplished by buying the crappiest of the crap. My friend who I got into investing with would trawl the message boards of folks talking about penny stocks and buy whatever was the biggest up-mover of the day. Invariably the stock would go even more nuts the next day. We had no idea how it worked, but it kept working for long enough to make a stupid amount of money in a short period of time. There was no skill involved. Just being dumb and lucky.

– Virtually every restaurant in our town in Vermont in the summer of 1999 had CNBC playing all during the day on some TV. The owner of our local pizzeria was into Internet stocks. He made a ton of money in Mail.com. There's a good chance he rode that all the way down.

– One of our best friends' dad, who never had any interest in investing, got into Internet stocks. He found some company building websites. Rode it up for like a 50-bagger, and then rode it all the way down.

– In August 1999, people piled into the penny stock of a Nevada auto company that claimed it had a cure for AIDS. An auto company, people. That's how gullible and optimistic everyone was.

Screen Shot 2013 11 27 at 11.26.36 AM

NYT

– People were so optimistic that they believed a one-axel scooter would totally transform cities.

– In November 1999, China came to a major agreement with the US to enter the World Trade Organization. Literally every stock that had the word "China" in its name, or had any tenuous connection to China that day went bananas. It was ridiculous.

– People seriously got excited about the stock of the company K-Tel (the purveyor of corny oldies compilation CDs) because it was selling its CDs over the Internet.

– The infamous Pets.com sock puppet was the last item sold before the company's collapse.

– When modem and networking company 3COM spun out Palm (the maker of Palm Pilots) Palm had a higher market cap than 3COM even though 3COM owned most of Palm's stock.

– The exact same thing happened when a sleepy Canadian telco spun off Net2Phone, its VoIP unit.

– Some company you've never heard of called VA Linux popped over 10x at its IPO. They just made commodity Linux servers, but they had Linux in the name, so people went bananas for it.

– Pretty much everyone I knew at the time living in San Diego got rich overnight because of one stock.

– This was an actual book.

– People were quitting their job to just day trade.

– There were shootings at day-trading places.

So yes, today's bubble is nothing at all like those days, and if someone even thinks about comparing today to 1999 they know nothing about a bubble.

 

Time for Banks to Be Banks, Not Hedge Funds or Slush Funds; Free Money Math vs. 100% Gold Backed Dollar

Courtesy of Mish.

In the wake of all the misguided pleas for negative interest rates in Europe (hoping to get banks to lend), comes news US banks warn Fed interest cut could force them to charge depositors

Leading US banks have warned that they could start charging companies and consumers for deposits if the US Federal Reserve cuts the interest it pays on bank reserves.

Depositors already have to cope with near-zero interest rates, but paying just to leave money in the bank would be highly unusual and unwelcome for companies and households.

The warning by bank executives highlights the dangers of one strategy the Fed could use to offset an eventual “tapering” of the $85bn a month in asset purchases that have fuelled global financial markets for the last year.

Minutes of the Fed’s October meeting published last week showed it was heading towards a taper in the coming months – perhaps as soon as December – but wants to find a different way to add stimulus at the same time. “Most” officials thought a cut in the interest on bank reserves was an option worth considering.

Executives at two of the top five US banks said a cut in the 0.25 per cent rate of interest on the $2.4tn in reserves they hold at the Fed would lead them to pass on the cost to depositors.

Banks say they may have to charge because taking in deposits is not free: they have to pay premiums of a few basis points to a US government insurance programme.

“Right now you can at least break even from a revenue perspective,” said one executive, adding that a rate cut by the Fed “would turn it into negative revenue – banks would be disincentivised to take deposits and potentially charge for them”.

Other bankers said that a move to negative rates would not only trim margins but could backfire for banks and the system as a whole, as it would incentivise treasury managers to find higher-yielding, riskier assets.

About half of the reserves come from non-US banks that do not have to pay the deposit insurance fee. Their favourite manoeuvre is to take deposits from money market funds and park them overnight at the Fed, earning millions of dollars risk-free. Cutting the interest on reserves would stop that.

Excess Reserves


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Why Is Debt The Source Of Income Inequality And Serfdom? It’s The Interest, Baby

Courtesy of Charles Hugh-Smith of Of Two Minds

"Governments cannot reduce their debt or deficits and central banks cannot taper. Equally, they cannot perpetually borrow exponentially more. This one last bubble cannot end (but it must)."

I often refer to debt serfdom, the servitude debt enforces on borrowers. The mechanism of this servitude is interest, and today I turn to two knowledgeable correspondents for explanations of the consequences of interest.

