Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Brigade of Lawyers (Musical Tribute)

December 31, 2011
Jefferson bankruptcy suit attracts brigade of lawyers

John Carroll, dean of the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University, said the number of lawyers doesn't surprise him. "It's because of the complexity of the case that there are that many lawyers in it," Carroll said. "It's a complex case involving so many moving parts."

Friday, December 30, 2011

Gasoline vs. Oil


Click to enlarge.


Click to enlarge.

I created the charts out of curiosity.

What would it take to see $5 gasoline at the pumps? It looks to me like a sustained $160 oil level could do it.

If I had to guess (and I assure you that's pretty much all it is), I'd say the global economy can't even handle $100 oil though. Time will tell.


November 9, 2009
I'm Deflationary

That doesn't mean that I think oil can't make it to $100. Who knows? I don't think it will stay there if it does though, any more than it could stay at $140 the last time.

It's certainly trying to stick at $100. I'll give it that.

Keep in mind that although I have been leaning deflationary, the bulk of my nest egg continues to sit in long-term TIPS and I-Bonds.

This is certainly not investment advice. I think you can see my level of certainty here. I continue to lean short-term deflationary but want the long-term inflation protection just the same.


Source Data:
EIA: Petroleum

Thursday, December 29, 2011

What's Worse than a Casino?

December 29, 2011
A wealth terminator for small investors

Ten years ago, top economist Wu Jinglian criticized China's stock market as a place worse than a casino because of its excessive insider trading and market manipulation.

"At least there are rules in a casino," he said.

Not much has changed in terms of protecting small investors' rights. As wealthier people quit stocks to buy property instead, the stock market has become a casino only for the poor, who cannot afford to speculate in real estate, as Andy Xie says.


See Also:
Savvy Chinese Find Market Top!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sears: The Joke that Keeps on Giving

December 27, 2011
Sears closing more stores as holiday sales slide

(Reuters) - Sears Holdings Corp will close as many as 120 of its Kmart and Sears discount and department stores after its holiday sales slumped, sending its shares sliding more than 27 percent to their lowest level in three years.

May 8, 2008
Our Pillars of Retail Strength

What's a CEO to do these days if he can't report financial information and he can't hide financial information? That's sure some conundrum!

In the comments, Anonymous felt that we were joking. I can understand the confusion. We often joke in the comments.

I can't believe the previous comments are supposed to be taken seriously. First off, Eddie Lampert was recognized as a whiz a decade before buying Kmart. Second of Lampert is still a whiz his return on Kmart and on Sears even with the recent decline beats the market hand over fist.

Either you guys are joking or you like to buy high and sell low. Not my style. Lampert and Sears will prove to be fantastic investments over the next 10 years. Over the next 10 minutes? who knows and who cares? - Anonymous


SHLD price on May 8, 2008: 93.45
SHLD price on December 27, 2011: 33.38

Net Gain/Loss: 64% loss

In all fairness, there's still 6 1/2 years to go on that fantastic investment. If it triples from here, then hindsight will will show that it was every bit as good as buried cash. Woohoo!

Special thanks to Credit Bubble Stocks for posting about Sears today. I would have missed today's 27% decline without it.

Source Data:
Yahoo: SHLD Historical Prices

The Sarcasm Report v.145

Industry experts forecast 2012 trends

There’s no economic rebound to prosperity, but it will continue to be a better environment than it was in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

The economic rebound to prosperity theory is an illusion? Shocking!

Restaurants will benefit from pent-up demand. Two out of five American adults said in a recent survey that they are not using restaurants as often as they would like.

Similarly, the ice water business will benefit from pent-up demand. Five out of five dwellers of hell said in a recent survey that they are not drinking ice water as often as they would like.

I tease. Let's try this again. How many Americans are using restaurants more than they would like? I don't mean to be alarmist, but it could be as many as three out of five. Holy @#$%!


Food costs will remain a huge challenge, with wholesale food price inflation running at 8 percent — the highest it’s been in three decades. Operators won’t be able to pass on high input costs on a one-to-one basis...

Never a better time to invest in restaurants or start your own!

“Miniaturization,” or the continued growth of small plates, snacks and downsized portion options, which have been driven by price sensitivity, consumer interest in sampling, grazing or sharing, and health concerns.

Less is more!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas (Musical Tribute)



I am addicted to Rocksmith. It fully explains my lack of posts lately. It also explains a few calluses on my fingertips, lol.

Since I wasn't that clear in my last post, you actually use a *real* electric guitar to play this game. It comes with a cable to hook your own electric guitar directly into the Playstation 3. How cool is that?

I'm not as good as the person playing in this video but I'm getting better every day. Baby steps!

Technology is a wonderful thing and this game is nothing short of miraculous. In my opinion, this is what real prosperity looks like. It has made learning the guitar very enjoyable.

Merry Christmas everyone. May you all find real prosperity this season and well into the future.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Illusion of Spin



1. The hands and feet are symmetrical.
2. The head is asymmetrical.

If you look at the heads, the figures must spin. Your brain will force the issue no matter how hard you try. If you cover up the heads, the bodies can either spin or move back and forth. Your choice.

This is the part that I find interesting. When looking at the heads, the brain knows they must spin. When the heads are "covered up", the brain clearly still knows they must spin but no longer cares.


Cover-up

The expression is usually applied to people in positions of authority who abuse their power to avoid or silence criticism or to deflect guilt of wrongdoing. Those who initiate a cover up (or their allies) may be responsible for a misdeed, a breach of trust or duty or a crime.

No wonder we are such easy targets for the spin doctors.

The Sarcasm Report v.144

December 21, 2011
Calculated Risk: Existing Home Sales Revisions

The NAR has characterized this as "drift", but this shows a fairly sharp downward revision to 2007 data.

Since we know the National Association of Realtors is completely unbiased and made up of only the most ethically responsible business professionals, we can only assume that the odds were split evenly between being a downward revision and an upward one.

Further, let's turn 5 years worth of 14.6%
inadvertent mistakes into opportunities!

Buy 6 homes at the regular price and we'll count a 7th home as being sold for free! Just pay separate
commissions. Ask your realtor about a special bonus offer if you complete the purchases within one year from today.*

Fine Print Disclaimer: If I seem biased, it is only because I don't want to ever ruin my chances of becoming the next Chief Economist at the NAR. David Lereah and Lawrence Yun are my heroes!

* Double your intelligence or no money back! - Gary Larson

Money Tree (Musical Tribute)

December 21, 2011
Money Tree Inc. files for bankruptcy protection

The company said in its bankruptcy filings that Hurricane Katrina and the economic downturn that began in 2007 were significant setbacks for its business.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Sarcasm Report v.143

December 16, 2011
5 Ways to Afford Early Retirement

1.Work a Second Job

Sounds crazy but it might just work.

2. Work a Part-Time Job

Is this compatible with #1? What if someone works a second part-time job? Show the math! I need proof!

3. Early Retirement Distributions

Whew! I was starting to think I was wasting my time by reading this article.

If you have the money to afford early retirement then you can afford early retirement? Genius!

4. Living Low

If less money is spent in retirement then less retirement money is needed? Who would have guessed?

5. Increase Your Retirement Contributions

If more money is saved then the sooner one can retire? Is this compatible with #4? What if one saves more *and* spends less? Sounds confusing.

Is there some place I can turn for even more details?

For more information on how to retire early consult your financial advisor.

I do have a few questions.

1. How can the financial advisor retire early when there is so much awesome free financial advice being generated on the Internet?

2. Has the financial advisor given any thought to doubling fees in lieu of finding a second job? Talk about win win!

3. Other than paying a modest fee each time I ask a question and/or offering him/her a small percentage of my nest egg, what else can I personally do to help the financial advisor retire early?


Friday, December 16, 2011

CPI and EE Savings Bond Thoughts

The following chart shows the month over month change in the seasonally adjusted consumer price index over the last 5 years.


Click to enlarge.

Hyperinflation theories are being poned yet again.

A consistent 0.2 on the chart would yield 2.43% annual inflation. That's pretty much what we've been getting, give or take.

November 2006: 202.000
November 2011: 226.720

(226.720 / 202.000)^(1/5) = 1.0234

Average annual inflation rate over the last 5 years has been 2.34%.

Other than the deflationary event in 2008, there's really not much to see here. Further, three of the last six months were below 0.2% and three were above it.

So what does this mean? Holding EE Savings Bonds still seems okay to me. The
mispricing may be worth the risk. I've been a reluctant buyer for the past two years and will probably be so again in 2012. No complaints so far.

I consider this to be a one-time opportunity based solely on relative value. I will be a buyer this month before rates reset on November 1st. I do not expect to make an EE Savings Bond ladder part of my nest egg. - October 9, 2010

I'm thinking that three purchases in three years qualifies as the beginnings of a bond ladder. Go figure. That said, I still prefer TIPS and I Bonds for their inflation protection. EE Savings Bonds are a very small part of my nest egg.

Source Data:
St. Louis Fed: Custom Chart

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Real Yield Curve Thoughts

Daily Treasury Real Yield Curve Rates

December 14, 2011

5-Year: -0.74%
7-Year: -0.42%
10-Year: -0.04%
20-Year: 0.53%
30-Year: 0.73%

Here's the premise. Let's say that you are a saver and wish to own inflation protected treasuries for 30 years. What's the optimal way to play the yield curve?

1. You could buy the 30-year TIPS and just lock in the 0.73% real yield. Little math needed. You know what you get.

1.0073^30 = 1.244

2. You could buy the 20-year TIPS and earn 0.53% for the next 20 years. You'd need to earn 1.14% per year for the remaining 10 years to match the return of the 30-year TIPS.

(1.0053^20) * (1.0114^10) = 1.245

3. You could buy the 10-year TIPS and earn -0.04% for the next 10 years. You'd need to earn 1.12% per year for the remaining 20 years to match the return of the 30-year TIPS.

(0.9996^10) * (1.0112^20) = 1.245

4. You could buy the 7-year TIPS and earn -0.42% for the next 7 years. You'd need to earn 1.09% per year for the remaining 23 years to match the return of the 30-year TIPS.

(0.9958^7) * (1.0109^23) = 1.246

5. You could buy the 5-year TIPS and earn -0.74% for the next 5 years. You'd need to earn 1.03% per year for the remaining 25 years to match the return of the 30-year TIPS.

(0.9926^5) * (1.0103^25) = 1.245

Only hindsight will tell us which option was best. Options 2-5 do require higher real yields in the future (between 1.03% and 1.14%). They may come. They may not.

So what does this really mean?

Not only is the bond market suggesting that the next 5 years will treat savers poorly, it isn't exactly predicting great things for the 25 years that follow either.

I think the bond market is pretty much in line with my own predictions at this point. For what it is worth, I think
the death of real yields has probably run its course. For all intents and purposes, real yields are now dead. That doesn't mean that I expect rates to move higher from here. I don't. If I had to guess, I'd say rates will stagnate (to match our economy). Could be wrong of course. It is just a guess.

And lastly, let's go back in time to when Jeremy Siegel warned us not to buy TIPS.

February 2, 2011

5-Year: 0.09%
7-Year: 0.68%
10-Year: 1.16%
20-Year: 1.82%
30-Year: 2.10%

Oops. In hindsight, 2.10% in the hand was worth more than today's 0.73% in the ivory tower. Who knew? Now savers (and pension funds?) are praying for 1% real yields. Well, there's always hope.

