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These Charts Better Not Reflect The True State Of The US Economy





If this chart is in any way indicative of what is truly going on behind the scenes of the US economy, then watch out below...

 
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Portugal Considers Paying Public Workers In Treasury Bills Instead Of Cash





As reported late on Friday, just as the market closed, the Portuguese constitutional court decided that several provisions of the country's 2013 budget were not constitutional. According to the high court, cuts in wages and pensions of public employees were unfair (there's that word again) because they targeted only the public sector. The court rejected plans to cut one of the 14 paychecks that public workers usually get each year and to slash 6.4% from pensions for retirees.  This coincided with the government warning that the court's decision would put into question the country's ability to fulfill its €78 billion international bailout program, which in turn would send bondholders of Portuguese sovereign debt scrambling for the exits as suddenly the country may find itself in the ECB's "dunce" corner, with Draghi preparing to pull a "Berlusconi" on a government which can't even whip its judicial branch in line. However, of more immediate concern is how will the government now plug a hole of up to €1.3 billion in its €5.3 billion 2013 budget. A solution has, luckily, presented itself: bypass the unconstitutional provisions by paying government workers not in cash, but in government bills!

 
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Guest Post: The Country Is Over





Data are hard to deal with when your vision is on the wrong side of it. Those wanting to claim there is a recovery underway are having just this problem. These people either have no understanding of economics or they believe falsely that they can inflate “animal spirits” with their hyped reports and that will initiate a recovery. There will not be an economic recovery given the economic policies of this country. A recovery is not unlikely, I would argue it is closer to impossible if not impossible. The reasons for this position are not complicated. In short, the nation has become an out-of-control welfare state that is rapidly destroying the incentives to work or create jobs. Government policies appear designed toward this end. One doesn’t need a high IQ or  an advanced degree in economics to understand the problems. There are innumerable factors responsible for the decline of the US. These three important ones will convey why the economy is dying...

 
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New Radioactive Leak Found At Fukushima After Rat Causes Second Cooling System Failure





The Fukushima farce continues: a month after a rat (no really) caused the cooling system at the exploded Japanese nuclear power plant to fail, history repeats itself, leading to the second cooling failure in a month. As the NYT reported, "Workers at the stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant who were installing wire nets Friday to keep rats away from a vital cooling system instead tripped that system, causing it to fail for the second time in weeks. Cooling was restored by late evening on Friday, and there was no imminent danger to the 566 nuclear fuel rods stored in the pool, according to the company. It would have taken at least two weeks for the pool to have risen above the safe level of 149 degrees Fahrenheit, Tepco said." Of course, TEPCO would certainly tell the truth to all those it lied to for weeks in March 2011, the same TEPCO where a rat is the weakest link in its meltdown avoidance planning. This time however, TEPCO, credibility and professionalism once again in tatters, was forced to reveal a little more, namely that "radioactive water may have leaked into the ground from a storage tank at Japan's crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in the latest of a series of troubles at the facility."

 

 
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Guest Post: Decline And Fall Of The New Rome





Rampant inflation, caused by debasement of the currency, government corruption and nanny state corrective action that makes matters worse. Declining trade, caused by wars to control the empire, massive military over-reach and ever increasing spending on the military – funded by increases in taxation on the citizens, especially those least in a position to pay.  Sounds familiar? The above, paragraph describes not our present day society but that of the Roman Empire from the 3rd century onwards. However, one could be forgiven for thinking I was describing the faltering western economies of America, Japan and Europe.

 
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Obama Proposes Retirement Account Limit In First "Wealth Tax" Salvo





The witch-hunt against the "rich" (as defined by a random group of people) through the establishment of creeping global capital controls continues. First, it was Europe deciding that €100,000 in savings is the "fair" threshold on savings above which any haircut goes, with Cyprus demonstrating first and next Italy making it clear local depositors above the threshold will also be impaired in the future; then a group of journalists mysteriously lands millions in top secret files exposing essentially every offshore bank account: a perfectly legal option, however when mixed in with the implication that this money is all tax-evasion gotten it provides for a combustible mix, and now it is America's turn to fire the first shot across the capital control bow, because as part of his proposed budget, Obama plans to set a limit of how much one can spend per year on retirement through tax-preferred retirement plans. As it turns out, according to the Obama administration it is only fair to spend a total of $205,000 in nominal dollars per year on retirement, but not more. This means that as a result of the artificial limit, the Budget will set a total cap on retirement plans of about $3 million. Anything above that, feel free to please spend on your peas instead of saving, or just invest in Bernanke's stock market ponzi. After all, that is the only artificial indicator Obama has to point to, when "proving" his policies are working.

 
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The Knockout Blow People Will Not See Coming





Have you ever done something really stupid, just because you were in love? Something you look back on and cringe, thinking “why on earth did I do that?” Of course. Who hasn’t? In the world of economics and finance, they call this ‘sentiment’. Consumer confidence, business confidence, investor confidence… these are basically emotional readings. Screw the numbers. To hell with the truth. It’s all about how people feel. It seems crazy, but it’s true. Right now, for example, ‘sentiment’ is telling us that the euro crisis is over. It’s telling us that the debt ceiling is pretty much resolved. And, after taking five years to reach pre-crash levels, it’s telling us that the stock market is once again safe for the average investor. Yet the numbers tell a completely different story. Something just doesn’t add up. Investors are throwing caution to the wind right now... ignoring the basic fundamentals and focusing exclusively on euphoric sentiment. (Or central bank policy). We can personally attest, and any boxer will tell you, that it’s the punch that you don’t see coming which knocks you out.

 

 
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Guest Post: Is Tunisia the New Hot Spot for Energy Investors?





