Wednesday, May 7, 2014

17 Facts To Show To Anyone That Believes That The U.S. Economy Is Just Fine

No, the economy is most definitely not “recovering”.  Despite what you may hear from the politicians and from the mainstream media, the truth is that the U.S. economy is in far worse shape than it was prior to the last recession.  In fact, we are still pretty much where we were at when the last recession finally ended.  When the financial crisis of 2008 struck, it took us down to a much lower level economically.  Thankfully, things have at least stabilized at this much lower level.  For example, the percentage of working age Americans that are employed has stayed remarkably flat for the past four years.  We should be grateful that things have not continued to get even worse.  It is almost as if someone has hit the “pause button” on the U.S. economy.  But things are definitely not getting better, and there are a whole host of signs that this bubble of false stability will soon come to an end and that our economic decline will accelerate once again.  The following are 17 facts to show to anyone that believes that the U.S. economy is just fine…
#1 The homeownership rate in the United States has dropped to the lowest level in 19 years.
#2 Consumer spending for durable goods has dropped by 3.23 percent since November.  This is a clear sign that an economic slowdown is ahead.
#3 Major retailers are closing stores at the fastest pace that we have seen since the collapse of Lehman Brothers.
#4 According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 20 percent of all families in the United States do not have a single member that is employed.  That means that one out of every five families in the entire country is completely unemployed.
#5 There are 1.3 million fewer jobs in the U.S. economy than when the last recession began in December 2007.  Meanwhile, our population has continued to grow steadily since that time.
#6 According to a new report from the National Employment Law Project, the quality of the jobs that have been “created” since the end of the last recession does not match the quality of the jobs lost during the last recession…
  • Lower-wage industries constituted 22 percent of recession losses, but 44 percent of recovery growth.
  • Mid-wage industries constituted 37 percent of recession losses, but only 26 percent of recovery growth.
  • Higher-wage industries constituted 41 percent of recession losses, and 30 percent of recovery growth.
#7 After adjusting for inflation, men who work full-time in America todaymake less money than men who worked full-time in America 40 years ago.
#8 It is hard to believe, but 62 percent of all Americans make $20 or less an hour at this point.
#9 Nine of the top ten occupations in the U.S. pay an average wage of less than $35,000 a year.
#10 The middle class in Canada now makes more money than the middle class in the United States does.
#11 According to one recent study, 40 percent of all Americans could not come up with $2000 right now even if there was a major emergency.
#12 Less than one out of every four Americans has enough money put away to cover six months of expenses if there was a job loss or major emergency.
#13 An astounding 56 percent of all Americans have subprime credit in 2014.
#14 As I wrote about the other day, there are now 49 million Americans that are dealing with food insecurity.
#15 Ten years ago, the number of women in the U.S. that had jobs outnumbered the number of women in the U.S. on food stamps by more than a 2 to 1 margin.  But now the number of women in the U.S. on food stamps actually exceeds the number of women that have jobs.
#16 69 percent of the federal budget is spent either on entitlements or on welfare programs.
#17 The number of Americans receiving benefits from the federal government each month exceeds the number of full-time workers in the private sector by more than 60 million.
Taken individually, those numbers are quite remarkable.
Taken collectively, they are absolutely breathtaking.
Yes, things have been improving for the wealthy for the last several years.  The stock market has soared to new record highs and real estate prices in the Hamptons have skyrocketed to unprecedented heights.
But that is not the real economy.  In the real economy, the middle class is being squeezed out of existence.  The quality of our jobs is declining and prices just keep rising.  This reality was reflected quite well in a comment that one of my readers left on one of my recent articles
It is getting worse each passing month. The food bank I help out, has barely squeaked by the last 3 months. Donors are having to pull back, to take care of their own families. Wages down, prices up, simple math tells you we can not hold out much longer. Things are going up so fast, you have to adopt a new way of thinking. Example I just had to put new tires on my truck. Normally I would have tried to get by to next winter. But with the way prices are moving, I decide to get them while I could still afford them. It is the same way with food. I see nothing that will stop the upward trend for quite a while. So if you have a little money, and the space, buy it while you can afford it. And never forget, there will be some people worse off than you. Help them if you can.
And the false stock bubble that the wealthy are enjoying right now will not last that much longer.  It is an artificial bubble that has been pumped up by unprecedented money printing by the Federal Reserve, and like all bubbles that the Fed creates, it will eventually burst.
None of the long-term trends that are systematically destroying our economy have been addressed, and none of our major economic problems have been fixed.  In fact, as I showed in this recent article, we are actually in far worse shape than we were just prior to the last major financial crisis.
Let us hope that this current bubble of false stability lasts for as long as possible.
That is what I am hoping for.
But let us not be deceived into thinking that it is permanent.
It will soon burst, and then the real pain will begin.

