Saturday, January 31, 2015

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Loves it.



I've seen this plate around for a little while now. Today I ran into the guy and asked him if he was a firefighter. I was so sure that he would say yes, that when he told me the family business was pyrotechnics it didn't register. I was like - wait, what?

Now I want to be this guys friend. The only job better than fireworks is blowing buildings up. In the good way. Where they take down an old structure to make way for a new structure. The completely legal government sanctioned way.

You have to qualify things these days so people don't take your words the wrong way. You can't imagine the crazy intense gov agencies that have hit my blog over the years. I just want to make sure we are all clear.

Read.

This article is the best I've ever seen explaining why we are in the middle of a deflationary avalanche. I never quote so much of an article, but most people also don't follow links. So, I've outlined a pretty important segment of the article describing why the dollar becomes strong in deflation. This in turn hurts US companies. Please read the whole article. It's really good at describing the ripple effect. EME stands for emerging market economies.


"The initial transmission mechanism by which global oil deflation negatively impacts EMEs is falling currency exchange rates. Oil price deflation is generally associated with a corresponding rise in value of the US dollar relative to other currencies. A rising dollar in turn means falling currency values for other countries.

Since the collapse of global oil prices began in earnest last June, the Russian Ruble has fallen approximately 38 percent.  The Venezuelan currency, the Bolivar, by around 45 percent. Nigeria’s currency, the Naira, has declined 12 percent just since mid-October. Even the currency of developed oil exporting countries, like Norway’s Krone, has fallen 17 percent.  After having remained stable for several years, the US dollar clearly began to rise last June, as global oil prices commenced their freefall that same month. So falling oil prices drive the dollar up and in turn depress EME currencies, and especially depress the currency of oil exporting economies. And the more dependent the economy is on oil exports, the greater the EME currency decline.

In other words, it’s not sanctions on Russia by the west that are responsible for the lion’s share of the ruble’s recent decline. Nor is it Venezuelan domestic economic policies that are contributing most to the decline in the value of the Venezuelan Bolivar.  It is the collapse of global oil prices that is the main culprit.

All commodities, not just oil, take a major hit when sustained oil deflation sets in.  A sharp and sustained decline in oil is generally associated with declining sales and prices of other commodities. The entire global commodities sector may be impacted negatively. That has already begun to happen with commodities like copper, gold, and other industrial metals, that have begun to fall as well in the wake of the current oil price decline. The Bloomberg Index of 22 basic commodities, for example, has recently fallen to its lowest level since 2009.

Even non-oil, but commodity heavy, exporting EMEs have experienced significant currency declines relative to the US dollar since global oil prices began to fall more rapidly last June.  In recent months Brazil’s Real has fallen 15.5 percent and Australia’s dollar by 12 percent–and in both cases despite their central banks’ interventions in currency markets to prevent even further currency declines.

Declining EME currency values sets in motion a number of critical economic developments that cause EME economic growth to slow sharply, and even precipitate recessions.

For example, sharp declines in currency values lead to capital flight from the EME. Both domestic and foreign investors dump those currencies, buy dollars, and send capital out of the country to buy US assets — typically US bonds and stocks and other assets that may be attractive as well, like real estate. The EME capital flight is then reflected in EME stock market declines and a rise in EME government bond interest rates. Former flows of foreign direct investment into the EME also slow. Money capital in general dries up. Credit becomes scarce. Falling currency values also lead to higher cost of imported goods for consumers and consequent decline in consumer real incomes and spending. Business exports also decline.  All the above translate into slowing real economic growth in the EME, and even recession.  And all because of rising dollar — the global trading and reserve currency — and the decline in the EME’s currency exchange rate that sets the process in motion."

Gee I wonder why that is happening?



Source.

Said in the most sarcastic way. Denver housing hurt by too few listings.

Pretty soon there will be no blood left in the refi sector. Unless some really horrible things happen. And then the banks might not lend to allow people to take advantage of it. The existing home sales segment is also set to crater. When you have interest rates this low, why would you ever trade in your mortgage to "trade up"? To most people - what you pay per month is more important than having that big chunk of money in the bank. I don't understand it frankly, but I see it all the time.

