Lee Kuan Yew and Benjamin Netanyahu: The Politics of Fear

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When Lee Kuan Yew died on March 23, he was rightly acknowledged as having built Singapore into a strong and vibrant economic power after its tumultuous separation from Malaysia in 1965. His strict authoritarian regime over three decades was rationalized…

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U.S. Defense Secretary: We Might Bomb Iran Even If a Peace Agreement Is Signed

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People Want Peace … But the Military-Industrial Complex Wants War
U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said that a deal with Iran wouldn’t necessarily prevent war.
Military.com reports:
The U.S. will reserve the right to use military force to prevent…

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“ISIS in Brooklyn”: US Media Inflate Threats With “ISIS Plots” Which Don’t Actually Involve ISIS

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Last Friday, the FBI announced another harrowing, 11th-hour capture of Americans plotting to join “ISIS” and launch attack within the United States. The case of two Illinois men, Army National Guard Specialist Hasan Edmonds and his cousin Jonas Edmonds, ostensibly…

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What Happens After A Mega Corporation Raises Its Workers’ Wages

Earlier today, McDonalds announced that it would become the latest company to raise hourly pay for 90,000 workers by more than 10% and add benefits such as paid vacation for its restaurant workers. Specifically, starting in July, MCD will pay at least $1 per hour more than the local legal minimum wage for employees at the roughly 1,500 restaurants it owns in the U.S. The increase will lift the average hourly rate for its U.S. restaurant employees to $9.90 on July 1 and more than $10 by the end of 2016, from $9.01 currently. Finally, McDonald’s also will enable workers after a year of employment to accrue up to five days of paid time-off annually.

With this announcement, McDonalds joins the following companies which have likewise raised minimum wages in recent months:

  • WalMart
  • Aetna
  • Gap
  • Ikea
  • Target
  • TJ Maxx

Surely this is great news for the workers of these above companies, as some of the massive wealth accrued by corporate shareholders may be finally trickling down to the lowliest of employees, right? As it turns out, the answer is far from clear.

As the following WSJ story released overnight, here is what happens when mega-corporations such as WalMart and McDonalds, whose specialty are commoditized products and services and have razor thin margins, yet which try to give an appearance of doing the right thing, raise minimum wages. They start flexing their muscles, and in the process trample all over the companies that comprise their own cost overhead: their suppliers and vendors.

Take the case of WalMart: the world’s biggest retailer “is increasing the pressure on suppliers to cut the cost of their products, in an effort to regain the mantle of low-price leader and turn around its sluggish U.S. sales.”

What WalMart is doing is borderline illegal: it is explicitly telling its vendors “this is what you will do with your excess cash.” Of course, we say borderline because WMT’s action is perfectly legal in the confines of the pure law. However, in the context of an economy that is sputtering, WMT’s vendors have no choice but to comply or risk losing what is certainly their largest revenue stream and risk bankruptcy.

The retailing behemoth says it has been telling suppliers to forgo investments in joint marketing with the retailer and plow the savings into lower prices instead. Makers of branded consumer products from diapers to yogurt typically earmark a portion of their budgets for marketing with Wal-Mart, spending on things like eye-catching product displays and online advertisements.

 

Wal-Mart has long had a reputation for pressing its suppliers to cut costs to help lower prices, but the retailer’s new leadership has embraced the concept with fresh vigor. Wal-Mart’s price advantage against its competitors has been eroded, and it has steadily been losing market share in the U.S. since the recession ended, while rivals including Kroger Co. and Costco Wholesale Corp. gained share, according to data from the consultancy Kantar Retail.

 

The new dictate on prices is creating tension with companies that supply the hundreds of thousands of products on Wal-Mart’s shelves.

The irony is that while WMT (or MCD or GAP or Target) boosts the living standards of its employees by the smallest of fractions, it cripples the cost and wage structure of the entire ecosystem of vendors that feed into it, and what takes place is a veritable avalanche effect where a few cent increase for the lowest paid megacorp employees results in a tidal wave of layoffs for said megacorp’s vendors.

