Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Real Reason for the Refugee Crisis You Won’t Hear About in the Media

By Nick Giambruno

There’s a meme going around that the refugee crisis in Europe (the largest since World War II) is part of a secret plot to subvert the West. I completely understand why the locals in any country wouldn’t be happy about waves of foreigners pouring in. Especially if they’re poor, unskilled, and not likely to assimilate.

It leads to huge problems. Infrastructure gets strained. More people are sucking at the teat of the welfare system. The unwelcome newcomers compete for bottom of the ladder jobs. Things easily turn nasty and then turn violent. But the idea that the refugee crisis in Europe is part of a hidden agenda - rather than a predictable outcome - strikes me as strange. And it’s a notion that conveniently deflects blame away from the people and factors that deserve it.

Interventions Destabilize the Middle East

The civil war in Syria has turned the country into a refugee maker. Syria’s neighbors have reached their physical limit on their ability to absorb refugees. That’s one of the reasons so many are heading to the West. Lebanon has received over 1 million Syrian refugees. That’s an enormous number for a country with a population of only 4 million - a 25% increase. Jordan and Turkey also have millions of Syrian refugees.

They’re saturated.

The number of refugees heading to the West, by contrast, is in the hundreds of thousands. So far. But it’s not just Syria that’s sending refugees. Many more come from Iraq and Afghanistan, two other countries shattered by bungled Western military interventions. Then there are the refugees from Libya. A country the media and political establishment would rather forget because it represents another disastrous military decision. Actually, it’s not just Libyan refugees. It’s refugees from all of Africa who are using Libya as a transit point to reach Europe.

Before his overthrow by NATO, Muammar Gaddafi had an agreement with Italy, which is directly to Libya’s north, across the Mediterranean Sea. Gaddafi agreed to prevent refugees heading for Europe from using Libya as a transit point. It was an arrangement that worked. So it’s no shocker that when NATO helped a coalition of ambitious rebels overthrow the Gaddafi government, the refugee floodgates opened.
When there’s war, there are refugees. It’s a predictable outcome.

It’s like kicking a bees’ nest and being surprised that bees fly out. Nobody should be surprised when that happens. And nobody should be surprised that people are fleeing war zones in Libya, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

If Western governments didn’t want a refugee crisis, they shouldn’t have been so eager to topple those governments and destabilize those countries. The refugees should camp out in the backyards of the individuals who run those governments. I also have to mention the Saudis. They were very much involved in the Libyan war. They’ve also devoted themselves to ousting the Assad government in Syria, for geopolitical and sectarian reasons.

Then there’s the war in Yemen that the Saudis have sponsored. It’s another mess the media doesn’t discuss often. But it will likely produce even more refugees. The Saudis make no secret about not welcoming refugees, even though the Kingdom is a primary instigator of the wars that are forcing people to flee their homelands. One reason is the Saudis don’t want more people leeching off their welfare system, especially amid budget crunches from lower oil prices.

This brings up another interesting point. For the first time in decades, observers are calling into question the viability of the Saudi currency peg of 3.75 riyals per US dollar. The Saudi government spends a ton of money on welfare to keep its citizens sedated. But with lower oil prices cutting deep into government revenue, there’s less money to spend on welfare. Then there’s the cost of the wars in Yemen and Syria.

There’s a serious crunch in the Saudi budget. They’ve only been able to stay afloat by draining their foreign exchange reserves. That threatens their currency peg. The next clue that there’s trouble is Saudi officials telling the media that the currency peg is fine and there’s nothing to worry about. An official government denial is almost always a sign of the opposite. It’s like the old saying…“believe nothing until it has been officially denied.”

If there were a convenient way to short the Saudi riyal, I would do it in a heartbeat.

Don’t Give the Welfare State a Pass

It’s no coincidence that the refugees are flowing to the countries with the most generous welfare benefits, especially Germany and the Scandinavian nations. If there weren’t so many freebies in these countries, there wouldn’t be so many refugees showing up to collect them.

The whole refugee crisis was easily predictable. It was the foreseeable consequence of shortsighted interventions in the Middle East and the welfare state policies of nearby Europe. Instead of facing facts, blaming it all on a scheme to subvert the West conveniently deflects any responsibility from the authors of the mess.

If the individuals who run Western governments really wanted to solve the refugee problem, they would throttle way back on welfare state policies and then stay out of the Middle East free for all. It’s really as simple as that. But don’t count on the mainstream media to figure this out. They effectively operate as an organ of the State. I bet they’ll keep prescribing more of the same bad medicine that caused this crisis to begin with.

This will help to cover the tracks of the real perpetrators, and it will obscure other real problems. I expect the media to ramp up the “blame the foreigner” sentiment, as it helps the US and EU governments distract the anger of their citizens from the sputtering economy and the shrinking of their civil liberties. From the politicians’ perspective, it’s a win win. But it’s a lose lose for citizens hoping for accountable government.

And this brings up another uncomfortable truth for Americans and Europeans. The way the political and economic winds are blowing, things could get much worse. Central banks around the globe have created the biggest financial bubble in world history. The social and political implications of this bubble bursting are even more dangerous than the financial consequences.

An economic depression and currency inflation (perhaps hyperinflation) are very much in the cards. These things rarely lead to anything but bigger government, less freedom, and shrinking prosperity. Sometimes they lead to much worse.

One day the shoe could be on the other foot. We could see American and European refugees fleeing to South America or other havens to escape the problems in their home countries. It would be an ironic twist.
Now, this outcome isn’t inevitable. But the chance it will happen isn’t zero, either, and the risk seems to grow each day.

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The article was originally published at

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Thursday, October 8, 2015

How the Chinese Will Establish a New Financial Order

By Porter Stansberry

For many years now, it’s been clear that China would soon be pull­ing the strings in the U.S. financial system. In 2015, the American people owe the Chinese government nearly $1.5 trillion.

I know big numbers don’t mean much to most people, but keep in mind… this tab is now hundreds of billions of dollars more than what the U.S. government collects in ALL income taxes (both cor­porate and individual) each year. It’s basically a sum we can never, ever hope to repay – at least, not by normal means.
Of course, the Chinese aren’t stupid. They realize we are both trapped.

We are stuck with an enormous debt we can never realistically repay… And the Chinese are trapped with an outstanding loan they can neither get rid of, nor hope to collect. So the Chinese govern­ment is now taking a secret and somewhat radical approach.

China has recently put into place a covert plan to get back as much of its money as possible – by extracting colossal sums from both the United States government and ordinary citizens, like you and me.

The Chinese “State Administration of Foreign Exchange” (SAFE) is now engaged in a full fledged currency war with the United States. The ultimate goal – as the Chinese have publicly stated – is to cre­ate a new dominant world currency, dislodge the U.S. dollar from its current reserve role, and recover as much of the $1.5 trillion the U.S. government has borrowed as possible.

Lucky for us, we know what’s going to happen. And we even have a pretty good idea of how it will all unfold. How do we know so much? Well, this isn’t the first time the U.S. has tried to stiff its foreign creditors.

Most Americans probably don’t remember this, but our last big currency war took place in the 1960s. Back then, French President Charles de Gaulle denounced the U.S. government’s policy of print­ing overvalued U.S. dollars to pay for its trade deficits… which allowed U.S. companies to buy European assets with dollars that were artificially held up in value by a gold peg that was nothing more than an accounting fiction.

So de Gaulle took action...…

In 1965, he took $150 million of his country’s dollar reserves and redeemed the paper currency for U.S. gold from Ft. Knox. De Gaulle even offered to send the French Navy to escort the gold back to France.

Today, this gold is worth about $12 billion.

