Tag Archives: stock bubble

Pension Apocalypse Is Coming

“It’s unequivocal now: We are taking money from the new employees and using it to pay off this liability for the old employees,” said Turner, a Gov. John Hickenlooper appointee. “And some might call that a Ponzi scheme.”Denver Post, 6/27/17

The people in Denver who bother to read the news, especially the ones who are or will be dependent on the Colorado public employees pension fund (PERA), were greeted with a shock Tuesday. PERA is now admitting to be 42% underfunded, down from an alleged 38% underfunding last year. How on earth is it possible for the underfunding of a pension to increase during a period of time when the Dow, S&P 500, Nasdaq and fixed income markets are hitting or are near all-time highs?

And what about the valuations of these funds using realistic mark to market prices for the illiquid assets, like private equity, commercial real estate and OTC derivatives?  Harvard University is about to sell its private equity assets.  My bet is that the value received will be covered up as much as possible.  And we’ll never know where the fund was marked on its books.  But judging of the failure vs. expectations of the SNAP and Blue Apron IPOs, private equity investments are likely over-marked on the books by at least 15-20%. A market to market here would devastate the stated funding levels of every pension fund.

It’s not just Illinois, which is de facto bankrupt, and the Connecticut State pension fund, which is also de facto insolvent.  Nearly every State’s pension fund is severely underfunded, as well as most private funds.

That 42% underfunding for PERA, by the way, makes very generous actuarial assumptions about the assumed rate of return on assets vs. the assumed payouts. Those assumptions have been wrong for at least 20 years and will continue to be wrong. That’s why PERA’s – as well as most every other pension fund – has become more underfunded over the last year.

The quote at the top is from Lynn Turner, who was one of the few competent, if not respected, SEC commissioners in my lifetime. In my view, when politicians and public officials are willing to state the truth about a dire situation in public,  it implies that the situation is on the precipice and they want to be disassociated with it – i.e the rats are jumping ship.  Yesterday the Illinois State Senate minority leader resigned…

I would argue that the one of the primary reasons the Fed is working hard to keep the stock market propped up is because, if the Dow/SPX/Nasdaq were to fall 5-10% for an extended period of time – as in more than a month – the entire U.S. pension Ponzi scheme would blow up and decimate the financial system. It’s a literal black swan in full view.

This is explains the “V” rallies in the stock market when the market abruptly drops 1% on a given day – like Tuesday and Thursday this past week. The fact that the market reversed Wednesday’s overt Fed intervention on Thursday signals the possibility that the Fed is losing control.

Meanwhile, the paper price of gold has once again withstood a vicious overnight attack that began in London and continued when the Comex opened by holding up at the $1240 level and bouncing. This is the fourth time since the so-called Fed attack last week disguised by the fake news as the “fat finger” trade.

Gold, A Banking Collapse And Cryptocurrencies

“We believe the effect of the troubles in the subprime sector on the broader housing market will be limited and we do not expect significant spillovers from the subprime market to the rest of the economy or to the financial system,” – Fed Chairman, Ben Beranke – May 17, 2007.

“You know probably that would be going too far but I do think we’re much safer and I hope that it will not be in our lifetimes and I don’t believe it will be.” – Fed “Chairman,” Janet Yellen – June 27, 2017

Hmmm…

Short All Retail, Especially Amazon

“Bubbles require ever more money to sustain them. Currently that’s not happening. A severe market selloff could come at any moment.”

The quote above is from Fred Hickey, who writes the The High-Tech Strategist newsletter. Mario Draghi, Chairman of the ECB, is under pressure to reduce the Central Banks’ asset purchases (it’s buying corporate bonds, including junk-rated bonds). Apparently some Dutcn legislators presented Draghi with a tulip in reference to the Dutch tulip mania in the 1630’s.

The Bank of Japan and the Chinese Government are working to reduce their money printing. The Fed is still buying mortgages but it seems determined to slowly tighten monetary policy. The problem faced by these Central Planners is that they’ve created a massive global Ponzi scheme that requires an increasing amount of liquidity (money printing + credit expansion) in order to sustain valuation levels. Once they slow down the liquidity spigot, all fiat currency- driven assets (except physical precious metals) are at risk of collapsing.

The Dow finished the week closing down 4 days in row to close essentially unchanged for week (up 9 pts). The SPX also was flat for the week (up 6 pts). It managed to squeak out a slight gain on Friday to avoid 4 consecutive down days. Both the Dow and SPX started out Friday with a big rally from Thursday’s close but faded over the last 2 hours of trading on no apparent news triggers. This for me is a possible indicator that the stock market losing energy.

