The Mindful one does not seek to change the world; he seeks to change himself.
Have the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average seen their highs for the year? At this point in 2014, it’s probably a coin toss. There are several factors in favor of a further rally, to be sure. Corporate profits are still robust, revenue expectations are modest, and long term interest rates remain equity-friendly. On the flip side of the U.S. equity market coin: long term valuations are toppy, plenty of other markets (commodities, bonds) seem to signal an impending global recession, and a host of geopolitical concerns now seem to be hitting a full boil. Also, let’s not forget that the Russell 2000 peaked in, oh, March (1209) and July (1208) and is down 8.8% from that last high. By that measure, equities are already rolling over. It is true that markets climb a wall of worry. Until it falls on them.
The key question now is “Can the U.S./global economy handle a meaningful downturn in financial asset prices?” The short answer is that it may not have a choice. The Federal Reserve has done what it can to juice the American economy and has the balance sheet to prove it. Central banks, for all their power, do not control long term capital allocation or corporate hiring practices. Fed Funds have been below 2% for six years. If the U.S. economy can’t continue to grow in 2015 as the Federal Reserve inches rates higher, there are clearly larger issues at play. And those private sector problems will need private sector solutions.
These days, central banks have become so intertwined with the economy and capital markets that every word uttered by just about any senior Federal Reserve official is endlessly scrutinized to gauge what their next step might be. But it wasn’t always like this. There were times when the Fed actively defended the strict independence of monetary policy, as well as the role of free markets in creating prosperity and even preserving civil liberties. And those were the days of William McChesney Martin, Jr.
- House votes to arm Syrian rebels (Reuters).... aka ISIS
- Fed Plots Cautious Course on Rate Rises (Hilsenrath)
- Scots vote in independence referendum to seal the United Kingdom's fate (Reuters)
- Yes or No, the Winner of the Referendum Is Brand Scotland (BBG)
- Draghi Loan Plan Missing Estimates Hampers ECB Stimulus (BBG) - get with the spin, it simply means "Moar QE"
- Obama Plans to Tightly Control Strikes on Syria (WSJ)
- IMF warns of risks from 'excessive' financial market bets (Reuters)
- Russia Praises Ukraine's Autonomy Law for Rebel Areas (WSJ)
CEOs Darken Outlook, Slash Hiring and Cap-Ex Plans – Hope Now Focused on Share Buybacks (which just Plunged)Submitted by testosteronepit on 09/17/2014 12:34 -0400
The word “gloomier” inconveniently shows up to describe CEOs’ outlook.
Q. What are traders talking about at the present time here at the New York Stock Exchange?
Cashin: We are concerned about two questions. First, how will the Fed do in keeping money reasonably easy without causing inflation? Second, where do we stand with the current geopolitical challenges? For now, these challenges seem to be short term concerns. But should we begin to see a financial contagion and pressure building on banks in Europe, perhaps out of the Ukraine situation, things could theoretically turn into what I call a «Lehman moment». That is when markets come under pressure but seem to be under control, and then things change suddenly.
The hollowing out of corporate strengths to enable short-term profiteering by the handful at the top leads to systemic fragility. No shock is needed to bring down these fragile corporate structures: existing debt and the slightest tremor of global recession will be enough to topple the rickety facade.
- That will teach the UAE who's boss: U.S. Won’t Consult Syria on Militant Strikes: White House (BBG)
- Putin Set to Meet Poroshenko as Ukraine Tensions Escalate (BBG)... but the de-escalation algo?
- Tim Hortons’ Canadian Fans Squeamish of American Hookup (BBG)
- Israeli air strikes target more Gaza high-rises (Reuters)
- How Steve Ballmer Became a Rookie Basketball Mogul (WSJ)
- Buffett to Help Finance Burger King Tax-Saving Deal (BBG)
- U.S. Factories Keep Losing Ground to Global Rivals (WSJ)
- Boehner, Camp Profit From Corporate Bid to Avoid U.S. Tax (BBG)
- Experimental U.S. hypersonic weapon destroyed seconds after launch (Reuters)
- The Neo-Neocons (WSJ)
The zombification of corporate America is nowehere more evident than the yield-starved demand that has enabled companies with the lowest of the low credit ratings to raise debt capital and stay alive far beyond their 'natural' lifespan. As WSJ reports, investors are gobbling up some of the riskiest debt from junk-rated European companies at the fastest pace in years. The riskiest tranche of that debt - so-called second-lien, or junior, loans - amounts to $3.3 billion, almost double the amount raised at the same stage last year and the most over the same period since 2007. The reason is simple - Central Banks - "If you have more demand than supply then you end up with a loosening of terms and potentially more leverage and more aggressive structures." This is 'mal-investment' writ large, and at least as bad as during the 2007 bubble.
The algos and chart traders are making another run at 2000 on the S&P 500, attempting to convince the wary investor one more time that buying on the dips is a no brainer. And in that proposition they are, ironically, correct. To buy this utterly manipulated market at these nosebleed valuation levels is about as brainless of an undertaking as is imaginable.
Now that everyone is finally focusing on the strategy of bloating any available company with massive leverage in order to use the proceeds to either buyback stock or engage in "synergy-creating" M&A (leading to countless pink slips), which is affectionately known as "activism", here is Bill Ackman's latest, Q2, letter with his take on this topic of how massive leverage which is great for shareholders now, but a disaster waiting to happen for employees and bondholders in the future as soon as rates rise, is the greatest thing since sliced bread.
The average jobseeker is hoping to nail down a corporate or government position, for the usual reasons: security, pay and benefits. But there aren't enough secure, high-paying corporate/government jobs for everyone who wants one. Low-wage serfdom is not the only alternative to a shiny Corporate America/government bureaucracy job. To understand the alternatives, we have to understand the economy we have, not the one we wish we had or the one we might have in the future.
While the epidemic of law enforcement theft is problematic throughout the country (see these egregious examples from Tennessee and Michigan), it appears Texas has a particularly keen love affair with the practice. Not only did last year’s story take place in Texas, today’s highlighted episode also takes place in the Lone Star State. This time in a town of 150 people called Estelline, which earns more than 89% of its gross revenues from traffic fines and forfeitures. In other words, from theft.
Despite exuberant Services and Manufacturing PMIs, Bloomberg's index of CEO sentiment remains stagnant near 2014 lows as April's hope for Q2 has faded into 'more of the same' by June. As Bloomberg's Rich Yamarone points out, in reality (in spite of all the hope), the second quarter is drawing to a close and it was a rough one for corporate America, with CEOs citing "slower growth in household income overall", "the recovery remains fragile, especially for customers on a budget", and perhaps most concerning, "whether or not this softness in store traffic is representative of a permanent sea change in customer behavior or a temporary phenomenon is hard to tell at this stage."