Michael T. Snyder is a graduate of the McIntire School of Commerce at the University of Virginia and has a law degree and an LLM from the University of Florida Law School. He is an attorney that has worked for some of the largest and most prominent law firms in Washington D.C. and who now spends his time researching and writing and trying to wake the American people up. You can follow his work on The Economic Collapse blogEnd of the American Dream and The Truth Wins. His new novel entitled “The Beginning Of The End” is now available on

Einhorn: Bernanke Answers “Frightening” During Dinner Chat

David Einhorn, president of Greenlight Capital, spoke with Bloomberg Television’s Stephanie Ruhle and Erik Schatzker today about technology stocks, investment strategy, Federal Reserve policy, and activist investing and high-frequency trading.
On a March 26 dinner conversation with Bernanke, Einhorn said: “I got to ask him all these questions that had been on my mind for a very long period of time, right? And then on the other side, it was like sort of frightening because the answers weren’t any better than I thought that they might be. I asked several things. He started out by explaining that he was 100 percent sure that there’s not going to be hyper inflation. And not that I think that there’s going to be hyper inflation, but it’s like how do you get to 100 percent certainty of anything?”
Einhorn said he was keeping an “open mind” about new Fed Chair Janet Yellen. “I would love to see if she had a better reason for rates to remain at zero at this stage of the economy.”
Highlights include:

STEPHANIE RUHLE: We’re going to get right to our second big exclusive guest this morning.  We are shifting from telecom to hedge funds.  David Einhorn is here.  He runs the $10 billion long-short fund Greenlight Capital, and he made headlines recently by declaring the tech sector to be in a bubble.  So we need to clarify that because as usual, the media never seems to get it right David, now do we?
DAVID EINHORN:  Well, I don’t know.  We’ve written — we wrote in the letter that there’s — that we thought there’s another tech bubble, but we said it was an echo bubble.  And I’d like to emphasize the echo, meaning it’s a smaller bubble.  It’s not contained with all tech.  We’re actually massively long tech.  We’re — our biggest position is Apple and then Micron and Marvel (ph), but we think that there’s a sub-segment of tech which is high momentum stocks that have gotten completely out of control in terms of their valuation, and we think that those stocks actually did reach sort of a bubble proportion.
RUHLE: And they’ve gotten out of control why, because everyone’s just rushing to be in the tech sector and buying anything that they’ve got (ph)?
EINHORN: Well it’s a combination. These are mostly very good businesses, but there’s a difference between what the right price for a very good business is and where some of these stocks have gotten. And this is what happens in bubbles and what happens in momentum. If you have good news and it’s a penny or a percent better than you thought it was and then the stock has to gap up 15 percent higher in response to that, and you do that four or five or six quarters in a row, before you know it the stock has doubled or tripled but the results might only be 5 percent better than you thought that they were and the valuations got out of control.
ERIK SCHATZKER: Valuations out of control. David, you wrote in your letter to investors for the first quarter that you see some of these stocks dropping by 90 percent. So good businesses that are overvalued by that much?
EINHORN: Well let me clarify it. What I was saying was is in the previous bubble back in 1999-2000, even the best stocks fell –
SCHATZKER: Right, like Amazon for example or Cisco, right?
EINHORN: And those were the best ones. The worst ones fell even more than that. Some of them practically went out of business, right? And what I’m saying is when these stocks become disconnected, they’re very difficult to short because when they’re at a price that’s a silly price they can just keep going. And so twice a silly price is not twice as silly.
SCHATZKER: And some of them are recent IPOs where the float is tiny, right?
EINHORN: Well that too, but it doesn’t matter because it can be a very big company or it can be a small company. But twice a silly price is not twice as silly. It’s still just silly. And so once these things disconnect and then they decide to come back the other way and people say, all right, I’m a grown investor. What would I be willing to pay for this? But I’m disciplined, so I have to look at the multiples now. And now you start looking at the multiples. There’s a really long way for these stocks to fall. And then where a value investor gets interested it’s — it’s even less (inaudible).
SCHATZKER: Which multiples matter to you the most?
EINHORN: Well for simplicity, just cal it PE for now.
SCHATZKER: Well some of them don’t have E.
EINHORN: (Inaudible) that’s a problem because some of these businesses, not only don’t they have earnings, they don’t really have serious plans to make earnings in the future.
SCHATZKER: I look — I ran a — because I know you do this kind of thing. Now my attempt at it is far less sophisticated and comprehensive than yours, but I looked at stocks with a billion dollars of market cap trading at 10 times price to sales and that are traded here in the United States. There’s 89 of them, and the first nine that come up don’t have any earnings at all and aren’t expected to have any earnings in the next 12 months. And we’re talking about stocks trading at as many — as much as 2,900 times sales.
EINHORN: Wow. That’s a lot.
SCHATZKER: Yeah. Now 89, and that doesn’t even include the one that I know you’ve shorted, Athena Health.