Bed Bath and Beyond (BBBY) was hammered Friday, down over 12%, as it badly missed earnings and revenue estimates. I presented BBBY as a short idea in the December 16th SSJ issue at $47.27. I hope some of you jumped on it then, as 4 days later it had closed at $41.38.

Amusingly, Jim Cramer, et al attributed BBBY’s lousy quarter to competition from AMZN. But nothing could be further from the truth. Its sales were up slightly from Q1 2016 and
its digital channel sales grew 20%. If anything, BBBY’s e-commerce business presents intensified competition for AMZN. Why? Because AMZN’s e-commerce operating margin is 0.3% vs. BBBY’s, which was 5.4% in Q1. BBBY has plenty room to go directly at AMZN on pricing.

BBBY’s net income dropped 39% vs. Q1 2016. The primary culprit was that BBBY lowered its free shipping threshold to $29 from $49. which in turn forced BBBY to absorb shipping costs on more orders. AMZN does not properly accrue the cost of its free shipping to its cost of sales (the SEC looks the other way on this one), burying the expense across the income
statement and balance sheet. But we know it has a reported 0.3% operating margin in e-commerce. The hit to BBBY’s operating margin, which declined 242 basis points (2.42%), gives us some insight about true cost inflicted on AMZN from its free shipping program.

My point here is that the overall retail environment is going to get more competitive and margins are going to decline even more. Companies like Walmart and BBBY have taken the gloves off and can afford to undercut AMZN across the board because they have significantly more room to cut prices and attack AMZN’s pricing and free shipping model without driving their operating margins down to zero. AMZN’s e-commerce profit margin, for all intents and purposes, is zero. The bottom line here is that retail in general remains a great sector to short.

I believe BBBY has a lot more downside and can still be shorted, with patience, for some nice gains:

The more interesting short is AMZN. About a month ago, right before completing the check-out process on AMZN, I received a message in which AMZN was offering a $5 shopping credit to fund a gift card with $100. Why is AMZN paying 5% to raise cash? It effectively is taking a 5% operating profit margin hit on the $100, because its overall e-commerce operating margin is essentially zero. And I discovered yesterday that AMZN was offering a $5 shopping credit to Prime members who opted for the slow shipping option rather than the 2-day shipping.

These cash-raising and cash-saving policies make no sense if AMZN is producing the billions in free cash flow as represented by Bezos (on a non-GAAP basis, of course). Something is very wrong beneath the surface. In fact, AMZN burns cash every quarter. I have demonstrated that in previous research I have produced. It’s a fact.

In the meantime, AMZN continues to be, along with TSLA, the greatest Ponzi scheme in history. Bernie Madoff is green with envy. The irony surrounding all of the analyst – and Jim Cramer – noise about AMZN is that its acquisition of Whole Foods makes it more vulnerable to competition. The idea that AMZN will now be a “grocery killer” is absurd. Just like the idea that it’s a retail killer. BBBY’s e-commerce grew at 20% year over year.

If anything is true, it’s that BBBY, Walmart, Target and Kroger present intensified e-commerce competition for AMZN.  And all four of those companies can cut prices to compete and still turn an operating profit.  AMZN does not have that luxury. That’s probably why AMZN is encouraging Prime customers to take the slow shipment option with a $5 shopping credit.

Most of the above analysis is an excerpt from this week’s Short Seller’s Journal, released Sunday evening. I discussed strategies for shorting BBBY. I also discussed shorting Kinder Morgan (KMI) in the context of declining energy price and usage and included for subscribers a somewhat dated, in-depth research report on KMI which details with proof the Ponzi scheme set-up at KMI. You can get more details about the subscription, including a “handful” of back-issues here:  Short Seller’s Journal info.  (Note: new subscribers also get a copy of the somewhat-dated full AMZN research report I wrote).

Gravity Rules: End Of The Bubble Is In Sight

“Even the intelligent investor is likely to need considerable willpower to keep from following the crowd.

The quote above is from Ben Graham, considered to be the father of value investing. Graham followed the crowd in 1929 and lost a small fortune for himself and his investors. Graham collected his learning experience from that disaster and eventually wrote, “The Intelligent Investor,” which is considered to be the one of the best investment books ever written. Warren Buffet enrolled at Columbia to study under Graham. Graham’s teachings formed the foundation of modern money management theories. To this day it is considered the value investor’s “investment bible.”

Wall Street is incentivized to sell the idea that stocks only go up. When I started on the junk bond desk as a salesmen (before switching to trading), I was told my job was to “reach into the portfolio manager’s pocket and take as much money as you can from his pocket and put it into your pocket.”

Wall Street greed has been around as long as stocks have been trading (the NYSE was founded in 1792). But it’s hard to blame stockbrokers for the damaging effects of greed. Stock-peddlers are like well-paid psychologists. They take advantage of human greed. Without investor greed, the stock brokerage business would be considerably smaller than it is today.

