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MN Gordon

M. G.


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Articles by M. G.

How the Global Trade Contraction Begins

6 days ago

Historical Evidence
The world grows increasingly at odds with itself, with each passing day.  Divided special elections.  Speech censorship by Silicon Valley social media companies.  Increased shrieking from Anderson Cooper.  You name it, a great pileup is upon us.

It was probably Putin’s fault (just a wild guess) [PT]

From our perch overlooking San Pedro Bay, the main port of entry for Chinese made goods into the USA, facets of the mounting economic catastrophe come into focus.  These elements, even for the most untrained of eyes, are impossible to miss.
To meet the relentless expansion of international trade, berths have been widened, and channels have been deepened to accommodate the definitive absurdity of perpetual credit creation:

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When the Freaks Run Wild

14 days ago

Conditioned to Absurdity
The unpleasant sight of a physical absurdity is both grotesque and interesting.  Only the most disciplined individual can resist an extra peek at a three-legged hunch back with face tattoos.  The disfigurement has the odd effect of turning the stomach and twisting the mind in unison.

Francesco Lentini, the three-legged man. Born in Sicily in 1881 with “three legs, four feet, sixteen toes and two pair of functioning genitals” he made a career of his disfigurement and worked for circus sideshows until his death at age 78. [PT]

After repeated exposure, however, the shock of an absurdity is reduced to that of vanilla ice cream.  Somehow, even the extremely preposterous becomes commonplace after a while.  For

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All the Makings of a Major Economic Fiasco

21 days ago

Mud Wrestling: Trump vs. Xi
About 6,940 miles west of Washington DC, and at roughly the same latitude, sits Beijing.  Within China’s massive capital city, sits the country’s paramount leader, Xi Jinping.  According to Forbes, Xi is currently the most powerful and influential person in the world.

Papa Xi, the new emperor of China. [PT]

Xi, no doubt, is one savvy fellow.  He always knows the right things to say.  He offers the citizens of his nation the “Chinese Dream.”  They consume it like boysenberry funnel cakes at the county fair.
So, too, Xi always knows the right things to do.  He elaborates his vision for securing world dominance through something called the Belt and Road Initiative.  His people get behind it without question.

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Are You Prepared for the End of Fake Money?

28 days ago

What Is Money?
Today we begin with a fundamental question: What is money?  This, no doubt, is an important question.  And we ask it with clear intent and purpose.  Namely, we want to better understand how it’s possible for America to rack up such a massive trade deficit with China.

China-US imports and exports of goods. It has to be stressed that the most often cited figure is the trade deficit in goods, which is the “scariest” figure. The US surplus in services with China has grown rapidly in recent years. It was $33 billion in 2015, doubling from $16.5 billion just four years earlier. By 2017 it had grown to $38.5 billion. The idea that a trade deficit is somehow “bad” is highly dubious. “Countries” do not trade with each other anyway –

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The True Sport of MAGA

July 13, 2018

Chest Bumps
One of the more extraordinary things that investors have seen in living memory is unfolding at this precise moment. This goes for business leaders, money managers, veteran Wall Streeters, value investors, 401(k) holders, momentum traders, FX guys, gold bugs, technical gurus, chartists, pork belly speculators, quants, astrologists, Larry Summers, put option sellers, dweebs and geeks, millennial index fund enthusiasts, and everyone in between.

Pork belly speculators were among those waking up to a nasty surprise as China retaliated by imposing its own list of tariff duties. Soybean traders were also forced to rapidly adjust to an unexpected change in export fortunes (see further below). Farmers are presumably none too happy at

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Trouble in Paradise

July 7, 2018

Impressive Zeal for Faded Ideals
Uncompromising independence, rugged individualism, and limitless personal freedom were once essential to the American character.  According to popular American folklore, they still are.  We have some reservations.

Rugged individualists suffer mid-life identity crisis. [PT]

The principles that gave rise to the American character died long ago.  Freedom.  Liberty.  Independence.  Limited representative government. Sound money.  Private property rights.  A humble populace worthy of esteem. Avoidance of foreign entanglements.  Rafting down the Mississippi River.  Trim waist lines.
These concepts, in reality, faded away from daily life over the last century like stars in the morning light.  Nonetheless, a

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Confronting the Dragon with Peter Navarro

June 29, 2018

Of No Real Use
A young man might go to business school believing he is obtaining some sort of academic training that will enable him to make a comfortable living.  His degree may gain him entry into a large corporation, where he can work his way up to a good income.  This may even put him on the fast track to what he envisions as success.