Correspondent D.L.J. explains how debt/interest is the underlying engine of rising income/wealth disparity:

Here is a table of the growth rate of the GDP.

If we use $16T as the approximate GDP and a growth rate of, say, 3.5%, the total of goods and services would increase one year to the next by about $500B.

Meanwhile, referencing the Grandfather national debt chart with the USDebtClock data, the annual interest bill is $3 trillion ($2.7 trillion year-to-date).

In other words, those receiving interest are getting 5-6 times more than the increase in gross economic activity.

Using your oft-referenced Pareto Principle, about 80% of the population are net payers of interest while the other 20% are net receivers of interest.

Also, keep in mind that one does not have to have an outstanding loan to be a net payer of interest. As I attempted to earlier convey, whenever one buys a product that any part of its production was involving the cost of interest, the final product price included that interest cost. The purchase of that product had the interest cost paid by the purchaser.

Again using the Pareto concept, of the 20% who receive net interest, it can be further divided 80/20 to imply that 4% receive most (64%?) of the interest. This very fact can explain why/how the system (as it stands) produces a widening between the haves and the so-called 'have nots'.

Longtime correspondent Harun I. explains that the serfdom imposed by debt and interest is not merely financial servitude–it is political serfdom as well:

As both of us have stated, you can create all of the money you want, however, production of real things cannot be accomplished with a keystroke.

Then there is the issue of liberty. Each Federal Reserve Note is a liability of the Fed and gives the bearer the right but not the obligation to purchase — whatever the Fed deems appropriate. How much one can purchase keeps changing base on a theory-driven experiment that has never worked. Since the Fed is nothing more than an agent of the Central State, the ability to control what the wages of its workers will purchase, is a dangerous power for any government.

If a Federal Reserve Note is a liability of the central bank, then what is the asset? The only possible answer is the nations productivity. So, in essence, an agent of the government, the central bank, most of which are privately owned (ownership is cloaked in secrecy) owns the entire productive output of free and democratic nation-states.

People who speak of liberty and democracy in such a system only delude themselves.

Then there is the solution, default. That only resolves the books, the liability of human needs remain. Bankruptcy does not resolve the residue of social misery and suffering left behind for the masses who became dependent on lofty promises (debt). These promises (debts) were based on theories that have reappeared throughout human history under different guises but have never worked.

More debt will not resolve debt. The individual’s liberty is nonexistent if he does not own his labor. A people should consider carefully the viability (arithmetical consequences) of borrowing, at interest, to consume their own production. The asset of our labor cannot simultaneously be a liability we owe to ourselves at interest.

Thank you, D.L.J. and Harun. What is the alternative to the present system of debt serfdom and rising inequality? Eliminate the Federal Reserve system and revert to the national currency (the dollar) being issued by the U.S. Treasury in sufficient quantity to facilitate the production and distribution of goods and services.

Is this possible? Not in our Financialized, Neofeudal-Neocolonial Rentier Economy; but as Harun noted in another email, Governments cannot reduce their debt or deficits and central banks cannot taper. Equally, they cannot perpetually borrow exponentially more. This one last bubble cannot end (but it must).

What we are discussing is what will replace the current system after it self-destructs.

Photo Credit:©[Ljerka Ilic]/123RF.COM

War Between Spain and Germany Erupts Over Next Round of Watered Down Stress Tests; Germany Complains About the “Carry Trade”

Courtesy of Mish.

On October 23, ECB president Mario Draghi announced new bank stress tests. At the time, I offered a “Draghize” Translation. Here is a small snip.

Translating Draghize

For those of you who do not speak Draghize I offer these translations.

Draghize: “Banks do need to fail to prove the credibility of the exercise”.
Mish: We are carefully scrutinizing several non-critical banks, looking for a couple of scapegoats, hoping to fool the public regarding the credibility of the exercise.

Draghize: “If they do have to fail, they have to fail. There’s no question about that.”
Mish: If any big banks are in trouble. They won’t fail. There’s no question about that.

Draghize: “The test is credible because the ultimate purpose of it is to restore or strengthen private sector confidence in the soundness of the banks, in the quality of their balance sheets”
Mish: The test is credible because we say it is.

War Erupts Over How Much to Water Down Stress Tests

Via translation El Confidencial reports War between Spain and Germany Erupts Over the Hardness of Stress Tests

The new stress tests of European banks have caused the outbreak of a new confrontation between the governments of Spain and Germany. Until now, it was Spain who argued in favor of a tough exercise, similar to what Spain had to undergo when seeking bailout funds.

