Tag Archives: stock bubble

Amazon And Tesla Reflect Deep Fraud Throughout The Financial System

Not much needs to be said about Tesla.  Elon Musk’s performance on the Company’s conference call speaks for itself.  He basically told the lemming analysts who have been the Company’s Wall Street carnival barkers to go have sex with themselves in response to questions looking for highly relevant details on Model 3 sales projections and Capex spending requirements.

I believe Musk is mentally unstable if not mildly insane.  He would do the world a favor if he gathered up what’s left of his wealth and disappeared into the sunset.  When Tesla collapses, I hope analysts like Morgan Stanley’s Andrew Jonas are taken to court by class-action hungry lawyers.  My response to something like that would be justified schadenfreude.

Amazon is similar story on a grander scale of accounting fraud and fantasy promotion. AMZN reported its Q1 numbers Thursday after the close. It “smashed” the consensus earnings estimate by a couple dollars, reporting a questionable $3.27 per share. I’m convinced that Jeff Bezos is nothing more than an ingenious scam-artist of savant proportions, as this is the second quarter in a row in which AMZN reported over $3/share when the Street was looking for mid-$1 per share earnings.

I bring this to your attention because there’s something highly suspicious about the way Bezos is managing the forecasts he gives to Street analysts. Every company under the sun in this country typically “guides” analysts to within a few pennies, nickels or dimes of the actual EPS that will be presented. For the Street to miss this badly on estimates for AMZN two quarters in a row tells me that Bezos is intentionally misleading the analyst community, which typically hounds a company up until the day before earnings are released. Food for thought there.

I don’t want to spend the time dissecting AMZN’s numbers this quarter in the way I have in
past issues. This is because the earnings manipulation formula remains constant. One interesting detail that Wall St. will ignore is the fact that AMZN’s cost of fulfillment as a percentage of product sales increased to 24.6% vs 19.7% in Q1 2017. It cost 25 cents per dollar of e-commerce revenue vs 20 cents per dollar of revenue a year ago to deliver an item from the warehouse shelf to the buyer’s door-step. Apparently all of the money Bezos spends on fulfillment centers ($2.3 billion in Q1) is not reducing the cost of delivery as promised.

The financial media flooded the airwaves with hype when Bezos announced that AMZN Prime had 100 million subscribers. However, the fact that the cost of fulfillment increased 500 basis points as percent of revenue generated tells us that AMZN is losing even more on an operating business on Prime memberships. I love ordering $10 items that are delivered in 2-days because I know that AMZN loses money on that transaction.

For “product sales” in aggregate (e-commerce + Whole Foods + the portfolio of crappy little service businesses) the operating margin increased to 1.16% of sales vs. 0.3% of sales in Q1 2017. HOWEVER, in acquiring Whole Foods, AMZN folded a 5% operating margin business into its revenue stream. It should have been expected that AMZN’s operating margin would increase this year. I’m surprised that folding in a 5% business did not boost AMZN’s operating margin even more. See the cost of fulfillment. In effect, Bezos used positive cash flow from WFM to subsidize the growing cost of Prime fulfillment. I also suspect that Bezos will be running WFM’s margins into the ground in an effort to boost revenues. The prices of WFM’s house-label brands were slashed immediately. AMZN’s stock is driven off of revenue growth and Bezos does not care if that means sacrificing profitability.

What’s mind-blowing is that big investors have let him get away with this business model for nearly two decades.  If the Fed and the Government had not printed trillions starting in 2008, Amazon’s grand experiment would have expired.  More than any company or business on earth, Amazon is emblematic of a fiat currency system that has gone off the rails combined with Government-enabled fraud of historic proportions.

So far, AMZN has not segmented the revenues from the WFM business in its footnotes. I doubt this will occur despite the fact that it would help stock analysts understand AMZN’s business model. Again, the conclusion to be made is that Bezos will push WFM’s operating margins toward zero, which is consistent with the e-commerce model. Hiding WFM’s numbers by folding them into “product sales” will enable Bezos to promote the idea that Whole Foods is value-added to AMZN’s “profitability.” In truth, I believe WFM was acquired for its cash – $4.4 billion at the time of the acquisition – and for the ability to hide the declining e-commerce margins for a year or two.

