#tradewars

Forget what Trump says. Just pay attention to the restless natives

Investor: Peasants Will Be Out With Pitchforks if We Don't Start ...

Unless Joe Biden runs with Michelle Obama as his VP, we still think Trump gets reelected in an electoral college and popular landslide. Yes, we can hear many laughing out loud. We are used to it as we were when we said he would win back in 2015. For all of the same reasons, only amplified. People are tired of the status quo.

Up until the time of the State of the Union speech in February this year, it felt like his second coronation was a formality. Nancy Pelosi knew it when she tore up his speech. Has coronavirus really changed all that?

The prevailing sentiment perpetuated by the mainstream media is that Trump’s catastrophic bungling of coronavirus will kill off any chance he has of winning 2020. To think that Joe Biden is the mouth-watering alternative despite having served under a president whose policies were repudiated in 2016 by the electoral college.

FNF Media thinks that Americans are pragmatic people when push comes to shove and that American exceptionalism is a good thing. They want the dream. They don’t live to be stuck in poverty assessed welfare. Sure, we non-citizens can scoff at their right to bear arms or hosting World Series which exclude other nations but ultimately we don’t get a say. That is a matter for them. If they don’t like it, it is up to them to change their government to fix things. Trump would never have been elected were it not for decades of failed administrations who didn’t deliver that gave birth to him.

Despite all of Trump’s often ridiculous bluster during the coronavirus outbreak, none of it was out of character for the last 3.5 years. The mainstream media has beamed more deranged coverage than ever. People have become numb to the constant drone that they hate him, especially when he trolls them with their own hypocrisy. Let’s be clear, were the likes of CNN truly resonating with the masses, the ratings would reflect people attuned with the rhetoric. This is simply not happening. In fact, the opposite.

Sadly during this crisis, Americans have seen the utterly shameless exploitation of their livelihoods by the ugliest partisan politics seen during any crisis of this scale. They see straight through the pork barrelling. Do liberal-leaning citizens honestly believe that gender diversity on boards and airline emissions regulations are ‘must have’ pieces of legislation in order to pass a $2.2 trillion rescue package designed to protect them? Do they believe a $250 billion supplemented boost to small businesses to support the income of workers should be held back until more identity politics driven data collection is fast-tracked? When people see Nancy Pelosi parading her $24,000 refrigerators filled with $13 a pint ice cream punnets on late-night TV they aren’t amused. 

Is it any wonder so many more Americans are taking to the streets to protests the lockdowns imposed by the states’ governors? As we pointed out in the COVID19 data, those infected and those who tragically met their fate from this deadly virus are relatively minuscule. More and more Americans are seeing this. Very few of us know anyone who has caught it outside of a few celebrities and the UK PM. This is why social distancing is fraying nerves in American households. They can’t easily quantify what is going on using their own experiences.

If anything, these protests point out that Americans are still happy to play the risk/reward ratio if their economic security can be maintained. America hasn’t fluked being 25% of the global economy on 5% of the world’s population for nothing. They would chance contracting coronavirus if that meant being able to feed their families.

Which brings us to China. Trump’s political and media enemies may have cuddled up to China since he took office, but the shambolic WHO response to this crisis and the misinformation emanating from the communist propaganda apparatus will rile 22 million who are on the unemployment queue. More and more Americans can see through an Ethiopian Marxist WHO chief appointed by a Portuguese socialist both serving the communist dictatorship with a president for life.

This activity is red meat to Trump’s base and he knows it. He doesn’t need to say anything. It is becoming self-evident.

Suspending funding for WHO was the right thing to do. WHO is a failing bureaucracy in desperate need of reform. What is the point of funding a body that is supposed to have independence enshrined in its charter when in reality it runs strict political agendas geared to the whims of its ideological brothers in Beijing?

How many leaders of other countries are throwing up two fingers at China in the face of all the revelations about when they knew and how they covered it up? Macron? Merkel? Trudeau? Crickets.

Trump is almost alone in publicly smashing China’s complicity in all of this. Governments around the world may be staying mute over China’s deceit but we can be assured this is not lost on the peons. They have had enough of staying at home. They are sick of facing oppressive sanctions imposed by those they voted in.

The media can sell this as xenophobia or any other form of identity politics but the fact is Trump’s 2016 campaign warned of China. He spoke of bringing jobs back. He spoke of being screwed over on trade with China. He was right.

We all know many Americans are hurting. They want prosperity returned. While the media conflates his term as merely sorting out his billionaire 1%ers, the reality is he has helped the Bottom 50% by a much larger margin. They will know this lived experience, which in politics will ultimately be the most important factor. Trump’s bluster won’t matter. His record up until coronavirus kicked off will.

