- Nelson Mandela: 1918-2013 (Reuters)
- South Africans Flock to Nelson Mandela’s Home to Mourn His Death (BBG)
- Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden? Obama says won't choose between them for 2016 (Reuters)
- Fukushima water tanks: leaky and built with illegal labor (Reuters)
- Sears Holdings Files to Spin Off Lands' End Business (WSJ)
- Way cleared for landmark global trade deal (FT)
- U.S. Oil Prices Fall Sharply as Glut Forms on Gulf Coast (WSJ)
- German Factory Orders Decline in Sign of Uneven Recovery (BBG)
- FCC Unlikely to Bless a Comcast-TWC Deal: Regulator (WSJ)
What are the odds that the long-term trend towards lower participation is going to turn around soon? I would say, "Not high".
This past week saw the initial public offering of the single most anticipated IPO of 2013 - Twitter. If you tweeted about it then you are not alone as the news dominated the media headlines and the market. With Twitter already sporting a 11x price-to-sales ratio, and no earnings, what could possibly go wrong? However, it is that growing complacency among investors that should be the most concerning as the general sentiment has become that nothing can stop the markets as long as the Fed is in the game. This week's issue of things to ponder over the weekend provides some thoughts in this regard...
People think they’re living in some kind of democratic republic. But the politicians they elect have zero control.
Endo Health Solutions just announced a big acquisition. The company’s rationale is to take advantage of a stunning tax loop hole. There are a couple of implications to highlight: 1. Endo’s shareholders are the clear winners; and 2. The USA is the big loser. Extrapolating beyond Endo, if one accepts the premise that companies are obligated to use legal means to minimize tax costs, and if one then takes this precedent to the logical conclusion, this transaction could/should be a road map for other companies to follow. Is Congress paying attention?
When it comes to US equities today, the picture below summarizes it all... the only question is whether the NYSE breaks to celebrate the year's overhyped social media IPO.Aside from the non-event that is the going public of a company that will likely not generate profits for years, if ever, the overnight market has been quiet with all major stock indices in Asia trading modestly lower on the back of a modestly stronger dollar, although the main currency to watch will be the Euro (German Industrial production of -0.9% today was a miss of 0.0% expectations and down from 1.6% previously), when the ECB releases its monthly statement at 7:45 am Eastern when it is largely expected to do nothing but may hint at more easing in the future. On the US docket we have the weekly initial claims (expected at 335k) which now that they are again in a rising phase, have been the latest data item to be ignored in the Bizarro market, as well as the latest Q3 GDP estimate, pegged by consensus at 2.0%.
It’s no secret by now that governments in Europe, Japan and America have spent and borrowed beyond their means. As IceCap's Keith Dicker notes, including both current debt and future unfunded liabilities, it is estimated America owes over $87 trillion dollars, while the Eurozone countries are on the hook for over $89 trillion. That’s a fistful of dollars. From a tax perspective, the incapacity of these super economic powers, becomes all the more clear. America’s annual tax revenue is only $2.5 trillion, while in Europe, they manage to squeak out roughly $5 trillion. From this view, America is leveraged 34.8x their tax revenues, while the Eurozone is leveraged at 17.8x their tax revenue. As Keith points out in his excellent letter, for the US, Japan, and Europe, Elvis has very much left the building on getting back to 'normal'.
Just over 400-years ago today, a group of 13 conspirators were caught trying to assassinate King James I of England and blow up the House of Lords in what became known as the Gunpowder Treason. Fundamentally, the Gunpowder Treason was about freedom. The English monarchy at the time was controlling nearly every aspect of the economy and their subjects’ lives– from what they could wear to how they could worship.“Sumptuary laws” which regulated private behavior were commonplace. When you think about it, the collapse was inevitable. The Gunpowder Treason of November 5, 1605 may have been a failure for the conspirators, but given enough time, a system so screwed up, so unsustainable, was destined to collapse on itself. We’re not so different in the west today. Is it wise to think that this time is any different?
