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  • European Central Bank Embraces QE, For Better Or Worse

    Last Thursday, the European Central Bank (ECB) announced the much-anticipated launch of a sovereign bond buying program at the rate of €60 billion ($70 billion) per month known as “quantitative easing.” The ECB's QE program could be as much as one trillion euros over the next two years. The ECB said the purpose for the larger than expected QE effort is to head-off deflation and stimulate the struggling Eurozone economy.

    It remains to be seen, however, whether the bond buying program will actually achieve its goals. It certainly hasn't worked as expected in the US, the UK or Japan. There are in fact some reasons to believe that QE will face even stronger headwinds in Europe, not to mention that the program is likely to devalue the Eurodollar which is already in freefall. We will look at all of these issues and more as we go along today.

    Despite the benefits of sharply lower energy prices, two international organizations revised their global growth forecasts lower last week. The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank both reduced their growth forecasts for 2015 and 2016. While both organizations still expect global growth above 3% overall this year, they are becoming more concerned about recessions in Europe, South America and elsewhere. Details to follow.

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  • Three Interesting Articles I Read Last Week

    I’m taking most of this week off to hang out with the kids before they head back to college this weekend. So today we’ll look at a few of the most interesting articles I’ve read over the last week. I hope you enjoy them. I have some comments of my own at the end of each article.

    We will start with an article on Saturday from Larry Kudlow, a CNBC senior contributor and host of The Larry Kudlow Show on radio. Larry is one of my favorite economic and financial writers because he knows how to cut right to the chase and pulls no punches. In the following article, Larry offers his no-nonsense plan to get the economy back on track – and I fully agree with him.

    Following that, I have a very good article on the state of the European economy, and the news is not good. Europe may be headed in the direction of Japan. Our last article focuses on President Obama’s use of Executive Orders when Congress fails to cooperate and, specifically, his latest threat to grant a path to citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants by EO.

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  • September: A Rough Month for the Markets?

    September is often a bad month for the stock markets, historically speaking, and this year it could be especially turbulent. In addition to all the uncertainty about the weak US economy, there is uncertainty about what the Fed may do just ahead and what, if anything, will be done to address Europe’s recession and debt crisis. In addition, there is the looming presidential election which no doubt will go hyperbolic this month.

    We begin today by looking at the situation in Europe, now that the August vacations are over. It remains to be seen if European leaders can make good on their promises earlier this summer – I doubt it. From there we look at the latest US economic reports, which were a mixed bag. Next, we consider Fed Chairman Bernanke's speech last Friday and the probability of QE3 when the Fed next meets on September 12-13.

    We end today with some of my thoughts on the Republican National Convention last week, which I thought was very good. It remains to be seen how the Democrat Convention will go. I find it very odd that Hillary Clinton will not be there at all. And finally, I once again recommend that all of you go see "2016: Obama's America" movie. It's not what you think it will be.

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  • LIBOR: The Worst Financial Scandal Ever?

    What is looking to be the largest banking scandal in the history of the world is unfolding before our very eyes this month, and yet most Americans know little or nothing about it. The allegations are that some of the largest banks in the world (at least 22 so far) have been “price-fixing” the LIBOR to their advantage for years.

    LIBOR (London Interbank Offered Rate) is the average daily interest rate that leading banks in London would be charged to borrow from each other. Financial institutions, mortgage lenders, credit card agencies and many others around the world peg their interest rates, in large or small part, on the LIBOR. Some $400-$800 trillion in securities and derivatives are priced at least in part based on the LIBOR.

    Barclays PLC, London’s oldest and largest bank, has already admitted to wrongdoing and paid fines to British and US regulators of apprx. $450 million. But this is only the beginning. As the investigation unfolds, it is expected that dozens of the largest banks around the world – including several US banks – may have been involved.

    I have read dozens of articles on the LIBOR scandal over the past two weeks. The one that I think explains the scandal the best is from The Economist in London. I have reprinted most of that article below with a link to the remainder. Since this scandal is going to be enormous, I suggest you read the following article to get up to speed on it.

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  • Fed Extends Operation Twist – Europe at the Brink

    For the last several months I have argued that the most likely time for the Fed to enact another round of stimulus would be at the June 19-20 FOMC meeting. I first suggested this in my March 13 E-Letter. My main reasoning was that Bernanke would not want to do it after June 19-20 for fear that it would be seen as a political move ahead of the November elections.

    As I’m sure you know by now, the Fed elected to extend “Operation Twist” last Wednesday, June 20. Operation Twist is the action whereby the Fed uses cash from the sale or maturity of short-dated Treasuries to buy longer-dated securities, in an effort to bring down long-term rates. The Fed says it will make $267 billion in such purchases and the Twist will continue until the end of this year.

