Jan

9

 Since the epic crash of 2008, many key relationships have changed and some have gone outright haywire.

Traditional meaning of money for students of demand and supply has been that value of assets and value of money do not move together and rather move in opposite directions. The USD and the S&P500 have been moving up together through a sustained eight years now. In satisfying the mind, which is nothing but a self organising pattern seeking system as per Edward de Bono, one places in the model of the new world the Euro as the new money of this new world.

If this is a perceptive transformation that is acceptable for logical minds, one places on the table a few questions that might deserve indulgence of the specs:

a. What do quants see in the relationship of Eur with other key assets, the extent of the idea that Euro is behaving as the money of the new world?

b. Given impermanence is the only permanence, to prepare better than the rest, in what good ways should one be studying the configuration and the factors working into the significance and role of the Euro in today's world such as when this meme / regime will be about to be ending, the list may be one of the earliest lighthouses to note the changing tide?

c. Will JPY be the next to take over the role of the , howsoever ephemerally in the infinitude of ever changing cycles, to mimic appearing to be the money of the world? There is another question hidden within this simple looking one, that is, will the super bull of equities continue for years further even if the eight year persistence of EurUSD gives in with similar behaviour of a sustained decline coming in the value of the JPY?

Jul

12

 Merkel does not see a banking crisis in Italy. She is waiting for Italy to intervene and save the banks with BAIL-IN and only after be able to save Deutsche bank with bail out. It would serve an avalanche for Deutsche bank …

Stefan Jovanovich writes:

Does anyone think that the world's central banks can "control" the relative prices of their national currencies? I don't; but I have the luxury of being completely ignorant about what and how GZ and others do in the trading of IOUs. I just see it as analogous to what the national Treasuries tried and failed to do with bi-metallism; no matter how much they huffed and puffed, they could never bring their official ratios for the prices of gold and silver into balance with what people bet they were worth.

If central banks cannot, in fact, "control" the exchange ratios of their own legal tender, they certainly can "control" the price of their domestic debts. No one doubts that the Fed or the Bank of Japan or the Bank of China or the Bank of England can determine what their national Treasuries will pay as interest on the country's central government's new borrowings and outstanding debt.

Can the European central bank prevent the Bank of Italy from funding whatever additional borrowings the Italian central government wants to make? Even those of us who are completely ignorant know that the answer is not going to be determined by "the law" but by the same politics that always govern essentially closed systems of interest. To put it in 18th century parliamentary terms, will the interests of the owners of the sugar islands and the city merchants who did their finance win out once again or will there be another tax revolt in the commons? So many people everywhere in Europe now get their money direct from the EU just as so many people in England got theirs from the Navy; but that is of no benefit to the people who are on the local government and private payrolls. They want their own payouts.

I confess I do not understand the notion of "peak" debt. The direct liabilities of the central governments are "high" but they are insignificant compared to the off-balance sheet promises that have been made for future retirement, medical and welfare payments. Governments can keep rolling over their debts and adding to them as long as they want; they have a zero interest credit card from their central banks. The only risk is that the professional scolds will (1) demand a "strict accounting" that brings those never-never plan obligations onto the country's official balance sheets AND (2) decide that the poor will have to go first in terms of "belt-tightening" (after all, they are all fat and should go on a diet).

Rocky Humbert responds:

Stefan's post reminds of Ben Graham's quote: "In the short run, the market is a voting machine, but in the long run, it is a weighing machine."

In the short run, the Bank of Italy, or any Central Bank or any Government or any enterprise for that matter, can do whatever they choose. In the long run, unsustainable policies are reflected in the exchange rate; or the cost of capital; or the access to capital; or in the wealth of a nation.

Right now, the ECB's policies have seemingly altered both the signals from markets and what defines "long run." I am not unique in making these observations of course.

My database shows that from May 1973 to September 1982, the Italian Lire declined from 800L/$ to about 2000L/$ — and it traded in a extremely wide band (+/- 50%) subsequently — until the conversion to the Euro. In the post-Gold Standard world, the Lire (and for that matter, most paper currency purchasing power) have always moved in one direction: down.

