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Mark's Market Blog

7-19-15: Agreements!

By Mark Lawrence

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There seems to be agreement between Greece and Europe that Greece is to destroy their economy and sell of their islands to Russian billionaires to pay off debts. There seems to be an agreement between Iran and the US that Iran can continue to play with nukes, but only on the down-low, and sanctions will be dropped. And there is agreement between the US and Cuba to exchange embassys for the first time in 54 years. Kumbaya! Stocks shot upwards to near record levels on the wonderful news.

S&P 500 January 19 2014 to July 17 2015

President Barack Obama lauded the Iran deal from the White House. "In our time, the risk is that nuclear weapons will spread to more and more countries, particularly in the Middle East, the most volatile region in the world. We have stopped the spread of nuclear weapons in this region." Putin loves the deal and is telling the Russian press that he created the approach and brokered it. Iran will be buying lots of weapons from Russia. Syria's genocidal madman Assad loves the deal because his only supporter in the world is Iran and suddenly they're rich again. Hillary loves the deal 'cause, um, 'cause, oh, I dunno why she does anything except she wants to be rich and powerful. What's next for us? Congress has 60 days to debate the deal, then they vote. The deal will fail; congress will send a law to the oval office negating the deal. Obama will veto it. That's when the real fun begins: can the republicans and democrats band together to override his veto? As it stand right now, this deal has few supporters in congress. But overriding a veto, that's another matter entirely. . . What's next? If the veto and the deal stand, Iran will be, relatively speaking, awash in money. Expect oil prices to drop, perhaps dramatically. Expect conflicts and border wars in the middle east to increase as Iran challenges Saudi Arabia for regional dominance, with Iran getting the upper hand. And expect, in the long term, the US will move their regional ties from Saudi Arabia to Iran. Unless we see holocaust part II. That word Hitler made famous, "Aryan," and the name of the country, "Iran:" same word.

The IMF says in their estimation Greece's debt is unsustainable. This is huge: the IMF charter says they are not allowed to loan money to a country with an unsustainable debt load. They're basically telling Europe unless there's a haircut on Greek debt, the IMF will not participate in the new bailout. Meanwhile Greece's major unions are all demonstrating against the new deal, letting parliament know that they pass the required laws at their own peril. Greece's banks have been closed for two weeks, but they opened on Monday. Prior to the crisis becoming acute it was estimated that 40% of their loans were non-performing; now pretty much no one in Greece is paying their mortgages. Why pay money to a bankrupt bank? It's hard to see a path to survival for the major Greek banks. And the Greek economy? An unnamed senior EU official said there was now a "20, maybe 30 percent chance of success. When I look at the next two to three years, the next three months, I see only black clouds. All we succeeded in doing was to avoid a chaotic Grexit." And how's the Euro zone doing? Germans, Finns, Dutch, Balts and Slovaks no longer want taxpayers' money to go to bail outs, while the French, Italians and Greeks feel the euro zone is all about austerity and punishment and lacks solidarity and economic stimulus, meaning free money from heaven. "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." -- Leo Tolstoy. The EU is an unhappy family right now.

Goldman Sachs says the Chinese crash is over, we need a bit of time to work out some bad positions people have in the markets, but they rate the Chinese market as a buy right now. You can't trust these guys: they've been known to shill for the Chinese and other countries before to keep on their good side. These guys make a lot of money running various scams for governments - they're a big part of the reason Greece got into such trouble - and they're a lot more interested in those relationships than whether or not retail customers make money. Meanwhile the Chinese index rose for three days under the Herculean efforts of the chinese government, but that seems over now: on tuesday the market dropped 4.6%, giving back a third of the gains from the previous three days.

Gold dropped below an important support level of $1136 last week, and in early trading in Japan crashed down to $1087. Someone dumped 5 tons of gold, probably to raise money due to margin calls on the Chinese stock market. Many think gold is on its way to $1000, perhaps as low as $800. When gold was hovering around $1250 this seemed apocalyptic, but now it seems quite believable. Sometime soon is the time to consider buying gold, particularly if you have a very dim view of the future of world wide banking, markets and currencies.

Attacks on Jews in France have doubled in the last year. On Monday an umbrella of Jewish organizations in France issued a statement saying that the reports represent just a sliver of the full extent of incidents. "Nothing seems to stop the dramatic increase of anti-Semitism in France which today reached appalling levels." Netanyahu called on Jews in Europe to emigrate en masse to Israel, "This wave of terror attacks can be expected to continue, including antisemitic and murderous attacks. We say to the Jews, to our brothers and sisters, Israel is your home and that of every Jew. Israel is waiting for you with open arms." The Swedes, Germans, Danish, British and French have all failed at achieving multiculturalism, their efforts destroyed by unassimilating, non-working and violent muslims.