The zeal on pricing is part of a push by new Chief Executive Doug McMillon and U.S. head Greg Foran to turn around Wal-Mart’s core domestic business, which booked $288 billion in sales in the year ended Jan. 31, 60% of the company’s total. While U.S. sales were up 3% last year, the growth was a scant 0.5% excluding newly opened stores, and the division’s profit fell.

 

Messrs. Foran and McMillon laid out the pricing message during a private meeting with suppliers in February. They want suppliers to operate with the same everyday low cost model that Wal-Mart employs from top to bottom.

 

“They kept pushing, ‘We’re going back to basics, it’s all about low pricing,’ ” said one supplier who attended the meeting.

And a quick lesson in corporate double speak: where the new CEO says:

“We want to get back to a point where we are playing offense with price because of the way we go to market,” Mr. McMillon said, according to a transcript. “Our pricing strategy is aimed at one objective, and that is building trust.”

… what he means is that “our strategy is to remind our vendors that we call all the shots and since we can’t cut prices any more, they will have to do it.

Messrs. Foran and McMillon laid out the pricing message during a private meeting with suppliers in February. They want suppliers to operate with the same everyday low cost model that Wal-Mart employs from top to bottom.

 

“They kept pushing, ‘We’re going back to basics, it’s all about low pricing,’ ” said one supplier who attended the meeting.

Which is another way of saying “deflation” in compensation, also synonymous for “lower wages for everyone else.” Because now that each of WalMart’s suppliers is forced by WMT management to cut their costs and to be “price competitive”, they will either reduce wages of its own workers or, comparably, force their own suppliers to reduce pricing, and so on, until ultimatly the entire economy is gripped in wage deflation.

Which also means that Obama, who has decided to join the Fed in micro-managing the economy by diktat, will have no choice but to issue more executive orders, to undo the aftermath of this previous short-sighted commands. Perhaps he will start be realizing that it is not minimum wage that he should be focusing on but maximum hours as explained before:

Although when faced with what now appears certain sliding wages across a deflating US economy, not even Obama will be able to come up with mutually offsetting executive orders fast enough to fix what is now a runaway train on a collision course.

In fact, the only winner here, once again, will be the banks who will continue to fabricate, spin and perpetuate the lie that the only thing that can fix the next wave of declining wages is, as always, QE – QE whose only intention and purpose is to steal from the poor and middle class and give to the 0.01%.




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The Fed’s Big Problem: “De-Risking A Bull Market Is Very Different From De-Risking A Bear Market”

Submitted by Ben Hunt via Salient Partners' Epsilon Theory blog,

 

Do, or do not. There is no try.”

– Yoda, “Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back” (1980)

 

 

 

I see it all perfectly; there are two possible situations – one can either do this or that. My honest opinion and my friendly advice is this: do it or do not do it – you will regret both.
Soren Kierkegaard, "Either/Or: A Fragment of Life" (1843)

The only victories which leave no regret are those which are gained over ignorance.
Napoleon Bonaparte (1769 – 1821)

Maybe all one can do is hope to end up with the right regrets.
Arthur Miller, "The Ride Down Mt. Morgan" (1991)

Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, "It might have been."
Kurt Vonnegut, "Cat's Cradle" (1963)

One can't reason away regret – it's a bit like falling in love, falling to regret.
Graham Greene, "The Human Factor" (1978)

I bet there's rich folks eatin'
In a fancy dining car.
They're probably drinkin' coffee
And smokin' big cigars.
Well I know I had it comin'.
I know I can't be free.
But those people keep-a-movin'
And that's what tortures me.

– Johnny Cash, “Folsom Prison Blues” (1955)

 

Regrets…I've had a few.
But then again, too few to mention.