The current Euro regime is unprecedented in all of our lifetimes– it's creating all sorts of novel imbalances — both similar to and different from previous fixed exchange rate periods (which always resulted in violent or gentle devaluation). The biggest imbalance of all is being created by the ECB's QE buying of sovereign debt — which essentially allows the Bank of Italy to be immune from the discipline of the market. I don't know how this will resolve, but the Greek experience of the past years is one possibility.

The discussion about Scott's annuities are not unrelated. We have been in a protracted period of inflationary quiescence. When inflation and interest rates are low, people focus on "income income income." But when inflation is high, people focus on preserving their purchasing power. The most dangerous mistake any investor can make is taking for granted certain embedded truths — which turn out not to be a truth, but rather an assumption.

Jun

2

It is interesting to consider whether certain month's employment announcements tend to be consistently bullish or bearish. A former employee,  writes to me that the May employment numbers have been quite bearish for stocks.

Bill Rafter writes:

The NFP report is always murky to me. It always needs "interpretation" which is why it looks different several days after its release. The big interests (from the media, at least) are the unemployment rate and the number of new jobs. Both are the result of rather obtuse calculations. I prefer the growth of payroll tax receipts which require no interpretation. The source is the Daily Treasury Statement, effectively the bank account of the government. Attached is the data from last week; no change in appearance since. It may not agree with the early or late interpretation of the NFP report, but it speaks truth about the actual job situation.

Stef Estebiza writes: 

Employment data are smoke and mirrors, are more a political need to do to accept further cuts/taxes and justify these policies. The new jobs are precarious and at reduced wages.

anonymous writes: 

I suspect that I read about the Chair's views on the unemployment rate in years past, but is it safe to presume that the numerator smoke/mirror terms cancel out the denominator smoke/mirror terms?

Or does the science of people counting treat the employeds different than the idleds at the tabulation level?

I've generally treated the unemployment rate as a good bit more reliable than the overall jobs number.

Mar

21

It is useful to consider whether there is a formula like I = E/R for markets with appropriate random elements. Would a resistor for the stock market voltage be bonds or euro? Does the speed with which a market moves a given magnitude have a differential effect on the future?

Stef Estebiza writes: 

Check this out: "Charging and Discharging a Capacitor"

They know this stuff because right now they are experiencing a flow of money from China/asiatic markets and Macao. They are discharging the capacitor in China to upload that to Macao.

The product of Resistance R and Capacitance C is called the Time Constant τ= tau, the time constant which characterizes the rate of charging and discharging of a Capacitor. But if you use a fixed resistance and change the supply voltage (variable) you can change the time of charge of a capacitor anyway.

So, from 2009 the capacitor S&P 500 was loaded in ascending exasperated way, despite the high resistance (endless but constant). The monetary mass, (the applied voltage) was very high, steadily increasing, just to force the charge of the capacitor, despite strong resistance. The money supply, which, thanks to the tapering they said NOW to be reduced…so, if you reduce the voltage, the capacitor will start to discharge…it has a current when it has a potential difference, currently, the condenser is charged, it is in full charge, and equals the voltage applied to load it (monetary mass).

So, in real life you can't go over the capacitor features, if you rise the voltage to force a further charge on the capacitor, you risk to destroy it. But…it looks like someone (some kids well informed) short-circuit the capacitor for brief moments. (short-circuiting the poles of the capacitor).

If the resistance across the capacitor's pole is zero (short circuit) the current tends to infinity, as well as the transformation of value from the nominal value (on the markets) in cash. So, yes, like Macao teaches, the important thing, if you remove the tension, you open the circuit so that there is no discharge of the condenser. In reality the capacitor has its own internal resistance that sooner or later download the condenser…SO YES, EUR$ can go to 1.15 and over… (the higher the better to buy then$) (I was waiting) for 1.20/22.

"Does the speed with which a market moves a given magnitude have a differential effect on the future? "( Yes, we are managing a phenomenon of discharge or runoff ).

