Thursday, January 20, 2022

If Unrest Soars In America Will Looters Be Shot?

An interesting question to ponder centers on social unrest and whether those with the job to protect property would follow orders if told to shoot looters. Of course, the type of violence I'm alluding to extends far beyond anything we have seen in America or most western countries. Why people loot and how governments react is the issue. You can call it martial law if you like, but whatever name you place on it, those holding the power and the guns make the final decision.

Of course, the flaw in thinking you can create a goon squad to control the masses is that your enforcers may begin to sympathize with those they are employed to suppress. 

Considering how the military is moving towards more automated weapons that kill, it is difficult to think these weapons will not eventually find their way into law enforcement. To those in power, the great thing about robots and mechanical autonomous guards is they will carry out their missions as programed. Rest assured when push comes to shove those displaced from the job market and only able to scrape by will find they are only given enough to ensure they remain docile and behave. If and when this becomes an issue conflict and violence will rise.

Before his death, famed physicist Stephen Hawking warned that Earth is headed for a “catastrophic ending” as a result of rising inequality fueled by robots that grow increasingly smarter by the day. Hawking's dire prediction came as robots and artificial intelligence started to take over human jobs. The McKinsey Global Institute predicts some 800 million people around the world will be displaced out of their jobs by 2030 as a result of automation. 

Without jobs, we stand the risk of losing our relevance in society. This creates a scenario of misery and conflict with many people displaced and those with little to lose fighting to merely survive. The topic of our future and culture always circles back to and is directly linked to the issue of jobs vanishing as automation and an army of robots march into our workplace. This can result in a future that takes on a very grim dystopian appearance. The fear of being replaced by a robot or seeing your job being outsourced or eliminated is on the rise.

Africa Has Witnessed Looting And Unrest    
Many issues get swept under the rug or are often under-reported by mainstream media this includes the number of protests over lockdowns and mask mandates. Many Americans have paid little attention to the rampant looting and violence in South Africa in July of 2021.  In short, most people are ill-informed about what is happening across the world. This shocking video of the looting in South Africa (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Ich9EYp1XQ) signals the country is on the path to social and economic collapse.

This Is Also Happening Here In America

In these areas, it seems organized retail crime gangs are no longer content to just target large department or boutique stores where they can snatch high-value merchandise from shelves.

Destroyed Packages Left On Tracks By Looters
The raiding of containers double stacked on train cars has been documented by Photojournalist John Schreiber. He has tweeted shocking videos of packages torn apart and left on the tracks by looters after they raided trains stopped Many of the boxes on the ground were from Amazon and UPS. The point is, the looters are people seeking easy-to-hit targets that can be easily converted to cash. 

The ugly truth is that once the genie of disorder gets out of the bottle it is difficult to get him back in.

Those In Power May Secretly Develop New Weapons

With around seven and a half billion people living on Planet Earth today and 10 billion predicted by 2050 even feeding our population may not be easy, especially if climate change adds to our problems. This brings us back to the prediction of famed physicist Stephen Hawking, that Earth is headed for a “catastrophic ending” in the near future.

Throughout history, we have seen new weapons are often only revealed when those in power wish to make a statement. It is reasonable that in a scenario where it rapidly becomes clear the plant has too many people vying for dwindling resources that the huddled masses will be considered "the odd man out" and it is time to cull the herd to reduce the world's population for "the greater good!"

 

 (Republishing of this article welcomed with reference to Bruce Wilds/AdvancingTime Blog)

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Is Powell Again Pulling Strings From "The Shadows"?

Recently, we have seen stocks rally while the dollar falls. Some of us are wondering why the dollar is falling at the same time currency traders are busy penciling in as many as four interest rate increases. The ICE U.S. Dollar Index, a measure of the currency against a basket of six major rivals, was down 0.1% on Thursday hitting a two-month low. This drop leaves the dollar with a loss of 1.2% since the start of the new year. 

A more aggressive tightening of monetary policy and “hawkish” central bank intent on slowing inflation is generally seen as supportive to a currency. Is it possible Powell dropped the dollar to kick the stock market back up? I contend this is what is happening. Such a move has been used in the past. In volatile markets, like we have today ruled at times by emotions, the fear of missing out, and a slew of traders trained to buy the dip, it doesn't take much to turn an ugly selling streak into a buying panic. 