– Paul Anka, Frank Sinatra “My Way” (1969)

 

 

 

 

 

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

Omar Khayyam, "Rubaiyat" (1048 – 1141)

You can tell it any way you want but that's the way it is. I should of done it and I didn't. And some part of me has never quit wishin' I could go back. And I can't. I didn't know you could steal your own life. And I didn't know that it would bring you no more benefit than about anything else you might steal. I think I done the best with it I knew how but it still wasn't mine. It never has been."
Cormac McCarthy, "No Country for Old Men" (2005)

Jesse:

Yeah, right, well, great. So listen, so here's the deal. This is what we should do. You should get off the train with me here in Vienna, and come check out the capital.

Celine:

What?

Jesse:

Come on. It'll be fun. Come on.

Celine:

What would we do?

Jesse:

Umm, I don't know. All I know is I have to catch an Austrian Airlines flight tomorrow morning at 9:30 and I don't really have enough money for a hotel, so I was just going to walk around, and it would be a lot more fun if you came with me. And if I turn out to be some kind of psycho, you know, you just get on the next train.
Alright, alright. Think of it like this: jump ahead, ten, twenty years, okay, and you're married. Only your marriage doesn't have that same energy that it used to have, y'know. You start to blame your husband. You start to think about all those guys you've met in your life and what might have happened if you'd picked up with one of them, right? Well, I'm one of those guys. That's me, y'know, so think of this as time travel, from then, to now, to find out what you're missing out on. See, what this really could be is a gigantic favor to both you and your future husband to find out that you're not missing out on anything. I'm just as big a loser as he is, totally unmotivated, totally boring, and, uh, you made the right choice, and you're really happy.

Celine:

Let me get my bag.

Richard Linklater, "Before Sunrise" (1995)

For it falls out
That what we have we prize not to the worth
Whiles we enjoy it, but being lacked and lost,
Why, then we rack the value, then we find
The virtue that possession would not show us
While it was ours.

William Shakespeare, "Much Ado About Nothing" (1612)

When to the sessions of sweet silence thought
I summon up rememberence of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time's waste:

William Shakespeare, "Sonnet 30" (1609)

No, I don't have a gun.

– Nirvana, “Come As You Are” (1992)

 

 

 

 

 

 

I spend a lot of my time speaking with investors and financial advisors of all stripes and sizes, and here’s what I’m hearing, loud and clear. There’s a massive disconnect between advisors and investors today, and it’s reflected in both declining investment activity as well as a general fatigue with the advisor-investor conversation. I mean “advisor-investor conversation” in the broadest possible context, a context that should be recognizable to everyone reading this note. It’s the conversation of a financial advisor with an individual investor client. It’s the conversation of a consultant with an institutional investor client. It’s the conversation of a CIO with a Board of Directors. It’s the conversation of many of us with ourselves. The wariness and weariness associated with this conversation runs in both directions, by the way.

Advisors continue to preach the faith of diversification, and investors continue to genuflect in its general direction. But the sermon isn’t connecting. Investors continue to express their nervousness with the market and dissatisfaction with their portfolio performance, and advisors continue to nod their heads and say they understand. It reminds me of Jason Headley’s brilliant short film, “It’s Not About the Nail”, with the advisor reprising Headley’s role. Yes, the advisor is listening. But most find it impossible to get past what they believe is the obvious answer to the obvious problem. Got a headache? Take the nail out of your head. Nervous about the market? Diversify your portfolio. But there are headaches and then there are headaches. There is nervousness and then there is nervousness. It’s not about the nail, and the sooner advisors realize this, the sooner they will find a way to reconnect with their clients. Even if it’s just a conversation with yourself.

Investors aren’t asking for diversification, which isn’t that surprising after 6 years of a bull market. Investors never ask for diversification after 6 years of a bull market. They only ask for it after the Fall, as a door-closing exercise when the horse has already left the burning barn. What’s surprising is that investors are asking for de-risking, similar in some respects to diversification but different in crucial ways. What’s surprising is that investors are asking for de-risking rather than re-risking, which is what you’d typically expect at this stage of such a powerful bull market.

Investors are asking for de-risking because this is the most mistrusted bull market in recorded history, a market that seemingly everyone wants to fade rather than press. Why? Because no one thinks this market is real. Everyone believes that it’s a by-product of outrageously extraordinary monetary policy actions rather than the by-product of fundamental economic growth and productivity, and what the Fed giveth … the Fed can taketh away. 

This is a big problem for the Fed, as their efforts to force greater risk-taking in markets through LSAP and QE (and thus more productive risk-taking, or at least inflation, in the real economy) have failed to take hold in investor hearts and minds. Yes, we’re fully invested, but only because we have to be. To paraphrase the old saying about beauty, risk-taking is only skin deep for today’s investor, but risk-aversion goes clear to the bone.

It’s also the root of our current advisor-investor malaise. De-risking a bull market is a very different animal than de-risking a bear market. And neither is the same as diversification.

Let’s take that second point first.

Here’s a simple representation of what diversification looks like, from a risk/reward perspective.

                              For illustrative purposes only.

The gold ball is whatever your portfolio looks like today from a historical risk/reward perspective, and the goal of diversification is to move your portfolio up and to the left of the risk/reward trade-off line that runs diagonally through the current portfolio position. Diversification is all about increasing the risk/reward balance, about getting more reward per unit of risk in your portfolio, and the goodness or poorness of your diversification effort is defined by how far you move your portfolio away from that diagonal line. In fact, as the graph below shows, each of the Good Diversification outcomes are equally good from a risk/reward balance perspective because they are equally distant from the original risk/reward balance line, and vice versa for the Poor Diversification outcomes.

                                  For illustrative purposes only.

Diversification does NOT mean getting more reward out of your portfolio per se, which means that some Poor Diversification changes to your portfolio will outperform some Good Diversification changes to your portfolio over time (albeit with a much bumpier ride).

                                  For illustrative purposes only.

It’s an absolute myth to say that any well-diversified portfolio will outperform all poorly diversified portfolios over time. But it’s an absolute truth to say that any well-diversified portfolio will outperform all poorly diversified portfolios over time on a risk-adjusted basis. If an investor is thinking predominantly in terms of risk and reward, then greater diversification is the slam-dunk portfolio recommendation. This is the central insight of Harry Markowitz and his modern portfolio theory contemporaries, and I’m sure I don’t need to belabor that for anyone reading this note.

The problem is that investors are not only risk/reward maximizers, they are also regret minimizers (see Epsilon Theory notes “Why Take a Chance” and “The Koan of Donald Rumsfeld” for more, or read anything by Daniel Kahneman). The meaning of “risk” must be understood as not only as the other side of the reward coin, but also as the co-pilot of behavioral regret. That’s a mixed metaphor, and it’s intentional. The human animal holds two very different meanings for risk in its brain simultaneously. One notion of risk, as part and parcel of expected investment returns and the path those returns are likely to take, is captured well by the concept of volatility and the toolkit of modern economic theory. The other, as part and parcel of the psychological utility associated with both realized and foregone investment returns, is captured well by the concepts of evolutionary biology and the toolkit of modern game theory.

The problem is that diversification can only be understood as an exercise in risk/reward maximization, has next to nothing to say about regret minimization, and thus fails to connect with investors who are consumed by concerns of regret minimization. This fundamental miscommunication is almost always present in any advisor-investor conversation, but it is particularly pernicious during periods of global debt deleveraging as we saw in the 1870’s, the 1930’s, and today. Why? Because the political consequences of that deleveraging create investment uncertainty in the technical, game theoretic sense, an uncertainty which is reflected in reduced investor confidence in the efficacy of fundamental market and macroeconomic factors to drive market outcomes. In other words, the rules of the investment game change when politicians attempt to maintain the status quo – i.e., their power – when caught in the hurricane of a global debt crisis. That’s what happened in the 1870’s. That’s what happened in the 1930’s. And it’s darn sure happening today. We all feel it. We all feel like we’ve entered some Brave New World where the old market moorings make little sense, and that’s what’s driving the acute anxiety expressed today by investors both large and small. Recommending old-school diversification techniques as a cure-all for this psychological pain isn’t necessarily wrong. It probably won’t do any harm. But it’s not doing anyone much good, either. It’s not about the nail.

