Look, Mom, No Hands!

Wall Street’s manic melt-up is pushing stock prices ever deeper into the realm of insanity, and nowhere is that more evident than in the Russell 2000 (RUT). At today’s level of 1525, it is now up by 312% from the post-crisis bottom and nearly 80% from the prior tippy-top peak in May 2007.
More significantly, the RUT has risen by 6.8% per year since January 2000 while domestic final sales have increased from $10.6 trillion to $20.0 trillion or by just 3.8% per annum. That is, the RUT index has gained at nearly twice the growth rate of nominal domestic final sales.
Surely it doesn’t take an MBA from Harvard to recognize that a gap that wide stretching over 17 years is deeply suspect. For instance, had this broad-based basket of domestic stocks risen in parallel with domestic sales, which over time they must, the index would today stand at 935 or nearly 40% below the current price level.

This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner on Tuesday, December 12th, 2017.

What’s Going On Inside Your Wall Street Brokerage Firm?

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Wall Street’s self-regulator with a long history of conflicts of interest, has released a summary of its findings from the examinations it conducts at the nation’s brokerage firms. As is typical of FINRA, the document released to the public is extremely light on details. (Almost half of FINRA’s Board comes from inside the industry, with current representation from JPMorgan Chase, Merrill Lynch, Citadel and Fidelity, to name just a few of the insiders.)
One area of the report did stand out, however. FINRA has expressed concerns about the fairness of the price you’re getting on the stock or bond trade you’re placing with your broker. In Wall Street parlance, this is known as ‘Best Execution.’ The report explains:
‘Best execution is a significant investor protection requirement that essentially obligates a broker dealer to exercise reasonable care to execute a customer’s order in a way to obtain the most advantageous terms for the customer… If a broker-dealer receives an order routing inducement, such as payment for order flow, or trades as principal with customer orders, it must not let those factors interfere with its duty of best execution nor take them into account in analyzing market quality…
‘FINRA had concerns regarding the duty of best execution at firms of all sizes that receive, handle, route or execute customer orders in equities, options and fixed income securities. FINRA found that some firms failed to implement and conduct an adequate regular and rigorous review of the quality of the executions of their customers’ orders…
‘As a result of such deficiencies, these firms failed to assure that order flow was directed to markets providing the most beneficial terms for their customers’ orders. FINRA notes that conducting a regular and rigorous review of customer execution quality is critical to the supervision of best execution practices, particularly if a firm routes customer orders to an alternative trading system in which the firm has a financial interest or market centers that provide order routing inducements, such as payment for order flow arrangements and order routing rebates.’

This post was published at Wall Street On Parade on December 12, 2017.

The 30-Years Bubble—Why America Ain’t That Rich

The entire financial and economic narrative in today’s Bubble Finance world is virtually context- and history-free; it’s all about the short-term deltas and therefore exceedingly misleading and dangerous.
So when a big trend or condition is negative and unsustainable, you generally can’t even get a glimpse of it from the so-called “high-frequency” weekly, monthly and even quarterly data on which the financial press and its casino patrons thrive. And that’s not merely because most of the data from the government statistical mills is heavily massaged and modeled and often “adjusted” beyond recognition over 3-5 year intervals of statistical revision.
Beyond that, however, even medium term trends get largely ignored. That’s because the purpose of economic and financial data today is to facilitate daily (and hourly) trading in the casino—not inform long-term investors about underlying trends, conditions and prospects.

This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner on Monday, December 11th, 2017.

Bulgaria Government Shocked To Discover It Owns $3 Billion In Bitcoin

Bulgaria’s GDP is about $52.4 billion (2016), so it is quite a shock that the Bulgarian Government is sitting on an approximate $3 billion worth of Bitcoins seized in an anti-corruption operation back in May.
Putting this into a little more glaring context, Bulgaria is holding 18% of the national debt in bitcoins…
Fun fact: today's bitcoin prices have been interesting enough that there was a significant difference in how much Bulgaria had in USD between me writing this story and my editor editing it.
— Nikhilesh De (@nikhileshde) December 7, 2017

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 9, 2017.

