Despite all the doom and gloom in the market, we would have loved to have these employment numbers three years ago.
I never thought a visit to Omaha would trigger an appreciation of the role Icahn and other activist investors play in corporate America.
- EU Court: Google Must Remove Certain Links on Request (WSJ), people have right to be forgotten on Internet (Reuters)
- Harsh weather: German Investor Confidence Drops for Fifth Straight Month (BBG)
- More harsh weather: China Slowdown Deepens (BBG)
- Harsh weather as far as the eye can see: China’s New Credit Declines (BBG)
- "Alien" artist, surrealist H.R. Giger dies aged 74 (Reuters)
- Pfizer urges AstraZeneca to talk as UK lawmakers slam offer (Reuters)
- Property sector slowdown adds to China fears (FT)
- Russia says EU sanctions will hurt Ukraine peace efforts (Reuters)
- U.S. Considers Relaxing Crude Oil Export Restrictions (WSJ)
"Record corporate cash"..."Record corporate cash"... "Record corporate cash"
That pretty much covers most of the conversation on prime time financial media and TV stations when discussing corporate balance sheets. There is, however, one big problem with that mantra...
The concept of “net neutrality” is not an easy one to wrap your head around. Particularly if you aren’t an expert in how the internet works and if you don’t work for an ISP (internet service provider). In fact, we think that lobbyists and special interest groups make the concept intentionally difficult and convoluted so that the average person’s eyes glaze over and they move on to the next topic. We are by no means an expert in this area; however, in this post we will try to explain in as simple terms as possible what “net neutrality” means and what is at risk with the latest FCC proposal. We also highlight a wide variety of articles on the subject, so we hope this post can serve as a one-stop-shop on the issue. In a nutshell, the latest rules from the FCC is truly the American way of censorship
The 'alarming' trend of college students accurately identifying Edward Snowden as a hero has given James Clapper a panic attack. So much so, that he is taking time away from protecting us from “terrorists” (a term that now apparently includes folks at the Bundy Ranch according to Harry Reid) to embark upon a propaganda speaking tour of U.S. college campuses to demonstrate to those silly young kids that Snowden is no hero, but actually a traitorous villain.
I find it supremely ironic that ‘We the People’ have become modern day North American Indians and are taking fiat beads in exchange for our valuable land and labor.
Those munificently rising stock prices and options cash-outs owe much to the Fed’s campaign to suppress interest rates and fuel stock market based ”wealth effects”, but the CEOs are doing their part, too. They have become full-time financial engineers who use the Fed’s flood of liquidity, cheap debt and soaring stock prices to perform a giant strip-mining operation on their own companies. That is, through endless stock buybacks and M&A maneuvers they create the appearance of “growth” while actually liquidating the balance sheet equity and future asset base on which legitimate earnings growth depends. The poster boy for this deformation is IBM which for all intents and purposes has become a stock buyback machine on steroids. It had a bad hair day yesterday, reporting still another year/year decline in sales, but that goes right to the heart of the matter. During the last seven years IBM has been a stock traders dream, climbing an almost picture perfect chart from $94 per share in March 2007 to a recent peak of $212.
Cronyism for the super wealthy starts at the very top with the Federal Reserve System, which consists of topdown economic central planners who manipulate the money supply and hence interest rates for the benefit of the financial oligarch class. It then trickles down through lobbyist money into the halls of Washington D.C., and ultimately filters down to local governments and then the average person on the street gaming welfare or disability. As such, we now live in a culture of corruption and theft that is pervasive throughout society. As a new report finds, "You can’t reform welfare programs for the poor until you’ve gotten Daddy Warbucks off the dole. Voters will insist on that - as well they should."
The profane alliance between big banks, big corporations, and big government has created the Big Brother surveillance society we are living under today. And 95% of the populace is either willfully ignorant or perfectly happy with a boot stomping on their face forever. We have willingly become hopelessly enslaved while believing we are free. A population unable or unwilling to think critically doesn’t comprehend the extreme danger to our civil liberties from the unwarranted intrusion into our private lives by a surveillance police state bent on bribing, coercing and silencing dissent, truth and First Amendment rights.
Mainstream media discussion of the macro economic picture goes something like this: “When there is a recession, the Fed should stimulate. We know from history the recovery comes about 12-18 months after stimulus. We stimulated, we printed a lot of money, we waited 18 months. So the economy ipso facto has recovered. Or it’s just about to recover, any time now.” But to quote the comedian Richard Pryor, “Who ya gonna believe? Me or your lying eyes?” However, as Hayek said, the more the state centrally plans, the more difficult it becomes for the individual to plan. Economic growth is not something that just happens. It requires saving. It requires investment and capital accumulation. And it requires the real market process. It is not a delicate flower but it requires some degree of legal stability and property rights. And when you get in the way of these things, the capital accumulation stops and the economy stagnates.
You hear that old saw that "the market is not the economy," a lot these days, and for good reason. As ConvergEx's Nick Colas notes, the S&P 500 breaks to record highs - but U.S. labor markets remain sluggish; investor portfolios do well - but over 47 million Americans (more than 15% of the population) are still in U.S. food stamp program – the same as August 2012. The important question now is: "Is the market TOO different from the economy?"
There’s good propaganda and bad propaganda. Bad propaganda is generally crude, amateurish Judy Miller “mobile weapons lab-type” nonsense that figures that people are so stupid they’ll believe anything that appears in “the paper of record.” Good propaganda, on the other hand, uses factual, sometimes documented material in a coordinated campaign with the other major media to cobble-together a narrative that is credible, but false. The so called Fed’s transcripts, which were released last week, fall into the latter category... But while the conversations between the members are accurately recorded, they don’t tell the gist of the story or provide the context that’s needed to grasp the bigger picture. Instead, they’re used to portray the members of the Fed as affable, well-meaning bunglers who did the best they could in ‘very trying circumstances’. While this is effective propaganda, it’s basically a lie, mainly because it diverts attention from the Fed’s role in crashing the financial system, preventing the remedies that were needed from being implemented (nationalizing the giant Wall Street banks), and coercing Congress into approving gigantic, economy-killing bailouts which shifted trillions of dollars to insolvent financial institutions that should have been euthanized. What I’m saying is that the Fed’s transcripts are, perhaps, the greatest propaganda coup of our time.
Why is the periphery crumbling? It's simple: the conditions that enabled rising national surpluses and the distribution of spoils is breaking down for three reasons:
- Energy is no longer cheap (compared to past prices)
- The low-hanging fruit of higher productivity has all been plucked
- The free-money flood of cheap, limitless credit is drying up
As regimes find surplus and credit are both contracting, their ability to placate every key group with spoils is also declining, and the conflicts between them can no longer be patched over with bribery or brutality. Instability starts on the periphery and moves into the core.