In terms of GAAP free cash flow, AMZN burned $4.2 billion in cash in Q1 compared to $3.6
billion in Q1 2017. Again, this metric helps to prove my point that Bezos sacrifices cash flow in order to generate sales growth. Not only does AMZN now have $24.2 billion in long term debt on its balance sheet, it has $22.2 billion in “other liabilities.” This account is predominantly long-term capital and finance lease obligations. This is a deceptive form of debt financing, as these leases behave exactly like debt in every respect except name. One of the reasons AMZN will present “Free Cash Flow” at the beginning of its earnings slide show every quarter is because it excludes the repayment of these leases from the Bezos FCF metric. However, I noticed that AMZN now sticks a half-page explanation in its SEC financial filings that explains why its FCF metric is not true GAAP free cash flow. A half-page!

In effect, AMZN’s true long term debt commitment is $46.4 billion. Funny thing about that, AMZN’s book value is $31.4 billion. One of the GAAP manipulations that AMZN used to boost its reported EPS is it folded most of the cost of acquiring WFM into “Goodwill.” Why? Because goodwill is no longer required to be amortized as an expense into the income statement. For presentation purposes, this serves to increase EPS because it removes a GAAP expense. Companies now instruct their accountants to push the limit on dumping acquisition costs into “goodwill.” But most of the $13 billion in goodwill on AMZN’s balance sheet was the cost of acquiring WFM, which required that AMZN raise $16 billion in debt.

Regardless of whether or not WFM is profitable for AMZN over the long term, AMZN will still have to repay the debt used to buy WFM. In other words, the amount thrown into “goodwill” is still an expense that has be paid for. For now, AMZN has funded that expense with debt. If the capital markets are not cooperative, AMZN will eventually have a problem refinancing this debt.

In summary, the genius of Bezos is that he’s figured out how to generate huge revenue growth while getting away with limited to no profitability. Yes, he can report GAAP net income now, but AMZN still bleeds billions of dollars every quarter. It’s no coincidence that Bezos’ scam mushroomed along with the trillions printed by the Fed tat was used to reflate the securities markets. For now, Bezos can get away with telling his fairytale and raising money in the stock and debt markets. But eventually this merry-go-round will stop working.

The tragic aspect to all of this is that a lot of trusting retail investors are going to get annihilated on the money they’ve placed with so-called “professional” money managers. I don’t know  how long it will take for the truth about Amazon to be widely understood, but Tesla will likely be a bankrupt, barring some unforeseeable miracle, within two years.  Perhaps worse is that the fact that people appointed to the Government agencies set up to prevent blatant wide-scale systemic financial fraud like this now look the other way.  It seems the “paychecks” they get from the likes of Musk and Bezos far exceed their Government pay-scale…

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.  – Francisco D’Anconia “Money Speech” from “Atlas Shrugged”

“The System Will Have To Collapse”

The public pension fund system is approaching apocalypse.  Earlier this week teachers who are part of the Colorado public pension system (PERA) staged a walk-out protest over proposed changes to the plan, including raising the percentage contribution to the fund by current payees and raising the retirement age.   PERA backed off but ignoring the obvious problem will not make it go away.

Every public pension fund in the country is catastrophically underfunded, especially if strict mark-to-market of the illiquid assets were applied. Illinois has been playing funding games for a few years to keep its pension fund solvent.  In Kentucky, where the public pension fund is on the verge of collapse, teachers are demanding a State bailout.

If the stock market were sustain a extended decline of more than 10% – “extended” meaning several months in which the stock market falls more than 10% – every public pension in the U.S. would collapse.  This is based on an in-depth study conducted by a good friend of mine who works at a public pension fund.  He has access to better data than “outsiders” and I know his work to be meticulous.   Please note that the three big market declines since August 2015 were stopped at a 10% draw-down followed by big moves higher.  The current draw-down was stopped at 10% but subsequent outcome is to be determined. My friend and I are not the only ones who understand this:

The next phase of public pension reform will likely be touched off by a stock market decline  that creates the real possibility of at least one state fund running out of cash within a couple of years. – Bloomberg