EINHORN: Right. Right. No. Look, I don’t think we have a generalized stock market bubble, but I do think we have a certain number of stocks that have caught everybody’s fancy, attention. There’s good stories behind a lot of these stocks and these companies, but the valuations I think have just gotten out of control.
SCHATZKER: So what’s in — you’ve taken a different approach than perhaps the conventional route, which would be pinpointing, identifying overvalued single-name stocks and shorting them and instead gone for a basket approach. What’s in the basket?
EINHORN: Well, a whole number of stocks. Probably many of the ones on your list. We identified one  yesterday as an example. I don’t really want to get into all the different ones that are in the basket, but I think it’s — I think people can more or less sort these things out. Certainly we’re not saying like Apple is a short or Micron is a short. We’re long those things.
SCHATZKER: But is Twitter a short, for example? Twitter’s a company that people, as you know, have raised many valuation concerns about and it shows up on my list.
EINHORN: Yeah. Well here’s the thing. Like when we put out this letter, half the people were very upset that they thought we were talking our book. And the other half of the people were upset that we weren’t telling them all the names. So you really couldn’t please anybody. So I thought I’d bridge this yesterday by giving out one, by giving out one.
RUHLE: But why do you have to please anyone? You’re a hedge fund investor. The only people you need to satisfy are your investors. Go fish. You don’t have to write a letter. You don’t have to tell anybody anything.
EINHORN: Well let’s be clear. The letter is to our investors.
RUHLE: But everybody gets it.
EINHORN: This is an investor letter, right? It gets out there. We have a lot of investors, so we have to send it to a lot of people. And as a result, it does — it does get out there. And (inaudible).
RUHLE: Well why can’t you talk your book? Isn’t that what everybody does every day of their lives?
EINHORN: I think adding information to the market so that people can sort these things out, I think it’s constructive and that’s why we tend to sometimes share our thinking.
SCHATZKER: You started to come to these ideas not just in the first quarter but several quarters ago. In fact, in the third quarter you wrote to your investors that investors that — that the market tin general was getting increasingly creative in its behavior. What did you mean by that and is it more creative now, and if so, how?
EINHORN: Yeah. Well look, I think we — the best we can do as value investors is we’re never going to be long these things. We’re not going to be long Athena Health at –
SCHATZKER: — guy. I can see that.
EINHORN: We’re disciplined value, guys. So the best that we can do is hope to not be short them too much at the wrong time. And so we did a very good job I think in hindsight last year not really being short these or not being short much of them. And then this year it seemed like the environment was beginning to turn and maybe things were heading towards a peak, and so we shorted a whole bunch of them.
RUHLE: You want to talk about Athena?
RUHLE: So walk us through the idea behind it.
EINHORN: Sure. Look, I think Athena is — is a very good example of this. This is a good business with a good strategy and a good product and a good management that’s doing good things for the world, but it stock is just at the wrong price and it’s really as simple as that. And what happened was is a few weeks ago Morgan Stanley came out with this conventional DCF valuation where they projected out the results until 2030 and we just looked at that and said, wow, how are you going to get from a 10 percent margin before stock comp to a 30 percent margin? And we thought about the business, and we just don’t think that the assumptions that they’re using there are plausible.
RUHLE: Well you say — or you said in your presentation they weren’t a cloud company. What exactly would constitute a cloud company then?
EINHORN: Well the way I look at it is there’s two types of — of these Internet companies. There’s ones that have sort of a network effect and there’s others that don’t really have network effects. A network effect to me means that having more users on the network makes the site more valuable to each user. So eBay is a great example of this. Everybody likes auctions and — and knows if you want to auction something off you go to eBay because that’s where the buyers are going to be and the buyers know where the sellers are going to be. So it’s very hard for a new entrant to come in and penetrate that. So eBay is able to extract value from that network by charging fees and commissions and so forth.
But there’s other types of Internet companies where your relationship is very much with the provider. So having lots of customers, it might help the provider be a little more efficient. It might help them run their business better, but it doesn’t really present them with a competitive position that allows them to earn like huge excess profits over a long period of time. And I think Athena sort of falls more into that latter category.
SCHATZKER: David, if I understand it correctly, you have raised the concern that Athena may not be able to compete with other large vendors like Epic (ph), for example.
EINHORN: And the bull case really requires them to make a huge inroads into the hospital market.
SCHATZKER: Okay. So I can understand how investors may have duped themselves into believing that Athena Health can do that, but what about customers? Ascension Health is become a client of Athena Health and that’s a pretty big company. Are they similarly duping themselves?
EINHORN: No, no, no. Athena has a good product and — and they have customers and they have real customers, and I wouldn’t tell Ascension or anybody else not to use their product. I think it’s a fine product. I think the market opportunity is maybe smaller than people think because they’re already up to 37,000 doctors, which is a lot, and they concentrate in these — in the ambulatory business, so not in the hospitals.
