Saturday, February 28, 2009

Weekend Musings

Dear Readers,

I am here after a long time and now is the time to be regular, regular after a hard and testing three and a half month time. During this period I used to think so many things about economy, markets and public (read masses) sentiment and I thought when I am free from this work on hand, I'd miss a lot of things in the course. I did miss many things but looking in retrospective, there are hardly any big changes out there. Things turned out as they should have.

I shouted here once that there is NO BOTTOM in sight yet and I did give a good reasoning behind that. I believed both the US Markets as well as the Emerging Markets to remain in downtrend and the contemporary optimism is only a manifestation of continuation of prior trend, which is bearish.

Manifestation? why? Well, the simplest gauge to guess market direction is mass sentiment. Whenever masses are exuberant it is a sign of TOP and whenever masses are gloomy is a sign of recovery. Masses were over exuberant in the end of 2008 and markets reversed direction. Masses need to be all gloomy if this downtrend has to come to an end (bottom) and so far there are still so many hopeful souls that anyone who says (so many have so many times said) its a bottom is under an effect of some strong intoxicating agent. People still hope. People still believe that govt or some Messiah will turn things around. People en mass, aren't good in economics, but, even if we take a survey of elite economists, many would bet its a bottom and this makes case as strong as titanium for continuation of bear market. If you turn history pages you will find this is a perfect example of start of a depression - perpetual hope.

I will turn bullish on stocks when I see people around me, the media and most economics say things like "stocks are bad things, economy can't recover, stocks at 5 PE are so expensive etc etc." Unless masses are depressed there can't be a bottom in sight.

In My Humble Opinion, Obama, the God of Big Things, will be most unlucky presidents ever happened on the soil of US of A. Its not that he didn't have a chance. The fact is he has kicked this opportunity to revive world economy by continuing the mistakes of Bush & Co. and he will repent in 2012 if he continues with what he is doing today. I repeat for the sake of recalling my view that the only solution to this crisis can be "Let the mistakes of Irrational Exuberance Era Correct by Itself". If the mistakes of that era are let alone, we would definitely have a shock across the globe, but sooner we would ride a new sustainable recovery and growth and better sense of economics. BUT, these politicians have decided to keep playing their games.

I warned my dear readers when Indian Markets were going Gung Ho after govt announced a number of measures to stimulate growth. I doubted the interest rate cuts, I doubted the fiscal stimulus plan of spending huge sums of money on infrastructure projects. Today, the rating agencies are nodding with my view. Where were they then? sleeping? or partying on the announcement? Indian govt can't afford big fiscal or monetary stimulus as its currency is not the reserve currency of the world. And, at a time when questions are being raised even over the US govt's stimulus plan, whose currency is the reserve currency of today's world economy, the act by our Harvard graduate erstwhile finance minister causes doubt in my mind - what do they teach in Harvard? Then, all of a sudden I get the answer - they may be teaching good things but its the politics that is forcing our own Harvard graduate FM to act like this. He has only few days remaining in power and he has pressure from his party, his coalition and then MASSES. He needs to show that he "did act" in time.

Let me come to the markets. The Indian S&P CNX Nifty is in fresh downtrend after a bearish rising pattern which I warned about in my last analysis. Same is the case for S&P 500 of US. In my next post I will put my analysis with more insight.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Sunday Fun!

Friends,
Today I am posting an interesting piece of thought. This is from Bill Bonner (details at the end of article) of The Daily Reckoning and his language is sarcastic but thought provoking. It makes for an interesting read, indeed.

THE GOOD WAR
by Bill Bonner

The Washington Post reports that the War on Terror is over. No armistice
has been announced. No treaty has been signed. The whole thing is just
being dropped quietly, like a burnt-out cigarette. Too bad. It was our
favorite war.

In the few words that follow, we explain why. First, the background:

“The history of the world is but the biography of great men,” was Thomas
Carlyle’s contribution to the genre. But here at The Daily Reckoning we
are more of the ‘cometh the hour, cometh the man’ school of history. When
something needs doing...there is always finds some clown dim enough to do
it. Osama bin Laden was that man.

“Bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy”, was what he was up to, he
said in a videotape. He even did the math. “Every dollar spent by al-Qaida
in attacking the US has cost Washington $1m (£545,000) in economic fallout
and military spending,” said the report.

“We, alongside the mujahideen, bled Russia for 10 years, [in Afghanistan]
until it went bankrupt ... So we are continuing this policy in bleeding
America to the point of bankruptcy.”

How many generations will still tell of bin Laden’s triumph? He brought
down not just one empire, but two. His band of terrorists leeched the
Soviets so thoroughly, they fainted. It was no coincidence that the
Soviets lost Afghanistan in the same year their empire disintegrated.
Then, he delivered a challenge to the America’s ‘amour propre.’

