Is Peter Thiel Trying To Break Up Google? This $300,000 Political Contribution Seems To Imply He Is…

Peter Thiel, the billionaire venture capitalist who backed President Trump (just before giving his presidency a “50% chance of ending in disaster“) and infamously helped Hulk Hogan bring down Gawker.com, has allegedly set his sights on a new target: Google. According to The Mercury News, suspicions about Thiel’s next pet project were raised after he recently contributed $300,000 to Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley just before he launched an antitrust lawsuit against the alleged search monopoly.
So far, high-profile Silicon Valley venture capitalist and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel isn’t saying publicly why he gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to the campaign of a state attorney general who’s just launched an antitrust probe of Google. But it’s not the first time Thiel has handed cash to an AG who went after Google over monopoly concerns.
Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley announced Nov. 13 that his office was investigating Google to see if the Mountain View tech giant had violated the state’s antitrust and consumer-protection laws. The Missouri attorney general said he had issued an investigative subpoena to Google. He’s looking at the firm’s handling of users’ personal data, along with claims that it misappropriated content from rivals and pushed down competitors’ websites in search results.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 16, 2017.

Wall Street Discovers the Brick-and-Mortar Meltdown

Finally time to make some easy money by betting on the collapse of brick-and-mortar retail, years after it began? Here’s a grisly thought: As of today, there’s an ETF for that.
In its launch announcement today, ProShares explained:
Over 30 major retailers have declared bankruptcy over the past three years, nearly two-thirds of those in 2017, including Toys ‘R’ Us, RadioShack, and Payless. The pressure is expected to continue with some analysts predicting that online sales growth will outpace bricks and mortar retailers 3 to 1 by 2020.
Retail is being profoundly disrupted by shoppers moving online, oversaturated markets and changing consumer behaviors.
The brick-and-mortar retail pain splits two ways: Retailers that have failed to build a vibrant online sales channel and are dependent on their physical stores; and the landlords that lease stores to them.
This EFT focuses on the first, the retailers. The ticker is evocatively named EMTY. As an inverse ETF, it’s supposed to rise in price when the Solactive-ProShares Bricks and Mortar Retail Store Index, which is composed of 56 ‘traditional’ brick-and-mortar retail stocks, declines.

This post was published at Wolf Street by Wolf Richter ‘ Nov 16, 2017.

Silicon Valley Exec Has Created A New Religion That Will Worship A ‘Godhead’ Based On Artificial Intelligence

I know that the headline sounds absolutely crazy, but this is actually a true story. A Silicon Valley executive named Anthony Levandowski has already filed paperwork with the IRS for the nonprofit corporation that is going to run this new religion. Officially, this new faith will be known as ‘Way Of The Future’, and you can visit the official website right here. Of course nutjobs are creating ‘new religions’ all the time, but in this case Levandowski is a very highly respected tech executive, and his new religion is even getting coverage from Wired magazine…
The new religion of artificial intelligence is called Way of the Future. It represents an unlikely next act for the Silicon Valley robotics wunderkind at the center of a high-stakes legal battle between Uber and Waymo, Alphabet’s autonomous-vehicle company. Papers filed with the Internal Revenue Service in May name Levandowski as the leader (or ‘Dean’) of the new religion, as well as CEO of the nonprofit corporation formed to run it.
So what will adherents of this new faith actually believe?
To me, it sounds like a weird mix of atheism and radical transhumanism. The following comes from Way of the Future’s official website…
We believe in science (the universe came into existence 13.7 billion years ago and if you can’t re-create/test something it doesn’t exist). There is no such thing as ‘supernatural’ powers. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

This post was published at The Economic Collapse Blog on November 16th, 2017.

Venezuela, PDVSA CDS Triggered: ISDA Says Credit Event Has Occured

In a long overdue, and not exactly surprising decision, moments ago the ISDA Determination Committee decided, after punting for three days in a row, that a Failure to Pay Credit Event has occured with respect to both the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela as well as Petroleos de Venezuela, S. A.
Specifically, in today’s determination, in response to the question whether a “Failure to Pay Credit Event occurred with respect to Petroleos de Venezuela, S. A.?” ISDA said that the Determinations Committee voted 15 to 0 that a failure to pay credit event had occurred with respect to PDVSA.
ISDA said the DC also voted 15 to 0 that date of credit event was Nov. 13 and that the potential failure to pay occurred on Oct. 12. ISDA also announced that the DC agreed to reconvene Nov. 20 to continue talks regarding the CDS auction, now that the Credit Default Swaps have been triggered.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 16, 2017.

