The End Of The Car?

There is circulating a “note” making the claim that we are basically at the end of the car era, much like we wound up at the end of the horse era.
That of course doesn’t mean there are no horses. There are; the moderately (and more-so) wealthy still own them for sport and pleasure, but other than the Amish nobody owns them for basic personal transportation whereas they were essentially the only means of same decades ago.
The argument is that driverless “cars” (really a box that moves people and can be called on demand) will appear and basically take over. First slowly, like cars did, and then more-or-less all at once.
In other words not long from now (months, really, if you’re in parts of Arizona!) you will start to be able to hail what amounts to a robotic taxi — with no driver in it at all. As the technology improves and expands people will start to voluntarily eschew owning a car in favor of hailing rides in driverless vehicles; arguably mostly for economic reasons.
Oh by the way, if you’re one of the half-million or so who currently drive for Uber, Lyft, or a conventional “taxi” or “black car” service — you’re all out of a job the that transition really starts to accelerate. Keep that in mind as you continue to read onward….
At some point the accident rate disparity between the choice of car ownership and driverless “hail and get in” vehicles will cause the government to either ban driving or it will get so prohibitively expensive, either by insurance regulations or outright government taxation in some form, that only the very wealthy will retain the option (as is the case now for horses.)
You may see benefits here.
I see grave danger.

This post was published at Market-Ticker on 2017-11-29.

How to Face the Housing Crisis in Expensive Cities

The lowest hanging fruit of them all: Airbnb and its ilk. By John E. McNellis, Principal at McNellis Partners, for The Registry: There are problems and then there are ‘high-class’ problems. Being unemployed is a problem. Getting hit with a huge tax bill is a high-class problem. Not qualifying for food stamps is a problem while discovering your favorite bistro is fully booked is a high-class problem. Being chased by debt collectors is qualitatively different than being hounded by paparazzi. You get the picture.
Perhaps explaining why we hear so much about it, our housing crisis is another high-class problem. There is no housing crisis in the bottom 20% of our zip codes. According to the Economic Innovation Group, a business-backed DC think tank, the vacancy rate in distressed America is 14.4%, a rate guaranteed to floor rents and prices. The elite zip codes – the top 20% – have a vacancy rate a bit under 5% and no doubt approaching effective zero in the white-hot coastal zip codes.
And elite neighborhoods have – you guessed it – high class problems. One is Airbnb.
In order to continue its phenomenal growth, Airbnb has been forced to shed its sheep’s clothing and admit its essence. With the recent announcement of a joint venture with Newgard Development Company, a Florida builder, the company has all but proclaimed that it’s nothing more than a hotel operator. A poorly-regulated hotel operator, as much about grandma renting out her sewing room as Uber is about helping drivers earn pocket money. Hand-in-hand with Airbnb, Newgard intends to build a couple thousand apartments where tenants can Air-out their units 180 days a year and split the profits three ways.

This post was published at Wolf Street on Nov 19, 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.

Fragmenting Countries, Part 1: Catalonia Is Just The Beginning

Picture a life where you do most of your shopping through and the local farmers’ market, most of your communicating through Facebook and Instagram, much of your travel via Uber, and much of your saving and transacting with bitcoin, gold and silver.
Do you really need an immense, distant, and rapacious central government? Maybe not. Perhaps your region or ethnic group would be better off forming its own independent country.
This question is being asked – and answered – in a growing number of places where distinct cultures and ethnic groups within larger nations now see their government as more burden than benefit. The result: Secession movements are moving from the fringe to mainstream.

This post was published at DollarCollapse on OCTOBER 30, 2017.

