Why Profit Is So Important

In most cultures, profit is seen as the outcome of exploitation of some individuals by some other individuals.
Hence, anyone who is seen as striving to make profits is regarded as bad news and the enemy of society and must be stopped in time from inflicting damage.
Profit however, has nothing to do with exploitation – it is about the most efficient use of real funding or real savings.
Profit as such should be seen as an indicator as it were, with respect to whether real savings are employed in the best possible way, as far as promoting people’s life and wellbeing is concerned.
If the employment of real savings results in the expansion of the pool of real savings, this could be seen as indicative that this employment was done in a profitable manner.
Conversely, if there is a decline in the pool of real savings as a result of the particular actions of individuals then this could be seen as indicative of a loss. These actions caused the squandering of real savings.
Obviously, an expansion in the pool of real savings, which is the heart of economic growth and is manifested through profits, should be regarded as the key factor for raising individuals’ living standards.
Rather than being condemned, individuals that are instrumental in the expansion of the pool of real wealth, which is manifested in terms of profits, should be praised.

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on Dec 27, 2017.

The Anti-Imperialist League and the Battle Against Empire

In April 1898 the United States went to war with Spain for the stated purpose of liberating Cuba from Spanish control. Several months later, when the war had ended, Cuba had been transformed into an American protectorate, and Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines had become American possessions.
When the US government decided not to grant independence to the Philippines, Filipino rebels led by Emilio Aguinaldo determined to resist American occupying forces. The result was a brutal guerrilla war that stretched on for years. Some 200,000 Filipinos lost their lives, either directly from the fighting or as a result of a cholera epidemic traceable to the war.
That American forces were engaged in a colonial war to suppress another people’s independence led to a great deal of soul-searching among important American thinkers, writers, and journalists. What eventually became the American Anti-Imperialist League began at a June 1898 meeting at Boston’s Faneuil Hall, where people concerned about the colonial policy that the US government may choose to adopt in the wake of the war gathered to speak out against the transformation of the United States into an imperial power. The League was formally established that November, dedicating its energies to propagating the anti-imperialist message by means of lectures, public meetings, and the printed word.
Those who later became anti-imperialists could be found both among supporters and opponents of the Spanish-American War of 1898. William Jennings Bryan was a good example of the former, and Moorfield Storey of the latter. It is on this latter group of anti-imperialists that I wish to dwell for a moment, since what they had to say about war is liable to sound eerily familiar.

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on Dec 27, 2017.

Squeezing The Consumer From Both Sides

The Federal Reserve raised the Federal Funds rate on December 13, 2017, marking the fifth increase over the last two years. Even with interest rates remaining at historically low levels, the Fed’s actions are resulting in greater interest expense for short-term and floating rate borrowers. The effect of this was evident in last week’s Producer Price Inflation (PPI) report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Within the report was the following commentary:
‘About half of the November rise in the index for final demand services can be traced to prices for loan services (partial), which increased 3.1 percent.’
While there are many ways in which higher interest rates affect economic activity, the focus of this article is the effect on the consumer. With personal consumption representing about 70% of economic activity, higher interest rates can be a cost or a benefit depending on whether you are a borrower or a saver. For borrowers, as the interest expense of new and existing loans rises, some consumption is typically sacrificed as a higher percentage of budgets are allocated to meeting interest expense. On the flip side, for those with savings, higher interest rates generate more wealth and thus provide a marginal boost to consumption as they have more money to spend.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 27, 2017.

Peak Good Times? Stock Market Risk Spikes to New High

Leverage, the great accelerator on the way up and on the way down.
Margin debt is the embodiment of stock market risk. As reported by the New York Stock Exchange today, it jumped 3.5%, or $19.5 billion, in November from October, to a new record of $580.9 billion. After having jumped from one record to the next, it is now up 16% from a year ago.
Even on an inflation-adjusted basis, the surge in margin debt has been breath-taking: The chart by Advisor Perspectives compares margin debt (red line) and the S&P 500 index (blue line), both adjusted for inflation (in today’s dollars). Note how margin debt spiked into March 2000, the month when the dotcom crash began, how it spiked into July 2007, three months before the Financial-Crisis crash began, and how it bottomed out in February 2009, a month before the great stock market rally began:

This post was published at Wolf Street on Dec 27, 2017.

