Tag Archives: stock bubble

Who Could’ve Seen This Coming?

Yesterday was amusing.  The meat with mouths on the so-called financial networks were crying, “how could this have happened.”  Funny thing, that.  They don’t raise the slightest doubt of conviction when the Dow soars 2,676 points in less than two months  – 23,940 on November 29th  to 26,616 on January 26th.  But when the market takes back that move in 6 trading days it’s a problem that Congress and the Fed need to “fix.”

The stock market’s small accident last Friday was a warning signal. But, in the context of the move made by the Dow since it bottomed on March 5, 2009, barely registers on the radar screen:

I saw this table on Twitter and thought it was a good summary of the extreme bullishness that I’ve been documenting for the past few issues (Short Seller’s Journal):

The old adage states that “they don’t ring a bell at the top.” But that table above seems to have nine different “bells ringing.” Note: “NAAIM” is the National Association of Active Investment Managers (Note, I know MMF is money market funds but I’m not sure what the rest of the metric represents other than its some measure of investor portfolio cash vs stock holdings). As you can see, every indicator that measures relative bull/bear sentiment is at a bullish extreme.

A record one-day inflow north of $500 million was tossed by retail investors into one of the inverse VIX ETNs.  Hard to imagine a louder “fire alarm” ringing than that one.  The Dow shed 1,095 points from last Friday’s close – 4.1%. The first big chunk down was Tuesday, when it lost 363 points. It also lost 177 points on Monday. After two small days of gains, ostensibly in support of Trump’s State of the Union speech, the Dow plunged 665 points on Friday.

Monday was obviously the type of market behavior about which many, including this blog, have been, have been warning.  Who could’ve seen that coming?

Even more interesting than the action in the stock market was the action in the bond market. Historically, other than in times of extreme market turmoil, when the stock market sells off with force, the funds flow into the Treasury bond market. Bond prices rise and yields fall. But this week the 10-year Treasury lost roughly 1.4 points, which translated into a 15 basis point jump in its yield to 2.84% The long bond closed over 3%. Even short term Treasury rates rose. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues. It is exceptionally bearish for the housing market.

Now, self-entitled “exceptionalist” Americans will be begging their Congressmen to “do something” while Congressmen will be grand-standing for the Fed to “do something.”  But the “something” that was done from 2008 to 2015 is wearing off.  If the Fed is going to do God’s work and save the universe from natural market forces, it will have to print  even more money than last time around. That type of “doing something” will annihilate the dollar.

The immediate problem will be retail and hedge fund margin calls. If we don’t hear about ETFs and hedge funds blowing up after what happened yesterday, it means the PPT (NY Fed + the Treasury’s Working Group on Financial Markets – the “PPT” – which both have offices in the same building in lower Manhattan) has monetized and covered up those financial road-side bombs.

Hedge fund net exposure to equities had reached a record by early January.  “Risk appetite” by mid-January had reached an all-time high. Margin debt and “investor credit” began hitting all-time highs and all-time lows, respectively, in January.  “Investor credit” is, essentially, the amount of cash an investor can withdraw from a stock account after subtracting margin debt. This metric was north of negative $500 billion.

But, who could’ve seen this coming?

Part of the commentary above is an excerpt from the most recent Short Seller’s Journal.  If you want to learn how you can take advantage of historically overvalued stocks, click here: Short Seller’s Journal information page.

Amazon’s Shock And Awe Earnings

Yesterday ahead of earnings, AMZN’s stock dropped $60, with $30 of that drop occurring in the last hour of trading.   It’s almost as if market-makers, with their customary preview of the impending AMZN headline EPS report in hand,  intentionally took the price down to set-up a short-trap.  AMZN stock closed at $1390, down $60 from Wednesday’s close.

Shortly thereafter, AMZN’s earnings headline showed $3.85/share, more than double the consensus estimate produced by Wall Street’s Einstein Center For Earnings Forecasts.  $1.85 was the expectation.  AMZN’s stock shot up to as high as $1480 in after hours, up as much as $90 from the close.  Imagine how much money the Big Bank trading desks made assuming they bought all the shares that were sold short in the last hour of trading on Thursday.

