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Money Daily has been providing business and financial market news, views, and coverage on a nearly continuous basis since 2006. Complete archives are available at moneydaily.blogspot.com.
Money Daily has been providing business and financial market news, views, and coverage on a nearly continuous basis since 2006. Complete archives are available at moneydaily.blogspot.com.
Friday, July 30, 2021, 9:05 am ET
What would you think if somebody offered you a box, clearly marked as "laptop computer" or "iPhone" or any other readily-recognized commercial product, i.e., toaster, lampshade, box of cereal, etc., that contained nothing at all, or maybe just the instruction booklet but no actual product?
You wouldn't spend a dime on something like that, even though a dime today typically buys less than 20 to 10 percent of what it did 50 years ago. It's a fact. Check out the prices for hamburgers or new cars, or a house.
The median price of an existing home in 1970 was $17,000. According to the US Census Bureau, that figure had jumped to $119,600 by the year 2000. According to the National Association of Realtors, that same - or similar - existing home cost a whopping $363,300 in June, 2021. The figures were released a week ago.
So, it's obvious that the cost, or price, of many things have increased over the years. 1970 is often quoted because it was a census year and because it's a round number and easily referenced. Here's a partial list from the University of Missouri Libraries, but similar numbers and comparisons can be found on many internet sites.
So what does this have to do with an empty box of crackers? Plenty.
It's what you're being paid in if you're an American, a Canadian, an Australian, a European, a Japanese person, because all of these countries - indeed, the whole world - issues, exclusively, what are known as fiat currencies.
The US$, euro, yen, British pound, the rupee, krona, peso, all national currencies are fiat. They are backed by nothing other than the word of the government, supported by he normalcy bias of everybody using them, and, making matters worse, they're routinely issued by central banks, unrelated to the government, as debt instruments.
It was August 15, 1971 when then-president, Richard M. Nixon addressed the nation and put into motion taking the US - and with it, the rest of the world - off the gold standard, ending the Bretton Woods System implemented after World War II. Nixon made it clear that foreign nations could no longer redeem dollars for gold. (Nixon's historic August 15, 1971 address to the nation is embedded below)
So, essentially, when you're handed a $20 bill, it's like an empty box. It really has nothing in it, or, nothing backing it and it will eventually become worth less and less, as the examples above exhibit. The best idea is to spend it as quickly as possible, before it loses value.
And the world is deeply in debt, to the tune of about $290 trillion, according to the best estimates. Here's Lyn Alden with a view of global debt in 2018. At the time, global debt was nearly 320% of GDP. the entire world is "out over its skis" so to speak. It's only gotten worse since then.
But, let's focus on Japan, the poster child for just about every wrong-headed, ill-advised, currency-destroying economic policy in the world. The Japanese Central Bank, the Bank of Japan (BOJ), virtually invented quantitative easing (QE), Zero Interest Rate Policy (ZIRP), and Negative Interest Rate Policy (NIRP). None of those have worked.
The yield on most Japanese bonds are negative, implying that the currency isn't worth the paper upon which it's printed. The same can be said for US dollars and euros and pounds. Short term treasury bills and notes in those currencies are close to zero. Even the mighty benchmark, the 10-year US Treasury note, returns about 1.3% (depends on the day) currently, which is less than that rate of inflation (5.4% if you believe the government's CPI) by quite a bit, 4.1% to be exact. That means, by buying a 10-year note, you are guaranteed to lose money over time, at the rate of 4.1% per year because the currency is closing in fast on being completely worthless.
Should conditions continue upon their current path, all fiat currencies will be expunged within 20 years, probably sooner. The planet is nearing the end of the road with unbacked currencies and Japan is leading the way.
On Friday, the NIKKEI 225, Japan's main stock market, fell by 498.83 points, to a new six-month low of 27,283.59. It's down for the year (closed Dec. 30, 2020 at 27,444.17), and the NIKKEI is below its 200-day moving average and is in a correction, down 10.45% from its February 16 closing high of 30,467.75.
Now, that may not seem like a big deal, but, considering that late last year, the Bank of Japan became the nation's biggest stock owner, holding over $400 billion in ETFs, passing by the Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF), another public entity. Now, that can't be good if the stock market is losing ground, can it?