So a large amount of the doctor population is away from them. And if hospitals buy up doctor practices, the available pool shrinks. Plus there’s been a huge move towards electronic health records. The stimulus provided huge incentives for doctors to take these systems on and a lot of them have done that. And Athena has captured part of that, but there’s been now a huge penetration of electronic health records and in the next year or two we think they’re going to run into a saturation and their growth is going to slow down.
RUHLE: And what’s your timing? So I want to just make it — I know you’ve said — I want to make it very clear. This is not the case — the way you’re looking at this, you’re saying it’s a good company. This is not a Green Mountain, a Lehman. Those were much different scenarios. For here, this is about price. Correct?
EINHORN: That’s correct.
SCHATZKER: When does the market wake up and revalue these overvalued stocks?
EINHORN: Well I don’t know. Perhaps it already has. It’s possible that the top was in — a few weeks ago.
SCHATZKER: So the biotech sell-off, for example –
EINHORN: The stocks have come in a lot. Now we won’t know. In a year it will be very clear was that the top, was that not the top, did they rally back. Certainly they’re going to have sharp rallies even if they are going to continue to go down, and we’ll know in hindsight whether this was the top or whether this was a correction and so forth. Our strategy is to have relatively small positions in a large number of these things and let time be on our side.
SCHATZKER: Talk to us a bit more about the warning signs. Stephanie and I remember what they were — what they were back in the 1999-2001 timeframe.
RUHLE: Every single night in New York City another tech party for another company that you didn’t know what they did.
SCHATZKER: Eyeballs, for example, price to earnings ratios of 1,000 or more. What are they today?
EINHORN: Look, I don’t know about the multiples, but we’ve seen — we’ve seen a lot of concentration on addressable markets. We’ve talked about a lot of things with average (inaudible).
SCHATZKER: So people just like blue-skying their opportunities.
EINHORN: You mentioned it. Price to sales because there is no earnings, right? And there’s not really a forecast for earnings over any intermediate period of time. There’s just a hope that you’ll achieve a critical mass and eventually margins –
SCHATZKER: Well hey, there’s a good example for that, right? Amazon generates profit but at an incredibly skinny margin. And it seems focused on building a customer base and revenue more than anything else, and for a long time investors have been pretty happy with that idea.
EINHORN: The stock has done terrifically.
SCHATZKER: Until earlier this year.
EINHORN: The stock has done terrifically, absolutely, and they can continue to do terrifically until — until they don’t. But the truth of the matter is with something like like Amazon –
SCHATZKER: (Inaudible) the way things go, right?
EINHORN: With Amazon you’re still looking at a rather fancy — fancy PE there.
SCHATZKER: So back to the warning signs. What else? What else –
EINHORN: — you saw things that — look, I went through this in 1999 and 2000 and — and tried to watch what I saw. Some things happened was shorts couldn’t stay involved. The daily pain was simply too much and you saw these parabolic or whatever kind of moves, and you saw that in a lot of these stocks. If you put up the stock chart of Athena, it certainly did that up to 200. And it was very, very hard. You could see short sellers being carried out of these things where even if they thought that they were right they weren’t able to keep (inaudible).
SCHATZKER: And there we see the corrections.
EINHORN: And then you also see that the short interest goes way down, right? And so in a lot of these stocks there’s much lower short interest now than there was before. Another thing you saw was I think the King Digital IPO. These IPOs — people were buying these IPOs without thinking too much about them because they were going up 40 percent the next day or 30 percent the next day.
SCHATZKER: Or because their kids played Candy Crush.
EINHORN: No, not that one, but all the other ones that came out in the previous few weeks were having these huge pops. And when there’s huge pops in the IPOs, everybody calls up the underwriters and just gets them whatever it is and they don’t really analyze the companies or think about it. They just want the money on the first — first day’s worth of trading. And then if the stocks hold those prices it brings out the next IPO.
What you saw with King, they priced it not so well and then the stock traded down. And I think around that same time there was a secondary offer of — of Veve. VEVE is the ticker that the — that they did. They priced that in the hole (ph) and then that didn’t trade very well. And that sort of told me that we were beginning maybe to get towards the end of — of the cycle.
RUHLE: Had those two names in your basket?
EINHORN: I’m not mentioning any more names.
SCHATZKER: How many are in the basket?
SCHATZKER: How many is lots? Well I don’t know, are we talking about 100 names?
EINHORN: Dozens. Dozens of names.
SCHATZKER: So bigger than a bread box, smaller than a Volkswagen Beetle.
EINHORN: Perfect.
RUHLE: Does it make it exceptionally hard to know how to be a value investor right now? Because fundamentally, no one’s going to disagree with you. But when we look at the IPO market, when we look at hedge funds, insurance companies everyday walking into work, they need to return. These deals look great. When they know they can get a big allocation, it’s attractive to buy. How do you keep that discipline at a time when momentum seems to be on your side?
