Category Archives: Market Manipulation

A Financial System Headed For A Collision With Debt

The retail sales report for December – delayed because of the Government shut-down – was released this morning. It showed the largest monthly drop since September 2009. Online sales plunged 3.9%, the steepest drop since November 2008. Not surprisingly, sporting goods/hobby/musical instruments/books plunged 4.9%. This is evidence that the average household has been forced to cut back discretionary spending to pay for food, shelter and debt service (mortgage, auto, credit card, student loans).

I had to laugh when Trump’s Cocaine Cowboy – masquerading as the Administration’s flagship “economist” – attributed the plunge in retail sales to a “glitch.” Yes, the “glitch” is that 7 million people are delinquent to seriously delinquent on their auto loan payments. I’d have to hazard a wild guess that these folks aren’t are not spending money on the latest i-Phone or a pair of high-end yoga pants.

Here’s the “glitch” to which Larry must be referring:

The chart above shows personal interest payments excluding mortgage debt. As you can see, the current non-mortgage personal interest burden is nearly 20% higher than it was just before the 2008 financial crisis. It’s roughly 75% higher than it was at the turn of the century. The middle class spending capacity is predicated on disposable income, savings, and borrowing capacity. Disposable income is shrinking, the savings rate is near an all-time low and many households are running out of capacity to support more household debt.

I found another “glitch” in the private sector sourced data, which is infinitely more reliable than the manipulated, propaganda-laced garbage spit out by Government agencies. The Conference Board’s measurement of consumer confidence plunged to 120.2 from 126.6 in January (December’s number was revised lower). Both the current and future expectations sub-indices plunged. Bond guru, Jeff Gundlach, commented that consumer future expectations relative to current conditions is a recessionary signal and this was one of the worst readings ever in that ratio.

This was the third straight month the index has declined after hitting 137.9 (an 18-yr high) in October. The 17.7 cumulative (12.8%) decline is the worst string of losses since October 2011 (back then the Fed was just finishing QE2 and prepping for QE3). The expectation for jobs was the largest contributor to the plunge in consumer confidence. Just 14.7% of the respondents are expecting more jobs in the next 6 months vs 22.7% in November. The 2-month drop in the Conference Board’s index was the steepest 2-month drop since 1968.

This report reflects a tapped-out consumer. It’s a great leading economic indicator because historically downturns in this report either coincide with a recession or occur a few months prior.

Further supporting my “glitch” thesis, mortgage purchase applications have dropped four weeks in row after a brief increase to start 2019. Last week purchase applications tanked 6% from the previous week. The previous week dropped 5% after two consecutive weeks of 2% drops. This plunge in mortgage purchase apps occurred as the 10yr Treasury rate – the benchmark rate for mortgage rates – fell to its lowest level in a year.

Previously we have been fed the fairy tale that housing sales were tanking because mortgage rates had climbed over the past year or that inventory was too low. Well, mortgage rates just dropped considerably since November and home sales are still declining. The inventory of existing and new homes is as high as it’s been in over a year. Why? Because of the rapidity with which number of households that can afford the cost of home ownership has diminished. The glitch is the record level of consumer debt.

The parabolic rise in stock prices since Christmas is nothing more than a bear market, short-covering squeeze triggered by direct official intervention in the markets in an attempt to prevent the stock market from collapsing. This is why Powell has reversed the Fed’s monetary policy stance more quickly than cock roaches scatter when the kitchen light is turned on. But when 7 million people are delinquent on their car loan and retail sales go straight off the cliff, we’re at the point at which stopping QT re-upping QE won’t work. The stock market will soon seek lower ground to catch down to reality. This “adjustment” in the stock market could occur more abruptly most expect.

As The Fed Reflates The Stock Bubble The Economy Crumbles

I get a kick out of these billionaires and centimillionaires, like Kyle Bass yesterday, who appear on financial television to look the viewer in the eye and tell them that economy is booming.  Kyle Bass doesn’t expect a mild recession until mid-2020. Hmmm – explain that rationale to the 78%+ households who are living paycheck to paycheck, bloated with a record level of debt and barely enough savings to cover a small emergency.