Keep in mind… this occurred during a time when foreign govern­ments could legally redeem their paper dollars for gold, but U.S. citizens could not. And France was not the only nation to do this, Spain soon re­deemed $60 million of U.S. dollar reserves for gold, and many other nations followed suit. By March 1968, gold was flowing out of the United States at an alarming rate.

By 1950, U.S. depositories held more gold than had ever been assembled in one place in world history (roughly 702 million ounces). But to manipulate our currency, the U.S. government was willing to give away more than half of the country’s gold. It’s estimated that during the 1950s and early 1970s, we essentially gave away about two thirds of our nation’s gold reserves, around 400 million ounces, all because the U.S. government was trying to defend the U.S. dollar at a fixed rate of $35 per ounce of gold.

In short, we gave away 400 million ounces of gold and got $14 billion in exchange. Today, that same gold would be worth $620 billion, a 4,330% difference. Incredibly stupid, wouldn’t you agree? This blunder cost the U.S. much of its gold hoard. When the history books are finally written, this chapter will go down as one of our nation’s most incompetent political blunders. Of course, as is typical with politicians, they managed to make a bad situation even worse.

The root cause of the weakness in the U.S. dollar was easy to understand. Americans were consuming far more than they were producing. You could see this by looking at our government’s annual deficits, which were larger than ever and growing… thanks to the gigantic new welfare programs and the Vietnam “police ac­tion.” You could also see this by looking at our trade deficit, which continued to get bigger and bigger, forecasting a dramatic drop (eventually) in the value of the U.S. dollar.

Of course, economic realities are never foremost on the minds of politicians – especially not Richard Nixon’s. On August 15, 1971, he went on live television before the most popular show in Ameri­ca (Bonanza) and announced a new plan. The U.S. gold window would close effective immediately – and no nation or individual anywhere in the world would be allowed to exchange U.S. dollars for gold. The president announced a 10% surtax on ALL imports!

Such tariffs never accomplish much in terms of actually altering the balance of trade, as our trading partners simply put matching charges on our exports. So what actually happens is just less trade overall, which slows the whole global economy, making the impact of inflation worse. Of course, Nixon pitched these moves as patriotic, saying: “I am determined that the American dollar must never again be a hos­tage in the hands of international speculators.”

The “sheeple” cheered, as they always do whenever something is done to “stop the speculators.” But the joke was on them. Within two years, America was in its worst recession since WWII… with an oil crisis, skyrocketing unemployment, a 30% drop in the stock market, and soaring inflation. Instead of becoming richer, millions of Americans got a lot poorer, practically overnight.

And that brings us to today…..
Roughly 40 years later, the United States is in the middle of anoth­er currency war. But this time, our main adversary is not Europe. It’s China. And this time, the situation is far more serious. Our nation and our economy are already in an extremely fragile state. In the 1960s, the American economy was growing rapidly, with decades of expansion still to come. That’s not the case today.

This new currency war with China will wreak absolute havoc on the lives of millions of ordinary Americans, much sooner than most people think. It’s critical over the next few years for you to understand exactly what the Chinese are doing, why they are doing it, and the near certain outcome.
Porter Stansberry

(This is an adaptation of an article that was originally published in Porter's Investment Advisory.)
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The article was originally published at

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Mrs. Magoo, Deflation, and Commodity Woes

By Tony Sagami 

Did you read my September 22 issue? Or my July 14 column? If you did, you could have avoided the downdraft that has pulled down stocks all across the transportation sector or even made a bundle, like the 100% gain my Rational Bear subscribers made by buying put options on Seaspan Corporation, the largest container shipping company in the world.

Don’t worry, though. Transportation stocks still have a long ways to fall, so it’s not too late to sell any trucking, shipping, or railroad stock you may own—or profit from their continued fall through shorting, put options, or inverse ETFs. This chart of the Dow Jones Transportation Average validates my negative outlook on all things transportation and shows why we’ve been so successful betting against the “movers” of the US economy.

However, the bear market for transportation stocks is far from finished.

Federal Express Crashes and Burns

Federal Express, which is the single largest weighting of the Dow Jones Transportation Average at 11.6%, delivered a trifecta of misery:
  1. Missed on revenues
  2. Missed on earnings
  3. Lowered 2016 guidance

I’m not talking about a small miss either. FedEx reported profits of $2.26 per share, well below the $2.46 Wall Street was expecting. Moreover, the company should benefit from having one extra day in the quarter, which makes the results even more disappointing.

What’s the problem?

“Weak industry demand,” according to FedEx. By the way, both Federal Express and United Parcel Service are good barometers of overall consumer spending/confidence, so that should tell you something about the (deteriorating) state of the US economy. Oh, and Federal Express announced that it will increase its rates by an average of 4.9% beginning in January 2015. Yeah, I bet that rate increase will really help with that already weak demand. The decline is even more troublesome when you consider that gasoline/diesel prices have fallen like a rock this year.

Speaking of Falling Commodity Prices

Oil, which dropped by 23% in the third quarter, isn’t the only commodity that’s falling like a rock.
  • Copper prices plunged to a six-year low.
  • Aluminum prices have also dropped to a six year low.
  • Coal prices have fallen 40% since the start of 2014.
  • Minerals aren’t the only commodities that are dropping. Sugar hit a 7-year low in August.
Commodities across the board are lower; the Thomson Reuters CoreCommodity CRB Index of 19 commodities was down 15% for the quarter and 31% over the last 12 months. Since peaking in 2008, the CRB Index is down 60%.

That’s why anybody and anything associated with the commodity food chain has been a terrible place to invest your money. Just last week:

Connecting the Dots #1: Caterpillar announced that it was going to lay off 4,000 to 5,000 people this year. That number could reach 10,000 by the end of 2016, and the company may close more than 20 plants. Layoffs are nothing new at Caterpillar—the company has reduced its total workforce by 31,000 workers since 2012.

The problem is lousy sales. Caterpillar just told Wall Street to lower its revenues forecast for 2016 by $1 billion. $1 billion!

How bad does the future have to look for a company to suddenly decide that it is going to lose $1 billion in sales? “We are facing a convergence of challenging marketplace conditions in key regions and industry sectors, namely in mining and energy,” said Doug Oberhelman, Caterpillar chairman and CEO.

Like the layoffs, vanishing sales are nothing new. 2015 is the third year in a row of shrinking sales, and 2016 will be the fourth. Caterpillar, by the way, isn’t the only heavy-equipment company in deep trouble.

Connecting the Dots #2: Last week, UK construction machinery firm and Caterpillar competitor JCB announced that it will cut 400 jobs, or 6% of its workforce, because of a massive slowdown in business in Russia, China, and Brazil.

“In the first six months of the year, the market in Russia has dropped by 70%, Brazil by 36%, and China by 47%,”said JCB CEO Graeme Macdonald. Caterpillar, the world’s biggest maker of earthmoving equipment, cut its full-year 2015 forecast in part because of the slowdown in China and Brazil.

Connecting the Dots #3: BHP Billiton announced that it is chopping its capital expenditure budget again to $8.5 billion, a stunning $10 billion below its 2013 peak. Moreover, BHP Billiton currently only has four projects in the works, two of which are almost complete, compared to 18 developments it had going just two years ago.

Overall, the mining industry—according to SNL Metals and Mining—is going to spend $70 billion less in 2015 less than it did in 2012. And in case you think metals prices are going to rebound, consider that the previous bear market for mining lasted from 1997 to 2002, which suggests at least another two years of shrinking budgets and pain.

Repeat After Me!

I have said this many, many times before, but repeat after me.....ZIRP (zero interest rate policy) and QE are DEFLATIONARY!