I don't really track new home sales because I don't think I'd ever buy a new home. But I thought it was important now because that is going to be the only sector in town. I set this chart back to 1990 to see what a normal amount of new home sales used to be before the world changed. Surprisingly we are selling about the same amount of new houses as we did since the mini recession in 1990. Here is an expanded chart. Even the downturns where we were only building 400 thousand units were during stressful times in the US.

Housing is going to become extremely painful in the next few years. There will be a shortage at some point. Through the whole recession they have been building about half the houses in a normal cycle. For instance this year they built about 600 thousand units. They say a normal year before the recession was 100 thousand units. From the chart I think the real number for a normal year is closer to 500 to 600 thousand units. Averaged out. The current period of building only slightly over 400 thousand units has gone on longer than any downturn since the 60's. 7 years so far. In that 7 years, it looks like we actually got down to around 300 thousand units around 2010.

This will trigger your classic inflation. Too much money chasing too few products and services. And there really will be too few products in this sector. I mean, they can build new - if you can find the land and acquire the funding. Because you are going to have to pry existing homes out of those peoples cold dead hands.


What if oil doesn't go back up?


I have to walk back some of my comments about low oil prices. I generally feel low oil prices are a net positive. After the destruction is over. You can't have the price of goods in any sector fall 50% and not expect a lot of destruction.

If oil prices were to stay low for a very long time - that would be the best thing that ever happened to this country in the long run. Of course, a lot of "green energy" would die. Not like I think that is a bad thing.  It's a very inefficient way to produce electricity. Green energy is an albatross. I don't care how you feel about Mother Earth.

Anyway...

The past couple of weeks  I've been trying to figure out if the low oil prices are "transitory" like the Fed says, or something deeper. I'm voting for deeper since last week they said we were sitting on the most oil in 80 years. Almost since the Great Depression!

Yesterday I went over to find how much oil we had in floating storage. Because during the recession we had around 100 million barrels in floating storage. I was curious about this because we've been in contango for a few months. This is where people buy oil and store it to sell at a later date. I started wondering how much it costs to store this oil. I mean, how this could be cost effective? What if oil doesn't go back up very quickly?

In Feb of 2009 prices bottomed out at 43 bucks a barrel. If you can believe the above chart. I've read reports of oil getting to 35 bucks a barrel during that time, and this chart doesn't reflect that. By May of 2009 oil had snapped back to roughly 65 bucks a barrel. It took until Nov 2009 to get back to 85 dollars a barrel which is where oil was in the winter 2006.

Why do I bring this up? Because we are clearly floating in oil, yet the giant tankers they use to store this oil for future sale are only on third full. Self I said - how can we have the most oil we've had in 80 years, and the storage vessels are only a third full?

I think this only can be true if they don't expect a 2009 like rebound in the price of oil. If they don't want to risk storing this oil for sale later in the year, maybe they don't think oil will recover by the end of the year. In 2009 it sounded like a lot of people made a ton of money that way.

Of course these are just assumptions. No one really knows the answer to any of this. I do find it interesting that the above chart shows the price of oil going back to 1946. It looks to me like oil wants to have some natural equilibrium. The outlier spikes have been during the rough times for the US. The late 1970's, The early 90's when we apparently had an 8 month recession. 2006-2008 and the current crappyness. It makes you think these periods are anomalies and "not the new normal" as it's been called.

The dark side of this whole thing is energy was one of the few bright spots the US had for growth. I think it's going to take a while to work through this. And that is going to butt hurt.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

I'm so sick of this meme.

Fed rates hike a ‘tough call’: Analyst.

Journalists are idiots. There is ZERO chance the Fed is going to raise rates for the foreseeable future. The way other countries are printing money - I bet we will start printing again this year. I'm not going to predict when because that is a suckers game. The simple fact is that our companies have a hard time being competitive when other currencies are being devalued at the rate they are.

