Wall Street Journal
Every year, David Collum writes a detailed "Year in Review" synopsis full of keen perspective and plenty of wit. This year's is no exception. "I have not seen a year in which so many risks - some truly existential - piled up so quickly. Each risk has its own, often unknown, probability of morphing into a destructive force. It feels like we’re in the final throes of a geopolitical Game of Tetris as financial and political authorities race to place the pieces correctly. But the acceleration is palpable. The proximate trigger for pain and ultimately a collapse can be small, as anyone who’s ever stepped barefoot on a Lego knows..."
"Most investors go about their job trying to identify ‘winners’. But more often than not, investing is about avoiding losers. Like successful gamblers at the racing track, an investor’s starting point should be to eliminate the assets that do not stand a chance, and then spread the rest of one’s capital amongst the remainder." So as the year draws to a close, it may be helpful if we recap the main questions confronting investors and the themes we strongly believe in, region by region.
Do you want to know if the stock market is going to crash next year? Just keep an eye on junk bonds. Prior to the horrific collapse of stocks in 2008, high yield debt collapsed first. And as you will see below, high yield debt is starting to crash again.
As employers shift to more proactive efforts to help their workforces "put the Twinkie down," we thought a look at the most (and least) obese jobs in America would provide additional data on potential career paths for today's disenfranchised youth. What The Wall Street Journal found in their data is perhaps surprising with 'sedentary' scientists and economists are the least obese, and 'active' firefighters and cops are the most obese...
Deflation and the attendant risks caused by a sudden revelation about hidden debts will remain the chief concern for investors and policy makers in 2015
Just two weeks after Germnay reported that Draghi was facing mutiny and Benoit Coeure was firmly against the ECB undertaking Sovereign QE, The WSJ reports today that the very same ECB board member sees a "broad consensus around the table in the governing council that we need to do more to raise inflation and boost the economy." This of course has been interpreted by the market as meaning sovereign QE though there is no mention of an agreement on what "more" is.
The rank economic cheerleading in the guise of “news” printed by the Wall Street Journal, Reuters and the rest of the financial press never ceases to amaze. But on the heels of Congress’ pathetic capitulation to Wall Street over the weekend you have to wonder if even the robo-writers who compose the headlines are on the take. How could anyone in the right mind label this weekend’s CRomnibus abomination “A Rare Bipartisan Success for Congress”? Apparently, that unaccountable plaudit was bestowed upon Washington by the WSJ solely because it avoided another government shutdown.
Last weekend’s election in Japan was the opposite of exciting. The upcoming elections in Greece, however, are another matter entirely. What’s really different about the Greek elections now and the Greek elections in 2012 is the lack of a Oh-My-God-Look-At-Greece media Narrative today, particularly in the US. Here it’s all oil, all the time, which means that any power transition in Greece will come as a big negative “surprise” to US investors and US markets. What we can tell you with confidence is that the Common Knowledge of the market today is that Greece is “fixed”, which means that any un-fixing will hit markets like a ton of bricks. It’s an asymmetric risk/reward profile – in a bad way – for global markets in general and European markets in particular.
Run away... just 6 weeks ago when we first highlighted the FBI was probing multi-billion-dollar REIT American Realty Capital, the company's stock crashed, wiping out billions leading the CEO to note, "we don't have bad people, we had some bad judgment there." Now, as The WSJ reports, it appears the CEO David Kay, COO Lisa Beacon, and founder & Executive Chairman Nicholas Schorsch have all decided to "stabilize the company and... strengthen future leadership and strategy," by jumping ship. We are sure their jets will be fueled up and ready for the nearest extradition-free nation...
"Boy, was I wrong," exclaimed Federal Reserve Vice-Chairman Stanley Fischer, "I thought that when Dodd-Frank started, that the banks would not succeed in influencing it, having lost all the prestige they lost." Just like the Fed's economic and rate forecasts, Fischer's political perspective could not have been more incorrect. Rather stunningly confirming Fischer's admission, The Hill reports JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon made calls to lawmakers on Thursday urging them to support the "cromnibus" spending bill, according to no lesser brain-trust than Rep. Maxine Waters. Perhaps Fischer inadvertently summed up the state of reality as WSJ reports, when he opined, "we are two bad decisions away from not being an independent central bank." We might suggest the "two" decisions went by a long time ago.
As an investor, it is simply your job to step away from your "emotions" for a moment and look objectively at the market around you. Is it currently dominated by "greed" or "fear?" Your long-term returns will depend greatly not only on how you answer that question, but to manage the inherent risk. “The investor’s chief problem – and even his worst enemy – is likely to be himself.” - Benjamin Graham
New oil projects are being scrapped in Norway amid falling production and low oil prices. The governor of Norway’s central bank says western Europe’s biggest oil producer is facing a major economic slowdown as crude prices continue to plunge. As Bloomberg reports, Oeystein Olsen said today after unexpectedly cutting rates and shocking markets to a new 5 year low in NOKEUR, "our job now is that we need to prevent a severe downturn in the economy... that is presently the major concern of the board."
Because you can always bet on the "stupidity of the American voter" and win.
Back in June, the world was speechless when Goldman's head of the ECB, Mario Draghi, stunned the world when he took Bernanke's ZIRP and raised him one better by announcing the ECB would send deposit rates into negative territory, in the process launching the Neutron bomb known as N(egative)IRP and pushing European monetary policy into the "twilight zone", forcing savers to pay (!) for the privilege of keeping the product of their labor in the form of fiat currency instead of invested in a global ponzi scheme built on capital market so broken even the BIS can no longer contain its shocked amazement. Well, the US economy may be "decoupling" (just as it did right before Lehman) and one pundit after another are once again (incorrectly) predicting that the Fed may raise rates, but when it comes to the true "value" of money, US banks have just shown that when it comes to spread between reality and the economic outlook, the schism has never been deeper.
Enter US NIRP.
52-year-old Belgian Geert Tack - a private banker for ING who managed portfolios for wealthy individuals - was described as 'impeccable', 'sporty', 'cared-for', and 'successful' and so as Vermist reports, after disappearing a month ago, the appearance of his body off the coast of Ostend is surrpunded by riddles...