Until recently Tunisia was considered to be a minor league and relatively underexplored venue in Africa’s rapidly expanding oil & gas scene. [Yet another example of the slow re-colonization of the African continent - a topic we have been discussing for months now - most recently here] This situation has quickly changed with new bid rounds and forced relinquishments creating an opportunity for new companies to come in. Major American E & P companies like Shell have jumped at the opportunity to acquire ground that had been dominated for decades with little to no work conducted, mostly by European State oil & gas companies in this former French protectorate.  For the first time major spending has been committed to test Tunisian basins which are arguably equally prolific as those in neighbouring environments with more work performed, such as Libya. Should Tunisia now be on energy investors watch list?

 
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No Country For Rich, Fat Men





Given the increasing weight of taxation on the middle- and upper-incomes in this country and the first step towards savings 'wealth' taxation, it is perhaps no surprise that the nation's employers have decided enough is enough with another implicit tax - healthcare. As the WSJ reports, cost-conscious companies (such as spare tire manufacturer Michelin North America) are passing on the additional costs of healthcare to their obese workers. Are you a man with a waist measuring 40 inches or more? Have high blood pressure? Starting next year, your unhealthiness will cost you. Incentivizing 'healthiness' via credits is increasingly shifting to penalizing unhealthiness as six in ten employers are set to enforce a 'fat tax' in the next few years. The inability to grow top-lines and need to cut costs amid the uncertainty surrounding the surging corporate healthcare costs resulting from Obamacare means employers' balance of carrot and stick seems to be tilting increasingly to the stick. So the people got their pro-equality Obamacare but if you are an 80/20 risk factor - you will be less equal than others.

 
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Guest Post: Economy In Pictures: Have We Seen The Peak?





The general mantra from mainstream analysts and economists since the first of the year is that the "economy is set to finally turn the corner."  The premise of the assumption is that the Fed's continued monetary actions, and now specific targeted goals of suppressed inflation and targeted employment, is going to push the economy into "escape velocity." Today, we leave the analysis up to you. The following series of charts displays several important economic variables ranging from incomes and production to economic growth.  The question for you to answer: "Is the economy about to boom OR has it peaked for the current economic cycle?" As you look at each chart below compare what you are visualizing versus what you are being told.

 
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Kim Jong-Un Launches Morale-Boosting "Mine's Bigger Than Yours" Weapons Display On State TV





North Korean State TV provides 127 seconds of sheer unadulterated weapons-brandishing propaganda as Kim Jong-Un visits the test firing of various anti-Western civilization policy tools - from rocket-launchers, drones, and automatic weapons, the omnipotent leader himself even gets in on the action brandishing an admittedly small weapon... ironic really when all that really matters is the big red button 'threat'.

 
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Be Careful What You Wish For; Why The Re-Industrialization Of America Is Bad For Stocks





Jobs; it is all about jobs; and yesterday's dismal payrolls print suggests that despite the orgasmic flourish of monetary policy (and fiscal deficits), things are not going so well. However, the clarion call for a pending manufacturing renaissance continues; the hope remains high that with just a little more time and little more money, we will revert to some pre-crisis utopia and the re-industrialization of America will begin. Be careful what you hope for is the message from Morgan Stanley's Gerard Minack who warns that this 'reindustrialization' is bearish for stocks. The biggest medium-term issue for equity investors is whether current high profits can be sustained. One factor boosting margins was the Asian-led surge in global labour supply, which squeezed returns to labor and boosted returns to capital. This was particularly pronounced in America. Reindustrialisation implies that this process has run its course, suggesting that returns to capital will revert to normal over the medium term. Most see the prospect of America reindustrialising as bullish, but reindustrialisation may reverse the current mix: Economic growth may improve, but margins worsen.

 
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A Picture Of Health





As one of the largest segments of the US economy, health care accounts for trillions of dollars in spending, both by governments and private individuals. Top Masters in Healthcare decided to take a closer look at where the money goes in this infographic covering everything from 'who does the spending?' to 'where the spending goes' and which states have the highest rates of obesity. The impact of the healthcare industry on everyday Americans continues to grow, whether they see it in their insurance bill or whether they earn their salaries from the health care industry. The issue also continues to dominate the political conversation... there's no escaping it.

 
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IB Prepares For Surge In Japanese Bond Volatility, Removes All Intraday Margins On Japanese Products





On Friday morning, after the humiliating for the BOJ halt of the ¥1 quadrillion Japanese government bond market, the second largest in the entire world due to unprecedented 13-sigma volatility, we joked that as a result of the central bank's desperation, it has now made trillions in the formerly world's "safest" security trade like a penny stock. It appears our joke was not far off the mark as a few hours ago, in advance of the Sunday reopening of the JGB, at least one broker has decided to prepare for another record vol session by completely eliminating intraday margins and thus avoid the possibility of even more limit up/down crashes as a result of margin stops being hit and starting a self-reinforcing feedback loop of even more buying or selling.

 
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People Not In Labor Force Soar By 663,000 To 90 Million, Labor Force Participation Rate At 1979 Levels





Things just keep getting worse for the American worker, and by implication US economy, where as we have shown many times before, it pays just as well to sit back and collect disability and various welfare and entitlement checks, than to work .The best manifestation of this: the number of people not in the labor force which in March soared by a massive 663,000 to a record 90 million Americans who are no longer even looking for work. This was the biggest monthly increase in people dropping out of the labor force since January 2012, when the BLS did its census recast of the labor numbers. And even worse, the labor force participation rate plunged from an already abysmal 63.5% to 63.3% - the lowest since 1979! But at least it helped with the now painfully grotesque propaganda that the US unemployment rate is "improving."

 
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