« July 2006 | Main | September 2006 »

POP Urls

Thursday, August 31, 2006 | 06:25 PM

Nice aggregator of several different services:  POPUrls

Digg, del.icio.us, reddit, flickr, newsvine,
metafilter, tailrank, youtube, Google News, Yahoo News, netscape, iFilm, shoutwire, slashdot, wired, odeo, fark, nowpublic, furl, heavy, videosift, etc.


Thursday, August 31, 2006 | 06:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
de.li.cious add to de.li.cious | digg digg this! | technorati add to technorati | email email this post

Bond Rally Looks Crowded and Tiring

Thursday, August 31, 2006 | 03:15 PM

The Bond rally is moving towards breathless coverage on CNBC. Mike Panzner informs us that 10 days ago, Bloomberg reported:

"Hedge-fund managers and other large speculators placed a record amount of bets the 10-year U.S. Treasury note will gain, according to weekly data from the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Bets on a decline in two-year notes also rose to a record.

Speculative long positions, or bets prices will increase, outnumbered short positions in 10-year-note futures by 312,492 contracts on the Chicago Board of Trade in the week ended Aug. 15. Net-short positions in two-year-note futures rose to 92,942 contracts, the Washington-based commission said in its Commitments of Traders report."

Similarly, Mark Hulbert noted in a MarketWatch article that "the majority of bond market timing newsletters tracked by the the Hulbert Financial Digest think that" the treasury bond market will rally.

Meanwhile, the chart of the 10-year note yield reveals a market that is testing key near-term support and is near multi-year oversold extremes, suggesting that bond prices, which move in the opposite direction to yields, are  vulnerable to at least a near term correction.


10 year Yield, (Six Years) with 14 day RSI
RSI range 0-100, with 30 and 70 (red lines bottom) as overbought/oversold measures


Regardless of fundamental factors such as the recent Fed pause and signs that the economy may be slowing down, which are likely already somewhat factored into prices, the combination of exuberant optimism, excessive speculation, and a  negative technical picture usually means only one thing: prices are headed for a fall.

Panzner states: "Sounds like it's time to take some money off the table if you are long U.S. bonds."

A counter trend rally is not unthinkable here -- especially if NFP tomorrow is too strong or average hourly earnings is too hot -- either of which could take the Fed off "Pause."


UPDATE: August 31, 2006 6:05 pm

Richard Suttmeier  notes this his call for U.S. Treasury yields: the low yields for the remainder of the year will be set today or tomorrow. He writes at Real Money:

Momentum is excessively overbought for bonds, and the U.S. Treasury coupon curve straddles the 200-day simple moving averages at 4.777 on the two-year, 4.740 on the five-year, 4.796 on the 10-year and 4.891 on the 30-year. This lines up with weekly resistances at 4.796 on the two-year, 4.688 on the five-year, 4.750 on the 10-year and 4.898 on the 30-year. This morning's low yields have been 4.796, 4.703, 4.740 and 4.896, respectively.

A close this week cheaper than my quarterly pivot at 4.734 on the five-year indicates that my bearish call on bonds could be on the money.

Treasury yields have been declining since July 5 with the yield on the 30-year approached its 200-day simple moving average (SMA) at 4.89 this morning, down from 5.29 on July 5. This has made my measure of daily momentum even more overbought today then a year ago when the 30-year yield began to rise from 4.25 to above 5.25 into May 2006. I see this risk again, as the Federal Reserve may not be done raising rates, and even if they are, inflation remains an issue. If the economy goes into a soft landing, deficits should rise indicating increased Treasury supply. The 30-Year will begin quarterly issuance in February, and inflationary expectations are too high to justify sub-5% long-term yields.