A WAVE OF CRIME IS ENGULFING SWEDEN: FRAUD, SEXUAL OFFENSES REACH RECORD LEVELS

The annual Swedish Crime survey has shown an increase in five out of the six types of criminal activities against individuals. Crimes like fraud and sexual assault have reached record levels.
The number of Swedes who were victims of crimes such as fraud and sexual offenses jumped to the highest level on record last year. According to Bloomberg, a survey by the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention showed that 15.6 percent of people suffered one or more offenses against the person (defined in the survey as assault, threats, sexual offenses, robbery, fraud, or harassment) last year. That’s up from 13.3 percent in 2015 and the highest number recorded since the annual Swedish Crime Survey started in 2006.
Of the six types offenses against a person, five of six rose to their highest level on record last year. The number of assault cases reached its second-highest level. The number of offenses against individuals ‘was at a relatively stable level 2005 to 2014, at 11.3 percent to 13.1 percent, but the last two years show an increase,’ the council said in the report published this week. The crimes ‘that have had the clearest development in the past few years are harassment, fraud, and sexual offenses,’ the agency said.

This post was published at The Daily Sheeple on NOVEMBER 16, 2017.

Pay Down Your Mortgage

The latest issue of Street Freak came out on Tuesday. Street Freak is a bit of an aggressive stock-picking newsletter, where we come up with a new idea every month. I try to keep the ideas a secret – if you want them, you have to subscribe! But I’m going to let you in on this month’s idea for free. Are you ready? Here it is:
Pay down your mortgage.
Yes, that’s a bit unorthodox for a financial newsletter. But people spend too much time thinking about the next get-rich-quick idea and not enough time thinking about their overall financial well-being. I’m willing to bet that in addition to having a successful portfolio, many investors reading this also have a lot of debt.
Going into what might be a downturn, I’m uncomfortable having a lot of financial leverage. If you think the market is going to go down, then you should stop thinking about buying inverse VIX ETNs and start thinking about how to deleverage in a smart fashion.
Better Risk-Reward Paying down your mortgage is part of that. It is part of an overall exercise in balance sheet repair, which includes –
Building a cash position Paying off debt: Margin debt Credit card debt Car loans Mortgage debt

This post was published at Mauldin Economics on NOVEMBER 16, 2017.

Options Traders Furiously BFTD!

Via Dana Lyons’ Tumblr,
Despite the down day yesterday, one indicator from the equity options market recorded a massive spike in bullishness.
We like to track metrics from the various stock options exchanges as a measure of stock market sentiment. Generally, when too many calls are being bought versus puts, it is a warning of overheated bullishness, and when put volume becomes extreme relative to calls, it can be a sign of excessive fear. One particular indicator we used to track closely was the International Securities Exchange’s Call/Put Ratio on equity options (ISEE). For years, the ISEE was particularly helpful in signaling bullish or bearish extremes. We’re not sure what changed, however, in recent years the indicator has been of little to no value in that regard (in our assessment). We do still continue to monitor it, though, just in case it gives readings that raise our antennae. Yesterday’s reading did.
In the past, ISEE readings above 200, i.e., 2 calls bought per every put, have arguably been considered excessively bullish. There have not been nearly as many of these readings in recent years, so yesterday’s number was alarming to say the least. At a reading of 334, it was the highest ISEE recorded in 5 and a half years – and just the 10th ever above 300 since its 2006 inception.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 16, 2017.

House Passes GOP Tax Reform Bill In Major Victory For Republicans

Update: The House has passed its tax reform package with a final vote of 227 yeas to 205 nays. And while the Republican leadership has ordered the caucus not to gloat about the legislative victory – possibly the biggest so far for President Trump – Paul Ryan and Co. will be able to go home to their constituents and enjoy a relaxing Thanksgiving holiday.
Their colleagues in the Senate won’t be so lucky.
Senate leaders have said they’re working with holdouts like Ron Johnson as well as lawmakers like Bob Corker who are leaning toward voting against the bill in its current form. The Senate Finance is still marking up the bill, adding amendments and making alternations, but leaders say it’ll make it to a floor vote the week after Thanksgiving.
Senators Marco Rubio and Mike Lee have wanted to see a bigger expansion of the childcare tax credit. Johnson has said more of the tax relief should go to LLCs via the pass-through rate and less generous breaks should be given to corporations.
Here’s a list of the Republicans who voted ‘nay’.
GOP no votes on the tax bill pic.twitter.com/QJ9vVdgPhG
— Naomi Jagoda (@njagoda) November 16, 2017

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 16, 2017.

