Sunday, June 17, 2018



LEAPs (Long Term Anticipation Equity Participation securities) are essentially options with longer expiration dates. The have expiration cycles of one to two years. Determining the expiration cycle for LEAPs is a little complicated and is beyond the scope of this Newsletter But here is a link to a good resource.  Also, your broker or your online trading firm can assist you in sorting out the cycles.

LEAPs, like options, are derivative instruments. LEAPs are available for larger stocks and some ETFs. Options, and LEAPs, which are essentially longer-term options, allow you to control more shares of stock with far less capital at risk. If a hundred share of ABC stock trade at $38 per share, options on ABC stock might trade for $1.04 per contract. And options contracts are sold in units of 100, so to control 100 shares of ABC will only cost you $104. If you instead bought 100 shares of ABC, you would be out $3,800.

There are many LEAP strategies LEAPs can be attractive for growth stock investors. If the investor believes that the stock will increase in price over the next year or so, the investor can purchase LEAP calls and earn a far greater return that owning the stock outright. Of course the regular risks that come with options are present. A large unanticipated fall in the stock price can wipe out the call position. And in the case of LEAPs, since you do not own the stock itself, you will not receive dividends.


Engaging with a trade war is a policy that exceeds all collective idiocy. World tariffs are at record lows, averaging about 3.1%. But perhaps even more idiotic are rules that permit an American president to impose tariffs on a ludicrous claim that aluminum and steel imports threaten “national security.” For a country for which the Founding Fathers intended for the legislature to be the dominant branch of government, how in Hades could a president have the unilateral and unchecked ability to impose tariffs? Here’s how…

In February of this year, the US Commerce Department (an agency that some republicans wish to eliminate, sent trump a ginned-up report saying that steel and aluminum imports did, in fact, threaten national security and recommending he impose steep tariffs on both.

“The report recommended that Trump invoke Section 232 of the Trade Adjustment Act of 1962, which allows the president to block imports that he deems threatening to national security. Unlike other trade laws, it doesn’t require him to get congressional approval or a review by the independent U.S. International Trade Commission.’

Continuing, the Forbes article states: “The national security argument is a sham and everyone knows it. Not even Defense Secretary James Mattis bought it. He read the Commerce Department report before it went to Trump, and this is what he said about it in an undated memorandum to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross:

“The U.S. military requirements for steel and aluminum each represent only about 3% of U.S. production. Therefore, Dodd does not believe that the findings in the reports impact the ability of Dodd programs to acquire the steel or aluminum necessary to meet national defense requirements.”
WTO rules do permit nations to impose tariffs when the nation’s national security is threatened. But clearly, US national security is not threatened and the claim that it does is a fraud.  These matters will likely be fought out in the World Trade Organization (WTO) and under the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT).  


The Author Rob sometimes get asked how can a person make money investing in the burgeoning marijuana industry, both medical and recreational.  The short answer is he does not know and is extremely suspicious of any marijuana investment at this time. There are several reasons. First, the industries are illegal under federal law and debt financing is not meaningfully available. Also, the states heavily regulate their statewide systems and many states’ industries operate more like cartels or government monopolies. And finally and most importantly, the industry is filled with scammers and “consultants” looking to separate unsophisticated investors from their money. But he did find this article that can give potential ideas to those whom are interested.


Last month Desert of the Real Economics Strategic Investments announced that we had become an unregistered agent for Uzbeckisham, a “reversal of fortune” fund. Sales have gone well so far because we have secured our Dark Web Assets with the best type of a security arrangement possible. We have a hit contract on Petrov “Potemkin Village” Vasilovitch, the fund manager.  If he fails to live up to performance expectations, Petrov will be completely reversed.
This month we are proud to announce that Desert of the Real Economics Strategic Investments is now registered as Broker-Dealers in the Cook Islands, Somalia, South Sudan, Mongolia and Yemen. This will allow us to broaden the range of investment products we can deliver to our clients, Facebook Friends and click bait suckers. 