Kashkari Fed Chair Odds Soar After Gundlach Forecast, Crash After Liesman Denial

Yesterday, DoubleLine’s Jeff Gundlach, who correctly predicted the election of Donald Trump, unveiled a new surprise forecast: Neel Kashkari would be the next chairman of the Federal Reserve. Speaking Tuesday at a Vanity Fair summit in Los Angeles, Gundlach said Kashkari, president of the Minneapolis Fed, was a strong advocate of easy money. He was envisioning Kashkari’s latest essay from Monday, in which the former Goldmanite uber dove, who was instrumental in putting together the TARP bank rescue package, said the Fed shouldn’t raise interest rates again until inflation hits 2% or there’s a large drop in unemployment.
“I actually have a very non-consensus point of view. I think it’s going to be Neel Kashkari,” Gundlach said, adding that “he happens to be the most easy money guy that’s in the Federal Reserve system today and that’s why he may win.”
‘There’s no chance the president wants Janet Yellen to continue” as Fed chair Gundlach also said and predicted that Gary Cohn, Trump’s chief economic advisor, would not get the nod, due to his background as president of Goldman Sachs.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 4, 2017.

Look Who Kalanick Just Appointed To The Uber Board Without Consulting Anyone

It looks like Travis Kalanick is preparing for all-out war in the Uber boardroom.
The Uber co-founder and former chief executive officer – who retains control over three board seats, including his own – has finally filled his long-vacant seats. And guess whom he picked to fill them? Former Xerox Corp. Chairwoman and CEO Ursula Burns…and former Merrill Lynch Chairman and CEO John Thain, “ratcheting up a Machiavellian battle for control of the world’s most valuable startup” as Bloomberg put it. Uber immediately challenged the appointments, calling them “a complete surprise.”
‘I am appointing these seats now in light of a recent board proposal to dramatically restructure the board and significantly alter the company’s voting rights,’ Kalanick said in a statement emailed to Bloomberg. ‘It is therefore essential that the full board be in place for proper deliberation to occur, especially with such experienced board members as Ursula and John.’
As many may remember, Thain was the last CEO and chairman of Merrill Lynch before it was absorbed by Bank of American during the financial crisis. The last leader of an independent Merrill Lynch was roundly criticized for the same venal behavior as other too-big-to-fail CEOs – BOA paid a $16.7 billion fine in 2014, at the time the largest single settlement in US history, partly for Merrill’s witholding of crucial information (namely, that the products were stuffed with garbage subprime loans while being marketed as AAA) to buyers of its MBS and CDO products. There was, of course, also the whole $35,000 “commode on legs” incident as part of Thain’s $1.2 million office redecoration (which also included $17,100 traveling toilet boxes and a $15,000 dog umbrella stand).

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sep 30, 2017.

Frontrunning: September 29

Republican Tax Plan Hits First Hurdle (WSJ) A $6.4 Billion Windfall Awaits Big U. S. Banks in Trump’s Tax Cut (BBG) How Does the Trump Tax Plan Affect You? WSJ Answers Your Questions (WSJ) Twitter suspends Russia-linked accounts, but U. S. senator says response inadequate (Reuters) Flight ban on Iraqi Kurds imposed after independence vote (Reuters) Elon Musk’s New Vision: Anywhere on Earth in Under One Hour (BBG) Kurdistan region refuses to hand over border crossings to Iraqi government: Rudaw (Reuters) Independence Vote Tests Catalonia’s Police Force (WSJ) Uber CEO Khosrowshahi to Visit U. K. to Rescue London License (BBG) Chinese Money Is Still Leaking Into the World’s Housing Markets (BBG) Russia accuses CNN International of violating Russian media law (Reuters) Dems on Trump’s Voter Fraud Panel Push Back (BBG) Schumer says senators close to bipartisan deal on health exchanges (Reuters) VW’s dieselgate bill hits $30 billion after another charge (Reuters) VW Takes New $2.9 Billion Hit From Diesel Scandal (WSJ) Iron Ore Becomes Punch Bag as China Concerns Drive 20% Collapse (BBG) U. S. visas to six Muslim nations drop after Supreme Court backs travel ban (Reuters) P&G CEO Blasts Nelson Peltz as Tensions Mount Over Board Vote (BBG) Lyft IPO puts investors in self-driving cars as well as ride services (Reuters) World’s Biggest Oil Company Promised Expats Idyllic Lifestyle – Then Fire Erupted (WSJ) Chaos and hackers stalk bitcoin investors (Reuters)
Overnight Media Digest
– A day after announcing their tax plan, Senate Republicans debated scaling back one of their largest and most controversial proposals to pay for lower tax rates – repeal of the individual deduction for state and local taxes.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sep 29, 2017.

