Investor’s first read – Daily edge before the open
Russell 2000: 1,569
Friday, Feb 23, 2018 9:07 a.m.
AR-15 Owners – Expecting a Revolution ? (see below)
This is EXACTLY what I meant December 27, when I Warned:
“2018: The Wildest One in Years.”
I think we have seen the highs for the 2009 – 2018 bull market. There is a remote chance of one more spike to new highs driven by April’s Q1 earnings which are projected by Factset to increase 17% over a year ago.
This is why I am referring to a “topping out” process for the bull market.
Odds favor double top with the second top coming in May after a Q1 earnings spike.
Beyond May, I expect a steady plunge ( 14% to 18%) into fall and the mid-term elections.
The choppiness of this market reflects the uncertainty that has raised its ugly head to spoil the bull’s party that has lasted close to nine years.
Everything smells like roses with a strong economy, corporate earnings exploding, and Republicans controlling the Presidency, Congress, the Supreme Court and a major news network.
But something is out of whack.
Recently, a vastly over-priced market took a long overdue hit as some big hitters locked in fat profits.
While interest rates have been rising since the Fed’s decision to raise rates in December 2015, the Street suddenly became aware that the Fed would continue to bump rates.
Interest rates in the open market can be fickle, down one day, up the next, causing hope in one case, fear in another.
The Fed will continue its “guess what we will do next” game, trying to have it both ways. Even with that 12% Jan./Feb. crunch, the market is still overvalued and far too many highly leveraged big hitters are long stocks.
April will bring powerhouse earnings and maybe another spike in the markets. That’s well known, why isn’t there a surge now ?
SUPPORT “today”:DJIA:24,931;S&P 500:2,701; Nasdaq Comp.:7,201
RESISTANCE “today” DJIA:25,045; S&P 500:2,724; Nasdaq Comp.:7,241
The late January/early February 12% plunge was a lot like August 2014 (S&P 500 down 15.8%) and Jan./Feb. 2016 down 17.7%), both in a matter of weeks. Both recovered in following months.
This one rebounded last week, but it stalled Tuesday after recovering half of the sell off’s loss. That’s normal. A two-third’s recovery suggests strength, a one-third, weakness.
WHAT HAS CHANGED ?
Clearly, not on the earnings front. Q1 S&P 500 earnings are projected by Factset to beat year ago by 17%, with 2018 posting an 18.5% increase.
THE NEW ERA MENTALITY
The myth that the 8-year bull market is unstoppable, that the Street’s decision process based on algorithms thought to be flawless weren’t programmed for reality, that bull markets and economic expansions age, that stocks that are grossly overvalued will return to historic norms and even go lower in face of mounting fears.
The Shiller S&P 500’s price/earnings ratio (P/E), based on average inflation-adjusted earnings over 10 years CAPE) is now 31.7 vs. a mean of 16.8. This overvaluation cannot survive the negatives that are looming in the intermediate-term future.
The Fed has raised its federal funds rate since December 2015 with no effect on the stock market and has continued to raise rates ever since in an effort to “normalize” rates after seven years of a zero-based interest rate policy following the Great Recession/Bear Market.
Suddenly the 10-year Treasury has jumped to 2.91% (20-year average: 3.74%). The 2-year Treasury at 9-year high. The Street is now worried about four rate hikes in 2018 instead of four. All this affects home buyers, credit card users, business lending , and the U.S. government.
TRUMP ADMINISTRATION IMPLODING ?
The prospect of a huge political scandal is unfolding, one which could result in a constitutional crisis. So far, the Street is in denial, and initially may ignore indictments of Trump’s closest staff, ones who have departed, maybe Trump himself. Dysfunctional as our government is, it can get even more so, in face of attempts to fire thwart Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation, the removal of Trump from office (impeachment, 25th Amendment, resignation, or the presidential pardons of administration persons.
That uncertainty, combined with rising interest rates and the downward adjustment in stock valuations can take this market south big time.
