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Financial Skeptic Bulletin, March 2012

Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

This one year old selection of news. It's really funny to read forecasts that are just one year old.

Note: Despite doom and gloom stock market went from 1260 to 1460 in one year. This new stock and bonds bubble was supported by Fed.

NEWS CONTENTS

Old News ;-)

March

[Mar 27, 2012] The Economy's Great Fall Are the Losses Permanent

Economist's View

sam

Of course Ben Shalom Bernanke is talking up aggregate demand. He wants another round of QE. The banking cartel wants another QE. And the stock market wants another round too.

kind of like flair bartenders pouring shots directly into an alcoholic's gaping mouth...of course, anyone who has ever gotten drunk and sick knows that the shit can hit the fan pretty quickly and all of a sudden and then you find yourself throwing up all over floor.

And in other news, the US national debt looks like it's heading towards $16 trillion by election day.

ken melvin
It's a new economics, the old models don't apply. It's not about mismatches nor demand, it's all about offshoring and automation.
Tyler
I reject "foresight" being mentioned in the same sentence as "Greenspan" unless the sentence goes, "During his time as Fed chairman, Alan Greenspan exhibited the exact opposite of foresight."

bakho

All societies that achieve an increase in productivity through process improvement or from trade will have a need for less labor or the ability to provide more goods and services. There are several ways to address excess labor.

1. Allow unabated Unemployment Hell for a lost generation of workers who form a societal underclass.

2. Distribute the leisure time among everyone with shorter work week.

3. Have BigG as employer of last result employ people to provide additional goods and services.

Cheap Labor Republicans and conservatives really like #1.

Dean Baker and the Sandwichman really like #2 but that solution may be too "French" for the US.

#3 is a resurgence of New Deal and Great Society Policies that are viciously attacked by conservatives and poorly defended by too timid, easily cowered, post-partisan Democrats.

Under the current Do-Nothing Congress, we have the default which is Unemployment Hell.

Ellis
Actually, I think companies are squeezing more work out of fewer people. So are government agencies. Just ask the school teachers who are now faced with much bigger class sizes, while hundreds of thousands of teachers are forced onto the street. Don't economists and government officials read the newspapers or speak to actual people who are not upper class?
Edward Lambert
Savings rate is going down again... demand will not return like it once was... based on easy credit...
The only way to recover demand according to the long-term trend is by raising wages and/or providing better puclic goods and services (including health care).
Lafayette
ALAS

{The only way to recover demand according to the long-term trend is by raising wages and/or providing better puclic goods and services (including health care)}

There is yet another way: Putting people presently on UI back to work.

Raising wages is the devil's handiwork. Why did WalMart become America's favorite shopping center? Because it realized long, long ago that Americans want to save a buck - and they don't give a damn who produces the product they think they want or need.

BigAuto, by its incessant renegotiation of both Comp & Ben, priced itself out of the market - aside from the fact that it was producing too many lemons. It's health-care benefits were particularly onerous and, I once saw reported, added 1200/1500 dollars per car.

What can we learn from that experience? That if the US had a National Health Care system, the costly insurance policies that impact the Benefits Package would be far less expensive and the cost would not need to be recuperated from end-product's market price.

Thus making our goods/services both domestically and internationally more competitive. So, why are the Supremes (this day) pondering the present palliative of a universal HC system that might succeed in offering more people coverage but will not reduce overall costs?

Why can we not come to our senses in Congress and pass a bill that does incorporate a Public Option (offered by the Federal Government) and thus reduce the costs to small and medium-sized companies?

Because BigInsurance does not WANT a Public Option that will reduce drastically their profit levels.

It's all about profits and not Health Care. Alas.

mmckinl
"Are the Losses Permanent?"

Well the Japanese have been struggling for over two decades. And that is the model the "powers that be" have chosen.

Krugman and others argued for the "Swedish Model" of writing down bad debt but that never happened and there has been quiet on the Krugman front since.

Instead of writing down bad debt they just changed the accounting rules from mark to market to "mark to make believe".

The banksters and the Fed conceal the losses while using stealth bail out techniques and accounting gimmicks like marking to market their own outstanding bonds to stem the tide of red ink.

Once again here is the graph for the Japanese scenario:
http://economistsview.typepad.com/.a/6a00d83451b33869e2016764240899970b-popup

This is what we are in for plus the drag even implosion of peak oil driven higher oil prices. As I write this RBOB is $3.41 and regular gas in Chicago is over $4.50.

It's only going to get worse ... higher oil prices and eventually another economic tailspin or stagnation and a muddling economy.

I'll repeat what I posted earlier ...

"My suspicion is that the Japanese model was adopted by the US and Europe because of "peak oil". Suppressing growth reduces oil use.

They know that any kind of growth will push oil to prices that will economically be even worse than stagnation.

They also know that that admitting to peak oil is admission of the limits to growth and the death knell of private bank fractional reserve banking."

mmckinl
Peter K ~"The talk of peak oil and fractional reserve banking sounds like paranoia to me."

Then you don't understand that the creation of private bank fractional reserve banking leveraged debt is of future promises that can not be kept with the end of growth ... or how our money is created.

Leveraged debt in the face of the limits to growth is a Ponzi Scheme. The arrival of peak oil whereby transportation and food production prices skyrocket increasingly sucks out disposable income crashing the peripheral economy.