London Bans Uber; Company Vows Court Challenge

In a stunning blow to the world’s most valuable private company (purportedly worth some $70 billion), London’s taxi and livery car regulator has said it won’t renew Uber’s operating license once it expires at the end of the month. The regulator said Uber “is not fit and proper to hold a private hire operator license.”
“TfL considers that Uber’s approach and conduct demonstrates a lack of corporate responsibilit in relation to a number of issues which have potential public safety and security implications. These include: It’s approach to reporting seriouis criminal offences. It’s approach to how medical certificates are obtained. It’s approach to how Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks are obtained. It’s approach to explaining the use of Greyball in London, software that could be used to block regulatory bodies from gianing full access to the app and prevent officials from undertaking regulatory or law enforcement duties.”

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sep 22, 2017.

There’s a Bubble in New York City Taxi Medallions

It’s as old as time: taking on debt to fund a sure thing. Be it houses, stocks, cryptocurrencies, tulip bulbs or taxi medallions. Winnie Hu tells the current tale of woe brilliantly for The New York Times. Big city taxi medallions were once considered to be good as gold. Ms. Hu writes,
Sohan Gill once saw his medallion as such a good investment – ‘better than a house’ – that his wife bought two more in 2001. Now they cannot find enough drivers for the cabs because business is so bad. And Mr. Gill, 63, who had retired from driving, had to go back on the road. ‘How many more years am I going to drive to take care of these medallions?’ he asked.
That sounds so much like Las Vegas 2005. Why own one house? Buy two more. Now retirement is put on hold.
A full blown medallion crash is unraveling in New York City as Ms. Hu explains.
Since 2015, a total of 85 medallions have been sold as part of foreclosure proceedings, according to city records. In August alone, 12 of the 21 medallion sales were part of foreclosures; the prices of all the sales ranged from $150,000 to $450,000 per medallion.
A medallion being essentially a license to drive a cab, $150,000 to $450,000 doesn’t seem like the bottom, however at the peak. 2014, a medallion went for $1.3 million. By the way, Uber was founded in 2009, but New York cab owners either didn’t get the memo, or didn’t understand the implications.

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on Sept 22, 2017.

British People Suddenly Stopped Buying Cars

– British people suddenly stopped buying cars
– Massive debt including car loans, very low household savings
– Brexit and decline in sterling and consumer confidence impacts
– New cars being bought on PCP by people who could not normally afford them
– UK car business has ‘exactly the same problems’ as the mortgage market 10 years ago, according to Morgan Stanley
– Bank of England is investigating to make sure UK banks are not overly exposed…
– Prudent British people buying gold with cash, not cars with debt
by Jim Edwards, Business Insider UK
British people have suddenly stopped buying cars.
It’s not clear why. But a number of anti-car trends have hit Britain simultaneously – such as the rise of Uber and a decline in household savings – driving down car sales.
The chart above of total car sales both old and new, from Barclays, says it all. On this chart, the grey-black line is the crucial one. The blue line (online sales) represents only a small number of purchases. Barclays

This post was published at Gold Core on September 12, 2017.

The United States Of Unicorns

The United States is home to 105 unicorn companies valued at $1B+.
As of 7/25/2017, reports that six private US companies are worth over $10B. The two most valuable unicorns in the US are Uber ($68B) and Airbnb ($29.3B). Palantir Technologies and WeWork, both valued at $20B, are tied for third.
Of the top four highest valued, only WeWork (which is based in NYC) is headquartered outside California.
California has the highest unicorn ‘population’ of any US state by far, with 62 billion-dollar startups inside its borders. New York ranks second with 15, followed by Massachusetts and Illinois with five each. Eight other states and the District of Columbia are also home to at least one company worth $1B+.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Aug 6, 2017.

