When it comes to trading and investing markets, I’ll tell you a secret. The most important piece of data you’ll ever hear about it.
As traders we go long and short. But markets, and the instruments that compose them i.e. stocks and ETFs, trade Long 90% of the time. (Meaning Calls) Because institutions, who do 99% of the investing in markets, always go long, i.e. they are always buying. Not selling or shorting. (Puts)
Think about it: young people go to their local institution and say we’d like to invest our small savings. Meaning BUY. Meaning LONG. Meaning Calls. They don’t go in and say we’d like to take our small savings and go short. Hah! So shorting is a precise skill. Because it can only succeed a mere 10% or less of the time in terms of general markets and their activities.
Of course one can become an expert in shorting (Puts) looking for opportunities to only short (puts) markets and stocks and ETFS. And they can do just as well. But this involves precision and daily attention and activity. Because markets traditionally and in general are always going up.
Of course this could be perfectly fine if the entity, in this case a country, has a strong economy and GDP — how much revenue it collectively produces per year — that could easily pay the debt off at any time. This is expressed as Debt to GDP. It’s a simple ratio that measures an entity’s debt compared to how much it produces in revenue per year if it were to start paying that debt off now. The smaller the number, the better. The larger the number the more difficult it will be for that entity to pay off this debt.
Traditionally when a country reaches a debt to GDP ratio of 50%, lenders start to take notice and become concerned. Greece and Italy are prime examples because they are consistently in the news for flying much higher than 50% and getting into trouble with the EU and their lenders. Germany being the economic powerhouse of the EU — just as the High Command of the Third Reich planned it once World War II started to turn toward an Allied Powers victory (study this; the information is out there — they meticulously planned out how to create a “Fourth Reich” thinly disguised as a unified Europe controlled by Germany. Of course they never foresaw the behemoth the United States would become post a nuclear world… ) — is always left to pick up the debt payments of Italy and Greece and any other European country who falls behind on their debt payments and agreements.
For some reason Japan is allowed to run a debt to GDP ratio of some 250% and nobody seems to mind. [research].
The United States’ debt to GDP is now 129%. The highest it’s ever been is 134% during the Covid Pandemic Recession. This corresponds with other periods when the federal government ran large budget deficits: the Reagan-Bush years of the 1980s and early 1990s; the G. W. Bush years during his “War On Terror” and the 2008 financial crisis and the subsequent Great Recession; and the pandemic-caused recession of 2020 during the Trump years when federal debt spiked to an all-time high of the aforementioned 134.8% of GDP.
In terms of the current fiscal year, the United States is as always addicted to spending, with no real feasible plan in place to bring down the debt.
“A Treasury Department report last week showed that the deficit — the gap between what the United States spends and what it collects through taxes and other revenue — was $1.5 trillion for the first 11 months of the fiscal year, a 61 percent increase from the same period a year ago.”
As I’ve stated in previous posts, although financial and economic news doesn’t immediately inspire images of a “world war” to the mind and senses as much as overtly war-like conflict events, these events may pose more of a threat to global peace than military skirmishes in Ukraine or Taiwan or Syria et al. The working theory being that countries accustomed to decades of peace and prosperity, as we’ve had on planet earth for decades now, may and usually will do everything they can to de-escalate military conflicts to avoid large multinational wars, even when attacked in some way — consider the American journalist just captured and imprisoned by Russia in the last few weeks…, or consider the absolute clusterfu+*k of America’s embarrassing escape out of Afghanistan after 20+ years of fighting and then handing it right back over to The Taliban… all those lives lost…. But no world war…. but when economic desperation sets in in a country, watch out — all cards are off the table and a nation’s typical reaction is to lean hard right nationalistic, start chest thumping about “national pride” and “protecting the homeland from foreign threats” and before we know it, someone somewhere does something to what they perceive as a weaker someone and off to war we go. Despite what they say it’s always economically and financially motivated. They need. And when someone needs, all bets of diplomacy or compromise are off. The United States sadly, as many nations around the world, is facing some scary impending economic consequences. We’re just not talking about it yet. (Insert the potential commercial real estate debt crash that is being discussed under the radar at the moment; if you’re aware of it…..). That’s why this sudden trend of large regional banks going bellyup is important.
Concerns Grow as Tighter Lending Threatens $20 Trillion Commercial Real Estate Market
The recent banking turmoil added scrutiny to a sector already weighed down by office vacancies, rising interest rates and mounting debt. The turmoil that drove Silicon Valley Bankand Signature Bank out of business last month, rocking the wider banking sector, has analysts bracing for the next possible crisis: the $20 trillion commercial real estate market. Read whole article here
Russian pilots tried to ‘dogfight’ US jets over Syria, US Central Command says
Doing business in China has never been straightforward. But now it’s becoming dangerous for (some) American companies.
