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..."
Outspoken realist billionaire Sam Zell tells Fox's Maria Bartiromo, "the US economy is bifurcated," noting that "the very top has done very well as The Fed's QE 'saved the system'," but, he adds, the 90% that did not benefit from that "have seen wages go down and the recent election showed a lot of discomfort and a lack of trust." A hopeful money-honey asks whether the president will work with the Republicans to improve this situation, Zell lashes back, "isn't the question whether the president wants to work with anybody to create anything?"
Two headlines came across my screen today, which taken together pretty much sum up the effects of policy decisions made by Central Bankers and politicians since the financial crisis. The financial oligarchs got bailed out, and the rich got richer due to decisions made by “leaders” around the globe. As such, the entire planet has now been transformed into a neo-feudal tinderbox.
Today's markets exist in an Oz-like, fantasy world. For 5 years now, stock and bond prices have risen like Dorothy's balloon, with hardly a puff of downdraft to spoil the fun. Everybody likes higher prices, so let's have them always go up! Forever! But what if...
Icahn, Soros, Druckenmiller, And Now Zell: The Billionaires Are All Quietly Preparing For The PlungeSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 09/03/2014 22:03 -0500
"The stock market is at an all-time, but economic activity is not at an all-time," explains billionaire investor Sam Zell adding that "I don't remember any time in my career where there have been as many wildcards floating out there that have the potential to be very significant and alter people's thinking." Zell concludes that "this is the first time I ever remember where having cash isn't such a terrible thing." Zell's calls should not be shocking following Soros. Druckenmiller, and Icahn's warnings that there is trouble ahead.
"One reason we know voters will embrace populism is that they already have. It’s what they thought they were getting with Obama...He turned out to be something else altogether. Not long ago optimism was in vogue. Obama’s slogan then was “Yes we can.” Today it could be “It turns out we can’t.”"
"...policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened...
...even when 80% of the population favored a particular public policy change, it was only instituted 43% of the time."
UPDATE: The BLM has ceased rounding up Bundy's cattle - because of safety concerns
If you haven’t been following the unfolding drama at the Bundy Ranch about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas you need to start now. The escalating confrontation between irate local residents and federal agents of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has the potential to take a very dangerous turn for the worse at any moment, as hundreds of militia members from states across the country are expected to descend upon the area and make a stand with 67-year-old Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy. The kindling for social upheaval has been growing in America for quite some time. Disrespectful and ignorant statements from billionaire oligarchs only make it worse. The question in my mind has always been what will the catalyst be to spark the brushfire? Will it be the Bundy Ranch? We’ll have to wait and see.
Demonizing “the 1%” is mathematically incorrect; rather it is the oligarchs - which refers a small handful of people who benefit most disproportionately from Federal Reserve handouts, D.C. corruption, tax code loopholes and the destructive trend of financialization generally - that should be kept a close eye on. Thanks to The Atlantic, we now have two charts that show what we have been writing about for many years now. It is not the 1% that is the problem, it’s actually a much smaller slice within that group that is thieving and pillaging at will from the rest of American society.
Ironic perhaps on the heels of President Obama's minimum-wage-hike and our comparison of public and private wages, the following clip from CNBC of Nicole Miller’s CEO Bud Konheim is absolutely disgusting. Then again, this simply continues the recent trend of wealthy people coming on financial outlets and telling the poor how they are supposed to feel... equally disturbing are the results of the following poll...
- Anti-Euro Party’s Le Pen Gains Supporters, French Poll Shows (BBG)
- Carney Renews BOE Low-Rate Pledge to Fight Slack in Economy (BBG)
- Bank of England hints at 2015 rate rise (Reuters)
- ECB bond-buying intact and ready after court decision-Coeure (Reuters)
- Canada scraps millionaire visa scheme, dumps 46,000 Chinese applications (SCMP)
- Scrap this then? Vancouver facing an influx of 45,000 more rich Chinese (SCMP)
- China's January Exports Power Higher, Up 10.6% (WSJ) ... and nobody believes the number
- Emerging-Market Shakeout Putting Reserves Into Focus (BBG)
- Wall Street's most eligible banker Fleming waits for suitor (Reuters)
- Kazakh Devaluation Shows Currency War Stirring as Ruble Dips (BBG)
"Markets were over-priced coming into 2014," warns Sam Zell (noting that he does not believe in the Fed's wealth effect perspective on market-growth helping buying and selling decisions in the real economy), but while he sees a benign outlook for residential real estate, among his biggest concerns are "half-assed" Obamacare's "deleterious effect on the USA" and its "need to be radically changed." Supportive of Carl Icahn and his 'capitalist activism', Zell adds rather frankly that he believes Tom Perkins was correct about the "the 1%... for political convenience," and reminds Bloomberg TV's Betty Liu that "the politics of envy, the politics of class warfare are what has separated America from many parts of the rest of the world," until now.
The first phase of the boom has already taken place, the pullback seems to have run its course and Phase II is set to deliver fortunes.
Brokers, placement agents, middle men, promoters, consultants, financial intermediaries…call them whatever you wish. They have existed in the financial space since man invented a way to exchange one thing of value for another.
Sam Zell: "This is a very treacherous market," thanks to the giant tsunami of liquidity, "the problems of 2007 haven't been dealt with," and given the poor macro data and earnings, "we are suffering through another irrational exuberance," leaving the entire CNBC audience speechless when he concludes, "the stock market feels like the housing market of 2006."