A stock bubble can’t exist without investor greed. It starts with greed. It moves into the “bubble” phase when greed is consumed by hysteria. The U.S. stock market has moved into the “hysteria” stage. This would be the point at which the bubble has almost reached maximum inflation. The upward movement in stocks is dominated by a handful of the stocks that, for whatever reason, are moving higher at the fastest rate of levitation. The graphic on the next page shows visually what “bubble to hysteria” looks like.

I reached the conclusion the stock market has moved into the hysteria stage by spending time studying the “Five Horsemen” (AAPL, AMZN, NFLX, FB, MSFT) + TSLA. Even during periods of the trading day when the Dow and SPX are go red, most or all of those six stocks remain green, sometimes moving higher while the broad indices move lower. It’s incredible to watch real-time.

“It’s not to late to catch a ride on the FANG rally” was a headline seen on CNBC last week. This is the type of hysteria that is reflected in the media at bubble peaks.

In the image above (click to enlarge), the graph on the left is the NASDAQ index since the election (from Jesse’s Cafe Americain). The graph on the right is the price-path that occurred during the Dutch Tulip Bulb mania of the 1630’s. You can see that both graphs go vertical. The vertical stage is driven by hysteria in which investors are terrified of missing the next move higher. It also ends with a decline, the rate of which is typically stunning.

The push higher in stocks like AAPL and AMZN is irrational, but TSLA has been infected with outright hysteria.

The worse the news on Tesla gets, the more quickly the stock seems to move up in price. Early in the week last week, Triple-A (the Auto Club group) announced that it was going to raise the its insurance premiums on Tesla cars by as much as 30%. A highway loss data study revealed that Tesla’s vehicles have higher claim numbers and repair costs vs. other vehicles in Tesla’s category. The Tesla S model claims were said to be 46% greater than the average number of claims for similar vehicles. Servicing those claims cost twice as much. The X model car reported a 41% higher crash-rate than similar vehicles and cost 89% more to repair.

In addition, it was reported on Monday that Toyota had unloaded the last of its remaining stake in Tesla before the end of 2016. It marked the end of a collaboration between Tesla and Toyota that began in 2010. Toyota announced that it plans to release its own fleet of long-range mass produced electric vehicles by 2020. Despite this blow of negative news about Tesla, the stock powered up over 8% last week before a late-day sell-off in the 5 Horsemen + Tesla inflicted a $19 reversal in TSLA’s stock price from its high Friday to the close. My puts, the June 30th $317.50-strikes, traded from Friday from a low of $1.06 to close at $2.40 on the bid side.

The graph below shows the price-path of TSLA’s stock since the election. Note that the graph looks very similar to the graphs of the NASDAQ/Tulip Bulb mania. In the 1800’s, writer Charles Mackay wrote a highly acclaimed book called, “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds,” in which he presented his studies on crowd psychology and how it leads to financial manias, among other destructive events. The chart below reflects “crowd” madness as it applies to TSLA stock (the inset price-box from last Thursday morning) – click to enlarge:

While the NASDAQ has appreciated 22% since the election, TSLA’s stock, on deteriorating fundamentals, has shot up 191%. TSLA’s market cap now stands at nearly $61 billion. It burns over $1 billion per year in cash and its financials are riddled with what would have been considered accounting fraud 20 years ago. It sold 72.6 thousand cars in 2016. Compare this to GM, which has a market cap of $51 billion and sold over 3 million cars in 2016, and Ford, which has a market cap of $44 billion and sold 2.5 million cars in 2016.
To say that the action in TSLA’s stock price and its market cap is “insane” does not do justice to the word in “insane.” TSLA is the “poster child” for the mass hysteria that fuels investment bubbles. The problem with shorting TSLA is that the hedge funds are chasing its momentum higher, as investors as investors embrace the negative news events as a reason to pay more for the stock. As such, it’s hard to see a catalyst that will “correct” the price, like with retailers for instance. TSLA, along with AMZN, is one of the rare stocks which will continue levitating until it doesn’t – like a meteor that eventually burns out falls to earth.

In my opinion, the ride down will be worth the pain and blood-loss of sticking with a short bet on TSLA, which is why I continue to buy small quantities of put options that have been expiring worthless. I know at some point I’m going to catch a $100+ reversal in TSLA stock which will more than make-up for the small losses I’m enduring in the puts while I wait for that occurrence. Using puts protects me from the unknown magnitude of upside risk from shorting the stock. Plus, I don’t have make a “stop-loss” decision because I don’t have the theoretic “infinite upside” loss potential that I would face shorting the stock. With my loss capped, I can hang on to the puts through expiration. With a stock like TSLA, often a stop-loss exit is followed up by reversal to the downside, leaving the short-seller without a short position.