Fake Tax Reform

After supposedly chomping on the bit for years to pass meaningful tax reform, Republicans are now set to blow an historic opportunity. Whatever version of the Bill that emerges from the House and Senate Conference Committee (which will be signed by President Trump faster than he can down a Filet o’Fish), will be far less than the Republicans envisioned when they finally captured the White House and both Congressional Chambers in 2016. But from what I have seen of the particulars, the revisions to the tax code will offer a marginal, although temporary, win for low income individuals, a major slap for moderately successful wage earners and home owners, (especially in the high tax Blue States) and a huge victory for the extremely wealthy and certain categories of business owners. While it is certain that the plan will add to the growing deficit, its immediate economic and political impact is hard to predict.
For generations, taxpayers and politicians alike lambasted our overly complex tax code for its myriad of economic distorting loopholes that seemed to produce nothing except employment for legions of accountants and tax lawyers adept at gaming the system. As a result, talk about tax reform has always included proposals to make the system simpler, fairer, and more transparent. But on that front, the Republican proposals fail miserably. Trump and Congress will hail this achievement as being a major victory for the American people. But the true winner will be the swamp that Trump promised to drain.
Unlike Ronald Reagan, who passed tax reform in 1986 by striking a deal with Democrat House Speaker Tip O’Neill, Trump and Congressional Republicans faced no particular need to compromise. If Reagan had the benefits enjoyed by Trump, Ryan and McConnell, his tax cuts would have been paired with significant spending cuts and perhaps a balanced budget. But to get O’Neill (and his whopping 71 seat House majority) to go along, Reagan’s ideals of fiscal prudence and smaller government had to be set aside. But Trump is no Reagan, and today’s Republican Party has about as much commitment to shrinking the size of government as did the Democrats in the 1980s.

This post was published at Euro Pac on Thursday, December 7, 2017.

Catalonia’s Post-‘Independence’ Economic Hangover Sets In

Uncertainty, threats, and counter-threats.
By Don Quijones, Spain, UK, & Mexico, editor at WOLF STREET.
Catalonia’s recent declaration of independence may have been a largely symbolic act but the economic hangover it has left in its wake is very real. Last month the number of unemployed in the region rose by 7,391 – the highest rise in a month of November since 2009. During the same period the number of people registered with social security fell by 4,038 – the sharpest fall since November 2013.
The economic pain is already taking a psychological toll. According to a new poll published by Spain’s Center for Sociological Research (CIS for its Spanish acronym), the number of households that fear that their economic situation will worsen in the next six months surged from 14.2% in August to 22.2% in October. By contrast, in Spain as a whole there was hardly any change, with the rate barely budging from 15.1% to 15.6%.
Almost 3,000 firms have shifted the registered address of their headquarters outside Catalonia since the banned referendum on October 1, many to Madrid. Although the exodus has slowed in recent weeks, every day dozens of Catalan companies continue to change their registered office, despite the express appeal of Spain’s Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, to stop doing so after the activation of Article 155 of the Constitution.
The Catalan exodus has so far been purely administrative, with companies effectively shifting domiciles, the ‘brass plate’ of the business, to avoid legal and tax complications rather than moving staff or operations, which would have huge cost and logistical implications.

This post was published at Wolf Street on Dec 6, 2017.

Just How Dangerous Is Trumps Latest Fed Board of Governors Pick?