One Hedge Fund CIO’s Conversation With His Uber Driver

In his latest weekly letter to clients, One River CIO Eric Peters shifts his attention away from his two favorite topics of monetary policy and capital markets, to unveil a streak of contrarian skepticism on the topic of “technological disruption”, and in his trademark anecdotal style, present a hypothesis that would be most unwelcome in virtually every Econ 101 class and Venture Capitalist Headquarters: stating that “we should be careful not to overlook the possibility that today’s disruptive technology companies may be not much more than mechanisms to drive wages down to subsistence levels’ alleging that ‘these companies rely less on technological innovation per se, but on changing employment styles and reducing total wages, while imposing harsher working conditions.”
His conclusion: ‘the nature of technology depends very much upon what the public can be induced to put up with.’
And just to make his view more palpable he presents the following conversation with his Uber driver:

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

“Technology Is Replacing Brains As Well As Brawn” – Challenging The ‘Official’ Automation Narrative (& Social Order)

Academics and economists have repeatedly underestimated the impact that immigration and automation would have on the labor market. As data on productivity gains and labor-force participation clearly show, the notion that innovation ultimately creates jobs by allowing workers to focus on higher-level problems is an illusion. If it were true, then why aren’t we already seeing more of the 20 million prime-age men who have inexplicably dropped out of the labor force welcomed back in?
As we’ve noted time and time again, after decimating American manufacturing jobs in the 1990s, automation is now coming for service-industry workers like those in the retail and food-service industries. Earlier this week, we shared an analysis from Cowen that showed new kiosks being adopted by McDonald’s will result in the destruction of 2,500 jobs at its US eateries. And now, Bloomberg has published a ‘quick take’ questioning this ‘official’ narrative and pointing out the very real carnage that service sector workers are already facing. In it, the reporters noted how economists have repeatedly misjudged how our capacity to innovate would impact the labor market. For example, 13 years ago, two leading economists published a paper arguing that artificial intelligence would never allow a driverless car to safely execute a left turn because there are too many variables at work. Six years after that, Google proved it could make cars fully autonomous, threatening the livelihood of millions of taxi and truck drivers. And now Google, Uber, Tesla and the big car manufacturers are all exploring and testing this technology. Ford has said it plans to introduce a fully autonomous car by 2021.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jun 26, 2017.

Cab Drivers Union Says Chicago Taxi Industry Near Collapse

In addition to repaying loans on their medallions, taxi operators also have to pay thousands of dollars each year in city expenses, like the ground transportation tax and medallion license renewal fee – expenses that rideshare drivers are not subject to. (Cab Drivers United/ Twitter)
Ghana-born John Aikins has been a cab driver in Chicago for two decades. About 15 years ago, he decided to go into business for himself by taking out a loan with his wife to purchase a medallion – a city-issued license to operate a taxi – for $70,000. Paying it off within a few years thanks to a steady stream of passengers, they took out loan for a second medallion five years ago, using the first as collateral. Watching his medallions appreciate in value over the years, Aikins planned to eventually sell or lease them to other drivers, a common practice in the industry. ‘I hoped it would be my retirement investment, and I had planned to retire this year,’ Aikins told In These Times.
But with the introduction of Uber and other rideshare companies to the city – which can operate without the expensive, city-issued medallions – Aikins has seen his clientele plummet over the past three years, making it increasingly hard to keep up with his medallion loan payments.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jun 18, 2017.

How Much Do People Actually Make From “Gigs” Like Uber And Airbnb

Coined shortly after the financial crisis in 2009, the so-called ‘gig economy’ or ‘sharing economy’ refers to the growing cadre of companies like Airbnb, Lyft, and TaskRabbit – platforms that employ temporary workers who provide a wide variety of services: delivery, ridesharing, rentals, and odd jobs. A recent Pew study estimated that nearly a quarter of all Americans earn some money through these platforms.

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

When Will Janet Live Up To Her Reputation?

