Saturday, August 28, 2010

California County Fits Preschoolers with Radio Frequency Tags

to save teachers and school administrators time and money.

Remember my post on Wal-Mart tagging the jeans with radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, and the expert's comment that "benefit far outweighs any concerns" over privacy? I guess children are less than Wal-Mart jeans when it comes to privacy. They are at the same level as dogs and cats...

California students get tracking devices (8/18/2010 AP via Mercury News)

"RICHMOND, Calif.—California officials are outfitting preschoolers in Contra Costa County with tracking devices they say will save staff time and money.
The system was introduced Tuesday. When at the school, students will wear a jersey that has a small radio frequency tag. The tag will send signals to sensors that help track children's whereabouts, attendance and even whether they've eaten or not.

"School officials say it will free up teachers and administrators who previously had to note on paper files when a child was absent or had eaten.

"Sung Kim of the county's employment and human services department said the system could save thousands of hours of staff time and pay for itself within a year.

"It cost $50,000 and was paid by a federal grant."

A federal grant: economic aid issued by the United States government out of the general federal revenue. A federal grant is an award of financial assistance from a federal agency to a recipient to carry out a public purpose of support or stimulation authorized by a law of the United States. (Wikipedia)

Your tax money at work.

Friday, August 27, 2010

So-Called "Ground Zero" Mosque May Get Public Financing

Reuters reports:

"(Reuters) - The Muslim center planned near the site of the World Trade Center attack could qualify for tax-free financing, a spokesman for City Comptroller John Liu said on Friday, and Liu is willing to consider approving the public subsidy.

"The Democratic comptroller's spokesman, Scott Sieber, said Liu supported the project. The center has sparked an intense debate over U.S. religious freedoms and the sanctity of the Trade Center site, where nearly 3,000 perished in the September 11, 2001 attack.

""If it turns out to be financially feasible and if they can demonstrate an ability to pay off the bonds and comply with the laws concerning tax-exempt financing, we'd certainly consider it," Sieber told Reuters.

"Spokesmen for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Governor David Paterson and the Islamic center and were not immediately available." [The article continues.]

Ben Bernanke Speaks, the Market Rises

He must think he is some kind of a god-like figure. Or that Biblical figure who allegedly parted the sea or another one who walked on the water...

The Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke has declared that he will do everything and anything to prop up the economy. The stock market participants (algo bots and their human operators) has decided to run with that PR comment for the day, driving the market higher. The second quarter GDP coming at 1.6% is also helping, because it was "less bad" than hyped (by none other than Wall Street banks and shills, eh.. pundits like him).

I don't know whether he still has any ammo left (he claims he does), but that aside, here are some of the stocks that are rising with significant percentage gain today (of no particular order; I'm reading off my stock screen):

JOYG (Joy Global - coal mining machinery): 4.06%
HL (Hecla Mining - silver miner): 5.06%
EGLE (Eagle Shipping - dry shipper): 5.17%
FCX (Freeport-McMoran - copper, gold): 5.16%
MTL (Mechel - Russian steel, iron ore): 5.69%
TSO (Tesoro - oil refiner): 5.41%
SGG (ETF that tracks sugar futures): 3.56%
LVS (Las Vegas Sands): up 4.08%

It looks commodities-related stocks are outperforming the market, even though US dollar remain up for the day.

I don't know about LVS...

And what's notably sinking? The US Treasuries.

TLT (ETF that tracks longer-dated treasuries): down 2.36%

Massive Solar Storm to Hit Earth in...Let Me Guess, 2012?

Yahoo India reports that a massive solar storm will hit the earth in 2012 with the force of 100 million hydrogen bombs. It's called the solar maximum - a period of greatest solar activity in the solar cycle.

As if we need more stress in this already stressful world ...

Massive solar storm to hit Earth in 2012 with 'force of 100m bombs'
(8/26/2010 ANI via Yahoo India)

"Melbourne, Aug 26 (ANI): Astronomers are predicting that a massive solar storm, much bigger in potential than the one that caused spectacular light shows on Earth earlier this month, is to strike our planet in 2012 with a force of 100 million hydrogen bombs.

"Several US media outlets have reported that NASA was warning the massive flare this month was just a precursor to a massive solar storm building that had the potential to wipe out the entire planet's power grid.

"Despite its rebuttal, NASA's been watching out for this storm since 2006 and reports from the US this week claim the storms could hit on that most Hollywood of disaster dates - 2012.

Similar storms back in 1859 and 1921 caused worldwide chaos, wiping out telegraph wires on a massive scale. The 2012 storm has the potential to be even more disruptive.

""The general consensus among general astronomers (and certainly solar astronomers) is that this coming Solar maximum (2012 but possibly later into 2013) will be the most violent in 100 years," quoted astronomy lecturer and columnist Dave Reneke as saying." [The article continues.]

(Image from

Well, let me guess, it is because of ... global warming! Right?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Hoenig, the Fed's Hawk, Says We're Still in Recovery

It seems he wants to hang on to this wonderful idea of a "recovery" so that he can continue to press for monetary tightening.

Not that I disagree with what he's been advocating; I do think Bernanke is either delusional or too high on some prescription painkiller to understand the unintended consequences of his monetary policies and their impact on the real economy on Main Street. But a recovery?

Fed's Hoenig: We're Still in 'Modest' Recovery (8/26/2010 CNBC via Yahoo Finance)

"The US economy is in a "modest" recovery despite a recent spate of disappointing economic reports, said Kansas City Federal Reserve President Thomas Hoenig.

""I think good news and bad news comes, and you balance it out, and you look at the trends. And I think we have a modest recovery underway," the Fed board member said in an interview with CNBC.

""I don't think any reasonable economist should expect more than that, given the events that we've gone through."

"Hoenig made his comments as Federal Reserve and central banking officials from around the world gathered in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to discuss continuing problems and concerns with the world economy. He suggested some new ideas for action may come out of the conference.

""I think you will get a broad discussion," he said. "I think out of that, from different points of view, from different parts of the world, you'll get- some disagreement. Hopefully some agreement, and some ideas about how to go forward. So, yes, I think we'll get something useful out of this conference for global economic development going forward."

"The meeting comes amid reports of some disagreement in the Federal Reserve over recent moves about handling its portfolio of securities.

""Uncertainty-is driving things," he add. "We all know that. And the idea here is to get some ideas on the table. Get some options defined that we can perhaps chart a path as a little longer term. But I think we'll address some of those uncertainties. (We) won't eliminate them, but perhaps address some of those uncertainties. That's the goal."" [Emphasis on this idiotic remark is mine.]

Oh boy... And these people are supposed to be the cream of the crop, the best and the brightest?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Let Them Eat Cake - White House Mouthpiece Version

AP has a glowing report on Bill Burton, deputy White House Press Secretary standing in for Gibbs, highlighting, among other attributes, his racial heritage ("Burton - like Obama, the son of a black father and white mother - appears to be the first African-American to take the podium and speak on behalf of the president").

And this is one of the remarks he told the reporters yesterday of our dear leader and his family and entourages vacationing on Martha's Vineyard:

"This will probably get me fired, but I know that Valerie (Jarrett, a senior presidential adviser) did not do so well in Scrabble against the president."

And the reporters must have laughed or chuckled, an obligatory gesture. Scrabble.

Dow Jones Industrial Average is breaching the psychological support of 10,000 today. New home sales hit the record low in July. The word "depression" is frequently on the lips of mainstream analysts and economists. And so we get to hear about President playing Scrabble with the slumlord cum presidential adviser Jarrett.

Not to worry. VP Biden assures us "no doubt we're moving in the right direction". The question is: the right direction to where?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Japan's Export In July Grew 23.5% YOY, 8 Straight Months of Growth

Even the mainstream analysts and economists in the US are now talking about the US "turning Japanese", fearfully or resignedly anticipating "lost two decades" for the US.

I'd say that's BS. The US can never be Japan, and it's not just about whether the citizens save.

In the face of rising yen, Japan has managed to have trade surplus every month for 16 straight months, with the last 8 with yoy increase. July export increased 23.5%, with import increasing 15.7%, according to Nikkei Shinbun on August 25, 2010:

  • Strong sales to China (22.8% increase) and the rest of Asia - Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand (23.8% increase) in semiconductor, steel, machinery, and automobile;
  • Strong sale to the US (25.9% increase), mostly autos and boilers;
  • Sale to the EU muted (13.3% increase), mostly construction machinery to the Netherlands and Belgium.
Japan didn't have the luxury of weaker currency like Germany did which boosted their export and GDP, but nonetheless they managed to sell value-added manufactured goods to the rest of the world and produced the trade surplus.

Although it is a big question whether they can continue with yen approaching 80 vis-a-vis US dollars and 100 against Euro, goods "made in Japan" have a very strong appeal to the newly rich Chinese and other Asians (many of them are already rich). They come to Japan on shopping tours and buy up things that are 100% made in Japan, which, ironically, are getting harder to find as many Japanese manufacturers have outsourced to Asia, particularly China in the past decade.

Clearly, when the executives of these manufacturers decided to outsource, they didn't think that Asians (of all peoples) would eagerly pay premium for Japanese-made goods in the very near future.

4th Hindenburg Omen in 9 Trading Days

The 3rd confirmation. It's either something is seriously wrong in the stock market, or the stock market has been so seriously wrong for long time that the Hindenburg Omen now happens as a matter of course, signaling nothing. For more on the Hindenburg Omen, see my TA blog posts.

Third Hindenburg Omen Confirmation (Tyler Durden, 8/24/2010 Zero Hedge)

"The market is now down 3.4% from the August 12 open, when the first Hindenburg Omen was sighted, on route to validating the prediction of a 5% drop. However, in the process it continues getting worse and worse - today we just got a third H.O. confirmation, and a 4th standalone HO event, as the market seems to be getting ever more schizophrenic, with increasing new highs and new lows, while the undercurrent is one of ever increasing implied correlation as noted earlier, as ever more asset managers simply rely on levered beta "strategies" to redeem their year. Unlike 2009, however, this time the trick won't fly, as it appears the market's downside potential is finally starting to be appreciated."

