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Mark's Market Blog

3-26-11: More radiation, more earthquakes, more arab revolts

By Mark Lawrence

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The news was pretty much bad non-stop in Asia, Arabia, Europe, but Bernanke's $8B per day stopped the market decline dead in its tracks. We bounced off the underside of the 50-day moving average three times this past week, then burst through on Thursday. I predict the market will basically go up from now until Bernanke quits spending money, which he said would be the end of June. After that, best have your parachute on.

S&P 500 October 4 2010 to March 25 2011

Tokyo says that the level of radioactive iodine in its drinking water is two times the limit of what's safe for infants, though it's still fine for adults. Tokyo is over 150 miles from the reactors and winds have not been blowing that direction, so this development is both surprising and troubling. Don't drink water anywhere north of Tokyo. Parts of the ocean near Fukushima now have measured radioactivity that's 1200 times the legal limit. Pools of water near the reactors have been measured at 10,000 times the legal limit. They have been using seawater to cool the reactors, with the result that several of the reactors are now thought to have buildups of salt weighing 50,000 pounds or more per reactor. This will hamper future effects to cool the reactors, as salt acts like an insulator and also may damage the cooling pumps.

Two earthquakes of magnitude 7.0 struck northeast Myanmar, close to the Thai and Laotian borders, seconds apart at 8:25 p.m. on Thursday, in a sparsely populated area. No damage was reported, but buildings shook in Bangkok 200 miles away.

Protests are picking up momentum in Syria, where police have fired into crowds and killed a couple dozen protesters. Assad will not give up power easily, I expect a protracted civil war like in Libya.

France and the UK are leading the air strikes against Libya. As of Tuesday, the latest day for which I know numbers, France has launched no missiles; the UK has launched two Tomahawks at roughly $1.5M each; the US has launched 121. That's European leadership for you. Personally, I'd like to see Gaddafi go just as much as anyone else, but I don't understand why we're getting involved or spending money. I think we'd get a lot more bang for our buck by giving the rebels a ship full of AK-47s, personal anti-tank missiles, and beat up Humvees and outdated tanks.

Of all the uprisings and protests that have swept the Middle East this year, none is more likely than Yemen to have immediate damaging effects on U.S. counter terrorism efforts. Yemen is home to al-Qaida's most active franchise, and as President Ali Abdullah Saleh's government crumbles, so does Washington's influence there. On Tuesday, Saleh pledged to step down by year's end. Whoever replaces Saleh will inherit a country on the brink of becoming a failed state. There is a secessionist movement in the south. Pirates roam its waters. A rebellion in the north has been a proxy fight between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Half of Yemen's citizens are illiterate. A third are unemployed. Drinking water is scarce, yet the population is growing at one of the fastest clips in the world.

California's debt to the U.S. for covering its unemployment checks the last two years could reach $13.4 billion by the end of the year. If the loans aren't repaid by November, a payroll tax will kick in. It starts at $325 million next year and could rise to $6 billion if California's unemployment insurance program fails to repay the feds. I've been thinking about hiring someone. I'm having second thoughts.

How are new home sales? Half of the new home sales in 1963, when Kennedy was President.

New Home Sales:560k250k

400,000 gathered in London to protest their new government's austerity budget, which dramatically cuts welfare payments.

S&P's downgraded Portugal’s long-term credit rating from A- to BBB. S&P and Fitch have both placed Portugal’s ratings on negative outlook, implying further downgrades could be made in the near future. Portugal’s prime minister, José Sócrates, resigned after his defeat in a key vote on austerity measures. Portugal will operate without a government for about three months until they can hold elections.

The European Central Bank is preparing a couple $50 billion bailout packages for Ireland and Portugal. It's not at all obvious that this will be enough. They feel they must stop the problem in Ireland and Portugal before it spreads to Spain and Italy.

Multiculturalism in France - a great video about how Islam is mixing in with established cultures in Europe. Think it can't happen here? Some cities in Michigan are already 30% Muslim and have the call to prayer broadcast over the entire city five time a day, beginning at sunrise.

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