Sunday, June 17, 2018

Onward to Stock Market Nirvana... Or Not

Rising wedges tend to lead to declines, so ignore them.
At long last, we have reached the Nirvana of consensus: the stock market is heading to new all-time highs. Even the perma-Bear camp seems to have accepted the inevitability of new all-time highs ahead: The FANG stocks are hitting new highs, the Russell 2000 Small-Cap Index is hitting new highs, and the laggard S&P 500 is sure to catch up to its peers, as it climbs the ladder of higher lows. Once again we've reached the Nirvana of ever-higher stock valuations.
Or not. That troublesome kid watching the naked Emperor ride past in his imaginary finery keeps muttering about rising wedges. Consider the Russell Small-Cap Index (RUT):
The Raging Bull of the FANG stocks, Netflix:
The S&P 500:
And the so-called "fear index," the VIX, reduced to the Nirvana of complacency and supreme confidence:
The Nirvana of January--super-low VIX and an ever-rising stock market-- was disrupted by an unwelcome eruption of reality.
The beaten down VIX traced out a couple of blue wedges before the eruption, but let's ignore them. What matters is order was restored to the Universe by the triumph of complacency and confidence as the VIX was ground down to sub-12 levels again.
Rising wedges tend to lead to declines, so ignore them. Never mind their ubiquity-- Nirvana blasts right through resistance and rising wedges.
The faithless few might be troubled by the similarities of late January to the present, but the faithful have supreme confidence in the Fed, the tremendous bite of the FANGs and the all-powerful forces of greed and complacency--a marriage made in heaven!
Here's a look at the real Nirvana: the income and wealth gains of the top .1%.
Debt-serfs "own" nothing but debt, the Technocrat class shouldering student loans and mortgages keeps the machine running by working themselves to exhaustion, and the speculative class skims virtually all the gains.
Stock market Nirvana feeds wealth/income inequality Nirvana.



My new book Money and Work Unchained is $9.95 for the Kindle ebook and $20 for the print edition.
Read the first section for free in PDF format.


If you found value in this content, please join me in seeking solutions by becoming a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com.

NOTE: Contributions/subscriptions are acknowledged in the order received. Your name and email remain confidential and will not be given to any other individual, company or agency.

Thank you, Royce M. ($150), for your beyond-outragously generous contribution to this site -- I am greatly honored by your steadfast support and readership.
 
Thank you, Thomas M. ($20), for your splendidly generous contribution to this site -- I am greatly honored by your support and readership.

Read more...

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Here We Go Again: Our Double-Bubble Economy

The bubbles in assets are supported by the invisible bubble in greed, euphoria and credulity.
Well, folks, here we go again: we have a double-bubble economy in housing and stocks, and a third difficult-to-chart bubble in greed, euphoria and credulity.
Feast your eyes on Housing Bubble #2, a.k.a. the Echo Bubble:
Here's the S&P 500 stock index (SPX): no bubble here, we're told, just a typical 9-year long Bull Market that has soared from a low in 2009 of 666 to a recent high of 2802 in January of this year:
Here's a view of the same bubble in the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA):
Is anyone actually dumb enough not to recognize these are bubbles? Of course not. Those proclaiming that "these bubbles are not bubbles" know full well they're bubbles, but their livelihoods depend on public denial of this reality.
And so we're inundated with justifications of bubble valuations, neatly bound with statistical mumbo-jumbo: forward earnings (better every day in every way!), P-E expansion, and all the rest of the usual blather that's spewed by status quo commentators and fund managers at the top of every bubble.
The problem with bubbles is they always pop. The market runs out of Greater Fools and/or creditworthy borrowers, and so sellers overwhelm the thinning ranks of buyers.
Those dancing euphorically, expecting the music will never stop, are caught off guard (despite their confidence that they are far too clever to be caught by surprise), and the panic-driven crowd clogs the narrow exit, leaving a ballroom of bag-holders to absorb the losses.
The other problem with bubbles is that we've become dependent on them as props holding up a rotten, corrupt status quo. Since the economy can no longer generate sufficient prosperity to go around via actual increases in productivity and efficiency, those skimming most of the gains rely on "the wealth effect" generated by expanding asset bubbles to create a dreamy illusion of prosperity.
Here's the third consequence of bubbles: the gains flow to the very top of the wealth-power pyramid: there is no other possible output of the bubble, since roughly 80% of all assets are owned by the top tier of households, and the majority of financial assets are owned by the top .1% (one-tenth of one percent).
Since only owners of assets reap gains from asset bubbles, only those who own assets benefit. That leaves out the bottom 90%, and if we're honest with ourselves (now verboten), the bottom 99.9%, despite the heady illusion at the apex of the bubble (i.e. the present housing and stock markets).
The bubbles in assets are supported by the invisible bubble in greed, euphoria and credulity. We believe what we believe will make us rich, what feeds our euphoric confidence that the bubble-music will never stop and our credulity that bubbles which we know will pop will not pop until we've safely cashed out.