On Wednesday, Chinese cops raided the Shanghai offices of US consulting firm Bain, questioning local employees and taking away computers and phones. No explanation was given by the police or the Boston-based firm, but the search was carried out the same day that China expanded its espionage law, giving authorities greater powers to inspect premises and digital devices of local businesses. (This comes a month after China arrested five Americans working at the due-diligence firm Mintz and shut down its Beijing HQ.)
These episodes highlight the increasingly risky environment for US businesses operating in China. As US-China relations get frostier, a whopping 87% of US execs surveyed by the AmCham industry group say they’re pessimistic about the future. [From GZERO MEDIA]
Paraguay holds presidential election with geopolitical ripples
Paraguayans go to the polls Sunday to pick their next president. Domestically, the big story is whether centrist opposition leader Efraín Alegre can beat Santiago Peña from the right-wing Colorado Party, which has almost monopolized power since the country ditched military rule in 1989. But there are also two geopolitical angles to keep an eye on.
First, the election is being closely watched in Taipei and Beijing. If he wins, Alegre has suggested he might switch diplomatic relations from Taiwan to China — meaning that the self-ruled island would lose its last friend in South America. The presidential candidate believes that Taiwan has not invested enough in Paraguay to offset the immense cost of not doing business with China, so he’s made it clear to Tsai Ing-wen: Show us the money or we’ll call Xi Jinping. [From GZERO MEDIA]
First Republic Bank Teeters on the Brink of Collapse — [By Mack Wilowski for Investopedia Published April 26, 2023]. [Transcendence Diaries editorial intro by Ed Hale… Yet another large regional bank in the United States hangs by a nail on its way to bankruptcy. In what might be the third, fourth or fifth (it’s hard to keep track now) major regional bank in the U.S. to head belly-up in the last two months, money’s disappearing faster than The Fed can print or loan it, but it’s still not major news to the majority of Americans. Why? Maybe it’s because there’s no celebrity gossip attached to it. Maybe it’s because it’s not trending on TikTok. Maybe it’s because Americans don’t think anything is important unless the government interiors their regularly scheduled programming — except that no longer exists — to advise them that something really IS important. And the American government isn’t going to do that here. Not now. They’ll let every small, city, county, state and regional bank in America go bankrupt before they’ll ever say a word to the unsuspecting public. By then it’ll be too late. The rich will have gotten all their money out and both The Federal Reserve and The US Treasury will announce that there’s no more money left for the working class. That’s how it always goes. In return, Americans get to claim they enjoy all the benefits and fruits of Capitalism. Strange game. Horrible odds. Why is it important in regards to an impending World War III? The answer seems obvious. When a large regional bank of a country suddenly goes bankrupt, it should be concerning and front page news. Something isn’t right. When 4-5 of them do in a matter of 8-10 weeks, Mission Control we have a serious problem. The last thing in the world you want when confronting an enemy that’s insane and has nothing to lose (Russia), another who literally thinks youre “evil” and calls you The Great Satan (Iran) and another who hold the very financial and economic stability in the palm of its hand (China) is to be going broke faster than you can keep track of. And sure maybe this is just business as usual capitalist housekeeping… But what if it’s not?]
First Republic Bank (FRC) is teetering on the brink of collapse as shares fell to new all-time lows on reports the federal government and the nation’s biggest banks are reluctant to put together a rescue package.
The beleaguered lender reported deposit outflows of more than $100 billion in the first quarter, or 40% of the total.1 That figure would have exceeded 50% if not for a $30 billion injection of uninsured deposits from 11 of the nation’s biggest banks in March.2
In response, shares of FRC plunged almost 50% yesterday, and are down another 30% today. The bank’s market cap fell below $1 billion in intraday trading, a small fraction of its $40 billion peak in November 2021. Its price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio fell as low as 0.7. The stock’s volatility prompted the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) to halt trading of FRC 12 times Wednesday.3
To make matters worse, First Republic faces the prospect of losing access to the Fed’s lending facilities if a private deal isn’t reached soon, Bloomberg reported.4 U.S. regulators prefer a private rescue that wouldn’t involve federal authorities seizing the bank, which could further deplete the FDIC’s insurance fund.
Management is scrambling to convince regulators and executives of bigger banks to provide one more financial lifeline. Executives are engaged in a last-ditch effort to improve the bank’s financial standing.