Lafayette
"as we transit from the Industrial to the Information age"

The products that we use are industrial production outputs, including the IT hardware. Software (information processing) collects, stores, retrieves and analyzes data. The devices, media, and network to do this are industrial products. The software or knowledgeware, may facilitate communications (such as social networking or on-demand entertainment), operations reseach, accounting, other scientific research, and (as we are becoming increasingly aware) market demographics and advertising. Software does not provide the things we need it, but it can make the provision more efficient. It can also keep us entertained and distracted while the world around us crumbles. If you do not have food or shelter, then you would know that you really need it. If you did not have FaceBook then you might not really know you needed it, because indeed you don't. We have always needed food and shelter. Transportation became necessary as humanity moved away from self provision subsistence. There is no service economy nor information age. We will remain in the industrial age until we go back to the stone age.

I entered the IT industry in 1968, before it became fashionable. Now that it has become fashionable the general understanding of its relationship to the economy is still abysmal. Only in the finance industry does IT actually play its much lauded role so independent of non-IT industrial production, an we know how much good that has done us. BTW, I count agriculture as industrial production as industrial agriculture produces most of our consumption.

Darryl FKA Ron
Besides code monkeys offshore easier now than steel.
Lafayette
IT'S THE INEQUALITY

{We have always needed food and shelter.}

Yes and this was displayed in a more holistic form by Maslow in his Hierarchy of Needs (in the early 1940s, btw): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow%27s_hierarchy_of_needs

However we may tweak an economy, we are nonetheless responding to that hierarchy of needs.

Information Technology is a "great facilitator" and has become a central part of our economy, regardless of where one might want to classify its applications. The technology is used across the board because, as you say, it provides for our needs more efficiently than whatever came before.

And we can expect it to continue to do so. What we do not understand is the need to keep up in parallel with the technology by means of our intellectual capacities in the form of skills/talents.

We should have learned by now that any manufacturing that requires nimble-fingers in sweat-shops will be sub-contracted to the Far East. Which means our people must realize that "brain" is replacing "brawn", though not entirely. Meaning brawn-work will still exist (namely in construction) but it is brain-work that will feed the larger part of our nation's citizens.

And we are not taking seriously enough the fact that capital (business investment) is necessary but not sufficient. Far more important is brain-work (labor input) set to business tastal. But, that is - I submit - very, very far from becoming a commonly understood and accepted notion.

MY POINT?

It's all so very simple (to me): We've gone overboard in the blind rush for capital (aka exaggerated riches), without understanding that the process exacts a choice between Return on Capital and Return on Labor.

An economy can optimize both, but maximizes only one or the other - and ours has been maximizing Income Disparity. Which is why confiscatory taxation (above a certain level of both marginal and capital gains income) is necessary for us, as a nation, to stop incentivizing the accumulation of exaggerated riches.

It's the Inequality, stupid. No personal offense intended, but a lead-in to the title of this link here at Mother Jones: http://motherjones.com/transition/inter.php?dest=http://motherjones.com/politics/2011/02/income-inequality-in-america-chart-graph (Be sure to punch "skip the message" that may come up on a blank-page)

Darryl FKA Ron
" but it is brain-work that will feed the larger part of our nation's citizens."

Nope, it is industrial agriculture. Some of the brain-work folks just can make enough money to eat more and/or better than some brawn-work people. Food is still grown on farms. Computers will not change that. Computers can optimize the distribution channels for lowering energy use and even help with managing irrigatio and pesticides. But infomation technology is just optimizing tool in a system rather than a productive system in itself. Wealth distribution effects have to do with our focus on short term windfalls via speculation and monopolization. Consolidating mergers and IP rents are thieves. Together they have enabled global labor arbitrage to advance at a rate faster than structural replacement of employment. The resulting interdependence in the global economy will put all nations at risk due to over-specialization that cannot be maintained against the pressure of peak oil. The miracle of trade goes mostly to the middle men.

Lafayette
It seems then that you forgot that it takes money to buy food.

All the advances in agriculture for the past fifty-years have come from brain-work, not brawn-work. A tractor is just a tractor.

But by means of intensive farming, we need fewer farmers - so those in surplus should go drive taxis?

Not quite the best solution, is it?

Darryl FKA Ron
My point is that there is only so much ratio of IT brain work to productive work that we can expect, unless we can expect an economy based only on financial intermediation and social networking. There is a lot of brain work, more or less IT-wise, in traditionally brawn work endevours of production that may in part be done by machines so long as we have the energy resources. That can still be the case if we go back to mules and grass for power sources. Intelligent use of scarce resources can be knowlegde intense. At some point in the future our currency will fall to its trade balanced value again, whether because standards of living align globally, transporation fuels become too expensive, or our competitors help it along by shorting their own dollar reserves. Then the relative values of capital markets, financial intermediation, marketing, and production of goods will realign themselves. At such time we will be in great poverty of the means of production.

There is plenty of knowledge necessary to live in the world besides IT. We should have all of it (e.g., biology, civil engineering, machinists, horticulturists, - everything). Even running a machine with skill is a type of knowledge or leading a mule or plumbing. Computers are just a tool. The information age may dazzle, but Maslowe still rules our lives. Money is just a store of value from labor expended and resources taken from the ground. At some point the value of the money that we print can only equal the value of our labor and resources.

Lafayette
{My point is that there is only so much ratio of IT brain work to productive work that we can expect, unless we can expect an economy based only on financial intermediation and social networking.}

Why? Just go to Taiwan and see what is happening. It has very little arable land and yet it does just fine - with a lot of brainwork, that is.<

Darryl FKA Ron
Taiwan's economic model would not scale well. It is compact and they are a net exporter, which makes their economy dependent on global economic conditions, but is necessary because of how much they must import to support the densely packed population. Transportation costs would be less of a problem in such a small space. They manufacture techonology hardware, but I see that they do have a large service sector. Much of that is finance and financial intermediation is working for them now given the growth in manufacturing in other Asian countries.