I know a teacher in Denver who left her job that was connected to PERA in order to take a lump-sum payout rather than risk waiting until she retired to bankrupt pension plan. She took a job in the Denver school system, which is not part of the PERA system. She’s actually thinking about teaching in Central America, where there’s high demand for English-speaking teachers and the pay relative to the cost-of-living is much higher:

“Teaching sucks right now.  Teachers are underpaid for the work we’re doing.  After all of these years, I’m making about $60,000. That’s BS! I have a masters. Truthfully, the classroom is burning me out right now. The f#cked up world is spilling into kids’ lives. They’re largely defiant and off-track. I don’t have the energy to try to streamline whole classrooms.”   In reference to the pension system: “When the mother f#cking-f#ck is any of this going to be corrected?!?! I am beyond mad.  Ecuador has become an option, because this country is beyond f#cked up.”

Unfortunately, I was compelled to answer with the truth – a truth she already knows:  “It won’t be corrected. The system will have to collapse and then who knows what will happen. Criminals run everything now and the people who are supposed to enforce Rule of Law are well paid to look the other way. This has been building for at least 2 decades. It doesn’t help when the President is caught shoving a cigar up a staff interns vagina and then a joke is made of it in Congress. “Is oral sex, sex?” Answer: “it depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is,’ is.”

Now the corruption and fraud is out in the open and there’s nothing that can be done about it. The system will have collapse – its the final solution.

Tesla (TSLA): “It’s Not A Lie If You Believe It”

TSLA stock has levitated on statements from Elon Musk that TSL A would be cash flow positive by Q3, an announcement that TSLA would roll out a Model Y “crossover” SUV by November 2019 and the reiteration of ambitious Model 3 production milestones. All three will never happen.

Elon Musk’s attorneys must be giving Elon the same advise given to Jerry Seinfeld by George just before Jerry took a polygraph test: “Elon, just remember, it’s not a lie if you believe it it.”

It looks like reality is catching up to TSLA and TSLA is going into a death spiral.  An amended complaint to an existing class-action suit against the Company, Musk and the CFO was filed. The suit accuses Musk and the CFO of knowingly making false and misleading public statements with regard to production and quality targets for all of TSLA’s models. The amended complaint includes testimony from several former employees.  The amended allegations give the lawsuit far sharper teeth than the original court filing. When I find the time, I’m going to read the entire court filing.

In addition, recently a judge denied Elon Musk’s request to dismiss a class-action suit stemming from TSLA’s acquistion of Solar CIty (which is turning into a disaster) against Musk and TSLA’s board

As for TSLA generating positive cash flow by Q3 and avoiding the need to raise more money, I found an analysis of TSLA’s current liabilities which shows TSLA’s current cash position is worse than it appears.

At the end of 2017, TSLA showed a cash balance of $3.3 billion. Of that, 25% or $840 million is refundable customer deposits. Another $1.3 billion is current payables which are due over the next few months. This includes $753 million owed for equipment, $378 million in payroll and $185 million in taxes payable. Netting out customer deposits and the accrued payables, TSLA’s net cash position at the end of 2017 was $1.3 billion.

TSLA’s current assets minus current liabilities showed a working capital deficit of $1.1 billion at year-end. TSLA generates a cash loss on every vehicle sold. It’s highly likely that TSLA’s cash net of current cash payable obligations is now well under $1 billion. Elon Musk must have taken LSD before he made the announcement that TSLA would be operating cash flow positive and would not need to raise money in 2018.

Although nothing would surprise anymore in this market, I just don’t see how TSLA breaks higher from the current chart formation. Lawsuits are piling up. Last week the NTSB kicked TSLA out of its participation in the NTSB’s investigation of that fatal accident involving a Tesla in California. The NTSB stated that TSLA violated agency protocols. Consumer Union, the consumer advocacy division of Consumer Reports, issued a report last week which stated that Tesla needs to improve the safety of its autopilot. On top of all of this, I’m convinced that Elon Musk, based on his erratic and volatile behavior, is certifiably insane.

Insane Valuations On Top Of Insane Leverage

The recent stock market volatility reflects the beginning of a massive down-side revaluation in stocks. In fact, it will precipitate a shocking revaluation of all assets, especially those like housing in which the price is driven by an unchecked ability to use debt to make the “investment.” This unfettered and unprecedented asset inflation is resting precariously on a stool that is about to have its legs kicked out from under it.

