But this time it didn't work. The market had been retreating for days and then tumbled 724 Dow points yesterday allegedly on the Donald's $50 billion tariff assault on the China trade. Not surprisingly, the overnight follow-through in Asia was downright bloody with Shanghai down 3.4%,the Nikkei lower by 4.5% and China's NASDAQ equivalent off by more than 5%. Read More
In 1970, the U.S. fell into recession, and for more than a decade, the economy and the stock market languished. Productivity growth slowed to 1.8% per year, and inflation reached into the double-digits by the end of the decade. In this environment, the stock market was a poor investment. The stock market anticipated the 1970 recession somewhat, and, after peaking in December 1968, experienced a long secular decline. The inflation-adjusted S&P 500 lost 55% of its value before hitting an interim low in December 1974, and another 6% by the time it finally reached a bottom in July 1982. Over this approximately 14-year “bear market,” the inflation-adjusted per capita net worth of households rose a meager 0.2% per year.
The set of sanctions that the U.S. began placing on Iran back in 2010 can be best thought of as a monetary blockade. It relied on deputizing U.S. banks to act as snitches. Any U.S. bank that was caught providing correspondent accounts to a foreign bank that itself helped Iran engage in sanctioned activities would be fined. To avoid being penalized, U.S. banks threatened their foreign bank customers to stop enabling Iranian payments or lose their accounts. And of course the foreign banks (mostly) complied. Read More
Identifying and measuring bear markets is both art and science. One common measure says that a bear market exists when at least 80% of all stock prices fall over an extended period. Another measure says that a bear market exists if certain market indexes -- such as the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 -- fall at least -15%. Of course, different market sectors may experience bear markets at different times. The bear market that occurred in the U.S. equity markets from 1929 to 1933 is one of the most famous bear markets in history.

In the S&P 500 chart below, you will see the long-term patterns going back to 1970. The "strategic number" is an algorithmic measure comprised of multiple factors which measure risk. When it is close to 100, risk is very high. When it is close to 0, risk is very low. In between, risk is about normal, and trend following can be employed. The "strategic risk range" shows the rough range that the market is likely to be in during the intermediate term.


Wireless power technology recently became popular with its application in charging wireless-capable devices, (such as a smartphone) via a Powermat interface. There is one company currently building out a true wireless power supply without the need for an intermediary “pad,” which could develop into an investment opportunity of a lifetime if it or another company successfully launches an IPO, not to mention the upstream manufacturing interface components.  Read More
"Naturally, the smooth termination of the gold-exchange standard, the restoration of the gold standard, and supplemental and interim measures that might be called for, in particular with a view to organizing international credit on this new basis, will have to be deliberately agreed upon between countries, in particular those on which there devolves special responsibility by virtue of their economic and financial capabilities." - General Charles de Gaulle
Variables may include; immigration reform that further “grows” our economy through assimilation of ever more people who can make each piece of the pie ever more expensive and buy up the overabundance of housing; and tax and policy structures that are favorable to population growth by making children less costly and even financially rewarding, increasing costs of pregnancy prevention, etc.

Since the closing of the gold window by Nixon there have been prominent and persistent voices which warned that fundamentally flawed financial system conditions would lead to long term catastrophe for the US and global economy.  Those voices reached a crescendo during the serial market crises of 2000-2011.  Now, after a 9 year rise in US stock markets, such cautionary narratives are difficult to find.  Fears of debt bubble collapse scenarios have given way to complacency and the blanket assumption that central banker machinations have all the angles covered.
They've promised full pensions to their workers. But they aren't putting aside enough money — or generating high enough returns — to fulfill those future obligations. Soon, they'll have to cannibalize current workers' pension contributions to pay retirees. Young and middle-aged government employees will likely never receive the retirement benefits they're counting on.
In their latest report on commodity prices, French bank Natixis outlined why precious metals have a strong couple of years ahead of them as the U.S. economy slows. According to an article on Kitco, the report states that after a remarkable year, the dollar will finally begin to trend lower as the Fed puts the brakes on its tightening cycle. Read More
Jeffrey is a truly independent thinker who is never afraid to make bold, out-of-consensus calls. That’s why I know when he takes the stage at the SIC, he will provide insight into much more than the secular bond bull market. I’m really excited to welcome Jeffrey back to the SIC, and I hope you can be there with me to experience it, first-hand. If you would like to learn more about attending the SIC 2018, and about the other speakers who will be there, you can do so here.
Confidence and complacency are more acute now than any time I’ve seen before. All expressions of overvaluation are at historical extremes. Despite this, most money managers remain in the market. The thesis is “if it’s going up, regardless of anything else, I want to be in it.” Perhaps the best indicator of complacency is the VIX which at its current level of 13 tells us that investors see no reason to protect their positions. Every minor decline is seen as a buying opportunity. The rationale is that the Fed would not allow anything worse than a 10% decline. If the stock market starts sinking between now and October 1st, I will be most interested to see if the Fed eliminates QE.
America’s long-term “balance sheet numbers” just continue to get progressively worse.  Unfortunately, since the stock market has been soaring and the GDP numbers look okay, most Americans assume that the U.S. economy is doing just fine.  But the stock market was soaring and the GDP numbers looked okay just prior to the great financial crisis of 2008 as well, and we saw how that turned out.  The truth is that GDP is not the best measure for the health of the economy.  Judging the U.S. economy by GDP is basically like measuring the financial health of an individual by how much money he or she spends, and I will attempt to illustrate that in this article. Read More
During the first half of the year, I repeatedly suggested that most folks lighten up on equities and hold 25% to 50% in cash. That included five consecutive columns on MarketWatch between February and May which discussed different reasons for my thinking. I took quite the verbal thrashing from some commentators that I dare suggest the cyclical bull market was approaching risky levels.

