Archives for July 2014

Forget Ebola, Florida Issues “Flesh-Eating Bacteria” Public Health Warning

Courtesy of ZeroHedge. View original post here.

Submitted by Tyler Durden.

As Ebola spreads mercilessly across the world, it appears Florida has a problem that sounds just as awful. As CBS reports, Florida health officials are warning beachgoers about a seawater bacterium that can invade cuts and scrapes to cause flesh-eating disease. At least 11 Floridians have contracted Vibrio vulnificus so far this year and two have died, according to the most recent state data.

Not exactly great news for Florida beach season…

Vibrio vulnificus –- a cousin of the bacterium that causes Cholera –- thrives in warm saltwater, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If ingested, it can cause stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea. But it can also infect open wounds and lead to “skin breakdown and ulceration,” according to the CDC.

“Since it is naturally found in warm marine waters, people with open wounds can be exposed to Vibrio vulnificus through direct contact with seawater,” the Florida Department of Health said in a statement.

Florida isn’t the only state to report Vibrio vulnificus infections. Alabama, Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi have also recorded cases, and a 2013 outbreak linked to contaminated shellfish sickened at least 104 people in 13 states, according to the CDC.


ABC News | More ABC News Videos

The CDC's advice:

  • Avoid exposing open wounds to warm saltwater, brackish water or to raw shellfish
  • Wear protective clothing when handling raw shellfish
  • Cook shellfish thoroughly and avoid food contamination with juices from raw seafood
  • Eat shellfish promptly after cooking and refrigerate leftovers

When All Else Fails Blame “Free Markets”

Courtesy of Mish.

It’s rather amazing how people blame “free markets” for things that are 180 degrees removed from “free markets”.

For example, and in response to Political Greenwashing: US Exports Coal Pollution to Europe; What About China? reader Over Exposed writes “Excellent example of a complete and utter failure of the free market to deal with pollution“.

I see and hear this every day. I would have hoped that people would have learned by now what a “free market” is and isn’t.

  • Chinese State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) are not “free markets”
  • Chinese growth targets at any cost are not “free markets”
  • Interest rate manipulation in the US have nothing to do with “free markets”
  • Chinese and Swiss National Bank currency manipulations have nothing to do with “free markets”
  • Ben Bernanke’s and Janet Yellen’s 2% inflation target – horrendously applied – and ignoring asset bubbles are as far removed from “free markets” as you can get.

Complete fools blame the “free market” for problems 100% caused precisely because we do not have “free markets”.

Popular Myths

Contrary to popular myth, free market libertarians do not support slavery, anarchy, or pollution. Rather, we strongly believe in property rights and human rights. No one can own anyone else.

No one can kill you, steal your goods, or damage your property. Laws and regulations that protect property rights and prevent fraud are welcome.

It is amazing how people clamor for more regulation to cure problems caused by regulation and excessive interference in free markets.

Can We Please Try “Free Markets”?

We’ve tried everything else, and it did not work. Can we please try “free markets” with the minimum number of regulations and laws needed to preserve property rights, preserved human rights, and prevent fraud?

Sadly, I suspect the answer is no. Neither vested interests nor jackasses who have no idea what is really going on, want “free markets”. …

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Our Totalitarian Future – Part 2

Courtesy of Jim Quinn of The Burning Platform

In Part One, I asked questions your keepers don’t want to answer truthfully, while providing the contextual setting for how our over-populated world is progressing relentlessly towards a future of war and totalitarianism.

Totalitarianism Now

“Where the republican or limited monarchical tradition is weak, the best of constitutions will not prevent ambi­tious politicians from succumbing with glee and gusto to the temptations of power. And in any country where numbers have begun to press heavily upon avail­able resources, these temptations cannot fail to arise. Over-population leads to economic insecurity and so­cial unrest. Unrest and insecurity lead to more con­trol by central governments and an increase of their power. In the absence of a constitutional tradition, this increased power will probably be exercised in a dictatorial fashion.” Aldous Huxley – Brave New World Revisited – 1958

 

         

Huxley wrote his dystopian masterpiece in 1931 before the rise of Stalin, Hitler and Mao and their murderous totalitarian empires, sustained by torture, mass murder, surveillance, and fear. Orwell wrote 1984 in 1948, after living through the nightmare of World War II and witnessing the malevolent systematic terrorism inflicted upon innocent populations by psychopathic tyrants like Hitler and Stalin. World War II killed 65 million people. Stalin’s purges killed 20 million Russians, and Mao murdered 45 million of his own people. It appeared that Orwell’s gruesome vision of a future of brutality, surveillance, and fear would come true.

Instead, Huxley’s vision gained ground in the post war world of cheap oil, mass production, consumerism, and TV advertising. It was found that government through terror works on the whole less well than government through the non-violent manip­ulation of the environment and of the thoughts and feelings of individual men, women and children. Propaganda, amusements, materialism, easily accessible debt, and relentless media messaging convinced the masses to love their enslavement and never dream of revolution. It worked as long as energy and debt remained cheap and plentiful.

The 4.4 billion increase (157%) in the world’s population since Huxley’s warning in 1958 is attributable to vast supplies of cheap easily accessible oil, natural gas and coal, which have allowed technological and agricultural advancements that have vastly expanded food production, water purification, global transportation, and medical advancements. With the peak in traditional worldwide oil production reached around 2005, and modest subsequent production increases obtained only by mining tar sands, fracking shale and drilling in deep water at much higher production costs, the era of cheap plentiful energy has come to an end.

Propaganda and storylines about vast reserves and energy independence fail to acknowledge the concept of Energy Returned on Energy Invested (EROEI). Once it requires investing more than one barrel of oil in energy to extract one barrel of oil, the game is over. We are approaching the limits of growth because our remaining energy resources will require much more capital investment and higher prices for companies to make that investment. Oil prices were $25 per barrel when George Bush and the neo-cons launched their Iraq Freedom campaign in 2003. Eleven years later, with U.S. oil production at 44 year highs and consumption at 2000 levels, a barrel of oil is over $100 per barrel. The combination of increased demand from developing countries, vastly higher production costs, and global unrest in the areas of the world storing “our” oil under their sand will put a floor on prices, with spikes upward as resource wars flare up around the globe.

It is not a coincidence that the world economic system collapsed in 2008 after oil prices topped $140 per barrel. World food prices also spiked to all-time highs in 2008. The surge in food prices in 2011 to new highs was the impetus for the Arab Spring and social unrest across the Middle East and Africa. The FAO World Food Index spiked to levels only exceeded in 2011 earlier this year. Oil prices have surged as high as $106 and have averaged over $100 in 2014. Do you think it is just a coincidence that social unrest across the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe has surged in the last few months? Rising prices and the increasing scarcity of food, water and energy resources push the desperately poor towards revolution.

 

Societal strife, economic decline, poverty, lawlessness, and resource deprivation in third world countries result in dependency upon a central authority to sustain the masses. In the poorest countries without a long history of democracy, the people turn to a strong leader to save them. Before long too much power is accumulated in too few hands and totalitarian regimes are born. The world is awash in the blood spilled by dictators (North Korea, Egypt, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe, Iran, Tunisia, Syria, Sudan) and presidents in name only (China, Vietnam, Nigeria, Turkey, Ukraine, Venezuela, Russia, Argentina).

Dreadfully poor people with no hope for a better future turn to radical religion, extremist ideas, and psychotic leaders. A full belly trumps freedoms and liberties. It is not surprising that despots proliferate in the poorest countries with the highest population growth rates. The so called developed world in the U.S. and Europe had been able to sidestep and even take advantage of these developing countries until the 2008 financial collapse. The oligarchs have treated the third world as slave plantations to be reaped, plundered and pillaged. Their banker solution to a crisis caused by the fraudulent issuance of debt products has been to redouble their looting and pillaging campaign through the issuance of even more debt in order to further enrich themselves at the expense of the many.

Huxley saw it beginning to happen even during the late 1950’s:

“Meanwhile impersonal forces over which we have almost no control seem to be pushing us all in the direction of the Brave New Worldian nightmare; and this impersonal pushing is being consciously acceler­ated by representatives of commercial and political organizations who have developed a number of new tech­niques for manipulating, in the interest of some minor­ity, the thoughts and feelings of the masses.” Aldous Huxley – Brave New World Revisited – 1958

I think Huxley underestimated the lengths to which a minority of criminal wealthy bankers, their crony capitalist corporate co-conspirators, and feckless bought off politicians would go in their sociopathic manipulation of the masses to gorge themselves upon the world’s resources and wealth. In 1958 the manipulators only had TV in its infancy and independent newspapers published by journalists who attempted to report the truth. They’ve come a long way baby.

The Deep State, Silent Government, Oligarchs, TPTB, or whatever term you want to employ to our Brave New World Controllers have mastered the art of propaganda, manipulation, distraction, and social engineering to such an extent the majority of Americans have come to love their techno-narcissistic, debt saturated, welfare/warfare, surveillance state. When a minority of evil minded men gain control of a nation’s currency, own and control the few remaining propaganda news outlets, run the mega-corporations selling toxic poison processed food and iGadgets to the masses on debt issued by Wall Street banks, pay-off the politicians writing legislation and tax codes, and brainwash the youth through government controlled education, your Brave New World nightmare has arrived.

Huxley believed that over-population was not an immediate threat to the personal freedoms of Americans and Europeans due to their long history under democratic constitutions. Of course our national debt of $276 billion in 1958 was only 57% of our annual GDP of $482 billion. The population of 175 million could easily be sustained, with ample supplies of energy, food and jobs. The standard of living for families rose consistently and an economy based upon savings, capital investment, and producing things flowed wealth across all classes – raising all boats. Banks accumulated deposits from citizens and leant money to small businesses. There were no stock options, derivatives, stock buybacks, or trading profits. People borrowed sparingly and saved for the things they wanted.

Huxley predicted trouble by the beginning of the twenty first century if the population of the U.S. continued to outpace the available resources to support that population. He was right again. The party ended in 2000.The National Debt has soared to $17.6 trillion, or 104% of GDP in 2014. Why did the debt go up by a factor of 64 while GDP only advanced by a factor of 35? In 1958, prior to the blossoming of the welfare/warfare state, there were little to no unfunded liabilities. Today the total exceeds $200 trillion. A country adding debt at this astronomical rate is a country consuming far more than it is producing. Depletion of resources, overconsumption, and economic decline lead to debt expansion and centralized government control. When 20% of all households depend upon food stamps to survive, your country has too many mouths to feed and a failing economic system designed to serve the oligarchs and impoverish the peasants.

Consumer debt outstanding in 1958 totaled $48 billion, all non-revolving debt mainly for auto purchases. The credit card did not exist. Consumer debt outstanding today totals $3.2 trillion. Has this 6,667% increase in consumer debt benefitted the average person or Jamie Dimon and his ilk? Is it a rational choice of consumers in a free capitalist market or is it a result of coordinated actions by the banking cabal and their captured government benefactors to enslave the masses in debt while keeping them dumbed down and distracted by electronic gadgets produced in slave labor camps overseas under the guise of globalization? Huxley didn’t anticipate Federal Reserve bankers and cowardly captured politicians purposefully inflating away 88% of the U.S. dollar’s purchasing power as they expanded the welfare/warfare state through monetary manipulation, abandonment of gold backed currency and unfettered debt expansion. The result is real wages haven’t advanced in the last 40 years, while corporate profits reach record heights and a small cadre of oligarchs reap the rewards of debt enslavement of the many.

 

 

The Ponzi scheme system created by the invisible “leaders” of the supposedly free developed world required never ending growth to support the never ending issuance of debt in order to keep the fleecing of the masses operation running smoothly. This is where increasing population and resource depletion have thrown a monkey wrench into their printing press operation. The autocrats harvested energy and minerals resources from third world countries, while utilizing the catch phrase of globalization, as a cover for their wage arbitrage mechanism to continue their worldwide pillaging scheme. The Ivy League educated moguls are extremely smart when it comes to figuring out new and creative ways to screw the common folk, but their unparalleled hubris and arrogant disregard for humanity blind them to the ultimate consequences of their malevolent machinations. There will be blood and they will not escape unscathed. War is coming, but not the war they anticipate.

The definition of totalitarianism is a political system in which the state holds total authority over the society and seeks to control all aspects of public and private life wherever possible. Our two party farce of a political system is aligned to control our lives through laws, regulations, rules, bylaws, procedures, tax codes, taxation, inflation, and debt, enforced by government apparatchiks, bureaucrats, politicians, bankers, police state thugs, and when all else fails – the military. While the masses were distracted by facebooking, texting, twittering, instagramming, taking selfies, playing Words with Friends, engaging make believe enemies on their PS3 or Xbox, watching the Kardashians on one of their 700 cable TV stations, or shopping for Chinese produced crap at one of our 1.5 million cookie cutter chain retail boxes, those in control of this country covertly turned the nation into a surveillance state while militarizing local police forces. They know the endless growth story is over. Our oppressors fear the repercussions when the masses realize it’s all been a big lie and they are left impoverished and hungry. They are attempting to instigate foreign wars, while preparing for the coming civil war.