RECENT “INVESTORS FIRST READ. COM” BLOGS LEADING UP TO THE MARKET’S PLUNGE
Starting with the DJIA at 26,392 (S&P 500: 2,839) I wrote:
“The computer algos on the Street have been in cruise control buy mode for over a year, which is why the market has not had a 3% correction in more than 14 months. This is rare !
At some point, these think-alike’s will all get a sell signal at the same time, and then it will be straight down. This is why a cash reserve is necessary.
Friday’s sharp plunges is a warning of things to come if the Street suddenly exits. The potential exists for a correction of 12% – 16%.”
I have repeated that every day for emphasis.
ON December 27, my annual forecast was “2018; The wildest One in Years,”
stating emphatically, “NO ONE IS BEARISH ! THAT’S BEARISH !
My initial target for a correction was DJIA down 3,578 points to 22,735 (-13.6%) and for the S&P 500: down 349 points to 2,500 (-12.2%).
Look, the is classic “Flash Crash,” where the Street, mostly following the same indicators all get a sell signal, or defer purchase signal at the same time, that’s why I disparage them as “think-alikes.” Best computer is the human brain.
Tsunami of anti-gun sentiment finally raging. High school students in Florida are organizing to force Trump, Congress and the NRA to take action. Banks considering measures to deny credit financing of gun purchases and advertising.
Less than a week after the Parkland shootings, Florida lawmakers rejected an attempt to ban assault rifles and large capacity magazines. Big mistake.
These lawmakers can be replaced, the dead students can’t.
The outrage is just beginning. It is estimated that just 3% of Americans own half of the 265 million guns in the country. The NRA and supporters are out- gunned.
Trump launched 14 tweets over the weekend targeting the FBI, Mueller, Dems. Obama, Clinton his innocence, etc.. PRESIDENTIAL ? Be prepared for ANYTHING ! January 3, 2017, I concluded he is a “human wrecking ball,” a huge mistake, and when you make huge mistakes, you pay a big price.
There is a possibility he will survive his term, no impeachment, Art.25, resignation. As much as the American voter should turn control of Congress over to the Democrats this year, I don’t think they understand the seriousness of the damage one politically extremist party controlling the presidency, Congress, the Supreme Court and a major television network can do to our representative democratic republic. To many voters, voting is a simplistic exercise in “My favorite color is red,” “I like his smile,” “He played high school football,” etc. America as we have known it for a century is being raped and pillaged by a narcissist and congressional members I consider constitutional anarchists.
Yes, The issue of guns IS political. The Republicans, many backed by millions of dollars from the NRA, have stood in the way of efforts to deny even mentally ill from acquiring an arsenal.
Why are so many Americans beholden to guns ? It could be their sense of security was rocked by 9/11 plus the Great Recession/Bear Market. Then it could be racial, a fear that people of different colors will eventually outnumber them prompting the need (in their paranoid minds) to stage a forceful change in governance (revolution). This makes little sense, but from their point of simplemindedness, they feel more secure with a dozen guns and cases of ammunition in house just in case.
What these whackos don’t understand is they can’t use their guns outside of their homes for fear of injuring or killing an innocent person which not only sends them to jail, but opens them up to a lawsuit where they lose their stock portfolio, car, house and all those “blankies” that go bang. ………………………………………
A quasi-fascist state would give Trump the untethered power he craves.
Read: The Ghost of Fascism in the Age of Trump
TRUMP refuses to allow Democrat response to Nunes ‘MEMO.” Even though the Democrat response was run by the FBI and DOJ for vetting, Trump claims it contains “classified and sensitive passages.”
Yet, more obstruction ? What is he hiding behind endless lies ?
Number 3 at DOJ, Rachael Brand, resigns at DOJ (see below)
WILL TRUMP FIRE MUELLER ? LOOK FOR THIS TIP-OFF
Trump can’t fire Mueller directly, it must be done by the Department of Justice. Trump would have to find someone to do it. A new appointment to the DOJ may signal Trump’s intent.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein isn’t going to do it, so Trump must find someone from DOJ who will. Rachel Brand, a conservative who supported Sen. Cruz in 2017 would be in line to take over from Rosenstein, but she just announced she is resigning from DOJ (2?9/19) Trump must find someone in DOJ to fire Mueller if he wants to do it.
