Tag Archives: stock bubble

“Mother Of All Blow-Offs?”

People who look for easy money invariable pay for the privilege of proving conclusively that it cannot be found on this earth. – Jesse Livermore

Boeing’s stock has gone parabolic. It’s doubled since April 2017:

The stock now trades at a 31x PE ratio, for whatever that’s worse. I’m sure if I went through the numbers closely, I could find numerous accounting manipulations which added a copious amount of non-cash income to BA’s numbers. BA’s revenues on a trailing 12 month basis are flat. From 2015 to 2016, its revenues declined 1.7%. On a trailing twelve month basis vs. 2016, its revenues have dropped 3.2%.

Historically paying a nose-bleed PE ratio for a company with deteriorating revenues and an enormous amount of debt does not produce a good result. Chasing the price-momentum higher and waiting for a bigger idiot to buy shares from you works well until the music stops. Then everyone gets hurt.

The Dow moved up an average of 120 pts per day in the nine trading days since the end of 2017. This includes one day in which the Dow dared to close 12 pts lower. That one day felt like a bear market. Over this entire period the Dow has appreciated 4.4%. Since the election, including the 1,000 pt plunge in the Dow futures that occurred when it was apparent Trump would win, the Dow has soared nearly 50%.

What’s driving this? Since late August, the public has literally thrown money blindly into passively managed ETFs which automatically distribute the cash inflow by market cap weighting into the stocks in the index that underlies the ETF. This means that most of the gains are concentrated in the stocks in the Dow/SPX with the largest market caps, which then drives the Dow/SPX higher. For instance, last Friday, the Dow was up 0.89% but AMZN was up 2.2%, Netflix was up 1.8%, GOOG was up 1.5% etc.

There’s no telling how much longer this can persist without some type of accident. Judging by the data on cash in customer brokerage accounts at the big online brokers , I would have to believe that this last push from the retail investor is nearing its completion. Data from the fund industry has shown a massive migration of investor cash moving out of actively managed mutual funds and into passive index funds. This would include money managed on behalf of individuals by registered investment advisors.

Most investor sentiment indicators are showing extreme levels of bullishness – historically unprecedented levels.  The short interest on the NYSE has melted down nearly to zero.   The Acting Man blog has written an excellent post which details the sentiment indicators flashing bright red warning lights – I recommend a perusal:   Mother Of All Blow-Offs

For now, the raging bulls chasing momentum conveniently ignore  the deterioration in “new orders” and “employment” numbers in deference to the statistically manipulated headline reports that purport to show economic growth. Most of the bullish reports are overweighted with “sentiment” and “hope” metrics that offset declining real economy statistics.  Credit card and auto loan delinquencies – both subprime and “prime” –  continue to increase a double-digit rates (see WFM or COF’s latest quarterlies, for instance).  As for the “prime” credit rating designation of 2017, it’s not your mother’s “prime” credit rating.

At this point I don’t want to speculate on how much longer that Dow/SPX/Naz can go straight up. Historically this is the type of market behavior which has marked the blow-off top of speculative manias and has preceded serious market accidents.

Is this the “Mother Of  All Blow-Offs?” Probably.

Part of the commentary above was excerpted from the last issue of the Short Seller’s Journal. Believe it or not, there’s 100’s of stocks that declining or have set-up short-sell opportunities.  Long term puts are historically cheap and shorting certain companies is a no-brainer.  I had my subscribers short Sears at $12.   Last week I presented homebuilder to short that is down 6.7% on the week, so far.  To learn about about this newsletter, click here:  Short Seller’s Journal information

Returning to a Gold Standard – Why and How

This article is from Dr. Fraser Murrell via The Daily Coin:

In the 1600s, Sir Isaac Newton presided over a (bi-metal) Gold and Silver Standard, with the flaw being the fix of silver to gold. In the 1900s, John Maynard Keynes “revolutionized” economics, with the result being certain economic collapse. In both cases there was a logical error in the key definition of “price”, which is critical to the stability of the economy. This note examines the problem and then goes on to present a workable Gold Standard, which it is argued, is the most stable frame of reference for our economy.

You can read the rest of this here:   Returning to a Gold Standard

Toxicity Plus Toxicity Does Not Equal Purification

Paper is a check drawn by legal looters upon an account which is not theirs: upon the virtue of the victims. Watch for the day when it bounces, marked, ‘Account overdrawn.’ – Francisco’s “Money” Speech – from “Atlas Shrugged”

You have to love it – the City of Houston issues $1.01 billion  “pension obligation” bonds to “ease” the underfunding of the underfunded public pension fund.  “Pension underfunding”  is the politically acceptable euphemism for “debt obligation.”  Underfunding occurs when a pension investment returns PLUS future beneficiary contributions are not enough to cover current beneficiary payments.

Some might say it’s the difference between the NPV of future payouts and the current value of the fund. But that’s horse-hooey. Houston had a cash flow deficit it had to address and it did that by issuing taxpayer obligation debt – $1.01 billion dollars of taxpayer debt.  Furthermore, let’s use a realistic NPV and ROR assumption on any pension fund plus throw-in a real mark to market of illiquid assets like PE fund investments.  Every pension fund in the U.S. is tragically underfunded.

The rational remedy would be to cut beneficiary payments or force larger contributions from current working stakeholder or both.  The problem is that implementing either or both of those remedies might cost elected officials their jobs in the next election.

Instead, the proverbial can is kicked further into the sewage ditch by issuing more debt and using the the proceeds to help the pension fund cover current cash outflows to beneficiaries.  Regardless of what you call it, an underfunded pension liability is simply “debt”.  This bond issue might ensure that Houston’s retired public employees will continue, for now, to receive their expected flow of monthly pension payment, but this bond deal in no way whatsoever “eases” the debt burden of the pension fund.  Rather, it shifts wealth from the taxpayers to the retired public employees.

Similarly, the Trump Tax Cut does nothing more than shift the distribution of wealth from 99.5%’ers to the 0.5%’ers plus big corporations.  In this case, it’s not wealth per se.  Rather, it’s shifting the burden of supporting the Government’s spending deficit from the tax cut beneficiaries (billionaires and big corporations) to the rest of the population.

I could care less what CBO projections show – CBO forecasts are always appallingly inaccurate – the Government’s spending deficit is going to accelerate next year.   Between the cut in tax revenues from Trump’s Tax Cut and the big jump in spending built into the budget for defense and re-paving the roads that were paved during the Obama era, total spending will soar.  The gap between inflows and outflows will be bridged with more Treasury bond issuance.

Remember the narrative about systemic “deleveraging” after the great financial collapse crisis? Turns out that story-line was a fairy-tale.  Treasury debt hits a new all-time everyday  and has more than doubled since the end of 2008.  Non-financial corporate debt hits a new all-time high every and is 71.4% higher than it was at the end of 2008.  Auto debt hits an all-time high every day;  credit card debt is close to an all-time high and student loan debt hits an all-time high every day.  Household debt not including mortgage debt hits an all-time everyday and is 43% higher than at the end of 2008.   The household numbers do not include NYSE margin debt, which is at at all-time high and an all-time high as percent of GDP.

