Archive for April 2012

April 30th: Ed’s Daily Portfolio Summary and Open Thread   Leave a comment

BAC: -0.14 to $8.11 (-1.70%, 2.01% overall)–bought at $7.95
CBRL: -0.32 to $57.52 (-0.55%, 4.56% overall)–bought at $55.01
NNVC: -0.01 to $0.58 (-1.69%, -19.44% overall)–bought at $0.72
ORB: -0.10 to $12.56 (-0.79%, -3.31% overall)–bought at $12.99
SLRC: -0.14 to $20.76 (-0.67%, -10.13% overall)–bought at $23.10
YCL: 0.42 to $33.55 (1.27%, 1.45% overall)–bought at $33.07

OVERALL: -0.05%

Posted April 30, 2012 by edmcgon in Open Thread, Portfolio

Daytraders corner   36 comments

The euro is down against the dollar, which is down against the yen. Stock index futures are down. Which way do we go?

So far this year, the last trading day of the month has had 2 down days (January 31st and February 29th) and one up day (March 30th). No trends there.

The longer technicals are positive, but that doesn’t mean the market won’t shift direction in a day.

I won’t make a guess today, as none of the usual “tells” seem to apply. But here are the resistance/support levels for the S&P 500:

Upper resistance: 1420 (upper range of the Bollinger Bands).
Lower support: 1386 (20 day moving average) and 1383 (10 and 50 day moving averages).

Posted April 30, 2012 by edmcgon in Daytrading, Market Analysis

Jobs Week: Ed’s Daily Notes for April 30th   5 comments

Today’s Personal Income and Spending Report, from Bloomberg:

Personal income and spending beat expectations for March. However, the spending number was partly due to inflation. Still, the spending trend is good. Personal income in March improved 0.4 percent after a 0.3 percent rise the month before (originally up 0.2 percent) . The market median forecast called for a 0.3 percent gain. The important wages & salaries component gained 0.3 percent after advancing 0.4 percent in February.

Consumer spending in March increased 0.3 percent, compared to a 0.9 percent in surge in February (previously up 0.8 percent). Analysts expected a 0.4 percent increase. By components, durables dipped 0.3 percent in March (autos declined after a strong February); nondurables jumped 0.9 percent on higher gasoline prices; and services edged up 0.1 percent.

Chained-weighted spending was still positive, nudging up 0.1 percent and following a robust 0.5 percent jump in February.

On the inflation front, the headline PCE price index rose 0.2 percent, compared to 0.3 percent in February.
The market median forecast was for a 0.2 percent boost in March. The core rate firmed to 0.2 percent in March from 0.1 percent the prior month. Expectations were for a 0.2 percent boost.

This kicks off jobs week in the U.S.:

WEDNESDAY: ADP Employment Change Report
THURSDAY: Challenger Job Cuts Report
FRIDAY: Nonfarm Payrolls and Unemployment Rate

Bloomberg: Tea Party Congressmen Accept Cash From Bailed-Out Bankers
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-30/tea-party-congressmen-accept-cash-from-bailed-out-bankers.html

It’s official now. The Tea Party has been bought by Wall Street:

Tea Party favorites such as Stephen Fincher of Tennessee were swept into Congress on a wave of anger over government-funded bailouts of banks.

Now those incumbents are collecting thousands of dollars for re-election campaigns from the same Wall Street firms whose excesses they criticized. They have taken no significant steps to curb them or prevent future taxpayer-financed rescues.

Republican freshmen have made clear their disdain for expanding government, and openly opposed a financial regulatory overhaul enacted by Democrats in 2010 before the newcomers arrived in Washington. Their ranks include ten Tea Party-backed freshmen on the House Financial Services Committee, part of a force that won election in a populist backlash to government spending that included emergency lending to major banks and bailout of firms including U.S. automakers.

Still, the lawmakers haven’t passed, considered or even introduced legislation to address concerns about “too-big-to- fail” banks voiced by members of both parties and such Federal Reserve bank presidents as Richard Fisher of Dallas and Jeffrey Lacker of Richmond, Virginia.