Let's see. The central bank and the world's largest pension fund are the largest shareholders in the country's stock market and that market is headed south. So, the currency is worth less, and, at the same time, the pension fund for government employees is losing money. Retirees will be getting less of a depreciating currency. The only thing that can save Japan from disaster is deflation. The price of everything has to go down, but, that's hardly possible since Japan is one of the world's biggest importers (#5, globally), and prices are rising in the rest of the world. This presents a major problem in terms of financial stability and the sustainability of the economy. Japan has no solution.
What Japan is fronting is not a pretty picture. The European Union and the United States (and Australia, China, Canada, etc.) probably won't follow Japan's exact model of monetary ineptitude and ignorance of moral hazard, but they are all on the same path. It's only a matter of time before the world's nations, large and small, see the value of their currencies collapse against each other, but especially against gold, silver, and tangible assets.
In the US, it's housing and stocks. Looked at in an untraditional manner, the value of stocks and houses aren't going up, the value of the dollar is going down. The faster prices rise, the greater threat becomes inflation, then hyper inflation. The way out is devaluation, but, with all currencies devaluing at the same time, returning to some standard of accounting for honest money, with backing of gold, silver, anything of value, is a must.
Elsewhere, all the talk is about Amazon missing its revenue targets, which, honestly, was telegraphed and not really a surprise. In the second quarter of 2020, most of the US was shunning brick and mortar retail (most stores were closed or open only with restrictions) and buying off Amazon. It was a record quarter for the company. Now that the economy and the country are re-opening, Amazon is less important, people are shopping elsewhere. It's not a big story - it's noise - but it is all the rage this morning. What's happening in Japan, with the NIKKEI in correction territory, is a bigger story with profound implications globally.
Still, the narrative is focused on earnings, and Amazon's miss. Heading into Friday's US open, the last day of trading for the month of July, led by the NIKKEI, Hong Kong's Hang Seng, and South Korea's KOSPI (all lower Friday), European markets are down and US futures are collapsing.
Have a great Friday and a solid weekend. See you for Sunday's WEEKEND WRAP.
At the Close, Thursday, July 28, 2021:
Nixon's historic August 15, 1971 address to the nation:
Thursday, July 29, 2021, 7:53 am ET
As expected, the FOMC meeting concluded Wednesday without much fanfare. The Fed left the federal funds rate right where it has been for 16 months, at the zero-bound, and Chairman Jerome Powell's press conference following the release of the policy statement didn't offer much insight into future plans for the central bank.
Wall Street's reaction was subdued. The Dow was down, NASDAQ up, and the S&P finished essentially unchanged.
What happened after the close of trading was more important, as 17 Republican senators crossed party lines on a procedural vote to move the nearly $1 trillion infrastructure bill towards a full vote in the Senate. The vote was 67-32 to begin debate, which is scheduled to begin at 10:30 am ET Thursday.
Among the Senators voting to move the bill to full floor debate were the usual RINO suspects, including Mitt Romney (UT), Mitch McConnell (KY), Susan Collins (ME), and Lisa Murkowski (AK).
There is a catch, however, as Nancy Pelosi has made it abundantly clear that if the Senate approves the infrastructure bill, she won't bring it to a vote in the House without passage of the President's "ambitious" $3.5 trillion 2022 budget, which includes the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan, which dole out huge sums of taxpayer money for child care, health care, and education while raising taxes on most Americans, but especially the wealthy.
The budget bill, if it is taken up and passed by the House, would need the support of all 50 Democrat Senators, with Kamala Harris breaking an assumed 50-50 tie.
With just two days remaining in the current congressional session, the likelihood of passage of both the infrastructure bill and 2022 budget - via reconciliation - seems remote. Legislators are scheduled to leave Washington for the entire month of August, returning to their tasks after Labor Day, presumably reconvening on Wednesday, September 8.
Could it be true? 5 1/2 weeks without the blathering of drama queen politicians?
We can only hope.
At the Close, Wednesday, July 28, 2021:
Wednesday, July 28, 2021, 6:51 am ET
Hide the women and children. Fed Day has arrived.
The FOMC concludes a two-day meeting this afternoon at 2:00 pm ET with a rate policy announcement that should aid in determining the direction of trading not just for the remainder of the session, but largely for the next two months as the FOMC will not meet again until September 21-22.
At what level the federal funds rate will be set is immaterial since there is absolutely no inclination on the Fed's part to raise or lower from the current zero-bound (Current target rate 0.00-0.25), a rate that has been in effect for 16 months running and is expected to remain there at least through the end of 2021.