The stock market is impervious to the accelerating level of debt at all levels of the U.S. financial system – at least for now.  At least until enough households and businesses get a message that says “account overdrawn,” like this person received directly from the bank teller last week (from a reader):

Great post Dave, Had a bit of a real world experience on this yesterday. Heading out to make the last biz deposit yesterday and met the mailman end of driveway and got another check. No deposit slip so asked the drive-in teller to just use my account number on the checks to deposit this. He left the intercom on. In rolls one of those massive bubba-mobiles big enough to blot out the sun..it looked like a pretty/very new one but could be wrong. I hate these loud diesel stinking machines. Anyway Bubba was trying to make a withdrawal out of his home equity credit line for $300. The teller came on and told him he was maxed. He fumed how can it be maxed?…”Well” he said “there have been 3 withdrawals in the last 2 weeks for $2200.” He whips out his phone and calls his wife (?) Raises his voice, guns the engine and off he goes…..with no cash. How often is this being repeated around the country every day…

Is Sub-Prime Auto Loan Armageddon Coming?

I experienced a real eye-opener this past week. The lease on my fiance’s Audi A3 terminates soon. I was scanning the “pre-owned” inventory at the two largest Audi dealers in Denver expecting to see some good deals on 2013/2014 Audi A4’s that had come off lease. Instead, I was shocked to see at both dealers a large selection of 2016/2017 A4s with less then 20k miles. Some under 10k miles. I even saw a 2018 with something like 6k miles on it.

Why was I shocked? Because most of these vehicles had to have been repossessed. If there were only a couple almost brand new Audi A4s with very low mileage on them, it’s plausible that the buyers/lessee’s traded them in because they didn’t like them. The bigger dealer of the two had six 2017’s, all of them with 11k or less miles. Most if not all of these cars had to have been repo’d because of lease/loan default. We plan on waiting a couple more months because her lease expires in March and I suspect that the inventory of near-new Audis will be even larger and the prices will be even lower.

My theory was confirmed when I came across a blog post from a blogger (Cold War Relic) who is a car salesman (What’s Going On?): “People are buying cars they can’t afford or shouldn’t even have been able to buy.” He goes on to explain that: “I went to my buddy Paris’ repo lot. He called me to check out a 2016 BMW 435i he jacked for BMW Financial Services…as we walked through [the lot] I noticed all of the cars seemed to be nearly new. Paris confirmed my fears when he told my about nine-out-of-ten vehicles he’s repossessed in the last few months were model year 2016 or newer” (emphasis is mine).

Here’s the coup de grace: “To make matters worse Paris only does work for prime and a few captive lenders, meaning a majority of these cars went out to consumers with good credit.” In a past Short Seller’s Journal issue in which I discussed the rising delinquency and default rates on auto loans, I suggested that, in addition to the already soaring default rates on subprime auto loans, I believed the default rate on “prime” auto loans would soon accelerate. This is in part because a lot of prime-rated borrowers would have been considered subprime a decade ago. But it’s also in part due to the fact that the average household’s disposable income is getting squeezed and what might seem affordable in the present – e.g. an brand new Audi or BMW lease/loan payment – can quickly become unaffordable.

A recent article from Bloomberg discussed “soaring” subprime auto loan defaults in connection with the fact that several Private Equity firms bought out subprime auto lending companies starting about six years ago. The investment rationale was based on expanding the loan portfolios and cashing out the “value” created in the IPO market. One company, Flagship, was bought out by Perella Weinberg in 2010. It took the loan portfolio from $89 million 2011 to nearly $3 billion. Bad loan write-offs have soared. PW tried to IPO the company in 2015. It’s still trying. Based on the two anecdotes of new car repossessions described above, it’s a good bet that the investments in most subprime auto lenders will eventually have to be written-off entirely.

The total amount of subprime auto loans outstanding is nearly $300 billion. This number is from the NY Fed. I would argue that, in reality, it’s well over $300 billion. If you add to that the amount of subprime credit card debt outstanding, the total amount of “consumer” subprime debt is in excess of the amount of subprime mortgage debt ($650 billion) at the peak of the mid-2000’s credit bubble. This is not going to end well. In fact, I suspect the eventual credit implosion will be much worse than what occurred in 2008.

A Collapsing Dollar Will Trigger The Next Big Move In Gold And Silver

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. – from “Atlas Shrugged”

Sorry MAGA-enthusiastics, it’s all a lie.  The tax legislation just passed will lead to higher Government spending deficits, a near-parabolic acceleration in Government debt issuance and a possible collapse of the dollar.  The U.S. is in systemic collapse.  Perhaps the biggest manifestation of this is the grand money-grab by the elitists enabled by blatant political corruption.

Alasdair Macleod published an essay that I highly recommend reading as you gather together your thoughts heading into 2018. 2018 will possibly see the next stage in the collapse of the dollar. I disagree with Alasdair’s attributing the control over the formation and implementation of economic and geopolitical policy to Trump. Notwithstanding this disagreement,  I believe Aladair’s analysis of monetary events unfolding during 2018 deserves careful perusal.  This includes his delineation of the rise in the petro-yuan as a precursor to the demise of the dollar, an acceleration of dollar-derived price inflation and an escalation in the price of gold.

The general public in the West is hardly conscious of these developments, only being vaguely aware that more and more products seem to be imported from China. They are certainly not aware that America has already lost its position as the world’s policeman, the guarantor of economic freedom and democracy, or whatever other clichés are peddled by the media. And only this week, President Trump in releasing his National Security Document, and pledging “America would reassert its great advantages on the world stage”, showed the American establishment is similar to a latter-day Don Quixote, unaware of the extent of change in the world and the loss of its power.

Like a monetary embodiment of Cervantes’ tilter at windmills, the world’s reserve currency is rapidly becoming an anachronism. And for China to realise her true destiny, it must dispense with dollars, and if in the process it crushes them, then so be it.

You can read the rest of Macleod’s brilliant essay here:   2018 Could Be The Year For Gold

Contrary to the views expressed by recent crypto-currency proselytizers, I believe that if gold heads higher in the next year then silver will soar.

For Clues On The Economy, Follow The Money

“There is nothing new on Wall Street or in stock speculation. What has happened in
the past will happen again, and again, and again. This is because human nature does
not change, and it is human emotion, solidly built into human nature, that always
gets in the way of human intelligence. Of this I am sure.” –Jesse Livermore

The profitability of lending/investing money is a function of both the rate of return on the money loaned/invested and the return (payback) of the money. The historically low interest rates are squeezing lenders by driving the rate of return on the loan toward zero (note: “lenders” can be banks or non-bank lenders, like pension funds investing in bonds).

As the margin on lending declines, lenders, begin to take higher risks. Eventually, the degree of risk accepted by lenders is not offset by the expected return on the loan – i.e. the probability of partial to total loss of capital is not offset by a corresponding rate of interest that compensates for the risk of loss. As default rates increase, the loss of capital causes the rate of return from lending to go negative. Lenders then stop lending and the system seizes up. This is what occurred, basically, in 2008.

This graphic shows illustrates this idea of lenders pulling away from lending:

The graph above from the St Louis Fed shows the year over year percentage change in commercial/industrial loans on a monthly basis from commercial banks from 1998 to present. I have maintained that real economic growth since the initial boost provided by QE has been contracting for several years. As you can see, the rate of growth in lending to businesses has been declining since 2012. The data in the chart above is through October and it appears like it might go negative, which would mean that commercial lending is contracting. This is despite all of the blaring media propaganda about how great the economy is performing.