On the other hand, the concept of de-risking has a lot of meaning within the context of regret minimization, which makes it a good framework for exploring a more psychologically satisfactory set of portfolio allocation recommendations. But to develop that framework, we need to ask what drives investment regret. And just as we talk about different notions of volatility-based portfolio constructions under different market regimes, so do we need to talk about different notions of regret-based portfolio constructions under different market regimes.

Okay, that last paragraph was a bit of a mouthful. Let me skip the academic-ese and get straight to the point. In a bear market, regret minimization is driven by existential concerns. In a bull market, regret minimization is driven by peer comparisons.

In a bear market your primary regret – the thing you must avoid at all costs – is ruin, and that provokes a very direct, very physical reaction. You can’t sleep. And that’s why Rule #1 of de-risking in a bear market is so simple: sell until you can sleep at night. Go to cash. Here’s what de-risking in a bear market looks like, as drawn in risk/reward space.

                                            For illustrative purposes only.

Again, the gold ball is whatever your portfolio looks like today from a historical risk/reward perspective. De-risking means moving your portfolio to the left, i.e. a lower degree of risk. The question is how much reward you are forced to sacrifice for that move to the left. Perfect De-Risking sacrifices zero performance. Good luck with that if you are reducing your gross exposure. Average De-Risking is typically accomplished by selling down your portfolio in a pro rata fashion across all of your holdings, and that’s a simple, effective strategy. Good De-Risking and Poor De-Risking are the result of active choices in selling down some portion of your portfolio more than another portion of your portfolio, or – if you don’t want to go to cash – replacing something in your portfolio that’s relatively volatile with something that’s relatively less volatile.

In a bull market, on the other hand, your primary regret is looking or feeling stupid, and that provokes a very conflicted, very psychological reaction. You want to de-risk because you don’t understand this market, and you’re scared of what will happen when the policy ground shifts. But you’re equally scared of being tagged with the worst possible insults you can suffer in our business: “you’re a panicker” … “you missed the greatest bull market of this or any other generation”. Again, maybe this is a conversation you’re having with yourself (frankly, that’s the most difficult and conflicted conversation most of us will ever have). And so you do nothing. You avoid making a decision, which means you also avoid the advisor-investor conversation. Ultimately everyone, advisor and investor alike, looks to blame someone else for their own feelings of unease. No one’s happy, even as the good times roll.

So what’s to be done? Is it possible to both de-risk a portfolio and satisfy the regret minimization calculus of a bull market?

Through the lens of regret minimization, here’s what de-risking in a bull market looks like, again as depicted in risk/reward space:

                                             For illustrative purposes only.

Essentially you’ve taken all of the bear market de-risking arrows and moved them 45 degrees clockwise. What would be Perfect De-Risking in a bear market is only perceived as average in a bull market, and many outcomes that would be considered Good Diversification in pure risk/reward terms are seen as Poor De-Risking. I submit that this latter condition, what I’ve marked with an asterisk in the graph above, is exactly what poisons so many advisor-investor conversations today. It’s a portfolio adjustment that’s up and to the left from the diagonal risk/reward balance line, so you’re getting better risk-adjusted returns and Good Diversification – but it’s utterly disappointing in a bull market as peer comparison regret minimization takes hold. It doesn’t even serve as a Good De-Risking outcome as it would in a bear market.

Now here’s the good news. There are diversification outcomes that overlap with the bull market Good De-Risking outcomes, as shown in the graph below. In fact, it’s ONLY diversification strategies that can get you into the bull market Good De-Risking area. That is, typical de-risking strategies look to cut exposure, not replace it with equivalent but uncorrelated exposure as diversification strategies do, and you’re highly unlikely to improve the reward profile of your portfolio (moving up vertically from the horizontal line going through the gold ball) by reducing gross exposure. The trick to satisfying investors in a bull market is to increase reward AND reduce volatility. I never said this was easy.

