Why Do You Keep Doing This To Yourself?

As I am known to do, I will peruse articles on the web to find some interesting tidbits. And, I found one in one of Lance Robert’s recent posts.
Within this article, he cited a Doug Kass note, which stated:
‘Despite many who are suggesting this has been a ‘rational rise’ due to strong earnings growth, that is simply not the case as shown below . . . Since 2014, the stock market has risen (capital appreciation only) by 35% while reported earnings growth has risen by a whopping 2%. A 2% growth in earnings over the last 3-years hardly justifies a 33% premium over earnings.
Of course, even reported earnings is somewhat misleading due to the heavy use of share repurchases to artificially inflate reported earnings on a per share basis. However, corporate profits after tax give us a better idea of what profits actually were since that is the amount left over after those taxes were paid.
“Again we see the same picture of a 32% premium over a 3% cumulative growth in corporate profits after tax. There is little justification to be found to support the idea that earnings growth is the main driver behind asset prices currently.
We can also use the data above to construct a valuation measure of price divided by corporate profits after tax. As with all valuation measures we have discussed as of late, and forward return expectations from such levels, the P/CPATAX ratio just hit the second highest level in history.”
So, what is Lance’s conclusion from the Kass note? ‘The reality, of course, is that investors are simply chasing asset prices higher as exuberance overtakes logic.’
And, all of this leaves me scratching my head.

This post was published at GoldSeek on 11 December 2017.

These Are The 30 Biggest Risks Facing Markets In 2018

Once upon a time, Wall Street analysts had just two things to worry about: interest rate risk and corporate profits – virtually everything else was derived from these. Unfortuantely, we now live in the new normal, where central banks step in every time there is even a whiff of an imminent market correction (as BofA explained last week), and the result is that nobody know what is and what isn’t priced into the market any more, simply because the market in the conventional sense of a future discounting mechanism no longer exists (as Citi explained earlier this summer).
Which is why, paradoxically, even as the VIX slides to record lows, the number of things to worry about on Wall Street grows longer and longer. In fact, according to Deutsche Bank’s Torsten Slok, there are no less than 30 material risks investors should beware in the coming year, ranging from a U. S. equity correction to a reversal of Brexit to Irish presidential elections, to a “Bitcoin crash,” rising inflation, danger from North Korea and results from special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 10, 2017.

Exploding Chinese Debt Could Threaten World Financial System

The US national debt stands at over $21 trillion and neither political party in Washington D. C. seems inclined to do anything about it. In fact, the GOP tax planwinding its way through the political process will add an estimated $1.5 trillion more to the debt over the next decade. And that doesn’t even account for the increases in spending that Congress will certainly approve over that timespan.
Of course, all of this government debt has serious ramifications. Corporations are also piling on credit. Last month, Mint Capital strategist Bill Blain predicted that ‘the great crash of 2018 is going to start in the deeper, darker depths of the credit market.’
Now consider this. China has an even bigger debt problem than the US, and analysts say it could threaten global financial security.
Jim Rickards recently listed a Chinese debt crisis as one of the possible snowflakes that could set off the next financial avalanche. As if on cue, the mainstream has picked up this narrative. As Business Insider reports it:
China’s ballooning levels of debt and dependency on credit to fuel growth continues to pose a major financial stability threat to the global economy, and could be the catalyst for the next crisis, according to the International Monetary Fund.’

This post was published at Schiffgold on DECEMBER 8, 2017.

No Risk Of Recession?

Review
I have been traveling a lot the last couple of weeks, so a big ‘Thank You’ goes to Michael Lebowitz for ‘pinch hitting’ for me. This week, I just want to review a couple of things as we begin to wrap up 2017.
Earlier this week, I wrote a piece called ‘This Is Nuts.’ If you haven’t got a chance to read it, I suggest you do. It outlines my view on the current market extension in the short-term and the potential for a mean-reverting correction at some point in the future. To wit:
‘More importantly, a decline of such magnitude will threaten to trigger ‘margin calls’ which, as discussed previously, is the ‘time bomb’ waiting to happen.
Here is the point. The ‘excuses’ driving the rally are just that. The election of President Trump has had no material effect on the market outside of the liquidity injections which have exceeded $2 Trillion.
Importantly, on a weekly basis, the market has pushed into the highest level of overbought conditions on record since 2005. I have marked on the chart below each previous peak above 80 which has correlated to a subsequent decline in the near future.’

