Category Archives: Financial markets

Watch These Geopolitical Flashpoints Carefully, by Brandon Smith

Brandon Smith highlights the dangers ahead. From Smith at alt-market.com:

Anyone who has been involved in alternative geopolitical and economic analysis for a decent length of time understands that the establishment power structure thrives according to its ability to either exploit natural crises, or to engineer fabricated crises.

This is not that hard to comprehend, but for some reason there are a lot of people out there who simply assume that global sea-change events just happen “at random,” that the elites are stupid or oblivious, and that all outcomes are a matter of random chance rather than being directed or manipulated. I call these people “intellectual idiots,” because they believe they are applying logic to every scenario but they are sabotaged by an inherent bias which causes them to deny the potential for “conspiracy.”

To clarify, their logic folds in on itself and becomes faulty. They believe themselves objective, but they abandon objectivity when they staunchly refuse to consider the possibility of covert influence by organized special interests. When you internally dismiss the possibility of a thing, no amount of evidence will ever convince you of its reality. This is how the “smartest” people in the room can end up being the dumbest people in the room.

In the survivalist community there is a philosophy – there is no such thing as a crisis for those who are prepared. This is true for prepared individuals as much as it is true for prepared communities and prepared nations. The only way a society can fall is when it becomes willfully ignorant of potential outcomes and refuses to organize against them.

By extension, it would make sense that by being prepared for a particular crisis or outcome an individual or group could not only survive, but also profit. It is not crazy or outlandish to entertain the idea that there are groups in power (perhaps for many generations) that aggressively seek to predict or even force particular outcomes in geopolitics for their own profit. And, by profit, I do not necessarily mean material wealth. In many cases, the power of influence and psychological sway over the masses might be considered a far greater prize than money or property.

To continue reading: Watch These Geopolitical Flashpoints Carefully

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Despite Financial Engineering and Clever Reporting Schemes, S and P 500 Earnings per Share Stuck for 3+ Years, but Stocks Soar, by Wolf Richter

Wall Street has been putting lipstick on a pig—earnings have gone nowhere for three years, which means that a rising stock market has elevated price-earnings ratios into the stratosphere. It’s dangerous up there. From Wolf Richter at wolfstreet.com:

$1.7 trillion blown on making EPS look less bad.

The S&P 500 index, closing today at 2,373, hovers near its all-time high. Total market capitalization of the 500 companies in the index exceeds $20 trillion, or 106% of US GDP. In the three-plus years since the end of January 2014, the index has soared 33%.

And yet, over these three-plus years, even with financial engineering driven to the utmost state of perfection, including $1.7 trillion in share buybacks and despite “ex-bad-items” accounting schemes that are giving even the SEC goosebumps – despite all these efforts, the crucial and beautifully doctored “adjusted” earnings-per-share, perhaps the single most manipulated metric out there, has gone nowhere.

“Adjusted” earnings per share are back where they’d been at the end of January 2014. It’s a sad sign when not even financial engineering can conjure up the appearance of earnings growth.

Companies report earnings in two ways:

1. All companies report as required under GAAP (our slightly inconvenient Generally Accepted Accounting Principles). These earnings are often a loss or way too small and shrinking, instead of growing, and hence not very palatable.

2. So most companies also report pro-forma, ex-bad-items, “adjusted” earnings, based on the companies’ own notions of what matters. Analysts and the media hype that metric. This is just a method of reporting the same results in a more glamorous manner.

Then there’s financial engineering. Companies borrowed heavily over the past few years and used those funds to purchase their own shares. This hollowed out equity and left companies with piles of debt. Over the past three years, companies blew $1.7 trillion on share buybacks. This money was not invested in productive activities that would have expanded the company and the economy, and generated cash flow to service this debt. All it did was reduce the number of shares outstanding. This has the effect of increasing earnings per share (EPS) though the company didn’t actually make more money.

Add this system of share buybacks to the system of “adjusting” earnings per share via reporting schemes, and the result should be a miracle of soaring “adjusted” EPS. But no.

To continue reading: Despite Financial Engineering & Clever Reporting Schemes, S&P 500 Earnings per Share Stuck for 3+ Years, but Stocks Soar

Banks Are Evil, by Adam Taggert

Adam Taggert makes a strong case that modern banking and bankers are indeed evil. From Taggert at peakprosperity.com:

It’s time to get painfully honest about this

I don’t talk to my classmates from business school anymore, many of whom went to work in the financial industry.

Why?

Because, through the lens we use here at PeakProsperity.com to look at the world, I’ve increasingly come to see the financial industry — with the big banks at its core — as the root cause of injustice in today’s society. I can no longer separate any personal affections I might have for my fellow alumni from the evil that their companies perpetrate.

And I’m choosing that word deliberately: Evil.