By contrast, Germany (supported by France and Italy) preferred more lax exercises that do not bring to light the shame of their banks balance sheets of billions in toxic assets, including Spanish mortgage securitizations.

But now the German authorities found one flank to counterattack: the huge public debt exposure of Spanish banks, which they believe should be penalized in these exercises, which can be catastrophic for our financial system when it just starts to lift head.

Sovereign Debt Not All Risk-Free

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Monsanto, the TPP, and Global Food Dominance

Monsanto, the TPP, and Global Food Dominance

Courtesy of Ellen Brown of Web of Debt

“Control oil and you control nations,” said US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in the 1970s.  ”Control food and you control the people.”

Global food control has nearly been achieved, by reducing seed diversity with GMO (genetically modified) seeds that are distributed by only a few transnational corporations. But this agenda has been implemented at grave cost to our health; and if the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) passes, control over not just our food but our health, our environment and our financial system will be in the hands of transnational corporations.

Profits Before Populations

According to an Acres USA interview of plant pathologist Don Huber, Professor Emeritus at Purdue University, two modified traits account for practically all of the genetically modified crops grown in the world today. One involves insect resistance. The other, more disturbing modification involves insensitivity to glyphosate-based herbicides (plant-killing chemicals). Often known as Roundup after the best-selling Monsanto product of that name, glyphosate poisons everything in its path except plants genetically modified to resist it.

Glyphosate-based herbicides are now the most commonly used herbicides in the world. Glyphosate is an essential partner to the GMOs that are the principal business of the burgeoning biotech industry. Glyphosate is a “broad-spectrum” herbicide that destroys indiscriminately, not by killing unwanted plants directly but by tying up access to critical nutrients.

Because of the insidious way in which it works, it has been sold as a relatively benign replacement for the devastating earlier dioxin-based herbicides. But a barrage of experimental data has now shown glyphosate and the GMO foods incorporating it to pose serious dangers to health. Compounding the risk is the toxicity of “inert” ingredients used to make glyphosate more potent. Researchers have found, for example, that the surfactant POEA can kill human cells, particularly embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells. But these risks have been conveniently ignored.

The widespread use of GMO foods and glyphosate herbicides helps explain the anomaly that the US spends over twice as much per capita on healthcare as the average developed country, yet it is rated far down the scale of the world’s healthiest populations. The World Health Organization has ranked the US LAST out of 17 developed nations for overall health.

Sixty to seventy percent of the foods in US supermarkets are now genetically modified. By contrast, in at least 26 other countries—including Switzerland, Australia, Austria, China, India, France, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Greece, Bulgaria, Poland, Italy, Mexico and Russia—GMOs are totally or partially banned; and significant restrictions on GMOs exist in about sixty other countries.

A ban on GMO and glyphosate use might go far toward improving the health of Americans. But the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a global trade agreement for which the Obama Administration has sought Fast Track status, would block that sort of cause-focused approach to the healthcare crisis.

Roundup’s Insidious Effects

Roundup-resistant crops escape being killed by glyphosate, but they do not avoid absorbing it into their tissues. Herbicide-tolerant crops have substantially higher levels of herbicide residues than other crops. In fact, many countries have had to increase their legally allowable levels—by up to 50 times—in order to accommodate the introduction of GM crops. In the European Union, residues in foods are set to rise 100-150 times if a new proposal by Monsanto is approved. Meanwhile, herbicide-tolerant “super-weeds” have adapted to the chemical, requiring even more toxic doses and new toxic chemicals to kill the plant.

Human enzymes are affected by glyphosate just as plant enzymes are: the chemical blocks the uptake of manganese and other essential minerals. Without those minerals, we cannot properly metabolize our food. That helps explain the rampant epidemic of obesity in the United States. People eat and eat in an attempt to acquire the nutrients that are simply not available in their food.

According to researchers Samsell and Seneff in Biosemiotic Entropy: Disorder, Disease, and Mortality (April 2013):

Glyphosate’s inhibition of cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes is an overlooked component of its toxicity to mammals. CYP enzymes play crucial roles in biology . . . . Negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body. Consequences are most of the diseases and conditions associated with a Western diet, which include gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, infertility, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

More than 40 diseases have been linked to glyphosate use, and more keep appearing. In September 2013, the National University of Rio Cuarto, Argentina, published research finding that glyphosate enhances the growth of fungi that produce aflatoxin B1, one of the most carcinogenic of substances. A doctor from Chaco, Argentina, told Associated Press, “We’ve gone from a pretty healthy population to one with a high rate of cancer, birth defects and illnesses seldom seen before.” Fungi growths have increased significantly in US corn crops.