                                    For illustrative purposes only.

The question is … what diversification strategies can move your portfolio into this promised land? Also (as if this weren’t a challenging enough task already), what diversification strategies can work quickly enough to satisfy a de-risking calculus? Diversification can take a long time to prove itself, and that’s rarely acceptable to investors who are seeking the immediate portfolio impact of de-risking, whether it’s the bear market or bull market variety.

What we need are diversification strategies that can act quickly. More to the point, we need strategies that can react quickly, all while maintaining a full head of steam with their gross exposure to non-correlated or negatively-correlated return streams. This is at the heart of what I’ve been calling Adaptive Investing.

Epsilon Theory isn’t the right venue to make specific investment recommendations. But I’ll make three general points.

First, I’d suggest looking at strategies that can go short. If you’re de-risking a bull market, you need to make money when you’re right, not just lose less money. Losing less money pays off over the long haul, but the long haul is problematic from a regret-based perspective, which tends to be quite path-sensitive. Short positions are, by definition, negatively correlated to the thing that they’re short. They have a lot more oomph than the non-correlated or weakly-correlated exposures that are at the heart of most old-school diversification strategies, and that’s really powerful in this framework. Of course, you’ve got to be right about your shorts for this to work, which is why I’m suggesting a look at strategies that CAN go short as an adaptation to changing circumstances, not necessarily strategies that ARE short as a matter of habit or requirement.

Second, and relatedly, I’d suggest looking at trend-following strategies, which keep you in assets that are working and get you out of assets that aren’t (or better yet, allow you to go short the assets that aren’t working). Trend-following strategies are inherently behaviorally-based, which is near and dear to the Epsilon Theory heart, and more importantly they embody the profound agnosticism that I think is absolutely critical to maintain when uncertainty rules the day and fundamental “rules” change on political whim. Trend-following strategies are driven by the maxim that the market is always right, and that’s never been more true – or more difficult to remember – than here in the Golden Age of the Central Banker.

Third, these graphs of portfolio adjustments in risk/reward space are not hypothetical exercises. Take the historical risk/reward of your current portfolio, or some portion of that portfolio such as the real assets allocation, and just see what the impact of including one or more liquid alternative strategies would be over the past few years. Check out what the impact on your portfolio would be since the Fed and the ECB embarked on divergent monetary policy courses late last summer, creating an entirely different macroeconomic regime. Seriously, it’s not a difficult exercise, and I think you’ll be surprised at what, for example, a relatively small trend-following allocation can do to de-risk a portfolio while still preserving the regret-based logic of managing a portfolio in a bull market. For both advisors and investors, this is the time to engage in a conversation about de-risking and diversification, properly understood as creatures of regret minimization as well as risk/reward maximization, rather than to avoid the conversation. As the old saying goes, risk happens fast. Well … so does regret.  




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Chinese Retail Investors Open Enough Brokerage Accounts In March For Every Man, Woman, and Child In LA

Last week we highlighted a Bloomberg chart which showed that more than a quarter of new investors in the “self-feeding, leverage-fueled domestic frenzy” that is China’s equity market have an elementary school level education or less. Bloomberg categorized nearly 6% of new Chinese stock investors as “illiterate.” If true, we imagine this doesn’t bode particularly well for a bubble that’s been inflated on the back of massive leverage (buying on margin accounts for a fifth of daily turnover and margin debt now sits at 1% of GDP). As a reminder, here’s the graphic: 

 

Now, thanks to the China Securities Depository and Clearing Co., we get a look at just how quickly the situation is escalating. Nearly 1.7 million new stock accounts were created last week…

…marking a 49% increase from the previous week…

…which itself represented a 58% increase from the week before…

Here’s more via Bloomberg:

To get a sense of the frenzy in China’s world-beating equity market, consider this: In a two-week span last month, the rally lured 2.8 million rookie stock pickers, almost the equivalent of Chicago’s entire population.

