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Monthly Archives: January 2014

National Association for Business Economics: Don’t Worry, Be Happy

“The stock market selloff last week was fueled in part by worries that big companies are going to have a hard time keeping their profits growing as the Federal Reserve starts shutting down its massive money pumps.

That’s news to a panel of top business economists, who insist profit growth will remain on track, according to a survey released Monday by the National Association for Business Economics.

“The outlook for 2014 is strengthening,” NABE President Jack Kleinhenz, said in a statement accompanying the release. Profit gains are expected “regardless of any changes in monetary policy.”

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., on Friday, Jan. 24, 2014.

Last week’s stock market rout was sparked by signs that the worlds developing economies may be slowing. But investors are also jittery about the Federal Reserve’s recently-announced plans to taper off its five-year-old, $3 trillion economic stimulus program.

(Read more: What’s up with the drop in stock prices?)

The worry is that the end of the so-called Era of Cheap Money could crimp the steady, ongoing rise in corporate profits that has propelled stocks higher since the end of the Great Recession. Higher borrowing costs could prompt companies to cut back on investment in expanded operations, including hiring and new plant and equipment.

But the business economists—many of whom work for the country’s biggest companies—doubt that will happen. Their advice: Don’t fear the taper.

The Fed’s new policy will have “no material effect” on either profits or capital spending plans, according to some 70 percent of the 64 respondents. And 13 percent said they thought the Fed’s new policy would have a positive impact.

The results weren’t uniform across industries, though. Economists at finance, insurance and real estate companies—about a third of those surveyed—showed the most concern about the Fed’s new moves. Some 40 percent said they expect a profit hit this year from the Fed’s change in policy….”

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Some Banks Begin to Restrict Large Cash Withdrawals in the Name of….

“If you bank at HSBC in England, don’t plan on making any large cash withdrawals. At least not without a good explanation. Or, maybe even a permission slip.

That’s because a previously unannounced change in banking policy is blocking some customers from making large withdrawals without “evidence” explaining why they need the money from their accounts .

The policy affects customers attempting withdrawals for amounts as little as £5,000 ($8,253).

HSBC says it’s all done in the name of customer protection.

“The reason being we have an obligation to protect our customers, and to minimize the opportunity for financial crime,” HSBC said in a statement. “However, following feedback, we are immediately updating guidance to our customer facing staff to reiterate that it is not mandatory for customers to provide documentary evidence for large cash withdrawals, and on its own, failure to show evidence is not a reason to refuse a withdrawal. We are writing to apologize to any customer who has been given incorrect information and inconvenienced.”

The change in approach comes after the BBC aired reports from multiple HSBC customers who said they were denied in their recent attempts to make cash withdrawals.

Banking customer Stephen Cotton says he attempted to withdraw approximately $11,000 to repay a loan from his mother but was blocked from doing so.

“When we presented them with the withdrawal slip, they declined to give us the money because we could not provide them with a satisfactory explanation for what the money was for,” he told the BBC. “They wanted a letter from the person involved.”

Cotton says the bank wouldn’t even tell him how much he was allowed to withdraw under the new policy, which was not announced to customers when taking affect last November.

“So I wrote out a few slips. I said, ‘Can I have £5,000?’ They said no. I said, ‘Can I have £4,000?’ They said no. And then I wrote one out for £3,000 and they said, ‘OK, we’ll give you that.’ ” ….”

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We Are Fuckin’ Gangster Yo

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Eat Your Wheaties

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Comedy Files: TSA Complaint

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Google Chrome Users Beware

“Users of Google’s Chrome browser are vulnerable to attacks that allow malicious websites to use a computer microphone to surreptitiously eavesdrop on private conversations for extended periods of time, an expert in speech recognition said.

The attack requires an end user to click on a button giving the website permission to access the microphone. Most of the time, Chrome will respond by placing a blinking red light in the corresponding browser tab and putting a camera icon in the address bar—both indicating that the website is receiving a live audio feed from the visitor. The privacy risk, according to a blog post published Tuesday, stems from what happens once a user leaves the site. The red light and camera icon disappear even though the website has the ability to continue listening in…..”

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Bernstein: Small Cap Stocks Poised to Gain on U.S. Strength

“While the Dow Jones Industrial Average has dropped 1.2 percent so far this year, the Russell 2000 index of small stocks has gained 1.5 percent.

That reflects the superior economic environment in the United States compared with overseas, says Richard Bernstein, CEO of Richard Bernstein Advisors, because small stocks are more tied to the domestic economy than large ones are.

“Small stocks have been up,” he tells CNBC.

“Part of what’s happening in large cap land — multinational exposure is hurting them. The market is starting to recognize the difference, that whatever is going on here in the United States is healthier than what’s going on in the emerging markets.”