As we saw on Friday, TSLA stock can reverse to the downside quite abruptly and sharply. I can guarantee that some number of shorts covered as TSLA was soaring over $370, leaving them with no position when the stock reversed, closing at $357. I don’t want to recommend specific puts to use but I can recommend giving yourself at least four weeks of time. If I were putting on a new put position today, I would probably buy a very small quantity of the July 7th $340-strikes. If TSLA sells back to the $310 area before expiry, which could easily happen as $310 is where the last 2-week push up in price began, the puts would have an intrinsic value of $30. The current cost is about $10.

TSLA reminds me of Commerce One (CMRC), a B2B internet company that went from $10 to $600 in a very short period of time in late 1999 – 2000. It eventually went to $0. I shorted and covered small quantities of stock starting around $450. I was fortunate to have been short from the high $500’s when it finally topped out a $600. The volatility of this stock was extraordinary but persistence and “thick skin” paid off.

The above analysis and commentary is from the latest <ahref=”http://investmentresearchdynamics.com/short-sellers-journal/”>Short Seller’s Journal, in which I present a “Big Short” mortgage derivative stock that will eventually drop close to zero from it’s current price in the mid-teens.  You can find out more here:  Short Seller Journal info.

Orwell’s Theorem: The Opposite of Truth Is The Truth

All propaganda is lies, even when one is telling the truth. – George Orwell

A reader commented that the number of corporate lay-offs in America is escalating, yet the unemployment rate seems to keep going lower.  Part of the reason for this is that the 2008 collapse “cleansed” corporate america’s payrolls of a large number of workers who are eligible to file for unemployment benefits.

The Labor Force is derived from the number of people employed + the number of people looking for work.  To continue receiving jobless benefits during the defined period in which fired workers can receive them, they have to demonstrate that they are looking for work.  Ergo, they are considered part of the Labor Force.  Once the jobless benefits expire, they are removed from the Labor Force unless an enterprising Census Bureau pollster happens to get one on the phone and they answer “yes” when asked if they are/were actively looking for work.   Those who do not qualify for jobless benefits more often than not are removed from the Labor Force tally.  This is why, last month for example, over 600,000 people were removed from the Labor Force.

Reducing the Labor Force de facto reduces the unemployment rate.  Thus, there’s an inverse relationship between layoffs and the unemployment rate.  It’s an Orwellian utopia for the elitists.

Today’s stock market is a great example of the “opposite of truth is the truth” theorem.   It was reported by Moody’s that credit card charge-offs have risen at to their highest rate since 2009 – LINK.  This means that defaults are rising at an even faster rate, as finance companies use accounting gimmicks to defer actual charge-offs as long as possible.  A debt that is charged-off has probably been in non-pay status for at least 9-12 months.

The same story has been developing in auto loans. The 60+ day delinquency rate for subprime auto loans is at 4.51%, just 0.18% below the peak level hit in 2008. The 60+ day delinquency rate for prime auto loans is 0.54%, just 0.28% below the 2008 peak. In terms of outright defaults, subprime auto debt is just a shade under 12%, which is about 2.5% below its 2008 peak. Prime loans are defaulting at a 1.52% rate, about 200 basis points (2%) below the 2008 peak. However, judging from the rise in the 60+ day delinquency rate, I would expect the rate of default on prime auto loans to rise quickly this year.

Now here’s the kicker: In Q3 2008 there was $800 billion in auto loans outstanding. Currently there’s $1.2 trillion, or 50% more. In other words, we’re not in crisis mode yet and the delinquency/default rates on subprime auto debt is near the levels at which it peaked in 2008. These numbers are going to get a lot worse this year and the amount of debt involved is 50% greater. But the real problem will be, once again, the derivatives connected to this debt. It would be a mistake to expect that this problem will not begin to show up in the mortgage market.

Amusingly, the narrative pitched by Wall Street and the sock-puppet financial media analysts is that the credit underwriting standards have only recently been “skewed” toward sub-prime. This is an outright fairytale that is accepted as truth (see Orwell’s Theorem). The issuance of credit to the general population has been skewed toward sub-prime since 2008. It’s the underwriting standards that were loosened.

The definition of non-sub-prime was broadened considerably after 2008.  Many borrowers considered sub-prime prior to 2008 were considered “prime” after 2008. The FHA was the first to pounce on this band-wagon, as it’s 3% down-payment mortgage program enabled the FHA to go from a 2% market share 2008 to a 20% market share of the mortgage market.