 

The number of new equity accounts surged to a record during the two weeks ended March 27, five times the average of the past year, data from China Securities Depository and Clearing Co. showed on Tuesday. About 4 million were opened in

March, enough for every person in Los Angeles. More than two-thirds of new investors have never attended or graduated from high school, according to a survey by China’s Southwestern University of Finance and Economics.

 

Signs of inexperienced investors’ growing influence on the $6.5 trillion market have already shown up in the outperformance of China’s equivalent of penny stocks and a jump in share-price volatility to the highest level in five years. While fresh capital may feed market momentum as the government steps up efforts to support economic growth, foreign money managers have been selling shares on concern the gains are overdone.

 

“A lot of speculative money has come into the market,” Michael Wang, a strategist at hedge fund Amiya Capital LLP, said by phone from London. The rally “is not fundamentally driven. It’s much more of a flow-driven phenomenon,” he said.

*  *  *

We certainly don’t see what could go wrong here. Last month alone, a new investor base the size of Los Angeles — many of whom may be only semi-literate — piled into Chinese equities which have nearly doubled in the space of 8 months on the back of margin debt that can now be measured as a percentage of GDP and volatility is at a 5-year high. Everything should be fine. 




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Closing in on Assad: ISIS captures Palestinian refugee camp inside Damascus

http://ift.tt/1GNnGxx
Fighters from ISIS have a new base of operations just some 6 km from the residence of Syrian President Bashar Assad, after entering Yarmouk, a Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus suburbs, amid reports of assistance from the Al-Qaeda-affiliates.
Read Full Article at RT.com

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5 Charts Which Show That The Next Economic Crash Is Dead Ahead

Submitted by Michael Snyder via The Economic Collapse blog,

When an economic crisis is coming, there are usually certain indicators that appear in advance.  For example, commodity prices usually start to plunge before a recession begins.  And as you can see from the Bloomberg Commodity Index which you can find right here, this has already been happening.  In addition, I have previously written about how the U.S. dollar went on a great run just before the financial collapse of 2008.  This is something that has also been happening over the past few months.  Some people would have you believe that nobody can anticipate the next great economic downturn and that to try to do so is just an exercise in “guesswork”.  But that is not the case at all.  We can look back over history and see patterns that keep repeating.  And a lot of the exact same patterns that happened just before previous stock market crashes are happening again right now.

For example, let’s talk about the price of oil.  There are only two times in history when the price of oil has fallen by more than 50 dollars in a six month time period.  One was just before the financial crisis in 2008, and the other has just happened…

Price Of Oil 2015

As a result of crashing oil prices, we are witnessing oil rigs shut down in the United States at a blistering pace.  In fact, almost half of all oil rigs in the U.S. have already shut down.  The following commentary and chart come from Wolf Richter

In the latest week, drillers idled another 41 oil rigs, according to Baker Hughes. Only 825 rigs were still active, down 48.7% from October. In the 23 weeks since, drillers have idled 784 oil rigs, the steepest, deepest cliff-dive in the history of the data:

 

Fracking Bust 2015

We are looking at a full-blown fracking bust, and this bust is already having a dramatic impact on the economies of states that are heavily dependent on the energy industry.

For example, just check out the disturbing number that just came out of Texas

The crash in oil prices is hammering the Texas economy.

 

The latest manufacturing outlook index from the Dallas Fed plunged again in March, to -17.4 from -11.2 in February, indicating deteriorating business conditions in the state.

Ouch.

But this pain is going to be felt far beyond Texas.  In recent years, Wall Street banks have made a massive amount of money packaging up energy industry loans, bonds, etc. and selling them off to investors.

If that sounds similar to the kind of behavior that preceded the subprime mortgage meltdown, that is because it is.