Last week, Pres. Donald Trump nominated Marvin Goodfriend to fill a vacancy on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. When we reported the news, we called him ‘another swamp creature’ – a member of the Washington D. C./Wall Street clan Trump promised to drain away.
We’re not alone in our thinking. In an article on the Mises Wire, Tho Bishop called Goodfriend’s nomination ‘a dangerous act of outright betrayal to Trump’s core constituency of working-class voters.’
It’s true Goodfriend’s views on monetary policy don’t fit in with the current Fed status quo. But that’s not a good thing. Goodfriend isn’t a fan of the conventional radical policy of quantitative easing. He’s actually a proponent of an even more radical policy.
Following is Bishop’s analysis in its entirety.
Donald Trump nominated Marvin Goodfriend to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, one of the numerous vacancies that have emerged over the course of the past year. While his prior nominations of Jay Powell as Chairman and Randal Quarles as Vice Chair represented a disappointing commitment to the status quo, his selection of Goodfriend is a dangerous act of outright betrayal to Trump’s core constituency of working class voters.
The timing of the decision is ironic. After all, while Trump is busy lobbying Senate Republicans to support his desired tax cuts, he has decided to nominate a would-be central banker who wants to effectively tax the bank accounts of American citizens.

This post was published at Schiffgold on DECEMBER 5, 2017.

Transparency on Wall Street: SEC Chair Raises Weak Defenses

On November 8, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman, Jay Clayton, delivered a speech at the Practising Law Institute’s 49thAnnual Institute on Securities Regulation. His focus was transparency on Wall Street and he had this nugget of wisdom to share with the audience:
‘Looking back at enforcement actions, a common theme emerges – where opacity exists, bad behavior tends to follow. As Joseph Pulitzer said: ‘There is not a crime, there is not a dodge, there is not a trick, there is not a swindle, there is not a vice which does not live by secrecy.’ The remainder of my remarks will concentrate on topics that have proven over time to be fertile ground for fraud on investors. The SEC may not yet have policy or rulemaking answers in these areas, but we are on the lookout for ways to fight the type of opacity that can create an environment conducive to misconduct.’
The SEC was created to police Wall Street under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. The legislation came on the heels of the U. S. Senate holding three years of hearings that showed Wall Street to be a cesspool of opaque self dealing and collusion that had led to the 1929 stock market collapse and ensuing Great Depression. The SEC has now had 83 years to hone its investigative skills and techniques. And yet, it wore blinders in the runup to the epic Wall Street crash of 2007-2009, which was caused by the same type of corruption that was ferreted out by the U. S. Senate after the 1929 crash. Its blinders remain securely in place.

This post was published at Wall Street On Parade on December 4, 2017.

The EU (with Help from Germany) just Made Monsanto’s Day

One of Germany’s largest companies is trying to buy Monsanto, which changes everything.
A majority of EU governments voted on Monday to extend the European license for glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s flagship product, Roundup, for another five years. One of the deciding votes was cast by the caretaker government of Germany, which came off the fence after abstaining in previous meetings.
The decision was made despite a petition signed by more than 1.3 million EU citizen-subjects calling for a European ban on the weedkiller.
The five-year extension is welcome news for Monsanto, which has found itself in the rather unusual position of being on the back foot in recent years, especially since the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) declared that glyphosate is ‘probably carcinogenic’. The company is facing a rash of potentially costly law suits in the US from farmers, members of their families, and others who claim that Roundup is connected to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

This post was published at Wolf Street by Don Quijones ‘ Nov 28, 2017.

AMERICA’S SECRET WEAPON IN THE OIL WAR

As Saudi Arabia spins from crisis to crisis, U. S. oil hasn’t missed a beat. It’s stronger and more resilient than ever – and it has nothing to do with OPEC oil production cuts.
In this war, U. S. oil wins, and the recent purge of billionaire princes in Saudi Arabia is icing on the cake.
But when Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman arrested key members of the royal family on corruption charges two weeks ago all of them his rivals – oil shot up. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) spiked more than $2 a barrel, closing around $57 a barrel – a nearly two-year high.
OPEC cuts have done little to boost oil prices, and Royal Family arrests are welcome news for oil tycoons the world over, but it’s still not what’s kept the U. S. on the winning side in this war: Fracking bust the U. S. through the front line, and major advancements in enhanced oil recovery (EOR) are cementing the victory.