Too many bond bulls
Commentary: Don't bet that 'this time is different' and rally will continue
Mark Hulbert
MarketWatch, 12:01 AM ET Aug 29, 2006

Futures Traders Put Record Bets on 10-Year Note Gain
Dave Liedtka
Bloomberg, 2006-08-18 16:36

Thursday, August 31, 2006 | 03:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (15) | TrackBack (1)
de.li.cious add to de.li.cious | digg digg this! | technorati add to technorati | email email this post

About Those Earnings (part II)

Thursday, August 31, 2006 | 10:27 AM

Slowing_growth_20060830_2 Earlier this week, I noted that the Bullish camp likes to trot out the headline earnings data as proof of ongoing economic strength. In About Those Earnings, we specifically noted "One of the main Bullish arguments has been that very strong Earnings are not signalling a major slowdown." After all, 14 consecutive quarters of year-over-year double digit growth is no Bearish signal.

I describe this growth as "lumpy." It is highly concentrated by sector and cap size, and is not evenly distributed:

"Energy companies have recorded 50% growth in net income, while financials grew by 19%. Exclude those two groups, and net income is down 1.1%, in part due to significant dropoffs in basic materials (down 12%), consumer goods (off 11%), health care (37% lower) and technology (down 4%), and a 13% decline in telecommunications."

Corp_profits_1 In a healthier environment, we should expect to see earnings growth broaden out across many more sectors in the economy. Instead, the growth is narrowing. The biggest gains are in a few sectors, and primarily in companies in big cap firms (like the S&P500 members).

But its not just me (or the perma-bears, pessimists or eeyores) who have noted this. The latest data to recognize this comes from the Commerce Department. The WSJ observed that the latest release on Corporate Profits admits:

"A slowing economy put the brakes on torrid growth of corporate profits in the second quarter, and rising labor costs could increasingly limit earnings growth in the months ahead.

The Commerce Department said pretax corporate profits in April, May and June collectively rose 3.2% from the previous quarter, much slower than the 12.6% jump in the first quarter or the 10% jump in the fourth quarter of 2005. Nonetheless, profits in the second quarter were 20.5% higher than a year ago and accounted for 12.2% of gross domestic product in the second quarter, the highest level in 40 years."

So while year over year growth remains strong, it has begun to slow sequentially.

Corporate Profit Growth Slows in Step With Economy
August 31, 2006; Page A3

Thursday, August 31, 2006 | 10:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
de.li.cious add to de.li.cious | digg digg this! | technorati add to technorati | email email this post

Housing by the Numbers

Thursday, August 31, 2006 | 07:22 AM

What a difference a year makes:

Housing by the numbers

Housing Stat Year Over Year Change
Builders’ sentiment -52.2%
New-home sales -21.6%
Purchase-mortgage applications -20.9%
Building permits -20.8%
Housing starts -13.3%
Existing-home sales -11.2%
Existing-home inventories +39.9%
New-home inventories +22.4%



This is one of those (rare) occasions where I will simply shut up and let the data speak for itself . . .


Hat tip: Nouriel Roubini, RGE


Existing-home sales plunge to a two-year low
Inventories of unsold homes rise to 13-year high
Rex Nutting
MarketWatch, 2:12 PM ET Aug 23, 2006

Eight Market Spins About Housing by Perma-Bull Spin-Doctors
Nouriel Roubini
RGE, Aug 26, 2006

Thursday, August 31, 2006 | 07:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (38) | TrackBack (0)
de.li.cious add to de.li.cious | digg digg this! | technorati add to technorati | email email this post

Donate a Duck to Help Special Olympics

Wednesday, August 30, 2006 | 05:00 PM


The  Million Dollar Duck Race has become an annual event in Manhattan to raise money for the Special Olympics.

Every $5 donation to Special Olympics New York adopts one of these racing ducks in your name and gives you a chance to win one million dollars, American Airlines tickets, a digital camera, or other fabulous prizes. More importantly, your donation will help Special Olympics New York provide year-round sports training and Olympic-style competition to children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

It is on Thursday, September 14th at the South Street Seaport.

Todd Harrison is helping to raise money for this event; You can sign up or just make donation here

Wednesday, August 30, 2006 | 05:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
de.li.cious add to de.li.cious | digg digg this! | technorati add to technorati | email email this post

The Fed is Wrong on Core Inflation

Wednesday, August 30, 2006 | 10:22 AM

The release of Fed Minutes showed greater unaminity than was previously hinted at. That was the excuse for the intraday reversal yesterday.