The reason is that cheap (almost free) money encourages over-investment as well as keeping zombie companies alive that should have gone out of business. Both of those forces are highly deflationary, and unless you think that Mrs. Magoo (Janet Yellen) is going to aggressively start jacking up interest rates, you better adjust your portfolio for years and years and years of deflation.

While the rest of the investment world has been struggling, here at Rational Bear, we’ve been doing just fine.

Here are the results of six recent trades: 38% return from puts on an oil services fund, 16.6% return from an ETF that shorts industry sectors, 200% return from puts on an auction house, 50% return from puts on a jeweler, 50% return from puts on a social media giant and 100% return from puts on a container shipping company.

And we still have more irons in the fire. It’s time to be bearish, so I suggest you give Rational Bear a try—like it or your money back.
Tony Sagami
Tony Sagami

30 year market expert Tony Sagami leads the Yield Shark and Rational Bear advisories at Mauldin Economics. To learn more about Yield Shark and how it helps you maximize dividend income, click here.

To learn more about Rational Bear and how you can use it to benefit from falling stocks and sectors, click here.

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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Use Yogi Berra's Trading Advice and be Prepared for a 40% Drop?

The recently late Yogi Berra said, "We're lost, but we're making good time." That sums up the market. No one, including the Fed, knows where we are or where we're going, but they all think we are on track. The reality is "recession watch" has begun. A recession will mean a full blown bear market and a 40% drop in the stock market.

Bruce Marshall has traded through a lot of recessions - 1993, 1998, 2001, 2007, and the financial collapse of 08/09. Bruce recently answered this question, "what is the one strategy you can't live without in a bear market?" Bruce said, "A low risk, high reward trade I love in a bear market is a bear calendar spread." The best part is Bruce has a detailed step by step strategy for this trade.

Get the Strategy Here 

In this class Bruce will share:

  *  How to profit from the huge swings in volatility

  *  How to structure a trade to take advantage of gap downs in the market

  *  How to structure a trade to get a positive theta decay on your bearish trades

  *  Step by step how to put on and take off the trade with profit targets

  *  How to avoid the common mistakes in trading a down market

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      Over the next few years expect the markets to decline and unemployment to rise.

You can either sit back and ride the recession out or you can be one of the few that profit from it.

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The live class is Wednesday night October 7th from 8 - 10 pm and there is limited seating so get your reserved spot asap. I'll be attending as a participant along side with you. I am really looking forward to this class.

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Good Trading,
Ray C. Parrish
aka the Crude Oil Trader

P.S. Don't get sucked into the media hyped rally. Whether you're a short term or long term trader you need to know what the road ahead looks like. There are many newbie traders who have never traded in a recession. They wouldn't know a recession if they fell face first into one. Don't let anyone lull you into a false sense of security.

Let Bruce show you how to set up this Bearish Calendar Spread so you can profit in this environment.

Get the Class Here

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Recession Watch

By John Mauldin 

“Growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together.”– J.C. Penney

“Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle.”– Napoleon Hill

“We’re lost, but we’re making good time.”– Yogi Berra

The Yogi Berra quote above, which was brought to my attention this week, seems an apt description of where the markets and the economy are today. Nobody is quite sure where we are or where we’re going, but we all seem to think we’re going to get there soon.

I think it’s pretty much a given that we’re in for a cyclical bear market in the coming quarters. The question is, will it be 1998 or 2001/2007? Will the recovery look V shaped, or will it drag out? Remember, there is always a recovery. But at the same time, there is always a recession out in front of us; and that fact of life is what makes for long and difficult recoveries, not to mention very deep bear markets.

The problem is that our most reliable indicator for a recession is no longer available to us. The Federal Reserve did a study, which has been replicated. They looked at 26 indicators with regard to their reliability in predicting a recession. There was only one that was accurate all the time, and that was an inverted yield curve of a particular length and depth. Interestingly, it worked almost a year in advance. The inverted yield curve indicator worked very well the last two recessions; but now, with the Federal Reserve holding interest rates at the zero bound, it is simply impossible to get a negative yield curve.

Understand, an inverted yield curve does not cause a recession. It is simply an indicator that an economy is under stress. So now we are in an environment where we can look only at “predictive” indicators that are not 100% reliable. Actually, most are not even close. Some indicators have predicted seven out of the last four recessions. Some never trigger at all.

Recession Watch
All that said, looking at data from the last few weeks suggests that we need to be on “recession watch.” Global GDP is clearly slowing down, and the data we are getting from the US suggests that we are going to see a serious falloff in GDP over the next few quarters. I want to look at the recent (very disappointing) employment numbers, earnings forecasts (and some funny accounting), credit spreads, total leverage in the system, and the overall environment where credit, which has been the fuel for growth, is under pressure. The totality of this data says that we have to be on alert for a recession, because a recession will mean a full-blown bear market (down at least 40%), rising unemployment, and (sadly) QE4.

The jobs report on Friday was just ugly. Private payrolls increased by just 118,000, which is about the minimum level needed for unemployment not to rise. Government payrolls added 24,000. There were serious downward revisions to the last two months, as well. August was taken down by 37,000 jobs, and July was reduced by 22,000. The last three months have averaged just 167,000 new jobs compared to 231,000 for the previous three months and 260,000 for the six months prior to that.

My friend David Rosenberg dug a little deeper into the numbers and noted: Adding insult to injury and revealing an even softer underbelly to this report was the contraction in the workweek to 34.5 hours from 34.6 hours in August, which is effectively equivalent to an added 348,000 job losses.

So take the headline number, tack on the downward revisions and the loss of labour input from the decline in the workweek, and the "real" payroll number was [a minus] 265,000. You read that right.

He added: “Have no doubt that if the contours of the job market continue on this recent surprising downward path… [m]arket chatter of QE four by March 2016 is going to be making the rounds.”
While the unemployment rate remained at 5.1%, it did so largely because of a significant drop in the labor participation rate, which is not a good way to enhance employment. Further, the U-6 unemployment number is still a rather depressing 10%. Those are the people who are working part-time but would like full time jobs, as well as discouraged and marginally attached workers. Very few part-time jobs pay enough to finance a middle class lifestyle.

Earnings Recession
Leo Kolivakis of Pension Pulse has a downbeat earnings season preview, aptly titled “A Looming Catastrophe Ahead?

Analysts have been steadily cutting 3Q earnings projections, and those revisions threaten to make some richly priced stocks even more so. Thomson Reuters data shows analysts expect a 3.9% year over year decline in S&P 500 earnings. Expectations are falling for future quarters as well.

These expectations have some strategists talking about an “earnings recession.” Just as an economic recession is two consecutive quarters of falling GDP, an earnings recession is two consecutive quarters of falling corporate profits.

The headwinds are no mystery. China’s weaker import demand is hurting all kinds of companies, especially raw materials and infrastructure suppliers. Caterpillar (CAT) slashed its revenue forecast and announced 10,000 job cuts. That probably isn’t playing well in Peoria. Accompanying the falloff in Chinese demand is an increase in the number of containers coming into the US as the strong dollar allows us to buy more and sell less. Not a particularly useful combination.

I love this quote from a Reuters story: “How can we drive the market higher when all of these signals aren’t showing a lot of prosperity?” said Daniel Morgan, senior portfolio manager at Synovus Trust Company in Atlanta, Georgia, who cited earnings growth as one of the drivers of the market. As we all know, it is every portfolio manager’s job to “drive the market higher.” Daniel evidently wants to do his part.

Sadly, despite our best efforts, the stock market faces an uphill climb. More from Reuters: Even with the recent selloff, stocks are still expensive by some gauges. The S&P 500 Index is selling at roughly 16 times its expected earnings for the next 12 months, lower than this year's peak of 17.8 but higher than the historic mean of about 15. The index would have to drop to about 1,800 to bring valuations back to the long-term range. The S&P 500 closed at 1,931.34 on Friday [Sept 25].