Glyphosate has also done serious damage to the environment. According to an October 2012 report by the Institute of Science in Society:

Agribusiness claims that glyphosate and glyphosate-tolerant crops will improve crop yields, increase farmers’ profits and benefit the environment by reducing pesticide use. Exactly the opposite is the case. . . . [T]he evidence indicates that glyphosate herbicides and glyphosate-tolerant crops have had wide-ranging detrimental effects, including glyphosate resistant super weeds, virulent plant (and new livestock) pathogens, reduced crop health and yield, harm to off-target species from insects to amphibians and livestock, as well as reduced soil fertility.

Politics Trumps Science

In light of these adverse findings, why have Washington and the European Commission continued to endorse glyphosate as safe? Critics point to lax regulations, heavy influence from corporate lobbyists, and a political agenda that has more to do with power and control than protecting the health of the people.

In the ground-breaking 2007 book Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation, William Engdahl states that global food control and depopulation became US strategic policy under Rockefeller protégé Henry Kissinger. Along with oil geopolitics, they were to be the new “solution” to the threats to US global power and continued US access to cheap raw materials from the developing world. In line with that agenda, the government has shown extreme partisanship in favor of the biotech agribusiness industry, opting for a system in which the industry “voluntarily” polices itself. Bio-engineered foods are treated as “natural food additives,” not needing any special testing.

Jeffrey M. Smith, Executive Director of the Institute for Responsible Technology, confirms that US Food and Drug Administration policy allows biotech companies to determine if their own foods are safe. Submission of data is completely voluntary. He concludes:

In the critical arena of food safety research, the biotech industry is without accountability, standards, or peer-review. They’ve got bad science down to a science.

Whether or not depopulation is an intentional part of the agenda, widespread use of GMO and glyphosate is having that result. The endocrine-disrupting properties of glyphosate have been linked to infertility, miscarriage, birth defects and arrested sexual development. In Russian experiments, animals fed GM soy were sterile by the third generation. Vast amounts of farmland soil are also being systematically ruined by the killing of beneficial microorganisms that allow plant roots to uptake soil nutrients.

In Gary Null’s eye-opening documentary Seeds of Death: Unveiling the Lies of GMOs,Dr. Bruce Lipton warns, “We are leading the world into the sixth mass extinction of life on this planet. . . . Human behavior is undermining the web of life.”

The TPP and International Corporate Control

As the devastating conclusions of these and other researchers awaken people globally to the dangers of Roundup and GMO foods, transnational corporations are working feverishly with the Obama administration to fast-track the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement that would strip governments of the power to regulate transnational corporate activities. Negotiations have been kept secret from Congress but not from corporate advisors, 600 of whom have been consulted and know the details. According to Barbara Chicherio in Nation of Change:

The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) has the potential to become the biggest regional Free Trade Agreement in history. . . .

The chief agricultural negotiator for the US is the former Monsanto lobbyist, Islam Siddique.  If ratified the TPP would impose punishing regulations that give multinational corporations unprecedented right to demand taxpayer compensation for policies that corporations deem a barrier to their profits.

. . . They are carefully crafting the TPP to insure that citizens of the involved countries have no control over food safety, what they will be eating, where it is grown, the conditions under which food is grown and the use of herbicides and pesticides.

Food safety is only one of many rights and protections liable to fall to this super-weapon of international corporate control. In an April 2013 interview on The Real News Network, Kevin Zeese called the TPP “NAFTA on steroids” and “a global corporate coup.” He warned:

No matter what issue you care about—whether its wages, jobs, protecting the environment . . . this issue is going to adversely affect it . . . .

If a country takes a step to try to regulate the financial industry or set up a public bank to represent the public interest, it can be sued . . . .

Return to Nature: Not Too Late

There is a safer, saner, more earth-friendly way to feed nations. While Monsanto and US regulators are forcing GM crops on American families, Russian families are showing what can be done with permaculture methods on simple garden plots. In 2011, 40% of Russia’s food was grown on dachas (cottage gardens or allotments). Dacha gardens produced over 80% of the country’s fruit and berries, over 66% of the vegetables, almost 80% of the potatoes and nearly 50% of the nation’s milk, much of it consumed raw. According to Vladimir Megre, author of the best-selling Ringing Cedars Series:

Essentially, what Russian gardeners do is demonstrate that gardeners can feed the world – and you do not need any GMOs, industrial farms, or any other technological gimmicks to guarantee everybody’s got enough food to eat. Bear in mind that Russia only has 110 days of growing season per year – so in the US, for example, gardeners’ output could be substantially greater. Today, however, the area taken up by lawns in the US is two times greater than that of Russia’s gardens – and it produces nothing but a multi-billion-dollar lawn care industry.

