Tag Archives: Tesla

Tesla’s Bag Of Halloween Tricks

I have not had a chance to scour the 10-Q, which was finally filed this morning. GM and Ford are 7-8x larger than Tesla in terms of revenues and 40-50x larger in terms of number of vehicles sold worldwide.  Those two companies file their 10-Q almost immediately after filing the quarterly 8-K financial summary.  There’s no reason for TSLA to delay the filing of its 10-Q by over a week other than it needs the extra time to make its fraudulent numbers conform to SEC-filing standards (which have a low bar as it is).   I will be sharing my observations with my Short Seller’s Journal subscribers on TSLA’s 10-Q either this week or next.

For me the big event last week was Tesla’s earnings report. And Musk did not disappoint. With regard to that, I’m wondering if it’s possible to be astonished and not surprised at the same time.

Tesla originally was going to report earnings this week. But, curiously,  moved up its earnings release by a week to last Thursday. At the same time, the CFO exercised stock options that did not expire until 2022. While this is technically legal, it begs scrutiny. Why exercise options with a $31 exercise price that do not expire until 2022 unless your intent is to unload the shares when the blackout period is lifted?

For me the obvious answer is that the CFO knew the earnings report would cause a big spike-up in the stock price of which he wanted to take advantage. However, if the CFO truly believed that Tesla was undervalued and was going to be worth a lot more in the long run, he would have held onto the $160k in cash he spent exercising the options until the options approached expiration. Anyone who takes a basic finance class knows that you always hold free in-the-money money options for as long as possible, especially if you believe there’s a good probability that they’ll become more valuable over time – unless you have inside information and know that the stock is going to go lower before the options expire.

The Q3 earnings report produced by Telsa did not disappoint in terms of the high level accounting magic performed. It’s important to note that quarterly financials are not audited. The CEO and CFO can essentially do what they want with the numbers. Automotive sales soared from Q2 to Q3, from $3.1 billion to $5.8 billion. Yet, every other major expense and balance sheet item as a percentage of sales is completely out of whack with same items over the previous four quarters. Perhaps this chart captures the essence of the matter (@TeslaCharts has prepared a stunning visual summary of Tesla’s numbers):

In general, there should be some relative degree of continuity in any company’s income statement and balance sheet accounts, barring some major fundamental change, like a merger or large asset restructuring.

The cash from operations in TSLA’s Q3 this year sticks out like a sore thumb. Over 40% of this came from stretching out the accounts payable by $566 million (more on this below).
The other portion of this “cash” generated by operations came from “net income.” Over the last four quarters, TSLA’s average net loss per quarter was around $760 million. Then suddenly net income swings nearly a billion dollars from a $743 net loss in Q2 to net income of $255 million in Q3. This is simply not credible without fraudulent accounting schemes at work. Please note that these are GAAP accounting numbers. In order to verify that real cash was produced by Tesla’s operations, we would have to see an independent audit of Tesla’s bank accounts, something that will never happen.

From Q2 to Q3, TSLA’s automotive gross profit improved by $882 million based on delivering 42,760 more cars. That’s $20,655 of incremental gross profit on a car that sells for as little as $49,000. The weighted average sales price for the Model 3, S and X combined is around $63,000 (based on the number of each sold). This suggests a gross profit margin of nearly 33% per incremental car sold, which is impossible in the automotive business. No other auto manufacturer in the world comes even remotely close to this level of gross margin.

For it’s latest quarter, GM’s gross profit was 10%; in 2017, Daimler Benz’s gross profit was 20%. It’s simply not credible that Tesla generated this level of profitability on its vehicles without accounting fraud. This is especially true given that Tesla claimed that it built and used its own delivery trailers to make deliveries. This should have caused a noticeably large jump in cost of automotive revenues. Yet, miraculously TSLA’s automotive sales gross margin soared from 20.5% in Q2 to over 25% in Q3. Simply not believable and reeks of fraudulent accounting.

