Category Archives: U.S. Economy

Put A Fork In Tesla – It’s Done

Tesla has been “done” for awhile but many of the Wall Street and investor “uber” bulls are finally starting to see this reality.  Amusingly, Wedbush’s Dan Ives issued a report in which he lowered his price target on Tesla stock from $270 to $235.   He refers to Tesla’s situation as a “code red situation.”  Quite frankly, a “code red situation” with regard to a company and its stock price should be regarded as, “sell your shares if you’re long and get out of the way.”

How someone with the credentials to occupy a stock analyst’s seat at a stock brokerage – even if it is just Wedbush, a retail pump and dump mill – can truly believe that Tesla stock is worth the $40 billion market cap at $230/share is truly mind-blowing.  As an example, consider just a basic valuation metric.  The average automotive car OEM trades at an enterprise to revenue ratio of 0.2x revenues.  At the high-end Toyota trades at 0.6x revenues. That’s because Toyota sports a 7.5% operating margin.  Tesla’s market cap plus debt is 2.6x revenues, or 13x greater than the industry mean.

It would be useful to use other valuation metrics but Tesla does not generate any profits beyond its highly suspicious gross profit as shown in its SEC filings. It would also be useful to know if Dan Ives owns any Tesla shares. Does he really put his money where is mouth is?

That aside, Tesla shares are going to zero. Tesla stock broke down last week, closing at its lowest price since December 21, 2016. The stock is down $44 (17.5%) since May 6th, when it closed at $255 after completing the stock/convertible deal. It’s down 43% from its $370 close after the “funding secured” incident (August 8, 2018). Today the shares traded as low as $195 before a dead-cat short-cover bounce that has lifted the shares back over $200.

Tesla has likely entered into an irreversible death spiral. The only question at this point is how long it will take for the stock to head below $10 and how long the Company can stay solvent. There are scattered reports that the latest price cuts have stimulated a brief increase in sales of the Model S and X, but nothing has been verified. To be sure, sales of the Model 3 have fallen off a cliff in Europe and China, as an increasing number of potential buyers are made aware of the poor quality and follow-up service of this vehicle.

At TSLA’s current cash-burn rate, it won’t make it until the end of the year without a sales turnaround miracle on par with Moses seeing God in a burning bush. I doubt the Company will ever be able to raise money again. The stock does not have value as an acquisition because I highly doubt any potential acquirer would pay an amount that would cover Tesla’s debt load plus other fixed obligations.

In my 34+ years of experience in the financial markets, I’ve witnessed several Pied Piper types who have led their faithful  off the cliff.  Elon Musk for my money is the greatest purveyor of cult of personality that I’ve observed in my lifetime.  I don’t know how else to explain, at least for myself, how so many seemingly intelligent people continue to support Musk’s glaringly indisputable fraud.

Utter Insanity…

That’s the only way to describe this stock market. It won’t end well for the hedge funds whose algos are chasing price momentum nor for the retail daytraders playing the game of “greater fool.” Apparently CSCO and WMT’s “beat” triggered a multi-hundred point spike in the Dow on Thursday. Funny thing about that. CSCO’s one-cent “beat” has been routine since the late 1990’s.

Walmart also “beat.” But for Walmart, the numbers below the headline sucked. The 1.1% revenue growth was well below 1% if you strip out gasoline price inflation from Sam’s Club numbers. Speaking of Sam’s, membership revenue was down 7.9% (these are FY Q1 vs Q1 last year). Operating income was down 4.1%. The “beat” was manufactured by one-time “other gain” that was not defined in the 8-K. This enabled WMT to generate the headline “beat.” Cash flow provided by operations dropped from $5.1 billion last year to $3.5 billion this year – not good. Despite the deteriorating financial fundamentals, the stock market added over $7 billion to WMT’s market cap.

