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Overdue for a financial crisis. But not in the pet business

Overdue for a financial crisis. Recent books and articles point to us being overdue.

Their only problem: They don’t know from where, or when.

Typically there are six causes —

1. Too much debt. Too much bad debt. Student loans. Auto loans. Sub prime mortgages. Consumer credit, etc. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported total household debt had reached a new peak — $12.7 trillion — in the first three months of the year.

2. Asset prices too high:

+ Tech stocks like AMZN (P/E 181), TSLA (-65), GOOGL (32.26), FB (37), and NFLX (203). Apple is the low one — only 18 times.

+ Home prices too high. Some places they clearly are.

3. Dumb government decisions, i.e. beggar thy neighbor , austerity et al which caused the Great Depression of the 1930s.

4. Something untoward. Credit ratings agency Standard & Poors just cut the ratings of 23 Australian financial institutions citing the risk of a sharp fall in property prices. Click here. 

5. What George Soros calls “reflexivity.” The Economist explained reflexivity as

“The idea that observations and beliefs about the state of the economy change behavior, and those changes in behavior affect the economy.”

In other words, if many of us think tech stocks are going down, they probably will. And vice versa.

6. Or a Black Swan event – something totally out of the blue. Black swans are not unusual. Here’s one, courtesy the Internet (remember that thing)

BlackSwan

Here’s the S&P 500 over time:

S&POverTime

Where we are today looks out of whack and overdue.

So what?

+ Keep oodles of cash

+ Keep our borrowings low.

+ Recognize where we are today. “Sure” things five years ago, are no longer “sure.”

Good news today. The Wall Street Journal reports Europe’s corporate profits are surging:

RoaringBack

Read more here.

You want brilliant?

How about Greenies’ Pill Pockets? You put Rosie’s pill in a pill pocket, push it together (to seal it). Bingo, Rosie takes her large, ugly, un-appertising pill.

PillPockets

Only $5.84 from Chew.com. Click here. 

I’m obsessed with the booming pet business. Rosie’s three day stay in the animal hospital cost the grand sum of $4,523.17. Not cheap. No insurance. All cash, up front. The place was packed with rich and poor anteing up real money for their precious dogs and cats.

The good news is that Rosie is better. And Harry is now obsessed with paying off Rosie’s bills with profits on pet stocks. The good news is that I’ve made more than her bill with CENT. And I’m up a little on ZTS.  My friend Steve alerted me to Petmed Express Inc. which I missed. Drat! Here’s year to date:

Pets

Pets’ P/E is 30. Maybe OK. Cheaper than ZTS. Need to do more checking.

What about Greenies’ Pill Pockets? Rosie loves them. But can I? It turns out Greenies is owned by Mars, which, according to Wikipedia:

Mars is an American global manufacturer of confectionery, pet food, and other food products and a provider of animal care services, with US$33 billion in annual sales in 2015,[2] and is ranked as the 6th largest privately held company in the United States by Forbes.

So much for investing in Mars. I suspect that the Mars family has more money than God.

The lights are going out in Middle East. This is very sad:

The world’s most volatile region faces a challenge that doesn’t involve guns, militias, warlords, or bloodshed, yet is also destroying societies. The Middle East, though energy-rich, no longer has enough electricity. From Beirut to Baghdad, tens of millions of people now suffer daily outages, with a crippling impact on businesses, schools, health care, and other basic services, including running water and sewerage. Little works without electricity.

For the full, disturbing piece, click here. 

The Heroin Business Is Booming in America

You need to read this because it’s frightening. A story of how our drug policies have spiraled out of control.

Cartels boost profits as painkiller supplies tighten up by Jeanna Smialek BloombergBusinessWeek.

On a drizzly May afternoon, a man in gray sweatpants and a black Bengals hoodie sold a half-gram of heroin for $70 inside a dingy market on the west side of Cincinnati. The buyer was a plainclothes police officer; the seller was promptly handcuffed. The bust was the first of two that a team of local police would make that Thursday and one of several heroin-related cases to cross their radios: Three people overdosed, and another was caught driving under the influence. Compared with some days in their district, it was pretty slow.

Heroin has become so pervasive in cities such as Cincinnati and so profitable for the cartels that supply it that even cops admit the sporadic arrests they make have little effect. “It’s really not going to make any impact out on the street,” says Detective Brandon Connley, speaking from the damp parking lot outside the market. “Everybody and their mom sells drugs these days. There’s always somebody right there to pick back up.”

Millions of Americans got hooked on pain pills during a prescription binge that started in the 1990s and peaked around 2011. As states have tightened monitoring and doctors have reduced dosages, it’s become harder for addicts to get prescription painkillers, driving many to get their fix off street drugs. Mexican cartels and big-city gangs have capitalized on the shift, extending networks of dealers across the U.S. and flooding the market with cheap heroin, according to law enforcement.

Cartels have begun lacing heroin with synthetic opioids including fentanyl, making a dose more addictive and cheaper to produce. Overdose reversal shots are helping addicts survive, often to use again, giving dealers a steady supply of repeat customers. With persistent demand and increasingly wide profit margins, 2017 is shaping up as the most profitable year ever for the U.S. heroin trade.

Dealers give out free needles as perks to attract repeat heroin customers.