In my opinion, it’s long past time we be brutally honest about the banks. Their influence and reach has metastasized to the point where we now live under a captive system. From our retirement accounts, to our homes, to the laws we live under — the banks control it all. And they run the system for their benefit, not ours.

While the banks spent much of the past century consolidating their power, the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999 emboldened them to accelerate their efforts. Since then, the key trends in the financial industry have been to dismantle regulation and defang those responsible for enforcing it, to manipulate market prices (an ambition tremendously helped by the rise of high-frequency trading algorithms), and to push downside risk onto “muppets” and taxpayers.

Oh, and of course, this hasn’t hurt either: having the ability to print up trillions in thin-air money and then get first-at-the-trough access to it. Don’t forget, the Federal Reserve is made up of and run by — drum roll, please — the banks.

How much ‘thin air’ money are we talking about? The Fed and the rest of the world’s central banking cartel has printed over $12 Trillion since the Great Recession. Between the ECB and the DOJ, nearly $200 Billion of additional liquidity has been — and continues to be — injected into world markets each month(!) since the beginning of 2016:

To continue reading: Banks Are Evil

Deepening EU Banking Crisis Meets Euro-TARP and Taxpayers, by Don Quijones

The European banking crisis (and make no mistake, European banks are in a crisis) will follow the same story line as all banking crises: with taxpayers bailing out the banks. From Don Quijones at wolfstreet.com:

If the ECB scales back stimulus, banks face even greater risk of collapse. But now there’s a new solution.

Events are moving so fast in Europe these days, it’s almost impossible to keep up. While much of the attention is being hogged by political developments, including the election in the Netherlands, Reuters published a report warning that the European banking sector may face even higher bad loan risks if the ECB begins to scale back its monetary stimulus programs, something it has already begun, albeit extremely tentatively.

The total stock of non-performing loans (NPL) in the EU is estimated at over €1 trillion, or 5.4% of total loans, a ratio three times higher than in other major regions of the world.

On a country-by-country basis, things look even scarier. Currently 10 (out of 28) EU countries have an NPL ratio above 10% (orders of magnitude higher than what is generally considered safe). And among Eurozone countries, where the ECB’s monetary policies have direct impact, there are these NPL stalwarts:

Ireland: 15.8%
Italy: 16.6%
Portugal: 19.2%
Slovenia: 19.7%
Greece: 46.6%
Cyprus: 49%

That bears repeating: in Greece and Cyprus, two of the Eurozone’s most bailed out economies, virtually half of all the bank loans are toxic.

Then there’s Italy, whose €350 billion of NPLs account for roughly a third of Europe’s entire bad debt stock. Italy’s government and financial sector have spent the last year and a half failing spectacularly to come up with a solution to the problem. The two “bad bank” funds they created to help clean up the banks’ toxic balance sheets, Atlante I and Atlante II, are the financial equivalent of bringing a butter knife to a machete fight. So underfunded are they, they even strugggled to hold aloft smaller, regional Italian banks like Veneto Banca and Popolare di Vicenza, which are now pleading for a bailout from Rome, which in turn is pleading for clemency from Brussels.

To continue reading: Deepening EU Banking Crisis Meets Euro-TARP and Taxpayers

When Money Is “Free,” Discipline Evaporates; When Discipline Evaporates, Decisions Are Disastrous, by Charles Hugh Smith

Another way to put what Charles Hugh Smith is saying here is that when money is free, the expected return on investment goes to the prevailing interest rate, or zero. From Smith at oftwominds.com:

The only possible output of a system lacking any discipline is self-destruction.

Whatever is free is squandered. When water is free, it’s freely wasted. When electricity is free, there’s no motivation to use it wisely.

The same principle holds true for money. If money is free, or nearly free, there is no motivation to invest it wisely, or consider the opportunity costs of spending it versus investing it or preserving it as savings.

Money that can be borrowed for next to nothing is essentially “free” because the costs of interest are negligible. Money that can be borrowed in virtually unlimited quantities is also “free,” as whatever funds are squandered or lost to malinvestment can be easily replaced with more borrowed money.

Nothing enduringly productive can be built without discipline and a steady focus on the bottom line of production costs, revenues, overhead expenses and opportunity costs, i.e. what else could have been done with this capital and labor?

These dynamics are scale-invariant, meaning they apply to individuals and households as well as to companies, institutions and nation-states.

Thus we see the same poor results in trust-funders whose income is “free” (pouring in monthly whether the individual was productive or not) and national governments that can simply borrow another trillion dollars (or $10 trillion, hey why not?) when they’ve squandered all the tax revenues.

We intuitively grasp the necessity of discipline to corral impulses and desires that are self-destructive in the longer term. Eating chocolate cake and ice cream might appeal to our immediate cravings, but longer term the consequences of unbridled consumption of this kind of sweets are dire.

We also grasp the role discipline plays in learning difficult subjects/tasks and in accomplishing long-term, often arduous projects.

