Posts by Aaron Task

  • 'A national embarrassment': U.S. infrastructure suffers from bipartisan failure

    Aaron Task at Yahoo Finance 3 days ago

    It's an old story that doesn't seem to ever have a different ending: America's infrastructure is crumbling and nobody in Washington seems to care or have the political will to do something about it. The U.S. received a cumulative grade of 'D+' in the American Society of Civil Engineers' 2013 Report Card on America's Infrastructure, which estimates $3.6 trillion of investment is needed by 2020. "We know that investing in infrastructure is essential to support healthy, vibrant communities," the ASCE wrote in its executive summary. "Infrastructure is also critical for long-term economic growth, increasing GDP, employment, household income, and exports. The reverse is also true – without prioritizing our nation’s infrastructure needs, deteriorating conditions can become a drag on the economy." Kudos to 60 Minutes for bringing renewed attention to the issue with its report on Sunday night. But 60 Minutes glossed over a few key issues on the topic of infrastructure, which Henry Blodget calls "a national embarassment" in the accompanying video.

  • Bill Ackman broke some cardinal rules of short-selling with Herbalife: Kass

    Aaron Task at Yahoo Finance 7 days ago

    It's not easy being green, as a famous frog once sang. It's also not easy being a short seller, especially in market that keeps hitting new records. But someone's got to do it and few have done it as well or formas long as Doug Kass of Seabreeze Partners.

    Kass is rare among short-sellers in that he's a public persona and discusses active short positions on television and in publications like Barron's and TheStreet.com's RealMoney Pro service. So when Kass came to Yahoo Finance this week to discuss his new book Doug Kass on the Market: A Life on The Street, I had to get his opinion about one of the most public short-selling events in recent memory: Bill Ackman's crusade against Herbalife.

    Related: Short seller Kass on market highs: I am waiting to pull the trigger 

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  • Warren Buffett is the world's greatest investor, but Doug Kass is still short Berkshire

    Aaron Task at Yahoo Finance 8 days ago

    At the 2013 Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting, aka "The Woodstock of Capitalism." tens of thousands gathered to show their devotion and affection for the company and its founder, Warren Buffett.

    But one invited guest came not to praise "the Oracle of Omaha" but to bury him -- at least rhetorically. Famed short-seller Doug Kass, managing partner of Seabreeze Partners, was invited by Buffett to play the role of "credentialed bear" and try to dissuade the crowd from owning Berkshire stock. It was a "professional highlight" Kass describes in his new book Doug Kass on the Market: A Life on The Street. 

    "I was kind of Daniel in the Lion's den," Kass explains in the accompanying video. "With 55,000 of [Buffett's] devotees...trying to stump him with original hard-hitting questions. But at the same time I wanted to be respectful because I worship at his investment altar."

    Aaron Task is Editor-in-Chief of Yahoo Finance. You can follow him on Twitter at @aarontask or email him at altask@yahoo.com.

  • Seeing 'trouble ahead' for stocks, but still making the bullish case

    Aaron Task at Yahoo Finance 9 days ago

    After a blockbuster end to October and strong start to November, stocks have hit a lull. The 'slow and sideways' trendresumed Monday, with the Dow (^DJI) and S&P 500 (^GSPC) trading near breakeven for most of the day before ending with meager gains. Monday marked the fifth-straigh trading day the S&P 500 moved less-than 0.1%, matching a record, and there wasn't a whole lot of action early Tuesday either.

  • "Putin keeps winning": How 'the Colder War' puts the American way of life at risk

    Aaron Task at Yahoo Finance 12 days ago

    The financial markets are going quietly into the weekend, fully ignoring the latest developments in Ukraine. Major averages were near unchanged in recent trading and even oil's rally Friday was being attributed to potential for OPEC production cuts vs. the influx of Russian troops and heavy equipment into Ukraine. "President Putin has clearly broken the [Sept. 5] truce agreement," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told Germany’s Bild newspaper but, thus far, traders don't seem to care -- perhaps pulling from the same playbook as earlier this year when Russia annexed Crimea. But "the problem is going to get worse and it is going to get bloodier," says Marin Katusa, chief energy strategist for Casey Research. "More importantly [Ukraine] is central to [Putin's] theme of not only making Europe more dependent on Russian oil and natural gas but at the same time he is also expanding his output of energy to countries like China so he’s got a double-pronged approach." In his new book, The Colder War, Katusa examines Putin's long-term strategy of returning Russia to global superpower status via strategic use of its primary weapon: Energy. "Putin keeps winning on his plan," he says. "He’s working together in concert with countries like China against U.S. interests worldwide."   While much of the U.S. media attention at this week's APEC summit was on the deal President Obama announced with China regarding greenhouse gas emissions -- over tech trade tariffs -- China's second major gas deal with Russia was far more important, Katusa says.

  • Inflation vs. Deflation: 'Wait, you're both right,' says John Mauldin

    Aaron Task at Yahoo Finance 13 days ago

    It's one of the great macroeconomic debates of our time: Is inflation already here or is the world getting sucked into a deflationary spiral? The answer is a resounding "Yes," according to John Mauldin, chairman of Mauldin Economics and president of Millennium Wave Advisors. The reason this is so contentious and confounding, he explains, is that "inflation" is ill defined and people end up comparing apples-to-oranges. Followers of Keynesian economics look at the general level of prices, while followers of the Austrian school of economics look at inflation in terms of money supply, Mauldin says in the accompanying video. In other words, inflation is in the eye of the beholder. In the Keynesian camp, which includes a lot of central bankers, "you're not finding very much" inflation these days, he says. Asked why many Yahoo Finance users and U.S. consumers believe otherwise, Mauldin says (essentially) that individual results may vary, i.e. if you have kids in college, you're definitely experiencing inflation. Tuition and fees at private nonprofit colleges rose 3.7% this academic year while costs for in-state tuition at public colleges rose 2.9%, according to the College Board. Both measures exceed the Fed's preferred inflation measure -- core Personal Consumption Expenditures -- which is up just 1.4% on a year-over-year basis. But someone with younger children is experiencing something different and the government (and the Fed) are really trying to view inflation in the broadest possible terms, Mauldin continues. To paraphrase Larry Summers: People are much more sensitive to prices of items that are rising vs. falling. Consider, for example, Paul Singer of the $25 billion hedge fund Elliot Management, who made headlines recently by warning about inflation or even hyperinflation. His evidence: "London, Manhattan, Aspen and East Hampton real estate prices, as well as high-end art prices," which have all risen by astronomical levels. Just this week, Christie’s set a record for an art auction, grossing nearly $853 million at their sale of modern art in New York.

  • China wins, U.S. loses at APEC

    Aaron Task at Yahoo Finance 16 days ago

    The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings continue today in Beijing, so the story isn't over yet, but it's increasingly looking like China is winning big at APEC at America's expense. Put another way: if APEC were last night's Monday Night Football game, China would be the Eagles and America the Panthers. Let's review the highlights: China and Russia expand their partnership: Gazprom, Russia's state-owned oil company, inked its second major gas deal with China this year. Separately, Russia's state run bank Sberbank secured about $2 billion in financing from Chinese lenders, which will help ease the pain of Western sanctions against Vladimir Putin's regime. The deals give Russia additional leverage with Europe, which is highly dependent on Russia's natural gas and helps China secure a major source of energy on favorable terms. President Obama's rhetoric about 'pivoting' toward China and the obvious tension between the U.S. and Putin's regime have helped push the Chinese and Russians closer in a classic "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" situation. Asia embraces China: "Leaders of Asia-Pacific economies agreed Tuesday to begin work toward possible adoption of a Chinese-backed free-trade pact, giving Beijing a victory in its push for a bigger role in managing global commerce," The AP reports. This is a victory for China and blow to the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership, which excludes China. Tear down these walls: The U.S. and China agreed to drop tariffs on about 200 different technologies, including semiconductor, medical tech equipment and GPS devices. South Korea inked a similar deal to remove tariffs on 90% of goods and Australia is expected to announce a similar agreement. Experts believe these deals could be a prelude to a major tariff-cutting agreement at the World Trade Organization meeting in Geneva next month. (This is arguably a "win" for the U.S. too; and Carolina scored 21 points vs. the Eagles.) State-sponsored capitalism: On the eve of the APEC summit, China announced the long-awaited Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect, which will allow foreign investors far greater access to Chinese companies listed in Shanghai. Separately, China's central bank engineered the biggest one-day rally in the renminbi in four years, effectively throwing a bone to its trade partners. Oh, and China is exhibiting its new stealth fighter at the Airshow China, which kicked off Tuesday in Zhuhai.   In sum, while America has talked about containing China's ambitions, enemies like Russia and regional allies alike -- including Japan -- are moving toward closer ties with the Middle Kingdom. This may be just a reflection of China's "home court advantage" at APEC and the undeniable reality of its place in the global economy and dominance in the region. As discussed in the accompanying video, China is also taking advantage of President Obama's weakened state in the wake of the drubbing his party suffered in last week's midterms. For all the talk about domestic U.S. politics, the impact of President Obama's falling political stature is very much a global story and one with potentially negative implications for Americans, regardless of political affiliation.

  • Gold bulls beware: 'More pain coming' before the metal finds a bottom

    Aaron Task at Yahoo Finance 17 days ago

    Updated from 11:28 a.m. EST

    "Make no mistake, there is likely more pain coming to the gold market before the final capitulation is turned in, and the plunge from the highs (around $1,900 per ounce) has to be taken into the context of the parabolic move from the secular lows ($250 per ounce)," writes Gluskin Scheff chief economist and strategist David Rosenberg, who predicts " sub-$900" gold based on "a classic 61.8%" Fibonacci reversal.

    Aaron Task is Editor-in-Chief of Yahoo Finance. You can follow him on Twitter at @aarontask or email him at altask@yahoo.com.

  • Don't expect oil to rally anytime soon but Dan Dicker still sees "super spike" coming

    Aaron Task at Yahoo Finance 21 days ago

    Oil prices rose Wednesday as data showed U.S. crude inventories rose less than expected last week. Reports that a Saudi oil pipeline caught fire during repairs also gave prices a boost amid speculation (since refuted) there may have been a terrorist attack on the pipeline. 

    Wednesday's gains are a reprieve from the seemingly relentless selling that has brought crude prices down more than 25% since June. On Tuesday, West Texas Intermediate hit a three-year low below $77 per barrel while Brent crude hit a four-year low at under $83. A combination of rising output and a slowing global economy have sent prices tumbling, with selling aided this week by Saudi Arabia’s decision to alter prices on oil sold to U.S. and Asian buyers.  

    "It's really hard to pick bottoms in these markets," says Dan Dicker, president at MercBloc and author of Oil's Endless Bid. "When money disappears from the oil trade, it takes a really long time to find its courage to come back in."

  • "The Tea Party has completely...ruined the Republican Party": Jon Huntsman Sr.

    Aaron Task at Yahoo Finance 23 days ago

    If the polls hold, 2014 should be a banner year for Republicans. But Jon Hunstman Sr., a self-described "lifelong Republican" and former special assistant to President Richard Nixon, is looking ahead with concern about the Grand Old Party's 2016 prospects.

    "The Tea Party has completely captivated and ruined the Republican Party today and they'll show this in 2016," says Hunstman, author of Barefoot to Billionaire. "Unless a Jeb Bush comes in or John Huntsman Jr., the Republicans don't have a prayer."

    Related: How the economy will win if Republicans sweep the midterms

    In addition to being the founder and executive chairman of the chemical company that bears his name, Huntsman is the father of Jon Huntsman Jr., the former Utah Governor and U.S. Ambassador to China who unsuccessfully sought the GOP nomination in 2012.