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Alarm Bells Sounded on Wall Street’s Derivatives

Alarm Bells Sounded on Wall Street’s Derivatives

Andy Green, Managing Director, Economic Policy , Center for American Progress

Andy Green, Managing Director,  Economic Policy Center for  American Progress

On February 14, the week after the Dow Jones Industrial Average experienced two separate days of more than 1,000-point losses, the House Financial Services’ Subcommittee on Capital Markets, Securities and Investment convened a hearing to discuss various legislative proposals to return to the wild west era of derivatives trading on Wall Street. (Many, including Wall Street On Parade, believe that we’ve never left that era – the risks have simply been hidden behind a dark curtain. See related articles below.)

One lonely voice for sanity on the witness panel, which was stacked with industry trade groups, was Andy Green, Managing Director at the Economic Policy Center for American Progress. Green’s written testimony stated that the legislative proposals “slice, dice, or otherwise poke holes – sometimes large holes – in the firewalls placed in the derivatives markets by post 2008 reforms….”

Green also reminded the Congressional members present that the “unregulated OTC derivatives market was at the heart of the 2007-2008 financial crisis, which cost 8.7 million Americans their jobs, 10 million families their homes, and eliminated 49 percent of the average middle-class family’s wealth compared with 2001 levels.”

Green provided a litany of the derivative horrors that led to panic and financial contagion during the financial crisis. The collapse of the giant insurer AIG from credit default swap derivatives and its role as counterparty to some of Wall Street’s largest banks. (In response to the AIG collapse, the U.S. government bailed out the company to the tune of $185 billion. Half of the bailout money effectively went in the front door of AIG and then out the backdoor to the big Wall Street banks and hedge funds that had used AIG as their counterparty to guarantee their bets on Credit Default Swaps.)

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The world in 2018 – Part Three

The world in 2018 – Part Three

Mainstream economics seems to have learned little and changed nothing in the last decade, despite the fact that the financial crisis and its aftermath laid bare a number of important issues with its theories and models. Failure to address these issues is making the economics discipline increasingly incapable of informing us about the trajectory and situation of our world.

After a long period of relentless rise, global financial markets seem to have suddenly entered volatile territory. A brutal selloff in global stocks started in early February, which erased all of the prior gains of 2018 and wiped out trillions of dollars of ‘value’ in a matter of days. The selloff was most spectacular in the U.S., with Wall Street experiencing one of its worst weekly tumbles since the 2008 financial crisis – quickly followed, however, by a sharp rebound. Financial pundits the world over are now busy discussing whether this new episode of market volatility is already over or is likely to last, and if it might be announcing a ‘correction’ (a drop of 10% or more from a peak in market indexes), a ‘bear market’ (a drop of 20% or more), or even a full-blown crash. The truth is that no one knows for sure at this stage, and any prediction of how the next few weeks and months are going to play out in global financial markets can only be guesswork at best.

What is more interesting is to observe how quick economists and policy makers around the world have been to serve yet another round of what has become their standard discourse whenever financial markets get suddenly restless: no worries, folks, ‘the fundamentals of the economy are strong’…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

-1,175 Points! We Just Witnessed The Largest One Day Stock Market Crash Ever

-1,175 Points! We Just Witnessed The Largest One Day Stock Market Crash Ever

The mainstream media seems so surprised that the stock market is crashing, but the truth is that it isn’t a surprise at all.  In fact, this crash is way, way overdue.  If the Dow Jones industrial average fell another 10,000 points, stock prices would still be overvalued.  I have been warning and warning and warning that this would happen, because stock valuations always return to their long-term averages eventually.  On Monday, the Dow was down a staggering 1,175 points, which was the largest single day decline that we have ever seen by a very wide margin.  In fact, it shattered the old record by nearly 400 points.

Shortly after 3 PM, all hell broke loose on Wall Street.  The Dow dropped by more than 800 points in just 10 minutes.  At one point on Monday, the Dow was down nearly 1,600 points, but a brief rally cut those losses roughly in half.  However, the rally did not last long and stock prices collapsed hard as the market closed.  At this moment, the Dow is already down more than 2,200 points from the peak of the market, and we are not too far from officially entering “correction” territory.