My opening argument was about the "Information Age" which is an incorrect assessment of both global and national economies. It is a wrong way of looking at the world, just like treating everything as just a matter of finance. Everyting is just a matter of everything. You can do some barter and benefit by it, but every interdepency is a dependency and vulnerability. Size and population density matter when it comes to economic advantages or even alternatives.

Lafayette
{My opening argument was about the "Information Age" which is an incorrect assessment of both global and national economies. }

I beg to differ.

The transition applies to the world, but it starts with developed economies. And to think it is not happening is to suffer from a heavy dose of nostalgia.

Worse yet, if we do not make an effort to enhance brain-work skills and talents, then we drop so far back in the race that eventual catch-up becomes impossible.

Don't intellectualize the menace, because that's a cheap cop-out. Leave that to rank economists. History tells us that economies grow and die, leaving just the debris of societies in their wake.

The US as a modern example of the Roman Empire? Of Egypt? Or dynastic China? Or the United Kingdom?

As an outcome, it is more than just possible - it has become probable.

Darryl FKA Ron said in reply to Zlati Petroff...
"You think you or anyone else would have done much better?"

Well yeah, a lot of people could have done better, even myself. But to get to someone that was well documented on forecasting all of the events of 2008 I am stuck with a guy that is a bit crazy and really likes to blow his own horn. But his pitch is legit. I saw his CSPAN Book TV road show of "America's Financial Apocalyse" in 2006. That is how I knew what was going to happen, although it had already been clear to me in 2004 that our recovery was based on a bubble bound to burst. If you ignore the anger (he has been black-balled by most of the media since he had worked over two years trying to get Bernanke to meet with him), the Stathis is highly illuminating. He discusses the same issues that paine, mmckinl, myself and others discuss here; he just wrote a book on them which was published in 2006 before most people had ever heard of a credit defautl swap.

Darryl FKA Ron
BTW, when I saw Stathis on BookTV in 2006 he was really a decent guy. Being rejected by the Bush administration and then black-balled by the media after his predictions came true has turned him into a very different person than he was before. What is most interesting is how effective the MSM and the rest of the establishment has been in suppressing knowledge of his forewarnings, but the change in Mike's demeanor has helped make it easy for them to ignore. Most people think he is just a crank and a crackpot.
beezer
If you really value employment that pays livable wages and benefits, it's going to happen only if that desire manifests itself politically.

Economically, in my opinion, creating wealth does not create employment that pays livable wages and benefits. It may create jobs, but left to themselves, those who create great wealth for themselves would just as soon pay only subsistence wages. At least that's what happened historically until workers organized and changed the power (political) landscape.

This nation has forgotten this identity and assumed instead that livable wages and benefits naturally flow from wealth creation. That would be no.

We should slap on import duties both to balance trade and to force manufacturing production back into our domestic economy. Will more production jobs in America raise wages and income and thus raise the cost of goods and services?

That's a yes because manufacturing jobs are more easily unionized and labor costs will increase the cost of goods. One important nuance here. The cost of goods will not increase, dollar for dollar, with wage increases. Anymore than the cost of goods decrease, dollar for dollar, with wage declines.

[Mar 26, 2012] Bernanke's Unspoken Message in Today's Speech -

TheStreet

Anyone who doubts Ben Bernanke's willingness to put the monetary pedal to the metal should read the text of his speech today at the National Association for Business Economics Annual Conference.

He argues that buying demand for products and services remains predominantly a cyclical problem, not a secular problem. That's a fancy way of saying: "If we just add a bit more stimulus to the U.S. economy, we can find 'escape velocity' and achieve a sustainable path to economic recovery." In other words, "QE3, here we come!"

This is a significant milestone that validates a recent shift in the willingness of institutional investors to reassume risk-taking. Many Wall Street strategists and economists have been raising their year-end S&P 500 price targets (from 1,330 at December to now nearly 1,400), and many bearish-leaning hedge fund investors have begun to capitulate and buy equities as well.

In fact, Bloomberg reports today that hedge funds, woefully trailing the returns generated by the S&P 500 Index since September, are buying stocks at the fastest pace in two years! They have no choice but to try and catch up with the market's rapid ascent.

Of course, a note of caution is warranted. For one, when every investor turns bullish, there are no marginal buyers left to purchase stocks (and gauges of hedge-fund bullishness and retail investor bullishness are nearing levels that traditionally signal interim market tops).

[Mar 26, 2012] QE3 Remains Likely

J6P is always the one that pays the consequences; here and everywhere throughout the world.
ac:

km4 wrote:

The Fed has promised to provide unlimited amounts of dollars to the ECB, should circumstances require it. It boggles the mind.

It shouldn't.

This is simply history repeating itself for the nth time.

We knew exactly what, how and why it would happen.

We still continue along the path to destruction that history dictates we will take.

What should interest and confound people is total absence of any kind of free will at the aggregate level.

ac

This could be the year the Fed becomes irrelevant if gas prices keep going up.

Nobody's going to be asking for another round of QE if oil is $200/oz.

The thing I hope the Bernanke understands:

The congress will throw him under the bus the moment it becomes convenient.

Once inflation gets out of control every politician on both sides is going to go on and on about how they thought they were doing the right thing but were misled by the Bernanke.