DOJ’s Dana Bounte’s resignation last October and his recent appointment by FBI Director Christopher Wray as general Counsel for the FBI takes him out of the running, though it is doubtful he would have fired Mueller. He served as the U.S. Attorney General from the Eastern Dist. of Virginia, as well as, acting assistant attorney general for the National Security Division of DOJ.
Trump has appointed (pending confirmation) former Boeing General Counsel, John Demers, to assume Boente’s position as U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia. He could do it, but he has promised to support the Mueller investigation.
Unconfirmed rumors are that EPA’s Scott Pruit has shown an interest in the DOJ, and CIA’s Mike Pompeo, is a possibility for a post. there. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from the Russian/Trump “investigation” March 2017.
REASONS NEEDED TO FIRE MUELLER: Trump would have to have good reason to fire Mueller. Grounds must be, misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity, conflict of interest, or other good cause, including violation of policies of the Department of Justice, and failure to follow Justice Departments guidelines and violation of applicable canons of ethics.
CAN TRUMP RESCIND SPECIAL COUNSEL REGULATION ? Yes, it’s possible but many legal hurdles would make it difficult and possibly so time consuming as to make the action worthless. There is no clear cut answer. This would be decided in court, the legal ramifications just very complex.
FYI: The S&P 500 gained 36.6% in Obama’s first year, but only 23.7% under Trump. Obama inherited the worst bear market since the 1930’s, Trump inherited an accelerating bull market supported by a stable economy. If Obama’s first year gain is calculated from the Bear market bottom March 6, 2009 shortly after he assumed office, the gain would be 74.2%.
U.S. Ranking globally and domestically plunging under Trump
Global approval of U.S. leadership from 134 countries has plunged to 30% from 48% in just a year. Clearly, Trump isn’t making America Great Again in the eyes of all other countries. The downside of this is we need the support of those countries. Our nationalistic policies are opening doors throughout the world for China. A Gallup poll shows Germany replacing the U.S. as the top-rated power in the world.
Under Trump, the United States has dropped to 11th place in the Bloomberg Innovation Index, which in addition to R&D spending, includes post secondary, or tertiary, education-efficiency category, which includes the share of new science and engineering graduates. Value-added manufacturing also dropped. South Korea ranked first, followed by Sweden, Singapore, Germany, Switzerland, Japan, Finland, Denmark, France, Israel.
Also under Trump, Americans’ trust in institutions (government, companies and the media) has suffered the greatest loss on record according to a poll conducted by Edelman New York. The poll, including 33,000 “informed” individuals showed the U.S. dropping to 43 out of a possible 100, down 23 points in a year. He is a human wrecking ball.
SOLUTION for our nation’s problems: Deport Trump’s base. Not the Republicans who vote their party because they are genuinely conservative, but the racist, violent, abusive element that opts for dumbing down solutions for issues because experienced and intelligent people remind them how incapable they are of emotionally and mentally developing rational, unbiased conclusions for issues without bias that serve the best interests of all Americans.
According to the Washington Post, Trump’s false or misleading statements (lies) now exceed 2,000 after his first year.
WOULD ANYONE WANT their spouse to lie repeatedly ?, their child ?, mother ?, father ?, minister ?, child’s teacher ?, coach ?, employer ?. IF NOT, why would they support President Trump who is on record with telling 4.5 lies per day, 1,000 lies since his inauguration on January 20 ?.
Trump ABANDONS voter fraud panel, but hands it off the Homeland Security where all the snooping can be done out of sight
CORPORATE TAX CUT IRRESPONSIBLE
“It's pure fantasy to think that the tax bill will lead to significantly higher wages and growth, as Republicans have promised,” Bloomberg continued. Had Congress actually listened to executives, or economists who study these issues carefully, it might have realized that. The tax bill is an economically indefensible blunder that will harm our future” – Michael Bloomberg – billionaire business man former mayor NYC
I don’t doubt some corporations need, and deserve a tax cut, but to reduce the rate from 35% to 21% is inexcusable, reckless, unjustifiable, and outright subversive to the best interests of America.
