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Mark's Market Blog

4-12-15: Greece, again.

By Mark Lawrence

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Markets went up all week, closing Friday near the all-time high and the 1st resistance. Nothing really good happened except we got a bad jobs report, which made everyone happy 'cause they think it means no Fed interest rate rise in June. Bad news is now good. I think markets have to go down next week 'cause it's not time to be making all new highs. All this sideways meandering so far this year has us getting closer and closer to the 200 day moving average. A correction - a 10% or more drop - in the next couple of months would not be the biggest surprise ever.

S&P 500 October 13 2014 to April 10 2015

Greece's banks continue to hemorrhage money. Their net deposits will be zero by about the end of this year on current trends; if there's a banking panic, which I think likely, it could happen in a few weeks. The European central bank is refusing Greek banks access to the Emergency Liquidity Assistance program, designed precisely to protect saver's deposits in the face of a crisis. The conclusion is clear at this point: if the ECB does not change their stance, which I do not foresee, Greek depositors are going to get screwed. This is the latest EU policy, invented during the Cyprus bailout: deposits over €100,000 are not protected and basically count as stock - they're paid off after all the bond holders. I assume most Greek large depositors know this, but it seems inevitable a few will still get screwed. Europe is sending a message that banks are not really safe. I'm not sure they're going to like where this message takes them when the problems spread to Spain, Portugal, Italy, and perhaps finally France.

The Apple watch is out for preorder and apparently most stores sold out in the first few minutes, less than an hour. Even the $17,000 version. Reviews are mixed, with some loving the interaction, others saying you need munchkin fingers to use it and when you're in a meeting it's vibrating every three minutes to tell you you have a tweet or a facebook post or something to entertain you. Personally, I don't get it. No one wears watches anymore, why is an apple watch different? The currently accepted answer is that it's not a watch, it's an accessory for your iPhone. As Clairee Belcher famously said, "The only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize."

Last November, just one week after his re-election, Governor Paul LePage of Maine did something unusual — he made good on a major campaign promise, by slashing funds for cities who give welfare to illegal aliens. The policy has already had a huge impact, with illegals fleeing in droves, and Democrat mayors having to defend giving handouts to illegal invaders before angry voters. Now, just 6 months later, LePage is making good on another promise: to put an end to welfare leeches in his state. Governor LePage passed a measure last year that requires recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program (SNAP) to complete a certain number of work, job-training, or volunteer hours in order to be eligible for assistance. The new requirement has resulted in a dramatic decline in food stamp enrollment, resulting in a logical win-win for all of Maine. At the end of 2014 the enrollment count for SNAP was approximately 12,000 individuals. Now that individuals have to complete either 20 hours of part- time work a week, volunteer for at least 24 hours per month, or get involved in a vocational program, the amount of SNAP recipients has dramatically dropped to approximately 2,500 by the end of March — a nearly 80% reduction in welfare.

The sardine population off the coast of California has dropped by 90% due to over fishing, leading to the mass starvation of thousands of sea lions and uncounted numbers of pelicans. Officials expect to ban all sardine fishing later this year. Curiously, just a month ago I read that the sea lions were being killed by global warming. The Quinault Indian Nation in Washington state plans to fish for 1,000 metric tons of sardines in the upcoming fishing season, which begins on July 1. They say treaty terms mean they cannot be stopped by federal or stat agencies. It's ok if Indians fish for sardines, 'cause that's natural. It's only when white guys fish for sardines that you get population collapse.

Where does California's water go? Agriculture. Farming brings in 2% of California's economy and produces half the fruits and nuts eaten in the US, one quarter of all US food. Here's a table of the water consumed by agriculture:

Almonds, one nut1 gallon
Broccoli, one head5.4 gallons
Cantaloupe, one50 gallons
Corn, one ear40 gallons
Cow, one20 gallons per day
Lettuce, one head8 gallons
Orange, one14 gallons
Olives, one pound520 gallons
Pistachio, one nut3/4 gallon
Rice, one pound400 gallons
Strawberry, one0.4 gallon
Tomato, one3.3 gallons
Walnut, one5 gallons
Watermelon, one168 gallons

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