Capital One is a good proxy for lower quality credit card and auto loan issuance. While Experian reports an overall default of 3.3% on credit cards, COF reported a 5.14% charge-off rate for its domestically issued credit cards. COF’s Q1 2017 charge-off rate is up 48 basis points (0.48%) from Q4 2016 and up 100 basis points (1%) from Q1 2016. The charge-off rate alone increased at an increasing rate at Capital One over the last 4 quarters. This means the true delinquency rates are likely surging at even higher rates. This would explain why COF is down 17% since March 1st despite a 2.1% rise in the S&P 500 during the same time-period.

To circle back to Orwell’s Theorem, today the S&P 500 is hitting a new record high. But rather than the FANGs + APPL driving the move, the push higher is attributable to a jump in the financial sector. This is despite the fact that there were several news reports released in the last 24 hours which should have triggered another sell-off in the financial sector. Because  the stock market has become a primary propaganda tool, it’s likely that the Fed/Plunge Protection Team was in the market pushing the financials higher in order to “communicate” the message that the negative news connected to the sector is good news.  Afer all, look at the performance of the financials today!

Days like today are great opportunities to set-up shorts. Most (not all) of the ideas presented in the Short Seller’s Journal this year have been/are winners.  As an example Sears (SHLD) is down 39% since it was presented on April 2nd.   I’ll present two great short ideas in the financial sector plus a retailer in the next issue.  You can learn more about the Short Seller’s Journal here:  SSJ Info.

Portrait Of A Stock Bubble

Just like the Dutch Tulip Bulb bubble, internet stock bubble, and the  mid-2000’s financial asset bubble, the current stock market is no longer  a price-discovery mechanism.   It has deteriorated into a venue in which Central Bank-manufctured liquidity – in the form of printed currency and credit creation – has flooded into the system, enabling investors to chase the few stocks rising in price at the highest velocity (click to enlarge, graph on the left sourced from Jesse’s Cafe Americain).

The drivers of this modern day Dutch Tulip phenomenon are the so-called “Five Horsemen” stocks – AAPL, AMZN, FB, GOOG,MSFT. To that grouping I toss in TSLA.  Among all of those bubble stocks, TSLA has become, by far, the most disconnected from any remote intrinsic, fundamental value.  AAPL alone is responsible for 25% of the YTD gain in the Dow and 13% of the YTD gain in the S&P 500. AAPL’s revenues and operating income have declined over the last three years (2014 to 2016).  More often than not, even on days when the S&P/Dow are red, most if not all of the Five Horsemen + TSLA  seem to close green.

Eventually, the music will stop and this “no-price-discovery-possible” market will become a “can’t find a seat” market.  The abruptness and rate of decline will be breathtaking. Perhaps only matched by the outflow of capital from the cryptos by “investors” who leveraged up their cryptocurrency holdings to throw more “money” at TSLA.

The good news is that a lot of money can be made shorting stocks.  Since April, stocks like IBM, GS, SHLD, BZH and GE presented in the Short Seller’s Journal as shorts have outperformed the SPX/Dow.  SHLD is down 47% in 7 weeks – a home run.  BZH is down 18% in three weeks.  In the next issue, a “funky” financial stock will be featured that has the potential to drop at least 50% over the next 12 months if not sooner.

No one knows what event will trigger the stock bubble collapse.  One possibility is the ongoing financial implosion of the State of Illinois.  In stock bubble periods, all news is imbued with “the glass is half full.”  As an example, Illinois’ credit rating was reduced recently to BB+/Baa3.  That is a junk rating. But the media characterizes it as a “the lowest investment grade” rating – i.e. the “glass is half full.”

Both rating agencies never downgraded Enron to junk until it was weeks from Chapter 7 bankruptcy.  Illinois is on the brink of financial disaster.   See this article as an example:  Illinois Owes Billions.  This problem is absolutely dwarfed by Illinios’ public pension problem, which Illinois underfunded by a couple hundred billion (officially about $130 billion but that’s not on a true mark-to-market basis).

When the music finally stops, the perma-bubble bulls will be looking for that proverbial “seat” in all the wrong places.  But the next stampede of capital will be out of stocks, bonds, cryptos and “investment” homes and into physical gold, silver and mining stocks.

A Stock Market Crash: A Matter Of “When,” Not “If”

Given group-think and the determination of policy makers to do ‘whatever it takes’ to prevent the next market ‘crash,’ we think that the low-volatility levitation magic act of stocks and bonds will exist until the disenchanting moment when it does not. And then all hell will break loose, a lamentable scenario that will nevertheless present opportunities that are likely to be both extraordinary and ephemeral.  –  Highly regarded hedge fund manager, Paul Singer, in his latest investor newsletter

Singer has apparently has unloaded $5 billion worth of stock, which is 15% of his funds management.

