Welcome to Deflation


People are just starting to grasp why deflation is also present in the USA. Despite all the screaming about Quantitative Easing, most remain confused why hyperinflation has not taken place. Most are obvious to the fact that there is a dynamic process involved that is a lot more complex than traditional economics teaches in school. Sorry, but the quantity of money theory does not work. It is way too simplistic and this has led to massive confusion. Even the central bankers are staring to call for help.

The latest news that Amazon was buying Whole Foods saw a plunge in retail and grocery stocks. Amazon put book stores on the list of bankruptcy victims and we see similar troubles for Sears, the company that made its name using the railroads to deliver goods by mail order. The deflationary tone has been in place since 2015.75 and it is a combination of problems one of which is the technology advancement. Many people see the advance of robots displacing jobs. However, the reason unemployment rose dramatically to 25% during the Great Depression was not from the collapse of industry. It was (1) the advancement of technology with the combustion engine that wiped out agricultural jobs (aside from the horse industry) and (2) the vast dust bowl which then wiped out farms entirely.

The Amazon takeover of Whole Foods is highlighting this technology shift. The jobs of the future will be more in the technology programming area. All the office spaces I looked at for moving our office were, without exception, law firms closing down. Lawyers are now far too common and we are seeing the saturation reducing the once high paying jobs that enticed kids into law school.

Cyclically, everything evolves. Retail stores are declining and Amazon has been opening showrooms rather than stores. You get to go touch the product and it will be delivered to your home. They are also bringing in fully automated stores. You will have an app on your phone, walk into a store, take whatever you want, and your card will be billed as you walk out the door. There go the store clerks.

Things are changing rapidly. The high cost of labor because of Obamacare has been destroying a lot of jobs. The first thing your account tells you is not to higher employee number 26. Technology is helping to reduce the high cost of labor, which is being driven up because of taxes and healthcare which the employee never sees.

Improving you skills for the future is absolutely paramount to survive

Top Executives of Barclays Charged


The British Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has brought charges against Barclays and four former executives surrounding the Qatari investment during the 2008 financial crisis. You may remember at the time Lloyds and RBS were offered UK government support with certain strict conditions attached. However, Barclays declined the government offer and instead turned to Qatar which eventually became the biggest single shareholder, with around 6%.

The rumor around the financial markets at the time was that the UK government offer was better for the shareholders (unqualified) but the restrictions imposed meant that no board members would receive bonus payments until monies had been repaid. Talk at the time was that faced with that proposition of spending bank money to secure future bonus payments – the board declined the UK Government offer and went with the Qatari investment. The SFO also charged former top Barclays executives after investigating a two-part fundraising that included a $3 billion Barclays loan to the Qatar Gulf state.

The men are the most senior bankers ever to be charged in Britain for alleged crimes during the financial crisis. They face jail sentences of up to 10 years if found guilty.

EU Proves It Has Become an Authoritarian Government


The European Commission President JEAN-CLAUDE Juncker, has come out and boldly stated that Poland and Hungary and their refusal to take in a single refugee person under a plan agreed in 2015 to relocate 160,000 asylum-seekers from Italy and Greece, said: “Those who do not want to accept people with a different skin colour or a different belief come from a world of ideas that I do not consider compatible with the EU’s original mission.” Juncker further said that if the refugee crisis existed previously and Poland and Hungary refused to accept the refugees, they would have been denied membership.

The entire refugee crisis was created by Angela Merkel. It was never presented for a vote to the member states. The EU has proven that there is no right to vote and it has become an unelected government with authoritarian powers. Juncker never stands for election by the people. The establishment of the EU government is its a throw-back to the days of kings claiming the divine right to rule.

Meanwhile, estimates of refugees who would still migrate to Europe range in the 30 to 35 million. This indeed seems high for that is 10% of the population of the United States. Even if it is half that amount, it would break the economy of Europe and crush it into dust. You have and excess of people totally unfamiliar with Western culture or with a skill set capable of the 21st century.