Solid Sales Growth and Margins at New Highs Drive 3Q17 Results

Summary: For the third quarter (3Q17), S&P earnings rose 12% yoy, sales grew 6% and profit margins expanded to new all-time highs.
These strong results are not due to the rebound in oil prices. Sales for the sectors with the highest weighting in the S&P have grown an average of 7% in the past year and 19% in the past 3 years. Moreover, margins outside of energy have expanded to a new high of 10.8%.
Bearish pundits continue to repeat several misconceptions: that “operating earnings” are deviating more than usual from GAAP measurements; that share reductions (buybacks) are behind most EPS growth; and that equity gains are unreasonably out of proportion to earnings growth. None of these are correct. Continued growth in employment, wages, and consumption tell us that corporate financial results should be improving, as they have in fact done.
Where critics have a valid point is valuation: even excluding energy, the S&P is now more highly valued than anytime outside of the late 1990s technology bubble. With economic growth of 4-5% (nominal) and margins already at new highs, it will take excessive bullishness among investors to propel S&P price appreciation at a significantly faster rate. At this point, lower valuations are a notable risk to equity returns.
92% of the companies in the S&P 500 have released their 3Q17 financial reports. The headline numbers are good. Overall sales are 6% higher than a year ago, the second best growth rate in nearly 6 years. Earnings (GAAP-basis) are 12% higher than a year ago. Profit margins are at a new high of 10.2%, exceeding the prior peak from 2014.

This post was published at FinancialSense on 11/16/2017.

10 Reasons To Worry

Via LPLResearch.com,
One of the oldest market sayings is: ‘markets climb a wall of worry’ – needless to say, it is sometimes good to be cautious.
We listed some of our worries recently in What Might Scare Markets, but the action in the S&P 500 Index over the past year – and so far in November – has that list growing.
Here are 10 reasons to worry (in no particular order):
On a total return basis, the S&P 500 has been up 12 months in a row. The S&P 500 has only pulled back (from peak to trough) 2.8% over the past year. Junk bonds have weakened relative to equities over the past few weeks, and historically this has been a warning for equities. The yield curve is the flattest it has been since 2007. The S&P 500 hasn’t closed lower by 0.5% or more for 50 consecutive trading days, the longest streak since 1968. The S&P 500 hasn’t finished red three days in a row for more than three months, the longest streak in seven years. The S&P 500 hasn’t corrected 3% from its all-time high for over a year, the longest streak ever. The average daily change (absolute value) for the S&P 500 in 2017 is only 0.30%, the second smallest range on record behind 1964. Transports have been very weak recently, a historical indicator of weakness under the surface. November is historically one of the strongest months going back to 1950, but over the past 10 years the second half of the month has been weak.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 16, 2017.

Kyle Bass Is Having A Bad Day – Greek Bank Stocks Crash To 16-Month Lows

Just over a month ago, Kyle Bass discussed why he was long effectively “long Greece.”
Bass penned a Bloomberg editorial in which the hedge fund founder and CIO called on the IMF to stop bullying Greece – publicizing the fact that he is now effectively long Greece. Greek government bonds have performed reasonably well so far this year: They’re up about 16%, and if Bass is right, they could have another 20% to 30% over the next 18 months if the IMF abandons its insistence on austerity and acknowledges that debt relief will need to be part of the long-term alleviation of debt. Bass added that, in the near future, voters will elect a more business-friendly government that will help reestablish the country’s creditworthiness, much like the government of Mauricio Macri did for Argentina.
I think you also have an interesting political situation in Greece where I think there’s going to be a handoff from the current Syriza government to kind of a more slightly-center-right but very economically independent new leadership in the next, call it, 18 months.
And so, I think you asked why now? And I think you’re starting to see green shoots. You’re starting to see the banks do the right things finally in Greece and you are about to have new leadership.
So, I think that you’re going to see – and if you remember Argentina as Kirschner was going to hand-off – hand the reins over to someone that was much more let’s say focused on business and economics than being a kleptocrat, I think you’re going to see something again slightly similar in Greece where you have leadership today that might not be the right leadership and the government-in-waiting, I believe, and I think you know Mr. (Mitsutakous) – I think you’re going to see something great happen to Greece in the and next, kind of, two years.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 16, 2017.