The combination of a sudden drop in the dollar just as the Fed starts talking about tapering and raising rates is difficult to understand. With most seasoned investors allergic to risk, logic would tend to make them view the coming Fed action as a strong headwind to markets going higher. At the same time, higher interest rates and less expansion of the Fed's balance sheet generally moves the dollar higher. 

While it could be argued the falling dollar simply reflects the coming recession into which the Fed is tightening, again I point to Powell as the great enabler. Over the last few years, none of the market action in both currencies and stocks could have taken place without a wink and a nod from him. To me, the current situation reeks of backchannel currency manipulation. 

Fiat Currencies Are A Faith Based Scheme
Through a coordinated effort, Powell and the Fed have enabled central banks across the globe to lower their rates or do additional stimulus. Using a slew of tools, they have held the relationship between the value of one major currency to another rather stable. This delicate balance is critical to the stability of the global financial system and adds credence to the myth that no major currency can fail.

The idea that peer central banks, particularly the ECB, will accelerate their policy normalization plans at this point seems far-fetched. The EU economies and banking system are far too weak to entertain such action. As for the Japanese yen, it should continue to underperform based on the continuing BOJ policy of accommodation even if the silly idea it is a safe-haven currency persist. I continue to contend much of the strength we see in the yen from time to time is from wealth taking an easy path out of China.

It should be noted if indeed, Powell is pulling the strings behind the curtain to drop the dollar and support the markets, those in the loop are benefiting financially. Currency swaps and other ways that cause currencies to rise and fall are one way central bankers control markets. Call it corruption, or call it one of the perks of being on the inside, but whatever you call it, market manipulation is wrong. Recent revelations of those in high places making considerable money from  trading are a reminder those in positions of power have a way of skewing the system strongly to their advantage. 

Yes, it is possible Powell is attempting to throw the dollar under the bus to save the stock market but this tactic will not stand for long. It changes nothing and does little to let the air out of the bubbles central banks and governments have allowed to form. On the flip-side, other central bankers trying to give the impression their fiat currency still has value must be giddy over the prospect investors will be reassured as their bogus paper enjoys a bounce.

 

 (Republishing of this article welcomed with reference to Bruce Wilds/AdvancingTime Blog)

Friday, January 14, 2022

Focus On January Returns Not December Retail Sales

To those looking at data from holiday consumer purchases as proof of consumer demand and the economy is strong I think more attention should be paid to what happens next. With direct payments to American households being halted, for now, Americans with children are returning to more normal spending habits. This means not focusing on December retail Sales but what drove those sales. Most likely much of the money spent flowed from the helicopter money which the government showered upon the American people. Mainstream media was quick to tell people to shop early because goods might not be available due to supply chain disruptions.

For an idea of what is happening in the economy, we should look at January and the post-holiday returns. It has been reported to me they are bigger than huge. Many people are busy returning a good amount of what was purchased and many of them may not be exchanging goods but simply returning items. Returns are bad for retailers and online sales have greatly exacerbated this profit-killing problem. Not only has it created a far larger percentage of merchandise being returned but it has altered customers' expectations as to the role of how far sellers should go to make them happy. 

The generous return policies of Amazon have heaped a great deal of grief upon brick and mortar stores. Amazon is granted the ability to offer a generous return policy due to the fact it sells merchandise for third-party sellers, this means Amazon gets paid by those sellers regardless of whether the merchandise is returned or not. 

The ultra-competitive sales and monopolistic policies showered upon us by Amazon continue to destroy brick and mortar stores and small businesses. The tax-avoiding, robot-loving company that makes little in the way of profit from its own retail sales generates sales off charging third parties to handle their sales and shipments as well as a slew of "government business." This leaves brick and mortar companies caught between a rock and a hard place, if they adopt a more stringent return policy they drive customers directly into the arms of Amazon.

Items Bought Online Often Get Returned 

An article on the website Shopify.com delves into how returns are an important part of retailing. Research from The National Retail Federation (NRF) indicates that $428 billion in merchandise was returned in 2020. This was approximately 10.6 percent of total U.S. retail sales for the year. The NRF estimated the cost of these returns at 101 billion dollars. The fact is, today, shoppers expect fast, free, and easy returns. Sadly, into this mix flow unscrupulous shoppers that take advantage of this to rip off retailers.