Japanese yen hit 15-year high against US dollar today.

S&P downgraded Ireland's sovereign debt from AA to AA-.

Existing home sales in July tumbled whopping 27% to 15-year low.

Sky is falling, sky is falling...

Otherwise, it is a beautiful summer day, big waves breaking on the beach that I can hear from where I type.

Japanese Yen Hits 83.59 Against US Dollar, 15-Year High

Derisking continues, and yen continues to rise. No end in sight. Japan's Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda held an emergency press conference but he did not commit to currency intervention.

Below is an intraday chart of USDJPY.

This is 15-year high for JPY against USD. JPY also hit 9-year high against Euro.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Norfolk Southern Launches 100-Year Bond at 5.95%

Inflation? What inflation?

Dow Jones Newswire:

"NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--Norfolk Southern Corp.'s (NSC) reopening of its 100-year bond, first issued in March 2005, has launched at 5.95%, inside price talk of 6%, according to a person familiar with the sale. The sale has also been upsized to $250 million from original guidance of around $100 million.

"The Norfolk, Va.-based railroad's new senior fixed-rate bonds, which come on top of the existing $300 million sold in 2005 and also maturing in 2105, are expected to be rated Baa1 by Moody's Investors Service and BBB+ by both Standard & Poor's and Fitch Ratings.

"Bankers have estimated the issuer will need to pay a premium of roughly 0.75 percentage points more than what it would cost them to sell 30-year debt. The original deal from 2005 sold at par with an interest rate of 6%, and with a spread over Treasurys of 1.37 percentage points. Another 100-year bond the company sold in 1997 for $350 million, which was part of a $4.3 billion deal, had a spread of 0.97 percentage point over Treasurys.

"Goldman Sachs is lead bookrunner on Monday's sale, proceeds from which will be used for general corporate purposes, according to the person familiar with the sale.

"A spokesman for the issuer said its "decision to reopen the 100-year bonds was based on the current low [interest] rates, coupled with the strong appetite among buyers for them."

"Bankers have been pitching century bonds selectively in recent weeks because Treasury rates are so low that issuers can lock in 100-year financing at reasonably attractive rates. At the same time, investors are sitting on piles of cash and looking to put it to work in corporate bonds, where they are seeking longer-dated assets that give them higher yields." [The article continues.]

Norfolk Southern dates back from the early 19th century, by the way.

Japan has a 100-year, multi-generational mortgage. But that is the country whose oldest firm started over 1,400 years ago and remained operational until 2006. The hotel that started 1,300 years ago is still in business. They could have floated a 1,000-year bond...

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Clampdown on HFT by FINRA?

Zero Hedge reports (citing the article in Financial Times):

"It couldn't happen to a nicer group of pirates. After a year-long campaign by Zero Hedge warning about the ongoing threat to market structure by the HFT plague, culminating in a the May 6 crash, whose incipient conditions exist to this day, the FT reports that the even more worthless regulator, FINRA, is beginning a clampdown on broker dealers who allowed high-frequency traders to have access to the markets without undertaking proper checks. As this means all of them, there is about to be a huge change in market structure as arguably more than half of the market "participants" are suddenly excluded from constant daily churning activity. What the outcome of this will be is anyone's guess, but definitely expect strange things if this is truly a first step towards reverting to some form of normalcy.

"The FT reports:

The Financial Industry Regulatory Association is undertaking a “sweep” of broker-dealers that offer market access to high-frequency traders to find out if they allowed these firms to run computerised trading programs – algorithms – without undertaking proper risk-management controls.

“We’re looking to find out if the brokers understood what was being done with the algorithm and whether the high-frequency trader had thought through how it would work under big market changes,” Richard Ketchum, chairman and chief executive of Finra, told the Financial Times.

Brokers also face scrutiny of their checks on the ownership of the firms they allow – directly or through sponsorship arrangements – to access the markets.

“The brokers should be satisfied they know who’s really operating these systems,” Richard Ketchum, chairman and chief executive of Finra, told the Financial Times. “The sub-custodian chain can bury the identity of high-frequency traders in Eastern Europe and elsewhere who raise serious regulatory concerns.”
"And you thought those pesky Eastern European were only responsible for reverse engineering any softward that ever came out and movie piracy - guess what: it turns out they now can just as easily hack the entire market too. And now please put back all your capital in stocks.

"Nonetheless, this is a market test run by a US regulator: an entity better known for being the most corrupt organization in the history of the world. As such some may be skeptical.

The probe will at the very least lead to tougher guidelines. “You can expect something to come out of it,” Mr Ketchum said. “Certainly, there may be enforcement actions if we find serious cases where brokers have failed to even try to exercise their obligations to run checks on the firms before allowing them access.”
"That's ok, Finra. We will constantly remind you, and your just as worthless and corrupt porn-loving cousin, the SEC, of just how worthless and corrupt you are until you actually put the investing retail public's money where you mouth is for once. Although it appears that at the rate retail is leaving the market, the system will fix itself and promptly blow up, once algos are left trading with just each other and the whole thing collapses like the binary ponzi scheme it is."

You tell them, Tyler.