My new book Money and Work Unchained is $9.95 for the Kindle ebook and $20 for the print edition.
Read the first section for free in PDF format.


If you found value in this content, please join me in seeking solutions by becoming a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com.

NOTE: Contributions/subscriptions are acknowledged in the order received. Your name and email remain confidential and will not be given to any other individual, company or agency.

Thank you, Curt A. ($50), for your monstrously generous contribution to this site -- I am greatly honored by your steadfast support and readership.
 
Thank you, Zay A. ($5/month), for your splendidly generous pledge to this site -- I am greatly honored by your steadfast support and readership.

Read more...

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

What's Wrong with the Economy: 9 Toxic Dynamics

These nine dynamics are mutually reinforcing.
Beneath the surface signals of an eternally rising stock market and expanding GDP, we all sense something is deeply, systemically wrong with the U.S. economy. These nine structural dynamics generate secondary dynamics, all of which are toxic to social mobility, sustainable prosperity, accountability and democracy:
1. The financialization of the economy, which transformed services, credit, risk and labor into commodities that could be traded globally. Financialization generates enormously asymmetric returns: those with access to low-cost credit, global markets and expertise in finance collect the lion's share of gains in income and wealth.
2. The technological transformation of the economy, which has placed a substantial scarcity premium on specific tech/managerial/communication skills and devalued ordinary labor and capital. As a result, the majority of gains in wealth and income flow to those with the scarce skills and forms of capital, leaving little for ordinary labor and capital.
3. The end of cheap fossil fuels. The fracking boom/bubble has obscured the long-term secular trend: the depletion of cheap-to-access and process oil. As many analysts have observed (Nate Hagens, Gail Tverberg, Richard Heinberg, Chris Martenson et al.), the global economy only grows if energy and credit are both cheap.
4. Globalization, which transformed the developing world into the environmental dumping ground of the wealthy nations and enabled the owners of capital to offshore waste and labor.
5. The destructive consequences of "growth at any cost" are piling up. "Growth" is the one constant of all existing political-economic systems, and none of the current Modes of Production (i.e. the structures that organize production, consumption, the economy and society) recognize that "growth" is not sustainable.
The first two dynamics drive three other dynamics that have hollowed out the productive economy:
6. The dominance of debt-funded speculation as the means of "getting ahead"as opposed to producing products and services of intrinsic value that serve the core needs of communities.
7. The economy's gains in income and wealth are concentrated in the very top of the wealth-power pyramid: the top 5%--entrepreneurs, professionals and technocrats, etc., and within this class, most of the gains go to the top 1/10th of 1% --the existing owners of wealth, and financiers/speculators with access to cheap credit.
The net result is the bottom 95% have few opportunities to "get ahead" outside of gambling in the asset bubbles du jour: the stock and housing market. While the average middle class household may be able to borrow enough to speculate in the housing bubble, two factors limit the odds of success for ordinary investors/gamblers:
A. The gains in housing are concentrated in specific markets; outside these hot markets, gains are modest.
B. Asset bubbles eventually pop, leaving those still owning the assets with losses. The risks are thus intrinsic and high. The average investor/gambler lacks the experience needed to recognize the bubble has stopped expanding and exit the market before ll the other speculators rush for the narrowing exit.
8. The devaluation of ordinary labor and capital means the bottom 60% of the economy that lacks the requisite skills with a scarcity premium in the Emerging Economy have lost easy access to the ladder of social mobility.
9. The concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the self-serving few corrupts the economy and democracy. The U.S. economy is dominated by insider and elite rackets, skims, scams and cartels/quasi-monopolies, all of which corrupt the economy by creating perverse incentives for exploitation and gaming the system to benefit the few at the expense of the many.
This corruption in service of maximizing private/personal gains at the expense of the system itself also corrupts the mechanisms of governance, which are now little more than cloaking devices that protect insiders and elites from scrutiny and consequences.
The 20% above the bottom 60% may appear to have some access to social/economic mobility, but this is largely an artifact of the bubble economy since 2009. Once the bubble deflates, the illusion of social mobility for the "middle class" between the bottom 60% and the upper 20% vanishes.
The "upper middle class" between the bottom 80% and the top 5% is being squeezed by the over-production of elites, i.e. the over-abundance of those with college degrees and the relative scarcity of secure jobs within the top 5%. As a result, credential inflation is rampant, with Masters Degrees replacing Bachelors Degrees as the default for a white-collar job, and PhDs replacing Masters diplomas as the new default for positions that lack security and upward mobility.
In other words, the number of people who qualify for and desire a slot in the elite class (top 5%) far exceeds the number of slots available. As Peter Turchin has explained, this competition generates social disorder at the top of economic heap as the top 20% fight over the few positions open in the top 5%. The disgruntled, frustrated losers far outnumber the relatively few winners.
These nine dynamics are mutually reinforcing, meaning that each dynamic strengthens one or more of the others, reinforcing each other so the sum of the nine is far more powerful than a mere addition might suggest.