Bernstein notes that it’s not surprising that Wall Street strategists are calling for gains by the stock market this year.….”

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Marrota Wealth Management: Real Unemployment is 37.2%

“Government figures understate the actual unemployment rate and misery index, says David John Marotta, president of Marotta Wealth Management in Charlottesville, Va.

He and colleague Megan Russell write in a commentary to clients that the true unemployment rate stands at a whopping 37.2 percent, rather than the 6.7 percent calculated by the government for December.

And the misery index, which adds together inflation and unemployment, totals 14.7, the worst in almost 40 years, rather than the 7.5 that would be derived using government data.

Editor’s Note: 5 Shocking Reasons the Dow Will Hit 60,000

The government’s unemployment rate errs because it includes only the unemployed who are looking for a job, Marotta says.

His 37.2 percent reading “obviously includes some people who are not or never plan to seek employment,” Marotta and Russell explain. “But it does describe how many people are not able to, do not want to or cannot find a way to work.”

The government also understates inflation…”

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Roubini Likens 2014 to 1914 Citing Tension Between Japan & China

With many parts of the world gearing up to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of the start of the First World War, Nouriel Roubini has solidified his hold on the title “Dr. Doom” by suggesting parallels between 2014 and 1914.

There may be no Austro-Hungarian empire or Archduke Franz Ferdinand, but Roubini tweeted this from the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos today: He then tweeted some of the reasoning behind this train of thought.

Nouriel Roubini


many speakers compare 2014 to 1914 when WWI broke out & no one expected it. A black swan in the form of a war between China & Japan?

Nouriel Roubini


Echoes of 1914: backlash against globalization, gilded age of inequality, rising geopolitical tensions, ignoring tail risks

While Roubini is renowned for his bubble warnings and doom scenarios, his concerns weren’t drawn out of thin air, but rather taken mainly from the lips of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

According to report from both The Financial Times and BBC, Abe said on Wednesday that China and Japan were in a “similar situation” to that of Britain and Germany ahead of World War One.

(Read more: Timeline of latest flare-up in China-Japan tensions)

However, Reuters reported that Abe’s top spokesman has denied the Japanese leader meant war was possible or imminent, which is still unthinkable for many.

Still, Abe said that China’s increase in military spending was a source of instability in the region and he reiterated his calls for a military hotline to avert a conflict. In November, China tried to impose an air defense zone over a small collection of islands in the East China Sea, which the Japanese call the Senkaku Islands while the Chinese refer to them as Diaoyu….”

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$GS’s Hatzius Makes the Case for Growing Corporate Profits

“Corporate profits were strong in 2013, with S&P 500 profits jumping an estimated 11% year-over-year.

With profit margins at record highs, some fear that we are due for some mean reversion, which could mean falling profits and tumbling stock prices.

However, Goldman Sachs’ Jan Hatzius doesn’t believe 2014 will see profits pull back.

“Profits are likely to accelerate in 2014, as GDP and productivity growth recover but wage growth picks up only gradually,” wrote Hatzius in a new note to clients.  “Eventually, the pendulum will swing back in the direction of lower profits, but probably not until the labor market has recovered sufficiently to push up hourly wage growth up to 4% or more.”

Let’s unpack this.

To understand his bullish thesis, you have to look back at 2013, a year when profit growth overcame significant headwinds. Hatzius identified three: 1) relatively weak GDP and productivity growth in the U.S.; 2) very weak growth outside of the U.S.; and 3) low and declining inflation.

Despite these challenges, after-tax corporate profits grew an estimated 6.5% using the definition of the national income and product accounts (NIPA).


goldman labor costsGoldman Sachs


Here’s Hatzius on the strength:


What accounts for the strength? We believe that the key reason is the continued slack in the US labor market, and the resulting weakness of nominal wage growth. Exhibit 1 shows that our wage tracker–a composite measure based on the three most widely used hourly wage measures–is still only growing at about 2%. This weakness has held down unit labor costs even in an environment of sluggish GDP and productivity growth. And in turn, the subdued growth of unit labor costs has supported profit margins even in an environment of low price inflation…

For 2014, Hatzius expects wage growth to remain modest. Furthermore, he expects the three headwinds mentioned earlier to act as tailwinds…”

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Jamie Dimon: “Sun, the Moon and the Stars” Align for U.S. Economy


“The “sun, the moon and the stars” have finally begun to align for the U.S. economy, creating room for companies to grow, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon told CNBC on Wednesday.

In an interview on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Dimon said that profit margins are up, cash hoards are growing, and small and midsize businesses are better placed.