Even as the average U.S. household pares down its debts, the new degree-holders who represent the country’s best hope for future prosperity are headed in the opposite direction. With tuition rising at an annual rate of about 5% and cash-strapped parents less able to help, the mean student-debt burden at graduation will reach nearly $18,000 this year, estimates Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of student-aid websites Fastweb.com and FinAid.org. Together with loans parents take on to finance their children’s college educations — loans that the students often pay themselves – the estimate comes to about $22,900. That’s 8% more than last year and, in inflation-adjusted terms, 47% more than a decade ago.”

2. Should I choose to move and rent, the growing differential (between value and cost) becomes my growing rental income year in year out. And, this rental income goes up even if there is NO appreciation in the house’s value (the house, and rent the house can generate, merely moves up and keeps up with inflation; the real values stay flat). If I were to add the likely stream of increasing amounts on rental payments to my previous return calculation, I would get well over 5% annual returns previously mentioned.
Falling investor confidence is perhaps more powerful than any economic indicator, and it also often signals a bear market. When investors believe something is going to happen (a bear market, for example), they tend to take action (selling shares in order to avoid losses from expected price decreases), and these actions can ultimately turn expectations into reality. Although it is a difficult measure to quantify, investor sentiment shows through in mathematical measurements such as the put/call ratio, the advance/decline line, IPO activity and the amount of outstanding margin debt.
Bear markets don't announce themselves.  They just happen.  They begin with a sell-off when that most folks dismiss as a brief correction.  As they deepen, the question then becomes how far down will it go.  From my many decades of experience, it's been obvious that most investors are so shocked by what's going on that they do nothing.  Or, at the point of greatest pain (the bottom), they sell.  Very few have the fortitude to view the situation unemotionally and move their money to where the best opportunities are.  During bear markets, the best opportunities are in stocks, since the sell-off has reduced values to much more attractive levels.  But it's the rare investor who has the courage to buy in.  Most are paralyzed by fear.  
2008 had already had more than its share of financial turmoil. In the months leading up to 9/15/2008, Bear Stearns, Fannie/Freddie, and AIG had already had major blowouts. The stock markets were very itchy and everyone was on edge. Most who worked in the industry knew it was just a matter of time until something much more systemic took place. Up until this time, the contagion had been mostly limited to the US, with some minor external collateral damage. We were both heavily involved in the financial/economic landscape at this time. Andy was running his investment advisory and economic consultancy firm and Graham was a strategy analyst for a major G7 central bank. We had already both come to independent conclusions that this was going to be a long emergency as coined by James Kunstler. This was not going to be a 3 or 6-month event and then it would be roses and cherries and cream for the whole world. Read More
2> Huge pressure on domestic jobs due to 20 years of offshoring (wage arbitration anyone?), outsourcing (many stateside with H1B/L1 Visa treason), out-of-control immigration policies, hostile tax policies et al. — A smart person would want to be mobile, to chase business/employment opportunities, no tied to a boat anchor/deflating asset aka a home.
*** Reviewing yet another of the government’s attempts to revive the economy, Christopher Byron writes (in MSNBC): “…the stimulus being proposed – roughly $100 billion at last tally – is utterly trivial when measured against the collapsed stock values in the tech sector. [It] doesn’t even offset the $450 billion in lost value in a single company – Cisco Systems, Inc.”
Pension funds need an annual average of 6,6% income growth to pay for their promises. Over the last decade, they are getting less than 0,5%. Millions of retirees need to cover for this shortfall in their pension funds, and sell their financial assets, littl by little. It will become structural and widespread, as demographics will further strengthen in this direction (more retirees needing additional funds, and less working people saving for retirement).
Today we are getting significant volatility as the world starts to wake up to the reality that global growth will never be the same again. The question many have now is "are the markets going to have another 2008-like crash?" I don't think so, but folks should begin to accept that we are going to have at least a normal bear market. In fact, the bear market has already begun.