All that is to help Emerging (see the yuan) Europe and USA (strong $)…Alchemy of Finance if they can manage the crisis and then do the quantitative easing for the masses, everything can get going again, otherwise, they have not understood anything about the current situation.

Jan

11

 Common thoughts among the masses:

Invest in bricks and mortar, you will never lose your money. Invest in banks, whenever a bank has collapsed? Buy oil. It can only continue to rise in price, considering the peak oil, etc…

Ralph Vince writes: 

Banks?

Yes I did, starting in the summer of 08…buying and buying and buying and hotel room trauma in zero degree NR US city pacing at 4 am to meet margin call by 10…

My last position, Corus Bancshares, I saw print a 56 cents from a hot dog stand TV in Sarasota in the Winter of 09, and I knew my 55 cent limit was filled, my last position, exited with a profit — about enough to pay for my lunch that day after all of that!

I learned the hard way — banks aren't brick and mortar– they are bags of air, just as industrial companies are a web page with a picture of their parking lot on it, and some CNC drawings that are being used to make the product in Indonesian machine shops.

Dec

23

Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway is on track for its worst year since 2008. Buffett can't find cheap stocks to buy. The last time that Berkshire had a down year and underperformed the S&P 500 was all the way back in 1999.

Gary Rogan writes: 

I also can't find cheap stocks to buy. I don't think this is a sustainable situation and is likely to be resolved either by a crash or years of under-performing stock market. On the other hand, if Trump is likely to win Trump is likely to win, who knows whether his anti-fee trade rhetoric will outweigh his anti-regulation rhetoric in terms of impact on stocks.

Victor Niederhoffer writes: 

One must balance the return on capital of companies versus the 10 or 30 year interest rate.our guests are good at compounding. And this adjusted for growth must go back to the cheapness of the p/e one thinks. 

Nov

12

Fact 1:

As Bill Rafter recently wrote, "what drives markets most of the time (i.e. 90+ pct.) are two things: momentum and sentiment. If you have a handle on those you can make money."

Fact 2:

Credit drives GDP. "For the period from January 1955 through June 2015, we found that nearly 88% of periods in which the trailing twelve month average of private debt acceleration declined or was negative occurred when the U.S.' real GDP was falling, and if we look just at the periods in which the trailing twelve month average of the real GDP growth rate declined, we find that nearly 84% of those periods are ones in which the acceleration of private debt was either falling or negative."

Fact 3:

We live in a world where cash and checking account balances have given way to credit as the medium for actual transactions.

Fact 4:

The people and businesses who actually have the discretion to spend more (or less) do not need the approval of banks or bond buyers to do so. They depend entirely on their existing credit limits and their cash flows.

But the current presumptions of nearly everyone–male and female–who wears a suit and tie to work are that these facts can be ignored. The watchers/believers in the oracles of the Federal Reserve Banks still believe in that old time religion: bank reserves and the interest rates on them drive the economy by changing consumption preferences. They may be right even if their theories of political economy no longer fit the known facts.

History makes it more than a bit clear that "the stock market" (really, the credit market) not only leads but controls "the economy". Collapses in production and employment follow collapses in credit, which are, in turn, dependent on sentiment and momentum, which are now largely dependent on what people believe about who is in control. We skeptics may be the greater fools. It may not matter that there are only semi-midgets spinning special effects wheels behind the curtain that the little dog has pulled away. As long as people believe in the magical powers of the flashing lights and sheet metal thunder, they will save their worries for important stuff –like Syria and the Chinese invasion of the Spratlys.

Oct

26

 Here's Old Man Cutten's short book "Story of a Speculator." Cutten was bigger than life and was arguably the biggest individual wheat speculator in history. There are so many market and life lessons contained within, and it gives a glimpse of what the grain trade was like a century ago. His market lessons contained in this short read became my lessons when I was first starting out. His comments on liberty, government, and choices are priceless. So much of this is relevant today, which is an added bonus.

Stef Estebiza adds:

"None can dictate prices who cannot control production" -Arthur Cutten

Not all of what you see is GOLD.

