John Ransom - William's Edge Webinar for Wednesday February 5th
Posted: 2/5/2014 12:24:00 PM EST

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Ransom Notes Radio

Date: Wednesday, February 5, 2014
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John Ransom - Luxury Brands Doing Great in Europe
Posted: 2/5/2014 11:05:00 AM EST

Welcome to John Ransom’s Stocks in the News where the headlines meet the trendlines:

Stock number one: Michael Kors Holdings Limited

Michael Kors continues to outshine luxury rivals-

Michael Kors raised its full-year sales and profit forecasts as it reported a 144 per cent rise in European third-quarter sales, confirming that the retailer’s assault on the continent’s luxury market continued unabated. The better-than-expected results sent the company’s share price up almost 21 per cent in early trading on Tuesday, as Wall Street reacted to the growth recorded across Michael Kors’ retail, wholesale and licensing segments, as well as international markets.

Symbol: KORS

Trailing PE 37; Forward PE: 26

PEG: 1.13

Dividend: NA

Estimate Trend: UP

Ransom Note Trendline: Buy on Pullback to $85

KORS Chart

KORS data by YCharts

Stock number two: Yum! Brands, Inc.

Yum! Brands rises after reaffirming profit growth outlook- Fly on the Wall

Shares of Yum! Brands (YUM), which owns the KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut restaurant concepts, are rising after the company reported mixed fourth quarter results, but reaffirmed its fiscal 2014 profit growth view of at least 20%. WHAT'S NEW: Last night, Yum! Brands reported fourth quarter adjusted earnings per share of 86c and revenue of $4.18B, compared to expectations of 80c and $4.26B, respectively. The company reported same store sales in its China division fell 4%, while U.S. SSS fell 2%.

Symbol: VIP

Trailing PE: 30 Forward PE: 17

PEG: 1.47

Dividend: 2.20%

Estimate Trend: Flat

Ransom Note Trendline: Avoid Yum

YUM Chart

YUM data by YCharts

Stock number three: Zynga, Inc.

For $527 Million, Zynga Buys an Entirely New Game-Making Strategy- Motley Fool

Zynga (NASDAQ: ZNGA) is in trouble. Five years ago, as it rode the Facebook wave, the Silicon Valley gaming outfit was all the rage, but things are so very different now. On Thursday, it laid off 15 percent of its staff. But at the same time, in an effort to save its bacon, the company made a big bet on the future. It paid $527 million for a new technology that might just give it an edge on mobile devices, an area where Zynga hasn't traditionally fared that well. It acquired NaturalMotion, a U.K. company best known for doing the background animation for the video games such as Grand Theft Auto and Max Payne.

Symbol: ZNGA

Trailing PE: NA; Forward PE: 120


Dividend: NA

Estimate Trend: Up

Ransom Note Trendline: Sell Zynga

ZNGA Chart

ZNGA data by YCharts

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Nick Sorrentino - Are we looking at a “global deflationary shock” triggered by the Fed?
Posted: 1/30/2014 3:01:00 PM EST

The economic tide has been going out for quite a while, but the pace has just quickened in emerging markets – big time. Things have become quite unsteady and no one knows whether the current instability will trigger something broader in the developed economies. China is slowing. Japan has horns locked with China economically and increasingly politically. Europe is catching its breath before another wave rolls through.

All because the Fed has indicated that it is modestly reducing the amount of money it will pour into world markets. The addict is feeling withdrawal pains.

Those who have argued that the US market was rallying because of fundamental political issues and not because of the QE party created by the Federal Reserve are clearly wrong. Cotton candy and unicorn dreams underlie much of this market. Proceed with caution.

(From The Telegraph)

The report said they may need capital controls to navigate the storm – or technically to overcome the “Impossible Trinity” of monetary autonomy, a stable exchange rate and free flows of funds. William Browder from Hermitage says that is exactly where the crisis is leading, and it will be sobering for investors to learn that their money is locked up – already the case in Cyprus, and starting in Egypt. The chain-reaction becomes self-fulfilling. “People will start asking themselves which country is next,” he said.

