Blog Posts by Aaron Task

  • Larry Kudlow: Bernanke Was Right and I Was Wrong About Inflation

    In recent years, the “growth vs. austerity” debate has been raging in academic and policy circles. In recent weeks the growth crowd have been claiming victory, citing:

    • Research showing Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff’s seminal work on debt-to-GDP levels contained numerous errors and was not so conclusive as originally believed. (Related: Did Harvard Economists Make an Excel Error that Led to Economic Austerity?)
    • The European Commission granting Spain, Portugal, Greece, Italy and France, among other nations, greater leniency on planned adoption of budget cuts and other austerity measures.
    • PIMCO’s Bill Gross told The Financial Times: “The UK and almost all of Europe have erred in terms of believing that austerity, fiscal austerity in the short term, is the way to produce real growth. It is not. You’ve got to spend money.”

    As a former advisor to Ronald Reagan and diehard supply-sider, Larry Kudlow is no Keynesian. “I am for government austerity” and believe “a smaller government with

    Read More »from Larry Kudlow: Bernanke Was Right and I Was Wrong About Inflation
  • Google and Tesla: Too Late to Touch?

    A day after topping $900 for the first time ever, Google shares were taking a bit of a breather Thursday, recently trading down 1.2% to $905.

    Meanwhile, Tesla shares continued their phenomenal run, jumping 6% to over $90 in recent trading following last night’s news that founder Elon Musk will invest $100 million of his own money into the firm, which announced plans for a 2.7 million share secondary offering.

    In the accompanying video, I discuss these two red-hot stocks with Barry Ritholtz, CEO of Fusion IQ and author of The Big Picture blog. Ritholtz has no position in either name but no shortage of opinions either:


    Ritholtz is impressed with Google’s technological prowess and strategy of “throwing stuff against the wall to see what works.” In this regard, the search giant has a big advantage over Apple, which he says “has to hit a home run every time or nearly hit one.”

    Related: Stop Asking: Google Is Not the New Apple

    Still, Ritholtz is concerned about a potential problem in

    Read More »from Google and Tesla: Too Late to Touch?
  • In 2006, Congress passed the Military Lending Act, which was designed to prevent predatory lenders from targeting men and women in uniform. But a new report from ProPublica and Marketplace entitled Beyond Payday Loans suggests aggressive lenders have merely shifted tactics and are still very actively going after military personnel.

    Rather than a loophole, installment loan companies and so-called payday lenders have found huge gaps in the Military Lending Act, says Paul Kiel, a ProPublica reporter and co-author of the series. “We found in states that allow these types of products the [legislation] defined what it targeted pretty narrowly.”

    As Marketplace reports: The Military Lending Act set a national interest rate cap of 36 percent APR (annual percentage rate) for loans to military members and their families (excluding mortgages and auto finance loans).

    The Act covered three specific types of loans: payday loans (short-term, due in one lump sum after a borrower’s payroll check

    Read More »from Predatory Lenders Still Target Soldiers: ‘Desperate People Accept Any Terms’
  • With the S&P (^GSPC) setting a series of new highs and the Dow (^DJI) flirting with 15,000, many U.S. investors have overlooked developments that are arguably even more dramatic: Japan's Nikkei 225 is up more than 50% in the past six months and overnight breached 14,000 for the first time since 2008.

    For those unaware, Japan’s rally began late last year when now Prime Minister Shinzo Abe campaigned on a platform to boost economic growth via massive fiscal and monetary stimulus. The gains continued following his election victory and accelerated after Abe appointed Haruhiko Kuroda to run the Bank of Japan; last month, Kuroda announced plans to double the BOJ’s monetary base by the end of 2014.

    Related: “Obscene” Stimulus Will Trigger ‘Made in Japan’ Crisis in 2013: Mauldin

    “You can wonder about political independence of the central bank…but investors, like they bet on the Fed, are saying ‘if the Fed can do it to the U.S. [markets] the Bank of Japan can do it in Japan,’” says Stephen

    Read More »from Nikkei Surges 50%: Japanese Revival a “Potentially Serious Opportunity,” Roach Says
  • Occidental Petroleum chairman Ray Irani lost his job Friday after 76% of shareholders opposed his reelection, the latest high-profile executive to be shown the doors.

    He won’t be able to collect unemployment but, in this case, getting fired might be the best thing to happen to the longtime oil executive: Irani stands to receive an exit package of over $50 million if his departure is considered a “termination” vs. a merely $20 million package had he retired at the end of 2012, The WSJ reports.

    The heft of Irani’s golden parachute adds a bit of absurdity to the excess of his tenure at Occidental: Always among America’s most highest-paid executives, Irani’s overall compensation from 2004-2012 totaled over $1.1 billion.

    Two years ago, shareholders voted to remove Irani as CEO, in part because of a backlash against his outsized compensation given Occidental shares were lagging major competitors. Scheduled to retire at the end of 2014, Irani sought to install a former executive as CEO,

    Read More »from $50M for Getting Fired? OXY’s Ray Irani Takes C-Level Excess to New Heights
  • The “Most Overpriced, Oversupplied, Over-owned Market in History”

    The U.S. Treasury this week announced plans to retire $35 billion in notes, the first time the government has paid down debt since 2007.