My new book Money and Work Unchained is $9.95 for the Kindle ebook and $20 for the print edition.
Read the first section for free in PDF format.


If you found value in this content, please join me in seeking solutions by becoming a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com.

NOTE: Contributions/subscriptions are acknowledged in the order received. Your name and email remain confidential and will not be given to any other individual, company or agency.

Thank you, Neil W. ($5/month), for your supremely generous pledge to this site -- I am greatly honored by your support and readership.
 
Thank you, Andrew M. ($5/month), for your splendidly generous pledge to this site -- I am greatly honored by your support and readership.

Read more...

Friday, June 08, 2018

The Politics of Pretense: The Status Quo Is the Problem, But It Can't Be Touched

Ultimately, all doomed ruling elites face the same problem: there isn't enough money to fund their take and fuel the vast machinery of power.
The politics of the U.S. boils down to one sustained pretense: politicians win votes by promising to fix problems that are the direct result of our bloated, corrupt, unsustainable Status Quo, yet they fund their campaigns by promising insiders and self-serving elites that they won't touch their Status Quo gravy trains, power and privilege.
This is of course the politics of collapse: by protecting the entrenched, self-serving elites at the top of the wealth-power pyramid, including the political class itself, the political class is condemning the Status Quo to systemic implosion.
The political class is the handmaiden of a Status Quo that is doing everything in its formidable power to fend off any change that threatens its privileged-insiders-plunder. In effect, the political class is doing what's it been paid (via tens of millions of dollars in campaign contributions) to do: protect the Status Quo by any and all means available.
Throughout history, the ruling Status Quo self-destructs by refusing to adapt to changing circumstances. The real world is not static, but those in power are so thoroughly soaked in hubris and the delusions of power that they focus not on painful adaptation but on maximizing and protecting their self-aggrandizement.
Ultimately, all doomed ruling elites face the same problem: there isn't enough money to fund their take and fuel the vast machinery of power. Their solution is always the same: rather than make painful sacrifices to reduce their skim, they "print money" by one means or another: reduce the silver content of coinage, issue paper money, issue "stimulus" via central banks, and so on.
This self-serving mechanism hollows out and corrupts the economy, which consequently becomes increasingly fragile. The system's resilience (its buffers and ability to respond quickly and effectively to crises) erodes to near-zero, and one crisis or another that would have been handled in the past brings down the entire rotten edifice.
Here's the two-party system stripped to its essentials:
Here's our "leadership class" displaying their self-serving "leadership skills":
As the saying goes, follow the money:
Philanthro-crony-capitalism is a favored pretense of self-serving elites: things can go south when the plunder reaches extremes, of course....
So keep this in mind when voting in this year's elections: you'll be promised "change" but real change is impossible because the real priority is preserving a self-serving, corrupt, bloated and unsustainable Status Quo by any means available.
You'll be told what you want to hear: the problems will all be fixed within the existing Status Quo. But the existing Status Quo is the source of the problems.Pretense feeds delusion which guarantees collapse.
As a reminder of how systems become fragile and collapse:



My new book Money and Work Unchained is $9.95 for the Kindle ebook and $20 for the print edition.
Read the first section for free in PDF format.


If you found value in this content, please join me in seeking solutions by becoming a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com.

NOTE: Contributions/subscriptions are acknowledged in the order received. Your name and email remain confidential and will not be given to any other individual, company or agency.

Thank you, David M. ($5/month), for your supremely generous pledge to this site -- I am greatly honored by your support and readership.
 
Thank you, Carol A. J. ($5/month), for your splendidly generous pledge to this site -- I am greatly honored by your support and readership.

Read more...