Emerging markets are now half the global economy, so we are in uncharted waters. Roughly $4 trillion of foreign funds swept into emerging markets after the Lehman crisis, much of it by then “momentum money” late to the party. The IMF says $470bn is directly linked to money printing by the Fed . “We don’t know how much of this is going to come out again, or how quickly,” said an official from the Fund.

One country after another is now having to tighten into weakness. The longer this goes on, and the wider it spreads, the greater the risk that it will metamorphose into a global deflationary shock.

Click here for the article.

Read more at Against Crony Capitalism

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Mike Shedlock - Unions are the Child Molester's Best Friend
Posted: 1/30/2014 3:00:00 PM EST

Three cheers for a group of nine California students who are fed up with tenure rules that protect not only incompetent teachers, but also sexual predators.

Reuters reports California students challenge teacher employment rules in lawsuit.

A group of nine California students will challenge employment rules they complain force public schools in the most populous U.S. state to retain low performing teachers, as opening arguments kick off on Monday in a lawsuit over education policy.

The lawsuit seeks to overturn five California statutes that set guidelines for permanent employment, firing and layoff practices for K-12 public school teachers, saying the rules violate the constitutional rights of students by denying them effective teachers.

Among the rules targeted by the lawsuit is one that requires school administrators to either grant or deny tenure status to teachers after the first 18 months of their employment, which they complain causes administrators to hastily give permanent employment to potentially problematic teachers.

"The system is dysfunctional and arbitrary due to these outdated laws that handcuff school administrators from operating in a fashion that protects children and their right to quality education," attorney Theodore Boutrous of the education advocacy group Students Matter said in a media call.

The plaintiffs are also challenging three laws they say make it difficult to fire low-performing tenured teachers by requiring years of documentation, dozens of procedural steps and hundreds of thousands in public funds before a dismissal.

Lastly, the plaintiffs want to abolish the so-called "last-in first-out" statute, which requires administrators to lay off teachers based on reverse seniority.

The group says that the layoff policy disproportionately affects minority and low-income students, who are more likely to have entry-level teachers and poor quality senior teachers assigned to their district.

"When the layoffs come, the more junior teachers are laid off first, which ends up leaving a higher proportion what we call the ‘grossly ineffective' teachers," Boutrous said. "It's really a vicious cycle."

Teachers' Union Response

"We don't think stripping teachers of their workplace professional rights will help students," said California Federation of Teachers President Joshua Pechthalt."

Mish Translation of Teachers' Union Response

  1. Teachers first.
  2. We don't give a damn about the kids.
  3. We protect the incompetents and the molesters alike.
  4. Molesters pay dues, kids don't.
  5. Those dues pad our pockets.
  6. Padding our pockets allows us to bribe legislators for more rules we want.

Testimony Started Monday

The lawsuit was filed by the nonprofit advocacy group Students Matter, which contends education laws are a violation of the Constitution's equal protection guarantee because they do not ensure all students have access to an adequate education.

The LA Times reports Testimony begins in trial over California teachers' job protections.

Arguments begin Monday in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of laws that govern California’s teacher tenure rules, seniority policies and the dismissal process -- an overhaul of which could upend controversial job security for instructors.

The lawsuit, filed by the nonprofit advocacy group Students Matter, contends these education laws are a violation of the Constitution's equal protection guarantee because they do not ensure all students have access to an adequate education.

Vergara vs. California, filed on behalf of nine students and their families in Los Angeles County Superior Court, seeks to revamp a dismissal process the plaintiffs say is too costly and time consuming, lengthen the time period for instructors to gain tenure and dismantle the "last hired, first fired" policies that fail to consider teacher effectiveness.

The lawsuit aims to protect the rights of students, teachers and school districts against a "gross disparity" in educational opportunity, lawyers for the plaintiffs said.

Many students — overwhelmingly those who are minority and low-income — are destined to suffer from ineffective and unequal instruction because administrators are unable to remove ineffective teachers from schools, attorneys said.

Students Matter was founded by Silicon Valley entrepreneur David F. Welch, a research scientist who went on to co-found Infinera, a manufacturer of optical telecommunications systems based in Sunnyvale, Calif. The group is partly funded by organizations known for battling teachers unions. The foundation of Los Angeles philanthropist Eli Broad, which has backed numerous education initiatives, also supports it.