    The Fed also revised its economic forecasts downward, suggesting even slower GDP growth in 2012 and 2013 than they predicted back in April. They estimate that the unemployment rate will remain at or above 8% all this year, and then be 7.8% - 8% in 2013. Not a very rosy outlook.

    The financial crisis in Europe is back on the front pages. Moody's downgraded 28 Spanish banks on Monday, and stocks cratered around the world. There is a major European summit this Thursday and Friday in Brussels, and this may be the last chance for a solution to the crisis before the Eurozone begins to break apart.

    Finally, I end with some thoughts regarding the Thursday's Supreme Court decision on ObamaCare. If the healthcare law is struck down by the High Court, I expect all hell to break loose! The mainstream media and those on the left will have a conniption. No doubt the Obama administration will weigh in on the bashing of the Supreme Court. If the healthcare law or the individual mandate are struck down, it will get very ugly!

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  • Spain & Weak US Economy Dominate Markets

    Stock markets around the world have been pummeled in recent weeks amidst the growing reality that we’re in a global recession, especially in Europe. Fears that the US will also fall into recession have intensified, particularly in light of last week’s very disappointing economic reports.

    At the same time, the European debt crisis has once again raised its ugly head, this time with the spotlight on Spain. Spain’s own Prime Minister has admitted that the country is in a state of emergency, and money is gushing out of Spanish banks. Interest rates have soared once again to levels that led to the European Central Bank’s €1 trillion bailout package late last year and early this year.

    Last week, the yield on Spain’s 10-year bonds spiked to 6.7%, a whopping premium of more than 5.5% above the yield on the 10-year German bund at the time. Meanwhile, short-term rates in Germany fell to zero as new money seeks a safe haven there and in the US where 10-year Treasury-note yields fell to a post-war record low of 1.45% last Friday.

    Spain is facing a full-fledged banking crisis and knows it. Yet Spain's leaders do not want a bailout and the accompanying loss of sovereignty. They see that such bailouts in Ireland and Portugal have not gone well. Still, Spain is running out of money fast, and the country is largely shot out of the credit markets. How this plays out is uncertain, but it won't be pretty.

    Following that discussion, I will address the fact that consumer confidence is dropping like a stone in the US. This has prompted new hopes that the Fed will unleash QE3. We will know soon enough as the next Fed policy meeting is June 19-20.

    We end up today with a suggestion on my part that the current swoon in stocks is a BUYING OPPORTUNITY. No one knows where the bottom is, of course, but consider this. If the Supreme Court renders Obamacare unconstitutional later this month, and I think it will, we could see a MONSTER RALLY in stocks. The High Court's decision is scheduled to be announced on June 25. This is why I think you need to be getting back in the market now, while it's down. And I offer two excellent suggestions on just how to do that at the end.

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  • Greece Poised to Default & Exit the Euro

    Greece is coming dangerously close to defaulting on its debt, especially if the next round of bailout loans doesn't happen. Those loans are predicated on Greece continuing its austerity programs to balance its budget. Greece will hold its next national elections on June 17, and the party that is expected to win vows to roll back the austerity measures mandated by the EU and the ECB. At the least, it looks like we're headed for fireworks just ahead.

    The burning question: Is there any way that Greece can default on its debt and withdraw from the euro without causing a global financial crisis. Some believe there is. Today, I present such a plan that was suggested by Nouriel Roubini last Friday. But I will also tell you that I don't believe that the EU, especially Germany, will go along with Roubini's plan. Germany's Chancellor Andrea Merkel reportedly made that clear to President Obama last Saturday in a private meeting following the G-8 summit in Chicago.

    No one knows what will happen with Greece just ahead, but a debt default and an exit from the EU and the euro are now quite likely later this year. This is even more of a threat if the Left Coalition in Greece wins the elections on June 17. Obviously, this is having a very negative effect of the stock markets, making it all the more important to have investment professionals on your team.

    On Thursday we are hosting our latest online WEBINAR featuring Yacktman Capital Group, the latest money manager to make it onto our recommended list. The Webinar will be this Thursday at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Yacktman's founder, Brian Yacktman, will talk about his successful "value-investing" strategy and how it works. There will be time for questions from audience members. With the recent decline in the stock market, now may be an excellent time to consider putting some money with Yacktman Capital Group.

    You can attend the free Webinar on Thursday at 1:00 p.m. Eastern by CLICKING HERE. I hope you'll join us!

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  • Is The Economic Recovery Stalling?