Anyone happen to notice that several market commentators have argued that Bitcoin is  a bubble but the same stock “experts” look the other way as the U.S. stock market becomes more overvalued by the day vs. the deteriorating underlying fundamentals? Bitcoin going “parabolic” triggers alarm bells but it’s okay if the stock price of AMZN is hurtling toward parity with the price of one ounce of gold. Tesla burns a billion per year in cash. It sold 76,000 cars last year vs. 10 million worldwide for General Motors. Yet Tesla’s market cap is $51.7 billion vs. $48.8 billion for GM.

This insanity is the surest sign that the stock market bubble is getting ready to pop. If you read between the lines of the the comments from certain Wall Street analysts, the only justification for current valuations is “Central Bank liquidity” and “Fed support of asset values.” This is the most dangerous stage of a market top because it draws in retail “mom & pop” investors who can’t stop themselves from missing out on the next “sure thing.” There will be millions of people who are permanently damaged financially when the Fed loses control of this market. Or, as legendary “vulture” investor Asher Edelman stated on CNBC, “I don’t want to be in the market because I don’t know when the plug is going to be pulled.”

A friend/colleague of mine is a point and figure chart aficionado. He sent me an email on Thursday in which he said even with the five horsemen (FANGs + AAPL) and the SPX and Dow up today (and the SPX setting a new all-time high), the bullish percent index (BPI) of the NYSE is negative which means there are more stocks generating a point and figure sell signal than a buy signal. This has been fairly consistent over the past couple of weeks. (Note: the bullish percent index is a breadth indicator based on the number of stocks on point & figure buy signals). When the BPI is negative over an extended period of time, it reflects the fact that a lot more stocks in the NYSE are trending lower than are trending higher. When a declining number of stocks are participating in the move higher of a stock index, it is a bearish signal.

As my friend says, “in reality this will continue until it doesn’t.” He goes on to say: ” what this shows me is that at this time it’s much better to be strategically short than broadly short. This will change too at some point…”

Picking out strategic shorts has been the focus of the Short Seller’s Journal. Not all of the ideas have worked and a couple back-fired – in defiance of the company’s underlying fundamentals – but many ideas are well below the price at which they were presented either the first time or presented again thereafter. One idea that has declined 39% (declined $42) since August 2016 is Ralph Lauren, which was presented on August 14, 2016 at $108.19. It closed Friday at $66.11, down 41 cents on a day when the SPX hit another all-time high. RL has closed lower on 12 of the last 13 days.

One subscriber emailed me earlier this week to let me know he had shorted 200 shares at $108 and covered 100 of it this week. He’s hanging on to the other 100 share short. I mentioned to him that my 12-18 month target was $50 and that he should hold the other 100 short at least until August because it’s only going to get worse for the consumer and retailers.

Currently there’s a a large percentage of stocks trading below their 50 and 200 day moving averages.  Many stocks are close or at 52-week lows.  Some stocks, like Sears Holdings (SHLD) are no-brainer shorts.  Sears is going to file for bankruptcy – it’s down 32% from April 2nd, when it was presented as a short idea in the Short Seller’s Journal.  Similar to the probability of a stock market crash, it’s  a matter of “when,” not “if.”

Bitcoin, Propaganda, Fake News And Unmitigated Idiocy

I want to show two quotes from commentators in related areas of financial analysis because they illustrate the difference between truthful commentary and unmitigated idiocy.

Yesterday, James “Mc” wrote in Bill Murphy’s nightly “Midas” report:

“The sexiness of Bitcoin, Tesla, Netflix, and hundreds of other techie things will become FAR less sexy in a good old fashion economic crash. Reality will quickly set in, and real stuff, made by real people will prevail. As history has shown everything else becomes superfluous. Millennials, or even Gen-Xer’s for that matter have never experienced truly hard times. Many will be shocked to learn when TSHTF a plumber is far more marketable than an IT guy. Bartering with Bitcoin might prove problematic.”

I doubt there’s anything with that statement with which anyone could dispute. Murphy prior to that made the valid points that Central Banks and sovereign nations will never incorporate Bitcoin into their currency reserves like they do with gold. The point being that, while Bitcoin is accepted as a form of currency by its users, it is not considered a wealth storage asset.

It would be tough to classify James’ comment as propaganda or fake news. Gold is the world’s second oldest form of money (silver is the oldest). Bitcoin may or may not become a passing fad but it certainly has not stood the test of time. Its use can be eliminated by shutting down the global power grid.

Here’s an example of propaganda, fake news and unmitigated idiocy from Citicorp’s “respected” strategist, Tom Fitzpatrick:

“…markets ultimately will be driven by the economic backdrop rather than by headlines. US labor and housing markets remain robust and should continue to drive growth. European growth is picking up. China remains stable in our view despite recent volatility.” LINK

China remains “stable?” I doubt anyone would disagree that China has fomented the second biggest debt and asset bubble in the world, with the U.S. bubble the largest, and its financial system rests on the precipice of systemic collapse resting on a pyramid of debt and derivatives that requires a flood of printed money and credit creation in order to defer the inevitable financial and economic implosion. That’s the truth, in contrast to Fitzpatrick’s moronic assertion.