After dining on a lunch fit for Elizabethan royalty with Trump, Jerome Powell decided it was a good idea to make an attempt at reflating the stock bubble. After going vertical starting December 26th, the Dow had been moving sideways since January 18th, possibly getting ready to tip over. The FOMC took care of that with its policy directive on January 30th, two hours before the stock market closed. Notwithstanding the Fed’s efforts to reflate the stock bubble – or at least an attempt to prevent the stock market from succumbing to the gravity of deteriorating fundamentals – at some point the stock market is going to head south abruptly again. That might be the move that precipitates the renewal of money printing.

Contrary to the official propaganda the economy must be in far worse shape than can be gleaned from the publicly available data if the Fed is willing to stop nudging rates higher a quarter of a point at a time and hint at the possibility of more money printing “if needed.” Remember, the Fed has access to much more detailed and accurate data than is made available to the public, including Wall Street. The Fed sees something in the numbers that sent them retreating abruptly and quickly from any attempt to tighten monetary policy.

For me, this graphic conveys the economic reality as well as any economic report:

The chart above shows the Wall Street analyst consensus earnings growth rate for each quarter in 2019. Over the last three months, the analyst consensus EPS forecast has been reduced 8% to almost no earnings growth expected in Q1 2019. Keep in mind that analyst forecasts are based on management “guidance.” The nearest next quarter always has the sharpest pencil applied to projections because corporate CFO’s have most of the numbers that go into “guidance.” As you can see, earnings growth rate projections have deteriorated precipitously for all four quarters. The little “U” turn in Q4 is the obligatory “hockey stick” of optimism forecast.

Perhaps one of the best “grass roots” fundamental indicators is the mood of small businesses, considered the back-bone of the U.S. economy. After hitting a peak reading of 120 in 2018, the Small Business Confidence Index fell of a cliff in January to 95. The index is compiled by Vistage Worldwide, which compiles a monthly survey of 765 small businesses. Just 14% expect the economy to improve this year and 36% expect it to get worse. For the first time since the 2016 election, small businesses were more pessimistic about their own financial prospects than they were a year earlier, including plans for hiring and investment.

The Vistage measure of small business “confidence” was reinforced by the National Federation of Independent Businesses confidence index which plunged to its lowest level since Trump elected. It seems the “hope” that was infused into the American psyche and which drove the stock market to nose-bleed valuation levels starting in November 2016 has leaked out of the bubble. The Fed will not be able to replace that hot air with money printing.

I would argue that small businesses are a reflection of the sentiment and financial condition of the average household, as these businesses are typically locally-based service and retail businesses. The sharp drop in confidence in small businesses correlates with the sharp drop in the Conference Board’s consumer confidence numbers.

The negative economic data flowing from the private sector thus reflects a much different reality than is represented by the sharp rally in the stock market since Christmas and the general level of the stock market. At some point, the stock market will “catch down” to reality. This move will likely occur just as abruptly and quickly as the rally of the last 6 weeks.

Tesla: Can You Smell The Blood In The Water?

“The demand for – the demand for Model 3 is insanely high. The inhibitor is affordability. It’s just like people literally don’t have the money to buy the car. It’s got nothing to do with desire. They just don’t have enough money in their bank account.” – Elon Musk on the Q4 earnings conference call

The following commentary/analysis is from the February 3rd issue of the Short Seller’s Journal.

Tesla’s Failed Business Model – The statement above is an actual comment from Elon Musk on the earnings call. I literally had to ask a couple of people who were on the call if I had misread the transcript or if it was a mistake in transcription. I’m not sure if Elon erringly thought he was sharing profound insight into the laws of economics or if the relationship between price and demand eludes his understanding.

It was announced in late January, before Tesla posted earnings, that the Saudi Public Investment Fund had hedged its 4.9% investment in Tesla’s stock (8.33 million shares). It accomplished this via a structured note (OTC derivative) created by JP Morgan. In exchange for downside price protection, the Saudis gave up participation in any gains should Tesla’s shares rise in price. My guess is that the Saudis also paid a hefty transaction fee to JP Morgan on the order of 3-4% on the market value of the shares hedged.

It did not take long for the Saudi fund to abandon its investment in Tesla. The Saudi stake in Tesla was announced shortly after Tesla’s Q3 2018 earnings release. Musk’s infamous “funding secured” tweet was issued right after the Saudi stake was revealed to the public.