The decline in lending is a function of both lenders pulling back from the market, per reports about credit conditions in the bank loan market tightening, and a decline in the demand for loans from the private sector. Both are indicative of declining economic activity.

This thesis is reinforced with this graphic:

The chart above shows the year over year percentage change in residential construction spending (red line) and total construction (blue line). As you can see, the growth in construction spending has been decelerating since January 2014. Again, with all of the media hype about the housing market, the declining rate of residential construction suggests that the the demand side of the equation is fading.

The promoters of economic propaganda have become sloppy. It’s become quite easy to invalidate Government economic reports using real world data. Using the Government-calculated unemployment rate, the economic shills constantly express concern about a “tight labor market.” Earlier this week, Moody’s chief economist Mark Zandi asserted that (after the release of the phony ADP employment data) the “job market feels like it might overheat.” The problem with this storyline is that it is easy to refute:

The graph above is from the Bureau of Labor Statistics productivity and costs report. The blue line shows unit labor costs. As you can see, unit labor costs have been decelerating rapidly since 2012. In fact, labor costs declined the last two months. The last time labor costs declined two months in a row was November 2013.

See the problem? If labor markets were “tight” or in danger of “overheating,” labor costs would be soaring, not falling. This is why I say the shills are getting sloppy with their use of manipulated Government economic reports. It’s too easy to find data that refutes the propaganda. I remember Mark Zandi from my junk bond trading days in New York. He was an “economist” for a fixed income credit analysis service (I can’t remember the name). I thought his analytic work was questionable at best back then. I continue to believe his analysis is highly flawed now. Recall, Moody’s is the rating agency that had Enron rated triple-A until shortly before it collapsed. That says it all…

Speaking of the labor market, I wanted to toss in a few comments about November’s employment report. The BLS headline report on Friday claims that 255k jobs were created in November. However, not reported in any part of the financial media coverage, “seasonal-adjustment gimmicks bloated headline payroll gains, where unadjusted payrolls were revised lower but adjusted levels revised higher” (John Williams’ Shadowstats.com).

The point here is that, in all likelihood, most of the payroll gains in the BLS report were a product of the mysterious “seasonal adjustment” model used. Per the BLS report, another 35k were removed from the labor force as defined. Recall that anyone who has not been looking for a job in the previous four weeks is removed from the labor force statistic. Furthermore, and never mentioned by the media/Wall St., the BLS report shows the number unemployed increased by 90k in November.

I don’t know when the stock market bubble will lose energy and collapse.  What I do know is that each time the U.S. stock market disconnects from reality, there’s a period of “it’s different this time,” followed by the crash that blind-sides all of the so-called “experts” – most of whom like Dennis Gartman do not have their own money in the stock market (it’s well-known that Jeremy Siegel invests only in Treasuries).  The retail lemmings who think they’ll be able to get out before the crash will see their accounts flattened like a Japanese nuclear power plant.

Most of the commentary above is from my Short Seller’s Journal, in which I present stocks  to short every week (along with options suggestions).  You can learn more about this newsletter here:   Short Seller’s Journal subscription info.

I’ve been a subscriber for a good part of the year and really enjoy my Sunday evening read. Thank you – received sent this morning from “William”

Mount Vesuvius Anyone?

“In the face of a shock, investors may be surprised to find themselves jammed running for the exit.” That quote is from Paul Tudor Jones, who was one of the pioneers of the modern hedge fund and is considered a brilliant investor and trader. He went on to say that things are “on the verge of a significant change” and that the current market reminds him of 1999.

The current market reminds me of the demise of Pompeii, which was destroyed by the massive volcanic eruption of Mt Vesuvius in 79 AD. Pompeii was a prosperous city of the Roman Empire on the coast of southwest Italy. It sits at the base of Mt. Vesuvius, a volcano that had been dormant for a long time. Earthquakes and seismic activity, scientists believe, began to “warn” the population of Pompeii roughly 17 years before the big eruption, when a massive earthquake largely leveled Pompeii. Shortly before the eruption more signs began occurring, hinting that something wasn’t right. Though some people evacuated the area, most of Pompeii’s populace was not worried. The rest is history.

Though there are many warning signs, similar to the citizens of Pompeii living at the base of an active volcano, the American public does not seem the least worried
about having their money in the stock market.  Retail margin debt, at 100% of market capitalization, is at its highest ever. The percentage of U.S. household wealth (not including home equity) invested in stocks in some form is in its 94th percentile. This is the highest allocation to equities since just before the tech bubble popped in 2000. In other words, despite the numerous warnings for those paying attention, investors have piled most of their savings/wealth into the stock market with complete disregard to the growing probability of a down-side accident.

Last Wednesday the tech stocks were clobbered, with the Nasdaq 100 index down 1.7% and the Nasdaq composite down 1.3%. The SOX semiconductor index was down 4.4%. The famed FANG stocks (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google) lost a combined $60 billion in market cap. Interestingly, I could not find any specific event catalyst that triggered the sell-off. As I commented last week, while everyone is looking for a specific “black swan” event to take down the stock market, it’s quite probable that there will not be an specific event that causes the next stock market accident. Perhaps this was a warning “earthquake?”

This graphic shows the degree to which the “smoke” coming from the stock market should not be ignored (click to enlarge):  

Both graphs are from John Hussman, the highly respected contrarian money manager and one of few remaining market bears (along with me and SSJ subscribers). The graph on the left is a monthly plot of SPX futures from 1998 to present. The graph on the right is Hussman’s margin-adjusted Shiller CAPE ratio chart, which shows the SPX PE at an all-time high.  In the absence of meaningful real economic growth to justify the current level of the stock market relative to the two previous bubbles, the only logical conclusion is that the eventual stock crash will be twice as brutal as the last two.

Another plume of smoke billowing from the stock market is the market “breadth.” The number of stocks that are moving higher as the major indices hit new record highs almost daily continues to decline. Currently, 38% of the stocks in the S&P 500 are below their 50 dma and 30% are below their 200 dma. At the beginning of the year, only 20% of the S&P 500 components were below their 50 dma. In the Nasdaq, 40% of the stocks are below their 50 dma and 35% are below their 200 dma. At the beginning of 2017, less than 20% below their 50 and 200 dma’s.

The declining breadth reflects the fact that “investors” continue to chase velocity – i.e. blindly throw money at the fastest moving stocks. This is why the FANGs + AAPL and MSFT represent an absurdly disproportionate percentage of the total move higher in the stock market. Furthermore, the declining breadth of the market is now a function of the “greater fool theory.” This is an economic theory that states that the price of a stock is determined by irrational beliefs and expectations (e.g. “it’s different this time”) rather than fundamental valuation. The price paid for a stock is justified by the believe that someone else will be willing to pay a higher price.

Every week now there are stocks that that “get shot” and fall from the sky.  It’s typically because the company will “miss” earnings estimates.  But frequently a company will “beat” the Street – which is easy because analyst estimates are rigged for the easy “beat” – but warns about future expectations (“guide lower”).   In fact, this week started off with a drive-by-shooting of Toll Brothers (luxury homebuilders):

Toll reported a miss on Monday before the market opened. At the open Toll stock took back nearly the entire rise in its stock price over the trailing 30 days. Clearly no one saw this coming. Anyone who bought the stock on the previous Friday walked into an ambush and was down 10% on their Friday purchase at Monday’s open.