But that’s a tempest in a teapot compared to the the IPO valuations of companies like Lyft, Uber and WeWork. These companies not only have never made a dime of profit, but they bleed billions negative cash flow. Yet, a $50 billion stock market valuation set by the underwriters is greedily bought into by hedge funds. That’s your pension money at work, folks. It’s amusing to watch the hand-puppets on financial cable tv frown when stocks like Uber and Lyft drop a quick 20% from the IPO date.

The prized “jewels” in the stock market – i.e. the stocks with the best performance over the last 4 months – are the ones with escalating operating losses on increasing revenues. But the stocks soar when the earnings announcement hits the tape with the phrase “beat estimates” – which means the company lost slightly less money than forecast by Wall Street’s brightest.

But these companies all share a common trait: a tragically flawed business model in which the only way to grow revenues is to charge the end user a price that does not cover the all-in cost of producing the product or providing the service but which attracts end-users because the price is lower than the competition. Despite eventual financial doom from the start, the stock market currently values this type of business model over companies that generate bona fide cash/economic profits.

I’m reviewing a company in my next issue of the Short Seller’s Journal which trades at a price/sales multiple that is 15-times higher than the industry average. Its operating losses grow at a double-digit rate every quarter sequentially and double every quarter year-over-year. We can’t use any of the other tradition valuation metrics because the company has negative cash flow, massive net losses and negative forward earnings. This is all nothwithstanding the fact it operates in a highly cyclical industry with declining sales.

I mention this to illustrate just how far off the rails the stock market has traveled. The current stock market bubble is at an historical extreme. It’s worse than 1999 or 1929 – I don’t care what the manipulated GAAP p/e ratio comparison shows. I was trading tech stocks in the late-90’s bubble and this current one is worse. IT’s utterly insane…

April Retail Sales Soiled The Bed Sheets

Perhaps the perma-bullish Wall Street analysts should contribute to retail sales by stocking up on Depends – like the Merrill Lynch analyst who forecast retail sales to climb 0.7% ex-autos. Retail sales, preliminarily, were said to have declined 0.2% from March.   The “core” retail sales group – retail sales not including autos and gasoline – were flat. Wall Street’s finest expected a consensus 0.4% gain.

I say “preliminarily” above because, if you scan the Census Bureau’s report you’ll note “asterisks” in several major line items.

This means that “advance” numbers were not available for those retail sales categories.  Thus, the CB guesstimates the number based on past numbers for that category.  It also means the Census Bureau can overestimate that category for headline purposes with the intent to revise lower in future reports.

Retail sales numbers are reported on a nominal basis.  If they were to be adjusted by a real rate of inflation, the month to month decline from April likely would have approached at least one half of one percent.

Funny thing about the guesstimate for new car dealer sales.  The OEM’s report actual deliveries to new dealers every month.  I would have to believe that new car dealers have highly automated sales tracking software. It would seem that the Census Bureau should be able to have a fairly accurate data sample and estimate for April new car dealer sales well before the middle of the following month. But using the (*) enables the Government to manipulate the number into a favorable outcome for the “advance” report.

We know that the average household – i.e the 80-90% of all households – are struggling under the weight of record monthly debt service requirements on a record amount of consumer debt. This plight is made worse by the fact that real wages are declining.  Not to judge Wall Street analysts harshly (said sarcastically), but it should be obvious that retail sales were going to show a decline in April.  Imagine how bad the actual number must be if the Government has to release a guesstimated report showing a nominal decline.

In my weekly Short Seller’s Journal, I present detailed analysis of weekly economic reports. In addition, I provide specific short ideas along with suggestions for using options to short stocks synthetically. You can learn more about this newsletter here:  Short Seller’s Journal information

Global Synchronized Depression: Buy Gold And Silver Not Copper

It’s not “different this time.” The steep, prolonged yield curve inversion reflects the onset of a deep global economic contraction which is now being confirmed by leading indicators such as semiconductor and auto sales.  At some point the Fed is going to be forced by the market to cut the Fed Funds rate, as the 1yr Treasury is now yielding less than the Fed  Funds target rate. In addition, the yield curve is inverted from 1yr out to 7yrs, with a steep inversion between the 1yr and 3yr Treasurys.  It won’t take much flinching from the Fed to ignite a rally in the metals.  In addition, the investor sentiment as measured by MarketVane is about as low as I’ve seen it in a long time (34% bullish for both gold and silver).