Corporate income taxes comprise 9% of federal government receipts. If corporate taxes are slashed by 40% (from 35% to 21%), the government’s receipts from corporations are reduced by 3.6% from 9%.
Individual income tax payments comprise 47% of federal government receipts. At this point, I have no idea how much of an impact Congress’ tax cuts will have on this source of federal revenues, but it stands to be significant.
The Republican administration expects economic growth will be triggered by a sudden change in heart by corporations to abandon stock buybacks and the repatriation of billions stashed abroad to plug the big hole left in federal receipts by tax cuts with a surge in hiring and capital expenditures.
That assumption is flawed. For one, why would a corporation go on a hiring and cap-ex spending spree with an economic expansion that is 8-1/2 years old, 3 years longer (73%) than the average over 65 years (1945 – 2009).
For another, are they naïve enough to assume there will be no recessions within the next 10 years ?
The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy released a study on “Corporate Tax Avoidance by Fortune 500 Companies”: The report includes 258 corporations that were consistently profitable over an eight-year period between 2008 and 2015. Some conclusions:
-of 258 Fortune 500 companies studied, the effective federal income tax rate was 21.5%
–18 of the 258 paid no income tax and 48 paid an effective tax rate of 10%.
–83 companies (32%) paid a tax rate less than 17.5%
–109 companies (42%) paid a tax rate between 17.5% and 30%.
–66 companies (26%) paid a tax rate greater than 30%
NOTE: The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School estimates the effective tax rate for corporates will drop to 9.2% as a result of tax reform. ……………………………………………………
STATES NEEDING FED’s HELP THE MOST
The twelve most federally dependent states are Kentucky, Mississippi, New Mexico, Alabama, West Virginia, South Carolina, Montana, Tennessee, Maine, Indiana, Arizona, Louisiana.
The twelve least federally dependent states are Delaware, Minnesota, New Jersey, Illinois, California, Kansas, Nevada, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Utah, and Nebraska.
Red states (Republican) are 67% more dependent on federal government aid than Blue States (Democratic).
So why all the whining about the Feds being in their space ? Want to go it alone ? Careful
what you wish for
The BIG question is, do American morals and respect for our republic have to hit bottom before Congress and the American voter opts for decency, honesty, integrity and a moral compass ?
Currently, odds favor neither will have a change of heart even if the findings of the Mueller probe uncover untold crimes against the constitution and American people.
The current extremist Republican Party is morally bankrupt, as are many of its supporters. Much of the Republican Congress is comprised congressional anarchists, determined to raze time-tested checks and balances, and oppose any and all new proposals that do not pass their muster.
It wasn’t enough that they obstructed progress for eight years of the Obama administration, they are now dismantling the things he did accomplish. Our republic is being mugged in plain sight.
There are a lot of very fine Republicans out there, but someone needs to tell them someone hijacked their party.
This isn’t Reagan, this isn’t anything close to the Republican Party I grew up with.
This is what the right wing has been waiting for – total control of the presidency, both Houses, and the Supreme Court. (and Fox News) They want total control. This is how democratic, representative republics perish.
America is the biggest enchilada on earth. Why wouldn’t a group of extremists want to wrest permanent control from its people ? Americans must stop multitasking, and have the guts to endure the day-to-day angst that accompanies being well informed. They need to return to values.
Brian Benczkowski was nominated by President Trump in June to be U.S. Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division. My Sept. 15 post called attention to this since he previously represented one of Russia’s largest banks Russia’s Alfa Bank. Having advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, his nomination is pending full Senate confirmation. He once served under Jeff Sessions. If confirmed, he pledged independence, recusing himself for two years from any dealings with alfa Bank. Sen. Feinstein voted against Benczkowski concerned that he never served as a federal prosecutor and the fact he would sit in on meetings with special counsel Robert Mueller with Russia probe. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., was concerned his major qualification was his connection with Sessions.