Recent surveys and research studies by sources from the UN to streetRx.com put the size of the illegal drug market in the U.S. at anywhere from $200 to $750 billion. The market is notoriously hard to track by design, and it is constantly evolving as prices and usage fluctuates; but as ConvergEx's Nick Colas notes, there’s a plethora of data on the topic: formal surveys by the CDC and user-submitted blog posted on websites like Hightimes.com trace price, usage, and traffic stats for marijuana, powder and crack cocaine, d-methamphetamine, and heroin. Legalized dispensaries now allow us to estimate potential tax revenue from marijuana sales, while incarceration rates for drug offenders reveal the economic impact of the illegal drug trade. In short, while the illegal drug market might be hard to track – if only by virtue of its illegality – Colas points out that we can learn a lot about its size and scope by aggregating these formal and informal data. Most surprising of them all: illicit drug use is no longer the realm of just the youth.
Having previously exposed the world to the "nominal stock market cheerleaders," it is clear that Kyle Bass sees things as only having got worse among developed nations. In fact, the following interview shows that he does not fear US losing its credibility since "developed western economies with the largest debt loads are all in the same boat." The discussion expands from the debt ceiling debacle to bonds and stocks, "given the lack of nominal yield in the bond market, all of the new money is going to continue into stocks. The interesting thing is it’s going to make the rich people richer and the middle and lower class won’t be any better off, which is the opposite of what the administration is trying to pull off," adding that being in stocks "is not your choice," thanks to Fed repression and that deficit contraction is all that can stop the Fed now.
Today there is a great sense of relief that has swept the nation as news flowed through the media that the government shutdown had come to an end. After all, during the 16 days of the shutdown, there was great hardship inflicted on the average American as the stock market rose by 2.4%, government workers that were furloughed received a 2+ week paid vacation and interest rates fell from a peak of 2.65% on October 1st to 2.59% on October 17th. Outside of the financial markets, which were never concerned of a "default," the reality is that the government shutdown did likely clip up to 0.5% off of 4th quarter's GDP. While that clip to economic growth created by the government standoff is temporary - the ongoing persistant weakness of economic growth is another issue entirely. This is the focus of this discussion. The most disturbing sentence uttered during the debt ceiling debate/government shut down, that should raise some concerns by both political parties, is: "We must increase our debt limit so that we can pay our bills."
Legitimate revolution takes time, patience and fortitude. Unfortunately, this is a strategic concept that is lost on many Americans today who suffer from a now common ailment of attention deficit disorder and an obsession with immediate gratification. Even some who have their hearts in the right place and who work to defend and resurrect our nation’s founding ideals seem to believe that any action to defeat corrupt oligarchy must be effective immediately, otherwise, it’s not worth the attempt. History, of course, teaches us the opposite. As things stand at this moment, though, the death of the system is not something to cheer, no matter how much we might wish it to crumble under the weight of its own criminality. The collapse of the existing system will not be the end of our troubles, only the beginning. Chaos always opens doors for evil men, and they will certainly take full advantage of the chaos triggered by shutdown, default or continued inflationary debt spending. We must make ourselves ready to resist by making ourselves separate from the monster we plan to fight. Crisis waits for no one, and on the path our nation now walks, crisis is assured.
Apparently the IRS has fallen on hard times in light of all this government shutdown and sequestration nonsense. Too bad. According to a recent report from the Treasury Department, ‘enforcement revenue’ at the IRS has fallen for the second straight year. Tax enforcement is one of the only ‘money makers’ for the US government; according to the IRS, every dollar spent on tax enforcement generates six dollars in additional tax revenue. Unfortunately for the IRS, though, the agency’s head count has been thinning. They no longer have enough people, and enforcement revenue has been declining. Ordinarily the IRS supplements its ranks with legions of unpaid spies in the financial sector. Starting July 1, 2014, though, the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) will give the IRS a new addition in its ever-growing list of unpaid spies. You.
It’s obvious that we might sometimes have the impression the freedom has no price on it. But, think again.