In the US, only about 0.6 percent of the total agricultural area is devoted to organic farming. This area needs to be vastly expanded if we are to avoid “the sixth mass extinction.” But first, we need to urge our representatives to stop Fast Track, vote no on the TPP, and pursue a global phase-out of glyphosate-based herbicides and GMO foods. Our health, our finances and our environment are at stake.

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Ellen Brown is an attorney, president of the Public Banking Institute, and author of twelve books, including the best-selling Web of Debt. In The Public Bank Solution, her latest book, she explores successful public banking models historically and globally. Her blog articles are at EllenBrown.com.

Trading Floor of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York; In Photos, Over the Years

Courtesy of Pam Martens.

A Trader Monitors Four Computer Screens on the Open Market Trading Desk at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Fortunately for our readers, the rest of the Federal Reserve system is far more transparent than the Federal Reserve Bank of New York; in fact, they’re down right helpful to the press.

Both the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia (Philly Fed) have released educational videos to help the public understand the workings of our Nation’s central bank.  And, of course, there is the unparalleled digital research available to the public through FRASER, the Federal Reserve Archival System for Economic Research, made available by the St. Louis Fed. FRASER has recently provided access to new documents detailing the banking emergency of 1933 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared a banking holiday to assess which banks could be reopened safely and which were insolvent and had to close their doors. The 1933 banking calamity stemmed from the same type of Wall Street hubris and corruption as the 2008 crash.

Open Market Trading Floor at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Through the educational films and public resources of the Federal Reserve system itself, Wall Street On Parade has been able to reconstruct for our readers what the trading floor at the New York Fed has looked like through the ages. We are also able to tell you the following about today’s trading floor at the New York Fed: those very expensive Bloomberg terminals are in use; the trading day starts for some traders at 33 Liberty Street in lower Manhattan at 4:30 a.m. in the morning; there are approximately 60 traders on the open market desk (we don’t know if that number includes traders on the foreign-exchange desk); the Markets Group, which oversees the open market trading desk, holds two conference calls each business day with the Federal Reserve Board of Governors in Washington D.C. and/or its staff to brief them on what they are seeing in the market in terms of price action or worrisome signs.

New York Federal Reserve Bank Trading Floor Before Computer Screens

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Reader Reflections on Socialism Theory vs. Practice

Courtesy of Mish.

In response to Record Number of French Corporate Bankruptcies; Socialist Theory vs. Practice; What Went Wrong? I received a number of noteworthy comments via email and as direct comment to my blog.

Reader Jay commented …

The first thing all you capitalism bashers need to understand is that capitalism is not what we have in this country. We have crony capitalism/socialism/fascism at work right now. We have never had real capitalism.

Jay replied to the ridiculous comment by ClimbingSand ” The rich have socialism, the poor have dog eat dog Capitalism.

Acting Man Commented …

Via email, Pater Tenebrarum at the Acting Man Blog hit the nail precisely on the head. Here is his comment:

I would point out that socialism works neither in practice nor in theory. It is already the theory that is wrong, as the concept must fail due to the calculation problem. Economic calculation is literally impossible under socialism, and so no rational socialistic economy is possible. If the whole world were to adopt socialism, we would soon live from hand to mouth, as the division of labor would completely collapse within a few short years.

Thanks Pater!

I take this opportunity to point out that his blog is still having “technical difficulties”, related to his current host. Pater is looking for an new host site, and hopefully his blog will be back up, and running soon.

Pater has taught me a lot over the years. He is the person who introduced me to Austrian economics.

I highly recommend bookmarking his site. It will be back up soon….

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Fundamentals Rendered Irrelevant by Fed Actions: Probability Based Option Trading

Fundamentals Rendered Irrelevant by Fed Actions: Probability Based Option Trading

Courtesy of 

The fundamental backdrop behind the ramp higher in equity prices in 2013 is far from inspiring. However, fundamentals do not matter when the Federal Reserve is flooding U.S. financial markets with an ocean of freshly printed fiat dollars.