So in confluence with this auspicious event, Desert of the Real Economics Strategic Investments announces that it can now offer HoweyCoins*. 

 “[By] Combining the two most growth-oriented segments of the digital economy – blockchain technology and travel, HoweyCoin is the newest and only coin offering that captures the magic of coin trading profits AND the excitement and guaranteed returns of the travel industry. HoweyCoins will partner with all segments of the travel industry (air, hotel, car rental, and luxury segments), earning coins you can trade for profit instead of points. Massive potential upside benefits like:
  • HoweyCoins are officially registered with the U.S. government;
  • HoweyCoins will trade on an SEC-compliant exchange where you can buy and sell them for profit;
  • HoweyCoins can be used with existing points programs;
  • HoweyCoins can be exchanged for cryptocurrencies and cash;
  • HoweyCoins can be spent at any participating airline or hotel;
  • HoweyCoins can also be redeemed for merchandise.

So if you want something for nothing, just remember that there is someone else on the other end of the deal that will make sure you get nothing for something. 

* HoweyCoins is a parody site with a fake investment product. It was created by the Securities and Exchange Commission to demonstrate how easy it is for scammers to defraud investors with official looking websites. The term “HoweyCoins” comes from the seminal case of SEC v. W.J. Howey Co., [in which] the Court defined what is an investment contract.  If “a person invests his money in a common enterprise and is led to expect profits solely from the efforts of the promoter or a third party,” it is a security and subject to federal regulation.

If you click on the link “Buy Coins Now” you are directed to an SEC site that warns people of the risk of getting scammed by one of these bogus products. 

Sunday, May 20, 2018



Predicting the future is much of what investing and financial analysis is about. That is what the Author Rob spends much of his time doing, although as an options trader, his “future” is between a few hours and a few days. That is why he cannot share his investment picks online and in the newsletter. The market moves to fast for the advice to be relevant.  But the Author will share a “seat of the pants”* index ETF strategy that uses special ETFs to attempt to earn returns that aim to be two three times the index, and ETFs that aim to earn an inverse return of two to three times when the indexes fall.  

Most investment analysts take a much longer view of the future helping their clients build retirement nest eggs or savings to buy a business, pay for their kids’ college, or other worthwhile goals. This technique is called, and hopefully is, “getting rich slowly.” There are good strategies for accumulating wealth with long term methodology. Two common strategies to employ are a value-based approach consistent with Benjamin Graham and Warren Buffet. Another common strategy is growth, looking for stocks that will grow faster than the market. A great way to learn this strategy is from, often called GARP (Growth at a Reasonable Price).  There are a plethora of sources for this investment advice and assistance.

The Author’s most important investing mentor was Brad Busick from Albuquerque, NM. Bart has since passed away. Bart was incredibly knowledgeable and wise. He was also a trained musician, having earned a four-year college degree in music studies.

Bart and I once talked about how we spend so much time looking at charts and reading analyses, yet we are still often wrong. He said that all that we really need is a copy of the Wall Street Journal from one year in the future.  Always the cynic, the Author responded “yeah, but with our luck it would be a copy of the Wall Street Journal from the day after a holiday.” **


When we look at the “history” of predicting the future, two opposing visions emerge. One is a dystopia, a world that it beset with problems or is controlled by a dictatorship. An example of these dystopias is H.G. Wells book “The Time Machine.” In this book, Wells’ character travels far into the future to a world where a race of future humans called the Morlock’s raise the other human species, the Eloi, for food.

Wells’ vision of the future was less dystopian in his book “The Shape of Things to Come,” written in 1933. This book described the state of the world from 1933 to 2016. “The Shape of Things to Come” presented a world in economic collapse and war.

The other vision is a utopian vision, a world where human problems have been solved and humans live without conflict or need.

Are we describing Bears and Bulls? Maybe, but the situation is more usually more nuanced. So let’s take a look at some recent governmental projections. From 2001.


