The endless potential to learn

Khan Academy is on a mission to unlock the world’s potential. Most people think their intelligence is fixed. The science says it’s not. Here is a direct video link.

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Bubble songs to start another day in Fed-land

Thanks to a reader for sending me a link to these cute Preschool Bubble Songs, that seem so perfectly applicable to our present times:

Bubbles EverywhereFed_bubbles_cartoon_07.09.2-14_large

Bubbles, bubbles everywhere,
Gently flowing through the air,
Bouncing around without a care,
Bubbles, bubbles everywhere.

Bubbles in the Air

Bubbles, bubbles up in the air,
Bubbles, bubbles you’re everywhere;
Bubbles, bubbles happy are you,
Bubbles, bubbles we are happy too!

The Bubble SongGreenspan bubbles

One little, two little, three little bubbles,
Four little, Five little, Six little bubbles,
Seven little, Eight little, Nine little bubbles,
Ten little bubbles go pop, pop, pop, pop, pop,
Pop those, pop those, pop those bubbles,
Pop those, pop those, pop those bubbles,
Pop those, pop those, pop those bubbles,
Ten little bubbles go pop, pop, pop, pop, pop.

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Stocks at cyclical highs while global economy slumps

This morning we see more confirmation that the much banked on rebound in the Chinese and European economies is not materializing.  What!! The stock market discounted this expected rebound months and months ago! You mean these cheques might not clear the bank??!! See:  Manufacturing slows:  from Europe to China on trade risks.  Heaven forbid one should be bearish of course, but stocks back at 6-7 year highs while growth continues to slump…

U.K. stocks may have passed their peak bringing an end to a five-year bull market, according to Michael Franklin, chief investment strategist at Beaufort Securities Ltd. He says investor sentiment is “quite fragile” due to geopolitical tensions in Gaza, Ukraine and Iraq. Here is a direct video link.

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China’s anticipated baby boom a bust

China’s expected baby boom, from the relaxing of its one-child policy, not materializing as increasing living costs are keeping couples from having more than one child Here is a direct video link.

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Auto financing: the madness of robbing future demand for current consumption

The subprime lending madness that led to the bursting of the US housing bubble in 2006 has spread through auto loans ever since. Once lending and leasing rates were cut to zero, and wage increases remained flat, dealers turned to lower lending standards, zero down and longer and longer financing terms in their efforts to keep pushing product. But all madness must eventually meet its deserved demise. We must be getting close.

Experian, which analyzes millions of auto loans, says the percentage of US car loans that were delinquent or ended up in default with the vehicle being repossessed surged 70% in the second quarter of this year. Here is a direct video link.

And as for Canada, oh sure, we folks are a lot smarter up here… See: Eight-year car loans drive sales and deepen Canadians’ debt problems

“The average term of a light-vehicle loan in Canada is 69 months, close to a peak of 72 months set in the third quarter of 2013, according to data from marketing information company J.D. Power. The borrowing adds to signs Canadians are continuing to buy big-ticket items and tuning out warnings about unsustainable debt growth.

Longer-term car loans are leaving Canadians in debt for a longer time, Dennis DesRosiers, president of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants in Richmond Hill, Ontario, said in a telephone interview. “On a 96-month loan it takes 80-plus months before you are back in the money,” he said.

…The president of the Credit Counselling Society, a non-profit consumer service, says 10 to 15% of the 30,000 people his company meets every year are receiving advice because of car loans.

While stretching the term of a zero-interest loan doesn’t add to the total borrowing cost, it delays the point where the vehicle’s worth becomes greater than the debt. Hannah also said long-duration loans can entice people into taking on more debt than they may be able to handle… “It’s not in the consumer’s best interest to take out a longer-term loan for a depreciating asset.”

“Consumer’s best interest”? When was that ever a concern of corporate owned policy makers? The most recent dealership campaigns led by Hyundai Canada are for 96-month, zero-interest loans. Next up 10 year terms? This oughta end well…

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Jim Chanos in conversation

Chanos speaks in length on his long career as a short-seller. [Warning: short-selling is very high risk, and not a recommended strategy for most people.]  Here is a direct audio link to the Bloomberg business segment.

The interview offers interesting insights on the conviction needed to succeed with rules-based risk management and the courage to bet against the consensus view.   He also talks about the reckless deployment of capital routinely exercised by Wall Street and corporate executives that buy shares at high market valuations and freeze in fear at market bottoms. The following chart shows the pattern of corporate buy-backs since the last market peak in 2008.
Management buybacks 2008 to 2014
I am reminded that amid the crash of ’29, Herbert Hoover first sought an investigation of the ‘evil short-sellers’ rather than into the investment banks and the reckless sales forces that drove stock prices to nose-bleed levels that then collapsed on the masses. The more things stay the same…

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Six years making back losses. Now what’s the plan?!

If you haven’t seen this excellent Frontline report (originally released in April 2013), there was an encore presentation of it this week. Critical issues for financial market participants to comprehend.

Retirement is big business in America, but is the system costing workers and retirees more than what they’re getting in return, asks FRONTLINE correspondent Martin Smith. Here is a direct video link.