Moreover, forward and trailing price-to-earnings ratios for the S&P 500 are converging, another sign of collapsing growth expectations. The trailing P/E stands at about 16.5, Thomson Reuters data shows. Last year at this time, the forward P/E was also 16 but the trailing was 17.6.

The last period of convergence was in 2009 when earnings were declining following the financial crisis. The Energy sector is the biggest drag on earnings, meaning that we now see analysts everywhere calculating estimates “ex energy.” I suppose this produces useful information, but if we are going to exclude the bottom outlier, shouldn’t we exclude the top outlier as well? Healthcare is carrying much of the earnings burden for S&P 500 stocks, but I have yet to see an ex healthcare or ex energy & healthcare estimate. A funny thing about earnings: they’ve been going up for the past year, even as top line revenue has not. Generally, those go hand in hand. What’s happening?

And for the answer I have a story. A few years ago I made an assumption as to how a new stream of income would be taxed. I made that assumption based on my knowledge of having had similar income in the ’80s and ’90s. It turned out the rules had changed, and I hit the end of the year owing what was for me a rather large sum, as I was also trying to finance and build my new apartment.

I told my tale of woe to my accountant, Darrell Cain, who obviously detected the distress in my voice. He smiled at me and said, “John, I have an elephant bullet.” He reached under the table and pulled out an imaginary elephant bullet. “This is a big bullet. But I only have one of them. Once you use this bullet you can never use it again. If another elephant comes down the road, there will be nothing you can do.”

And yes, there were some one time tax maneuvers that reduced my taxes to a manageable number. But as he said, those were a one time option.

There is no way to prove it, but I think corporate accountants have been using up their elephant bullets this past year, as corporations want to be able to maintain the fiction that earnings are rising, so that price to earnings ratios don’t come under stress and cause stock prices to fall. You can move expenses from quarter to quarter, put off certain spending, recharacterize certain expenses one time, and so on. I deeply suspect we are going to find that some recent corporate earnings have been of the smoke and mirrors type.

Further, as I’ve written in previous letters, earnings forecasts are notoriously trend-following and typically miss the turns. If earnings are beginning to fall – and it appears they are – it is highly likely that earnings estimates will miss to the downside. If we slide into a recession at the same time, they will miss to the downside rather dramatically.

Is GDP Flatlining?
The Commerce Department will release its first estimate for 3Q US GDP on Thursday, Oct. 29. By then we will be in the thick of earnings season and will already know how many companies performed.

In the big picture, income (corporate or individual) can’t grow unless the economy grows. GDP may be a flawed way to measure economic growth, but it is the best tool we have. Blue chip estimates right now are that it ran at near a 2.5% annualized growth rate last quarter. However, the Atlanta Fed has sharply revised their GDP estimate for the third quarter down to under 1%. (See chart below.)

Will economic growth come into harmony with income growth? We know they have to meet eventually. At present, it appears GDP will stay in slow growth mode. That means it probably won’t be able to pull earnings up with it.

High-Yield – Rising Defaults
High yield spreads have been tightening and interest rates have been rising for some time. This is starting to cause some distress in the high yield (otherwise known as junk bond) market. My friend Steve Blumenthal has been following and timing the high yield market for 20 years. He recently wrote the following, which I’m going to blatantly cut and paste as it clearly depicts the level of distress in the high yield market.

If credit becomes more difficult to get, then growth is going to come under stress as well. I note that corporations that I think of as issuing higher quality debt are paying 10%. Thank you very much. Ten percent interest rates don’t seem to me to be very low.

To continue reading this article from Thoughts from the Frontline – a free weekly publication by John Mauldin, renowned financial expert, best selling author, and Chairman of Mauldin Economics – please click here.

The article Thoughts from the Frontline: Recession Watch was originally published at

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Monday, October 5, 2015

This Weeks Class "Beginners Guide to Directional Income Trading Bear Markets"

With markets clearly moving into bear market territory our timing couldn't be better this week. We have our trading partner Bruce Marshall of Simpler Options showing us how the trading methods he is using during this "correction" in the market.

So join us this Wednesday, October 7th from 8:00 – 10:00 pm est.

Sign Up Here

In this training class Bruce will share.....

  *  How to profit from the huge swings in volatility

  *  How to structure a trade to take advantage of gap downs in the market

  *  How to structure a trade to get a positive theta decay on your bearish trades

  *  Step by step how to put on and take off the trade with profit targets

  *  How to avoid the common mistakes in trading a down market

  *  You will also receive an online recording after the class

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See you Wednesday night!
Ray C. Parrish
aka the Crude Oil Trader

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Mike Seerys Weekly Recap of the Crude Oil, Natural Gas, Gold, Silver, Dollar and Coffee Markets

Traders reacted to a very bad monthly unemployment number pushing the U.S dollar sharply lower supporting many markets on Friday afternoon. So who better to have than our trading partner Mike Seery back to give our readers a recap of this weeks trading and help us put together a plan for the upcoming week. 

Crude oil futures in the November contract are trading below their 20 and 100 day moving average telling you that the short term trend is to the downside as prices have been consolidating in recent weeks settling last Friday in New York at 45.70 a barrel while currently trading at 45.10 down around $.60 for the trading week. Traders reacted to a very bad monthly unemployment number pushing the U.S dollar sharply lower supporting many markets this Friday afternoon as I’m recommending a short position if prices break 44.00 while placing your stop loss above the 10 day high which now stands at 47.15 risking around $1,600 per contract plus slippage and commission, as prices have not broken out at this point so keep a close eye as this as this could happen any minute.

Many of the commodity markets are mixed this Friday afternoon as a weak U.S dollar has supported many different markets as the S&P 500 is sharply lower and that’s usually a negative influence towards oil prices, but they are stuck in a consolidation and I don’t like to trade choppy markets so be patient and wait for the breakout to occur. Oil prices have been relatively volatile especially with the fact that Russia is bombing Syria sending prices sharply higher yesterday and then falling out of bed towards the end of the day, so make sure you respect this market placing the proper amount of contracts therefore respecting risk which is high at the current time.
Trend: Sideways
Chart Structure: Improving

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Natural gas futures in the November contract settled last Friday in New York at 2.63 while currently trading at 2.43 hitting a 3 ½ year low as I’ve been recommending a short position from around the 2.70 level and if you took that trade continue to place your stop loss above the 10 day high which currently stands at 2.72 as the chart structure is poor at the current time due to the fact that prices continue to move lower.

Mild temperatures in the Midwestern part of the United States is causing demand problems therefore putting pressure on short term prices as the next major level of support is around 2.25 and if that is broken we can retest the 2012 lows around 2.00 in my opinion as the trend is your friend and this trend is getting stronger to the downside on a weekly basis.

At the time of the recommendation the chart structure was outstanding and was one of the main reasons I took that trade, however if you have missed this trade the chart structure is poor as the risk is too high as you have missed the boat so look at other markets that are beginning to trend. If you take a look at the weekly chart pattern natural gas has broken out of major consolidation as I’m looking to add more positions to this trade once the chart structure tightens up which will take another week or so.
Trend: Lower
Chart Structure: Poor

Gold futures in the December contract settled last Friday in New York at 1,145 an ounce while currently trading at 1,131 down about $14 this week but reacting sharply higher today on a poor monthly unemployment number but continuing its long term down trend while trading below its 20 and 100 day moving average retesting major support at 1,100 near an eight week low as I’m currently sitting on the sidelines as this market remains choppy with poor chart structure.

