Tuesday, December 18, 2012

What is my Right to Privacy?

How clearly defined is the right to privacy as a private citizen from government?

Nowhere in the Constitution is a Right to Privacy explicitly awarded, but yet, we all in one way or another feel entitled to some degree of privacy.

Since the instinctive draw to Privacy seems to be universal, we can look at Privacy as a natural [or in some circles, God-given] right.

To add to the ambiguity; government tends to acknowledge our privacy up to a pre-described point. A point past which we would be subject to the swift and all-encompassing fury of the government.

Boundaries exist but are not clearly defined, so what good are they to the citizens that are supposed to be corralled? How can we know if and when our privacy is being violated by government if the boundaries of our privacy is not clearly outlined?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Forex Trades to End the Year With...

I'm looking at the EUR/USD currently at 1.2970, and in the past 12 days or so I've watched it pull back from about 1.2700. Now I believe it is poised for a short to about 1.2550 that should play out as the year comes to a close.

I'm looking at the GBP/USD currently at 1.6030, and in the past 10 days or so I've watched it pull back from about 1.5840. Now I believe it is poised for a short to about 1.5780 that should play out as the year comes to a close.

I'm looking at the AUD/USD currently at 1.0455, and in the past 50 days or so I've watched it pull back from about 1.0180. Now I believe it is poised for a short to about 1.0145 that should play out as the year comes to a close.

I'm looking at the USD/CAD currently at 0.9925, but I have both a long target at 1.0125 and a short target at 0.9800. I'm yet to decipher a directional play with this currency, but some of you options traders out there might be able to structure a position that can benefit from the potential volatility.

Good Luck

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Then What...?

Money is a factor of production; it is the lube that keeps economic engines running smoothly. As of right now we have low output, high unemployment, and low interest rates. The Federal Reserve is trying its hardest to get unemployment down by making lots and lots of money available to be used in production. The disconnect is created by banks however, who borrow money from the Fed but then in turn don’t lend to businesses and investors [who to a certain extent are not borrowing as much either, due to lessened demand from high unemployment]. If we keep along this road, eventually over time (I know that sounds like a long time, and that’s because it is) consumers will slowly start consuming more and more. This new found demand will come from either a small savings that has developed or a better debt-to-income profile that leads to increased access to credit. Either way, Americans will find a way to do what Americans do best, and that is to consume beyond their means.

A key assumption in this drawn out scenario is that money will be easily accessible when consumers can qualify for credit and when businesses and investors start truly demanding more capital investments to meet new consumption demand.

If for any reason however, interest rates have to start rising prematurely, the gradual transition back to growth will be abruptly interrupted. If we start with rising market rates, which represent the costs of borrowing in the secondary [financial] market, we would see businesses and investors start requiring more and more projected growth and return from their capital investments to compensate for the increased cost.
Businesses would have to in turn charge higher prices on their goods and services to be able to recoup to higher costs of production. As one good or service [with a higher price tag] is used in the production of another good or service, the higher price gets passed on and on until it gets to the consumer. We as consumers would start feeling the impact of the higher production costs as we shop and so would experience a cost-of-living increase, which would inspire us to demand higher wages. This further increases the cost of production for businesses as they have to pay their employees more and so they have to raise prices further and so on.

In the time it takes for wages to adjust to the point that producers can charge and receive a higher price for their goods and services in general, they would see a decrease in demand as strata after strata of the socio-economic spectrum is priced out of consuming. This will lead to a slowdown in production output to help match the slowdown in consumer demand. The outcome of which is simply higher unemployment and price inflation due to a general fall in production ahead of the falling demand from consumption.

If the Fed were to get in-front of the rising market rates by increasing the Fed Funds rate [bank borrowing rate], that would slow down and eventually reverse the price increases and stay inflation. It can do this because at it raises the cost for banks to borrow, the banks simply borrow less and lend less, and so the money in the economy starts to dry up. This has the detriment of slowing both inflationary spending and core investments [both usually funded by borrowing], which also means less jobs as businesses don’t have funding to invest in new production capacity and new employees; and in some cases have to start firing.

