Will The New Bitcoin CME Futures Contract Benefit Gold?

The Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) announced a plan to launch Bitcoin futures by the end of the year. The price of Bitcoin surged to a new record in response to the announcement.  It was reminiscent of the dot.com era, when a dot.com stock would jump 10% if Maria Bartiromo merely whispered the name of the company on CNBC.

Ironically, the cheers for this new contract from the Bitcoin faithful could turn out to be analogous to chickens in the barnyard cheering at the appearance of Colonel Sanders.

GATA released an article about the new Bitcoin futures contract titled “So Long Cryptos.” I’m sure that editorial stance puzzled most Bitcoin price-momentum chasers.  Crypto aficionados, for now, overlook the fact that CME futures are used aggressively to push around the dollar-based Comex gold and silver futures contracts.

As GATA points out, the ability to manipulate precious metals futures contracts by the official entities motivated to suppress the price of gold is reinforced by the volume trading discounts given from the CME to Governments and Central Banks who trade on the CME.

If there any reason to assume that the same volume discounts will not be extended to the Bitcoin contract?  Another curious feature of the Bitcoin contract is that it will be settled in cash.  I would point out the original intent behind futures contracts was to enable producers and users to agree ahead of time on a price that would be paid for the delivery of the underlying commodity associated with the futures contract.  Futures were a financing tool intended to facilitate the production and distribution of the underlying commodity product.

The Bitcoin futures contract is settled only in cash – U.S. dollars.  To wit, does this not theoretically sabotage the intended purpose of Bitcoin, which is to provide an alternative to fiat currencies?  Why would you want to receive fiat dollars rather than delivery of the underlying?

Technically this is not a bona fide futures contract. It’s a derivative of the “index” price of Bitcoin but it does not facilitate the production and distribution of Bitcoin.  As such, it’s an instrument of pure speculation. By definition, this opens the door to manipulation by the entities who might be motivated to control the price of Bitcoin. Oh, by the way, those entities can buy and sell the contracts at a price advantage to the speculators by virtue of the volume discounts.

At least with gold and silver contracts, the contract enables the contract owner to take delivery of the actual physical commodity connected to the contract. To a limited extent, this mechanism serves to prevent the complete unfettered manipulation of gold and silver via the Comex futures contract.

With the Bitcoin futures contract, the contract owner is paid cash.  The absence of a requirement to deliver actual Bitcoins enables the issuance of an unlimited number of fiat dollar-based paper Bitcoin contracts which can be used to drive the price lower by increasing the supply of the contract relative to the demand.  So much for the idea that Bitcoin supply issuance is firmly capped. This could  actually be quite entertaining to observe

It’s also quite possible that Bitcoin futures could divert hedge fund trading volume away from gold and silver futures. This would be a blessing in disguise if this occurs.  The price-momentum chasing hedge fund algo trading enables the Comex bank manipulation of Comex futures contracts.  Remove this source of volume and it will remove to some degree the ability of the banks to push the price around by exploiting the hedge fund algos.

If the percentage of open interest in gold and silver Comex futures contracts becomes skewed toward the users of these contracts who actually take bona fide delivery of the underlying physical gold/silver bars because the non-delivery-taking users move over to Bitcoin futures, it could  mitigate the ability of the banks to price-cap the price of gold/silver.  

In this regard, investors who prefer to keep their wealth stored in physical gold and silver rather than fiat dollars or fiat Bitcoins will indeed welcome the new Bitcoin futures product.

As A Dog Returns To Its Vomit, Stock Jockeys Return To The Ponzi Stocks

Bull markets are born on pessimism, grow on skepticism, mature on optimism, and die on euphoria. – Sir John Templeton

I’ve always admired John Templeton. Not as the “father” of the modern mutual fund but because I considered him to have been one of the most intelligent thinkers in at least my lifetime (55 years). In 2003 he gave an interview from his retirement “perch” in the Bahamas to one of the financial media organizations. He stated at the time that he would not invest in the U.S. housing market until “home prices go down to one-tenth of the highest price homeowners paid.” Imagine what he would say today…

“As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly” (Proverbs 26:11). That proverb is particularly applicable to today’s “everything bubble,” especially stocks and housing. The current en vogue is to compare today’s market to 1987, when the Dow crashed 22.5% in one day. Honestly, I don’t think it matters whether you use 1929, 1987,
2000 or 2007. By just about any conceivable financial metric, the current stock market is the most overvalued, and thereby the most dangerous, in U.S. history. The other “vomit” to which analysts “returneth” are the attempts to explain why today’s extreme valuations are “different” from the extreme overvaluations at previous pre-crash market tops. I find the “interest rates are record lows now” to be the most amusing.