EINHORN: Well, sometimes it’s a struggle and — and you have to play — we like — we like the time arbitrage. We like to get our analysis right and sometimes just wait longer than other people, and that’s one of the things that — our horizon for investments is not usually a day or a week or a month. We tend to on the long side be really one to four years, which is ancient on Wall Street these days particularly with hedge funds.
RUHLE: Then is it unfair that –
EINHORN: There’s a lot to do on the long side.
RUHLE: Then is it unfair that activists are getting this brand right now? They’re good-time Charlies. They’re only in for a very short period, when Bill Ackman just said yesterday he’s got a six to seven-year time horizon. You’re saying four years. Do activists have the wrong brand right now?
EINHORN: Well I’m not going to sort out the differences between me and Bill. I think that they’re considerable. I think for us we’re doing the same thing that we’ve always done. We’re not suddenly more activist. In fact, we’re really not that activist. We did a thing with Apple about a year and something ago. Before that I think it was four or five years prior to our prior activism thing. It doesn’t mean we couldn’t turn around tomorrow and wind up declining to do something, but these are very — very infrequent. Yes, but I’m not going to argue with people who want to characterize. I don’t see myself that way.
RUHLE: All right. David, we have to take a quick break.
SCHATZKER: I’m Erik Schatzker with Stephanie Ruhle and David Einhorn. He’s –
SCHATZKER: — of Greenlight Capital. So far a terrific conversation. David, I want to turn our attention away from individual stocks, we might go back there in a moment, and talk about the macro environment, quantitative easing, things that you have for a long time raised concerns about.
You were at the Ira Sohn conference yesterday presenting one of your best investing ideas, shorting Athena Health. And Paul Tudor Jones, another hedge fund manager, was at Ira Sohn yesterday and he said this. “What we desperately need is a macro doctor to prescribe central bank Viagra because otherwise it’s going to continue to be somewhat dull.” Now Paul may share your concerns about quantitative easing, but quantitative easing has been awfully good for people who are long the stock market at the very least. Do you share that view?
EINHORN: Well look, I adore Paul. We do Robin Hood together. He is one of my — my favorite managers around.
SCHATZKER: And an awfully smart guy.
EINHORN: And an awfully smart guy. I don’t really think that they should set macro policy to create volatility for macro fund managers. That doesn’t strike me. So I think he’s going to have to live with the environment that — that he gets on — on that. That being said, as you know, I’ve been very critical of the monetary policy over the last few years.
SCHATZKER: Jelly donuts and all.
EINHORN: They jelly donuts.
RUHLE: All right. Well you recently had dinner with Ben Bernanke. What went down? We didn’t get to be there.
EINHORN: Well, it was — I watched him for years in front of Congress and speaking and watched him on TV and “60 Minutes” and –
RUHLE: And what was your opinion of him before you had dinner?
EINHORN: I was — I’ve been critical. I’ve been critical of him for a very long time. And the dinner for me, in one way it was cathartic because I got to ask him all these questions that — that had been on my mind for a very long period of time, right? And then on the other side, it was like sort of frightening because the answers weren’t any better than I — than I thought that they might be.
SCHATZKER: What did you ask him?
EINHORN: I asked several things. He started out by explaining that he was 100 percent sure that there’s not going to be hyper inflation. And not that I think that there’s going to be hyper inflation, but it’s like how do you get to 100 percent certainty of anything? Like why can’t you be 99 percent certain and like how do you manage that risk in the last 1 percent? And he says, well, hyper inflations generally occur after wars and we didn’t have — that’s not here. And we — we — there’s no sign of inflation now and Japan’s done a lot more quantitative easing than we’ve done, and they don’t have it. So — and if there is a big inflation, the Fed will know what to do. That was kind of the answer. And –
RUHLE: What did you say?
EINHORN: That was it. Then it went to the next question. So then a few minutes later it came back and I got to ask him about the jelly donuts. And my thesis is that it’s like too much of a good thing. Like lowering rates and quantitative easing and these stimulative things, they help but with a diminishing return. And eventually you go too far and it’s like eating the 35th jelly donut. It just doesn’t help you. It actually slows you down and makes you — makes you feel bad. And my feeling has been that by having rates at zero for a very, very long time the harm that we’re doing to savers outweighs the benefits that might be seen elsewhere in the economy. So I got to ask him about this.
SCHATZKER: Okay, and what did he say?
EINHORN: Well he said — he said — first of all he says, you’re wrong. That was good. And then he said the reason is if you raise interest rates for savers, somebody has to pay that interest. So you don’t create any value in the economy because for every saver there has to be a borrower.
And what I came back to him was I said, but wait a minute. You said for a long time we haven’t had enough fiscal stimulus, and who’s on the other side of the low interest trade? It’s the government. And so if the government — if we raise the rates, the government would have to pay more money to savers. You’d have the bigger deficits. You’d create the stimulus, the fiscal stimulus that you’ve been complaining that Congress wouldn’t give to you, right? And savers would benefit from the higher rates and because savings is spent at a very high rate in terms of interest — interest income on savings is spent at a high percentage, you’d get a real flow through into the economy.