Tax Plan Jitters Cause Sudden Collapse In Manhattan Apartment Prices In 4Q

Apparently the combination of a massive flood of excess supply in the form of new luxury developments and a Trump tax plan that penalizes people living in expensive cities by capping SALT, mortgage interest and property tax deductions was simply too much for the Manhattan real estate market to ignore in 4Q 2017. After reaching an all-time high of nearly $1.2 million in 2Q 2017 (chart per Douglas Elliman)…

…the Wall Street Journal this morning notes that median Manhattan apartment prices have dropped to $1.08 million in 4Q 2017, down 9.8% compared to the peak set earlier this year.
Not surprisingly, Pamela Liebman, the president of New York real estate broker The Corcoran Group, attributed the pause by Manhattan buyers to the tax bill and said that folks are increasingly convinced that prices peaked in 2017 and may continue to be under pressure.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 27, 2017.

The Great Recession 10 Years Later: Lessons We Still Have To Learn

Ten years ago this month, a recession began in the U. S. that would metastasize into a full-fledged financial crisis. A decade is plenty of time to reflect on what we have learned, what we have fixed, and what remains to be done. High on the agenda should be the utter unpreparedness for what came along.
The memoirs of key decision-makers convey sincere intentions and in some cases, very adroit maneuvering. But common to them all are apologies that today strike one as rather lame.
‘I was surprised by the sudden crisis,’ wrote George W. Bush, ‘My focus had been kitchen-table economic issues like jobs and inflation. I assumed any major credit troubles would have been flagged by the regulators or rating agencies. … We were blindsided by a financial crisis that had been more than a decade in the making.’
Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Fed wrote, ‘Clearly, many of us at the Fed, including me, underestimated the extent of the housing bubble and the risks it posed.’ He cited psychological factors rather than low interest rates, a ‘tidal wave of foreign money,’ and complacency among decision-makers.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 27, 2017.

North Korean Defectors Show Signs Of Radiation Exposure

South Korean scientists and doctors who have been examining North Korean defectors have stumbled upon yet another horrifying discovery: At least four of the defectors have shown signs of radiation exposure, the South Korean government said on Wednesday – although researchers could not confirm if the radiation was related to Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program.
Earlier today, we noted that one of the defectors had also tested positive for Anthrax antibodies, suggesting that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has continued his chemical weapons program despite signing an international chemical weapons treaty. Of course, the North Korean government has denied that chemical weapons are being used.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 27, 2017.

The Rich Got Richer In 2017… One Trillion Dollars Richer

2017 has been a banner year for the world’s richest individuals.
Pumped by a tidal wave of central-bank driven liquidity and corporate buybacks, equity indexes around the world climbed to all-time highs this year – a phenomenon that has disproportionately benefited the world’s wealthiest, particularly the 500 individuals included in Bloomberg’s billionaires index.
By the end of trading Tuesday, Dec. 26, the 500 billionaires controlled an aggregate $5.3 trillion, a $1.1 trillion increase from their holdings on Dec. 27 2016.
Unsurprisingly, the biggest beneficiary of this Federal Reserve inspired rally was Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos, who added a staggering $34.2 billion to his net worth in 2017 as Amazon shares soared above $1,000.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 27, 2017.