None of this will matter as long as your trusty investment advisor or pension fund manager has your money in an SPX ETF, right?  Unfortunately, at some point, the entire market is going to fall from the sky. Like the citizens of Pompeii, most investors will end up casualties of a great stock market tragedy.  But like Mt. Vesuvius, warning signs abound for anyone willing to look for and accept them. Given the level of propaganda directed at convincing us that everything is great, “looking” for the warnings and “accepting” the warnings are two entirely different propositions.

Some of the commentary above was excerpted from my Short Seller’s Journal. One of the stocks I recommended as a short in the November 12th issue closed today down 20% from its closing price on Friday, November 10th. You can find out more about this weekly newsletter that presents the bearish case here:   Short Seller’s Journal

The War on Gold Intensifies: It Betrays The Elitists’ Panic And Coming Defeat – Part 2

Here is Part 2 of Stewart Dougherty’s “War on Gold” essay.  Here’s Part 1

Magicians use distraction, deflection and misdirection to conduct their tricks. They get their audiences to look to the left while they perform their magic undetected on the right. So do con artists and swindlers.

George H. W. Bush, in a speech delivered to a joint session of Congress on 11 September 1990 entitled “Toward a New World Order,” headlined a geopolitical theme that has garnered a great deal of attention ever since. And while Bush was not the first person to use the term, it struck a global nerve when he invoked it.

Bush’s speech about the New World Order deflected and misdirected the people’s attention to the left, and prevented them from seeing the real action that was taking place to the right: the imposition of a New World Central Banking Order throughout the west. This multi-country, supranational, autonomous, all-powerful, privately-controlled, for profit, non-auditable, monopolized, collusive, monetary leviathan has become what we call the Western Central Banking Dictatorship (WCBD).

This dictatorship, and we are not being pejorative, we are simply applying the standard definition of the word to what central banking actually is, operates throughout the broadly defined “west,” which includes: the United States, Canada, Mexico, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Japan, India, New Zealand and Australia. Certain African, Asian and South American countries also play lesser parts in the regime. Dictatorially ruled by this private monetary system are the hundreds of millions of citizens who must use Euros, Yen, Rupees, and United States, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand dollars to function in their daily lives, as these fiat currencies are all 100% controlled by the regime, and are subject to whatever actions, no matter how experimental or extreme (such as Quantitative Easing and negative interest rates), the controllers, in their sole discretion, decide to take.

One of the seven core principles of Inferential Analytics, the forecasting method we have developed and use, is that all phenomena represent Life Forces, and that all Life Forces ceaselessly work to expand, evolve, empower themselves, and conquer new terrain.

Some of the most powerful Life Forces on earth are the “isms.” One of today’s most rapidly evolving “isms’ is crony communism, the national operating system now metastasizing throughout western nations to replace its dying predecessor, crony capitalism. In this expanding system of crony communism, the cronies loot the capital that was produced by the dying capitalistic system, while the masses descend into communistic impoverishment, entrapment and despair. Crony communism is a system in which the forces of diabolism, greed and evil usurp and exploit state power for their own enrichment, empowerment and dominance, at the direct expense of the communized masses.

Relentlessly increasing wealth concentration combined with spreading impoverishment and paycheck to paycheck living are two glaring signs among many others that the Life Force of crony communism has entrenched itself throughout the west, and that it is evolving and advancing.

The enabling institution for the spread of crony communism is the WCBD, which is owned and operated by the Deep State crony elite, both of which are Life Forces of plunder and human exploitation.

To those who pay attention to fiscal, monetary, economic and financial realities, it is becoming clear, despite the current frenzy of propaganda to the contrary, that the existing system is failing. In the United States, to focus on one national example, massively underfunded pensions will collapse without equally massive bailouts; every government entitlement program is bankrupt, a fact publicly admitted by the programs’ respective government overseers; structural deficits are uncontrollable under current law and can only be contained if government promises are broken at extreme expense to the economy and people; debt at all levels is exploding and structurally, must continue to explode; mass financial stress is directly observable in such forms as street-level, in one’s face homelessness, fast-spreading tent cities, and teeming under-bridge communities; paycheck to paycheck and government welfare payment to government welfare payment living is now the norm for the vast majority of the population (for example, 78% of full time workers in the United States now live paycheck to paycheck; the financial condition of part time and unemployed persons is even more dire); the savings rate has plunged as people struggle to make ends meet or engage in financially disastrous “Eat, Drink and Be Merry” binge spending programmed into their brains by the MSM, which repeatedly tells them that things have never been better and they should go shopping; overall savings are non-existent or meaningless for the vast majority of the population; among many other signs of fiscal and financial decline.

The WCBD, which includes all western central banks, the World Bank, the IMF, the ESF and their consolidating organization, the intensely secretive, predatory, and frigid BIS, is fully aware that the system is failing. The United States Federal Reserve System alone employs hundreds of Ph. D. economists and statisticians, and it is literally impossible they do not comprehend that trillions more fiat currency units must be created out of nothing to keep the monetary system functioning. Further, it is impossible that these Ph. D.s and their management do not realize that ultimately, the very design of the fiat monetary edifice means that it must erupt into a hyperinflationary bonfire, exactly as it has repeatedly done throughout history. Every “fix” now being implemented, most particularly the new, frenzied fixation on GDP growth, is an urgent attempt deflect attention away from the structural impossibilities of the monetary system, and to buy time.

For years, people have realized that certain vital government statistics, such as employment, inflation, retail sales and GDP are manipulated to tell a comforting narrative that all is well in the land. Confidence is everything in debt-dependent, fiat currency-based, consumer-expenditure-addicted economies. But for some strange reason, very few people question the most important statistic of all: money supply. This is remarkable in light of the fact that long after the emergency measures taken to re-start the system during the Great Financial Crisis (GFC), we learned that the Fed had created, in total secrecy, trillions of dollars’ worth of currency swaps that were extended to foreign central banks in order to bail out the financial system. This was so far outside the Fed’s “Dual Mandate” that it beggared belief they had actually done it, let alone without any public or even intra-governmental disclosure whatsoever.

We believe that such secret GFC money creation is just the tip of the iceberg, and that the revelation of actual, as opposed to deliberately misstated money supply would dumbfound even the most sophisticated of financial observers and require a recalculation of virtually every financial and economic metric. All of which would massively deteriorate. We believe that this is one black swan among dozens that could ignite a broad-based flight into physical gold, as people rushed to monetary high ground for financial and personal safety.

On 27 June 2017, during the British Academy President’s Lecture Q&A Session in London, Janet Yellen made the following, now famous statement in answer to a question:

“Would I say there will never, ever be another financial crisis? You know,
that would probably be going too far, but I do think we are much safer, and
I hope that it will not be in our lifetimes, and I don’t believe it will be.”

Many observers chalked up this comment to central banker self-congratulation and boastfulness. Or, they assumed that Ms. Yellen was making a campaign statement to land a second term as Fed Chair. We viewed it differently.

We do not believe Yellen ever had any intention of serving a second term as Fed Chair, and that her “candidacy” was theater. Yellen, Fischer and Dudley, all of whom have gotten or are getting out, realize that the monetary and financial systems are rigged to the breaking point, and that when they fail, the fallout will be uncontrollable. They know the systems are rigged, because they rigged them, and don’t want to be anywhere near them when they blow apart. This helps explain the documented elitist fascinations with long range Gulfstream jets and New Zealand, among their numerous other escape vehicles.