This post was published at The Daily Sheeple on NOVEMBER 27, 2017.

Hillary Calls Trump Administration a Dictatorship if She is Investigated

The Washington Post has no problem with a Special Prosecutor investigating Trump and any attempt to stop that would be a crime known as Obstruction of Justice. Yet, when it comes to Hillary, they do a backflip and have the audacity to write: ‘The Justice Department’s declaration that Attorney General Jeff Sessions is considering appointing a special counsel to investigate Hillary Clinton in response to demands by Republicans should alarm anyone who cares about the independence of the department.’ So if a Special Prosecutor is ‘justice’ going after Trump and suddenly an abuse of power to investigate Hillary, to even take such a position seems to be the pinnacle of journalistic corruption.


This post was published at Armstrong Economics on Nov 26, 2017.

Jeff Bezos and All He Owns Must Be Destroyed

There is a basic premise behind reporting .vs. editorializing — one is allegedly unbiased, although we all have our personal prejudices while the other is labeled opinion (it’s found on the opinion page and is disclosed as such.)
Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post, it is now clear, in order to effect a public lobbying strategy much larger than that which Hastings “organized” and led to a five times increase in his firm’s stock price revolving around net neutrality.
That latter event occurred after ISPs, properly recognizing that he was effectively driving semi trucks over the roads built for cars and refusing to pay higher fuel taxes and license plate fees for same, or, if you prefer, opening up a 2″ water connection to a 6″ main and demanding not to be charged by the gallon, resulting in you having no water pressure, started pushing back and demanding that Netflix cover the outsized costs being imposed on said ISPs to prevent service-quality collapses to everyone, including those who didn’t want his service.
In response Hastings got a bunch of left-aligned media to whip the public into a froth and Obama’s FCC obliged by handing him tens of billions of dollars of money literally forced out of non-subscriber’s wallets.
Amazon engages in cross-subsidization of its product sales (on which he makes no profit, particularly when fulfillment along with G&A are included) with other sales, particularly in AWS, where he does. This now includes government sales of AWS which means you’re being forced to subsidize Jeff Bezos’ destruction of retailers all across the United States at literal gunpoint, along with all the jobs that go when those retailers are forced out of business.

This post was published at Market-Ticker on 2017-11-24.

Matt Is Still Making Excuses (So Are You)

Matt Stoller and I, years ago, used to talk a fair bit on policy in the political realm. We have rather different views that could be reasonably-characterized by some “left:right”, but I think are more “socialist:libertarian”, when you get down to it.
But that’s all well and good, if you can confine your differences to policy and try to hash out how the government can function more-efficiently, which I think everyone can define as provides more benefit than it costs to a larger percentage of the population.
Of course we’ll differ on what defines “benefit” and “cost.”
The problem is that unlike my perspective on what happened, which hasn’t changed very much in quite a long time, Matt’s is basically the same perspective both the “right” and “left” hold. Here’s his perspective on where the Democrats went wrong:
It was January 1975, and the Watergate Babies had arrived in Washington looking for blood. The Watergate Babies – as the recently elected Democratic congressmen were known – were young, idealistic liberals who had been swept into office on a promise to clean up government, end the war in Vietnam, and rid the nation’s capital of the kind of corruption and dirty politics the Nixon White House had wrought. Richard Nixon himself had resigned just a few months earlier in August. But the Watergate Babies didn’t just campaign against Nixon; they took on the Democratic establishment, too. Newly elected Representative George Miller of California, then just 29 years old, announced, ‘We came here to take the Bastille.’
One of their first targets was an old man from Texarkana: a former cotton tenant farmer named Wright Patman who had served in Congress since 1929. He was also the chairman of the U. S. House Committee on Banking and Currency and had been for more than a decade. Antiwar liberal reformers realized that the key to power in Congress was through the committee system; being the chairman of a powerful committee meant having control over the flow of legislation. The problem was: Chairmen were selected based on their length of service. So liberal reformers already in office, buttressed by the Watergate Babies’ votes, demanded that the committee chairmen be picked by a full Democratic-caucus vote instead.