“I believe the sun, the moon and the stars are lined up. … Corporate America’s in excellent shape,” Dimon said. “Six million more Americans are working. Americans are wealthier in their homes, their 401(k)s. And government is doing no damage.”


“I think those things are going to line up, that it’s possible that we’re just going to start to strengthen as a company, that investors will be looking for opportunities,” he added. “Remember, companies want to expand.”

Dimon’s comments came just days after his bank reported earnings, which were down year-over-year on investment banking weakness and legal costs related to the Bernard Madoff case….”

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Revolution Interrupted

[youtube://http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zPlPIsWMkDA#t=571 450 300] [youtube://http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u21DO0qn9h8 450 300] [youtube://http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EUw4HS53eHY 450 300]

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Getting Hosed in the U.K.

“The Association of Chief Police Officers says that the need to control continued protests “from ongoing and potential future austerity measures” justifies the introduction of water cannon across Britain for the first time….”

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World’s Wealthiest Expect Equities to Outperform, Discuss Income Inequality as Biggest Threat to Global Economy

“Billionaires attending the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting this week in Davos, Switzerland, expect to be richer when they return to the Alpine village next year.

About a half-dozen of the wealthiest participants, including Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest person, and Irish telecommunications mogul Denis O’Brien, said stocks will rise, interest rates will remain low and they’d avoid investing in the virtual currency Bitcoin in 2014.

“The bull market will continue, we’ve actually turned the corner,” Dangote said in an interview at the forum’s Congress Center last night. “I believe it’s going to be a whole new ballgame. Things are improving in all sectors: in banking, in vehicle manufacturing, almost all the sectors. And I think we’ve left the bad past behind.”

Dangote is one of at least 80 billionaires joining more than 2,500 business and political leaders in Davos this week, according to a list of attendees and promotional materials obtained by Bloomberg News.

As billionaires bet on accelerating growth and rising asset prices, income inequality is emerging as a key theme for this week’s annual meeting. A study released last week by the forum identified the income gap as the most probable menace to the global economy during the next decade. Wealth disparity — driven by globalization and the recent financial crisis — threatens to breed poverty and social disorder, it said.

UBS Study

Billionaires attending Davos two years ago said income inequality was an issue they wanted to discuss amid the Occupy Wall Street movement, which targeted the world’s richest 1 percent.

The wealthiest people on the planet got even richer last year, adding $524 billion to their collective net worth, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, a daily ranking of the world’s 300 wealthiest individuals. The aggregate net worth of the world’s top billionaires stood at $3.6 trillion at the market close yesterday, according to the ranking.

A study by UBS AG economist Paul Donovan last month found that pretax income of the top one percent of Americans amounts to about 20 percent of all U.S. income, which is comparable with levels in the early 20th century.

Using Gini coefficients to measure income inequality, Donovan found those for the U.S., U.K., Japan, France and Canada have each risen since 2005….”

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The Bow Tie: Au Will See a Short Covering Rally

“A short-covering rally is in store for gold after its 28 percent drop in 2013, says legendary investor Jim Rogers, chairman of Rogers Holdings.

Already, the precious metal has gained 4 percent this month, with the February Comex contract trading at $1,241 an ounce Wednesday morning.

Investors sold gold last year as anticipation that the Federal Reserve would taper its quantitative easing quelled worries about inflation.

“There are huge shorts that have developed in precious metals,” Rogers explains, according to The Economic Times of India.

“So, it’s overdue for a rally. We had a big drop in 2013. Everybody got negative, everybody got short. So, we are going to have a rally.”

But the upswing is unlikely to last, Rogers notes…..”

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Corporations Find Themselves Flush With Cash, Will They Spend It or Hoard It ?

“When the corporate cash dam bursts, everything will be ok, right? Well, maybe.

Investors betting that the past year of more than 20 percent gains in western stock markets can be echoed, or at least sustained, through 2014 have long assumed that a corporate spending revival will nurture a building economic recovery.

The argument is simple. Years of banking crises, credit droughts and economic uncertainty have prevented businesses investing for the future. Instead, they have clipped costs, wages and jobs and built up huge stockpiles of cash rather than investing in new plants, staff, updated technology, equipment or acquisitions.

As the economic fog lifts, this idle, near zero-yielding cash will surely be put back to work eventually, they argue, creating a potentially virtuous circle of greater demand, higher growth, earnings and employment all round.

The problem, however, is that assumes cash stockpiling has all been due simply to a hiatus in the economic cycle. Many argue the hoarding is instead driven by more durable demographic trends and political reforms that are stirring corporate anxiety about exposure to soaring pension and healthcare costs as workforces age and government coffers shrink.

If that’s true, then this brewing economic recovery may not release pent-up business cash on any scale close to that suggested by the eye-popping cashpiles…..”

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