Saturday, February 23, 2019

“WTF Just Happened?” w/ Dave Kranzler and Eric Dubin | Episode 1: Stock Bear Market Here?

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from WallStForMainSt:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0c3XdNpEdw

One, Good SHAKEOUT Would Open Up New GOLD Bull Market: Famed Trader Mark H.

from Wealth Research Group:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Uuzf_lwkrE

China and the Restoration of Capitalism. The Largest Cheap Labor Factory in the World

by Prof Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research:

This article (edits and updates in 2018) focusses on China’s capitalist system under a “Communist” label.

Wages are exceedingly low, productivity is high. These are the social realities of commodities “Made in China”, marketed Worldwide.

China is an advanced capitalist economy integrated into the World market.  Wages for non-skilled labor in Chinese factories are as low as 100$ a month, a small fraction of the minimum wage in Western countries.   

The factory price of a commodity produced in China is of the order of 10% of the retail price in Western countries. Consequently, the largest share of the earnings of  China’s cheap labor economy accrues to distributors and retailers in Western countries. 

2018 Year in Review

by David Collum, Peak Prosperity:

Every December, I write a Year in Reviewref 1 that’s first posted on Chris Martenson & Adam Taggart’s website Peak Prosperityref 2 and later at ZeroHedge.ref 3 This is my tenth, although informal versions go back further. It always presents a host of challenging questions like, “Why the hell do I do this?” Is it because I am deeply conflicted for being a misogynist with sexual contempt—both products of the systemic normalization of toxic masculinity perpetuated by an oppressively patriarchal societal structure? No. That’s just crazy talk. More likely, narcissism and need for e-permanence deeply buried in my lizard brain demands surges of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that drives kings to conquer new lands, Jeff Bezos to make even more money, and Harvey Weinstein to do whatever that perv does. The readership has held up so far. Larry Summers said he “finished the first half.” Even as a fib that’s a dopamine cha-ching.

Einhorn Vents his Frustrations about the Crazy Markets

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by Wolf Richter, Wolf Street:

Why trying to bet against this madness is a widow-maker trade. Logic has nothing to do with it.

Investors who’ve approached this stock market and its ludicrous valuations over the past few years from a point of view of fundamentals and “value” – thus, often on the side of short-selling those stocks – have gotten clobbered, or were at least left in the dust by buy-buy-buy fundamentals-don’t-matter automatons.

This has become an exercise in frustration-management for many – including, apparently, David Einhorn, founder and president of Greenlight Capital, a $7 billion hedge fund that became successful by searching for overvalued and undervalued companies and betting one way or the other. This strategy has hit the rocks in recent years. So far this year, the fund is up 3.3{5f621241b214ad2ec6cd4f506191303eb2f57539ef282de243c880c2b328a528} while the S&P 500 is up 14{5f621241b214ad2ec6cd4f506191303eb2f57539ef282de243c880c2b328a528}.

In a letter to Greenlight’s clients, reported by Business Insider, he unloaded his frustrations about this crazy market.

“The market remains very challenging for value investing strategies, as growth stocks have continued to outperform value stocks. The persistence of this dynamic leads to questions regarding whether value investing is a viable strategy.

“The knee-jerk instinct is to respond that when a proven strategy is so exceedingly out of favor that its viability is questioned, the cycle must be about to turn around. Unfortunately, we lack such clarity. After years of running into the wind, we are left with no sense stronger than, ‘it will turn when it turns.’”

On the short side, he cited Amazon, Tesla, and Netflix, whose ludicrous valuations are glaring examples of what a good short-target looks like, but so far, most of those daring souls who tried to follow logic and profit from shorting these stocks over the past few years have gotten their head handed to them.

Here’s what Einhorn said about the three heroes that he considers “our three most well-known ‘bubble’ shorts”:

Amazon: “Our view is that just because Amazon can disrupt somebody else’s profit stream, it doesn’t mean that Amazon earns that profit stream. For the moment, the market doesn’t agree. Perhaps, simply being disruptive is enough.”