One area of Tesla’s income statement that contains probable fraud is SG&A expenses (sales, general and administrative expenditures). Over the previous four quarters, TSLA’s level of SG&A was running around 20% percent of revenues. It was 18.7% of revenues in Q2 2018. But this quarter, Musk somehow parted the Red Sea and was able drive SG&A down to 10.7% of revenues. SG&A outright actually fell from Q2 to Q3. SG&A has averaged $19,000 per vehicle delivered every quarter since 2014.

In Q3 TSLA reports that SG&A plunged to around $9,000 per vehicle delivered. We know Tesla brought in mechanics from its service centers around the country to help push production levels to the limit. This should have caused a large jump in SG&A.  It’s impossible to explain how a drop in SG&A expense like this occurred without access to the inside books. My best guess is that millions of dollars worth of expense invoices were mysteriously misplaced and not recorded for the quarter. This would partially explain by accounts payable soared by over half a billion dollars.

Another area of cost accounting that has red flags waving and warning flares firing is depreciation. Depreciation expense as a percent of revenues plunged from 12.1% in Q2 to 7.3% in Q3. It was 13.4% in Q3 2017.  Generically, part of the depreciation is straight-line useful life of equipment. The “tent” built in Q2 should have added to this part of depreciation.  But there’s also depreciation expense attached to each car produced and sold on a per car basis. This too should have caused an increase in depreciation. From the cash flow statement, TSLA’s depreciation expense in Q3 was $502.8 million, or $6,021 per car delivered. In Q2 the depreciation expense was $485.2 million, or $11,922 per car delivered. Again, this is theoretically and realistically unexplainable, other than fraud.

Tesla shows a cash balance of $2.967 billion at the end of Q3, up from $2.2 billion at the end of Q2. However, Telsa’s accounts payable surged by $566 million vs. Q2. It’s hard to imagine how this occurred when capital expenditures and SG&A declined. The only explanation is that TSLA stretched out its payment of bills to suppliers and vendors in order to conserve cash. This is consistent with the steady flow of smaller vendors who are forced to file legal complaints in order to get court-ordered payment judgments.

Accounting fraud would explain why there’s been a steady exodus of accounting and finance executives over the last year. The number of senior executives leaving the Company accelerated over the summer, including the Chief Accounting Officer, who quit in early September after less than a month on the job.

By the most stringent measure, TSLA is technically insolvent. Current assets less current liabilities is negative $1.855 billion. Cash balance less customer deposits is $2.062 billion. TSLA has a $230 million convertible bond payment due in November. Less this, cash is $1.832 billion. If we were to assume that accounts receivable and payable – theoretically the most liquid assets on a balance after cash – were settled tomorrow, net of cash it would leave a cash deficit of $609 million. That’s insolvency. On top of that, after the November convertible maturity, another $1 billion in debt is due by March 2019.

Keep in mind TSLA’s cash balance was artificially generated by stretching payables, slashing capex to the bone and somehow miraculously cutting back on expenses. This is simply not sustainable, let alone not credible. Note: Tesla’s capex as a percent of revenues was 7.5%. Over the last six quarters TSLA’s capex as percent of revenues has averaged 25% of revenues. In other words, Tesla is plundering its asset base and burning furniture to pay bills and show cash on the balance sheet.

To make things more interesting for the Company, it was reported last week that Tesla slipped several spots in the Consumer Reports reliability ranking. In its analysis of 29 auto brands, Tesla ranks 27th. CR characterized the Model 3 as having “average reliability.” Also of interest is the effect of newly available competition. In Norway month-to-date, Jaguar has delivered 365 newly available Jaguar i-Pace while there were 185 Tesla X+S combined. The EU has not approved the Model 3 for deliveries yet, but the i-Pace competes with the X and S models. When Audi’s e-Tron is available, I doubt there will be any demand for the Model 3 plus it will put a huge dent in European demand for Telsa’s X & S models.