Any deviation from this understanding will be met with considerable resistance from the investment community, as would any mention of tapering the $120 billion per month in asset purchases the Fed has conducted since the beginning of the virus panic last March. The continuation of ZIRP (Zero Interest Rate Policy) and QE (quantitative easing, i.e., counterfeiting, money printing, monetizing federal government debt) are absolutely essential in maintaining peace and prosperity on Wall Street, where stocks are trading just below Monday's all-time highs after a China-inspired selloff on Tuesday.
While it's impossible for the FOMC to recommend anything but an historically-low base rate, it's well within the Fed's power to promote any narrative of their choosing, which recently has been a "steady as she goes" guidance despite the persistence of high inflation indicated by the CPI and PPI and a recovering economy. In normal times, the Fed may have chosen to raise rates a fraction to cool off the potentially run-away inflation monster or to tamp down the overheating economy, but these are not normal times. Thus, the Fed, its hands tied behind its back by Wall Street's voracious appetite for free cash flow and its stated desire for inflation to actually run hot for longer than usual, is almost certain to stand pat on previous commitments, keeping the talk about "transitory" inflation and "thinking about talking about tapering" intact until the next meeting.
Stock traders and Fed watchers may feel a bit let down after Chairman Jerome Powell's press conference. The Chairman is unlikely to release any bombshell statements, carefully crafting his words so as to not upset the fragile, overfed markets which must be maintained. A prudent observer might sit back and wait until after the press conference has ended before making any market moves, though a pre-emptive bid on higher stock prices would not be subject to much criticism. After all, the Fed is committed to higher stock prices for longer, so it would be reasonable to conclude that the apple cart won't be tipped over by anything the FOMC decides or Chairman Powell says.
Shorting this market either before or after the policy announcement and press conference is akin to an economic death wish. Even with congress unable to reach consensus on either the infrastructure bill, a 2022 budget, or raising or suspending the debt ceiling, Wall Street gets its marching orders from the Fed (and vice versa), leaving Washington, DC, and its legislating lackeys a silly sideshow for political hacks, freaks, and people otherwise entertained by B-grade comedians.
Largely unreported by the sleepy financial media, Tuesday's across-the-board declines were largely due to regulatory crackdowns in China and in the United States, incorrectly assessed in yesterday note, wherein the view was that the gloomy aspects of China's regulations would not spread far beyond its borders. That proved largely incorrect as just about any company with any kind of exposure to China saw its share price decline on the day. It appears to be a one-off event, though one cannot rule out the potential for some considerable blowback and further actions on the sell side of companies doing business in or with China.
The other side of Tuesday's trading was virus-related. Consensus seems to believe the current panic over the "Delta" variant is likely to slow down recovery efforts and trample on travel-related companies. Airlines, hotel, travel and leisure stocks were damaged Tuesday. Whether or not that trend will continue remains to be seen and it's likely that both the anti-China and stay home trade will take a back seat - at least for the day - to Fed watching and reacting.
Be mindful that it's still the heart of earnings season, and tech heavyweights and other megacap companies are reporting this week, which should be a boon to the Bulls. Apple (AAPL) and Google (Alphabet, GOOG) reported sharp results after Tuesday's closing bell, and Facebook (FB) and PayPal (PYPL) report after the bell today, Amazon (AMZN) tomorrow. Prior to that, before markets open Wednesday, vaccine-pumper Pfizer (PFE) and Dow components McDonald's (MCD) and Boeing (BA) release second quarter results.
Elsewhere, the cartel controlling the COMEX put silver on sale Tuesday, sending the price down to $24.67 at the New York close, its first close below $24 since last November. On the flip side, Bitcoin has been on a tear for more than a week, popping back over $40,000 a couple of times in the past few days. If tradition holds, Bitcoin will rip past the all-time high of $64,000 in short order and head for the stratosphere, just in time for retail investors to hitch a ride on the crypto-train. Brokerages have been waiting to
Now they have it.
At the Close, Tuesday, July 27, 2021:
Tuesday, July 27, 2021, 7:30 am ET
The Big Three stock indices - Dow, S&P, NASDAQ - each set new closing high marks on Monday, but not before reversing an early session dip.
Down by a mere five points at its worst, the S&P had little trouble overcoming the negative bias. The 500-issue index surged between 11:00 am and noon, reaching 4420 as morning turned to afternoon. It would hold in positive territory until nearly the closing bell.
The NASDAQ made it into the black earlier than the other indices, but had trouble holding above unchanged through much of the session, ending with a 0.03% gain. Just after 10:30 am ET, the Dow was down more than 110 points, but ramped up into positive territory less than an hour later, the 30 industrials riding a wave of euphoria to a solid gain for the day.