Its options include transferring troubled assets into a “bad bank” or selling off assets at above-market rates. However, other banks may be reluctant to intervene for fear of losing their uninsured deposits and would prefer the FDIC assume control of part of First Republic’s assets.5
First Republic Bank ran into financial difficulty shortly after the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) and Signature Bank in March, as it had the third-highest share (behind the two collapsed lenders) of uninsured deposits that exceeded the FDIC’s $250,000 limit.
FRC shares tumbled 60% in the first trading session after SVB and Signature Bank’s collapse. They’ve since extended their decline, and are down more than 95% year-to-date.
The U.S. is imposing sanctions on the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) and the intelligence arm of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), plus four IRGC leaders, for their roles in the wrongful detentions of U.S. citizens, senior U.S. officials told reporters on Thursday.
Why it matters: The officials said this was the first of multiple rounds of sanctions in the works to punish and deter those who would hold Americans hostage. The practical implications of this step are unclear as both organizations are already under U.S. sanctions.
What they’re saying: “We do think it’s significant that the first round of sanctions are being announced specifically for this type of behavior, because we’re really concerned about this type of behavior,” a senior official said.
Hong Kong (CNN) — A long-awaited phone call between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday has received a tentative welcome in Washington and parts of Europe for its potential to increase dialogue toward resolving Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine. It also marks the most concrete step made to date by China to take up the role of mediator that it has for months alluded to playing. But the hour-long conversation, believed to be the first between the two leaders in the fourteen months since Russia invaded Ukraine, also comes with few tangible proposals for how China might help to bridge the devastating, war-torn divide between the two countries. And its timing – at a moment when Beijing is acutely focused on strengthening ties with Europe amid cratering relations with the United States – also suggests there are more drivers than just peace in China’s calculus, analysts say. Ties have been frayed thin since the outbreak of the war, as European leaders have watched in dismay while Beijing refused to condemn the invasion and instead bolstered its economic and diplomatic ties with Moscow, including joining the Kremlin in blaming NATO for fueling the conflict. Efforts from Beijing to repair those relations took a major stumble earlier this week after China’s top diplomat in Paris suggested in a televised interview that former Soviet states have no status under international law – seen as a potential nod to Putin’s view that Ukraine should be part of Russia.
One of China’s most popular and downloaded apps on the App Store, Pinduoduo, listed on the NASDAQ Exchange, has the ability to spy on its users, say experts —- https://apple.news/AJGW-QsJEQb-M9-WGDwccog
REALITY CHECK: While many (including myself) agree with the US president’s stance on China Trade, specifically the need to stop forced technology transfers and IP theft (the trade imbalance is not actually an issue; certainly not one that can be or ever has been solved through a race to the bottom tariff war. Trade imbalances between nations of different sizes have always and will always exist. Attempting to equalize Trade monetarily is ill advised. The US president either doesn’t know this yet or refuses to acknowledge it publicly), all who actually work in business, finance and economics wholeheartedly believe that he, and we, would be much better served if he stopped attacking and blaming Jerome Powell and the Federal Reserve for the extreme volatility in global bond and equity markets and the general economic slowdown and instead acknowledged that it is indeed the current trade war with China.
Main-streeters may be entertained by these daily twitter shenanigans (since when is a US president allowed to tweet? Didn’t President Obama have to relinquish his BlackBerry when he took office?) But Wall Street, economists and big business are shocked and horrified. There’s something palpably disturbing about having a commander and chief who knows less than you do about business and finance. Which is why markets have been headed nowhere or down for a year and half and why global bond yields are tanking.
Just because someone is standing in front of you confidently asserting they see a pink elephant doesn’t mean there’s a pink elephant in the room with you. No matter how many times they scream or tweet it. There is never a time when it’s not important to remember this.
The biggest economic conundrum the United States faces at the moment regarding interest rates is that economic conditions are doing well by all measures that The (not)Fed uses to address its dual mandate of maintaining stable inflation and keeping unemployment low. The United States is at record low unemployment. Even by the president’s own accounts… And yes this seeming disconnect in his understanding of basic economics is frustrating. And disturbing. So the (not)Fed has absolutely no realistic fundamental reasons to lower rates based on their long running mandate.
While it’s true that the global economy seems to be heading toward a recession, or worse (over 30 countries now have negative yielding interest rates — with a record 15 TRILLION dollars in global debt that is yielding negative interest! This is historically unprecedented in human civilization), and many now have inverted yield curves (including the US)), the US is still doing impressively well. Meaning lowering rates is not justifiable.
