Ever been to Las Vegas? Ever try your hand at blackjack or roulette or — pardon the expression — craps? How did you make out? Win a time or two? Good!
Be honest, now. Even if you won a few bucks once or twice — did you wind up losing more than you won? Maybe a lot more? And was that partly because you were making rash bets, trying to win back what you’d lost already?
Does the United States still have a stock market? Not really. In a real market, when there are more sellers than buyers, prices decline. And vice versa of course. That is called "price discovery"; or used to be. Since January of 2010 investors have withdrawn a net total of 81 billion dollars from U.S. stocks and funds, this week marking the 33rd consecutive week of outflows, while stock prices have staged a missile launch upward that started in mid-July. Floyd Norris of the New York Times confirms that outflows have remained at record high levels over the last four years. Some of the funds withdrawn resulted from industry insider selling, and much of that was re-invested in commodities and emerging markets. But a substantial amount, according to Charles Biderman, CEO of Trimtabs, was withdrawn by middle-class Americans to pay monthly bills.
In an unprecedented interview on CNBC, Biderman stated that the Federal Reserve is no longer denying the fact that it has been rigging U.S. markets nor is the Fed making any effort to hide it. An unrelenting and counter-intuitive rally has ensued, with stock prices gapping up at 4:00 AM night after night and never looking back. Even before the Fed initiated its POMO (Permanent Open Market Operations) injections of outright treasury buys in a program euphemistically titled "Quantitative Easing 2" (a.k.a printing money out of thin air) the Fed's daily zero percent loans of taxpayer money to Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan were used almost exclusively to buy stocks - and then sell them again within minutes or even seconds. Investment banks use high frequency trading computers (HFTs) programmed to essentially steal money, one penny at a time, from any retail investor foolish enough to believe he could make money by trading or investing in stocks. Their computers, operating at speeds no human with a laptop could match, front-run orders, ensuring a profit on every trade. Wall Street investment banks have the right, unlike everyone else, to trade in increments of 1/1000 of a penny, allowing them to deny order fills by keeping the price 1/1000 of a penny below the bid. It is one of many questionable and even illegal practices engaged in by what the internet bears cartoons refer to as the "the Goldman Sack" and "the JP Morgue". The web cartoons have gone viral, as they say, and served to educate the uninitiated in the grand-theft-stock-market game being run by the Fed and the Wall Street gangs.
The website ZeroHedge.com has, over the last year, published several articles by traders who have monitored ongoing price fixing and HFT computer games. Institutional broker, Gene Noser says that HFT trading systems threaten to destroy the entire capital market system. "[They] are unregulated, often under-capitalized, and provide no redeeming social function. As I see it, they exist to extract value from real investors one fraction of a penny at a time, over and over again."
The upshot of all of this is that while the economy has seen virtually no benefit from the Fed's massive liquidity injections, Wall Street's top bankers continue to enjoy annual bonus payments in amounts ranging from 24 to 111 million dollars.
Trading records show that "the Sack" and "the Morgue" have earned profits in almost every single trading day in the last three quarters. How can that be? It can be because those two banks are the market makers, setting the prices, and then betting on the very prices they themselves set. Las Vegas casinos are pikers next to these guys, since casino profits are limited by law. Not so for the Wall Street gang. The big money players are not buying common stocks these days in any case. They make private equity deals and trade off-market and off-hours in something known as a "dark pool", a cyberspace location I have always pictured as a black hole in space. As George Carlin famously said, "It's a club, and you ain't in it"
From a technical point of view, traders expected a washout low in stocks last August. It never happened, as that was the moment when "the Ben Bernank" fired up his printing presses and digitally created billions of fictitious US dollars with which to buy stocks and bonds. The last time that a central bank in a western democracy printed money this wantonly was in Wiemar Germany. And most of us know how that ended: hyperinflation that produced the image of a wheelbarrow full of paper money required to buy a loaf of bread. In 2010 America, commodity price rises are showing up in higher grocery bills and gas prices, higher education costs and health-care costs, but so far nothing as dramatic as Zimbabwe's multi-thousand percent inflation. Could it still happen here? It could. There is a lag of 12 to 18 months for liquidity to show up in consumer prices, so we cannot know what prices will look like a year from now. Gold prices have risen steadily throughout the Bernanke liquidity rush, with silver showing parabolic gains over the last six months. Whether those price rises reflect a loss of faith in governments or a fear of inflation, the end result is the same. Our currency is being deliberately devalued, at a time when we are dealing with record job losses and wage depreciation.
For the moment, the dollar is holding up because of Moody's serial downgrades of some European government debt, most recently Portugal's bonds. Euro problems could cause the dollar to rise by default over the next two to three months. But at some point attention will turn back to the Fed's POMO operations, and the dollar could suffer a precipitous decline with little warning.
The POMOs are scheduled to continue with money printing of between one and 19 billion dollars - that is per day - through June of 2011. Where will the U.S. economy be when QE2 ends? It will be where it is now, as the Fed's money printing, while raising the costs of essential food and energy, has had no notable effect on job numbers or salaries. What it does do, with every uptick in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, is increase the wealth of those who are already wealthy.
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