If things go wrong this man is going to be the scape goat for everything bad that happens in the next 10 years.

Cinco-X

ac wrote:

The bubbles will continue until the collapse of the political and monetary systems creating them.

Bubbles are not a necessary byproduct of a fiat currency....it's just that they're seemingly too enticing to avoid...

glimmerman

Ride the Bernanke bubble - The Cody Word - MarketWatch

You see the common outcome of all those interpretations? That we're likely to continue seeing the stock market bubble right before our eyes because traders, investors, economists, grandparents, Goldman Sachs and even the unemployed and broke know that money is likely to chase stocks - tech stocks and other growth stocks in particular, because where else can you hope to catch the kind of gains that you're likely to need to overcome the loss of value of your money as Bernanke continues to pump new money into the pockets of the worst banks.

ac:

km4 wrote:

Ben is worse than catering to the 1%

That's the real political danger for the Fed now -- more and more people are beginning to notice that every thing the Fed does seems to make the 1% richer and richer at the expense of everybody else.

Again, it is historically well-established that fiat currencies and easy money turn economies into giant casinos where the casino bosses get filthy rich at the expense of everybody else.

Nobody should be surprised that this is happening.

The reason this is allowed to continue is because the alternative is too terrifying to contemplate.

Cinco-X

ac wrote:

Again, it is historically well-established that fiat currencies and easy money turn economies into giant casinos where the casino bosses get filthy rich at the expense of everybody else.

Nobody should be surprised that this is happening.

The reason this is allowed to continue is because the alternative is too terrifying to contemplate.

Good post..

ic:

"an implicit admission that Main Street benefits, as well, though not on the scale of the 1% "

It's a sad fact that real, structural, change doesn't occur without real pain being inflicted on Main Street.

J6P is always the one that pays the consequences; here and everywhere throughout the world.

Weeping Willow:

Eric wrote:

No more decaying ETF/ETNs for me.

I never touch those things. I'm patient, with a time horizon longer than 3 minutes, so there are alternate ways. Even things as simple as longer-dated OTM strangles are better, IMO, just have to watch the volty smile.

Having seen multiple trips down to very low teens on VIX, I have no reason to believe this is an implied volatility bottom, either. But ya have to start somewhere...

ac:

glimmerman wrote:

He argues that buying demand for products and services remains predominantly a cyclical problem, not a secular problem. That's a fancy way of saying: "If we just add a bit more stimulus to the U.S. economy, we can find 'escape velocity' and achieve a sustainable path to economic recovery." In other words, "QE3, here we come!"

I guess you could say we found escape velocity in 2003-2006, but in the end what good did it do?

Ultimately you can boil everything down to this:

We're still doing exactly what we did 10 years ago.

glimmerman:

Crude oil eases higher on Bernanke's comments By Forexpros

Oil prices gained traction after Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke stated that further monetary accommodation is needed to bring about big gains in the U.S. jobs market, which he described as "far from normal," despite a recent improvement.

The comments helped fuel speculation that further quantitative easing from the central bank may be coming, weakening the U.S. dollar.

scone:

Ben has got the markets in Pavlov's dog mode. He doesn't actually have to implement QE3, all he has to do is convince the markets he is ready, willing and able to do it. In fact, I think he'd rather talk the talk and get the markets to move up, rather than walk the walk and take the backlash.

barfly wrote:

but the damage will have been reduced somewhat for the majority

That may be so, but that doesn't mean that there weren't other ways of managing a "soft landing" that didn't include massive subsidies for the TBTF banks, AIG, et al.

Or the painful consequences of the bubble, etc.could've been more evenly distributed. Less bankster risk socialized. Particularly since it looks as though, w/the mortgage "settlement" and HARP2 it looks as though the bank subsidies/bailouts are continuing, with again, the TP paying.

It wasn't an either/or situation, however L. Summers & Bernanke chose to frame the situation.

sm_landlord:

dryfly wrote:

I hate to be a pest but I think people - even people here - don't grasp just how much 'work' has changed and how slow organizations like gov't, schools, capital markets & institutions like the fed are to understand this. And it isn't just in mfg - its in every aspect of services and goods design, manufacture, logistics, marketing and servicing.

You might enjoy this:
American manufacturing has gone, and with it goes our future - latimes.com

Cinco-X

sm_landlord wrote:

American manufacturing has gone, and with it goes our future - latimes.com

While there is no doubt a problem, this article is full of histrionics and bad ideas...while the percentage of our workforce that works in manufacturing (and farming for that matter) has decreased, we still have a huge manufacturing base. Furthermore, punitive tariffs and government managed industrial policies will make us and the rest of the world poorer, not richer...I repeat again that the problem is the tax structure, and how it rewards companies for exporting production and profits....

Comrade Troyski

ac wrote:

Once inflation gets out of control every politician on both sides is going to go on and on about how they thought they were doing the right thing but were misled by the Bernanke.

without wage inflation there can be no inflation, just reallocation.

There's plenty of fat rents to get sliced in this economy. Couple of trillion in health care, about the same in ground rents.

dryfly

Comrade Troyski wrote:

Foxconn now pays ~$300/mo. It still costs a US employer more for a US worker just to clock in every morning.

They are automating like a beast over there now [China] - I know people involved. Capital has opened a new front against labor - the Eastern Front.

It was inevitable too - just a matter of time and economic incentive.