Mercer on the run ? Bannon and Breitbart bankroller, Robert Mercer is rapidly severing financial ties to Breitbart News and support of Steve Bannon and alt-right’s Milo Yiannopoulos. Mercer was a major supporter of Sen. Ted Cruz’s effort to gain the Republican nomination last year, but switched his allegiance to Trump when he won the nomination.
In my March 21 post, I wrote, “Years from now, I suspect Mercer will be relaxing at his Long Island waterfront retreat, Owl’s Nest, or on his 200-foot yacht, Sea Owl, and look back over his illustrious career tarnished by one regret – he backed the biggest con job in our nation’s history.”
IT’S NEVER THE GUNS !
Six states (Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Utah, Wisconsin), are planning to require poverty stricken people on Medicaid to get jobs or lose the coverage. Maine, Utah and Wisconsin want to put a time limit on coverage, the latter wants to drug-test people. Excluded: People with long-tern disabilities, the elderly, and children. Isn’t it bad enough these people are in poverty ?
Vox Media reports that 9.8 million Medicaid recipients don’t have jobs due to: Illness/disabled (35%), retired (8%), taking care of home or family (28%), going to school (18%), cannot find work (8%). The remaining 60.2 million Americans on Medicaid work full-time of part-time. I’m not sure what’s the Republican beef here.
TRUMP’S PARDON POWER
The President has the power to grant conditional pardons; to commute sentences; remit fines and forfeitures; and grant amnesty. This power can be exercised at any time after the offense has been committed, before conviction of after. Pardons cannot be limited by or controlled by legislative action (US legal.com)
Expect Trump to attempt to pardon anyone he wants, including himself. It’s a way out of facing responsibility very much like dodging the draft. Like when he justified his numerous bankruptcies, saying he only used U.S. laws to his advantage. Well, “pardons” are his prerogative, in many, not all cases. He would take advantage of whatever loophole to avoid consequences, sort of like dodging the draft, or did I already say that ?
The President cannot pardon people for “state” crimes, and it is doubtful he can pardon himself.
Can the Mueller investigation survive Mueller’s firing ?
Slate.com’s July 21 article, “Trump can’t Escape the States,” says “YES.”
1-A state [NY] could hire Mueller and team.
2-State attorneys general could use their quo warranto power to investigate Trump’s organization for fraud and money laundering from Russian sources.
3-A Congressional committee (Senate Intelligence Committee) could hire Mueller or create a Joint select Committee.
4-Congress could pass a new veto-proof independent counsel statute.
FINALLY: If Trump resigns and Pence takes over, Pence could pardon Trump, as Ford did Nixon.
THE GREAT AMERICAN EXPERIMENT UNDER SEIGE: Not since the Civil War has the spirit and future of our nation been at such great risk, from within. This administration, Congress and U.S. Supreme Court is surgically dismembering efforts over many years to ensure the safety and well being of “all” Americans.
The sooner, Americans recognize these are not genuine Republican conservatives, but extremists determined dismantle that which has been achieved over the years and replace it with “their” brand of a quasi-fascist state. Ben Franklin was right when asked what kind of government the Founding Fathers had given us. “A Republic, if you can keep it,” was his respons.
TRUMP looking for a “Get Out Of Jail Free Card if the Feds close in?”
Why not, he dodged military service with 5 deferments during the Vietnam era (1964 – 1970).
Reportedly, he has asked advisers about his power to pardon family members and himself relating to Mueller’s investigation.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE INVESTIGATION IS COMPLETED ? If the Special Counselor concludes it is “necessary and appropriate” he is authorized to prosecute federal crimes arising out of the investigation, which he does after submitting a report to the attorney general explaining his reasons.
REASONS NEEDED TO FIRE MUELLER: Misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity, conflict of interest, good cause (??), violation of Department policies.
WOULD MUELLER BE REPLACED ? Unclear. If the Democrats controlled Congress they could appoint another Special Counselor
“Connect the Dots.” This investigation is open-ended. These are people were part of the Trump team, or in a position to know information relating to activities before or after the 2016 election, though not necessarily in any way guilty of any wrongdoing.