On Friday, the momentum-chasing hedge funds and retail daytraders couldn’t get enough of the FAANGs (FB, AMZN, AAPL, NFLX, GOOG) + MSFT. AMZN’s stock ran up $128, or 13.2%, which was still less than AMZN’s biggest one-day percentage jump of 26.8% on October 23, 2009.  AMZN’s stock price has been highly correlated with  amount of money printed by the “G3” (U.S./Japan /EU) Central Bank money printing machine.  But since July, AMZN’s stock began to diverge negatively from the growth path of G3 money supply. The FANGs in general had been losing steam starting in June. AMZN was particularly weak after it reported that big loss in July. It took one absurd headline “beat” for AMZN to “catch back up” into correlation with the growth line of G3 money printing (FYI, the Fed’s balance increase slightly in October, despite the announcement that it would be reduced by at least $10 billion in October).

The stock market will head south quickly sooner or later. The “curtain” is being “pulled back”on stock Ponzi schemes one by one. The truths about Tesla (TSLA) are beginning to emerge in public finally. Eventually the stock market will take a hard look behind the Amazon (AMZN) curtain. Ponzi schemes can flourish during periods of bubble inflation. But when bubbles deflate, Ponzi schemes fail. It’s no coincidence that Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme fell apart in late 2008 (he admitted guilt in December 2008). It began to become unmanageable during 2007, when the stock market started to head south. Eventually it will become impossible to cover up fundamental facts from the investing public. Fundamental facts about the economy, corporate earnings and the financial system. That’s when the rush toward the exits will commence.

The above commentary/analysis is from the latest issue of the Short Seller’s Journal. In that issue I review AMZN’s Q3 financials in-depth. This includes excerpts from the SEC-filed 10-Q used to demonstrate why Jeff Bezos’ LTM “Free Cash Flow” of $8.05 billion is a Ponzi number and the true GAAP Free Cash Flow is -$3.9 billion. AMZN is a cash-burning furnace and I prove it. To find out more about this and other ideas for shorting this bloated stock market, click here: Short Seller’s Journal information.

Oil For Gold – Real Or Imagined?

By having control of the physical market for gold, China can threaten to use it to destabilize the dollar, without destabilizing the yuan. As such, it is potentially devastating, and used carelessly could trigger an economic collapse in Western capital markets, wreaking financial and economic havoc in America and other advanced nations. China will never be wholly independent from trade with these nations, and severe financial and economic damage to the advanced economies will rebound upon her to some extent. For this reason, she has so far held off using gold as an economic and financial weapon, while she continues to insulate herself from periodic crises in Western economies.   – Alasdair Macleod (Oil For Gold)

In response to questions about when China would finally cast aside the dollar and run the price of gold up, I’ve always replied that China would be shooting itself in the foot if it tried to replace the dollar too quickly.  Don’t forget, China holds about $1.2 trillion in the form of Treasuries. Note: this ratio does not include the market value of its gold holdings, the actual amount of which is unknown outside of a small circle of Chinese officials.

When the idea of a gold-backed yuan-denominated oil futures contract surfaced, it became en vogue for those unable to analyze their way  out of a paper bag to issue commentary refuting the idea.  For some, if an event has not already occurred, they are unable to “see” it.

This article from Alasdair Macleod is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the path leading up to the ability to convert oil sold in yuan or gold by China’s largest oil suppliers.  Judging by the various recent oil trading and gold trading agreements between Russia and China, the conversion of oil sales into gold  may well be already occurring in a two-stage process between Russia and China.

The purpose of this article is to put the proposed oil for yuan contract, which has been planned for some time, into its proper context. It requires knowledge of the history of how China’s policy of internationalising the yuan has been developed, and will be brought up to date with an analysis of how the partnership of China and Russia is taking over as the dominant power over the Eurasian land-mass, a story that is now extending to the Middle East. To read the rest click here: Oil For Gold – Macleod

While Alasdair does not overtly acknowledge the idea of a gold-backed oil contract coming from China, I would argue that the article about a gold-yuan oil futures contract  in the Nikkei Asian Review – a highly regarded publication – was likely floated intentionally by the Chinese Government. If you read through Alasdair’s article, it’s difficult not to come away with the impression that China has been methodically and patiently putting together the pieces to support the ability to convert oil sold China – benchmarked by the yuan – ultimately into gold.

Yes, the fact that China does not currently permit gold to be removed from China in large quantities needs to be addressed.  Analysts using this to refute the oil/yuan/gold notion seem to conveniently overlook the fact that regulations can be revised.  I would suggest that “footprints in the snow” are leading to this eventuality. It’s now possible to sell oil to China in dollars or rubles or rials then  convert the proceeds into offshore yuan and buy gold in China’s Free Trade Zone.  As Alasdair himself points out:  “Gold futures contracts in yuan are now available to international dealers in Hong Kong and Dubai using the SGE gold price as benchmark.”