I still see no reason to own gold currently as the risk/reward is not your favor so look at other markets that are starting to trend. Gold prices had a significant rally in the month of August bottoming out around 1,080 then rallying to 1,170 which was impressive in my opinion due to short covering and a flight to quality as the stock market has experienced volatility in recent weeks sending money out of stocks and into gold as a safe haven, but things have settled down putting short term pressure on gold.

As I’ve talked about in many previous blogs I am a trend follower and I do not like to trade choppy markets because they are extremely difficult in my opinion so avoid this market at the current time and wait for better chart structure to develop before entering.
Trend: Lower
Chart Structure: Poor

Silver futures in the December contract settled last Friday in New York at 15.11 an ounce while currently trading at 15.00 down about $.10 reacting sharply higher due to a poor monthly unemployment number today continuing its remarkable choppy trend over the last several months as prices are right near a four week low.

At the current time I’m sitting on the sidelines as I hate trade choppy markets as prices are still trading below their 20 and 100 day moving average telling you that the short term trend is to the downside and the long term down trend is still intact in my opinion as this market has been frustrating as prices seem to go nowhere.

I’ll keep a close eye and wait for better chart structure to develop as platinum prices hit another contract low and I think that will continue to pressure silver, but I will wait for a breakout to occur as the 10 day high is too far away risking too much money at the current time so be patient as the trend clearly remains bearish.

The U.S dollar has remained strong throughout 2015 as that’s put pressure on the precious metals and many other commodities as I think the U.S dollar is about to breakout to the upside and if that does occur look for silver prices to possibly head back down to the $13 level.
Trend: Lower
Chart Structure: Poor

The dollar index futures in the December contract are trading above their 20 day and right at their 100 day average telling you that the trend has turned to the upside as I’m currently sitting on the sidelines waiting for a breakout above 96.88 to occur before entering a bullish position while then placing your stop loss at the 10 day low which would be 95.57.

The dollar settled last Friday at 96.43 while currently trading at 96.45 basically unchanged for the trading week as investors are awaiting the monthly unemployment number which will be released this morning at 7:30 sending high volatility back into this market. I have not traded the dollar index for quite some time but when I do see excellent chart structure coupled with a solid risk/reward situation I will trade the market, but at this point patience is the key waiting for the true breakout to occur before entering as we could be entering a bullish position any day now.
Trend: Mixed
Chart Structure: Improving

Coffee futures in the December contract are trading above their 20 day but still below their 100 day moving average telling you that the short term trend is mixed as I was recommending a short position getting stopped out last Friday around the 122 level as I’m now sitting on the sidelines waiting for another trend to develop as I have been stopped out of the last two recommendations. Coffee settled last Friday at 122.70 a pound while currently trading at 121 down slightly for the trading week with very low volatility as prices are still right near a 4 week high waiting for some fresh fundamental news to dictate short term price action.

Generally speaking coffee is one of the most volatile commodities historically speaking, but with low volatility at the current time as prices have been going sideways for the last month or so, but a new trend could be developing as prices look to be bottoming out around this level in my opinion. The Brazilian Real has stabilized against the U.S dollar in the past week and that’s also helped push up coffee prices here in the short term, but only time will tell to see if that trend remains, but I expect high volatility to emerge in the coming months.
Trend: Higher
Chart Structure: Solid

Mike has been a senior analyst for close to 15 years and has extensive knowledge of all of the commodity and option markets. Get more of Mike's calls on this Weeks Commodity Markets

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Friday, October 2, 2015

A Worrying Set Of Signals

By John Mauldin 

There is presently a bull market in complacency. There are very few alarm bells going off anywhere; and frankly, in reaction to my own personal complacency, I have my antenna up for whatever it is I might be missing that would indicate an approaching recession.

It was very easy to call the last two recessions well in advance because we had inverted yield curves. In the US at least, that phenomenon has a perfect track record of predicting recessions. The problem now is that, with the Federal Reserve holding the short end of the curve at the zero bound, there is no way we can get an inverted yield curve, come hell or high water. For the record, inverted yield curves do not cause recessions, they simply indicate that something is seriously out of whack with the economy. Typically, a recession shows up three to four quarters later.

I know from my correspondence and conversations that I am not the only one who is concerned with the general complacency in the markets. But then, we’ve had this “bull market in complacency” for two years and things have generally improved, albeit at a slower pace in the current quarter.

With that background in mind, the generally bullish team at GaveKal has published two short essays with a rather negative, if not ominous, tone. Given that we are entering the month of October, known for market turbulence, I thought I would make these essays this week’s Outside the Box. One is from Pierre Gave, and the other is from Charles Gave. It is not terribly surprising to me that Charles can get bearish, but Pierre is usually a rather optimistic person, as is the rest of the team.

I was in Toronto for two back-to-back speeches before rushing back home this morning. I hope you’re having a great week. So now, remove sharp objects from your vicinity and peruse this week’s Outside the Box.

Your enjoying the cooler weather analyst,
John Mauldin

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A Worrying Set Of Signals

By Pierre Gave
Regular readers will know that we keep a battery of indicators to gauge, among other things, economic activity, inflationary pressure, risk appetite and asset valuations. Most of the time this dashboard offers mixed messages, which is not hugely helpful to the investment process. Yet from time to time, the data pack points unambiguously in a single direction and experience tells us that such confluences are worth watching. We are today at such a point, and the worry is that each indicator is flashing red.

Growth: The three main indices of global growth have fallen into negative territory: (i) the Q-indicator (a diffusion index of leading indicators), (ii) our diffusion index of OECD leading indicators, and (iii) our index of economically-sensitive market prices. Also Charles’s US recession indicator is sitting right on a key threshold (see charts for all these indicators in the web version).

Inflation: Our main P-indicator is at a maximum negative with the diffusion index of US CPI components seemingly in the process of rolling over; this puts it in negative territory for the first time this year.

Risk appetite: The Gavekal velocity indicator is negative which is not surprising given weak market sentiment in recent weeks. What worries us more is the widening of interest rate spreads—at the long end of the curve, the spread between US corporate bonds rated Baa and treasuries is at its widest since 2009; at the short-end, the TED spread is back at levels seen at the height of the eurozone crisis in 2012, while the Libor-OIS spread is at a post-2008 high. Moreover, all momentum indicators for the main equity markets are at maximum negative, which has not been seen since the 2013 “taper tantrum”.

These weak readings are especially concerning, as in recent years, it has been the second half of the year when both the market and growth has picked up. We see three main explanations for these ill tidings:

1) Bottoming out: If our indicators are all near a maximum negative, surely the bottom must be in view? The contrarian in us wants to believe that a sentiment shift is around the corner. After all, most risk-assets are oversold and markets would be cheered by confirmation that the US economy remains on track, China is not hitting the wall and the renminbi devaluation was a one-off move. If this occurs, then a strong counter-trend rally should ramp up in time for Christmas.

2) Traditional indicators becoming irrelevant: Perhaps we should no longer pay much attention to fundamental indicators. After all, most are geared towards an industrial economy rather than the modern service sector, which has become the main growth driver. In the US, industrial production represents less than 10% of output, while in China, the investment slowdown is structural in nature. The funny thing is that employment numbers everywhere seem to be coming in better than expected. In this view of things, either major economies are experiencing a huge drop in labor productivity, or our indicators need a major refresh (see Long Live US Productivity!).

3) Central banks out of ammunition: The most worrying explanation for the simultaneous decline in our indicators is that air is gushing out of the monetary balloon. After more than six years of near zero interest rates, asset prices have seen huge rises, but investment in productive assets remains scarce.