ISIL continues to expand their fighting fronts across north Africa, looking a lot like Rommel at the beginning of WW II. Obama is in deep denial of this force, thinking that dropping a few bombs will stop a major social movement. We're losing this war - ISIL is looking more and more powerful each day. Now they're releasing videos of how to train your toddler sons by having them behead dolls. More and more fighters join them from countries around the world each day as muslims world wide respond to the young but growing caliphate.

Millennium Health wanted to raise some cash, so they asked JP Morgan to help them float a corporate bond issue. JP Morgan helped them sell $1.8 billion in bonds. Millennium is owned by its executives and the private equity firm TA associates. They used $200 million of the money to pay off debt held by TA Associates, and $1.3b of the money to pay a special dividend to the owners. When JP Morgan sold the bonds to the public they neglected to mention that Millennium had been investigation by Medicare for fraudulent activities for several years. Now the bonds trade for 41¢s; on the dollar and investors have lost 60% of their money. Millennium just settled for a $250 million fine; the trouble is they don't have the money. Their earnings are down 30% as Medicare and Medicaid move tests to other firms, firms that haven't been caught billing them for tests on dead people and test that had never been performed. So, JP Morgan is in trouble for non- disclosure, right? Nah. The SEC considers these bonds loans and they don't regulate loans. No agency regulates banks in this area. Buyers like pension funds desperately need yield; sellers and banks are making use of this fact to scam them more and more.

The Institute for the Study of War did some war game simulations of ISIL. The results weren't pretty. ISIL is winning, and they're likely to continue to win. The quran says that if a muslim leader can gain control of territory and proclaim a caliphate, then all muslims owe him allegiance. This happened a couple years ago, and muslims all over the world are flocking to the middle east to fight for this guy. ISIL is winning the PR war, they're winning the media war, they're attacking on multiple fronts, the US does not have the manpower to fight them on the ground, and the middle east countries don't show the cooperation or will to fight them either. As it stands right now, we should expect more and more of the middle east to come under ISIL's control. Eventually they'll get control of serious amounts of oil, then this will avalanche.

A new study by researchers at the University of Colorado, New York University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill concludes that there are three things you can to do prolong your life, each with roughly equal affect: 1) quit smoking; 2) get a high school diploma; and 3) get a bachelor's degree. Apparently the Wizard of Oz added about 6 years to the Tin Man's life when he gave him a diploma. Those with more education get less heart disease. I think they're confusing cause with correlation. Perhaps I'll die young: I'm a high school drop out. Or maybe that just cancels out my bachelor's degree.

What is going on in the oceans from Fukushima? I know of several expeditions now that have gone out into the pacific sampling water and making tests. I have been completely unable to find any results. All data on the radiation levels in the pacific is completely suppressed. I've heard numerous anecdotal stories - sailors used to seeing huge schools of fish in the middle of the pacific report now there's nothing. Here's a video made by some Canadians who spent nine days sampling up the Canadian pacific coast at low tide over 200 kilometers of coast (120 miles), and found more or less nothing alive. Last year there were papers about starfish near Vancouver suddenly and mysteriously melting - this was attributed to global warming, or a "pathogen" that infected numerous different species. That latter is enormously implausible: you can't get a virus from a dog or a cow, these things are highly species selective. Japan has recently admitted they've found plutonium in the ocean at 10,000,000 times "normal" levels - plutonium is a synthetic element, none is left from the Earth's formation. Any plutonium you find today comes from nuclear tests or nuclear accidents. What's the truth? Honestly I don't know, but I'm very alarmed.

Living in clutter? There's a book about a clean up technique that's all the rage in Japan and becoming popular in the US quickly, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. You attack your clutter problem in five stages: 1) clothes; 2) books; 3) documents; 4) miscellaneous items; 5) mementos. Starting with clothes, you take everything you own and sort it into two piles: the things you truly love and every thing else. Everything else goes into a trash bag to be donated or burned. Basically you want to own a lot less. I have a criticism about this: I intend to leave a ginormous mess for my kids to sort through when I die, it's one last way I can get back at them. Perhaps I'll sort through my stuff and ship the trash to my kids. . . I could tell them my will specifies that they must bring one or two of the items in particular to the lawyers office in order to inherit, and the list of magic items is sealed.

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