And now that the Canadian market has this month finally reclaimed its bubble peak from June 2008–and the few who were able to hang on through 50%+ losses, have now spent 6 long years making back their losses–the question to ask all those confident financial advisers today is, “ok, so what’s the plan to avoid repeating that painful cycle all over again?” Remember we are all 6 years older now, 6 years less time to waste in a journey to financial security.
TSX 2005 to 2014

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Bob Shiller floats his ‘Titanic theory’ for why “Everything is pricey”

Robert Shiller, Yale University professor of economics, explains his “Titianic” economic theory for why the stock, bond and housing markets all look pricey today. Here is a direct video link.

He points out that historically “there are always special factors” to argue why ‘this time is different’ and price to earnings ratios should remain permanently higher than their 144 year average. (Until they mean revert way below average once more of course)

“Stocks, bonds, real estate. How can it be that everything is expensive?” QE-seats on the Titanic everyone? Your friendly broker/dealer/financial advisers are all just itching to help you pick your seat. Step on up! Maybe you can enjoy the ride a little longer before all the passengers plunge below the waves. PE in blue below, interest rates in grey.

Shiller CAPE since 1870

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More on the ties that continue to purchase politicial favour for bankers

Nomi Prins talked about her book, All the Presidents’ Bankers: The Hidden Alliances that Drive American Power, in which she explores the multi-generational marital and protégé relationships in the financial and political worlds that she argues are the basis of power and influence in the U.S. She spoke with “In Bed with Wall Street” author and blogger Larry Doyle.  Here is a direct video link.

The rest of us and our democracy itself, continue to pay a heavy cost for revering bankers and allowing them to operate above the Rule of Law.

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The grotesque bubble in US education costs

Suckled on the public purse through a decade of excessive government-backed student loans, education costs in America have formed a grotesque bubble. When your customers no longer have the means to purchase your service, fresh more affordable business models and solutions take over.

The cost of higher education has jumped more than 13-fold in records dating to 1978, illustrating bloated tuition costs even as enrollment slows and graduates struggle to land jobs.

The CHART OF THE DAY shows that tuition expenses have ballooned 1,225 percent in the 36-year period, compared with a 634 percent rise in medical costs and a 279 percent increase in the consumer price index.

…“Some schools are effectively limiting cost increases by bigger tuition discounting, but on the whole college presidents have not adjusted to a fundamental shift in attitudes toward the value of a high-cost education,” said Richard Vedder, director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity in Washington. “Colleges are too slow to reinvent themselves,” particularly as enrollments are waning…”  See: College Tuition costs soar

Education cost inflation since 1978

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A crash course in how speculative markets break

As the most reckless players are today taking “genius” laps on the back of stock prices which have once more reclaimed the rare distinction of being the most most leveraged and over-valued in history next to 1929 and 2000, it is helpful to consider a little reminder on how speculative markets break: suddenly and all at once. Even the few participants today that feel confident that they have downside protection by using stop loss limits are likely to learn that once prices gap down, stops are often impotent.

This chart of the NASDAQ in its blow off top from October 1999 to March 2000, shows the incredible ramp and then rapid plunge that evaporated 60% of the prior ‘gains’ in 2 weeks (red box).
Nasdaq 1999

“…it is the nature of a speculative boom that almost anything can collapse it. Any serious shock to confidence can cause sales by those speculators who have always hoped to get out before the final collapse, but after all possible gains from rising prices have been reaped. Their pessimism will infect the simpler souls who had thought the market might go up forever but who now will change their minds and sell. Soon there will be margin calls, and still others will be forced to sell. So the bubble breaks.”  –John Kenneth Galbraith, (1954) The Great Crash 1929

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Worthwhile video: Humans need not apply

Interesting reminder on some of the impacts of automated help. Here is a direct video link.

Time to watch The Matrix again… For me the broader question is always about health.  If humans no longer need to leave their house or physically exert themselves for their existence, how do we keep our bodies healthy enough to enjoy life?

Discussing these ideas with some friends on the weekend, I began to think that perhaps in a virtual world, where people do not need to actually eat a Big Mac, or drink alcohol or smoke a cigarette to feel like they are experiencing these things, perhaps our bodies will also benefit from not suffering the toxic impacts of ingesting.   Less clear to me is how inactive people are then to maintain their muscles and vascular systems.  Maybe we will become uploaded to a virtual conscience and out of a physical body altogether?

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More on the full circle of the business and investment cycle

Basic rule to manage life by: no one gets it all their way all of the time. Especially true in business and financial matters.

The commodity exporters that benefited the most from the global credit boom: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Russia, will now feel the downside of that boom more than most. Credit brings forward future demand and spends it in the present, leaving less demand for the future: hence the saying, “comes full circle”. Wise managers save a large portion of the excess capital generated in the boom in order to supplement the slower growth phase that comes thereafter. Unfortunately, most people–and certainly most governments and financial sales folks–are not wise. The preferred strategy is to pretend that the gains from boom can all be banked without any give back period…and that record earnings can only get better. Those who are the least wise and the most risk-exposed the past couple of years, have been looking the brightest. This too shall come full circle.

Here is a direct video link.

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Burbank on the crash risk of illiquid, over-valued markets

Passport Capital Founder and Chief Investing Officer John Burbank discusses his outlook for the markets and his investemnt ideas. Here is a direct video link.

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Taleb and Kahneman, talking fast and slow

A little Friday fun…

Nassim Taleb and Daniel Kahneman discuss Anti-fragility at the New York Public Library on Feb 5, 2013. Here is a direct video link.

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