My best guess is that the 8.3 million shares where accumulated during July around an average price in the low $300’s. It’s also possible that one of the large U.S. fund holders sold a big block of shares that was crossed into the Saudi fund. Hard to say for sure but I would surmise that JP Morgan and/or Goldman Sachs (Tesla’s primary investment banks) know the truth.

If the hedging derivative was structured during the month before it was announced, the average price of the hedge is likely $320. Let’s assume the Saudis locked in a $20/share profit – $166 million. Netting out all trading and transaction fees (at a 3.5% fee, the derivative hedge would cost $93 million) the Saudi fund maybe netted about $60 million on the trade. But why did the Saudis bail on the investment after less than six months?

For me the demand/price comment exemplifies the Tesla tragicomedy. The Company reported its Q4 on Thursday after the market closed. Until the 10-K is release (40-60 days), I can not layout a detailed dissection of Tesla’s accounting games. But needless to say it appears as if Tesla’s CFO employed all of the same accounting schemes as were used in Q3 in order to manufacture a GAAP “net profit.” Notwithstanding this, the Company “missed” the Wall St consensus estimate and warned that it may or may not generate a profit in Q1 2019.

Speaking of the CFO, it was announced at the end of call – literally before the Company hung up the phone in order to avoid questions on the matter – that the CFO would be leaving the Company sometime in early 2019 though no specific date was set. He is to be replaced by a little-known 34-year old VP in the finance department, Zach Kirkhorn. Kirkhorn prior to Tesla was a “business analyst” McKinsey & Co. This is a fancy term for someone who helps design computerized enterprise applications for McKinsey clients. Prior to McKinsey, Kirkhorn worked at Microsoft.

Kirkhorn was a curious choice becasue he stunningly has little apparent experience in accounting and finance. Typically CFO’s have either worked their way up the accounting/controller side of a company or are hired from a similar role from the outside. This move left everyone scratching their head but reflects the general dysfunctionality that pervades the Company.

Telsa has experienced a stunning drop-off in orders since the end of 2018 that appears to have begun during late December. The $7500 tax credit was cut in half starting January 1st. Data from Europe show that EV sales fall off a cliff when the tax credit disappears. The chart to the right illustrates this by showing Tesla’s Model 3 sales over the last 12 months (from @TeslaCharts).

The jump in December M3 sales is a product of huge incentive programs Tesla implemented to stimulate sales ahead of the cut in the tax credit. As you can see, since July TSLA has averaged 20,000 unit sales per month. The January number is largely the expected cliff dive related to the drop in the tax credit. However, the large drop-off is also likely attributable to potential EV buyers waiting for the spring roll-out of the Audi E-Tron and Porsche Taycan. Porsche announced in January that it was doubling production in response to demand.

Briefly on Tesla’s numbers. Taking $139 million of net income attributable to stockholders at face value – i.e. assuming the accounting is 100% clean – nearly $100 million of that is from Tesla’s sale of greenhouse gas and zero emission vehicle credits. If we assume just $39 million worth of GAAP manipulation used to generate “income” (the real number is multiples of $39 milion) small amount of accounting games were used to generate GAAP “income,” reversing out the GHG/ZEV credits takes Tesla’s actual net income to zero. This means that the ability of Tesla’s business model to generate actual cash income is based solely energy credit sales. This is not a valid sustainable business model.

In the short term, the next big event is the maturity of the $920 million convertible bond due in March. It looks like Tesla’s stock price will be below the price at which bondholders will want to convert. Additionally, the deadline to reset the conversion price lower has passed. This suggests that Tesla will use cash to pay off the converts.

But here’s the problem:  At quarter end, Tesla’s balance sheet showed a working capital deficit (current assets minus current liabilities) of $1.7 billion.  Of the $8.3 billion in current assets, $3.6 billion is cash. However, of the $9.99 billion in current liabilities, $3.4 billion is accounts payable. It would appear that Tesla will be stiffing its suppliers, vendors and service providers if it uses the cash, as reported, to pay the converts.

I don’t know how Tesla will resolve this issue but I suspect the maturing bond will paid. Otherwise the Company will be forced to file for bankruptcy of some flavor. I don’t see this event happening until at least the end of 2019. This is why I moved my long-dated Tesla OTM puts out to June 2020.