We are headed into a severe global recession with or w/out a trade agreement. To be sure, over the next 10-20 years, it’s likely the price of copper will move higher. But if my view plays out, a severe recession will cause a sharp drop in the demand for copper and other base metals relative to the demand over the last 10-15 years. This in turn will push out the current supply/demand forecasts for copper by several years and drive the price of copper lower.

Trevor Hall and I discuss the global economy, the intense western Central Bank gold price manipulation activity and the factors that will drive the price of real money – gold and silver – higher and commodities like copper lower in our latest Mining Stock Daily podcast – click here or on the graphic below:

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You can learn more about  Investment Research Dynamics newsletters by following these links (note: a miniumum subscription period beyond the 1st month is not required):  Short Seller’s Journal subscription information   –   Mining Stock Journal subscription information

Actual Home Sales Are Tanking – Here’s Proof

The National Association of Realtors (NAR – existing home sales reports) and the Census Bureau (new home sales reports) report monthly sales on a “seasonally adjusted annualized rate” basis (SAAR). Notwithstanding the reliability – or lack thereof – of the “seasonal adjustments,” it would seem absurd to report monthly home sales on an annualized rate basis.

To the extent the NAR and Census Bureau’s data sausage-grinder is fed inaccurate data and thereby vomits a bad monthly “adjusted” number, annualizing that result magnifies the error. As it turns out, when sales are declining, the regression models used to “seasonally adjust” the data collected overstates actual sales (year over year monthly existing home sales have declined 13 months in a row).

A better measure of real homes sales is to look at actual numbers from companies in the business of pimping used homes or building and selling new homes. Realogy (RLGY) is the perfect laboratory rat for existing home sales. Realogy is the leading provider of real estate services in the U.S. under the brand names of Coldwell Banker, ERA, Sotheby’s, and a few others. Its shares plunged 15% on Thursday as losses from Q4 accelerated in Q1. Revenue declined 9% year-over-year vs a 6.2% in drop in Q4. The culprit was a 4% drop in transaction volume. The actual “same store sales” decline was likely larger because RLGY’s Q1 numbers are skewed by the acquisition and franchising of Corcoran, making the this quarter’s year/year comps irrelevant.

If any business reflects the true condition of the housing market, it’s RLGY. Existing home sales represent 90% of total home sales and RLGY is the largest real estate brokerage concern in the country. Yes, some select areas may still be showing “red embers” of activity. But most of the country is headed into what will ultimately be a severe housing recession. RLGY was down another 8.7% on Friday. It’s now down 33% since reporting its numbers last week.

RLGY may still be worth shorting here. It’s bleeding cash. It lost $135 million on an earnings before taxes basis (the income statement did not show operating income as line item). Its operations burned $103 million. The Company added an additional $100mm in debt, which now stands at $3.3 billion. The bond issue which it floated in Q4 had a coupon of 9.375% – a triple-C rated yield. Triple-c rated companies typically have a high probability of eventually going bankrupt. The tangible book value of the company – i.e. subtracting goodwill – is negative $1.6 billion. I wouldn’t touch RLGY’s bonds any more than I would touch TSLA’s or NFLX’s bonds. RLGY is on track to run out of cash by the end of September.

In the new home sales arena, Beazer (BZH) stock has plunged 18.4% since reporting its latest quarterly numbers on Friday. BZH’s closings were down over 10%, revenue down 4.6% and its gross margin plummeted (sales incentives to move inventory). Even adding back the write-down of California inventory, BZH’s net income was nearly cut in half and new orders were down close to 8% in the first 6 months vs 2018.

