Category Archives: Recession 2015

Food Bank Demand Growing

Recovery Watch – American Food Banks Struggle To Keep Up Amidst “Surprising” Demand

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Submitted by Mike Krieger via Liberty Blitzkrieg blog,

Food banks across the country are seeing a rising demand for free groceries despite the growing economy, leading some charities to reduce the amount of food they offer each family.

U.S. food banks are expected to give away about 4 billion pounds of food this year, more than double the amount provided a decade ago, according to Feeding America, the nation’s primary food bank network. The group gave away 3.8 billion in 2013.

While reliance on food banks exploded when the economy tanked in 2008, groups said demand continues to rise year after year, leaving them scrambling to find more food.

Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Food Banks, who has been working in food charities since the 1980s, said that when earlier economic downturns ended, food demand declined, but not this time.

From the AP article: Food Banks Struggle to Meet Surprising Demand

It’s an economic recovery so robust, food bank demand has increased every single year during it.

It’s an economic recovery so robust, people running food banks say they’ve never seen food bank demand increase during a recovering economy. Ever. Except this time.

It’s a fraud. The entire thing. This recovery has been a mainstream media meme used to cover up what is really happening: oligarch theft.

But don’t take it from me. From the AP:

 

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Food banks across the country are seeing a rising demand for free groceries despite the growing economy, leading some charities to reduce the amount of food they offer each family.

U.S. food banks are expected to give away about 4 billion pounds of food this year, more than double the amount provided a decade ago, according to Feeding America, the nation’s primary food bank network. The group gave away 3.8 billion in 2013.

While reliance on food banks exploded when the economy tanked in 2008, groups said demand continues to rise year after year, leaving them scrambling to find more food.

“We get lines of people every day, starting at 6:30 in the morning,” said Sheila Moore, who oversees food distribution at The Storehouse, the largest pantry in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and one where food distribution has climbed 15 percent in the past year.

James Ziliak, who founded the Center for Poverty Research at the University of Kentucky, said the increased demand is surprising since the economy is growing and unemployment has dropped from 10 percent during the recession to 5.3 percent last month.

Yes, the increased demand is “surprising” if you get your economic news from the mainstream media, Wall Street analysts and pundits.

The drop in food stamp rolls by nearly 2.5 million people from recession levels could be contributing to the food bank demand, he said, because people who no longer qualify for the government aid may still not earn enough to pay their bills.

That’s an interesting angle.

Feeding America spokesman Ross Fraser said a recent study by his organization estimated that 46 million people sought food assistance at least once in 2014.

Feeding America, which coordinates large food donations for 199 food banks nationwide, has seen donations of food and money to the Chicago-based organization climb from $598 million in 2008 to $2.1 billion in 2014. 

So donations to food banks nearly quadrupled during the so-called “economic recovery,” yet they still can’t keep up. Got it.

Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Food Banks, who has been working in food charities since the 1980s, said that when earlier economic downturns ended, food demand declined, but not this time.

Perhaps because there’s no real recovery?

In Fort Smith, Arkansas, the monthly food giveaways at a local park by the River Valley Regional Food Bank draw about 1,000 families.

“When people are willing to stand in 100 degree weather for hours, that tells you something,” said Ken Kupchick, the food bank’s marketing director.

So why is this happening? Because oligarchy.

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Central Bank Caused Bankruptcy

Pop Goes The Alpha ( Natural Resources)

by  • August 4, 2015

If you want a cogent metaphor for the central bank enabled crack-up boom now underway on a global basis, look no further than today’s scheduled chapter 11 filling of met coal supplier Alpha Natural Resources (ANRZ). After becoming a public company in 2005, its market cap soared from practically nothing to $11 billion exactly four years ago. Now it’s back at the zero bound.
ANRZ Market Cap Chart

ANRZ Market Cap data by YCharts

Yes, bankruptcies happen, and this is most surely a case of horrendous mismanagement. But the mismanagement at issue is that of the world’s central bank cartel.

The latter have insured that there will be thousands of such filings in the years ahead because since the mid-1990s the central banks has engulfed the global economy in an unsustainable credit based spending boom, while utterly disabling and falsifying the financial system that is supposed to price assets honestly, allocate capital efficiently and keep risk and greed in check.

Accordingly, the ANRZ stock bubble depicted above does not merely show that the boys, girls and robo-traders in the casino got way too rambunctious chasing the “BRICs will grow to the sky” tommyrot fed to them by Goldman Sachs. What was actually happening is that the central banks were feeding the world economy with so much phony liquidity and dirt cheap capital that for a time the physical economy seemed to be doing a veritable jack-and-the-beanstalk number.

In fact, the central banks generated a double-pumped boom——first in the form of a credit-fueled consumption spree in the DM economies that energized the great export machine of China and its satellite suppliers; and then after the DM consumption boom crashed in 2008-2009 and threatened to bring the export-mercantilism of China’s red capitalism crashing down on Beijing’s rulers, the PBOC unleashed an even more fantastic investment and infrastructure boom in China and the rest of the EM.