The only signs of life in the housing sector were refi's last week. Existing fell 3%. With rates mostly down in the 3.65% range - even I am thinking about trying another refi soon. Rates have fallen almost a full point since I refi'd the beginning of last year. The lower rates get, the more likely these houses are never going to be put back on the market for the life of the loan. Deflation is a very rare occurrence in modern history. One day these rates will bounce back. People know that.

The question that really begs an answer - how are banks making money? Because..... I thought banks made money on home sales and the interest they charge you. I don't see a lot of that going on.

Oil has not stopped falling and is creating severe damage across the world. India for example who arguably HAD one of the highest inflation rate at over 7% is now going for a second rate cut in one month. The first was a surprise cut. Your going to tell me that we somehow are going to not be affected like the rest of the world? I guess we are like magic.

Lastly - most people are starting to figure out that low oil prices do not goose the economy in the way you might think. Deflation makes people act in ways that textbooks don't comprehend. Fear impulses take over. People start hoarding any money they might have because people know their jobs might be at risk. Instead of it being a positive - it actually makes people start bearing down more and spending less.

During the first two years of the recession Mr S. and I would have all these conversations because we'd go out and there would be tons of people on the road. At the time I thought if they were in their cars - they must be spending money. The freeways would be packed and I'd say - where are all these people going! We know they aren't spending money. Still weekend after weekend if you didn't think about it too hard you'd think nothing was out of place. The slide continued unabated for years. Gas of course went higher because it seemed that is the only thing people were spending on.

Looking back on it, they were probably just driving around because that period of time was so dark that you just wanted to get out of your house so you could forget how crappy things were for a few moments.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Pictures I should have posted.



My girl Jasmine chillin' in a Barstow hotel. Some hotels don't even charge for pets now. If they do, they charge very little.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The introverts mall.



The Macy's store at Valco Mall in Cupertino announced it was closing. That was my sign I had to go check on my second favorite Dim Sum restaurant which resides in the mall. My first favorite is right in front of the new Apple campus, and they've already started handing out menus in English. So, I expect that place to be caved forever now. It was already a bitch to get into without a huge frickin campus right on it's doorstep. Just trying to find parking there will make you go wild. I meant to video it once or twice because it was a really special experience. Said in the most sarcastic way.

The Dim Sum place at Valco I think pretty much keeps the whole mall alive. Valco has been a dead mall at least since the beginning of the recession. I wrote about it once here in 2009. It looked really bad off then.

After we had Dim Sum I wanted to walk the mall before they did whatever they are going to do with it. I think it's losing two anchor stores. Macy's and Penny's. This is where I discovered they had pristine coin cars. I'm not sure what they are called. Usually you find them out in front of  stores and they are all sun damaged. The ones in Valco I'd never seen before and they were in amazing shape. And for some reason this made me want to ride them.





Mr S rode this one with me. It spun in circles.



I was having Mr S. get me more quarters when he saw this sign. That must have been why the kids were giving me dirty looks. That ruined all the fun, But getting in those tiny seats were kinda a bitch anyway.









The mall generally seems less dead than I would have expected considering. There still were lots of stores. Just not stores that bring in much revenue.

I used to be one of those mall rat kids who hung out at Valco. Now I can't stand going to a mall. It does make me sad to see them go though. Not for any good reason. Valco has prime real estate. It's time to gentrify that mall. I guess I always hate to see the old stuff go around The Valley. I of course want the new stuff they replace it with more. But in The Valley you have to keep reinventing yourself. It isn't easy to do. I'm sure the owners of Valco put up the good fight. I always hate the final defeat.















Saturday, January 24, 2015

Noble in the wild.



I haven't seen one of these in a while, so I had to chase it down. Thankfully the owner parked and made it easy on me. It's really the best looking kit car on the planet. Yes. You have to put this together yourself. Or hire someone.

The sun was really low in the sky - so that's why the middle shots look so over saturated. Noble Motors home.













Friday, January 23, 2015

That tired old song?

January rainfall for the Bay Area ? Zero point zero.