Tesla: “Tesla had an awful quarter both in its current results and future prospects. In response, its shares fell almost 6{5f621241b214ad2ec6cd4f506191303eb2f57539ef282de243c880c2b328a528}. We believe it deserved much worse.”

Netflix: “On the second quarter conference call, the CEO stated, ‘In some senses the negative free cash flow will be an indicator of enormous success.’ To us, all it indicates is that Netflix is capable of dramatically changing the economics of stand-up comedy in favor of the comedians.”

Yet Amazon is up 30{5f621241b214ad2ec6cd4f506191303eb2f57539ef282de243c880c2b328a528} this year, Tesla and Netflix 58{5f621241b214ad2ec6cd4f506191303eb2f57539ef282de243c880c2b328a528}! This market simply doesn’t tolerate logic other than buy, buy, buy – until something changes.

Einhorn goes on to muse about the “alternative paradigm”:

“Given the performance of certain stocks, we wonder if the market has adopted an alternative paradigm for calculating equity value. What if equity value has nothing to do with current or future profits and instead is derived from a company’s ability to be disruptive, to provide social change, or to advance new beneficial technologies, even when doing so results in current and future economic loss?

“It’s clear that a number of companies provide products and services to customers that come with a subsidy from equity holders. And yet, on a mark-to-market basis, the equity holders are doing just fine.”

This “subsidy” from equity holders and creditors to customers has become a common theme on WOLF STREET, including earlier today concerning Netflix. How long are stockholders and bondholders willing to subsidize the prices that consumers pay for goods and services? Netflix thinks forever. Rational brains think not. But so far, rational brains have lost nearly every time.

These companies fight for market share with bleeding-edge pricing to “disrupt,” but equity holders and creditors, instead of punishing companies for it, fall all over them and bid up their shares and bonds, and thus encourage them to do this.

The most glaring example is Tesla, a tiny automaker that’s now bleeding billions of dollars a year in cash and whose vehicle production is so minuscule it’s not even a rounding error in total global production of 94.6 million vehicles. And yet, it has a market capitalization of $56 billion. This disconnect is inexplicable for rational minds – and makes Tesla a very juicy target for shorting the shares.

But shorting crazy stocks in a crazy market is a widow-maker trade; once shares have reached crazy heights, there is no longer a rational limit, by definition, to how much crazier the already crazy shares can get. Someday, those bets will be correct. But in the prevailing market insanity, it’s impossible to divine when exactly that will be.

Read More @ WolfStreet.com

Bitcoin Surges Over $9,500 After Korea’s 2nd Biggest Bank Tests Crypto Wallet For Customers

from ZeroHedge:

Update: Bitcoin’s surge continues as Asia re-opens, pushing the cryptocurrency above $9500 as Korea’s second largest bank tests Bitcoin vault and wallet services for its clients.

As Coinivore reportsShinhan, the second largest commercial bank in South Korea by market valuation in the country is testing a Bitcoin vault and wallet service for its customers that is expected to be released by mid-2018.

A representative of Shinhan Bank told Naver News, a media publication in South Korea in an interview that the bank will launch a Bitcoin vault and wallet platform in response to recent hacking attacks of leading South Korean cryptocurrency exchanges including Bithumb.

“Shinhan is testing a virtual bitcoin vault platform wherein the private keys of bitcoin addresses and wallets are managed and issued by the bank. The bank intends to provide the vault service for free and charge a fee for withdrawals,” the representative said.

In 2016 the bank reported a total of US $192 billion in assets and over 13,000 employees according to News Bitcoin. The bank stated that the service wouldn’t be ready until the second quarter of 2018 but has begun testing the network for the services.

The service will incur zero fees to deposit Bitcoin to store in their cold storage instead a slight fee will be taken during the withdrawal process. They will also be rolling out a mobile app that will contain a dashboard for viewing stats and deposit information for their customers.