Gross Lie of the Day

In the gross lie of the day category, "The California Department of Education contends districts have the opportunity and discretion to remove ineffective teachers from classrooms and decide whether to grant tenure."

In contrast, L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy, is a supporter of the effort to repeal the statutes. He declined to comment because he is a witness in the case.

Lay it on them John!

Unions are the Child Molester's Best Friend

I am quite sure Deasy can testify how hard it is to get rid of incompetent teachers, even child molesters.

If you think I am making this up, sadly, I am not.

I highly recommend reading the LA Times report: Failure Gets a Pass L.A. Unified Pays Teachers Not to Teach.

You can find similar articles about New York, in fact, anywhere unions rule.

Every time I write something like this I get a ton of emails from teachers. Surprisingly, about a third of them are in support of what I say.

In Praise of Teachers

I have said this before and I say it again: I have nothing against teachers. Most of them are dedicated, hard-working professionals.

I do have everything against public unions whose sole mission is to collect dues and coerce legislators into laws written for the union at the expense of the kids.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

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John Ransom - Pawn Shop Leads Financial Sector
Posted: 1/30/2014 12:48:00 PM EST

Welcome to John Ransom’s Stocks in the News where the headlines meet the trendlines:

Stock number one: Freescale Semiconductor, Ltd.

Freescale shares jump on strong 4Q results- Associated Press

Shares of Freescale Semiconductor jumped 16 percent Wednesday after it posted an adjusted fourth-quarter profit and issued bold revenue guidance for this quarter. Pacific Crest Securities' Michael McConnell backed an "Outperform" rating on the company, saying that while debt levels remain very high, it's making progress in boosting revenue and profitability..

Symbol: FSL

Trailing PE NA; Forward PE: 10.20

PEG: 0.78

Dividend: NA

Estimate Trend: Down

Ransom Note Trendline: Avoid Freescale

FSL Chart

FSL data by YCharts

Stock number two: CommVault Systems, Inc.

Commvault Systems beats by $0.10, beats on revs-

Reports Q3 (Dec) earnings of $0.54 per share, $0.10 better than the Capital IQ Consensus Estimate of $0.44; revenues rose 19.7% year/year to $153.3 mln vs the $149.1 mln consensus.

Symbol: CVLT

Trailing PE: 56 Forward PE: 34

PEG: 1.89

Dividend: NA

Estimate Trend: Steady

Ransom Note Trendline: Avoid Commvault

KSU Chart

KSU data by YCharts

Stock number three: Ezcorp

Why Ezcorp (EZPW) Is Surging Today- The

Ezcorp(EZPW_) was soaring 22.25% to $11.43 shortly after noon on Wednesday after the pawn shop operator announced first-quarter earnings per share that exceeded analysts' expectations. The company reported adjusted earnings of 49 cents per share in the quarter that ended Dec. 31, which surpassed analysts' expectations of 39 cents a share. Ezcorp also reported revenue dropped 1% to $269.4 million from $272.7 million in the same period one year earlier, though this still beat analysts' expectations of $257.5 million.

Symbol: EZPW

Trailing PE: 19; Forward PE: 6

PEG: 0.64

Dividend: NA

Estimate Trend: Up

Ransom Note Trendline: Avoid Ezcorp

EZPW Chart

EZPW data by YCharts

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Nick Sorrentino - Secret Audit Of Baltimore’s Speed Cams Says Up To 70,000 Tickets Were Issued In Error In 2012 Alone
Posted: 1/29/2014 2:31:00 PM EST

So at $40 a ticket let’s say. Multiplied by 70,000. That’s 2.8 million bucks taken from Maryland motorists by the state which should not have been taken. I’m guessing no one has sent out any refunds either.

As we have documented multiple times speed and red light cameras are often a scam with contractors getting as much as 50% of the revenue from issued tickets.

Consider this – 2 years ago I supposedly ran a red light in the Bronx trying to find my way back to I- 95. 2 weeks later I got a ticket in the mail issued by a robot. The camera was run by a robot. In order to keep New York City happy I paid what essentially was a robot. No human being was even aware of my infraction – unless I didn’t pay. There’s something wrong with that.


The administration has one good reason not to release the report: it doesn’t want to get sued.

Despite calls from the City Council to release the audit, the administration does not plan to do so, Harris said. City Solicitor George Nilson, the administration’s chief lawyer, has said releasing the audit would violate a settlement agreement with Xerox and “create obvious risks and potential exposure for the city.”

In the settlement, the city agreed to pay Xerox $2.3 million for invoices from late 2012. The city also agreed to keep confidential any documents “referring or relating to, or reflecting, each party’s internal considerations, discussions, analyses, and/or evaluations of issues raised during the settlement discussions.”

The documents are no longer “confidential” at this point (and can be viewed here), and what’s been uncovered may cause future problems for Xerox, which was selected by a city panel last year to take over Chicago’s traffic cams. This happened in August of 2013, after Baltimore had already cut the contractor loose, but well before URS’ report surfaced. Knowing it had buried the company’s ineptitude by contractually obligating Baltimore’s administration to keep its mouth shut, Xerox officials had the confidence to make the following claim when reached for comment last August:

Xerox officials have said the problems in Baltimore accounted for less than 1 percent of all the tickets issued there.

Read more at Against Crony

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Mike Shedlock - Disgusting Compromise on $956B Farm Bill; In Spite of Massive Howls, No Actual Cuts in Food Stamps
Posted: 1/29/2014 2:25:00 PM EST

Proving that neither party really wants to do anything about escalating costs of anything, in typical D.C. compromise action, the House Passes $956B Farm Bill in a bipartisan vote.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) all voted for the bill.

Democrats are howling over miniscule cuts in SNAP (food stamps). For example, an inane headline on the Daily Koz reads House passes food stamp-slashing farm bill.

Supposedly there will be $8.6 billion in devastating food stamp cuts. Even if that happens it is less than a 1% cut in an economy that is supposedly in recovery.

Contrary to Popular Belief, No Cuts in Food Stamps

Will there be any cuts? I rather doubt it. In the "too stupid to make up category", this is how they determined the cuts.

The bill finds $8.6 billion in savings by requiring households to receive at least $20 per year in home heating assistance before they automatically qualify for food stamps, instead of the $1 threshold now in place in some states.


Now what do you think will happen? If you can't figure it out, I will tell you. States will give $20 per year in home heating assistance to everyone currently getting $1 per year in annual home heating assistance.

There will be miniscule (if any) savings at all at the federal level, and small increases at the state level.

Crop Subsidies Preserved

Next consider House passes farm bill, crop subsidies preserved.

After more than two years of partisan squabbles over food and farm policy, the House passed and sent to the Senate Wednesday an almost $100 billion-a-year, compromise farm bill containing a small cut in food stamps and preserving most crop subsidies.

The measure, which the House approved 251-166, had solid backing from the Republican leadership team, even though it makes smaller cuts to food stamps than they would have liked. The bill would cut about $800 million a year from the $80 billion-a-year program, or around 1 percent. The House had sought a 5 percent cut.

The legislation also would continue to heavily subsidize major crops for the nation’s farmers while eliminating some subsidies and shifting them toward more politically defensible insurance programs.

House Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., who has been working on the bill since 2011, called the compromise a “miracle” after years of setbacks.

For those seeking reform of farm programs, the legislation would eliminate a $4.5 billion-a-year farm subsidy called direct payments, which are paid to farmers whether they farm or not. But the bill nonetheless would continue to heavily subsidize major crops — corn, soybeans, wheat, rice and cotton — while shifting many of those subsidies toward more politically defensible insurance programs. That means farmers would have to incur losses before they could get a payout.

Miracle Not

It is beyond idiotic to call this do-nothing compromise a "miracle". It's a do-nothing bill for which D.C. is famous.

It would have been a miracle had there been any real cuts.

Actual CBO Estimated Savings

The facts speak for themselves.

In spite of the trumped up $8.6 billion in savings in food stamps and smaller savings on farm subsidies, "The bill would save around $1.65 billion annually overall, according to the Congressional Budget Office."

Assuming the CBO is correct, the actual savings on the bill is $1.65 billion out of $956 billion. In percentage terms (drum roll please) .... the devastating cutbacks amount to 0.17%!