In An Unexpected Outcome, Trump Tax Reform Blew Up The Treasury Market

Over the past week we have shown on several occasions that there once again appears to be a sharp, sudden dollar-funding liquidity strain in global markets, manifesting itself in a dramatic widening in FX basis swaps, which – in this particular case – has flowed through in the forward discount for USDJPY spiking from around 0.04 yen to around 0.23 yen overnight. As Bloomberg speculated, this discount for buying yen at future dates widened sharply as non-U. S. banks, which typically buy dollars now with sell-back contracts at a future date, scrambled to procure greenbacks for the year-end.
However, as Deutsche Bank’s Masao Muraki explains, this particular dollar funding shortage is more than just the traditional year-end window dressing or some secret bank funding panic.
Instead, the DB strategist observes that the USD funding costs for Japanese insurers and banks to invest in US Treasuries – which have surged reaching a post-financial-crisis high of 2.35% on 15 Dec – are determined by three things, namely (1) the difference in US and Japanese risk-free rates (OIS), (2) the difference in US and Japanese interbank risk premiums (Libor-OIS), and (3) basis swaps, which illustrate the imbalance in currency-hedged US and Japanese investments.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 27, 2017.

The Fed Plays the Economy Like an Accordion

We talk a lot about how central banks serve as the primary force driving the business cycle. When a recession hits, central banks like the Federal Reserve drive interest rates down and launch quantitative easing to stimulate the economy. Once the recovery takes hold, the Fed tightens its monetary policy, raising interest rates and ending QE. When the recovery appears to be in full swing, the central bank shrinks its balance sheet. This sparks the next recession and the cycle repeats itself.
This is a layman’s explanation of the business cycle. But how do the maneuverings of central banks actually impact the economy? How does this work?
The Yield Curve Accordion Theory is one way to visually grasp exactly what the Fed and other central banks are doing. Westminster College assistant professor of economics Hal W. Snarr explained this theory in a recent Mises Wire article.
The yield curve (a plot of interest rates versus the maturities of securities of equal credit quality) is a handy economic and investment tool. It generally slopes upward because investors expect higher returns when their money is tied up for long periods. When the economy is growing robustly, it tends to steepen as more firms break ground on long-term investment projects. For example, firms may decide to build new factories when the economy is rosy. Since these projects take years to complete, firms issue long-term bonds to finance the construction. This increases the supply of long-term bonds along downward-sloping demand, which pushes long-term bond prices down and yields up. The black dots along the black line in the figure below gives the 2004 yield curve. It slopes upward because a robust recovery was underway.

This post was published at Schiffgold on DECEMBER 27, 2017.

The Christmas Truce of World War I

In August 1914, Europe’s major powers threw themselves into war with gleeful abandon. Germany, a rising power with vast aspirations, plowed across Belgium, seeking to checkmate France quickly before Russia could mobilize, thereby averting the prospect of a two-front war. Thousands of young Germans, anticipating a six-week conflict, boarded troop trains singing the optimistic refrain: ‘Ausflug nach Paris. Auf Widersehen auf dem Boulevard.’ (‘Excursion to Paris. See you again on the Boulevard.’)
The French were eager to avenge the loss of Alsace and Lorraine to Germany in 1870. The British government, leery of Germany’s growing power, mobilized hundreds of thousands of young men to ‘teach the Hun a lesson.’ Across the continent, writes British historian Simon Rees, ‘millions of servicemen, reservists and volunteers … rushed enthusiastically to the banners of war…. The atmosphere was one of holiday rather than conflict.’
Each side expected to be victorious by Christmas. But as December dawned, the antagonists found themselves mired along the Western Front – a static line of trenches running for hundreds of miles through France and Belgium. At some points along the Front, combatants were separated by less than 100 feet. Their crude redoubts were little more than large ditches scooped out of miry, whitish-gray soil. Ill-equipped for winter, soldiers slogged through brackish water that was too cold for human comfort, but too warm to freeze.
The unclaimed territory designated No Man’s Land was littered with the awful residue of war – expended ammunition and the lifeless bodies of those on whom the ammunition had been spent. The mortal remains of many slain soldiers could be found grotesquely woven into barbed wire fences. Villages and homes lay in ruins. Abandoned churches had been appropriated for use as military bases.

This post was published at Mises Canada on DECEMBER 27, 2017.