The attack on the World Trade Center incited a death wish. The feds
flashed a Red Alert; Americans cowered in their houses and sealed their
windows and doors against biological attack. The 9/11 attackers could have
been pursued by the usual gendarmes – at negligible cost. Instead, in the
general panic, the Bush administration decided to go all out. Thus it was
that the greatest stimulus package since WWII began – in haste and in
delusion.

The federal budget went from its biggest surpluses to its biggest
deficits. Interest rates were cut too – to an emergency rate of 1%. Within
24 months, the bubble in the Nasdaq was replaced by much bigger bubbles –
in housing, finance, derivative debt, art, private equity, executive
compensation, student loans and other forms of private debt. In effect,
bin Laden suckered the fattest man on earth into having another ├ęclair.
The thunder coming from the financial markets for the past 18 months is
the noise of his midriff exploding.

But we are not writing to complain about Osama bin Laden or the Bush
Administration’s reaction. When it comes to war and adultery, make-believe
may be better than the real thing. Certainly, it is safer. In the War on
Terror, the enemy had no tanks...no aircraft... no ships...no armies...no
celebrated strategists...no famous generals...no sophisticated
weapons...no military culture...no leather trench coats...no burnished
helmets...no battle cries.... The problem was, it was hard to find the
enemy at all. The Department of Homeland Security conducted 3 billion
airport inspections looking for them. We remember getting patted down so
thoroughly we felt we should leave a tip. But how many enemy combatants do
you think they nabbed? Not a one.

There are two possibilities. The first is that the security procedures
were so fearsome that terrorists dared not try anything funny. The second
is that there weren’t really many terrorists at large – at least, not in
the United States of America.

But compare it to WWI or WWII...or even a penny ante affair like the
Spanish American war. The War on Terror mobilized the whole nation in a
Great National Cause...at much expense, much damage to the Constitution,
and much inconvenience, but without actually causing much real suffering.
Sure, a few hapless Muslims, caught in the wrong place at the wrong time,
were put on the rack. And yes, the cops in London gunned down a Brazilian
electrician. Back in the United States, young couples did not embrace as
they had in WWII – that is, as if there would be no tomorrow. Instead,
they spent money as if there would be no tomorrow! No doubt, the desperate
spending contributed to the bankruptcy of the whole system of bubble
finance. But compared to the pain of a shooting war; the War on Terror was
a delight. As far as we know, the Department of Homeland Security suffered
not a single casualty. Not even any self-inflicted wounds. No executions
for treason. And hardly any reported cases, neither of fleeing in the face
of the enemy...nor collaborating...nor sabotage.

What a shame to let such a marvelous war to end without even a victory
parade. Some of the agents should at least get medals for courage under
fire...or exceptional valor.

Perhaps some special award Such as the special agents who arrested Tamera
Jo Freeman. A ‘Black Heart’ medal might be appropriate. The woman was on a
flight to Denver when her children got into a squabble. She spanked them
both...and then Homeland Security agents put the cuffs on her. Charged
with committing an “act of terrorism” she spent three months in jail and
lost custody of her children.

And there ought to be some medal for the Pentagon flatfoot who put the
long arm of American law all the way across the Atlantic and onto the
shoulder of Gary McKinnon. Mr. McKinnon, as the mayor of London informed
us on Tuesday, believes in UFOs. And to prove that the U.S. army is hiding
information on extraterrestrials, he hacked into the Pentagon’s
computer...leaving his email address and a message: “Your security is
crap.”

Rather than thank him for this useful observation, the Defense Department
no doubt put out a billion dollar consulting contract for someone to tell
them their security is crap...and put out a warrant for Mr. McKinnon’s
arrest on a terrorism charge. That kind of service above and beyond the
call of duty should be recognized.

So form up the battalions of veterans! Assemble the legions of luggage
inspectors and metal detector operators...and all the thousands of
investigators, worn down by five years of following leads to nowhere!
Dress them up in bright, clean uniforms...and give them their moment of
glory. Pin medals on their chests. Then have a jolly march down Fifth
Avenue. Line the streets. Give them a hearty hoorah as they march by.
Throw out the ticker tape. Young girls ...fling yourselves at them...and
get a kiss! And then, send them home.

Enjoy your weekend,

Bill Bonner
The Daily Reckoning

Editor’s Note: Bill Bonner is the founder and editor of The Daily
Reckoning. He is also the author, with Addison Wiggin, of the national
best sellers Financial Reckoning Day: Surviving the Soft Depression of the
21st Century and Empire of Debt: The Rise of an Epic Financial Crisis.

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