Furthermore, the Commercial Bank of China (State-owned) is the sponsor of a gold futures contract offered by the London Metals Exchange.  Seems pretty obvious that an oil seller can ultimately convert the proceeds of oil sold to China into gold using three transactions.  Why not consolidate that process into one contract?  I would suggest that a gold-backed yuan-denominated oil futures contract is inevitable.  Just maybe not one the timeline preferred by the western gold investing community.

Amazon: The Devil Is In The Details

Jeff Bezos/Amazon is the poster-child for the degree to which this entire economic and political system is profoundly corrupt. – Investment Research Dynamics

Amazon stock made a big after-hours “shock and awe” move after it reported a huge headline “beat” of its Q3 earnings.  It’s a funny thing how the “beat the Street” game works.  Ninety days ago the consensus estimate for Q3 was $1.09, with one estimate as high as $1.59. The estimates were systematically “walked down” over the last 3 months to a mean estimate of 2 cents and a high-end estimate of 26 cents. This is how the game is played.

Make no mistake, the Company knowingly “guides” analysts down in order to engineer a “headline” surprise. This is how absurd this game has become. The “beat the numbers” game is one of the many frauds connected with corporate earnings reports. That said, AMZN’s EPS in Q3 2017 were the same as Q3 2016 – zero EPS growth. Bear in mind that GAAP acquisition accounting manipulation is heavily at play here.  Acquisition accounting enables a company to boost revenues and hide expenses.

Here’s just a cursory look at the “Devil in the details” (Short Seller Journal subscribers will get the in-depth, eye-opening analysis in the next issue released Sunday afternoon).

Amazon’s headline revenue “growth” cost AMZN a lot money in terms of operating earnings.  Despite the “marquee” 34% sales “growth” rate, AMZN’s operating income plunged nearly 40% year/year for Q3.  This drop in operating income has accelerated, as YTD for the first 9 months of 2017, AMZN’s operating income has dropped 32%.

This should have been the quarter that AMZN literally “printed” GAAP income because the quarter included its highly touted “Prime Day” record sales.  Furthermore, AMZN should have been able to reap the benefits of merger/acquisition accounting from its Whole Foods acquisition.  M&A GAAP standards enable companies literally to manufacturer GAAP accounting profits.   I would suggest that Bezos’ price-cut strategy at Whole Foods has driven WFM’s operating margin toward zero (from 4% pre-acquisition) – like the rest of Bezos’ consumer sales businesses.  But there’s more…

AMZN’s GAAP net income showed no growth – literally in Q3.  In 2016 AMZN reported $252 million in net income for Q3.  In 2017 it reported $256 million.  EPS were flat at 53 cents (basic).  Zero growth.  For this, AMZN’s market cap after hours increased by $37 billion.  But there’s more…

Without going into the monotony of GAAP tax rate accounting, suffice it to say that anyone who has taken a basic accounting course knows that the GAAP tax rate is highly arbitrary and a major source of EPS manipulation.  Again, the Devil is in the details…

In Q3 2016, AMZN used a 47% GAAP tax rate.  This latest quarter, AMZN capriciously applied an 18% GAAP tax rate.  Had AMZN maintained the same GAAP tax rate used last year, its net income in Q3 2017 would have declined to $200 million, or 41 cents/share. For this, the last buyer after hours ($1,047) was willing to pay 266x trailing twelve month earnings.

This is just the beginning of an in-depth look at the rotting condition of the numbers buried in AMZN’s financial statements.  The next issue of the Short Seller’s Journal will pull back the curtain on areas of AMZN’s SEC-filed numbers where no Wall Street analyst or financial media cheerleader would ever dare venture.  AMZN’s cash flow is declining – and its true free cash flow – not the Bezos non-GAAP “free cash flow” – is negative.  I can prove it.

The highly-touted acquisition of Whole Foods could turn out to be Jeff Bezos’ “Wings of Icarus.”  He may have flown too close to the sun on this one.

The information I present in the Short Seller’s Journal is actionable.  The last two times AMZN’s stock shot up I put a short recommendation on AMZN’s stock (including put option ideas) which led to profitable short-covering opportunities.  In the last issue I advised waiting until after Q3 earnings, stating that a big gap-up in after-hours would lead to another opportunity to short the stock.  You can find out more about the Short Seller’s Journal here:  Subscriber Information link.

“Party Like It’s 1999” (or 2008 or 1987 or 1929)

To paraphrase the highly regarded fund manager and notable bear, John Hussman, you can look like an idiot before a Bubble pops or after it’s popped.