Cinco-X

MAKE NO MISTAKE... INSTITUTIONAL INVESTORS ARE 'ALL IN'
As the old saying goes, you can't have a top until everyone's in...since many if not most of the bottom 90% own their equities via institutions, does this mean everyone's in and we're approaching a blowout top? Of course, I can never take the analysis of Business-Insider too, too seriously....

Comrade Troyski

BarleyReturns wrote:

Bring out the Gimp! 1994 all over for bonds? -- The Buzz

"How the Fed hurts retirees"

fuck these people.

return of capital, return on capital, pick one, assholes

Graph: (Total Credit Market Debt Owed (TCMDO)-Total Credit Market Debt Owed by Domestic Financial Sectors (TCMDODFS))/Wage and salary disbursements (A576RC1) - FRED - St. Louis Fed

ac

Fed warned not to keep rates too low for too long

With Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke looking on from the audience... two experts on monetary policy warned Saturday that the Federal Reserve should be wary of keeping monetary policy too easy for too long.

You might as well tell a dog not to lick its balls.

[Mar 23, 2012] Vanguard Junk fund (VWEAX) dropped below 200 days average

[Mar 17, 2012] Global Economy on Recovery Path, Risks Remain - IMF Chief

The rising price of oil is becoming a threat to global growth.
NYTimes.com

...She said signs of stabilization were emerging to show that policy actions taken in the wake of the global financial crisis were paying off, that U.S. economic indicators were looking a little more upbeat and that Europe had taken an important step forward in solving its crisis with the latest efforts on Greece.

"On the back of these collective efforts, the world economy has stepped back from the brink and we have cause to be more optimistic. Still, optimism must not lull us into a false sense of security. There are still major economic and financial vulnerabilities we must confront," Lagarde said.

The IMF chief cited still fragile financial systems burdened by high public and private debt persists advanced economies as the first of three major risks and said euro zone public sector and bank rollover funding needs in 2012 were equivalent total about 23 percent of GDP.

"Second, the rising price of oil is becoming a threat to global growth. And, third, there is a growing risk that activity in emerging economies will slow over the medium term," she said.

[Mar 14, 2012] SP 500 March Futures Shorter Term Chart - Once More Into the Breach Dear Ben

This top is as artificial as previous one in 2007. It can be lasting but it can't be sustained....
We're at the top of the longer term channel. There is still some room in the short term.

Or Ben could just throw caution to the wind and go for bubble number three.

"The world says: 'You have needs -- satisfy them. You have as much right as the rich and the mighty. Don't hesitate to satisfy your needs; indeed, expand your needs and demand more.'

This is the worldly doctrine of today.

And they believe that this is freedom. The result for the rich is isolation and suicide, for the poor, envy and murder."

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

[Mar 09, 2012] Trade Deficit increased in January to $52.6 Billion

Mel

It is amazing that we have not found a way to eliminate the petroleum trade deficit--all that wealth leaving our shores finally led to a lowered standard of living. Allowing this to continue assures our "Greecedom." This should not be a partisan issue--it is truly job 1.

km4

debt equals status

American exceptionalism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

splat

km4 wrote:

Congratulations, America, You're In Debt Up To Your Eyeballs!

And we can do better -- With a little push it could be over our heads -- ~splat

Doc Holiday

Baker Hughes: US Working Gas Rigs Drop By 21 In Week; Oil Rigs +3

Externalized Costs

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, a major bank regulator, said on the very day of the settlement announcement that it was giving the five banks in the deal a pass on $394 million in penalties it would otherwise have assessed them for shoddy, and shady, mortgage and foreclosure practices.
...
And just last week, the Treasury Department announced that it would pay BofA and JPMorgan Chase some $171 million in incentives it had withheld since June because of the banks' shortcomings in dealing with homeowners under the government's chronically underperforming Home Affordable Modification Program, or HAMP.
...
Brookings Institution analyst Ted Gayer last week concluded that other carve-outs will limit the number to 500,000 of the nation's 11 million underwater borrowers. Among other points, he observes that the five participating banks service only 55% of all mortgages.
Lowering our expectations for foreclosure settlement - chicagotribune.com

Financial crime has zero downside in America. Even when you get caught, your civil fine will become a credit eventually and if you are really good they'll even reward you with incentives you never earned. Brilliant.

Doc Holiday

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/us-trade-gap-widens-sharply-in-january-2012-03-09?reflink=MW_news_stmp

"The U.S. will suck in goods from abroad while others don't grow and U.S. exporters will face stagnant conditions overseas, stymieing efforts to make inroads," said Robert Brusca, chief economist at FAO Economics, in a note to clients.

But Bob Baur, chief global economist at Principal Global Investors, noted that the trade deficit is only 3.7% of U.S. GDP, well below the peak of 5.6% in 2006.

"I don't see [the trade deficit] going back to 6% of GDP," especially with a new trend of companies relocating plants back in the U.S. from China, Baur said in an interview.

cdresearch

This is a more accurate jobs picture in a nutshell:

How do you add 33 million people to the workforce while the number of full-time jobs hasn't budged in 12 years and claim "job growth is on a tear"? First you arbitrarily subtract 20 million people from the workforce. call them "discouraged" or "marginally attached," whatever, just don't call them what they really are which is jobless.*

For 64.5% of the populace to have some sort of job as in 2000, we would need an additional 14.5 million jobs. That's about 6 years of 200,000 jobs added a month, but then the workforce will rise by between 12 and 17 million in those years so you better add 400,000 jobs a month if you want the participation rate back to 2000 levels.