The Treasury Yield Curve Is Crashing Most Since Brexit

Remember the post-tax-reform, pre-Christmas spike in yields and the yield curve? Yeah, that’s all over now!!!!
Treasury yields are down 4 days in a row with a major collapse occurring today as the long-end plunges over 8bps – the most in 3 months. The 2s30s yield curve is down over 8bps – the biggest-single-day flattening since Brexit (June 2016)…

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 27, 2017.

2007 All Over Again, Part 7: Borrowers Start Scamming Desperate Lenders

One of the hallmarks of late-stage bubbles is a shift of power from lenders to borrowers. As asset prices soar and interest rates plunge it becomes harder to generate a decent yield on bonds and other fixed income securities, so people with money to lend (like pension funds and bond mutual funds) are forced to accept ever-less-favorable and therefore far-more-risky terms.
Recall the liar loans that were popular towards the end of the 2000s housing bubble and you get the idea. Lenders were so desperate for paper to feed the securitization machine that they literally stopped asking mortgage borrowers to prove that they could cover the interest.
Here we go again, but this time in the market for leveraged buyout loans:
Yield-Starved Investors Giving In to the Demands of Bond Sellers
(Wall Street Journal) – Demand for leveraged loans is allowing private-equity firms to water down legal safeguards for investors Hellman & Friedman LLC and other investors sought last month to borrow money in the bond market to finance a takeover.
The U. S. private-equity firm offered a yield of about 3%, but few of the protections once considered routine.
Still, the investors bought.

This post was published at DollarCollapse on DECEMBER 27, 2017.

Demand Tumbles For 5Y Treasuries As Tailing Auction Leads To Highest Yield Since 2011

After yesterday’s ugly, tailing 2-Year auction, it is probably not a big surprise that today’s sale of $34 billion in 5Y Treasurys was just as ugly.
The auction printed at a high yield of 2.245% – the highest since March 2011 – and well above last month’s 2.066% largely thank to the recent Fed rate hike. More troubling is that the auction tailed the When Issued 2.228% by a whopping 1.7bps, the biggest tail going back at least 2 years.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 27, 2017.

The Dark Power Behind the Financial Asset Bubbles – Whose Fool Are You?

“While everyone enjoys an economic party the long-term costs of a bubble to the economy and society are potentially great. They include a reduction in the long-term saving rate, a seemingly random distribution of wealth, and the diversion of financial human capital into the acquisition of wealth.
As in the United States in the late 1920s and Japan in the late 1980s, the case for a central bank ultimately to burst that bubble becomes overwhelming. I think it is far better that we do so while the bubble still resembles surface froth and before the bubble carries the economy to stratospheric heights. Whenever we do it, it is going to be painful, however.’
Larry Lindsey, Federal Reserve Governor, September 24, 1996 FOMC Minutes
‘I recognise that there is a stock market bubble problem at this point, and I agree with Governor Lindsey that this is a problem that we should keep an eye on…. We do have the possibility of raising major concerns by increasing margin requirements. I guarantee that if you want to get rid of the bubble, whatever it is, that will do it.’
Alan Greenspan, September 24, 1996 FOMC Minutes
“Where a bubble becomes so large as to pose a threat the entire economic system, the central bank may appropriately decide to use monetary policy to counteract a bubble, notwithstanding the effects that monetary tightening might have elsewhere in the economy.
But how do we know when irrational exuberance has unduly escalated asset values, which then become subject to unexpected and prolonged contractions as they have in Japan over the past decade? And how do we factor that assessment into monetary policy? We as central bankers need not be concerned if a collapsing financi

This post was published at Jesses Crossroads Cafe on 27 DECEMBER 2017.