“I haven’t seen any of them putting forth legislation on breaking up the big banks or on other things that would genuinely prevent a bailout next time,” said Marcus Stanley, policy director of Americans for Financial Reform, a Washington- based umbrella group of organizations that supported the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act and other financial regulations.

Since arriving in Congress in January of 2011, Tea Party- backed lawmakers have demonstrated their determination and muscle by forcing several rounds of government spending cuts through standoffs over raising the national debt ceiling with House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and other Republican leaders, putting the government on the brink of a shutdown.

Yet the anti-bailout fervor that drove the messaging of Republican candidates during the campaign cycle of 2009 and 2010 has dissipated, and those same lawmakers are now collecting money from the firms bailed out by President George W. Bush’s $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program bailout program.

Five banks — JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc., Wells Fargo & Co., and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. — held $8.5 trillion in assets at the end of 2011, equal to 56 percent of the U.S. economy, according to central bankers at the Federal Reserve. Combined those institutions took $150 billion in bailout money in 2008 and repaid it by the end of the next year.

The political action committees of those institutions have distributed $169,499 through March 31 to the campaign coffers of the ten freshman Tea Party-backed lawmakers on the House Financial Services Committee, according to an analysis of campaign finance disclosure records.

Readyfor the next bailout yet?

Bloomberg: Spain Slips Back Into Recession in First Quarter: Economy
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-30/spain-gdp-contracts-less-than-forecast-amid-recession.html

Spain’s economy contracted in the first quarter, putting the euro region’s fourth-largest economy into its second recession since 2009.

Gross domestic product fell 0.3 percent, the same as in the previous three months, the Madrid-based National Statistics Institute said today. That compares with the Bank of Spain’s estimate on April 23 for a 0.4 percent decline. From a year ago, GDP dropped 0.4 percent, INE said.

Not a good way for Europe to start the week…

Bloomberg: Europe’s Anti-Austerity Calls Mount as Elections Near
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-29/europe-seeks-to-restore-calm-after-spain-downgrade-growth-spat.html

A recession in Spain and forecasts of rising unemployment in the 17-nation euro area are amplifying criticism of the German-led austerity agenda in election campaigns this week in France and Greece.

With Spain’s largest unions leading marches involving thousands of protesters in 55 cities yesterday, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s government battled to prevent Spain from becoming the next country to seek a bailout. In France, where the presidential-election runoff is set for May 6, Socialist frontrunner Francois Hollande pushed back against German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s focus on deficit reduction.

I will say it for the 15 millionth time: Austerity doesn’t do a country any good in the absence of a balanced budget. As long as any country continues to run a spending deficit, and thereby continues creating investable debt, it creates an economic black hole which sucks up all of a nation’s liquidity. Austerity only compounds the economic problem by reducing government spending.

Bloomberg: Fascist Salutes Return to Greece as Anti-Immigrants Chase Voters
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-29/fascist-salutes-return-to-greece-as-anti-immigrants-chase-voters.html

You folks thought my idea that Greece could become another Nazi Germany was far-fetched before. Perhaps we are seeing the blooming of a fascist movement in Greece?

The Golden Dawn party may enter the parliament in Athens for the first time after May 6 elections, current polls show, as rising anti-immigrant sentiment among austerity-hit Greeks spurs support for groups formerly on the political fringes. Ninety percent of people surveyed for a To Vima newspaper poll published on April 9 said immigrants are responsible for an increase in violence and crime.

Replace the word “immigrants” with “Jews”, and the similarities are striking. Also:

The group is known for its violent clashes in immigrant neighborhoods and for a red and black party logo resembling a disentangled swastika. Members of the group have said it’s not Nazi or fascist and they reject any connection of its logo to a swastika, saying it’s an ancient Greek symbol. A video of Golden Dawn leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos shows him giving the fascist salute.

Golden Dawn’s charter says its “main ideal and belief is the nation-tribe” and that “only men and women of Greek descent and consciousness should have full political rights.”

If you look at Germany after World War I, and Greece now, there are some striking similarities, the main one being the nation’s culture does not accept responsibility for the economic depression happening there. Whether the Golden Dawn turns out to be another Nazi Party remains to be seen, but the similarities between both parties as well as the economic chaos which sprouted them are terrifying to consider.

Chicago Tribune: Maybe no housing rebound for a generation: Shiller
http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-04-24/news/sns-rt-us-usa-housing-reboundbre83n0sk-20120424_1_housing-rebound-high-gas-prices-robert-shiller

The Housing market is likely to remain weak and may take a generation or more to rebound, Yale economics professor Robert Shiller told Reuters Insider on Tuesday.

Shiller, the co-creator of the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller home price index, said a weak labor market, high gas prices and a general sense of unease among consumers was outweighing low mortgage rates and would likely keep a lid on prices for the foreseeable future.

“I worry that we might not see a really major turnaround in our lifetimes,” Shiller said.

The S&P/Case-Shiller composite index of 20 metropolitan areas gained 0.2 percent in February on a seasonally adjusted basis, the first uptick in prices in 10 months.

But Shiller called it “a very mixed bag.” Nine of the 20 cities recorded falling or flat prices on the month.

One thing which Shiller doesn’t mention, but that supports his theory, is the aging of the Baby Boomers. With more of them retiring, they won’t be “upsizing” their housing, and may actually be downsizing in many cases (i.e. moving into smaller houses, rentals, apartments, and even nursing homes eventually).

I won’t go so far as to say we aren’t at the bottom of the housing market bust, but I also think the upside is limited for the foreseeable future.

New York Times: How Apple Sidesteps Billions in Taxes
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/29/business/apples-tax-strategy-aims-at-low-tax-states-and-nations.html?_r=2&hp&pagewanted=all

It seems tech companies have a tax advantage that non-tech companies don’t get:

Apple, for instance, was among the first tech companies to designate overseas salespeople in high-tax countries in a manner that allowed them to sell on behalf of low-tax subsidiaries on other continents, sidestepping income taxes, according to former executives. Apple was a pioneer of an accounting technique known as the “Double Irish With a Dutch Sandwich,” which reduces taxes by routing profits through Irish subsidiaries and the Netherlands and then to the Caribbean. Today, that tactic is used by hundreds of other corporations — some of which directly imitated Apple’s methods, say accountants at those companies.

Without such tactics, Apple’s federal tax bill in the United States most likely would have been $2.4 billion higher last year, according to a recent study by a former Treasury Department economist, Martin A. Sullivan. As it stands, the company paid cash taxes of $3.3 billion around the world on its reported profits of $34.2 billion last year, a tax rate of 9.8 percent. (Apple does not disclose what portion of those payments was in the United States, or what portion is assigned to previous or future years.)

By comparison, Wal-Mart last year paid worldwide cash taxes of $5.9 billion on its booked profits of $24.4 billion, a tax rate of 24 percent, which is about average for non-tech companies.

I will state that I don’t think companies should be taxed at all, since all taxes do is increase what consumers have to pay anyhow. In other words, it is a way for the government to hide how much they are really taking from us.

In addition to this, these kinds of tax strategies employed by Apple and other large companies can’t be utilized by smaller competitors, leaving the large companies unopposed within their marketplaces. Even when you consider Wal-Mart’s worldwide tax rate of 24%, do you think the average mom-and-pop shop trying to compete with Wal-Mart gets to pay that low rate? Of course not. And that is why you don’t see any mom-and-pop shops trying to compete against Wal-Mart.

Posted April 30, 2012 by edmcgon in Economy, Editorial/opinion, Market Analysis

Open Thread   15 comments

I will post my portfolio results later this afternoon. In the meantime…time for the weekend open thread! (where you can discuss any topic you like yada yada…)

For this weekend, I know a few of you are car fanatics. The current rumor on the internet is that Ford has redesigned the Ford Mustang. Feel free to share your opinion on this, or any other topic. For your viewing pleasure, here are a few photos of the alleged new Ford “Evos” Mustang:

(photo from The Mustang Source)


(photo from Autotribute.com)


(photo from Mustang 5.0)


(photo from Stangnet.com)

Just my own opinion, but I like it. I was never much of a Mustang fan. But this one I would consider, depending on how it runs. It certainly has style points. What do you think?

UPDATE: My portfolio was down 0.25% today, which is better than I expected considering the hit I took on SPXU this morning.

Posted April 27, 2012 by edmcgon in Open Thread, Portfolio

Buy ProShares Ultra Yen (YCL)   25 comments

Since I have been watching the currencies lately, one thing I have noticed is how the yen is doomed to be strong. A lot of the dollar’s weakness lately has come from the Japanese yen’s strength, which is coming from a Japan’s economic weakness, otherwise known as their perpetually deflationary state. While the euro is another good play on economic weakness, the yen is the king of weak economies.

It seems no matter what the Bank of Japan does, their currency strengthens. Even after doing their own version of QE, causing the big drop in the chart above, the currency continues to float upwards. The reason is simple: Their economy is broken. Between their culture of savers, and the fact their population is lopsided to the elderly side, they can’t get it going. Last year’s earthquake/tsunami/nuclear meltdown only exacerbated their problems.

It is pretty bad when the Bank of Japan announces a QE program overnight, and the FX market moves the yen down for about 15 minutes, before returning the yen’s value ABOVE where it was before they announced it! When your central bank no longer has any control over your currency’s relative value, you’re done. Game over.

That is why I am adding a position in ProShares Ultra Yen (YCL). Aside from being a good play on the weakening dollar, it also is a great play on the ever-increasing yen. YCL closed yesterday at $32.65, and I will try to get it as close to that price as possible.

UPDATE: Doh! I meant YCL, not YCS. Ironically, I had it right on my brokerage screen. Sorry for the confusion.

UPDATE 2: I added YCL at 33.07.

Posted April 27, 2012 by edmcgon in Portfolio Moves, Stocks

Daytraders corner   73 comments

Since we all seem to be watching what the dollar is doing to get a clue as to the market’s direction, here are today’s euro and yen charts from Finviz:

The euro versus the dollar is fairly flat, so the real tell is coming from the yen, which is up strongly against the dollar.

The better tell will come from the GDP report at 8:30 am EST. The irony is the market will move based on the GDP report, but most of the corporate earnings that were generated in the 1st quarter have already been reported, so the GDP report is moot. I would say yesterday’s weekly unemployment claims, which was negative, is a more important piece of information about the current and future state of the economy than the backward-looking GDP report. We undoubtedly had a great 1st quarter, but the future economic prospects are murky.

If the market is turning bullish, then the upside levels to watch on the S&P 500 are 1420 (the top of the Bollinger Bands) and 1422 (the high this year, from April 2nd). Admittedly, those are close together, but they are the only significant markers above yesterday’s 1399 close.

If the GDP disappoints? While that sounds nearly impossible, don’t be surprised. The market sometimes works on “whisper numbers”, which is what the big money expects but doesn’t talk about. in truth, I think the weekend looms as a bigger reason for a late day drop in the markets. On the S&P 500’s downside, we have 1386 (the 20 day moving average), 1382 (50 day moving average), and 1380 (10 day moving average). I truly don’t expect a greater fall than that today.

UPDATE: U.S. GDP came in at 2.2% growth, less than estimates. However, the futures seem to be ignoring this initially. There was a small initial drop, but they have flattened out since then. We will see what happens.

Posted April 27, 2012 by edmcgon in Daytrading, Economy, Market Analysis

GDP Day: Ed’s Daily Notes for April 27th   3 comments

Bloomberg: Economy in U.S. Probably Expanded as Consumer Spending Picked Up

The big market-moving news today:

Gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced in the U.S., rose at a 2.5 percent annual rate after a 3 percent gain the prior three months, according to the median forecast of 85 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. Household purchases, which account for about 70 percent of the economy, advanced by the most since the end of 2010, the survey showed.

The only possible excuse for yesterday’s surge in the markets was anticipation of the GDP report today. And it is logical when you realize the Federal Reserve knew the GDP results earlier this week, before they came out with their “no QE3” announcement.

Bloomberg: Spain Rules Out Bailout as De Guindos Says Banks Funded

I want the sangria this guy is drinking:

Spanish Economy Minister Luis de Guindos ruled out seeking a bailout hours before Standard & Poor’s cut the country’s credit rating to three levels above junk and a report showed unemployment jumped close to a record.

“Nobody has asked Spain, either officially or unofficially” to turn to Europe’s bailout mechanisms, he said in an interview in Madrid late yesterday. “We don’t need it.”

Spanish unemployment, already the highest in the European Union, rose to 24.4 percent in the first quarter, just below the 24.55 percent record of March 1994, the National Statistics Institute said today. The increase in first quarter joblessness will mean 953 million euros ($1.3 billion) of lost revenue for the government, the tax inspectors association said today.

De Guindos spoke at the end of a month that has seen Spanish bond yields rise above 6 percent for the first time since early December on concern that banking losses will swamp the government. That sparked speculation that Spain will need to seek an international rescue for its lenders and prompted one minister to call on the ECB to buy the country’s bonds.

…Just hours after de Guindos spoke, Standard & Poor’s cut its rating on Spain by two levels to BBB+, citing concern that the country will need to pour more money into its lenders.

Apparently, Standard & Poor’s ain’t buying Spain’s story. As I recall, I think the Greek leaders were saying the same thing about 2 years ago…

Bloomberg: France Unemployment Near 10% Fueled by Laws Election Omits: Jobs

If you want to know why France will eventually be joining Spain and Greece, consider this:

Tired of waits to fill orders and lack of control over his Asian factories, Pierrick Haan, chief executive officer of Dupont Medical, decided last year to return production of some wheelchairs and medical equipment to France.

The 150-year-old Dupont Medical created 20 jobs making custom devices at a plant in central France — and will stop there. Faced with France’s stifling labor code, Haan probably will send any additional production of standard equipment to what he calls “Near France:” Tunisia, Bulgaria or Romania.

“The cost of labor isn’t the main problem, it’s the rigidities,” Haan said in an interview. “If you make a mistake in your hiring plans, you can’t correct it.”

While polls show job creation and the economic crisis are the top issues for French voters in next month’s second-round election, neither President Nicolas Sarkozy nor Socialist Francois Hollande are focusing on Haan’s concern. Companies say the biggest obstacle to hiring is the “Code du Travail,” a 3,200-page labor rulebook that dictates everything from job classifications to leave for training to the ability to fire.

The difficulty of complying results in minimal hiring, economists say. There are now 2.9 million people out of work in France, almost 10 percent of the workforce and the most in 12 years. France has lost more industrial jobs than any European country over the past decade and risks falling further behind as countries including Italy and Spain loosen their own rules.

“For the 100 employees we have in France, we have 10 employee representatives, for whom we have to organize weekly meetings even when there is nothing to discuss,” Haan said. “Every time a social security contribution changes, which is frequently, we have to update software and send our HR people for training. We can’t fire anyone without exorbitant costs and procedures.”

…The code sets hurdles for any company that seeks to shed jobs when it’s turning a profit, dictates the terms of parental leave and forces employers with more than 50 workers to organize worker committees, provide lunch subsidies and organize annual medical check-ups. It also offers judges scope to reverse staff cuts years after they’re initiated if they don’t meet the rules and makes some violations a criminal offense that could put executives in jail.

