Saturday, July 25, 2009
Ben Bernanke was Wrong...
Ron Paul: Don't Fire Bernanke - Fire the Fed!
Max Keiser Interviews Karl Denninger – part II (9 minutes):
Friday, July 24, 2009
Congressman Alan Grayson interview on King World News….
Nate & Arno:
On the way there we took the long and scenic route along the North Cascades Highway on a warm (hot) and beautiful day. With scenery like this, it was easy to forget about corruption in the market place and corporate money that was transforming our Government into a giant bought and paid for Ponzi enabling machinery:
The Twisted Edge – Motorcycle Heaven:
This two wheeled anecdotal economic report is a prelude to my upcoming expedition to Central and South America via Motorcycle. Along the way I will bring you interesting economic pieces as the inspiration strikes. For example, I couldn’t help but laugh as we stopped for a break at a little rest area next to the Chief Joseph Dam:
Here’s this government facility’s little playground & Outhouse:
And here are the rules and regulation posted to the side of the outhouse governing the use of the playground:
It struck a harmonic on my funny bone just knowing that the rules and regulations undoubtedly cost more to produce than the playground itself! And I’m sure little Johnny and Suzie (and their parents) stop and take the two hours to study this worthless piece of government waste that probably employed three full time lawyers.
But I digress.
I’m here to talk about my experience and what I learned in Kooskia – down on Main Street where the REAL economy resides.
On Wall Street the financial engineers, “geniuses” if you will, devise ways to increase leverage and skim money off as many transactions as possible (think cap and trade). They create obscure and complex derivatives of DEBT and sell them to unsuspecting “investors.” This would be “getting credit flowing” in their parlance. Their activities are responsible for creating more debt than can ever possibly be repaid by America and by Americans. They have brought the REAL ECONOMY to its knees. For this they reap windfall profits, millions in bonuses, and bailouts from the U.S. Government using YOUR MONEY and YOUR future earnings.
On Main Street in Kooskia (pronounced Koos-kee), Idaho, the REAL ECONOMY has ground to a halt.
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After a hard day’s ride along the Lolo trail, we touched pavement for the first time that day just outside of Kooskia and rode past the post office – on Main Street…
Kooskia Post Office:
We stopped for a quick dinner, talked to several very friendly and nice townsfolk, and then set off to find a good camp area as it was about to get dark. As we were headed out of town I spotted a large area of nice looking grass that looked like it could be a campground but turned out to be a small park right on the South Fork of the Clearwater River. As we did a slow drive by, a man on an early model Harley rode by and stopped right in front of us in his driveway next to the park. We stopped and asked him if he knew where we might find a nice spot to camp… he said, “heck, you should just camp in the park! I’d pitch my tent right over in that corner, right next to the Mayor’s house, that’s where most folks do it, just watch out for the sprinklers, they go off at 11 PM, and heck, I’ll probably come over and join you for a beer!”
Wow, that was some kind of nice welcome, but us city boys are trained via repeated City Police beatings not to camp (or pee) in city parks! But he sure sounded like he knew what he was talking about – and he did ride a Harley after all - and the park on the river was beautiful and empty, so we headed on over and set up camp:
Nice and peaceful night, no phone calls from the Mayor to the local police - sweet. Early the next morning we heard the Harley start up and over came Lowell for a visit:
This is where we started to learn about the economy of Kooskia…
It seems that Lowell is currently unemployed after working for the past few years for the local saw mill. Now he adds to his unemployment check by driving an ambulance – on call for $7 a trip with no hospital trip, or $18 for a trip with a “carry” to the emergency room. Needless to say, Lowell is not out stimulating the economy.