 

It’s unclear whether or not Shinhan will offer Bitcoin brokerage and trading services to enable their existing clients and customers to purchase or sell Bitcoin.

South Korea has been a hub for cryptocurrency and somewhat of a safe haven for established digital currencies since, unlike other countries, they have embraced digital currency as a means for change. Earlier this month, Choe Heung-sik, chief of the Financial Supervisory Service (FSS), stated that the South Korean government would not impose strict regulations on cryptocurrency exchanges in the foreseeable future.

“Though we are monitoring the practice of cryptocurrency trading, we don’t have plans right now to directly supervise exchanges. Supervision will come only after the legal recognition of digital tokens as a legitimate currency,” Choe said.

Truly allowing the growth of Bitcoin, as of this writing, South Korea holds the largest markets in Bitcoin exchange Bithumb with a volume traded of $356,126,000 today at the time of this writing.

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Update: Bitcoin has continued to soar intraday – now topping $9,300 – with a total market cap over $156 billion, leaving the cryptocurrency worth more than Merck, Disney, and GE.

Coinivore notes that the digital currency, once a toy for computer nerds, is now soaring in price, triggering a new gold rush. Is it just another bubble, or a glimpse into a radically different financial future?

Read More @ ZeroHedge.com

JP Morgan and the Silver Narrative

from Silver Fortune:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H03uhtc6Fes

Silver And Gold In The Modern Portfolio (w/ Naylor-Leyland) | Expert View | Real Vision™

from Real Vision:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tvl1etZz6M

Fake Tax Reform

by Peter Schiff, Euro Pacific Capital:

After supposedly chomping on the bit for years to pass meaningful tax reform, Republicans are now set to blow an historic opportunity. Whatever version of the Bill that emerges from the House and Senate Conference Committee (which will be signed by President Trump faster than he can down a Filet o’Fish), will be far less than the Republicans envisioned when they finally captured the White House and both Congressional Chambers in 2016. But from what I have seen of the particulars, the revisions to the tax code will offer a marginal, although temporary, win for low income individuals, a major slap for moderately successful wage earners and home owners, (especially in the high tax Blue States) and a huge victory for the extremely wealthy and certain categories of business owners. While it is certain that the plan will add to the growing deficit, its immediate economic and political impact is hard to predict.

For generations, taxpayers and politicians alike lambasted our overly complex tax code for its myriad of economic distorting loopholes that seemed to produce nothing except employment for legions of accountants and tax lawyers adept at gaming the system. As a result, talk about tax reform has always included proposals to make the system simpler, fairer, and more transparent. But on that front, the Republican proposals fail miserably. Trump and Congress will hail this achievement as being a major victory for the American people. But the true winner will be the swamp that Trump promised to drain.

Unlike Ronald Reagan, who passed tax reform in 1986 by striking a deal with Democrat House Speaker Tip O’Neill, Trump and Congressional Republicans faced no particular need to compromise. If Reagan had the benefits enjoyed by Trump, Ryan and McConnell, his tax cuts would have been paired with significant spending cuts and perhaps a balanced budget. But to get O’Neill (and his whopping 71 seat House majority) to go along, Reagan’s ideals of fiscal prudence and smaller government had to be set aside. But Trump is no Reagan, and today’s Republican Party has about as much commitment to shrinking the size of government as did the Democrats in the 1980s.

Taxes are the price we pay for government. If Republicans want to reduce the tax burden, they need to make government less expensive. Tax cuts without spending cuts is the Republican version of a free lunch. But if government spending is not paid for with tax revenue, alternate sources must be found that will ultimately prove more costly than the forgone tax revenue.

Despite endless campaign rhetoric to the contrary, the Republican Party is no longer the party of limited government, fiscal responsibility, Federalism, the Constitution, sound money, or any of the principals that they typically espouse while stumping for office or raising money. Instead of reducing the size of government, thereby lightening the burden on taxpayers and limiting the economic drag caused by government, Republicans have chosen the easy course of tax cuts, replete with overly optimistic assumptions and gimmicks meant to disguise their true impact on future deficits. Adding insult to injury, they leave in place an even more complex tax code, replete with even more loopholes, that limits individual freedom and undermines economic growth.

True reform would have eliminated the income tax completely, or at a minimum, replaced it with a flat tax. It would have abolished the corporate income tax, payroll taxes, and the estate and gift taxes, and replaced them with a tax system based on consumption rather than production. Such a system would encourage savings rather than debt accumulation, and would restore some semblance of sanity to a system increasingly dependent on borrowing. Real reform would have included entitlement reform, as well as across the board reductions in government spending. Entire agencies and departments would have been eliminated, making government smaller and less expensive. These are the types of changes that are needed to head off a possible looming debt crisis and put the country back on a path to achieve real economic growth, not the phony financial gains we have seen in the past generation.

But instead, Republicans crafted a plan that would cut taxes for some while raising taxes for others. The political genius of the plan can be found in the elimination of state and local tax deductions that will raise taxes predominantly on higher wage earners in Democrat controlled states with high taxes. This move was a political freebie for Republicans, as it largely spares their constituents from tax hikes, but prevents Democrats from protecting theirs because to do so would require them to argue against raising taxes on the “wealthy.” It may also trigger a fiscal crisis in largely Democrat states as high earners, who provide an outsize share of state tax revenue, consider pulling up stakes for lower tax jurisdictions.  But Republicans did not leave well enough alone. The taxes raised on rich Democrats will not nearly be enough to pay for the cuts they offer business owners, passive investors, and corporations. The balance will be “paid for” by borrowing. In addition, high tax states may be forced to scramble to adjust their tax policies in an attempt to forestall defections of the wealthy. To do so, they may shift taxes to businesses (for which state taxes will still be deductible from federal taxes). The businesses in turn, can pass these costs onto their employees in the form of lower wages and their customers in the form of higher prices.

Republicans, of course, argue that the economic growth that will be generated by lowering the corporate tax rate from 35% to 20% will generate enough new tax revenue to offset what is lost. While that idea is sound in theory, nothing about our current situation would suggest that a growth surge is around the corner, with or without corporate tax cuts.

We are already in the ninth year of a supposed economic expansion. Over the last century, these expansions (the time between recessions) have lasted, on average, about five and a quarter years. So, already our current “expansion” has lasted nearly twice the average. Also, this expansion has been extraordinarily weak, with growth averaging around 2% since 2009. This is far below the 3% to 4% rate seen in prior recoveries. (data from the National Bureau of Economic Research and Bureau of Labor Statistics) It is also clear that this tepid number has relied heavily on surging asset prices in stocks, real estate, and bonds. But all three of those markets could easily reverse course.

The stock market has surged to all-time highs based on the expected likelihood that tax reform would be passed early in the Trump Administration. When this hope becomes reality, it may be that we will get a “buy the rumor, sell the fact” decline, especially if the final package is not all that investors hoped it would be. The real estate market may actually suffer under the new rules as high-end properties become more expensive to own and less attractive to buy given the limits on property tax and mortgage deductions. On the lower end of the market, the expansion of the standard deduction could mean far fewer will receive a tax benefit from buying modestly priced homes, thereby mitigating the advantages of buying over renting. (It is no accident that some of the biggest objections to the new proposals have come from real estate industry groups). And lastly, the bond market faces no shortage of headwinds. With the Fed threatening to sell much of its $4.5 Trillion holdings of Treasury and Mortgage bonds, the likelihood of falling bond prices and rising yields looms large. (In the past three months, 10-year Treasury yields have increased 30 basis points). Even the tax bill’s supporters acknowledge that it will increase the deficit significantly in the near term, thereby requiring the Treasury to sell more bond
s to fill the gap. The extra supply could put downward pressure on bond prices and raise yields on the long end, creating losses in the bond market and raising borrowing costs for government, businesses and consumers.

Read More @ Europac.net