Red Screen at Morning, Investor Take Warning

Growing up as I did in coastal New England, this old rhyme was drilled into us as children:

Red sky at night, sailor's delight;

Red sky at morning, sailor take warning.

Because many of the people in town still made their living on the sea, the safety of person and property depended on being able to recognize the signs of approaching danger.

A notably red sky at morning is usually due to sunrise reflection off of moisture-bearing clouds, signifying an arriving a storm system bringing rain, wind and rough seas. Those who ignored a red sky warning often did so at their peril.

Red Sky In The Markets

I'm reminded of that childhood rhyme because the markets are giving us a clear "red sky" warning right now. One that comes after (too) many years of uninterrupted fair winds and smooth sailing.

The markets have plunged nearly 8% over just a single week. And the losses are across the board. Nearly every asset class from stocks to bonds to commodities to real estate are participating in the pain. Market displays are a sea of red.

We've written so often and recently of the dangerous level of over-valuation in asset prices (caused by years of central bank intervention) that to re-hash the premise again feels unnecessary.

But the chart below is worth our attention now, as it really drives home just how dangerously over-extended the markets have become. It's a 20-year chart of the S&P 500, showing how it has traded vs its 50-month moving average (the thin green line).

Importantly, the chart also plots the Bollinger bands for this moving average. These are the thin red (upper) and purple (lower) lines above and below the green one.

The simple definition of Bollinger bands is that they are measurements of volatility, and serve as indicators of "highness" or "lowness" of price relative to trading history (a more complex explanation can be found here).

What that means is, when the price of the S&P 500 trades near the upper (red) Bollinger band, that's an indication it's over-priced vs its historic trading behavior. And vice-versa when it trades near the lower (purple) band.

Now, the chart below is important because it shows that over the past 20-years, the S&P 500 has *never* traded above the its 50-month upper Bollinger band -- EXCEPT for the 7 months preceding this one. Simply put, the market had not been more overvalued in (at least) the past 20 years as it was last month:

(click here for an expanded view)

But just as frightening, though, is how the 7% drop the S&P has experienced over the past week has only brought it back to just touch the upper Bollinger band. Despite its recent losses, the S&P is still wildly over-valued.

Said another way: it still has further to fall. A LOT further.

If indeed this is the start of a major correction, one that clears out all  "excessive exuberance" as happened in 2001 and 2008, we could well see a retracement down past the 50-month moving average, all the way to (and possibly, briefly, below) the lower Bollinger band.

That would put the S&P somewhere around 1,500-1,600 -- a drop of around 40% from where it closed today.

And as we made the case earlier this week when looking at classic asset price bubble curves, a return of the S&P to a price level below 1,000 can't be ruled out.

Time To Batten Down The Hatches

When a storm arrives at sea, sailors hunker down. They strip, tie fast, and stow everything they can -- then they ride out the storm and re-emerge once it has passed.

This is an excellent model for today's investor. If this week's plunge indeed accelerates into a bear market, simply surviving the carnage with a substantial percentage of your capital intact will constitute "winning".

So, if you still have long positions in your personal or retirement portfolios, what should you be doing at this point?

1) Move To Cash

Get your money to the sidelines. Remember that everything is relative during periods of extreme volatility like now. When everything around you is dropping in value, the relative value of your cash position rises.

Those who had already moved to cash now find they can buy 7% more of the S&P with it than they could a mere week ago. That relative rise in purchasing power will only increase should the markets fall farther from here.

Cash is also offering an improving absolute return as well these days, as interest rates rise. Not that you'd know it from what your bank is offering you (surprising no one, banks have kept depositor rates near 0% despite receiving higher interest payments themselves from the Federal Reserve).

But holding your cash in short-term T-Bills (durations of less than 1 year) through a program like TreasuryDirect is now returning yields of close to 1.5%. That's 25-50 times(!) more than what the average bank savings account interest rate is right now.

Given this high relative payout and the extreme safety of Treasurys (the last financial instrument in the world likely to default, as the US will simply print the money to repay, if necessary), this strategy is a clear no-brainer for those with a material amount of cash.

Those looking to learn more about the TreasuryDirect program, including how to open an account there, can read this primer we created.

2) Prepare Your Action Plan

We have long been loud advocates of working with a professional financial advisor. Now, more than ever, you want to review your action plan with him/her.