I mean, I know it's going to rain before spring - but seriously? If I'm a farmer - I'm starting to get jittery though. Super jittery.

I'm not sure what I'm going to have for you this weekend. I have a few projects to get done. I do have a conference next week which I hope is not filled with 3D printing. I've been having this huge love hate relationship with 3D printing. It's still fantastic, but I'm sort of bored. Except for the medical side.

I thought the home market would start to consolidate by now, but they just keep coming out with new types. And everyone but everyone understands 3D printing now. This is how I know.

Last week I was at the chiropractor and he was asking me what I saw at CES. He's not a tech guy at all, so I narrowed my reply to mostly 3D printing. Because I've been talking to him about it forever.

He says - my buddy is selling those now. I bust up laughing and ask him which one. He didn't know.

I reply - remember all those years ago I've been talking about this? Yes I do - he replies.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The doves are turning.

Today I was talking to a guy I know, and I asked him how he felt about the world in the generically probing way I do. I figured he would come back with some economic response, but he didn't. What he did say shocked me a bit. Well, more than a bit. He started talking about terrorism and beheadings.  I thought - oh, you are leading with that? I'd noticed the polls were tilting in the direction that more people were becoming concerned about it, but I didn't really believe it.

Now, to me this was pretty interesting because when President Money Bags got elected - this guy I know - all he could say was at least there wouldn't be a war. It seemed to be a pretty big deal for him. This subject area had pretty been off limits to me because even though I consider myself a conservative, I'm more like a hawkish libertarian. Heavy emphasis on hawkish. Most of the time I'm in no mood for doves. They don't see the world the way I do. They haven't seen the things I've seen. I refuse to turn a blind eye to the world. I don't think something goes away because you ignore it.

So - I gingerly treaded in. But, you were pretty anti war. Right? We hadn't really talked about it in detail, but he's said a few things that made me think this is the way he felt. I clearly have a different point of view and it doesn't do my any good to try and find some middle ground on that. So I always tried to not talk about it.

He replied - well, yeah. Unless there is a good reason. Indicating he thought this was a good reason. This was a huge deviation from the impression I'd gotten before from him before. I mean, he clearly didn't think Iraq was a good reason.

I was for Iraq. I'm generally for turning things to glass when when dictators do such horrible things to people. Though I have to admit I've struggled a bit in the past few years. Iraq for now, was a waste of time and treasure and money. I only hope they got a big enough taste of Westernism that they pull out of this on their own. Probably not, but you never know what the future holds. The world can flip on you like a dime.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Huh. I guess some people think negative interest rates might be on the table after all.

Opinion: Think negative interest rates can’t happen here? Think again.

Yes this is the only thing I can think about right now. I'm not sure if I think we get to neg interest rates. I only know that previously strong large economies that helped us through the recession are no longer strong like Canada, Singapore, India, China, Australia. And countries across the world are cutting interest rates like their house is on fire.

Ours says they will raise them. I mean, it's the only sensible choice since lowering them would be terrifying. Said in the most sarcastic way.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Nothing makes my eyes narrow more than watching people bitch about Obama whom I'm sure voted for that guy. Everyone is an Obamacomelately whiner these days.

This nation can not move forward until President Money Bags has trolled through the entire economy punishing the responsible and rewarding the irresponsible. That is the whole goal of this administration. You can push a lot of socialism on people when they don't understand what it is. It has to burn like the surface of the sun for them to understand. And I'm fairly confident that day will come soon.

I was able to find a mortgage rate at 3.495% today. Rates have not been that low since Oct 2012. Because falling rates are a sign of a great economy. Right? Imagine how great the economy will be when we enter negative rates like Europe.

I'm not sure we will get to negative rates, but I have no idea how they are going to stimulate this economy either. But you know they will.

It's 2009 all over again.



A lot of people are talking about deflation now in a stupid way. Which I will explain later.

For the past few weeks/months when I read about people talking about deflation - the thing that scares me the most is they never seem to talk about the 2007-2010 time range.

