The chief of the Federal Aviation Administration predicted Thursday that U.S. airspace could be crowded with as many as 7,500 commercial drones within the next five years. As The Washington Times reports, Michael Huerta said his agency would set up six sites across the country to test drone operators and, in an effort to balance privacy/safety with anarchic airspace drone pollution, he added, "we must fulfill those obligations in a thoughtful, careful manner that ensures safety and promotes economic growth, " as dangerous incidents involving drones have already taken place... Although they are expected to be used for peaceful purposes such as firefighting and weather tracking - it's causing a lot of concern, as Huerta warns "we need to be responsive to public concerns about privacy."
We all intuitively grasp the meaning of diminishing returns: Either it takes more effort to maintain a project’s payoff, or the payoff declines even though the effort invested remains constant. The key driver of diminishing returns is easy to understand. We naturally continue to do more of what was successful in the past. As the returns decline, we redouble our efforts, confident that what worked in the past will once again be successful if only we invest more labor, energy, and capital. However, the status quo's default diversion of 'money/credit' to support diminishing returns has two costs: the opportunity costs of what else did not get financed because available resources were poured down the rat hole of failing programs, and the largely hidden increase in systemic fragility as productive investments are starved by the diversion of resources to the rat holes of diminishing returns. This dynamic leads to the final phase of doing more of what has failed spectacularly.
While the so-called "bulk spying" of the NSA is major privacy issue, Mises Media's Mark Thornton explains that the unintended consequences of this surveillance invasion has real economic implications...
In his parting act, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has decided to continue printing some $85 billion per month (6% of GDP per year) and spend those dollars on government bonds and, in the process, keep interest rates low, stimulate investment, and reduce unemployment. Trouble is, interest rates have generally been rising, investment remains very low, and unemployment remains very high. As Lawrence Kotlikoff points out, echoing our perhaps more vociferous discussions, Bernanke’s dangerous policy hasn’t worked and should be ended. Since 2007 the Fed has increased the economy's basic supply of money (the monetary base) by a factor of four! That's enough to sustain, over a relatively short period of time, a four-fold increase in prices. Having prices rise that much over even three years would spell hyperinflation.
Last week, Citi's Tobias Levkovich raised numerous concerns about the state of exuberance and "disconcerting disconnects" that is our new normal market currently. In the week since, Citi's proprietary Panic/Euphoria model is sending a clear warning of substantial complacency - its most "euphoric" since 2008. This is worrisome, he notes, since there is an 80% probability of a market decline in the next 12 months based on the current reading.
"Debt matters... even if it is possible to pretend for many years that it doesn't," is the painful truth that, author of "Avoiding The Fall", Michael Pettis offers for the current state of most western economies. Specifically, Pettis points out that Japan never really wrote down all or even most of its investment misallocation of the 1980s and simply rolled it forward in the form of rising government debt. For a long time it was able to service this growing debt burden by keeping interest rates very low as a response to very slow growth and by effectively capitalizing interest payments, but, as Kyle Bass has previously warned, if Abenomics is 'successful', ironically, it will no longer be able to play this game. Unless Japan moves quickly to pay down debt, perhaps by privatizing government assets, Abenomics, in that case, will be derailed by its own success.
To many institutional investors, buying the Russell 2000 is merely the highly levered bet with which the bulk of institutions (recall that almost all hedge funds, and a majority of mutual funds, are underperforming the S&P for a 5th consecutive year) seek to make up for losses in their portfolios by chasing high (and even higher with leverage) beta. Which is why as the next chart below shows, in a furious scramble to catch up by year end, the institutional Russell net futures (i.e. levered) positioning just hit a record high: the biggest investors are now all-in the smallest names. So is the massively overbought small cap sector due for a correction? With these manipulated, centrally-planned markets, nobody has any idea. However, for those who have once again bet all in, which just happens to be most plain vanilla dumb money, it may be time to reevaluate.
"We're Stuck In An Escher Economy Until The Existing Structure Collapses And Is Rebuilt On Stronger Principles"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 11/09/2013 13:26 -0400
1. Even if the economy returns to full employment under existing policies, it won’t remain there after (and if) interest rates normalize.
