28 April 2017

Stocks and Precious Metals Charts - To the Darkest Hour Comes the Dawn

"Caesar was swimming in blood, Rome and the whole pagan world was mad. But those who had had enough of transgression and madness, those who were trampled upon, those whose lives were misery and oppression, all the weighed down, all the sad, all the unfortunate, came to hear the wonderful tidings of God, who out of love for men had given Himself to be crucified and redeem their sins.

When they found a God whom they could love, they had found that which the society of the time could not give any one—  happiness and love."

Henryk Sienkiewicz, Quo Vadis: In the Time of Nero

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.  You have put your trust in God, and so trust also in me."

John 14:1

The First Quarter GDP number came in quite low, surprising those who have not been following the forecasts from the Atlanta Fed. I suspect that it will be revised lower in the next few iterations.

Additionally, the 'chain deflator' or the measure of inflation in this report was higher than expected at 2.3%.

So with very low growth, and higher inflation, we see some evidence of that odd phenomenon that is really the child of exogenous forces and continuing policy errors once thought to be impossible called stagflation.

Silver began trading its May contract with a large number of paper claims trading hands as noted below in the clearing report from yesterday. JPM's house account is notably absent, although a 'customer' of that bank sold a large number of contracts.

The first chart below shows that the Shiller P/E index is now at the same level of that bubble in 1929.

I was amused to hear some of the Wall St denizens and spokesmodels noting that the bubble can certainly go much higher, so now may be a good time to buy.

Remember that salvation has been bought for us by the greatest love that one can receive, and that we should therefore take no pride in it.  Rather, we are a child not of our own works or words but of mercy, and we are therefore expected, no we are commanded, to extend that mercy to others.  As you judge, so shall you be judged.

To take pride in our position and status and knowledge in the manner of the Pharisees, and especially to abuse our faith as a platform for hatred, violence, and other offenses against others, is to sin against the Spirit.  And this is the one sin that will not be easily forgiven.

This then is a purpose of suffering, that we may be kept safe from such a temptation to think so falsely of ourselves, and imagine ourselves to be what we are not.  For it is in this disordered pride that the first sin found its mark.
"The common are but a breath, the highborn but a lie. If weighed on a balance, they are nothing; together they are only a breath, less substantial than their vanity."

Psalm 62:9
Spring is in full force here, and life is abounding.  The queen and dolly are getting along well, and keeping me busy.   Three more of these radiation treatments, and then the waiting begins again.

In seeing, so that we may believe.

Please remember the poor in both wealth and spirit.  And especially God's creatures who have been entrusted to your care.

Have a pleasant weekend.

27 April 2017

Stocks and Precious Metals Charts - Puzzling Evidence

You got the CBS...!
And the ABC...!
You got Time and Newsweek!
Well, they're the same to me!

Now don't you wanna get right with me?
Puzzling evidence
I hope you get everything you need
Puzzling Evidence

Puzzling evidence
Puzzling evidence
Puzzling evidence
Done hardened in your heart.

Talking Heads, Puzzling Evidence

The Nasdaq big cap techs have powered up to a new all time high. Looking a little parabolic there guys, even if the prospects of repatriating all that cash stashed in overseas tax havens can come back to your pockets for acquisitions, dividends, and stock buybacks.

Alphabet, the behemoth formerly known as Google, has about $50 billion in cash sitting overseas.

I happened to notice today the the year over year growth in the MZM money stock has fallen to its lowest level since it bottomed in 2010 in the aftermath of the financial crisis.

There is a lot of liquidity out there. Apparently it is not making it into the hands of ordinary people. I wonder where it all is.

The Republicans are looking to fund major tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy using deficit spending.

I think the plan is to let the deficits grow, and then go after spending on the kinds of things that do not benefits corporations and the wealthy, like medicare, social security, and the social safety net. Wait for it.

Gold and silver were quiet even in the post option expiration as it was risk on.

Have a pleasant evening.

26 April 2017

Stocks and Precious Metals Charts - Sell the News - Qu'est-ce Que C'est

"Psychopaths [and sociopaths] have a grandiose self-structure which demands a scornful and detached devaluation of others, in order to ward off their envy toward the good perceived in other people."

Robert D. Hare, Without Conscience

“The sense of responsibility in the financial community for the community as a whole is not small. It is nearly nil.”

John Kenneth Galbraith, The Great Crash of 1929

“In a nation run by swine, all the pigs are upwardly mobile, and the rest of us are fucked until we can put our acts together: not necessarily to win, but mainly to keep from losing completely.”