S&P 500 vs. Nikkei 225


Click to enlarge.

Any questions?



Source Data:
Yahoo: S&P 500
Yahoo: Nikkei 225
St. Louis Fed: CPI
Official Statistics of Japan: CPI

Refining the Rubicon

It dawned on me this morning that I was doing a terrible disservice to my readers. The ongoing Rubicon joke is very nearly back in play but there is a serious issue with my methodology.

The Rubicon joke was based on a number pulled directly out of thin air. I aim to rectify that situation today by offering a solid objective estimate of the true Rubicon level using daily S&P 500 data from 1998 to present.


Click to enlarge.

Will wonders ever cease?

Hindsight shows that the Rubcion was 1197.8 on January 3, 1998. It is currently 1186.7. That's roughly a 1 point decline per year. It is also 1% less than the 1200 level I have been actively heckling. Shame on me! I clearly did not factor in its degradation over time.

When one is using 20x to 30x leverage in order to make easy money, a 1% discrepancy could mean billions of dollars in lost profit potential. I apologize for any inconvenience that my earlier ballpark Rubicon estimate may have caused.

In my defense, how could I have possibly known that the S&P 500 wouldn't return to 1500 and therefore pull the trend line up again? All we'd need is another bubble to replace the recent housing bubble and the earlier dotcom bubble. How hard could that be?

Sarcasm!


See Also:
Crossing the S&P 500's Rubicon v.30 (Musical Tribute)

Source Data:
Yahoo: S&P 500 Historical Prices

Monday, December 12, 2011

Hyperinflation Theories Poned Again

Urban Dictionary: Pone

Poser lingo for the internet slang word 'pwned' as in being owned or disgraced by someone else.

Contrary to the opinion of shadowstats and as seen in the following link, hyperinflation is not yet upon us.

December 11, 2011
Tips for Wringing More From Your Cash Holdings

'Ziploc Bags Do Well'
In response to my query, several posters discussed the sad state of affairs for cash holders. Konodrum quipped, "I bury cash or stuff it in the mattress. Ziploc bags do well."

FidlStix is also keeping his sense of humor, even as he acknowledges that the landscape has become a challenge for retirees and anyone else attempting to wring a return from low-risk assets. "I recently went to my local hardware store to buy two stainless-steel buckets for my shorter-term retirement needs. I prefer stainless because it's practically corrosion proof and stays shiny longer. Sadly, all they had were cheerless, gray galvanized buckets with holes in the bottom."


Think about this for a moment. People are joking about buying containers to store money. That's not what one would expect to see during hyperinflation.

I'm a fan of Ziploc bags. I hoard them. It isn't because I'm all that worried about hyperinflation. I just think they will perform better than buried cash and/or short-term treasury bills over the long-term.

Ben Bernanke has encouraged my hoarding/saving behavior by keeping short-term rates at 0%. I have therefore brought future purchases of basic necessities into the present. If the goal is to make the current economy better and the economy of the future worse, then mission accomplished. It's not like I will be buying more Ziploc bags overall. I have simply altered the timing of my purchases. That's all.

I'm pretty much done buying Ziploc bags. I have about all I will ever need. I'd like to think that I am at least as smart as a
squirrel but I will admit that it is open for debate. I'm serious. As seen in the link, I have not scattered my hoard. But hey, at least I have a hoard. In the eyes of a squirrel, surely that's better than doing nothing.

So why aren't more people doing it?


Compulsive hoarding

Compulsive hoarding (or pathological collecting) is a pattern of behavior that is characterized by the excessive acquisition and inability or unwillingness to discard large quantities of objects that would seemingly qualify as useless or without value.

That's just nuts! Is it any wonder that hoarding got a bad name?

November 2, 2009
8.6% Return on Investment!


Do the items in the picture look useless or without value? The return on garbage bag investment is now 35.8%. Fortunately, nothing else in the picture is even close. Inflation has been mostly tame. It's almost like garbage bags are special (made of petroleum products). Come to think of it, so are Ziploc bags.

See Also:
A Wheelbarrow of Food to Buy Cash

Siegel's Island (Musical Tribute)


Click to enlarge.



See Also:
More Dangerous Advice from Jeremy Siegel

Source Data:
St. Louis Fed: 30-Year TIPS, Constant Maturity

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Sarcasm Report v.142 (Musical Tribute)

December 10, 2011
Start Your Restaurant with an Experienced Restaurant Industry Lawyer, Says Restaurant Expert Witness

Restaurant Expert Witness, Restaurant Consultant, and CEO, Howard Cannon, says, "Hire the best lawyers and accountants you can afford. They are out there and the great ones are worth every penny. A lot of people are trying to save money when they start a restaurant, but many make the mistake of choosing to use no lawyer at all because they think they can get what they need from some sort of website."

I've been giving some thought to opening a new restaurant. This article really sealed the deal for me. I am going to hire a plethora of the "best lawyers and accountants" that money can buy and use any remaining nest egg to secure a loan to partially fund my new business.

I figure if I come up a bit short, I can always just sell my house and live right on the premises of my new restaurant business.




Prosperity, baby! That's what I'm talking about!

Fine Print Disclaimer: Please note that this *is* a sarcasm report.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Bringin' on the Net Worth Heartbreak (Musical Tribute)


Click to enlarge.

Here's an explanation of the chart.

I've taken the net worth as seen in "B.100 Balance Sheet of Households and Nonprofit Organizations" and subtracted the state and local government debt and the federal government debt as seen in "L.1 Credit Market Debt Outstanding". I then adjusted that amount for inflation and population growth.

As seen in the red trend line, hello exponential trend failure.


Click to enlarge.

This chart shows the quarterly change as a percentage.

We were hit by inflation, a declining net worth, and increased government debt all at the same time. This wicked combination made the 3rd quarter of 2011 the 2nd worst quarter of the last 50 years. So much for that sustainable recovery theory.




Can't you see?

Source Data:
Federal Reserve: Z.1
St. Louis Fed: CPI
St. Louis Fed: Population

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Friday, December 2, 2011

Something's Wrong (Musical Tribute)

July 7, 2011
The Sarcasm Report v.111

"Really, the recovery that's now 3 years old is just too young to die," Mirhaydari says.

S&P 500 on July 7, 2011: 1,353.22

December 2, 2011
Something's wrong with the economy

Maybe I'm digging my own grave here, but the clouds on the horizon are too dark to justify anything else. - Anthony Mirhaydari

S&P 500 on December 2, 2011: 1,244.28



Source Data:
Yahoo: S&P 500 Historical Prices

39.4 Million Missing Jobs (Musical Tribute)


Click to enlarge.


Click to enlarge.


Click to enlarge.



See Also:
39.1 Million Missing Jobs

Source Data:
St. Louis Fed: Total Nonfarm Payrolls

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The "Free Lunch" Weight Loss Plan v.006

Six months down, a lifetime to go.


Click to enlarge.

It might just be me, but I think I might see some leftover Halloween candy, Thanksgiving dinner, and Thanksgiving leftovers in the chart.


Click to enlarge.

I said from the beginning that I would not be consciously altering my eating habits. I will not deprive myself of pumpkin pie. Let's just put it that way. :)

The charts therefore are what they are. Winter is brutal (no yard work, fewer outdoor activities, and multiple food related holidays).


Now for the good news.

1. November is probably my worst month for weight loss. It's officially over. Further, I strongly suspect that this year's November wasn't as bad as last year's November. It will be interesting to me to see the seasonal variations as more data is collected.

2. I continue to climb the extra 20 flights of stairs each day. It adds up. That's roughly 36,000 feet of additional climbing since the beginning of June. It is a firmly entrenched permanent habit. I will eventually make progress in the right direction again. It is simply a matter of patience. I originally thought it might take 3-4 years to get down to my goal. Perhaps that's still true.

3. The time needed to comfortably do the 20 flights of stairs continues to fall. I'm generally only taking 4-5 minutes per day now. I can always find time for that. It's no big deal at all (which is important since I am generally a lazy person looking to do the minimum necessary to meet my long-term goals).

4. I've also been doing some additional stair climbing on the side from time to time (although I never feel compelled to do so). On the 7th of November I climbed 200 flights of stairs all out (in addition to the 20 flights I always do). It took me 48 minutes and 47 seconds. That's actually fairly close to a personal best (done many years ago when I was younger and lighter).


See Also:
The "Free Lunch" Weight Loss Plan v.000

Crossing the S&P 500's Rubicon v.30 (Musical Tribute)

Here's a list of dates when the S&P 500 crossed above the 1200 level (at the close compared to the previous trading day's close).

1. 12/21/1998
2. 4/18/2001
3. 7/12/2001
4. 7/26/2001
5. 12/14/2004
6. 12/21/2004
7. 2/4/2005
8. 2/11/2005
9. 2/24/2005
10. 6/1/2005
11. 6/9/2005
12. 6/13/2005
13. 6/28/2005
14. 7/5/2005
15. 7/8/2005
16. 10/31/2005
17. 9/16/2008
18. 9/18/2008
19. 9/25/2008
20. 4/14/2010
21. 4/20/2010
22. 4/29/2010
23. 5/3/2010
24. 11/4/2010
25. 12/1/2010
26. 8/15/2011
27. 8/29/2011
28. 9/15/2011
29. 10/12/2011
30. 11/30/2011



Wake me up
(Wake me up inside)
I can't wake up
(Wake me up inside)
Save me
(Call my name and save me from the dark)

Wake me up
(Bid my blood to run)
I can't wake up
(Before I come undone)
Save me
(Save me from the nothing I've become)


See Also:
Crossing the S&P 500's Rubicon
Crossing the S&P 500's Rubicon v.22
Crossing the S&P 500's Rubicon v.23
Crossing the S&P 500's Rubicon v.24 (Musical Tribute)
Crossing the S&P 500's Rubicon v.25
Crossing the S&P 500's Rubicon v.26
Crossing the S&P 500's Rubicon v.27
Crossing the S&P 500's Rubicon v.28 (Musical Tribute)
Crossing the S&P 500's Rubicon v.29 (Musical Tribute)
Sarcasm Disclaimer

Source Data:
Yahoo: S&P 500 Historical Prices

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Black Friday Thoughts

November 27, 2011
Black Friday Sales Advance 6.6% to Record, ShopperTrak Says

"This is the largest year-over-year gain in ShopperTrak's National Retail Sales Estimate for Black Friday since the 8.3 percent increase we saw between 2007 and 2006," ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin said in the statement."

There was an 8.3% year-over-year increase on Black Friday in 2007.
The WTI crude oil price was $98.24 on Black Friday in 2007.

The Great Recession began in December 2007.

There was a 6.6% year-over-year increase on Black Friday in 2011.
The WTI crude oil futures price is currently $98.48.

What could possibly go wrong?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

TIPS Tips

November 15, 2011
How Much Should Retirees Stake in TIPS?

So assuming you've decided you'd like to include inflation-protected investments in your portfolio, what's the right amount? At first blush it might appear that you'd want all of your fixed-income portfolio in TIPS; that's the tack embraced by some academics and other investment theorists.

At first blush I determined that I wanted my entire investment portfolio (not just the fixed-income part) in TIPS heading into the great recession (with some cash for liquidity on the side). I guess that puts me in the "other investment theorist" camp.

After all, if there's a bond investment that helps offset the corrosive effects of inflation, why would you want to forgo it for one that doesn't offer that protection?

In my opinion, the article should have ended right there (unless it was willing to explore the risks of owning bonds in general, which it was not).

The key reason is diversification. While some corporate, foreign, and municipal bonds carry inflation protection, TIPS are the most widely available and liquid type of inflation-linked bonds, and most inflation-protected bond funds skew heavily or even entirely toward TIPS. That means an investor in search of an all-inflation-protected fixed-income portfolio would have to go out of his way to avoid a heavy emphasis on government bonds; at the same time, he'd hold relatively less in corporate, asset-backed, and other bond types, which will outperform Treasuries and other government-backed bonds at various points in time.

It has been my intent to go out of my way to embrace government bonds. No diversification was needed nor desired. That's not entirely true I guess. I very nearly backed up the truck on "asset-backed" bonds heading into the great asset crash but I flipped a coin and it came up tails. Whew! Crisis averted, lol.

In all seriousness, I'm a retiree. I don't really care how the other bonds perform relative to TIPS (either better or worse). All I care about is that my investments keep up with inflation if bought in an auction and held to maturity. That's it. In the bond world, only TIPS can offer me that assurance (at least before taxes anyway).

Put another way, if I was looking to maximize gains then I could always just drop the fire insurance on my home and hope for the best. Chances are good that I would be wealthier over the long-term. Unfortunately, hindsight could show that my house burned to the ground instead. The loss of my house through fire is not a risk I am willing to take.

I would also point out that buying government bonds directly from the government means I don't have to pay excessive Wall Street middlemen fees and annual expenses. That really appeals to me.


So the answer to the question about how much retirees should hold in TIPS falls somewhere between 0 and 100%. But where?

Here's another way to put that.

So the answer to the question about how much extra risk retirees should expose themselves to in order to potentially gain some extra reward is somewhere between 100% and 0%.

As a retiree, I have chosen to expose myself to 0% extra risk and am willing to forgo any additional rewards and/or pain. I'm not suggesting that TIPS are completely safe. I'm simply arguing that they are most likely safer than the other options that Christine Benz is pushing.

And finally, this is where the real fun begins.

A version of this article appeared on July 21, 2011.

On July 21, 2011 the 30-year TIPS rate was 1.64%. I put my entire IRA into one non-diversified 29-year TIPS bond at an even higher rate earlier this year. It is money I will be needing about 29 years from now. I wanted to lock in that rate. I did not want to take the extra risk that the rate would drop. I avoided diversification not out of greed, but rather out of safety.

The 30-year TIPS now yields a mere 0.79%. Hindsight has not been at all kind to well-diversified second blushes.

This is not investment advice. I'm simply offering up my thoughts as they relate to my particular portfolio and risk tolerances. Embracing risk in retirement just doesn't seem like a great plan to me (especially given the name of my blog).

Friday, November 25, 2011

Quote of the Day (Musical Tribute)

November 25, 2011
Violence, pepper spray mar Black Friday shopping

The instant classic of the day was a video of an Arkansas melee over a $2 waffle iron. The shaky, 48-second clip shows a mass of squealing and shouting men, women and children climbing over each other, grabbing and tossing boxes, with one woman seemingly unaware that her pants were sliding down her backside.

"Oh my God!" a woman screamed in the only sentence discernible among the high-pitched shrieks. One person commenting on the video wrote: "The pinnacle of Western Civilization has arrived."


Stimulus Physics Update #5 (Musical Tribute)

Here's the original chart and the reasoning behind it.

February 8, 2010
Stimulus Physics


Click to enlarge.

Stimulus was applied. Stocks rose into the air. Many seem convinced that stocks will keep going up. Who knows?

Please don't read too much into this. Almost anything can happen in a world filled with cartoon stimulus and/or cartoon physics.


Here's where we are now (with a new projected trajectory).


Click to enlarge.

The following is an alternate path and one I would prefer if forced to make a prediction.

August 22, 2011
Stagnationary Prediction Update?


Click to enlarge.

A flatlining outcome is fully consistent with a permanent Rubicon environment. You can pretty much guess that it is my personal favorite, if only to keep the ongoing Rubicon joke alive.

The future's so bright, I gotta wear [rose-colored] shades.




This update was requested by Fritz_O in the comments of the last post.

See Also:
Stimulus Physics
Stimulus Physics Update #1
Stimulus Physics Update #2
Stimulus Physics Update #3
Stimulus Physics Update #4
Trend Line Disclaimer

Source Data:
Yahoo: Historical Prices for Dow Jones Industrial Average

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Sarcasm Report v.141

The following economic theory comes from Bermuda Commercial Bank's treasurer Dan Commissiong. I've got to tell you. It's a whopper.

November 19, 2011
‘Prosperity was illusion created by global credit bubble'

Part 1 The Illusion of Prosperity

To even the casual observer of the global economy it is painfully obvious that all is not well economically, both here in Bermuda and abroad.

Daily economic headlines in our local newspapers and websites read almost verbatim with headlines found in overseas publications. News reports of economic dysfunction are rife, with almost daily reports of layoffs, bankruptcies, business relocations to other jurisdictions, intractable government budget deficits, falling asset prices, high levels of private indebtedness, and highly volatile capital markets.

Throughout the western developed economies average middle class people are at a loss to explain what is happening to their living standards (in Greece especially I imagine), having never experienced this level of economic fallout before in their lives.

Even elected political leaders and senior government finance officials in these countries are at loss to explain how their economies have managed to arrive at the precarious position they find themselves at today.

I believe that the best explanation is simply that a great deal of the prosperity experienced since the early 1980s was an economic illusion created by a global credit bubble that burst in 2008. The fallout from that burst is what's driving today's headlines of economic dysfunction.