This will have the benefit of undoing all on the drawn-out, hard earned progress that we have been making since mid-2009, and take us at least one step back for our two forward.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Why This Time its Different (At least we don’t have stagflation)

At the end of the 80s we had a housing market crash [check], at the end of the 80s we had a stock market crash [check], during the 80s we had high unemployment [check], and during the 80s we had high inflation,… ‘well there’s the problem’.

Because of the inflation, things weren’t so good coming out of the 80s and going on into the early 90s, and it actually took a bout of relatively high interest rates to get things ultimately back on track.

The big difference, the only difference, which makes this time different, is that what initially caused the recession. In the 80s we had an oil shock which constrained a key input in just about everything that America does. OPEC cut oil supplies and prices shot up, the amount of stuff produced fell and prices went up, all that led to inflation.

At the same time, as the amount of stuff produced fell, the people that made the stuff lost their jobs and unemployment went up. That was the trifecta of economic woes that resulted in a period of Stagflation.

This time, there were no shocks that affected supply of production inputs. And production fell, this time around because demand from households for consumption fell. House values fell, borrowing against houses fell, and all the business that revolves around household spending falls with it. That gives us high unemployment and low production.

There really is no inflation to speak of, which leaves room for a relatively painless transition for our current economic malaise to some level of sustainable, albeit moderate growth.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Next Year's Economy (2012)

Walking the tight-rope of another recession, or maybe not, the economy is balancing on one hand increases (albeit small) in home prices through the national average and S&P/Case-Shiller index from a year ago, which is good. But on the other hand, confidence among consumers, measured by the Conference Board is down, which is not so good.

Energy prices are up, but demand will soon curve that down as Americans will simply not use as much gas. But, this year's drought (which in some parts is actually year two) will most likely put upward pressure on food prices around harvest time, which will make things just that much more expense for consumers.

Unemployment is still high and not going to change in the near term, so the x-factor going into 2013 will be spending for the holiday season.

2012 has already written its story, and it was not an impressive one, but the excitement (or lack thereof) that this year's election can drum up should carry forward into holiday spending. I hope Obama and Romney plan on keeping things interesting, next year's economy needs it.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Two for the Price of One

I read a blog by Robert Krulwich of NPR, titled “Are Butterflies Two Different Animals in One? The Death and Resurrection Theory”, and I was inspired to share my thoughts. Everyone (or at least most of us), is aware of the caterpillar to butterfly process, it has been the subject of countless children’s cartoons, books, and stories. Well not until now have I had any reason to think that the humble caterpillar and the majestic butterfly were two different creatures, so to speak.

According to Krulwich’s blog, biologist Bernd Heinrich is highlighting the idea that a caterpillar starts its life with two different sets to DNA information; that of the caterpillar, which tells it how to be a caterpillar, as well as that of a butterfly, which for the time being is silent.

As I have now come to understand it, once the caterpillar has eaten all it can eat, and makes its cocoon, it basically dies. Inside to cocoon the caterpillar shrinks, sheds it skin, and its organs dissolve turning its insides into mush. Most of the caterpillars’ cells die. What remains is the butterfly DNA information, so free-floating proteins and other nutrients, which start the process of building a butterfly from the ground up.

Just when I thought the craziness was over, I read one explanations for how this came about. In a nutshell, a really really long long time ago two creatures, one worm-like and the other winged ‘accidentally mated’ and parts of both of their DNA information now co-exist in their descendants, but never quite fully integrated.

You live, you learn, but most importantly you keep reading. I’m Just Sayin

P.S., here’s a link to the blog I read, knock yourselves out…

Thursday, July 26, 2012

China’s Economy: The Dragon of the East is starting to Sweat

The name China has been the buzz word for Economic growth for about the past 20 years or so, and for good reason. They pretty much burst onto the scene with a socialist revolution and then have been kicking butt with their own brand of pseudo-capitalism ever since. They’ve been growing and growing and growing for years, and for most of that time at double digit rates (10%+). The Chinese economy has over time found its niche on the world stage and has been very (and I mean VERY) good at exploiting its role.

