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Guest Post: Time To Revisit An Old Friend





I have suggested for weeks, I suggested in my piece yesterday, that you take some money off the table, sell some of your bullets, and re-deploy. Quantitative Easing is coming to an end and there will be ramifications for the bond markets and, eventually, for the equity markets. The days of free money, newly printed money, are coming to a close as America begins to right itself and as our banking system is mostly out of the woods. The longer end of the curve, hit hard yesterday, is heading to higher yields in my opinion. We will also begin to see inflation creep in for a variety of reasons and I point specifically to the price of gas at the pump which, while no one was looking, has hit its all-time highs this week as each penny of increase adds $1 billion to household spending and gasoline has risen thirty cents in the last month.

 
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Guest Post: The Vampire Squid’s Problems





Smith’s sentiments are appreciated, but actually he is wrong about a fundamental point, at least in today’s business environment. Goldman doesn’t have to give a damn about its clients because the vampire squid has found a much more lucrative way of insuring their bottom line: government largesse.

 
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Guest Post: Money from Nothing - A Primer on Fake Wealth Creation and its Implications (Part 2)





Only in a debt-based money system could debt be curiously cast as an asset. We’ve made “extend and pretend” a quaint phrase for a burgeoning market for financial lying and profiteering aimed toward preventing the collapse of a debt- (or lack-) based system that was already doomed by its initial design to collapse. This primer will detail the major components and basic evolution of fake wealth creation, accelerating debt expansion, hollowing out of the economy, and inevitable financial implosion.

 
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Guest Post: How Does FINRA Lose 8 Hours of Testimony? Wall Street’s “Kangaroo Court”





I will admit that having written extensively and aggressively about Wall Street’s self-regulator FINRA over the last three years, I did not think there was anything more I could see that would surprise me. Today I am surprised, shocked, and saddened. For those in our nation who have a semblance of decency and a desire to see due process reflected in legal hearings and financial arbitration, I believe you will be similarly dismayed. The case to which I will refer strikes deep into the core of Wall Street arbitration.  I hope you are sitting down and do not have any sharp objects nearby as Dow Jones’ Al Lewis provides a scathing expose of a FINRA arbitration entitled Broker Bankrupted in Kangaroo Court,

 
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Guest Post: Understanding The New Price Of Oil





In the Spring of 2011, when Libyan oil production -- over 1 million barrels a day (mpd) -- was suddenly taken offline, the world received its first real-time test of the global pricing system for oil since the crash lows of 2009. Oil prices, already at the $85 level for WTIC, bolted above $100, and eventually hit a high near $115 over the following two months. More importantly, however, is that -- save for a brief eight week period in the autumn -- oil prices have stubbornly remained over the $85 pre-Libya level ever since. Even as the debt crisis in Europe has flared. As usual, the mainstream view on the world’s ability to make up for the loss has been wrong. How could the removal of “only” 1.3% of total global production affect the oil price in any prolonged way?, was the universal view of “experts.” Answering that question requires that we modernize, effectively, our understanding of how oil's numerous price discovery mechanisms now operate. The past decade has seen a number of enormous shifts, not only in supply and demand, but in market perceptions about spare capacity. All these were very much at play last year. And, they are at play right now as oil prices rise once again as the global economy tries to strengthen.

 
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Guest Post: Employment Report And The Market





employment-gallupvsbls-031212While the recent employment report will most assuredly give the current Administration plenty to boast about the underlying trends are far more disturbing.   The ongoing structural realities, the fact that many of the jobs that have been destroyed will never return, combined with the demographic shift make the headline number much less important compared with the emerging trends.  Take a look at a recent Gallup Organization poll which polls weekly, rather than one week out of a month with BLS, in regards to the emerging trends of employment.  The most recent poll update shows the trend of the percentage of unemployed rising.   As you can see the Gallup survey tends to lead movements in the BLS poll by about 4 weeks or so.   Therefore, it is highly likely that in the coming month as the massive seasonal adjustments in January and February fade out we will see the unemployment rate rise back towards 8.5%. 