[Mar 07, 2012] Europe's Recession Has Barely Begun

By Delusional Economics, who is horrified at the state of economic commentary in Australia and is determined to cleanse the daily flow of vested interests propaganda to produce a balanced counterpoint. Cross posted from MacroBusiness.

The reserves from the ECB's LTRO stage II operation are making their way back into the excess reserve facility at the ECB. The overnight holdings were at an all time record of €820.81bn. As I explained previously, this in itself isn't a problem. In fact, unless the reserves are moving to some other non-commercial bank accounts at the ECB there is little other place they can go. However, what is the problem:

…is that the increasing use of the ECB's marginal lending facility shows that not all of these parked reserves are actually "excess to market requirements".

The statistics from last night show that for the last 3 days there is still €783 million being rolled over using the ECB's margin lending facility. With €0.8trn technically available for interbank lending it is certainly a concern that there is at least one bank still having to lean on the ECB for overnight liquidity.

[Mar 05, 2012] America has 40 million McMansions that no one wants By Christopher Mims

9 Feb 2012 | Grist

Americans, especially generations X and Y, want shorter commutes, walkability and a car-free existence. Which means that around 40 million large-lot exurban McMansions, built primarily during the housing boom, might never find occupants. Only 43 percent of Americans prefer big suburban homes, says Chris Nelson, head of the Metropolitan Research Center at the University of Utah. That mean demand for "large-lot" homes is currently 40 million short of the available stock - and not only that, but the U.S. is short 10 million attached homes and 30 million small homes, which are what people really want.

"If we are optimistic that the world is not coming to an end and we're going to get out of this economic trough, it's a good time to consider, when production does ramp up, how we will be building as a country," [says Joe Molinaro head of the National Association of Realtors' smart growth program.]

See also

Former Idealist:

Bifurcation of oil/gas prices based on our the masters priorities.

Nobody talks about economic freedom anymore...

Rob Dawg:

Antipodes wrote:

Over time, at 4.0 and above you can sometimes distinguish between the two.

The middle third of the Pacific/North American rift has been quiet. Too quiet. Too long.

poic:

No problem. I'm only living in a liquefaction zone. Not likely any impact from a major earthquake.

Comrade Elmer Fudd:

another interesting thing is that there have been a series of small quakes on the Hayward fault located close together in the Berkeley area over the last couple of months

  • Jesse's Café Américain Who Captured the Fed

    Future generations will look back and ask themselves, 'How could they not see what was happening? Were they blind?'

    The Fed is not the only problem here, but a key enabler. White collar crimes and fraud flourished amongst the robber barons even in the days of the gold standard. It just was not as convenient, as easy, to defraud the people en masse through the debasement of the currency.

    The Fed has merely proven to be as vulnerable as the regulators and the Congress to the power of the monied interests. If the political campaign process had not been corrupted by money, if the fairness doctrine in the media and Glass-Steagall in banking had not been overturned by the mindless impulse to cast aside the best of the laws, many of the problems we have today would not be so great.

    These fellows creates crises, and then 'save us' from them, while lining their own pockets and perpetuating the swindle for their less publicly visible puppet masters.

    There is little doubt in my own mind that Greenspan knew exactly what he was doing, and made his fateful decision after a meeting with Robert Rubin in the 1990's shortly after his famous 'irrational exuberance' speech. What was said, what was promised or threatened, I cannot say. But the change in direction became clear. It became open season on the voices of reason and restraint in Washington.

    What Clinton hatched, Bush brought to full fruition, particularly with his tax cuts, stock bubble, and unfunded wars. And when the Great Reformer came to Washington in the midst of the collapse, he brought back the very advisors who had helped to create the problem in the first place and betrayed the mandate of those who had elected him, prosecuting no one.

    And in the aftermath of the financial collapse, the first popular reform movement that rose up in anger against the bailouts, The Tea Party, was quickly turned into a corps of willing tools that turned on the weak and the least among us, the very victims of a corrupt system, in their petulant pride and misdirected anger.

    I only fear that the Fed, and some of the perpetual outsiders of history, will be made the scapegoats by the real culprits when the time of reckoning comes, and that genuine reform will be thwarted once again as it has been so many times in the past. Their hypocrisy and shamelessness knows no bounds.

    NYT
    Who Captured the Fed?
    By DARON ACEMOGLU and SIMON JOHNSON
    March 29, 2012, 5:00 am

    ...But in the light of the crisis of 2008 and its aftermath, we have to ask: Has our central bank fallen back under the influence of special interests?

    ...At the dawn of the republic, Thomas Jefferson railed against the risks posed by government backing for concentrated power in the financial sector. President Andrew Jackson fought to abolish the Second Bank of the United States in the 1830s, the leading private bank of his day, which helped manage public finances and the banking system. Consequently, there was nothing resembling a central bank in the United States for much of the 19th century.

    The Federal Reserve System, created in 1913, was a uniquely American compromise, trying to balance public and private interests. Banks controlled the boards of the 12 regional Feds – with big Wall Street firms holding great sway over the New York Fed, which had a disproportionate influence within the system as a whole - and still does.

    This version of the system presided over a crazed and highly leveraged stock market boom in the 1920s and the catastrophic collapse of credit in the early 1930s, while protecting the big Wall Street firms.

    ...Unfortunately, as the United States and other countries learned after 1945, clever politicians can use central banks to manipulate the business cycle, boosting output growth and cutting unemployment ahead of elections. Richard Nixon, for example, famously pushed the Fed to ease monetary policy when it suited him.

    ...Increasingly, however, it seems that technocratic policy-making is just a myth. We have come full circle, and the Wall Street banks are calling the shots again.

