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Mark's Market Blog

6-19-11: Greece

By Mark Lawrence

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On news that Europe will most likely not in fact commit financial suicide by letting Greece default, the markets tentatively went up Friday, and a bit more on Monday. Many world stock markets are now below their 200 day moving average, especially China's Shanghai index which has just experienced a "death cross," where the market and the 50 day average are both below the 200 day average.

S&P 500 December 24 2010 to June 17 2011

After three months of meltdown, Japan is finally recommending evacuations from towns as far as 25 miles from Fukushima Nuclear Plant, according to Japan Times.

Eurogroup leader Jean-Claude Juncker said the hard restructuring favored by Angela Merkel would be seen as a default by ratings agency, leading to "extreme consequences" for the eurozone. He warned that Belgium and Italy could be forced to seek a bailout even sooner than Spain. Asked whether Greece could quit the eurozone, Juncker said it was an "absurd" idea with "unimaginable" consequences. "There would be a contagion not only across the eurozone but also in Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia. It would cause widespread fire. Even the most outlandish don't raise this hypothesis," he said.

Greece is scheduled for a no-confidence vote on June 21; it's widely expected that Prime Minister Papandreau will lose, and then call for new elections. Demonstrations, one might even call them riots in many cases, are increasing in Greece to the point where the country is economically at a near standstill. Greeks feel they have been had by German and French banks, by Goldman Sachs, and by incompetent and perhaps even criminal government officials. Germans and French feel they are being asked to foot the bill for Greeks who won't tax themselves and retire far too young, and that Goldman Sachs is complicit in a cover up. And we Americans also are getting ready to throw a bunch of Goldman Sachs executives into jail. So you see there is a bit of agreement here, at least on the topic of Goldman Sachs. It's clear to me that Germans will have to partially bail out Greeks; that Greeks will have to change their tax and retirement programs; and that eventually Greece must leave the Euro or give up substantial sovereignty to a new central European government.

The British government is seeking pension reforms, which include increasing the general retirement age in the public sector from 60 to 66, moving from a final salary system to benefits based on career-average earnings and raising contributions by an average 3.2%. Outraged, the head of Britain's largest public sector trade union threatened the biggest wave of industrial strikes since 1926,

The White House announced late last night that it would end the health care waivers program. The program exempted some employers from a requirement to offer at least $1.25 million worth of coverage annually. Currently there are 1,433 employers who use the program, covering 3 million Americans, according to the LA Times. Starting in September they will have to offer coverage.

North Korea will have developed a compact nuclear warhead that can be attached to ballistic missiles and fired onto the U.S. mainland by next year, a top strategist predicted this week. This scary warning comes from Larry Niksch, a senior associate at a prominent bipartisan think tank, Center for Strategic and International Studies. Iran is believed to be within a couple months of having a nuclear warhead. I think we're within a couple years of the world's first episode of nuclear terrorism.

How free is your state? Professors William Ruger and Jason Sorens scored the states in three areas: (1) they included measures of social and personal freedoms such as peaceable citizensí rights to educate their own children, to own and carry firearms, and to be free from unreasonable search and seizure; (2) they incorporated more than 150 distinct public policies; and (3) they measured fiscal policies in a way that reflects the true cost of government to the citizen. Their results match up pretty well with the standard red / blue state maps. It seems conservative states are more interested in freedom, and liberal states more interested in security and egalitarianism. Here in the People's Republic of California we're not free, we're expensive.

Freedom By State

State Freedom Rankings
1. New Hampshire 14. Texas 27. Michigan 40. Washington
2. South Dakota 15. Georgia 28. Arkansas 41. Illinois
3. Indiana 16. Tennessee 29. Montana 42. Ohio
4. Idaho 17. Kansas 30. Vermont 43. Maryland
5. Missouri 18. North Carolina 31. Pennsylvania 44. Alaska
6. Nevada 19. Alabama 32. Kentucky 45. Rhode Island
7. Colorado 20. Utah 33. Maine 46. Massachusetts
8. Oregon 21. Wyoming 34. Minnesota 47. Hawaii
9. Virginia 22. Arizona 35. Louisiana 48. California
10. North Dakota 23. Nebraska 36. West Virginia 49. New Jersey
11. Florida 24. Mississippi 37. New Mexico 50. New York
12. Oklahoma 25. Wisconsin 38. Connecticut
13. Iowa 26. South Carolina 39. Delaware

A Gallup poll found the median definition of rich in the United States was an annual household income of $122,000 -- which is still close to the threshold income for being in the top 10% of households. Narrowing the focus to the top 2% of households puts the income threshold at $360,435, according to an analysis by the Tax Policy Center. But a newer definition that might work better. Four in 10 millionaires recently surveyed by Fidelity said they still do not feel wealthy but would feel that way with $7.5 million in the bank. I'm sure many would feel that way with a lot less -- and the majority of millionaires in the survey said they started feeling rich at $1.75 million in investable assets. How rich are you? Below is a percentile graph, which looks eerily reminiscent of Gore's climate Hockey-Stick graph. Except this graph is made of Census / IRS data, not massaged and edited politicized temperature data. $155,000 per year puts you in the top 10%; $200,000 in the top 5%, $500,000 in the top 1%, and $2,000,000 for the top tenth of one percent.

Freedom By State

Married Income By Percentile


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