In 2001, the US budget was running a surplus. The stock market was peaking in the wake of the boom. The US economy had booked four previous years of 4.4% GDP growth. It was Bill Clinton’s economy. So how do you screw that up?

In January of 2001, George W. Bush was inaugurated. The Office of Management and Budget projected a budget surplus of 800 billion in 2011. The Congressional Budget Office projected even higher surpluses.
Around the time, Alan Greenspan stated that the economy was targeted to pay off the deficit by 2010. Budget surpluses were predicted until 2030. Then came the tax cuts. And assumptions, assumptions, and more wrong assumptions.  The “history of the economic future.”

As John Mauldin states in his newsletter “Thoughts from the Frontline:”

As of January 2001, the CBO foresaw another decade of 3% real GDP growth, 3% inflation, unemployment at 5% or below, and flat-as-a-pancake interest rates. That scenario was never likely to happen, and indeed it did not. These assumptions fell apart almost immediately and the situation only worsened. But by then the assumptions had been used to justify decisions that were, for various reasons, all but irreversible.

But things went wrong right off of the line.

A.     Congress passed tax cuts that were not set off of by spending cuts. (This is standard American policy.)
B.     September 11 required massive military and security spending.
C.     The Medicare Part D Drug Benefit was enacted.
D.    The economy slipped into recession.

Slowing GDP growth drive deficits. As Mauldin says, the difference between 2% and 3% GDP growth are substantial, especially when compounded over time.  And the drop from 4% to 2% GDP growth was devastating.  And worse, lower GDP and recessions cause increases in government spending as people increase draws on public benefits.

The takeaway-small errors in spending and tax cuts have meaningful effects on budget numbers. But when these small errors are compounded by slower than projected GDP growth, the errors become mammoth.

Historically, and by historically the Author notes this involves much of the last half of the 20th century, GDP grew at an annual real rate of 3.2%. That number was generally correct until the start of the 2000s.  Economists now talk about the “new normal that is closer to 2.9%.  

In recent years, 3.2% GDP growth figure is rarely achieved. In 2017 the average GDP was 2.3%. But estimated for 2018 predict GDP growth closer to 3.0%.  But still no 3.2%.

So how do we address the “history” of the future? Although this statement might be a little broad and bearish, we cannot resist predicting the future, but the “history” of the future demonstrates we are usually been wrong. And we must recognize  growth closer to 2.8% is the new “normal” GDP growth, and estimates that exceed that growth rate are fanciful and a formula for an exploding deficit.  


There are classes of Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) that are designed to track stock indices like the S&P 500, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the NASDAQ, and other indices. We are all familiar with these funds and many of us hold large blocks of these ETFs in our portfolios.

But there are ETFs that are structured to earn double or triple the returns of these indices. They do this with leverage and other strategies. These funds are sometimes called dynamic funds.  EXAMPLES:
Ultra (2x) & UltraPro (3x) MarketCap ETFs
  • (ETF Name – Ticker – Benchmark Index)
  • Ultra QQQ – QLD – NASDAQ-100 Index
  • UltraPro QQQ – TQQQ – NASDAQ-100 Index
  • Ultra Dow30 – DDM – Dow Jones Industrial Average
  • UltraPro Dow30 – UDOW – Dow Jones Industrial Average
  • Ultra S&P500 – SSO – S&P 500 Index
  • UltraPro S&P500 – UPRO – S&P 500 Index
Direxion 2x, 3x MarketCap ETFs
  • Daily S&P 500 Bull 2x Shares – SPUU – S&P 500
  • Daily S&P 500 Bull 3x Shares – SPXL – S&P 500
  • Daily Mid Cap Bull 2x Shares – MDLL – S&P MidCap 400 Index
  • Daily Mid Cap Bull 3x – MIDU – S&P MidCap 400 Index
  • Daily Small Cap Bull 2x Shares – SMLL – Russell 2000
  • Daily Small Cap Bull 3x – TNA – Russell 2000
There are also dynamic funds that amplify returns of market sectors, commodities and bonds. 

Similarly, there are inverse funds that attempt to return positive one, two or even three times index and sectors when these sectors fall. These funds operate inversely to the indices. So if the S&P 500 goes down by one percent, the inverse fund will go down by one percent. Additionally, there are inverse funds that move two, and three times the indices. EXAMPLES:
Well, anyway, that is what they are supposed to work that way. But we will take about that later.

To take advantage of market direction that your daily trading strategy predicts, buy these funds to catch a daily market movement. Then keep a tight stop loss in place. The Authors use a one to two percent trailing stop order.  It is important to remember two things. Your prediction for the day must be correct. And do not hold them overnight. The linked article will explain these risks and some others.

Are these ETFs too good to be true? Somewhat, even if you manage to use them properly. They are definitely too good to be true if you do not understand the risks.


The Desert of the Real Strategic Investments has been working with representatives of the former Soviet states of CRIMEia and Pottsylvania and we are now unregistered foreign agents of this new investment product.  The name of the product is Uzbekisham. This investment product is a “Reversal” fund. It provides someone a positive “reversal” of fortune (reverser), while “reversing” the fortune of someone else (reversee).  (Doesn’t that always seem to happen, the “eee” gets the short end money.) It is an inverse fund depending upon who pays for it.

The fund is operated by someone, or something, known as Petrov “Potemkin Village” Vasilovitch.  The fund will hold cash assets and invest these assets in Swiss or Bermudian bank accounts. And other assets that lack transparency.

We anticipate that the product will be attractive to divorcing spouses, gamblers, business partners about to part ways, and New York attorneys that represent president trump.

The fund also offers additional services for a large fee. These additional services include banking and accounting services.  The fund can work with the reverser to establish ficticous payees, sweep accounts that leave the counting house floor dust free, and wire transfers to servers so invisible on the Dark Net that sometimes even Petrov Vasilovitch cannot find them.

For a much higher fee that fund will provide specialized human resource deployment or human resource disdeployment. You will have to talk to Petrov about these services.

IMPORTANT DISCLOSURE: Desert of the Real Economics Strategic Investments disclaims and all liability for users of the “Reversal” Fund. This disclaimer is so obvious that we did not even need to call our attorneys to figure this one out.

*But with the substantial risks of these dynamic and inverse funds, the investing experience could become a “Lose your Shorts” event.

**The stock markets close on some holidays and since nothing had traded the day before, there are no stock price quotes in the paper.

*** Trailer Park Boys is a mockumentary series on Canadian television. It is available on Netflix and probably lots of other modalities. The series revolves around marginal criminals, drunks and dopers that live in Sunnyvale Trailer Park in Nova Scotia.

Monday, April 2, 2018



The Author Rob will not belabor the foolishness of a nonsensical trade war with our trading partners. (Just as the Author writes this newsletter, China announces the imposition of 3 billion in tariffs on 128US products, including pork and meat.*)  All the Author can add is that the executive branch should never be invested with enough power to unilaterally approve and pursue trade policies that Congress has not specifically approved. As cliché as this is, the Founding Fathers would roll over in their graves if they could see how the executive branch has usurped power from the legislature. But that is a topic for books and on other other days.

An article in Forbes Online from January 12, 2018, The U.S. Economy Is Booming, Which Is Why The U.S. Trade Deficit With China Grew In 2017, by Salvatore Babones, provides a good description of the US trade deficit with China and Hong Kong, and why the numbers present a positive picture, not click bait for economic nationalists.

The 2017 trade deficit with China and Hong Kong (part of China but often considered separately because of its advance Western-like economy) will likely reach $320 billion dollars.  Writes Babones:

            That means that the final 2017 U.S. deficit with China/HKG may be up 17%-18% from the $280 billion consolidated China/HKG deficit recorded for 2016.  The official U.S. trade deficit with China reported by the U.S. Census Bureau on February 6 will be big, growing and politically messy. And it shouldn't worry anyone at all.