The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis (FRED) reported the net worth of the bottom half of the population was $1,070,183mn at the start of 2017. As of the third quarter of 2019, it was 1,668,034mn. That’s an increase of 55.86%. The Top 1%, had $29,955,829mn. In 3Q 2019, it was $34,533,370mn, or 15.3%. Under Obama, net worth for the Bottom 50% declined from $1.7 trillion in 1Q 2009 to $1.1 trillion, down 35% over his two terms. Democrats should be outraged that the ultra-wealthy did much better under Obama with a 100% gain in net worth under his term vs the paltry 15.3% so far under Trump.  Source: FRED Top 1% and Bottom 50%.

This might explain why the “forgotten” wanted large scale change and will continue to support those who can facilitate it.

All coronavirus has done is exposed the despicable bile of partisan politics. Witnessing a concerted effort to remove Trump in the midst of an untold financial tsunami will not sit well with people. This isn’t about partisanship. They will want someone that can deliver. If it comes with all of Trump’s vulgarity then so be it. After all, a man that can win an election with ‘p*ssy grabbing’ on the ticket can produce miracles.

So there is Trump’s election strategy in a nutshell – “China, China, China!”

Good luck with Joe Biden telling Americans that President Xi has America’s best interests at heart! How can he say this when his former boss was not greeted with red carpet, a mobile stairway or a welcoming committee of important dignitaries on his final state visit to China?

Forget the polls. Forget the media spin. Coronavirus has hit the raw nerve of patriotism and the one person who is accused of constantly lying will be the only one speaking the truth. Americans are at a crisis point. Best not question their loyalty to Old Glory.

We may hate the idea of a new cold war but that is up to Americans to decide. We are at their mercy. Ultimately it is best to have a strong America given China’s soft power expansion.

Waking up to a horror of our own creation

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Some will say I am a pessimist. I’d prefer to be called an optimist with experience. At only age 16 (in 1987) I realized the destructive power financial markets had on the family home. Those memories were etched permanently. We weren’t homeless or singing for our supper but things sure weren’t like they use to be. It taught me much about risk and thinking all points of view rather than blindly following the crowd. That just because you were told something by authority it didn’t mean it was necessarily true. It was to critically assess everthing without question.

In 1999, as an industrials analyst in Europe during the raging tech bubble, we were as popular as a kick in the teeth. We were ignored for being old economy. That our stocks deserved to trade at deep discounts to the ‘new economy’ tech companies, no thanks to our relatively poor asset turnover and tepid growth rates. The truest sign of the impending collapse of the tech bubble actually came from sell-side tech analysts quitting their grossly overpaid investment bank salaries for optically eye-watering stock options at the very tech corporations they rated. So engrossed in the untold riches that awaited them they abandoned their judgement and ended up holding worthless scrip. Just like the people who bought a house at the peak of the bubble telling others at a dinner party how they got in ‘early’ and the boom was ahead of them, not behind.

It was so blindingly obvious that the tech bubble would collapse. Every five seconds a 21 year old with a computer had somehow found some internet miracle for a service we never knew we needed. The IPO gravy train was insane. One of my biggest clients said that he was seeing 5 new IPO opportunities every single day for months on end. Mobile phone retailers like Hikari Tsushin in Japan were trading at such ridiculous valuations that the CEO at the time lost himself in the euphoria and printed gold coin chocolates with ‘Target market cap: Y100 trillion.’ The train wreck was inevitable. Greed was a forgone conclusion.

So the tech bubble collapsed under the weight of reality which started the most reckless central bank policy prescriptions ever. Supposedly learning from the mistakes of the post bubble collapse in Japan, then Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan turned on the free money spigots. Instead of allowing the free market to adjust and cauterize the systemic imbalances, he threw caution to the wind and poured gasoline on a raging fire. Programs like ‘Keep America Rolling’ which tried to reboot the auto industry meant cheaper and longer lease loans kept sucking consumption forward. That has been the problem. We’ve been living at the expense of the future for nigh on two decades.