Add on to this the news report that the FBI/Justice Department is probing whether Tesla misstated information about production of the Model 3 for the purpose of misleading investors. The FBI has subpoenaed former employees seeking to interview them. The FBI is looking into Musk’s public forecasts about Model 3 production vs. the actual production numbers, which turned out to be substantially lower that Musk’s continual assertions that deliveries would be significantly higher. It will be hard for Tesla to raise money with this investigation in process.

It’s been suggested that TSLA insiders knew that the FBI report was going to hit on Friday and that’s why the Company moved its earning release up a week with two days’ notice. It would also explain why the CFO exercised deep in-the-money stock options that do not expire until 2022. Musk knew that the news report would have less impact on the stock if it hit the tape a day after the fraudulently inflated earnings report. At some point, many of the large mutual fund companies with big positions in the shares will have to consider the possibility of facing breach of fiduciary duty charges for continuing to hold TSLA shares given latest the Justice Department/FBI development. Keep in mind the Justice Department has several other areas of inquiry and the SEC is examining other issues beyond the issue recently settled with Musk.

TSLA’s stock likely would have sold off this week absent the massive short-squeeze that has caused the Dow and SPX to go vertical. In fact, Tesla stock declined from it’s opening level on Monday through Tuesday’s close. In all probability, TSLA would be below $300 if the Dow and SPX simply flat-lined or drifted lower the past three days.

While not a Ponzi scheme in a strict sense because TSLA does generate revenues, TSLA requires a steady inflow of funding from the capital markets to remain solvent. At some point it will need a few billion to address the money it owes to suppliers and contractors and to service its enormous and growing pile of debt. Like Enron, at some point its cash furnace will run out of printed money to fuel it and the stock will collapse. I provide my Short Seller’s Journal subscribers with both short-term and long-term short-sell and trading ideas on Tesla.

Short Rallies, Cover Sell-Offs

I think we can all agree, it was an interesting week last week in the stock market, to say the least. For the week, the Dow was down 2.9%, the SPX was down 3.9% and the Nasdaq was down 3.8%. All three indices closed below their 200 dma. It can be argued that, on a short-term basis, the stock market is “oversold” using the MACD as an indicator. However, it appears that hedge fund algos are being re-programmed to start selling the “V” rallies that have characterized this stock market for the last ten years – something I suggested in a previous SSJ would eventually happen.

An argument can easily be made that the stock market could be cut in half from the current level and still be overvalued. I made this argument in 2007 to friends and colleagues. Back then the SPX dropped from 1,576 to 666 – more than cut in half (57%). And if would have fallen farther if the Fed and the Bush/Obama Governments had not intervened. If the SPX drops 57% this time around, it would take the SPX down to 1,274. I believe it could easily fall farther than that.

Despite the abrupt nature of the sell-off over the past month, the stock market potentially still has a long way to fall:

The chart above is a weekly time-frame that encompasses the 2007-2009 decline. The stock bubble this time around is significantly more extreme than the previous bubble. In fact, by many measures, this is the most overvalued stock market in history. I included the MACD to illustrate that, on a weekly basis, the SPX is not even remotely oversold. I sketched in a white line of “support.” While I’m sure every market analyst their favorite “technically-based” area of support, the line I drew is around the 2,550 area on the SPX.  Below that line, there’s about 400 points of “air.”

The above commentary is an excerpt from the latest Short Seller’s Journal. Some of my recent home run shorts include Tilray, Wayfair and Netflix. The issues includes strategies for shorting Tesla, Amazon and several semiconductor stocks. You learn more about this newsletter here:   Short Seller’s Journal information.

“I’m up about $40k because of your short ideas. So thanks for that!” – Subscriber who joined in mid-June, 2018

Overvalued Stocks, Undervalued Gold And Silver, Insolvent Tesla

Craig Hemke, the well-known proprietor of the TF Metals Report  invited me on this his new “Thursday Conversation” podcast to discuss the stock market,  economy, precious metals and Tesla.