For a mature and growing economy, a trade deficit signals that there is more capital flowing into the economy than is going out. * *In essence, international investors are betting the money on the US economy. As Babones states, “international investors are looking for a piece of the action in the world's more advanced, most dynamic mature economy.”

The trade deficit must be offset, much in the style of double-entry accounting, by the “current account.” And because there is more capital flowing into the US economy than flowing out, this must be offset in the current account, which of necessity must book a deficit.


China is engaging in a massive international development campaign. It seeks to link China with ports in Southeast Asia, South Asia and Africa. It will also develop rail lines that will link China with Central Asia, Eastern Europe, France and the Netherlands.

This ambitious project, or more properly, a series of projects, is called the “One Belt-OneRoad Initiative,”  or OBOR. There are two elements to this plan. One is the “Belt,” or high-speed rail. In that sense, it is similar to the China-Pakistan economic corridor. The “Road” is a series of modernized ports to accept massive amounts of container ship cargo.

There are many justifications for these projects. Political scientists and foreign policy analysts see it as an attempt to increase Sino political reach. Economists see several things. The initiative establishes many potential markets for China’s economy. And if the projects are successful, it will be an effective solution to China’s massive industrial overcapacity. And bringing this overcapacity online will assist China to bring more people from its depressed rural areas into thriving economic cities.

There is another angle. These projects, especially high-speed rail and shipping, are an attempt for these served by OBOR to adopt Chinese standards. There are many ways to look at the ascension of China. One is to adopt counterproductive tariffs, engage in trade wars, back out of international agreements and reject current plans such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This will only accelerate the ascension of China as the dominant world economic power. And we must also remember that declining world powers that do not effectively adjust to their new diminished status are more dangerous than wounded wolverines.  Get the hint?

Desert of the Real Strategic Investments has already launched five investment products this year and were are far oversubscribed. So it may be a month or two before we announce the launch of our new products***


*As the Author is a vegetarian, anything that hurts the animal flesh production industry is welcome.

* *For a weak third world economy, a large trade deficit signals a different status, a country that is struggling to make balance of trade-of-trade payments. But that is not the case with the mature and growing US economy. 

***Or overcome comedy writer's block.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018


February 2018 was a month of declines in the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial average. The NASDAQ, however, closed about at the same level that it began the month.

Losses today (March 1) were substantial as the president announced that he would put a 25% tariff on imported steel and 10% on aluminum. This decision is utterly ill advised and will likely trigger a trade war. How big that trade war will be maybe more a matter of one man’s ego than appropriate trade policy. The subtext that trump is hoping that his base will hear is that he was getting “tough” with China. Sorry folks, but China is not even in the top 10 list of steel importers. Canada is the largest steel exporter to the US, followed by Brazil, South Korea and Mexico.  

Canada promised today to retaliate against this ill-advised policy.  Some countries are threatening to target specific US industries and swing states. For example, a high tariff on Wisconsin cheese will hurt a state that trump won. Bourbon is also a target. And American agriculture is a fat target for trade actions.

It was also reported that trump is considering a tariff on European cars out of little more than spite. Or maybe because he cannot have a shooting war against another country, he can get his little hands busy with his trade war.


New Federal Reserve Chairman Powell spoke before a Senate committee. All indications are that the Fed will follow the path of three predicted rates hikes this year. This is the number of increases that the market is discounting.

STILL…many think that the dogs of inflation will soon be let slip. And the unemployment rate of 4.1 is extremely low. Still, wage increase pressure is not causing the pot to boil over.  In fact, the low employment rate may mask the major problem of poor employment. In fact, one in four jobs are low-wage jobs, meaning that median earnings are not enough to bring a family of four out of poverty.  In some states, mostly southern states, one in three jobs is a low-wage job.