    Crucially, the idea that politics is just about electioneering misses the point. Politics is about getting what you want, not just through the ballot box but by persuading people in public office to take actions that help you. So declaring the central bank independent doesn't move it outside the orbit of politics.

    Monetary policy has an impact on inflation, output and employment. But it also has a major impact on stock market prices. Any central banker raising interest rates is reducing stock market values and thus eroding the bonuses of top bankers and other chief executives.

    Those people will lobby, asserting that higher interest rates will undermine the economy and cause us to plummet into recession, or worse.

    In principle, the Fed could stand up to the bankers, pushing back against all specious arguments. In practice, unfortunately, the New York Fed and the Board of Governors are quite deferential to financial-sector "experts." Bankers are persuasive; many are smart people, armed with fancy models, and they offer very nice income-earning opportunities to former central bankers.

    We have lost track of the number of research notes from major banks pleading for easier credit, lower capital requirements, delay in implementing financial reforms or all of the above.

    In recent decades the Fed has given way completely, at the highest level and with disastrous consequences, when the bankers bring their influence to bear – for example, over deregulating finance, keeping interest rates low in the middle of a boom after 2003, providing unconditional bailouts in 2007-8 and subsequently resisting attempts to raise capital requirements by enough to make a difference.

    As the American economy begins to improve, influential people in the financial sector will continue to talk about the need for a prolonged period of low interest rates. The Fed will listen.

    This time will not be different."

    Read the entire article here.

    Jesse's Café Américain Clear and Present Danger Why We Must Break Up the Too Big To Fail Banks Now - Dallas Fed

    29 March 2012

    What makes the attached essay on the US banking system so striking is not so much what is being said, since others have said it before, but rather, who is saying unequivocally that the status quo in the US banking system presents 'a clear and present danger' to the national economy.

    "More than three years after a crippling financial crisis, the American economy still struggles. Growth sputters. Job creation lags. Unemployment remains high. Housing prices languish. Stock markets gyrate. Headlines bring reports of a shrinking middle class and news about governments stumbling toward bankruptcy, at home and abroad.

    Ordinary Americans have every right to feel anxious, uncertain and angry. They have every right to wonder what happened to an economy that once delivered steady progress.

    They have every right to question whether policymakers know the way back to normalcy. American workers and taxpayers want a broad-based recovery that restores confidence. Equally important, they seek assurance that the causes of the financial crisis have been dealt with, so a similar breakdown won't impede the flow of economic activity.

    The road back to prosperity will require reform of the financial sector. In particular, a new roadmap must find ways around the potential hazards posed by the financial institutions that the government not all that long ago deemed "too big to fail"-or TBTF, for short.

    In 2010, Congress enacted a sweeping, new regulatory framework that attempts
    to address TBTF. While commendable in some ways, the new law may not prevent the biggest financial institutions from taking excessive risk or growing ever bigger.

    TBTF institutions were at the center of the financial crisis and the sluggish recovery that followed. If allowed to remain unchecked, these entities will continue posing a clear and present danger to the U.S. economy.

    As a nation, we face a distinct choice. We can perpetuate TBTF, with its inequities and dangers, or we can end it. Eliminating TBTF won't be easy, but the vitality of our capitalist system and the long-term prosperity it produces hang in the balance.

    Harvey Rosenblum, Choosing the Road to Prosperity: Why We Must End Too Big To Fail - Now, Dallas Federal Reserve Bank

    Harvey Rosenblum is the Dallas Fed's executive vice president and director of research.

    Read the rest here.


    The perpetuation of the status quo is favored by the monied interests on Wall Street and the very powerful New York Fed which has always been their house bank.

    It is also supported by the politicians and advisors of both parties who have become addicted to taking Wall Street money, both as campaign contributions, as well as highly paid sinecures and consulting fees when they leave office.

    The Banks must be restrained, and the financial system reformed, with balance between individuals and the corporations restored to the economy, before there can be any sustained recovery.

    charles hugh smith-Our "Let's Pretend" Economy: Let's Pretend "Job Growth Is Best Since 2006"

    Bob Dobbs

    Mel wrote:

    It is amazing that we have not found a way to eliminate the petroleum trade deficit--all that wealth leaving our shores finally led to a lowered standard of living. Allowing this to continue assures our "Greecedom." This should not be a partisan issue--it is truly job 1.

    The one percent make a lot of money off the impoverishment of America. Change the system for the good of the country and you'll upset a lot of Very Important People.

    Doc Holiday

    Latin America warned over China slowdown - FT.com

    Today, it requires less slaves food and energy to produce the same amount of economic output. However, thanks to intensive Chinese use of metals in its recent development, the world is consuming more metals per unit of GDP output than it did in 1971.
    Economists believe this should revert towards the norm as China moves away from a focus on developing metal-intensive infrastructure and heavy manufacturing industries.

    Per trade deficit - something you will not read in the press:

    Manufacturing here in areas we are strong at [ag machinery, power gen equipment, infrastructure support equipment - etc] is really really tight. If you want castings for a tractor and your orders aren't already in place and in the queue then you are going to have a pretty hard time getting them right now - that is in part why imports are up. They are going back to sources in Asia and looking for capacity.

    But utilization of mfg capacity is still pretty low relatively speaking you say ... it is in areas affected by construction directly and indirectly [building supplies and appliances for example]. The capacity utilization in things like ag, oil patch, power generation - its maxxed out. Has been for awhile.