There's not a rational creature on this planet who would believe this illusion of prosperity theory. It's just crazy talk!


Stagflationary Mark's Dog - Believer Since 2004

That's not proof. My dog Honey irrationally believes everything I tell her. She's overflowing with magical thinking.

We use ritual acts most often when there is little cost to them, when an outcome is uncertain or beyond our control, and when the stakes are high—hence my communion with the fuselage. People who truly trust in their rituals exhibit a phenomenon known as "illusion of control," the belief that they have more influence over the world than they actually do. And it's not a bad delusion to have—a sense of control encourages people to work harder than they might otherwise. In fact, a fully accurate assessment of your powers, a state known as "depressive realism," haunts people with clinical depression, who in general show less magical thinking.

Fortunately, the public has access to advanced ritualistic free trading tools that help us in these uncertain times. It gives us a sense of control. It makes the average investor smarter than the average investor. And let's be perfectly clear here. We're talking tens of millions of retail investors doing hundreds of millions of online trades generating billions in revenue for tens of thousands of highly compensated financial executives. The stakes don't get much higher than that.

I searched for "free trading tools" in Google and only got 2.34 million hits. It's one of Wall Street's most closely guarded magical thinking secrets. Everyone can be a
trend line master! It doesn't even require any information on the economy. How cool is that?

It's not a coincidence that man's best friend has mastered the art of magical thinking. We stick with what works! Without magical thinking, we'd all be victims of a clinical great depression by now. There's nothing worse than
depressive realism to ruin a perfectly good party.

Happy Thanksgiving! (Musical Tribute)

We're all thankful for this day.

November 21, 2007
Happy Thanksgiving!

Three More Years of Goldilocks? - Larry Kudlow

Except for the turkey! (The S&P 500 closed at 1,416.77.)

October 27, 2011
No Economic Armageddon — But No Victory Yet, Either

In response, stocks are soaring. We’ll live to see another day. - Larry Kudlow

Except for the turkey! (The S&P 500 closed at 1,284.59.)



Except for the turkey! (The S&P 500 closed today at 1,161.79.)

La la la la la la la la. Except for the turkey!

Sorry! I could not resist. Happy Thanksgiving everyone! :)


Source Data:
Yahoo Finance: S&P 500 Historical Prices

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Sarcasm Report v.140

November 22, 2011
Restaurant Industry Stock Review – Nov. 2011

The U.S. economy is improving, albeit at a lower rate, but a sluggish labor market, over-supply of restaurants in the industry, higher gasoline prices, food cost inflation, a still-elevated unemployment level and weak income growth may weigh on industry profitability.

These factors may weigh on industry profitability? How can we know for sure!

That got me to thinking. What actually would hurt industry profitability? Here's a list I just thought up.

1. A slowing economy
2. A sluggish labor market (with high unemployment)
3. A restaurant glut
4. Higher gasoline prices
5. Food cost inflation
6. Weak income growth

The list just sort of popped into my head. There's no explaining the vision that came to me with crystal clarity. I didn't even hold a séance.

I only wish there was a way to match up my list with the Zacks Equity Research's list of current economic conditions which may (or may not) affect industry profitability. Only then could I know if my money was safe parked in a heavily weighted restaurant stock portfolio. Lacking that, I'm not about to do something impulsive based on seemingly well-grounded common sense conjecture though. You know why that is too. It's not like I really need to tell you.

Restaurant stocks for the long run! Double the profits or bust!


Séance

Scientific skeptics and atheists generally consider both religious and secular séances to be scams, or at least a form of pious fraud, citing a lack of empirical evidence.

Nonsense! If there is one thing I know for sure, it is that there has been no fraud in America for at least as long as I have been alive.

The subprime mortgage fiasco played out exactly as nature intended. Money was loaned to people with
"no income, no job and no assets" and then we the taxpayers bailed out the banks to support the excessive bonus structure of well-compensated high-level financial executives. See? No fraud. That's just good old fashioned American business.

Our Slumbering Economy (Musical Tribute)


Click to enlarge.

A zero value for the index indicates that the national economy is expanding at its historical trend rate of growth; negative values indicate below-average growth; and positive values indicate above-average growth.



See Also:
The Echo Boom Bomb: National Activity Remains Below 0

Source Data:
St. Louis Fed: Chicago Fed National Activity Index

Superbunker Mentality



I should have never allowed our dog Honey to study the European debt crisis. She entered the superbunker and there's just no getting her out.

See Also:
The Economic Cycle (Theatrical Version)

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Great Rubicon Reset of November 2011

The S&P 500 closed below 1200? Again? How is this possible?

Operation Rubicon


November 21, 2011. A date which will live in infamy. The United States of America was repeatedly and deliberately attacked by the same deflationary debt forces as the Empire of Japan.

There is some good news though.

We've also got $97 oil and a massive trade deficit with the world. Unlike Japan, we're therefore in a much better position to achieve sustainable growth and prosperity over the long-term.

Sarcasm!


Rubicon = Con the Rubes

See Also:
Crossing the S&P 500's Rubicon v.29 (Musical Tribute)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Our New Carbonated Drink Economy


Click to enlarge.

I've taken the consumer price index for carbonated drinks and adjusted it by the overall CPI. The chart shows the average real price increases over the previous 5 years.

Here's why I was curious.

I moved to Seattle in 1988. I remember thinking it was a really good sale if I could buy a 6-pack of Coca Cola for $1. When it reached that price, I backed up the truck.

As recently as 2004, I remember thinking it was a really good sale if I could buy a 12-pack of Coca Cola for $2. When it reached that price, I backed up the truck.