SCHATZKER: One of the questions you’ve raised about quantitative easing in one of your letters to investors was about inequality. Did you get any satisfaction from Ben Bernanke on the question of whether quantitative easing exacerbates inequality?
EINHORN: Yeah. He — he sort of — that did come up and I don’t remember exactly what he said. So I don’t want to –
SCHATZKER: It wasn’t memorable.
SCHATZKER: How about this notion that Warren Buffett has propagated that the Fed has become with its $4 trillion balance sheet the greatest hedge fund in history?
EINHORN: Yeah. I’m not sure that’s meant as a compliment.
SCHATZKER: But did that issue come up? There were a number of people (inaudible).
EINHORN: Yeah. There were people — there were people who were asking, yes, and he says — he says the Fed can manage their way out of it when the time comes.
SCHATZKER: But in a persuasive way? Did he — did he convince anyone?
RUHLE: Or did he say Janet’s problem now, not mine? I’ll have another drink.
EINHORN: He was — he was very supportive of Janet.
SCHATZKER: No doubt.
RUHLE: Are you?
EINHORN: I want to keep an open mind here. I saw her speak at the Economics Club a couple weeks ago and I was impressed by her speech. I thought — she said, look, we have a base expectation, but things change. And when things change, we’re going to change our policy. I thought that was good. She’s — I don’t look at one economic factor to drive things. I’m going to look at all of the factors. I thought that was good. I think the way she’s approaching problems at least conceptually is very good. I’d love to see if she has a better reason why rates should remain at zero at this stage in the economy, but you take these things and see where she goes. She’s just gotten started.
SCHATZKER: David, you wrote a few months ago, “No one is really sure what the Fed is focused on.” Between your dinner with Bernanke and Janet Yellen’s public statements to the press or in congressional testimony, do you feel you have any better an idea of what the Fed is focused on?
EINHORN: Well, I’m not sure — I’m not sure where you’re quoting me from exactly. And so I’m not sure –
SCHATZKER: Third quarter letter to investors.
EINHORN: Yeah, thank you. I could use a sentence on either side.
SCHATZKER: Fair point, fair point. I don’t have the context. I do have it here, but I’m not going to bother looking it up.
EINHORN: Thank you. I apologize.
SCHATZKER: Do you feel — no, that’s fine. Do you feel any more confident about the Fed’s ability to manage that $4 trillion balance sheet than you felt before? You worry, for example, that if we run into greater economic — if not greater — if we run into economic headwinds at some point in the next few years and the Fed still has trillions of dollars, it’s not going to be able to (inaudible).
EINHORN: If you start — if you start at a zero rate and you start with a huge amount — huge balance sheet and the economy turns down, the available tools that they will have are limited and there’s a risk that they will have to choose a tradeoff between doing something exceedingly aggressive, right, versus allowing a — a crisis situation to fester. And they might choose to do something exceedingly aggressive and it may have a — that 1 percent outcome.
RUHLE: David, why I — while I only like to see you on Bloomberg Television, we had a chance to see you on “60 Minutes” just a few weeks ago right around Michael Lewis’s book and Flash Boys. And when I first saw “60 Minutes” I said, I get it. David Einhorn’s behind this. He’s supporting Michael Lewis’s argument. And then Michael Lewis sitting right here said David Einhorn’s a dumb tourist in this. Help me make sense of all this. Where do you stand? Because you’re not a dumb tourist to us.
EINHORN: Well thank you. Look, I think what we saw was we saw a little bit of a structural problem in the market. The market has gotten better and better and better over the years, but there’s a little bit of inefficiency with some of the market structure with the fragmentation. And we ran across these fellow who had an idea as to how to make a better platform for investors, IEX. And so we said here’s a little bit of a problem. We can help be part of that solution. We invested a little bit of money with them. We encouraged our friends to invest with them.
RUHLE: All right. David, we have to go to a quick commercial. We’ll be back with more in just a minute. Stay here.
SCHATZKER: With us, David Einhorn of Greenlight Capital. David, we almost did something really unfair to you, and Stephanie and I just aren’t about that. So –
RUHLE: It was filling me with anxiety. You’re giving the answer, the music’s beginning, I’m stressing.
SCHATZKER: Stephanie asked you a really important question and we didn’t give you enough time to answer.
EINHORN: You’re really nice not to give me the hook like that. I appreciate that.
SCHATZKER: So let’s do it again. Stephanie was asking you about high-frequency trading. Michael Lewis’s book Flash Boys, the exchange, the new kind of marketplace — stock marketplace, IEX, that he’s praised and you’ve supported. And then our interview with Michael Lewis in which he referred to you almost ironically because it was in the context of a poker game, something that you happen to be pretty good at, as a dumb tourist at a casino. So let’s go back to what you were saying before.
