Category Archives: Financial markets

Brexit Iceberg, Dead Ahead, by Tom Luongo

The Eurocrats and British Remainers are dancing on the deck of the Titanic. From Tom Luongo at tomluongo.me:

This is the attitude of those opposed to it. Any real separation of the U.K. from the European Union would result in a catastrophe which knows no bounds.

They have ratcheted up Project Fear to the point now of saying there will be food shortages and permanent supply problems for fresh fruit if a hard Brexit occurs.

Things like this defy all reason. They are based on the stupidest interpretation of how humans react to changing situations. It is like saying the only potential suppliers for the U.K. of certain fruits and vegetables are those from the European Union.

Because people don’t respond to incentives and there aren’t other suppliers ready to take up the slack if the Eurocrats keep their panties in a twist over this.

Parliamentary Deck Chairs

And yet, after another major session of Parliament in which Remainers were supposed to scuttle the entire process we see Brexit moving steadily towards its obvious conclusion.

The six amendments which were on the table yesterday ranged from virtue signaling about not wanting a No-Deal Brexit to parliament wresting control of the law-making process from the Government, over-turning nearly 40 years of tradition.

Four of them, all of the terrible ones, failed.

Because what finally happened is that these corrupt and venal MP’s finally ran up against the reality that they hold what power they have at the pleasure of the people they represent.

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The Fall Of Facebook Has Only Just Begun, by 13D Research

Facebook still faces a sea of woes that are probably not reflected in its stock price. From 13D Research, via zerohedge.com:

The fall of Facebook has only begun. The platform is broken and neither human nor machine can fix it.

Even after losing roughly a third of its market cap, it still may prove one of the great shorts of all time.

“There’s no mental health support. The suicide rate is extremely high,” one of the directors of the documentary, “The Cleaners” told CBS News last May. The film is an investigative look at the life of Facebook moderators in the Philippines. Throughout his 2018 apology tour, Mark Zuckerberg regularly referenced the staff of moderators the company had hired as one of two key solutions — along with AI — to the platform’s content evils. What he failed to disclose is that the majority of that army is subcontractors employed in the developing world.

For as long as ten hours a day, viewing as many as 25,000 images or videos per day, these low-paid workers are buried in the world’s horrors — hate speech, child pornography, rape, murder, torture, beheadings, and on and on. They are not experts in the subject matter or region they police. They rely on “guidelines” provided by Facebook — “dozens of unorganised PowerPoint presentations and Excel spreadsheets with bureaucratic titles like ‘Western Balkans Hate Orgs and Figures’ and ‘Credible Violence: Implementation standards’,” as The New York Times reported last fall. The rules are not even written in the languages the moderators speak, so many rely on Google Translate. As a recent op-ed by John Naughton in The Guardian declares bluntly in its headline, “Facebook’s burnt-out moderators are proof that it is broken.”

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Will Policy Makers Turn a Global Economic Slowdown Into a Crisis? by Daniel Lacalle

This is a far better description of how the economy actually works than anything you’d get out of economics textbooks. From Daniel Lacalle at mises.org:

The recent macroeconomic data of the leading economies point to a widespread slowdown. What is more concerning is not just a logical moderation in the path of growth, but the acceleration in the weakening of economies that were supposed to be stronger and healthier. It is even more concerning that this aggressive worsening of key leading indicators in China, the EU, and most emerging economies happens at the peak of the largest monetary and fiscal stimulus in decades.

It is easy to blame this widespread weakening on political headlines, trade wars, and — of course —Trump, but it would be disingenuous to believe those are the real factors behind the negative economic surprise.

The pace of global recoveries since 1975 has been slower and weaker, consistently, according to the OECD. Recoveries take longer and happen slower. At the same time, periods of crisis are less aggressive albeit more frequent than prior to 1975.  Another interesting evidence of the crises and recoveries since 1975 is that almost all economies end the recession period with more debt than before.

These factors are all concerning, but the evidence also shows that economic progress has continued regardless and that the main factors of wellbeing have improved dramatically. I had the opportunity of meeting Johan Norberg, author of “Progress” and we discussed all the positive elements we have seen in the past decades. In the same period, from 1975 to 2018, extreme poverty has been reduced to all-time lows. Hunger, poverty, illiteracy,  child mortality… all those terrible problems have been dramatically reduced to the lowest levels in history. That is the positive.

However, recognizing the positive is important, but ignoring the risks is dangerous. Global debt has ballooned to all-time highs, more than three times the world GDP. For those elements of progress to continue improving, we must stop the race of perverse incentives created by the wrong analysis of the origin of crises and the solutions that are often proposed in mainstream economics and politics.  I agree with Johan Norberg that the two main factors that have driven the phenomenal progress we have seen are free markets and openness. The freedom to innovate, experiment, create and share must come with the right incentives.

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The Freak Chart, by the Northman Trader

Long-term stock market charts are perhaps sending a message that US equity markets may in for a lengthy period of consolidation at best, and perhaps a long bear market. From the Northman Trader at northmantrader.com:

I got a freak chart for you that’s stunning, but bear with me here because it requires some background and patience. Most of us are focused on the daily or weekly action and it’s easy to lose sight of big cyclical trends. We don’t think of them as they take a long time to unfold and the daily noise is so much more dominant.