As mentioned in a prior AdvancingTime article, an issue many people overlook is what eventually happens to all the goods that are returned and how online sales are far more likely to be returned than merchandise purchased in stores. The article also explores how this damages the environment and how many products get sent to landfills unused. With online sales surging over the last few years we can expect massive returns from the holiday season just past. Retail returns in January may turn out to be an interesting indication of the true economy and what we face.  

(Republishing of this article welcomed with reference to Bruce Wilds/AdvancingTime Blog)

 

Footnote; Below are three links. The first to an Advancing Time article claiming Amazon's business model is not efficient or good for the environment. The second is a link to the Shopify.com article referenced above, and the last is a link to an interesting video where a couple of guys claim they have never seen things worse and blame the current economy and Fed policy.

https://brucewilds.blogspot.com/2021/12/amazon-predatory-monster-unleashed-upon.html

https://www.shopify.com/nz/retail/retail-returns-exchanges#:~:text=Research%20from%20The%20National%20Retail%20Federation%20%28NRF%29%20shows,dollars.%20Shoppers%20expect%20fast%2C%20free%2C%20and%20easy%20returns.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PdA_bOcDOiQ

Thursday, January 6, 2022

My Reaction To The January 6th Thing, Is Just Let It Go

My reaction to the January 6th thing is a few people got carried away and others from the left egged them on. BREAKING NEWS: Today, Hypocrisy In America Has Reached New Heights!

America's Shocked-Reaction Caught On Tape

Yes, Trump said some stuff but the reaction of horror and shock is a bit over the top. No matter how you paint it, a protest gone wrong does not constitute an insurrection to overthrow the government. In a sane world, voters would be showing a little more interest in what issues are really important going forward. The Washington establishment and the crony capitalist who have made it their life raping and plundering the country for their gain are giddy over the idea voters can so easily be distracted from the big picture. By shining the spotlight on Trump's flaws, that we knew existed all along, they seek to avoid being rejected and cast into the street.

Do you remember this? 

  1. Kathy Griffin retweets pic of bloody Trump head as ...

    https://www.the-sun.com/news/1742978/kathy-griffin...


    KATHY Griffin has re-tweeted her controversial Donald Trump severed head photo after the president claimed victory in the election. The picture shows a stony-faced Griffin holding an effigy of Trump’s decapitated, bloodied head and came soon after his extraordinary early morning White House statement. 4

    • Estimated Reading Time: 2 mins
  2. Kathy Griffin: Life After The Trump Severed Head ...

    https://www.npr.org/2019/04/23/716258113

    Comedian Kathy Griffin posted a photo of herself holding up a Donald Trump mask made to look like a severed head. That was May 2017. And since then, she's been blacklisted. But …

    I did not see any of this as reason for Congress to approve some 400 million dollars to beef up security around the Capital building. That is a lot of money and far more money than it should cost! Are they planing to coat the new reinforced doors in gold? 

    Footnote; We would all be better off if politicians and the media stopped trying to divide us.

Arguing The Un-Consensus On Today's Macro & Inflation

In a YouTube video Mike Green, Chief Strategist at Simplify Asset Management, attacks the idea of hyperinflation and inflation. He is not alone in pushing back on the idea inflation is about to run rampant. Despite the price rises we have been seeing, many economists claim that while inflation is likely to remain elevated for the near future we are now seeing projections it will peak in the first half of this year.

During an amazing, almost two-hour video interview,  Green shares his macro view of the economy, inflation, markets, and the dynamics of today's equity and fixed income markets. In the video titled; The Un-Consensus on Today's Macro & Inflation, Green claims the base effects driving inflation are becoming more challenging and will not allow for it to remain elevated. He also shares his view of how stock markets have become less efficient and more 'inelastic' due to the proliferation of passive index investing, and where that might lead. 

While price is said to be located at the intersection of supply and demand, manipulation and interventions have muddied this picture. Green keys in on the fact that price shocks and distortions have a way of working through the system, when prices rise in the capitalist system, we generally see an increase in the supply of that commodity or service. He also points to the strong role demographics play in the economy. It is important to remember while price hikes can appear inflationary they are not a big issue if they last only a short time. The price of gas from 2000 until today is an example of how wildly prices can swing. In short, if prices do not stay elevated or continue to climb, they do not add to inflation.