A sharp-eyed observer noted:

"Volume had been barely pacing Monday. Until 2:00 p.m. when it started to crank. As a matter of fact, there was a boatload shoved thru as the clock struck 2 and for the next ~30 minutes. Local lore is attributing this jump in volume and in price to the good news of the FOMC minutes. The only question that remains is what kind of a speed reader could actually scan and digest the above-referenced 7 pages, 276 lines, 34 paragraphs and 3,336 words and start to act on it before the red headline ink was even dry. (emphasis added)

I'll say. The ramp started the instant the Fed minutes hit -- certainly not enough time for any mortal to have read and comprehended that much data. This looked like it was simply a large macro-player pushing indices around in a very thin tape.

This is not me "talking my book."  As I said in early August, I am contructive on the market for the next few weeks, but not much more beyond that.

The more interesting Fed related story the past few days was out of merry ole England, by way of Jackson Hole. Its seems that Charles Bean, the Bank of England's chief economist, is aghast at the absurd focus on the Core Rate of inflation by the U.S. Central Bank.

Dan Gross has the details:

"The US Federal Reserve is wrong to focus on core measures of inflation that exclude energy prices, Charles Bean, chief economist at the Bank of England, has suggested.

It should focus instead on headline inflation, which is much higher, he argued. Including energy and food costs, US consumer price inflation is running at an annual rate of 4.1 per cent, against 2.7 per cent for core inflation.

Mr Bean told the Fed's annual Jackson Hole symposium at the weekend that energy prices were rising for the same reason the price of many manufactured goods were falling: the rise of China and other emerging market economies. Since both price trends had a common cause, he said it makes little sense to focus "on measures of core inflation that strip out energy prices while not stripping out falling goods prices as well."

Mr. Bean did not mention the Fed by name but his implication was clear. Fed officials, including chairman Ben Bernanke, typically talk about measures of core inflation excluding volatile food and energy prices, which they say better predict future headline inflation.

Central bankers in Europe take a sharply different approach. Both the Bank of England and the European Central Bank put greater emphasis on talk of headline inflation, which includes the immediate "first round" effect of rising energy prices.

I find it rather discouraging that so obvious a statement needed to be publicly pointed out by an overseas observer, albeit a well placed one.

Inflation (ex-inflation) has now risen to the level of a national embarrassment.



BoE chief economist hits at US inflation measure
By Krishna Guhain Jackson Hole
Published: August 28 2006 03:00 | Last updated: August 28 2006 03:00

Wednesday, August 30, 2006 | 10:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (49) | TrackBack (1)
de.li.cious add to de.li.cious | digg digg this! | technorati add to technorati | email email this post

Payroll Employment: The Home Game

Wednesday, August 30, 2006 | 07:15 AM


Here's a fun thing to do between now and Friday's NFP data: You can play Payroll Employment: The Home Game:

"Every month billions of dollars change hands based upon the monthly report on the employment situation. This report is released the first Friday of each month.

With such an exciting opportunity, traders are tempted to participate in stocks, bonds, or a direct "bet" on the number.

Here is where you can practice online for the employment report."

The game (found here), allows you to bet on 'True' job growth as well as 'Actual' BLS change (hedonically adjusted and massaged though it may be).

To me, the most interesting aspect of the Payroll Employment Game are the Technical Notes. They lay out a very specific mind set that governs how real traders and investors position themselves around the monthly NFP report: 

"The key points the Employment Game is designed to make are the nature of the information contained in the job report and the risks inherent in acting on a mistaken belief that the BLS job growth estimate for the current month represents an absolutely exact and true measure of the economy.

We do not intend to be critical of BLS in general nor of the Establishment Survey in particular. We believe the Establishment Survey is an excellent survey conducted, analyzed, and reported by dedicated and skillful scientists. Moreover, we believe the Establishment Survey provides an estimate of the change in seasonally adjusted jobs from one month to the next which is as accurate as it is possible to be in measuring anything at all involving actual humans in that time frame. Nor does the BLS misrepresent their work. They go to great lengths to explain what they do, why, and how and to explain how to interpret the results. As the old guy said: 'The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves...' "

I agree. The only factor I found wanting was the lack of the BLS Birth-Death  adjustment.

However, given the inherent difficulty in counting 140 million employed persons in the US, and then estimating the monthly change in that data, rather than making a specific numerical estimate, I find myself very comfortable sticking with the cowardly binary choice of "Over" or "Under."

But I do like the idea of making this into a playable and educational game.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006 | 07:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
de.li.cious add to de.li.cious | digg digg this! | technorati add to technorati | email email this post

Spiral Frog

Tuesday, August 29, 2006 | 03:40 PM

Heres' a new business model for Tuneful Tuesday: Free, advertising supported music downloads. Think of a cross between typical P2P and Myspace, and you get SPIRALFROG (formerly Musicloads).

I spoke with Robin Kent, the CEO of Spiral Frog and former head of  Universal McCann advertising agency, about the advantages of this model:

- Legal (No RIAA litigation against fans)

- Free (commercial advertising supported)

- Clean (i.e, no spyware, virus, malware or spoof downloads)

- Desirable target audience to advertisers (described as Marketers’ Dream)

- Cooperation from the labels

The thinking behind this is as follows: For every one legal download, there are 40 illegal (i.e., free) ones. Let's put up a site where we can capture some of the free downloadable music market, deriving revenue via advertising method (perhaps a 3rd party such as Google or Yahoo?). The target demographic market is the 13-34 year old age group.

They are not so much competing directly versus ITMS as they are versus Limewire and Kazaa.


There are three questions that come to mind anytime I see a new music site: 

- Is it iPod compatible?

- How intrusive are the commercials?

- How restrictive is the DRM?

The answers to these often determine how succesful the site will become. In SpiralFrog's case, the answers are no, not sure yet, and somewhat.

When SpiralFrog launches in December, they will have a few challenges; Here are the issues that may arise once the site launches:

iPod Compatibility: No iPod compatibility? That means from day one, they are forsaking 75% of the marketplace. Indeed, Spiral Frog is not Mac compatible (not initially, anyway). That's a tough way to begin a new product, eliminating a huge swath of the market from consideration. Its tough to compete with cheap, easy to use, advertisement free, modestly workable DRM.

SpiralFrog responds to this by saying they are not competing with ITMS, but rather, are supplemental to what Apple offers. If you only want a 30 second clip before you buy a song, then you can go to iTunes.  However, a full version of a song, along with additonal band info and a "MySpace" like community around each band could be a compelling proposition of the under 30 set.

Microsoft Zune:  Not compatible with Microsoft's upcoming player Zune either; See above.

Free versus Cheap: Will "free" be the key to breaking  Apples grip on legal downloadable music software and devices? That's a long shot -- most iPod owners have an extensive collection of music from beyond the iTunes Music Store. Their own CDs are a primary source, along with CDs of friends as the next source, and then P2P comes third. (If you want to say P2P trumps CDs for younger users, I won't argue with you).

I doubt they will cut into any of Apple's sales, but no cost, legal and virus free might give P2P sites a run for their money.

Restrictive DRM:  1 PCs and 2 portable devices per user.  Kinda skimpy rights offering.

The Short Attention Span Generation:  Each song takes 90 seconds to download, and while that is  along time, the company hopes to keep viewers entertained with Concert information, videos, band discographies, photos, lyrics, etc. -- all the trappings of a serious music site. There are also plans for colloborative filtering -- as in "If you like this band, then you will like that band."

This is to my mind the toughest part of any advertising dependent site. Some of the most successful new technologies of recent years have had as part of their appeal a way for the user to control information/content themselves, and avoid the annoying and intrusive advertising. Think RSS, iPod, Satellite Radio, and TiVo.