I guess I’m squarely in the camp of looking like an idiot before the bubble pops. I might watch “The Big Short Again” for some “moral fortitude.” With history’s stamp of approval on my side, all I can do is shake my head and chuckle. As soon as the Dow crossed over 23,000 on Wednesday, the “experts” on bubblevision began speculating how long it would take for the Dow to hit 24k. I was actively trading and shorting dot.com stocks in late 1999 and the curent environment feels almost exactly like it felt then. Wake up everyday and wait for Maria Bartiromo to breath the name of a dot.com stock you were short and watch it spike up 10-20% on her signal. The Nasdaq ran from 2,966 to 4,698 – 1,700 pts or 58% – in 4 months. It was painful holding shorts but very rewarding after the brief period of “suffocation.”

It feels like the market could go into a final parabolic lift-off to its final peak before the inevitable. The non-commericial (i.e. retail) short-interest in the VIX – meaning retail investors are “selling” volatility – hit another all-time high this past week. This a massive and reckless bet against any possibility of any abrupt downside in the market. It reflects unbridled hubris. Don’t forget, smart money and banks are taking the other side of this bet.

To think that any Trump tax reform bill that might get passed will improve the fundamentals of the economy and lead to higher corporate earnings is absurd. The tax bill proposal is nothing more than a huge windfall for the wealthy (as in, 8-figure net worth and above) and Corporate America. The plan is, on balance neutral to negative for the average middle class household. Although it doubles the standard deduction, it eliminates the deduction for state and local taxes, which means you’ll lose the deduction for property taxes. It also will steer a large portion of middle class homeowners away from itemizing deductions, which means it will marginalize or eliminate the ability to use mortgage interest as a deduction. Corporations of course will benefit the most – as the tax rate would be lowered from 35% to 20% – because they throw the most money at Congress.

It’s estimated that the tax plan would cost the Government $6 trillion in revenues over the next 10 years. At $600 billion per year, this would have doubled the “official” spending deficit for FY 2017 (Note: if you include the debt issuance that was deferred until the debt limit ceiling was suspended – a little more than $300 billion – the amount debt that would have been issued by the Government in FY 2017 would have been about $1 trillion. This number is the actual spending deficit).

In short, even if some sort of “compromise” legislation is passed, the tax “reform” would do little more than shift trillions from revenue going to the Government to cash flow going into the pockets of Corporate America and the upper 1% (and really the upper 0.5%). That said, any notion that the stock market melt-up this past week is connected to the tax reform effort is idiotic. This is because it will add $100’s of billions per year in Government debt issuance requirements and will do little, if anything, to stimulate economic activity.

On the contrary, the stock market behavior is attributable to the last-gasp capitulation that characterized the coup de grace phase of any previous stock market bubble. This includes the re-surfacing of phrases like, “it’s different this time,” “it’s a new economic paradigm,” “stocks have reached a permanent plateau,” etc. CNBC even featured a graphic last week which showed Bitcoin as having a P/E ratio. Sheer madness.

It’s different this time? – As much as I hate to listen to radio ads when I’m driving (I listen to the local sports talk-radio programming and normally switch to music during the 5 min ad breaks), in the past several weeks I’ve been listening to the commercial breaks. The reason for this is that radio ads often reflect the current local trends in demand for services /products. Starting in late summer, frequent ad spots have been occupied by: 1) a service that offers IRS back-tax settlement services; 2) numerous mortgage brokers pitching “use your house as an ATM and take-out home equity loans to pay-down credit card debt and have money for the holidays;” 3) “make fast money” home-flipping seminars.

In terms of middle-class demographic trends, Colorado has always been regarded as a leading indicator for most of the country between the coasts. The IRS tax settlement service ads tell me that the middle class has run out of disposable income: can’t pay taxes owed, credit card debt is too high, and is worried about holidays. I’ve been discussing this development for quite some time. The tax thing is self-explanatory. There’s likely similar companies/law firms all over the country running ads pitching tax settlement services. Wage-earners will under-withhold their paycheck taxes to help cover current spending and hope that year-end bonuses, or whatever luck fate might have in store, will enable them to pay what they owe when they file.

The “use your house as an ATM” ad is disturbing. This was an idea originally proposed by Greenspan in 2002 and put aggressively into action from 2004 to 2008. In 2004 Greenspan advocated using adjustable rate mortgages. How did that end up? The reason it won’t go on for another four years is that households are stretched on their Debt-To-Income profile (pretax income to debt service ratio) relative to the 2004-2008 period. Household debt – auto/credit card/student loan + mortgage – already exceeds the 2008 peak. Back then, home values were rising right up until late 2007/early 2008. Currently, in most markets home prices are starting to drop (this was occurring by late summer, so it’s not just “seasonal,” which is an argument you might hear). I’m starting to get email notices of homes listed in every price segment that are dropping their offer price up to and over 10%. This includes apartments in the under $400k price-segment (according to the NAR, the average price of existing home sales declined 2.7% from August to September – more on existing home sales below).