See the source image
We Have Witnessed Wild Price Swings In Gas Prices Over The Years

In my mind, what happens to the value of the dollar and the three other major fiat currencies remains the wild card. As of yet, their fate is still up in the air. Fiat currencies have the potential to play a much larger part in the "end game" than most people imagine. A shift in preferred consumption or investment choices matter and how people react if and when they lose faith in fiat currencies is a major deal. The order in which currencies fail is also important, being the last to fail will yield huge benefits to those that hold it.

One place where I strongly agree with Green occurs about 126.15 minutes into the conversation. This is where he paints the case a stock or the market could suddenly fall like a stone. He does an excellent job of questioning the notion of the "efficient market" hypotenuses. Price insensitive buying and selling has destroyed true price discovery. Of particular concern is the area of passive investments. The distortions we are witnessing today are explained by some of his thoughts on this subject.

Uncharted Territory Equals Danger
Stock buybacks, computer-driven trading based on things such as momentum are a huge part of the trend he warns has corrupted the financial system. Many investors are ignoring fundamentals. In the commodity markets, when a price moves hard in one direction a market hits a limit and locks. It is only by going farther into the future that you can execute a trade, this is not a solution to wild swings but generally considered a way to halt further financial losses.

When all is said and done, Green and I agree on several important issues. Baby boomers lulled into thinking that current trends will continue are taking on massive end-of-life risks. While young traders may have time to build a new nest egg for retirement the older generation does not have such a luxury. While I disagree with some of Green's conclusions, overall I give him a thumbs up for his video and many of the points he raises. 

 Below is the link to Green's YouTube video;  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WqZ9Ii_F7a0

 

 (Republishing of this article welcomed with reference to Bruce Wilds/AdvancingTime Blog)

Sunday, January 2, 2022

The Coming Retirement Crisis Will Affect Everyone

We are on the cusp of a retirement crisis that will affect everyone. Far too many promises have been made and the demographics we face do not bode well for a bright future. The answer that some people tout is we should have more children or open the borders. This is based on the idea we need more workers and ignores many other factors feeding into this issue. There is simply no way "more children" or workers can ever pay enough into the system to fulfill the promises that have been made.  

The competition for programs from the government to support the needs of different generations is about to explode as young and old Americans reach out for more help. Much of our problems stem from a slew of bad policies either driven by stupidity, corruption, or an unwillingness to accept the reality you can postpone a reckoning for only so long. Investors and the public at large suffer from a "recency bias of hope" that tends to blind them from unpleasant long-term realities. 

The coming together of surging investment risk, an interrupted business cycle, and demographics are coming together to form the perfect storm. To clarify, much of the wealth in America is held in the hands of the baby boomers that have just or are about to retire, and over the years, many have moved into risky investment in search of yield. It has been years since we have had a major recession so sooner or later, it is logical one will arrive. Last, but not least, we are now seeing demographics play a larger role in the economy as boomers downsize (sell assets) and cut spending.

While we look upon a world of wealth, we also see a world of debt. Unfortunately, over the last few decades growing inequality has placed much of the wealth in the hands of a few and distributed the debt in places where it will come back to bite us. Below are a few ugly indicators highlighting some frightening imbalances. 

Facts Indicating Problems Ahead

  • Demographics show older consumers tend to downsize (sell assets) while spending less
  • The boom-bust business cycle has been largely interrupted by surging government spending
  • Stock buybacks continue to set new records and drive stock markets higher 
  •  The top ten percent own more than 90% of America's wealth. Specifically, the top 1% collectively owns $43.27 trillion, while the bottom 90% earn $40.28 trillion combined.
  • Moody’s estimate of Illinois’ retirement debts, made up of pension and retiree health shortfalls at the state and local level, hits $530 billion in 2020

The example of the pension and retiree health shortfalls in Illinois is well documented. Sadly, many other states and local governments have the same problem. This is despite a massive multi-year stock market rally and huge tax hikes that went to pension funds. It is difficult to imagine how many of these pension plans can avoid default. This is already baked into the cake.