Hunter S. Thompson

"And where they make a desert, they call it peace."

Tacitus, Agricola

Donald and His Merry Pranksters were rolling out the greatest tax cut in history today.

It was interesting to watch the stock and precious metals futures fluctuate, as Messrs Cohn and Mnuchin were speaking. I did have a chance to do that today, since the daily hospital visits are in the morning, and I seem to be getting caught up with the household chores as the queen finds herself increasingly fatigued. Alas, the mispricing in these markets was so apparent that I could not resist making a few trades during the ebb and flow of expectations and short term trends that reversed somewhat sharply into the close. Even an old dog can hear the call to the chase now and again.

I won't characterize the plan yet, especially since it is still in its formative stage, to say the least. There are plenty of others who will be expending an enormous amount of energy to do that, with a great deal of furious rhetoric both pro and con. I will, in my own artfully lazy way, be on the lookout for some good commentaries that are lighter on the bias, and the 'say for pay.' That is not easy to do these days. Truth has been led down the blind alleys of the airwaves and the ivory towers, and strangled.

But let's just say that the hopes for The Recovery™ are not enhanced by anything that I have heard out of Washington in quite some time, and that outlook certainly did not change due to anything I may have heard today. Who knows what will actually come out of this Congress? We are watching the usual suspects who have been looting the country for the past twenty years or more. How would we expect anything to be different?

But as Garrison Keillor noted, even in a time of elephantine vanity and greed, one never has to look far to see the campfires of gentle people. Lacking any other purpose in life, it would be good enough to live for their sake. And so we have some work to do.

Have a pleasant evening.

Snakes In Suits - Predators Among Us

“They often make use of the fact that for many people the content of the message is less important than the way it is delivered.

A confident, aggressive delivery style - often larded with jargon, clichés, and flowery phrases - makes up for the lack of substance and sincerity in their interactions with others ... they are masters of impression management; their insight into the psyche of others combined with a superficial - but convincing - verbal fluency allows them to change their personas skillfully as it suits the situation and their game plan.

They are known for their ability to don many masks, change 'who they are' depending upon the person with whom they are interacting, and make themselves appear likable to their intended victim.

Psychopathic workers very often were identified as the source of departmental conflicts, in many cases, purposely setting people up in conflict with each other. The most debilitating characteristic of even the most well-behaved psychopath is the inability to form a workable team.

Paul Babiak and Robert Hare, Snakes in Suits

"I may have made an error in judgement— but one thing is beyond dispute: the man was able to work his way up to leader of a people of almost 80 million.  His success alone proved that I should subordinate myself to him."

Adolf Eichmann

A psychopath according to the latest research is both genetically and physically predisposed, through a cluster of characteristics, to being unable to form bonds with other people, even on the most basic level. In addition, certain aspects of their upbringing and environment seem to contribute to their deficiency or predisposition, to turn it towards what would be considered as malignant ends.

Most simply, a full blown psychopath is someone who is 'born without a conscience.'

Psychopathy is not categorical. It is not a black and white linear measure, wherein one crosses a single numeric score and can be diagnosed.   Rather, as Hare frames it so well in his revised checklist, there is a range of psychopathic predisposition that is more qualitative except at the extreme.

The neuroscientist James Fallon has a very amusing series of lectures in which he discloses how in his work he discovered that his own brain was wired in the same manner as a large profile of criminal psychopaths. And yet he is a high functioning and personable professional and family man.  And he is a remarkably entertaining speaker, and has a number of videos on youtube. So a mere physical disposition of some degree is not enough. There are clearly other factors.

And finally, and I must caution this most strongly, trying to diagnose someone at a distance and without proper testing and training is not possible.  And even for a professional is somewhat irresponsible. One may speculate on someone's behaviour, but it is generally skewed by their own biases and access to information, except in the most extreme behavioural examples.

Hitler, for example, never inclined himself to the psychiatrist's couch, but enough is known of his life and his actions to permit some analysis to be made even at a distance.  Dr. Fallon touches on some of this sort of thing in the second video where he looks at 'the Mind of the Dictator.'

The concentration of psychopathic and sociopathic personalities in positions of power, whether it be in the workplace or in political areas, emphasizes the need for balances of power, transparency, and the rule of law. What better place for a high functioning predator to find advantage over victims than in positions of power?