During the interval between 1992 and 1994 the world’s monetary system—–which had grown increasingly unstable since the destruction of Bretton Woods in 1971——took a decided turn for the worst. This was fueled by the bailout of the Wall Street banks during the Mexican peso crisis; Mr. Deng’s ignition of export mercantilism in China and his discovery that communist party power could better by maintained from the end of the central bank’s printing presses, rather than Mao’s proverbial gun;  and Alan Greenspan’s 1994 panic when the bond vigilante’s dumped over-valued government bonds after the Fed finally let money market rates rise from the ridiculously low level where Greenspan had pegged them in the interest of re-electing George Bush Sr. in 1992.

From that inflection point onward, the global central banks were off to the races and what can only be described as a credit supernova exploded throughout the warp and woof of the world’s economy. To wit, there was about $40 trillion of debt outstanding in the worldwide economy during 1994, but this figure reached $85 trillion by the year 2000, and then erupted to $200 trillion by 2014. That is, in hardly two decades the world debt increased by 5X.

To be sure, in the interim a lot of phony GDP was created in the world economy. This came first in the credit-bloated housing and commercial real estate sectors of the DM economies through 2008; and then in the explosion of infrastructure and industrial asset investment in the EM world in the aftermath of the financial crisis and Great Recession. But even then, the growth of unsustainable debt fueled GDP was no match for the tsunami of debt itself.

At the 1994 inflection point, world GDP was about $25 trillion and its nominal value today is in the range of $70 trillion—-including the last gasp of credit fueled spending (fixed asset investment) that continues to deliver iron ore mines, container ships, earthmovers, utility power plants, deep sea drilling platforms and Chinese airports, highways and high rises which have negligible economic value. Still, even counting all the capital assets which were artificially delivered to the spending (GDP) accounts, and which will eventually be written-down or liquidated on balance sheets, GDP grew by only $45 trillion in the last two decades or by just 28% of the $160 trillion debt supernova.

Here is what sound money men have known for decades, if not centuries. Namely, that this kind of runaway credit growth feeds on itself by creating bloated, artificial demand for materials and industrial commodities that, in turn, generate shortages of capital assets like mines, ships, smelters, factories, ports and warehouses that require even more materials to construct. In a word, massive artificial credit sets the world digging, building, constructing, investing and gambling like there is no tomorrow.

In the case of Alpha Natural Resources, for example, the bloated demand for material took the form of met coal. And the price trend shown below is not at all surprising in light of what happened to steel capacity in China alone. At the 1994 inflection point met coal sold for about $35/ton, but at that point the Chinese steel industry amounted to only 100 million tons. By the time of the met coal peak in 2011, the Chinese industry was 11X larger and met coal prices had soared ten-fold to $340 per ton.

And here is where the self-feeding dynamic comes in. That is, how we get monumental waste and malinvestment from a credit boom. In a word, the initial explosion of demand for commodities generates capacity shortages and therefore soaring windfall profits on in-place capacity and resource reserves in the ground.

These false profits, in turn, lead speculators to believe that what are actually destructive and temporary economic rents represents permanent value streams that can be capitalized by equity owners.

But as shown below, eventually the credit bubble stops growing, materials demand flattens-out and begins to rollover, thereby causing windfall prices and profits to disappear. This happens slowly at first and then with a rush toward the drain.

ANRZ is thus rushing toward the drain because it got capitalized as if the insanely uneconomic met coal prices of 2011 would be permanent.

Needless to say, an honest equity market would never have mistaken the peak met coal price of $340/ton in early 2011 as indicative of the true economics of coking coal. After all, freshman engineering students know that the planet is blessed (cursed?) with virtually endless coal reserves including grades suitable for coking.

Yet in markets completely broken and falsified by central bank manipulation and repression, the fast money traders know nothing accept the short-run “price action” and chart points. In the case of ANZR, this led its peak free cash flow of $380 million in early 2011 to be valued at 29X.
ANRZ Free Cash Flow (TTM) Chart

ANRZ Free Cash Flow (TTM) data by YCharts

Self-evidently, a company that had averaged $50 to $75 million of free cash flow in the already booming met coal market of 2005-2008 was hardly worth $1 billion. The subsequent surge of free cash flow was nothing more than windfall rents on ANZR’s existing reserves, and, accordingly, merited no increase in its market capitalization or trading multiple at all.

In fact, even superficial knowledge of the met coal supply curve and production economics at the time would have established that even prices of $100 per ton would be hard  to sustain after the long-term capacity expansion than underway came to fruition.

This means that ANRZ’s sustainable free cash flow never exceeded about $80 million, and that at its peak 2011 capitalization of $11 billion it was being traded at 140X. In a word, that’s how falsified markets go completely haywire in a central bank driven credit boom.

As it happened, the full ANZR story is far worse. During the last 10 years it generated $3.2 billion in cash flow from operations——including the peak cycle profit windfalls embedded in its reported results.   Yet it spent $5 billion on CapEx and acquisitions during the same period, while spending nearly another $750 million that it didn’t have on stock buybacks and dividends.

Yes, it was the magic elixir of debt that made ends appear to meet in its financial statements. Needless to say, the climb of its debt from $635 million in 2005 to $3.3 billion presently was reported in plain sight and made no sense whatsoever for a company dependent upon the volatile margins and cash flows inherent in the global met coal trade.