Suicide Over European Banking Crisis


Greece-Pensioner-2

The European “bail-in” rules have been cheered claiming taxpayer money will be spared. However, many seniors bought bank bonds for their retirement. In the rescue of the small Banca Popolare d’Etruria, a retiree who had lost more than 100,000 euros worth of bonds lost everything and committed suicide. There have been many such events that do not always make the press. In Italy,  the death of a pensioner who also committed suicide after losing his life savings as a result of a controversial move by the government to rescue four banks. The 68-year-old hung himself at his home in Civitavecchia, a port town near Rome, after the so-called “save banks” plan wiped out €100,000 in savings held at Banca Etruria, one of the four lenders included in the government rescue deal announced on November 22nd, 2015. There was the 23-year old who committed suicide over £8000 in debts for student loans. A Greek pensioner who was 77-years old committed suicide in central Athens shooting himself with a handgun just several hundred meters from the Greek parliament building in apparent despair over his financial debts.

The government have made promises and socialism was all about protecting the people from the evil capitalists. But the politicians became the capitalists and now all the promises are being reversed or modified. The crisis we face ahead is so many people believed in what they told everyone. What happens when they discover it has been just a lie?

Grenfell Tower Fires Exposes Government Corruption


At least 58 people are feared to have died in the fire that engulfed Grenfell Tower this past week. Prime Minister Theresa May admitted that the government response was appalling. There is mounting anger growing that many are saying that people were told to stay in their apartments and died as a result. They are also exposing the fact that there were no sprinklers to combat the fire. On top of that, many see this as a plot to get them out of a rich neighborhood.

The building is a government property managed by Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) which was formed in 1996. KCTMO manages 9,459 properties for the council, according to its business plan, and is the largest tenant management organisation in England. It was refurbished last year but no sprinkler system was installed. The issue here is similar to the World Trade Center crisis. In both cases, we are looking at government owned properties. If such properties were privately owned, the management would be thrown in prison. Because we are looking at government ownership, no such outcome is likely. Government can avoid building codes to save money that no private construction company could possible get away with.

The people are turning this into a rich v poor issue rather than looking a bit deeper.

This is another example of just how corrupt government has become.

 

Grenfell Protests – May Must Go


 

The protests are rising and Theresa May failed to go talk to the people right away while Jeremy Corbyn was there on TV crying with the people. He had proposed refurbishing the government housing and sprinklers should be installed last year and it was knocked down. People are blaming austerity. They are demanding an inquest, not a public inquiry. People feel that a public inquiry behind closed doors will hide the truth once again.

The Fate of Britain

We just released our report on in Britain. The markets were showing a very bearish outlook ahead and this was strange if not irreconcilable with the bullish view of BREXIT. We put it all together and warned that the Conservatives may end up being replaced by Labour and we can see Britain turn very hard left toward Marxism. This is a very important report for it goes into the pound on the cross rates with the dollar, euro, Swiss and the yen. In addition, we covered the Long Gilts and the share market. The timing seems incredible given the events following the release of this report.

Tony Blair was a socialist and took Labour to the center right. He achieved concessions from unions no Conservative could have ever accomplished. But Corbyn wants a maximum wage and intends to take Labour back to the 1970s and its extreme Marxist positions. Installing a maximum wage to prevent high paying jobs seems insane. It’s all about punishing accomplishment rather than raising the living standard. The definition of the “rich” will drop from £145,000 to £80,000 and raising the corporation tax from 19% to 26%. He wants 50% tax on anyone who earns more than £123,000. Inheritance taxes will be lowered from £850,000 tax free to £425,000 and anything above that will be 40%. This will wipe out small businesses preventing them from continuing and that applies to farmers as well. Raising taxes to this magnitude will surely lead to the migration of top-end positions out of London.

Amazon Purchases Whole Foods For $13.7 Billion (Cash)…


The business world is buzzing over Amazon’s $13.7 billion purchase of Whole Foods. CTH has received requests for opinion. Amazon stockholders may not like the perspective.