To continue reading: When Money Is “Free,” Discipline Evaporates; When Discipline Evaporates, Decisions Are Disastrous

In the Next Few Hours, the Deep State Will Launch Its Revenge on Trump, by Nick Giambruno

Nick Giambruno believes the Deep State will use the Federal Reserve as its agent to prick the financial bubble and exact revenge on President Trump. This article was posted a few hours before the Fed’s rate hike Wednesday. From Giambruno at internationalman.com:

The Deep State is set to prick the largest bubble in human history today…

The Deep State is the permanently entrenched “national security” bureaucracy—the top tier of the military, the CIA, FBI, NSA, etc. It also includes the Federal Reserve, the quintessential Establishment institution.

They all hate President Trump. They did everything possible to stop him from taking office. None of it worked. They fired all of their bullets, but he still wouldn’t go down.

Of course, the Deep State could still try to assassinate Trump. It’s obvious the possibility has crossed his mind. He’s taken the unusual step of supplementing his Secret Service protection with loyal private security.

But for now, anyway, the Deep State’s next move is to pin the coming stock market collapse on Trump. He’s the perfect fall guy.

When people think “Greater Depression,” they’ll think “Donald Trump.”

Right now, the Federal Reserve is the Deep State’s weapon of choice.

The economy has been on life support since the 2008 financial crisis. The Fed has pumped it up with unprecedented amounts of “stimulus.” This has created enormous distortions and misallocations of capital that need to be flushed.

Think of the trillions of dollars in money printing programs, euphemistically called quantitative easing (QE) 1, 2, and 3. Meanwhile, with zero and even negative interest rates in many countries, rates are the lowest they’ve been in 5,000 years of recorded human history.

On top of that, the too-big-to-fail banks are even bigger than they were in 2008. They have more derivatives, and they’re much more dangerous.

If the Deep State wants to trigger a stock market collapse on par with 1929, it just has to pull the plug on the extraordinary life support measures it’s used since the last crisis.

This outcome is already baked in the cake. It’s just a matter of when… and there’s a good chance “when” is today.

To continue reading: In the Next Few Hours, the Deep State Will Launch Its Revenge on Trump

An Excerpt From The Socionomic Theory of Finance, by Robert Prechter

Several weeks ago, SLL posted “Buy High and Sell Low?” a review of Robert Prechter’s groundbreaking The Socionomic Theory of Finance. Mr. Prechter and his team at Elliott Wave International have now made available to SLL an excerpt from Chapter 1, for any SLL reader who wants to sample the book. For those who don’t need a sample and want to go straight to the book, here is the Amazon link. The book has eight out of eight 5-Star reviews on Amazon, as it should. From Robert Prechter at elliottwave.com:

The Myth of Shocks

An Excerpt from Chapter 1 of The Socionomic Theory of Finance, by Robert Prechter

Few people find a new theory accessible until they first see errors in the old way of thinking. Part I of this book challenges the universally accepted paradigm under which humans’ rational reactions to exogenous (external, or externally generated) causes purportedly account for financial market behavior. The current chapter explores whether dramatic news events affect financial markets.

Testing Financial-Market Reaction under Perfect Conditions

In the physical world of mechanics, action is followed by reaction. When a bat strikes a ball, the ball changes course.

Most financial analysts, economists, historians, sociologists and futurists believe that society works the same way. They typically say, “Because so-and-so has happened, it will cause such-and-such reaction.” This mechanics paradigm is ubiquitous in financial commentary. The news headlines in Figure 1 reflect what economists tell reporters: Good economic news makes the stock market go up; bad economic news makes it go down. But is it true?

In the second half of the 1990s, a popular book made a case for buying and holding stocks forever. In March 2004, after several terrorist attacks had occurred, the author told a reporter, “Clearly, the risk of terror is the major reason why the markets have come down. We can’t quantify these risks; it’s not like flipping a coin and knowing your odds are 50-50 that an attack won’t occur.”1

In other words, he accepts the mechanics paradigm of exogenous cause and effect with respect to the stock market but says he cannot predict a major cause part of the equation. The first question is, if one cannot predict causes, then how can one write a book predicting effects? A second question is far more important: Is there any evidence that dramatic news events that make headlines, including terrorist attacks, political events, wars, natural disasters and other crises, are causal to stock market movement?

Suppose the devil were to offer you historic news a day in advance, no strings attached. “What’s more,” he says, “you can hold a position in the stock market for as little as a single trading day after the event or as long as you like.” It sounds foolproof, so you accept.

His first offer: “The president will be assassinated tomorrow.” You can’t believe it. You are the only person in the world who knows it’s going to happen.

The devil transports you back to November 22, 1963. You quickly take a short position in the stock market in order to profit when prices fall on the bad news you know is coming. Do you make money?

To continue reading: An Excerpt From The Socionomic Theory of Finance