So when we insist that markets are broken and the equities have been consigned to the gambling casinos, look no farther than today’s filing by Alpha Natural Resources.

Markets which were this wrong on a prominent name like ANRZ at the center of the global credit boom did not make a one-time mistake; they are the mistake.

As it now happens, the global credit boom is over; DM consumers are stranded at peak debt; and the China/EM investment frenzy is winding down rapidly.

Now comes the tidal wave of global deflation. The $11 billion of bottled air that disappeared from the Wall Street casino this morning is just the poster boy—–the foreshock of the thundering collapse of inflated asset values the lies ahead.

Maybe It’s Here Already

12 Ways The Economy Is Already In Worse Shape Than It Was During The Depths Of The Last Recession

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By Michael Snyder at The Economic Collapse

Did you know that the percentage of children in the United States that are living in poverty is actually significantly higher than it was back in 2008?  When I write about an “economic collapse”, most people think of a collapse of the financial markets.  And without a doubt, one is coming very shortly, but let us not neglect the long-term economic collapse that is already happening all around us.  In this article, I am going to share with you a bunch of charts and statistics that show that economic conditions are already substantially worse than they were during the last financial crisis in a whole bunch of different ways.  Unfortunately, in our 48 hour news cycle world, a slow and steady decline does not produce many “sexy headlines”.  Those of us that are news junkies (myself included) are always looking for things that will shock us.  But if you stand back and take a broader view of things, what has been happening to the U.S. economy truly is quite shocking.  The following are 12 ways that the U.S. economy is already in worse shape than it was during the depths of the last recession…

#1 Back in 2008, 18 percent of all Americans kids were living in poverty.  This week, we learned that number has now risen to 22 percent

There are nearly three million more children living in poverty today than during the recession, shocking new figures have revealed.

Nearly a quarter of youngsters in the US (22 percent) or around 16.1 million individuals, were classed as living below the poverty line in 2013.

This has soared from just 18 percent in 2008 – during the height of the economic crisis, the Casey Foundation’s 2015 Kids Count Data Book reported.

#2 In early 2008, the homeownership rate in the U.S. was hovering around 68 percent.  Today, it has plunged below 64 percent.  Incredibly, it has not been this low in more than 20 years.  Just look at this chart – the homeownership rate has continued to plummet throughout Obama’s “economic recovery”…

Homeownership Rate 2015

#3 While Barack Obama has been in the White House, government dependence has skyrocketed to levels that we have never seen before.  In 2008, the federal government was spending about 37 billion dollars a year on the federal food stamp program.  Today, that number is above 74 billion dollars.  If the economy truly is “recovering”, why is government dependence so much higher than it was during the last recession?

#4 On the chart below, you can see that the U.S. national debt was sitting at about 9 trillion dollars when we entered the last recession.  Since that time, the debt of the federal government has doubled.  We are on the exact same path that Greece has gone down, and what you are looking at below is a recipe for national economic suicide…

Presentation National Debt

#5 During Obama’s “recovery”, real median household income has actually gone down quite a bit.  Just prior to the last recession, it was above $54,000 per year, but now it has dropped to about $52,000 per year…

Median Household Income

#6 Even though our incomes are stagnating, the cost of living just continues to rise steadily.  This is especially true of basic things that we all purchase such as food.  As I wrote about earlier this year, the price of ground beef in the United Stateshas doubled since the last recession.

#7 In a healthy economy, lots of new businesses are opening and not that many are being forced to shut down.  But for each of the past six years, more businesses have closed in the United States than have opened.  Prior to 2008, this had neverhappened before in all of U.S. history.

#8 Barack Obama is constantly telling us about how unemployment is “going down”, but the truth is that the  percentage of working age Americans that are either working or considered to be looking for work has steadily declined since the end of the last recession…

Presentation Labor Force Participation Rate

#9 Some have suggested that the decline in the labor force participation rate is due to large numbers of older people retiring.  But the reality of the matter is that we have seen a spike in the inactivity rate for Americans in their prime working years.  As you can see below, the percentage of males between the ages of 25 and 54 that aren’t working and that aren’t looking for work has surged to record highs since the end of the last recession…

Presentation Inactivity Rate

#10 A big reason why we don’t have enough jobs for everyone is the fact that millions upon millions of good paying jobs have been shipped overseas.  At the end of Barack Obama’s first year in office, our yearly trade deficit with China was 226 billion dollars.  Last year, it was more than 343 billion dollars.

#11 Thanks to all of these factors, the middle class in Americais dying.  In 2008, 53 percent of all Americans considered themselves to be “middle class”.  But by 2014, only 44 percentof all Americans still considered themselves to be “middle class”.

When you take a look at our young people, the numbers become even more pronounced.  In 2008, 25 percent of all Americans in the 18 to 29-year-old age bracket considered themselves to be “lower class”.  But in 2014, an astounding 49 percent of all Americans in that age range considered themselves to be “lower class”.

#12 This is something that I have covered before, but it bears repeating.  The velocity of money is a very important indicator of the health of an economy.  When an economy is functioning smoothly, people generally feel quite good about things and money flows freely through the system.  I buy something from you, then you take that money and buy something from someone else, etc.  But when an economy is in trouble, the velocity of money tends to go down.  As you can see on the chart below, a drop in the velocity of money has been associated with every single recession since 1960.  So why has the velocity of money continued to plummet since the end of the last recession?…

Velocity Of Money M2

If you are waiting for an “economic collapse” to happen, you can stop waiting.