When they write articles or when I see interviews, they talk about this crazy new confusing "thing" called deflation that we haven't seen since the Great Depression.  Which makes my brain go wild, because I vividly remember the deflation of 2008-2010. I own property. It's like they don't even recognise that period as a deflationary period.

This has actually caused quite a few conversations in the Snarkolepsy household. It makes my eyes grow wide because I don't understand how no one connects what we soon face with the closest example on record.

Home prices were down 40% or so. Wages went down. Food prices went down. But no one talks about it. It makes me so crazy I had to start plugging things into Google to make sure my memory wasn't failing me. Which is where I found this article that really gave me a sinking feeling in my stomach.

Deflation warning bells ring louder.

This is not from my blog earlier this summer, or even from this year. It's from 2009!

"NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Prices are falling for just about everything these days.

The government will report its key inflation index Friday morning, the Consumer Price Index, and economists believe the report is likely to show the first year-over-year drop in prices since 1955.


But while shoppers might see that as good news, economists generally view this as a threat to an already struggling economy.

That's because deflation, or a widespread drop in prices, is one of the most destructive forces that can hit an economy." 


The article goes on to say:

"Deflation is most often associated with the Great Depression. In 1930, consumer prices fell 2.3% and plunged 9% a year later. Prices fell nearly 10% in 1932 before the rate of decline started to slow. Still, prices didn't turn higher again until 1934.

The U.S. is nowhere close to that type of deflationary spiral just yet. Economists forecast that the year-over-year drop in January was just 0.1%

Much of that decline has been driven by lower gas prices. But there is clear evidence that falling prices are spreading beyond the pump. The core CPI, which strips out food and energy prices, fell at a compounded annual rate of 0.3% in the fourth quarter of 2008. "

Still further down in the article:

"Worries grow about more salary cuts

The potential economic pain that can be caused by deflation is so great that St. Louis Federal Reserve President James Bullard identified it in a speech Tuesday as the greatest risk facing the economy this year.

"I think we face some risk -- at this point only a risk -- of sustained deflation," he said, adding that "ongoing deflation in the United States might be particularly pernicious."

"I think we're on the precipice of outright, full-blown deflation and that we'll fall into that abyss by this summer," said Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody's Economy.com. "Given the pressures businesses are under to sell something, they'll have to cut prices and I think they will."
Read the whole article here.

It's irritating to see business people questioning whether deflation will hit the US. Since summer I've been saying that if higher gas prices cause inflation, what do lower gas prices cause? Deflation.

OF course this is going to hit the US. This article shows you exactly why people who have been trumpeting lower gas prices as a savior to the US economy don't really understand deflation. Lower gas prices didn't make one bit of difference in 2009. The circumstances aren't exactly apples to apples since there aren't quite as many people underwater in their houses. So we will see how things go I guess.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Pictures from the Las Vegas art district.



I feel like I'm behind on everything, so I'm feeding you stuff from Vegas still.





































Friday, January 16, 2015

I did not get you any wearables or "internet of things" at CES.

Wearables - flat out, I think is a fad. I've been going to conferences for at least a year now and  I can't find a reason to write about them. I wore a pedometer to CES once. I clocked eight and a half miles. The next year I thought about taking it, but didn't. Now it doesn't even cross my mind.

Still, CES was packed to death with them, and I've gone for enough years now to know that they will be a product. Silicon Valley is putting an awful lot of effort into them. I still think they are a fad.

Internet of Things is another area Silicon Valley is putting a ton of energy into. I've gone to a bunch of those conference too and I mostly roll my eyes. You see - when you've been around the valley long enough you take a more wait and see attitude. I love factory air as much as the next guy, but still. This is going to be more annoying than you think.

I've already had my first real life experience with "the internet of things". Well, the internet of "thing".  I have two of those Nest smoke alarms, and over the holiday Chez Snarkolepsy upgraded it's Wifi network.

One of the features I really liked about the Nest - they took out.  The wave off. Because I'm short. I still like that it tells you which room "it" thinks the fire is in. My family has been in a fire. And one morning the NEST pulled a false alarm on Mr S. and I.

