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Mark's Market Blog

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The market resumed its upward rush, setting new highs. My prediction from a few weeks ago of hitting 2100-2200 is looking better and better.

S&P 500 January 10 2014 to July 20 2014

The jobs report came out, unemployment is now 6.1%, the lowest number since September 2008. Of course this doesn't the five million who are long term unemployed for various reasons, and even Janet Yellen doesn't believe the number, but Wall Street and Washington are partying - Washington 'cause of their genius in creating jobs, and Wall Street 'cause the more people who have jobs the fewer available to join Occupy Wall Street. If we were to count the unemployment rate against the labor participation rate of 2008, we would have an unemployment rate of 9.4%. And when the Social Security Disability Fund runs out of money in 2016 we may be forced to face this artificial crisis. Since 2007, applications to the Social Security Disability program has risen 30% resulting in 23% more Americans receiving payments. The plan, originally designed for those who suffered catastrophic illnesses like strokes, heart attacks and cancer, is now routinely tapped for illnesses like depression, back pain and chronic fatigue syndrome.

When will the Fed raise rates? Bernanke says not in his lifetime. Yellen won't say, but if anything I believe she's a bigger dove than Bernanke - I think she never met a free program for the big banks that she didn't like. Her official excuse is that she doesn't believe the unemployment numbers (neither do I) and she thinks free money for Wall Street will somehow result in more hiring in Detroit. However, Fed watchers say the time is ripe and near. Anyway, when wages start to go up it's thought by some that inflation will also go up and the Fed will raise rates. We'll see.

Chili's and Applebys have bought a bit over 100,000 tablets each and are putting them on tables to let patrons see the menu, order, view their check and pay. McDonald's is testing a phone app that does the same stuff. The days of minimum wage low-skill jobs are very numbered. Things change permanently in a recession - before Reagan's recession everyone wanted a huge expensive stereo, afterwards most all the stereo stores went out of business and never came back. A very few stores popped up selling home theater but they never prospered. Before the great recession our youth could get a start on working at McDonald's or wait table to get through college. There used to be manufacturing jobs in Detroit that paid very well with great benefits. 30 years ago we even had companies that made clothing and shoes. All gone. Forever.

Mike Doran, a senior fellow of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, describes the mayhem engulfing the Middle East as "a struggle over the regional order" among three sides: "Shiite Iran and its proxies; ISIS and like minded Sunni extremists; and the traditional allies of the United States: Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and Israel." "Obama supports Iran," Doran wrote. "One can argue about whether this pro-Iran tilt is accidental or intentional, but one cannot deny its existence. This outcome bodes ill for the United States," Doran concluded. "But it will be especially dangerous for those countries that the U.S. used to call allies: Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Israel, to name just three. Israel is in particular peril. American policy is partitioning Syria between Iran and the global jihadis—the two worst enemies of the Jewish state, now digging in right across its northern border. There can be no happy ending to this story."

Aereo, the company that let you rent a small antenna in some large market and view their TV, was ruled illegal by the Supreme Court. I had had hopes of paying Aereo $8 / month to rent a Madison Wisconsin antenna to watch the Packers games instead of paying DirecTv $65 / month for essentially the same service. The ruling says Aereo is effectively a cable company and must pay retransmission fees to the TV stations. Maybe I'll get my antenna but at a higher price. I doubt it - the NFL filed a brief in the lawsuit 'cause they saw immediately that this was the end of NFL Sunday Ticket. (My spelling checker is upset that I wrote "had had." How do young kids ever get to learn english?)

China has released a new official state map that shows their national boundary encompassing Taiwan and running right down the coasts of Vietnam and the Philippines to Borneo. The Chinese navy has already sunk half a dozen small Vietnam and Philippines fishing boats that were in what everyone else on the earth considered international waters. This will end badly.