UBS Reveals The Stunning Reason Behind The 2017 Stock Market Rally

It’s 2018 forecast time for the big banks. With Goldman unveiling its seven Top Trades for 2018 earlier, overnight it was also UBS’ turn to reveal its price targets for the S&P in the coming year, and not surprisingly, the largest Swiss bank was extremely bullish, so much so in fact that its base case is roughly where Goldman expects the S&P to be some time in the 2020s (at least until David Kostin revises his price forecast shortly).
So what does UBS expect? The bank’s S&P “base case” is 2900, and notes that its upside target of 3,300 assumes a tax cut is passed, while its downside forecast of 2,200 assumes Fed hikes in the face of slowing growth:
We target 2900 for the S&P 500 at 2018 YE, based on EPS of $141 (+8%) and modest P/E expansion to 20.6x.
Our upside case of S&P 500 at 3300 assumes EPS gets a further 10% boost driven by a 25% tax rate (+6.5%), repatriation (+2%) and a GDP lift (+1.6%), while the P/E rises by 1.0x. Downside of 2200 assumes the Fed hikes as growth slows, the P/E contracts by 3x and EPS falls 3%. Congress is motivated to act before midterm elections while the Fed usually reacts to slower growth; so we think our upside case is more likely.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 16, 2017.

Deutsche: The Swings In The Market Are About To Get Bigger And Bigger

Risk Parity not having a good day pic.twitter.com/GRdpB4NUOj
— zerohedge (@zerohedge) November 10, 2017

One week ago, on November 9 something snapped in the Nikkei, which in the span of just over an one hour (from 13:20 to 14:30) crashed more than 800 points (before closing almost unchanged) at the same time as it was revealed that foreigners had just bought a record amount of Japanese stocks the previous month.
As expected, numerous theories emerged shortly after the wild plunge, with explanation from the mundane, i.e., foreigners dumping as the upward momentum abruptly ended, to the “Greek”, as gamma and vega stops were hit by various vol-targeting (CTAs, systemic, variable annutities and risk parity) funds. One such explanation came from Deutsche Bank, which attributed the move to a volatility shock, as “heightened volatility appears to have triggered program trades to reduce risk”, and catalyzed by a rare swoon in both stocks and bonds, which led to a surge in Nikkei volatility…
… and forced highly leveraged risk parity funds and their peers to quickly delever. As DB’s Masao Muraki explained at the time:

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 16, 2017.

An ETF to Bet on the Brick-and-Mortar Meltdown??

Short sellers have their heads handed to them regularly.
Finally time to make some easy money by betting on the collapse of brick-and-mortar retail, years after it began? Here’s a grisly thought: Now there’s an ETF for that.
In its launch announcement today, ProShares explained:
Over 30 major retailers have declared bankruptcy over the past three years, nearly two-thirds of those in 2017, including Toys ‘R’ Us, RadioShack, and Payless. The pressure is expected to continue with some analysts predicting that online sales growth will outpace bricks and mortar retailers 3 to 1 by 2020.
Retail is being profoundly disrupted by shoppers moving online, oversaturated markets and changing consumer behaviors.
The brick-and-mortar retail pain splits two ways: Retailers that have failed to build a vibrant online sales channel and are dependent on their physical stores; and the landlords that lease stores to them.
This EFT focuses on the first, the retailers. The ticker is evocatively named EMTY. As an inverse ETF, it’s supposed to rise in price when the Solactive-ProShares Bricks and Mortar Retail Store Index, which is composed of 56 ‘traditional’ brick-and-mortar retail stocks, declines.

This post was published at Wolf Street by Wolf Richter ‘ Nov 16, 2017.

A Bullish Big Picture With Growing Near-Term Headwinds

There are some growing signs of weakness in this market. Breadth is slipping, credit doesn’t look too great, there are more new lows versus new highs being made… that kind of stuff. I’m still not getting any major sell signals, except from my high-yield indicator. It flashed a signal today.
But there’s word the recent weakness in junk may be due to concerns over how deductions for debt and interest payments will be treated in the Republican tax reform plan. I don’t know. Either way, I’m not seeing any major red flags outside of junk bonds just yet.
I’m in ‘wait and see’ mode, just ‘sitting on my hands’ as Livermore would say. I’ve trimmed my book some but mostly because I want to free up capital for other trades that are lining up.
One of these trades is long dollar. I won’t expend much digital ink laying out my long dollar case, I’ve already done that plenty.