“If you adjusted the current S&P 500 earnings stream using the same GAAP accounting standard that were applied in 1999, the current S&P 500 P/E ratio – expressed in 1999 GAAP accounting terms – would be the most overvalued in history.”

“Deutsche Bank is a zombie bank that would have blown up in 2012 if the Bundesbank, ECB and German Government hadn’t bailed it out.”

“Elon Musk used a Halloween bag full of accounting tricks to generate GAAP ‘net income.'” The fact remains that Tesla is closer to insolvency this quarter than it has been at any point in the history of the Company.

“Mining stocks are cheaper now in relation to the S&P 500 and to the price of g old than they were at the bottom of the 20-year gold bear market in 2001”

You can listen to my conversation with Craig “Turd Ferguson” Hemke by clicking on the graphic below:

(NOTE: You can download the MP3 by using this LINK and right clicking on the audio bar)

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If you are interested in ideas for taking advantage of the inevitable systemic reset that  will hit the U.S. financial and economic system, check out either of these newsletters:   Short Seller’s Journal  information and more about the Mining Stock Journal here:   Mining Stock Journal information.

The Cracks In The Market’s Floor Grow Wider

“The only time we’ve ever seen a confluence of risk factors anywhere close to those of today was the week of March 24, 2000, which marked the peak of the technology bubble.” – John Hussman, Hussman Funds, in his October Market Commentary

The yield on the 10-yr Treasury has broken out, hitting its highest level since July 2011:

By the end of June 2011, the Fed had only reached its half-way mark in money printing. It was shortly thereafter that the Fed had implemented its “operation twist.” Operation twist consisted of selling the Fed’s short term holdings and using the proceeds plus extra printed money to buy Treasuries at the long-end of the curve – primarily 10-yr bonds. That program is what drove the 10-yr bond yield from 3.40% in July 2011 to as low as 1.33% by mid-2016. At one point the Fed owned more than 50% of all outstanding 10-yr Treasuries. The Fed’s massive money hyper-stimulated the housing and auto markets.

What should frighten market participants and policy-makers – and really, everyone – is that the 10-yr yield has soared the last Thursday and Friday despite the big sell-off in the Dow/SPX. I say “despite” because typically when stocks tank like that, the money flows into Treasuries as a “flight-to-safety” thereby driving yields lower. When stocks drop like last Thursday and Friday in conjunction with the sharp rise in the 10-yr yield (also the 30-yr yield), it reflects the development of financial market problems that are not superficially apparent.

The media narrative attributed Friday’s jump in Treasury yields to the “strong” jobs report. But this is nonsense. The number reported missed expectations. Moreover, the number of working age people “not in the labor force” rose to an all-time high,which is indicative of substantial slack in the labor market.

More likely, yields are soaring on the long end of the curve (10yrs to 30yrs) because it was quietly reported that the amount of outstanding Treasuries jumped by $1.25 trillion in the Government’s 2018 Fiscal Year (October thru September). This means that the Government’s spending deficit soared by that same amount during FY 2018. To make matters worse, the Trump tax cut will likely cause the spending deficit – and therefore the amount of Treasury issuance required to cover that deficit – to well to north of $1.5 trillion in FY 2019.

Who is going to buy all that new Treasury issuance? Based on the Treasury’s TIC report, which shows major foreign holders of Treasury securities, over the last 12 months through July (the report lags by 2 months), foreign holdings of Treasuries increased by only $2.1 billion. The point here is that, in all likelihood, the biggest factor causing Treasuries to spike up in yield is the market’s anticipation of a massive amount of new issuance. Secondarily, the rising yields likely reflect the market’s expectation of accelerating inflation attributable to the deleterious consequences of the trade war and the lascivious monetary policies of the Fed. The market is assuming control of interest rate policy.

On Tuesday last week (October 3rd), the Dow closed at a record high (26,828). Yet, on that day three times as many stocks in NYSE closed at 52-week lows as those that closed at 52-week highs. Since 1965, this happened on just one other day: December 28, 1999. The Dow peaked shortly thereafter (11,722 on January 10, 2000) and began a 21 month sell-off that took the Dow down 32%.