    So you want those kinds of parts or products you might have to import them even if the lead times are a huge hassle and frequently cost as much or more.

    More microwave frozen burrito.

    dryfly

    Bob Dobbs wrote:

    But my dad was union, and my uncles and some of my cousins, and through them I heard of many abuses. Aside from actual illegal activities, unions at well-paying plants tended to become private clubs. You "got in" to the union, and the job, through a relative.

    And the mob. The plant I worked at was teamsters circa Jimmy Hoffa - the company loved them, bribed the local bosses to keep wages lower than the local would have demanded. They then 'ran it through'.

    The irony is the top four union officials in that town were convicted of felony extortion. The company laughed and laughed ... until a decade later the top executives were convicted of felony price fixing / collusion. They were mirror images.

    My adviser where I got my masters ran unionized companies prior to academia [did it well & profitably] used to say "Companies get the unions they deserve."

    Bob Dobbs

    Weeping Willow wrote:

    Let me put it to you this way - knowing what you know about the US willingness to mount "excursions" - if you ran a smallish country with a resource very important to the US - would you not want to make sure you had the ability to protect yourself?

    I think I misunderstood at first; of course you would. And of course you should.

    Nukes are a great weapon; as long as none of your enemies have them. Then they're a lousy weapon. I really have thought that the Iranian nuke hysteria is really all about taking away Israel's nuclear get-out-of-jail-free card for good and all.

    And I personally worry about the fundamentalists in our own gov't more than I worry about Iranian fundamentalists and what they might do with a small bomb or two.

    Bob Dobbs

    Comrade Janošik wrote:

    You forget that American exceptionalism runs thicker in peoples' veins than blood.

    Oh yah, I know. And because of that, if we'd been had by another country who we couldn't stand up to head to head, it'd be called the Rape of America of something like that, it would not be allowed to die in the political culture, and the lust for revenge would be huge and long-lasting. Partly because "we're special," and something must be done. Iranians think they're special, too: Persians, after all, empires back thousands of years while many of our ancestors were painting themselves blue and rushing Roman Legionnaires with spears.

    Doc Holiday wrote on Fri, 3/9/2012 - 12:13 pm

    2 million cameras watching peeps in Jolly England?

    YouTube - Bigger Brother: Total surveillance comes to UK

    dryfly

    Cinco-X wrote:

    free marketeers don't want to acknowledge the "total" cost of production, while limousine liberals don't want to acknowledge to economic cost of forcing jobs overseas

    Limousine liberals don't want to pay for it either - that's their problem. They all want somebody else to pay so they pay for it in Harbin and Pune.

    Cinco-X

    dryfly wrote:

    Limousine liberals don't want to pay for it either - that's their problem.

    Unfortunately, it's all of our problem, but you are correct, and I'm just agreeing with you. Cheap goods are almost as irresistible as free money....

    barfly

    Doc Holiday wrote:

    2 million cameras watching peeps in Jolly England?

    if some of the films I've seen of the hooliganism and thuggery over there are even greatly exaggerated, it's still too much -

    anti-immigrant sentiment, football fanaticism, drugs and alcohol, no jobs, no future, piss-poor education

    I see no problem with keeping them under surveillance

    Former Idealist

    ISDA is the big banks.

    Of course they will trigger an event just as they did with AIG.

    There is money to be made....

    Outsider wrote on Fri, 3/9/2012 - 12:52 pm

    Okay. In my Quest for Truth I stumbled on this article

    The Rising Power of Financial Blog Zero Hedge - Money 2009 -- New York Magazine

    Even talks about us (at CR) there.

    There are traders, economists, venture capitalists, financial advisers, and pajama-clad cranks all vying to explain the complex machinations that got us into this mess and to critique governmental solutions. Sites like Naked Capitalism, Seeking Alpha, the Big Picture, Infectious Greed, Angry Bear, Calculated Risk, and Zero Hedge have hatched communities based on discontent and disbelief, forming a kind of ragtag insurgency against the financial Establishment and what they view as its feckless lackeys in the government and media.

    Pajama-clad cranks? I am highly offended. :covering the webcam over with masking tape:

    And:

    Such is their power today that the Treasury and Federal Reserve both circulate "blog watch" e-mails, which are sent to the White House every day.

    pavel.chichikov

    Outsider wrote:

    a kind of ragtag insurgency

    No insurgency - it's all blabber.

    pavel.chichikov

    Weeping Willow wrote:

    Never really thought about it that way - would imply a deeper game is afoot.

    I like that.

    It's not called the Samson Option for nothing. If any of those weapons is used it might mean the end of us all. Ripples would spread out fast.

    splat wrote on Fri, 3/9/2012 - 1:14 pm (in reply to...)

    barfly wrote:

    still, laying the blame at the feet of liberals is disingenuous

    Agreed. Germany, as an example, should have seen manufacturing completely disappear. As as it has an 'extreme' ( by US standard ) liberal national agenda. Environment controls, strong unions, socialized healthcare, cap-and-trade/Indulgences.
    ~splat

    BarleyReturns

    The whole CAC thingy

    1. Interest rates reflect risk
    2. Time influences outcome
    3. Interest rates kept low to foster growth
    4. A CAC event
    5. Appraise risk
    6. Interest rates still artifically low
    7. Misplaced/ineffecient money
    8. Outcome?

    Do long bonds go boom?

    5yrs are prolly okay,1yr is would be better...10-30 HA!

    Allocation
    1. Canada
    2. Norway

    Any EU - nope
    US with a disfuncional you know



    Etc

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