From Tulips to Cryptocurrency

There always seem to be another mania. 


From the Tulips Mania in 1637, when a tulip went for more than 10x what a skilled workman earned in an entire year!


To Cryptocurrency in 2018, which is down about 80% from its $20,000 peak losing $700,000,000,000. 


In between, we had the gold rush, the great depression, the tech/dot-com bubble, and the housing/mortgage crisis, and many more I am sure. 


There seems to always be something for people to get excited about in an “irrational exuberance” type of way, as former Federal Reserve Chair, Alan Greenspan put it.


Is it boredom, big dreams, unadulterated greed, the desire to “get rich quick” and easy, the belief that you’ve discovered the Holy Grail or is it just people being stupid. 


Either way, we have a way of getting ourselves in trouble, some “losing their shirts.”


Not sure who said it, but there isn’t an easy fix to your life. 


There are small and big problems, and then there is you trying to fix them (with G-d’s help). 


As to bitcoins and tulips, they ain’t worth what you think they are. 😉


(Source Graphic: Andy Blumenthal with photos from Pixabay). 

Market Watch 2016

Sale.jpeg

I took this photo in the mall on New Years Day–yes, the stores were actually open on the holiday.


And Macy’s was having a blowout sale with racks and racks of “80% Off Original Price[s].”


We were laughing saying what’s next–99% Off and then even 100% off! 


So you think the economy is healthy with fire sales like these on the very first day of the new calendar year–when we still have another 364 days to make our year end sales quotas…


With turbulence around the globe brewing from Iran, Syria, Russia, North Korea, Yemen, Sudan, Nigeria, ISIS, and more…anyone care to say (pending) crisis.


How about commodities–my bet–that are in the toilet (and have been for years now)–do you really think no one needs iron, aluminum, nickel, lead, cooper, potash, oil, gas, coal, diamonds, and gold anymore? 


Then the Wall Street Journal warned again today about the overall investment marketplace, asking “How do you invest when everything is expensive? [at 25 times cyclically adjusted earnings–now that’s a fancy term]?


We’ve been down this road before in the bubble bursts and recessions of 2001 and 2008.


Is now really the time for the Federal Reserve to be raising interest rates (and what a nifty ripple effect that will have in both slowing our economy down and raising our interest payments on our already ballooning $18 trillion national debt)?


Oh, technology to the rescue again and again…it’s possible with everything from virtual reality to robotics and artificial intelligence on the cusp…or maybe not this time around. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

The Unbelievable Stupidity Of Raising Interest Rates

Bull

Interest rates have been near zero since the recession of 2008.


That supposedly to stimulate the economy. 


However, aside from a stock market bubble again, not sure we have a much stimulated economy.


We have a false low on the unemployment rate, while the the true percentage of the labor force working is the lowest in almost 40 years!


Moreover, manufacturing is down almost 40% from the 1979 peak with a loss of over 7.2M jobs


Commodities are at firesale prices as demand is sluggish and there is short-term oversupply. 


And innovation is facing a global slowdown


So people are out of work, we’re not making things, demand is depressing prices, and even ideas are few and far between–not too rosy a picture, regardless of what some politicians may have you believe. 


Let’s not forget that we have an over $18 trillion federal debt, and this is projected to grow ever greater as we borrow to fund social entitlements such as social security, medicare, etc. 


In this scenario, why would the Federal Reserve ever want to raise interest rates?


Well, if they don’t raise rates, then they can’t lower them later again when the economy really stalls out and goes into deep recession. 


Hence, this is seen as a tool for their financial toolkit–and if there are no tools with which to manipulate the economy, then there is no need for a (neutered) Federal Reserve. 


But think for a second what happens when the Fed raises rates, it’s going to slow the economy even further than the chug chug chug economy that we are already dealing with. 


Maybe even more important, it will raise the amount of interest payments we must folk over on the trillions of dollars of debt we owe.  


Simply put, when we raise interest rates, we pay more interest on our already astronomically high national debt, and this pushes our national deficit up even higher as we borrow more to pay the interest on the previous debt. 


If you did this with your credit cards, you’d probably be looking at the equivalent of debtor’s prison sooner or later. 


Rather than feed the Fed’s toolbox with interest rate bumps and drops, why not keep rates low as long as they can stay low, reducing our interest payments, and curtailing our national deficit and debt. 


What about the stock bubble…that’s a lesson investors will be learning about in their own good time–it’s the stock market, stupid. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

2014 The Bad News Goes On

Bad News

What a 2014 it’s been as the world continues it’s descent into madness.  


If Ebola, the War with Hamas in Gaza, the shoot down of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 killing 298 including 80 children and 15 crew, the intransigence of Iran on Nuclear Weapons, employment still near a 30-year low, the National Debt hitting over $18 trillion (and growing $2.43 billion a day!) and the suicide of comedian, Robin Williams wasn’t enough…


– Criminal Records: 1 in 3 adult Americans (i.e. 80 million people) now have a criminal record…hmm, if the average family has around 2.5 people then just about 1 person per household has a criminal record. Are you starting to look around you now?


– Economy: Uber, yes, it’s a online “ride-sharing” (i.e. taxi) service, but after it’s recent IPO, Uber is worth over $41 billion dollars (more than Delta, Charles Schwab, Salesforce.com, and Kraft Foods). Someone’s getting taken for a ride. Is this even surprising considering the S&P is priced over 27 times average 10-year earnings (while the historical average is only 16), the result of pumping the economy with short term easy money policies.  