The confusion, chaos, mayhem and war currently shaking the foundations of our planet are a direct result of too many people jammed into too small of a space with too few resources and too few opportunities for economic advancement. Poor, deprived, hungry people with nothing to lose begin to lose it. Revolution, civil unrest, radicalism, the rise of extremists and despots, and totalitarian regimes are the result. The invasion of Iraq was about oil. The overthrow of Gaddafi was about oil. The ongoing attempt to overthrow Assad is about a natural gas pipeline to Europe in order to isolate the Russians. The Ukrainian coup is about Russian natural gas and oil. The sanctions and saber rattling over Iran’s nuclear program is really about their oil. The United States is utilizing their military industrial complex and CIA assets to instigate turmoil and war around the world in an effort to gain control over the dwindling energy resources in the Middle East and Africa. Russia and China are blocking U.S. efforts at every turn, as the world inches ever closer to a major resource war.

Huxley’s Brave New World dystopian America had a good run from 1950 until 2000. Our keepers kept us fat, dumb, distracted, and in debt up to our eyeballs. Since 2000 Orwell’s 1984 dystopian Surveillance States of America seems to be taking shape, under the watchful eye of our very own Big Brother, the NSA. Fear, punishment, slogans (See Something Say Something) and appeals to non-thinking patriotism have replaced freedom, liberty, individual rights, the Constitution, personal responsibility for our own lives and questioning authority. The propagandists created the War on Terror as a way to keep the ignorant masses fearful and cowering behind the skirts of Big Brother. The 2008 financial collapse was another crisis that couldn’t go to waste. The Federal Government has expanded the spending of your tax dollars by 40% since 2007. The DHS concentrates on the internal enemy – you. The military industrial complex creates new foreign enemy threats every day – Hussein, Gaddafi, Ahmadinejad, Assad, and now Putin.

The monetary and fiscal policies of the country have remained in permanent crisis mode because the Ponzi scheme can’t be maintained without a constant debt fix. As our permanent state of crisis devolves into war, our remaining liberties will be stripped away in the name of safety, security and unquestioned support of the state. Huxley knew that we would consume, obey and submit until dictatorship became almost inevitable. Will you sit idly by while a small cabal of power hungry men destroys our country? Will you send your sons off to wars manufactured by tyrants as cannon fodder to further enrich the military industrial complex? Will you make a stand when they begin to round up subversives, dissenters, and malcontents under the guise of protecting you from domestic terrorists? Will you choose liberty and freedom over repression and descent into captivity and totalitarianism? The choice is yours.

“But liberty, as we all know, cannot flour­ish in a country that is permanently on a war footing, or even a near-war footing. Permanent crisis justifies permanent control of everybody and everything by the agencies of the central government. And permanent crisis is what we have to expect in a world in which over-population is producing a state of things, in which dictatorship becomes almost inevitable.” Aldous Huxley – Brave New World Revisited – 1958

 

 

Are you a believer?

“One believes things because one has been conditioned to believe them.” – Aldous Huxley – Brave New World

Or a truth seeker?

“You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you mad.” – Aldous Huxley

Whole Foods Discovers Stock Buybacks, And It’s Too Little Too Late: Stock Tumbles Again

Courtesy of ZeroHedge. View original post here.

Submitted by Tyler Durden.

A quarter ago, when we commented on the latest post-earnings collapse in Whole Foods stock, we said that "Whole Foods Misses, Lowers Guidance, Or What Happens When You Ignore Buybacks At The Expense Of CapEx", and broke down the results as follows:

.. the luxury grocery chain moments ago reported revenues of $3.32 billion, missing the $3.35 billion expected, and EPS which also missed expectations of $0.41, instead printing at $0.38. Adding insult to injury, WFM also cut comp store sales guidance lowering its previous fiscal year comp store guidance from 5.5%-6.2% to 5.0%-5.5%, cutting sales growth from 11-12% to 10.5%-11%, and also cut EBITDA from $1.32-$1.37 billion to $1.29-$1.32 billion.

Ok, the results were horrible, but one key thing was missing.

WFM continues to be a cash cow, generating tremendous amounts of bottom line cash. Which perhaps was its biggest failing as well – WFM reported that "year to date, the Company has produced $619 million in cash flow from operations and invested $362 million in capital expenditures, of which $207 million related to new stores. This resulted in free cash flow of $257 million. In addition, the Company has paid $82 million in quarterly dividends to shareholders and repurchased $117 million of common stock."

The problem was clear: "Alas, this is nowhere near enough shareholder friendly activity to keep investors happy in a New Normal in which buybacks tend to be far greater in amount than CapEx spending."

As expected, the stock promptly collapsed by 10%:



A quarter later, Whole Foods management seems to have read our lament and acted accordingly. On the chart below see if you can figure out which is the company's quarterly stock repurchase and capex activity without peeking at the legend:

Indeed, that red bar soaring from a negligible $55 million to a whopping $361 million is precisely what happens when a company realizes that its only recourse to "goose" EPS is to go full tilt buying back its stock in the open market.

And sure enough, when WFM reported earnings moments ago, it "magically" beat EPS expectations of $0.39, courtesy of its raging repurchasing activity, printing a $0.41 EPS.

However, that was as far as it went. Unfortunately, while this time Whole Foods remember to repurchase as much stock as it could, it missed the key metrics starting with comp store sales, which were +3.9% on expectations of 4.8%, but the biggest impact was the reduced full year guidance as follows:

  • Sales growth: 9.6-9.9%, down from 10.5-11.0%
  • Comp store sales growth: 4.1-4.4%, down from 5.0%-5.5%
  • Operating margin: 6.4%-6.5%, down from 6.5-6.6%
  • EPS growth: 3-4%, down from 3-6%.

And so on. The stock reaction:

So while we congratulate WFM management on finally figuring out that in the New Normal financial engineering is perhaps the only thing that matters to get the algo momentum ignition boost upon announcing earnings, next quarter it may want to pay some more attention to the underlying business model too.

Memo to CAPE Slaves

Memo to CAPE Slaves

Courtesy of 
 
You don’t hear much out of the adherents of CAPE these days, as even its most ardent fans have given up on it as a timing tool.

Earlier this year and during much of last year, I’d taken the Cyclically Adjusted Price-Earnings ratio to task for various reasons, most notably the fact that it didn’t allow for accounting changes (GAAP losses are recorded differently), structural changes in our economy (are we all still farmers?), structural changes in the makeup of the stock market (isn’t software inherently more profitable than railroading?), taxation (dividends get preferential treatment versus ordinary income) etc. See Leaving CAPE Town for more.

Long story short, there were a million reasons to ignore the idea that, according to CAPE, the S&P needed to be cut in half. Those in the investment industry who’ve been slavishly loyal to the metric are sitting with a pile of cash and a portfolio full of relentlessly expiring index put options, underperforming everything in sight – be it animal, vegetable or mineral.

One argument that should have gotten more attention as we dismantled the CAPE meme, however, was the fact it almost never tells you to be invested. As Anatole Kaletsky explains at Reuters, waiting for a CAPE buy signal is like waiting for a lucid moment from Courtney Love…

Investors who followed Shiller’s methodology, however, would have missed out on almost all these gains. For the Shiller price-earning ratio showed the stock market to be overvalued 97 percent of the time during these 25 years. Even during the two brief periods when the Shiller ratio was below its long-term average — in early 1990 and from November 2008 to April 2009 — it never sent a clear buy signal.

Instead, Shiller’s approach suggested that the valuations in 1990 and 2009 were only just below fair value — implying there was very limited upside at the beginning of two great bull markets that saw prices multiply fivefold from 1990 to 2000, and threefold from 2009 to 2014 (so far).

Instead, Shiller’s approach suggested that the valuations in 1990 and 2009 were only just below fair value — implying there was very limited upside at the beginning of two great bull markets that saw prices multiply fivefold from 1990 to 2000, and threefold from 2009 to 2014 (so far).

The Shiller ratio’s predictive performance would have been just as bad in earlier decades if it had existed. During the equity bull market of the 1950s and 1960s, for example, the ratio would have said Wall Street was overvalued for 96 percent of the 19-year period stretching from early 1955 to late 1973.

If your preferred valuation methodology keeps you under-invested a majority of the time because of absurd comparisons to past economic eras, it’s garbage. CAPE should be treated like any other single variable, not like an answer in and of itself. Because it doesn’t actually answer anything on its own.

Nothing else does either, so no offense.

Source:

Markets: Exuberance is not always ‘irrational’ (Reuters)

There’s ALWAYS a Divergence

Joshua M Brown, the Reformed Broker, discusses divergences in stock market indicators. People often attribute significance to two or more events occurring together when there is no significance. So just because volume declined, the S&P went up, but some stocks went down, doesn’t mean the market is about to fall, or rise, or rise then fall… Sometimes, a line on a chart is just a line on a chart. ~ Ilene 

There’s ALWAYS a divergence

Courtesy of 

“There’s no science behind that, people look at that kind of thing and they point out what they want to see.”

abbey road

In the above image, you’ll see the photograph that became the cover shot for the Beatle’s final album, Abbey Road. The photo contains one of the most talked about divergences of all time – Paul McCartney being both shoeless and out of step with the rest of the band. This divergence sparked all manner of conspiracy theories as people took observations from the image and ascribed a deeper meaning to them that simply wasn’t there. In one example, fans took the “clue” of Paul’s bare feet and concocted a story whereby he had actually died and the Beatles were telling us that he had, in fact, been replaced with a body double sometime during the 1960′s.

The reality, however, is that this “divergence” carried absolutely zero significance at all.

What actually happened was fairly straightforward: It was August 8th, 1969, and a very hot day. Paul McCartney had been wearing sandals for the shoot, which had taken all of ten minutes with very little planning at all. John Lennon’s friend, freelance photographer Iain Macmillan, got up on a step ladder in the middle of the  intersection outside the Abbey Road recording studio. The Beatles had made a handful of passes across the road. Of the six shots Macmillan had taken, the Beatles chose the fifth one because they appeared to be the most in-step as well as the fact that they were walking away from their studio and – not toward it – after seven long years of being “trapped” there. The fifth shot just happened to feature Paul without his sandals on, he’d taken them off because all the back and forth had been bothering his feet.

Yes, a divergence. But no, there was any meaning behind it.

Technical analysts tend to talk a lot about divergences because they often can present an opportunity to make money. They can also presage a change in trend for a given index or stock or asset class – for example:

A stock’s price keep going lower but its relative strength stops dropping – this can be a sign that the momentum to the downside is slowing and a bottom is nigh.

An index breaks out to new all-time highs – but it does so with very few stocks that make up the index participating.

An index making new lows while a growing number of its constituent stocks stop falling (as was the case with the S&P 500 in March 2009).

The relationship between two commodities that typically move in the same or an opposing direction begins to come apart.

A sector is rallying but with each successive thrust, the gains become more concentrated between just a handful of the sector’s leading names.

etc, etc.

The thing is, there is always a divergence. Sometimes they matter, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes one key divergence that was extremely important ends up meaning exactly zero the next time around. A single divergence, in and of itself, has all of the reliable predictive power of a bowl of chicken bones spilled out across the table.

And since no one has ever been able to prove otherwise – isolating a single divergence and showing a consistent win rate based on following it – you’re going to have to take my word for it.

I did a new interview with Jeff Macke, my co-author from Clash of the Financial Pundits, about the current divergences in the stock market and why they’re good to be aware of, even if they don’t make sense to react to. Watch it at the link below (and no, I don’t get to write the headlines of these things):

Yahoo Finance

Political Greenwashing: US Exports Coal Pollution to Europe; What About China?

Courtesy of Mish.

While president Obama brags about clean energy advances in the US (mostly hot air and subsidies to uneconomic businesses), the US quietly exports pollution to Europe. Coal is a particular good example.

Please consider US Exports Help Germany Increase Coal, Pollution

LUENEN, Germany – One of Germany’s newest coal-fired power plants rises here from the banks of a 100-year-old canal that once shipped coal mined from the Ruhr Valley to the world. Now the coal comes the other way.

The 750-megawatt Trianel Kohlekraftwerk Luenen GmbH & Co. power plant relies completely on coal imports, about half from the U.S. Soon, all of Germany’s coal-fired power plants will be dependent on imports, with the country expected to halt coal mining in 2018 when government subsidies end.