If Yellen had said she was not interested in serving a second term, this would have indicated that something is seriously wrong, a message central bankers never send beforehand. Having admitted, as she has, that she and many of her colleagues no longer understand inflation, an appreciation of which is absolutely critical to the entire process of central banking, she also admitted that, like Fukushima, the monetary system is melting down and out of control. Therefore, she played the game of running for a second term, even though it was just an act.

In the second to last paragraph of her 20 November 2017 resignation letter, Yellen wrote:

“I am enormously proud to have worked alongside many dedicated and highly able
women and men, particularly my predecessor as Chair, Ben S. Bernanke, whose
leadership during the financial crisis and its aftermath was critical to restoring the
soundness of our financial system and prosperity of our country. I am also gratified
by the substantial improvement in the economy since the crisis. The economy has
produced 17 million jobs, on net, over the past 8 years and, by most metrics, is
close to achieving the Federal Reserve’s statutory objective of maximum employment
and price stability. Of course, sustaining this progress will require continued
monitoring of, and decisive responses to, newly emerging threats to financial and
economic stability.” [Our italics.]

This statement was an Inferential Analytics trigger, because we noted that she did not say, “if” there are “newly emerging threats to financial and economic stability.” [Cryptocurrencies/Bitcoin are seen as threat per Trump’s statement that Homeland Security was monitoring Thursday’s Bitcoin sell-off]

A second IA trigger was pulled when Jerome Powell, during his opening comments to the U.S. Senate Banking Committee reviewing his Fed Chair nomination, said the following on 28 November 2017:

“We must be prepared to respond decisively and with appropriate force to new and
unexpected threats to our nation’s financial stability and economic prosperity.”

Please note two things: 1) Like Yellen, he did not say “if” there are “new and unexpected threats to our nation’s financial stability and economic prosperity;” and, 2) the nearly identical language used by both.

To us, both Yellen and Powell are warning that “newly emerging financial threats to financial and economic stability” and “economic prosperity” are on the horizon. People might comfort themselves by saying, “That is always the case,” which is true. Endogenous and exogenous risks to complicated systems always exist. The problem is that when these threats manifest themselves, what can they do about them at this point, other than print massive quantities of new currency units, a so-called medicine that has become more toxic than the disease it attempts to cure.

Central bankers go to lengths to paint a rosy picture, because belief is everything when people are living in a fantasy, which an economy that is more than $200 trillion in debt all told, is. We therefore find it extraordinary that Yellen, on her way out, and Powell, on his way in are painting a dark picture by talking about “threats to financial and economic stability.” They would not be using these words if they did not know that something serious is on the horizon. They know, because the threats are of the WCBD’s direct making.

Regarding the specific comment Yellen made in London, we believe she was saying that the Fed in particular, and the WCBD in general, have now transferred the mechanisms perfected over the past 40 years to control precious metals prices, to western stock markets, in order to control their prices. The only difference being that while they have used sophisticated, computerized price manipulation techniques to push precious metals prices down, they are using the same techniques to push stock prices up.

Why? For four primary reasons: 1) To prevent the pension system from collapsing, which would bring down the entire economy and banking system with it; 2) To generate badly needed income and capital gains tax revenue; (Please keep in mind that most employee stock option gains are taxed as individual income, and result in top income tax rates being imposed; full, uncapped Medicare taxes being paid by both employee and employer; and, the Obamacare 0.9% Medicare surtax being collected. Therefore, such stock option gains represent a trifecta tax bonanza for the government. Additionally, capital gains over a minor threshold amount, which is not indexed to inflation, are now subject to the Obamacare 3.8% surtax, which the proposed “Repeal and Replace” House and Senate legislation never rescinded, evidence that the government is dependent upon the surtax revenue and will not let it go. As we can see, Republican legislators spoke with a forked tongue; while they said they hated Obamacare, they forgot to mention that they love its tax revenue and have no intention of parting with it); 3) To foster the “Wealth Effect,” and thereby stimulate consumer spending, which is critical to employment, corporate profits, corporate profit taxes and state sales taxes. In deliberately creating a consumer spending, as opposed to a production economy, the government and the citizens have become slaves to a low-to-zero savings, binge spending, consumer impoverishment economy, which is a Castle in the Air and a mirage that will fade; 4) To facilitate a high-intensity, big-dollar insider trading, front running and looting spree, via the dissemination of inside information to the elite regarding upcoming WCBD policy decisions and government economic reports, all of which move markets in predictable, sizable, and enormously profitable ways for those who can exploit them in advance. The surge in wealth inequality is not natural, and not an accident.

In addition to precious metals price controls and the legalization of bail-in banking, numerous other developments, such as the accelerated push to eliminate cash all suggest that the people are being elaborately set up for epic financial slaughter by the Deep State plunderers. The Deep Statists are intent on eliminating financial sanctuaries that are outside their bail-in dragnets. In past situations of this kind, gold has performed admirably in protecting wealth and, far more important, human lives.

We mentioned in Part 1 that there is a clue in the Financial Times article that demonstrates the statists’ fear that they cannot prevent broad scale interest in gold from developing among the people. The FT article argued that due to dealer commissions, physical gold is more expensive than its electronic counterpart. It also stated that physical coin dealers are dangerous because they are “exploitative” and “shady.” The conclusion the author reached for his dear readers to follow was this: “More gold will be traded electronically,” because if one is going to buy gold, electronic products are the better deal.

This is exactly what the increasingly concerned Deep Statists are trying to steer people into doing: buying electronic, not physical gold. They appear to realize that they might not be able to control the gold price for much longer, and that if the price gets away from them, the Cryptocurrency Effect will be activated in gold. If that happens, a price Vesuvius lies ahead. The volcano, they cannot stop. All they can do is misdirect the people’s money into their phony electronic gold products, to sterilize and control those funds. Then, when the price does explode, they will force customers to accept involuntary cash settlements and close out the electronic acounts. The customers will get fiat currency at the precise time when it is plunging in value, and the statists will keep any physical gold they might have purchased with customers’ funds.

As Sun Tzu said, in war, you must know the enemy and yourself if you intend to win. We hope that our article has helped readers know the enemy a bit better. The next task is to know yourself; to ask yourself, “Given what I know, what should I do?” In our opinion, and this is just our personal point of view, not an investment recommendation, which we are not licensed to provide, the fact that the Deep State elitists are stopping at nothing to discourage you from buying physical gold is the precise reason why you should buy it. And if this article has resonated with you, then you probably also believe, as we do, that the time to financially prepare yourself is getting short. The current intensity of price maneuvering and manipulation in a broad variety of markets implies that the center is losing hold, and that something wicked this way comes.

Stewart Dougherty is the creator of Inferential Analytics, a forecasting method that applies to events proprietary, time-tested principles of human instinct, desire and action. In his view, forecasting methods not fundamentally based upon principles of human action are unlikely to be reliable over time. He is a graduate of Tufts University (BA) and Harvard Business School (MBA). He developed expertise in strategic analysis and planning during a 35+ year business career, has traveled to and conducted research in over 25 countries and has refined Inferential Analytics into a reliable predictive instrument over a period of 17+ years

The War on Gold Intensifies: It Betrays The Elitists’ Panic And Coming Defeat – Part 1

IRD is honored to present another guest post from Stewart Dougherty

Dictatorship (noun):  Definition #3:   absolute power or authority (Websters);
Def. #2:   absolute, imperious or overbearing power or control (Random House);
Def. #3:   Absolute or despotic control or power (American Heritage);
Def. #3:  Absolute or supreme power or authority (Collins English Dictionary);
Def. #1:  A type of government where absolute sovereignty is allotted
to an individual or small clique (Wikipedia).