Note: it looks like homebuilders will begin the inventory write-down cycle again. It starts slowly and snowballs into an avalanche. So much for the “tight inventory” narrative that shoved down our gullet the NAR’s little con-artist, Larry Yun.

In my weekly Short Seller’s Journal, I present detailed analysis of the housing market, pulling back the curtain of lies used by industry pimps to hide the truth. In addition, I provide specific short ideas along with suggestions for using options to short stocks synthetically. You can learn more about this newsletter here:  Short Seller’s Journal information

Massive Asset Bubbles And Cheap Gold And Silver

Notwithstanding today’s absurdly phony and propagandistic employment report, it’s becoming more apparent by the week that the Fed and the U.S. Government are once again preparing to print more money. I don’t know when the Fed will revert to more QE but I would argue that the intense effort by the banks to use the Comex as a conduit to control the price of gold is a probable signal – just like in 2008 from March to October. Several FOMC officials have already hinted at the possibility of employing “radical” policy measures to keep the system from falling apart.

Silver Liberties invited on its podcast to discuss the extreme overvaluation of financial “assets” and the extreme undervaluation of real money – gold and silver – and the related derivative of real money – mining stocks.

Semiconductor Chips Are The Modern Dutch Tulip Bulbs

The semiconductor stocks continued melting up last week until Intel threw some cold water on the Dutch tulip bulb price-chasing party. TXN reported Tuesday after the close. Revenues declined 5% from the year-earlier quarter. The management stated that “demand continued to slow across most markets. TXN then said Q2 revenues would drop 10% from Q2 2018. It said earnings would be down 13%. Management also explained that historically down-cycles last 4-5 quarters. With the Company 2 quarters into a down-cycle, it would seem that the “green shoots” sighted by some companies in Q1 are nowhere in sight. TXN insiders have been very heavy sellers of the stock.

The chart below is a good example of how the hedge fund algo and retail daytrader momentum chasers operate:

TXN closed around $116.50 before it reported. On the headline “beat,” TXN stock spiked up $6 almost immediately. Price-discovery then set in, as the after-hours traders dumped shares in response to the fundamental reality of TXN’s earnings report. The stock closed after-hours at $113.70, down nearly $9 from the initial reaction to the headlines.

But then on Wednesday Dutch tulip-mania gripped TXN’s stock price. TXN opened green from Tuesday’s regular close and traded as high as $118.99. This is despite the Company’s lowered guidance for the next few quarters. The last time TXN experienced a two-quarter sequential decline in revenues was in 2001 during a recession.

The only news that might have affected TXN’s stock price on Wednesday was a warning about possible further deterioration in its business that accompanied Amphenol’s Q1 earnings report. But Amphenol’s report should have affected TXN’s stock negatively. This market action is exactly like the price-chasing action in late 1999/early 2000.

Semiconductor stocks are the 2019 version of Dutch tulip bulbs. Recall the price of Dutch tulip bulbs rose to insanely high levels during the mid-1630’s, as people chased the price of Tulip bulbs higher, hoping to re-sell them for a profit. With no warning, the price crashed in February 1637.

That’s how the dot.com bubble behaved, including the sudden sell-off that began in March 2000 without any prior warnings other than common sense. I expect that is the same path that the chip stocks will follow. The chip stocks are melting-up in price in complete divergence from the underlying fundamentals. Whereas previously several companies expressed hope for green shoots in the second-half of the year, the last few companies to report (Siltronics, Nanya, TXN and Amphenol) have not mentioned the possibility of a recovery in the sector for the second half of the year.

Xilinx (XLNX) reported a “miss” on Wednesday after the close. Its stock plunged 17% on Thursday. Prior to that, the stock was trading at an insane 12x sales. XLNX’s data center business was down 12% sequentially and 7% yr/yr (the cloud growth is slowing).

Intel reported an obligatory revenue and EPS “beat.” But the market finally payed attention to guidance. INTC cut full-year and Q2 guidance. Management said customers were becoming more cautious, especially in China. Data center inventories are larger than was commonly thought. INTC also said it expected a much more difficult flash memory market. These are chips used in consumer electronics, scientific instrumentation, robotics and medical electronics. INTC stock dropped 9% on Friday.