(Via CNN Money) The online retail giant announced Friday that is buying organic grocery chain Whole Foods (WFM) for $13.7 billion in cash. The deal values Whole Foods at $42 a share, 27% higher than where the stock was trading Thursday.

Amazon (AMZN, Tech30) said Whole Foods stores will continue operating under that name as a separate unit of the company. Whole Foods CEO John Mackey will stay on to lead Whole Foods, which will keep its headquarters in Austin, Texas. (link)

Here’s my review. Firstly, Whole Foods was available for purchase because Whole Foods business model was limited; and like the progressively minded organization they are – they allowed their Birkenstocks to travel beyond their limits, which always leads to failure.

In the PC corporate world ‘pending failures’ are called “challenges“, or “opportunities” if you don’t want to get kicked out of the boardroom.

Whole Foods is a high-priced (nicknamed “Whole Paycheck” for a reason) grocery outfit specifically because they were/are generally a niche market operation.

The cost of organic products, in combination with their fundamental flaw (Achilles heel) that economies of scale (warehouse and distribution) are a prerequisite within the low margin industry for cost savings, kept their prices high.

As a regional business, inside specific markets with specific access to locally sourced product, Whole Foods would be ok.  It’s their core operations and reason for their initial success.

However, attempt to expand that operational model nationally (which they did), and you enter a dynamic of trying to sell products in markets that don’t appreciate or value the Vichy experience of dropping $300 for two Eco-friendly canvas bags of fruits, vegetables and oddly pronounced olive oils.

High prices are necessarily part of the Whole Foods overall business model. Expand operations beyond niche markets that can afford such prices and, well, failure (ie. their Birkenstocks traveled to far).  That position is exactly where they were.

♦ Enter Jeff Bezos, Amazon and a distribution network with a high-minded belief their distribution can/will enhance the logistic and efficiency challenges encumbering Whole Foods future success.

No doubt Bezo’s gender neutral Latte bean counters found some like-minded suave millennials, complete with man-buns and algae cakes, to deliver a fabulous Apple-powered presentation therein.  Business graveyards are filled with such enamored and well-meaning carcases.

Whole Foods operates approximately 460 stores.  [How many of them actually turn a profit, and hold up the loss leader footprint, is unknown.] Amazon reportedly paid $13.7 billion (yes that’s billion with a “B”) for the footprint.  Or approximately $29.8 million per retail unit.

$29.8 million per store is approximately $10 million more (per unit) than anyone with a modicum of practical common sense would normally pay.  Then again, Amazon is cash heavy, so what’s a few billion amid like-minded latte power-point-pals; and Mackay’s crew of fellow travelers know how to burn cash better than most.  (See Hillary Clinton’s 2016 boondoggle expenditure for reference.)

However, in Bezo’s world, amid the giddy financial generation, money seems to grow on trust-fund trees.  The bottom line of actual profit is transparently non-existent in this $13.7 billion expenditure.  Even with a modicum of success, it would take a generation of successful operations for all 460 units to pay back such an over inflated purchase price.  So, obviously this is not a decision based on bottom line profit generation for the parent company Amazon.

That brings us to the next set of points which lean more remarkably toward failure.

Technology, and more specifically technological mobility, is now creating individual efficiencies in consumer personalization to exceed any investment value that a retailer would necessarily place in infrastructure.

Does that sound like corporate gobbledyspeak?  Good, it was supposed to.

Plain english version – People are assuming Amazon will be looking to generate shop-at-home (direct delivery) value via a synergy of Whole Foods grocery operations and Amazon’s exhaustive distribution network.   [All of the highfaluting Brioni suit and disposable tailored white shirt crews are espousing that opinion.]  Amazon is anticipated to be able to deliver groceries through this acquisition.

In order for that to be a possible future outcome, layers of cost efficiency would need to be the driver of Whole Foods boardroom discussion very soon. Very unlikely.  Apparently unbeknownst to the algae-cake community, the overall industry, as a direct result of the technological mobility of the consumer, is now less invested in such an approach.