It’s Official: Government Report Says Market Risks are ‘High and Rising’

During Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s press conference on December 13, she had this to say about financial stability on Wall Street: ‘And I think when we look at other indicators of financial stability risks, there’s nothing flashing red there or possibly even orange. We have a much more resilient, stronger banking system, and we’re not seeing some worrisome buildup in leverage or credit growth at excessive levels.’
Where does Fed Chair Janet Yellen get her information on financial stability risks to the U. S. financial system? A key source for that information is the Office of Financial Research (OFR), a Federal agency created under the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation of 2010 to keep key government regulators like the Federal Reserve informed on mounting risks.
On December 5, the OFR released its Annual Report for 2017. It was not nearly as sanguine as Yellen. In fact, it flatly contradicted some of her assertions. The report noted that numerous areas were, literally, flashing red and orange (OFR uses a color-coded warning system) – raising the question as to why Yellen would attempt to downplay those risks to the American people.

This post was published at Wall Street On Parade on December 27, 2017.

$1.5 Trillion GOP Tax Bill Signed By Trump – Housing Largely Uneffected Thanks To Lower Marginal Tax Rates (Ham and Mayonnaise!)

This is a syndicated repost courtesy of Snake Hole Lounge. To view original, click here. Reposted with permission.
President Trump on Friday signed the Republican $1.5 trillion tax overhaul that is expected to trigger tax cuts for most Americans next year. The GOP/Trump bill undoes some of the damage caused by the tax increases put in place on January 1, 2015 by the Obamacare legislation such as increasing the top bracket from 35% to 39.6%.
Although this is not related to housing per se, the corporate tax rate has been cut to 21%, putting the US in the middle of the G-7 nations instead of being the most heavily tax major nation on earth.

This post was published at Wall Street Examiner on December 26, 2017.

The Ghost Of W.D.Gann: Another Crash Is Coming

Authored by Philip Soos & Lindsay David via RenegadeInc.com,
The original wizard of Wall Street, W. D Gann was a finance trader and wealthy speculator that spent decades investigating cyclical trends in equity market patterns and found that prices could be predicted long in advance. He successfully predicted the crashes in the 1929 and Dot-Com stock market bubbles. And according to his analysis, the US stock market is due for another crash in 2020.
***
Every movement in the market is the result of a natural law and of a Cause which exists long before the Effect takes place and can be determined years in advance. The future is but a repetition of the past, as the Bible plainly states…
After suffering through the worst economic and financial crisis since the 1930s depression when the real estate and stock markets crashed in 2007, the United States’ bubble economy is back into full swing. Residential and commercial real estate prices are growing strongly, along with equities.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 27, 2017.

To Avoid Liquidation Panic, HNA Assures Deutsche Shareholders It’s A “Long-Term Investor”

The notoriously acquisitive Chinese conglomerate HNA – which recently had a sharp falling out with Beijing resulting in a margin call “shocksave” – is facing a serious cash crunch in 2018 as nearly a quarter of its $100 billion in debt – a large chunk of which was accumulated during a multi-year buying spree that saw it become a major shareholder in Deutsche Bank, Hilton Worldwide and a large portfolio of international holdings – comes due.
But even as the company resorted to loaning out shares and entering into arcane derivative financing agreements to finance its debt-service payments, it is quickly finding that traditional avenues of financing are disappearing or becoming too costly.
Despite being one of China’s largest conglomerates, HNA has been shut out of stock and bond markets as lenders worry about its outsized debt load, forcing the company to pledge some of its core holdings as collateral for short-term loans, as the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month.
This has forced the conglomerate to explore other options. To wit, the bank recently pledged some of its Deutsche Bank shares to UBS as collateral for a loan worth roughly $117. It also executed an options strategy known as a collar. This strategy involves purchasing out-of-the-money puts to protect against a large drop in the stock while simultaneously selling out-of-the money calls to offset the cost of the puts.
On Dec. 20, HNA’s unit entered into a new series of collar transactions with Swiss bank UBS Group AG, and pledged its Deutsche Bank shares to UBS in exchange for a total of 2.36 billion euros (US$2.8 billion) in net financing. It also has a margin loan from UBS and ICBC Standard Chartered PLC. In all, the new total amount of financing was about 99 million euros (US$117.6 million) higher than what was disclosed in a similar filing in May.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 27, 2017.