The Air force has these kewl drones - predators, etc. The Army now has lots of little helicopter drones. What about the Navy? Meet Robo- Tuna, the Navy's undersea drone. It swims like a fish with tail movement - no propeller, no jets. You can hear those. It doesn't look very stealthy, but that's because metal isn't all that important underwater - there's no underwater radar. And many potential targets don't use active sonar because that gives away the listener's position. The robo-tuna is allegedly for sensors and mine sweeping, but it's not hard to see it used as a slow torpedo too. The manufacturer, Boston Engineering, is also working on a fiber optic cable that's buoyancy neutral so that the fish can swim away from a submarine a few miles and still have a stealthy 10 gigabyte data connection. I'm a guy so I have to admit I just love all this high-tech weapons stuff. But I'm also a conservative so I wonder seriously who this will be used against and why we need it.

There's a new comedy movie coming out in October, "The Interview," where Seth Rogan and James Franco arrange an interview with N.Korean president Kim Jong Un. When the CIA hears of the interview they recruit the pair to assassinate him. N.Korea today issued an ultimatum to Washington: "If the U.S. administration allows and defends the showing of the film, a merciless counter-measure will be taken."

For my entire life LA has been where TV series are filmed. No longer, the People's Republic has managed to screw that up too. More series are now filmed in NY than LA, and yet more series are filmed in other states like Maryland. LA has become too expensive with too few tax breaks, say the studios. Netflix has three series, "Orange is the New Black," "House of Cards," and "Daredevil," and just losing these three series is costing the P.R. of California $475 million worth of jobs. Maybe you're thinking California doesn't need the jobs? Yah, maybe. The Economist ranks the P.R. of California as worst in the US for small business, and California has the 4th worst unemployment numbers in the US. I own a business here and it seriously sucks. In about a year my last kid graduates from the U of Ca, then we're all outta here. I don't need to pay extra taxes to be hated, I can be hated for free.

China has 35 million excess marriage age men with no hope of getting a Chinese bride - if you want a Chinese woman to marry you, you have to own a house and a nice car at the minimum. So there are huge underground rings that import "brides" from Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia. There are lots of stories now of parents or brothers telling their Vietnamese daughters they're taking them to a "job fair," where the teenager is sold to a Chinese company for $5000 and hustled off to her wedding. Or a bordello. The problem is especially acute for the Hmong and Minh, ethnic groups who live in northern Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand but are not considered "real" Vietnamese, Cambodians or Thais. There is extreme poverty among the Hmong and in many cases the family has little or no food for the young girls.

El Nino, a warming of pacific waters that tends to lead to more rain for California and drought for India and Australia, is continuing to develop. Waters are already quite warm. However there are wind shifts that have to happen at the same time and they're not. This El Nino will almost certainly happen, but without the wind shifts it could be a dud producing little rainfall for parched California.

You've probably heard of the new epidemic, young children crossing the border illegally. We have over 60,000 such children in custody. What's up? In central America it's now widely believed there's a new US law that says if the mother is already in the US illegally, the child simply needs cross the border and surrender to immigration, then they will be transported to their mother in New York or wherever. Unfortunately in may cases that's exactly what has happened. When the kids are sent to the mother they are told they are to show up in an immigration court in a month or two. Stunningly, few show up in court. It's also claimed that mothers who cross the border with children are welcomed with open arms. We need a wall. This will be a huge reality test for me: it looks like a near certainty our next president will be republican, now we'll see if they follow through and build a wall or take the bribes campaign contributions and just pay lip service to the wall. I don't expect anything to change, 'cause I think our entire political system is corrupt top to bottom.

Wanna get addicted to opiates? Here's the states where it's apparently easiest to get a prescription:

Need a maid? In Singapore they sell them in malls. They are from places like Indonesia, the Philippines and Myanmar. And if you act now, you can get one at a "special discount." Inside the galleries, maids sit quietly. Some nod. At displays elsewhere in Singapore, they act out tasks, like wheeling wheelchairs or pretending to change a baby doll's diaper. Some places reportedly market stereotypes as well. Filipinos are "smarter," while Indonesians are "less bright" and Burmese maids are "sweet-natured and compliant."

Bonus pictures. Free.

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