EINHORN: All right. I was explaining before that we — we were educated about some of the problems in the market and we helped gather up friends to invest in IEX and get that platform going off. And I should really actually call out my head trader Bruce Gudkin (ph) who did an amazing job of talking to other traders, talking to the investment banks trying to help them build their — their network. And we’ve been really big supporters because we think that this is one of several things that probably need to be done to help level the playing — level the playing field.
SCHATZKER: Okay. So how do you go from being an IEX supporter, backer, organizer effectively, together with your head trader Bruce, to in Michael Lewis’s description a dumb tourist? I don’t — I don’t really — do you get –
SCHATZKER: Why would he single you out as the schmoe at the — at a rigged poker table?
EINHORN: Yeah. Look, that’s okay. Stephanie, you asked him about his fact checking.
RUHLE: Yeah.
EINHORN: What he does is sense checking rather than fact checking. And so that’s probably what he –
RUHLE: Isn’t that dangerous to do to –
EINHORN: He wanted to tell his story his certain way. I think he was providing a good service because it is based on a true story and I think he is identifying some problems in the market that — that can be improved upon. And so let’s not quibble too much about how he tells it.
RUHLE: Would you call the stock market rigged in the way that he does or simply needs improvement?
EINHORN: No, I wouldn’t — I wouldn’t go that way at all. But there are some opportunities for it to get better for investors. And I’m hoping that IEX would — would be part of that.
SCHATZKER: David, it’s been a pleasure having you back here on “MARKET MAKERS.”
RUHLE: An absolutely pleasure.

Global Contagion Of Unprecedented Leverage Spreading Like A Pollen Storm From East To West And Back Again, Blanketing All Four Corners.

Goldman, BOA and JP Morgan break two-year support lines
So Goes the Banks, So Goes the Broad Market? Well… this is not a perfect analogy, yet more often than not, what banks do (strong or weak) does seem to have an important impact on the broad markets.
The above 3-pack reflects that Bank of America, JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs have all broken below 2-year rising support lines, while the broad markets have not.
The Power of the Pattern would suggest to keep a close eye on these key financial stocks to see if any further weakness takes place and if it starts to impact the S&P 500.
China Manufacturing PMI Misses 6th Month In A Row As Home Sales Collapse 47% YoY
For the 6th month in a row, China HSBC Manufacturing PMI missed expectations. With a 48.1 print for April (vs 48.3 flash) this is a very modest rise from March’s 48.0 but is the 4th month in a row of contraction for the broader-based HSBC-version of the PMI (as opposed to the official more-SOE-biased version which remains in modest expansion). This is the longest streak of contraction since Oct 2012 (and the 3rd consecutive month of new order contraction) as employment drops for the 6th month in a row. Most worrying new export orders dropped further showing no signs of a US-driven pick-up post-weather. As if that was not enough to upset the ‘recovery is around the corner’ crew, home sales in China in the most recent (most frenetic typically) period, collapsed 47% year-over-year (and a stunning 65% in tier-2 cities)But apart from that – everything’s great in the newly appointed largest economy on earth…
Margin debt takes a turn from all-time high levels. Be concerned?
It doesn’t matter until it matters! Will a decline in margin debt from all-time highs matter this time? Doug Short each month does an excellent analysis on margin debt and the latest update is now out.  (see current info here) 
In the past margin debt at historical levels didn’t seem to matter, until margin debt started decreasing. The above chart highlights that at each (1), margin debt was at historical highs and then turned south and the S&P 500 soon followed.
In my humble opinion one should not look at margin debt as the holy grail to portfolio construction. It has been a good tool in helping to know when to overweight and underweight towards risk assets.
Margin debt has been swiftly pushing higher for the past 8 months in a row and now slipped a little this past month. IF….IF margin debt should start decreasing swiftly, history would suggest something different is taking place in the mind of aggressive investors.
Bubble talk catches fire among big-money pros
“Covenants have been stripped away, cov-lite is the norm, senior debt levels are actually higher than they were in 2007, although total debt is not quite where it was,” Rowan added, noting looser lending terms given to borrowers.
“We’re back to doing exactly the same things that were done in the credit markets in the crisis.”
Time Bomb About to Blow

Global Manufacturing Growth Slows To A 6-Month Low 

Safe Havens Since The Great Financial Crisis

by Taki T 
How have the traditional safe havens performed since the great financial crash of 2008 / 2009? What can we expect from the traditional safe havens going forward? Those are the two questions we try to answer in this article.
The safe havens we look at in this article are the US Dollar, US Treasuries, gold and the Yen. Obviously, with a never seen amount of debt backing the US dollar and the Yen, some would (rightfully) question their safe haven status. However, the reality is that the market is considering them safe havens, because of a lack of globally accepted alternatives.