Coal mining’s demise in Germany comes as the country is experiencing a resurgence in coal-fired power, one which the U.S. increasingly has helped supply. U.S. exports of power plant-grade coal to Germany have more than doubled since 2008. In 2013, Germany ranked fifth, behind the United Kingdom, Netherlands, South Korea and Italy in imports of U.S. steam coal, the type burned in power plants.

On the American side of the pollution ledger, this fossil fuel trade helps the United States look as if it is making more progress on global warming than it actually is. That’s because it shifts some pollution — and the burden for cleaning it — onto another other country’s balance sheet.

“This is a classic case of political greenwashing,” said Dirk Jansen, a spokesman for BUND, a German environmental group. “Obama pretties up his own climate balance, but it doesn’t help the global climate at all if Obama’s carbon dioxide is coming out of chimneys in Germany.”

It’s a global shell game that threatens to undermine Obama’s strategy of reducing the gases blamed for global warming and reveals a little-discussed side effect of countries acting alone on a global problem.

The explanation for Germany’s increase is simple: Coal is cheaper than alternatives, particularly natural gas. So, too, are the prices on the carbon market in Europe. Companies can afford to buy the right to release more pollution.

In the U.S., the opposite is happening. Any new coal-fired power plants will have to capture carbon dioxide and bury it underground if the Obama administration gets its way. Few if any new coal plants are expected to be built.

But the U.S. and other countries have no problem supplying Germany and the world with coal.

Global Warming Slant

The article’s “global warming” slant is of course ridiculous. Yet, the article does expose the hypocrisy of the Obama administration on that subject. …

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The Death of Twitter Had Been Greatly Exaggerated

The Death of Twitter Had Been Greatly Exaggerated

 
By now, you’ve no doubt heard about Twitter’s coming-out party last night, in which the company finally reported the game-changing quarter that Wall Street’s been waiting for. In its third-ever report as a public company, Twitter blew away the analysts expectations on just about every front, reporting a profit of 2 cents per share versus an expected loss of a penny and $312 million in revenue versus an expected $283 million.

Twitter’s Earnings Report: By the Numbers (via RecodeBINYT and ValueWalk):

Monthly Active Users: 271 million versus ~267 million expected (based on five analysts polled by Bloomberg)

Q3 revenue guidance: $330-$340 million versus expectations of $324 million

Advertising revenue totaled $277 million, an increase of 129 percent year-over-year.

Mobile advertising revenue was 81 percent of total advertising revenue.

Data licensing and other revenue totaled $35 million, an increase of 90 percent year-over-year.

International revenue totaled $102 million, an increase of 168 percent year-over-year.

International revenue was 33 percent of total revenue.

672 million tweets related to the World Cup sent during the tournament — more than during any other event in its history.

During the Germany-Brazil World Cup game alone: 2 billion tweet impressions off of Twitter plus 4.4 billion impressions on Twitter’s owned and operated properties, nearly 6.5 billion total impressions in a single match.

Americans on average refreshed their Twitter feeds 792 times a month during the quarter, down from Q1. Globally, timeline views down 7 percent from a year ago, but up 4 percent from Q1

This report stands in stark contrast to the Q1 report Twitter issued on April 30th, after which the company was pronounced dead (I kid you not) and an illustration of a deceased fail whale being carried to its grave by diseased birds went viral. Remember this?

whale

But now it’s all like, “Well hello, Baby Beluga!”

beluga

Please click over here to see the whole spectacle of Twitter’s supposed funeral here: (TRB)

By the way, Twitter is still not out of the woods, even if it is slated to open 25% higher today, but it is out of Wall Street’s doghouse. For now.

This was a very similar set-up to Facebook by the way, which had been cut in half and left for dead after its first few quarters as a public company. But once it clicked and learned to play the expectations game, it was off to the races. Twitter shareholders would be fortunate to see the company follow in that path.

(Disclosure: I currently own shares of Twitter, purchased on the day of the IPO)

 

Debt Rattle Jul 30 2014: The State Of The Union Is Shocking

Courtesy of The Automatic Earth.


Arnold Genthe Long Beach, New York Summer 1927

Oh yay, US Q2 GDP supposedly rose by 4%. Aw, come on. That’s only 7% more than in Q1 (or 6.1% in the once again revised Q1 number). Wonder what made that happen? Don’t bother. It’s complete nonsense. New home sales and lending home sales went down – again – recently, wages are not going anywhere, the ADP jobs report was – again – low today. There’s nothing that adds up to a 6% or 7% difference between Q1 and Q2.

The real story of the American economy lies elsewhere. The economy is sinking away in a debt quagmire. If it were a body, the economy would be in up to its neck in debt by now, with the head tilted backwards so it can still breathe. Barely. But your government doesn’t want you to know. There are a lot of things that illustrate this.

First , let’s go back a few days to the Russell Sage Foundation report, Wealth Levels, Wealth Inequality And The Great Recession, that I mentioned in Washington Thinks Americans Are Fools. I posted a pic from the report and said it “makes clear ‘recovery’ is about the worst possible and least applicable term to use to describe what is happening in the US economy”:

Households at the “median point in the wealth distribution – the level at which there are an equal number of households whose worth is higher and lower”, saw their wealth plummet -36% from 2003 to 2013. From the highest point, in 2007, to 2013 the number is -43%. Five years after 2008 and Lehman, five years into the alleged recovery, which raised US federal, Federal Reserve, and hence taxpayer, obligations by $10-$15 trillion or more, US median household wealth was down -36% from 2003. And that’s by no means the worst of it:

If you look at the 5th and 25th percentile ‘wealth’ numbers (much of it negative), you see that they went down from 2003 to 2007, while the median was still rising. For both, wealth in the 2003-2013 timeframe deteriorated by some -200% (or two-thirds, if you will). -$9,479 to -$27,416 for the poorest 5%, $10.219 to $3,2000 for the lowest 25%.

What I didn’t do was add up the numbers, and though when you’re using ‘median’ or ‘typical’, it’s hard to be sure about those numbers, we can derive some things from it that won’t be too far off. The -36% loss suffered between 2003 and 2013 by the ‘typical household’, which lowered the inflation-adjusted net worth from $87,992 to $56,335 (a loss of $31,657 per household), meant, assuming 120 million US households, that some $3.8 trillion in wealth went up in air. Because wealth (though partially virtual) went up from 2003 to 2007, the loss between 2007 and 2013 was larger: at $42.537 per household, the total loss came to $5.1 trillion. And don’t forget, that happened during the so-called ‘recovery’.

It should surprise no-one, therefore, that a report issued by the Urban Institute and the Consumer Credit Research Institute states that over a third of Americans in 2013 had debt in collection (i.e. reported to a major credit bureau). WaPo’s take:

A Third Of Americans With Credit Files Had Debts In Collections in 2013

About 77 million Americans have a debt in collections, a new report finds. That amounts to 35% of consumers with credit files or data reported to a major credit bureau, according to the study released Tuesday by the Urban Institute and Encore Capital Group’s Consumer Credit Research Institute. “It’s a stunning number,” said Caroline Ratcliffe, senior fellow at the Urban Institute and author of the report. “And it threads through nearly all communities.” The report analyzed 2013 credit data from TransUnion to calculate how many Americans were falling behind on their bills. It looked at how many people had non-mortgage bills, such as credit card bills, child support payments and medical bills, that are so past due that the account has since been closed and placed in collections.

Researchers relied on a random sample of 7 million people with data reported to the credit bureaus in 2013 to estimate what share of the 220 million Americans with credit files have debts in collection. About 22 million low-income adults who did not have credit files were not represented in the study. This is the first time the Urban Institute calculated the collection figure, but Americans may have been struggling with debt for a while: Researchers noted that the 35% is basically unchanged from when the Federal Reserve studied the issue in 2004 and found that 36.5% of people with credit reports had debt in collections. The debts sent to collections ranged from $25 on the low end and to more than $125,000 on the high end. [..]

… not all consumers get hassled: some people may not even learn they’ve been sent to collections until they check their credit reports, the study noted. That doesn’t mean the debts didn’t cause any setbacks. Bills that are sent to collections can stay on a person’s credit report for up to seven years, hurting a consumer’s credit score and in turn hindering their chances of accessing loans, credit cards and other forms of borrowing. A bad credit score can also hurt a person’s ability to land a job or their odds of getting approved for an apartment [..]

Note that not all debt is included, and perhaps quite a lot is not: in the gutters of America, there are for instance 22 million low-income Americans who don’t even have a credit file. They are most likely to use things like payday loans, which are also not included. But there is more slipping through the reporting cracks, as I noticed the end of the WaPo piece unveils, just like Tyler Durden did:

Deadbeat Nation: A Shocking 77 Million Americans Face Debt Collectors

But how is it possible that tens of millions of Americans are in such dire straits? After all, banks have been reporting better delinquency data for years. The answer: the study found that the share of people with debt past due, meaning they are at least 30 days late with payment on a non-mortgage debt, was much smaller: 1 in 20 people. That includes people who are late with credit card bills, student loan payments and auto loans. The majority of those people, 79%, also had debt in collections. However, because certain bills, such as medical bills and parking tickets, may not show up on a person’s credit score until they are sent to collections, the total share of people falling behind on their bills may actually be much higher.

… the stunner is that the share of Americans with debt in collections is 7 times greater than those with merely debt past due …

I’ll add something else: since only 220 million of the 320 million Americans have a credit file, it’s safe to assume that if you add dependents, children, close to 120 million Americans, perhaps even more (an average of one for every household), live in a household that has debt so far past due that debt collectors have been notified. In other words, not just debt, but bad debt.

AP points out the link to the jobs market and wages:

The Urban Institute’s Ratcliffe said that stagnant incomes are key to why some parts of the country are struggling to repay their debt. Wages have barely kept up with [rising prices] during the five-year recovery, according to Labor Department figures. And a separate measure by Wells Fargo found that after-tax income fell for the bottom 20% of earners during the same period.

But what I find more interesting is the positive twist USA Today manages to give to the story (just when you thought all was lost, here comes the cavalry):

A Third Of Americans Delinquent On Debt

When it comes to overall debt levels, most comes from mortgages, which make up 70%, on average, of Americans’ debt load. Wealthier states tend to have the highest amount of debt and percentage of debt held in mortgages, but the researchers point out that Americans with higher debt may also have higher incomes and better access to credit.

Isn’t that just a swell trick? The report the paper comments on is about the 77 million Americans who have debt in collection, but before you know it they switch to overall debt, and insinuate that because a lot of it is in mortgages, things are not that bad. And the trick gets better, even one of the report’s authors gets sucked in:

“Total debt really mimics mortgage debt,” says Caroline Ratcliffe, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute and one of the authors of the report. Ratcliffe classifies mortgage debt as what’s generally considered “productive debt.” “We talk about credit and access to credit as a good thing, but debt as a bad thing,” she says. “Access to credit can result in productive debt that moves us forward.”

I read somewhere the past week that credit is, in principal, good, and it’s the American way etc. And as we see here, mortgage debt is seen as productive, even by the report’s authors. But that’s not what the report was about!! (picture me shouting here).

I think that in today’s economy it’s a grave mistake to classify all mortgage debt as productive. I definitely see that as an idea of long lost times. After all, the same classification must have been used in 2007, but then right after a lot of that mortgage debt turned sour. It wasn’t so productive after all.

To see debt as productive, you have to have the expectation that it’s going to make money for the debtor. Or better yet, actually produce something of value. And to think that today’s mortgage debt will produce profits, you need the idea that home prices will rise.

But when you look at the wealth loss suffered by Americans as seen above, and you combine that with the huge rise in bad debt, where would you want to get that rise in home prices from? There’s only one place, isn’t there: more debt. And that trick won’t wash ad infinitum.

Classifying all of today’s mortgage debt as productive, de facto seeks not just to redefine the word productive, but to turn it on its head.

There’s one sector of the US economy that is going kind of strong: car sales. But why do you think that is? That’s right: debt. Is car debt classified as productive too, perhaps? Bloomberg:

Is Your Car an Underwater Time Bomb?

Even as job and wage growth have stagnated, auto sales have uncoupled themselves from those traditional economic drivers to become one of the few sources of strength in the macroeconomic picture. As the economists Amir Sufi and Atif Mian point out in their new book “House of Debt,” one of the big factors supporting overall retail spending in the U.S. since 2008 has been the expansion of auto credit. Sufi and Mian don’t celebrate this fact – they rightly see it as a symptom of broader secular stagnation in the U.S. economy. Indeed, a few recent statistics demonstrate the very precarious underpinnings of the auto industry’s prosperity:

  • The average auto-loan term has increased every year since 2010, reaching 66 months in the first quarter of this year, according to Experian Automotive. In the same period, loans with terms of 73 to 84 months grew 28%, while loans with terms from 25 to 72 months actually fell.
  • Equifax reports that U.S. auto loan volumes are at an all-time high, with some $902.2 billion outstanding at the end of the first half of 2014, up 10% year-over-year.
  • The New York Times reports that subprime auto loans have grown by 130% in the last five years, with subprime lending penetration reaching 25% last year.
  • Leases make up another quarter or so of auto “retail sales” according to Experian, another metric that is currently at all-time highs.
  • 27% of trade-ins on new vehicle purchases in Q1 2014 had negative equity, according to the Power Information Network, another troubling indicator on the rise in recent years.