One is unfolding right now before our very eyes.

But what most people really mean when they ask about these things is that they are wondering when the next great financial crisis will happen.  And as I discussedyesterday, things are lining up in textbook fashion for one to happen in our very near future.

Once the next great financial crisis does strike, all of the numbers that I just discussed above are going to get a whole lot worse.

So as bad as things are now, the truth is that this is just the beginning of the pain.

Source: 12 Ways The Economy Is Already In Worse Shape Than It Was During The Depths Of The Last Recession

Gold Market Manipulation

Supply And Demand In The Gold And Silver Futures Markets

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Tyler Durden on 07/28/2015

Authored by Paul Craig Roberts and Dave Kranzler,

This article establishes that the price of gold and silver in the futures markets in which cash is the predominant means of settlement isinconsistent with the conditions of supply and demand in the actual physical or current market where physical bullion is bought and sold as opposed to transactions in uncovered paper claims to bullion in the futures markets. The supply of bullion in the futures markets is increased by printing uncovered contracts representing claims to gold. This artificial, indeed fraudulent, increase in the supply of paper bullion contracts drives down the price in the futures market despite high demand for bullion in the physical market and constrained supplyWe will demonstrate with economic analysis and empirical evidence that the bear market in bullion is an artificial creation.

The law of supply and demand is the basis of economics. Yet the price of gold and silver in the Comex futures market, where paper contracts representing 100 troy ounces of gold or 5,000 ounces of silver are traded, is inconsistent with the actual supply and demand conditions in the physical market for bullion. For four years the price of bullion has been falling in the futures market despite rising demand for possession of the physical metal and supply constraints.

We begin with a review of basics. The vertical axis measures price. The horizontal axis measures quantity. Demand curves slope down to the right, the quantity demanded increasing as price falls. Supply curves slope upward to the right, the quantity supplied rising with price. The intersection of supply with demand determines price. (Graph 1)

Supply and Demand Graph 1

A change in quantity demanded or in the quantity supplied refers to a movement along a given curve. A change in demand or a change in supply refers to a shift in the curves. For example, an increase in demand (a shift to the right of the demand curve) causes a movement along the supply curve (an increase in the quantity supplied).

Changes in income and changes in tastes or preferences toward an item can cause the demand curve to shift. For example, if people expect that their fiat currency is going to lose value, the demand for gold and silver would increase (a shift to the right).

Changes in technology and resources can cause the supply curve to shift. New gold discoveries and improvements in gold mining technology would cause the supply curve to shift to the right. Exhaustion of existing mines would cause a reduction in supply (a shift to the left).

What can cause the price of gold to fall? Two things: The demand for gold can fall, that is, the demand curve could shift to the left, intersecting the supply curve at a lower price. The fall in demand results in a reduction in the quantity supplied. A fall in demand means that people want less gold at every price. (Graph 2)

Supply and Demand Graph 2

Alternatively, supply could increase, that is, the supply curve could shift to the right, intersecting the demand curve at a lower price. The increase in supply results in an increase in the quantity demanded. An increase in supply means that more gold is available at every price. (Graph 3)

Supply and Demand Graph 3

To summarize: a decline in the price of gold can be caused by a decline in the demand for gold or by an increase in the supply of gold.

A decline in demand or an increase in supply is not what we are observing in the gold and silver physical markets. The price of bullion in the futures market has been falling as demand for physical bullion increases and supply experiences constraints. What we are seeing in the physical market indicates a rising price. Yet in the futures market in which almost all contracts are settled in cash and not with bullion deliveries, the price is falling.

For example, on July 7, 2015, the U.S. Mint said that due to a “significant” increase in demand, it had sold out of Silver Eagles (one ounce silver coin) and was suspending sales until some time in August. The premiums on the coins (the price of the coin above the price of the silver) rose, but the spot price of silver fell 7 percent to its lowest level of the year (as of July 7).

This is the second time in 9 months that the U.S. Mint could not keep up with market demand and had to suspend sales. During the first 5 months of 2015, the U.S. Mint had to ration sales of Silver Eagles. According to Reuters, since 2013 the U.S. Mint has had to ration silver coin sales for 18 months. In 2013 the Royal Canadian Mint announced the rationing of its Silver Maple Leaf coins: “We are carefully managing supply in the face of very high demand. . . . Coming off strong sales volumes in December 2012, demand to date remains very strong for our Silver Maple Leaf and Gold Maple Leaf bullion coins.” During this entire period when mints could not keep up with demand for coins, the price of silver consistently fell on the Comex futures market. On July 24, 2015 the price of gold in the futures market fell to its lowest level in 5 years despite an increase in the demand for gold in the physical market. On that day U.S. Mint sales of Gold Eagles (one ounce gold coin) were the highest in more than two years, yet the price of gold fell in the futures market.

How can this be explained? The financial press says that the drop in precious metals prices unleashed a surge in global demand for coins. This explanation is nonsensical to an economist. Price is not a determinant of demand but of quantity demanded. A lower price does not shift the demand curve. Moreover, if demand increases, price goes up, not down.