 
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Guest Post: The Audacity of Bonuses At MF Global





In the spirit of George Orwell’s Animal Farm commandment: “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal then others” comes the galling news that bankruptcy trustee, Louis Freeh, could approve the defunct, MF Global to pay bonuses to certain senior executives. This, despite the fact that nearly $1.6 billion of customer funds remains “missing” or otherwise partially accounted for, yet beyond the reach of those customers, perhaps forever, since before the firm declared bankruptcy on October 31, 2011... The Orwellian nature of finance is spiraling out of control. It was acutely demonstrated during the fall 2008, merge-and-be-bailed period, and subsequently, through mainstream acceptance that “too big to fail” validates the subsidization of reckless banking practices (bail first, ask questions or consider tepid regulation later), and the European debacle. Three wrinkles of audacity underscore the potential MF Global bonus approvals.

 
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Guest Post: Money from Nothing - A Primer On Fake Wealth Creation And Its Implications (Part 1)





What is fraud except creating “value” from nothing and passing it off as something? Frauds interlink and grow upon each other. Our debt-based money system serves as the fraud foundation. In our debt-based money system, debt must grow in order to create money. Therefore, there is no way to pay off aggregate debt with available money. More money must be lent into the system to make the payments for old debts. This causes overall debt to expand as new money for actual people (vs. banks) always arrives at interest and compounds exponentially. This process is called financialization. Financialization: The process of making money from nothing in which debt (i.e. poverty, lack) is paradoxically considered an asset (i.e. wealth, gain). In current financialized economies “wealth expansion” comes from the parasitic taxation of productivity in the form of interest on fiat lending. This interest over time consumes a greater and greater share of resources, assets, labor, and livelihood until nothing is left.

 
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Jon Hilsenrath Is Scratching His (And The NY Fed's) Head Over The Job Number Discrepancy And Okun's Law





A month ago Zero Hedge, based on some Goldman observations, asked a simple question: is Okun's law now terminally broken? Today, with about a one month delay, the mouthpiece of the New York Fed (which in itself is nothing but a Goldman den of central planners, and Bill Dudley and Jan Hatzius are drinking buddies), Jon Hilsenrath shows that this is just the issue bothering his FRBNY overseers. In an article in the WSJ he ruminates: "Something about the U.S. economy isn't adding up. At 8.3%, the unemployment rate has fallen 0.7 percentage point from a year earlier and is down 1.7 percentage points from a peak of 10% in October 2009. Many other measures of the job market are improving. Companies have expanded payrolls by more than 200,000 a month for the past three months, according to Labor Department data. And the number of people filing claims for government unemployment benefits has fallen. Yet the economy is barely growing. Many economists in the past few weeks have again reduced their estimates of growth. The economy by many estimates is on track to grow at an annual rate of less than 2% in the first three months of 2012. The economy expanded just 1.7% last year. And since the final months of 2009, when unemployment peaked, the economy has expanded at a pretty paltry 2.5% annual rate." Hilsenrath's rhetorical straw man: "How can an economy that is growing so slowly produce such big declines in unemployment?" The answer is simple Jon, and is another one we provided a month ago - basically the US is now effectively "printing" jobs by releasing more and more seasonally adjusted payrolls into the open, which however pay progressively less and less (see A "Quality Assessment" Of US Jobs Reveals The Ugliest Picture Yet). After all, what the media always forgets is that there is a quantity and quality component to jobs. The only one that matters in an election year, however, is the former.  As for whether Okun's law is broken, we suggest that the New York Fed looks in the mirror on that one.

 
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Guest Post: An Open Letter to Jamie Dimon





Dear Mr. Dimon,

Why do you impugn your character and reputation by allowing your firm to engage in these immoral activities? Sure, the regulators have failed to assess you any meaningful punishments that would deter you from this conduct on a strict, short-term dollars and cents analysis. Every penny of earnings counts, I get it. But, sir, you do not strike me as someone who is trying to pump your company’s stock price for a quarter or two. You are the face of JPMorgan Chase and, I would assume, you plan on being there for a while. Why intentionally destroy any and all goodwill your firm has to make additional revenue that is mostly insignificant in the short-term and, quite possibly, deleterious in the long-term? The only reason I can think of is: because you can. And, that, sir is where hubris starts.

 
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Guest Post: Time to Accumulate Gold and Silver?





...most investors fall into one of two categories: those that hold an abundance of gold and silver (which tends to be physical forms only), and those with little or none. While both groups need to diversify, I'm a little more concerned about the second group. Here's why. Regardless of what you think will happen over the remainder of this decade, one thing seems virtually certain: the value of paper money will be affected, perhaps dramatically. Even if the economy slips into deflation, the deflation wouldn't last long. A panicked Fed would print to the max and set off a wild rise in prices. This is why we're convinced currency dilution will not only continue but accelerate. Let's take a look at what's happened so far with the value of our currency vs. gold, after accounting for the loss in purchasing power.