With half of new car sales supported either by leases or subprime credit, and ballooning loan terms leaving an increasing number of new car buyers underwater on their trade-ins, it’s clear that auto demand is hardly at a sustainable, organic level. Last year, 38.8% of dealer profits came from financing operations, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association, and General Motors has relied on some $30 billion in largely subprime receivables held by its GM Financial unit to show an increase in revenue in the first two quarters of this year.

The only thing that keeps the American economy from collapsing outright and face first in this debt crisis is more debt. And it’s not just America: China, Japan, UK, they’re all on the same path, while Europe, once deflation sets in, will have to follow suit or break into smithereens.

And what should make me believe that Putin has not already had his economic team figure out a sweet spot for gas delivery to Europe, where he can reduce volume and let the Europeans fight amongst themselves over what’s left, and at the same time still keep his profits rising?

With a 4% official GDP number, the Fed has no choice but to keep up the taper. And I don’t think it would even want to have that choice. In the current geopolitical environment, which the US has largely created all by itself, making fewer dollars available in global markets can work wonders for the American dreams of empire.

The amount of dollar-denominated debt emerging economies have ‘engaged’ in will in short order devastate many of them, Europe will have a very hard time, and Japan will sink into oblivion (and perhaps try to shoot its way out). The BRICS’ plans to start their own bank will only hasten US determination.

Yellen doesn’t have to make a decision to raise rates, all she has to do is taper and rates will rise by themselves. If she raises rates on top of that, it’ll be a matter of weeks or months for many nations, companies and individuals.

Higher rates will stab the global economy in the heart, including US citizens, but they will boost the – dreams of – empire. For a while. But then, as the sanctions on Russia, based on at best paper thin and at worst entirely fabricated allegations, make abundantly clear, we’ve entered a new age. The pie is shrinking, and ever more people are clamoring for the ever fewer pieces of that pie.

Debt can only carry us so far, and that’s not a huge distance either; the game stops when the combination of principal and interest payments grows over debtors’ heads, as many of you can attest to. The taper alone will cause many to reach that point of no return; it will push a billion people, or two, over the brink. Argentina’s default is but the first of many.

What’s more important now is that fossil fuels, too, have a limited ‘carrying capacity’. And the planet. It’s going to be all cats in a sack from here on in, with everyone jockeying for a handful of rotting, dwindling and crumbling musical chairs. A 4% US GDP print is but a sidenote in that; it merely serves to avert people’s eyes away from their real futures. But then, Americans are no longer used to looking at those anyway. They’re not exactly a people with a strong link to reality.

Joshua Brown: When a Divergence is Just a Line on a Chart

The Reformed Broker discusses divergences in stock market indicators. People often attribute significance to two or more events occurring together when there is no significance. So just because volume declined, the S&P went up, but some stocks went down, doesn’t mean the market is about to fall, or rise, or rise then fall…

There’s ALWAYS a Divergence

Courtesy of 

“There’s no science behind that, people look at that kind of thing and they point out what they want to see.”

 

abbey road

In the above image, you’ll see the photograph that became the cover shot for the Beatle’s final album, Abbey Road. The photo contains one of the most talked about divergences of all time – Paul McCartney being both shoeless and out of step with the rest of the band. This divergence sparked all manner of conspiracy theories as people took observations from the image and ascribed a deeper meaning to them that simply wasn’t there. In one example, fans took the “clue” of Paul’s bare feet and concocted a story whereby he had actually died and the Beatles were telling us that he had, in fact, been replaced with a body double sometime during the 1960′s.

The reality, however, is that this “divergence” carried absolutely zero significance at all.

What actually happened was fairly straightforward: It was August 8th, 1969, and a very hot day. Paul McCartney had been wearing sandals for the shoot, which had taken all of ten minutes with very little planning at all. John Lennon’s friend, freelance photographer Iain Macmillan, got up on a step ladder in the middle of the  intersection outside the Abbey Road recording studio. The Beatles had made a handful of passes across the road. Of the six shots Macmillan had taken, the Beatles chose the fifth one because they appeared to be the most in-step as well as the fact that they were walking away from their studio and – not toward it – after seven long years of being “trapped” there. The fifth shot just happened to feature Paul without his sandals on, he’d taken them off because all the back and forth had been bothering his feet.

Yes, a divergence. But no, there was any meaning behind it.

Technical analysts tend to talk a lot about divergences because they often can present an opportunity to make money. They can also presage a change in trend for a given index or stock or asset class – for example:

A stock’s price keep going lower but its relative strength stops dropping – this can be a sign that the momentum to the downside is slowing and a bottom is nigh.

An index breaks out to new all-time highs – but it does so with very few stocks that make up the index participating.

An index making new lows while a growing number of its constituent stocks stop falling (as was the case with the S&P 500 in March 2009).

The relationship between two commodities that typically move in the same or an opposing direction begins to come apart.

A sector is rallying but with each successive thrust, the gains become more concentrated between just a handful of the sector’s leading names.

etc, etc.

The thing is, there is always a divergence. Sometimes they matter, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes one key divergence that was extremely important ends up meaning exactly zero the next time around. A single divergence, in and of itself, has all of the reliable predictive power of a bowl of chicken bones spilled out across the table.

And since no one has ever been able to prove otherwise – isolating a single divergence and showing a consistent win rate based on following it – you’re going to have to take my word for it.

I did a new interview with Jeff Macke, my co-author from Clash of the Financial Pundits, about the current divergences in the stock market and why they’re good to be aware of, even if they don’t make sense to react to. Watch it at the link below (and no, I don’t get to write the headlines of these things):

Yahoo Finance

GDP Deja Vu Stunner: Over Half Of US Growth In The Past Year Is From Inventory Accumulation

Courtesy of ZeroHedge. View original post here.

Submitted by Tyler Durden.

Back in December 2013, when everyone was expecting a 3% GDP print for Q1, we did a simple analysis concluding that "Inventory Hoarding Accounts For Nearly 60% Of GDP Increase In Past Year." We stated that this "hollow growth", which is merely producers pulling demand from the future courtesy of cheap credit and assuming the inventory will be sold off in ordinary course of business without bottom-line slamming liquidations or dumping, and which further assumes a healthy US consumer and global economy, is a flashing red flag for the future of US economic growth. In fact, we were one of the very few who warned that Q1 GDP would be a disaster: "The problem with inventory hoarding, however, is that at some point it will have to be "unhoarded." Which is why expect many downward revisions to future GDP as this inventory overhang has to be destocked."

This is precisely what happened in Q1, however it was blamed on the "harsh weather."

Alas, following today's "spectacular" 4.0% GDP print following the predicted plunge in the US economy in Q1, we can again conclude that not only has nothing changed, but what we warned in Q4 of 2013 is about to happen all over again, and the inventory overhang (which incidentally was estiamted by the BEA and will certainly be revised lower next month) is about to slam future US growth.

The chart below shows the quarterly change in the revised GDP series broken down by Inventory (yellow) and all other non-Inventory components comprising GDP (blue). Something to note: companies are traditionally loath to liquidate inventories unless the economy is clearly in a depressionary collapse as happened in late 2008 early 2009, when inventory dumping was the main reason why GDP remained flat if not negative even as other GDP components rebounded. As such, it is always the last component of GDP to go, and when it does watch out below.

And, as we showed last time, where the scramble to accumulate inventory in hopes that it will be sold, profitably, sooner or later to buyers either domestic or foreign, is most visible, is in the data from the past 4 quarters, or the trailing year starting in Q2 2013 and ending with the just released revised Q2 2014 number. The result is that of the $675 billion rise in nominal GDP in the past year, a whopping 52%, or over half, is due to nothing else but inventory hoarding.

Once again, enjoy the sugar high that inventory accumulation always generates in the current quarter. Just don't expect it to last.

JPMorgan Has Spent $18 Billion Buying Back Its Own Stock in Four Years

Courtesy of Pam Martens.

Wall Street Bull Statue in Lower Manhattan

As Wall Street On Parade reported last week, Jeffrey Kleintop, Chief Market Strategist for LPL Financial, reports that corporations are now the single largest buying source for U.S. stocks – authorizing buybacks of their own stocks to the tune of $754.8 billion in 2013 alone.

And it’s a long-term trend. According to Birinyi Associates, for calendar years 2006 through 2013, corporations authorized $4.14 trillion in buybacks of their own publicly traded stock in the U.S. — raising the question, just what kind of a bull market is this?

JPMorgan Chase, the largest U.S. bank by assets, has turned share buybacks into an art form, buying back a whopping $17,945,000,000 of shares from 2010 through 2013. In just the calendar year of 2011, JPMorgan spent a stunning $8,827,000,000 on stock buybacks.

According to JPMorgan’s most recent quarterly report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, “the Firm’s Board of Directors has authorized the Firm to repurchase $6.5 billion of common equity between April 1, 2014, and March 31, 2015.”

If the full authorization of $6.5 billion is spent by the first quarter of next year, JPMorgan will have tapped its capital to the tune of $24.5 billion – not to lend to deserving businesses or home buyers or consumers, but to binge on its own stock buybacks.

Having a steady pool of billions of dollars to prop up a stock’s share price might seem like a neat trick to top corporate executives whose compensation is tied, in part, to the performance of the company’s stock, but it does little to help a nation struggling from the aftermath of the economic ravages unleashed by the big bank financial crash in 2008.


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Q2 GDP Surges 4%, Beats Estimates Driven By Inventories, Fixed Investment Spike; Historical Data Revised

Courtesy of ZeroHedge. View original post here.

Submitted by Tyler Durden.

Moments ago the Commerce department reported Q2 GDP which blew estimates out of the water, printing at 4.0%, above the declining 3.0% consensus, as a result of a surge in Inventories and Fixed Investment, both of which added over 2.5% of the total print, while exports added another 1.23% to the GDP number. The full breakdown by component is shown below. 

As the BEA noted, "The Bureau emphasized that the second-quarter advance estimate released today is based on source data that are incomplete or subject to further revision by the source agency. The "second" estimate for the second quarter, based on more complete data, will be released on August 28, 2014."

Some other components:

The change in real private inventories added 1.66 percentage points to the second-quarter change in real GDP after subtracting 1.16 percentage points from the first-quarter change.  Private businesses increased inventories $93.4 billion in the second quarter, following increases of $35.2 billion in the first quarter and $81.8 billion in the fourth quarter of 2013.

Real personal consumption expenditures increased 2.5 percent in the second quarter, compared with an increase of 1.2 percent in the first.  Durable goods increased 14.0 percent, compared with an increase of 3.2 percent.  Nondurable goods increased 2.5 percent; it was unchanged in the first quarter. Services increased 0.7 percent in the second quarter, compared with an increase of 1.3 percent in the first.

Real nonresidential fixed investment increased 5.5 percent in the second quarter, compared with an increase of 1.6 percent in the first.  Investment in nonresidential structures increased 5.3 percent, compared with an increase of 2.9 percent.  Investment in equipment increased 7.0 percent, in contrast to a  decrease of 1.0 percent.  Investment in intellectual property products increased 3.5 percent, compared with an increase of 4.6 percent.  Real residential fixed investment increased 7.5 percent, in contrast to a decrease of 5.3 percent.

Real exports of goods and services increased 9.5 percent in the second quarter, in contrast to a decrease of 9.2 percent in the first.  Real imports of goods and services increased 11.7 percent, compared with an increase of 2.2 percent.

What is interesting is that the Commerce Department announced that as a result of incomplete June data, the biggest components of the GDP beat, Inventories and Trade, were estimated. In other words, assume that future revisions of Q2 GDP will be lower, not higher, as the actual data comes in, and especially as the CapEx data, which contrary to the GDP report, has not rebounded.

Real federal government consumption expenditures and gross investment decreased 0.8 percent in the second quarter, compared with a decrease of 0.1 percent in the first.  National defense increased 1.1 percent, in contrast to a decrease of 4.0 percent.  Nondefense decreased 3.7 percent, in contrast to an increase of 6.6 percent.  Real state and local government consumption expenditures and gross investment increased 3.1 percent, in contrast to a decrease of 1.3 percent.