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

The Three Crises That Will Synchronize a Global Meltdown by 2025

We're going to get a synchronized global dynamic, but it won't be "growth" and stability, it will be DeGrowth and instability.
To understand the synchronized global meltdown that is on tap for the 2021-2025 period, we must first stipulate the relationship of "money" to energy:"money" is nothing more than a claim on future energy. If there's no energy available to fuel the global economy, "money" will have little value.
The conventional economists assure us that energy is now a small part of the overall economy, so fluctuations in energy prices will have a limited effect on global prosperity. But what's left of global prosperity when energy is unable to meet current demand at any price that consumers can afford?
The current "economic understanding" of energy and "money" is an artifact of a unique period of cheap, abundant fossil fuels. It is an article of faith in economics that energy will always become cheaper and more abundant as the pixie-dust of technology is irreversible. By the time fossil fuels become scarce many decades hence, we'll all have cold-fusion generators, or micro-nuclear power plants or nearly free electricity from solar panels, and so on.
This is of course complete rubbish. To scale up any energy source to replace fossil fuels will require decades and tens of trillions of dollars in capital investment. In other words, energy development is a financial dynamic. Technology is only the first small piece of a much larger puzzle.
This becomes clear when we ponder the unwelcome reality that the fracking miracle has resulted in $250 billion in losses. You mean all those companies lost money exploiting the miracle technologies of fracking?
My point is profits are not guaranteed in any industry that requires trillions in new investment before it earns a positive return. The financial graveyard is littered with the carcasses of costly energy technologies that were supposed to "save industrial civilization" with some new clean source of essentially limitless energy.
Conventional economists also tend to overlook the impact of rising domestic consumption of oil exporting nations. A funny thing happens when domestic demand rises with population and prosperity; the exporting nation may pump the same quantity of oil, but there's no longer much left to export.
Then there's the fantasy that governments can't go broke because they can always print as much money as they need. Venezuela proves this is correct, right? Oops, sorry: Venezuela proved that this faith in the power of the central bank/government printing press is rubbish.
You can't print more oil. You can print more future claims on oil (i.e. "money"), but all that does is devalue the existing stock of "money." Print enough "money" and all your "money" loses its purchasing power.
Inflation has a peculiar feature: printing more "money" doesn't solve the decline in purchasing power of inflation, it accelerates the decline in purchasing power. The mainstream has grown accustomed to the fantasy that all financial difficulties can be solved by central banks creating more credit / "money." But when inflation in real-world essentials like energy kicks in, expanding the pool of "money" and credit won't solve the supply-demand imbalance--it will only devalue the purchasing power of all existing "money," impoverishing everyone holding "money."
The third crisis is governance: around the world, regardless of the ideology or form of governance, the quality and legitimacy of governance is crumbling. Ruling Elites are doing everything they can to keep the privileged-insiders-plundering status quo intact, but the Elites' policies are hollowing out their economies and weakening the buffers supporting increasingly fragile civil societies.
The financial, energy and governance buffers will all start collapsing in a global synchronized meltdown in the 2021 - 2025 period. Why synchronized? Because the global financial and energy markets are one system. Once the system's buffers collapse, everyone dependent on trade, global finance and energy will collapse in a domino effect that will start with the weakest periphery nations. No nation or empire will be immune, as all the major powers rely on "money" with phantom value and energy that can't be printed by central banks.
Here's my diagram of how buffers weaken beneath the phony facade of "endless prosperity":
Venezuela's "money" exemplifies the future of all "money,", including the euro, yen, yuan/RMB and the U.S. dollar. There is nothing inherently permanent or valuable in "money" printed by central banks or governments; they are nothing but fast-accumulating claims on a diminishing supply of future energy.
We're going to get a synchronized global dynamic, but it won't be "growth" and stability, it will be DeGrowth and instability. The harsh realities of energy, "money" and mis-governance will come home to roost, and all the fantasies that technology and central banks printing "money" will save us will dissolve into thin air.


My new book Money and Work Unchained is $9.95 for the Kindle ebook and $20 for the print edition.
Read the first section for free in PDF format.


If you found value in this content, please join me in seeking solutions by becoming a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com.

NOTE: Contributions/subscriptions are acknowledged in the order received. Your name and email remain confidential and will not be given to any other individual, company or agency.

Thank you, Craig A. ($50), for your supremely generous contribution to this site -- I am greatly honored by your support and readership.
 
Thank you, Jim M. ($5/month), for your splendidly generous pledge to this site -- I am greatly honored by your support and readership.

Read more...

Terms of Service

All content on this blog is provided by Trewe LLC for informational purposes only. The owner of this blog makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site. The owner will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information. The owner will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information. These terms and conditions of use are subject to change at anytime and without notice.

Our Privacy Policy:

Correspondents' email is strictly confidential. This site does not collect digital data from visitors or distribute cookies. Advertisements served by third-party advertising networks such as Adsense and Investing Channel may use cookies or collect information from visitors for the purpose of Interest-Based Advertising; if you wish to opt out of Interest-Based Advertising, please go to Opt out of interest-based advertising (The Network Advertising Initiative)
If you have other privacy concerns relating to advertisements, please contact advertisers directly. Websites and blog links on the site's blog roll are posted at my discretion.

Our Commission Policy:

Though I earn a small commission on Amazon.com books and gift certificates purchased via links on my site, I receive no fees or compensation for any other non-advertising links or content posted on my site.

  © Blogger templates Newspaper III by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP