Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Seeing "Cus" Gene

This week something different and yet, an amazing, miracle like news. For some kids that have a disease that affects sight also known as Leber congenital amaurosis, seeing Cousin Gene is a problem. The good news there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
An FDA panel has unanimously voted to recommend a gene therapy by Sparks pharmaceuticals which makes the treatment. If you are thinking of buying the stock, it is already up 70% this year. I suggest that you wait for a pullback.
No pills
No injections just one treatment. Sparks uses a virus to deliver a healthy copy of a gene to make up for the one that causes the harm or disease. There are others in this field, but Sparks stands to be the first to bring this style of medicine to the US market. At the moment, the recommendations of the panel along with the trials will be decided by the FDA to allow the treatment to be used in the market. The therapy is designed to treat a rare, inherited form of blindness. There is no approved treatment for the disease and people with the condition will go blind.
There has been some incredible success stories associated with Sparks' therapy. The FDA should make their decision by mid-January 2018.
By the way, this treatment and style of medicine is getting a lot of buzz by Big Pharma. The concept has many applications. Pfizer is already partnering with Sparks. Voyager Therapeutics is using genes to work with problems in the brain.(Ma, your prayers for me are answered). Other companies in this field are: Bluebird Bio and Regenxbio.
This is so cool and congrats to the people at Sparks.
Future World
In a related aspect, TransEnterix(TRXC) has received approval for its robotic surgery system, Senhance. In the near future it is possible that a doctor using Senhance robotic system could apply the Sparks treatment to cure the Leber disease. Wow!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Euture Bonds: Safe or Disaster

Question: What is the biggest market, and thus, can cause the greatest economic impact?
Clue:        It is a four letter word.
Answer:   Bond market.

The Federal Reserve chair, Janet Yellen has stated that the Fed will unwind the securities that it purchased to ease the financial crisis of 2008/09. This will be a slow process and it should not disturb the bond market. Words are easier said than actions and this action has many repercussions. When debt is reduced, premiums for bonds rise. In addition, the Fed has also stated that interest rates will rise. Yellen claims one more increase this year and three in 2018. I say that she, whether she still has a job or not, is bluffing and it won't happen. There are many reasons.
If one were to reread the above, one would realize that the Fed's actions are in conflict. You cannot reduce debt which raises yield and at the same time, control that premium when you are raising interest rates. This is two opposing concepts. Recent history reveals how markets react. Another less valid point is that President Trump may actually fire Yellen in January 2018 and install his puppet.
Financial Crisis 2009
the premium for bonds was over three points. Today, it is 0.25%. This is central for the price of bonds. By the way, the recent historical average is 1.6%.
In a report by Bloomberg on the outlook for government issues, old "Helicopter" Ben Bernanke list three main components. He says this is the make-up for any given bond. First, the bond's premium. Next, the market's expectation for interest rates and thirdly, the inflation level.
Now, put that data to Yellen's outlook. She is raising rates. This kills part of any given bond. As for inflation, we all know it is there, but the Fed does not count what we all need like food, energy and shelter. She is increasing the premium by reducing debt. In essence, she is combating all three components of a bond issue. In addition, who wants an old low paying bond when higher rates are on the horizon?
Dear reader, we should all realize that the Fed is nothing more than a shill for the banking industry. They have destroyed the sound thinking in finances by penalizing savers and glorifying debt. They have basically outlawed gold and old Ben even claimed gold was not money. Such is our life.
100 Year Bond 
Yes, this is part of our life and what central bankers are doing in Austria. Think back for a moment 100 years? How much has the world changed? This won't even have value to pass on as inheritance. Insanity is reflected today in our financial leaders. In that vein, if the Federal Reserve were audited, it would be declared bankrupt. Nevertheless, no one wants that box opened. As long as the game is playing, the status quo rule. Maybe this thinking and negative interest rates are new school, but I'm old school - gold backed currency, fight inflation, stable currency and economy.
Keep in mind, rates effect currency. As I say in my unpublished work, all things are connected. The US rate is higher than Europe or Japan which helps the value of the dollar. This was reflected in the dollar in 2016 as it rose to almost par with the euro. Today, even though the US rates are still higher than competing nations, there is pressure on the dollar. Its future will be based on the easy money policies of central banks, the Chinese effort to circumvent the dollar in global trading and the relationship of the dollar to oil or the Petro-dollar.
As you can see rate changes effect many aspects to finances to economies, and especially to bonds. The Fed is banking on higher rates to protect the dollar and at the same time, using the easy money policies of other central banks as a counterweight to their policies. The Fed believes it can reduce its holdings, raise rates to a more normal level and stabilize the bond market. I say Shakespeare had it right, "Oh, what a tangle web we weave when we deceive."

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Remix at WH and Market

If one were to step back and look at the recent doings at the White House and the stock market, the results would differ from the accepted reality. In this perspective that word "reality" is central to the findings.
President Trump finally offered his much anticipated tax overhaul plan. From my early view of it, in the long term, it will put the US national deficit to a point where it can never be repaid to which a collapse is certain for our economy, our dollar and government. In the short term it offers a chance to revitalize our domestic manufacturing industries. This will help the middle class and social mobility. This is good. However, the real tax relief is going to the rich under the same old same old BS that this will spur investment. Yeah, the third house far enough away from any possible nuclear catastrophe that the war drums are indicating. It will spur yacht building and sales for the rich to escape(see previous reason). I should include the private jets along with fly-in communities.
In weighing the plus and minus of the tax plan, I'm not for the individual tax allocations, but I do like the business side of the plan. We need physical manufacturing plants here in the US that offer living wages and future social mobility. As for individual tax brackets, I would close all high end loopholes beginning with our homeownership interest deduction. I'd cap the mortgage deduction at one million. This will raise revenues and end the escalating home price spiral. Someone is building a home in LA that will cost one half billion dollars. This is just a $500 million tax loophole. See what I mean? I would increase the top bracket to 50%. It is about time that the wealthy pay their fair share. I would demand a balanced budget and include a category to pay down the national debt, but that is just me and those ideas are a long way from reality.
Reality
We are back to that word. President Trump seems to act like he still is on a TV reality show. In his old show, he fired someone. In the White House he has the same policy. He has asked someone to step down or he has fired a cabinet member nine times. This works out to one a month, but it has not helped his ratings. They are down and falling which is the opposite from the buzz about all the new changes to Washington from the outsider. The president complains that he cannot get someone to do what he wants which is why he switched teams to work with Democrats in the debt ceiling deal. Yeah, give a politician an open check book to spend like the guy he just fired as the agricultural secretary who spent $476,000 on travel expenses. This is like an episode of American Greed. If we don't get a third political party for our nation, things are looking very, very bad.
Stock Market
has the same buzz as the WH and it too, is misleading. The market was spurred by the Fed and low interest rates after the financial crisis. Tech led the way. If one follows Dow Theory, it is in harmony. The Dow and the Transports are at record highs. Even the once hard pressed Baltic Dry Shipping Index is in an uptrend. Leadership however, is no longer techs. This will take many by surprise. If you have a tech mutual fund or wealthy enough to be in a hedge fund, your next statement will upset your morning coffee. At present, the financials and energy are helping the market. This won't last. It is based on expectation. Financial expect the Fed to raise rates which helps them. Won't happen. Energy had multiple pluses from OPEC cutbacks to hurricanes. Won't last. In addition, the specter of electric cars is changing the landscape. Finally, let's take a closer look at tech and why so many will see red with their morning coffee.
AAPL: anyone who purchased shares since early August is in a losing position. Dear reader, if we buy our hundred shares, we would be down one grand. Your mutual fund or hedge fund buys by the million. They will be down ten million or more.
AMZN: anyone who purchased shares since mid-July is in a losing position. Your mutual fund or hedge fund is down over $114 million.
GOOG: anyone who purchased shares from the end of July is in a losing position. Your mutual fund or hedge fund is down $31 million.
The other big three, NFLX, MSFT and FB are threading water and they all have gaps which love to be closed.
In addition, NASDAQ itself is deceiving. It is at record highs. Of all the different companies listed, 40% are trading below their 200-day moving average and most are in a bear market.
Together, this all indicates a market that is ready for a correction. I would time it to the cabinet member who cannot get Trump's tax plan through Congress. When he steps down, the market will use the elevator in the same direction.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Sports Retail: Anatomy of a Losing Season

Week three in the new NFL season and viewership is down 10%. If this trend continues, this will be the third straight down year for the sport. They are not alone. Baseball and basketball have been getting by because of TV revenue and not attendance. You can add hockey to that list. What's happening?
New Kids on the Block 
Many years ago some single minded kids began using their free time to do different activities like cross/bike and skate boarding. This is nothing new in American child development. Generally, these new choices end with that particular generation. The mainstays like football, baseball and basketball dominate the majority. However, child rearing has changed. Kids no longer meet on the street, schoolyard or park. Today, parents take them to planned activities like soccer, karate class or similar. In addition, the advent of video games which combined with television and you had the seeds for new likes and interests.
Our Culture
is strongly effected by the media. When you had stars like Mickey and Yogi in the early 60s, baseball was king, the national past time.
When college football drew our attention with Roger Staubach or Lombardi's Packers in the NFL, the sport zoomed passed baseball to number one. With the introduction of the Super Bowl, it has retained that position ever since. Basketball grew with Magic Johnson and the Lakers versus Larry Bird and the Celtics. However, it has failed to keep our attention since that glory decade. Nevertheless, it has held a steady position in our culture all this time. All of the three major sports are American made and developed. They have been exported to the world, but of the three, basketball will always have a position due to the fact that you can play by yourself with limited expense to enjoy. It is not unique in the aspect of individual expression, but it beats golf, boxing or karate in my opinion. With all that said, television media has lost market share and its audience to the internet. The kids live on their smart phones, laptops and tablets.
Is that all you got?
No, and since this blog centers on our democracy and economy, let me show you the difference in dollars and cents.
The following is a strong representation of our sports apparel through the eyes of stock trends and price.
Company & symbol                       Price:        Was                                           Now
Dick's Sporting Goods(DKS)                      high was in November 2016 @ $62.             $26.
Nike (NKE)                                                 high was in November 2015 @ $67              $53.
Finish Line(FINL)                                       high was in September 2014 @ $31             $9.
Foot Locker(FL)                                          high was in December 2016  @ $79             $33.
Under Armour(UA)                                     high was in May 2016  @ $44                      $15.
Keep in mind that during the same period Sports Authority went bankrupt. Their end was suppose to give a lift to everyone else. Didn't happen! This is another nail into sports retail. In addition, there are many retail stores that carry sports material from supermarkets to dollar locations. Should I mention the bid brick and mortars like J.C. Penny, Sears or Macy's? Of course, as they close stores, sales decline for sports apparel merchandise. Now, while the above has caused the old mainstays to drift to the bottom of the totem pole, the new kids are rising. For many moons the couch potatoes stocks drifted lower after a huge expansion, however the gamers are now leading the pack. They have there own tournaments, conventions and following. This is reflected in the big three that makes the product that kids buy. The results are mixed, but generally upbeat.
Game Stop(GME)                                        high was in December 2015 @ $42              $20.
Activision(ATVI)                                        was $29 in July 2015                                     $83
Electronic Arts(EA)                                     was consolidating between $60 & $70         $118.
Of course, this is not the complete sports outlook. You always have a season in life for different tastes. Golf is such an example. The sport is cynical. If you look at Callaway Golf, the high was during the financial crisis at $18. It fell like everything during that time, but it has slowly climbed back and sits at $14. Nevertheless, youth will be served, but as for me, I play fantasy football and I wear Notre Dame logos. To each his own. Go Irish!
       

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

I'm No Prophet. But...

If you stand back and look at what is happening in the US recently, and put it in a biblical perspective, an ancient prophet would say that God is unhappy with our nation. We have so much knowledge today, that we have become arrogant and very secular in our leaning. I had these thoughts last month when the solar eclipse crossed over America. I took my mind back to Mark Twain's book, A Connecticut Yankee in King Author's Court. His main character used a solar eclipse to gain favor with the royal court because they feared what was happening. Twain did not use religious overtones, but I will due to the numerous events and all coming directly after the solar event.   
Let me count the ways...
The point that the eclipse split the nation is very relevant. Consider that people are fighting each other over their point of view. Put up a wall and check immigration or keep things the way they are. Keep the military presence in the world or end this world police mentality that is bankrupting our nation. Black lives matter or these civil rights issues are blown out of proportion. Tariff's to protect our economy or free trade under globalization. There are more issues, but I think that you get my point.
Then,
within a week of the solar event, hurricane Harvey destroys Houston. It gets followed by yet another hurricane, Irma which destroyed many Caribbean Islands, the Florida Keys and other parts of Florida. Oh, yeah, there was a major earthquake in Mexico along with hurricane Katia and tremors in Asia and in Europe.
Irma has come and gone, but then there appeared another crazy moving hurricane, Jose. It defied logic and the experts computer models. Thankfully, it went out to sea. A secularist would shrug that this is a tough season, but it's over.
Oh, yeah?
How about another major earthquake in Mexico and hurricane Maria ripping up the Caribbean? Hopefully, again, it does not hit the US.      However...
Add this to the equation: on the 16th anniversary of 9/11, there were 20 million Americans without power and suffering hardship. This, any ancient prophet would translate, points to an angry God. Things could have been worse. Maybe because there were so many acts of compassion and brotherhood, the Lord held back the calamity. Maybe he tested us and He saw many courageous acts that he relented in His anger. How else could one explain the crazy movements of Jose, of N. Korea and the Middle East.
Our secular nation only gives stats and only worries over the economic effects, especially to insurance companies. Their generalizations overlook the good deeds people performed with acts of courage with acts of kindness and acts of charity. Consider all the donations and the efforts to coordinate those gifts? Since this is football season, a special shout-out to J.J. Watt, great job!
A central problem as I see it is our military complex and its military involvements everywhere on the globe. Today, that mentality is meeting the same mentality in N. Korea. This puts the world in danger. Maybe, just maybe we should follow Putin's advice. He offers their thinking and a way to find peace. He says that N. Korea feels deep anxiety over the US and S. Korea war games on their border. They also claim that the US will attack their nation. This is why they want WMD. If that is the problem, then end the tin soldier games. We can sign a treaty saying that we won't attack them and even seek a final end of the Korean War treaty. We attempt our best to give peace a chance. However, if after all these concessions and the phonies in N. Korea demand more demands, then call a spade a spade. We should show depth of character by cutting off trade with any nation that trades with N. Korea. This strong retort is especially aimed at China. If N. Korea is going to treat us as an enemy, then we respond like an enemy. Keep in mind that we must first give peace our best effort and honesty in negotiation. At the very least, we regain the Lord's favor. But hey, I'm no prophet.
Sebastian asks for an amen. Amen, brother!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Katrina vs. Harvey, add Irma & Jose=Big$

When you listen to the media about recessions, crime or other calamities, they have all the stats. They forget that those words mean little if you lost your job. You are in depression. If your house was robbed or car hijacked, you are in depression. If your house gets flooded, you are in depression. I just had another sad thought, consider anyone that had fate meet them in the recent hurricanes. Now, you need money to eat, another car to find or drive to work and a place to sleep. I don't want to get off topic, but this reality drives home a point about the Federal Reserve. In their formula to engineer life, they do not count under inflation all those things that we need: fuel, food and shelter. This is why I cry, End the Fed!
Anyway, I am looking at those hurricanes even though there are other serious problems out there like the earthquake in southern Mexico or the wildfires out West.
Katrina v. Harvey 
A decade after the devastating hurricane hit New Orleans, the city is still in a rebuilding mode. Yes, it takes that long and as you will see, many businesses and people never recover. It gets worse. Just last month a normal rain downpour caused flooding in New Orleans. Why? The cities water pumps went offline, malfunctioned or had cutbacks in maintenance. Point? They are not ready for anything over a summer shower.
In any event, the city was spared from Harvey, however here is some data that will relate to Houston to Texas and to the nation. New Orleans lost a sizeable chunk of its population. Keep in mind that geography and demographics plays a part in the results. There are 90,000 fewer people living there. It lost 95,000 jobs and this equates to $2.9B in loss of wages and also a loss of revenue for the city and state. We know from historical tendencies that after a disaster 40% of small businesses never come back. By the way, New Orleans has jobs available. There are 12.5% vacancies in jobs that need to be filled and sadly, this is the most vacancies in the US. This is a BS stat. Businesses refused to spend money to train workers and now, they complain that they can't find skilled people...Back to N.O.
New Orleans has limited entry and exit roads. It also was losing population long before Katrina. The city is smaller, but it has good local transit services. It has a strong port and it is central to transportation of goods by the Mississippi River.
Houston is much larger and spread out over the terrain with great access roads. It has been growing in size and population for a long time. It has poor local transport services, however the city is economically diversified and it too has a strong port.
In the immediate month after Katrina, New Orleans lost tourists jobs, health care and port jobs. The same will happen in Houston. One big positive for Houston is that it had a large number of rentals. This will help smooth over any loss in population. One big negative is the loss of an estimated 500,000 cars. In a sprawling city, a car is a necessity. Maybe the government will do another "clunker" vehicle program?
At this time I like to remind you that in natural disasters, water can be the destructive force and at the same time, the most important need to survive. If my water concept had been utilized, the estimated 27 trillion gallons of water to hit the city would have had different results. There would have been less damage and up to two-thirds of the water captured for future use like for drinking and agriculture, but then again, I'm just a blogger, a nobody.
"Take another little piece of my heart..."
- Janis Joplin
The news did a nice job in getting down to street level with the reporting of Harvey. It revealed many kind and generous acts. It is great to hear all the good Samaritans, but the news does a terrible job with insurance agencies. Just this past Sunday, 60 Minutes had a story on insurance fraud relating to hurricane Sandy. Yes, it takes this long for some real truth. It gets worse. FEMA directed many agents to the effected areas and the people who they used, lowballed almost every citizen that they were to serve. It gets worse than worse. It was later discovered that insurance companies rewrote claim figures and estimates to cheat customers. Last year, there was 1,400 arrests nationally due to fraud in the US. With this event filled hurricane and wild fires season, those numbers could explode. The only thing that could hold down the numbers is due to the limited agents working on an overloaded cases.    
Costs: 
Katrina cost $160B in today's dollars. It was actually $106B then. It is another example of how the Fed has destroyed the purchasing power of the dollar. Harvey has early estimates touching $140B. Irma's early call was overblown at $250B. Fortunately, it didn't hit Tampa hard The sad part is that many small farms like in the tomato capital of Immokalee will never return. This will cause more imports and only add to our national debt.
Jose? Let's hope the good Lord turns it out to sea, however costs will rise due to two factors. One, the sea is rising and thus, storm surge will be worse. Secondly, people like to live near the sea. It is therapeutic. Who would not like to spend their last years taking walks on sandy beaches with fishing, boating and swimming? The concentration of homes along with it being prime real estate drives up the costs. This would not change even in a gold standard. It is life. It is the way we are made up. The only problem is who pays when it goes wrong? Our insurance companies need an overhaul. They take the money in good times, but seek loopholes when the fat lady sings. In addition, the federal government almost insures every property in coastal areas and this is wrong. If you cannot afford to pay for your good like, then you are not ready for it. Taxpayers subsidize your lifestyle. Who subsidizes the rest of us? Don't misunderstand me, each should stand on his own two feet. I feel for you if you are standing in two feet of water, but maybe this is the time to reevaluate your life. Come stand in two feet of snow with me. Shoveling is good exercise and there is no danger of tornadoes or hurricanes, however I can't rule out quakes. Peace.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Round Two With NAFTA