Don’t knock it: Being useless can lead to unexpected career opportunities… [PT]

But his academic training likely won’t be of any real use.  He won’t be prepared to create new products or deliver new services or technologies.  He won’t possess any special knowledge that will improve the well-being or satisfaction of others.  He won’t have the skills to bring in new business or grow the bottom line.

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A Walk on the Wild Side

June 25, 2018

A Walk on the Wild Side

“Never play cards with a man called Doc.  Never eat at a place called Mom’s.  Never sleep with a woman whose troubles are worse than your own.”
– Nelson Algren, A Walk on the Wild Side

Fresh Fruit or Rotting Vegetables?
A subtle gas seems to always be vented into the atmosphere at the sunset of an extended bull market.  As the light fades, an odor that’s indiscernible from that of fresh fruit or rotting vegetables wafts down Wall Street.  You can almost smell it.  But what it is you smell is too faint to accurately characterize.

DJIA, daily; quo vadis Industrial Average, and what’s that odd smell? At the peak in late January the  weekly chart of the average sported an RSI of 92 – an all-time record “overbought”

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Chasing the Wind

June 16, 2018

Futility with Purpose
Plebeians generally ignore the tact of their economic central planners.  They care more that their meatloaf is hot and their suds are cold, than about any plans being hatched in the capital city.  Nonetheless, the central planners know an angry mob, with torches and pitchforks, are only a few empty bellies away.  Hence, they must always stay on point.

Watch for those pitchfork bearers – they can get real nasty and then heads often roll quite literally. [PT]

One of the central aims of central planners is to achieve effective public exhortation.  While they pursue futility, in practice.  They must do so with focus and purpose.
For example, economic reports with impressive tables and charts, including pie graphs, are

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America Goes Full Imbecile

June 8, 2018

Credit has a wicked way
of magnifying a person’s defects.  Even the most cautious man, with unlimited credit, can make mistakes that in retrospect seem absurd.  But an average man, with unlimited credit, is preeminently disposed to going full imbecile.

Let us not forget about this important skill…  [PT]

Several weeks ago we came across a woeful tale of Mike Meru.  Somehow, this special fellow, while of apparent sound mine and worthy intent, racked up over $1 million dollars in student loan debt – all to become an orthodontist.
Surely, with several good text books, and a disciplined self-study program, Meru could have learned everything there was to possibly know about adjusting malpositioned teeth for roughly $200 bucks.  Instead, with

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Who’s That Ringing the Korean Bell of Friendship?

June 1, 2018

Friends and Enemies
Do citizens of the United States trust their government will do what’s right?  It depends who you ask. By and large, the esteem the American populace holds its government in is likely a small fraction of what it was roughly 65 years ago.  That was when Lieutenant General William Kelly Harrison Jr. signed the Korean Armistice Agreement.  Certainly, in days gone by representatives of other nations held the U.S. government in higher regard.

The most austere signing ceremony ever: Lieut. Gen. William K. Harrison, Jr. (seated left), and Korean People’s Army and Chinese People’s Volunteers delegate Gen. Nam Il (seated right) sign the Korean War armistice agreement at P’anmunjŏm, Korea, July 27, 1953. No-one seems really

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Getting Out of Dodge

May 26, 2018

Rare Commodity
Modern economists are prone to shouting fire in a crowded theater.  The world is full of seeming incongruences. Economists puzzle over things like population growth and arable acres of farmland. They project out a linear scenario of increasing divergence, and see a catastrophe in the making.

Professional scaremonger Thomas Robert Malthus, one in a long line of scarcity prophets who failed to recognize the capacity of human ingenuity and free markets to solve the perceived problem of “finite resources”. The effects of demographics are the exact opposite of what the scarcity scaremongers claim: there is no overpopulation problem based on the allegedly “limited carrying capacity” of the planet (as an aside, note that most of

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Tales from “The Master of Disaster”

May 22, 2018

Tightening Credit Markets
Daylight extends a little further into the evening with each passing day.  Moods ease.  Contentment rises.  These are some of the many delights the northern hemisphere has to offer this time of year. As summer approaches, and dispositions loosen, something less amiable is happening.  Credit markets are tightening.  The yield on the 10-Year Treasury note has exceeded 3.12 percent.