Nigel Farage – President Trump- Hope Hicks, Jeffrey Sessions – Robert Mercer – Cambridge Analytics – Bannon- Carter Page – Kushner (Jared and Ivanka) – Eric Prince – Donald, Jr. and Eric Trump – Wilbur Ross – Michael Cohen – Ezra Cohen Watnick – Michael T. Flynn – Michael G. Flynn ( son) – JD Gordon – Christopher Steele – Michael Caputo -Breitbart News – Roger Stone – Julian Assange – Paul Manafort – Rick Gates – Jill Stein – Sam Clovis – Kellyanne and George Conway –Dana Rohrabacher – Bill Browder – Peter W. Smith (deceased: suicide), Paul Behrends – Brad Parscale – Sam Nunberg – Alex Van Der waan – Boris Epshteyn, Ike Kaveladze, and Russia’s alfa Group – Felix Sater – Rob Goldstone – alfa Group – Emin Agalarov – Sergey Gorkov – Sergey Kislyak, ambassador to the U.S., Natalia Veselnitskaya, Oleg Deripaska all connect directly or indirectly to the Trump/Russia investigation and some have a connection to Brexit, as well.
According to the “Observer,” Mercer’s Cambridge Analytica was connected with Canada’s AggregateIQ through an intellectual property agreement and worked together on the Brexit referendum. Aggregate is also a data mining company. While Mercer was a big supporter of Trump, there is no known connection between AggregateIQ and Trump’s campaign staff.
REMOVING TRUMP FROM OFFICE
Can Section 4 of the 25th Amendment, U.S. Constitution – Remove Trump ?
It’s a stretch. The key for his removal is ”that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” Section 4 mentions nothing that he is unfit, delusional, unbalanced, crazy, impulsive, irrational, impaired, sociopathic, psychopathic, narcissistic.
That would be the threshold that would have to be crossed if Trump is removed from office via Section 4 of the 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. There is no precedent
It isn’t just Democrats, liberals, moderates and reasonable people who find Trump caustic, and dangerous, conservatives like George Will, David Brooks and Ross Douthart are also urging his removal.
First, there are four ways to get rid of Trump – death, resignation, impeachment and Section 4 of the 25th Amendment.
The procedure employing the 25th Amendment requires the Vice President and the majority of the cabinet of 15 (8) to vote to remove the president. They would submit their declaration in writing to the President pro tempore ( Sen. Orrin Hatch) and Speaker of the House (Paul Ryan) that the president is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, and the Vice President will immediately assume to office as acting president.
However, the president may contend the move by submitting his own letter to the President pro tempore and Speaker of the House, that he believes he is capable of performing his duties, in which case he will resume the office of presidency.
The Vice President and Cabinet members may then resubmit their declaration at which point Congress would vote within 48 hours if in session. If not, Congress will act within 21 days where a two-thirds vote would be required to remove him.
However, as “Business Insider.com” noted on Jan. 9, 2018, Trump could simply fire the Cabinet members who voted to oust him from office.
A Consult/Politico poll shows 43% of Americans want Congress to begin procedures for the impeachment of President Trump.
The U.S. Constitution enables Congress to remove a president for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” Initially, the House votes on one or more articles of impeachment- if a majority vote is reached, he is impeached. BUT, impeachment only means indictment. The Senate holds a trial overseen by the chief justice and Supreme Court. A group of House members serve as prosecutors and the Senate as jurors. If two-thirds of the senators find the president guilty, he is removed from office and the vice president takes over.
Note: Source of weekly economic calendar and good recap of indicators: mam.econoday.com
Investor’s first read
A Game-On Analysis, LLC publication
Investor’s first read, is a Game-On Analysis, LLC publication for which George Brooks is sole owner, manager and writer. Neither Game-On Analysis, LLC, nor George Brooks is registered as an investment advisor. Ideas expressed herein are the opinions of the writer, are for informational purposes, and are not to serve as the sole basis for any investment decision. References to specific securities should not be construed as particularized or as investment advice as recommendations that you or any investors purchase or sell these securities on their own account. Readers are expected to assume full responsibility for conducting their own research pursuant to investment in keeping with their tolerance for risk.