2011: Catch-22 Year in Review

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“It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.” - Mark Twain

I published my predictions for 2011 on January 3, 2011 in my article 2011 – The Year of Catch-22. Humans evidently enjoy being embarrassed by how pitiful they are at predicting the future, because we continue to do it year after year. The mainstream media pundits don't dare look back at their predictions or the predictions of the Wall Street shills that parade on CNBC and get quoted in the Wall Street Journal, eternally predicting 10% to 15% stock market gains. The multi-millionaire Wall Street strategists like Abbey Joseph Cohen, have used all of their brain power to predict at least a 10% stock price gain every year since 1999. The S&P 500 stood at 1,272 on January 6, 1999. As of this writing it currently stands at 1,261. Zero appreciation over the last twelve years.

The Wall Street mantra of stocks for the long run is beginning to get a little stale. If Abbey Joseph Cohen had been right for the last twelve years, the S&P 500 would be 4,000. For this level of accuracy, she is paid millions. Her 2011 prediction of 1,500 only missed by16%. The S&P 500 began the year at 1,258 and hasn't budged. The lowest prediction from the Wall Street investors at the outset of the year was 1,333, with the majority between 1,400 and 1,500.

s&p 500 index vs. year-end target prices

The same Wall Street clowns are now being quoted in the mainstream media predicting a 10% to 15% increase in stock prices in 2012, despite the fact we are headed back into recession, China's property bubble has burst, and Europe teeters on the brink of dissolution. They lie on behalf of their Too Big To Tell the Truth employers by declaring stocks undervalued, when honest analysts such as Jeremy Grantham, John Hussman and Robert Shiller truthfully report that stocks are overvalued and will provide pitiful returns over the next year and the next decade.

I will take my chances with a few predictions for 2012 after reviewing my lack of foresight regarding 2011. I declared 2011 the year of Catch-22 because no matter what happened, it would not translate into a positive result for the American people. This was my thesis:

The United States and its leaders are stuck in their own Catch 22. They need the economy to improve in order to generate jobs, but the economy can only improve if people have jobs. They need the economy to recover in order to improve our deficit situation, but if the economy really recovers long term interest rates will increase, further depressing the housing market and increasing the interest expense burden for the US, therefore increasing the deficit. A recovering economy would result in more production and consumption, which would result in more oil consumption driving the price above $100 per barrel, therefore depressing the economy. Americans must save for their retirements as 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 every day, but if the savings rate goes back to 10%, the economy will collapse due to lack of consumption. Consumer expenditures account for 71% of GDP and need to revert back to 65% for the US to have a balanced sustainable economy, but a reduction in consumer spending will push the US back into recession, reducing tax revenues and increasing deficits. You can see why Catch 22 is the theme for 2011.

My predictions for 2011 were as follows:

  • The first half of 2011 is guaranteed to give the appearance of recovery. The lame-duck Congress ”compromise” will pump hundreds of billions of borrowed dollars into the economy. The continuation of unemployment benefits for 99 weeks (supposedly to help employment) and the 2% payroll tax cut will goose consumer spending. Ben Bernanke and his QE2 stimulus for poor Wall Street bankers is pumping $75 billion per month ($3 to $4 billion per day) directly into the stock market. Since Ben gave Wall Street the all clear signal in late August, the NASDAQ has soared 25%. Despite the fact that there are 362,000 less Americans employed than were employed in August 2010, the mainstream media will continue to tout the jobs recovery. The goal of all these efforts is to boost confidence and spending. Everything being done by those in power has the seeds of its own destruction built in. The Catch 22 will assert itself in the 2nd half of 2011.

The payroll tax cut, extension of unemployment benefits and Bernanke's gift to Wall Street criminal banks did nothing to help real Americans in the real world. The government manipulated GDP has languished between 0.4% and 1.8% in the first three quarters of 2011. Using a true measure of inflation, as detailed by John Williams at www.shadowstats.com, GDP has remained at a recessionary level of -2% to -3%.

gdp sgs annual growth 1983-2011

Easy Ben accomplished his goal of pumping up the stock market with his QE2 gift to Wall Street bankers during the first six months of 2011, with the S&P 500 peaking at 1,364 in late April. The market began to fall the second Ben stopped handing Jamie Dimon and his friends $4 billion per day, with the market dropping 18% in three months. The market has risen back near the breakeven level for the year based on Ben's promise to keep interest rates at zero forever and the hope of QE3.

  • A new perfect storm is brewing for housing in 2011 and will not subside until late 2012. You may have thought those bad mortgages had been all written off. You would be wrong. There will be in excess of $200 billion of adjustable rate mortgages that reset between 2011 and 2012, with in excess of $125 billion being the dreaded Alt-A mortgages. This is a recipe for millions of new foreclosures.

CNBC will dutifully report the number of completed foreclosure sales plunged by 24% in 2011, giving the impression that all is well on the housing front. What they will fail to point out is that the number of foreclosures in process went up in 2011 and now stands 59% above the level in 2009 at the height of our recession. The reason that completed foreclosures have fallen is twofold. The criminal Wall Street banks can't prove they hold the mortgage notes on hundreds of thousands of homes and they have a few legal issues related to the massive fraud they committed. Kicking old ladies and Iraq War veterans out into the street using fraudulent documentation has caused the Wall Street Too Evil To Believe Banks some public relations issues. Secondly, the Wall Street Plutocrats have these mortgage loans valued at 100% on their balance sheets due to the FASB gift of mark to fantasy accounting rules. Foreclosing actually reveals their assets to be overvalued by at least 50%. This may explain why millions of Americans are still in their homes after not making a mortgage payment for two years, as detailed by economist Tom Lawler:

Given the number of loans either seriously delinquent or in the process of foreclosure at the beginning of the year, the number of completed foreclosure sales in 2011 is almost absurdly low, reflecting the mortgage servicing industry, and the resulting dramatic slowdown in foreclosure resolutions. As of the end of October, 2011 LPS estimated that there were 1.759 million seriously delinquent loans with the average number of days delinquent at 388 (compared to 192 days in January 2008), and there were 2.210 million loans in the foreclosure process that had been on average delinquent for 631 days.

foreclosures

The concerted effort to not complete foreclosures did nothing to slow the continued descent in home prices. As you can see in the chart below from http://www.calculatedriskblog.com/, real home prices will have fallen another 5% in 2011. Obama threw $50 billion of your tax dollars at the housing market in 2009 - 2010 with tax credits, loan modification programs, homebuilder tax loss carry-backs, and a myriad of other Keynesian claptrap solutions. They succeeded in flushing your tax dollars down the toilet as prices have declined another 12% in the last 18 months. Prices have fallen 42% nationally since 2006. I wonder who missed the boat on that development?

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