Regardless of this immediate issue, I expect to see continued deterioration in Tesla sales across all three of its models. Snapshots from around the country from major metropolitan areas show lots full of unsold Teslas – all three models – with the inventory stored in these lots growing by the week.

Since I wrote the above analysis for the Short Seller’s Journal issue released this past Sunday, it was reported that Tesla has not received EU approval to sell Model 3’s with autopilot installed. Most of the Model 3’s pre-ordered in Europe were for the Model 3 with autopilot. This little factoid was in direct contradiction to the Company’s announcement, reiterated by Musk in the earnings letter to shareholders, that the Model 3 was fully approved in Europe.

There’s clearly something amiss with Tesla’s liquidity. It’s been reported by customers in Germany that Tesla is demanding full payment for Model 3’s ordered before the Company will deliver the vehicle. Perhaps a tempest in a teapot? A Model S owner who had canceled his Model 3 order and requested a refund of the $1000 deposit posted a copy of the refund check on Twitter – only Tesla had placed a “stop payment” on the check:  LINK

Meanwhile the Company has been laying of workers and cutting prices on feverishly on the Model 3. This is in response to a cliff-dive in demand since January 1st, especially in China. Based on this new evidence, I don’t know if Tesla will be able to make the $920 million convertible bond payment. I would seem possible, given the anecdotal evidence, that Tesla has misrepresented the cash balance on its year-end financials (unaudited as of December 31st). No one knows the answer to that question right now except the banks holding the alleged cash as shown on Tesla’s year-end balance sheet.

Whether or not Tesla can complete a financial hail Mary and address the convertible bond repayment, this company is circling the drain. As far superior competitive models hit the market, demand for Teslas could possibly disappear completely. The stock will drop to zero and the creditors will be left to fight for standing and priority in bankruptcy. I can smell that blood in the water.

In the Short Seller’s Journal I cover economic analysis combined with ideas for shorting the stock market, including market timing, capital management and the use of options.  In the latest issue I presented ideas for using puts to short Tesla, including full disclosure of my trades in the name.  You can learn more about this newsletter here:  Short Seller’s Journal.

Why Housing Won’t Bounce With Lower Rates

“Our advice is to own as little exposure U.S. equity exposure as your career risk allows.” – Martin Tarlie, member of portfolio allocation at Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo investment management

The following is an excerpt from the latest Short Seller’s Journal:

Economy is worse than policy makers admit publicly – Less than four months ago, the FOMC issued a policy statement that anticipated four rate hikes in 2019 with no mention of altering the balance sheet reduction program that was laid out at the beginning of the QT initiative. It seems incredible then that, after this past week’s FOMC meeting, that the Fed held interest rates unchanged, removed any expectation for any rate hikes in 2019, and stated that it might reduce its QT program if needed. After reducing its balance sheet less than 10%, the Fed left open the possibility of reversing course and increasing the size of the balance sheet – i.e. re-implementing “QE” money printing.

Contrary to the official propaganda the economy must be in far worse shape than can be gleaned from the publicly available data if the Fed is willing to stop nudging rates higher a quarter of a point at a time and hint at the possibility of more money printing “if needed.” Remember, the Fed has access to much more detailed and accurate data than is made available to the public, including Wall Street. The Fed sees something in the numbers that sent them retreating abruptly and quickly from any attempt to tighten monetary policy.

Housing market – As I suggested might happen after a bounce in the first three weeks of January, the weekly purchase mortgage index declined three weeks in a row, including a 5% gap-down in the latest week (data is lagged by 1 week).  This is despite a decline in the 10-yr Treasury rate to the lowest rate for the mortgage benchmark Treasury rate since January 2018.

Not surprisingly, the NAR’s pending home sales index – released last Wednesday mid-morning for December – was down 2.2% vs November and tanked nearly 10% vs. December 2017. Pending sales are for existing home sales are based on contracts signed. This was the 12th straight month of year-over-year declines. Remarkably, the NAR chief “economist” would not attribute the decline to either China or the Government shutdown. He didn’t mention inventory either, which has soared in most major metro areas over the past couple of months.