In general utopian designs for social organization that rely on the perfectly rational and natural self-governing of individuals is not very practical. But when one introduces the fact that for some percentage of the population, from one to five percent, the lack of a conscience is a very real factor in their own behaviour, knocks down flat anarchical frameworks where reliance is placed upon some assumption of 'natural goodness' of everyone. Quite clearly, not everyone is just like everyone else.

Put more simply, there is a reason why throughout human history good people have found it necessary to organize themselves for their own protection. Not everyone is good, and government provides for the protection of the weak, the vulnerable, and the innocent from the predators among us.

Psychologist Frank Ochberg has a different, practitioner's take on psychopathy. He doesn't care whether someone has gotten to their state of being either by nature and nuture, or just nuture. In other words, he makes no distinctions between the sociopath and the psychopath, which he calls 'splitting hairs' (or Hare's? lol Frank I hope that pun was intended). His major field of study is PTSD, and he is very, very good at it.   But he brings up some interesting points about the subject of psychopathy.

And for something utterly and completely different, here is a presentation by someone who I assume is a motivational speaker, who describes in some fairly colorful ways his own marriage to a female psychopath. I found him to be informative and entertainingly sincere, with caution on language. It is a good reminder that some psychopaths wear skirts. Marrying Medusa: How to Survive a Female Psychopath.

He also makes an observation that I found to be important. In his talk he notes that he most often would view people who did bad things as being merely 'stupid.' That is in line with the saying 'never attribute to bad intent what can be attributed to stupidity.' He says that he found out the hard way that there really are some people who are calculating, determined, and probably what one would call 'evil' because of their intent to harm others for their own gratification. And there is some merit in that. I have found this out as well in a different and much more boring, non-sexual venue in my own corporate career, and it was a shock to me.

This is based on Robert Hare's revised psychopathy checklist. Probably the most important distinction is the lack of conscience, because of a lack of empathy and connection with others. It is not a hatred of others, not in the least. It is more like the type of relationship that a fully functioning person might have with a basketball, literally. The lack of emotion is key, not from suppression or hardness; it is just not there.

1. Look for glib and superficial charm. A psychopath will also put on what professionals refer to as a 'mask of sanity' that is likable and pleasant. It is a thin veneer.

2. Look for a grandiose self perception. Psychopaths will often believe they are smarter or more powerful than they actually are.

3. Watch for a constant need for stimulation. Stillness, quiet and reflection are not things embraced by psychopaths. They need constant entertainment and activity.

4. Determine if there is pathological lying. A psychopath will tell all sorts of lies; little white lies as well as huge stories intended to mislead. Psychopaths are gifted or dull, high functioning or low performing like other people. An untalented psychopath may harm a few; a highly talented psychopath may lay waste to nations. The difference between the psychopath and others lies in their organic lack of conscience and empathy for others. The sociopath is trained to lack empathy and conscience. The psychopath is a natural.

5. Evaluate the level of manipulation. All psychopaths are identified as cunning and able to get people to do things they might not normally do. They can use guilt, force and other methods to manipulate.

6. Look for any feelings of guilt. An absence of any guilt or remorse is a sign of psychopathy. They will often blame the victim.

7. Consider the level of emotional response a person has. Psychopaths demonstrate shallow emotional reactions to deaths, injuries, trauma or other events that would otherwise cause a deeper response. Other people are satisfaction suppliers, nothing more.

8. Look for a lack of empathy. Psychopaths are callous and have no way of relating to others in non-exploitative ways. They may find a temporary kinship with other psychopaths and sociopaths that is strictly utilitarian and goal-oriented.

9. Psychopaths are often parasitic. They live off other people, emotionally, physically, and financially. Their modus operandi is domination and control. They will claim to be maligned or misunderstood to gain your sympathy.

10. Look for obsessive risk taking and lack of self-control. The Hare Checklist includes three behavior indicators; poor behavior control, sexual promiscuity, and behavioral problems.

11. Psychopaths have unrealistic goals or none at all for the long term. Either there are no goals at all, or they are unattainable and based on the exaggerated sense of one's own accomplishments and abilities.

12. Psychopaths will often be shockingly impulsive or irresponsible. Their shamelessness knows no bounds. You will ask, what were they thinking? And the answer was, they weren't because they did not care.

13. A psychopath will not genuinely accept personal responsibility. A psychopath will never admit to being wrong or owning up to mistakes and errors in judgment, except as part of a manipulative ploy. They will despise and denigrate their victims once they are done with them. If they have any regret it is that their source of satisfaction supply has ended and they must seek another.