Perhaps what the financial press means is that the lower price resulted in an increase in the quantity demanded. If so, what caused the lower price? In economic analysis, the answer would have to be an increase in supply, either new supplies from new discoveries and new mines or mining technology advances that lower the cost of producing bullion.

There are no reports of any such supply increasing developments. To the contrary, the lower prices of bullion have been causing reductions in mining output as falling prices make existing operations unprofitable.

There are abundant other signs of high demand for bullion, yet the prices continue their four-year decline on the Comex. Even as massive uncovered shorts (sales of gold contracts that are not covered by physical bullion) on the bullion futures market are driving down price, strong demand for physical bullion has been depleting the holdings of GLD, the largest exchange traded gold fund. Since February 27, 2015, the authorized bullion banks (principally JPMorganChase, HSBC, and Scotia) have removed 10 percent of GLD’s gold holdings. Similarly, strong demand in China and India has resulted in a 19% increase of purchases from the Shanghai Gold Exchange, a physical bullion market, during the first quarter of 2015. Through the week ending July 10, 2015, purchases from the Shanghai Gold Exchange alone are occurring at an annualized rate approximately equal to the annual supply of global mining output.

India’s silver imports for the first four months of 2015 are 30% higher than 2014. In the first quarter of 2015 Canadian Silver Maple Leaf sales increased 8.5% compared to sales for the same period of 2014. Sales of Gold Eagles in June, 2015, were more than triple the sales for May. During the first 10 days of July, Gold Eagles sales were 2.5 times greater than during the first 10 days of June.

Clearly the demand for physical metal is very high, and the ability to meet this demand is constrained. Yet, the prices of bullion in the futures market have consistently fallen during this entire period. The only possible explanation is manipulation.

Precious metal prices are determined in the futures market, where paper contracts representing bullion are settled in cash, not in markets where the actual metals are bought and sold. As the Comex is predominantly a cash settlement market, there is little risk in uncovered contracts (an uncovered contract is a promise to deliver gold that the seller of the contract does not possess). This means that it is easy to increase the supply of gold in the futures market where price is established simply by printing uncovered (naked) contracts. Selling naked shorts is a way to artificially increase the supply of bullion in the futures market where price is determined. The supply of paper contracts representing gold increases, but not the supply of physical bullion.

As we have documented on a number of occasions, the prices of bullion are being systematically driven down by the sudden appearance and sale during thinly traded times of day and night of uncovered future contracts representing massive amounts of bullion. In the space of a few minutes or less massive amounts of gold and silver shorts are dumped into the Comex market, dramatically increasing the supply of paper claims to bullion. If purchasers of these shorts stood for delivery, the Comex would fail. Comex bullion futures are used for speculation and by hedge funds to manage the risk/return characteristics of metrics like the Sharpe Ratio. The hedge funds are concerned with indexing the price of gold and silver and not with the rate of return performance of their bullion contracts.

A rational speculator faced with strong demand for bullion and constrained supply would not short the market. Moreover, no rational actor who wished to unwind a large gold position would dump the entirety of his position on the market all at once. What then explains the massive naked shorts that are hurled into the market during thinly traded times?

The bullion banks are the primary market-makers in bullion futures. They are also clearing members of the Comex, which gives them access to data such as the positions of the hedge funds and the prices at which stop-loss orders are triggered. They time their sales of uncovered shorts to trigger stop-loss sales and then cover their short sales by purchasing contracts at the price that they have forced down, pocketing the profits from the manipulation

The manipulation is obvious. The question is why do the authorities tolerate it?

Perhaps the answer is that a free gold market serves both to protect against the loss of a fiat currency’s purchasing power from exchange rate decline and inflation and as a warning that destabilizing systemic events are on the horizon. The current round of on-going massive short sales compressed into a few minutes during thinly traded periods began after gold hit $1,900 per ounce in response to the build-up of troubled debt and the Federal Reserve’s policy of Quantitative Easing. Washington’s power is heavily dependent on the role of the dollar as world reserve currency.The rising dollar price of gold indicated rising discomfort with the dollar. Whereas the dollar’s exchange value is carefully managed with help from the Japanese and European central banks, the supply of such help is not unlimited. If gold kept moving up, exchange rate weakness was likely to show up in the dollar, thus forcing the Fed off its policy of using QE to rescue the “banks too big to fail.”

The bullion banks’ attack on gold is being augmented with a spate of stories in the financial media denying any usefulness of gold. On July 17 the Wall Street Journal declared that honesty about gold requires recognition that gold is nothing but a pet rock. Other commentators declare gold to be in a bear market despite the strong demand for physical metal and supply constraints, and some influential party is determined that gold not be regarded as money.

Why a sudden spate of claims that gold is not money? Gold is considered a part of the United States’ official monetary reserves, which is also the case for central banks and the IMF. The IMF accepts gold as repayment for credit extended. The US Treasury’s Office of the Comptroller of the Currency classifies gold as a currency, as can be seen in the OCC’s latest quarterly report on bank derivatives activities in which the OCC places gold futures in the foreign exchange derivatives classification.

The manipulation of the gold price by injecting large quantities of freshly printed uncovered contracts into the Comex market is an empirical fact. The sudden debunking of gold in the financial press is circumstantial evidence that a full-scale attack on gold’s function as a systemic warning signal is underway.

It is unlikely that regulatory authorities are unaware of the fraudulent manipulation of bullion prices. The fact that nothing is done about it is an indication of the lawlessness that prevails in US financial markets.

1 In 5 US Stocks Now In Bear Market

1 In 5 US Stocks Now In Bear Market

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Tyler Durden on 07/29/2015

With the major US equity markets within 1-2% of their record highs, Gavekal Capital notes that underneath the headline indices, stock markets are extremely tumultuous. Rather stunningly 21% of MSCI USA stocks are at least 20% off their recent highs, and 68% of Canadian stocks are in bear markets, but the real carnage is taking place in Emerging Markets.

This is only the third time since the summer of 2012 that this many stocks are in a bear market. The most interesting aspect of this internal correction is the fact that the headline index is a mere 1.8% off the 200-day high. On October 10, 2014 when 21% of MSCI USA stocks were in a bear market, the headline MSCI USA index was 5.4% off the 200-day high. And on November 8, 2012 when 21% of the MSCI USA stocks were in a bear market, the headline index was 6% off the 200-day high.

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The pain felt in US stocks is nothing compared to many markets around the world. Just a reminder that this all based on USD performance.

Canadian stocks have been getting pummeled. 68% of Canadian stocks are in a bear market. This is the greatest percentage of stocks in a bear market since 2011.

30% of MSCI Hong Kong stocks are in a bear market and 29% of MSCI Singapore stocks are in a bear market as well.

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The true carnage is taking place in the emerging markets, however, where nearly 2/3 of all EM stocks are at least 20% off its 200-day high.

Some of the worst countries in EM are Brazil (82%), China (82%), Indonesia (77%), and Russia (81%).

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Stock Buy Back Distortion

Shorting The Buyback Contradiction

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Tyler Durden on 07/30/2015

Submitted by Michael Lebowitz via 720Global.com,

“To arrive at a contradiction is to confess an error in one’s thinking; to maintain a contradiction is to abdicate one’s mind and to evict oneself from the realm of reality”  ?  Ayn Rand

The positive short?term price action of buybacks lures unsuspecting investors on the promise that such a shell game is sustainable. Many on Wall Street support such activities as it promotes rising stock prices, ultimately bolstering their wallets. However, clear?headed reason would argue that unless one is an executive whose compensation is tied to metrics influenced by the effects of share buybacks, there are few instances that support this use of corporate resources.

Those who promote buybacks base their support on the fact that fewer shares outstanding, a by?product of the share repurchases, produces more earnings per share (EPS) as the numerator in the EPS equation is unchanged while the denominator is smaller. In “Corporate Buybacks; Connecting Dots to the F?word” we point out that most investors fail to consider the use of assets required to execute the buyback and the current valuation of those companies. Even more worrisome they fail to fully understand the implications of spending corporate capital to repurchase (often expensive) shares instead of investing it in the future growth of companies. The obscured shortcomings of share repurchases actually highlight a blatant contradiction. Share repurchases boost EPS, making valuations appear cheaper, however at the same time they reduce the ability of companies conducting such buybacks to grow future earnings. Recognition of this circumstance presents significant opportunities for those willing to embrace the “realm of reality”. This article uses logic and mathematical analysis to demonstrate the serious price distortions share buybacks are creating and offers specific trade recommendations to capitalize on those distortions.

Distortion

Buybacks distort financial ratios that many investors rely upon to evaluate stock prices. This is most evident in the widely used price to earnings ratio (P/E). This straightforward ratio simply divides the price per share of a company by its earnings per share. The resulting multiple tells an investor the price one must pay for each dollar of earnings. Investors calculating P/E can use a wide variety of historic, current or estimated future data for the denominator, earnings per share. On the other hand the numerator, price, is a known number – the current equity price of the company in question. Therefore, when using P/E as a valuation technique, the validity of the earnings per share input should be given careful consideration.

The reality is that stock buybacks distort EPS data and produce lower P/E ratios, thus making the shares optically cheaper. As an example, consider a company with a $20 price per share, $1 EPS and plans to buyback half of their outstanding shares. Upon completion of the buyback, the company’s P/E will drop from 20 to 10 as the price remains at $20 but EPS will double to $2, due to the reduced share count.  This P/E distortion (an investor now only needs $10 to claim $1 of earnings instead of $20 prior to the buyback) will likely lead investors to conclude that the equity is cheap. However, investors have failed to consider the use of cash to purchase the stock and the now impaired ability of the company to fund and produce future growth.

Analysis

For this analysis, we considered publicly traded companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges with a market capitalization greater than $5 billion. To quantify the distortions to P/E created by share repurchases, a buyback “adjusted” P/E is calculated. This adjusted P/E ratio normalizes EPS, the denominator, by assuming NO shares were repurchased since 2011. Normalizing EPS in this way reduces the denominator and therefore increases the P/E ratio. Comparing the current P/E to the adjusted P/E gives one some sense for just how much buybacks may be distorting values. To illustrate, the adjusted P/E of the company used in the example above would be 20, instead of the post buyback P/E of 10.  The distortion of P/E highlights how buybacks may lead investors to misinterpret value and then misallocate investment capital.

Of the over 600 companies analyzed, including 99 which did not conduct buybacks, the average adjusted P/E was 3.99 higher than the average non?adjusted P/E. Based on the trailing 12 month S&P 500 P/E of 18.25 currently present in the market, investors are unknowingly invested in an adjusted market P/E which is over 20% higher than they assumed. Buyback distortions are larger than ever and not limited to any one industry grouping. The table below shows the average distortion to P/E by industry.

The following tables expand the analysis by detailing the P/E distortion for individual companies. Company specific analysis was limited to the S&P 100 to ensure we highlight widely held companies that can be easily traded from the short side and have liquid option offerings.

Within the S&P 100 six companies were selected based upon a combination of large P/E distortions and the magnitude of recent share buybacks versus total outstanding shares.

The Contradiction

When investors pay an above?market P/E for shares they are frequently betting that the company will deliver higher future earnings growth than the market. The table below uses the adjusted P/E of the six companies to calculate the annualized required EPS growth. The required EPS growth is the pace at which earnings must rise in order to align the adjusted P/E with the current market price to earnings ratio without requiring a discounting of current share prices. In other words, how much does EPS have to grow to reduce the company’s P/E to equate it with a market average P/E? Revenue growth is a sound proxy for earnings growth as a company cannot grow earnings more than sales in the long run. In the table below, annualized revenue growth is also included for the last 3 and 5 years.

Consider the large gap between the required EPS growth rates and historical revenue growth rates. The transparency of the adjusted P/E reveals that the required EPS growth hurdle has risen to seemingly unachievable levels. Given these large differences, investors should be alarmed that these companies have limited and continue to constrain their ability to grow by using cash for buybacks. Using these resources for the purposes of buybacks makes them unavailable for projects that might generate those earnings! Those that believe buybacks are a vote of confidence by management in the company should carefully reconsider that opinion and the inherent conflicts buybacks create.

Trade Recommendation and Conclusion

Aggressive investors can take advantage of this analysis by shorting the six highlighted companies on a market neutral basis and countering the short positions with long positions in companies offering fair valuations.  Conservative investors may want to sell holdings in these firms or shy away from future purchases in them.

P/E ratios calculated with past, present and future EPS along with many other valuation techniques currently register in the extreme upper tiers of historical readings (click here to reference “Courage” in which we illustrate the currently rich valuations). Investors in companies or indices containing a significant number of companies conducting buybacks should carefully consider the effects, distortions and long term ramifications of share buybacks.

The contradiction of buybacks is apparent; a company should not have a higher P/E multiple resulting from buyback actions when those actions at the same time reduce the company’s ability to achieve the additional growth required to justify the higher P/E multiple. 

The best way to avoid the permanent impairment of capital is to never overpay for an asset.

SPY 80

The Tide has Turned and These Charts Predict the Next Stop

by  • August 2, 2015

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What we saw with the latest GDP reports is something truly remarkable.  A market that was explicitly told the past 4 years of economic growth had been overstated simply shrugged off the news.  That is, absolutely no price recalibration took place.  This really evidences beyond any doubt that there is no relationship between the economy and the market.  It further evidences the Fed’s increased proficiency in directly guiding the market.

Now I know this is not shocking to many of us.  But to watch the market’s blatant irreverence toward a report that, with the flip of a switch, removed 12% of the presumed economic growth from the past 4 years did strike me as remarkable.  It shows that the printing of economic indicators is nothing but theater.  There is absolutely no rational market explanation that the market traded flat to up on the day when current GDP missed estimates  and the past 4 years of growth was adjusted downward, all in the midst of one of the worst seasons for YoY deteriorating corporate revenues/earnings.

But more realistically what it suggests is the only player left in the market is the ‘buyer of last resort’, i.e. the Fed and its minion entities.  Certainly nobody wants to aggressively short the market in the face of a clear long only strategy by the Fed, but just as certainly no major money managers are longing this market.  Volume has simply dried up.

I’ve been writing for almost a year now about the economic cannibalism that has been feeding earnings growth.  I have discussed this concept with a dire warning that feeding earnings expansion through operational contraction is a short lived meal.  And well we are now seeing the indications that the growth through contraction has now hit its inevitable end.  Have a look at the following chart which is really the only chart one needs to study at this point.  The chart depicts S&P 500 adjusted earnings per share (blue line), S&P Price level (green line), S&P 500 Revs per share (red line) and US Productivity of Total Industry (olive line).

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I have normalized the parametres back to the early 1990’s so that we can better understand the absurdity of what’s been taking place.  Now there is a tremendous amount of information we can pull out of this chart so stay with me here.

The initial observation is that the past 25 years has been a series of large bubbles and subsequent busts, at least in both the price level and adjusted eps of the S&P.  Focusing on the price level we see the normalized index having two similar peaks and now into a third peak quite substantially higher than the previous two.  The first two peaks top out around 400 on the index and each subsequent reset price was down around 220.  Now one might expect that the sources of these two very similar bubbles were thus the same.  But one would be wrong.