Once stocks start falling, it can trigger a massive rush for the exits, and that is what happened on Monday.  In particular, investors started to panic once the Dow broke through the 50-day moving average

“As soon as we broke the 50-day moving average … we saw volatility spike,” said Jeff Kilburg, CEO of KKM Financial. “It’s just been downhill from there.”

Other waves of selling were triggered once the 25,000 and 24,000 barriers on the Dow were breached.  In order to protect against losing too much money, many investors have stop losses set at psychologically-important levels.  The following comes from MarketWatch

 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

-666 Points: We Just Witnessed The 6th Largest Single Day Stock Market Decline In U.S. History 

-666 Points: We Just Witnessed The 6th Largest Single Day Stock Market Decline In U.S. History 

On Friday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 666 points (665.75 points to be precise), and many are pointing out that this was the 6th largest single day crash that we have ever seen.  This decline happened on the 33rd day of the year, and it was the worst day for the stock market by far since President Trump entered the White House.  I have been repeatedly warning that we are way overdue for a stock market crash, and many are concerned that we may be on the precipice of another great financial crisis.  We shall see what happens on Monday, because that will set the tone for the rest of the week.  If we see another huge decline early Monday morning, that could easily set off full-blown panic selling on Wall Street.

Rising interest rates appear to have been the trigger for the enormous market drop on Friday.  The following comes from the New York Post

“We all know that many bull markets have ended by the Federal Reserve as they raise the rates to the point of slowing the economy down perhaps too much,” Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial, told The Post.

“It’s come on quickly and it caught the market off guard,”Krosby said.

The Dow sell-off brought it below the 26,000 plateau — to 25,520.96 — the biggest points drop since Dec. 1, 2008.

It is quite rare for the market to drop this much in a single day.  The largest single daily decline was a 777 point drop in 2008, and overall the Dow has fallen by more than 600 points less than 10 times throughout history

The index posted a loss of nearly 666 points, its sixth-worst decline ever on a points basis.

 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Tomgram: Nomi Prins, How to Set the Economy on Fire

Tomgram: Nomi Prins, How to Set the Economy on Fire

There’s no way to measure just how cheery this period really is — not if you’re the CEO of a major company. Just as the World Economic Summit was opening in Davos, Switzerland, and President Donald Trump was flying in to put his mark on the moment, PwS, a global consulting firm, released its annual survey of 1,300 CEOs. “The report,” wrote the Washington Post‘s Tory Newmyer, “found CEO optimism at a record high — with 57% predicting growth would accelerate worldwide this year — after lodging its biggest single-year leap, up from just 29% who predicted as much last year.” In the wake of the passage of staggering tax cuts for corporations and the truly wealthy, the most ebullient among them were, of course, North American CEOs!

And that wasn’t even the best news, not if you lived in a penthouse somewhere on this planet anyway.  As Davos began, Oxfam issued “Reward Work, Not Wealth,” its new report indicating that “82% of the wealth generated last year went to the richest one percent of the global population, while the 3.7 billion people who make up the poorest half of the world saw no increase in their wealth.”  Oh, and here’s a footnote of further cheer from Oxfam: “It takes just four days for a CEO from one of the top five global fashion brands to earn what a Bangladeshi garment worker will earn in her lifetime. In the U.S., it takes slightly over one working day for a CEO to earn what an ordinary worker makes in a year.”

In that context, Donald Trump gave an America First, exceptionalist pep talk at Davos filled with expectable falsehoods, lies, and exaggerations to a crowd — “some of the remarkable citizens from all over the world,” as he put it — primed to applaud (though there were a few hisses and boos and the rare protest, too).