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 10, 2017.

Bank of America: “We’ve Seen This Movie Before: It Ends With A Recession”

In a merciful transition from Wall Street’s endless daily discussions and more often than not- monologues – of why vol is record low, and why a financial cataclysm will ensue once vol finally surges, lately the main topic preoccupying financial strategists has been the yield curve’s ongoing collapse – with the 2s10s sliding and trading at levels last seen in April 2015, and with curve inversion predicted by BMO to take place as soon as March 2018. And, according to at least one other metric, the yield curve should already be some -25bps inverted. This is shown in the following chart from Bank of America which lays out the correlation between the US unemployment rate and the 2s10s curve, and which suggests that the latter should be 80 bps lower, or some 25 basis points in negative territory.
Here is some additional context from BofA’s head of securitization Chris Flanagan, who views “the recent sharp flattening of the yield curve, which has seen the 2y10y spread go from 80 bps to almost 50 bps since late October, as the natural course of events at this stage of the economic cycle. Unemployment is low, and probably headed lower, and the Fed is intent on raising rates to stave off future inflation; we’ve seen this movie before and it typically ends with a flat or inverted yield curve. Based on history (and gravity), we think the most likely path forward is that the 2y10y spread reaches zero or inverts sometime over the next year or so and that recession of some kind follows in 2020 or 2021. (Given that the curve has flattened 30 bps in just over a month, projecting an additional 50 bps flattening over the next year is not really too bold.) Of course, much can happen along the way to change that outcome, but for now that seems to us to be the most likely course of events to us.”
Here Flanagan openly disagrees with the BofA’s “house call” of a steepening yield curve, and explains why:

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 10, 2017.

Bitcoin Mania Shows The World Financial System Is a Con

The hidden agenda in the so-called tax reform bill is to act as stop-gap quantitative easing to plug the ‘liquidity’ hole that is opening up as the Federal Reserve (America’s central bank) makes a few gestures to winding down its balance sheet and ‘normalizing’ interest rates. Thus, the aim of the tax bill is to prop up capital markets, and the apprehension of this lately is what keeps stocks making daily record highs. Okay, sorry, a lot to unpack there.
Primer: quantitative easing (QE) is a the Federal Reserve’s weasel phrase for its practice of just creating ‘money’ out of thin air, which it uses to buy US Treasury bonds (and other stuff). The Fed buys this stuff through intermediary Too Big To Fail banks which allows them to cream off a cut and, theoretically, pump the ‘money’ into the economy. This ‘money’ is the ‘liquidity.’ As it happens, most of that money ends up in the capital markets. Stocks go up and up and bond yields stay ultra low with bond prices ultra high. What remains on the balance sheets are a shit-load of IOUs.
The third round of QE was officially halted in 2014 in the USA. However, the world’s other main central banks acted in rotation – passing the baton of QE, like in a relay race – so that when the US slacked off, Japan, Britain, the European Central Bank, and the Bank of China, took over money-printing duties. And because money flies easily around the world via digital banking, a lot of that foreign money ended up in ‘sure-thing’ US capital markets (as well as their own ). Mega-tons of ‘money’ were created out of thin air around the world since the near-collapse of the system in 2008.

This post was published at Wall Street Examiner on December 8, 2017.

