The polar vortex came, saw, and is on its way out, and now comes the time for the damage report. As Reuters reports, "At least nine deaths have been reported across the country connected with the polar air mass that swept over North America during the past few days. Authorities have put about half of the United States under a wind chill warning or cold weather advisory.... Homeless shelters and public buildings took in people who were freezing outside. Daniel Dashner, a 33-year-old homeless man who typically sleeps under a bridge on Milwaukee's south side, said he opted to seek a spot at a shelter on Monday night. "Usually if I have four or five blankets, I can stay pretty warm, but when that wind is blowing, I don't care how many blankets I have, the wind blows right through me," he said, as temperatures dropped to minus 6 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 21 degrees Celsius)." On the other hand, there was some levity in the newsflow, when as AP reported, an escape inmate opted for the familiar warmth of prison and turned himself in.
In yet another indication that the US consumer is tapped out and rolling over, a report from the "Vice Index" reporting firm SouthBay Research which tracks spending on gambling, liquor sales and prostitution, says that "spending on vices wasn’t very strong in December, a sign that overall consumer spending was weak, according to the latest reading of the Vice Index from SouthBay Research’s Andrew Zatlin" as the WSJ reports. "The Vice Index for December points to stable but subdued consumer spending," according to SouthBay's head Andrew Zatlin further predicting that retail sales slipped 0.1% in December from November. And while the split between "the 1%" and "everyone else" was evident in the faster decline in beer sales compared to wine sales, as well as gambling where the low-end contracted while the high end expanded, nothing says a recovery for the 1% like the following sentence: "High-end escorts successfully raised prices,” Zatlin wrote in the report. “Lower-end escorts did not.”
Workers at a tire plant in Northern France have taken two managers hostage until Goodyear (the firm that owns the plant and has been trying to shutter it for years) meets the mabor unions demands. WSJ reports, as Goodyear winds down operations with the plant almost idle, French labor law requires the company to keep all workers employed, which means many of them don't work more than a couple of hours a day while still getting full salary. The situation is why Titan International's Maurice Taylor blasted that he "would be stupid" to operate the plant on that basis.
So far, city employees of bankrupt Detroit have stoically withstood all direct and indirect eliminations of their entitlements and retirement benefits, which was to be expected: after all as per a recent finding, they are merely an unsecured claim in an insolvent entity. However, following the latest shot across the bow from Detroit's emergency manager Kevyn Orr, which freeze pension plans for all non-uniform employees, said stoicism will likely be acutely tested.
While the growth of inequality in America has been heavily discussed here, it was Stan Druckenmiller's outbursts (and warnings that "from beginning to end - once markets adjust from these subsidized prices - that the wealth effect of QE will have been negative not positive") that brought it more broadly into the average American's mind. QE, taxes, income disparity, and entitlements are four major means by which wealth is transferred from the poor and the middle class to the rich. The following simple chart explains it all...
As usual, in 2013, sticking to facts was a mistake in a world fueled by misinformation, propaganda, delusion and wishful thinking. Those in power have successfully held off the unavoidable collapse which will be brought about by their ravenous unbridled greed, and blatant disregard for the rule of law, the U.S. Constitution and rights and liberties of the American people.
"There is no disputing the facts. The economic situation is deteriorating for the average American, the mood of the country is darkening, and the world is awash in debt and turmoil. Every country is attempting to print their way to renewed prosperity. No one wins a race to the bottom. The oligarchs have chosen a path of currency debasement, propping up insolvent banks, propaganda and impoverishing the masses as their preferred course. They attempt to keep the masses distracted with political theater, gun control vitriol, reality TV and iGadgets. What can be said about a society where 10% of the population follows Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga on Twitter and where 50% think the National Debt is a monument in Washington D.C. The country is controlled by evil sycophants, intellectually dishonest toadies and blood sucking leeches. Their lies and deception have held sway for the last four years, but they have only delayed the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. They will not reverse course and believe their intellectual superiority will allow them to retain their control after the collapse.”
The fifth anniversary of Zero Hedge is just around the corner, and so, for the fifth year in a row we continue our tradition of summarizing what you, our readers, found to be the most relevant, exciting, and actionable news of the year, determined objectively by the number of page views. Those eager for a brief stroll down memory lane of prior years can do so at their leisure, by going back in time to our top articles of 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. For everyone else, without further ado, these are the articles that readers found to be the most popular posts of the past 365 days...