16 years had passed but I was still buying Coca Cola at that same price. You can see the effect of that in the chart. Carbonated beverages were not keeping up with inflation.

As seen in the chart, those days are over. My Coca Cola supplies have dwindled to nothing. It might very well stay that way. This week's sale is $3 for a 12-pack. I'll pass. We do have an ample supply of Dr. Pepper though (purchased at Costco recently with one of their in-store coupons).

Coca Cola is really pushing their luck, at least with us.

The company hopes its smaller, cheaper packages will appeal to consumers on tight budgets.

Yeah, well, good luck on that one. Everyone on a tight budget should be thinking in terms of dollars per ounce. Smaller packages are generally not the way to save money.

Stubborn people on tight budgets should look at Coca Cola's
27.59% profit margin during a period of high unemployment and decide for themselves if that is something they wish to support.

I find myself drinking more Gatorade lately (Pepsi product). The container costs about $10 (at Costco and/or Sam's Club) and makes 9 gallons (the equivalent of eight 12-packs). It doesn't pack the calories and high-fructose corn syrup rush of a soft drink, but that's actually a good thing.


Source Data:
BLS: Consumer Prices
St. Louis Fed: CPI

The Good Times Roll Over (Musical Tribute)





It turns out that inflation-indexed TIPS are highly correlated with the stock market and the economy. Declining investment returns, sinking stocks, and falling economic growth are all captured in declining real TIPS yields. - Larry Kudlow, October 1, 2001

Hey, at least we've got that going for us.

Source Data:
St. Louis Fed: 20-Year TIPS Yield

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Sarcasm Report v.139

November 17, 2011
Bloomberg Businessweek: U.S. TIPS Demand Wanes as Europe Crisis Pares Inflation Outlook

The Treasury Inflation Protected Securities, or TIPS, were sold at a yield of 0.99 percent, compared with a forecast of 0.060 percent, the average estimate in a Bloomberg News survey of seven of the Federal Reserve’s 21 primary dealers that are required to bid on U.S. debt auctions.

November 17, 2011
TREASURY AUCTION RESULTS

High Yield 0.099%

0.99%? 0.099%? It's all good. At least it wasn't reported as 99% in honor of the Wharton School of Business.



Students at the Wharton School for Business at the University of Pennsylvania mocked Occupy Wall Street protesters...

As for Wharton School of Business mocking, I'm reserving that for Jeremy Siegel of the Wharton School of Business and Mark Zandi who got his Ph.D. at the Wharton School of Business.

Maybe that's just me though.


See Also:
Does Jeremy Siegel Live in a Cave?

LA Area Port Traffic Is Rolling Over


Click to enlarge.

Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.


Click to enlarge.

Exports have been stagnating for more than a year.


Click to enlarge.

Exponentially increasing global trade? Game over.


Click to enlarge.

There is no meaningful dent in our unsustainable trade situation.

See Also:
More Port Traffic Stagnation

Source Data:
Port of Long Beach: Statistics
Port of Los Angeles: Statistics
The X-12-ARIMA Seasonal Adjustment Program

Food Stamps Heat Map


Click to enlarge.

The data represents August 2011 participation rates (people participating divided by the state's population).

It's a smooth scale from green to yellow to red.

Pure green represents Wyoming's 6.3% participation rate.
Pure red represents Mississippi's 20.0% participation rate.

So here's the question of the day. What's up with Oregon's 19.2% participation rate?





Source Data:
USDA: SNAP
List of U.S. states and territories by population
St. Louis Fed: Unemployment Rate in Oregon

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Who Puts the Ultimate Fun in the Funplex?

Texas does!

Ultimate Fun Birthday Package

PLEASE BRING CAKE AND CANDLES.
NO OUTSIDE FOOD ALLOWED

The ultimate fun birthday cake is inedible? It makes sense if you think it through. Nothing says fun like a diamond encrusted birthday cake with solid gold filling!

ALL PACKAGES MINIMUM OF 8 KIDS

It is common knowledge that the ultimate fun can only be achieved by outgoing extroverted kids who have many friends. The staff at the funplex are not miracle workers. If your child is a shy introverted book reading type, sorry about that!

$15.99 PLUS TAX PER CHILD*
$25 DEPOSIT (NON REFUNDABLE)
GRATITUDE/TIPS ARE WELCOME & APPRECIATED BY SERVING STAFF

The fun sure adds up!

Florida too!

The Funplex of Gulf Breeze

Party Central
Let us do the work for you and
please remember
EVERYONE must wear SOCKS on inflatables!!


Must remember to wear socks! Ultimate fun!

Gymnastics Party
Let us do the work for you and
please remember
Bare feet are required


Must remember not to wear socks! Ultimate fun!

This post was inspired by the ultimate fun. It is an ongoing joke that never gets old to me.

June 3, 2009
Innovation Danger!

The first quote comes from the president of the division where I once worked. I saw it in a magazine. It needs a bit of back-story first though. We'd just gone through one of the biggest frauds in the history of the stock market (it was before Enron and Worldcom). It was on the front page of the Wall Street Journal for a good month. There had been layoffs. Morale was in the toilet. So what was the quote?

We have a fun environment with creativity and fun.

I don't think I have ever laughed so hard. What the heck was "fun" doing in there once, much less twice? Hahaha!

On to the second quote. I'm reminded of it quite often, especially when watching the financial news on TV.

You can discover what your enemy fears most by observing the means he uses to frighten you. - Eric Hoffer

Fun! Creativity and fun! The lack of "fun" is clearly what the president of my division feared most, and for good reason. Dark gallows humor was the only fun we had. I'm reminded of one team walking by my door. They'd just been laid off. One said, "Dead men walking." We all laughed, but nervously.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Audrey's Story (Musical Tribute)

As seen in the comments...

