May 4: Daily Contrarian Reads

Carmageddon: After Abysmal April Sales, Auto Workers Prepare For “Extended” Summer Shutdowns

Auto OEMs typically shut down plants once a year during the summer to retool for model changeovers and whatever general maintenance is required.  But this year summer shutdowns will be about much more than just retooling plants.  With inventory soaring on dealer lots, auto OEMs will likely have no choice but to extend their typically summer shut down schedule and it will take a ‘yuge’ toll on the 1,000s of auto workers that are considered “short term” employees and not eligible for unemployment benefits…the folks who pretty much single-handedly voted Trump into the White House.

Corporate Insiders Are Unloading Their Stocks Like There’s No Tomorrow—Do They Know Something?

There aren’t any surefire ways to tell if the stock market, and perhaps the rest of the economy, is about to take a nosedive. That’s because millions of people with millions of ideas are involved, so it’s an inherently unpredictable system. However, there are certain players in our economy that have a lot more influence and insider knowledge than the rest of us. So when they make a move in unison, you know there’s a good chance that something is about to go down. And that’s exactly what’s going on with the stock market right now. The people who would stand to lose the most if the markets crashed; the corporate executives and insiders, are all jumping ship and selling their stocks.

It’s Come To This—-NYT Cheering For Censorship Algorithms

Just days after sporting First Amendment pins at the White House Correspondents Dinner – to celebrate freedom of the press – the mainstream U.S. media is back to celebrating a very different idea: how to use algorithms to purge the Internet of what is deemed “fake news,” i.e. what the mainstream judges to be “misinformation.” The New York Times, one of the top promoters of this new Orwellian model for censorship, devoted two-thirds of a page in its Tuesday editions to a laudatory piece about high-tech entrepreneurs refining artificial intelligence that can hunt down and eradicate supposedly “fake news.” To justify this draconian strategy, the Times cited only a “fake news” report claiming that the French establishment’s preferred presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron had received funding from Saudi Arabia, a bogus story published by a Web site that mimicked the appearance of the newspaper Le Soir and was traced back to a Delaware phone number…….

More Signs The “Recovery” Is Failing

The Los Angeles Times today asked the question only the mainstream would ask. “Wages are growing and surveys show consumer confidence is high. So why are motor vehicle sales taking a hit?” Indeed, the results reported earlier by the auto sector were the kind of sobering figures that might make any optimist wonder. Across the board, and for the fourth straight month, there was almost all negatives, some still large. Given what Q1 GDP just related, a bad month of auto sales to start Q2 is not a good sign. The details almost do not matter at this point. Ford, as usual, led the declines, with sales falling again 7.1% in April year-over-year. GM sales were down nearly 6%, after analysts were figuring a milder 2% decline. FCA (Fiat Chrysler) saw its comp down 7%, too. And weakness abounded from the imports. Honda like FCA and Ford experienced a 7% decline, while Toyota sales were down 4.4%. Even the Koreans were hit, with Hyundai reporting an 11.7% decline

The Dollar Supercycle—What Comes Next?

What do the US residential housing market, the stock market and the dollar all have in common?  All of these markets represent bubbles created and driven by the aggressive social engineering of the Federal Open Market Committee. Will live in an age of asset bubbles rather than true economic  growth.  The investment world is skewed by the latest round of monetary policy experimentation by the Fed, including years of artificially low interest rates and trillions of dollars in “massive asset purchases,” to paraphrase former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke.   These bubbles are caused and magnified by supply constraints, not an abundance of credit.  Whether you look at US stocks, residential homes in San Francisco or the dollar, the picture that emerges is a market that has risen sharply, far more than the underlying rate of economic growth, due to a constraint in the supply of assets and a relative torrent of cash chasing the available opportunities.

Let’s Call Western Media Coverage of Syria By Its Real Name: Propaganda

But while, as Sakwa says, the reportage of Ukraine’s civil war by our renowned newspapers has been abysmal and embarrassing, it doesn’t hold a candle to that of Syria, where any pretense of real journalism was done away with long ago. Syria is proof of how low mainstream Western media are prepared to sink in the service of state power; it’s where journalistic standards, like global jihadists, go to die. Rank propaganda is the order of the day. Honest observers are appalled. Stephen Kinzer wrote that “coverage of the Syrian war will be remembered as one of the most shameful episodes in the history of the American press,” while Robert Fisk described the war as “the most poorly reported conflict in the world.” Patrick Cockburn registered a similar concern, writing that “Western media has allowed itself to become a conduit for propaganda for one side in this savage conflict.” This has grave implications……

Pension Tension: Uncle Sam Walking Tightrope into the Unknown

The fact is public pensions are an intractable issue that is growing as a factor of time and worryingly, increasingly ignored. And these are the best of recent times for pensions, without question. This from Bloomberg:  U.S. state and city pensions posted median gains of 4.1 percent in the first three months of this year, the sixth consecutive quarter of positive returns, the longest winning streak since 2014. While this moment in time will alleviate some of the $2 trillion in underfunding, it cannot be enough to make up for lost time given that the depth of the hole was less than $300 billion in 2007. As is plain, a whole heck of a lot of damage was exacted in the short space of a decade. Obviously, there was blood in the Street during the crisis years. But that dark chapter was followed by a magnificent rally in risky assets.

The Donald Got That Right: US “Needs A Good Shutdown In September To Fix This Mess”

With Congress poised this week to approve a deal to fund the government through September, the first major bipartisan legislation of Trump’s presidency, after lengthy negotiations (which have appeared to signal numerous ‘folds’ by President Trump), apparently frustrated by the lack of tryannical powers that a simple majority grants him, President Trump has lashed out this morning at disagreeable Democrats, and in particular Senate Democrats…..

Italy Is Europe’s Next Big Problem

Emmanuel Macron looks on course to become France’s new president, ending the threat of a euroskeptic at the Elysee. Even if Macron wins, though, it’ll be too soon to celebrate a new phase of stability in the euro zone. Across the Alps, an economic and political storm is brewing — and there’s no sign anyone can stop it. Italy’s economic problems are in many ways worse than France’s. Public debt stands at nearly 133 percent of gross domestic product; in France, it’s 96 percent. The last time Italy grew faster than France was in 1995. Both countries have struggled to stay competitive internationally — but French productivity has risen by roughly 15 percent since 2001, whereas Italy’s has stagnated.

Oliver Stone On It’s Important To Hear What Putin Has to Say

The man behind three films about American presidents, Oliver Stone, says his upcoming feature about Russian President Vladimir Putin “opens up a whole viewpoint that we as Americans haven’t heard,” and could help prevent “a dangerous situation – on the brink of war.” Academy Award-winning director and revered documentary filmmaker Stone said in interview with the Sydney Morning Herald that his new film about Putin will be released soon. “It’s not a documentary as much as a question and answer session,” he said. “Mr. Putin is one of the most important leaders in the world and in so far as the United States has declared him an enemy – a great enemy – I think it’s very important we hear what he has to say.