And he’s not alone in Kooskia. According to year 2000 Census data, there were a whopping 675 residents in Kooskia and, according to Lowell, there are now about 600 – that’s because a wood mill closed down in 2006 laying off a little more than 90 people. Now the last mill in the area is closing down as the owner simply doesn’t have the money to pay his ongoing debts. According to Lowell, the owner had installed a $2 million state of the art saw a few years back and today is in default on over $2.5 million in debt. The mill is for sale, but there have been no takers and all 110 employees are now drawing extended unemployment.
OUCH! 110 employees in a town of 600 people? That has to be a huge percentage of the workforce. And think about what that means for the all the other small businesses and employees who work there. Just another tragic sawmill closure and the death of another small town, or is there more meaning behind this?
Lowell pointed across the river. “Look over there…”
“…They closed the local train tracks down and PARKED IDLED TRAIN CARS ALONG SEVEN MILES OF TRACK.”
Those were not just timber cars, they are freight and other types of cars too – a train boneyard if you will.
What does that say about our economy? The closed mill says to me that housing and other construction demand is down and that what wood products are being sold, are mostly coming from Canada and from overseas. The parked rail cars say to me that demand for other goods is also depressed.
Very interesting talking to the locals, you’d be amazed what you can learn. Turns out Lowell is NOT oblivious to what’s going on in the economy, we had a pleasant talk and he knows how bad the real economy is hurting and believes fully that more economic and other upheaval is on the way. On that I would definitely agree.
We packed up our camp, said goodbye to Lowell and cruised back to the local café for breakfast. There we met even more interesting and nice people, all with their own stories of course… I sat next to a very spry and sharp as a tack 87 year old gal who could recall every date and every little town within a hundred miles.
That’s her husband, Tony, in the back of the booth, also 87 years old, but age is catching up to Tony’s synapses, unlike his wife. Tony, it turns out, was a turret gunner on a B-17 during WWII and was shot down over Germany, lived, and was held as a prisoner of war for 17 months there. They too are concerned about the economy and what will happen to their small town, but they remain upbeat in a way that only people who have lived through real adversity can.
I really enjoyed talking to the people in Kooskia, they were all somehow “real” and genuinely happy to see and meet a stranger. A very different experience than you will find in any large city, that’s for sure.
And to seal the deal on why I liked the town of Kooskia, on the ride south out of town I spotted a very prominent windmill along side the road with a bulletin board attached to the base:
Hmmm, looks like they get it... Oh yeah, there’s “change” coming all right. What’s not coming is help for the people of Kooskia. All the help it seems has found it’s way into the hands of the people on Wall Street.
We rode to the Hell’s Canyon area and explored off road there too.
As Tony’s sharp wife pointed out, “When you look at that canyon, you can imagine how they must have felt crossing over the pass only to stare at that massive wall! That’s when you’ll realize why it’s called Hell’s Canyon.”
And on the ride north and west from Hell’s Canyon, along route 95, Arno and I found the idled timber industry cars – well over 10 miles worth of them, parked and rusting. Here’s some video shot from the forward mounted video camera on Arno’s bike, that’s me in the lead, we pull over for a break then resume riding by miles and miles of parked lumber cars that you can see on the right side of the road. This 7 minute video, at roughly 70 mph, is only a portion of the length of the cars we passed:
Of course everyone realizes that the timber industry in the United States has been in decline for years. Maybe I’m just being pessimistic, or maybe I’m just telling it like it is. Nowhere on my trip did I see signs of a strong and vibrant economy. In Spokane I drove past many empty commercial buildings. I saw 10 minutes of the news and the lead story was how the Spokane police department is going to have to cut their staff due to budget shortfalls.
The little city of Kooskia undoubtedly has budget problems of their own. According to Lowell, most of his friends are living on unemployment checks. What happens when their benefits run out? Where do they find new meaningful jobs? Perhaps we can all just blog to one another and live on Google ads! Please click generously!