Instead, leverage has run up across the globe. According to the Bank for International Settlements’ recently released quarterly review, developed economies have seen total debt (state and private) rise to 265% of GDP, compared to 229% in 2007. In emerging economies, that ratio is 167% of GDP, compared to 117% in 2007 (over the period China’s debt has risen from 153 to 235% of GDP). The problem with such big debt piles is that it is hard to raise interest rates without derailing growth.

Perhaps it is not surprising that in recent weeks the Federal Reserve has backed away from hiking rates, the European Central Bank has recommitted itself to easing and central banks in both Norway and Taiwan made surprise rate cuts. But if rates cannot be raised after six-years of rising asset prices and normalizing growth, when is a good time? And if central banks are prevented from reloading their ammunition, what will they deploy the next time the world economy hits the skids?

Hence we have two benign interpretations and one depressing one. Being optimists at heart, we want to believe that a combination of the first two options will play out. If so, then investors should be positioned for a counter-trend rally, at least in the short-term. Yet we are unsettled by the market’s muted response to the Fed’s dovish message. That would indicate that investors are leaning towards the third option. Hence, we prefer to stay protected and for now are not making a bold grab for falling knifes. At the very least, we seek more confirmation on the direction of travel.

Positioning For A US Recession

By Charles Gave
Since the end of last year I have been worried about an “unexpected” slowdown, or even recession, in the world’s developed economies (see Towards An OECD Recession In 2015). In order to monitor the situation on a daily basis, I built a new indicator of US economic activity which contains 17 components ranging from lumber prices and high-yield bond spreads to the inventory-to-sales ratio. It was necessary to construct such an indicator because six years of extreme monetary policy in the US (and other developed markets) has stripped “traditional” cyclical economic data of any real meaning (see Gauging The Chances Of A US Recession).

Understanding this diffusion index is straightforward. When the reading is positive, investors have little to worry about and should treat “dips” as a buying opportunity. When the reading is negative a US recession is a possibility. Should the reading fall below – 5 then it is time to get worried – on each occasion since 1981 that the indicator recorded such a level a US recession followed in fairly short order. At this point, my advice would generally be to buy the defensive team with a focus on long dated US bonds as a hedge. This is certainly not a time to buy equities on dips.

Today my indicator reads – 5 which points to a contraction in the US, and more generally the OECD. Such an outcome contrasts sharply with official US GDP data, which remains fairly strong. Pierre explored this discrepancy in yesterday’s Daily (see A Worrying Set Of Signals), so my point today is to offer specific portfolio construction advice in the event of a developed market contraction. My assumption in this note is simply that the US economy continues to slow. Hence, the aim is to outline an “anti-fragile” portfolio which will resist whatever brickbats are hurled at it.

During periods when the US economy has slowed, especially if it was “unexpected” by official economists, then equities have usually taken a beating while bonds have done well. For this reason, the chart below shows the S&P 500 divided by the price of a 30 year zero coupon treasury.

A few results are immediately clear:
  • Equities should be owned when the indicator is positive.
  • Bonds should be held when the indicator is negative.
  • The ratio of equities to bonds (blue line) has since 1981 bottomed at about 50 on at least six occasions. Hence, even in periods when fundamentals were not favorable to equities (2003 and 2012) the indicator identified stock market investment as a decent bet. 
Today the ratio between the S&P 500 and long dated US zeros stands at 75. 
This suggests that shares will become a buy in the coming months if they underperform bonds by a chunky 33%. The condition could also be met if US equities remain unchanged, but 30 year treasury yields decline from their current 3% to about 2%. Alternatively, shares could fall sharply, or some combination in between. 

Notwithstanding the continued relative strength of headline US economic data, I would note that the OECD leading indicator for the US is negative on a YoY basis, while regional indicators continue to crater. The key investment conclusion from my recession indicator is that equity positions, which face risks from worsening economic fundamentals, should be hedged using bonds or upping the cash component.
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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Fed’s Alice In Wonderland Economy - What Happens Next?

By Nick Giambruno

After the president of the United States, the most powerful person on the planet is the chairman of the Federal Reserve. Ask almost anyone on the street for the name of the U.S. president, and you’ll get a quick answer. But if you ask the same person what the Federal Reserve is, you’ll likely get a blank stare. They don’t know - partly due to the institution’s deliberately obscure name - that the Fed is really the third iteration of the country’s central bank. Or that the Fed manipulates the nation’s economic destiny by controlling the money supply.

And that’s just how the Fed likes it. They’d prefer Boobus americanus not understand the king like power they wield. By simply choosing to utter the right words, the chairman of the Fed can create or extinguish trillions of dollars of wealth both in and outside of the U.S. He holds the economic fate of billions of people in his hands. So it’s no shocker that investors carefully parse everything he says. They have to, if they want to be successful. Some even go as far as to analyze the almighty chairman’s body language. Of course, the mainstream financial media revere the Fed.

You may recall the unhealthy spectacle that occurred in 1996. That’s when Alan Greenspan, the Fed chairman at the time, spoke the now famous phrase “irrational exuberance” in what should have otherwise been a dull and forgettable speech. Investors heard Greenspan’s phrase to mean that the Fed would soon raise interest rates to slow the global economy. It’s worth mentioning that Greenspan didn’t actually say the Fed would raise rates. Nor did he intend to signal that.

Nonetheless, the reaction was swift and panicky. U.S. markets were closed at the time, but stocks in Japan and Hong Kong dropped 3%. The German stock market fell 4%. When trading started in the U.S. market the next day, the market opened down 2%. Billions of dollars of wealth vanished in a period of 16 hours. That’s the absurd power over the global economy that the Federal Reserve gives to one human being. The words of the chairman can make or break the fortunes of anyone with a brokerage account.

The Fed’s Alice in Wonderland Economy

I almost fell out of my chair when I heard it….. A journalist recently asked Janet Yellen, the current chair of the Federal Reserve, if the central bank would keep interest rates at 0% forever. Her response: “I can’t completely rule it out.” I was stunned. The deferential financial media hurried to ignore the significance of that statement. Instead, it acted the way big city police might act after making a messy arrest on a busy sidewalk. “Move along folks, nothing to see here!”

Clearly, there was something to see. Something very important. Yellen’s words came amidst one of the most anticipated economic pronouncements in a generation… whether the Fed would finally raise interest rates for the first time in nine years. Short term rates have been at zero since the 2008 financial crisis. Interest rates are simply the price of borrowing money. Setting them at an artificial level is nothing other than price fixing. Not surprisingly, it has led to enormous amounts of malinvestment and other distortions in the economy.

Malinvestment is the result of faulty decision-making. Any investor or business can make a mistake, but central bank manipulation of interest rates subsidizes bad, wasteful decisions. Cheap borrowing costs trick companies. It causes them to plow money into plants, equipment, and other assets that appear profitable because borrowing costs are low. Only later, when the profits don’t show up, do they discover that the capital was wasted.

Seven years of quantitative easing (QE) and Fed engineered zero interest rates have drawn the U.S. and much of the world into an unsustainable "Alice in Wonderland" bubble economy riddled with malinvestment. The pundits had expected that, at this recent meeting, the Fed would move to raise rates just a little and give the global economy a tiny taste of sobriety. Not even that nudge materialized.

Instead, the Fed sat on its hands. It kept interest rates at zero. And Janet Yellen couldn’t even rule out that rates would stay at zero forever. If she can’t even do that, how is she going to start a sustained series of rate hikes, as many of those same pundits now expect her to do a few months down the road?

The truth is, seven years of 0% yields and successive rounds of money printing has so distorted the U.S. economy that it can’t handle even the tiniest increase in interest rates. It would be the pin that pricks the biggest stock and bond market bubble in all of human history. The Fed cannot let that happen.

