Saturday, January 22, 2011

Immigration, World Poverty and Gumballs - Updated 2010

HES Radio: World Financial Report

The World Financial Report brings you timely information on the worlds most exciting markets like oil, precious metals, currencies, commodities and hard money markets like very rare color diamonds and collectibles. The World Financial Report makes predictions and gives investment advice and has been very successful in identifying trends in the marketplace.

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22 Facts About California That Make You Wonder Why Anyone Would Still Want To Live In That Hellhole Of A State

Why in the world would anyone still want to live in the state of California at this point? Residents of California have been forced to endure a brutally oppressive level of taxation for many years, and yet the state of California has still managed to find itself on the verge of bankruptcy. California Governor Jerry Brown declared a "fiscal emergency" in his state on Thursday, but nobody is even pretending that such a declaration is actually going to help matters. Brown wants to cut even deeper into the state budget (even after tens of billions have already been slashed out of it in recent years) and he wants to explore ways to raise even more revenue. Meanwhile, the standard of living in California is going right into the toilet. Housing values are plummeting. Unemployment has risen above 20 percent in many areas of the state. Crime and gang activity is on the rise even as police budgets are being hacked to the bone. The health care system is an absolute disaster. At this point California has the fewest emergency rooms per million people out of all 50 states. While all of this has been going on, the state legislature in Sacramento has been very busy passing hundreds of new laws that are mostly about promoting one radical agenda or another. The state government has become so radically anti-business that it is a wonder that any businesses have remained in the state. It seems like the moving vans never stop as an endless parade of businesses and families leave California as quickly as they can.

One of the only things keeping the population of California relatively stable at this point are the massive hordes of illegal immigrants that are constantly pouring into California cities. There are certain areas of major California cities that you simply do not ever want to go into anymore. In fact, there are rumors that the police will not even venture into certain areas anymore.

Traffic in California is a bigger nightmare than it ever has been before and the state cannot even keep up with repairing the roads and infrastructure that it already has. There are a few areas of California where you can still see the promise of greatness and the amazing natural beauty that once attracted tens of millions of Americans to the state, but they are few and far between now. At this point, most of the state is turning into one gigantic hellhole. (more)

Bloomberg Businessweek - 24 January-30 January 2011

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The Great Depression II

One basis for deciding whether we are in a "recession" or a "depression" is distinguishing how recessions become depressions. With the hindsight of history, we already know.

Parallels between America's current economic crisis and the 1930's Great Depression are instructive. Then, as now, hardship was preceded by a major banking upheaval. Then, as now, a regulatory blizzard followed. Then, as now, millions were displaced. And then, as now, the cause of the Great Depression was widely misunderstood. Many believe today that the 1929 stock market crash caused the Great Depression all by itself, that it was so severe it mysteriously destroyed wealth for another 13 years. To put that in perspective, the serious Carter-era recession should have, by this logic, precluded the Reagan recovery in 1982 and perhaps wreaked havoc until 1990. Not only is this argument absurd, it manifestly did not happen.

In Franklin Delano Roosevelt's 1933 inaugural address he lectured that "[t]he only thing we have to fear is fear itself," suggesting Americans suffered irrational neuroses. This is not at all true. Americans made entirely rational and prudent business decisions amidst considerable uncertainty. Though FDR is invariably cast as heroically facing down near-insurmountable economic travails, the less-flattering diagnosis is much more obviously true: he caused them.

With the New Deal, the Second New Deal, TVA (rural electrification), FERA (emergency relief), CCC (youth work program), AAA (farming subsidies), NIRA (industrial regulation and public works), PWA (public works), WPA (public employment), FDIC (banking regulation), and Social Security all exercising unprecedented Federal power, investor uncertainty was justified and profound. Roosevelt's willy-nilly spending legitimized concern that personal fortunes would be entirely consumed. Capricious policies (often framed by class warfare) caused real fear, not "fear of fear itself," fanning a bad recession into the Great Depression. Without doubt, the Crash of 1929 was extremely serious -- almost as serious as the great unraveling that started in September 2008. The Great Depression from 1932 to 1942, however, was Roosevelt's fault. (more)

Will Repatriation Of The Offshore Cash Hoard Lead To A Dollar Surge: Goldman's Take On A Second Homeland Investment Act

With Goldman's economic team having been subsumed by the Koolaid borg, lately we have been largely ignoring their once must read critical pieces, as the all out onslaught to prevent the ponzi collapse was started in November (we expect Hatzius to pull another 180 in April, just ahead of the May market crash which will lead right into QE 2+, but that is another story). This is a shame, because the team of Hatzius et al used to have insightful things to say. Alas, now all they do is cheerlead every single data point no matter how superficial or ugly the behind the headlines story is. Which is why we were pleasantly surprised to read the following research report by Goldman's Robin Brooks which discussed the consequence of the now seemingly inevitable tax holiday allowing multinationals to repatriate their cash without paying taxes. Following Obama's latest Wall Street corporatocratic hiring spree, we are now convinced that it is merely a matter of months if not weeks before this is announced. As such it will be a replay of the Homeland Investment Act of 2005. Oddly, this event has not be actively priced by the market. Goldman is correct that in all likelihood this will have a very dollar positive result, which likely explains precisely why the dollar has been allowed to drop so much against the euro, as the next leg will likely push the greenback well into the 1.20 range, if not lower. That this will happen just as the second round of European stress tests will only feed the flames of the EUR's collapse. The below piece examines Goldman's thinking of how this event will influence the EURUSD. Goldman, which is very client bullish on the EURUSD (and is therefore selling selling EURs in droves) states that it believes the likelihood of a HIA part 2 is very small, even as it frames the major strength the dollar would experience as a result. We agree with the latter and disagree with the former: one way or another, the Obama administration will need to get the $1+ trillion currently offshore. When that happens, watch as the EURUSD plunges to multi-year lows. (more)

Why Natural Gas Prices Will Finally Rebound - And How to Profit With ETFs: DIG / DUG / FCG / GAZ / UNG / XES / XOP

Here are the breakeven points of different natural gas locations across the US for 15% after-tax rate of return (data from Credit Suisse).