Nationally, 4.1 is a low unemployment rate. But in at least a few places, the labor market is over-boiling. The unemployment rate in Elkhart and Lagrange counties is probably around 2%. But never fear, these areas will fall hard when the next recession comes. These are boom or bust economies. These bell weather counties lead the country, into and out of, a recession.

In fact, the shortage of workers in these counties are causing restaurants to close down for a day or cut hours.


The Consumer Price Index (CPI) represents a “market basket” of good s that is continuously tracked.  From the changes in CPI, inflation is determined. Never mind that many economists think that the CPI fails to capture baseline inflation, it is what we work with. Many contracts are pegged to the CPI so monthly and yearly price increases are determined by the CPI.

The CPI takes into effect many factors. First, it excludes the volatile price of gas and food. Secondly, it makes “hedonic adjustments” to durable goods based upon improvement in manufactured goods. A hedonic adjustment captures the improvements to a good based upon technological improvements over time.

Think about a personal computer. In 1996 a decent desktop cost over $1000. These state-of-the art boxes had less computing power than a recent Android phone. So over time, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the government agency that tracks the CPI, has adjusted the price based upon the improvement of the product. A computer is not the only durable good that can be hedonically adjusted. Consider a Blue Ray player. Twenty years ago they likely cost more than $200. Now you can get a far better player for $40-50. So when the CPI is calculated, these product improvements will be baked into the formula.

Below is a graph of price changes in goods with hedonic adjustment for features, functions and technical improvements.  It tells quite a tale. 

Services that have skyrocketed in price are healthcare services and college tuition. Healthcare, as we know, is an American train pile up. So this is no surprise. College tuition increases as states withdraw tax support.  But we will save these topics for other days.

More enlightening are consumer goods, especially technologically products.  New cars, clothing and household furnishings are unchanged. Automobiles keep improving in performance, reliability, safety and durability. The next old schmuck that tells me cars were better built in the 60’s,70’s and 80’s, should get a kick in the ribs. Cars of that era are junk relative to what is manufactured now.

Cell phone services have decreased 50%. No surprise here. The cost for minutes in the 1990s were confiscatory compared to today.  Software also has much greater functionality today. But the product that I find most interesting is televisions.

Televisions, per the graph, cost dramatically less. Some of this has come from cost reductions gained in technology and the manufacturing process. But a lot of it comes in the form of the hedonic adjustment. Twenty years ago, rear projection screens were the top technology. Now, $200 can get you a decent set for the bedroom. One-thousand dollars can get you a magic carpet sized convex TV that looks more real than reality.

Next month, we may have a better handle on where inflation is going.  And in next month’s Desert of the Real Economics Investment Newsletter, we will take a look at some solid arguments that the current CPI greatly understates inflation.


Continuing on the successful investment products already launched by the Desert of the Real Economics Strategic Investments, March brings us our newest product, Robbing Hoods Free Online Trading Platform.

Currently, there is an online trading app called It is a free, online trading app that allows users to exercise simple stock and ETF transactions. It is targeted at Millenials, who are apparently to cheap to pay for anything. One way that Robinhood makes money is interest on unsettled funds. (It takes stock trades three days to close so there is a pile of money out there waiting patiently.)

Robbing Hoods takes this free trading app to a grossly under-served community, robbers and burglars. Robbing Hoods will be a free app connecting criminals with purchasers of stolen property (fences).  It will operate much like E-bay, bringing buyers and sellers of stolen merchandise together in one seamless application.  It will operate on a distributed operating system, using the blockchain network of illicit prison cell phones that hosts another Desert of the Real Economics’ product, “Bitchcoin”. 

Using the already-existing blockchain prison network will save on hardware, software and network services costs. Robbing Hoods will be funded by interest on unsettled fencing operation sales. An ancillary benefit will be that owners of blockchain nodes (illicit prison cell phones) may learn the valuable skill of stock trading. Both our product and the criminals will benefit from this conflation.  Criminals can move up from street and gang crime to white-collar crime and enjoy all of the benefits of CNBC, Bloomberg and Fox Busiiness Network notoriety.