With the advent of permanent central bank intervention sparked by the financial crisis all of us have come accustomed to markets always going up with the occasional correction in between and the timing of corrections have seemingly become shorter and shorter. Big fat bottoms that happen after just a few days of temporary terror. We haven’t seen a true bear market since the financial crisis and even that one lasted barely more than a year as central banks stepped in. The last longer term bear market came after the technology bust in 2000 when markets bottomed in 2002 and 2003 and then proceeded onto the next bull market.

It didn’t always used to be this way. Going back to 1900 there were multiple extended periods of stock markets going nowhere and trading in wide chop ranges:

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These New Numbers Are Telling Us That The Global Economic Slowdown Is Far More Advanced Than We Thought, by Michael Snyder

Perhaps the whole string of stock markets around the globe that topped out in 2018 were trying to tell us something. From Michael Snyder at theeconomiccollapseblog.com:

We continue to get more confirmation that the global economy is slowing down substantially.  On Monday, it was China’s turn to surprise analysts, and the numbers that they just released are absolutely stunning.  When Chinese imports and exports are both expanding, that is a clear sign that the global economy is running on all cylinders, but when both of them are contracting that is an indication that huge trouble is ahead.  And the experts were certainly anticipating substantial increases in both categories in December, but instead there were huge declines.  There is no possible way to spin these numbers to make them look good…

Data from China showed imports fell 7.6 percent year-on-year in December while analysts had predicted a 5-percent rise. Exports dropped 4.4 percent, confounding expectations for a 3-percent gain.

China now accounts for more total global trade than the United States does, and the fact that the numbers for the global economy’s number one trade hub are falling this dramatically is a major warning sign.

And of course it isn’t just China that is experiencing trouble.  In fact, we just witnessed the worst industrial output numbers in Europe “in nearly three years”

Adding to the gloom were weak industrial output numbers from the euro zone, which showed the largest fall in nearly three years.

Softening demand has been felt around the world, with sales of goods ranging from iPhones to automobiles slowing, prompting profit warnings from Apple among others.

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A New Cold War Has Begun (With China, Not Russia), by Robert Kaplan

This is a good analysis of the implications of a rising China. From Robert Kaplan at foreignpolicy.com:

The United States and China will be locked in a contest for decades. But Washington can win if it stays more patient than Beijing.

Chinese sailors march during the opening ceremony of the ASEAN-China Maritime Exercise at a military port in Zhanjiang, in China's southern Guangdong province on Oct. 22, 2018. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Chinese sailors march during the opening ceremony of the ASEAN-China Maritime Exercise at a military port in Zhanjiang, in China’s southern Guangdong province on Oct. 22, 2018. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

In June 2005, I published a cover story in the Atlantic, “How We Would Fight China.” I wrote that, “The American military contest with China … will define the twenty-first century. And China will be a more formidable adversary than Russia ever was.” I went on to explain that the wars of the future would be naval, with all of their abstract battle systems, even though dirty counterinsurgency fights were all the rage 14 years ago.

That future has arrived, and it is nothing less than a new cold war: The constant, interminable Chinese computer hacks of American warships’ maintenance records, Pentagon personnel records, and so forth constitute war by other means. This situation will last decades and will only get worse, whatever this or that trade deal is struck between smiling Chinese and American presidents in a photo-op that sends financial markets momentarily skyward. The new cold war is permanent because of a host of factors that generals and strategists understand but that many, especially those in the business and financial community who populate Davos, still prefer to deny. And because the U.S.-China relationship is the world’s most crucial—with many second- and third-order effects—a cold war between the two is becoming the negative organizing principle of geopolitics that markets will just have to price in.

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The Yellow Vests Get it Right, by Robert Gore

Financial nuclear warheads.

The mainstream media has degenerated irreparably. Here’s a reliable rule of thumb: if it’s important it’s not covered; if it’s covered it’s not important. Stories in the American mainstream press about Yellow Vest protests have been few. One aspect of the protests, transcendently important, has received scant coverage.

The Yellow Vest protestors have called for a coordinated run on French banks. Whether they realize it or not, they’re playing with nuclear warheads that could annihilate not just the French, but Europe’s and the entire world’s financial system. Because inextricably linked to the ends of contemporary governments―how much they can screw up the lives of those who must live under them—is the question of means―how do they fund their misrule? The short answer is taxes and debt.

Since 1971, when President Nixon 
“temporarily” suspended international convertibility of dollars for gold (it’s never been reinstated), the monetary basis of the global economy has been fiat debt. Neither government or central bank debt nor currencies are tethered to any real constraint, like precious metals (see “Real Money,” SLL). Thus, politicians and monetary officials can create as much debt as they want: debt by fiat.

Government and central bank debt is at the apex of the global debt pyramid. The next tier is commercial banks that have accounts at central banks. Those accounts are bank assets and central bank liabilities, or debts. Central banks expand their fiat liabilities to banks in exchange for banks’ fiat government debt, an exchange called debt monetization, which is a bit of a misnomer since no “Real Money” is involved. The “monetization” is the central bank’s fiat expansion of banks’ accounts with the central bank in exchange for fiat government debt, which expands banks’ assets available for loans to governments, businesses, and individuals.

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