Speaking of revisions, today the BEA also released its annual revision of all data from 1999 to Q1 2014, which made last quarter's "harsh weather" -2.9% print a more palatable -2.1%, in the process throwing everyone's trendline calculations off as yet another GDP redefinition was implemented.

The chart of the original and revised data is shown below.

Here are some additional details via Bloomberg:

  • 2Q personal consumption up 2.5% vs est. up 1.9% (range 1.5%-2.9%); prior revised to 1.2% from 1%
  • Core PCE q/q 2% vs est. 1.9% (range 1.4%-2.3%)
  • Gross private investment up 17% in 2Q after falling 6.9% in 1Q
  • Residential up 7.5% after falling 5.3%
  • Purchases of durable goods jumped 14%, most since 3Q 2009
  • Corporate spending up 5.9% vs little changed q/q
  • Inventory accumulation added 1.7ppts to GDP

And the quarterly breakdown between the original and just revised data:

GDP Review: How’s Our Economy ‘Really’ Doing?

Courtesy of Larry Doyle.

Most pundits and analysts will understandably try to hype the better than expected 4% growth rate of 2nd quarter GDP reported this morning.

I get it.

Some might temper the hype by highlighting that growth in inventories accounted for approximately 1.7% of the growth. Others might choose to direct attention to the fact that the disappointing 1st quarter GDP was actually revised to a -2.1% level from the -2.9% posting previously reported. Still others will point toward the positive developments within the consumer spending data.

Yes, most of this information has a positive bent to it but is this to say that we have a meaningfully positive trending economy that will drive growth in full-time, high paying jobs? 

Count me as suspect on that front.

The noise within the underlying components and the volatility of the revisions compels me to take a step back from a quarterly report so as to gain a wide-angled view of our overall economic health and well being.

While most if not all of our media outlets, market strategists, and Washington sycophants will try to ‘talk’ the economy up, who out there will inform you that full year growth for both 2011 and 2012 were revised meaningfully downward. Is that right? Yep, that’s right. How far downward? Check this out as reported by MarketWatch:

The increase in gross domestic product in 2011 was lowered to 1.6% from 1.8% and it was trimmed to 2.3% from 2.8% for 2012 . . .  As a result of the changes, the economy expanded at a 2.0% rate from 2011 to 2013 instead of 2.2% as previously reported.

The negative revisions to full year GDP reports strikes me as standard operating procedure. Quarterly reports can and will generate some real volatility so as to make it challenging to ascertain how the economy is really doing.

But reflect on the fact that our economy generated a 2.0% growth rate from 2011 through 2013 and juxtapose that against the fact that as I highlighted one year ago this very week that our economy grew at a pathetic 1.8% growth rate from 2002 until 2012.

A 2% growth rate is now so deeply embedded in our economy and significant structural headwinds persist (deficit, entitlement programs, inefficient tax system, exploding student debts, unfunded pensions, dysfunctional government, cronyism and corruption) that the future of the American dream for so many in our nation is regrettably slipping further and further away.

That is how we are really doing.

Navigate accordingly.

M.A.D. Sanctions; Two Games at Once

M.A.D. Sanctions; Two Games at Once

Courtesy of Mish

M.A.D. Sanctions

Sanctions are a lose-lose-lose game. Consumers lose, businesses loses, countries lose. And the hypocrisy alone is appalling.

The EU wants sanctions to hurt Russia "more" than the EU. Thus the EU let a French military sale to Russia go through, while blocking transactions and travel of Russians who had virtually nothing to do with this mess.

Knockout Blow?

For all their efforts will the US or EU accomplish anything with the sanctions on Russia?

Financial Times writer Christopher Granville has the answer in his take EU’s Sanctions on Russia Will Fail to be a Knockout Blow.

The main burden of the EU sanctions mooted by the commission would appear to fall on the UK. The core measure targets debt and equity capital raising by the Russian state banks and bans European intermediaries from offering associated underwriting and advisory services, and the bulk of such business is done in the City of London. Capital market funding is also a small portion of overall foreign funding of Russian banks (about 3.5 per cent as of March 2014), so an important detail about the EU sanctions package as regards both overall impact and burden sharing between the member states will be whether the prohibition on financing Russian banks will extend to ordinary lending. The international syndicated loan market for Russian borrowers is dominated by continental European banks. French banks have the largest exposure of $52.5bn.

This analysis presupposes that the EU will never go for the “nuclear” sanctions option of banning gas imports from Russia, and that the EU and US together will not try to replicate against Russia the ban on oil exports imposed on Iran. The EU cannot for now substitute its present annual gas import volumes of 150bn cubic metres from Russia, and the loss of Russia’s present level of crude oil exports – 7m barrels a day, compared to Iran’s 2.5m b/d – would trigger a sharp rise in the oil price and a global economic slump. This would be the economic equivalent of the Cold War-era concept of nuclear deterrence based on mutually assured destruction.

Short of the “MAD” options, the Russian economy will decline and Europe will suffer, but there will be no knockout blow and, as so often in Russia’s history, the Russian nation may be expected to rally around in the face of hardship caused by foreign foes.

Loser Analysis

According to Granville, Europe and Russia will both suffer. On that, I agree.

Granville thinks the UK will suffer most.

From a financing standpoint, I suspect Granville is correct. But from a manufacturing and trade standpoint, I believe Germany will be the big loser….

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Our Totalitarian Future – Part 1

Courtesy of Jim Quinn via The Burning Platform

“On the first Christmas Day the population of our planet was about two hundred and fifty millions — less than half the population of modern China. Sixteen cen­turies later, when the Pilgrim Fathers landed at Plym­outh Rock, human numbers had climbed to a little more than five hundred millions. By the time of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, world pop­ulation had passed the seven hundred million mark. In 1931, when I was writing Brave New World, it stood at just under two billions. Today, only twenty-seven years later, there are two billion eight hundred million of us. And tomorrow — what?” Aldous Huxley – Brave New World Revisited – 1958

As the world explodes in violence, war, riots, and uprisings, it is challenging to step back and examine the bigger picture. With airliners being shot down over the Ukraine, missiles flying between Israel and Gaza, ongoing civil war in Syria, Iraq falling apart as ISIS gains ground, dictatorship crackdown in Egypt, Turkey on the verge of revolution, Iran gaining control of Iraq, Saudi Arabia fomenting violence, Africa dissolving into chaos, South America imploding and sending their children across our purposely porous southern border, Mexico under the control of drug lords, China experiencing a slow motion real estate collapse, Japan experiencing their third decade of Keynesian failure, facing a demographic nightmare scenario while being slowly poisoned by radiation, and Chinese-Japanese relations moving towards World War II levels, it is easy to get lost in the day to day minutia of history in the making.

Why is this happening at this point in history? Why is the average American economically worse off today than they were at the height of the economic crisis in 2009? Why is the Cold War returning with a vengeance? Why is the Federal Reserve still employing emergency monetary policies when we are supposedly five years into a recovery and the stock market has attained record highs? Why do the ECB and European politicians continue to paper over the insolvency of their banks and governments? Why did the U.S. support the ouster of a dictator we supported for decades in Egypt and then support the elevation of a new dictator after we didn’t like the policies of the democratically elected president? Why did the U.S. eliminate the leader of Libya and allow the country to descend into anarchy and civil war? Why did the U.S. fund and provoke a revolutionary overthrow of a democratically elected leader in the Ukraine? Why did the U.S. fund and arm Al Qaeda associated rebels in Syria who are now fighting our supposed allies in Iraq? Why has the U.S. been occupying Afghanistan for the last thirteen years with the result being a Taliban that is stronger than ever? Why are the BRIC countries forming a monetary union to challenge USD domination? Why is the U.S. attempting to provoke Russia into a conflict with NATO?

Why is the U.S. government collecting every electronic communication made by every American? Why is the U.S. government spying on world leader allies? Why is the U.S. government providing military equipment to local police forces? Why is the U.S. military conducting training exercises within U.S. cities? Why is the U.S. government attempting to restrict Second Amendment rights? Why is the U.S. government attempting to control and lockdown the internet? Why has the U.S. government chosen to treat the Fourth Amendment as if it is obsolete? Why is the national debt still rising by $750 billion per year ($2 billion per day) if the economy is back to normal? Why have 12 million working age Americans left the workforce since the economic recovery began? How could the unemployment rate be back at 2008 levels when there are 14 million more working age Americans and the same number employed as in 2008? Why are there 13 million more people on food stamps today than there were at the start of the economic recovery in 2009? Why have home prices risen by 25% since 2012 when mortgage applications have been at fourteen year lows? Why are Wall Street profits and bonuses at record highs while the real median household income stagnates at 1998 levels?

Why do 98% of incumbent politicians get re-elected when congressional approval levels are lower than whale shit? Why are oil prices four times higher than they were in 2003 if the U.S. is supposedly on the verge of energy independence? Why do the corporate controlled mainstream media choose to entertain and regurgitate government propaganda rather than inform, investigate and seek the truth? Why do corporations and shadowy billionaires control the politicians, media, judges, and financial system in their ravenous quest for more riches? Why has the public allowed a privately owned bank to control our currency and inflate away 96% of its value in 100 years? Why have American parents allowed their children to be programmed and dumbed down by government run public schools? Why have Americans allowed themselves to be lured into debt in an effort to appear wealthy and successful? Why have Americans permitted their brains to atrophy through massive doses of social media, reality TV, iGadget addiction, and a cultural environment of techno-narcissism? Why have Americans lost their desire to read, think critically, question authority, act responsibly, defer gratification, and care about future generations? Why have Americans sacrificed their freedoms, liberties and rights for the false expectation of safety and security? Why will we pay dearly for our delusional, materialistic, debt financed idiocy?Because we never learn the lessons of history.

There are so many questions and no truthful answers forthcoming from those who pass for leaders in this increasingly totalitarian world. Our willful ignorance, apathy, hubris and arrogance will have consequences. Just because it hasn’t happened yet, doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen. The cyclicality of history guarantees a further deepening of this Crisis. The world has evolved from totalitarian hegemony to republican liberty and regressed back to totalitarianism throughout the centuries. Anyone honestly assessing the current state of the world and our country would unequivocally conclude we have regressed back towards a totalitarian regime where a small cabal of powerful oligarchs believes they can control and manipulate the masses in their gluttonous desire for treasure. Aldous Huxley foretold all the indicators of a world descending into totalitarianism due to overpopulation, propaganda, brainwashing, consumerism, and dumbing down of a distracted populace in his 1958 reassessment of his 1931 novel Brave New World.

Is There a Limit?

“At the rate of increase prevailing between the birth of Christ and the death of Queen Elizabeth I, it took sixteen centuries for the population of the earth to double. At the present rate it will double in less than half a century. And this fantastically rapid doubling of our numbers will be taking place on a planet whose most desirable and pro­ductive areas are already densely populated, whose soils are being eroded by the frantic efforts of bad farmers to raise more food, and whose easily available mineral capital is being squandered with the reckless extravagance of a drunken sailor getting rid of his accumulated pay.” Aldous Huxley – Brave New World Revisited – 1958

Demographics are easy to extrapolate and arrive at an accurate prediction, as long as the existing conditions and trends remain relatively constant. Huxley was accurate in his doubling prediction. The world population was 2.9 billion in 1958. It only took 39 years to double again to 5.8 billion in 1997. It has grown by 24% in the last 17 years to the current level of 7.2 billion. According to United Nations projections, world population is projected to reach 9.6 billion in 2050. The fact that it would take approximately 70 years for the world’s population to double from the 1997 level reveals a slowing growth rate, as the death rate in many developed countries surpasses their birth rate. The population of the U.S. grew from 175 million in 1958 to 320 million today, an 83% increase in 56 years.

The rapid population growth over the last century from approximately 1.8 billion in 1914, despite two horrific world wars, is attributable to cheap, easy to access oil and advances in medical technology made possible by access to cheap oil. The projection of 9.6 billion in 2050 is based upon an assumption the world’s energy, food and water resources can sustain that many people, no world wars kill a few hundred million people, no incurable diseases spread across the globe and there is no catastrophic geologic, climate, or planetary events. I’ll take the under on the 9.6 billion.

Anyone viewing the increasingly violent world situation without bias can already see the strain that overpopulation has created. Today, six countries contain half the world’s population.

A cursory examination of population trends around the world provides a frightening glimpse into a totalitarian future marked by vicious resource wars, violent upheaval and starvation for millions. India, a country one third the size of the United States, has four times the population of the United States. A vast swath of the population lives in poverty and squalor. India contains the largest concentration (25%) of people living below the World Bank’s international poverty line of $1.25 per day. According to the U.N. India is expected to add 400 million people to its cities by 2050. Its capital city Delhi already ranks as the second largest in the world, with 25 million inhabitants. The city has more than doubled in size since 1990. The assumptions in these U.N. projections are flawed. Without rapidly expanding economic growth, capital formation and energy resources, the ability to employ, house, feed, clothe, transport, and sustain 400 million more people will be impossible. Disease, starvation, civil unrest, war and a totalitarian government would be the result. With its mortal enemy Pakistan, already the sixth most populated country in the world, jamming 182 million people into an area one quarter the size of India and one twelfth the size of the U.S. and growing faster than India, war over resources and space will be inevitable. And both countries have nuclear arms.