As enough home sales are closed with price drops greater than 10%, the fun begins. As I’ve detailed in previous issues, an increasing percentage of buyers right now are flippers (those radio ads are occurring for a reason). Enough people have decided that they “don’t want to miss out” on the “easy money” being made flipping homes. Guess what? They’ve missed out. The majority of flippers who have purchased in the last 3-6 months that have not been listed or are listed but just sitting are soon going to be looking for buyer bids to sell into. The problems will start when the flippers who used debt to buy their “day-trade” discover that the current “bid side” for their home is below the amount of debt used to buy the house.

Just like upward momentum in stock and home prices induces daytraders and flippers respectively to chase prices up in anticipation that someone will readily be willing to pay them even more, falling prices in stocks and homes generates motivated selling and scares away buyers. With homes it’s slightly different. Falling stock prices tend to generate selling volume that “forces” the market lower quickly. With stocks, there will be short-sellers who provide some liquidity to sellers as the shorts cover on the way down.

Housing, on the other hand, goes from a “liquid market” in rising markets to an ‘illiquid market” in falling markets. A home is a “chunky, high-ticket” item that takes time to close. In falling markets, the value of a home declines measurably before the buyer closes. Because of this, buyers will disappear until the market appears to have stabilized. Unlike stocks, homes can’t be shorted, which means there are no buyers looking to take a profit on a bet the market would fall. Often price falls in a “step function.” By this I mean there will be price-gaps to downside in the market as buyer “bids” disappear completely (i.e. bid-side volume vanishes).

I’m seeing this dynamic in the over $1,000,000 market in Denver. I have friend who lives in a high-priced neighborhood in south Denver (Heritage Hills). He had his house on the market for close to a year and couldn’t move it at a price that was in-line with comps (he’s a licensed real estate agent). The problem is that homes were not selling in his ‘hood. I told him if he marked it down $100k he could probably move it. He said he would wait for the market to improve and took it off the market. That was in July. It’s too late. Homes over $1mm are being reduced in price in $100,000 “chunks” now. I’ve gotten several “price change alerts” for homes around Denver listed during the summer that are lowering their offer in $100k steps. Some of them have been lowered already 15-20% from their original listing price. It gets worse.

One of the Short Seller Journal subscribers who lives in the south Denver metro area sent me a note about a home he has been watching in Castle Rock, which is about 35 minutes south of downtown Denver in a very pretty area along the foothills. The area ranges from cookie cutter middle class neighborhoods to a high-end, exclusive country club community. It was one of the hottest bubble areas in the mid-2000s bubble. He showed me a home that was listed in May for $1.39 million. Since then it’s been taken down $400k in four price changes. The last price cut was $200k.

This is an example of extreme “step function” price drops. Maybe the house was over-priced to begin with, but not by nearly 30%. The original offer price has to be based loosely on comps or no listing broker would touch it. It’s on its fourth listing agent. Last summer (2016) it’s quite likely this house would have moved somewhere near the offer price. He also told me that he’s seeing more pre-foreclosure and foreclosure activity in the homes around $1,000,000 in that area. This is how it starts and I’m certain this is not the only area around the country where this is starting to occur.

GE Brings Good Things To Short-Sellers

GE hit $8 in 2008. If you short the stock with some patience, this stock is, in my opinion, a low-risk bet that it will at least drop 50% over the next 12-18 months. – January 29, 2017 issue of  Short Seller’s Journal

General Electric has been a no-brain’er short this year.  I recommended it as short on January 29th.    The “legendary” Jack Welch practically invented corporate financial engineering and  accounting manipulation as we know it today (sorry if you are under 35 managing money and don’t know who Jack Welch or what accounting manipulation is).

So imagine my shock when GE has been reporting earnings “misses” for several quarters, including the most recent.  GE must be the only company in the S&P 500 that can’t seem to beat Wall Street’s quarterly ritual of essentially laying an earnings “bar” on the ground over which companies “proudly” step each quarter.  On the other hand, it’s likely an indicator of just how bad the real  numbers are at GE.  I guess Welch’s legacy is finally haunting the Company.  And for Halloween investors might be getting a dividend cut in their “treat bag” from GE.

Back at the end of January I said this in the Short Seller’s Journal:

For it’s latest quarter, operating earnings dropped year over year despite a slight year over year increase in revenues for the quarter. It’s operating earnings also dropped for the first nine months of 2016 vs. same period in 2015. For the first 9 months of 2016, GE’s operations burned cash, although they’ll attribute that to “discontinued” operations, which burned $5.3 billion for the period.