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained, you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” Sun Tzu, The Art of War

In recent weeks, the War on Gold, which is a subset of the broader War on Human Freedom, has sharply intensified, with massive, multi-billion dollar naked short price raids now being launched on a weekly and even daily basis by the criminal, state-sponsored price manipulators. This escalation proves the supreme importance to the Deep State financial elite of the maintenance of their gold price dictatorship, which is a vital component of their long term, systemic campaign of financial plunder.

The elitists have no problems whatsoever with stratospheric stock and bond prices; 5,000 year low interest rates; $450 million Da Vinci’s; $250 million private homes; $50,000,000 annual salaries for circus masters, whose role in keeping the masses distracted and dumb is vital; $1.9 million Aston Martins; $100,000 Air Jordan sneakers, or any of the other prices that have now gone into outer space.

But there is one thing they will not accept: an honest, free market price for gold. Because while all debauchery under the sun is permitted and encouraged in the Castle of Fraud and Corruption they have constructed and in which they revel, one thing is strictly prohibited: the utterance of truth. Being monetary truth when free to speak, gold is their deadliest enemy. Therefore, it is silenced, in the same way truth tellers are silenced in all dictatorships.

The vast majority of people, aside from a small, enlightened minority who refuse to poison their minds by ingesting mainstream media (MSM) fake news, propaganda and brainwashing, do not yet realize what they are up against in the wars that have been declared against them, and are therefore at serious risk. For those who wish to survive the wars, there has never been a greater need to know the enemy and know yourself.

As the gold price war becomes manic, so has the MSM’s anti-gold propaganda campaign, with their attempts to smear gold now a clinical obsession.

In a prime example of their over-the-top anti-gold propaganda, on 10 November 2017, the Financial Times, a long-time Deep State bullhorn and puppet, ran an article entitled, “Gold is the new cocaine for money launderers.” In this screed, the author beat the dead horse of the NTR Metals gold import scheme. This operation, whose total dollar yield was an infinitesimal fraction of the massive sums stolen by the financial Deep Statists in their forty year gold price manipulation crime, was already the subject of an over-dramatized Bloomberg Businessweek propaganda piece published on 9 March 2017, entitled “How to Become an International Gold Smuggler.” Apparently, the MSM is running so short of new material with which to try to demonize gold, that it is now forced to recycle old, stale non-stories to keep the smear machine going.

In the article, the MSM propagandist states such things as: 2017 has seen, according to his one time Goldman Sachs source, a “dramatic crash in [physical gold coin] demand,” that interest in gold coins is linked to “political conservatism, or anarcho-libertarianism” and “end of the world right wing sentiments,” that gold has been implicated in a “conspiracy to commit money laundering,” that gold is “financed by people in the narcotics trade,” that it comes from “illegal mines and drug dealers in Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador,” that “the federal authorities assume the NTR Metals [case] represented only a fraction of illegally sourced and financed gold,” that therefore the US attorney is broadly investigating the gold industry, that gold is “produced by exploited workers,” that “crude [gold] extraction techniques create serious and lasting environmental damage,” that gold plays an important part in “tax evasion,” that it is related to American gun sales, which the author abhors; that “drug dealers [use] gold imports as a way of laundering their proceeds,” and that “they came to realize that illegal gold [is] an intrinsically better business” than drug dealing; to name but a few of the aspersions cast against gold in the short article. As we can see, when it comes to their smear jobs, the MSM flings at the wall all the mud it can fit in its hands, hoping that some of it might stick.

As is always the case with the MSM’s consistently negative, biased and dishonest reporting on gold, no mention was made in the article of the Deep State financial elite’s criminal gold price manipulation fraud that has been perpetrated non-stop for nearly forty years and that has resulted in a massive, $1,000,000,000,000.00+ theft from its victims. This is because the MSM is the Deep State’s in-house public relations agency, whose job is to whitewash the elitists’ crimes, no matter how egregious they are.

But buried in the article was an important clue that the Deep Statists are concerned they are losing the War on Gold, which we will further explore later in the article. It turns out that the Deep Statists’ paranoia about and rage toward gold might be entirely justified, because more than ever in the past 37 years, gold is poised to tell the world what it knows, and this will absolutely annihilate them.

Many people are completely baffled as to why, with so many serious fiscal, financial, monetary, economic, social, and geopolitical problems in the world, the Deep Statists remain so mono-maniacally fixated on demagogically denigrating gold and controlling its price.

The answer is that the Deep Statists cannot, under any circumstances, allow the price of gold to replicate the surging price of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. If the gold price genie were to get out of the bottle, becoming international news in the process no matter how much the MSM might try to suppress it, it would spur a gold buying stampede that would cause a flood of money to pour out of bank accounts and into physical precious metals. $325+ billion worldwide now resides in cryptocurrencies, a highly specialized and complex product class. In the right set of circumstances, many multiples of that amount could incrementally flow into gold, a simple product that has been innately understood for millennia by human beings all over the globe.

Already fragile, the banking system cannot withstand a large scale withdrawal of funds. Being finite and in short supply, incremental demand for physical gold would result in immediate and sustained price gains, creating a positive feedback loop in the market place. As people watched the price go up, more and more of them would want to jump on the band wagon and participate in the gains, which is exactly what has happened in the cryptocurrency market.

If interest in gold goes mainstream, then basic supply fundamentals indicate the price would have to rise by thousands of dollars per ounce to even approach what might be considered overbought and/or bubble territory. Which is exactly what has happened to Bitcoin, whose price has exploded to over $10,500 as of today, 29 November 2017.

In the United States, the latest Federal Reserve Board tally of Household and Non-profit Organization (much of which is private) wealth totals $96.2 trillion. If a miniature, 1% sliver of this amount, $962 billion, attempted to find its way into the physical gold market, it would represent incremental demand, at $1,300 per ounce, of 740 million ounces. Not even a small fraction of this incremental demand would be available in the physical gold market at this time, given that it already operates at a supply / demand equilibrium. The gold price would have to surge in order to flush out supplies from current gold owners, whose hands have proven to be, and are likely to remain strong. We believe it would take years for incremental demand of this magnitude to be filled, even at much higher prices. Please keep in mind that this example relates to the United States, alone; there are additional, vast stores of private wealth all over the world, all of which would almost certainly be activated in unison by a run to gold.

With the right spark, the same viral, Social Media-enhanced demand that has come to cryptocurrencies could come to gold. The Deep Statists know it, and the ghostly whites of their eyes now glow eerily and blinkingly across the dark battlefield of Liberty, in the senseless war they provoked and are going to lose.

While there are now hundreds of cryptocurrencies, physical gold is physical gold, and cannot be replicated or conjured out of nothing. There will be no endless stream of new ICOs for genuine, physical gold, because gold is what it is and always will be. This means that funds flowing into gold will be forced into the one and only physical gold market that already exhibits tight, inflexible supply. This further means that the upward price pressure on gold could become volcanic if a run starts.