For me, the explanation is pretty simple: The average household’s cost to service debt has reached a point at which it will become more difficult to find buyers who can qualify for a conventional mortgage (FNM, FRE, FHA):

The chart above shows personal interest payments excluding mortgage debt. As you can see, the current non-mortgage personal interest burden is nearly 20% higher than it was just before the 2008 financial crisis. It’s roughly 75% higher than it was at the turn of the century.  Fannie Mae raised the maximum DTI (debt-to-income ratio – percentage of monthly gross income that can be used for interest payments) to 50% in mid-2017 to qualify for a mortgage. This temporarily boosted home sales. That stimulus has now faded. And despite falling interest rates, the housing market continues to contract.

That said, the Census Bureau finally released new home sales for November. It purports that new homes on a seasonally adjusted, annualized rate basis rose a whopping 16.9% from October. I just laughed when I saw the number. The calculus does not correlate either with home sales data reported by new homebuilders or with mortgage purchase applications during that time period (new home sales are based on contract signings). 90% of all new home buyers use a mortgage.

The November number was a 7.7% decline from the November 2017 SAAR. According to the Census Bureau, the months’ supply of new homes is at 6, down from October’s 7 but up from November 2017’s 4.9. A perusal of homebuilder balance sheets would show inventories near all-time highs (homebuilders do not always list finished homes on MLS right away if a community already has plenty of inventory). The average sales price of a new home dropped to 8.4% from $395,000 in October to $362,000 in November. Anyone who purchased a new home with a less than 9% down payment mortgage during or prior to October is now underwater on the mortgage.

Absent more direct Government subsidy and Fed stimulus, the housing market is going to continue contracting, with prices falling. Anyone who bought a home with less than a 10% down payment mortgage over the last 3-5 years will find themselves underwater on their mortgage.  I expect home equity mortgage delinquencies and default to begin rising rapidly in the 2nd half of 2019.

In the last issue of the Short Seller’s Journal, I presented my favorite homebuilder shorts along with put option and short selling call option ideas. You can learn more about this newsletter here:   Short Seller’s Journal information

 

The Fed Blinked – Gold And Silver Are Going Higher

Price inflation has been badly misrepresented by CPI figures and have been averaging closer to about 8% annually since gold topped in Sept 2011. Since then the purchasing power of the dollar has declined by about 43%, so that in 2011 dollars the gold price is $740. No one seems to have noticed, leaving gold extremely cheap. – Alasdair Macleod, “Ten Factors To Look For In Gold In 2019

The following is an excerpt from the latest issue of the Mining Stock Journal, which included an analysis of a  highly undervalued, relatively new and unknown junior mining company advancing a gold-silver project in Mexico.

As I have suggested in the past (in more detail in the Short Seller’s Journal), the Fed is retreating quickly from rate hikes and balance sheet reduction (QT). The Fed deferred on raising rates at its FOMC meeting this week. What I found somewhat shocking, however, was the removal of reference to “further gradual rate increases.”

Perhaps more shocking was the reference to the possibility of re-starting the money printing press:  “…the Committee would be prepared to use its full range of tools, including altering the size and composition of its balance sheet, if future economic conditions were to warrant a more accommodative monetary policy…” That statement translated means, “we’ll have to print more money eventually.”

This should be extremely bullish for the precious metals sector. The only issue is the timing of the next big move higher. That depends on the degree to which the banks can continue controlling the price with gold and silver derivatives.  No one knows that answer, not even the banks. At some point, as occurred from 2008-2011, the western banks will be unable to suppress the natural price rise of gold/silver. That said, the Chinese and the Russians could pull the rug out from under the western manipulation if and when they want. That will happen eventually as well.

Alasdair Macleod wrote a brief and insightful essay from which I quoted and linked above describing key factors in 2019 that could push the price of gold significantly higher. Most of the factors are familiar, especially for subscribers to my Short Seller’s Journal. First and foremost will be the Fed, along with Central Banks globally,  reverting to easy monetary policy.

Notwithstanding official propaganda to the contrary, the U.S./global economy is rapidly slowing down. Many areas are contracting. Government spending deficits will soar as tax revenues fall behind the rate at which Government spending is increasing.

At some point, the Government will plead with the Fed to help finance Treasury issuance (this will occur in the EU, Japan and China as well), creating another acceleration in monetary inflation/currency devaluation. This will act as a transmission mechanism to inflate the dollar price of gold. Smart investors understanding this dynamic, and who have the financial resources, will move dollars out of financial assets and into gold. See 2008-2011 for an example of this process.

