November 4th, 2014

"A Brief Note On Capitalism"

"Capitalism is a system according to which capital is owned by private citizens, who in turn determine its price and flow by interacting with one another. Capitalism implies that private citizens get to keep most of the fruits of their labor or the profitability of their capital. Capitalism is neither a “state of nature” nor a primitive scrum. It can work (i.e., create value for owners and for society while being acceptable to the citizenry, including those without capital) only with appropriate rules of fairness and honesty, and workable standards of disclosure. To these factors must be added the ability for people, in a meritocratic way, to have a chance to participate in capitalism. The proper combination leads society to buy into the concept that the individual freedom to own property leads to the most efficient allocation of resources, which in turn results in the highest economic growth and prosperity. Capitalism is never perfect, but the closer society adheres to its general principles, the better it is for the population at large."

Washington’s Blinding Hypocrisy: A Tale Of Two Elections In The Ukraine

The US government loves to “promote democracy” overseas, often at the barrel of a gun. Strangely enough, however, it often “deplores” actual elections being held in such places. Take Ukraine, for example. An election held last week by a group that forcibly seized power from a legitimately-elected government was hailed by the US administration as a great democratic achievement. So here is the real message from the US government: elections overseas are only legitimate if we have pre-approved the parties allowed to stand and if we have pre-approved the outcome. The election must result in exactly the kind of “pro-West” government that we desire or we will begin destabilization and regime change, if completely ignoring the results does not do the trick.

Canada's Head Central Banker Has A Modest Proposal: "You Should Consider Working For Free"

Nine short months ago, the clever people running the show in Europe suggested a number of measures including "unpaid work for the young and unemployed up to 24 years old, so that companies would have a strong motive to hire young employees". 'Unpaid' work sounded a lot like slavery to us then but it seems the arrogance is contagious as Canada - that bastion of freedom - suggests that the employment situation is so bad that young people should consider working for free. As The Globe & Mail reports, Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz said 'Adult children stuck in their parents’ basements because they can’t find adequate employment should take unpaid work to bolster résumés as they wait for the recovery to take hold'.

Refuting The (Consensus) Bull Case

"The power of psychology is overwhelming, and investor sentiment indicates that the Fed can be trusted, that asset prices are being driven higher by QE and ZIRP, and that we should not worry too much about the unintended consequences, because the Fed will be able to follow a path to normalization and a soft landing. America, in any event, is the safe haven and always will be."

"An understanding of history, context, the incentives of policymakers and the fundamentals of the economy is very useful, even essential, for survival, in order to develop a sense of humility and an appreciation for how broad the range of outcomes can be."

1,001 Nights Of Stock Market Stories

There is an old Wall Street chestnut that goes, “It’s not a stock market; it’s a market of stocks.”  Fair enough, but we’ll take a different approach today to complete this aphorism: “It is a market of stories.”  Yes, it is stories that vie for our attention, define our realities, and spur us to action.  Recent academic work on the subject reveals that the right narrative – ideally one with a strong human element – physically changes how we process information and make us more likely to empathize with and ultimately believe the stories we hear.  Too fluffy a concept for you?  The research we cite was partially funded by the U.S. Department of Defense’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and when they have an interest in something, rest assured it has a very serious purpose.  As for applications in the world of investing, recognizing powerful stories earlier than the pack is pretty much the job description for a nalysts and portfolio managers alike.  Just be aware that it is all too easy to fall for one as well. 

Anatomy Of A Failing State: Japan's Budgetary Nightmare

What do you get after 25 years of stagnation and Keynesian Cargo Cult monetary stimulus? A failing state, that's what. The intellectually bankrupt ruling Elites of Japan have no solution for Japan's slow stagnation, as real reform would diminish their wealth and power. So their only "solution" is to double-down on monetary stimulus. Once the global economy rolls over into contraction, the tide will recede and Japan's fiscal and monetary bankruptcy will become painfully apparent.

Goldman Shows "Equity Bust" Risk Highest Since 2008

With the equity market back to near-historical highs, Goldman Sachs' Jan Hatzius revisits his analysis of the predictability of asset price busts. The main predictors of busts are past asset price appreciation and past credit growth, followed by a rising investment/GDP ratio. Hatzius warns that their model says that the further US equity price gains of 2014 have pushed the risk of an equity bust back up - as the chart below shows to levels not seen since 2008/9. Interestingly, the main factor holding down the risk of another bust, especially in the housing market, is the weakness of credit growth since the crisis.

Thoughts On Election Day: Relax, Both Parties Are Going Extinct

"Whichever side emerges victorious, both Republicans and Democrats should face up to a much bigger truth: Neither party as currently constituted has a real future." On this, another election day sham, it is key to not get discouraged. Things are changing at the grassroots for the better. The battle of decentralization vs. centralization, networks vs. hierarchies, will not be easily won, but it will be won. Keep fighting.

It Begins: German Bank 'Charging' Negative Interest To Its Retail Customers

Just three months ago, Mario Draghi embarked on his own Quixotic folly by taking certain interest rates into negative territory (convincing himself that he was saving Europe from disaster). On November 1st, the first European bank has passed along these negative interest rates to its retail customers. So if you maintain a balance of more than 500,000 euros at Deutsche Skatbank of Germany, you now have the privilege of paying 0.25% per year... to the bank.

Bank Of America Psycho Killer Was Busy Helping Hedge Funds Avoid Taxes During His Business Hours

The most bizarre story of the weekend was that of Bank of America's 29-year-old banker Rurik Jutting, who shortly after allegedly killing two prostitutes (and stuffing one in a suitcase), and called the cops on himself.  The answer, as the WSJ has revealed, is just as unsavory: "he had been part of a Bank of America team that specialized in tax-minimization trades that are under scrutiny from prosecutors, regulators, tax collectors and the bank’s own compliance department, according to people familiar with the matter and documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal."