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Friday, June 29, 2012 – It’s Almost Like Free Money, Woohoo!

It’s Almost Like Free Money, Woohoo! – by Sinclair NoeDOW + 277 = 12,880SPX + 33 = 1362NAS + 85 = 293510 YR YLD + .08 = 1.66%OIL + 7.18 = 84.87GOLD + 47.10 = 1600.10SILV + 1.17 = 27.59PLAT + 58.00 = 1454.00All right gang – what do the markets love? Free money. When central banks give free money to the banks (and let’s be clear, they only give free money to banks not to regular people) the bank traders grab the loot and scamper off to the casino or to the trading desk (same difference), and it’s risk on.  Next thing you know the Dow is up 277. Woohoo, this economics stuff is easy. Sometimes, just the promise of free money is enough.The past couple of days the big wigs in Euro-land held an emergency summit in Brussels. This was their 20th emergency summit, so expectations were diminished. And just when it looked like an unproductive weekend full of waffles and chocolates; they announced a blockbuster deal (think John Carter, not Avatar). They have a plan for long term fiscal union, and a plan to save Spain and Italy from contagion. They’ll use the ESM, the European Slush Mechanism to directly inject capital straight into the banks, just like junkies on the mainline. And this bailout money would not be senior to existing debt. You may remember that caused  a problem for the Greek bailout, when the ECB forced Greek bondholders to take big haircuts but the ECB debt was not discounted at …

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Thursday, June 28, 2012 – Adverse Selection, Asymmetric Information, Large Numbers, and Healthcare

Adverse Selection, Asymmetric Information, Large Numbers, and Healthcare – by Sinclair NoeDOW – 24 = 12,602SPX – 2 = 1329NAS – 25 = 284910 YR YLD – .04 = 1.58%OIL +.79 = 78.48GOLD – 22.20 = 1553.00SILV -.62 = 26.42PLAT – 19.00 = 1396.00If you had gone to Las Vegas and put down $5 dollars on Obamacare with John Roberts as the swing vote, your odds would have been about a million to one. According to Vegas bookmakers, nobody placed that bet; it was just too outrageous. This morning, a majority of the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. The big surprise, was the vote by the Chief Justice of the Court, John Roberts, to join with the Court’s four liberals.On the crucial issue in the case – whether the “individual mandate” requiring almost all Americans to purchase health insurance was a constitutionally-permissible extension of federal power under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution – Roberts agreed with his conservative brethren that it was not. If that was the end of the decision, it would have killed Obamacare, instead, it just tripped up the reporters at CNN and Fox who were so intent on trying to deliver “breaking news” that they forgot to read before speaking.  Roberts upheld the law because, he reasoned, the penalty to be collected by the government for non-compliance with the law is the equivalent of a tax – and the federal government has the power to tax. What’s …

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012 – To Your Health; Spanish Junk; Barclays Bad; Falcone Flunks; Bhopal Veggie Garden; Goodnight Stockton

To Your Health; Spanish Junk; Barclays Bad; Falcone Flunks; Bhopal Veggie Garden; Goodnight Stockton – by Sinclair NoeDOW + 92 = 12,627SPX + 11 = 1331NAS + 21 = 287510 YR YLD -.01 = 1.62%OIL +.27 = 80.48GOLD + 1.60 = 1575.20SILV – .17 = 27.04PLAT – 18.00 = 1415.00According to the Centers for  Medicare and Medicaid Services, health spending accounts for about 18% of the GDP of the United States. So, tomorrow’s ruling by the Supreme Court on President Obama’s health care plan is pretty important, but so far the economists can’t seem to figure out the implications. This is not to say I have any advance info on the Supreme Court decision. They might say the Act is fine as it is, they might say they will eliminate the mandate but leave the rest unchanged, they might throw out the whole thing.  If they vote against Obamacare it will be seen as a highly partisan act. What better way to show the Court’s impartiality than to affirm the constitutionality of legislation that may be unpopular? That might be a stretch; I think I’ll stick with the idea that we’ll have to wait till tomorrow.The only safe bet is that there will be unintended consequences. For example, what if the Supremes strike down the mandate portion but leave the rest intact? The Obama administration put a mandate in the Affordable Care Act because the law requires insurers to charge the same premium regardless of health status. Without a mandate, it would …

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012 – Grapes of Wrath

Grapes of Wrath by Sinclair NoeDOW + 32 = 12,534SPX + 6 = 1319NAS + 17 = 285410 YR YLD +.02 = 1.63%OIL +.23 = 79.59GOLD – 12.70 = 1573.60SILV – .43 = 27.21PLAT – 17.00 = 1433.00The S&P/Case-Shiller reports shows home prices rose 1.3% in April.  The Conference boards Consumer Confidence Index fell for a fourth straight month; the index hit 62 last month, which is still above average and better than last year at this time. We are not officially in the Dog Days of Summer; it just feels like it. The European Union has released a road map outlining the path to tighter fiscal integration. Nothing too flashy and it might take a year or more to implement. German Chancellor Angela Merkel  had played down large moves such as the issuance of common debt until euro-area countries agree to broad oversight of their budgets.  Egan Jones downgraded Germany from A+ to AA-. Today, Reuters reported Merkel told politicians in her ruling coalition that Europe would not have shared total debt liability “as long as I live.” So, that pretty much kills any idea of a euro-bond. Mario Monti, the technocratic non-elected Prime Minister of Italy now denies he said: “Eurobonds or I resign.” Meanwhile, Spanish and Italian bonds aren’t feeling healthy as yields rose again. Spain had to pay the highest yields since last November to sell 3.08 billion euros in short-term debt as demand from its ailing banks dwindled. Spain has officially requested a $125 billion dollar bank bailout. Details …

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Monday, June 25, 2012 – Spain and Cyprus Fall – US Banks Insure Bets – Goldman Behaves Badly – Congressional Insider Trading – by Sinclair Noe

DOW – 138 = 12,502SPX – 21 = 1313NAS – 56 = 283610 YR YLD -.06 = 1.61%OIL -.06 = 79.15GOLD + 13.00 = 1585.30SILV +.64 = 27.64PLAT + 9.00 = 1450.00So, the good news is that the Dow only dropped 138.It could have been worse; or better, depending on your perspective. Back in April we advised heeding the old advice to sell in May and stay away. May was a horrible month. The first couple of weeks in June, we bounced back just a little, then we continue the declines.This Euro-problem just never dies. There will be another emergency two day Euro-summit starting Thursday.  This appears to be the one area of relentless growth in Europe – the emergency summit business. I’m guessing that the caterers and event planners in Brussels are posting nifty profits. Expectations are low after Germany resisted pressure for common euro zone bonds or a flexible use of Europe’s rescue funds at a meeting of the region’s four biggest economies last week. Austerity measures pushed forward by Germany have tested the patience of the Greeks. The Greek government had to begin a search for a new finance minister after the nominee for the post said he could not serve because of health reasons. The situation in Greece sometimes seems it is never-ending. Cyprus announced it was seeking a bailout for its banks and its budget. Cyprus joins Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain in seeking EU rescue funds, meaning more than a quarter of the 17 euro …

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Friday, June 22, 2012 – Something About Mary – by Sinclair Noe

DOW + 67 = 12,640SPX + 9 = 1335NAS + 33 = 289210 YR YLD+.05 = 1.67%OIL + 13.92 = 92.12GOLD + 7.10 = 1573.30SILV +.02 = 27.00PLAT – 4.00 = 1441.00Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve paid attention to Jamie Dimon’s testimony on Capitol Hill. You might not have noticed the testimony of Mary Schapiro before the Senate before the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. Schapiro is the Chairwoman of the SEC. Her testimony was a frank warning on the vulnerabilities of the money market fund system. You may remember that in September 2008, money market funds broke the buck; there was a run on funds held in money market accounts that was only staunched by a $3 trillion dollar guarantee from the Treasury and the Federal Reserve. Breaking the buck was a key part of the financial crisis. There were profound implications for a reputedly rock solid investment. The effects rippled throughout the economy as investors were shortchanged and sponsors were squeezed as they were forced to shore up valuations. Could we see another run on money market funds? We already have. It happened one year ago, a small scale run. And yes, it could happen again. And just because the run was stopped in 2008 and 2011, it is no guarantee another run could be contained in the future. There has basically been no reforms to prevent or control a future money market fund run. Here’s part of Schapiro’s testimony:“Given the role money market funds …

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Thursday, June 21, 2012 – Like Crack for Bankers – by Sinclair Noe

DOW – 250 = 12,573SPX – 30 = 1325NAS – 71 = 285910 YR YLD – .02 = 1.62%OIL – 3.20 = 78.25GOLD – 41.60 = 1566.20SILV – 1.24 = 26.98PLAT – 19.00 = 1445.00Here is the bottom line on today’s declines; Wall Street has become addicted to free money from the Federal Reserve. Stimulus from the Fed is like crack for the Wall Street bankers. Yesterday, the Fed refused to pass out more free money. Today, Wall Street got a bad case of the shakes.One of the concerns when Bernanke and pals fail to act is that they can’t really think of anything they might do that would have any real effect, or maybe they’re satisfied with 2% inflation and 8.2% unemployment. So what if Bernanke doesn’t have any more ammo?Then we are left to the devices of fiscal policy, in other words; what can the politicians in Washington do to stimulate the economy? The most likely answer is that the politicians can drive the economy over a cliff. While that might seem cynical, it’s really just pragmatic. And then, of course there is the Lehman Brothers event with subtitles looming in Europe. If Europe collapses, the thinking is that Bernanke will find a few more bullets in the form of QE3, and he will once again toss money at the Wall Street bankers. The Wall Street crack whores will fire up their pipes and place “risk-on” trades with the certainty that the Fed will place a put against any …

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012 – A Twisted World – by Sinclair Noe

DOW  – 12 = 12,824SPX – 2= 1355NAS +0.69 = 293010 YR YLD +.02 = 1.64%OIL – 3.25 = 81.10GOLD – 11.10 = 1607.80SILV – .30 = 28.22PLAT – 23.00 = 1464.00Quite frankly the Federal Reserve FOMC meetings have become a bit too predictable. They didn’t lower interest rates because rates are already at zero. They didn’t raise interest rates because that would be a total freak out and the financial markets would collapse. The Fed does not have an exit plan from their zero interest rate policy. They didn’t announce QE3 because that would be a blatant destruction of the currency which would send the price of gold soaring; also because they are holding back and waiting just in case Europe hits the self destruct button. The Fed expanded Operation Twist by $267 billion, meaning it will sell short-term securities and buy long-term ones in an effort to keep borrowing costs down. The program, which was due to expire this month, will now run through the end of the year. Operation Twist is a wash; it really doesn’t cost anything; they buy, they sell, it all equals out. The next question is whether Operation Twist actually does anything. Here the results are inconclusive. Long term rates are at historic lows but we don’t know if rates would have been low even without Operation Twist. Perhaps the most pathetic part of the FOMC statement was this: “Consistent with its statutory mandate, the Committee seeks to foster maximum employment and price stability. The …

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012 – A Twisted World – by Sinclair Noe

DOW  – 12 = 12,824SPX – 2= 1355NAS +0.69 = 293010 YR YLD +.02 = 1.64%OIL – 3.25 = 81.10GOLD – 11.10 = 1607.80SILV – .30 = 28.22PLAT – 23.00 = 1464.00Quite frankly the Federal Reserve FOMC meetings have become a bit too predictable. They didn’t lower interest rates because rates are already at zero. They didn’t raise interest rates because that would be a total freak out and the financial markets would collapse. The Fed does not have an exit plan from their zero interest rate policy. They didn’t announce QE3 because that would be a blatant destruction of the currency which would send the price of gold soaring; also because they are holding back and waiting just in case Europe hits the self destruct button. The Fed expanded Operation Twist by $267 billion, meaning it will sell short-term securities and buy long-term ones in an effort to keep borrowing costs down. The program, which was due to expire this month, will now run through the end of the year. Operation Twist is a wash; it really doesn’t cost anything; they buy, they sell, it all equals out. The next question is whether Operation Twist actually does anything. Here the results are inconclusive. Long term rates are at historic lows but we don’t know if rates would have been low even without Operation Twist. Perhaps the most pathetic part of the FOMC statement was this: “Consistent with its statutory mandate, the Committee seeks to foster maximum employment and price stability. The …

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012 – There is No Escape for the Fed – by Sinclair Noe

06192012 ScriptDOW + 95 = 12,837SPX + 13 = 1357NAS + 34 = 292910 YR YLD +.04 = 1.62%OIL – .12 = 84.23GOLD – 10.80 = 1618.90SILV – .32 = 28.52PLAT – 2.00 = 1487.00The Federal Reserve FOMC is meeting today and tomorrow to determine monetary policy for the next few weeks. Here is what they will probably say tomorrow. They won’t lower interest rates; interest rates are at zero; interest rates are actually already negative when you consider the effects of inflation. Operation Twist is scheduled to expire in about two weeks. The idea behind Operation Twist is that the Fed sells shorter-term securities and buys longer-term securities with the goal of reducing long-term interest rates to encourage borrowing and spending. The yield on the 10-year note is 1.62%, so rates are pretty low even though the Twist hasn’t been able to encourage a big round of borrowing and spending. Low interest rates alone have not been enough to create demand. Operation Twist is the Fed pushing on a string – which is to say, supply side economics is a crock.Here’s the conundrum for the Fed – how do they exit Operation Twist without creating a problem, possibly unwinding those nice, ultra-low interest rates? The Fed might announce a limited extension of the Twist, maybe to September or they might just offer a soft extension – saying something like: “we will monitor long-term rates and stand ready to maintain stability”. As far as QE3 – not likely. Europe hasn’t collapsed, …

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