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Five Things You Need to Know: The Age of Self Evidence


Collectively, our national intoxication runs deep and fierce.


Kevin Depew's Five Things You Need to Know to stay ahead of the pack on Wall Street:

1. The Age of Self Evidence
2. Service Industry Plunges
3. Jobs Vanishing
4. Bankruptcy Increases
5. Credit Card Stress

The Age of Self Evidence

These are heady times we are living in. Collectively, our national intoxication runs deep and fierce. From moment to moment no one really knows whether to laugh, or to cry, or to do both at the same time, and so the air on the street is juiced with a mildly psychotic hum. I enjoy it, but not everyone is built to handle this kind of environment. This is, after all, the Age of Self Evidence. Don't even think about attempting to verify the facts behind that assertion. It's as right as rain and as true as a tree stump. It is... self evident.

"Obama May Inherit Bull Market After $6 Trillion Loss"
- November 5, 2008, Bloomberg News

When I read that headline this morning, my first thought was, "Whoa, easy killer." but then I remembered, this is the The Age of Self-Evidence. Good for Bloomberg. Otherwise, a news organization could be accused of getting a little ahead of itself by running headlines calculated to yank the carpet out from under the President-Elect's campaign for a second term only hours after winning his first.

It's a strange notion to assert that a President-Elect is inheriting a new bull market, especially before stocks have even stopped going down... but this is the psychosis that grips us; the manic certitude that Things Just Can't Get Worse, battling the Crippling Fear that they will, hounded by the unwanted Recognition that, in fact, they are. The only things we really know for sure that President-Elect Obama is inheriting are two wars and the worst financial crisis in modern history.

Service Industry Plunges

For example, yesterday the Institute for Supply Management reported that service industries in the U.S. contracted the most on record in October. The ISM's non-manufacturing index - that only covers about 90% of the economy - cratered to 44.4, the worst result since they began keeping records in 1997.

Jobs Vanishing

No doubt adding pressure to consumer purchasing decisions, which are in turn impacting service industries, is the increasing joblessness. This morning payroll processing firm Automatic Data Processing (ADP) released their national employment report showing a loss of 157,000 private sector jobs in November. September's loss of 8,000 was revised sharply lower to 26,000. ADP said it is "likely" that monthly job losses totaling 200,000 or more will soon be felt.

Bankruptcy Increases

Meanwhile, U.S. consumer bankruptcy filings soared 40% in October according to the American Bankruptcy Institute. Consumers filed more than 100,000 bankruptcies in October, which was up 20% from September's filings. That's the highest total since the rush to file ahead of the 2005 Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act, a name that serves a dual role as a cruel joke for consumers who may, in fact, be seeking protection.

Credit Card Stress

And then there is the "thawing credit" myth. While credit symptoms such as LIBOR and commercial paper issuance have seen relief from their worst levels, the reality is the stress is far from over, and in some areas is actually increasing.

For example, credit card companies were shut out of the market for bonds backed by customer payments in October for the first time in more than 15 years, according to Bloomberg. That marks the first month since April 1993 that there have been no sales. For comparison's sake, issuers were able to sell $17.1 billion of the debt in October of last year, according to Wachovia (WB).

Why does that matter? The higher the cost to sell bonds, the more expensive for banks and credit card companies to fund loans to customers, which they are not doing anyway... but still.

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No positions in stocks mentioned.

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