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Opinion (162)

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After writing “Here’s The Perfect Metaphor For Recent Fed Policy,” I had to pick up a copy of The Dao of Capital. Mark Spitznagel just has a unique way of looking at the markets that really resonates with me.

One thing that really jumped out at me while reading it was Spitznagel’s research regarding Tobin’s Q, (though he calls it, “The Misesian Stationarity Index”). It struck me for two reasons. First, I haven’t seen much research like this elsewhere and second, the opinions I have seen regarding it are all of a dismissive nature.

Just Google “Tobin’s Q” and you’ll find all sorts of pieces proclaiming, ‘Don’t worry about Tobin’s Q,’ and,…

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Admin

Investors, advertisers, and business leaders around the world are still trying to understand millennials, the generational group that will shape commerce for the foreseeable future. In the past, that’s why we’ve looked at millennial investing and banking preferences, their favorite brands, and even what real estate professionals need to understand about the generation.

Today’s infographic from Adweek is of particular interest, because it focuses on a very particular subset of millennials. The data in the graphic is from a survey of nearly 500 nominees for the…

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Admin

The Global Economy: April 2016

The global economy has regained some composure, according to asset management firm Schroders. In their view, markets have regained a risk appetite following action by central banks, the normalization of commodity prices, and a lack of materialization for tail risks such as a U.S. recession or a Chinese hard-landing:

While volatility is indeed near its YTD low with the benchmark VIX down 32% since the start of the year, we would point out that this is potentially some calm before the storm.

Here are some upcoming waves, and we’ll see how they break:

Earnings and Buybacks: The blended earnings decline for the S&P 500 so far in 2016 Q1 is -8.9%, according to Factset.…

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Admin

The Bloomberg US Financial Conditions Index and the S&P 500 tend to move in pretty close unison. In March, however, they started to move apart in a manner similar to late last year, before the market took a nosedive. Once again, either financial conditions improve or the stock market corrects.

bloomberg financial conditions spx
Source: Bloomberg

Shown below we see a similar wide divergence when looking at credit spreads (inverted in red) compared to the S&P 500 (in black). When financial conditions are healthy, credit spreads narrow since investors require less compensation for the risk of holding non-government securities. As financial conditions deteriorate and default risks increase, credit spreads widen. The credit markets were confirming the message of the stock market up…

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Admin

Another one that says what could cause a collapse; of course they never say "when" it will happen.  Another reason to remain cautious and take winners where you can.

According to CNBC, the S&P 500 is close to its record high as earnings season heats up, but one of the major drivers of the market's advance - stock buybacks - looks to be sagging.

U.S. companies announced about $182 billion in buybacks in the first quarter, according to Birinyi Associates research, putting buybacks on pace for their weakest year since 2012. Strategists link this, in part, to falling cash flow, a trend that is expected…

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Admin

Of course, no where does it say how long this can continue but it's important to be aware. No, it can't go on forever.

We are now entering earnings season once again. Pre-announcements have been the second-worst seen over the past decade.

This has analysts lowering estimates. In fact, they’ve been lowered so far quarterly earnings now look to fall all the way back to 2009 levels.

For the trailing…

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Admin

On a Letter from an Expatriate

A friend I haven’t heard from in many years since he left the USA wrote me. He closed the letter in an unusual way, saying:

PS — USA has gone completely bonkers these days? or what the heck is going on over there? would love to pick your mind over a glass of wine. someday!

I’m not intending on writing on politics as a regular habit at Aleph Blog, and most of what I am going to say is economics-related, so please bear with me.  Hopefully this will get it out of my system.

To my friend,

There are a lot of frustrated people in the US.  Though you’ve been gone a long time, you used to know me pretty well; after all, I trained you on economic matters.

Let me give a list of reasons why I think people are frustrated, then explain how that affects their political…

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Upgrading Your Kitchen on a Budget

When updating your home, you should always start in the kitchen.  The kitchen is arguably where most of a homeowner’s time is spent, and therefore should be able to cater to all the needs of the homeowner, while keeping up with the latest décor styles.  Perhaps the most difficult part of updating a kitchen is the cost behind most necessary kitchen upgrades.  The expense is definitely enough to cause homeowners to give up on the project, but before throwing in the towel, there are several ways you can upgrade your kitchen without the hefty cost.  All it takes is a little time and effort.  Here are a few affordable kitchen upgrades that you should consider.  

Counters and appliances

Countertops and appliances are the most expensive upgrades to make in a kitchen, but they are a worthwhile investment.  If you can afford stainless steel appliances, or granite countertops, these upgrades with substantially increase the value of your home as well as keep your…

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Admin

Debt Doesn't Go On Forever

NYSE margin debt fell again during the month of February. After the selloff in stocks that kicked off 2016, this should come as no surprise. Investors are usually forced to reduce leveraged bets during these sorts of episodes in the stock market. In fact, this forced selling can actually exacerbate the volatility. And because margin debt is only now beginning to come down from record highs, surpassing those seen at the 2000 and 2007 peak, this should be of concern to most equity investors.

To fully appreciate this risk, I prefer to look at margin debt relative to overall economic activity. When leveraged financial speculation becomes large relative to the economy, it’s usually a sign investors have become far too greedy. As Warren Buffett would say, this is usually a good time to become more…

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Admin

The chart above tracks the broad stock market against the spread of lowest-rated investment-grade corporate bond yields. They normally track each other very closely as they both reflect broad investor risk appetites.

