Obama the Prepper?!

Welcome to September…


The Department of Homeland Security’s ready.gov website is decked out accordingly. “This month,” said President Obama in a proclamation issued yesterday, “I encourage all Americans to bolster their readiness in the event of a crisis.”


In a completely unrelated development, Mr. Obama about to become “the first U.S. president to receive a crash course in survival techniques from Bear Grylls,” says a press release from NBC, also issued yesterday.

The president is in Alaska this week… and as part of his sojourn, he’ll record an installment of the reality TV show Running Wild With Bear Grylls. Exactly what survival techniques he’ll learn today, no one’s saying — we’ll have to wait until the program is broadcast later this year. Yeah, that’s real appointment viewing.

We mean it when we say this development is completely unrelated. We looked for “Bear Grylls” and “National Preparedness Month” on Google News and nothing came up that included both of those search terms.

Evidently, no one in the White House managed to put two and two together to give National Preparedness Month an extra publicity boost. That’s how huge and ungainly the federal government has become.

In still another completely unrelated development, the Dow slid more than 300 points during the first hour of trading this morning.

So much for the index climbing out of “correction” territory last week. At last check, it sits a hair above 16,200 — 11.4% below its record close on May 19.

The VIX, the market’s “fear gauge,” has popped back above 30 — validating technician Jonas Elmerraji’s observation here yesterday: The VIX measures the perception of volatility… and while it pulled back last week, a separate measure of actual volatility in the market remained elevated. The VIX is playing catch-up now.

The “risk-off” trade is benefiting Treasuries: The yield on a 10-year note sits at 2.17%. Gold is up a skootch at $1,139.

Crude? Talk about volatile. After running up 25% the last three trading days, it’s off more than 5% as we write — $46.58.

The proximate event surrounding today’s market swoon is a slew of sickly manufacturing numbers.

These numbers usually come out on the first of the month. Numbers greater than 50 indicate growth in manufacturing. Lower than 50 mean a shrinking factory sector…

  • China: The official government figure for August rings in at 49.7 — the weakest reading in three years. A similar measure maintained by HSBC registers 47.3 — the weakest since March 2009
  • United States: Guuuh! The August ISM manufacturing index clocks in at 51.1. Yes, that’s growth, but the number’s lower than even the most pessimistic guess among dozens of economists polled by Bloomberg. And the internals of the report stunk. New orders and hiring? Weak. Backlog orders and export orders? Weaker — contracting three straight months now
  • Eurozone: At 52.3, eurozone manufacturing looks strongest among the globe’s big three economies. But the August number is still lower than expected, “adding to the European Central Bank’s woes as it battles to spur expansion and inflation,” says a Reuters summary.

That’s the rub, isn’t it? Central banks are trying their damnedest to generate inflation. They’re pushing buttons and pulling levers… but economies consist of real human beings who don’t operate like machines and don’t always cooperate with the designs of central bankers.


Dave Gonigam
for The Daily Reckoning

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