    It’s a significant milestone for Treasury and $35 billion is a lot of money for mere mortals, but barely a drop in the $16.7 trillion bucket of our nation’s debt.

    Among others, Michael Pento, president of Pento Portfolio Strategies, believes the U.S. Treasury market is a massive bubble destined to pop with devastating consequences.

    U.S. Treasuries are “the most overpriced, oversupplied and over-owned market in the history of American markets,” says Pento, citing current Treasury yields as 550 basis points below the 40-year average, the massive inflows into bond funds (nearly $120 billion from 2008-2012) and the 140% increase in issuance since the end of 2007.

    Unlike most, Pento is willing to put a timeline on when he believes the bond bubble will burst, which is the theme of his not-so subtly titled new book: The Coming Bond Market Collapse.


    Read More »from The “Most Overpriced, Oversupplied, Over-owned Market in History”
  • Michael Pollan: Home Cooking Will Solve America’s Obesity Epidemic

    In his previous best-sellers such as The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food and Food Rules, Michael Pollan examined America’s diet and summed up a very complicated issue in seven words: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

    In his latest work, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, Pollan turns the focus from what we’re eating to how it’s prepared and concludes that cooking at home may be the most important part of our diet...and potentially a solution to America’s obesity epidemic.

    “The most important thing about your diet is not any particular nutrient but that activity,” he says of cooking.

    And, yes, this is very much an economic story when you consider rising health care costs are the number one driver of America’s long-term deficit -- and rising obesity rates are the biggest contributor to the overall increase in health care spending.

    Since the Great Recession of 2008, Pollan notes that more Americans are cooking at home, bulk food sales are up and obesity rates have

    Read More »from Michael Pollan: Home Cooking Will Solve America’s Obesity Epidemic
  • After rising early on, stocks were mixed Monday midday, with the Dow down slightly and the S&P 500 and Nasdaq mildly higher. Coming on the heels of last week’s selloff – the worst since November – a lot of folks are worried if the bull is running on its last legs.

    Skeptics like John Hussman are pointing to a very bullish cover story in Barron’s – where the semi-annual Big Money poll showed record levels of bullishness -- as a contrarian indicator and another sign the rally is getting very long in the tooth.

    “When the cover of a major financial magazine features a cartoon of a bull leaping through the air on a pogo stick, it’s probably about time to cash in the chips,” writes fund manager John Hussman, one of the Street’s most vocal bears.

    But most investors would be smart to ignore Hussman and other institutional scolds, according to Howard Lindzon, CEO of StockTwits.

    “When someone turns from bearish to grumpy it’s a sign they really should find another business,” Lindzon says. “You

    Read More »from Ignore “Grumpy Bears” Like Hussman and Find Stocks That Are Working, Lindzon Says
  • Gold rose $25 an ounce Tuesday but only managed to recoup a small portion of a wicked two-day slide that wiped out 14% of its value. The speed and depth of gold’s decline drew comparisons to the 1987 stock market crash and prompted veteran trader Dennis Gartman to declare: “We've never… ever… ever… seen anything like what we've witnessed in the past two trading sessions.”

    Nomura analyst Tyler Broda echoed those sentiments in a note to clients: "We are running out of superlatives to attach to the gold price move since last Friday."

    Gold was down slightly in recent trading Wednesday, suggesting Tuesday’s rally may indeed have been a “dead cat bounce” vs. a sign the selling squall was over.

    Related: As Gold Prices Collapse, Investors Seek Answers

    As the dust continues to settle after the gold rout, market participants and scribes are still trying to come up with a rationale for the drama. Some of the commonly cited reasons include:

    • India’s recent decision to increase its gold import tax
    Read More »from After the Gold Rout: Blame Central Bank Manipulation, Says GATA’s Powell
  • Don’t Trust the Market? You’re Not Alone, For Good Reason

    Gold settled at its lowest level since February 2011 and the major indices were off more than 1% on Monday in a lack of confidence after the Dow and S&P 500 hit their highest levels ever last week, evidence that enthusiasm for stocks on Main Street remains muted at best.

    Oh sure, there are plenty of stories about retail investors “rushing” back into the market but such analysis fails to put the recent trend into perspective.

    In the first quarter, inflows into equity mutual funds totaled $62.5 billion, according to Lipper. If this pace keeps up, 2013 inflows would be the highest since 2000, according to CNN Money.

    By comparison, approximately $445 billion came out of equity mutual funds from 2007 to 2012. And after a very strong start in January, inflows dried up in February suggesting investors will be quick to head for the exits at the first sign of trouble.

    Indeed, Monday’s stock selloff and rout in gold are almost certain to test any recent excitement for investing.

    Many reasons

    Read More »from Don’t Trust the Market? You’re Not Alone, For Good Reason


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