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Gold and Silver Bullion Are Only “Safe Investments Left” – Stockman

Gold and Silver Bullion Are Only “Safe Investments Left” – Stockman

Gold and Silver Bullion Are Only “Safe Investments Left” – Stockman

– Gold is the “ultimate and only real money” – Former Reagan White House Budget Director David Stockman 
– Trump tax cuts will lead to a ‘fiscal calamity of biblical proportions’
 China downgrades U.S. over political ‘deficiencies’
– Expect a ‘huge reset in the bond market’ and a ‘massive drop in household wealth’
– ‘People will flee the stock and bond markets in favour of gold and silver
– Time to buy (gold and silver bullion) is ideal
– “Only safe asset left is gold”

‘There is nowhere to go from here’ are the words that ring in your ears after listening to a recent interview on USA Watchdog with former Reagan White House Budget Director David Stockman.

This might seem a depressing perspective to take but what Stockman is referring to is the fiscal and financial crisis that is on its way. The final straw of which is Trump’s massive tax cuts and the huge costs therein. It will contribute to a ‘thundering collision’ in the ‘bond market’ and the impending collapse of the third financial bubble in the last 17 years- arguably the largest bubble in world history.

For investors there is still somewhere to go, believes Stockman, and that is into gold and silver bullion:

‘If you have $10,000 to put in a safe place, put it into gold and silver not in the Wall St. stock and bond market,’ advises Stockman.

“Fiscal calamity of biblical proportions”

These quotes are taken from an interview Stockman gave at the end of December, on the very day the US Senate approved drastic changes to the US tax code.

Whilst Stockman has believed for some time that the gig is up when it comes to the current state of play, he expresses his concerns that the decision to implement major tax cuts will be the icing on the cake.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Unhinged, Part 1: The GOP’s Fiscal Madness

Unhinged, Part 1: The GOP’s Fiscal Madness

The watchword for 2018 is: UNHINGED!

That refers to Wall Street, Washington, the Dems and the GOP, and all the far and near corners of the planet which are implicated in their collective follies.

The latter begins with the fact that Imperial Washington has become so dysfunctional that the most powerful government on earth can’t seem to keep its doors open for more than a few weeks at a time.

The next continuing resolution (CR) deadline is January 19 and the route thereto resembles nothing less than kick-the-can-alley. It’s strewn with $100 billion of unfunded disaster aid, defense and nondefense sequester caps fixing to be busted by another $100 billion, 700,000 dreamers waiting to be deported, 9 million poor children (CHAPS) facing termination of medical care and millions more ObamaCare recipients who have been promised that cost abatement subsidies to insurance companies will be funded forthwith.

And along with those major bouncing cans are countless more articles of graft and booty cued-up on Capitol Hill looking for a legislative gravy train (i.e. CR) to hop aboard.

Likewise, the casino gamblers on Wall Street complacently attempt to tag another record at 2700 on the S&P 500. Yet that would represent a nosebleed 25X LTM earnings heading into a bond market rout that is certain to result from soaring treasury issuance and the Fed’s impending bond dump-a-thon.

Worse still, the Donald insouciantly unleashes tweet storms about the alleged Trumpian boom when the next recession is statistically just around the corner. After all, the current so-called recovery will pass the existing 118 month record, which occurred under the far more propitious circumstances of the 1990s, in April 2019.

But when it comes to Unhinged, nothing tops the GOP’s disgraceful plunge into fiscal turpitude. The once and former party of fiscal rectitude and a constitutionally required balanced budget has unleashed a torrent of red ink, which under the circumstances, makes Barack Obama’s profligacy pale by comparison.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

A Bedtime Story

A Bedtime Story

We are explaining our money system to our grandson, James, now 14 months old…

His mother tries to get him to go to bed at 9 p.m. But the little boy’s internal clock is still on Baltimore time; it tells him it is much too early to go to sleep.


Bill’s living room transformed into a makeshift nursery

Grandpa takes over, drawing out the monetary system like a general spreading a map on a field table. “Here is the enemy,” he says gravely. “They have us completely surrounded. We’re doomed.”

James grumbles. He squirms. He has a sunny, optimistic temperament. But we think our explanations are sinking in.

He seems to understand…

…that money is not wealth; it just measures and represents wealth, like the claim ticket on a car in a parking garage.