Companies often classify money-losing businesses as “discontinued” with the intent to sell them. But until the disco’d businesses are sold, GE has to live with them. This is yet another earnings management technique, as GE can then separate out the “discontinued” business numbers from the “continuing operations” for as long as GE still controls the disco’d businesses. This enables GE to present an earnings number that does not include the losses associated with the disco’d businesses. It thereby enables GE to present a managed “GAAP” earnings metric that is significantly higher than the true earnings of GE’s operations.

GE reported its Q4 earnings on January 20th. It has not filed a 10Q yet but it “met” earnings expectations and missed sales. The oil-related business is one of the heavy weights on GE’s operations. Despite “meeting” estimates and a rosy analyst spin on the earnings report, the stock dropped 4.7% over the next two days, diverging very negatively from the Dow, which moved higher, up and over 20k.

You can see from the chart on the previous page that GE plunged below its 50 and 200 dma’s and failed to trade back up to the 200 dma while the Dow was hitting 20,000. This is a very bearish chart and it looks like big funds are dumping their shares. This is a more “conservative” short-sell play but the stock could easily drop 50% over the next 12-18 months.

Wall Street has finally begun to downgrade its earnings forecasts and stock price targets on GE.  I guess better late than never but anyone who listened to Wall Street in January expecting GE to be at $40 now is having a hard time sitting down without pain.

On the other hand, GE brings good things to short-sellers.  There’s stocks that are falling out of bed every day.  In the latest issue released yesterday, I presented a home construction supply company who’s stock has gone parabolic that, based on the fundamentals, is more of a lay-up short than GE seemed back in January.  You find out more about the Short Seller’s Journal by clicking here:  Short Seller’s Journal info.

This was emailed to me yesterday from a subscriber: “Sometimes I grow weary about short selling in this market, and then you come up with one good one, that shows me it really can fall down. I almost gave up on FCAU [SSJ’s recommendation to short Fiat Chrysler in the Sept 24th issue], but did not. Keep up the good work!”

The Squeeze Is On

Has anyone besides me wondered what happened to the documented accusations about Ray Dalio and his Bridgewater fund management operation?  The allegations were out there and it was big news for about a day.  I would appear to have been quickly covered-up and the media has been given a “leave it alone” warning.

It’s been my view since circa 2003 that “they” would hold up the system with printed money and credit creation until every last crumb of middle class wealth was swept off the table and into the pockets of those in position to do the sweeping:  Corporate America, the very wealthy (“wealthy” = enough disposable cash to buy a few politicians and Federal judges) and the political elite – the latter of which are compensated pawns for the first two cohorts. You can call yourself a “one-percent’er.” But is you don’t have the kind of cash lying around that it takes to bribe high level politicians (i.e millions), you are middle class.  Who are “they?” Here’s a great description:

Look at Obama – perfect example. Obama delivered nothing on his original campaign promises. He was going to “reform” Wall Street.  But the concept of Too Big To Fail was legislated under Obama and Wall Street indictments/prosecutions fell precipitously from the previous Administration.  Obama was supposed to clean up DC. What happened there?

Obama left office and entered into a world of high six-figure Wall Street-sponsored speaking engagements and to live in a $10 million estate in Hawaii paid for by the Chicago elite (Pritzkers etc).  Now Obama will be paid off $10’s of millions for his role in aiding and abetting the transfer of trillions from the middle class to the elitists. Look at Bill and Hillary – need I say more?  Trump has reversed course on his campaign promises twice as quickly as Obama.  Almost overnight after his inauguration, Trump became a war-mongering hand-puppet for the Deep State’s “Swamp” creatures.

The media has been willingly complicit in this big charade. Much to my complete shock, Brett Arends has published a commnentary on Marketwatch which, from an insider, warns about the media:

Do you want to know what kind of person makes the best reporter? I’ll tell you. A borderline sociopath. Someone smart, inquisitive, stubborn, disorganized, chaotic, and in a perpetual state of simmering rage at the failings of the world. Once upon a time you saw people like this in every newsroom in the country. They often had chaotic personal lives and they died early of cirrhosis or a heart attack. But they were tough, angry SOBs and they produced great stories.

Do you want to know what kind of people get promoted and succeed in the modern news organization? Social climbers. Networkers. People who are gregarious, who “buy in” to the dominant consensus, who go along to get along and don’t ask too many really awkward questions. They are flexible, well-organized, and happy with life. And it shows.

This is why, just in the patch of financial and economic journalism, so many reporters are happy to report that U.S. corporations are in great financial shape, even though they also have surging debts, or that a “diversified portfolio” of stocks and bonds will protect you in all circumstances, even though this is not the case, or that defense budgets are being slashed, when they aren’t, or that the U.S. economy has massively outperformed rivals such as Japan, when on key metrics it hasn’t, or that companies must pay CEOs gazillions of dollars to secure the top “talent,” when they don’t need to do any such thing, and such pay is just plunder.