Dickey Lee - The Day The Sawmill Closed Down – 1963:
Equity futures are down this morning, but not as hard as they were last night:
Amazon missed on their earnings report, then Microsoft announced sales were down a staggering 17% year over year last quarter, and then American Express missed huge too. Here are their charts showing the immediate effect:
Sorry, but those who think a real recovery are underway are as deluded as they were (if not more so) than when they were snapping up stocks and real estate back in 2006 and 2007.
At 9:55 Eastern this morning Consumer Sentiment is released and that will wrap up the economic reports for the week.
There’s bad and then there’s horrific… the amount of bond offerings next week can be called nothing short of horrific. The total? For one week? $235 BILLION!!! That’s nearly a quarter trillion in just one week of DEBT issuance. Annualized, that’s over $12 trillion, which of course is completely not doable. Heck, I don’t believe $235 billion in one week is truly doable. Seen the TIC data? Overseas investors have been net sellers of our debt lately, so just who is going to buy up all that debt? I have my suspicions because the math is not adding up, and yes, I would love to see a complete and thorough, INDEPENDENT audit of both the FED and the Treasury, because I think they are funneling funny money (much more than their announced $300 billion) through their surrogates (hello JPM, GS)! Now, that’s just a hunch, but I’m smelling something worse than smoke. Indirect bidders? Who exactly are they? Boy, I hope I’m wrong about that, because if I’m right there is going to be a serious manure storm in the currency and bond world. Transparency? Let’s see it.
Yesterday’s large and unbelievable ramp job, call it “Computers Gone Wild – Part 9,666” obviously fulfilled the large price move called for by Wednesday’s small move in the McClelland Oscillator.
Volume did expand on the up side slightly yesterday but we closed on all the major indices ABOVE the upper Bollinger band again and overbought on all the timeframes from daily on down. McHugh’s been using EW to count this rally pretty well and this appears to be wave 5 up of 1 up of c up of B up. In a nutshell, the rally should end soon, we should get a pullback, rally some more, and eventually the bottom will fall out again. When is always the question and there are probably too many people expecting it this fall, but we’ll see.
Here’s a chart showing the percent of stocks above their 50 day moving averages. You can see that we are back to being in Lala land, over 1 standard deviation above the norm:
So, yesterday the Transports made a new short term, NOT MAJOR, high which confirms the most recent minor new high in the Industrials. There are many, many technicians who watch this and will call a buy signal on that occurring. I am not so sure, I would not call it until a SIGNIFICANT new high is established in both. Where is that? I have drawn in small circles for minor highs, but the larger circle is where I think that the significant new high would occur:
My interpretation may not be the same as others and I’m sure there will be much ado about it.
Now then, I must point you to that chart of the Industrials. There is a large inverted Head & Shoulders pattern forming and we are at the neckline now. That’s a huge pattern, worth about 2,500 points and would have a target above 11,000. Not that I think we get there, but I’m pointing it out and I would not eliminate it as a possibility. Of course it would be disconnected from the real world should it occur, but the pattern is there.
It’s also now on the Point and Figure charts. Take a look at these new targets and you will see targets up in that range. Again, I am just pointing them out and think it’s pure Alice in Wonderland to think they will get there, but with surrogate buying of $235 billion of debt in one week, if it does it will be strictly a monetary phenomenon.
So, there you have it. This may be a part of wave B psychology… that would be my view, but timing on being short needs to be careful. I think we’ll see the signs of exhaustion, the panic buying yesterday and overall lower volumes are arguing that the rally is NOT REAL. It is bear market panic buying, the stuff of failures, not REAL and LASTING economic growth. We’ll see, and if stocks can overcome the stinker reports of last night, then you have to respect the bulls and their computers, they’re on fire!
Bruce Springsteen - I'm On Fire:
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Commercial construction down 71% in June
The Associated General Contractors of America reported a national drop in commercial construction of 71 percent during June compared with the previous month.
The drop wiped out gains seen in May, when commercial construction rose 27 percent.
“Every construction category declined significantly in June,” said Jim Haughey, an economist for Reed Construction, in a statement. “The May/June boom/bust is substantially random.”
The drop shows that nonresidential construction is entering the weakest period in the business cycle, he said. Compared to June 2008, however, the drop was 22 percent, and Haughey said he believes that’s a better indicator for the rest of the year.
“The current bid calendar suggests that much of the June drop will be reversed in the next few months,” he said.
The contractors also reported that falling prices for construction materials may be nearing an end. Nucor-Yamato Steel announced it was raising prices to match an earlier announcement by Gerdau Ameristeel; a concrete company announced a hike in aggregates and liquid asphalt prices also are edging up.
Agree that a 71% month to month decline is obviously not sustainable and that the declines for the rest of the year are more likely to fall in line with the 22% year over year figure. But hello, 22% decline is nothing to sneeze at! Again, it’s a collapse of historic proportions.
Can you see how the collapse of the credit bubble is rippling through the economy? Subprime to homebuilders, to banks, to sales, to exports, and now to commercial construction…
Will it be a short term blip? Are consumers now out of debt and able to borrow ever increasing amounts against their homes? Are their wages going up? Sorry, but I think it’s more than just a short term blip.
Let’s take a look at the financing that underpins commercial construction… below is a chart showing the percentage of non-performing commercial loans. Note the angle of rise is much steeper than the 2000-2003 recession and that this indicator tends to peak AFTER the recession has been declared over:
Also look at the Commercial net loan charge-offs… that’s quite the increase, is it done or is it going to peak above the previous peaks? Look at the rate of increase:
And finally, look at the number of employees in construction of all types… That’s the really painful part for thousands of Americans:
So, the ripple effect continues across commercial construction and that is seen in non-performing loans and charge-offs. Does that mean that we are nearing an end to the recession? That may be what the sheeple and markets are betting on, but this, I believe, will prove to not be an ordinary recession. Never ending growth is NOT coming back anytime soon, and certainly not REAL growth. Monetary growth maybe, but that will not be sustainable as wages will not be there to reinforce an inflationary spiral, at least not now while the debt is overhanging every government entity and the majority of Americans as well.
As the following chart shows, construction wages are not feeding inflation in anything:
While the boys on Wallstreet are marking their toxic waste to fantasy, the real economy is still suffering down on Mainstreet.
Bob Seger – Mainstreet:
Futures are mostly flat this morning, dollar up. Here’s a snapshot of the overnight action:
Ford reported a smaller loss than expected, “only” $638 million. Now, losing 2/3rds of a billion dollars in one quarter might sound bad to you and me, but evidently to the people on CNN it’s a terrific thing and the opening line there is that Ford reported a profit! The profit, of course, is net minus one time “special” charges. This is the latest gimmic to give the marketing and media something to spin, and it’s ridiculous in that it is feeding the economic mass psychosis. Ford stock jumped 11% on its report. Ebay also jumped as they beat estimates with higher earnings – another trend this earnings season is that profits at companies that were aggressive with cost cutting are producing better results despite year over year sales shortfalls. My question would be, what will happen to earnings going forward when sales do not bounce back and the easy cost cutting has taken place? We’re going to find out.
Weekly jobless claims rose to 554,000 last week, up from the revised higher 522,000 the week before. Here’s Econoday’s report:
Initial jobless claims rose 30,000 in the July 18 to a slightly lower-than-expected 554,000 (prior week revised slightly higher from 522,000). Initial claims swung lower in prior weeks and now appear on their way higher as seasonal adjustment problems unwind, problems tied to earlier-than-usual summer layoffs in the manufacturing sector specifically in the auto sector. The Labor Department told Market News International that claims should return to trend line in the next few weeks, a warning hinting at 600,000 levels once again. Continuing claims fell for a second straight week, down 88,000 in the July 11 week to 6.225 million. Continuing claims have also been affected by adjustment problems and also, unfortunately, by workers exhausting their benefits. Market reaction was very limited though the dollar did weaken slightly while commodities firmed, reaction consistent with an increased appetite for risk.
Well, at least they are acknowledging that workers are dropping off the far end of their benefits. But please read Point's recap in the comments below for a dose of number reality!
Total UC benefits filings for July 4 (the latest week for which complete data is available) again climbed over the 900k mark, to (yet another) new high-water mark of 941k. This includes 581k initial and 360k extended claims.
Total UC recipients for July 4 reached (yet another) record high, just over 8.8 million, an increase of 200k over the prior week. This included 6.174m receiving regular benefits and (yet another) record number of Amerikkkans collecting extended benefits, 2.632m.
Twenty-three (23) states reported week-over-week initial claims increases of at least 1,000, with 12 states coming in over 4,000 and three with 10,000-plus. New York led the way with 12,500 new claims, while both North Carolina and Florida came in just north or 10,000.
(*Note - both these charts reflect unadjusted data - thank you, Point, for producing those charts and taking the time to dig a little deeper!)
Existing home sales come out at 10 Eastern and tomorrow we get the consumer sentiment reading.
From a technical perspective, the market is extremely overbought. Yesterday the SPX did manage to put in an intraday new high by reaching 959 which is just below the very powerful 961 pivot. The Transports tried, but failed to put in a new high and thus we have yet another short term potential for a Dow Theory non-confirmation.
Since both the DOW and S&P have made a new high, it is a done deal that wave b down of B up is over. Again, it’s also the first time in this bear market that a standard Head and Shoulders pattern has failed. Still, I believe we’re primed to see some pullback especially if the 961 pivot holds, and I think it likely will for now, depending, of course, on what the Goldman computer programs desire!
Oh, did I say something bad about the kind and generous Goldman Sachs people? Why they are so kind to live up to their word and to redeem their toxic warrants at the full price that they were lent… of course that was spun to full effect and the mainstream media is attempting to paint them like they are doing the taxpayers a favor. You have to give their spin machine credit, what they deserve is to be behind bars, certainly not lauded.
Dire Straits - Sultans Of Swing:
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
While I do agree with much of what he says here, like there is no one on our side looking out for our interests, I do take issue with a few of his positions. I disagree, for one, that the central banks largely do not collude – baloney, that’s what the G5 and now G20 are all about. Secondly, Martin is ignoring the TRILLIONS UPON TRILLIONS in credit derivatives that are now underlying everything at JPM, GS, and others. The leverage created by them will be their undoing. Otherwise good insight and a great piece for thought and debate:
Oh, and in case you missed the Matt Taibbi Rolling Stone piece, here's a pertinent video that does a terrific job of explaining Goldman’s role in Government.
Goldman in the Government…
Again, these people have NO business being involved in government. In fact, they are the very last people who belong there.
The fourth branch of government runs the entire thing, they run the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, they run our money system, the Fed, other businesses, and they run you and me (ht Point).
Bank of America spent $1.5B on lobbying
Published: July 22, 2009 at 3:17 PM
WASHINGTON, July 22 (UPI) -- Bank of America Corp., which accepted $45 billion in taxpayer bailout money, has spent $1.5 billion on lobbying so far this year, U.S. Senate records indicate.
The Charlotte, N.C., bank -- one of the nation's largest -- has sought to sway senators and members of Congress on more than two dozen pieces of legislation, records indicate.
BoA has lobbied for flexibility in spending government rescue funds and against restrictions on executive compensation. It also has lobbied on home mortgage issues and credit card fees, as well as a consumer-rights bill, student lending issues and a proposed federal regulatory oversight agency, the records obtained by The Charlotte Observer suggest.
The documents don't say what positions the bank took. Bank spokeswoman Shirley Norton would not comment to the newspaper other than saying it was interested in tax reform and regulatory issues.
Critics argue that until banks repay taxpayer bailout money, they should steer clear of lobbying.