The first 100 days have come and gone and Trump's central rhetoric of ending trade deals or at least, renegotiate them, is just hot air in the wind. All this week behind some closed doors, the second round of negotiation between the US, Canada and Mexico is taking place in Mexico.
Trump complains that he cannot get results from the people that he hired. I could have told him that Republicans will never do anything for ordinary Americans. These are the same people who pushed for NAFTA. Then again, Trump said that he won't hire poor people. There goes my social mobility.
The Argument
The people who favor NAFTA (nothing but shills) point out the success of US corn and soybeans since the program began, I have news for you. People and governments buy when hungry. Those two products in the US favor large industrial/agricultural farms. The two may not have had the huge growth during this time period without NAFTA, but the basic law of economics would have garnered some success in any event. I'm not even going to include the stupid ethanol program. Food is basic. Hunger equals demand and demand equals sales!
Now, flip the coin! The US lost 12 million jobs in manufacturing. That's right! Now, SHUT UP!
An auto parts factory lost along with the actual assembly plant, Adios! An air condition plant closed. No jobs, Nada! An appliance maker deployed over the border. Hasta Luego!
We hear the BS in other aspects of the economy like the shrinking middle class and stagnant wages. Well, just read the above sentence. Republicans gave us the "trickle down economy." They just didn't say where it trickled too - south of the border. But hey, it is not just Republicans. Old "slick" Willie persuaded, lobbied and signed the law. This is why I always say we need a new third party. A party for the people and one that has middle class thinking and values and its people. All we have in Congress is millionaires and lawyers.
Getting off the topic. In the pause the shills gather their second point: technical service jobs because of NAFTA.
This is smoke and mirrors because those jobs are temporary in nature. The foreign companies are training home grown workers in this field and when ready, those jobs will go to the local yokels.
Closer Look
I like to offer you a different perspective with tomatoes.
Tomatoes
I would estimate that at least half of the US population has tried to grow tomatoes at one point or another. However, I am talking about farms and farmers. Recently, a small Florida farmer pointed out the problem and it centers on NAFTA. He hires transient Mexican workers for his product. He says he cannot compete with his Mexican workers versus the Mexican workers in Mexico. Why?
First and foremost is currency manipulation. It is central to why Mexico sends 80% of its exports to the US and why it has excessive surplus monetary gains against the US. It is why the ETF, EWW is soaring. It is why the central bank of Mexico upped its forecast for GDP from 2% to 3%. The rules and regulations of NAFTA add to the problems of US producers. Even if parts of the deal could be renegotiated, any upset party could take the new deal to NAFTA's court and even the WTO. There is a bureaucracy of layers working against the US, but I have an answer(see end).
It is why this small Florida farmer is slowly dying. It is not just manufacturing that is gutted by NAFTA, but every aspect of our society. To be fair it is true that the US tries to level the field by subsidizing agriculture. The problem is the program only helps large industrial complexes and does little or nothing for the small farmer.
No Milk for YOU!
It is why one day our milk will come from Canada. Sadly, the currency tricks work north of the border too. Our diary farmers are also dying a slow death.
All talk no action
That is the feeling behind the bravado of the "Donald." This is reflected in the Mexican peso. After Trump's election win, the peso plunged 17% on fear of tariffs. Now, it is actually up versus the dollar and up over 5% from that victory night. This is what the smart money is doing. They are making profits on the wall of economic worry with Mexico, while the media plays circus games with new appointees and talk of trade deals.
This should be added to NAFTA and if we can't, drop it like a bad habit. The US will place tariffs on all products and services to the tune of the difference between the high of the US dollar and the low of the competing foreign currency. Amen! Oh yea, those NAFTA and WTO courts? Screw you, US law "trumps" your bureaucracy. Amen!