Gold has outperformed almost every major asset class since 2000:

Gold has outperformed most other assets since 2000 because Central Banks globally began to implement extreme monetary policies in response to the global stock market crash in 2000 led by tech stocks. As John Hathaway, manager of the Tocqueville gold fund, describes it, “gold has been a winning strategy since monetary policy became unhinged nearly two decades ago.”

In addition to the fiscal and monetary policies implemented globally in response to deteriorating economic and financial conditions, Alasdair identifies four factors directly affecting the price of gold this year.

One factor not widely perceived or understood by the markets is the gradual and methodical shift away from using the U.S. dollar for trade and as a reserve asset by Russia and China. It’s clear that both countries are swapping dollar reserves for gold and conducting an increasing percentage of bi-lateral trade with their trading partners in each country’s sovereign currency.

As an aside, gold has been soaring in most currencies besides the dollar. At some point, this shift away from using the dollar as a reserve currency will remove the “safe haven asset” status of the dollar, causing a considerable decline in the dollar vs global currencies. Concomitantly, the dollar price of gold will soar.

Another factor identified by Macleod is price inflation: “price inflation has been badly misrepresented by CPI figures and has been averaging closer to about 8% annually since gold topped in Sept 2011. Since then the purchasing power of the dollar has declined by about 43%, so that in 2011 dollars the gold price is $740. No one seems to have noticed, leaving gold extremely cheap.”

In my view, the price inflation factor as it affects investor attitudes toward gold will be a “slowly then suddenly” process. Investors and the population in general tend to move in herds. Currently the headline Government CPI is accepted and discussed as reported. At some point,  a large contingent of mainstream institutional investors will decide the Government’s measurement of inflation is wrong and will begin to buy gold and silver. The masses will soon follow. We saw this dynamic leading up to the parabolic move by gold in 1979-1980.

The third factor is “monetary inflation.” Most people think of price when they see the term “inflation.” But the true economic definition of “inflation” is the rate of growth in the money supply in excess of the rate of growth in economic (wealth) output. This in essence reduces the value of each dollar. Think about it terms of an increasing amount of dollars made available to chase a fixed supply of goods and services. That’s the monetary inflation that causes “price” inflation. Rising prices are the manifestation of monetary inflation.

As discussed at the beginning, at some point the Fed will be forced to re-start the printing press or face the consequences of a rapid economic and financial collapse.  Macleod points out that “these are exactly the conditions faced by the German government between 1918 and 1923, and the likely response by the Fed will be the same. Print money to fund government deficits.”  Recall that the policies used by the Weimar Government eventually led to hyper price inflation. The hyperinflation did not occur until the early 1920’s. But the policies leading to this condition began in 1914, when Germany World War 1 started and Germany’s huge war debt began to pile up. This is strikingly similar to the huge U.S. Government debt outstanding currently.

The final factor mentioned by Macleod is simply, “Gold is massively under-owned in the West.” By 1980, institutional investors on average held 5% of their assets in gold. Currently the percentage allocation to gold (or fake gold like GLD) is well under 1%. All it would take for a massive price reset  in gold and silver is for institutions to allocate 1-2% of their assets to gold. I believe eventually that allocation percentage will move back to 3-5%, which will drive the price of gold well over $2000/oz.

There Are Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics and The Employment Report

Last month the Government’s Bureau of Lies And Statistics served up an employment report purporting 312,000 new jobs in December. This despite massive seasonal retail lay-offs in the latter half of the month.  The BLS happily counts those jobs when hired in October but forgets to remove them when are dismissed at the end of the holiday shopping season.    As John Williams (Shadow Government Statistics), the 312,000 jobs were created by re-doing the spreadsheets for prior months’ jobs reports:

Surging December payrolls were a reporting fraud, a canard, no more than massive prior-period revisions “recalculation of seasonal factors” that shifted growth from past months into the October 2018 to December 2018 time-frame, without showing the headline downside revisions to the earlier months from which the growth was borrowed

The same re-calc’ing of the spreadsheets created the 304,000 pop in jobs, December’s 312,000 print revised down to 222,000, with the jobs shifted into January’s number. But no one looks at the revisions, besides a handful of tin-foil hat conspiracy theorists.