14. Psychopaths lack long term personal relationships. If there have been many short term marriages, broken friendships, purely transactional relationships, the chances the person is a psychopath increase. Watch especially how they treat other people in weaker positions and even animals.

15. Psychopaths are often versatile in their criminality. Psychopaths are able to get away with a lot, and while they might sometimes get caught, the ability to be flexible and adaptable when committing crimes is indicative.

25 April 2017

Stocks and Precious Metals Charts - Dear Mr. Fantasy - Precious Metals Option Expiration

Another 'risk on' day after the French have seemingly chosen a populist neo-liberal businessman with little policy experience for their front runner.

And our own US version of this new breed, with considerably more panache, has signaled his intention to cut the US corporate tax rate to 15%.

If that 15% was like an Alternative Minimum Tax for corporations it might be a good idea, since so many of the big multinational corporations game the system and pay little to nothing in taxes almost every year.

Somehow, I don't think it is going to work out that way.

Rumor has it that the wealthy will also be enjoying a personal tax cut.

Trickle down tax cuts for the wealthy and their corporations do not produce broader growth and consumption.   Spending huge sums on projects designed to benefit a wealthy few, while shifting the burdens of bloated monopolies like healthcare and control frauds like TBTF banking to the middle and working class, in the face of record income inequality, is a policy recipe for disaster.

The ridiculous proposition is going to meet the unbelievable farce.

VIX, a measure of volatility and 'risk' is back down towards the lows of the year.

The US Dollar DX Index moved lower again, as part of the risk reversals trades. They are a bit extended now perhaps.

The metals were weak again today, in observance of the May contract option expiry on the Comex.

I like the way the chart formations are shaping up. But we will still need to wait for them to go 'active.'

Have a pleasant evening.

NAV Premiums of Certain Precious Metals Trusts and Funds

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

24 April 2017

Stocks and Precious Metals Charts - Risk On! - One Hundred Days - La Grande Trompe-l'œil

“What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.”

Augustine of Hippo

As you most probably have heard the French elections settled on the 'base case' candidates, Le Pen and Marchon.

None of the old line, established parties made the cut.

Le Pen is the hard nationalist right and anti-EU. Macron appears to be a political noveau, and a kind of Obama like centrist figure with a very friendly disposition to the status quo.

And so there was celebration on Wall St, since Macron is expected to roundly defeat the radical right's Le Pen. And thereby the European Union will be preserved from the contagion of Brexit.

Gold and silver were smashed overnight. Interestingly enough silver gained all of its losses back to finish largely unchanged, with a toe in the gains column.   There is a silver option expiry on the Comex tomorrow.

Gold gave up about 8 bucks.

Speaking of the buck, the DX index took a dive as happy speculators were piling back into the Euro on the apparent impending victory of the status quo over any kind of change.

Trump's first 100 days are at an end.  And so it is a good time to make some general observations—   he is almost incredibly ill-suited to be the President.   That is not to say that he could change and surprise us by doing the right things for the broad swath of the public, and the people who voted him into office that are not of the plutocrat class.  But that seems increasingly unlikely.

If you step back and listen with some objectivity, what the guy says is almost astonishing.  Especially if you are not from the NYC area, and are not familiar with and accustomed to the finely honed craftmanship of the fast-talking bullshit artist, and one who traffics in real estate deals to boot.

And so it is understandable that people desperate for change could be taken in by his unrelenting flood of grandiose nonsense.  And the Democrats, in their aloof arrogance, served up probably the only candidate that could have lost to him.  Hillary was so caught up in her own soft entanglements with big money and corrupt politics that she could only go after him on softer issues and identity politics.

Once again the establishment politicians missed the message;  it's the economy stupid.  And for the average American is it not good.

But I suspect that those who voted for the guy will continue to defend him and pledge their support, even as he burns them to the ground.  And I do believe, barring an impeachment or early resignation from office, that he will.  The guy is a walking talking collection of conflicts of interest that rivals the Clinton foundation in everything except a cynical contempt and elegance.

But that is partisan politics; it makes people go mad in herds.  After all, establishment Democrats have done no less for Hillary.  And she is about as inappropriate a candidate for the times, despite or perhaps because of her long seasoning in the corrupted halls of power.  Unless of course you just blame everything that went wrong for the DNC on the FBI, misogyny, and Russia.  

Have a pleasant evening.