The primary reason the U.S. is now holding a losing hand at the global economic and geopolitical “poker table” is that this country has been committing too many sins for too long for there not to be a price to be paid. With bankrupt Governments (State and Federal), a bankrupt pension system, a broken healthcare system, all-time high corporate and household debt levels and a broken political and legal system, the U.S. is slowly collapsing. This is the “perfect storm” for which you want to own plenty of gold, silver and related stocks.

Eric Dubin and I are producing a new podcast called, “WTF Just Happened?” The inaugural show discusses the topics mentioned above:

“WTF Just Happened?” w/ Dave Kranzer and Eric Dubin is produced in association with Wall Street For Main Street       –       Follow  Eric here: http://www.facebook.com/EricDubin

Why Trump Won: People Vote Their Wallets

This commentary is emphatically not an endorsement of Trump as President.  I have not voted since 1992 because, when the system gives the public a Hobson’s Choice, voting is pointless.

An  age-old adage states that “people vote with their wallets.”  The chart below suggests that this adage held true in 2016:

The graphic above (sourced from Northman Trader) was prepared by Deutsche Bank and the data is from the Fed. It shows that, since 2007 through 2016, U.S. median household net worth declined between 2007 and 2016 for all income groups except the top 10%.

Given that a Democrat occupied the Oval Office between 2008-2016, and given that the economic condition of 90% of all households declined during that period, it follows logically that empty promises of a Republican sounded better to the general population of voters than the empty promises of a Democrat.

In other words, the “deplorables” didn’t vote for Trump because they wanted a wall between the U.S. and Mexico or they wanted to nuke North Korea off the map, they voted for a Republican because the previous Democrat took money from their savings account.

The rest of the propaganda and rhetoric  connected to the 2016 election, which was elevated to previously unforeseen levels of absurdity, was little more than unholy entertainment that served to agitate the masses.  These two graphs explain a lot about the outcome of the 2016 “election.”

Economic, Financial And Political Fundamentals Continue To Deteriorate

I’ve been writing about the rising consumer debt delinquency and default rates for a few months.  The “officially tabulated” mainstream b.s. reports are not picking up the numbers, but the large credit card issuers (like Capital One) and auto debt issuers (like Santander Consumer USA) have been showing a dramatic rise in troubled credit card and auto debt loans for several quarters, especially in the sub-prime segment which is now, arguably the majority of consumer debt issuance at the margin.  The rate of mortgage payment delinquencies is also beginning to tick up.

Silver Doctor’s Elijah Johnson invited me onto his podcast show to discuss the factors that are contributing to the deteriorating fundamentals in the economy and financial system, which is translating into rising instability in the stock market:

If you are interested in learning more about my subscription services, please follow these link: Mining Stock Journal / Short Seller’s Journal. The next Mining Stock Journal will be released tomorrow evening and I’ll be presenting a junior mining stock that has taken down over 57% since late January and why I believe, after chatting with the CEO, this stock could easily triple before the end of the year.

“Thanks so much. It was a pleasure dealing with you. Service is excellent” – recent subscriber feedback.

Short Sell Ideas: Will Overstock.com End Up At Zero?

Overstock’s attempt to capitalize on “blockchain mania” appears to have fallen flat. The SEC is investigating it ICO fund-raising scheme and a class-action lawsuit has been filed in connection with the deal. OSTK finally announced today that it was pulling its attempt to unload 4 million shares on the public. This is after a failed effort to sell its e-commerce business. Meanwhile, OSTK’s operating losses are mounting, including a big loss in Q4, a period in which retailers can put on a blind-fold and make money.

I believe OSTK can be profitably shorted at its current price of $33 if you are willing to endure periods in which the stock might respond to highly promotional announcements from the Company that would cause the stock to spike up temporarily. My ultimate price target is below $10.

As I write this (Thursday, March 29th), CNBC is reporting that Overstock has canceled its 4 million share offering, though the Company has not issued a formal press release to that effect. The reason given is “market conditions.” If this is true, in my view, it means that a lack of demand at the current stock price – $37 – would have necessitated pricing the deal significantly lower in order to place the shares. I would suggest that this indicates that OSTK stock is headed lower anyway.