It must have been about 6 in the morning when we heard "there is smoke in the upstairs". We were upstairs and didn't smell any smoke. Finally we started checking downstairs and there was none. But - it was a good drill. I'm not happy it went off when there was no fire. However a fire can take your house down in minutes. I'm not going to sweat the drill. I am a little freaked it might do that when no one is home, because it woke up the other Nest device and I'm thinking of putting in a third. I don't want the fire department breaking down my door when my house is not on fire. Still - knowing which room fires are in I think can really save lives. My cousin didn't make it out.

Anyway... I'm getting off track.

The Nest also gets used as a night light pretty often. It is the perfect amount of light for us insomniacs who try to avoid light at night, and it stays on for the perfect amount of time. After we upgraded the network I noticed the Nest ring would turn yellow instead of green and I thought the battery was just low from me using it as a nightlight all the time.

Turns out it had to be put back on the new network. But you couldn't just give it the new address - you had to factory reset it. I'd forgotten about that part. Which Nest should have texted me to let me know I wasn't connected to the net for two days but didn't.

It was like when the credit card company sends you a new card because some network has been compromised and all of a sudden you are like Oooohh, right I have to change all these automatic payments. It's not ~that~ big of a deal, but you tend to forget which devices are connected over time. And when you get enough of these things... oh the joy you will have if you change any networking stuff. Just say'in.

Only a fool would think they could ban encryption.

I suggest you all read why encryption was created from the guy who wrote PGP, here in Why I wrote PGP by Phillip Zimmermann. He thought of it as a human rights tool.

Back in the day - everyone wasn't on the internet. Universities, government installations and large tech companies like Sun Microsystems now a part of Oracle, were all on the backbone. We all felt we needed to be protected from losing our jobs if we wanted to view or say something our employer many not like. This was before ISP's. Your email belonged to your employer. You had to keep a very professional on line presence back then. Not like today where you can post basically any shit headed thing under your real name, and you still get to keep your job. With this new freedom, PGP wasn't really needed as much because backlash wasn't as harsh.

Looks like that is all about to change. And I'm waiting with baited breath to see how many of our Silicon Valley companies roll over like a dog wanting to get their stomach scratched. I bet a lot  because Silicon Valley has very few morals these days when it comes to the government.

To think that you can rid the net of the Phillip Zimmermanns of the world - is delusional. I'd think they would feel like that was a challenge. There will never be an end to Phil Zimmermans gawd willing. They will continue even with the risk of government persecution. Google it.

It's all I've never known from the net, and I think it will never, ever, change.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

They come from the hills.



Towards the back half of summer, the turkeys stayed up at the VA hospital on the hill. The grass was fantastic up there. They didn't reduce watering at all. Now that the lawns are starting to green up they've decided to go slumming it down here in the low lands.

The funny thing about the turkeys is they follow road rules and stick to sidewalks and yards. I think I even got a video of them using the crosswalk once. I'll have to troll through my youtube channel. They are very good about staying out of the road.

I actually waited for this group because there was a white one. It's the first time I've seen that. It was also funny they hung out in a yard with fake deer. The VA hospital is also full of real deer. So the turkeys must have felt right at home.

And yes, I do still have some tech stuff to get out, but I just don't feel like talking about it right now.







It's too late to panic. We've been floating in space like Wile e Coyote for months. People just didn't believe it.

The thing that bothers me most about the oil collapse is how everyone in the oil industry was taken so by surprise. In The Valley, it's very hard to keep secrets in sectors. They all kind of roughly know what their competitors are doing. Sometimes they surprise you.

Mr S. and I were talking about this a lot  last night and we both came to the conclusion that they ( the oil people) must have been drinking the cool aid thinking the economy was getting better. It does no one any good if you cave the whole sector. You might risk putting yourself out of business in the process. No sane sector works that way. They must have expected demand to be much higher.

It doesn't matter now though. Copper and Cotton are telling the whole story.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

 
http://www.wikio.com