Now those loans, bonds, etc. are going bad as the fracking bust intensifies, and whoever is left holding all of this worthless paper at the end of the day is going to lose an extraordinary amount of money.  Here is more from Wolf Richter

It suited Wall Street just fine: according to Dealogic, banks extracted $31 billion in fees from the US oil and gas industry and its investors over the past five years by handling IPOs, spin-offs, “leveraged-loan” transactions, the sale of bonds and junk bonds, and M&A.

 

That’s $6 billion in fees per year! Over the last four years, these banks made over $4 billion in fees on just “leveraged loans.” These loans to over-indebted, junk-rated companies soared from about $40 billion in 2009 to $210 billion in 2014 before it came to a screeching halt.

For Wall Street it doesn’t matter what happens to these junk bonds and leveraged loans after they’ve been moved on to mutual funds where they can decompose sight-unseen. And it doesn’t matter to Wall Street what happens to leverage loans after they’ve been repackaged into highly rated Collateralized Loan Obligations that are then sold to others.

At the same time, we are also witnessing a slowdown in global trade.  This usually happens when economic conditions are about to turn sour, and that is why it is so alarming that the total volume of global trade in January was down 1.4 percent from December.  According to Tyler Durden of Zero Hedge, that was the largest drop since 2011…

Presenting the latest data from the CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis, according to which in January world trade by volume dropped by a whopping 1.4% from December: the biggest drop since 2011!

Global Trade Volume

We are seeing some troubling signs in the U.S. as well.

I shared the following chart in a previous article, but it bears repeating.  It comes from Charles Hugh Smith, and it shows that new orders for consumer goods are falling at a rate not seen since the last recession…

Charles Hugh-Smith New Orders

Well, what about the stock market?  It was up more than 200 points on Monday.  Isn’t that good news?

Yes, but the euphoria on Wall Street will not last for long.

When corporate earnings per share either start flattening out or start to decline, that is a huge red flag.  We saw this just prior to the stock market crash of 2008, and it is happening again right now.  The following commentary and chart come from Phoenix Capital Research

Take a look at the below chart showing current stock levels and changes in forward Earnings Per Share (EPS). Note, in particular how divergences between EPS and stocks tend to play out (hint look at 2007-2008).

 

Change In 12 Month EPS

We all know what came next.

And guess what?

According to CNBC, a lot of the “smart money” is pulling their money out of the stock market right now while the getting is good…

Recent market volatility has sent stock market investors rushing for the exits and into cash.

 

Outflows from equity-based funds in 2015 have reached their highest level since 2009, thanks to a seesaw market that has come under pressure from weak economic data, a stronger dollar and the the prospect of monetary tightening.

 

Funds that invest in stocks have seen $44 billion in outflows, or redemptions, year to date, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Equity funds have seen outflows in five of the last six weeks, including $6.1 billion in just the last week.

It doesn’t matter if you are a millionaire “on paper” today.

What matters is if the money is going to be there when you really need it.

At the moment, a whole lot of people have been lulled into a false sense of complacency by the soaring stock market and by the bubble of false economic stability that we have been enjoying.

But under the surface, there is a whole lot of turmoil going on.

Those that are looking for the signs are going to see the next crisis approaching well in advance.

Those that are not are going to get absolutely blindsided by what is coming.

Don’t let that happen to you.




via Zero Hedge Read More Here..

U.S. Veterans Reveal 1962 Nuclear Close Call Dodged in Okinawa

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Ota Masakatsu’s horrifying account of an erroneous order to launch nuclear missiles in Okinawa during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 raises the possibility that, despite the U.S. military’s vehement denials, a nuclear war could start by accident. While much…

Vía Global Research http://ift.tt/1IoDHZe

Iran Nuke Deal Status: Hold the Cheers

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Done framework deal or unfinished business? Early Wednesday morning Lausanne time, Russian media reported P5+1 countries and Iran reached agreement “in principle on all key aspects of a deal.”
According to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov:
“One can say with…

Vía Global Research http://ift.tt/1IoDHZc