Propaganda, phony fixes and more debt can only cover the widening gap between fiscal reality and official fantasy for so long. So what else besides the potential for another global financial meltdown bears watching in 2014? Here are a few worthy prospects... as we doubt the same illusions and tricks will get the global economy through 2014-2015 unscathed.
Government intervention, no matter what its form or intention, causes iatrogenics — unintended negative consequences that hurt the very people they’re intended to help. Nowhere is this better exemplified than with Obamacare, a policy intended to bring insurance to all that has in effect taken it away from many. Perhaps the growing coalition of people recognizing this paradox will take this revelation and apply it to other policy arenas as well. For the affected classes, we can only hope.
Don’t Be Foolish
As the holiday spending season draws to a close, there has been a huge schism between hope and reality once again as captured by these two numbers: 3.9% and -3.5%. The first, aka hope, is how much the national retail federation predicted holiday sales would rise by at the start of the holiday season; the second, aka reality, is how much in-store retail sales declined by in the week before Christmas. So what is a despondent retail industry - which unlike the stock market can't put off delivering results forever - to do? Why bet it all on a huge after-Christmas surge of course.
The US economy is stabilizing, but it's not truly recovering. That's the view of Saxo Bank's Chief Investment Officer, Steen Jakobsen. Following the Fed's tapering news, Steen says the risk is that we trade on perception and not reality... "We're at the end of asset inflation," he says, and that "will dawn on the market very soon."
This is one of the classic business and marketing failures of 2013.
Nearly 100 years ago, on December 23, 1913, the Federal Reserve Act was signed into law, giving the U.S. exactly what it didn’t need: a central bank. Many people simply assume that modern nations must have a central bank, just as they must have international airports and high-speed Internet. Yet Americans had gone without one since the 1836 expiration of the charter of the Second Bank of the United States, which Andrew Jackson famously refused to renew. Not to be a party pooper, but as this dubious anniversary is observed, we should ask ourselves, Has the Fed been friend or foe to growth and prosperity? ... In actuality, the Fed’s modus operandi has been to trick capitalists into doing things that are not aligned with economic reality.
That it has been one of the most lacklustre shopping seasons in recent years has already been repeatedly covered, with average holiday spending expected to decline for the first time since the Great Financial Crisis of 2008, all this despite record promotions and an ever earlier start to Black Friday. However, while the early start to shopping season has missed expectations, driven primarily by an unprecedented weakness in traditional bricks and mortar outlets, there was some hope that the last stretch into Christmas and the New Year would provide a much needed, last minute bump. Those hopes were dashed last night when Shopptertrack reported that retail traffic plummeted by an unprecedented 21% last week, and in-store sales decreased 3.1% from the year before, dashing retailers' hopes that the final stretch before Christmas would offset soft sales numbers earlier in the holiday shopping season.
- Edward Snowden, after months of NSA revelations, says his mission’s accomplished (WaPo)
- Japan’s Nikkei 225 Extends Six-Year High on U.S. Data (BBG)
- Retailers blend stores, e-commerce to snag holiday stragglers (Reuters)
- Storm wreaks havoc in Britain, France ahead of Christmas (Reuters)
- Big Rally to Pump Up Wall Street Bonuses (WSJ)
- Obamacare Sign-Up Extended as Record 1 Million Use Site (BBG)
- Merkel Hits Wall With Europe Fix (WSJ)
- Boaz Weinstein Loses for Second Year as European Bet Sours (BBG)
- UniCredit has reached an agreement to sell almost €1 billion in nonperforming loans to Cerberus (WSJ)
- U.S. mortgage applications fall as refinance hits five-year low (Reuters)
- Cohen Said to Have Warned Friend About Possible Federal Investigation (NYT)
- ‘Duck Dynasty’ Dad Risks $500 Million With Gay-Sin Remark (BBG)
It seems US sailors aren't the only ones who three short years after the Fukushima disaster are being stricken by cancers and other radiation-induced diseases. For once, the media blackout surrounding the Japanese nuclear power plant tragedy appears to have crumbled, and at least a portion of the truth has been revealed. Hong Kong's SCMP reports that fifty-nine young people in Fukushima prefecture have been diagnosed with or are suspected of having thyroid cancer. All of those diagnosed were under the age of 18 when the nuclear meltdown occurred in 2011 and while "experts" are divided over the cause, Okuyama University's head of oncology stated "the rate at which children in Fukushima prefecture have developed thyroid cancer... is several times to several tens of times higher [than average]."
There are plenty of valid criticisms of Bitcoin, and a clear and thoughtful expression of those criticisms can only help the marketplace improve free-market crypto currencies in the future. Yet the irrational, ramblings of a statist who clearly hasn’t taken two minutes to objectively analyze Bitcoin is of no use to anyone and a disgrace to a supposedly highbrow newspaper like the New York Times.
As students vie for 2014 internships, Bloomberg finds a fraternity-based network whose Wall Street alumni guide resumes to the tops of stacks, reveal interview questions with recommended answers, offer applicants secret mottoes and support chapters facing crackdowns. Despite apparent crackdowns on cronyism, nepotism, and fraternism; it seems nothing has changed as "secret handshakes" and the fraternity pipeline helps undergraduates beat odds three times steeper than Princeton University’s record-low acceptance rate... "People like people who are like themselves," notes one recruiter, seemingly proven by the fact that JPMorgan employs 140 Sigma Phi Epsilon members with BofA and Wells Fargo even more.
December 23rd, 1913 is a date which will live in infamy. That was the day when the Federal Reserve Act was pushed through Congress. Many members of Congress were absent that day, and the general public was distracted with holiday preparations. Now we have reached the 100th anniversary of the Federal Reserve, and most Americans still don't know what it actually is or how it functions. But understanding the Federal Reserve is absolutely critical, because the Fed is at the very heart of our economic problems. Since the Federal Reserve was created, there have been 18 recessions or depressions, the value of the U.S. dollar has declined by 98 percent, and the U.S. national debt has gotten more than 5000 times larger. This insidious debt-based financial system has literally made debt slaves out of all of us, and it is systematically destroying the bright future that our children and our grandchildren were supposed to have. The truth is that we do not have to have a Federal Reserve. The greatest period of economic growth in U.S. history was when we did not have a central bank. If we are ever going to turn this nation around economically, we are going to have to get rid of this debt-based financial system that is centered around the Federal Reserve. On the path that we are on now, there is no hope.
It is perhaps ironic that the creator of the AK-47 assault rifle, also known as the Kalashnikov named for its creator Mikhail Kalashnikov, and of which there are between 70 and 100 million in circulation making it the world's most popular weapon, has just passed away from what is essentially old age, at 94. "It is difficult and sad to realize that Mikhail Kalashnikov is no longer with us. We have lost one of the most talented, memorable and committed patriots of Russia, who served his country throughout his life,” said the statement from the press secretary of the Udmurtia administration Viktor Chulkov.
With both current conditions and future expectations indices jumping higher, the UMich consumer confidence headline final print rose at its equal fastest pace since Sept 2009. The surge in current conditions - the largest since Dec 2008 - has lifted it back to the highest level since July 2007. If there was anything to note that took the shine off such an exuberant surge it's the fact that the headline number did actually miss expectations (3rd miss of last 4) and the final outlook data dropped from the preliminary print. As we have noted before, it is confidence that 'inspires' the multiple-expanding hope as fundamental reality fades - bulls better hope it's different this time as we hit the year's highs in confidence.