As for the remark that the U.S. labor market is “robust.” My guess is that a majority of the 95 million working age people (37% of the working age population) in the U.S. who are no longer considered part of the “labor force” would have a different set of adjectives to describe the labor market here (they would also have a set of adjectives to describe Fitzpatrick that would make some blush).

A “robust” housing market? Total home sales are running two-thirds of the long run average and about 50% the last peak in sales. This is despite a steady long term growth in the population. Furthermore, in order to for a home to sell, in general buyers have to resort to using a 0-3% down payment mortgage and use at least 50% of their monthly income to service the mortgage. An oversupply of housing in New York City and Miami is beginning to crush those two housing markets, a dynamic that will soon spread to most major metro areas across the country. Flippers and “investors” were about 35% of all home sales in 2016.

These are unequivocally NOT the attributes of a “robust” housing market, not to mention the fact that the even the monthly manipulated home sales data series published by the Government and the National Association of Realtors have been trending lower this year. Tom Fitzpatrick’s remarks embody the attributes of Wall Street propaganda,  outright fake news and total unmitigated idiocy.  I hope you get rich selling lies and feel good about it, Tom.

There’s been a lot of debate over the meaning and significance of the parabolic move in Bitcoin.  Allhambra Investments’ Jeffrey Snider has come the closest to the truth by equating the Bitcoin move as the manifestation of Gresham’s law.

While this encapsulates the Bitcoin frenzy, beneath the surface represented by Bitcoin is an even bigger movement  of bad money (fiat currencies) piling into physical gold that is occurring in the eastern hemisphere, specifically in India and China.  The evidence of this movement in the form of a higher price expressed in dollars is being hidden by the continuous intervention in the western gold market implemented by the western Central Banks using paper gold derivatives.

The point of this is that the price of Bitcoin is behaving the way price of gold would be behaving in the absence of manipulation.   The rush into both is a rejection by the market of  the continuous devaluation of fiat currencies that is occurring from the trillions of paper currencies that have been created since 2008.

At some point, and there’s not anyone who can predict when, Tom Fitzpatrick’s fake news and unmitigated idiocy will be exposed for what it is as global financial markets and economies crash and money that is pulled out of bubble assets floods into the safety of physical gold and silver.   At that point the Central Bank effort to suppress the price of gold and silver will fail.

It’s been occurring slowly since 1971 (and really since 1913) and will at some point happen all at once.  Have a great Memorial Day weekend and try to enjoy what you can, as much you can, while you still can.

The Foundation Of The Stock Market Is Crumbling

The S&P 500 and Dow have gone nowhere since March 1st. The SPX had been bumping its head on 2400 until Wednesday. The Dow and the SPX have been levitating on the backs of five tech stocks: AAPL, AMZN, FB, GOOG and MSFT. AAPL alone is responsible for 25% of the Dow’s YTD gain and 13% of the SPX’s.  Connected to this, the tech sector in general has bubbled up like Dutch Tulips in the mid-1630’s. The Nasdaq hit an all-time high (6,169) on Tuesday.

But, as this next chart shows, despite a handful of stocks trying to rain on the bears’ parade, there’s plenty of stocks that have been selling off:

The chart above shows the S&P 500 vs the SOX (semiconductor index), XRT (retail index), IBM and Ford since the election. The SOX index was used to represent the tech sector. You can see that, similar to the culmination of the 1999-early 2000 stock bubble, the tech stocks are bubbling up like a geyser. IBM is a tech company but its operations are diversified enough to reflect the general business activity occurring across corporate America and in the overall economy. The retail sector has been getting hit hard, reflecting the general decay in financials of the average middle class household. And Ford’s stock reflects the general deterioration in U.S. manufacturing and profitability. Anyone who believes that the unemployment rate is truly 4.4% and that the economy is doing well needs to explain the relative stock performance of the retail sector, IBM and F.

Despite the levitation of the SPX and Dow, the “hope helium” that has inflated the stock bubble since the election has been leaking out since January 1st. While many stocks in NYSE are either below their 200 dma or testing 52 week lows, the price action of the U.S. dollar index best reflects the inflation and deflation of the Trump “hope bubble:”

I’ve always looked at the U.S. dollar as a “stock” that represents the U.S. political, financial and economic system. As you can see, U.S.A.’s stock went parabolic after the election until December 31st. Since that time, it’s deflated back down to below its trading level on election day. This has also been the fate of the average stock that trades on the NYSE. In fact, as of Friday’s close, 55% of the stocks on NYSE are below their 200 day moving average. Nearly 62% of all NYSE stocks are below their 50 dma. Just 4.37% of S&P 500 stocks are at 52-wk highs despite the fact that the SPX hit a new all-time high of 2402 on Tuesday. These statistics give you an idea of how narrow the move higher in the stock market has been, as the average stock in the NYSE/SPX/Dow indices is diverging negatively from the respective indices. The foundation of the stock market is crumbling.