"As long as they hold on to a very substantial portion of public funds, and are publicly owned essentially, they should not be using any of their funds for lobbying purposes or campaign contributions," Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for the non-profit advocacy group Public Citizen, told the newspaper. "And you'll find Bank of America is doing both."
Bank of America's lobbying tab was $2.3 billion in the first half of 2008, the Senate records state.
"We're cutting expenses across the company, including lobbying expenses," Norton said.
The only way we are ever going to get a stable and lasting economic system is when this type of nonsense ends. We must separate all corporations and their money from state.
When we do that, THEN we can have a smaller government that works. THEN we can have politicians that make decisions not for special interests, but for the LONG TERM good of our country. Until then, everything else is just debt on top of debt that ultimately feeds these institutions.
Wealth Destruction – Part I (10 minutes):
Wealth Destruction – Part II (11 minutes):
Credit Default Swaps - Part I (11 minutes):
Credit Default Swaps - Part II (12 minutes):
Ron Paul with Dylan Ratigan (8 minutes):
Ron Paul's Opening Statement:
I’m back, and I’ll be ready to hit the posts again just as soon as I wade through hundreds of emails! Boy was it ever nice to leave the “financial engineering” behind for a few days and be out in nature! I have a couple of articles by others to post and I’ll get those up as soon as I can today. I also have a short anecdotal economic article I want to write regarding a small town I stayed in on my trip and I’ll be working to write up a “trip report” with a few pictures and a short story as we did get a lot of good pictures.
I’m not really caught up on the news yet but I did get to quickly go over the charts, so let’s talk about the technical landscape that I see at first glance…
First of all, the futures are down pretty hard this morning, here’s the overnight action in the DOW and S&P futures:
Looking at the longer tern charts, the most glaring thing I see is that the DOW Industrials made a new high yesterday as what appears to me to be wave c of B continued. You can see that we closed above the upper Bollinger yet again. A close back beneath the upper Bollinger will be a market sell signal when it occurs, which may very well be today. You can also see that we are way overbought on the daily stochastic. Exceeding the height of the previous “head” invalidates the prior bearish Head & Shoulder Pattern, the first time I have seen that pattern fail in this bear market. However, when you look at the volumes, they are still quite low compared to the volumes seen during the last declines:
A big warning for the bulls is that the Transports did NOT make a new high with the Industrials yesterday. In fact, both the Transports and the Financials were down yesterday, diverging against the rest of the market. Note that the Transports finally had the 50dma cross above the 200, but the oscillators are way overbought here as well. Yesterday’s candle is a red hammer giving you a clue that a reversal could be at hand but needs downside confirmation from today’s action:
The SPX produced an outside hammer yesterday which looks like a pretty good, but obvious, topping candle. Reversal needs to be confirmed by today’s action and so far the futures seem to be pointing that way:
The VIX produced an inverted hammer yesterday that is also outside and looks like a potential reversal indicator. I think we’re going to see a downtrend here if it’s confirmed, but I’m not sure how long that downtrend will last. Watch the VIX this morning, it should be telling:
Bonds rose pretty hard yesterday and that was divergent from an up market as well.
There was a historic eclipse yesterday across much of Asia, particularly in China and India. Could that mark a turning point in their markets? Could be, I’d be careful about being long right now, especially China as their rebound rally is WAY overdone.
Well Fargo I see got to mark their assets to their own fantasy and declared themselves to be profit makers like most of the big banks have this quarter – their stock, however, still got racked for more than $2 last night. Morgan Stanley, however, did not “make money” and missed expectations – they too got hammered in overnight action and are down significantly.
Thanks to those who keep the comments going on the market threads, I really appreciate it! It’s nice knowing that I can get away for a few days and still have a small community of people sharing their thoughts and observations.
Three Dog Night - Out in the Country (Whenever I need to leave it all behind or feel the need to get away…)
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Please keep each other up to date on the market action, I appreciate it!