If you have remaining long positions, battle test them. How do you expect them to perform in a bear market? If the market falls another 10% from here, what will be the expected impact to your overall portfolio? What if the market falls 25%?

Does hedging make sense as a risk management strategy for you? How about building up a short position with a minority percentage of your portfolio?

Now is the time to address and answer these questions, because if indeed a major correction is nigh, it very well may happen so fast you don't have time to act. (Just ask those holding Bitcoin in January how quickly 50% of your position can vaporize.)

As always, if you're having difficulty finding a firm willing or able to engage in the above with you, consider scheduling a free consultation with Peak Prosperity's endorsed financial advisor.

Also, folks frequently underestimate the effort and time it takes to set up accounts, get funds transferred, etc. Don't set yourself up for the frustration and disappointment of delays should you wait until the midst of a market melt-down to get all this in place. The market may be moving so fast at that point as to make your efforts moot. (Again, talk to the crypto crowd here about their challenges funding accounts and trading through the exchanges last month.) 

Instead, get everything set up and prepared now. You don't need to necessarily transfer any funds at this point. But do yourself the service of getting all the administrative hurdles behind you today.

3) Track The Risks & Opportunities Closely

As we've warned for years, we've been living through The Mother Of All Financial Bubbles. When it bursts, the damage is going to be truly horrific.

The ride down in the markets is going to be painful and scary. There are going to be many knock-on effects that are impossible to forecast with precision -- or even to identify -- right now. What will happen with housing, jobs, pensions, entitlement programs, social services, the banking system? All could be impacted.

To what degree? We don't know at this point. Which is why tracking developments in real-time and assessing their likely impacts will be critical.

Similarly, in crisis there is opportunity. There will be speculative opportunities that present themselves during a melt-down (e.g., shorting mortgage insurers during the 2008 crash). And one markets find their bottom and stabilize, there will be the chance to invest in quality assets at fire-sale values compare to today's prices.

Know when to deploy your dry powder, and what to deploy it into, will be key.

We'll be doing our best here at PeakProsperity.com every week to offer essential insights to help you stay well-informed and on top of these fast-moving events.

To that mission, we're swiftly assembled a webinar on this coming Tuesday, February 13, 2018 at 8pm EST with Chris Martenson, Lance Roberts, Axel Merk and several other financial experts to provide in-depth context into the recent market plunge and their best assessment of what to expect from here in the near term. (To learn more about the webinar, click here)

Markets are warning us that even stormier seas lie ahead. Heed that warning, sailor, and hold fast!


On the radio program Monday, Glenn Beck, Stu Burguiere, and Pat Gray discussed the Trump defense team's arguments in the Senate impeachment trial against President Donald Trump.

"This is different than what the Democrats were doing," Glenn said of the Trump team's impeachment defense. "We know the case of the Democrats, they just kept going over and over and over, for three days, the same stuff. The Republicans, at least on Saturday, did not ... and I thought it was really, really good."

Glenn added, "The president's defense was very compelling."

Watch the videos below to hear Glenn's top takeaways from the president's defense team:

Part 1: Why the president's defense is 'very compelling'

Part 2: Top takeaways from president's impeachment defense

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Americans are getting crushed by healthcare costs. In 2018 alone, we spent $3.6 trillion on healthcare — that's more than $11,000 per American and nearly a fifth of the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It's on everyone's minds, which is why it has taken center stage in the Democratic party's primary. Of course, the solutions offered by the current crop of presidential candidates would do nothing to help alleviate that enormous spending. In fact, it would only add to it — what with Bernie Sanders' Medicare for All and Joe Biden's proposed ObamaCare expansion.

However, what also deserves attention in discussions about plans that increase the government's role in health care is how religious organizations would be affected. Faith-based hospitals and health care sharing ministries (HCSMs) play an important role in America, often serving as a critical provider and/or facilitator of payments for medical services in many states. If plans like Medicare for All were implemented, these groups would be at risk of going bankrupt or being severely curtailed due to the elimination of choice that comes with these proposals.

Instead of imposing a top-down and expensive health care system overhaul, faith-based providers and groups should be allowed to continue offering a variety of plans that work as high-quality, often cheaper alternatives. And more Americans should consider them.

Instead of imposing a top-down and expensive health care system overhaul, faith-based providers and groups should be allowed to continue offering a variety of plans that work as high-quality, often cheaper alternatives.