Many people’s claims saying that natural gas prices will continue to be depressed cite all the new supply due to shale gas discoveries. Because of this, they say, natural gas prices are forced to stay depressed. The one mistake in this argument is that it assumes all supply sources are equal. Judging from the chart above, this is hardly the case.

Simply put, there are low-cost gas fields and high-cost gas fields. As you can see from the data, cost structures of different gas fields vary wildly.

Currently, natural gas prices sit just above $4. According to the above data, many gas fields have breakeven levels much higher than this to achieve the industry standard 15% after-tax rate of return. A good number of these gas fields even range from $5.11 to $7.81.

These breakeven economics leave companies with only high-cost gas fields in the uncomfortable situation of having to purchase lower cost acreage to push their average breakeven points lower, or keep producing at a loss. (more)

Brace for a ‘perfect storm’ in gold

Investment implies moving some part of one’s assets from financial safety to a position of acceptable risk with the hope of increasing wealth over time. What qualifies as “acceptable risk” may thus be seen to be the gating question for the investment criteria of a “prudent man”. This has come to be known as the Prudent Man Rule to guide persons entrusted with the finances of others.

Although the rule remains a guiding principle in the fund management industry to this day, at least one key element has changed. In 1971, our understanding of ultimate safety was transformed when President Nixon ended the US government’s certification that each dollar in circulation was, in effect, worth exactly 1/35th of an ounce of gold.

Since all major currencies had been linked to gold via the US dollar since 1945, when the US held the majority of monetary reserves, the announcement provoked a momentous change in the financial culture. Cash no longer meant gold: the amount of dollars the Federal Reserve could print would not be restricted to some degree by a stored metallic tangible asset with a finite supply. In a great leap of faith, paper dollars and traded US federal liabilities became “risk-free” assets while gold, long regarded as money itself, was disdained as a “commodity”, a volatile “risk asset”.

This historically radical new notion was validated by the arbiters of money themselves. Central bankers dumped gold, driving prices down sharply during the 1990s. They thereby reinforced the MBA textbook perceptions that the dollar and US Treasury bonds were “risk-free” assets and gold a “barbarous relic,” as John Maynard Keynes famously called it. (more)

Jim Rogers: Oil 'Will Probably' Soar to Record $200 a Barrel

Oil prices could hit a record $200 a barrel on rising demand and dwindling supplies, says investor guru Jim Rogers, who predicted the start of the global commodities rally in 1999.

"Known reserves of oil are declining. It is not good news. Unless somebody discovers a lot of oil very quickly, prices are going to go much higher over the next decade," Rogers tells the BBC.

"The price of oil is going to make new highs. It will go over $150 a barrel. It will probably go over $200 a barrel."

Benchmark oil for March delivery lost $2.22 to settle at $89.59 a barrel Thursday on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Thursday in London, Brent crude declined $1.58 to settle at $96.58 a barrel on the ICE futures exchange. Oil hit a record peak of $145 in July 2008. (more)

Which Of The Currencies Of The World Is Going To Crash First?

Last year was an absolutely fascinating time for world currency markets. The yen, the dollar and the euro all took their turns in the spotlight. Each experienced wild swings at various times, but the overall theme that we saw was that faith in paper currencies is dying. The biggest reason for this is the horrific sovereign debt crisis that has swept the globe. The United States, Japan and a whole host of European nations are all drowning in debt. The U.S. and Japan are both steamrolling toward insolvency, and several European nations would have already defaulted on their debts if they had not been bailed out. So which of the major currencies of the world is going to crash first? Will one (or more) of the big currencies fall before the end of 2011? Once one major currency collapses will the rest start to fall like dominoes? The truth is that the world has never seen a sovereign debt crisis of this magnitude in all of human history. Almost the entire globe is drowning in a sea of red ink and it has brought us right to the brink of financial disaster.

So which of the currencies of the world is going to be the first to come crashing down? Well, let's take a quick look at the yen, the euro and the dollar....

The Yen

Japan has the 3rd biggest economy in the world, but they are also deeply swamped in debt. At well over 200%, the Japanese government has the biggest debt to GDP ratio of all of the major industrialized nations. In fact, it is estimated that this massive pile of Japanese government debt amounts to approximately 7.5 million yen for every person living in the entire nation of Japan. (more)

5 Stocks Leveraging Facebook: CMG, DECK, NFLX, UA, LULU

Social media has taken the internet by storm over the past several years. While companies were a bit slow on the uptake, some have more than made up for lost time.

At first Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites were viewed as the enemy, sucking productivity from employees. But, as users grew by the millions, no hundreds of millions, some companies made the wise choice to jump on board.

What Does Facebook Actually Do?

As a relatively late comer myself, I never really saw the point of Facebook. While it may be oddly addicting, do I really need to know that some girl from high school is going to Mexico next month? Or about that friend of a friend who can't wait to go see some band I have never heard of?

But that isn't the point. The information flow is. I know more about my "friends" than I would have if it weren't for Facebook. And I know even more about those people that are my actual friends and family. And companies can use that information flow for their benefit. (more)

The Economist - 22nd January-28th January 2011

The Economist is a global weekly magazine written for those who share an uncommon interest in being well and broadly informed. Each issue explores the close links between domestic and international issues, business, politics, finance, current affairs, science, technology and the arts.

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