This post was published at Market-Ticker on 2017-11-24.

The Delirious Dozen of 2017

Yesterday we noted the massive market cap inflation and then stupendous collapse of the Delirious Dozen of 2000. The latter included Microsoft, Cisco, Dell, Intel, GE, Yahoo, AIG and Juniper Networks—plus four others which didn’t survive (Lucent, WorldCom, Global Crossing and Nortel).
Together they represented a classic blow-off top in the context of a central bank corrupted stock market. When the bubble neared its asymptote in early 2000, the $3.8 trillion of market cap represented by these 12 names was capturing most of the oxygen left in the casino. That is, the buying frenzy had narrowed to a smaller and smaller group of momo names.
That severe concentration pattern was starkly evident during the 40 months between Greenspan’s December 1996 “irrational exuberance” speech and April 2000 (when he told the Senate no bubble was detectable). In that interval, the group’s combined market cap soared from $600 billion to $3.8 trillion.
That represented, in turn, a virtually impossible 75% per annum growth rate for what were already mega-cap stocks. As it happened, in fact, $2.7 trillion or 71% of the group’s bubble peak market cap vanished during the next two years.

This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner on Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017.

The Mother Of All Irrational Exuberance

You could almost understand the irrational exuberance of 1999-2000. That’s because everything was seemingly coming up roses, meaning that cap rates arguably had rational room to rise.
But eventually the mania lost all touch with reality; it succumbed to an upwelling of madness that at length made even Alan Greenspan look like a complete fool, as we document below.
So doing, the great tech bubble and crash of 2000 marked a crucial turning point in modern financial history: It reflected the fact that the normal mechanisms of honest price discovery in the stock market had been disabled by heavy-handed central bankers and that the natural balancing and disciplining mechanisms of two-way markets had been destroyed.
Accordingly, the stock market had become a ward of the central bank and a casino-like gambling house, which could no longer self-correct. Now it would relentlessly rise on pure speculative momentum—- until it reached an asymptotic top, and would then collapse in a fiery crash on its own weight.

This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner on November 21st, 2017.

Hyperinflation in Zimbabwe – It’s back, but maybe not for long

When a nation adopts a foreign currency it will typically face significant hurdles when it tries to rid itself of that currency, or de-dollarize. But Zimbabwe’s autocratic ruler Robert Mugabe has appeared to have done the impossible. After dollarizing ten years ago, over the course of the last year or two he and his cronies have managed to throw off the U. S. dollar and re-introduce a Zimbabwean replacement.
We can see evidence of this new currency in Zimbabwe’s stock market. Below I’ve charted the country’s main equity index, the Zimbabwe Industrial Index, going back to 2011. What an incredible rise over the last year, right? Beware; these returns have nothing to do with real economic growth. Zimbabwean equities have switched from being claim on an a stream of cash flows denominated in U. S. dollars to a stream denominated in Zimbabwe’s new currency. Because investors expect inflation of the new currency to drive up future cash flows, they have responded by bidding stock prices up. In real terms (i.e. U. S. dollar terms), stock prices are probably flat – and may have even declined.

This post was published at GoldSeek on Monday, 20 November 2017.

Everything You Need to Know (and Ignore) About the November OPEC Meeting

The last November OPEC meeting sent oil prices rocketing 20% higher in less than a month, and this year’s Nov. 30 meeting will be just as important for the energy market…
OPEC’s current agreement – the one negotiated during last November’s meeting – caps the total oil production of OPEC and 11 other countries. The agreement limits oil production to 32.5 million barrels a day, a 1.8 million-barrel-per-day reduction from last year.
By capping oil production below 2016 output, the cartel is helping end the global oil glut that sent prices tumbling from $107.95 a barrel in June 2014 all the way down to $26.19 by February 2016. That was a 75% drop.
In fact, the compliance rate among OPEC members for the production cap reached a high of 120% in September. That means they cut even more oil than the agreement asked them to.