The financial giants aided by media have created the myth that everyone is making money when they invest in a retirement plan. Financial companies often forget to tell investors that when they invest in a 401 plan, the risk falls directly onto the individual owning the plan. Adding injury to insult, looking deeper into these schemes you will find outlandishly high fees buried under a slew of different names. 

Often the magic of compounded returns is overwhelmed by the tyranny of compounded cost. A report by Robert Hiltonsmith claims these are a retirement savings drain. Hiltonsmith revealed a slew of pay-to-play and hidden kickbacks dwelling deep in the details of long difficult and boring documents. These tricks used to drain wealth from a customer's account helps to explain how financial companies pay for all those commercials and slick pamphlets constantly being thrown before us.  

A big problem looms for those Americans that continue to believe disaster is something that hits other people but not them. Sadly, whether you have invested in a pension plan or a 401 account, prior economic crises show there is no guaranty that you will ever see your money again or if you do, that it will have retained its buying power. The risk is not only in stocks, but also lurks in bonds. Investors in bonds face a huge risk of default if they buy junk bonds and a good possibility of getting crushed if interest rates rise. 

This Did Not Work For Japan And Is Not Working For America

Based on how Japan has fared over the last several decades it is difficult to see the green shoots of a global economic renaissance suddenly spring forth as the result of even lower interest rates. In fact, the next economic downturn will likely envelop the planet and may last forever and a day. This is because central bank intervention and manipulation often have negative unintended consequences. People often discount how lucky Japan has been following its economic bubble burst in 1992 to be located next to China. Because of China's years of booming growth, Japan was able to mitigate much of the pain it was forced to endure.

The ramifications of a retirement crisis will affect everyone. When older people lose their savings or watch their wealth fall they have little time to earn more. They cut back or need help to survive. When these people sell their assets it could cause deflation but that is not a certainty. My feeling is inflation is strong enough it will only slow its rate as money flows to tangible assets and away from paper and promises. Regardless of how you view this, it is not a recipe for strong growth. 


Footnote; Some of the thoughts outlined above are also voiced in the YouTube pieces below and several prior articles on AdvancingTime that focused on the generational divide and why the next downturn may be hard and long.

     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5OFaZcC0lRU

     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0DAAiqonSwc

     https://brucewilds.blogspot.com/2019/12/affordable-retirement-is-glaring-issue.html

     https://brucewilds.blogspot.com/2019/02/generational-conflict-is-posed-to.html

     https://brucewilds.blogspot.com/2020/03/next-economic-downturn-may-last-forever.html

 (Republishing of this article welcomed with reference to Bruce Wilds/AdvancingTime Blog)

Saturday, January 1, 2022

If you are reading this you made it to the year 2022

If you are reading this it means you have made it to the year 2022. Here is a big, "Hip Hip Hooray" to us. If the past few years are any indication of what's to come we are in for a wild ride. With the arrival of Covid-19, the economy became a bizarre almost unrecognizable form of its former self. Injecting trillions of dollars into an economy tends to upset how things are viewed. 

Today I choose not to dwell on the year behind us and the poor choices heaped upon us. Still, after what we have witnessed during the last few years it is difficult to think the next 12 months will pass without a glitch. More than a few ugly trends have developed that indicate a bumpy road ahead. We should question everything. 

When I wrote in November of 2020 that Covid was not as deadly as we once thought I also questioned the path forward. Like many people, I never would have predicted much of what has unfolded since. In many ways, the ramifications of the media, big tech, and Orwellian governments using this virus to increase their control over our lives have become far more threatening than the pandemic itself. 

Ironically, during the New Year's Eve celebration in New York, more than a few people were not wearing a mask. I see this as a sign of independence. Another of my favorite parts is where the television cameras cut away down the street taking in a couple of new Kia automobiles sitting on stands to tantalize us. Such imagery is a sure sign life goes on unabated.

As for us who start off this year with a few revolutions to be a better version of our former selves, I wish us all good luck with that. I for one feel like I'm carrying a bit of baggage forward with me but unfinished business is part of life. As we get on with life we should most likely resolve ourselves to the idea any progress forward is a step in the right direction and it isn't over until it is. 


Footnote: Below is the link to the Covid-19 article referenced in the article above; https://brucewilds.blogspot.com/2020/11/covid-19-not-as-deadly-as-we-thought.html