– Cyber Attacks: After a blithering cyber attack by North Korea, Sony withdraws the release of the movie, The Interview, surrendering to cyber terror, and putting us all at greater risk in the future because cyber crime does pay!


– Islamic Terrorism: While ISIS advances in Syria and Iraq, 132 school children (mostly ages 6-18) plus 9 adults massacred by the Taliban this week in Peshawar, many shot in the head and others lit on fire with gasoline and burnt to death so they are unrecognizable. This only 9 months after the April kidnapping by Boko Haram of more than 280 schoolgirls in Nigeria, which was repeated this week with the kidnapping of another 185 woman and children.


– Russian Militarism: The Great Bear is back with a vengeance as Putin continues driving Russian nationalism and buildup of advanced weapons, including WMD (e.g. nukes), aircraft, submarines, and ICBMs to counter alleged “Western Aggression.” And despite, the rubbles’ massive decline, Putin promises an economic comeback within 2 years–he’ll wait out the West and hold Crimea hostage and spoil it for everything it’s worth


So where are we going next–more hell on Earth or at some point a turnaround towards heaven again?   


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Money, It’s Something

Poverty

Just an observation today about there being so much poverty in the Nation’s capital and around the country.

Homeless, hungry, and sick people on the streets in one of the richest countries in the world.

Yet, we have trillions going overseas to fight wars with seemingly little to no tangible benefits.

And so much ostensible waste with pork barrel politics, inefficiencies, and failed projects.

A relative joked with me the other day saying, “It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor as long as you have money!”

Here we borrow money ($17.6 trillion ) and print money and the Federal Reserve buys debt ($4.1 trillion ) to keep interest rates low and the economy churning.

People from real estate mogul, Donald Trump to Economist, Robert Wiedemer, who predicted the last recession, are warning of dire economic consequences because of these short-sighted policies.

So do we have real money to continue to burn or is it smoke and mirrors and as Wiedemer says, “the medicine will become the poison”–what do you think?

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Care To Be Curious?

Care To Be Curious?

Here’s three topics for the curious of mind today:

Are we technologically safer? As we attempt to beef up IT security, we continue to be technologically insecure. Just this last week, BBC reported how a fridge was part of 100,000 devices used to send out 750,000 pieces of spam. Yes, a fridge, and there was also a television involved–sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, right? But this is our reality these days…Proofpoint, a cloud computing and security company said “Many of these devices are poorly protected at best, and consumers have virtually no way to detect or fix infections when they do occur.”

Is our economy healing or hurting? As unemployment fell from 7% to 6.7% last week–an impressive reduction–the overall labor force participation rate didn’t rise, but rather sank to 62.8%–its lowest level in 35 years! And while, the Wall Street Journal explains that U.S. employment is simply not keeping up with population growth, the S&P 500 hit a new record high just last Wednesday. Meanwhile, the Fed continues to pour money into the economy, although at a slowing rate (expected to go down next week to only $65B a month), speculation is building whether we have another real bubble brewing, and this one of our own making, perhaps.

Is this the lead up to peace or war with Iran? As we continue to seek a long-term deal with Iran on their dangerous nuclear weapons foray, we read from Bret Stephens that Iranian President Rouhani said during his presidential campaign, “Saying ‘Death to America” is easy…We need to express ‘Death to America’ with action.” If we are getting a good deal that can truly lead to WMD disarmament of Iran, why did Rouhani tweet, “In #Geneva agreement world powers surrendered to Iranian nation’s will.” Curious, whether this is for political consumption in Iran or whether he sees the deal as just a stalling tactic leading to a breakout capability in nuclear weapons as well as a way to get some goodies in terms of sanctions relief for his country in the meantime.

What does little kitty cat say about these? 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Is This The Way It’s Supposed To Work?

Is This The Way It's Supposed To Work?

As talk and warnings escalate about a potential government shutdown next week (not that long since the last time this happened a couple of years ago), one cannot help wonder is this the way government is supposed to work?

The partisanship and fighting has gotten so that either nothing significant gets done or get’s done by just one party leaving the other fuming.

The fight over healthcare reform pushed through for better or for worse has come back to haunt the Hill. Aside from a lot of talk about exchanges, I haven’t found many people that even really understand the changes or whether it actually benefits them or not.

The continuing Fed stimulus that many anticipated was going to start tapering off, but hasn’t, has left many concerned whether there is another huge economic bubble building and what will happen to stocks, housing, and jobs when the Fed finally does pull back.

The Sequestration which was never supposed to actually take effect, but was to replaced with more surgical budget cuts, continues to leave the nation vulnerable in terms of potential budget shortfalls for areas of national priority (e.g. defense and so on) and still leaves a mounting national debt (albeit growing at a slower pace).

The seesaw between the threat of military intervention and the potential for diplomatic solutions with Syria and Iran on no less than weapons of mass destruction have us asking whether these countries are serious, stalling, and really willing to give them all up or just buy time in their efforts to get over the finish line of proliferation, hiding, and burying the stockpiles.

Somehow we seem to be fighting each other more than we are tackling the issues.

Are we really talking with each other, listening with intent to understand, and seeing what is at stake?

We are playing brinkmanship on critical issues of national security that may leave us holding the toilet paper and plunger as we swirl around the bowl ready for the royal flush. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)