A steadily increasing number of people will want to get in on the “new Bitcoin,” a bizarre paradox given that gold is as old as time, and will soon realize that gold possesses virtues Bitcoin does not, given that it is real, not digital and abstract; that owners can personally possess and store it in physical form; that it will survive any kind of electric grid or Internet disruption that might occur; that it cannot ever be hacked; that it is the epitome of private, quiet wealth; that it is actually quite beautiful to behold; and that it was not and cannot be made by man, only by God, who does not appear to have any interest in making any more of it.

To date, in order to prevent a surge in physical gold demand from happening, the Deep Statists have created various forms of transparently fake gold, such as electronic gold futures, options and non-auditable ETFs and EFPs. These fake gold products have siphoned funds away from real, physical gold, which cannot be created out of the nothing the way the imposter electronic gold products can be. Increasingly, people are learning that there are no substitutes for physical gold.

More, we find it interesting that while there have been certain highly publicized condemnations of cryptocurrencies, such as J. P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon’s comment that Bitcoin is a “fraud,” the financial authorities in the west have done little to nothing to shut down the crypto market. They seem to be just fine with $10,500 Bitcoin, but will stop at nothing to prevent $1,300 gold. Today’s (29 November) market action is a case in point.

The reason is that monetary elitists fully approve of cryptocurrencies, because this the new form of fiat currency the western banks intend to issue. Mass adoption of cryptocurrencies is the necessary forerunner to the elimination of cash, a well-known and important agenda for the financial elite. By issuing their own cryptocurrencies, and/or co-opting Bitcoin and other private cryptos via regulation and edict, central bankers can continue their tradition of controlling the money supply. A population that has learned the value of owning and become adept at trading physical gold would prevent central banks from continuing to use fiat currencies as economic, political and societal control mechanisms. It should be no surprise that they loathe gold so much; in its honesty and integrity, it is the exact antithesis of everything they stand for, are, and do.

Some people argue, “Even if people run to gold, their funds will still remain within the banking system, so the bankers aren’t worried about this happening.” In our opinion, this is wrong.

Fiat currency used to buy precious metals will move from personal and business bank accounts, to gold dealer accounts, to gold wholesaler accounts; and then to a variety of sovereign mint, gold precious metals refiner, gold miner and other gold supplier accounts, a large percentage of which are international.

A bank that hosts a deposit account used to purchase physical gold has no assurance whatsoever that the buyer’s funds will transfer into another personal or business account managed by it. In all likelihood, the funds will disappear from the host bank and not return. Ultimately, the likelihood is also high that a portion of the funds, potentially significant, will disappear from the country’s banking system altogether, given the global nature of gold mining, refining, minting and fabrication. Therefore, bankers regard a run to gold as a severe, direct threat to them, which is why they do everything in their power to discredit it and crush its price. They are attempting to prevent a run on their banks.

Over the past several years, the Deep Statists have gone to extraordinary lengths to internationally legalize bank “bail-ins.” They did not do this casually, by accident, or for fun; they did it because they know that when the system fails, a time-bomb guaranteed to detonate given the system’s very design, they will be able to make an unprecedented fortune by expropriating customers’ deposits via the elaborate bail-in mechanism they have engineered. They will use the phony pretext of “rescuing” and “resetting” the financial system for the public good to justify this action. If, before they spring the bail-in trap, depositors have already withdrawn their funds to purchase physical precious metals held outside the banking system, those funds will no longer be available for bail-in looting. The bankers cannot steal bank balances that have disappeared.

The cryptocurrency phenomenon, now an international sensation, has stunned them into the awareness that people all over the world have a deep, abiding, instinctive desire to own honest money of limited supply that will serve as a reliable store of value, and that cannot be hyper-inflated into oblivion for the private gain of plunderers and profiteers, the chief problem with corrupt, endlessly counterfeited fiat currencies controlled by self-interested, opportunistic, predatory central bankers and their controllers, the Deep State financial elite.

Due to the length of this article, we have divided it into two parts. This ends Part 1. In Part 2, which is already written and will be released in a few days, we will share with you important clues indicating the Deep State’s concerns about losing the War on Gold, despite the unprecedented intensification of their attacks. We will also discuss how the United States Federal Reserve is outright warning that new threats to financial and economic stability are on the horizon.

Stewart Dougherty is the creator of Inferential Analytics, a forecasting method that applies to events proprietary, time-tested principles of human instinct, desire and action. In his view, forecasting methods not fundamentally based upon principles of human action are unlikely to be reliable over time. He is a graduate of Tufts University (BA) and Harvard Business School (MBA). He developed expertise in strategic analysis and planning during a 35+ year business career, has traveled to and conducted research in over 25 countries and has refined Inferential Analytics into a reliable predictive instrument over a period of 17+ years

The Truth Behind Amazon’s Reported Earnings

This article below is from my Seeking Alpha post earlier this week.  I’ve studied AMZN’s financials and business model for several years. I’m probably one of the few analysts who bothers to scour the footnotes of AMZN’s financials. I was taught by the best at University of Chicago to start with the footnotes and work “up” when pulling apart GAAP financial statements.  I can say with 100% certainty that the “Free Cash Flow” that Jeff Bezos promotes with ardent zeal is a fictional number, if not fraud.  The SEC looks the other way.  Suffice it to say that AMZN’s true trailing twelve month free cash flow  based on strict GAAP is nearly negative $4 billion. I demonstrate this below.

Amazon Perfects the “Beat the Street” Game – Amazon (AMZN) reported 52 cents per share “earnings” on October 26th vs. the consensus 2 cent estimate after the market closed. The stock soared 7.8% after hours as hedge fund algos and retail daytraders chased the stock higher on the headline report. AMZN “walked” Street analysts’ estimates down to a number that was easy to “beat.” Ninety days ago the consensus estimate for Q3 was $1.09, with one estimate as high as $1.59. cents. By the time AMZN was about to report, the consensus estimate was two cents. This is how the game is played.

The graphic below from Yahoo Finance shows a 3-month timeline of this “walk-down” process for AMZN’s consensus earnings forecast for Q4 2017, Q1 2018 and the full-year 2017. The current estimates were again revised after the Company’s Q3 report (source: Yahoo.com/finance w/my edits):

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

[Note: All numbers are taken directly from AMZN’s Third Quarter 10-Q]

Here’s a fact that Wall Street or Bubblevision won’t report: in Q3 2016, AMZN’s GAAP tax rate was 47% vs 18% in Q3 2017. Anyone who has taken a basic accounting course knows that the GAAP tax rate is highly arbitrary and a major source of EPS manipulation. If AMZN had simply used a constant GAAP tax rate in Q3, its net income in Q3 would have declined to $200 million this year from $252 million in Q3 last year (remember these are GAAP earnings, not actual cash earnings). On this basis, AMZN’s EPS would have shown a drop from 53 cents last year to 41 cents this year. Anyone paying the current price of AMZN at a PE of 290 is likely ignorant of the fact that AMZN’s operating income is declining and its debt outstanding is increasing.

AMZN’s operating income plunged yr/yr for Q3 by $228 million, or nearly 40%. Operating income in its North American e-commerce business plunged $143 million, or 56%. AMZN’s e-commerce business lost $824 million on an operating business in Q3 (see p. 26 from the 10-Q linked above). YTD AMZN’s e-commerce business has lost nearly $1 billion). It likely would have been worse without Whole Foods numbers in mix. This is because, when AMZN acquired WFM, WFM’s operating margin was 4%. AMZN’s has been running near zero – it was 0.7% in Q3. Acquisition accounting, among other things, allows AMZN to present its numbers “as if,” meaning “as if” AMZN owned WFM since AMZN’s inception.