A change in pace: yields are actually going somewhere. There is a fly in the ointment for treasury bears though: the net speculative short position in futures across the yield curve is seemingly establishing new record highs every week. While this is not bullish for treasuries per se, it definitely makes yields vulnerable to a sharp

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How to Get Ahead in Today’s Economy

May 11, 2018

“Literally On Fire”
This week brought forward more evidence that we are living in a fabricated world. The popular story-line presents a world of pure awesomeness. The common experience, however,  falls grossly short.

There are many degrees of awesomeness, up to total awesomeness – which is where we are these days, in the age of total awesomeness, just a short skip away from the Nirvana era. What is Nirvana, you may wonder? We only know for sure that Nirvana is what the stock market has priced in – other than that, we will have to wait and see. [PT]

On Tuesday, for example, the Labor Department reported there were a record 6.6 million job openings in March.  Based on the Labor Department’s data, there were enough jobs available –

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Full Faith and Credit in Counterfeit Money

May 5, 2018

A Useful Public Service
There are nooks and corners in every city where talk is cheap and scandal is honorable.  The Alley, in Downtown Los Angeles, is a magical place where shrewd entrepreneurs, shameless salesmen, and downright hucksters coexist in symbiotic disharmony.  Fakes, fugazis, and knock-offs galore, pack the roll-up storefronts with sparkle and shimmer.

The Alley in LA – in places such as this, consumers are as a rule well served by applying a little bit of common sense when pondering purchases. In fact, common sense is a multi-purpose weapon that reportedly comes in handy in many situations and is widely considered a valuable addition to one’s personal armory.  [PT]
Photo credit: Navymailman

Several weeks ago, the LAPD

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The Oil Curse Comes to Washington

April 28, 2018

Meandering Prices
Prices rise and prices fall.  So, too, they fall and rise.  This is how the supply and demand sweet spot is continually discovered – and rediscovered. When supply exceeds demand for a good or service, prices fall. Conversely, when demand exceeds supply, prices rise.

Supply and demand (the curves usually shown in such charts are unrealistic, as bids and offers in the market are arranged in discrete steps). [PT]

Producers use the information communicated by changing prices to make business decisions.  High demand and rising prices inform them to increase output.  Excess supply and falling prices inform them to taper back production.
This, in basic terms, is how markets work to efficiently bring products and services to

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From Fake Boom to Real Bust

April 20, 2018

Paradise in LA LA Land
More is revealed with each passing day.  You can count on it.  But what exactly the ‘more is of’ requires careful discrimination.  Is the ‘more’ merely more noise?  Or is it something of actual substance?  Today we endeavor to pass judgment, on your behalf.

Normally, judgment would be passed on a Thursday, but we are making an exception. [PT]

For example, here in the land of fruits and nuts, things are whacky, things are zany. Last month, State Senator, Dick Pan, introduced Senate Bill (SB) 1424, which would require California based websites to utilize fact checkers to verify news stories prior to publishing them.
Who exactly these fact checkers would be – the moral servants that would save the world from the ills

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Rise of the Japanese Androids

April 14, 2018

Good Intentions
One of the unspoken delights in life is the rich satisfaction that comes with bearing witness to the spectacular failure of an offensive and unjust system. This week served up a lavish plate of delicious appetizers with both a style and refinement that’s ordinarily reserved for a competitive speed eating contest. What a remarkable time to be alive.

It seemed a good idea at first… [PT]

Many thrilling stories of doom and gloom were published across the tops of the finest digital news sites.  The main object of our satisfaction, however, was buried further down the pages, well below the latest Trump tweets and relentless reports on the global war buildup.  Nonetheless, our focus is not without merit.
Today’s foil is played

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Trade War Game On!

April 7, 2018

Interesting Times Arrive
“Things sure are getting exciting again, ain’t they?”  The remark was made by a colleague on Tuesday morning, as we stepped off the elevator to grab a cup of coffee.