Back in 2001, many laughed me out of court for arguing Greenspan would go down in history as one of the most hated central bankers. At the time prevailing sentiment indeed made me look completely stupid. How could I, a stockbroker, know more than Alan Greenspan? It was not a matter of relative educations between me and the Fed Chairman, rather seeing clearly he was playing god with financial markets.  The Congressional Banking Committee hung off his every word like giddy teenagers with a crush on a pop idol. Ron Paul once set on Greenspan during one of the testimonies only to have the rest of the committee turn on him for embarrassing the newly knighted ‘Maestro.’ It was nauseating to watch. Times seemed too good so how dare Paul question a central bank chief who openly said, “I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”

We all remember the horrors of the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the ensuing Global Financial Crisis (GFC) in September 2008. The nuclear implosions in credit markets had already begun well before this as mortgage defaults screamed. The 7 years of binge investment since the tech bubble collapse meant we never cleansed the wounds. We would undoubtedly be in far better shape had we taken the pain. Yet confusing products like CDOs and CDSs wound their way into the investment portfolios of local country towns in Australia. The punch bowl had duped even local hicks to think they were with the times as any other savvy investor. To turn that on its head, such was the snow job that people who had no business being involved in such investment products were dealing in it.

So Wall St was bailed out by Main St. Yet instead of learning the lessons of the tech bubble collapse and GFC our authorities doubled down on the madness that led to these problems in the first place. Central banks launched QE programs to buy toxic garbage and lower interest rates to get us dragging forward even more consumption. The printing presses were on full speed. Yet what have we bought?

Now we have exchange traded funds (ETFs). Super simple to understand products. While one needed a Field’s Medal in Mathematics to understand the calculations of a CDO or CDS, the ETF is child’s play. Sadly that will only create complacency. We have not really had a chance to see how robots trade in a proper downturn. ETFs follow markets, not lead them. So if the market sells off, the ETF is rapidly trying to keep up. Studies done on ETFs (especially leveraged products) in bear markets shows how they amplify market reactions not mitigate them. So expect to see robots add to the calamity.

Since GFC we’ve had the worst post recession recovery in history. We have asset bubbles in bonds, stocks and property. The Obama Administration doubled the debt pile of the previous 43 presidents in 8 years. Much of it was raised on a short term basis. This year alone, $1.5 trillion must be refinanced.  A total of $8.4 trillion must be refinanced inside the next 4 years. That excludes the funding required for current budget deficits which are growing despite a ‘growing economy’. That excludes the corporate refinancing schedule. Many companies went out of their way to laden the balance sheet in cheap debt. In the process the average corporate credit rating is at its worst levels in a decade. Which means in a market where credit markets are starting to price risk accordingly we also face a Fed openly saying it is tapering its balance sheet and the Chinese and Japanese looking to cut back on US Treasury purchases. Bond spreads like Libor-OIS are already reflecting that pain.

Then there is the tapped out consumer. Unemployment maybe at record lows, yet real wage growth does not appear to be keeping up. The number of people holding down more than one job continues to rebound. The quality of employment is terrible. Poverty continues to remain stubbornly high. There are still three times as many people on food stamps in the US than a decade ago – 41 million people. Public pension unfunded liabilities total $9 trillion. Credit card delinquencies at the sub prime end of town are  back at pre-crisis levels. We could go on and on. Things are terrible out there. Should we be in the least bit surprised that Trump won? Such is the plight of the silent majority, still delinquent after a decade. No wonder Roseanne appeals to so many.

A funny comment was sent by a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat, lambasting Trump on his trade policies. He criticized the fact that America had sold its soul for offshoring for decades. Indeed it had but queried that maybe he should be praising Trump for trying to reverse that tide, despite being so late to the party. Where were the other administrations trying to defend America all this time? Stunned silence.

Yet the trends are ominous. If we go back to the tech bubble IPO-a-thon example. We now have crowd funding and crypto currencies. To date we had 190 odd currencies to trade. Of that maybe a handful were liquid – $US, GBP, JPY, $A, Euro etc – yet we are presented with 1,000s of crypto currency choices. Apart from the numerous breaches, blow ups and cyber thefts to date, more and more of these ‘coins’ are awaiting the next fool to gamble away more in the hope of making a quick buck. Cryptos are backed by nothing other than greed. Yet it sort of proves that more believe that they are falling behind enough such they’re prepared to gamble on the biggest lottery in town. One crypto used Wikipedia as a source for its prospectus.

Yet the media remains engrossed on trying to prove whether the president had sex with a porn star a decade ago, genderless bathrooms, bashing the NRA, pushing for laws to curtail free speech, promoting climate change and covering up crime rather than look at reporting on what truly matters – the biggest financial collapse facing us in 90 years.

There is no ‘told you so’ in any of this. The same feelings in the bones of some 30 years ago are back as they were at the time of Greenspan and Lehman. This time can’t be avoided. We have borrowed too much, saved too little and all the while blissfully ignored the warning signs. The faith and confidence in authorities is evaporating. The failed experiment started by Greenspan is coming home to roost. This will be far worse than 1929. Take that to the bank, if it is still in operation because you won’t be concerned about the return on your money but the return of it!