Category Archives: Market Manipulation

The Cracks In The Market’s Floor Grow Wider

“The only time we’ve ever seen a confluence of risk factors anywhere close to those of today was the week of March 24, 2000, which marked the peak of the technology bubble.” – John Hussman, Hussman Funds, in his October Market Commentary

The yield on the 10-yr Treasury has broken out, hitting its highest level since July 2011:

By the end of June 2011, the Fed had only reached its half-way mark in money printing. It was shortly thereafter that the Fed had implemented its “operation twist.” Operation twist consisted of selling the Fed’s short term holdings and using the proceeds plus extra printed money to buy Treasuries at the long-end of the curve – primarily 10-yr bonds. That program is what drove the 10-yr bond yield from 3.40% in July 2011 to as low as 1.33% by mid-2016. At one point the Fed owned more than 50% of all outstanding 10-yr Treasuries. The Fed’s massive money hyper-stimulated the housing and auto markets.

What should frighten market participants and policy-makers – and really, everyone – is that the 10-yr yield has soared the last Thursday and Friday despite the big sell-off in the Dow/SPX. I say “despite” because typically when stocks tank like that, the money flows into Treasuries as a “flight-to-safety” thereby driving yields lower. When stocks drop like last Thursday and Friday in conjunction with the sharp rise in the 10-yr yield (also the 30-yr yield), it reflects the development of financial market problems that are not superficially apparent.

The media narrative attributed Friday’s jump in Treasury yields to the “strong” jobs report. But this is nonsense. The number reported missed expectations. Moreover, the number of working age people “not in the labor force” rose to an all-time high,which is indicative of substantial slack in the labor market.

More likely, yields are soaring on the long end of the curve (10yrs to 30yrs) because it was quietly reported that the amount of outstanding Treasuries jumped by $1.25 trillion in the Government’s 2018 Fiscal Year (October thru September). This means that the Government’s spending deficit soared by that same amount during FY 2018. To make matters worse, the Trump tax cut will likely cause the spending deficit – and therefore the amount of Treasury issuance required to cover that deficit – to well to north of $1.5 trillion in FY 2019.

Who is going to buy all that new Treasury issuance? Based on the Treasury’s TIC report, which shows major foreign holders of Treasury securities, over the last 12 months through July (the report lags by 2 months), foreign holdings of Treasuries increased by only $2.1 billion. The point here is that, in all likelihood, the biggest factor causing Treasuries to spike up in yield is the market’s anticipation of a massive amount of new issuance. Secondarily, the rising yields likely reflect the market’s expectation of accelerating inflation attributable to the deleterious consequences of the trade war and the lascivious monetary policies of the Fed. The market is assuming control of interest rate policy.

On Tuesday last week (October 3rd), the Dow closed at a record high (26,828). Yet, on that day three times as many stocks in NYSE closed at 52-week lows as those that closed at 52-week highs. Since 1965, this happened on just one other day: December 28, 1999. The Dow peaked shortly thereafter (11,722 on January 10, 2000) and began a 21 month sell-off that took the Dow down 32%.

I don’t necessarily expect to see the stock market tank in the next few weeks though, based on watching the intra-day trading action the past couple of weeks leads me to believe that the market is vulnerable at any time to a huge sell-off. The abrupt spike in Treasury yields plus market technicals – like the statistic cited above – lead me to believe that the cracks in the stock market’s “floor” are widening.

The above commentary is an excerpt from the latest Short Seller’s Journal. In that issue I presented LULU as short at $153. It’s already dropped $8 and several subscribers and I have more than doubled our money on put ideas.  You can learn more about this newsletter here:  Short Seller’s Journal information.

The Tragically Flawed Fed Policies And The Eventual Reset Of The Gold Price

With gold showing good resiliency as it has tested the $1200 level successfully after enduring aggressive paper gold attacks during Comex floor trading hours, it’s only a matter of time before gold breaks out above $1220 and heads toward $1300. Gold has been under attack in the futures market this week as the world’s largest physical gold importer, China, has been closed all week for holiday observance. In addition, with financial market conditions stabilizing in India, the world second largest physical gold importer’s peak gold buying season resumed this week. When gold spikes over $1220, it will unleash an avalanche of short-covering by the hedge funds.