    Economic reports in recent weeks have been disappointing overall, and there are growing concerns that the economic recovery may be slowing following 3% GDP growth in the 4Q of last year. Thus, all eyes will be focused on this Friday’s first report on 1Q GDP. Only a month or so ago, some worried that the 1Q GDP number could come in below 2% due to the slowdown in inventory rebuilding this year. But as you’ll read below, most pre-report estimates for 1Q GDP are north of 2%.

    Whatever the GDP number is on Friday, there is a feeling that the economic recovery is stalling a bit. Some of the same spoilers that interrupted the recovery in 2010 and 2011 have emerged again this year, raising fears that the winter’s economic strength might dissipate in the spring and summer.

    In addition, the Fed Open Market Committee is meeting today and tomorrow. Since we won’t see the policy statement from the meeting until tomorrow, we can only speculate as to whether the Fed discussed any new stimulus at this meeting. I still don't believe that QE3 is off the table. I’ll give you my thoughts below.

    Finally, a record 5.4 million workers and their dependents have signed up to collect federal disability checks since President Obama took office. Many unemployed apply for disability benefits as soon as their unemployment benefits run out. There are now a record 10.8 million Americans on disability. This is a real travesty on so many levels!

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  • European Debt Crisis Never Went Away

    Since December, the European Central Bank has loaned over 1 trillion euros to banks in southern Europe. These were three-year loans with an interest rate of only 1%. The banks used most of this money to buy up sovereign bonds of their home countries. This served to drive down bond yields around the region, and most observers assumed that the European debt crisis had been solved - at least for a while.

    Yet over the last few weeks, the unexpected has happened: bond rates in countries like Spain and Italy have started to rise again to dangerously high levels. Ten-year Spanish bond yields climbed to the highest level since the ECB started allocating three-year loans in December. Yields rose above 6% last Friday and yesterday, which sparked new concerns that Spain may need yet another ECB bailout. Making matters worse, Spain's economy slipped back into recession in the 1Q.

    Interest rates are also rising in Italy, and its economy appears to have dipped into a recession as well. All of this news has accelerated concerns that the financial crisis in Europe is back. Yet I argue today that the debt crisis never went away! Don't be surprised if this problem returns to center stage over the weeks just ahead, and if it does, this will not be good news for equity markets around the world.

    While US stocks are enjoying a very strong day today, there's a critical government bond auction in Spain on Thursday; Italy has a big bond auction on April 27; and Spain has another large bond auction on May 3. If interest rates continue to rise and/or if Spain and Italy have trouble finding enough buyers, this will be bad news. That's our topic for today.

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  • Is the Fed Now Leaning Toward QE3?

    Since late last year, the consensus has been that the Fed will not enact more quantitative easing, or QE3, since the economy is slowly improving. Yet there is new evidence which suggests that the Fed may yet implement QE3, despite the fact that QE is unpopular politically. If this is the case, and no one knows for sure, I would expect the Fed to announce QE3 no later than this summer and maybe even sooner. They don't want to do something unpopular during the election season in the last half of this year.

    Following that discussion, we turn to Europe and the fact that the European Central Bank has now made over $3 trillion in bailout loans to banks across the region. That tops even our own Fed which has $2.9 trillion on its balance sheet! Greece has reportedly completed its huge bond swap in which investors took a haircut of 70%. In return, it appears that Greece will get its much needed second bailout loan of 130 billion euros. While Greece may be off the front pages for now, it won’t be for long.

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  • European Debt Crisis - Is This Really The End?

    I have written a great deal about the European debt crisis over the last several months. Today I thought I would give you the latest analysis of the crisis from The Economist, the widely respected, London-based forecasting giant. I've been reading the Economist for almost 30 years, and I think you'll find their latest views on the European crisis interesting (if not scary).

    Following the analysis from The Economist, we take a look at how some of the world's largest banks are preparing for what could be the end of the euro. While most large European banks are in denial about the possible end of the euro, other large banks around the world are scrambling to reduce their exposure. I have also linked to a very good article on this very subject at the end of today's E-Letter.

    Next, now that the Super Committee has failed, the automatic spending cuts of $1.2 trillion over a decade are set to kick in starting in January 2013. The media is warning that such draconian cuts will devastate the Defense Department. Well guess what? $1.2 trillion over 10 years is only $120 billion a year. The federal budget is projected to increase by more than $120 billion a year over the next decade. In that case, there will be no net new spending cuts, just a slowing of the rate of increase. That's the dirty little secret the media is not telling us!

    Finally, if this extremely volatile stock market has rattled your nerves, I have a suggestion for you. I suggest that you consider investing with Metropolitan Capital Strategies, one of my favorite professional money managers. Metropolitan has the option of going 100% to cash (money market) in extremely volatile times such as we see today. We are hosting a free live WEBINAR with Metropolitan Capital Strategies this Thursday, December 1 at 2:00 EST.  I highly recommend that you join us!

