The trouble with capitalism’s guardians is that they have no respect for it. Markets have been around for at least 2,000 years. Since then they have evolved in many directions, with fancy and sophisticated techniques… and elaborate systems and complicated instruments that take a PhD to understand. But despite all the brain power put into trying to figure them out, markets still surprise, confound and puzzle everyone. You’d think Janet Yellen and other central bankers would take a step back and stand in awe. Heaven and hell are full of people who thought they could take the risk out of markets. Some went broke. Some blew their brains out... others both.
Corporations continue to push the boundaries of wage and employment suppression, productivity increases and accounting gimmickry to support elevated profit margins. All of these functions are finite in nature, and despite much hope to the contrary, the current set of fundamental variables are more usually witnessed at the end of cyclical expansions rather than the beginning. With corporate profits being driven primarily by "accounting magic" rather than strongly rising revenue, the sustainability of the current level of corporate profits is in question. Fed actions leave a void in the future that must eventually be filled by organic economic growth. The problem comes when such growth doesn't appear.
Beginning by disavowing Mario Gabelli of any belief that rising stock prices help 'most' people, Marc Faber discusses his increasingly imminent fears of the markets in this recent Barron's interview. Quoting Hussman as a caveat, "The problem with bubbles is that they force one to decide whether to look like an idiot before the peak, or an idiot after the peak. There's no calling the top," Faber warns there are a lot of questions about the quality of earnings but "statistics show that company insiders are selling their shares like crazy." His first recommendation - short the Russell 2000, buy 10-year US Treasuries ("there will be no magnificent US recovery"), and miners and adds "own physical gold because the old system will implode. Those who own paper assets are doomed."
In the world these days the markets often believe the rhetoric. This would be political rhetoric, corporate rhetoric or the prayers and hopes of the talking heads. This is especially true in the equity markets. Critical advice in this environment is, "forget what they tell you; just look at the numbers." So what is the Fed doing? As of July 31, 2013 they have parked $1,157 billion in foreign banks as compared with $1,112 billion in U.S. banks. To us this is a telling sign. The European banks are in trouble and the Fed is propping them up. One of the consequences of tapering, when it comes, may well be less available cash for this task and then the cracks in the European banks may well blow into gaping holes... "There is the plain fool, who does the wrong thing at all times everywhere, but there is the Wall Street fool, who thinks he must trade all the time."
There are lot of similarities between the 1920s and today. In fact Livermore’s quote says it all: “There is never anything new on Wall Street, because speculation is as old as the hills.” 1924-1929 bull market was rigged by stock manipulators. Ninety-some years later the market is still (or at least is perceived to be) rigged by ...
The problem with cutting the links between risk and consequence and the real economy and the stock market is that a market deprived of feedback from reality is prone to disorderly disruption. Why is this so? Participants make decisions based on the information made available to them. If the information from the real world is suppressed or limited, then the decisions made by participants will necessarily be misinformed, i.e. wrong. If feedback from the real world is suppressed, then decisions will necessarily be bad. The only choice for participants who have lost faith in central planning's promise of permanently higher markets will be to abandon the manipulated markets entirely.
Forget 'red balloons', StreetTalkLive's Lance Roberts expands from his recent visualization of Bob Farrell's investment rules to six more market mavens with insights into money management and being a successful investor. What you will find interesting is that not one of them promote "buy and hold" investing for the long term - probably because in reality it doesn't work.
As the markets once again approach historic highs - the overly exuberant tone, extreme complacency and weakness in the economic data, bring to mind Bob Farrell's 10 investment rules. These rules should be a staple for any long term successful investor. These rules are often quoted yet rarely heeded - just as they are now. Farrell became a pioneer in sentiment studies and market psychology. His 10 rules on investing stem from personal experience with dull markets, bull markets, bear markets, crashes and bubbles. In short, Farrell has seen it all and lived to tell about it. Despite endless warnings, repeated suggestions and outright recommendations - getting investors to sell, take profits and manage your portfolio risks is nearly a lost cause as long as the markets are rising. Unfortunately, by the time the fear, desperation or panic stages are reached it is far too late to act and we will only be able to say that we warned you.
We all have inner maps that assign awareness, priority and importance to geographic features. For those who work inside the Beltway, Washington D.C. dominates their mental map of the world. Residents of Manhattan famously regard it as the center of the financial, art, fashion, etc. world. In the hipster techie mental map, Washington D.C. doesn't exist, and New York has a small tech innovation footprint. In this world view, politics, finance and fashion are not what changes the world for the better; only tech does that.
No One Was Killed, No Wars Were Launched, No Liberties Were Lost ...
You may recall that one of the “tricks of the trade” was the use of people in the audience. They stood up and claimed that they had taken the magic potion and were cured of rheumatism, arthritis, cancer and that ninety year old Uncle Elijah and been able to throw away his cane after imbibing the stuff. This may remind you of what is going on in Europe presently as politicians from each and every nation claim that the newest European snake oil will cure the ailments of Europe for all time, for forever and for always. Yes, well, the printing of money has a cost besides the paper and brandishing yourself as the next new Savior of Europe is the trick of Kings and countless empires on the Continent and yet here we are after being saved so many times in the past. So I will tell you this; you produce the Vampire and then I will buy the garlic and we’ll leave it at that!
Here are my thoughts from the VALUEx Vail conference. The idea for this conference came to me when I attended VALUEx Zurich, organized by Guy Spier and John Mihaljevic in February 2011 (you can register for VALUEx Zurich 2013, here). The thought of spending three days learning and sharing ideas with smart, like-minded value investors felt instantly right. Investing on some level is a never-ending pursuit to get better. Most of us are locked up in air-conditioned offices where we learn through reading SEC filings, magazines, blogs, etc.
Can Low Doses of Radiation Cause MORE Damage than High Doses?
I have to confess, I am tired of writing "structured" articles, the ones where I have to limit my thoughts to 800 words. So with this one I am taking a break. This is an unstructured stream of thought, in no particular sequence.