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  • Beer Crisis in California

    Wolf Richter

    I need to disclose upfront that I’m biased: I’m a beer lover. And I live in beer-paradise, the crazy state of California. Kicking back with a brewski from a local craft brewer, of which we have over 450, can make even the Fed’s capers less aggravating. But soon that beer-induced smile on my face may dry up.

    California’s enduring drought that has turned into a water crisis is hitting beer production. Turns out, to get one gallon of beer, breweries use about four to seven gallons of water in their processes, including rinsing of equipment, etc. And there isn’t enough water, or not enough of the right kind of water.

    California’s craft brewing industry is big. In 2012, according to the most recent data available from the California Craft Brewers Association, the industry contributed $4.7 billion to the economy and employed 44,000 people who earned $1.7 billion in wages. So maybe not the highest-paid jobs, at about 39k per year on average. But it’s a cool industry with hot sales.

    Overall, the beer industry in the US is sick. Total sales dropped 1.9% to 196.2 million barrels in 2013. Per-capita beer consumption has been dropping relentlessly since 1981, from 26 gallons per year to about 19 gallons. The statistics of a miserable industry.

    But craft brewers use Yankee ingenuity to create the best beers in the world. And people are buying them! In 2013, according to the Brewers Association, craft brew sales in the US jumped 17.2% to 15.3 million barrels, and exports soared 49%. The world is catching on to our beers!

    Of the stagnant $100 billion beer market in the US, craft brewers have conquered $14.3 billion, at the expense of industrial brewers and imports, giving them a market share in volume of 7.8% and in value of 14.3%. The difference between the two is largely due to the premium product.

    The just-released 2014 midyear production data for the January-June periods require a good swig of perhaps an amber for full appreciation of the flavor: they more than doubled in five years!


    That kind of growth, at the expense of industrial brewing companies and imports, is logical. The beer tastes awesome. The price, though higher, is fair. The product is genuinely American, brewed with the best, often American-grown hop. And breweries are popping up everywhere. Craft brewers range from tiny brewpubs that only sell to customers who walk through the door to California’s largest, Sierra Nevada. In 1975, there was just one of them in the US. By mid-2014, there were 3,040.

    That said, this number changes constantly and is most likely already wrong. Just because you know how to brew an awesome beer doesn’t mean you get to stick around. And others open their taps even while I’m writing this. Over those three decades, industrial breweries in the US shrank from 54 to 20, now mostly owned by foreign multinational corporations.

    This is not a business for the faint of heart! Note how the Great Recession decimated craft brewers. And note what has happened since:


    In the midst of this frothy expansion drive, with sales booming, and with the world watching in rapt attention what is transpiring in the US beer market, my crazy state of California, the state with the most craft brewers, has been hit by a devastating water shortage.

    “We are at the maximum growth threshold here in California because of water,” Leon Sharyon, CFO of Lagunitas Brewing Co, told the LA Times. Lagunitas, which makes one of my many favorite IPAs at its Petaluma brewery, less than an hour north of San Francisco, uses about 2 million gallons of water a year from the Russian River that has been reduced to a trickle.

    Solution for Lagunitas? Heresy! It expanded to … Chicago! Next to Lake Michigan, so that brewery won’t run out of water for a while. Sierra Nevada opened a brewery in Asheville, North Carolina, with plenty of water from the Smokey Mountains. Others are following the same strategy.

    California brewers are trying to conserve water in their processes. Sharyon told the Times that they’d reduced water consumption by 10% over the last two years. And they’re doing something risky: they’re watering down, so to speak, the water from the Russian River with well water. If the water crisis continues to get worse, water regulators might require them to switch to well water entirely.

    But there’s a hitch: the water from the Russian River is excellent for beer. Groundwater has an odd taste and is rich in minerals that impact the color and, God forbid, the flavor of my favorite brew.

    “Grainy and hoppy styles could taste more astringent,” Sharyon explained. The hoppiest of these hoppy styles? My favorite, the India Pale Ale (IPA). So the company spent some money on a filtration system, hoping to get rid of the odd tastes.

    Bear Republic in Cloverdale, a little over an hour north of San Francisco, also uses the Russian River for its water. But the water district capped it to 8 million gallons a year. “And that’s really affected our growth,” said Master Brewer Peter Kruger. They’d planned on growth of 35%, now cut to 15%.

    So Bear Republic is also watering down Russian River water with groundwater. It’s installing filtration systems, in the hope of getting rid of the odd flavors. And they’re thinking about opening a brewery somewhere else with a “more stable water supply,” Kruger said. But that too could mess up the taste of their brews.