Moments ago the October Case Shiller home price index was released which came largely as expected: the seasonally adjusted number rose by 1.05% in the month, which despite the collapse in mortgage applications, shows that cash still rules everything, as average home prices across the Composite 20 cities increased at a 13.63% annual clip, the highest since February 2006. Both were a fraction higher than the expected 0.95% and 13.50% M/M and Y/Y increases. On the more relevant NSA basis (according to the authors) however, the October increase was 0.18%, the lowest since January and an indication that the latest institutional "all cash" buying wave is finally fading. And to show specifically just what the Case Shiller index tracks, here - once again - is an update on the housing market of bankrupt Detroit. In October prices rose 0.9% for the 8th consecutive monthly increase, and rose 17.3% from a year earlier. All is obviously well.
Investors from multi-billion dollar hedge funds to individuals buying as few as 10 properties have acquired more than 1 million homes across the U.S. in the past three years, transforming a mom-and-pop business into one of Wall Street's hottest investments. As we noted here, Blackstone Group LP alone has acquired more than 40,000 properties in 14 cities to become the largest single-family landlord in the country. As Bloomberg notes, the new landlords are transforming the way Americans live and accumulate wealth. But while Wall Street is becoming America's largest residential landlord, it appears China wants to get paid for commercial properties... and Detroit.
With still more than half the homeowners with a mortgage in the state of Nevada underwater on their mortage and a hoped for recovery in prices now petering out as 'investors' realize banks have completed foreclosures and are set to unload their huge inventories, fear is growing that Las Vegas (and for that matter Atlantic City) could be the next Detroit. However, as FoxNY reports, the nascent dreams of the good old days face an even bigger headwind - that of gambling regulation easements (online gambling for instance) and globalization which are impacting their biggest industries. Time will tell if these two cities will end up like Detroit.
During 2013, America continued to steadily march down a self-destructive path toward oblivion. As a society, our debt levels are completely and totally out of control. Our financial system has been transformed into the largest casino on the entire planet and our big banks are behaving even more recklessly than they did just before the last financial crisis. We continue to see thousands of businesses and millions of jobs get shipped out of the United States, and the middle class is being absolutely eviscerated. Due to the lack of decent jobs, poverty is absolutely exploding. Government dependence is at an all-time high and crime is rising. Evidence of social and moral decay is seemingly everywhere, and our government appears to be going insane. If we are going to have any hope of solving these problems, the American people need to take a long, hard look in the mirror and finally admit how bad things have actually become.
Camden, New Jersey: One Of Hundreds Of U.S. Cities That Are Turning Into Rotting, Decaying HellholesSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 12/16/2013 21:12 -0400
All over America, formerly prosperous communities are being transformed into crime-infested wastelands of poverty and despair. Of course the most famous example of this is Detroit. At one time, Detroit was the greatest manufacturing city that the world had ever seen and it had the highest per capita income in the entire country. But now it has become a rotting, decaying hellhole that the rest of the planet laughs at. And of course Detroit is far from alone. There are hundreds of other U.S. cities that are suffering a similar fate. In this article, the focus is going to be on Camden, New Jersey, but the truth is that there are lots of other "Detroits" and "Camdens" all over the nation. Jobs and businesses are leaving our cities at a staggering rate, and what is being left behind is poverty, crime and extreme desperation.
Malodorous taper emanations and bankruptcies are a toxic mix for munis
Chinese investment in London between 2010 and Q3 of this year has risen by a "ludicrous speed" comparable 1,500%, or from a frugal GBP54 million to over GBP 1 billion! And boy do the Chinese love London - according to the same report, over 50% of European property investment by Chinese buyers is now in London. As a result, China is now the third-largest overseas purchaser in U.K. behind Germany and U.S., which invested GBP 1.2 billion and GBP 1.1 billion respectively. "We expect the pool of investors from China targeting London to grow significantly in the coming years. They will consider everything from urban regeneration sites through to trophy assets." Which brings us to point number two: the latest target of the Chinese hot money colonization is none other than bankrupt Detroit.
GM has named Mary Barra to succeed Dan Akerson as CEO, making her the first female CEO in global auto industry:
GM SAID TO NAME BARRA AS FIRST FEMALE CEO, SUCCEEDING AKERSON
GM'S AKERSON SAID TO STEP DOWN IN JANUARY