2. Based on today’s debt and valuation levels (charts 8-9, for example), rising interest rates will have an even harsher effect than suggested by the 60 year history
3. Contrary to the establishment’s “sustainable recovery” narrative, the most plausible outcomes are: 1) interest rates normalize but this triggers another bust, or 2) interest rates remain abnormally low until we eventually experience the mother of all debt/currency crises.
We’re stuck in an Escher economy (see below), thanks to the impossibility of the establishment economic view, and this will remain the case until the existing structure collapses and is rebuilt on stronger policy principles.
As reported yesterday, Typhoon Haiyan - potentially the strongest storm to ever make landfall, and stronger than Katrina and Sandy combined - has come and left the Philippines (currently heading for Vietnam), and now the time has come to evaluate the damage and count the dead. Sadly, as Reuters reports, the devastation is absolutely massive and especially in the hardest hit city of Tacloban in the central Leyte province, may match the aftermath of the Fukushima tsunami: "This is destruction on a massive scale. There are cars thrown like tumbleweed and the streets are strewn with debris." Airport manager Efren Nagrama, 47, said water levels rose up to four metres (13 ft) in the airport. "It was like a tsunami. We escaped through the windows and I held on to a pole for about an hour as rain, seawater and wind swept through the airport. Some of my staff survived by clinging to trees. I prayed hard all throughout until the water subsided."
Venezuela's relatively new government has adopted arguably the best and brightest socialist policy wielded by both Hollande and Obama, namely the "fairness doctrine." However, in this case it is not about what is a "fair" tax for the wealthy (as taxes in Venezuela's socialist paradise will hardly do much to build up the desperately needed foreign currency reserves), but what is a "fair" price for electronic appliances like flat screen TVs, toasters, and ACs. The result is that Maduro's government now determines what equilibrium pricing should be. The reason for this latest socialist victory over the tyranny of supply and demand is that overnight Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro ordered the "occupation" of a chain of electronic goods stores in a crackdown on what the socialist government views as price-gouging hobbling the country's economy. Various managers of the five-store, 500-employee Daka chain have been arrested, and the company will now be forced to sell products at "fair prices," Maduro said late on Friday.
"People are, once again, being fooled," fears Bill Fleckenstein in this brief CNBC clip, warning that investors buying into the stock market at all-time highs here are making a grave error. Investors are ignoring fundamentals at their peril, "in the stock mania in 1999, people were bullish because stocks were going up. In 2007, people were bullish because stocks and real estate were going up. They didn't look ask - Why are they going up? Is this sustainable? Is this healthy? - and in both cases, it was not." In the current environment, the bubble Fleckenstein points to is powered not by tech stocks or real estate, but by the Fed's quantitative easing program. But, he warns, the Fed is losing control of one key market...
America has become a gigantic gulag over the past few decades and most of its citizens don’t know, or just don’t care. One of the primary causes of the over incarceration in the U.S. is the absurd, tragic failure that is the “war on drugs”, and indeed nearly half of the folks in prison are there for drug related offenses. Making matters worse is a rapidly growing private prison system, which adds a profit motive to the equation. Recently, we wrote an extensive rant against the private prison system and provided details on how it works in: A Deep Look into the Shady World of the Private Prison Industry. Now here are some of the sad facts...
We previously highlighted Didier Sornette's excellent work trying to identify pre-crash conditions in financial markets and John Hussman's chart below suggests we are indeed heading that way. His warning, however, "Don't rely on further blow-off - but don't be shocked - risk dominates... Hold Tight."
Most market watchers expect that Janet Yellen will grapple with two major tasks once she takes the helm at the Federal Reserve in 2014: deciding on the appropriate timing and intensity of the Fed's quantitative easing taper strategy, and unwinding the Fed's enormous $4 trillion balance sheet (without creating huge losses in the value of its portfolio). In reality both assignments are far more difficult than just about anyone understands or admits.
An economics professor at a local college made a statement that he had never failed a single student before, but had recently failed an entire class. That class had insisted that Obama’s socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer. The professor then said, “OK, we will have an experiment in this class on Obama's plan." Here are the 5 key points about such an experiment...