On the other hand, Google is the most successful of all internet companies. Their advertising is discrete and unobtrusive. So an advertising model could possibly work be tolerated -- assuming its not pernicious popups or "watch to play" commercials. Marketers don't think “pre-roll” ads that run before or perhaps during the downloading process are effective. That's one of reasons YouTube was a monster hit, while iFilm was not. The "watch-to-play" pre rolls was one of the major differences.


I will reserve final judgement until I see what SpiralFrog looks like in December, but the concept is certainly intriguing.




Universal Music backs free download website
Holden Frith
August 29, 2006

Universal Offers Free Music
C. Medford
Red HerringAugust 29, 2006

Everyone's Going Crazy About the Frog
Mark Mulligan
Jupiter Research, August 29, 2006, 07:15 AM

Universal backs free music offer 
Tuesday, 29 August 2006, 11:05 GMT 12:05 UK 

SpiralFrog, Universal in free music download deal
Tue Aug 29, 2006 12:30 PM BST

Universal to try ad driven music downloads through SpiralFrog - still with DRM
Marshall Kirkpatrick
Tech Crunch, August 29 2006

Tuesday, August 29, 2006 | 03:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (33) | TrackBack (0)
de.li.cious add to de.li.cious | digg digg this! | technorati add to technorati | email email this post

Consumer Confidence and Commodity Weakness Heralding An Economic Slowdown

Tuesday, August 29, 2006 | 12:15 PM

The data keeps coming, and its getting harder for the perma-bulls to rationalize the information. Earlier in the month, University of Michigan Consumer Confidence plummeted the lowest level since last October; the blame went to "Terrorism fears and higher gasoline prices;"

Since that August 18 report, gas prices have dropped significantly.

This morning, it was the Conference Board's turn to release their data -- and their confidence index dropped the most since last September post-Hurricane Katrina. Blame for the drop this time went to "Weak Housing and the War in Iraq, and Employment."

I have a different theory: Consumer Confidence is weak due to no real wage gains for more than 2 years;  It is not Housing per se, but rather, the inability to extract equity via HELOCs that are to blame for the poor confidence showing.

Even the reconstituted Leading Economic Indicators have continued to weaken:

LEIs, Year-over-Year percentage change, 3 years



Indeed, when we look at the prime driver of this cycle's inflation -- commodity demand -- is starting to cool off. Spurred by weakness in oil, the Reuters/Jeffries CRB index is testing key 5-year uptrend.

5 Year Chart -- Commodities


Source: Michael Panzner, Collins Stewart


One possible interpretation of that is the commodities market is anticipating cooling demand -- from the decrease in New Home construction, the slowing of the broader US economy, even a lessening of US purchases of goods made in China.

This is a chart worth watching over the short term as it could be the canary in the coal mine . . .



Consumer Confidence Tumbles

WSJ, August 29, 2006 10:18 a.m.

U.S. Economy: Consumer Confidence Declines to Nine-Month Low
Bob Willis
Bloomberg, Aug. 29, 2006

Tuesday, August 29, 2006 | 12:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (27) | TrackBack (1)
de.li.cious add to de.li.cious | digg digg this! | technorati add to technorati | email email this post

Bears, Contrarians and the Crowd

Tuesday, August 29, 2006 | 06:48 AM

Welcome to Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.
--Garrison Keillor


These days, everyone wants to be a contrarian. 

That absurd statement leads us to taking a look at Contrary Sentiment (and other indicators). This highly misunderstood aspect of Technical Analysis can be a source of confusion to long term investors and short term traders alike.

First off, s consider how many people like to think of themselves as not part of the crowd. Surveys show that 80% of people with automobile licenses consider themselves to be "above average drivers."

Like the improbable children of Lake Wobegon, this is not statistically  possible.

But it reveals something of Human nature: People like to consider themselves separate from -- or better yet, superior to -- the crowd. At the same time, our experience has been that most people unknowingly act with the crowd.

It is an inherent biological trait, one that has developed over millions of years. There is safety in numbers. In all of those Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom episodes I watched as a kid, it was always the gazelle on the outskirts of the herd that got taken by the lions.