What Happens Next

It’s clear that the Fed can’t raise interest rates in any meaningful way. It would trigger a financial meltdown that would quickly force them to reverse course. The Fed might be able to get away with a token increase, but that’s all. In other words, the Fed has trapped itself. Former Fed chairman Ben Bernanke admitted as much recently when he said he didn’t expect rates to normalize in his lifetime.

And then, we have the current chair Janet Yellen saying that rates might stay at zero forever!

Yellen’s belief that she has the power to suppress interest rates until the end of time is a frightening sign. As powerful as the Fed is, it isn’t stronger than the markets. A crisis in the markets could force rates higher even if the Fed doesn’t want them to go there. And the longer the Fed tries to sustain abnormalities like QE and 0% interest rates, the more likely it is that the whole business will end with the markets crushing the Fed.

And that’s not even considering a collapse of the petrodollar system or China pushing the establishment of a New Silk Road in Eurasia…two catalysts that would likely force interest rates higher. So I’ll go ahead and disagree with Yellen and rule out the possibility that rates might stay at zero forever. They won’t, because they can’t.

At the next sign of a market swoon or of a weakening economy, or with the next episode of deflationary jitters, the Fed will again ramp up the easy money. It could be another round of QE. Or the Fed could push interest rates into negative territory. If that fails, the Fed could go for the nuclear option and drop freshly printed money out of helicopters as Bernanke once infamously suggested – or, more likely, into everyone’s bank account. They’ll do whatever it takes, no matter what the eventual damage to the dollar’s value.
Whatever the details, one thing should be clear. This politburo of unaccountable central planners is the greatest risk to your financial wellbeing today.

What You Can Do About It

It’s a terrifying thought that the actions of a few people at the Fed so endanger your financial security.
But the facts are worse than that. There’s more to worry about than just the financial effects. The social and political implications of the Fed’s actions are even more dangerous. An economic depression and currency inflation (perhaps hyperinflation) are very much in the cards. These things rarely lead to anything but bigger government, less freedom, and shrinking prosperity. Sometimes they lead to much worse.

Fortunately, your destiny doesn’t need to be hostage to what’s coming. We’ve published a groundbreaking step by step manual that sets out the three essential measures all Americans should take right now to protect themselves and their families. These measures are easy and straightforward to implement. You just need to understand what they are and how they keep you safe. New York Times best selling author Doug Casey and his team describe how you can do it all from home. And there’s still time to get it done without any extraordinary cost or effort.

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Monday, September 28, 2015

Balloons in Search of Needles

By John Mauldin

I love waterfalls. I’ve seen some of the world’s best, and they always have an impact. The big ones leave me awestruck at nature’s power. It was about 20 years ago that I did a boat trip on the upper Zambezi, ending at Victoria Falls. Such a placid river, full of game and hippopotamuses (and the occasional croc); and then you begin to hear the roar of the falls from miles away.

Unbelievably majestic. From there the Zambezi River turns into a whitewater rafting dream, offering numerous class 5 thrills. Of course, you wouldn’t want to run them without a serious professional at the helm. When you’re looking at an 8 foot high wall of water in front of you that you are going to have to go up (because it’s in the way); well, let’s just say it’s a rush.

If there were rapids like this in the United States, it’s doubtful professional outfits could get enough liability insurance to make a business of running them. In Zimbabwe we just signed a piece of paper. Our guides swore nobody had ever been lost – well, except for a few people who disobeyed the rules and leaped in the water in the calm sections because it was 100° out. That’s where the crocs are.

They promised we wouldn’t run into any in the rapids, which was good. More than a few of us got dumped in the water trying to run the rapids, but they had teams of kayakers who got you out quickly. The canyon below the falls is unbelievable, and below that is the even more impressive Bakota Gorge.

And yes, you then had to walk to the top of the canyon up a switchback trail to get home. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat, but I would spend at least three months training for the hike out. That was most definitely not in the full-disclosure-of-risks one-page piece of paper.

It would be hard to miss an analogy to the stock market. Everything’s peaceful and calm, you’re drinking some fabulous wine, eating some fantastic fresh game and fish, looking at all the beautiful animals as you drift easily with the current. Anybody can steer the boat in a bull market. Until the rapids hit and the bottom falls out.

As an aside, while the large waterfalls are majestic and awe-inspiring, the smaller ones are more hypnotic. I love the sound of falling water. I could listen for hours. The one place I don’t like to see waterfalls is on stock charts. Those leave me awestruck at the market’s power. They do have the power to focus the mind, however, especially when we own the shares that just went over the falls.

The US stock market is having the most turbulent year we’ve seen in a while.  It’s not terrible by historical standards, but we have a full quarter to go. And next week it’ll be October, a month in which the stock market has run into trouble before. With all that in mind, this week I want to take a look at where stocks stand and maybe offer a thought or two about the events that could bring us to the next waterfall.

Not Niagara Falls Yet
Here is how the waterfall looks so far this year. Barely a 10% move peak to trough, and it lasted for just a few days. We see a lot of jostling, followed by the harrowing plunge in August, and then a partial (less than halfway) recovery. Where do we go from here?

Let’s start with the macro view. Back in July I showed you some research that I did with Ed Easterling of Crestmont Research. This was before the China sell-off accelerated into the headlines, so it is very interesting to read again in hindsight. (See “It’s Not Over Till the Fat Lady Goes on a P/E Diet”).

Our view is that we are still in a secular bear market, and have been since the 2000 Tech Wreck. You may find that view surprising, since the benchmarks have roughly tripled since the 2009 low. Our analysis looks at price/earnings ratios to identify when bull and bear markets begin or end. P/E multiples were close to 50 in year 2000. In order for that bear market to end, they needed to drop into the very low double digit or single-digit range, which has been the signal for the end of every long term secular bear cycle for over 100 years. That hasn’t happened during the intervening 15 years.

Can a secular bear market last 15 years? Yes. Some have lasted even longer, like 1966-1981 and 1901-1920. So this one isn’t unprecedented. And please note that the long-term secular cycles can have cyclical movements inside them. Again, we see secular cycles in terms of valuation and the shorter cyclical cycles in terms of price. (Unless this time is different) long-term secular bear market cycles will always end in a period of low valuations.

Currently, P/E ratios (or any other valuation metric you want to use) are not low enough to provide the boost that typically starts a new bull market. They were closer in 2009 than today, but have never dipped into the area that would mark the end of the bear market and the onset of the new bull. We’re still riding the same bear.

What’s taking so long? Our best guess is that stocks were so richly valued at the 2000 peak that it is taking the better part of a generation to work off that excess. In order for this bear to end – and the new bull cycle to begin – valuations need to tumble. That can happen only if prices drop considerably or earnings rise without pulling prices higher.

Obviously, there can be many trading opportunities within a secular bull or bear cycle, but Ed’s research says we have three long-term options from here.
  1. If P/E ratios decline toward 10 or below, we will be near the end of this secular bear. A new bull cycle should follow.
  2. If P/E ratios stay near where they are, we will be in what Ed calls “secular hibernation.” This would mean a lot of sideways price movement, with dividends having to deliver the lion’s share of stock market returns.
  3. If P/E/ ratios rise further, we will go back into the kind of “secular bubble” that created the Tech Wreck. I recall those years vividly, and I would rather not relive them.
Now, combine this market situation with what appears to be a global economic slowdown. China is a big factor, but not the only one. The entire developed world is in slow-growth mode. At some point it will likely dip into recession territory. Canada is already there. I don’t think they will be alone for long. Japan and Europe are weak.

