September 26: Daily Contrarian Reads

The Scent of Group Stink Is As Strong As It Was In 2000 and 2007

To this observer, our markets’ resilience is all too reminiscent of former Citigroup CEO Chuck Prince, who kept on dancing because the music was still playing. To me, the indomitable market is more a function of lemming-like behavior in a market, economy and profit setting that is far less secure and strong than many subscribe to. Group stink is a powerful force in the markets, especially when the machines and algorithms and the ever-constant inflows into popular passive funds and ETFs dominate the investment backdrop. These factors exacerbate short-term trends and may contribute to the perpetuation of an ill-conceived perception of a daunting and inexhaustible virtuous market cycle.

China’s Rising Defaults Uncover A Secret—-Even More Hidden Debt!

Rising defaults in China are unearthing hidden debt at companies across the country. Small firms that can’t get loans by themselves have been winning banks over by getting other companies to guarantee their borrowings. The companies making those pledges exclude them from their balance sheets, leaving creditors in the dark. Borrowers often extend the guarantees for each other, raising the risk that failures could ricochet, at a time when increasing borrowing costs have already added to strains.

#Take the Knee

There’s a lot to complain about in this deranged republic — if it even still is one — but the burdens of being a multimillionaire football player would not be at the top of my list. Personally, I find it a little peculiar that we have to play the national anthem before any sporting event. All it really shows is how insecure we are as a nation that we have to display our love of country in this obsessive manner. Same with congressmen and their stupid flag lapel pins, or the flag in front of Denny’s chain restaurants. Are eaters of the “lumberjack slam” so disoriented when they leave the place that they need to be reminded what country they’re in? “Oh, look hon, were in the USA after all….”

Dangerous School-Boy Insults—-Trump’s North Korea Folly

The level of insult and hostile name-calling between world leaders was taken to a new extreme by Donald Trump in his speech before the U.N. General Assembly. In his preferred rhetoric replete with saber rattling, Trump’s comments included,  “The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”

Yes, This Is A Red Alert——FIX Shorts Are Back And At All-Time Record Level

With VIX at its 2nd lowest level weekly close in history, amid storms, quakes, dismal data, oh yeah and nuclear armageddon looming, it is perhaps no surprise that speculators sold more VIX futures last week… to a new record level of shorts…

Silicon Valley Snake Oil: It’s Passed Its Sell By Date

It’s different this time!” One of the greatest examples of Silicon Valley “snake oil” ever devised, embraced, and consumed en masse. The problem with “snake oil?” It’s never different. And today’s newest and improved version has passed its expiration date – and is beginning to turn rancid……Sorry, but, once again, hint: It’s over. As in dot-com mania over. The only thing left to happen is the inevitable crash. But make no mistake – it’s a matter of when, not if. And “when” is soon.

No, Russians Didn’t Hack Election Results in 21 States!

The DHS said that 21 states were affected. But it wasn’t election results or voting machines that the Russians attempted to manipulate, but rather the voter registrations systems, according to Wisconsin officials, one of the effected states. “This afternoon, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security notified the Wisconsin Elections Commission for the first time that ‘Russia government cyber actors’ unsuccessfully targeted the state’s voter registration system in 2016,” the officials said in a statement. They explained the attempts had “no impact on Wisconsin’s systems or the election.” The Hill further explained why voting machine or election results cannot be tampered with….

The New York City Taxi Medallion Crash—-A Perfect Story of The Free Market Vs. The State

A medallion being essentially a license to drive a cab, $150,000 to $450,000 doesn’t seem like the bottom, however at the peak. 2014, a medallion went for $1.3 million. By the way, Uber was founded in 2009, but New York cab owners either didn’t get the memo, or didn’t understand the implications. In 2014, those crafty devils at New York City Hall sold 350 new medallions at the height of the market, generating $359 million in revenue.

Donald G. (Genghis) Trump

Not since Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev banged his fists and waved his shoe at the UN in 1960 has a world leader made such a spectacle of himself as President Donald Trump did this past week at the world organization. Trump vowed to ‘totally destroy’ North Korea, a nation of 25 million, if it dared threaten the US or its allies.   To do so, the US would have to use numerous nuclear weapons. The president’s Genghis Khan behavior seemed to take no account that a US nuclear strike against North Korea would cause huge destruction to neighboring China, Japan and Russia – and pollute the globe.   They could hardly be expected to applaud Trump’s final solution for pesky North Korea…..

Spain’s Crackdown on Catalonia Backfires—–Independence Movement Gaining Steam

Madrid’s crackdown on Catalonia is already having one major consequence, presumably unintended: many Catalans who were until recently staunchly opposed to the idea of national independence are now reconsidering their options…..The middle ground they and hundreds of thousands of others once occupied was obliterated yesterday when a judge in Barcelona ordered Spain’s militarized police force, the Civil Guard, to round up over a dozen Catalan officials in dawn raids. Many of them now face crushing daily fines of up to €12,00.