 
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Guest Post: Our "Let's Pretend" Economy: Let's Pretend "Job Growth Is Best Since 2006"





The Ministry of Propaganda and its media minions are announcing that "job growth is on a tear" and the "best growth since 2006." How about we look under the hood of the employment euphoria? Here is an example of the Ministry's work: Best U.S. employment growth in 12 years Almost all the data agree — labor market’s on a tear.

Over the past six months, the number of people who are employed has risen by 2.3 million — an average of 385,000 per month. That’s the best growth since early 2000, when the dot-com bubble was in full flower. Since August, the unemployment rate has fallen by 0.8 of a percentage points, to 8.3%. For adults over 25, the jobless rate has fallen to 7%.

In other words, people who generally work full time so they don't have to share a bunk in a flop house or live in their parents' basement are almost fully employed, as 'full employment" typically generates an unemployment rate of 5% just due to churn. Would we as a nation be better off dealing with the truth rather than believing fantasies that prop up the Status Quo and the Fed's dearly beloved measure of the economy, the stock market? How often does accepting illusion help us navigate real life? Short answer: never.

 
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Guest Post: Backing Into World War III?





According to the doctrine of pre-emptive war, Iran can be attacked based on its alleged desire to develop nuclear weapons, just as Iraq was attacked in 2003. In fact, Congress is currently debating whether a nuclear capability alone (which Brazil, Japan, and other countries enjoy) could justify the 'preventive' attack. I believe it is time to negate this doctrine by postulating that Iran in fact has a right, as a sovereign nation, to a nuclear capability. Having traveled to Iran recently, I can attest to the Joint Chiefs' General Dempsey's reference to Iran as a 'rational' actor. The Iranians have no interest in destroying America, or Israel, at the expense of one of the oldest continuous civilizations in the world, dating back about 2600 years. Iran is currently surrounded by over 40 U.S. military installations, not counting Israel's still-unaccounted nuclear arsenal. To assert that Iran would jeopardize its culture for a one-shot nuclear attack is a complete miscalculation of the Iranian spirit; that spirit gave rise to a revolution in 1979 against what they perceived as Anglo-American imperialism in the form of the Shah, much as our own revolution opposed British imperialism.

 
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Guest Post: How To Become An American Extremist In Style!





I think it is clear that extremists in an environment of despotism are in most cases people who refuse to abandon that which makes humanity whole.  We are, indeed, dangerous, but only to those who would do liberty harm.  A life of conformity is a life wasted, and a life of slavery is no life at all.  Whatever we may be called today, what we leave behind is ultimately what defines us.  Labels are irrelevant.  If I am an “extremist” because I refuse to participate in the delusion that is America in the new millennium, then so be it.  I am more than happy to join the long list of insurrectionaries who inhabit this nation today and who have been the legitimate makers of the world for generations.  Everything in history revolves not around governments, but rule-breakers.  They alone decide whether humanity will live tight in the fist of the authoritarian machine, or live free in the wilds of unbridled independence.

 
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Guest Post: The Story Behind US Gas Price Pain





Gasoline consumption in the United States has been dropping for years. In the last decade, vehicle fuel efficiency has improved by 20%, and the combination of that shift and a weak economy of late has pushed gasoline demand to its lowest level in a decade. At the same time, US oil production is at its highest level in a decade. Deepwater wells in the Gulf of Mexico and horizontal fracs in the Bakken shale have turned America's domestic oil production scene around. After 20 years of declining production, US crude output rates started to climb in 2008 and have increased every year since. With production up and demand down, the basics of supply and demand indicate that oil prices should be falling. Americans should be paying less at the pump. Instead, the average US price at the pump reached US$3.80 per gallon on March 5, after 27 consecutive days of gains. That's 26.7¢ above the old record for March 5, set last year. The price of gasoline has climbed 32¢ or 9.3% since February 1; analysts expect prices to continue rising, reaching a national average of something like US$4.25 per gallon. What gives? Is it all about Iran? Are speculators manipulating the market? Do any politicians have good ideas on how to "fix" the high cost of gasoline? And is there relief on the horizon?

 
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