I rate Clancy's Classic, early stories five stars. Hunt for Red October and Cardinal of the Kremlin are the best, Clear and Present Danger and Without Remorse are also good tales with good characters, well written. This book shows the weaker side of a formula followed for too long. The Ryan character is now fully emersed in a fantasy world and characters that were filled out in earlier books are now hollow shadows. And, the gratuitous sex and Jack Ryan's increasing use of foul language don't ring true compared to Clancy's earlier stories. I wonder if, at the time of this book, Clancy started using uncredited "collaborators" to boost his writing output? This story still provides some entertaining reading, but it is far less compelling than the earlier work that made Tom Clancy the highest standard in spy/techno adventures.

But this time it didn't work. The market had been retreating for days and then tumbled 724 Dow points yesterday allegedly on the Donald's $50 billion tariff assault on the China trade. Not surprisingly, the overnight follow-through in Asia was downright bloody with Shanghai down 3.4%,the Nikkei lower by 4.5% and China's NASDAQ equivalent off by more than 5%. Read More
Extreme optimism just before the sell-off. We may not be there yet — but earlier this week, many of the largest companies were scoring 52-week highs, like Microsoft and Facebook. And according to this WSJ story, hordes of new individual investors have been diving into the stock market this year, finally shaking off their fear from 2008. It may not be “irrational exuberance” yet — but it’s trending in that direction
Repayment schedules differ with the type of bond issued. Municipal bonds typically pay interest semi-annually. Shorter term bonds generally pay interest only until maturity; longer term bonds generally are amortized through annual principal payments. Longer and shorter term bonds are often combined together in a single issue that requires the issuer to make approximately level annual payments of interest and principal. Certain bonds, known as zero coupon or capital appreciation bonds, accrue interest until maturity at which time both interest and principal become due.
What I think fed this perception by clients was that they thought these were normal markets. I graduated with a Finance degree in May 1982. The S&P 500 had only one negative year of return between 1982 through 1999, and that was 1990, and that was triggered by the start of the First Gulf War - and at the time, although we didn't know it, we were on the verge of the first banking crisis.

Interest rate rises remain a key reason for a bear market, though there is a greater danger when they are unexpected. In its analysis on U.S. bear markets since 1929, looking at 10 major bear markets since 1929, JP Morgan Asset Management offered three other potential causes for a bear market: recession, commodity spike and extreme valuations. Of these, recession and commodity prices are more influential than extreme valuations.

After the financial crisis and bear market of 2008-09, the Employee Benefit Research Institute did a study of how typical Americans fared with their retirement plan accounts at work. The study found that the average 401(k) account balance plunged by more than 25% during 2008, reflecting stock ownership in most plans. But those who kept participating consistently through 401(k) contributions reaped the rewards of the recovery, as the median balance rose at an impressive 16% annual pace over the four years following the bear market low.
Kirk Spano, the winner of the first MarketWatch competition to find the world’s next great investing columnist, is a registered investment advisor and founder of Bluemound Asset Management, LLC  which seeks to provide investors with greater safety, growth, income and freedom. Kirk’s biography and various business endeavors can be found at KirkSpano.com. Follow Kirk on Twitter @KirkSpano or at the Bluemound Facebook page for his columns, company analysis, letters, trade notes and what he is reading.

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We are nearly a year into Donald Trump’s presidency, and the economic numbers continue to look quite good.  On Monday, we learned that U.S. retail sales during the holiday season are projected to be way up compared to 2016.  Yes, there are all sorts of economic red flags popping up all over the place, and I write about them regularly.  And without a doubt, 2017 has been one of the worst years for brick and mortar retail stores in a very long time.  But when something good happens we should acknowledge that too, and many are giving President Trump credit for the fact that retail sales are projected to be up 4.9 percent this holiday season compared to last year... Read More

Yes, first-quarter gross domestic product projections have fallen after weak readings on retail sales and other key data, but the Fed is confident that any slowdown will be temporary, stating simply that "the economic outlook has strengthened recently". With that, the Fed is acknowledging the strength of the prior three quarters, as well as the likely benefits from the recently enacted tax reform and massive deficit spending.
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