Within the first eight minutes of today’s open, AMZN stock shot up to as high as $1495, up $105 from Thursday’s close.  As I write this, AMZN is trading below Wednesday’s close of $1450:

A round-trip to nowhere, essentially. Here’s the funny thing about AMZN’s earnings that Wall Street’s finest will never report, if they even know the truth. Embedded in AMZN’s net income is a $789 million non-cash “provisional” tax benefit for the estimated impact of the new tax law. Note that this is a somewhat arbitrarily determined number – which is why its labelled “provisional” – and it’s non-cash. This GAAP, non-cash tax “benefit,” as guesstimated by AMZN’s accountants, added $1.63 per share to AMZN’s headline EPS report.

Regardless of how you want to account for this, at face value AMZN’s stock is trading at 233x trailing earnings.  Not including the GAAP, non-cash tax benefit, AMZN stock is trading at 315x trailing earnings.

This is not the only problem with the quality of AMZN’s earnings.  I’ve dissected AMZN’s entire  financials for my Short Seller’s Journal subscribers, as reported, showing the areas in which AMZN has exploited the current highly liberalized GAAP accounting standards to generate the  appearance of financial performance that is not real.

Despite Jeff Bezos’ claim that AMZN generated $8.4 billion LTM “free cash flow,” this misleading metric was down 20% from the end of Q4 2016.  But that’s on display in the earnings slides that AMZN publishes every quarter.  On a true GAAP basis, AMZN generated an LTM cash flow deficit – i.e. negative $1.46 billion.

This is just a small portion of AMZN’s accounting abortion.  Unfortunately, until the capital markets are no longer willing to finance AMZN’s cash burning Rube Goldberg operational structure, the stock is very difficult to short.  There will come a time, however, when sand gets blown into Jeff Bezos’ elaborate gears of deception.  When this occurs, the rush for the exits by shareholder will be epic.

Is Tesla Drowning In Liabilities?

Tesla must be burning cash a lot more quickly than the rate at which its operations were burning cash in the first 9 months of 2017.  Through the first three quarters, TSLA had incinerated $570 million, or roughly $2 million per day.  Its Model 3 sales are horrifically below Musk’s bold predictions.

Now Tesla is going take part of its “leased” vehicle portfolio and attempt to raise $546 million by letting Wall St. “engineer” the lease payments into an Asset-Backed Bond (ABS) deal.  The problem with Tesla’s leases is that any of the leases issued before June 30, 2016 contain a “resale value guarantee” from Tesla.  This  is a “put option” issued to the lessee of a Tesla vehicle in which the value of the “put option” is worth significantly greater than the resale of the vehicle.  And the resale value of a Tesla is declining rapidly on a daily basis, along with value of the entire used car inventory across the U.S.

The ABS bonds are structured from leases thrown into a pool of leases – the Trust – that will be used to fund the bond payments .  One of the problems with this deal are the leases held by Tesla that contain a guaranteed re-sale value of the leased vehicle.  To the extent that cars turned in under the guaranteed value payment  are worth less than the value of the guarantee, the bond trust takes the hit.

I noticed that the resale value of a Tesla S model is dropping like a stone they are almost giving away 2 year old models for free. Who wants to be a guarantor of that? – comment from a reader in Sweden

However, I would bet my last nickel that the residual values in the plain-vanilla leases that will be tossed into the trust exceed the market value of the underlying vehicles.  In this case the bond trust also takes a capital hit.  I have a hunch that Elon Musk is trying to pull a fast one on yield-hog bond fund managers by transferring leases with overvalued residual values embedded in them into this ABS Trust.

With so much printed Central Bank currency sloshing around the financial system, I’m sure if the underwriters dress this pig with enough lipstick in the form of a high coupon, the deal will get done.  I have to believe that this trust will have tobe  over-collateralized by a significant amount, meaning that the implied value of the leases tossed into the ABS Trust exceeds the par value of the Trust by a considerable amount.

But it  makes me wonder why Tesla is coming back to the capital markets with the equivalent of a “furniture sale” in order to raise high-cost capital given that the Company raised nearly $2 billion in August – just five months ago.  How much cash has Tesla’s operations incinerated since the end of September?  Judging from the collapse in Model 3 sales, it smells like Tesla and Elon Musk are beginning to get desperate to keep the lights on.

The Gold Cartel, Sex Scandals and GATA

The point is going up against the rich and powerful is known to be a losing proposition … for most, but not ALL, of the time, The tide has now turned when it comes to serious sexual harassment issues. The scandal took decades to surface. And, in my opinion, the same is going to be the case for the biggest financial market scandal in US history, that being the wrongful suppression of the gold/silver prices

Bill Murphy’s speech at the Vancouver Resource Investment Conference is a must-read. The truth about the Central Banks and Government intervention in the precious metals market is out “there” for everyone to see. But the public prefers to keep its eyes wide shut. Those elected or appointed to positions to prevent illegal market interference are well-paid by the banks to look the other way. The suppression of gold/silver prices is designed to hide horrifying truths about the U.S. financial and economic system. Truths that most do not recognize and most of the rest prefer to pretend don’t exist. But, you can ignore reality but you can’t ignore the consequences of reality. Then the reality hidden by gold price suppression can no longer be ignored, 99.5% of the populace will have no chance to protect themselves – the prices of gold and silver will be out of reach….

Hello Everyone

It is much fun having the opportunity again to make a presentation here in Vancouver on behalf of The Gold Anti- Trust Action Committee … in order to expose the manipulation of the gold/silver markets by The Gold Cartel.

My first trip here was 19 years ago for an arranged meeting at the airport with Normandy Mining Chairman Robert Champion DeCrespigny on his way back to Australia. After flying all that way from Dallas, this arrogant man refused to see me. GATA went all that distance to help his firm, the gold industry, and the gold market … and he could have cared less about those issues and our effort. Little did we know back then this type of reception would become much the norm, as not.

What a journey it has been all these years.

What we have learned over this period time is how all encompassing the market manipulation schemes really are. Initially, we realized that various bullion banks (such as Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan) were collectively suppressing the gold price to keep it below $300 an ounce. Eventually we realized the manipulation extended to silver also AND included the Fed, The Treasury, Exchange Stabilization Fund, BIS and other central banks.

Over the many years it became apparent the market rigging extended even further to other financial markets … including acknowledged intervention in our bond market and clandestine operations in our stock market, marshaled by the infamous Plunge Protection Team. One of the first people to acknowledge the magnitude of it all was my colleague Chris Powell, who at GATA’s 2008 conference outside of Washington, D.C. came up with his great line, “There are no markets anymore, just interventions.”

For nearly 20 years Chris has been documenting the evidence of the intervention in the gold/silver markets by The Gold Cartel. It is all there on GATA’s website ( www.GATA.org) for anyone who wishes to get a grasp on how real and massive the intervention really is.

One of the most telling bits of evidence of what The Gold Cartel is all about emanates from one of the ringleaders of the scam, the Bank for International Settlements, which can be found at their own website. Regard what it explains to the investment world as one of their products.

And yet, incredibly enough, despite the obvious there are very few in the gold world who will touch the subject … THE most important one of ALL to those with any interest in the precious metals.

My role has been to chronicle the day to day activities of this cabal on my LeMetropoleCafe website, which many times are so blatant even a caveman could spot them. Our colleague James McShirley, a lumber company CEO with decades of experience in the futures market, has been invaluable in that regard. No other markets in history have traded the way gold and silver have … over, and over again, sometimes in the most absurd of fashions. The latest of which is the astonishing and unprecedented rise in the gold open interest on the Comex with The Gold Cartel doing the selling, and the hideous punishment of silver each time its price rises to $17.25.

Course many of you in this audience understand this and know of our efforts of nearly two decades to expose what will eventually become the most infamous financial market scandal in U.S. history.  As part of that effort…*We have held 4 international conferences – in South Africa, Alaska, Washington D.C., and London.

At our 2005 Dawson City conference a senior economic advisor to Russia’s President Putin, Andrey Bykov, showed up and said it was the finest conference he ever attended. The price of gold had been comatose. Two days later the gold price began to take off.

NINE months after GATA’s conference in Alaska, the gold price had risen 70%.  *We have been to Washington numerous times to meet the likes of the Speaker of the House; Ron Paul; Monetary Committees, etc. *Organized letter campaigns to Congress. *Been on various cable TV financial shows. *Presented at conferences, such as this one, etc.

YES, it has been some journey…*Most gratifying of all has been the terrific people we have met over the years, such as yourselves … many of whom have financially supported our efforts.