Why?

Simple.  Technology is also creating efficiency for consumerism.  It is entirely possible to go on-line for your grocery purchase, submit your grocery list to your local market, and then utilize Über transport as the pick-up and delivery method.  Über and Lyft won’t be just for taxi service anymore…. watch/wait for it.

The all encompassing process of ‘field-to-fork’ within the food industry is poised to break down into various competing sub-sets and sub business units, external to the food retailer.  Again, efficiency of scale and specialization is essentially the driver (no pun intended).

On the upside of angled considerations for Amazon, they are also looking into entry in the retail store market, and with that in mind actual foot traffic is a prime factor.  No industry drives a higher measure of consistent foot traffic than your local supermarket.  So there can be a reasonable expectation that Amazon stores will have some connective tissue to the locale of Whole Foods. [Somewhat guessing here]

However, in the direct-to-home market for grocery operations, specifically because of the aforementioned mobile distribution specialization, the synergy of Whole Foods and Amazon shouldn’t be predicated on a belief such a new market will necessarily emerge.

Yes, the upper-east side, and those of similar refinement, may welcome Amazon delivery of Whole Foods products.  But that doesn’t change the issues of regional limits for such consumer evaluations.  The baseline Achilles heel of Whole Foods still exists, albeit with a possible delivery service.

Tear it all apart and Amazon just paid about $30 million per store for a business enterprise worth about 30% less than that.  There is no reasonable way, from a profit perspective, for Amazon to ever recapture such an expenditure.  Then again, as stated, it doesn’t look like profit is their motive.

That said, as history customarily shows, sooner or later the value of a common stock will not support the best intentions of well worn Birkenstocks.

French Parliament Elections Tomorrow June 18th


Macron was hoping to have a super majority that his new party would sweep the election to give him ultimate power. However, the latest poll taken by BFMTV showed a stunning 61% of French voters did not want the 39-year-old’s party to take the National Assembly. The majority of French voters have said they will vote against Macron’s party to prevent a “crushing” majority in parliament. Most have responded that they would vote for a rival party in the second round in a bid to “rectify” the the decision.

It is looking more and more that the vote for Macron was not in support of him handing sovereignty to Brussels. The election point overlooked by everyone is the fact that Le Pen beat ALL mainstream parties. There is no mandate for the surrender of rights in France to a new Federalized Europe. The election is this Sunday, June 18th. We will see the results soon.

Even Switzerland has Gone Stalinistic


 

The Swiss voted to allow a new oversight of the Federal Intelligence Service to spy domestically for security, of course. There were promises that this would be subject to an independent control to ensure it was not abused and become a Stalinistic power. Well, it turns out that the “independent” supervision is just an internal department subject to the same boss. The new powers are to allow the government to intercept all phone calls, read e-mails and SMS messages, as well as to hack into personal computers. It does not matter what government we look at. The entire world has gone mad. Stalin must be smiling from above for his paranoia worrying about what people were thinking is the new standard of intelligence operations in the West.

Minority Report Becomes Reality in Japan – Prosecution Before You Commit a Crime


The plot of the movie Minority Report was a SciFi flick that in the future they used physics to monitor the world and report if someone was going to commit a crime. Now Japan is doing that but without the physics – just bureaucrats. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government passed the most outrages legislation perhaps in the world. This empowers prosecutors to monitor and arrest people in the planning stages of crimes. That is perhaps the most anti-Human rights act you can possibly imagine. Effectively, an enemy can bribe some bureaucrat to arrest you and imprison you for life claiming you were planning to commit a crime, but took no action.

The government of course is calling this as necessary as a counter-terrorism act ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. You simply cannot trust government to EVER wield such power. Abe has also been looking to revise the constitution and remove the restraints imposed upon Japan at the end of World War II that confined its forced to 200 miles from its shores. Abe wants that removed by 2020 as well. The Olympics are being used to wipe away human rights in Japan and hand more authoritarian power to government.

It looks like we should eliminate the Olympics to preserve our rights