Leaked DNC Memo Demands ‘Unity’ of All 2018 Candidates – GOP Tax Bill Shows a Party Beyond Repentance

The political and social establishment is ensnared, strangling within a credibility trap. It prevents them from truly confronting themselves and what they have done, and what they are still doing in the service of power and money.
It prevents them from addressing the problems, much less the needed reforms. It prompts them to act ineffectively and oddly, to the point that they obviously become a part of the problem and an impediment to progress.
The GOP seems almost beyond repair. The Democrats need to unravel the Clinton Wall Street elite wing of the party which has its head buried in them like a big fat tick.
The Republicans need a ‘twelve step’ program for any kind of helpful change to have even the slightest chance.
The GOP tax bill is blatant corporate giveaway for the benefit of the one percent, and one of the more recent signs of their blindness caused by ideology in service to greed. They are not even bothering to excuse it anymore, except for the most naive of their supporters. They try to hide it by voting in secret on largely undiscussed bills with little debate. And as usual cover their perfidy with hypocritical slogans about freedom.

This post was published at Jesses Crossroads Cafe on 10 DECEMBER 2017.

10/12/17: Rationally-Irrational AI, yet?..

In a recent post (I mused about the deep-reaching implications of the Google’s AlphaZero or AlphaGo in its earliest incarnation capabilities to develop independent (of humans) systems of logic. And now we have another breakthrough in the Google’s AI saga.
According to the report in the Guardian (“AlphaZero, the game-playing AI created by Google sibling DeepMind, has beaten the world’s best chess-playing computer program, having taught itself how to play in under four hours. The repurposed AI, which has repeatedly beaten the world’s best Go players as AlphaGo, has been generalised so that it can now learn other games. It took just four hours to learn the rules to chess before beating the world champion chess program, Stockfish 8, in a 100-game match up.”

This post was published at True Economics on Sunday, December 10, 2017.

Plasma For Pay: Broke Millennials Sell Blood Just To Survive

There is no doubt, in a period where burdensome student loans and wage stagnation are crushing the hopes of achieving the American dream while living in their parents’ basements, the millennial generation is struggling to survive.
In recent times, we have explained how this generation is selling sex on the internet in exchange for money to pay bills. Across the United States, there could be upwards 2.5 million college students selling sex on a website to cover expenses (see: Millions Of Millennials Could Be Trading Sex For Their Next Debt Payment – Here’s How) or there is a new trend with millennial women, auctioning their virginities to the highest bidder (see: Abu Dhabi Businessman Pays $2.9 Million For 19-Year-Old Model’s Virginity.) If it’s sex, the millennial generation has made it a commodity, using the power of the internet to leverage the sale.
Besides the out of control sex advertisement on creepy websites, struggling millennials are now supplementing their incomes at blood plasma facilities across the United States.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 10, 2017.

National Health Crisis: US Inner-City Kids Suffer ‘War-Zone’-Like PTSD

BBC’s ‘America First?’ series sent Aleem Maqbool, a North America correspondent, to the inner city of Atlanta, Georgia, where he uncovered a rather shocking statistic in which 46% of the inner city residents suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a rate that is much higher than U. S. soldiers (10-20%).
***
Maqbool describes Atlanta’s inner city environment as a ‘war zone’, where death and destruction are contributing to high levels of PTSD in adults and children. He further quoted researchers and said levels of PTSD in America’s inner cities are comparable to refugee populations around the world.
To make matters worse, the video makes the claim: gun murder rates (per 100,000) in the US are at astronomical levels when compared to other countries. A startling find, when considering the US, the richest country in the world, does not perform well in the international rankings.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 10, 2017.

Inflation v Deflation – State Finances

There is a general belief, and that is all it is, that state finances fare better in an inflationary environment than a deflationary one. This perception arises from the transfer of wealth from lenders to the state through a devaluation of the currency, which occurs with monetary inflation, compared with the transfer of wealth from the state to its creditors through deflation. The effect is undoubtedly true, even though it is played down by governments, but it ignores what happens to continuing government obligations and finances. This article looks at this aspect of government finances in the longer term, first on the route to eventual currency collapse which governments create for themselves by ensuring a continuing devaluation of their currencies, and then in a sound money environment with a positive outcome, for which there is good precedent. This is the second article exposing the fallacies of supposed advantages of inflation over deflation, the first being posted here.
Inflationary policies While central bankers have convinced themselves, in defiance of normal human behaviour, that consumption is only stimulated by the prospect of higher prices, there can be little doubt that the unmentioned sub-text is the supposed benefits to borrowers in industry and for government itself. Furthermore, the purpose of gaining control over interest rates from free markets is to reduce the general level of interest rates paid to lenders, further robbing them of the benefits of making their capital available to willing borrowers.