*Unfortunately, we learned the industry as a whole will never do anything about dealing with the most important factor in the gold/silver world. Yes, to do so would mean dealing with some permitting issues by governments and financings by bullion banks. Yet, any other industry would form an organization to deal with, or correct, the problem, so they could not be individually blamed. Not this one, which has The World Gold Council refusing to do anything about this devastating issue. The situation is so bad that when Chris, John Embry and I went to see their acting CEO in London in 2010 we had to sign a waiver of sorts saying we were never there.

Huh?  The World Gold Council’s CEO today is Randall Oliphant, who actually aided The Gold Cartel’s operations when he directed Barrick Gold’s massive hedging operations at the turn of the century.  GATA’s confrontation of Barrick Gold as an arm of The Gold Cartel back then, and for some years to follow, is a presentation all in itself. Just a few key points:

*In lawsuit proceedings Barrick Gold confessed that it and its bullion banker, JP Morgan Chase & Co., were the direct agents of the central banks in the international control of the gold price … that the central banks, having what is called sovereign immunity against suit, simply could not be included in the suit; and that the suit therefore had to be dismissed.  The suit was not and was settled out of court.

*It is no fluke that past Barrick Board members included George Bush, Brian Mulroney, the notorious Adnan Khashoggi, etc. All rich and powerful men. – and something to keep in mind for the rest of this presentation. Barrick was connected directly to the bullion/central bank rigging operations.

*Those gold rigging operations came to an end with Barrick taking something like an $8 billion dollar loss when its ludicrous gold hedges were forced to be lifted. The Barrick shareholders paid the price for that firm’s complicity with The Gold Cartel operations.

*Despite being the world’s largest gold producer, its share price today is less than when gold was below $300 and GATA came into being. What goes around come around in that regard.

*One final note, I made another trip up here to Vancouver in 2006 on behalf of the Nova Gold CEO, who, at the time, wanted GATA’s help to stave off an unwanted Barrick bid back then. We did what we could, but eventually those two companies got together and we never did receive any thanks from the CEO.

So, here we are all these years later and so what? Why carry on when the industry refuses to deal with its most important issue and let’s themselves get mugged by a corrupt operation? The answer is quite simple.

For Chris and I, “It is the life we have chosen” … a term appropriately taken from an old Mafia movie. Most importantly, major scandals in the past have taken many years to come out in the open. They include Enron, who was voted the US corporation of the year 5 years in a row by a major US financial magazine … and who can forget the Bernie Madoff scandal, one in which no one would listen to whistle blower Harry Markopolis for nearly a decade, despite the overwhelming evidence he presented to the authorities. Insiders at Enron who tried to expose the truth were fired.

How hard is it to get the truth out there? Last summer GATA spent many hours sending some 50 emails to a Wall Street Journal reporter doing a front page story on the Fed and its gold. We introduced the reporter to a number of those in the GATA camp.  But guess what? When that story surfaced, everything in there from GATA, or Chris Powell and myself, was cut out. YOU HAVE TO BE KIDDING ME! But were we surprised? Nope

But why carry on is best exemplified by what occurred this past year regarding the sex scandals in the U.S. A sexual harassment horror show by rich and powerful men in the U.S. praying upon women was an ongoing fact of life for many decades, but was kept on the down low. Finally, it all really began to surface with some 50 women accusing one of my childhood heroes, Bill Cosby, of date rape.

One or two could be a misunderstanding. But FIFTY? (Which is the equivalent to the sort of evidence GATA has on The Gold Cartel.) While that was more than unsettling, Cosby still has not been convicted of anything yet. However, it surely set the stage for the Hollywood Harvey Weinstein revelations…

The sexual harassment accusations against this famous Hollywood big shot were so outrageous and over the top that it sent out reverberations throughout the media/political world. Senator Al Franken has resigned, as have media giants Matt Lauer of NBC and Charlie Rose of PBS Broadcasting. Good grief! Within just months of Weinstein’s outing! Seems to me those reverberations are unprecedented in terms of speed.

The point here of this presentation is that these were hideous provocations just waiting to be exposed, which is just why GATA stays on the manipulation of the gold/silver markets. The reason so many of the coerced women were silent for so long is because they were going up against the MOST POWERFUL and RICHEST people in their field. LEGENDS in many cases. Who was going to believe them against who they would be charging? Most importantly, in terms of the GATA issue, they might get fired, or face retribution, for even making such charges.

I know exactly what I am talking about here. My very young sister Kris back then was a successful model in New York City in the 1980’s. She went on an interview with Harvey Weinstein in a New York hotel suite and he had her dress up in a Teddy outfit with high heels on. So scared, she ran for the hills, but did tell my brother Tim at the time exactly what happened.

The point is going up against the rich and powerful is known to be a losing proposition … for most, but not ALL, of the time, The tide has now turned when it comes to serious sexual harassment issues. The scandal took decades to surface. And, in my opinion, the same is going to be the case for the biggest financial market scandal in US history, that being the wrongful suppression of the gold/silver prices.

Its time will come when your average Joe and Jane is devastated financially and wants an explanation of, “HOW COULD THIS HAVE HAPPENED?”

Which brings me to a critical point of my presentation for all of you here who are interested in the gold and silver markets. Because of what The Gold Cartel has done, the gold and silver prices are the most undervalued assets in the world … by a hefty margin. GATA realizes we are not wanted in certain circles in the precious metals arena because of what we have to say … that the richest and most powerful people in the world are preventing them from making money, going against them. So why bother to go there? Keep GATA out of sight and out of mind is their thinking. Nothing could be more out of whack in a big picture sense.

Think about it. Assets of all kind have soared over the past years, including stocks, art, real estate, etc. Incredibly low interest rates have enhanced all of them, but not the two markets which should have gone up the most with all the paper money hoarded into the financial market system. The orchestrated suppression of the gold/silver prices was put into play by The Gold Cartel to deflect from what the powers were doing … inflating the system, and perhaps very dangerously so.

As a result, the gold/silver prices have been forced to retreat to artificially LOW prices which will not stand. They will catch up to and go way beyond what most other assets have done these past years! IMO, understanding what The Gold Cartel has done is THE most important reason right now to be in the gold/silver markets.

Which brings me to a topic of conversation surely to be a part of many at this conference, the Bitcoin/cryptocurrency phenomenon.

One year ago I presented at a Jeff Berwick conference in Acapulco. The conference focused on precious metals and crypto currencies. The crypto folks were ecstatic back then as Bitcoin had risen to the same price of gold at $1240. Even then, the crypto crowd was bubbly as could be. So upbeat compared to the gold/silver crowd, which included myself, because of the nauseating price suppression. Can you imagine what that convention will be like this year with Bitcoin having reached $19,000 not long ago? Good for them.

Which leads us to another key issue for our camp. The crypto geniuses realized the advent of a technological way to put money outside of the traditional financial market system … for a myriad of reasons. The win for those who bought in prior of Jeff’s conference has been astronomical, the most phenomenal in all of recorded history. What has occurred exemplifies just how much the outside of the fiat money system gold and silver prices have been suppressed these past many years … which many of you are already too aware of.

But while what the Bitcoins have done has been a short term negative in the west regarding current interest in the precious metals, it is likely to be a boon of all booms once these undervalued assets begin to take off. A reason is that there are now a number of momentum traders around the world who have made so much money in various markets, they will not be afraid to pour into gold and silver investments as they really begin to REALLY move. This will be a force The Gold Cartel has not had to deal with before.

It is only a matter of time before the physical supply needed by the cabal forces to keep the gold/silver prices at such ridiculously low price levels dries up. The momentum traders will pounce all over this new, delicious opportunity. The Gold Cartel will be forced to retreat.

So, for what it is worth, this is what I see for the rest of this year…

*The gold and silver prices really get going, and they keep on going. The cheapest assets on the planet won’t be by the end of 2018.

*Gold will launch towards new all-time highs in the not too distant future.

*Once the price of silver, the cartel’s krytonite, takes out $21 it goes bonkers and eventually trades akin to what Bitcoin has done. The efforts by the JP Morgan forces to hold the silver price down at levels which are 2/3 less where it managed to trade 38 years ago are the most obvious and onerous I have even seen in 40 years. Silver has been so ludicrously depressed, Newton’s Law of Equal and Opposite Reactions, will finally take hold. $100 silver should be achieved faster than most anyone can imagine right now.

*Many of the beat up junior/exploration stocks will trade in Bitcoin fashion too and repeat the returns they made after the turn of the century, which were extraordinary to say the least.

“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”