More than half the globe’s inhabitants now live in urban areas, with China, India and Nigeria forecast to see the most urban growth over the next 30 years. Twenty-four years ago, there were 10 megacities with populations pushing above the 10 million mark. Today, there are 28 megacities with areas of developing nations seeing faster growth: 16 in Asia, 4 in Latin America, 3 in Africa, 3 in Europe and 2 in North America. The world is expected to have 41 sprawling megacities over the next few decades with developing nations representing the majority of that growth. Today, Tokyo, with 38 million people, is the largest in the world, followed by New Delhi, Jakarta, Seoul, Shanghai, Beijing, Manila, and Karachi – all exceeding 20 million people.

To highlight the rapid population growth of the developing world, the New York metropolitan area containing 18 million people was ranked as the third largest urban area in the world in 1990. Today it is ranked ninth and is expected to be ranked fourteenth by 2030. The U.S. had the fewest births since 1998 last year at 3.95 million. We also had the highest recorded deaths in history at 2.54 million.  The fertility rate for 20- to 24-year-olds is now 83.1 births per 1,000 women, a record low. That combination created a gap in births over deaths that is the lowest it has been in 35 years.

This is the plight of the developed world (U.S., Europe, Japan) and even China (due to one child policy). According to the U.N. report, the population of developed regions will remain largely unchanged at around 1.3 billion from now until 2050. In contrast, the 49 least developed countries are projected to double in size from around 900 million people in 2013 to 1.8 billion in 2050. The rapid growth of desperately poor third world countries like Nigeria, Afghanistan, Niger, Congo, Ethiopia, and Uganda will create tremendous strain on their economic, political, social, and infrastructural systems. Nigeria’s population is projected to surpass the U.S. by 2050. Japan, Europe and Russia are in demographic death spirals. China is neutral, and the U.S. is expected to grow by another 89 million people. I wonder how many of them the BLS will classify as not in the labor force.

What are the implications to mankind of the world adding another billion people in the next twelve years, primarily in the poorest countries of Asia, Africa and South America? What does the world think of the U.S., which constitutes 4.4% of the world’s population, but consumes 20% of the world’s oil production and 24% of the world’s food? Will there be consequences to having the 85 richest people on earth accumulating as much wealth as the poorest 3.5 billion, with 1.2 billion surviving on less than $1.25 per day? Can a planet with finite amount of easily accessible financially viable extractable resources support an ever increasing number of people? Is there a limit to growth? I believe these questions will be answered in the next fifteen years as the dire consequences play out in civil strife, resource wars, totalitarian regimes, and societal collapse. Fourth Turning Crisis cycles always sweep away the existing social order and replace it with something new. It could be better or far worse.

Impact of Over-Population

“The problem of rapidly increasing numbers in relation to natural resources, to social stability and to the well-being of individuals — this is now the central problem of mankind; and it will remain the central problem certainly for another century, and perhaps for several centuries thereafter. Unsolved, that problem will render insoluble all our other problems. Worse still, it will create conditions in which individual free­dom and the social decencies of the democratic way of life will become impossible, almost unthinkable. Not all dictatorships arise in the same way. There are many roads to Brave New World; but perhaps the straightest and the broadest of them is the road we are travel­ing today, the road that leads through gigantic num­bers and accelerating increases.” Aldous Huxley – Brave New World Revisited – 1958

The turmoil roiling the world today is a function of Huxley’s supposition that over-population pushes societies towards centralization and ultimately totalitarianism. The relentless growth in the world’s population, not matched by growth in energy resources, water, food, and living space, results in increasing tension, anger, economic decline, government dependency, war and ultimately totalitarianism. Huxley believed politicians and governments would increasingly resort to propaganda and misinformation to mislead citizens as the problems worsened and freedoms were revoked. Could this recent statement by our commander and chief of propaganda have made Edward Bernays and Joseph Goebbels any prouder?

“The world is less violent than it has ever been. It is healthier than it has ever been. It is more tolerant than it has ever been. It is better fed then it’s ever been. It is more educated than it’s ever been.”

I’m sure the people living in Gaza, the Ukraine, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Thailand, Turkey, Africa and American urban ghettos would concur with Obama’s less violent than ever mantra. Disease (Cholera, Malaria, Hepatitis, Aids, Tuberculosis, Ebola, Plague, SARS) and malnutrition beset third world countries, while the U.S. obesity epidemic caused by consumption of corporate processed food peddled to the masses through diabolical marketing methods enriches the mega-corporate food companies, as well as the corporate sick care complex. Religious wars and culture wars rage across the world as intolerance for others beliefs reaches all-time highs. After three decades of government controlled public education they have succeeded in dumbing down the masses through social engineering, propaganda, and promoting equality over excellence. Obama should stop trying to think and stick to what he does best – golf and fundraising. After reading his drivel, I’m reminded of a far more pertinent quote from Huxley:

“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”

The chart below details the fact that 12% of the world’s population in countries producing 9% of the world’s oil are currently in a state of war. The violence, war, and civil unrest roiling the Ukraine, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan are a direct result of U.S. meddling, instigation, and provocation. The U.S. government funds dictators (Hussein, Mubarak, Assad, Gaddafi) until they no longer serve their interests, engineer the overthrow of democratically elected leaders in countries (Iran, Egypt, Ukraine) that don’t toe the line, and dole out billions in military aid and arms to countries around the world in an effort to make them do our dirty work and enrich the military industrial complex. The true motivation behind most of the violence, intrigue and war is the U.S. need to maintain the U.S. petro-dollar hegemony and to control the flow of oil and natural gas throughout the world. The ruling oligarchy’s power, influence, and wealth are dependent upon dictating currency valuations and flow of oil and gas from foreign fiefdoms.

http://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/images/user3303/imageroot/2014/07/20140725_war2.png

In Huxley’s 1931 Brave New World fable the world’s population is maintained at an optimum level (just under 2 billion) calculated by those in control. This is done through technology and biological manipulation. Procreation through sexual intercourse is prohibited. Creation of the desired number of people in each class is scientifically determined and the classes are conditioned from birth to fulfill their roles in society. When Huxley reassessed his novel in 1958’s Brave New World Revisited he didn’t argue for an optimum level of population. He simply hypothesized a close correlation between too many people, multiplying too rapidly, and the formulation of authoritarian philosophies and rise of totalitarian sys­tems of government.

The introduction of penicillin, DDT, and clean water into even the poorest countries on the planet had the effect of rapidly decreasing death rates around the globe. Meanwhile, birth rates continued to increase due to religious, social and cultural taboos surrounding birth control and the illiteracy and ignorance of those in the poorest regions of the world. The ultimate result has been an explosion in population growth in the developing world, least able to sustain that growth. Huxley just uses common sense in concluding that as an ever growing population presses more heavily upon accessible resources, the economic position of the society undergoing this ordeal becomes ever more precarious.

It essentially comes down to the laws of economics. Most of the developing world is economic basket cases. They cannot produce food, consumer goods, housing, schools, infrastructure, teachers, managers, scientists or educated workers at the same rate as their population growth. Therefore, it is impossible to improve the wretched conditions of the vast majority, as they wallow in squalor. Unless a country can produce more than it consumes, it cannot generate the surplus capital needed to invest in machinery, agricultural production, manufacturing facilities, and education. The rapidly growing population sinks further into poverty and despair. Huxley grasps the nefarious implications for freedom and liberty as over-population wreaks havoc around the globe:

“Whenever the economic life of a nation becomes pre­carious, the central government is forced to assume additional responsibilities for the general welfare. It must work out elaborate plans for dealing with a criti­cal situation; it must impose ever greater restrictions upon the activities of its subjects; and if, as is very likely, worsening economic conditions result in polit­ical unrest, or open rebellion, the central government must intervene to preserve public order and its own authority. More and more power is thus concentrated in the hands of the executives and their bureaucratic managers.”Aldous Huxley – Brave New World Revisited – 1958

Despots, dictators, and power hungry presidents arise in an atmosphere of fear, scarce resources, hopelessness, and misery. As the power of the central government grows the freedoms, liberties and rights of the people are diminished and ultimately relinquished.

In Part Two, I will examine our relentless path towards totalitarianism and war.

85 Super Wealthy People Have More Money Than The Poorest 3.5 Billion Combined

Courtesy of Michael Snyder of The Economic Collapse

The global economy is structured to systematically funnel wealth to the very top of the pyramid, and this centralization of global wealth is accelerating with each passing year. According to the United Nations, 85 super wealthy people have more money than the poorest 3.5 billion people on the planet combined. And 1.2 billion of those poor people live on less than $1.25 a day. There is something deeply broken about a system that produces these kinds of results. Seven out of every ten people on the planet live in countries where the gap between the wealthy and the poor has increased in the last 30 years. 

Despite our technological advances, somewhere around a billion people go to bed hungry every single night.  And when our fundamentally flawed financial system finally does collapse, it will be the poor that will suffer the worst.

Now, let me make one thing clear at the outset. Big government and more socialism are not the answer to anything.  Big government and more socialism almost always result in increased oppression and increased poverty. If you want to see where that road ultimately leads to, just look at North Korea.

What we need is a system that empowers individuals and families to work hard, be creative, build businesses and to take care of themselves.

But instead, we have a system where all power and all wealth are increasingly controlled by giant banks and giant corporations that are in turn controlled by the global elite. The "financialization" of the global economy has turned almost everyone on the planet into "deft serfs," and the compound interest on all of that debt enables the global elite to constantly increase their giant piles of money.

As I have written about previously, the total amount of government debt in the world has increased by about 40 percent since the last recession.

And when you consider all forms of debt, the grand total for the planet is now up to a whopping 223 trillion dollars.

This enables the super wealthy to constantly become even wealthier.  It is like a giant vacuum cleaner that sucks wealth out of all of our pockets and transfers it to them.

It has been reported that the global elite have approximately 32 trillion dollars stashed in offshore banks around the globe.

But that is only what we know about.

What we don't know about is probably far greater.

Just like most people don't realize that men like Bill Gates and Carlos Slim are not the wealthiest men on the planet.

The people that are really at the top of the food chain are masters at hiding wealth and they absolutely do not want their names being thrown around in the media.

Meanwhile, those at the bottom of the pyramid continue to suffer.

For example, it was been widely reported that there are more people in slavery today than ever before in human history.

That is an absolutely amazing statistic.  It is hard to comprehend how that could be possible, and yet it is.  A new UN report says that there are 21 million slaves around the globe right now

Nearly 21 million people are working as modern day slaves, falling victim to trafficking, forced labor and sexual exploitation, a new UN report finds. The illicit market in exploited people generates billions of dollars in profit worldwide.

The report by the International Labour Organization (ILO), which draws on information gathered in a 2012 survey, also found that annual profits stemming from forced labor are three times higher than previous estimates.

“Put into perspective, the 21 million victims in forced labor and the more than US$150 billion in illegal profits generated by their work exceeds the population and GDP of many countries or territories around the world,” the ILO says.

This is an utter abomination, but this is actually happening all over the planet.  The following is one story that I recently came across out of India

Dialu Nial’s life changed forever when he was held down by his neck in a forest and one of his kidnappers raised an axe to strike.

He was asked if he wanted to lose his life, a leg or a hand.

Six days earlier, Nial had been among 12 young men being taken against their will to make bricks on the outskirts of one of India’s biggest cities, Hyderabad.

During the journey, they got a chance to escape and ran for it – but Nial and a friend were caught and this was their punishment.

And yes, he did end up losing his hand.

Fortunately, most of us are not facing that kind of oppression.

But that doesn't mean that we aren't slaves.  The borrower is the servant of the lender, and over the past four decades the total amount of debt in America has gone from about 2.2 trillion dollars to nearly 60 trillion dollars.  Many of us work as "debt serfs" our entire lives, and we never even know the names or the faces of those that we are making rich as we slowly pay off our debts.

And all of this debt is one of the primary factors destroying the middle class in America.  Just this past week, the New York Times reported that the wealth of "the typical household" in the United States has declined by 36 percent over the past decade…

The inflation-adjusted net worth for the typical household was $87,992 in 2003. Ten years later, it was only $56,335, or a 36 percent decline, according to a study financed by the Russell Sage Foundation. Those are the figures for a household at the median point in the wealth distribution — the level at which there are an equal number of households whose worth is higher and lower. But during the same period, the net worth of wealthy households increased substantially.