    “Our river’s mineral content creates really excellent beer, and we are afraid of losing that,” he said. “We are praying it rains next winter.”

    Done that for three years, and it hasn’t worked.

    “If this drought continues for two, three more years, that could greatly impact the production and growth of our breweries,” lamented California Craft Brewers Association executive director Tom McCormick.

    Small brewers might be in trouble. They don’t always have the resources to invest in water-conserving equipment. And the water shortage might cut into their booming production. Cismontane Brewing in Rancho Santa Margarita, Southern California, produces only 3,000 barrels a year. Now the water district put in place a voluntary 20% reduction in water consumption, which soon might become mandatory.

    “Small brewers waste more water than the big guys because our equipment is less efficient,” said cofounder Evan Weinberg. Unless there’s “a big influx of water soon,” he and other small brewers will face “some serious issues.” They’ll have to pass the cost of water onto the beer lover. “Otherwise we will go out of business.”

    That’s the fate awaiting beer lovers in the crazy state of California. Your favorite brew might get more expensive, though the price increases will be laundered from the CPI via the government’s inflation reduction machine, called hedonic regression. Its original water is going to be watered down with groundwater. Or it’s brewed in another state. Some of it might go away altogether. And what we have on our hands is a full-blown beer crisis.

    Everything is rigged, we found out: stock markets, Forex, interest rates, gold, silver, oil…. After battling that rigged world all day, you finally get to take that first big gulp of beer to heal the wounds, knowing that it’s the one thing that hasn’t been rigged against you. Or so you’d think. Read….Turns Out, Even The Price of Beer Is Rigged

  • Tesla's Non-GAAP Quarter In Three Gigacharts (Added Free Option: GAAP Charts)

    Yes, yes, we know: soon everyone will be driving a Tesla, and, perhaps, sooner Tesla will build its much-hyped, and so critical for its business model Gigafactory (although shouldn't it be non-GIGA to go with non-GAAP... about which it had this to say: "In June, we broke ground just outside Reno, Nevada on a site that could potentially be the location for the Gigafactory. Consistent with our strategy to identify and break ground on multiple sites, we continue to evaluate other locations in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas."). In the meantime, and just as the biggest wealth effect-creating (for the 0.1%) stock market of all time appears to be ending, here is Tesla's quarter, and last few years, in three gigacharts.

    Revenue: GAAP vs non-GAAP.

    EPS: GAAP vs non-GAAP.

    And most importantly, Free Cash Flow. There is only one type of these. And at this cash burn rate, Morgan Stanley will have to upgrade TSLA soon for another convertible offering.

  • Phil Davis on Money Talk

    Phil Davis of Phil's Stock World talks about the stock market, his expectations for the near future, and how he protects his portfolio from selloffs. Phil also outlines some option trade ideas. 

    Click here to watch Phil's interview on Money Talk with host Kim Parlee of Business News Network. 

    Here are some photographic summaries of a couple option trade ideas. 



    [To receive many of Phil's option trade ideas, become a Phil's Stock World member, free.]

  • "Markets In Turmoil" Russell 2000 Plunges Most In Over 2 Years, Dow Down For 2014

    The deer is back...


    Stocks finally snapped and caught down to high-yield credit's warnings. The worst day for the Dow in 6 months, smashing through its 50- and 100-day moving-average. The Russell 2000 was worst on the day to end July down over 6% - its worst month since May 2012. The S&P's had almost its worst day in 6 months. Trannies dropped 3.4% on the week - the worst in 11 months. Stocks closed at the day's lows.



    The week



    Stocks finally caught down to credit's warnings...


    Dow's worst day in 6 months...


    All major US equity indices close lower in July... The Russell 2000's worst month since May 2012


    Builders are worst but Discretionary and Staples are now red YTD...


    Amid all the carnage in stocks, Treasury yields closed +/-1bps (long-end higher in yield, short-end lower)...


    The USD was flat...


    Commodity markets were clubbed as we suspect EU closing margin calls (and then US margin calls) hit them... WTI dropped below $98!!



    Year-to-date, gold and bonds continue to lead, HY lags...


    So to sum up - carnage in stocks... USD flat, bonds flat... Oil monkey-hammered and PMs dumped.

    Charts: Bloomberg

  • 21 Ways To End The Phrase "Americans Are So Broke..."