I don’t necessarily expect to see the stock market tank in the next few weeks though, based on watching the intra-day trading action the past couple of weeks leads me to believe that the market is vulnerable at any time to a huge sell-off. The abrupt spike in Treasury yields plus market technicals – like the statistic cited above – lead me to believe that the cracks in the stock market’s “floor” are widening.

The above commentary is an excerpt from the latest Short Seller’s Journal. In that issue I presented LULU as short at $153. It’s already dropped $8 and several subscribers and I have more than doubled our money on put ideas.  You can learn more about this newsletter here:  Short Seller’s Journal information.

The SEC Settlement With Musk: Crime Pays Once Again

“…when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors–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’s Money Speech, “Atlas Shrugged”

The SEC ended up settling with Elon Musk for violating securities laws with his “funding secured” tweet. Musk and Tesla will each pay $20 million in fines and Musk will be barred from acting as Chairman of Tesla but will remain CEO. I doubt the SEC will investigate to what extent, if any, Musk and his family and friends took advantage by accumulating stock and call options ahead of Musk’s tweet, which triggered an $87 move higher in the stock price. Certainly we know Musk and his family controls an offshore stock account in the Cayman Islands.

Thirty years ago, Musk would have been forced to serve jail time for securities law violations. Ask Michael Milken and Ivan Boesky about that. The last time a corporate CEO was incarcerated for securities laws violations was Qwest’s Joe Nacchio in April 2007.

Notwithstanding the fact that Musk remains CEO of Tesla, the Company is on a path toward insolvency within 12-18 months. Just like Enron’s auditors before it, I’m sure Price Waterhouse will have no problem cooking up financial statements for Q3 which show a GAAP-manipulated profit of some sort. But make no mistake, rigged GAAP accounting can not change the fact Tesla continues burning billions in cash – nearly $2 billion in the first six months of 2018 between operating activities and investing activity.

I’m hopeful the Justice Department investigation of Musk and Tesla will produce results that are more reflective of Rule of Law than the SEC delivered. Clearly the SEC has once again sent the message to the world that crime pays in the United States if you have a bank account large enough to cover the tab. But, at the end of the day, the fate of Tesla is subject to the Laws of Economics. That is a battle Musk and Tesla have no hope of winning.

What a fucking comical charade. They take a slam dunk case and settle??? At least now we know how serious they are about prosecuting securities fraud among the privileged few. And people wonder how Madoff could get away with such a gigantic heist for so long??? Seems pretty clear the rules are set up to protect the elite crooks in our financial system. – Short Seller’s Journal  subscriber

The Economy Is Collapsing Under The Unbearable Weight Of Debt

“Those who see no Lehman-like episode on the horizon did not see the last one.” – highly regarded writer, George Will, in a National Review article titled, “America Is Overdue For Another Economic Disaster”

Lost in the largely meaningless political Kabuki theatre being staged on Capitol Hill is the fact that the economy is deteriorating. Real average weekly earnings in July declined for production and non-supervisory workers. It was down 0.01% from June to July and down 0.22% from July 2017. For all employees, real average hourly earnings declined 0.20% from June to July but was flat year over year.

Real earnings is not a statistic discussed in the mainstream financial media, but it reflects the ability of the average household to consume non-discretionary goods and services. It also reflects the ability and willingness of the average household to borrow.

The U.S. economy’s appearance of wealth creation and economic growth has been fully dependent on debt creation since 2009. As the graphic from John Williams’ Shadowstats.com shows, the rate of growth in real consumer credit outstanding is approach zero (no growth):

The chart above shows the year-over-year growth rate of real consumer credit outstanding with and without student loans. As you can see, ex-student loans (blue line) the rate of growth in outstanding consumer debt (not including mortgage debt) is close to zero. The increase in consumer credit reported for June (the latest month for which data is available) was $10.2 billion vs $16 billion expected. It was down from May’s increase of $24.6 billion. The perceived growth in GDP is inextricably tied to the growth rate in the use of debt. The near-zero growth rate in consumer credit is thus consistent with the view that the U.S. economy is weaker than the promotional propaganda flowing from Wall Street and DC.

“Student Loans Are Starting To Bite The Economy” – That was title of a Bloomberg article last week. With $1.4 trillion outstanding, student loans are the second largest category of household debt after mortgages. 22.4% of all households carry student debt. 44.8% of households in the 18-34 age demographic carry student debt – that’s up from 18.6% in 2001. Student debt is carried by a large amount of past college students, but learning how to repay student loans is not as spoken about. There are various repayment plans to suit different needs, student debt carriers could read each of them and see which one suits them if they require help.

Not discussed by the article is the estimated that 40% of borrowers will default on their loans by 2023. The current 90-day “official” delinquency rate is 11.2%. But this number is highly deceptive because 30% of all student loans are in deferment or forbearance. These loans are put into “remission” for many reasons but the most common is that it enables the borrower who can’t make payments to defer the stopwatch on delinquency/default.

While it’s possible that the student loan problem is affecting potential demand from potential homebuyers, most people who have student debt also have credit card and auto debt. There are also schemes such as an employer student loan repayment that help employees pay back their student debt. So it’s not clear that student loan debt alone has affected the ability of first-time buers (18-34 age cohort) to buy a home.

Rather, I would argue that it’s the accumulation of debt since 2012 that is affecting all areas of the economy:

As you can see in the chart above, total household debt through the end of March 2018 – which means the debt level is even higher now – is considerably higher than the previous peak at the end of Q3 2008. Not shown is a graph I constructed on the FRED site that added nominal GDP. The rate of growth in household debt has sharply surpassed the rate of growth in GDP since Q3 2015.

This is why the economy is stalling. This is why the housing and auto markets are now in definitive contraction. It has nothing to do with the trade war or low housing inventory. It has everything to do with an economic system that is losing its ability to support the massive amount of debt that has been issued since the last financial crisis (de facto collapse).

The weekly economic reports – both Government and private sector – continue to reflect a downturn in economic activity. Moreover, the reports almost always are below the hyped-up expectations of Wall Street’s brain trust. The chart below reflects the irrational optimism of anyone chasing stocks higher (primarily hedge fund algos):

As you can see, since the middle of August, the 30-yr Treasury yield has negatively diverged from the S&P 500 after being tightly correlated for the first two weeks of August. The spread between the 2yr and 10yr treasury is at its lowest since August 2007.

The Treasury curve “flattens” when the short end of the curve rises relative to the long end. The curve flattens when the market has decided that the Fed is wrong on its policy of raising the Fed Funds rates because the economy is slowing down. Large Treasury buyers pile into 10yr and 30yr Treasuries on the expectation that a deteriorating economy will force the Fed to reverse course and lower rates again. The chart above reflects the market reacting to the steady flow of negative economic reports.

If the Fed is right, we should see the 30yr yield “catch up” to the SPX. Conversely, if the market is right, the chart above is yet another warning sign of an eventual stock market “accident.” I have no doubt that the Fed is wrong. That said, the Fed has painted itself into a corner on rates. Contrary to the Fed’s public propaganda of “low inflation,” the Fed is well aware of the true rate of inflation – inflation created by the Fed’s monetary policy since 2008. If the Fed does not act to tighten monetary conditions, price inflation will continue to accelerate and inflict serious damage to the U.S. economy.

The commentary above is from the latest issue of the Short Seller’s Journal. I explain why the housing market is heading south quickly, update my homebuilder short ideas and discuss Tesla. You can learn more about this newsletter here: Short Seller’s Journal information

WTF Just Happened? Gold And Silver Set-Up To Soar

According to the latest Commitment of Traders Report released Friday and which accounts for Comex trader positioning through Tuesday, August 21, the hedge fund net short position in Comex paper gold futures soared to an all-time high of 89,972 contracts. This represents nearly 9 million ounces of paper gold. It’s more gold than is produced by gold mines in the U.S. annually. As of Thursday, Comex vault operators reported a total of 8.4 million ounces of gold, only 282,000 of which were available for delivery.  In other words, the hedge fund paper gold short position exceeds the total amount of gold in Comex vaults.

Conversely, the Comex banks are taking the other side of the massive hedge fund short bet. Given the history of extreme positioning by the hedge funds and the banks (the banks are normally short paper gold – thus a long position by the banks is considered “extreme”), it’s a safe bet that at some point in the near future gold (and silver) are set to soar. Perhaps the more interesting question would be to ask why the banks have assumed a large long position in gold. What is it that the banks “see” that has them positioned for a big move higher in the precious metals?

Meanwhile, Tesla is the ultimate evidence that no price discovery is not possible in the U.S. stock market. In a market with true price discovery, TSLA would no longer exist. It appears as if Elon Musk was indeed under the influence of illicit psychotropic drugs when he claimed that funding was secured for a going-private transaction.

In this episode of “WTF Just Happened?” we discuss the massive hedge fund paper gold short position plus lift our leg the idea that Tesla will be around in two year (WTF Just Happened is a produced in association with Wall St. For Main Street – Eric Dubin may be reached at  Facebook.com/EricDubin):

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In the next issue of the Short Seller’s Journal I explain why the housing market is headed south quickly, update my homebuilder short ideas and discuss Tesla. You can learn more about this newsletter here:  Short Seller’s Journal information

In the next issue of the Mining Stock Journal, I dissect the latest COT report and update my favorite junior mining stock ideas, including a couple of interesting silver explorations stocks. You can learn more about this here:   Mining Stock Journal information.

More Evidence The Economy Is Deteriorating

“Financial-market and economic prospects remain far shy of the hype and headlines, amidst tanking consumer optimism and negative revisions to recent reporting.” – John Williams, Shadowstats.com

The economy may seem like it’s doing well if you are part of the upper 10% demographic. Though, in reality, for most of the upper 10%, doing “well” has been a function of having easy access to credit. NASA Federal Credit Union is offering 0% down, 0% mortgage insurance for mortgages up to $2.5 million.

Someone I know suggested the tax cut stimulus had run its course. But the narrative that the tax cuts would stimulate economic activity was pure propaganda. The tax cuts stimulated $1 trillion in expected share buybacks and put more money in the pockets of corporate insiders and billionaires. The average middle class household spent its tax cut money on more expensive gasoline and food. Since the tax cut took effect, auto sales and home sales have declined. Retail sales have been mixed. However, it’s difficult to distinguish between statistical manipulation and inflation. I would argue that, net of real inflation and Census Bureau statistical games, real retail sales have been declining.

As an example, last week Black Box Intelligence released July restaurant sales. While comparable store sales were up 0.54% over July 2017, comparable restaurant traffic was down 1.8%. On a rolling three months, comp sales are up 0.46% but comparable traffic is down nearly 2%. With traffic declining, especially a faster rate relative to the small increase in sales, it means the sales “growth” is entirely a function of price inflation. If Black Box Intelligence could control it’s data for price increases, it would show that there is no question that real sales are declining. I have been loathe to recommend shorting restaurant stocks because, for some reason, the hedge funds love them.

On Wednesday last week, the Government reported July retail sales, which were “up” 0.5% vs June. However, June’s 0.5% “gain” was revised sharply lower to 0.2%. Revising the previous month lower to make the headline number for the reported month appear higher is a mathematical gimmick that the Government uses frequently. As an example of the questionable quality of the retail sales report, the Government reports that sales at motor-vehicle and parts dealers rose 0.2% from June to July. But the auto industry itself reported a 4% decline in sales from June to July. I’ll leave it up to you to decide which report is more reliable…

Housing starts for July, reported last Thursday, showed an 8% decline from June’s number. June’s number was revised lower from the original number reported. No surprise there, at least for me. The report missed the Wall Street brain trust’s expectations by a wide margin for the second month in row. The downward revision to June makes the report even worse. Additionally, housing starts are now down year-over-year for the second month in a row.

This report followed last Wednesday’s mortgage applications report which showed a decline in purchase applications for the 5th week in a row. The housing starts number continues to throw cold water on the “low inventory” narrative. While there still may some areas of housing market strength in the $500,000 and below price bucket, the mortgage purchase applications data has been mostly negative since April, which reflects deteriorating home sales. This reality is “magnified” by the fact that home sales have declining during what should be the strongest seasonal period of the year for home sales.

Lending Tree, Zillow Group and Redfin are “derivatives” of housing market activity. They reflect web searches, foot traffic and sales associated with mortgages and home sales. Lending Tree stock is down nearly 42% late January. Zillow stock is down 26% since mid-June. Redfin is down 39.5% since the beginning of the year, including an 18.5% plunge two weeks ago. unequivocally, these three stocks reflect the popping of the housing bubble. The Short Seller Journal recommended shorting all three of these stocks before their big declines.

Normally I’m hesitant to discuss the regional Fed economic surveys because they are skewed by their expectations/outlook (hope/sentiment) components. However, the Philly Fed survey for August was notable because it reinforced my view that the economy and the “hope” for a better economy is fading quickly. The overall index crashed to 11.9 from 25.7 in July. This is lower than just before the Trump election, when “hope” soared. Wall Street was expecting a 22.5 reading on the index. The new orders, work week and employment components plunged. Shipments dropped, inventories rose and prices paid fell. This report reflects the view that economy is much weaker than is conveyed by the political propaganda coming form DC.

I don’t know what it will take to cause a plunge in the Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq but, as we’ve seen with homebuilder stocks, there’s a lot of opportunity to make money on economic reality in the lesser-followed sectors of the stock market.

Myself and my Short Seller’s Journal subscribers have been raking in easy money shorting the homebuilder sector and, of late, Tesla.  I’ve been including detailed analysis of Tesla, why it will likely be out of business within 2 years and ideas for using puts to short the stock.  You can learn more about this newsletter here:  Short Seller’s Journal information.

That egomaniac [Elon Musk] just paid for my new landscaping. LOL! Cashed in on some Jan 2019 100 & 200 puts for a 175% gain. Should be interesting to see how and how long this debacle plays on. – subscriber feedback.

WTF Just Happened: Gold Forms A Bottom And 420-Time For Elon Musk

Perhaps the most baffling aspect of the Elon Musk “Funding Secured” tweet is the number of financial media outlets and so-called “analysts” that are taking it seriously. The idea is a complete joke. Any valuation in excess of potential asset value minus the debt and other liabilities (included in “liabilities” will soon be a flood of lawsuits). Some bucket-shop stock analysts issued reports explaining why a buyout of Tesla could occur at an even higher price. We’re beginning wonder if the Tesla buyout idiocy will mark the end of the valuation insanity that has permeated the entire U.S. stock market…Meanwhile, hedge funds assumed a record short position in Comex paper gold futures. This along with the worst sentiment toward the precious metals since early 2001 and late 2015 suggest the potential for a bottom in gold, silver and mining shares.

In this episode of “WTF Just Happened?” we discuss these issues plus offer a view on the correlation between the dollar-price of gold and the $/yuan (WTF Just Happened is a produced in association with Wall St. For Main Street – Eric Dubin may be reached at  Facebook.com/EricDubin):

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Tesla is on its way to bankruptcy.  I don’t know how long it will take that to occur but the Company will be insolvent if it can’t raise money before the end of the year.  I explain why a buyout of the Company is next to impossible in the next issue of the Short Seller’s Journal and offer several ideas for using put options to express a bearish view of Tesla stock.

Visit these links to learn more about the Investment Research Dynamic’s  Mining Stock Journal and Short Seller’s Journal.