Seeking Alpha published my anlysis on OSTK, you can read the rest of here: Overstock.com: An Epic Short Opportunity

You can learn about short ideas in the Short Seller’s Journal, a weekly newsletter that provides insight on the latest economic data and provides short-sell ideas, including strategies for using options. You can learn more about this newsletter here: Short Seller’s Journal information.

It’s Not The Trade Wars That Should Worry You

Trade wars historically have been symptomatic of more profound underlying problems. Primarily economic in nature. Any big war in history can be tied to economic roots. The degree to which the U.S. financial and economic system is self-destructing varies inversely with the amplitude of the propaganda promoting the opposite.

Yet, in 2016 based on the latest annual W-2 numbers available (SSA.Gov), 55% of worker earn less that $34k per year; 80% of all Americans earn less than $63k per year. Based on the BLS’ labor force participation rate, 37% of all working-age Americans were not considered part of the labor force. But wait, you’re not considered part of the “labor force” if you have not actively looked for a job in the past four weeks.

Just based on these attributes, how is it all possible that the U.S. economy is “healthy and growing?” I’ve left out the fact that household debt hits a new record every month. The average car loan outstanding is $31k. How does that compare to the income numbers? This means that, on average, 80% with a car loan have an outstanding balance that is about 50% of their annual salary. What would happen to the economy if the Government were unable to issue more Treasury to fund the accelerating spending deficit? Sorry to break the news but the economy is collapsing…

Trump’s solution to this is to give us the three-headed neo-con monster called Bolton, Pompeo and Haspel. All three are drooling to drop nukes, spy on U.S. citizens and torture anyone who disagrees with U.S. imperialism.

Paul Craig Roberts posted a must-read article by Stephen M. Walt:

[T]he departures of Tillerson and McMaster and the arrivals of Bolton, Pompeo, and Haspel herald the ascendance of a hawkish contingent that will tear up the Iran deal, reinstate the torture regime, and eventually start a war with North Korea that goes way beyond a simple “bloody nose.” And with Bolton in the White House, Trump is going to be advised by a guy who never saw a war he didn’t like (when observed from a safe distance, of course)…Let me be clear: Bolton’s appointment is on par with most of Trump’s personnel choices, which is to say that it’s likely to be a disaster

You can read the rest of this here: Welcome To The Dick Cheney Administration

Upon reading that commmentary, you’ll understand why it’s not the trade wars that keep up at night…

The Slow Death Of The U.S. Economy

Deteriorating real economic fundamentals – The most important economic report out last week was retail sales for February, which showed at 0.1% decline from January. This was a surprise to Wall Street’s brain trust, which was expecting a 0.4% gain. Keep in mind the 0.1% decline is nominal. After subtracting inflation, the “unit” decline in sales is even worse. This was the third straight month retail sales declined. The decline was led by falling sales of autos and other big-ticket items. In addition, a related report was out that showed wholesale inventories rose more than expected in January as wholesale sales dropped 0.2%, the biggest monthly decline since July 2016.

Retail and wholesale sales are contracting. What happened to the tax cut boost to spending? Based on the huge jump in credit card debt to an all-time high and the decline in the savings rate to a record low in Q4 2017, it’s most likely that the average consumer “pre-spent” the anticipated gain from Trump’s tax cut. Now, consumers have to spend the $95/month on average they’ll get from lower paycheck withholdings paying down credit card debt. As such, retail sales have tanked 3 months in a row.

Paul Craig Roberts published a must-read essay on the slow death of the U.S. economy:

As for the full employment claimed by US government reporting agencies, how does full employment coexist with this reported fact from the Dallas Morning News: 100k Applications For 1000 jobs.

Toyota Motor Company advertised the availability of 1,000 new jobs associated with moving its North American headquarters from southern California to Texas and received 100,000 applications. Where did these applications come from when the US has “full employment?”

Clearly, the US does not have full employment. The US has an extremely low rate of labor force participation, because there are no jobs to be had, and discouraged workers who cannot find jobs are not measured in the unemployment rate. Not measuring the unemployed is the basis of the low reported unemployment rate. The official US unemployment rate is just a hoax.