The chip stocks are setting up for an epic sell-off. Trump can slap the Fed around like a race-horse’s ass while making juvenile demands for lower rates and more money printing all he wants. At some point the collapsing underlying economic fundamentals will remove the termite-eaten legs from beneath the market’s barstool.

The commentary above is an excerpt from the latest Short Seller’s Journal. To learn about the semiconductor stocks I’m shorting and recommending to my subscribers, please visit this link: Short Seller’s Journal information.

The Historical Stock Bubble And Undervalued Gold And Silver

When the hedge fund algos inevitably turn the other way and unload stocks, a meaningful amount of the capital that leaves the stock market will likely rush into gold and silver.  The record hedge fund net short position on the Comex will add fuel to the move in gold/silver.

James Anderson of Silver Doctors/SD Bullion invited me to discuss the largest stock bubble in U.S. history and why gold is extremely undervalued relative to the U.S. dollar.  (Note:  at the 20:44 mark I reference China’s foreign reserves to be $1.2 trillion. This is the dollar amount of China’s reserves; China’s total foreign reserve is $3 trillion).

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You can learn more about  Investment Research Dynamics newsletters by following these links (note: a miniumum subscription period beyond the 1st month is not required):  Short Seller’s Journal subscription information   –   Mining Stock Journal subscription information

Hedge Funds Record Net Short Paper Gold

The latest commitment of traders report (COT report) showed that the hedge funds on the Comex (the “managed money” account) is now net short 33.9k contract of paper gold.  This is a record net short position in paper gold for the managed money account on the Comex.  The previous all-time high was 27.2k contracts at the end of December 2015.

This explains a lot to me about the character of the price decline in gold since early April. Just like in the stock market, the large macro “quant” funds use computer algorithms to momentum trade Comex futures. It’s this factor that caused the price of gold to drop quickly once it went below its 50 dma on April 12th. The shift to a net short positioned reflects hedge fund computers unloading long positions and piling into the short side.

At some point this dynamic will go the other way and, at the very least, there will be a significant short-covering rally as the hedge fund positioning swings back the other way. This will really get interesting if the hedge fund algo move to cover  shorts on the Comex at the same time the stock market heads south again. This would  stimulate a hedge fund algo party that could finally send gold over $1400.

The Mining Stock Journal focuses on junior exploration mining stock ideas and, on a selective basis, larger-cap producing mining stocks. You can learn more about this newsletter here:  Mining Stock Journal information

How Banks Create Money Out Of Thin Air

“The credit creation theory was something I intuitively grasped before from other alt-media sites, John nailed it down.” – Comment from someone who watched the podcast below

The “money supply” number as provided by official Federal Reserve statistics, it turns out, is not the true money supply. The fractional banking system allows banks to lend money on its reserve capital at a rate of 90 cents for every $1 of reserve capital. Technically, a loan is not considered “money creation” because of the legal provision that a loan has to be paid back. Because of this legal “glitch,” the creation of credit is not considered to be part of the money supply.

Yet, borrowed money behaves in the economy exactly like printed money until that point in time at which the borrow must pay back the loan. The spending power created by the creation of credit is identical to the spending power of printed money. The person or entity doing the spending does not know the difference.

This means that the amount of debt issued and outstanding by the U.S. Treasury should be added to the “official” money supply number (for example, M2) in order to calculate the true supply of money circulating in the system.  This especially true because the amount of debt issued by the U.S. Government increases in quantity on a daily basis – it’s never repaid (anything considered “repaid” has been repaid with new debt).

In this podcast, which is the latest segment of John Titus’ “Mafiacracy” series, Titus explains how and why it is that banks create money out of thin air. Once you understand the principles reviewed in this podcast, you’ll understand how the U.S. became a giant Ponzi Scheme: