September 12: Daily Contrarian Reads

Mind The Vol—–It’s Breaking Out Of The Sub-Basement

For months on end, traders, analysts and pundits have been pointing to record low implied vol as a sign of pervasive complacency (and in some cases, “trader paralysis”) in response to a market that made no sense, and where the only permitted direction was “up.” That may finally be ending, and not just based on references to seasonal patterns that have zero relevance in a “new normal” driven by central bank asset purchases, but because the market’s artificial sense of calm is finally starting to crack, as observed by the recent surge in 20-day S&P realized vol.

Why A Nuclear North Korea Is Here to Stay

Despite its relative poverty and isolation, North Korea has confounded the experts and made surprising advances in both nuclear and missile technology. While all projections are conjecture, Pyongyang may become a medium nuclear power with an effective deterrent against the United States. That doesn’t mean Kim Jong-un intends to wage war on America. Rather, he hopes to prevent Washington from attacking the DPRK. It’s an important distinction. Kim may be evil but, like his father and grandfather, there is no evidence that he is suicidal. They all appeared to prefer their virgins in this world rather than the next……

Cracks Emerge in Corporate Debt Confidence

Investors are starting to get worried about the $7.2 trillion U.S. investment-grade bond market. Yes, they are still pouring money into this debt and accepting near-record low yields to own it. But look a little closer and it’s clear these bond buyers are starting to show some signs of unease. Traders are increasingly turning to derivatives to hedge against potential losses.

How Trump’s Deal with Democrats could come Back to Bite Him

“This deal is a near-term positive for the market as key fiscal deadlines could shift, but the debt ceiling punt was more of a shank and our sense is that it may materially complicate the GOP’s legislative agenda,” Issac Boltansky and Lukas Davaz, political analysts at the firm Compass Point, said Thursday.

How the Feds Blocked Effective Flood Insurance

As the floodwaters brought by Hurricane Harvey last week recede and new hurricane Irma moves slowly toward the Eastern U.S., it might be edifying to review how millions of Americans, despite federal anti-flood efforts, came to live and work in hazardous to dangerous flood-prone areas. The foundation of the current disaster traces back at least to the late 1920s under Republican interventionist Herbert Hoover. In 1927, a very destructive flood occurred along the Mississippi River. Secretary of Commerce Hoover’s relief campaign greatly increased the power of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to implement supposed flood protection.

Restaurant Chain Get Hit—–With Their Own Economic Hurricane

And August became the 18th month in a row of year-over-year declines, with foot traffic at chain restaurants falling 3.9% and same-store sales 2.0%. Sales fell in 153 markets and rose in 42 markets. The Western Region was the least bad market, with same-store sales inching up 0.1% and foot traffic falling 1.9%. Texas was the “worst region” with same-store sales falling 5.2% and foot traffic plunging 7.2%. In the area of Texas that was affected by Harvey, foot traffic and sales fell to near-zero for the last week in August.

Trump Blows It Again—Welcomes Malaysian Statist Crook To White House

visit to the White House is a diplomatic plum that world leaders covet. So why is President Trump bestowing this honor on Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who jailed an opposition leader and is a suspect in a corruption scandal that spans the globe?

The Deep Secret Of FDA’s Baleful “Efficacy” Standard—-20% of Prescriptions Are “Off-Label”

Off-label use is very common. …Up to one-fifth of all drugs are prescribed off-label and amongst psychiatric drugs, off-label use rises to 31%. …A 2009 study found that 62% of U.S. pediatric office visits from 2001-2004 included off-label prescribing, with younger children having a higher chance of receiving off-label prescriptions…….The bottom line is that we have rampant and pervasive drug use that is outside the FDA’s control. Yet that isn’t leading to horrible consequences. Or even bad consequences.

Remembering Moynihan in the Age of Trump

The Trump Hotel operates in the Old Post Office building, a stunning Romanesque Revival structure completed during the gilded 1890s. Its granite façade, crowned with a domineering clock tower, occupies a full city block on Pennsylvania Avenue. In the 1970s, the building faced an uncertain future on a deteriorating stretch of the street that also included the White House. It was Daniel Patrick Moynihan—esteemed policy wonk, indefatigable egghead, and later U.S. senator from New York—who crusaded to save the avenue he deemed the “main street for both the city and the nation.” Moynihan’s lobbying endeavors resulted in Congress’ creation of the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation, which renewed the thoroughfare and saved the Old Post Office from the wrecking ball.

Why Government Cannot Be Run Like a Business

Mises goes on to explain how profit management and bureaucratic management require entirely different sets of skills and use completely different management principles (for example, under bureaucratic management, decision-making must be hierarchical with strictly limited discretion for subordinates — because how would you know if their actions contribute to overall performance, without a financial bottom line?). Unlike Murray Rothbard and other modern libertarian thinkers, Mises does not question the legitimacy of agencies like the US Internal Revenue Service, but he insists that their nature and function, and organization and governance, be analyzed and assessed as government bureaus, not as “firms.” Government agencies and private businesses are intrinsically different entities, and one should never be confused with the other.