Read to the end of the first page and the start of the second in "The Parable of the Rich Fool"

Larry Williams writes:

That widely circulated epitaph of speculators misses some key points as it did with Cutten.

Henry A. Wallace, the then United States Secretary of Agriculture charged Cutten with improper trading activities and tried to have him barred from trading on all futures exchanges in the United States. This ultimately went to the US Supreme Court in the case of Wallace v. Cutten, 298 U.S. 229 (1936) (decided in Cuttens favor over the issue "was Cutten guilty for violating laws that were passed—after—the acts of commerce/speculation were commited).

The government then went after him for income tax evasion. The tax suit would only be settled by the executors of his estate, because Arthur Cutten, his fortune vastly depleted by the stock market crash and the cost of lawyers to defend him from the government lawsuits, died in Chicago of a heart attack a few weeks short of his sixty-sixth birthday. His body was brought back to his Canadian birthplace and interred in the family plot in Guelph's Woodlawn Cemetery.

So we have gummint guys going after evil speculator and breaking the poor fellow. I'm certain Soros learned from this which explains is ability to fund politicians.

Most folks live for today or in the past, speculators live for and wager on the future. They are the builders of the future.

Oct

22

 Obama is pressing for Congress to give Puerto Rico money to save USA SPEC investment.

anonymous writes: 

I don't know what the president's view is on this. But, I am fairly certain that discussions within branches of the government are entirely against any monetary support at the present for Puerto Rico. Consider the example it might set for other municipalities, states, etc.

But to be sure, Puerto Rico will be a growing topic going into the next election year. I believe I outlined here what I thought where some of the key macro issues in Puerto Rico several months ago. Specifically the key salient differences between Puerto Rico and say a Greece. I didn't see the whole piece but apparently Wilbur Ross was talking about this yesterday.

Since that time one particular meme has caught my attention. The general workout numbers developed by many on the degree to which Puerto Rico must right down the debt fall into the same trap the IMF and Europeans have. Here in lies one of the similarities with Europe as well. Both PR and Greece are in a currency union and cannot use the currency for stimulus and the fiscal tightening required to get the budge in order contracts growth for a very long time. Thus the future GDP assumptions several years out are inflated relative to what realistically can occur.

Further, despite the tax incentives, one might consider the population exodus at circa 3% of total population per year. Yet another key issue in the debt workout for the future as those leaving tend to make up a certain bracket of the population that has both financial and educational resources.

Aug

6

There are companies in which you invest, even at high prices, because they have a solid business, returns and steady gains, justifying the ups and downs of the markets. They're almost never cheap, except in times of crisis, for those who know how to catch the moment.

There are other companies for which you are willing to pay much more because of the frenzy of the moment, and the golden visions of analysts (it's their job sell) can catapult them to exceptional values even in a short time. But what happens, after the step of publicizing the "elixir of love", if a stock does not take off during an expansion phase, but rather it suffers periods of continued harmful reports (and bad data), like now?

Suddenly, the speculator starts to turn into a speculator at a loss, or worse, undergoes a Kafkaesque metamorphosis from a once confident investor. The initial price paid corresponds to the start-up costs of the future company (hoping takeoffs).

See references like Yahoo (and many others). Generally an eye ball estimate corresponds to a loss of value of the company by up to 90% of the most ever by a title.

I write this because looking at the chart of TWTR I can not help but notice that the maximum of April 2015 was only a mistake, prices quickly returned to the values of December 2014, to be broken in these days. Everyone would think of a support at $ 25, but the fact is that I can not think of any reason that could justify a return to higher prices (including interest rates rise) in the near term. However never say never. $25 must be a dam, but if broken I will start to consider $7.4 as (the worse case) target for a rebound.

anonymous writes: 

Twitter remains a fad, a digitalized counterpart to Donald Trump, a demonstration of socially acceptable narcissism combined with determined information overload. The lack of user growth (and little suggestion of the resumption of such growth) hobbles Twitter's efforts at monetization. That lack of growth also impacts on the underlying value of the assets—the value of a network increases with the addition of new users and the more users it has, the more that that value increases beyond a simply arithmetic increment. I've heard it suggested that a new video streaming capability is the future of Twitter. Twitter meets YouTube. News flash: YouTube doesn't make any money. It covers cost. I doubt that a service that just covers expenses could remain valued at $18 billion, never mind one losing $500 million. 

anonymous writes: 

As TWTR approaches its inevitable denouement [a reckoning with a seemingly binary outcome in which stockholders might either recover 100 - 150% of their marked to market investment via some external corporate action, or perhaps see shareholders equity trade zero], I have become increasingly interested in what goes on when a 'Tweet' occurs and if the underlying technology has any intrinsic proprietary value for a suitor or not.