When investors are hungry for risk stock prices move higher and corporate spreads get narrower. When risk aversion takes over, however, stock prices fall and spreads widen.

Another reason they closely track each other is corporations’ ability to access credit is very closely tied to the overall demand for equities. When it’s very cheap for companies to borrow, it’s very easy for them to fund stock buybacks and acquisitions of other companies.

Certainly, these two factors have been very important to the bull market of the past six years or so. Ray Dalio recently said he estimates that…

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Admin

Weekend Reading

In addition to charts I uploaded (which there are many more but I'm short on time, it being a holiday) here are a few of my weekend email reads I found interesting. Enjoy - and Happy Easter.

  1. Variant sees commercial and industrial lending to continue to fall.  No, not a good thing.
  2. The top 20 reasons start ups fail.  Visual Capitalist
  3. Think renewables will gain usage over coal and crude oil?  You may be surprised.  McKinsey
  4. Domo origato mr roboto Visual Capitalist
  5. Here we go again…

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Admin

Robert Epstein, a senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology in California and the former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today, warns us of a insidious and pervasive new form of mind control: search results.

That’s right, search results. And not just any search results: Google search results. Since 2013 Epstein and colleagues have conducted a number of experiments in the US and India to determine whether search results can impact people’s political opinions.

Epstein points out that about 50 percent of our clicks go to the top two items on the first page of results, and more than 90 percent of our clicks go to the 10 items listed. And of course Google, which dominates the search business, decides which of the billions of web…

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Admin

Why Most People Fail At Trading

One item I completely agree with is the pundits and "know it alls" on entertainment news television.  They're there to entertain you; not make you rich.  I get my economic releases on them and *off* they go the rest of the day.  I trust my charts; charts don't lie.  People do.

Courtesy of Martinkronicle

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Admin

When Stocks Are On Sale

This caught my eye as I tend to look at stocks when they near a significant, long-term support such as a 100 month or 200 month EMA or SMA.  Of course I'm buying with a long term perspective in this approach but it got me wondering: Is is better to hold your breath and simply buy stocks when they've sold off 20%? The downside still terrifies me but looking at historical returns is intriguing.   From Awelathofcommonsense:

Large cap U.S. equities continue to hold up well with the S&P 500 down roughly 12% from its all-time highs reached last spring. To some degree, this performance has masked the global bear market going on in the rest of the world. Take a look at this list of country ETFs from Bespoke Investment…

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Admin

What Might Happen In China In 2016

In debates about whether growth is a percentage point up or down, we too often lose sight of the absolute scale of China’s economy. No matter what rate the country grows at in 2016, its share of the global economy, and of many specific sectors, will be larger than ever. My snapshot of China in 2016? An increasingly diverse, volatile, $11 trillion economy whose performance is becoming more and more difficult to describe as one dimensional.

The reality is that China’s economy is today made up of multiple subeconomies, each more than a trillion dollars in size. Some are booming, some declining. Some are globally competitive, others fit for the scrap heap. How you feel about China depends more than ever on the parts of the economy where you compete. In 2015, selling kit to movie theaters has been great business, selling kit to steel mills less so. In your China, are you dealing with a tiger or a tortoise? Your performance in 2016 will depend on knowing the…

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Admin

Byron Wiens Top 10 Surprises For 2016

Byron R. Wien, Vice Chairman of Multi-Asset Investing at Blackstone, today issued his list of Ten Surprises for 2016. This is the 31st year Byron has given his views on a number of economic, financial market and political surprises for the coming year. Byron defines a “surprise” as an event that the average investor would only assign a one out of three chance of taking place but which Byron believes is “probable,” having a better than 50% likelihood of happening.

Byron started the tradition in 1986 when he was the Chief U.S. Investment Strategist at Morgan Stanley. Byron joined Blackstone in September 2009 as a senior advisor to both the firm and its clients in analyzing economic,…

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Admin

As Bloomberg warned in early December as BlueCrest Capital Management stated it would no longer oversee money for outsiders, one thing founder Michael Platt didn’t mention was that clients had already pulled billions of dollars this year............and now Jim Cramer has joined the club.  It's been a rough environment for hedge funds and end of year is do or die.  Winners few and far between it seems and they want their money now.

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Admin

How Markets Are Manipulated

There once was a series of interviews with Jim Cramer, as you'll see here where he talks about his days as a Hedge Fund Manager, and they were a wonder to behold.  It seems many have been 'scrubbed' from the web (nice job Jim) but I came across this one and it'll give you a glimpse into the games that are played behind the scenes.  CNBC and its cohorts are entertainment and easily swayed.  Get your economic data and hit the 'mute' button.  Opinions are swayed by the opinions’ of others but it doesn't make them fact.  Learn this early.

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Admin

Negative Growth. Thank You Deflation And QE

Investors may wade into unknown territory next month as the Federal Reserve readies the first rate hike in nearly a decade amid a corporate earnings recession.

S&P 500 earnings are on track to close their first reporting season of negative growth since the Great Recession and estimates call for sub-zero growth in the current quarter as well.

Even if the trend reverses next year, as expected, a Fed rate hike in December could mark an unprecedented conflict between a tightening cycle starting at the same time as earnings fall into recession.

"We can't think of any instances when the Fed was hiking during an (earnings) recession," said Joseph Zidle, portfolio strategist at Richard Bernstein Advisors in New…

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