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Mark's Market Blog

1-12-14: Fukushima.

By Mark Lawrence

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Well, wrong again. Stocks dropped for three days, rebounded a bit for a couple, and seem to be range bound right now. This market really wants to be going up. No matter how hard I try, I consistently underestimate the power of the Fed.

S&P 500 July 22 2013 to January 10 2014

Sears continues to hemorrhage money. They just announced they expect to lose about $2.75 per share in the latest quarter. To my eyes JC Penneys and Sears have outmoded business models and won't survive much longer. Many malls in the US are anchored by Sears and JC Pennys - their death could be the beginning of the end of shopping malls.

The unemployment rate fell to 6.7%. About half of that decrease is due to people falling out of the workforce; very few jobs are being created, and most of those that are lately are part time jobs, often due to the weather - clearing snow, for example. Everyone got excited because there were few layoffs in December; employees were kept on for the christmas rush. But the truth is we have created not quite enough jobs to keep up with population growth in the last four years. This economy is a turd stuck in a tar pit, and as you all know, you can't polish a turd. But you can chrome plate it. Below is the "official" unemployment rate, and the unemployment rate as calculated by the government in the 80's, before they decided to stop counting drop-outs.

Fukushima reactor #3 has lethal levels of radiation inside, so no one can enter and no one is sure what's going on in there. There have been recent steam releases into the atmosphere that are consistent with a partial meltdown of the spent reactor storage facility. This means 89 tons of nuclear fuel might be melting and going up into the atmosphere in a steam cloud even as I type - roughly equivalent to 500 hiroshima bombs. If this is true there will be a major radioactive cloud hitting the US west coast, perhaps late this week, perhaps later this month, perhaps serious enough to be deadly to millions. Airborne particles travel on the jet stream from Japan to California in 2-3 days. Don't presume your government will keep you informed - their attitude seems to be that they have nothing useful they can do to protect 60+ million people, and talking about it will just generate panic. And Japan - for most of last year they reported the radiation leakage was 100 mSv per hour; however a couple months ago it was discovered by the BBC that 100mSv was their instrument's maximum reading. When better instruments were brought in it was found the actual radiation level was 18 times higher.

On Dec.6 2013 DHHS put out a requisition for 15 million potassium iodide tablets, delivery required on or before Feb.1 2014. I already own some; you should too. These are very unpleasant to take, but prevent your thyroid being killed off by radioactive iodine, a major contaminant from a melt down. Radio iodine has a half life of 8 days, so the only way Fukushima can threaten the US with radio iodine is from a melt down so severe that it goes airborn. You can buy potassium iodide at a health food store or on ebay. Recommended doses here. The FDA claims only people under 40 need this. I dunno, I kinda like my thyroid and KI is cheap. KI is a salt and lasts for thousands of years.

Times are getting tough on the political parties - more and more people identify as independents. Center left people are unhappy with democrats; and these days pretty much everyone is unhappy with republicans. Soon we're going to need new parties that actually reflect what the voters think, instead of what we're supposed to think.

Minimum wages are on the rise, led this time by the left coast. California is at $9 headed to $10; not to be outdone the mayor of Seattle recently called for $15. And there's talk of raising the federal minimum wage. Soon minimum wage will be higher than army pay - that should prove interesting. McDonalds as a career choice.

I've mentioned before that suddenly I'm seeing women in burkas near my house - I've seen a few in Walmart, and one on campus at UC Davis. It turns out if you see a woman in a burka, she's either a Saudi or a Pakistani.

From your cell phone, call 888-382-1222, the National Do Not Call registry, and spend the required 20 seconds. This is the month that your number gets released to telemarketers and other satan worshippers if you don't.

The DC-9 was the first commercial jet that could takeoff and land on shorter runways, opening up regional airports to jets all over the country. It was first delivered in 1965, the first plane going to Delta. The plane was produced until 1982. This week Delta retired the last DC-9, it's gone forever now. But you can still have one - many are left on the used markets, you can buy one as a private jet for anywhere from $70,000 to $2m. Why fly alone to Aspen when you can take 100 of your closest friends and all their skis and luggage?

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