Even in the U.S., we spend far too much time looking at the tax code and the central bank to fix unemployment, while ignoring the regulations that slow down or even prevent hiring. But all the liquidity and tax breaks in the world won’t incentivize small businesses to hire.

Bloomberg: Samsung Ends Nokia’s 14-Year Run as Biggest Handset Maker

Samsung shipped 93.5 million handsets in the first quarter, 36 percent more than a year earlier, compared with 82.7 million for second-ranked Nokia, researcher Strategy Analytics said in a statement today. Demand for Galaxy smartphones helped Suwon, South Korea-based Samsung post first-quarter net income today of 5.05 trillion won ($4.5 billion), beating analysts’ estimates.

…Apple Inc. (AAPL) is the world’s third-biggest maker of mobile- phones after shipments rose 89 percent to 35.1 million last quarter, according to Strategy Analytics.

“Samsung will probably still be No. 1 in the second quarter, but the full year will be a close call because the third and fourth quarters are traditionally Nokia’s best,” Kang said.

Samsung also regained the lead from Apple as the world’s biggest vendor of smartphones in the first quarter. Smartphone shipments surged 41 percent in the quarter, the analysts said.

The South Korean electronics maker shipped 44.5 million smartphones in the first three months of the year, giving it about 31 percent of the market, Strategy Analytics said. Apple shipped 35.1 million units, accounting for about 24 percent of the market, it said. Nokia ranked third in the segment.

For all the talk about Apple’s dominance of the smartphone market, one shouldn’t forget that Apple isn’t dominating the market share. Sure, Apple wins in market share dollars, only because their units are obscenely overpriced, but not in units sold. This will eventually be Apple’s downfall.

CNS News: EPA Official’s ‘Philosophy’ On Oil Companies: ‘Crucify Them’ – Just As Romans Crucified Conquered Citizens

Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) took to the Senate floor today to draw attention to a video of a top EPA official saying the EPA’s “philosophy” is to “crucify” and “make examples” of oil and gas companies – just as the Romans crucified random citizens in areas they conquered to ensure obedience.

Inhofe quoted a little-watched video from 2010 of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official, Region VI Administrator Al Armendariz, admitting that EPA’s “general philosophy” is to “crucify” and “make examples” of oil and gas companies.

In the video, Administrator Armendariz says:

“I was in a meeting once and I gave an analogy to my staff about my philosophy of enforcement, and I think it was probably a little crude and maybe not appropriate for the meeting, but I’ll go ahead and tell you what I said:

“It was kind of like how the Romans used to, you know, conquer villages in the Mediterranean. They’d go in to a little Turkish town somewhere, they’d find the first five guys they saw and they’d crucify them.

“Then, you know, that town was really easy to manage for the next few years.”

“It’s a deterrent factor,” Armendariz said, explaining that the EPA is following the Romans’ philosophy for subjugating conquered villages.

Aside from the political silliness of this statement, what does it mean for the oil industry? Assuming this is the EPA’s general policy, and it wouldn’t surprise me, in the simplest terms it would mean higher prices for the consumer, and less competition for the larger oil companies. It sounds amazingly like what we have now…

Real Clear Politics: Michelle Obama: “Fantasy” Is To Walk Out WH “And Just Keep Walking”

“It is hard to sneak around and do what you want,” Michelle Obama said today. “I have done it a couple of times. But you know one fantasy I have, and the Secret Service they keep looking at me because they think I might actually do it, is to walk right out the front door and just keep walking.”

What a coincidence! My fantasy is the same thing! Of course, my fantasy includes the entire U.S. Congress walking out of Washington too…

Washington Examiner: Biden: ‘The president has a big stick’

Referring to President Roosevelt’s foreign policy quote about “speaking softly and carrying a big stick,” Biden told the crowd that Obama followed a similar path while negotiating with Iran.

“I promise you, the president has a big stick. I promise you,” Biden said as the crowd laughed.

Anyone want to bet that Biden didn’t realize the crowd was laughing AT him, not with him?