This post was published at Wall Street Examiner on November 17, 2017.

Here We Go Again—Swell Numbers Which Aren’t

According to the financial press we have had some swell economic numbers in the last two days—so it’s giddy-up-and-go time for the stock market again. Thursday’s industrial production number was allegedly gangbusters and today’s housing start figure for October was described as a “boom” by the incorrigible headline writers at MarketWatch:
The Commerce Department on Friday said October housing starts surged, rising 13.7% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.29 million.
Obviously, “surge” is a very different thing than “flat” or “punk”, but those latter terms are exactly what was reported by the Commerce Department this AM.
Last October, for example, single family housing starts posted at a 871,000 SAAR (seasonally adjusted annual rate) and for October 2017 they came in at 877,000. Recalling that this minute difference represents an annualized rate, what we are really talking about here is roughly a 500 start gain for the month of October on a Y/Y basis. And that’s for the entire US of A where the total housing stock consists of about 135 million units!

This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner on November 17th, 2017.

Next-Generation Crazy: The Fed Plans For The Coming Recession

Insanity, like criminality, usually starts small and expands with time. In the Fed’s case, the process began in the 1990s with a series of (in retrospect) relatively minor problems running from Mexico’s currency crisis thorough Russia’s bond default, the Asian Contagion financial crisis, the Long Term Capital Management collapse and finally the Y2K computer bug.
With the exception of Y2K – which turned out to be a total non-event – these mini-crises were threats primarily to the big banks that had unwisely lent money to entities that then flushed it away. But instead of recognizing that this kind of non-fatal failure is crucial to the proper functioning of a market economy, providing as it does a set of object lessons for everyone else on what not to do, the Fed chose to protect the big banks from the consequences of their mistakes. It cut interest rates dramatically and/or acquiesced in federal bailouts that converted well-deserved big-bank losses into major profits.
The banks concluded from this that any level of risk is okay because they’ll keep the proceeds without having to worry about the associated risks.
At this point – let’s say late 1999 – the Fed is corrupt rather than crazy. But the world created by its corruption was about to push it into full-on delusion.
The amount of credit flowing into the system in the late 1990s converted the tech stock bull market of 1996 into the dot-com bubble of 1999, which burst spectacularly in 2000, causing a deep, chaotic recession.

This post was published at DollarCollapse on NOVEMBER 17, 2017.

The Big Money Grab Is ‘On’ As Middle America Collapses

The stock market rejoices the House passage of the tax ‘reform’ Bill as the Dow shot up 187 points and the S&P 500 spiked up 21. The Nasdaq soared 1.3%, retracing its 3-day decline in one day. The tax bill is nothing more than a massive redirect of money flow from the Treasury Department to Corporate America and billionaires. The middle class will not receive any tax relief from the Bill but it will shoulder the burden of the several trillion dollars extra in Treasury debt that will be required to finance the tax cuts for the wealthy. The tax ‘reform’ will have, at best, no effect on GDP. It will likely be detrimental to real economic output.
The Big Money Grab is ‘on’ at the highest levels of of Wall St., DC, Corporate America, the Judiciary and State/local Govt. These people are grabbing from a dying carcass as fast and greedily as possible. The elitists are operating free from any fear of the Rule of Law. That particular nuisance does not apply to ‘them’ – only to ‘us.’ They don’t even try to hide their grand scale theft anymore because the protocol in place to prevent them from doing this is now on their side. This is the section in Atlas Shrugged leading up to the big implosion.
‘When you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors – when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you – when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice – you may know that your society is doomed.’ – Atlas Shrugged

This post was published at Investment Research Dynamics on November 16, 2017.