The above analysis was a portion of the latest Short Seller’s Journal released last night. SSJ recommended shorting IBM in the April 23rd issue at $160.  It’s down 4.6% since then. The primary short idea presented in the latest issue was down 2.3% today despite the .5% rise in the SPX.  This idea is a stock trading in the mid-teens that will likely be under $5 within a year.  You can find out more about the Short Seller’s Journal here:  LINK

Stocks Down Because Of Trump? Plus Target’s Earnings Trick

The by-line on Fox Business this a.m. was that stocks were down because of “DC grid-lock.” Is this some kind of joke? How about stocks are down because they are more overvalued than at anytime in history by every single financial metric except the highly manipulated GAAP accounting net income calculations.

Speaking of which, the entire financial reporting apparatus has become one of the biggest jokes – if not an outright fraud – in financial markets history (with all due respect to the Ponzi scheme’s currently in operation at Amazon and Tesla). Target’s earnings report this morning is the perfect example.

Target’s stock “pop” was being attributed by the cable tv financial “reporters” to the fact Target’s sales and earnings per share “beat” Wall Street estimates. That’s not hard to do because the highly exalted “beat” is a rigged game played by company management and Wall Street, as management slowly “guides” Wall Street’s penguins into a series of reduced “estimates” leading up to the earnings release. By the time the results are reported, the earnings bar is low enough for a paraplegic to “jump” over.

The financial tv sock-puppets were reporting that Target’s sales had increased. Well, maybe vs. “guidance” but unfortunately none of these faux-reporters bothered to look at Target’s actual earnings report. There we find that Target’s sales declined year over year by 1.1%.  Gross profit dropped 2.5%, which means Target likely engaged in predatory price-cutting to stimulate its online sales vs. Amazon.

Targets earnings before interest and taxes – its EBIT – plunged 10.2%.   Provision for taxes increased quarter over quarter by $74 million, or 26%.  So how did Target “beat” earnings?

Target’s “interest expense” using GAAP accounting manipulation declined by $271 million, or 65%.   This is despite the fact that TGT’s debt level increased by $55 million year over year for Q1. What gives?  Anyone who bothered to read TGT’s earnings release after seeing the headline report, likely nobody except me, would find this disclosure:

The Company’s first quarter 2017 net interest expense was $144 million, compared with $415 million last year. This decrease was driven almost entirely by a $261 million charge related to the early retirement of debt in first quarter 2016.

Target refinanced debt in Q1 2016 and paid a premium to the par (book) value of the debt. This was added in to Target’s interest expense in Q1 2016. It was a one-time charge that could have just as easily been stripped away and disclosed as a “non-recurring loss” in order to keep the income statements comparable for comparison purposes. Adding the $261 million non-operating GAAP charge back into the Q1 2016 EBIT boosts TGT’s earnings before taxes that quarter to $1.158 billion. In Q1 2017 TGT’s earnings before taxes was $1.034 billion. As you can see, TGT’s “apples to apples” earnings before taxes declined by $124 million. From there Targets net income and earnings per share on the true “adjusted-GAAP” basis would show a decline, not a gain.

This type of earnings gamesmanship that goes on between corporate America, Wall Street and the zombified sock-puppet financial “reporters” is endemic to the giant U.S. Ponzi Scheme.  Using earnings “sleight of hand” and allowable GAAP accounting earnings management gimmicks, Target was able to transform deteriorating revenues and economic profitability into something that is being touted in the fast-food financial reporting machinery as “an earnings POP.”   Bad news was converted into good news and Target’s stock jumped 4.4% at the open today despite a 1.1% drop in the S&P 500.

This is the type of financial analysis that you will find in the Short Seller’s Journal and it’s why subscribers were able ride Sears (SHLD) from $11.92 to $7.89 in 5 weeks and KATE from $23.67 to $17 in 8 weeks.  You can find out more about this unique subscription service here:   Short Seller’s Journal.

You can’t throw darts at the market and win every time just yet. At some point everything will no doubt head south, but for now its great having your analysis to pick the ones with best chance. In all honesty mate, the recommendation I am most looking forward to in the SSJ and the MSJ is what bar we all meet at in a couple of years time for some celebratory brewskis. – subscriber “James” from the UK