With earnings releases for many major companies this week, even though the indices are already at record levels, there is incentive to aim higher. Across all sectors, second quarter results have been strong in comparison to 2020 returns, though most investors can see through the ruse, as Q2 2020 was one of the worst on record for many listed companies.
As the opening bell for Tuesday approaches, futures are modestly lower along with European stocks. It was a different story in China, as a regulatory crackdown and the delisting of Chinese stocks on US indices has spawned a significant selloff. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index suffered its second straight day of severe losses. After posting a decline of four percent on Monday, Tuesday's trading ended with a loss of 4.2%.
As the Hang Seng was already in correction, down more than 10% since July 7, he back-to-back losses pushed it close to bear market territory. Another one percent drop would put the index down more than 20% from its February 17 high of 31,084.94.
The major Chinese indices were also beaten down on Monday as the SSE Composite Index in Shanghai lost 2.84% and the Shenzhen Component off 3.67%.
While the losses in China may look serious in headline coverage, both the SSE and Shenzen were close to recent record highs before the losses, which appear to be incidental and part of the government's strategy for income "equality." Losses were delegated mostly to educational and tech sectors. However, being a command economy, there is always the potential for severe government intrusions into businesses, no matter the industry in which they are engaged.
For the rest of the world, China's losses are not likely to bear much weight. Western economies have their own issues, unrelated to those of the Asian giant.
In the United States, overhanging the market is the ineptitude of Wall Street's political counterparts in Washington, DC. The Democrat and Republican parties seem unable to forge consensus on the $1 billion infrastructure deal that has been in the works for more than a month. With both houses of congress headed out of town for a month at the end of this week, the politicians risk leaving a boatload of bills on the table, including a $3.5 trillion budget, a $3 trillion additional "human" infrastructure bill being pushed by Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, and resolution on establishing a new debt ceiling, an issue over which nobody seems willing to engage. The current ceiling suspension expires on July 31.
As is normally the case, Wall Street will whistle past the fumbles and foibles of the DC establishment and focus on making money. Governmental issues seem to be of less importance as the national debt spirals higher and stock valuations reach nose-bleed levels.
At the Close, Monday, July 26, 2021:
Sunday, July 25, 2021, 10:04 am ET
From a trading perspective, the week just past was a remarkable one, with market principals shrugging off sharp declines which extended from the prior Friday into Monday, the resultant rally producing one of the best weeks for stocks in months.
Three of the four major averages closed Friday at all-time highs. Only the NYSE Composite Index failed to post record numbers.
Illustrating just how powerful the four-day rally was, the Dow Jones Industrials, which had taken nearly a 1000-point hit over Friday and Monday, falling from a close Thursday, July 15 of 34,987.02, to a finish at 33,962.04 Monday, roared back the following four sessions with a total gain of 1099 points. It was almost as though it was scripted, with the S&P and NASDAQ posting similar losses and gains. European stocks followed a similar pattern over the course of the week.
The stock market gains were yet another confirmation of the buy-the-dip mentality which has guided stocks to record closes ever since the Great Financial Crisis of 2008-09. Stocks have been precisely the right investment for well over a decade as bond yields have cratered along with interest on CDs and savings accounts. Safe, fixed-investment vehicles have been shoved aside in favor of riskier stocks with greater potential returns. This week amplified the opinion of equity bulls.
Moving forward, a 2019 agreement to suspend the debt limit expires on August 1, but congress may wait until September, after it returns from its extended August recess, to address the issue. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen recently sent a letter to leaders in the House and Senate, advising them to act quickly on either another suspension or extension of the debt limit. She noted that Treasury will implement "extraordinary measures" to ensure the United States meets its debt obligations, emphasizing that there's no sure timeline for how long those measures could be extended.
Congress has an opportunity to display some maturity and bipartisanship by dealing with the debt limit before leaving town for six weeks, though the possibility of an agreement on the debt ceiling before August 1 appears to be slim. Political battle lines have already been drawn, as Senate leader Mitch McConnell has indicated an unwillingness of his party to raise the debt limit without concessions from Democrats on their budget proposal and infrastructure spending plan.
Democrats have shot back at McConnell after he said "I can't imagine a single Republican in this environment that we're in now, this free-for-all for taxes and spending, to vote to raise the debt limit."