…that our post-1971 money system is based on fake money that represents no wealth and measures badly.

…that this new money enters the economy as credit… and that the credit industry (Wall Street) has privileged access to it. The working man still has to earn his money, selling his work, by the hour. But Wall Street—and elite borrowers connected to the Establishment—get it without breaking a sweat or watching the clock.

…that a disproportionate share of this new money is concentrated in and around the credit industry—pushing up asset prices, raising salaries and bonuses in the financial sector, and making the rich (those who own financial assets) much richer.

…that this flood of credit helped the middle class raise its living standards, even as earnings stagnated. But it also raised debt levels throughout the economy.

…and that it allowed the average American family to spend American money that Americans never earned and buy products Americans never made…

Instead, Walmart’s shelves were stocked with goods “Made in China.” The middle class lost income as factories, jobs, and earnings moved overseas. Debt stayed at home.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Greatest Bubble Ever: Why You Better Believe It, Part 1

The Greatest Bubble Ever: Why You Better Believe It, Part 1

During the 40 months after Alan Greenspan’s infamous “irrational exuberance” speech in December 1996, the NASDAQ 100 index rose from 830 to 4585 or by 450%. But the perma-bulls said not to worry: This time is different—-it’s a new age of technology miracles that will change the laws of finance forever.

It wasn’t. The market cracked in April 2000 and did not stop plunging until the NASDAQ 100 index hit 815 in early October 2002. During those heart-stopping 30 months of free-fall, all the gains of the tech boom were wiped out in an 84% collapse of the index. Overall, the market value of household equities sank from $10.0 trillion to $4.8 trillion—-a wipeout from which millions of baby boom households have never recovered.

Likewise, the second Greenspan housing and credit boom generated a similar round trip of bubble inflation and collapse. During the 57 months after the October 2002 bottom, the Russell 2000 (RUT) climbed the proverbial wall-of-worry—-rising from 340 to 850 or by 2.5X.

And this time was also held to be different because, purportedly, the art of central banking had been perfected in what Bernanke was pleased to call the “Great Moderation”. Taking the cue, Wall Street dubbed it the Goldilocks Economy—-meaning a macroeconomic environment so stable, productive and balanced that it would never again be vulnerable to a recessionary contraction and the resulting plunge in corporate profits and stock prices.

Wrong again!

During the 20 months from the July 2007 peak to the March 2009 bottom, the RUT gave it all back. And we mean every bit of it—-as the index bottomed 60% lower at 340. This time the value of household equities plunged by $6 trillion, and still millions more baby-boomers were carried out of the casino on their shields never to return.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The ghost of Gann: Another crash is coming

The original wizard of Wall Street, W.D Gann was a finance trader and wealthy speculator that spent decades investigating cyclical trends in equity market patterns and found that prices could be predicted long in advance. He successfully predicted the crashes in the 1929 and Dot-Com stock market bubbles.  And according to his analysis, the US stock market is due for another crash in 2020.

Every movement in the market is the result of a natural law and of a Cause which exists long before the Effect takes place and can be determined years in advance. The future is but a repetition of the past, as the Bible plainly states…

After suffering through the worst economic and financial crisis since the 1930s depression when the real estate and stock markets crashed in 2007, the United States’ bubble economy is back into full swing. Residential and commercial real estate prices are growing strongly, along with equities.

The US stock market, as defined by the S&P500 index, has boomed after collapsing to a trough in 2009. The market ‘recovered’ more quickly than anyone thought it would, and has continued surging from thereon in.

This has led to a lot of commentary and media coverage that the S&P500 is in the thrall of yet another bubble that will burst. Despite the many predictions of collapse, the bubble has powered on unhindered.

Like all asset bubbles, the primary cause is speculators taking on debt to bid up prices to ever-higher levels, generating a stream of greater fools willing to purchase at inflated valuations. In the case of equities, the type of debt used is margin debt.