“We are seeing an unbelievably sad and extensive heroin epidemic, and there is no end in sight,” says Daniel Ciccarone, a medical doctor at the University of California at San Francisco who studies the heroin market. “We are not, in 2017, anywhere close to the top of this thing. Heroin has a life force of its own.”

Cincinnati has emerged as a center of the crisis. Dealers there are creative in marketing their product. Local police say they’ve seen them text their customers to advertise Sunday specials-two-for-ones and free samples, all set up on car hoods in a park. Some dealers have scheduled business hours. Others throw “testers” wrapped in paper slips printed with their phone number into passing cars, hoping to hook new business.

Making fentanyl in a lab costs about the same as producing heroin, $3,000 or $4,000 per kilogram, according to a Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman. Once it’s diluted and retailed, fentanyl brings in $1.2 million-more than twice the $500,000 a kilo of heroin commands.

To make heroin, cartels need to grow poppies in fields that can be hard to hide. All you need to make fentanyl is a lab, chemicals, and an able chemist. Cartels often bring in fentanyl from Mexico, though it’s also mail-ordered from China and shipped straight to the U.S. Police are beginning to worry that suppliers could manufacture fentanyl domestically. “With the potential that we’re going to see fentanyl labs popping up everywhere, I think it’s going to get worse before it gets better,” says Tim Reagan, a DEA agent in Cincinnati.

A lethal fentanyl dose is 2 milligrams, the weight of a few grains of salt, and addicts were wary of using it at first. Now many seek out what they call “the fire” for a stronger high, says Cincinnati Police Sergeant Frank Beavers, a plainclothes investigator. That’s made fentanyl into something of a success story for its sellers: It kills some customers, but those who survive end up with a more powerful addiction.

Mary Day, a 27-year-old from Cincinnati, noticed synthetics creeping into her heroin about three years ago. Her highs were suddenly more intense, her cravings irresistible. “I would get sicker quicker, and if I couldn’t get hold of one person and I got another person, their stuff wasn’t as good, and I didn’t get as high,” says Day, a recovering addict who says she’s been clean since April. “You have to chase it all day long.”

Cartels have begun experimenting with even more powerful synthetics. Among them are the elephant tranquilizer carfentanil, dubbed “rhino” on the street, and another powerful synthetic sometimes flown in from Hong Kong known as “pink.” Merely touching either can cause someone without an opioid tolerance to overdose as it leaches through the skin.

Carfentanil surfaced last summer, and police believe Cincinnati’s dealers were among the first to sell it. Cincinnati’s District 3 police began to find pink earlier this year, according to Beavers. The rise of various synthetics has increased the death toll. Surrounding Hamilton County saw a record 342 opioid-related overdose deaths last year and is on its way to exceeding that number in 2017, the county coroner says.

There’s no simple solution for heroin as long as it remains so profitable. Local governments are providing law enforcement officials and even addicts with nalaxone, a drug that can reverse overdoses. But the drug doesn’t deal with underlying addiction. What’s more, addicts of some new varieties of opioids don’t respond to the treatment. China outlawed carfentanil production in March, which U.S. authorities hope will cut down on the shipments.

President Trump pledged during his campaign to take on the opioid epidemic, but the House Republican health-care bill would slash funding to Medicaid-a crucial funder of drug treatment programs. Trump’s draft budget would also cut 95 percent of the funding for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, which coordinates much of U.S. drug strategy. On May 6, the Office of Management and Budget provided a list of federal drug prevention programs in several agencies, indicating that changes to the drug policy office may be part of a broader restructuring.

“Things are a little bit in chaos at the federal level,” says Jason Doctor, an associate professor at the University of Southern California’s School of Pharmacy. “I agree in principle with the idea that we need to do something differently, think creatively, or do something radical,” Doctor says. “I’m not confident yet that the administration is doing that.”

If there’s hope for the crisis, it may rest in people like Day, who committed to getting clean in April after watching a friend overdose on a small hit-“seven grains of salt.” She tried to revive him with a shot of nalaxone. It didn’t work. Emergency responders saved him, though she’s not sure how.

“Some addicts want that drug that’s killing everybody, because they want to get high or they hope they die,” says Day, who leaves treatment on May 21. “I wasn’t like that. It’s like a massive grave.”

You can read the full piece, along with the photos, here. 

If Donald J. Trump ran a company….

BloombergBusinessWeek and the New Yorker have recently weighed in on President Trump’s management skills — which they’re clearly not impressed with. However, you play judge. Here are the two articles and the links to read them.

Would You Let Trump Run Your Company?
Of all the ways to measure Trump, judging him as a chief executive would seem to be fairest.
by John Micklethwait of BloombergBusinessWeek.

Click here. 

If Donald Trump were a C.E.O., he’d probably be fired today
by John Cassidy of the New Yorker.

Click here. 

Favorite recent New Yorker cartoon

safetyannouncements

HarryNewton
Harry Newton, who warns everyone not to open any email attachments — even those from your nearest and dearest. This ransomware stuff is really serious. There’s no assurance that — even if you pay the ransom money — you’ll ever get your precious files back. For God’s sake, keep backups on flash drives, away from the Internet. And do it now.

Flashdrive