Further rate cuts by the US central bank based solely on other countries’ lowering theirs may excite markets for a day or two, but will ultimately lead to a sell off as investors lose faith in the US central bank’s normally independent, rational and clear headed process. It could also lead to a very fast race to the bottom of treasury rates globally, gut savings and retirement accounts, castrate bank’s’ ability to make money, and further exacerbate the growing global economic slowdown. At that point the world would no longer have the US economy or markets to run to. And THAT would be a major problem considering it’s the last TINA Trade left on earth right now to grow money.
Furthermore if the world does continue to shrink economically and the Federal Reserve suddenly needs to actually lower rates or resort to QE again to save us from impending doom, they’ll have no ammunition left if they lower rates now in a “booming economy”. It’s an illogical argument. And it’s sad that there are decent hardworking Americans out there who are literally learning about these issues from someone who’s either extremely ignorant about them or overtly attempting to deceive them. It’s blatantly irresponsible.
So… what to do? Because most informed people agree with the noble goal of addressing the problems with China trade, most support the president’s courageous attempt to do so at this time. Including me. Tariff wars might not be the best way to do it. Historically they’ve rarely worked. But just starting the process is a good intention. Can’t fault him for his willingness to take this bold step. He’s swimming in uncharted waters. And despite our political leanings he needs our support. Just as we need his.
What he needs to do is stop tweeting insults, attacks, false facts and conspiracy theories and instead sit down behind his desk on live TV and address the nation, to honestly and passionately tell the American people and the world how important this battle is, why we’re doing it and that we all need to pitch in and prepare for some serious pain now in order to secure a better fairer trade agreement with China for our future.
If he did this, the confusion would abate and so too might the market volatility. Hell, markets might even rally just to show support for his newfound diplomacy and honesty and the stability it portends. In addition he might even rally the American people to unify for even a brief period while we face this important challenge. Just a thought.
Before we dive in to the specific platforms and policies that we heard proposed in the first Democratic Debates over the last two nights, let us address a few things that may have been left out or only alluded to in the last piece I wrote about the candidates yesterday [Read that here if you missed it].
I’ve given this some thought over the years…. So from the start I’d like to attempt to share it with you. It’s no secret that I have often been accused of being “wishy washy”, i.e. refusing to take a position on a variety of subjects, not decidedly having an opinion, as most people seem to. On a whole host of matters. This is something I share with a very good friend you’ve heard me reference here in the Diaries many times, Matthew Sabatella (occasionally referred to as Toad in earlier years when these Diaries were more a workshop for the novel The Adventures of Fishy. And with Madeline O’Ryan. We spent our youth teens and twenties often ruminating and philosophizing on a whole host of subjects, finding it very difficult to understand the consciousness of those who could readily just make up their mind on something and give it no more thought. We found, and still do I believe, that important matters often have multiple facets that affect many people.
Despite what you may think you believe, research it a bit more or give it some more thought and you’ll find that it’s deeper and trickier than you first were led to believe. As a Philosophy major and a recording artist this way of being served me well, certainly didn’t hurt me, and in fact led to the whole “Ambassador” ideology that helped shape who I am today. I truly subscribe to the Will Rogers “I never met a person I didn’t like” mentality. Of course this infuriates both my liberal and my conservative friends. But it’s just how I was genetically spun. It’s how I came out. It serves The Ambassador very well. Ed Hale, maybe not so much sometimes. But I just happen to love people, and can usually find it pretty easy to see their side of things… and I just happen to be able to see all sides to almost any issue. They’re all just beliefs after all. Beliefs that we make up in each present moment. Whether we know it or not. (That’s really the secret. But that’s not what this post is about.)
Some people decide to be leaders. They want to be leaders. Some of them choose politics as their way of leading. In the old days, throughout our short history here on earth, these political leaders usually started out as corrupt thieves, conquerors, murderers and warriors. That’s human history in a nutshell. Study it. Royalty is a fancy way of attempting to legitimize being a heartless and corrupt thief and murderer. So too are most major religions. And most of human history’s most famous political leaders. Whether you start at the very very beginning with humanity’s first known “king” Sargon the Great, or the Egyptian Pharoes, through to the Akkadian, Babylonian and Persian kings or Alexander the not so Great, Attilla the Hun, Gengis Khan, Julius Caesar, all the Popes, the Sultans, the Ottomons, the English kings and Queens, etc etc on down the line what you find is a very bloody list of horrible human beings. more “Making Sense of the First Democratic Debates – Proposals and Policies – Part 1”