The trends in the S&P500 index and margin debt are obvious. The name of the game is capital gains; income is increasingly sidelined as yields become compressed to record lows.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

In Legalizing Marijuana, Uruguay Trips over the Dollar, US Laws, and Global Banks

In Legalizing Marijuana, Uruguay Trips over the Dollar, US Laws, and Global Banks

It’s far from easy to do business without the financial support of any bank. But Uruguay, in its efforts to create a legal, regulated market for the recreational use of marijuana, is trying. In August it was revealed that some of the pharmacies that had agreed to sell the two varieties of cannabis distributed by the Uruguayan State had received threats from their respective banks, including the local subsidiary of Spain’s Santander, that they would close their accounts unless they stopped participating in the state-controlled sales.

To fill the funding void, the state-owned lender Banco República (BROU) announced that it would provide credit to the pharmacies involved in the scheme as well as producers and clubs. But within days, it too was given a stark ultimatum, this time from two of Wall Street’s biggest hitters, Bank of America and Citi: Either it stopped providing financing for Uruguay’s licensed marijuana producers and vendors or it’s dollar operations could be at risk — a very serious threat in a country where US dollars are used so widely that they can even be withdrawn from ATMs.

Why Drug Lords Love the Patriot Act

The main reason why this is all happening is that under the US Patriot Act, handling money from marijuana is illegal and violates measures to control money laundering and terrorist acts. Despite the fact that US regulators have made it clear that banks will not be prosecuted for providing services to businesses that are lawfully selling cannabis in states where pot has been legalized for recreational use, major banks have shied away from the expanding industry, deciding that the burdens and risks of doing business with marijuana sellers, both within and beyond U.S. borders, are not worth the bother.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Darkest Hours


The Tax “Reform” bill working its way painfully out the digestive system of congress like a sigmoid fistula, ought be re-named the US Asset-stripping Assistance Act of 2017, because that’s what is about to splatter the faces of the waiting public, most of whom won’t have a personal lobbyist / tax lawyer by their sides holding a protective tarpulin during the climactic colonic burst of legislation.

Sssshhhh…. The media has not groked this, but the economy is actually collapsing, and the nova-like expansion of the stock markets is exactly the sort of action you might expect in a system getting ready to blow. Meanwhile, the more visible rise of the laughable scam known as crypto-currency, is like the plume of smoke coming out of Vesuvius around 79 AD — an amusing curiosity to the citizens of Pompeii below, going about their normal activities, eating pizza, buying slaves, making love — before hellfire rained down on them.

Whatever the corporate tax rate might be, it won’t be enough to rescue the Ponzi scheme that governing has become, with its implacable costs of empire. So the real aim here is to keep up appearances at all costs just a little while longer while the table scraps of a four-hundred-year-long New World banquet get tossed to the hogs of Wall Street and their accomplices. The catch is that even hogs busy fattening up don’t have a clue about their imminent slaughter.

The centerpiece of the swindle, as usual, is control fraud on the grand scale. Control fraud is the mis-use of authority in applying Three-Card-Monte principles to financial accounting practice, so that a credulous, trustful public will be too bamboozled to see the money drain from their bank accounts and the ground shift under their feet until the moment of freefall.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

“Dark Money” Runs the World

“Dark Money” Runs the World

Few people know financial markets’ biggest secret…

For the last 40 years, most people believed the stock market always goes up. Simply buy and hold long enough, the theory went, and you could sit back and watch the money accumulate in your account. No thought or hard work needed.

It was a nifty strategy — until the idea burned most investors in 2008. Almost a decade later, the scar tissue is still fresh for many investors.

Even today, after the U.S. stock market has rallied by 271% since the bottom on March 6, 2009 — nearly tripling investors’ money — only about half of Americans are invested in the stock market, according to NPR. That’s down from two-thirds compared to a decade ago.

The rest are in cash on the sidelines. Maybe that’s been you.

And who can blame you? “Fool me once, shame on you,” the saying goes. “Fool me twice, shame on me.”

Last June, Fortune surveyed readers. 71% of respondents said “the economic system in the U.S. is rigged in favor of certain groups.”

A few years earlier, the Los Angeles Times reported “Poll finds 64% of voters believe stock market is rigged against them…

They’re not wrong.

Somebody’s made gains from all of those sectors in the stock market. It just hasn’t been Main Street.

Since I’ve left the world of big banking, I’ve made it my mission to change that. That leads me to the catalyst for my new project…

Dark money.

Dark money is the #1 secret life force of today’s rigged financial markets. It drives whole markets up and down. It’s the reason for today’s financial bubbles.

On Wall Street, knowledge of and access to dark money means trillions of dollars per year flowing in and around global stock, bond and derivatives markets.

I learned this firsthand from my career on Wall Street. My first full year working on Wall Street was in 1987.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Peak Fantasy Time

Peak Fantasy Time

If you want to know why both Wall Street and Washington are so delusional about America’s baleful economic predicament, just consider this morsel from today’s Wall Street Journal on the purportedly awesome November jobs report.

Wages rose just 2.5% from a year earlier in November—near the same lackluster pace maintained since late 2015, despite a much lower unemployment rate. But in a positive signfor Americans’ incomes, the average work week increased by about 6 minutes to 34.5 hours in November…. November marked the 86th straight month employers added to payrolls.

Whoopee!

Six whole minutes added to a work week that has been shrinking for decades owing to the relentlessly deteriorating quality mix of the “jobs” counted by the BLS establishment survey. In fact, even by that dubious measure, the work week is still shorter than it was at the December 2007 pre-crisis peak (33.8) and well below its 2000 peak level.

The reason isn’t hard to figure: The US economy is generating fewer and fewer goods producing jobs where the work week averages 40.5 hours and weekly pay equates to $58,400 annually and far more bar, hotel and restaurant jobs, where the work week averages just 26.1 hours and weekly pay equates to only $21,000 annually.

In other words, the ballyh0oed headline averages are essentially meaningless noise because the BLS counts all jobs equal—-that is, a 10-hour per week gig at the minimum wage at McDonald’s weighs the same as a 45 hour per week (with overtime) job at the Caterpillar plant in Peoria that pays $80,000 annually in wages and benefits.

When the line is trending inexorably from the upper left to the lower right, of course, it means there are more of the former and fewer of the latter. Six more minutes of continuing worse—-is still bad.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Climate Crisis, ‘Smart’ Growth and the Logic of Calamity

Climate Crisis, ‘Smart’ Growth and the Logic of Calamity

A few years back at a Leftish gathering a group of self-described Marxist economists channeled liberal Democrat Paul Krugman’s explanation of the Great Recession without apparently knowing of Mr. Krugman’s thesis. Basically, a self-perpetuating recession had a grip on the economy, Wall Street was a catalyst of the crisis but ultimately only a bit player, money is economically ‘neutral,’ and government spending could raise demand and end the recession.

This is all standard fare in liberal economics. Within the circular logic of the genre, it circles just fine. What was odd was hearing it from self-described Marxists. Since Wall Street created the money that fueled the housing bubble and bust through predatory lending, how was its role not (1) pivotal and (2) political? If money is ‘neutral,’ why have financial asset prices responded so favorably (for their owners) to asset purchases by global central banks? And finally, where is the class analysis?

In similar fashion, UMASS Amherst economist Robert Pollin arguedrecently that capitalist economic production is necessary to maintain social wellbeing. The object of his disparagement is the suggestion that a planned reduction in economic growth (‘degrowth’) is the most probable way of resolving climate crisis. For the uninitiated, the contention that challenges to capitalist production will hurt ‘the little people’ has been a rhetorical tactic of capitalist economists for at least a century now.

Graph: Real (inflation-adjusted) Per Capita GDP is more than double today what it was in 1970. In the U.S. in 1970 mass starvation was notably absent. So people could conceivably not only get by if U.S. GDP were halved, but could thrive. The problems with doing so are (1) social complexity has been built into the political economy and (2) unwinding this complexity requires planning and the political will to do so. However, climate crisis poses the threat of unplanned degrowth of similar or greater magnitude. Source: St. Louis Federal Reserve

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai III: Cataclysm
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