This article "The Hidden Technology that Makes Twitter Huge", written before the float, had some surprises and an interesting bonne bouche.

None of this will be 'news' to the very tech savvy on this list but one posts nonetheless because even a modicum of understanding of what makes up the technology behind this stock is important in placing one's bets for the upcoming binate discontinuity.

* The 31 data fields within a tweet are publicly documented
* A tweet, at its deconstructed level, is - for all intents and purposes - indestructible. Giving substance to the lie of the 'throw away' nature of sending a tweet.
* ALL the following is known: ID of creator, If generated by Carbon based life-form or Silicon based entity, date & time of origination - amongst much else.
* The whole piece is public record and effectively 'open source'
* So so called 'GeoJSON' - allowing absolute and relative triangulation of a tweeter's (did I really just use that word!) location. In point of fact, the absolute and relative positioning of users likely uses structures more complex than triangulation.

Is there anything worth buying? I have no idea. A suitor has to really, really, really buy into the advertising revenue bit and look through the expenses issue mentioned by the Chair. One gathers that the security services are well past 'GeoJSON' for watching our every move and recording 'metadata'.

I wonder about market applications from using something like 'GeoJSON' [relative locations of different markets, how much they have moved and the time elapsed between different ranks et.al.]

 

Aug

6

 "Why the U.S. Is the Next Greece: Doug Casey on America's Economic Problems"

anonymous writes: 

Doug has been singing this same song since the 1970s.

Victor Niederhoffer writes: 

His most recent book is titled "The Education of a Speculator" . One could learn a lot from Doug about strategic self improving trades, as well as the bon vivant life in Uruguay. 

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

Title is oddly familiar. I wanted to thank Vic again for including me into Four Seasons dinner with Doug guest of honor in March 1993. Doug the world traveler hardly remembered me from Toronto roundtable of 1986.

Also comes to memory another member of that roundtable Ian McCavity who founded Central Fund (closed end gold fund), which caused me to invest in Gold and Silver there, for the first time, because it was offered at discount to book value. I notice the same to be the case with GTU currently: at a historically large discount to NAV! Hedged against GLD, one can be betting the discount will narrow once gold sentiment improves (hey, August is here how!). A free Call option on gold for the price of your cost of funds?

(GTU/GLD narrowed as an activist waged a proxy battle to liquidate the trust at NAV, but they lost and the spread widened.)

Rocky Humbert writes: 

Firstly, regarding Stef's previous post about inflation, it appears that he has confused credit with money.  The S-man has written extensively on this subject — but a contraction/expansion in the money supply (i.e. currency, specie or whatever) has complex interactions both with prices and with credit — especially in a fractional reserve banking system.  I share David's puzzlement about the lack of generalized price pressures with the growth of the central bank balance sheets and monetary aggregates, however, I would note that rent (and housing) prices, certain securities prices, certain taxes & fees, and other things have risen dramatically over the past 6 years. (Even gold!) So while there isn't a generalized inflation, there are (always) some pockets of inflation. Hence my definition of inflation is: "When prices for me rise, that's inflation. When prices for other people rise, that's deflation." My late great uncle, Milton Friedman, claimed that inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon — that is, too much money chasing too few goods.  However, in his later years, he and Aunt Rose mused that the connection between headline inflation and monetary aggregates had not worked for many years. So perhaps — at the end of the day — inflation is primary a psychological phenomenon that has excess money as a necessary, but not sufficient condition.

A happy jobs report day to all!

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