I am asking you to put aside all your notions about monetary policy for a moment, and think about the next couple of points with an open mind. Forget about scary Central Bank balance sheets. Fight the urge to worry about the unprecedented quantitative easing programs. Dismiss the warning cries of the frightening levels of debt. Ignore the apocalyptic forecasts of coming stock market crashes. Let’s just have a look at the data. And most of all, let’s not worry about what should be done, but think about what will be done.
Rightly or wrongly, the Federal Reserve has a dual mandate. They are tasked with maximizing employment and maintaining price stability. Although many will debate what constitutes price stability, the Federal Reserve has interpreted it as a 2% inflation rate. You might think this absurd, so be it. It is what it is. Complaining will get you about as far as yelling at clouds.
When Janet Yellen took the reins of the Federal Reserve, many pundits predicted a period of exceptionally easy monetary policy as she was widely viewed as a uber dove. But has her reputation proved deserved?

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jun 14, 2017.

The Internet Helped Kill Inflation In America, Says Credit Suisse

Whether or not San Francisco Fed President John Williams is right about US inflation and employment being about as close to the central bank’s targets as investors have seen – as he told CNBC two days ago – is irrelevant: The central bank is going to raise interest rates two more times this year no matter what happens to consumer prices, says Credit Suisse Chief Investment Officer for Switzerland Burkhard Varnholt.
That’s because it’s pointless waiting around for prices to rise when the real reason inflation is low – and will likely remain low – has nothing to do with the Fed, but with a structural shift in the US economy that’s being driven by technology giants like Amazon and Uber. Burkdard says these companies have ‘turned most companies and sectors into price takers rather than price makers.”
‘Well look, inflation has been gone for quite some time and what’s really killed inflation clearly isn’t the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy but the Internet – it’s the sharing economy, the network economy it’s the uber-deflationary companies like Uber, Amazon, Airbnb and the like who have transformed most companies and most sectors into price takers rather than price makers.’

This post was published at Zero Hedge on May 30, 2017.

The First Crack Appears In The Second Tech Bubble

By now everyone knows it: what is going on with a handful of tech stocks is remarkably similar to the irrationally exuberant events from the first tech bubble at the turn of the century.
Four weeks ago, Goldman pointed out that in 2017, just 10 companies are responsible for half of the entire S&P’s rally YTD with the top five, AAPL, FB, AMZN, GOOGL, and MSFT – have accounted for nearly 40% of returns.
Shortly thereafter, when looking at the latest set of 13F filings we found that virtually every prominent hedge fund has piled into the most prominent tech names: As Bloomberg noted, with an average gain of 26% , “it’s hard to overstate the influence of just six stocks on the U. S. stock market in the first quarter: Facebook Inc., Apple Inc., Inc., Microsoft Corp., Alphabet Inc. and Netflix Inc.”
This was shown just days later by Bank of America which showed that annualized tech inflows are now the strongest this century, running at an unprecedented 25% of AUM, which BofA dubbed a “sign of renewed exuberance.”

This post was published at Zero Hedge on May 30, 2017.

Peso Pounded As Political Risk Re-Emerges In Mexico

The Mexican peso tumbled more than 1% this morning, more than every other major emerging-market currency except the South African rand.
Bloomberg reports that traders were anticipating a victory for the opposition Morena party in this weekend’s gubernatorial elections in the state of Mexico, according to Win Thin, Brown Brothers Harriman & Co.’s head of emerging markets in New York.
And the peso is back at one-week lows

This post was published at Zero Hedge on May 30, 2017.

Personal Spending Growth Tumbles To 7-Month Lows After Dramatic Revisions

Having weakened to unchanged for the last two months, April saw personal spending rise 0.4% MoM (as expected) and personal income rise 0.4% MoM (as expected). However, year-over-year growth in spending (+4.3%, weakest since Sept 2016) and income (+3.6%, weakest since Jan 2017) both signaled a rolling over of the post-Trump exuberance (just in time for another rate-hike by the The Fed).
Major (upward) revisions to spending data seems to have exaggerated April’s demise…

This post was published at Zero Hedge on May 30, 2017.