What will cause gold to spike up? There’s any number of potential “black swans” that could appear out of nowhere, but the at the root of it is the tragically flawed monetary policies of the Federal Reserve, along with the rest of the Central Banks globally…of course, the eastern hemisphere banks are buying gold hand-over-fist…

Chris Marcus invited me onto this StockPulse podcast to discuss the precious metals market and the factors that will trigger an eventual price-reset:

The SEC Settlement With Musk: Crime Pays Once Again

“…when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors–when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you–when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice–you may know that your society is doomed.” – Francisco D’Anconia’s Money Speech, “Atlas Shrugged”

The SEC ended up settling with Elon Musk for violating securities laws with his “funding secured” tweet. Musk and Tesla will each pay $20 million in fines and Musk will be barred from acting as Chairman of Tesla but will remain CEO. I doubt the SEC will investigate to what extent, if any, Musk and his family and friends took advantage by accumulating stock and call options ahead of Musk’s tweet, which triggered an $87 move higher in the stock price. Certainly we know Musk and his family controls an offshore stock account in the Cayman Islands.

Thirty years ago, Musk would have been forced to serve jail time for securities law violations. Ask Michael Milken and Ivan Boesky about that. The last time a corporate CEO was incarcerated for securities laws violations was Qwest’s Joe Nacchio in April 2007.

Notwithstanding the fact that Musk remains CEO of Tesla, the Company is on a path toward insolvency within 12-18 months. Just like Enron’s auditors before it, I’m sure Price Waterhouse will have no problem cooking up financial statements for Q3 which show a GAAP-manipulated profit of some sort. But make no mistake, rigged GAAP accounting can not change the fact Tesla continues burning billions in cash – nearly $2 billion in the first six months of 2018 between operating activities and investing activity.

I’m hopeful the Justice Department investigation of Musk and Tesla will produce results that are more reflective of Rule of Law than the SEC delivered. Clearly the SEC has once again sent the message to the world that crime pays in the United States if you have a bank account large enough to cover the tab. But, at the end of the day, the fate of Tesla is subject to the Laws of Economics. That is a battle Musk and Tesla have no hope of winning.

What a fucking comical charade. They take a slam dunk case and settle??? At least now we know how serious they are about prosecuting securities fraud among the privileged few. And people wonder how Madoff could get away with such a gigantic heist for so long??? Seems pretty clear the rules are set up to protect the elite crooks in our financial system. – Short Seller’s Journal  subscriber

The Fed: Lies, Propaganda And Motive

The agenda of the Fed is to hold up the system for as long as possible. The biggest stock bubble in U.S. history has been fueled by 10 years of negative real interest rates. The only way to justify that policy is to create phony inflation statistics. Based on historical interest rates and based on the alleged unemployment rate, a “normalized” Fed funds rate should be set at 9%, which reflects a more accurate inflation rate plus a 3% premium. The last time the unemployment rate was measured at 3.7% was October 1969. Guess what? The Fed funds rate was 9%. I guess if you live an a cave and only buy TV’s and laptops, then the inflation rate is probably 2%…

Silver Doctor’s Elijah Johnson invited me to discuss the FOMC policy decision released on Wednesday afternoon:

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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.

Tilray: Little More Than A Stock Bubble Scam

Tilray could well become the poster-child stock of the biggest stock bubble in U.S. History.

This past summer Tilray (TLRY) went public (July) at $17 per share. TLRY is a Canada-based medical marijuana company. While its operations are targeting the international medical marijuana market, the Company generated just $9.7 million in revenues in its Q2 2018. It produced a net loss of $12.8 million. The stock had run from $30 on August 20th to
a close of $120 on September 17th. The stock jumped again the next day to $154 on newsthat the DEA granted the approval for Tilray to provide THC capsules to UC San Diego for a clinical trial on the medicinal use of THC/CBD.