One of the primary reasons that AMZN’s operating margins decline continuously is the cost of fulfillment. “Fulfillment” is the cost of getting a product from the warehouse to the customer’s doorstep. In Q3 2016, AMZN’s fulfillment costs were 19.4% of product sales. By Q3 2017, it had jumped to 22.3%. Fulfillment is a cornerstone of AMZN’s e-commerce model. Offering free shipping to Prime members is a guaranteed money-loser.

In general and on average, AMZN loses money on every e-commerce sale. AMZN’s e-commerce/consumer products operating margin will continue to decline because the Company is implementing an aggressive price-cut program at Whole Foods. This will drive the WFM business margins toward zero.

AMZN’s only source of operating income is the AWS (cloud services) business. The revenue growth rate from 2016 to 2017 for Q3 was 41%. This is down from the 55% growth rate that occurred year over year from Q3 2015 to Q3 2016. Part of this is a function of “scale.” As the business grows in overall size, the growth rate will tend to decline mathematically. But the AWS revenues are just 10% of AMZN’s total revenues.

Furthermore, AMZN’s AWS business is now under heavy attack. Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) and Cisco (CSCO) announced that they are teaming up to go after AWS’ cloud territory. More ominously for Amazon, Microsoft (MSFT) is quickly moving into and taking away AMZN’s market share in the commercial cloud space. Based on its FY Q1 numbers released Thursday, MSFT’s commercial cloud revenue annualized now exceeds AMZN’s AWS revenues annualized. AMZN historically has held the largest market share in cloud computing services. Given the new competition from dedicated tech companies, the profitability and growth of AMZN’s AWS business segment is at risk.

AMZN’s deceptive presentation of free cash flow – Every quarter AMZN presents an earnings slideshow, the first slide of which prominently shows trailing twelve month free cash flow. But this presentation of FCF is highly deceptive. On the first slide, AMZN shows its latest trailing twelve month FCF to be $8.050 billion. But that is a cherry-picked, non-GAAP derivation of actual free cash flow. Here’s AMZN’s actual GAAP FCF as derived from its Q3 10-Q (source: AMZN 10-Q, with my edits):

Free cash flow is technically defined as operating cash flow less capex expenditures and debt payments, the latter of which is negligible for AMZN – for now. Note the difference claimed to be $8.050 billion in “free cash flow” by Jeff Bezos and the negative $3.969 bullion actual GAAP FCF. Here’s the deal. Jeff Bezos conveniently omits the amount of cash AMZN spends to acquire property and equipment using capital leases and build-to-suit leases. To the extent that these expenditures are non-recurring, that presentation of FCF is valid. However, not only are AMZN’s expenditures under capital leases serially recursive, the payments increase every quarter and have been for several years. In 2014 AMZN’s full year cap lease expenditures was $4.9 billion. Thru Q3 2017, AMZN’s trailing twelve-month expenditure was $12 billion.

Furthermore, a “build-to-suit” property is built specifically for AMZN’s purposes. It likely is not easily sold re-leased for a next best use. Because of this, the lease functions as debt used to fund this capex. As such, the payments under build-to-suit leases should be treated as capex and not excluded from the derivation of free cash flow. Again, it’s an accounting sleight-of-hand employed by Bezos for the purposes of deception.

The use of capital leases to manipulate financials is not uncommon. However AMZN intentionally uses this financing techniques as mechanism to manipulate its numbers. Among other superficial accounting “benefits,” using capital leases rather than debt to fund expenditures enables keeps the appearance of debt off the balance sheet. It also allows AMZN to keep the cash used to fund capital leases out of the “Financing Activities” section of AMZN’s Statement of Cash Flows. AMZN is required to disclose the amount spent on cap leases, which it accomplishes in the footnotes. Very few analysts or investors bother to read the footnotes.

AMZN’s debt load – AMZN used $16 billion in near-junk bond rated debt to finance the Whole Foods acquisition. Its long term debt is now $24.7 billion. At the end of 2007, its long term debt was $1.2 billion. AMZN’s debt-load has grown by over 20x. However, at the end of Q3 2017, AMZN also had $18.8 billion in “other long-term liabilities.” This is almost entirely the capitalized leases used to fund property and equipment acquisitions. At the end of 2007, this number was $292 million. Use of cap leases has grown by a factor of 64x. Now, imagine if AMZN were forced by GAAP to include cap leases as part of its long term debt – not an unreasonable standard in this case. AMZN’s debt load would be $43.5 billion – nearly double the current disclosed level of debt.

See how this works? If AMZN were forced to consolidate cap leases into “long term debt,” its recent $16 billion bond deal would have been rated as non-investment grade – aka junk. The average cost of the $16 billion issued is 3.56%. If AMZN had been rated junk, it would have raised the cost of this deal by at least 100 basis points (1%) and likely more. Assuming an added cost of 1%, this would have added $160 million in interest expense. It might look like a smart move for Bezos to exploit GAAP accounting like this but it serves to pull the wool over the eyes of the investors who bought the bonds. This is because the true credit quality and ability to service the debt is significantly lower than that assumed by these investors.

The point here is that every facet of AMZN’s financials is highly misleading. AMZN is not what it appears to be. Yes, the stock has done remarkably well considering the ugly nature of the underlying truths. Note that AMZN did have a brush with insolvency in 2003-2004, but Warren Buffet bailed out AMZN by loading up on junk bonds Amazon had outstanding at the time. This was a temporary stay of execution that was followed up with the rapid inflation of the mid-2000’s credit and stock bubble, which enabled AMZN to refinance the junk bonds Buffet had bought. This gave AMZN plenty of cash to keep spending money to generate sales. AMZN also was bailed out by the bond market a couple years ago, as it issued $3 billion in debt in 2012 and $5 billion of debt in 2014. If AMZN is truly generating free cash flow, why does it continuously have to issue debt to fund its operations?

Amazon has thus been given a free pass by the financial markets for most of its existence. Make no mistake, AMZN can do this only for as long as market bubbles inflate. If the current credit/stock bubble is in the process of deflating or has popped when it comes time for AMZN to start paying down its heavy debt load, including the capital leases, it’s highly likely that the market won’t enable AMZN to continue kicking the can down the road by refinancing the debt payments. AMZN clearly does not generate free cash flow that can be used to make the debt payment obligations. Thus, in this scenario, there’s a strong probability that AMZN would hit the wall, inconceivable as that may seem right now.

AMZN’s stock has had a remarkable run this year in defiance of the true underlying fundamentals (click to enlarge):

Amazon is a difficult stock to short because of its correlation with the overall stock market. However I’ve been able to scalp profits on an intra-day basis using near-money weekly puts. Anyone who is willing to manage a short position on a daily basis will eventually be rewarded. When AMZN surprised the market by missing its Q2 earnings, the stock sold off $140 from top to bottom over 2 months. If AMZN misses Q4 earnings the stock could, minimally, fill the gap in the graph above ($980) – a $160 decline using the closing price on November 21st.

If you are interested in short-sell ideas like AMZN, please visit this link:  Short Seller’s Journal, where I offer a weekly newsletter that focuses on shorting the stock market.