"The leader's statements on debt ceiling are shameless, cynical and totally political," said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
For its part, the press hasn't made much of the story thus far. The American public is wary and weary of the routine grandstanding over the debt limit by both sides which has led to three partial government shutdowns in the past decade and a lowering of the government's credit rating in the 2011 debacle. With much of the press still focused on the virus crisis, real issues like the out-of-control federal debt are likely to receive sparse coverage from mainstream media.
While the debt debate will eventually explode into headlines, that may happen later on rather than this week, even as the current legislation expires. Investors are going to get an earful of earnings reports from tech giants this week, including Tesla (TSLA), Apple (AAPL), Google parent Alphabet (GOOG), Microsoft (MSFT), and Amazon (AMZN). Second quarter earnings were the lead story last week and will probably dominate the financial news cycle this week as well.
There's also a FOMC meeting of the Federal Reserve this coming week, concluding midday Wednesday (July 28). While the Fed will do nothing concerning the federal funds rate, themarket will be looking for indications - one way or the other - on tightening. Since inflation has only ratcheted up since their last meeting, it would make sense for the Fed to at least talk about raising rates, though that's now what Wall Street wants to hear. Once again, Fed policies have put the central bank in an untenable position.
Everybody in the world knows that raising rates would tend to slow inflation, but the Fed insists it is only a temporary phenomenon since they cannot change policy midstream. Fed policies are all about the tail wagging the dog rather than responding to emerging market conditions. They will print until the US dollar is dead and gone. Expect the Fed's policy statement to be soft on inflation and long on expansion, giving the stock market just what it needs to fuel further speculation.
As stocks took flight the past week, treasuries were sold off, sending yields plummeting after Monday's flush. The 10-year note yielded 1.31% the prior Friday (July 16), fell to a five-month low Monday at 1.19%, but then rallied to finish out the week at 1.30%. A similar pattern was seen on the 30-year bond yield, dropping to 1.81% on Monday before gliding higher the following four days to end the week at 1.92%.
The short end of the curve was unchanged. Yields on every bill under one year hung at 0.05%.
The bond market seems prone to bouts of deflationary trending coupled with occasional temporary self-doubt, evidenced by the jerky movement in yields on long maturities. With the short end anchored at the zero-bound, fixed income fluctuates between profit-making and profit-taking, a sign of insecurity but of no longer term trend. Eventually, its mind will be made up from data rather than soothing jargon from talking Fed heads.
Oil prices may have been whipsawed more severely than any other asset over the past ten days. On July 13, a Tuesday, WTI crude oil futures stood at a seven-year high of $75.25 per barrel. By Thursday, the price had fallen to $71.65, settling on Friday at $71.81. Monday's trading took it down to $66.42, but by Friday, July 23, it had recovered to $72.07.
The prevailing schools of thought on oil are one which believes the high price and resultant increases at the pump for vehicle fuel threaten to kill off recovery efforts, and another, believing that lower prices will crush the economies of producers. Both have valid points and are mutually exclusive. A compromised price of around $55-60 per barrel would hurt consumers less, though still be high enough to keep producers underneath full capacity. In an environment in which nobody likes losing, the producers still have the upper hand, though for how long is highly uncertain.
With all the fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) in everything but stocks, precious metals seem to be on a path to nowhere in particular, guided by artificial prices posted by the LBMA and flogged on the COMEX daily. Gold fell from $1815.00 to $1,801.80, Friday to Friday. Silver was treated with even less respect, dipping from $25.80 down to $25.17 over the course of the week. With the inverted reality of the paper derivative setting the price for physical metal, the metals continue to be organized around a principle of suppression by bullion banks, giving no yield to producers while fomenting a consumer price revolution.
Shortages - especially in silver - abound, with high premiums and shipping delays persisting.
Here are the latest prices for common one ounce gold and silver items sold on eBay (numismatics excluded, shipping - often free - included):
Item: Low / High / Average / Median
The Single Ounce Silver Market Price Benchmark (SOSMPB) settled at $41.79, down slightly from last week's price of $41.84.
Finally, Bitcoin's fate seemed more uncertain than in recent memory early Tuesday morning when the price fell to a new near term low at $29,301.56. The scare proved temporary, as the price moved past $32,000 the following day, eventually reaching a high point of $34,837.08 in the wee hours of Sunday morning.
As of 9:25 am ET Sunday, the price of one Bitcoin was $34,118.25. What to make of this recent gyration is more speculative an endeavor than figuring the true price of the leading cryptocurrency, itself a fool's errand.
At the Close, Friday, July 23, 2021:
For the Week:
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