The Russell Sage study also examined net worth at the 95th percentile. (For households at that level, 94 percent of the population had less wealth and 4 percent had more.) It found that for this well-do-do slice of the population, household net worth increased 14 percent over the same 10 years. Other research, by economists like Edward Wolff at New York University, has shown even greater gains in wealth for the richest 1 percent of households.

Does that upset you when you read that?

It should.

And the outlook for the next generation is even worse.  Most of our young adults are absolutely drowning in student loan debt and other forms of debt, and wages for new college graduates are terrible.

Sadly, most people don't even realize how the global financial system works or why the gap between the super wealthy and the rest of us continues to grow so rapidly.

It has been estimated that the wealthiest one percent currently have 110 trillion dollars.

That is 65 times more wealth than the bottom half of the global population combined.

They are hoarding wealth as we approach some of the most unstable days in all of human history.

On Dominoes, WMDs And Putin’s “Aggression”: Imperial Washington Is Intoxicated By Another Big Lie

Courtesy of David Stockman via Contra Corner

Imperial Washington is truly running amuck in its insensible confrontation with Vladimir Putin. The pending round of new sanctions is a counter-productive joke. Apparently, more of Vlad’s posse will be put on double probation, thereby reducing demand for Harry Macklowe’s swell new $60 million apartment units on Park Avenue. Likewise, American exporters of high tech oilfield equipment will be shot in the foot with an embargo; and debt-saturated Russian state companies will be denied the opportunity to bury themselves even deeper in dollar debt by borrowing on the New York bond market. Some real wet noodles, these!

But it is the larger narrative that is so blatantly offensive—that is, the notion that a sovereign state is being wantonly violated by an aggressive neighbor arming “terrorists” inside its borders. Obama’s deputy national security advisor, Tony Blanken, stated that specious meme in stark form yesterday:

“Russia bears responsibility for everything that’s going on in Eastern Ukraine” and “has the ability to actually de-escalate this crisis,” Blinken said.

Puleese! The Kiev government is a dysfunctional, bankrupt usurper that is deploying western taxpayer money to wage a vicious war on several million Russian-speaking citizens in the Donbas—-the traditional center of greater Russia’s coal, steel and industrial infrastructure. It is geographically part of present day Ukraine by historical happenstance. For better or worse, it was Stalin who financed its forced draft industrialization during the 1930s; populated it with Russian speakers to insure political reliability; and expelled the Nazi occupiers at immeasurable cost in blood and treasure during WWII. Indeed, the Donbas and Russia have been Saimese twins economically and politically not merely for decades, but centuries.

On the other hand, Kiev’s marauding army and militias would come to an instant halt without access to the $35 billion of promised aid from the IMF, EU and US treasury. Obama just needs to say “stop”. That’s it. The civil war would quickly end, permitting the US, Russia and the warring parties of the Ukraine to hold a peace conference and work out the details of a separation agreement.

After all, what is so sacrosanct about preserving the territorial integrity of the Ukraine? Ever since the middle ages, it has consisted of a set of meandering borders in search of a nation that never existed owing to endemic ethnic, tribal and religious differences. Its modern boundaries are merely the fruit of 20th century wars and  the expediencies of a totalitarian state during the decades of its rise, rule and disintegration.

There was until recently a neighboring “state” of equally artificial lineage called Czechoslovakia. It was carved out of the German and Austrian empires by the vengeful victors at Versailles, urged on by scheming Czech nationalists who coveted the resources of the Slovaks. But notwithstanding revolutions, the Stalinist oppression, the Cold War, the Prague Spring and all the rest of the 20th century mayhem—-the machinations at Versailles didn’t birth a state that was viable or sustainable. Accordingly, separation has been had, and the parties are better off for it—as are its neighbors and the larger world.

And on the topic of partition there is the ghost of Yugoslavia–another state that emerged in whole cloth  from the madness of Versailles. Yes, it has been partitioned now into half a dozen smaller states—-Slovenia, Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Kosovo and Bosnia. But the operative point is that the partitioner was none other than Washington and its European groupies who had no regard for those happenstance 20th century-made borders when it suited their purpose.

So the sanctimonious yelping from Washington about the sacred territorial integrity of the Ukraine is ahistorical tommyrot. In fact, however, it is a thin fig leaf for a far more insidious purpose. Namely, the self-aggrandizement of the Warfare State machinery that was left stranded in Imperial Washington without purpose or justification when the Cold War ended two decades ago.

So the Warfare State machinery—including its spy network, state department, aid agencies and NGO supplicants— invented enemies and missions to justify their continued existence and their massive dissipation of fiscal resources. Those are upwards of $1 trillion annually if you count everything including veterans and homeland security.

Thus, after arming the mujahedeen in Afghanistan against the Soviets in the 1980s, their Taliban successors were deemed our enemy after the cold war ended—even though they never poised a scintilla of threat to the citizens of Lincoln NE or Worcester MA.  So too with our 1980′s ally Saddam Hussein, and also with Khadafy, Assad and the warring tribal potentates and cutthroats of Yemen, Somalia and Waziristan, to name just a few.

But it is in eastern Europe that the Warfare State machinery has most egregiously made an enemy and mission out of whole cloth. As the Cold War was drawing to a close in the late 1980s, then Secretary of State James Baker made a sensible deal with Gorbachev. In return for Soviet acquiesce in the reunification of Germany, the US would insure that NATO did not expand by a “single inch”.

Since then, of course, there has been a senseless bipartisan betrayal and stampede in the opposite direction. Starting under Clinton and extending through Bush and Obama, NATO has been expanded from 16 nations at the end of the Cold War to 28 countries today.

Yet the very recitation of its new members underscores the historical farce that this needless expansion amounted to. For better or worse, the formation of NATO in the late 1940′s involved what were perceived to be vital national security interests against a Stalinist policy that by the lights of the hawks and militarists of the day amounted to a violation of his Yalta obligations. Accordingly, NATO constituted an alliance of real nations—England, France, Italy and West Germany—-that could make a meaningful contribution to collective security against the perceived Soviet threat of the times.

But Albania, Bulgaria, Latvia, Slovakia and Slovenia?  And that is not to forget Moldova, Georgia, Macedonia and the Ukraine—all of which are still coveted for membership by the NATO apparatchiks. What could these micro-states possibly contribute to American security? That’s especially the case since the Warsaw pact had been dissolved; the Soviet Empire has erased from the pages of history; and the Russian successor was left with an Italian sized GDP encumbered with the destructive legacy of a state-dominated economy that had been appropriated by a passel of thieves, opportunists and oligarchs.

In short, today’s Ukrainian crisis is the outcome of the mindless 20-year drive of the Warfare State to push an obsolete NATO to the very doorstep of Russia, and into the messy remnants of the Soviet disintegration. Stated differently, Putin has been in power for 15 years, yet during 13 of those years there was no hue and cry from Washington, London and Brussels that he was an incipient Hitler bent on sweeping conquest. Even the so-called invasion of Georgia in 2008 was a tempest in a teapot provoked by local pro-Russian separatists who did not want to be ruled by a de facto American interloper in Tbilisi.

In any event, it was the $5 billion that Washington spent during the last decade meddling in Ukrainian politics, and finally inciting and financing the February overthrow of the country’s constitutionally elected government that precipitated the current civil war. It brought to power a new gang of crooks and thugs who could not govern for a day without tapping the Washington/Western financial lifeline. Indeed, the civil war now raging, the brutal military attacks on civilian populations and the hundreds of thousands of refugees now streaming out of the eastern regions are the result of a crisis made in Washington, not the Kremlin.

So the rebels— who properly fear for their lives and property were the nationalists and neo-fascists who run the Kiev government to prevail—are not “terrorists” by any stretch of the imagination. That is just insipid Washington propaganda.  Instead, they are the Russian speaking remnant of the Soviet empire who fear an ethnic cleansing and who noted well the fate of their kinsmen in the hands of Ukrainian thugs during the fire at Odessa.

Once again, the American Warfare State has confected a false narrative to justify policies and missions that have nothing to do with the safety and security of the citizens of Lincoln NE and Wooster MA. About 55-years ago such a false narrative arose in the form of the “domino theory” that lead to the carnage of Vietnam. Ten years ago it cropped up in the form of the WMD story that led to the disastrous invasion and occupation of Iraq.  Today, it is the preposterous story of Ukrainian territorial integrity, terrorists in the East and a latter-day Hitler in the Kremlin.

Unfortunately, false narratives are what the Warfare State does.

China Meat Scandal Spreads: McDonald’s Japan Slashes Guidance

Courtesy of ZeroHedge. View original post here.

Submitted by Tyler Durden.

We warned last week that the scandal over Chinese meat supplier OSI was spreading (and Asians were increasingly shunning western fast-food restaurants) and now, as The FT reports, McDonald’s Japan has pulled its full-year profit guidance on the back of falling sales. It had previously forecast sales of $2.45bn for the year to December but warned it could not commit to new targets as it was too soon to estimate the scandal’s full impact.

 

As The FT reports, OSI processes the meat of 300m chickens a year in China, as well as other meats, vegetables and pre-assembled food such as sandwiches or wraps.

This is a problem for McDonalds as some of its 3,200 restaurants were forced to scratch chicken nuggets off the menu

Fast-food chains have scrambled to redirect the supply chain after the Shanghai plant closed, and the loss of supply from all of OSI’s China plants could prove a challenge for McDonald’s, which relies on a smaller but tighter network of suppliers than does its chief rival, KFC.

“Supplies of some products to some China restaurants have been cut. We are trying hard to allocate supply from other sources and resume supply as soon as possible,” the fast-food chain said.

McDonald’s Japan, which is 50 per cent owned by the US fast food group and operates in its second biggest market by number of outlets, said that its “sales and profit expectations have been reduced” after its China-based supplier was found to be relabelling expired meat and breaching other food safety practices.

It had previously forecast sales of Y250bn ($2.45bn) for the year to December and net income of Y6bn, adding that it could not commit to new targets as it was too soon to estimate the scandal’s full impact.

*  *  *

At least it's a better excuse than the weather… but McDonalds is enough trouble as it is with Russia bans on some items and sales sliding

Oh Yeah, About That Con Con Con

Oh Yeah, About That Con Con Con

Courtesy of Lee Adler 

As usual, the Conference Board and all the major media press release repeaters put a positive spin on the highest reading of Consumer Confidence (aka the Con Con Con) since October 2007. None of the media echo chamber reports pointed out that October 2007 was the beginning of the worst bear market in US stocks since 1973-74. So I thought it important that the issue be given a little perspective (as I did recently with the Thompson Rhoiders Michigan Con Index).

First things first, the Con Con Con is an amalgamation of the results of two survey questions presented to “consumers” (aka real people). One question asks people how they view the current status of the economy, which is useful because most people are capable of seeing the present reasonably accurately. The other question is what they think conditions will be in 6 months, as if anybody knows the answer to that. While real people may be far better at answering that question than Wall Street and academic economists and media echo chamber pundits… I mean really… Ask a stupid question get a stupid answer. So then the Con Con Con takes the useful index of Present Conditions and combines it with a completely stupid index of what people think the future holds, and thereby creates a stupid and useless composite index.

Given that, let’s just focus on the one measure that might be meaningful, the Present Conditions index. The chart created by Briefing.com, with a little technical analysis and annotations added by yours truly, gives us that which is missing in the media echo chamber reporting… perspective. The graph speaks for itself. The long term trend is down. Note that the index is based on the average reading in 1985 being 100. The peak reading of around 185 was reached at the end of the tech bubble. Another peak around 140 was reached at the top of the housing bubble, when virtually everybody had a home equity ATM. The current reading remains below the 1985 average at about half the peak level.

Perspective on the Con Con Com – Click to enlarge

The trend reflects the decline in standard of living that an increasing number of Americans have been experiencing for the past 15 years. After a 5 1/2 year rally in stocks and consumer attitudes, those attitudes are almost all the way back to the average 1985 level. Whoop de doo.

Aside from the fact that a house divided against itself cannot stand, and neither can an economy carried by a few people doing exceptionally well at the top of the wealth spectrum, the chart also shows that the current Con Con Con Present Conditions reading has reached the top of the long term trend channel. From the standpoint of technical analysis, this is a good reason to be cautious now, especially considering how far the stock market bubble and housing price bubble have progressed.

The Fed has driven these bubbles with QE and ZIRP. Pressured by its critics, both from without and within, the Fed has recently gotten cold feet, so it is slowly shutting down the money pump that has been inflating these asset bubbles, and allowed consumer attitudes to rebound back to the long term downtrend over the past 5 years.  Sentiment has now reached a level where a rollover in the present conditions reading at any time in the next few months could be an indication that the next great bear market is beginning, just as it signaled and coincided with the onset of the last two great bear markets. If this index does roll over from a third lower peak, an even greater decline in the US median standard of living could be forthcoming.