Ancient Chinese curse alert… [PT]

“One moment markets are gorging on financial slop like fat pigs in mud.  The next they’re collectively vomiting on themselves. I’ll tell you one thing.  President Trump’s trade war with China won’t end well.  I mean, come on.  China’s outplayed the U.S. at this game for over a quarter century.  They have the upper hand.
“Besides, what’s the point?  If we no longer buy stuff from China, then how will China buy Uncle Sam’s debt?  And the timing for all this couldn’t be worse.  Deficits are spiraling out of control.

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What Fed Chair Powell Forgot to Mention

March 26, 2018

Son of the Imperial City
What are the chances of Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell being wrong?  The chances he’ll be wrong on the economy’s growth prospects, the direction of the federal funds rate, and inflation itself?  Our guess is his chances of being wrong are quite high.

The new central planner-in-chief. Central banks are facing a special case of the socialist calculation problem pertaining to the financial system. Like the comrades in the former Eastern Bloc, who tried to adjust their plans based on prices they were able to observe in the capitalist West, their best bet is to simply follow market rates. Unfortunately market rates – especially at the short end of the yield curve – are subject to an observer-participant

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Good Riddance Lloyd Blankfein!

March 16, 2018

One and the Same

“God gave me my money.”
– John D. Rockefeller

Today we step away from the economy and markets and endeavor down the path less traveled.  For fun and for free, we wade out into a smelly peat bog.  There we scratch away the surface muck in search of what lies below.

One should actually be careful about quotes like the one attributed to Rockefeller above, even if it of course sounds good and is very suitable for the topic at hand. In reality he probably said something like it, but it is almost certain he didn’t say it verbatim (contrary to Mr. Blankfein, who is indeed on record for stating that Goldman Sachs was “doing God’s work”). We mention this because we have long noticed that the best-known quotes attributed to all

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How to Blow $12.2 Billion in No Time Flat

March 11, 2018

Fake Responses 
One month ago we asked: What kind of stock market purge is this?  Over the last 30 days the stock market’s offered plenty of fake responses.  Yet we’re still waiting for a clear answer.

As the party continues, the dance moves of the revelers are becoming ever more ominous. Are they still right in the head? Perhaps a little trepanation is called for to relieve those brain tensions a bit?  [PT]

The stock market, like the President, knows the art of ballyhoo. Day after day, stocks behave in shocking and unpredictable ways.  They bluster and then recoil with the inconsistent elegance of a President Trump twitter tirade.
Wild multi-hundred-point swings on the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) have become the norm.  Up 300

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Broken Promises

March 3, 2018

Demanding More Debt
Consumer debt, corporate debt, and government debt are all going up.  But that’s not all.  Margin debt – debt that investors borrow against their portfolio to buy more stocks – has hit a record of $642.8 billion.  What in the world are people thinking?

A blow-off in margin debt mirroring the blow-off in stock prices. Since February of 2016 alone it has soared by ~$170 billion – this is an entirely new level insanity. The current total of 643 billion is more than double the level of margin debt at the tech mania peak and 15.4 times the amount of margin debt just before the crash of 1987. [PT]

Clearly, they’re not thinking.  Because thinking takes work.  Most people don’t like to work.  They like to pretend to work.

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Haunted by Ghosts of the Old Eastern Bloc

February 24, 2018

Ridiculous Minutia
Jerome Powell, the new Chairman of the Federal Reserve, just completed his third week on the job.  He’s hardly had enough time to learn how to operate the office coffee maker, let alone the all-in-one printer.  He still doesn’t know what roach coach menu items induce a heinous gut bomb.
 

The perpetually slightly worried looking new Fed chairman Jerome Powell, here seen warily inspecting the Rose Garden at the White House. Everybody wants to know if he has a “better plan” – but there is no better plan, thus no-one has one. [PT]
Photo credit: A. Brandon / AP
 

Yet across the planet, folks high and low are already telling him exactly how he should do his job.  What’s more, they’re passing advance judgment on things that may or may not happen. For example, the South

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When Budget Deficits Will Really Go Vertical

February 17, 2018

Mnuchin Gets It
United States Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin has a sweet gig.  He writes rubber checks to pay the nation’s bills.  Yet, somehow, the rubber checks don’t bounce.  Instead, like magic, they clear. How this all works, considering the nation’s technically insolvent, we don’t quite understand.  But Mnuchin gets it.  He knows exactly how full faith and credit works – and he knows plenty more.
 