My good friend and colleague, John Titus of Best Evidence videos wrote a scathing commentary on the nefarious Labor Force Participation Rate metric, which allegedly rose in January:

The labor force participation rate ticked up this month, from 63.1% last month to 63.2% this month. Great news, right? Umm, not unless shameless fraud designed to mask an economy headed for a depression is good news. The fraud in this case arises from the blatant manipulation of the two data points underlying the participation rate.

The participation rate is simply the number of people in the labor force divided by the working age population (the latter of which is called the civilian non-institutional population). Stated differently, the participation rate is the percentage of working age people who are working or looking for work. So the labor force is slightly larger than the straight-up number of workers because it includes workers PLUS anyone who’s looked for work in that last 4 weeks.

All three numbers—the participation rate, the labor force. and the working age population—are reported each month. But only the participation rate gets any media attention (and precious little at that). This month, as noted, the participation rate ticked up 01% as noted.

What’s curious, though, is that the labor force itself ticked down slightly, by 11,000 workers. For the participation rate to tick up, then, in the teeth of a shrinking labor force, means that the working age population had to have declined quite a bit. And that’s what’s weird—populations tend to increase, relentlessly so.

Indeed over the last 60 years (720 months), the working age population has ticked down only 8 times. And guess what? By far the largest two declines occurred recently—this month and in January 2017 (when Trump was inaugurated). In both cases, the working age population supposedly shrank by 650,000 people! Holy shit! Neither Wyoming nor Vermont have 650,000 people in total, much less 650,000 working age people. Did the media miss a couple of huge meteor hits?

The gloves are off now when it comes to fraudulent data manipulation, as the powers that be will do flat-out anything to disguise the gangrenous cadaver that is the U.S. economy. Sadly, the rot is concentrated among young people. who are now taking on huge amounts of educational debt—debt that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy—that would more properly be called welfare. This situation cannot sustain itself for very long, and won’t.

Basically all of our country’s ills are due to a monetary system predicated on fraudulent interest-bearing debt. Jefferson is rolling in his grave. I plan to go into this and a lot more when I re-launch my Youtube channel with an enhanced vlog-style format.

Note, IRD highly recommends John Titus’ previous podcasts, which you can view here:  BEST EVIDENCE VIDEO’S

The Stock Market Would Crash Without Central Bank Support

The mis-pricing of money and credit has also driven a terrible misallocation of capital and kept unproductive zombie debtors alive for too long. Saxo Bank, “Beware The Global Policy Panic”

“Mis-pricing of money and credit” refers to the ability of the Fed to control interest rates and money supply.  Humans with character flaws and conflicting motivations performing a role that is best left to a free market.   After the market’s attempt in December to re-introduce two-way price discovery to the stock stock market, the Fed appears ready to fold on its “interest rate and balance sheet normalization” policy, whatever “normalization is supposed to mean.

Tesla is the perfect example of terribly misallocated capital enabling the transitory survival of a defective business model. Access to cheap, easy capital has enabled Elon Musk to defer the eventual fate of the Company for several years. But as the equity and credit markets become considerably less tolerant, companies with extreme financial and operational flaws are exposed, followed by a stock price price that plummets.

The Stock Market Would Crash Without Central Bank Support – A few weeks after Fed head, Jerome Powell, hinted that the Fed may hold off on more rate hikes, an article in the Wall St. Journal suggested that the Fed was considering halting its “Quantitative Tightening” program far sooner than expected, leaving the Fed’s balance sheet significantly a significantly higher level it’s original “normalization” plan.

But “normalization” in the context of leaving the Fed’s balance sheet significantly larger than its size when the financial crisis hit – $800 billion – simply means leaving a substantial amount of the money printed from “QE” in the financial system. This is a subtle acknowledgment by the Einsteins at the Fed that the U.S. economic and financial system would seize up without massive support by the Fed in the form of money printing.

I suggested in the January 13th issue of my Short Seller’s Journal that the Fed would likely halt QT: “The economy is headed toward a severe recession and I’m certain the key officials at the Fed and White House are aware of this (perhaps not Trump but some of his advisors). I suspect that the Fed’s monetary policy will be reversed in 2019. They’ll first announce halting QT. That should be bad news because of the implications about the true condition of the economy. But the hedge fund algos and retail day-trader zombies will buy that announcement. We will sell into that spike. Ultimately the market will sell-off when comes to understand that the last remaining prop in the stock market is the Fed.”