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  • On the Economy, Europe & the Super Committee

    We begin this week with the latest GDP report which came out this morning. The Commerce Department reported that Gross Domestic Product rose only 2.0% (annual rate) in the 3Q, down from 2.5% in its previous report last month. This was below pre-report estimates but still suggests that the economy is not falling into a new recession. A new report from Credit Suisse estimates that the chance of the US economy going into a recession next year have dropped from 36% in September to only 24% today.

    In another new report, Fitch Ratings warned that large US banks face "serious risk" in regard to the European debt they hold. Specifically, Fitch claims that the six largest US banks had at least $50 billion in loans to Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain at the end of September. This suggests that the European debt crisis could cause serious problems for US banks if any defaults occur in the Eurozone. This should not come as a surprise to my regular readers - I've been warning about this since July.

    Next, we revisit the so-called "Super Committee" which announced late yesterday that it has failed to reach an agreement to reduce federal deficits by at least $1.2 trillion over the next decade. This, too, should not have come as any surprise to my readers. There are those who believe that the (not so) Super Committee was designed to fail from the beginning. I happen to be one of them. The Super Committee was an embarrassment! Our national debt will continue to explode.

    Finally, with this being Thanksgiving week, I close with some personal thoughts on what I'm thankful for.

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  • European Bank Woes & the Super Committee

    A recent study from Credit Suisse revealed some alarming information about Europe's largest banks. We already knew that Europe's largest banks are mired in so-called "sovereign debt," that owed them by the various government's of the Eurozone. The Credit Suisse study found that in addition to sovereign debt, most of Europe's largest banks still have billions in toxic assets that were acquired prior to the credit crisis in 2008. Most of these toxic assets are related to real estate/mortgages, CDOs, etc. that were bought prior to the recession and are now presumably worth far less than face value. In short, European banks have done a lousy job of cleaning up their balance sheets and writing off troubled assets.

    Following that discussion, we will revisit the so-called "Super Committee" that is trying to find at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade. As you might expect, the committee of six Republicans and six Democrats is deadlocked as this is written, and the real deadline is next Monday, November 21 when the committee needs to present its deal to the CBO for scoring. The bottom line: I don't think the Super Committee is going to agree on $1.2 trillion in spending cuts. Read on and I will tell you why.

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  • The Latest (Secret) Rescue Plan For Europe

    Over this past weekend, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and G-20 leaders met in Washington, and the main focus was the deepening financial crisis in Europe. Leaders from around the world called on the stronger nations of Europe to “leverage” their emergency bailout fund, the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), by up to trillions of euros if necessary.

    While none of the G-20 leaders will confirm what follows, it is widely believed that a new three-part plan was introduced at the weekend meeting to address the growing debt crisis in the eurozone: 1) increase the EFSF to at least €2 trillion; 2) recapitalize eurozone banks by at least €150 billion; and 3) allow Greece to default on 50% of its debt.

    Since July 19, I have maintained that the European debt crisis would dominate financial markets around the world. Since then, we’ve seen the Dow and the S&P 500 plunge by nearly 20% at the low point. However, the global equity markets rallied strongly on Monday and again today on hopes that the new bailout plan hatched over the weekend will stem the crisis in Europe.

    It is interesting that Europe is preparing to go down a similar path as the US took in 2008 – huge bailouts and a possible Euro-TARP to restructure its ailing banks. The hand of Tim Geithner is all over this one. I hope it turns out better for Europe, but I am not optimistic.

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  • European Debt Crisis Revisited - Implications For the US

    Today we take a fresh look at the European debt crisis which is worsening. Just over a month ago, EU leaders agreed on a second bailout loan for Greece to keep it from defaulting. That bailout loan had to be approved by all EU member nations, and several have refused to do so unless Greece can put up collateral. This has caused the bailout agreement to unravel and Germany's Chancellor Andrea Merkel is frantically trying to put it back together. If she fails, we could get another serious shock to the equity markets in the US.

    Meanwhile, the European Central Bank began buying huge chunks of government bonds from Italy and Spain to keep their credit markets functioning. Some argue that the ECB is not authorized to make such purchases but it is doing so anyway. It remains to be seen just how long the ECB can continue this large-scale quantitative easing. In any event, the European debt crisis is worsening, and I continue to believe that it will have more negative consequences for our markets here.

    A new CNN poll found that Americans' confidence in Congress is at a new low. For the first time ever, a majority of Americans want the bums in Washington voted out of office -- including their own Representatives in Congress. In past polls a majority wanted some members of Congress kicked out, but not their own Representatives. You'll find this story very interesting. Finally, I leave you today with a very good article written by Tony Blankley who offers President Obama some advice for his major speech on Thursday night.

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