Master of the Mint and economy wizard Steven Mnuchin and his wife at the annual ritual greenback burning festival. [PT]
 

In fact, Mnuchin’s wife, Louise Linton, says she admires him because “he understands the economy.”  And Mnuchin, no doubt, admires Linton, a Scottish actress 18 years younger, because “she loves SoulCycle Snapchat filters that make people look like puppies and

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What Kind of Stock Market Purge Is This?

February 10, 2018

Actions and Reactions
Down markets, like up markets, are both dazzling and delightful. The shock and awe of near back-to-back 1,000 point Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) free-falls is indeed spectacular. There are many reasons to revel in it.  Today we shall share a few. To begin, losing money in a multi-day stock market dump is no fun at all.  We’d rather get our teeth drilled by a dentist.  Still, a rapid selloff has many positive qualities.
 
Memorable moments from the annals of dentistry [PT]
 

For example, the days following a market correction are full of restoration and redemption.  Like the prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi, Tuesday’s 567 point DJIA bounce brought hope where there was despair, light where there was darkness, and joy where there was sadness.  President Trump

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How to Buy Low When Everyone Else is Buying High

February 5, 2018

When to Sell?
The common thread running through the collective minds of present U.S. stock market investors goes something like this: A great crash is coming.  But first there will be an epic run-up climaxing with a massive parabolic blow off top.  Hence, to capitalize on the final blow off, investors must let their stock market holdings ride until the precise moment the market peaks – and not a moment more.  That’s when investors should sell their stocks and go to cash.
 
The DJIA over the past two years – the recent blow-off move has catapulted the average way above its 200 day moving average. As we recently pointed out, the DJIA has posted unprecedented overbought readings in longer-term time frames and we suspect that the distance from the 200 dma it recently reached was quite a rare

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The Donald Saves the Dollar

January 30, 2018

Something for Nothing
The world is full of bad ideas.  Just look around.  One can hardly blink without a multitude of bad ideas coming into view.  What’s more, the worse an idea is, the more popular it becomes. Take Mickey’s Fine Malt Liquor.  It’s nearly as destructive as prescription pain killers.  Yet people chug it down with reckless abandon.
 
Looking at the expression of this Mickey’s Malt Liquor tester one might initially get the impression that he is disappointed. We assure you that is not the case – this is actually his happy face, he is probably just about to enter Nirvana. Countless taste tests prove it, see this comparison of the “entire bottom shelf” of malt liquors, or these cost-conscious routiniers. Not to forget, it comes either in cans or in shatterproof plastic

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Tax Reform and Trump’s Chinese Trade Deficit Conundrum

January 26, 2018

Trade Deficit with China Widens on Trump’s Watch 
Most things come easier said than done.  Take President Trump’s posture on trade with China. Trump doesn’t want a bigger trade deficit with China.  He wants a smaller trade deficit with China.  In fact, reducing the trade deficit with China is one of Trump’s promises to Make America Great Again.
 
We are often willing to give Donald Trump the benefit of the doubt, despite the fact that his delivery needs a lot of work. Considering his enemies and most vociferous detractors, we reckon he must be doing something right; but we vehemently disagree with his views on trade, some of which are unfortunately becoming policy now. As Murray Rothbard once noted: “[P]rotectionist arguments, many plausible at first glance, are really a tissue of

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As the Controlled Inflation Scheme Rolls On

January 12, 2018

Controlled Inflation
American consumers are not only feeling good.  They are feeling great. They are borrowing money – and spending it – like tomorrow will never come.
 

After an extended period of indulging in excessive moderation (left), the US consumer makes his innermost wishes known (right). [PT]
 

On Monday the Federal Reserve released its latest report of consumer credit outstanding.  According to the Fed’s bean counters, U.S. consumers racked up $28 billion in new credit card debt and in new student, auto, and other non-mortgage loans in November. This amounted to an 8.8 percent increase in consumer borrowing.  It also ran total outstanding consumer debt up to $3.83 trillion.
 
US non-mortgage consumer debt – this exercise in admirable restraint seems to have served as a

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