The News Media Is Worse Than You Think – This is good to read to because it confirms my worst suspicions: The system behind the “curtain” is more corrupt than any of us can imagine.

The Fed’s Everything Bubble And The Inevitable Asset Crash

Do not mistake outcomes for control – remember, there is no such thing as control – there are only probabilities. – Christopher Cole, Artemis Capital

Central Banks globally have created a massive fiat currency fueled asset bubble.  Stock markets are the largest of these bubbles – a bubble  made worse by the Fed’s attempt to harness the “power” of HFT-driven algo trading.  At least for now, the Fed can “control” the stock market by pushing the buttons that unleash hedge fund black box momentum-chasing and retail ETF  buy orders whenever the market is about to head south quickly.

However, the ability to push the stock market higher without a statistically meaningful correction is a statistical “tail-event” in and of itself. The probability that the Fed can continue to control the market like this becomes infinitesimally small. The market becomes like a like a coiled spring. The laws of probability tell us this “spring” is pointing down.

The Fed announced in no uncertain terms that it was going to begin “normalizing” – whatever “normalize” means – its balance sheet beginning in October.  Going back to 1955, the furthest back in time for which the data is readily accessible, the Fed Funds rate has averaged around 6%.  But for the last 9 years, the Fed Funds rate has averaged near-zero.  Back in May 2013 Ben Bernanke threatened the markets with his “taper” speech.  More than four years later the Fed Funds rate is by far closer to near-zero than it is to the 62-year Fed Funds rate average.  Can you imagine what would happen to the stock market if the Fed actually “normalized” its monetary policy by yanking the Fed Funds rate up to its 62-year average of 6%?

In September the Fed announced that it would begin reducing its balance sheet by $10 billion per month starting in October. Before the Fed began printing money unfettered in 2008, its balance sheet was approximately $900 billion.  If we define “normalize” as reducing the Fed’s balance back down to $900 billion, it would take 30 years at $10 billion per month. But wait, the Fed’s balance sheet is going the wrong way.  It has increased in October by $10 billion (at least thru the week ending October 18th).  So much for normalizing.

The Fed is stuck. It has created its own financial Frankenstein. Neither can it continue hiking interest rates nor can it  “normalize” its balance sheet without causing systemically adverse consequences.  The laws of probability and randomness – both of which are closely intertwined – tell us that, at some point, the Fed will lose control of the system regardless of whether or not it decides to keep rates low and maintain the size, more or less, of its balance sheet.

Jason Burack invited me onto his Wall Street For Mainstreet podcast to discuss the Fed’s “Everything Bubble,” why the Fed can’t “normalize” its balance sheet and the unavoidable adverse consequences coming at the system:

 MINING STOCK JOURNAL                           –                SHORT SELLER’S JOURNAL

The Big Short 2.0: The NAR Whiffed Badly This Month

Based on the National Association of Realtor’s “Seasonally Adjusted” Annualized Rate (SAAR) metric, home sales were said to have ticked up 0.7% in September from August. On a SAAR basis they declined 1.5% from September 2016.  In his customary effort to glaze the pig’s lips with lipstick, NAR chief “economist” and salesman, Larry Yun, asserted that sales would have been stronger but for the hurricanes that hit Florida and Texas.

This guy should do some better vetting of the data before he tries to spin a story. The Houston Association of Realtors was out a week earlier stating that Houston home sales were up 14% in September from August and up 4.2% from September 2016. Yun’s fairytale is a stunning contrast to what is being reported from Houston. But it illustrates the fact that the data on housing the NAR reports is highly suspect.

As I’ve been detailing for years, the NAR’s existing home sales report is highly manipulated and flawed.  It works well for the industry and the media in rising markets, but the real estate market has rolled over and is preparing to head south.  Likely rather quickly.  As it turns out, the September existing home sales report released Friday reinforces my view that the market is starting to topple over.  I go over the details in the next issue of the Short Seller’s Journal, with a couple examples which foreshadow a collapse in the over $1,000,000 price segment of the market.  This in turn will affect the entire market.  I always suspected that the “Big Short 2.0” would start at the high-end.  An example outside of Colorado can found here:  Greenwich Sales Plunge.

Four weeks ago I presented a housing-related stock as a short good idea.  The stock is down nearly 10% in four weeks.   How can this be?  Isn’t the housing market hot?  It will be going much lower.  This week I’ll be featuring a housing industry supplier stock that went parabolic and will soon go “cliff dive.”  If you want to find out more about this subscription service, click here:  Short Seller’s Journal info.