Oh! The Horror!

Republicans and Democrats alike should both be ashamed, not only for doing virtually nothing, but also for howling at the moon as if they did.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

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John Ransom - Would You Buy a Russian Company Called Vimpel?
Posted: 1/29/2014 12:34:00 PM EST

Welcome to John Ransom’s Stocks in the News where the headlines meet the trendlines for January 28th:

Stock number one: Rent-A-Center, Inc..

Rent-A-Center plunges after 'most challenging December in years' dings profit- Fly on the Wall

Rent-to-own operator Rent-A-Center (RCII) is one of today's losers after the company's fourth quarter results and fiscal 2014 profit guidance fell significantly below expectations. WHAT'S NEW: Last night, Rent-A-Center reported fourth quarter earnings per share of 25c and revenue of $769.6M, compared to analysts' consensus estimates of 75c and $787.95M, respectively. Same-store sales declined 1.1% for the company in the quarter.

Symbol: RCII

Trailing PE 8.64; Forward PE: 7.27

PEG: 0.81

Dividend: 3.00%

Estimate Trend: Down

Ransom Note Trendline: Sell Rent-A-Center

RCII Chart

RCII data by YCharts

Stock number two: VimpelCom Ltd.

Russian mobile firm Vimpelcom slashes dividend, spooking investors

- Reuters

Vimpelcom, Russia's third biggest mobile operator, said it would slash its dividend to pay down debt piled up in an aggressive expansion drive, marking an unexpected policy shift that spooked shareholders. Vimpelcom's expansion into Africa, Asia and continental Europe left the group with more than $20 billion in debt, according to its latest quarterly results.

Symbol: VIP

Trailing PE: 8.42 Forward PE: 8.57

PEG: 3.24

Dividend: 7.8% from 13.7%

Estimate Trend: Down

Ransom Note Trendline: Sell Vimpelcom

VIP Chart

VIP data by YCharts

Stock number three: Corning Inc.

Corning Shares Slide on Forecast for Price Drop in LCD Screens - Fly on the Wall

Corning Inc. (GLW) tumbled the most in more than a year after projecting price declines for LCD, the display technology used in televisions and computer monitors.

Corning shares fell 6.1 percent to $17.11 at 12:05 p.m. in New York. The stock had dropped as much as 9.2 percent earlier in the day, the most since October 2012. After gaining 41 percent in 2013, Corning had been up 2.2 percent this year through yesterday.

Symbol: GLW

Trailing PE: 14.21; Forward PE: 11.28

PEG: .88

Dividend: 2.20%

Estimate Trend: Down

Ransom Note Trendline: Avoid Corning

GLW Chart

GLW data by YCharts

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Nick Sorrentino - Newport Beach’s $100,000 Lifeguards Feel Pension Squeeze
Posted: 1/16/2014 9:44:00 AM EST

I grew up in Virginia Beach, the largest beach town in America, and I think guards there make something in the $10-$15/hr range. If that.

I am giving the California life guards a bit of a hard time. Surf rescue can be a deadly serious business and there is quite a lot of responsibility associated with the job. Lord knows these guys do more work than a lot of administrators back in City Hall who are probably paid even more. But retiring at 50 with a $100K pension? Can’t go for that.


Newport Beach’s wealth masks the municipality’s self-inflicted fiscal problems, said Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach, a former county treasurer whose district includes the city. Full-time lifeguards hired before November 2012 are eligible to retire with full pensions when they turn 50. The city has the highest per-capita unfunded liability among Orange County’s 34 municipalities, Moorlach said. Eight city lifeguard managers made more than $100,000 in 2012, according to compensation data on state Controller John Chiang’s website. In all, 357 of the city’s 1,234 employees were paid more than $100,000 that year, the data show.

Click here for the article.

For more see Against Crony

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Mike Shedlock - Singapore Set for Icelandic-Style Property Bubble Meltdown; Hype or Reality?
Posted: 1/16/2014 9:41:00 AM EST

Several people sent me emails regarding a economic pending bust in Singapore.

Given that it's easy enough to accept or discard such ideas based on preconceived notions, I asked a friend who lives in Singapore for his comments.

First, please consider the article Why Singapore's Economy Is Heading For An Iceland-Style Meltdown.

Like Iceland in its heyday, Singapore’s economic stability and vitality – on the surface at least – has made it the envy of the world at a time when most Western economies are languishing with feeble growth, and high rates of unemployment and poverty. Singapore’s booming finance and real estate-focused economy has earned it the moniker “The Switzerland of Asia”, and finance professionals from all over the world are flocking to work there to take refuge from the hard-hit financial sectors in their home countries. Singapore’s unemployment rate is a mere 1.8 percent even as the country’s red hot construction sector has been attracting overseas workers, and a growing number of wealthy citizens are hiring domestic helpers from neighboring countries like the Philippines and Indonesia. The ranks of Singapore’s wealthy are growing rapidly thanks to the country’s asset bubbles, which is helping to fuel a luxury consumption boom in everything from high-end apartments to exotic supercars.

Even though Singapore is no longer an emerging market nation, I consider its bubble economy to be part of the overall emerging markets bubble that I have been warning about due to its strategic role and locationin Southeast Asia, which is also known as ASEAN (Association ofSoutheast Asian Nations). My recent reports on Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Indonesia show that the entire region is caught up in a massive bubble, and Singapore is benefiting from this bubble by acting as ASEAN’s financial center.

Extremely low interest rates in the West and Japan, combined with the U.S. Federal Reserve’s multi-trillion dollar quantitative easing or QE programs resulted in a $4 trillion torrent of speculative “hot money” that flowed into emerging market investments from 2009 to 2013. An international carry trade arose in which investors borrowed significant sums of capital at rock-bottom interest rates from the U.S. and Japan, and directed the proceeds into high-yielding emerging markets assets with the intention of profiting from the difference in interest rates or the spread.

Hot money inflows, combined with central bank policies that allow currency appreciation to temper inflation, have contributed to an approximate 22 percent increase in the value of the Singapore dollar against the U.S. dollar since the financial crisis:

Foreign direct investment (net inflows, current dollars) into Singapore immediately surged to new highs after the financial crisis:

Why Singapore Has A Dangerous Credit Bubble

Like many countries that have experienced economy-wide bubbles and busts – including the U.S. from 2003 to 2007 – Singapore currently has a ballooning credit bubble that is helping to drive economic growth and create an illusion of prosperity. Ultra-low interest rates are the primary reason why credit bubbles inflate in the first place, and Singapore’s bubble is no exception to this pattern.

An idiosyncrasy of Singapore’s interest rate policy makes their low interest rate-fueled credit bubble particularly acute: Singapore’s benchmark interest rate, known as the Singapore interbank offered rate or SIBOR, is tied to the U.S. Fed Funds Rate for the purpose of minimizing large swings in the U.S. dollar-Singapore dollar exchange rate.

Unfortunately, there are extremely dangerous side-effects of Singapore’s interest rate policy ever since the U.S. Federal Reserve has pursued its zero interest rate policy, or ZIRP, after the financial crisis in 2008. Near zero interest rates, which are intended to boost depressed economies like the U.S.’, are much too low for fast-growing economies like Singapore’s.

Hype or Reality?

There is much more to the article, but what appears above is sufficient to understand the claim.

While I do not have firsthand knowledge regarding Singapore, one of my regular contacts "SS" lives there. I sent "SS" the above link and asked about his views.

He responded ...

Hello Mish

It's very funny you should have sent me this. Not ten minutes ago I read the attached article in the daily paper refuting the exact same article that you sent.

Unfortunately, your article is accurate and the daily paper is delusional.

When I arrived in Singapore in 2009 and secured a realtor to help me find an apartment, he told me that Asians were coming from all over the continent with large wads of cash in hand, begging him to find some property. Anything. Anywhere. All they wanted was some property in Singapore to invest in.

Eventually I found an apartment, 1,800 sq ft, with a $4.8 million appraised value! (It's probably really worth about $750,000 max). I had to pay $9,800 per month in rent!

When the Asian meltdown comes, it will be catastrophic for prices of everything in Singapore. And I think it's teetering on the precipice.

Hope that answers your question!

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

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