It’s amazing when you think about it– a combat veteran who lost a leg supposedly fighting for ‘freedom’ can’t have the medical procedure he needs because a destructive government bureaucracy. That’s what freedom means today in America. And nobody’s fighting for it. Soldiers are off risking life and limb for oil companies, banks, and defense contractors. And citizens are distracted with bread and circuses. All the while, government power continues to expand at the expense of the individual.
Psychology is very often how societies avoid looking in the mirror. A major structural reason for the surging interest in happiness is somewhat more disturbing, and concerns technology. Until relatively recently, most scientific attempts to manipulate how someone else was feeling occurred within formally identifiable institutions, such as psychology laboratories, hospitals, workplaces, focus groups, or some such. This is no longer the case. In July 2014, Facebook published an academic paper containing details of how it had successfully altered hundreds of thousands of its users’ moods, by manipulating their news feeds. There was an outcry that this had been done in a clandestine fashion. But as the dust settled, the anger turned to anxiety: would Facebook bother to publish such a paper in future, or just get on with the experiment anyway and keep the results to themselves?
In short, the very project of counting “jobs” is essentially laughable in the context of the US economy as it is currently structured - for better or worse. But regardless of the equities and efficiencies of the current labor market, one thing is abundantly clear. The Payroll Friday report amounts to virtually meaningless noise. It is bad enough that the bubble vision Romper Room and the casino robo-traders are oblivious to this reality. What is scary is that the Eccles Building is just as clueless.
What is extremely clear is that there is something amiss with the statistical headline employment and economic data. While there are indeed pockets of improvement, which should be expected following a recessionary contraction, there is a lack of widespread recovery. That sentiment is clearly reflected in every major poll of American's over the last year. What is important is that there is a clear disconnect between the financial markets, statistical economic headlines, and the reality of the vast majority of American consumers. So, riddle me this - what happens when that disconnect is eventually resolved?
The market is currently engaged in the longest bull run in history without a 10% correction. The decline in momentum, the weakness in economic underpinnings and lack of Central Bank interventions (not to mention the threat of an increase in overnight lending rates) certainly provide the necessary ingredients for a sharper than expected correction this summer.
There is a practical benefit to shifting our attention away from the stock market. Any market that can yo-yo 10% within a day for no apparent reason, or undergo multiple booms and busts in a 20 year period should not be given too much credibility. The wealth-effect on the way up always turns into the wealth-destruction effect on the way down.
Despite record-er stock prices, weather excuses for current economic weakness, and The Fed promising that growth is here and everything will be awesome, it appears the message has not reached the US Consumer. Gallup's U.S. Economic Confidence Index plunged 9 points last week (the largest week-to-week drop since last July) to its lowest weekly score since December. The main driver was a collapse of hope as 'outlook' fell to November lows.
Not long ago we noted that contrary to the old adage, money can indeed buy happiness. Given this, it stands to reason that the converse is likely true as well. That is, no money probably contributes to unhappiness. Sure enough...
Earlier today the US Census released its latest quarterly data, which confirmed that for what is left of America's middle class, owning a home has become virtually impossible, with the homeownership rate tumbling from 64.0% to 63.7%, which is tied for the lowest historic print since the first quarter of 1986, with the only difference that then the trendline was higher. Now, as can be seen on the chart below, it isn't. At this rate, by the end of the 2015 and certainly by the end of Obama's second term, the US homeownership rate will drop to the lowest in modern US history.
USA USA USA #15? Despite aerial bombardment, growing tensions with every neighbor, and the almost ubiquitous daily car-bombs, Israelis are "happier" than Americans according to Bloomberg's world happiness index. Happiness, it appears, is most abundant a long way from the equator with Switzerland, Iceland, Denmark, Norway, and Canada all topping the list; whereas the unhappiest nations are all in Saharan or sub-Saharan Africa (apart from war-torn Syria and Afghanistan).
What do retail investors do on volatile days like Friday’s jolt lower on the S&P 500? Thanks to one very large online broker’s publicly available order flow, we now know...
Noam Chomsky: "The Idea Of A Media Which Does Not Repeat US Propaganda Is Intolerable To American Leaders"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 04/20/2015 21:32 -0400
"Take the New York Times -- the greatest newspaper in the world. Take one example, at the first article that appeared today, that the tentative [nuclear] agreement with Iran was reached. It’s a thinkpiece, by Peter Baker, one of their main analysts. He discusses in it the main reasons to distrust Iran, the crimes of Iran. It’s very interesting to look at. The most interesting one is the charge that Iran is destabilizing the Middle East because it’s supporting militias which have killed American soldiers in Iraq. That’s kind of as if, in 1943, the Nazi press had criticized England because it was destabilizing Europe for supporting partisans who were killing German soldiers."
After Spate of Mass Shootings, Americans Turn Pro-Gun
Extreme optimism - whether in the form of stock valuations, consumer spending, or happiness surveys like the one mentioned below - tends to be followed by corrections; because to get to an extreme point in a data series, extreme behavior is usually required. That is, a lot of really optimistic investment decisions have to be made to push financial markets to cyclical highs, and these kinds of moves tend to exhaust themselves and produce big moves in the other direction. Hence the 2008 low following the 2007 high.
The economic data has continued to disappoint on virtually all fronts, earnings are weak and markets are grossly extended. Yet, investors are more bullish than ever...