As mentioned, one such option is a health care sharing ministry. In this model, individuals contribute money into a pool managed by a religiously or ethically-affiliated organization, and costs for medical treatment are shared by people who adhere to that organization's belief system. Typically, applicants are required to sign a statement of faith in order to be accepted. It's basically like a subscription service: consumers pay a set amount of money into the ministry every month. Then, when they have a medical need or incident, they submit a claim to the ministry. Members whose claims are approved are reimbursed by the ministry from that pool of funds. Note, these ministries don't cover procedures they deem immoral.

Because providers are often getting paid in cash under this model — and typically within 90 days — patients are able to negotiate significant discounts, in some cases slicing procedures' costs to a fraction of the initial price. Insurance companies, by comparison, tend to not pay dollar for dollar on claims, and certainly not in cash. Additionally, insurance companies usually have onerous paperwork requirements, forcing doctors to spend half of their time on electronic health records and desk work. This increase in demand for administrative work is partly responsible for the United States leading the world in administrative costs in healthcare.

There are various types of HCSMs, each offering different benefits depending on what the individual needs — and a lot of savings on monthly plans. Take Christian Healthcare Ministries, for example. It's resulted in enormous savings for its members. Whereas the average healthcare plan can cost about $400 a month on the low end (with high deductibles), CHM plans can run between $78-172 a month for a single person. These kinds of plans are particularly great options for people who are relatively healthy and young, where the need for doctors and prescription drugs is less likely.

HCSMs have seen explosive growth in popularity recently. In 2014, there were only approximately 160,000 members. By 2018, membership ballooned to about 1 million HCSM members around the United States who have shared over $1 billion in medical expenses. But unfortunately, many people still feel locked into the traditional — and expensive — health care insurance model. HCSMs provide a way out, and, depending on their belief system, people should research them and see if there's one that best suit their needs. If more people deviate away from the traditional health care insurance market, insurance companies would be incentivized to adjust their pricing. That won't be possible, of course, if plans like Medicare for All are implemented.

Health care is one of life's biggest expenses, and voters are understandably desperate for a plan that cuts costs without compromising quality of care or access to it. Alternative options to health care insurance such as HCSMs are practical, free-market solutions that saves money. Americans should sift through these options before subscribing to plans that will only break the bank.

James Czerniawski is a Young Voices contributor. Follow him on Twitter @JamesCz19.

Bill O'Reilly: Adam Schiff is in 'wonderland' during the Senate impeachment trial

Image source: BlazeTV video screen save

On the "Glenn Beck Radio Program" Friday, Bill O'Reilly gave his latest take on the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, and explained why he thinks House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) is like "Alice in Wonderland."

Watch the video below to catch more of the conversation:

youtu.be


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Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) joined Glenn Beck on the radio program Friday to discuss the latest developments in the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.

According to Cruz, Thursday was a "very consequential day" in the otherwise tedious and redundant impeachment proceedings.

"Yesterday, the House managers effectively threw Joe Biden under the bus," Cruz said. "They doubled down on what they started doing on the first day of arguments, which was making their entire case ... based on the proposition that there was zero evidence to justify investigating Burisma [the Ukrainian natural gas company that paid then-Vice President Joe Biden's son, Hunter, $50,000 a month to sit on the board]."

Cruz went on to explain that every time the Democrats, namely House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), rehash the "zero-evidence" argument, they open the door for Republicans to present the overwhelming evidence that contradicts those claims.

"That proposition, that there's zero evidence to investigate Burisma, is utterly and completely absurd. So, I'm looking forward to Saturday when the president's lawyers will begin presenting his case. Because what the Democrats have done, is they have opened the door to this. And I hope the president's lawyers will stand up and systematically lay out the case," Cruz said.

"They've been arguing that Hunter Biden is completely irrelevant to this case. Well, the House managers have now, through their arguments, made Hunter Biden not only relevant — he was always relevant — but critical now," he continued. "They built the entire case, like a house of cards, on the proposition that there was no reasonable basis to investigate Burisma. And that's just absurd."

The two also discussed Cruz's new podcast, "Verdict with Ted Cruz," which he records with Daily Wire host Michael Knowles each night following the Senate trial.

"Last night's podcast went through systematically ... all of the overwhelming evidence of corruption from Burisma that any president, not only had the authority to investigate, but the responsibility to investigate," Cruz said. "And that, ultimately, is why President Trump is going to be acquitted at the end of this process."

Watch the video below for more details:

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Want more from Glenn Beck?

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