Notice in the first bubble that adjusted EPS topped out around 275 whereas in the second bubble they reached 450.  We often hear that because of this phenomenon equities were far more overvalued in the tech bubble than in the credit bubble.  While the conclusion is correct it creates a strawman analogy for this third and current bubble.  Specifically, that because current price to earnings is similar to that of the credit bubble that equities are fairly priced or at least relative to the tech bubble.  But this argument is a strawman fallacy.

The tech bubble was a bubble of massive direct capital allocation stupidity. The credit bubble was a bubble of massive indirect capital allocation stupidity.  What I mean by that is the tech bubble was created by absurd capital injections directly into the secondary market (bypassing earnings), driving stock valuations to the moon.  The credit bubble was done via flooding consumers with debt which was used to prop up personal consumption which led to growth in revenues, earnings and thus stock valuations.  You can see a large increase of revenues per share between 2001 and 2007.  Now revenue growth is supposed to lead earnings growth which in turn pushes up stock valuations.  However, when revenue growth is driven by debt consumption it is temporary.  And we all learned that cold, hard fact in 2008.

But so the argument that EPS is the figure one needs to pay attention to really misses the actual driving force which is revenue based earnings growth.  The above chart depicts that while EPS has been rising significantly for the past 7 years, revenues have been absolutely flat.  And so what we have is earnings growth pushing stock valuations massively higher but without the consumer onboard.  Very different from the credit bubble.  How does this happen?

Well again, stock valuations are being pushed  higher through another temporary effect.  EPS growth is coming by way of operational contraction and financial engineering – meaning dividend payouts and share buybacks. This is evident in the following chart of just this latest bubble that depicts growth in stock valuations relative to growth in revenue per share, which have (notably) declined since Aug 08 (the base period).

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Now EPS growth from anything other than earned consumption, meaning consumption from income rather than debt can only be temporary.  (One arguable exception would be if EPS growth came from productivity, however, we see in this first chart that productivity is flat and so not the driver of EPS growth.)  And if the EPS growth is temporary it follows that the stock valuations that have grown on the back of EPS growth too is temporary.  What we are about to find and already are seeing the signs of with major technical supports breaking down is that stock valuations will reset to match each firm’s operational propensity for earnings growth (i.e. each firm’s expected sustainable future free cash flow).  We saw this inevitable result in each of the last two major bubbles.

Interestingly if we look at the macrocosm of the capital mix between earnings and incomes what we find since moving to a pure fiat based currency in 1971 is that while incomes are very steady as a percentage of gross domestic income (GDI), profits have been more volatile.  And since the large positive inflection point of money printing in 1993, corporate profits as a percentage of GDI have gone berserk.  For investors it is imperative to understand what happens to stock valuations when profits’ share of GDI collapses.  In the following chart I have normalized, back to 1971, income and profits’ respective shares of GDI.

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You can see income has steadily declined as a percentage of GDI while profits’ share has bounced around.  But we can see that starting in the mid 1990’s profits’ share of GDI has seen massively growing bubbles and busts.  This is a direct result of the temporary earnings growth scenarios discussed above.   That is, rather than implementing policies that create steady long term income and earnings growth the Fed and the government have been creating policies that act as bandages.  And so while we cover up the infection for short periods, eventually the infection not only reappears but spreads resulting in a continuously worsening problem for which ever more extreme bandages need to be used to cover up the problems.

Today there is an even bigger problem in that the world has been riding China’s coat tails of growth so to speak. But looking at the following chart what we find is a huge dislocation between China’s growth machine (i.e. industrial production) and the valuation of world equity markets.  The dislocation really began around the time the Fed implemented Operation Twist at the end of 2011, which fed directly into QE3.

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We can see a similar indicator of industrial growth decelerating by looking at collapsing materials prices which began to deteriorate around the same time that the above dislocation started in late 2011.

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Despite now hearing fewer and fewer industry ‘pros’ shouting their euphoric calls for 20 year bulls we still get a constant barrage of delusional analyses.  We continue to hear about a strong job market when the opposite is true.  U6 (i.e. the truest official unemployment figure) remains well into the double digits.  As reported today by MarketWatch, labour cost index is at its lowest growth rate since 1982 and the U.S. has gained only an average of 208,000 jobs a month this year, down from 260,000 in 2014, a 20% decline YoY.  Those are the real facts and those are in the face of the lowest labour participation rate since the 1970’s and the highest number of people on government subsidy programs on record.

In short, the last 20 years has been nothing but bad policies attempting to cover up the results of previous bad policies creating a need for more extreme policies to cover up more extreme resulting fundamental problems.  This is clearly depicted in the data.  The end result is that global growth has deteriorated steadily now for the past 6 years to its lowest long term trend line in modern history, now below 2%.

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Like the chicken and the egg, economic output and incomes are inherently intertwined.

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Be prepared for the now imminent equity valuation reset.  It is true the Fed now has the ability to manipulate the market well beyond anything we’ve ever seen before.  However, it is also still true that when the bursting bubble achieves full momentum the Fed will be helpless to stop it.   While the Fed feels increasingly omnipotent they will once again learn, that while natural laws can be bent, they cannot be broken.

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This is a syndicated repost courtesy of First Rebuttal. To view original, click here.