At the close of trading last Tuesday, TLRY’s market cap reached $14.1 billion, despite the fact the the UC San Diego deal would provide little in the way of revenues. Wednesday the stock soared to as high as $300 – a $27.6 billion market cap. TLRY did $17 million in revenues for the first-half of 2018. Let’s double that for the next 6 months and give them credit for a forward 12-month revenue stream of $68 million, which is more than generous. That means at Wednesday’s peak, TRLY was trading at 405x forward revenues. But from Q2 2017 to Q2 2018, its operating loss nearly quintupled, from $2.3 million to $11 million. We don’t know to what extent, if ever, this business model will be profitable.

Tilray closed just below $100 on Monday. On Tuesday the stock jumped $17, adding $1.5 billion to its market cap on the “news” that the Company “successfully” delivered CBD capsules to 29 “critically ill children” at a hospital in Victoria, Australia. There was no mention of revenue or profit impact of this “event,” which means this “feat” will be an expense item. Funny thing about CBD products, they are egally available in high concentration capsules and tinctures to anyone. See Ambary Gardens, for instance.

Marijuana was approved for medical use in Colorado in 2008. It was approved for recreational use in 2012. From 2008 to present, the retail price for “top shelf” weed has gone from $350 per ounce to as low as $150 per ounce. Once marijuana is legalized in a jurisdiction, the barrier to entry for producers and distributors is low. This means that, over
time, the selling price of marijuana will begin to approach the cost of production plus the cost of distribution plus a small profit incentive for growers and distributors. I have to believe the big tobacco companies are waiting impatiently for the Federal Government to legalize marijuana out of desperation to generate tax revenues. Then it’s game-over for existing growers.

TLRY’s operating loss including non-cash stock compensation was $14.7 million in the first half of 2018. Net of the huge jump in accounts payable, TLRY’s operations burned $11 million in cash in the first 6 months of 2018. TLRY insiders are sitting on 83 million of the 92 million shares outstanding. I’ll be curious to see how quickly insiders begin to register their shares and unload them. It’s only a matter of time before ground-floor investors try to quietly unload shares. They are idiots if they don’t.

The point here is that, while the run-up in stocks like Tesla and Netflix has been absurd, the trading action is Tilray has been absolutely insane. As it turns out, with only 17.8 million shares in the public float, TLRY has been engulfed by a vicious short-squeeze made even worse by momentum-chasing hedge fund algos and day-traders. Buyers blindly chasing the price higher, driven by fearless greed and the expectation that they will be able to unload their stock purchase on the next buyer willing to pay even more for the stock in complete disregard to valuation considerations.

This is very similar to the early 2000 dot.com/tech stock bubble. Tilray’s price rise to $300 is similar to rise in Commerce One. I was short CMRC at $200/share, which at the time was a completely irrational valuation. CMRC then ran quickly up to $600. But $600 was the top and it fell off a cliff from there.

Fundamentals Supporting Stock Market Further Deteriorate

The Bureau of Economic Analysis calculates and publishes an earnings metric known as the National Income and Products Accounts which presents the value and composition of national output and the types of incomes generated in its production. One of the NIPA accounts is “corporate profits.” From the NIPA handbook: “Corporate profits represents the portion of the total income earned from current production that is accounted for by U.S. corporations.”

The BEA’s measurement of corporate profits is somewhat similar to using operating income from GAAP financial statements rather than net income. The BEA is attempting to isolate “profits from current production” from non-production noised introduced by GAAP accounting standards. “Profits from current production provide a comprehensive and consistent economic measure of the net income earned by all U.S. corporations. As such, it is unaffected by the changes in tax laws, and it is adjusted for non-reported and misreported income” (emphasis is mine).

Why do I bring this up – what is the punch line? Because the NIPA measurement of corporate profits is currently showing no growth. Contrast this with the net income “growth” that is generate from share buybacks, GAAP tax rate reductions and other non-cash GAAP gimmicks used to generate GAAP net income on financial statements. This does not surprise me because I use operating income when judging whether or not companies that are reported as “beating” estimates are “beating” with accounting gimmicks or actual products derived from the underlying business.

It’s quite easy for companies to manufacture net income “beats.” But it’s more difficult – though possible – to manipulate operating income. The deferment of expenses via capitalizing them (taking a current cost incurred and sticking it on the balance sheet where the cost is amortized as an expense over time) is one trick to manage operating income because expense capitalization reduces the quarterly GAAP expense that is connected to that particular expenditure (capex, interest, etc).

The point here is that corporate operating profits – or “profits from production” per the BEA – are not growing despite the propaganda from Wall Street and the President that the economy is “booming.” Furthermore, if we were to adjust the BEA numbers by a true inflation number, the resulting calculation would show that “real” (net of price inflation) corporate profits have been declining. Using this measure of corporate profitability as one of the measures of economic health, the economy is not doing well.

August Auto Sales – August auto sales reported the first week of September showed, on a SAAR (Seasonally Adjusted Annualized Rate basis), a slight decline from the July SAAR. The positive spin on the numbers was that the SAAR was 0.4% percent above August 2017. However, recall that all economic activity was negatively affected by the two huge hurricanes that hit south Texas and Florida. The SAAR for this August was reported at 16.5 million. This is 11.2% below the record SAAR of 18.6 million in October 2017. It was noted by LMC Automotive, an auto industry consulting firm, that “retail demand is deteriorating” (“retail” is differentiated from “fleet” sales). Sedan sales continue to plummet, offset partially by a continued demand for pick-up trucks and SUVs.

Casting aside the statistically manipulated SAAR, the industry itself per Automotive News reported 1.481 million vehicles sold in August, a number which is 0.2% below August 2017. In other words, despite the hurricane-depressed sales in August 2017, automobile manufacturers are reporting a year over year decline in sales for August. This was lead by a stunning 12.7% drop in sales at GM. I’ll note that GM no longer reports monthly sales (only quarterly). But apparently an insider at GM fed that number to Bloomberg News.  Automotive News asterisks the number as “an estimate.” Apparently GM pulled back on incentives. On a separate note, I’m wondering what will happen to consumer discretionary spending if the price of gasoline continues to move higher. It now costs me about 35% more a year ago to fill the tank in my car.

The commentary above is an excerpt from the latest Short Seller’s Journal.  I  recommended shorting GM at $42 in an early November 2017 issue of the Short Seller’s Journal. It hit $34 earlier this past week. That’s a 19% ROR over the time period. In the last issue of the Short Short Seller’s Journal, I recommended shorting Wayfair (W) at $149.92, last Friday’s close. W is down $3.50 – or 2.3% – despite the rising stock market. My recommendation include put option ideas You can learn more about this newsletter here:  Short Seller’s Journal Information

Reasons To Optimistic About The Precious Metals Sector

The September 7th COT report is probably the most bullish I’ve seen since the beginning of my involvement in the precious metals sector in 2001. As most of you probably know by now, the “commercial” trader category is now net long both gold and silver for the first time going back to at least 1994. The banks (“swap dealers”) net long position in both paper metals increased. Conversely the hedge fund net short increased in both.

It may take a few weeks for gold to push through $1215-1220, as the hedge fund algos will be looking to attack the price until they have covered their enormous net short position. That said, it will take only one particularly surprisingly bad economic report or unexpected geopolitical event (Syria, trade war, domestic political surprise, reckless Trump tweet, etc) to trigger a spike-up in the price of gold. Once this occurs, the hedge fund computers will race to cover their shorts, which will drive the price higher very quickly.

Trevor Hall and I co-produce the Mining Stock Daily, a brief, daily overview of news and events connected to the precious metals and mining stock market. We focus on junior mining stocks. We are looking to exploit audio information distribution on 10 different digital platforms including Anchor, Alexa, Apple Podcasts, etc. Trevor and I discussed why there is cause for optimism in the precious metals sector for MSD’s Friday feature interview segment (click on graphic to listen):

Precious Metals, Mining Stocks, Housing Market – What’s Next?

“The housing market is 100% a function of the Fed’s money printing.  Half the money the Fed printed, $2.2 trillion, went directly into the housing market.”

Analysts and financial media meatheads look at the $4.5 trillion created by the Fed and truly believe that it wasn’t money printing because it’s “backed” by Treasury bonds and mortgages.  But this is pure ignorance.  Not taken into consideration is the amount of credit and debt issuance enabled by using the $4.5 trillion as the “reserve capital.”  It’s fractional banking on steroids.

