Life is seldom linear.
Transformation or Emergence? Obama is reportedly dissatisfied with the options his generals have brought him (and leaked all over the media) and ready to tell the American public what they already know: Afghanistan is an enormous and unwinnable mistake and it is time to declare victory and bring the troops home. Is Obama about to actually become President?
Surge: Mortgage applications were up 3.2% last week – based on refinancing existing mortgages. Applications for new mortgages to actually buy a house were down 12% to the lowest rate in a decade. Guess which number got the headline.
Important numbers: While initial unemployment claims are only up 6% y/y, continuing claims are up 51%. Job losses are slowing, but not many people are finding new jobs. Over 4 million are collecting extended federal benefits and just over 9.5 million are still receiving unemployment benefits.
A Penny Saved: Countries from Brazil to the Philippines, Russia to Thailand have been propping up the dollar this week. But this cannot go on for long and in the end the efforts will not be successful. The dollar's days are numbered – even though it is still a pretty big number – and the old familiar world dominated by the dollar is clearly coming to an end.
Oops: Beijing's biggest blizzard in 54 years is being credited, or blamed, on the Beijing Weather Modification Office. Makes you reconsider letting the engineers save us from global warming...
Definition: “Sophistry: a subtle, tricky, superficially plausible, but generally fallacious method of reasoning. 2. a false argument; sophism.” For example, arguing that something called 'Obamacare' “will seriously harm precisely those poor and uninsured citizens it is ostensibly designed to help. The harm will come by compounding mass unemployment and depriving these citizens of consumption choices.”
The Emperor: Blackwater guards our embassies, our ambassadors, even the secretary of state and members of Congress. It has over a half a billion dollars in contracts in Afghanistan alone. It still operates at will in Iraq. The same Legionaries that crowned Flavius Claudius Julianus and guarded him, removed him. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
Trend? October foreclosure filings declined 3.3% from September, for the third month in a row. If you stop right there and don't inquire into delinquent-but-not-filed numbers and other programs keeping houses out of foreclosure such as the government's loan modification program, things sound pretty peachy. But some say this is at best a pause in the storm and that 75% of home owners' losses are yet to arrive.
Cost Plus: The US spends about $1.5 trillion a year on its military – 54% of the federal budget. What does it get for all that money? 8 years of stalemate in Iraq, 9 years of losing in Afghanistan, Guantanamo, torture, the Patriot Act, and take your shoes off before boarding. Anybody keeping score?
Lying Eyes: Don't be fooled by the Dow's 40% rise so far this year, we are still in a bear market and equities have only risen because the supply of Bigger Fools is enormous – some say. On the other hand, the Dow is up 40% this year. If the Market's never wrong, how can it be over-valued?
Porn O'Graph: The trend is not your friend.