Conversely, a breakout in consumer attitudes could lead to the mother of all bubbles, bigger than the tech bubble of the late 90s and bigger than the housing bubble of the last decade. But can the markets continue their rampage without the Fed pumping cash into them?

The answer is yes and no. The facts behind that get a little technical. The Fed is not the only big central bank in the world, and all of the big 3 pump cash into the same pipelines. I sort through those issues in my weekly analysis of central bank behavior as it impacts markets.

So place your bets. Is this as good as it gets, or the threshold of a brave new world? This indicator should give us an indication one way or the other over the remainder of 2014.

Central bank behavior is the key to shading your bets correctly. The Wall Street Examiner Professional Edition lays out the facts for you.

Get regular updates on the machinations of the Fed, Treasury, Primary Dealers and foreign central banks in the US market, in the Fed Report in the Professional Edition, Money Liquidity, and Real Estate Package. Click this link to try WSE's Professional Edition risk free for 30 days!

Copyright © 2012 The Wall Street Examiner.

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Whopping 35% Have Debt in Collection! Delinquent Debt in America: By Region and Metro Area, Where Is It?

Courtesy of Mish.

The Urban Institute has an interesting 14-page synopsis on Delinquent Debt in America.

By percentage, the number of people in collections is largely concentrated in the South, while amount owed shows no geographic pattern. The Urban Institute uses 2013 credit bureau data from TransUnion to measure how many Americans are reported as at least 30 days late, not including late payment of mortgages. The institute also examines how many Americans have debt in collections and the amount of this debt.

In order to have credit card debt, one first must have credit. However, some without traditional credit show up as delinquent on account of late utility, medical, or other bills.

The key general finding is: Of those with credit files, an astonishing 35% have debt in collections.

Study Synopsis

  • 5.3% (Roughly 1 out of 20) of people with a credit file are at least 30 days late on a credit card or other non-mortgage account (e.g., automobile loan, student loan). In other words, they have debt that has been reported as past due to the credit bureau.
  • The share of people with debt past due ranges from 4.6% in the West, North Central, and Middle Atlantic divisions to 7.5% in the West South Central division.
  • Three states have less than 4% of the population with debt past due: Utah, Washington, and New Jersey. 
  • Three states have more than 7% of the population with debt past due: Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi.
  • Nearly 40% of the high-concentration census tracts in the country are in Louisiana or Texas.
  • Areas with lower household incomes have more people with debt past due, but the correlation is only -0.3. So, while income matters, the concentration of delinquent debt is not simply an income story.
  • Of those with credit files, an alarming 35% have debt in collections.
  • Debt in collection ranges less than $25 to more than $125,000. The average amount owed in collections is $5,178.
  • Nevada, which was hard hit by the housing crisis, tops the list of past-due states: 47% of people with a credit file in Nevada have reported debt in collections. The District of Columbia and an additional 12 states (11 in the South) are over the 40 percent mark: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia.
  • At the low end are three Midwestern states – Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota, with 20%  of the people with a credit history now reported debt in collections.
  • Among the largest 100 MSAs, only six have fewer than a quarter of people with debt in collections reported i n their credit file. None are in the South: Minneapolis – St. Paul, Minnesota (20.1%), Honolulu, Hawaii (21.0%), Boston, Massachusetts (22.4%), Madison, Wisconsin (22.6%), San Jose, California (23.0%), and Bridgeport, Connecticut (24.5%).
  • At the other extreme, five MSAs have at least 45 percent of people with collections debt reported in their credit files : McAllen, Texas (51.7%), Las Vegas, Nevada (49.2%), Lakeland, Florida (47.3%), Columbia, South Carolina (45.2%), and Jacksonville, Florida (45.0%). 
  • An astonishing 70% of census tracts have at least 25% of people with reported debt in collections. In comparison, less than 1% of census tracts (40) have at least 25% of people with debt past.

Debt Past Due

Debt in Collections

Average Debt in Collections

 

Continue Here

Picture of Piggy Bank credit here. 

 

Zillow + Trulia and the Big Coverup

Stocklemon of Citron discusses the potential merger of the internet real estate companies Zillow and Trulia and the problems they face. ~ Ilene 

Zuliagate – The Big Secret: Citron Exposes What the Press Has Ignored

Courtesy of Citron Reports 

The stock market and the real estate industry are all abuzz about the possible merger of Zillow (NASDAQ:Z) and Trulia (NASDAQ:TRLA). The media is now filled with stories proclaiming that the combined company will instantly become an internet advertising juggernaut that wields pricing power over the entire internet real estate industry.  

You cannot read a single article or analyst commentary that doesn’t invoke the magic phrase “Pricing Power”. Without the slightest thought whatsoever, the combination of Zillow and Trulia is supposed to give the combined entity the power to triple ad revenue from real estate agents. Nothing could be further from the truth – and we have the proof. 

Click for the Full Story You Won't Read Anywhere Else

 

Deadbeat Nation: A Shocking 77 Million Americans Face Debt Collectors

Courtesy of ZeroHedge. View original post here.

Submitted by Tyler Durden.

We have been warning for years that as a result of the Fed's disastrous policies, America's middle class is being disintegrated and US adults are surviving only thanks to insurmountable debtloads. But not even we had an appreciation of how serious the problem truly was. We now know, and it is a shocker: according to new research by the Urban Institute, about 77 million Americans have a debt in collections.

The breakdown by region:

As the Washington Post reports, that amounts to 35 percent of consumers with credit files or data reported to a major credit bureau, according to the study released Tuesday by the Urban Institute and Encore Capital Group's Consumer Credit Research Institute. "It’s a stunning number," said Caroline Ratcliffe, senior fellow at the Urban Institute and author of the report. "And it threads through nearly all communities."

More:

The report analyzed 2013 credit data from TransUnion to calculate how many Americans were falling behind on their bills. It looked at how many people had non-mortgage bills, such as credit card bills, child support payments and medical bills, that are so past due that the account has since been closed and placed in collections.

Researchers relied on a random sample of 7 million people with data reported to the credit bureaus in 2013 to estimate what share of the 220 million Americans with credit files have debts in collection. About 22 million low-income adults who did not have credit files were not represented in the study.

While we understand why someone owing tens if not hundreds of thousands can just do what the US government does so well, and simply decide to stop paying their debt (if unlike the government, without the option to roll it), what is scary is that there are people who are in collection on amount as tiny as $25.

The debts sent to collections ranged from $25 on the low end and to more than $125,000 on the high end. Many consumers were burned for relatively small amounts — about 10 percent of the debts were smaller than $125, Ratcliffe says. But the median debt, $1,350, is still pretty substantial, she adds.

The geographic breakdown is not surprising, headed by the state that hosts Las Vegas, where an unprecedented 47% of all consumers have debt in some stage of collection.

Nevada was hit the hardest, with 47 percent of consumers with a credit file showing a debt in collections — a mark researchers said may stem from the housing crisis when people struggling to keep up with their mortgage payments may have fallen behind on other financial obligations.

It's not just Nevada. It's, well, everywhere else too:

In 12 states, including the District of Columbia, more than 40 percent of residents with a credit file have a bill in collections. That includes Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia.

But how is it possible that tens of millions of Americans are in such dire straits? After all, banks have been reporting better delinquency data for years. The answer: the study found that the share of people with debt past due, meaning they are at least 30 days late with payment on a non-mortgage debt, was much smaller: 1 in 20 people. That includes people who are late with credit card bills, student loan payments and auto loans. The majority of those people, 79 percent, also had debt in collections. However, because certain bills, such as medical bills and parking tickets, may not show up on a person's credit score until they are sent to collections, the total share of people falling behind on their bills may actually be much higher.

The flowchart:

 

And the breakdown by state: the stunner, again, is that the share of Americans with debt in collections is 7 times greater than those with merely debt past due:

The report's punchline, via AP:

The Urban Institute's Ratcliffe said that stagnant incomes are key to why some parts of the country are struggling to repay their debt.

Wages have barely kept up with inflation during the five-year recovery, according to Labor Department figures. And a separate measure by Wells Fargo found that after-tax income fell for the bottom 20 percent of earners during the same period.

But.. recovery? And consumer confidence at 2007 highs? Or did the Conference Board decide to just poll the residents of 15 CPW and 740 Park?

Of course, there is a simple solution to all of the above: instead of being deadbeats, if only these 77 million Americans had BTFD as the the S&P's chief market valuation officer, Janet Yellen and Ben Bernanke before her, had advised them, then the US would truly be a crony capitalist-cum-socialist nirvana by now. Sadly, the way it is right now, the US Department of Truth will have to put this record number of deadbeats out of the labor pool (and hook them to the government handouts machine), while pretending that what once used to be known as the economy, and now is nothing but pure propaganda, is getting "better."

Housing Prices Did NOT Decline In May as Case Shiller Reported and Are Still Running Hot

Housing Prices Did NOT Decline In May as Case Shiller Reported and Are Still Running Hot

Courtesy of Lee Adler 

I won’t go into the specifics of the worst housing indicator in the world, released today and dutifully spewed by the world’s mainstream financial infomercial outlets. If you want to pick through that type of garbage, go read the Wall Street Journal or Bloomberg or watch CNBC. You can get the irrelevant and misleading data on US housing prices there.

Presented as a public service, here’s a review of a several housing price indicators which are timely and are not smoothed and lagged to the point of silliness as the Case Shiller Index is. They show that as of right now, the US housing price bubble continues to inflate, in spite of weak demand.

First let’s look at a couple of real time or near real time indicators of the housing trend, DepartmentofNumbers.com’s real time listing prices for late July, and Redfin’s real time contract prices from June. Before you complain that listing prices aren’t sale prices, the fact is that since this data has been published in 2006, the subsequently released lagging data on actual sale prices has shown that the trend of listing prices has been absolutely accurate in showing the direction of US housing prices in real time. Naturally, they are higher than sale prices, but they trend in the same direction and turn at the same points in time. The lagged data reported by various organizations differ in only one material respect. They’re lagged. Listings data is real time. It accurately shows what the market is doing right now, which is starting the usual seasonal second half pullback that begins every year in late summer, while continuing the powerful uptrend track it has been on.

US Home Sale Prices - Click to enlarge

US Home Sale Prices

The DepartmentofNumbers.com’s data represents real time listing prices collected from 54 of the largest markets in the US. Redfin collects all contract prices in real time in the 19 large markets it serves. Their sample is skewed by the fact that Redfin serves only large, active, desirable markets, and therefore it overstates price increases relative to the nation as a whole, but again, its direction has proven to be accurate. If the prices of 19 large, active markets are bubbling, that’s certainly sufficient to be a systemic problem even if the rest of the nation is increasing at a slower rate. The markets which Redfin serves are the leaders.

As of July 28, the median asking prices of houses for sale in 54 large US markets was 8.9% higher than a year ago. That’s modestly slower than a peak year to year gain of 11.4% in March, and slightly slower than the May level of +10.8%. The Case Shiller data released today, July 29, showed a similar year to year increase for “May.” It was actually the 3 month average contract price with a time midpoint of March. We had those figures in real time in March. They’re not news now. Do we care where the 3 month moving average of the Dow or the S&P was in March? It’s absurd to view US housing prices in that way. Yet the media continues to report this garbage as if it matters.

Making matters worse is that the month to month decline in prices that Case Shiller is showing for “May” due to its ridiculous methodology is simply not correct. Prices rose from April to May. Redfin showed a 2.9% month to month increase in May contract prices. DepartmentofNumbers.com showed a 2.6% increase in May listing prices. The National Association of Realtors showed a 5.2% increase in sale prices for all houses sold by Realtors in the US which closed in May. CoreLogic, which recently acquired the Case Shiller Index from S&P, even reported that its own housing price measure rose 1.4% in May based on closed sales and that contract prices rose 0.8% that month.

Any way you slice it, US housing prices did not decline in May. We may not know the actual rate of increase for the aggregate US market because different measures measure different slices of the market, but it’s pretty clear that the market remained red hot in May and it was still hot in June. There are indications that markets have cooled slightly in recent weeks, but they’re still plenty hot, even with the year to year decline in contract volume reported by the NAR. Thanks to the Fed’s subsidy of mortgage rates via ZIRP and QE, the US housing price bubble marches on, in spite of the weak demand.

Get regular updates on the machinations of the Fed, Treasury, Primary Dealers and foreign central banks in the US market, in the Fed Report in the Professional Edition, Money Liquidity, and Real Estate Package. Click this link to try WSE's Professional Edition risk free for 30 days!

Copyright © 2012 The Wall Street Examiner.