Little did I realize when I wrote that two weeks ago that the Fed would hint at halting QT less than two weeks later.

When this fails to re-stimulate economic activity, the Fed will eventually resume printing money. Assuming the report in the Wall Street Journal on Friday is true, this is a continuation of the “mis-pricing” of money credit alluded to above by Saxo Bank. Moreover, it reflects a Central Bank in panic mode in response to the recent attempt by the stock market to re-price significantly lower to a level that reflected economic reality.

The Deflating Stock Bubble Will Fuel A Bull Move Mining Stocks

“The economic and financial condition of the U.S. and global economy is similar to that of 2008, although I think now it’s a lot worse than it was back then…the ‘gravity’ of true fundamentals has finally gotten ahold of stocks…”

Fundamentals ultimately drive value.  In terms of the fundamentals, financial assets – stocks, bonds, real estate – are extremely overvalued.  The precious metals sector right now is extremely cheap relative to fundamentals.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that the stock market bounce that started the day after Christmas was the end of the “bear market,” as Jim Cramer is asserting.  Bear markets last a lot longer than four weeks.  A bear market in financial assets is just getting started.  At the same time, the bull market cycle in gold, silver and mining stocks that began in late 2015 with a 250% run-up in GDX over the next 8 months  is ready to resume after using just over 2 years to effect a 38% pullback from the sharp in 2016.

Elijah Johnson invited me to discuss the economy, stock market and precious metals sector on his Silver Doctor’s podcast:

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If you are interested in ideas for taking advantage of the inevitable systemic reset that  will hit the U.S. financial and economic system, check out either of these newsletters:   Short Seller’s Journal  information and more about the Mining Stock Journal here:   Mining Stock Journal information.

The Fed Panics And Gold Soars

First it was the loudly broadcast convening of the Working Group on Financial Markets – aka “the  Plunge Protection Team” – by the PPT’s el Jefe, Steven Mnuchin.  This was followed the “mouse that roared” speech from Fed head, Jerome Powell, hinting that the Fed would moon-walk away from rate hikes.

Today was trial Hindenburg launched by the Wall St Journal suggesting that the Fed was considering curtailing the the FOMC’s balance sheet Weight Watchers program.  The terminology used to describe the Fed’s actions is Orwellian vernacular. “Reserve levels” – as in, “leaving more reserves on the Fed’s balance sheet” – sounds mundane. In plain-speak, this is simply the amount of money the Fed printed and will leave in the financial system or risk crashing the stock market.

I suggested in the January 13th issue of my Short Seller’s Journal that the Fed would likely halt QT: “The economy is headed toward a severe recession.  I’m certain the key officials at the Fed and White House are aware of this (perhaps not Trump but some of his advisors). I suspect that the Fed’s monetary policy will be reversed in 2019. They’ll first announce halting QT. That should be bad news because of the implications but the hedge fund algos and retail day-trader zombies will buy that announcement. We will sell into that spike.”

Little did I realize when I wrote that two weeks ago that the assertion would be validated just two weeks later. When this fails to re-stimulate economic activity, the Fed will eventually resume printing money.  Ultimately the market will figure out that it’s a very bad thing that the only thing holding up the stock market is the Fed.

The policy reversal by the Fed reflects panic at the Fed. Nothing reflects “Fed Panic” better than the price of gold:

CEO Of Moscow Exchange: Replace Dollars With Russian Gold

One way or another, the eventual fate of the dollar is inevitable…

“Super-conservative investors purchase dollars and keep them “under the pillow, which is not very safe”

Russian gold could become the perfect alternative to conservative investments in the greenback, the CEO of Russia’s key trading floor, Moscow Exchange (MOEX), believes.
“Let’s offer an alternative to the US dollar in the form of Russian gold, which we produce… investment gold,” CEO Alexander Afanasiev suggested, speaking in the Lower House of Russia’s parliament on Monday.

He added that some “super-conservative investors” purchase dollars and keep them “under the pillow,” which is not very safe, he believes. The MOEX chief also noted that Russians have increased their investment activity and act “surprisingly rational.”

Russia is the world’s third-largest gold producer and in 2017 boosted its gold output by more than six percent. It produced almost 265 tons of gold in January-October 2018, according to data provided by the Finance Ministry.

Read the full article here: US Dollar/Russian gold