The safety and success of going with the flow can be summed up by John Maynard Keynes: "Worldly wisdom teaches that it is better for reputation to fail conventionally than to succeed unconventionally."   There is much truth to that.

While many people like to think of themselves as contrarians, the reality is that in the markets, the crowd is what moves the indices. Consider how many Wall Street cliches are a recognition of the power of the masses:

-Don't fight the tape
-The trend is your friend
- Never catch the falling knife
- A rising tide lifts all boats

Each of these aphorisms distilled to its essence are alluding to the power of crowds. Both directly and indirectly, the masses of buyers (or sellers) are what move markets. People forget the simple truism that markets go higher when there are more buyers than sellers, and lower whent there are more sellers than buyers.

Which brings us to today's look at sentiment. One of the things I keep hearing is that there are "too many Bears for the market to go down." That statement is true when Bearish sentiment reaches a true extreme; it can also be true for very short term counter trend rallies.

But just because sentiment is negative or positive does not mean markets automatically must go in the opposite  direction. Helene Meisler looked at some past periods where negative sentiment was pretty consistent -- and martkets went down anyway. Specifically, she looked at the Investor's Intelligence readings from the early 1970s, specifically 1973-74:

"From March 1974, the DJIA traded between 846 and 800, roughly a 5% range. In that same time frame, the percentage of bearish newsletter advisers rose steadily from a low of 27% to 60%. The DJIA finally broke 800 in July 1974 year; by then, the bears were already at 60%. They climbed further to a peak of 69.6%.

In other words, the bears were right. And look at how they stayed bearish for the whole decline. The current reading for the percentage of bears is quite high at 34.7%, although it is well off its peak reading of a few weeks ago. But note that it has been in this mid-30s range since mid-June.

When folks ask me, as they often do, where sentiment is now, I must report that it is bearish. It has been bearish and it has not changed. Yet all those bears haven't helped the market rally longer than a handful of days at a time.

Perhaps there are too many bears out there. Perhaps all these bears will lead to a lasting rally one day, but all those bears didn't help the market in 1974 and so far it hasn't helped the market since June.

When I see the number of stocks making new highs increase and volume increase along with it, I will be happy to jump into the bull camp. But for now I continue to be part of the bear consensus."

That the crowd has become negative as the economy is cooling and inflation is still present may not be a great contrary indicator; Perhaps it generates a pop lasting a few weeks. But as we have seen in history, the crowd is typically correct -- until they reach great extremes.

There are all too many pseudo-contrarians who do not understand how (and when) these sentiment indicators work; I saw one that claimed the Housing posts on this blog were a buy signal for the Homebuilders.

Compare that with the "Home Sweet Home" on the cover of Time magazine in June 2005 as a sell signal for the home builders.

Investor's Intelligence Bearish Percentage and DJIA, 1973-74      

Investor's Intelligence Bearish Percentage 2003-present      34326


As Helene's charts above show, we are nowhere near extreme levels of sentiment that have in the past, reliably produced major reversals or even counter trend rallies.


Confessions of a Consensus Bear
Helene Meisler
RealMoney.com, 8/25/2006 9:00 AM EDT

Home Sweet Home
Time magazine, June 13, 2005

Tuesday, August 29, 2006 | 06:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (35) | TrackBack (0)
de.li.cious add to de.li.cious | digg digg this! | technorati add to technorati | email email this post

Recent Posts

December 2008
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 31      


Complete Archives List



Category Cloud

On the Nightstand

On the Nightstand

 Subscribe in a reader

Get The Big Picture!
Enter your email address:

Read our privacy policy

Essays & Effluvia

The Apprenticed Investor

Apprenticed Investor

About Me

About Me
email me

Favorite Posts

Tools and Feeds

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Add to Google Reader or Homepage

Subscribe to The Big Picture

Powered by FeedBurner

Add to Technorati Favorites


My Wishlist

Worth Perusing

Worth Perusing

mp3s Spinning

MP3s Spinning

My Photo



Odds & Ends

Site by Moxie Design Studios™