We have prepared a set of four charts to guide us in our thinking, see below. The US Dollar is shown in the first of the four charts. We have marked several key events in the last five years which, combined with the pattern on the chart, tell an interesting story. Our interest in the big picture, not in trading. We look at the monthly charts to smooth short term price movements, which we consider noise in the context of this article.
As the great financial crisis started to unfold in 2008, there was a flight to the US Dollar and Treasuries, as well as the Yen. The depth of the crisis marked the top of the US Dollar. The greenback has not been able to exceed its 2009 heights.
When Mr. Bernanke opened the easy money gate and flooded the banking system with a tsunami of liquidity (aka QE1), the value of the dollar logically fell down. In the year 2009, the dollar lost 15% of its value. When the end of the first stimulus package came in sight, the value of the dollar reversed its course. The end of QE1 is marked in green on the chart, implying it is dollar positive (pardon us, we know that central bankers do not consider a strengthening currency as positive, but let’s stick to simple human being logic).
The second round of QE resulted in a smaller loss in the value of the dollar. Again, the end of QE2 made the greenback go up in value.
In 2012, the world was fearing a breakup of the Euro area. The Euro crisis resulted in a flight to safety, i.e. the US dollar (indicated with a green arrow on the chart).
However, as of that point in time, we see several “irregularities” in the dollar index. First, when “QE Infinity” started, contrary to the previous rounds of monetary injections, the dollar went higher till the summer of 2013. A plausible explanation for this would be the start of a strong bull market in US equities. Second, the crisis in Syria was not really able to send the Dollar higher. The fact that the Syria crisis was short lived could serve as an explanation.
However, since the first round of tapering in December 2013, the Dollar has been losing ground. Admittedly, we are not able to find any serious argument as an explanation. The US Fed has tapered already half of their monthly bond purchases; the Dollar has gone down since then. On top of that, the situation in Ukraine is not really supporting the greenback. The only rationale for this trend, in our view, is inherent weakness.
Interestingly, the chart reveals how “dollar positive” events (marked with green arrows) since the summer of last year have not resulted in strength in the dollar.
safe havens dollar treasuries gold yen april 2014 money currency
From a chart perspective, the dollar has arrived at a critical support point. It is testing a key support area for the third time since 2012. Is the dollar weakening because US equities have topped? Or is the world losing trust in its reserve currency?
An insight to answer that question was provided by Alex Merk recently. He stated that the euro is strengthening against the dollar. A currency index is made up of several exchange rates, each one with a specific weigth. As is the case for the Dollar index, its most important component is the Euro which accounts for some 55%. So, increasing trust in the Euro could be the driver, at least partly, of recent dollar weakness.
Euro strength could explain the major divergence between the US Dollar and US Treasuries. As the chart above shows, 2014 is a year, so far, which marks weakness in the greenback and strength in Treasuries.
What about the other two safe havens: gold and the Japanese Yen? Interestingly, both have had a similar pattern since 2009. After an initial drop in the gold price during the financial crisis, the yellow metal went steeply higher until September 2011. Since then, the price has declined till December 2013. The Yen has a similar pattern, although it lost much more of its value over the course of 2013.
Mind that the Yen index has a composition of 4 other currencies, with an equal weight of 25%: Euro, US Dollar, Australian Dollar, New Zealand Dollar. Recent strength in the Euro and weakness in the Dollar could, for now, explain why gold and the Yen have held up.
Where do we go from here?
The first conclusion is that US Treasuries and gold are the only assets who are significantly higher than where they were at the top of the financial crisis.
Second, looking at the evolution of safe havens since the great financial crisis is, it seems there is no real safe haven among currencies (mainly US Dollar and Yen). If the recent past is a prologue of future events, than investors should really be prepared to embrace change. What is considered a safe haven in 2012 is the biggest loser among currencies in 2013.
Going forward, given the correlation between gold and the Yen, there is a high probability that the Nikkei 225 is topping, leading to strength in the Yen index. Admittedly, in distorted markets, this type of simple correlations could be worthless. But, nonetheless, one should not exclude a top in equities and a bottom in Yen, taking gold higher in such an environment.
In general, given the current financial and monetary context, it is not realistic to expect another 12 year bull market in any asset, even not in gold or silver. With the distortion created by central planners it is unlikely that a long term rise in any asset is able to hold. The global currency war will undoubtedly result in cracks in the monetary system and in several currencies in particular. Do not exclude the landscape to change with a political decision; in a matter of seconds the world could look different.
In the same respect, the probability of a monetary event shocking the landscape of currencies is very high. In case gold is remonetized with the aim to alleviate the world’s debt burden, a sudden spike in the price of gold could realistically be expected. However, it remains anyone’s guess when and how that will happen.
For individuals and investors, it seems a safe bet to be prepared in the “no safe haven era” with physical gold in its possession, outside the banking system. That is the ultimate safety on counterparty risk which cannot be provided by any other safe haven.