As we approach the holiday season, retail stores are usually in a position of strength. However, this year holiday sales are expected to be lower than the previous year based on analysts commentary and various surveys. This holiday season analysts are not expecting strong sales growth. However, U.S. stocks continue to move higher.

Earnings growth, sales growth, or strong management are irrelevant in today’s stock market. In fact, the entire business cycle has been replaced with the quantitative easing and a Federal Reserve that is inflating two massive bubbles.

Through artificially low interest rates largely resulting from bond buying, the Federal Reserve has created a bubble in Treasury bonds. In addition to the Treasury bubble, we are seeing wild price action in equity markets as hot money flows seek a higher return. Usually fundamentals such as earnings, earnings estimates, and profitability drive stock prices. However, that is not the case lately. 

 Options Trader

Chart by www.zerohedge.com

The chart above illustrates that fundamentals are becoming irrelevant. What matters most is the flow of fresh liquidity out of the Federal Reserve and into the banking system. This process fuels more risk taking and pushes money into high risk assets.

The chart below, from Thomson I/B/E/S, demonstrates that the future outlook is not any better.

 Chart2 (3)

As can be seen above, over 90% of the S&P 500 companies have already reported negative 4th quarter 2013 pre-announcements. Essentially, these companies are warning equity investors that earnings expectations are going to be lower than expected.

Normally this would be seen as a headwind for equity prices particularly because the ratio is the worst on record. However, equity prices have rallied straight through the dismal earnings data.

In addition to earnings, global leading indicator analysis from Goldman Sachs is also issuing warning signals. The Global Leading Indicator Swirlogram is showing decisively that global leading indicators are slowing down and moving toward possible contraction.

 Chart3 (1)

On top of consistently lowered earnings estimates and forward guidance in S&P 500 companies at the worst levels on record, we are seeing evidence that suggests the global economy is slowing down. So how can risk assets be rallying?

The weekly chart of the S&P 500 Cash Index (SPX) going back to the beginning of 2012 tells a rather compelling story. The S&P 500 Index in that period of time has rallied by more than 43% as shown below.

 Chart4 (1)

However, the past 6 – 8 weeks have seen prices move higher. In fact, the last time the S&P 500 Index had 7 consecutive weeks of higher prices was back in 2007. In light of the negative fundamental data, this is the price action we see.

Prices could go higher and likely will go higher if the Federal Reserve continues to accommodate the U.S. capital markets. However, as prices move higher and bears continually get run over at some point a correction or possibly worse could begin. Clearly a bubble has formed in Treasuries, but if this type of price action continues a bubble will form in equities as well. Several financial pundits are beginning to discuss this possibility.

Financial pundits and asset managers are beginning to come forward to discuss their views that equities are at full value and are forming a possible asset bubble. Famous investors and portfolio managers like Larry Fink and Carl Icahn have stated recently that they believe the U.S. equity market is moving into dangerous territory where large corrections could be looming.

Furthermore, in a recent interview with Fox News, renowned economist and political pundit David Stockman made the following statements:

“This is the fourth bubble the Fed has created through easy money and printing press expansion.”

“The Fed has taken itself hostage.”

“This is a destructive poisonous monetary medicine that is being put into the system that is distorting all kinds of economic mechanisms with mal-investments on a massive scale.”

Stockman concludes that “its like 2007 – 2008 all over again.” Whether the bubble exists in the Treasury market or in U.S. equities is hard to say. In fact, we maybe witnessing bubbles in both asset classes and history says the endgame will likely end badly.

I want to be clear that many times bubbles are viewed in hindsight and we may be months or even years from the top. The Federal Reserve has a horrible track record. They have dramatically reduced the U.S. Dollar’s purchasing power and reduced stimulus too late since their inception. 

While prices may continue higher for months or years, history suggests the endgame will be ugly for those who chased the speculative bubbles.

In closing, I will leave you with a quote from a recent interview with legendary investor Jim Rogers, “The Fed will self-destruct, before the politicians realize what is going on.”

To learn more about probability based option trading, consider becoming a member of www.OptionsTradingSignals.com for a totally different view of the markets and how to trade options for consistent profitability over the longer-term.

This material should not be considered investment advice. J.W. Jones is not a registered investment advisor. Under no circumstances should any content from this article or the OptionsTradingSignals.com website be used or interpreted as a recommendation to buy or sell any type of security or commodity contract. This material is not a solicitation for a trading approach to financial markets. Any investment decisions must in all cases be made by the reader or by his or her registered investment advisor. This information is for educational purposes only.