You can read his full commentary here:    America Is Losing Its Economy

Mr. President, If We Don’t Have Gold, We Don’t Have a Country

The consequences of Gold Truth, such as it is but has not yet been revealed, are beyond sobering. If the Gold Truth is that USG, Inc. does not possess and own the gold it has promised the world that it owns and possesses, every last shred of monetary, fiscal, financial, economic and moral authority that USG, Inc. still possesses would be destroyed in a matter of seconds. And it is virtually impossible to see how the U.S. dollar could survive such a revelation without plummeting.Stewart Dougherty

Stewart Dougherty has written another compelling, thought-provoking essay about gold and the United States Government’s intentional omission of gold as the foundation of monetary and fiscal policy.  Please note that Mr. Doughtery’s view of Trump does not represent IRD’s view of Trump or his efforts as President.

“Passivity is fatal to us. Our goal is to make the enemy passive. … Communism is notlove. Communism is a hammer which we use to crush the enemy.” Mao Tse-tung, proclaiming the founding of the People’s Republic of China, 1949

Circumstantial evidence is mounting high that there is something seriously wrong with the amount of gold reportedly owned by the United States government, or more precisely, the American people.

After nearly two generations of being brainwashed into believing that gold is a meaningless relic, western citizens have lost all concept of gold’s crucial monetary importance. If it turns out that the United States does not, in fact, possess and own the gold it claims to, the monetary, fiscal, economic, and humanitarian fallout will be unprecedented in its destructiveness. Unfortunately, the people have no idea what is at stake.

The largest corporation in the world, by far, is the United States government. No other corporation has anything even close to its $3.4 trillion in annual revenues, and $4.4 trillion in annual expenses. And no other corporation has ever suffered multiple annual losses exceeding $1 trillion dollars, nor could it have, as such losses would have financially annihilated it. To be able to print money at will and without limit, as USG, Inc. can do, has blinded it to the powerful beast called Consequences that is slowly and methodically hunting it down.

USG, Inc. employs thousands of accountants, many of whom work at the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO prepares detailed budgets, one of which looks forward thirty years, and then extrapolates the numerical trends for an additional forty-five years, for a total forward horizon of 75 years. The 2015 report examines USG, Inc.’s projected performance until the year 2090. According to that report, not only will USG, Inc. lose money every single year for the next 75 years, the losses will actually accelerate each year and total more than $300 trillion. In 2047 alone, the deficit is estimated to be $5.3 trillion, on a cash accounting basis. On an accrual accounting basis, it will be far worse, if USG, Inc. even makes it to that point in its current state, something we find it difficult to envision. It is arithmetically impossible for the dollar to avoid destruction in such a scenario.

It should be no surprise that USG, Inc.’s finances are such a disaster, because for the past generation and longer, the CEOs of USG, Inc. have never in their lives held real jobs in the productive economy, other than GW Bush’s brief stints as a member of an oil and then a baseball investor group, which is not the kind of real job we mean. Instead, these CEOs have all been professional politicians, who by definition do not contribute to the real economy, but rather, feed upon it.

This pattern was about to repeat itself in 2016, with the Deep State’s planned installation of Hillary Clinton into the CEO role at USG, Inc. Clinton, too, has never in her life had a real job in the productive economy, and has precisely zero experience managing anything even beginning to resemble a massive corporation with millions of employees and projected $1+ trillion, accelerating annual losses extending as far as eyes can see. This is exactly what the Deep State wanted: a corrupt, financially clueless, ideological figurehead, who would be oblivious as they ramped up the looting of USG, Inc. to a new level of rapaciousness while she was busy hectoring the nation’s producers and taxpayers about their deplorable selves. It is this looting that is the precise reason why USG, Inc. is now drowning in losses and debt, and is strategically paralyzed.

While anyone with any common sense would immediately understand that it would be ridiculous to expect that someone with zero education, training or experience in engineering could oversee the design of a spacecraft capable of landing on Mars, or that someone with zero medical education, training or experience could successfully conduct brain surgery, for some unfathomable reason, people think that someone with zero business education, training or experience can successfully manage the world’s largest corporation. USG, Inc.’s catastrophic financial results demonstrate the regrettable stupidity of that thought.

TO READ THE REST, PLEASE CLICK HERE:   IF YOU DON’T HAVE GOLD…