They sat around and said to themselves, “we want money and lots of it, but where is it?” Luckily, at about the same time, the US said, “why we have lots and lots of money, about a quarter of all of the money in the world if you want to get technical”. A match made in heaven if you ask me.

China wanted that money, but the US wasn’t just going to hand it over, at least not yet, they wanted something in return. Well China gave it to us alright; they gave us cheap stuff. Cheaper stuff than we’ve ever seen before, so cheap that we couldn’t get enough of it, and we just wanted more and more.

This went on to the point that we wanted more of their cheap stuff than we could afford, so we started borrowing from them the money that they saved (and boy did they save) from the cheap stuff we bought last year, and the year before that, and so on.

Well now no one has a job (except maybe Jr. Economist, which doesn’t pay very well) so it’s getting a little harder to buy all the cheap stuff. Now who’s going to buy all this cheap stuff that China is making? Not the common man in China, he’s busy saving, and he might actually be worried about losing his factory job where he made cheap stuff.

When things start getting better in the US and Europe, which WILL take some time (years), we in the west will once again be able to buy cheap stuff. But until then The Dragon of the East will have a chance to take a breather from its spectacular growth.

Everyone in China would probably hate it because, well that’s money that doesn’t make it into their country, but it might just be the break that those on this side of the world need to have a chance to get caught up on some bills and hopefully set a little something aside. We’ll see.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A House (and Senate) Divided; the Gift That Keeps on Giving

I read an article yesterday that reminded me of what has to be one of the most childish and petty moments in American government history. Now, I hope it was at the top of the list of petty moments, otherwise our government is more of an embarrassment than I previously thought.

About a year or so ago (summer 2011), we were forced to witness what was initially presented as a philosophical debate about the how much debt the government can take on, on behalf of we the people. It quickly deteriorated into one temper tantrum in response to another. If you’ve ever seen a two-year-old rolling around on the floor of a supermarket crying because mommy won’t buy them candy, you have the basis behind Senate and House debates.

But of course, in contrary to the threats of a potential government shutdown, in the eleventh hour the debt ceiling was raised. Which by the way was inevitable, simply because no politician who needs actual votes to keep their job would have wanted to take responsibility for any of what could have happened if the ceiling was not raised.

Well for all the fanfare, the noise, and the international attention that our omnipotent elected officials garnered, we the people, once again, will be taking it up the…, I mean on the nose to the tune of about $1.3 billion in increased borrowing costs last year, and it’s going to be that way for some time to come. We got the gift of constant news headlines and coverage, which I guess was kinda entertaining and kinda annoying for that oh so memorable summer, and we will keep enjoying the fruits for years.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Move Over Baseball, America Has a New Pastime

Good-bye peanuts, so long cracker jacks, I think it’s time we acknowledge our new past-time. Just to be clear, “our” refers to what’s left of/what once was the middle class. We as a segment of society have gotten so good at it, and it has proliferated so much of our everyday lives, that at this point I am fairly certain that it goes completely unnoticed by most, and completely ignored by the rest.

I’m talking about what can only be best described as Faking the Funk.

This isn’t as humorous a topic as I would have liked it be.  Simply because after years and years of borrowing other people’s money to pretend that “we got it like that”, it became impossible for everybody everywhere to pretend that we couldn’t smell the stink that we called an economy.

I’m hopeful now, that because so many people are out of a job, or not working as much as they would like, and nobody seems to have any money anymore that it can finally become socially acceptable for us to cut back and live within our means. The goal is for the equation Frugal = Cool to be the new E = MC2 .

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Most Popular Job in America

Four years ago the economy went into a recession, and just so you know, kinda hasn’t really come out of it yet. But in the time between then and now, everyone [and I mean everyone] has slowly been evolving into a Junior Economist which by now has to be the most popular job in America. 

It’s one thing to have an opinion; we all have one, and indeed are entitled to, but it has gotten to the point that the innate ability of the common man to analyze and interpret economic sentiment is becoming the basis for explaining every type of hardship and misfortune that is befallen.

“Well ya know, we are in a recession”, or “dude ya know how the economy is right now” and a many variation of the response now flows off the tongue with the greatest of ease. Tongues that a couple years ago would not be caught dead wrapped around any those same words.