This post was published at GoldMoney on December 07, 2017.

What You’re Not Being Told About The Real Economy

The year 2000 was a transition year in a lot of ways. Though Y2K amounted to mild mass hysteria, people did have to get used to writing the date with 20 in front of the year rather than 19. It was a new millennium (depending on your view of Year 0) that seemed to have started off under the best possible terms.
Not only were stocks on fire at the outset, the economy was, too. The idea of this ‘new economy’ leading toward a permanent new plateau of low inflation growth, driven by the breathtaking productivity gains in telecommunications and computing, seemed quite real on the surface. US GDP advanced by more than 3% in 15 straight quarters from Q2 1996 through Q4 1999, averaging a sizzling 4.7% in those nearly four years of dot-com supremacy.
The labor market was clearly robust, too. In March 2000, the BLS estimates (current benchmarks) that total payrolls (Establishment Survey) rose by 468k from that February. That brought the 6-month average up to +303k, a record of expansion that also mystified economists for its lack of inflationary wage pressures. In any case, the late nineties had roared up to the doorstep of the 21st century.
We all know what happened in April 2000, as investors suddenly got cold feet about first the high flying NASDAQ. It wasn’t just stock prices and IPOs, of course, as it really meant one of the major economic themes of that age was in danger being undermined, if not thoroughly debunked. The new economy of the 21st century might not have been grounded so solidly in true economics (small ‘e’) as everyone thought (especially those running the Fed).

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 10, 2017.

The $10 Trillion Investment Plan To Integrate The Eurasian Supercontinent

Authored by Federico Pieraccini of Strategic Culture
The Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), by lending out money using an alternative currency to the dollar, opens up huge spaces for investment and the strategic transformation of the region.
The overland integration of the BRI, led by China and Russia, aims to create different transit routes for goods as well as different areas of economic development along the new Chinese Silk Road. A great opportunity is thereby opened up for Chinese banks and for private investors interested in creating infrastructure or developing potential industrial poles in the countries involved in this grand Chinese initiative.
Hong Qi, president of China Minsheng Bank, recently said during an economic forum held in Beijing regarding investments in the BRI that there is potentially about $10 trillion worth of investments in infrastructure in the countries that make up the BRI, such as in railways, urban development, logistics and cross-border e-commerce.
At this point, more than $10 billion has already been committed in investments, thanks to companies already present in over thirty countries and regions along the BRI, with the ongoing intention of financing these loans through China’s public and private sectors. According to data from the China Banking Regulatory Commission, a total of nine Chinese banks are involved in the financing of projects, with 62 branches having been opened in 26 countries. A further $10 billion could come from European countries as a result of investments stemming from the China-CEEC forum.
Despite a delay in investment, and especially in the development of such projects, analysts believe that the BRI is the ideal ground for making regional cooperation agreements based on trust and win-win prospects for future integration of the region. Thus, not only are public and private banks involved in investments but the Asian Investment Infrastructure Bank (AIIB) and the Silk Road Fund are also part of the financial package that should lay the foundation for the accelerated development of the Chinese BRI. Confirming a new approach to the development of the BRI, Chinese investors during the first ten months of 2017 proposed projects totalling $11 billion in the 53 countries involved.