I love your Short Seller’s Journal. Keep up the great work – recent new subscriber

Get Ready To Party Like It’s 2008

Apparently Treasury Secretary, ex-Goldman Sachs banker Steven Mnuchin, has threatened Congress with stock crash if Congress doesn’t pass a tax reform Bill.  His reason is that the stock market surge since the election was based on the hopes of a big tax cut.  This reminds me of 2008, when then-Treasury Secretary, ex-Goldman Sachs CEO, Henry Paulson, and Fed Chairman, Ben Bernanke, paraded in front of Congress and threatened a complete systemic collapse if Congress didn’t authorize an $800 billion bailout of the biggest banks.

The U.S. financial system is experiencing an asset “bubble” that is unprecedented in history. This is a bubble that has been fueled by an unprecedented amount of Central Bank money printing and credit creation. As you are well aware, the Fed printed more than $4 trillion dollars of currency that was used to buy Treasury bonds and mortgage securities. But it has also enabled an unprecedented amount of credit creation. This credit availability has further fueled the rampant inflation in asset prices – specifically stocks, bonds and housing, the price of which now exceeds the levels seen in 2008 right before the great financial crisis.

However, you might not be aware that Central Banks outside of the U.S. continue printing money that is being used to buy stocks and risky bonds. The Bank of Japan now owns more than 75% of that nation’s stock ETFs. The Swiss National Bank holds over $80 billion worth of U.S. stocks, $17 billion of which were purchased in 2017. The European Central Bank, in addition to buying member country sovereign-issued debt is now buying corporate bonds, some of which are non-investment grade.

The table to the right shows the YTD performance of the US dollar vs. major currencies and the gold price vs major currencies. The dollar has appreciated in value YTD vs. alternative fiat currencies. More than anything, this represents the false sense of “hope” that was engendered by the election of Trump. As you can see from the right side of the table, gold is also up YTD vs every major currency. Note that gold has appreciated the most vs. the U.S. dollar. The performance of gold vs. fiat currencies reflects the fact that Central Banks globally are devaluing their currencies by printing currency and sovereign debt in increasing quantities. The rise vs. the dollar also reflects the expectation that the Fed and the Treasury might be printing even more currency and Treasury debt at some point in the next 6-12 months. This is despite the posturing by the Fed about “reducing” the size of its balance sheet, which is nothing more than scripted rhetoric.

“We have the worst revival of an economy since the Great Depression. And believe me: we’re in a bubble right now.” Donald Trump, from a Presidential campaign speech

Margin debt is at a record high. At $551 billion, it’s double the amount of margin debt outstanding at the peak of the tech bubble in 2000. It’s 45% greater than the amount of margin debt outstanding at the peak of the 2007 bubble.

Stock investors and house-flippers in the U.S. now make investment decisions based on the premise that, no matter what fundamental development or new event occurs, the market will always go up. “It’s different this time” has crept back into the rationale. The markets are particularly dangerous now. The concept of “risk” has been completely removed from investment equation.

This dynamic is the direct result of the money printing and credit creation which has enabled the Fed to keep interest rates near zero. The law economics tells us that increasing the supply of “good” without a corresponding increase in demand for that good results in a falling price. This is why interest rates are near zero. The Fed and the Government have increased the supply of currency via printing and issuing credit. Investors , in turn, are taking that near-zero cost of currency and credit and throwing it recklessly in all assets, but specifically stocks and homes.

Currently, anyone who puts their money into the stock, bond and housing markets in search of making money is doing nothing other than gambling recklessly on the certainty of the outcome of two highly inter-related events: 1) the willingness of Central Banks to continue pushing the price of assets higher with printed money; 2) the continued participation of investors who are willing to pay more than the previous investor to make the same bet. Most asset-price chasing buyers have no idea that they are doing nothing more than sitting at a giant casino table game.

The current bubble has been created by a record level of money printing and debt creation globally. Unfortunately, the upward velocity of rising asset prices has seduced investors to recklessly abandon all notion of risk. Based on several studies on investor cash holdings as a percentage of their overall portfolio (cash on the sidelines), investors are “all-in.” One would have to be brain-dead to not acknowledge that global Central Bank money-printing has caused the current “everything” asset bubble. But it’s a “fear of missing out” that has driven investors to pile blindly into stocks with zero regard for fundamental value. Even pensions funds, according to someone I know who works at a pension fund, have pushed equity allocations to the limit.

For the most part, Central Banks are now posturing as if they are going to stop printing money and, in some cases, “shrink” the size of their balance sheet (i.e. reverse “quantitative easing”). To the extent that the first chart above (SPX futures) reflects a combination of Central Bank money printing and investors going “all-in” on stocks (record low cash levels), IF the Central Banks simply stop printing money and do not shrink their balance sheets, who will be left to buy stocks when the selling begins?  If they do shrink their balance sheets, the central banks will start the selling as they have to sell their holdings in order to shrink their balance sheets.