Report on my local mall:
For the holidays, they had some vacancies. They filled two of them with what look like flea market venders. No decorations - cheap jewelry and cheap handbags. Otherwise we have a JCP, Belk's, Beall's and a couple of jewelry stores. Can you spell desperate?

And I had noticed that JCP didn't seem to have anything new since about August in the windows - And just this week I saw that the new CEO is planning to turn the company around by creating an environment where employees are creative and engaged. Please. I've been around the block a time or two - not happening. That is just nonsense. Not that I know what is going to happen.

The JCP CEO also said that sales of basic goods were weak this quarter because of less demand. Not exactly. I bought one item the last quarter - socks for my hubby. They cost the same as the previous socks but were half the quality. I was going to buy him pants too, but when I realized the fabric was half the thickness for the same price(he wears heavy duty cargo pants - construction work), I passed. So if it weren't for customer loyalty/ stupidity/ or something, sales of basic goods wouldn't have even been as high as they were.

I am confident you'll post an appropriate video.
Audrey




It would seem that JC Penney's plan is a "cheap" trick. Consumers neither "want" nor "need" overpriced socks at half the quality? Who knew?

May 2, 2009
"Good Enough" Revolution

I am a complete believer in the "good enough" revolution. I'm a former lead software engineer but I'm running a computer that was built seven years ago. It is still running Windows 2000! How's it working for me? Good enough!

It doesn't just apply to computers though. I'm not seeing much improvement in aluminum foil, ziplock bags, garbage bags, toilet paper, paper towels, t-shirts, sweat pants, underwear, socks, sneakers, bath towels, and anything else I've bothered to hoard based on my ongoing concerns about future prosperity. I figured they are all "good enough", so why risk having to pay more for them in the future if inflation actually does pick up at some point?


For what it is worth, I hoarded a lifetime supply of Gold Toe socks purchased at Wal-Mart a few years ago at prices far, far below what the JC Penneys of the world once charged me for the same product. My local Wal-Mart now no longer carries them. It was definitely one of my better purchases!

Viva la revolución lo suficientemente buena!

(Long live the good enough revolution!)

The Sarcasm Report v.138

May 27, 2010
Pros See Opportunities in Battered European Stocks

Italy has a smaller fiscal deficit than either Ireland or Spain, for example, so it will probably have less cost-cutting—with a less pronounced impact on economic growth.

Here's a chart of Italy's stock market since the opportunities appeared.

With the Lights Out (Musical Tribute)


Click to enlarge.



Eating out less and shopping in more?

And we wonder why employment growth is weak?

Source Data:
U.S. Census Bureau: Monthly & Annual Retail Trade

Restaurant Painkiller (Musical Tribute)


Click to enlarge.



Source Data:
U.S. Census Bureau: Monthly & Annual Retail Trade

Monday, November 14, 2011

Extreme EE Savings Bond Mispricing

The government is officially asleep at the EE Savings Bond wheel.

Although the government has set the short-term interest rate of EE Savings Bonds at just 0.6% it has not altered the original term (the time needed for the bond to double in price). That's still set at 20 years and if held that long the bond will yield 3.53% per year.


2^(1/20) = 1.0353


Click to enlarge.

The chart above compares the EE Savings Bond rate if held to original term (the time needed for the bond to double in price) to the rate of a treasury bond with the same duration (using interpolation on the treasury yield curve where needed).


Click to enlarge.

The chart above shows the rate markdown of the EE Savings Bond compared to a treasury bond of the same duration. That tends to be about 30%. Put another way, if the treasury bond yields 10% then the savings bond tends to yield about 7%. If the treasury bond yields 5% then the savings bond tends to yield about 3.5%.

The lower rate is due to the tax advantages that EE Savings Bonds offer (deferral of taxation, tax benefits for education).

As of today, the EE Savings Bond has an original term of 20 years. It therefore yields 3.53%. A 20-year treasury bond currently only yields 2.77%. As seen in the second chart, the mispricing between the two is currently at an extreme. What was once a premium to own EE Savings Bonds is now a discount.

So what does this mean?

In theory, if trading fees and taxes were absent then one could make risk-free money for 20 years by shorting $5,000 in 20-year treasury bonds while simultaneously buying $5,000 in EE Savings Bonds. The government would basically be paying you each and and every year for the next 20 years to do the trade (much like what it is doing for our biggest banks).

Or alternatively, I can't say that EE Savings Bonds are a good value to other things one could invest in, but it is clear that they are a good value relative to treasury bonds in general. Since I am generally a fan of relative value, that means I will probably be a buyer of EE Savings Bonds in 2012. That will make the 3rd year in a row. Go figure.

EE Savings bond rates and terms will not be changed again until May 1, 2012. There's no hurry to make the purchase though. In fact, it would probably be best to wait until April to make the decision. If the mispricing is gone in April it would only mean that interest rates on 20-year treasury bonds have risen dramatically. Who knows? It could happen.

Something will eventually fix this mispricing. That's about all I am sure of. I expected at least some of it to be fixed on November 1, 2011.


October 20, 2011
EE Savings Bond Rate Prediction for November 1, 2011

The government doesn't just set the interest rate. It also has the power to change the time it takes for a given EE savings bond to double in price. Since interest rates have fallen substantially, the odds of a duration change (for new purchases) are increasing substantially.

It would not surprise me to see the original term increase to 22-25 years at some point (perhaps very soon).


Source Data:
Treasury Direct: EE/E Bonds Rates & Terms
U.S. Treasury: Daily Yield Curve
St. Louis Fed: 5-Year Treasury
St. Louis Fed: 7-Year Treasury
St. Louis Fed: 10-Year Treasury
St. Louis Fed: 20-Year Treasury
St. Louis Fed: 30-Year Treasury