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

Crypto-Cornucopia Part 4 – “Without It, You’re Talking Mad Max”

Authored by Dr. D via Raul Ilargi Meijer’s The Automatic Earth blog,
Part 1 “Bitcoin Is A Trust Machine” here.
Part 2 “This System Is Garbage, How Do We Fix It?” here.
Part 3 “A System With No Justice, No Order, No Rules, & No Predictability” here.
Well, all parts of the system rely on accurate record-keeping.
Look at voting rights: we had a security company where 20% more people voted than there were shares. Think you could direct corporate, even national power that way? Without records of transfer, how do you know you own it? Morgan transferred a stock to Schwab but forgot to clear it. Doesn’t that mean it’s listed in both Morgan and Schwab? In fact, didn’t you just double-count and double-value that share? Suppose you fail to clear just a few each day. Before long, compounding the double ownership leads to pension funds owning 2% fake shares, then 5%, then 10%, until stock market and the national value itself becomes unreal. And how would you unwind it?
Work backwards to 1999 where the original drop happened? Remove 10% of CALPERs or Chicago’s already devastated pension money? How about the GDP and national assets that 10% represents? Do you tell Sachs they now need to raise $100B more in capital reserves because they didn’t have the assets they thought they have? Think I’m exaggerating? There have been several companies who tired of these games and took themselves back private, buying up every share…only to find their stock trading briskly the next morning. When that can happen without even a comment, you know fraud knows no bounds, a story Financial Sense called ‘The Crime of the Century.’ No one blinked.

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

THE JOURNAL OF LIBERTARIAN STUDIES

Libertarians tend to focus on two important units of analysis: the individual and the state. And yet, one of the most dramatic and significant events of our time has been the reemergence-with a bang-in the last five years of a third and much neglected aspect of the real world, the “nation.” When the “nation” has been thought of at all, it usually comes attached to the state, as in the common word, “the nation-state,” but this concept takes a particular development of recent centuries and elaborates it into a universal maxim. In the last five years, however, we have seen, as a corollary of the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union and in Eastern Europe, a vivid and startlingly swift decomposition of the centralized State or alleged nation-State into its constituent nationalities. The genuine nation, or nationality, has made a dramatic reappearance on the world stage.
I. THE RE-EMERGENCE OF THE NATION The “nation,” of course, is not the same thing as the state, a difference that earlier libertarians and classical liberals such as Ludwig von Mises and Albert Jay Nock understood full well. Contemporary libertarians often assume, mistakenly, that individuals are bound to each other only by the nexus of market exchange. They forget that everyone is necessarily born into a family, a language, and a culture. Every person is born into one or several overlapping communities, usually including an ethnic group, with specific values, cultures, religious beliefs, and traditions. He is generally born into a “country.” He is always born into a specific historical context of time and place, meaning neighborhood and land area.

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on 12/09/2017.

Here’s How Much Retirees Are Spending To Support Their Adult Kids

At one point in time in America, living at home with mom and dad after crossing out of your teenage years and into your 20s was embarrassing and something that was generally avoided at all costs. And while hard times come and go, 20-somethings who were forced back into their parents’ care worked their tails off until they could save up enough money to once again regain their freedom.
But, these days millennials seem to be embracing the free room and board provided by their parents. According to a new study from the Census Bureau, roughly one-third of all millennials live at home with their parents and one-fourth of them can’t be bothered with enrolling in school or finding a job.
Of course, while living at home can help millennials cut down on costs, according to a new study from Nerd Wallet, it can also have a devastating impact on the retirement savings potential of their overly accommodating parental units…to the tune of a quarter million dollars. Here are some of the key takeaways from Nerd Wallet’s survey.
Parents could miss out on almost a quarter-million dollars in retirement savings by paying their adult kids’ expenses: According to NerdWallet analysis, a parent’s retirement savings could be $227,000 higher if they chose to save the money that would otherwise go to their child’s living expenses and tuition. Parents paying college costs could be missing out on almost $80,000 in retirement savings: More than a quarter of parents of children 18 and older (28%) are paying or have paid for their adult children’s tuition or student loans. The average parent takes out $21,000 in loans for their child’s college education, but the hit to retirement savings is almost quadruple that amount.

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