This post was published at FinancialSense on 11/16/2017.

Another Step Forward for Sound Money: Location Picked for Texas Gold Depository

The Texas Bullion Depository took a step closer becoming operational earlier this month when officials announced the location of the new facility. The creation of a state bullion depository in Texas represents a power shift away from the federal government to the state, and it provides a blueprint that could ultimately end the Federal Reserve’s monopoly on money.
Gov. Greg Abbot signed legislation creating the state gold bullion and precious metal depository in June of 2015. The facility will not only provide a secure place for individuals, business, cities, counties, government agencies and even other countries to store gold and other precious metals, the law also creates a mechanism to facilitate the everyday use of gold and silver in business transactions. In short, a person will be able to deposit gold or silver in the depository and pay other people through electronic means or checks – in sound money.
Earlier this summer, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced Austin-based Lone Star Tangible Assets will build and operate the Texas Bullion Depository. On Nov. 3, the company announced it will construct the facility in the city of Leander, located about 30 miles northwest of Austin. According to the Community Impact Newspaper, the Leander City Council has approved an economic development agreement with Lone Star. Construction of the depository is expected to begin in early 2018. Lone Star officials say it will take about a year to complete construction of the 60,000-square-foot secure facility located on a 10-acre campus.

This post was published at Schiffgold on NOVEMBER 16, 2017.

Nano-Cap Stock Of The Day – Why Is This China Construction Company Up 300% Today?

Yesterday, it was CHF Solutions – a $10 million market cap medical device-maker – that exploded 500% higher on no news, no catalyst, no event. Today it is the turn of China Advanced Construction…
China Advanced Construction Materials Group, Inc. produces construction materials for large-scale commercial, residential, and infrastructure developments. The Company is focused on ready-mix concrete materials.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 16, 2017.

Thompson Reuters GFMS Outlook: Gold Above $1,400 in 2018

Analysts at Thomson Reuters expect the price of gold to push back over $1,300 and then continue to rise above $1,400 through next year, primarily driven by overvalued stock markets, according to the GFMS Gold Survey 2017 Q3 Update and Outlook.
Gold briefly broke through the key $1,300 level in late August. Safe-haven buying served as a key driver, as heated rhetoric between the US and North Korea was at a peak late last summer. But gold fell back below $1,300 and has traded within a tight range over the last few weeks as investors mull future Federal Reserve moves and the impact of GOP tax reform – if Congress can get it done. Lackluster investment demand in the West, particularly North America, has also led to a supply surplus.
Thompson Reuters analysts say the initial push above $1,300 was an overextension of the price at the time, and they call the drop back below that level ‘a healthy correction for the price that has formed a base for a more sustainable move above $1,300 later this year.’

This post was published at Schiffgold on NOVEMBER 16, 2017.

Goldman Reveals Its Top Trade Recommendations For 2018

It’s that time of the year again when with just a few weeks left in the year, Goldman unveils its top trade recommendations for the year ahead. And while Goldman’s Top trades for 2016 was an abysmal disaster, with the bank getting stopped out with a loss on virtually all trade recos within weeks after the infamous China crash in early 2016, its 2017 “top trade” recos did far better. Which brings us to Thursday morning, when Goldman just unveiled the first seven of its recommended Top Trades for 2018 which “represent some of the highest conviction market expressions of our economic outlook.”
Without further ado, here are the initial 7 trades (on which Goldman :
Top Trade #1: Position for more Fed hikes and a rebuild of term premium by shorting 10-year US Treasuries. Top Trade #2: Go long EUR/JPY for continued rotation around a flat Dollar. Top Trade #3: Go long the EM growth cycle via the MSCI EM stock market index. Top Trade #4: Go long inflation risk premium in the Euro area via EUR 5-year 5-year forward inflation. Top Trade #5: Position for ‘early vs. late’ cycle in EM vs the US by going long the EMBI Global Index against short the US High Yield iBoxx Index. Top Trade #6: Own diversifed Asian growth, and the hedge interest rate risk via FX relative value (Long INR, IDR, KRW vs. short SGD and JPY). Top Trade #7: Go long the global growth and non-oil commodity beta through long BRL, CLP, PEN vs. short USD.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 16, 2017.