As the U.S. financial system reaches its limit on the amount of debt that can be serviced from the current level of wealth output, what happens next?  We’re already seeing what happens in the housing market per the fact that the homebuilder  stocks are in an “official” bear market, with some of them down over 30% since late January.

Then what?  The Fed will have to print multiples of the original amount it printed or face systemic collapse. At that point the precious metals sector will soar beyond anyone’s imagination at this point in time.

Phil Kennedy (Kennedy Financial) invited me to discuss these issues on his podcast.  Phil’s podcasts blend truthseeking, facts, humor, humility and sarcasm.  It’s  well-worth the time spent to listen:

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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.

Will The Housing Market Fall This Fall?

“The number of homes on the market surged, the number of sales dropped, and price reductions were abundant last month, all signs that buyers are pulling back in metro Denver” – Denver Post (September 6, 2018) citing the Denver Metro Association of Realtors.

Buy a home now if you must if you manage to qualify for one of the de facto sub-prime mortgages sponsored by the Government Taxpayer. But I guarantee that if you wait 6-12 months, you’ll be able to buy the same home or a better home for a lower price…

Denver has been one of the top-10 hottest housing markets in the past few years, largely driven by an enormous inflow of households moving to Denver from California. However, I started seeing signs developing of a market top that were similar to the indicators I noticed leading up to the popping of the last housing bubble.

As reported by the Denver Metro Association of Realtors (NAR-affiliate) single-family home sales dropped 7.5% in August from July and were down 9.8% from August 2017.Condo sales dropped 5% in August from July and fell 15.6% year over year. At least 30% of the sales were below the original listing price. The inventory of listed homes rose at a record rate for the month of August. Normally inventory from July to August drops a small amount.

Based on articles I encounter in my research or sent to me by subscribers, most if not all of the hottest markets are experiencing a similar development. The spokesman for the Denver affiliate of the National Association of Realtors, like a good salesman, attributes the declining sales to “push-back” from buyers. But, as you might well have expected, I disagree with that assessment.

As I’ve discussed previously, the Government lowered the bar on mortgage qualification requirements for its mortgage programs starting in 2015 in order to counter, what was then, a deteriorating housing market. The Government has lowered the bar on its guaranteed mortgages each successive year since 2015. A growing portion of the home-buyers using Government guaranteed mortgages would have been considered “sub-prime” in the previous mortgage/housing bubble.

In effect, the Government has kept “juicing” the housing market by enabling a larger population of people to buy a home that they otherwise could not afford unless they could get a low-down-payment, rate-subsidized, sub-prime quality Government mortgage. At some point, the limit will be reached on the number of people who can qualify under the current requirements. I would argue that the system is approaching that point.

The second factor in reduced buyer demand is the potential buyers who can qualify for and afford a mortgage from any issuer (Government or private-label) are starting to see a lot more inventory come on the market accompanied by falling prices. Many will hold off on the decision to sell their existing home and “move-up” in order to see if prices come down. It doesn’t take a genius to understand that the prices are going to go lower when you drive around desirable neighborhoods and see a lot of “for sale” signs.

Once the buyers are in full-retreat, we’ll start to see sellers get more aggressive on pricing and we’ll see motivated sellers panic. Similar to the last bubble, the motivated sellers will primarily be “investors” who are stuck with a home they can’t rent at a rate that covers their expenses and flippers who can’t sell at a price that covers the costs of buying the home and preparing it to flip. Just like 2008, this is when the “price wars” will start (as opposed to the buyer “bidding wars” in a bull market) and prices spiral south.

This is why the stock chart of the Dow Jones Home Construction Index looks like this:

The homebuilder stocks have been in a bear market since the end of January. Many homebuilders are down over 30% since then. If that fact surprises you, it’s likely because you get your news from CNBC, Bloomberg, Fox Biz or the Wall St Journal, none of which have reported the bear market in home construction stocks. This is just like the mid-2000’s bubble leading up to the financial crisis. The homebuilders peaked in July 2005 and were in a full-fledged bear market before 2007.