I think the next true move to lower valuations will be a cyclical bear market combined with a recession. Can the stock market hold on to today’s valuations in a recession? Nothing is impossible, but I wouldn’t bet the farm on it, either. I can’t find an example of stock prices and valuations staying in place in the midst of a recession. Prices can fall slowly or they can fall fast, but I feel confident they will do one or the other.

Speaking of Bubbles
Our old friend Robert Shiller popped up last week in a Financial Times interview. Shiller is the father of CAPE, the cyclically adjusted price/earnings multiple, which looks back ten years to account for earnings cyclicality. He is also a Yale professor and a Nobel economics laureate.

Shiller’s CAPE has been saying for several years that stocks are seriously overvalued. In his FT interview, Shiller dropped the “B” word: It looks to me a bit like a bubble again, with essentially a tripling of stock prices since 2009 in just six years and at the same time people losing confidence in the valuation of the market.

When will the bubble burst? Shiller is less helpful there. He said the recent bout of volatility “shows that people are thinking something, worried thoughts. It suggests to me that many people are re-evaluating their exposure to the stock market. I’m not being very helpful about market timing, but I can easily see aftershocks coming.

Now, if you aren’t very confident about timing, it’s arguably better not to use words like bubble and aftershock. You can be sure the media and analysts will jump all over them, just as I’m doing right now.
In any case, Ed Easterling and Bob Shiller reach similar conclusions (though for different reasons). Neither sees a very bullish future, though both are unsure about timing. So when will we know the end is nigh? Sadly, we probably won’t, unless we begin to see signs that a recession is building in the United States.

Balloons in Search of Needles
As the old proverb goes, no one rings a bell at the top. The same applies at the bottom. Let’s imagine the stock market as a whole bunch of balloons. One or two can pop loudly and everyone will jump and then laugh it off. You now have deflated debris hanging from your string. Eventually, enough balloons will pop that the weight of the debris overwhelms the remaining balloons’ ability to keep the string aloft. Then your whole bunch falls down.

The last balloon to pop wasn’t any bigger or smaller than the others; it just happened to be last. In like manner, some kind of catalyst sets off every market collapse. It is usually something that would be survivable by itself. The plunge occurs because of all the previous balloons that bit the dust, but pundits and the media always like to point the finger at the most recent event.

So, if Easterling and Shiller are right, balloons are popping and making investors nervous, but there’s not enough damage yet to drag down the whole bundle. What are some candidates for the last balloon? A Chinese “hard landing” is probably the biggest, most obvious balloon right now. And actually, China is big enough for multiple balloons. Their stock market downturn produced one pop already. Beijing’s currency adjustment may have been another one.

To continue reading this article from Thoughts from the Frontline – a free weekly publication by John Mauldin, renowned financial expert, best selling author, and Chairman of Mauldin Economics – please click here.

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Saturday, September 26, 2015

New Video: Kinder Morgan CEO "Sell Off in Stock Price Has Been Completely Indiscriminate"

Kinder Morgan CEO Steve Kean has released a video pitching KMI shares at an all to low price. Kean points out that those low prices are unreasonable due to the fee based nature of Kinder Morgans businesses. Kean points to numerous facts including the likelihood that new Kinder Morgan projects will not be cancelled during a period when the competition is seeing future projects being cancelled at an alarming rate.

Kean believes that the sell off in its stock price this year has been completely indiscriminate, which is creating a buying opportunity for investors. And insiders are backing up his opinion with their own money. Kinder Morgan has very little exposure to commodity prices as its cash flow is locked up while its growth is actually primarily driven by demand for inexpensive natural gas. That's why he remains confident that the company's current dividend is safe and so is the plan to grow the payout by 10% per year through 2020.

Watch the video below.

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Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Bull Market is Over

By Justin Spittler

Stocks had a horrible day Tuesday. The S&P 500 lost 1.23%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 1.09%. Indices around the world also fell. The Euro Stoxx 600, which tracks 600 of Europe’s biggest companies, lost 3.12%. Germany’s DAX lost 3.80%. Japan’s Nikkei 225 lost 1.96%.

Casey Report readers know this is part of our “script”…..

The S&P 500 plunged into its first correction since 2011 on August 23. A correction is when an index falls 10% or more from its last high. In total, the S&P 500 plunged 11% in 6 days. In the latest issue of The Casey Report, E.B. Tucker told his readers that this big drop marked the end of the 6 year bull market in U.S. stocks. He wrote: We believe the era of asset prices soaring on a wave of easy credit is over. Last month’s major stock market decline is the start of a very tough time for stocks and the economy.

This bull market is unraveling because it was built on easy money. E.B. explains how the Federal Reserve’s easy money policy has propped up the price of almost everything. The Fed’s easy money policy has lifted the price of just about every asset over the past six years. Cars, luxury watches, art, boats…just about everything that’s for sale costs more than it did a couple years ago. That’s especially true of the stock market.

The Fed cut its key interest rate to effectively zero during the last financial crisis. And it’s kept it there ever since. Low interest rates were supposed to boost the economy. But they’ve also pushed up the price of stocks and encouraged reckless borrowing, as E.B. explains: By making enormous amounts of credit available, the Fed stoked the economy, stocks, and the housing market. Stocks tripled from their 2009 lows. Average U.S. home prices climbed 50% from their previous lows. Companies with poor credit ratings borrowed record amounts of money...far more than they did before the 2008 crisis.

E.B. went on to explain how high stock and home prices were masking a huge problem: In 2015, the total net worth of American households reached $85 trillion, an all-time high. On the surface, things look good. But the long period of low interest rates has created an extremely dangerous situation. By taking interest rates to zero and holding them there for nearly seven years and counting, the Fed has created bad investments and reckless speculation on an epic scale. Not billions...but trillions.

The crash last month pushed U.S. stocks below an important long-term trend line…..

E.B. explains why this is such a big deal: A long term trend line shows the general direction the market is heading. Many professional traders use it to separate normal market gyrations from something bigger. Think of it as a “line in the sand.” As you can see from the chart below, there have been a few “normal” selloffs since 2011. On Friday, August 21, however, the S&P dropped below its long term trend line for the first time in about four years.

U.S. stocks rebounded after last month’s crash…..

But E.B. told his readers the rebound was only temporary. He said the market was in the middle of a “dead cat bounce.” E.B. thinks U.S stocks will keep falling, in part because they’re so expensive.

Right now, the S&P’s CAPE ratio is 24.6, about 48% more expensive than its average since 1881.
The S&P has only been more expensive a handful of times since 1881. That includes the years around the 1929, 2000, and 2007 market peaks.

CAPE is a popular valuation metric. It’s the price to earnings (P/E) ratio with one adjustment. Instead of using one year of earnings, it uses earnings from the past 10 years. This smooths out the effects of booms and recessions and provides a useful, long term view of the market.

The chart below shows that the market eventually collapsed after the high CAPE periods around the 1929, 2000 and 2007 market peaks:

The Fed’s easy money policies have fueled a reckless debt binge...

And debt acts like dynamite when a financial crisis hits. We’re in a very fragile situation. E.B. thinks last month’s brutal selloff in U.S. stocks was just the beginning. Things are likely to get much worse from here. But they don’t have to get worse for you. E.B. can be your “personal guide” as this 6-year bull market continues to unravel. He’s recently shown readers how to profit from crashing oil prices and the digital revolution in money. You can read all about E.B.’s favorite investing opportunities every month in The Casey Report.

Right now we’ll send you a FREE 30-day subscription to The Casey Report when you order Going Global 2015…one of the most important books we’ve ever published. Going Global shows you how to move your wealth outside the “blast radius” of any financial crisis.

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Why are we practically giving away so much of our best research? Because we hope that after trying what is essentially a free sample of some of our best and most valuable work, you’ll want to do business with us again.

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The article The Bull Market is Over was originally published at

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