    Submitted by Michael Snyder of The Economic Collapse blog,

    Did you know that 77 million Americans have unpaid debts that are "in collections" and that Congress is actually thinking about letting post offices offer payday loans?  We live in a country where almost everyone is drowning in debt and where most people are either flat broke or very close to flat broke.  Years ago, "your Mama is so broke" jokes were all the rage, and at the rate we are going they could make a big comeback.  Some of my favorites were "your Mama is so broke she went to McDonald's and put a milkshake on layaway" and "your Mama is so broke your family ate cereal with a fork to save milk".  Unfortunately, the facts that I am about to share with you are not funny at all.  In fact, they are quite sobering.  Yes, things are going fairly well for the elitists that live in the good areas of New York City, Washington D.C. and San Francisco right now, but most of the country is deeply struggling as our economic fundamentals continue to crumble.

    Please share these numbers with as many people as you can, because we need people to understand that there has not been an "economic recovery" for most of America.  In fact, in many ways things just continue to get even worse.  The following are 21 ways to end the phrase "Americans are so broke"...

    1. Americans are so broke that about a third of them have debt collectors on their heels.  One recent study discovered that more than one out of every three adults in the United States has an unpaid debt that is "in collections".  That is a total of 77 million people.  In other words, the debt collection business in America is absolutely booming.

    2. Americans are so broke that Congress is now actually considering allowing post offices to provide payday loans and check cashing services.

    3. Americans are so broke that they are keeping their vehicles longer than ever.  The average age of vehicles on America’s roads recently set a new all-time high of 11.4 years.

    4. Americans are so broke that car dealers are having to go to extreme lengths to get new customers.  Last year, one out of every four auto loans in the United States was made to someone with subprime credit.

    5. Americans are so broke that 52 percent of them cannot even afford the homes that they are living in right now.

    6. Americans are so broke that they are falling farther behind on their student loans than ever.  The total amount of student loan debt in the U.S. has now reached a whopping 1.2 trillion dollars, and approximately seven million Americans are in default on their student loans at this point.

    7. Young Americans are so broke that half of all college graduates are still relying on their parents financially when they are two years out of school.

    8. Young Americans are so broke that only 36 percent of American adults under the age of 35 currently own a home.  That is the lowest level that has ever been recorded.

    9. Americans are so broke that many of them can't even afford to shop at Wal-Mart and dollar stores anymore...

    Discount stores are slowly dying.


    Yesterday, Dollar Tree announced it would buy Family Dollar, a chain that is in the process of closing hundreds of stores and firing workers.


    Other discount stores have been struggling as well, writes Heidi Moore at The Guardian. Fashion discounter Loehmann's filed for bankruptcy, while Wal-Mart's sales have declined for the past five quarters.


    "There’s just not enough money deployed by American families to keep all the discount chains in business," Moore writes.

    10. Americans are so broke that they are running up record levels of debt.  Overall, U.S. households are 11.68 trillion dollars in debt right now.

    11. Americans are so broke that the wealth of the "typical American household" has fallen by 36 percent over the past decade.

    12. Americans are so broke that one out of every four part-time workers in America is living below the poverty line.

    13. Americans are so broke that more than 37 million Americans are now being served by food pantries and soup kitchens.

    14. Americans are so broke that there are 49 million Americans that are dealing with food insecurity.

    15. Americans are so broke that the number of people on food stamps has increased by about 14 million while Obama has been in the White House.  Ten years ago, the number of women in the U.S. that had jobs outnumbered the number of women in the U.S. on food stamps by more than a 2 to 1 margin.  But now the number of women in the U.S. on food stamps actually exceeds the number of women that have jobs.

    16. Americans are so broke that the U.S. government has had to spend an astounding 3.7 trillion dollars on welfare programs over the past five years.

    17. Americans are so broke that more than 20 percent of all children in the U.S. are living in poverty.

    18. Americans are so broke that we have a record number of kids sleeping in the streets.  In fact, we have more than a million public school children that are homeless at this point.

    19. Americans are so broke that 76 percent of all Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.

    20. Americans are so broke that 26 percent of Americans have absolutely no emergency savings whatsoever.

    21. Americans are so broke that approximately two-thirds of all Americans do not have enough money saved up to cover six months of expenses if an emergency arose.

    If things are this bad now, during the so-called "economic recovery", how bad will things get during the next major economic downturn?

    Unfortunately, most Americans have been lulled into a false sense of security.  The financial crisis of 2008 seems like ancient history to most of them now, and most people appear to believe that our leaders have "fixed" whatever was wrong the last time.

    Of course that is not the case at all.  In fact, our long-term problems have just continued to grow since then.

    The truth is that what we are experiencing right now is about as good as things are going to get for the U.S. economy.  When the next crisis arrives, all of the numbers in the list above are going to rapidly get a lot worse.

    So enjoy the rest of this "bubble" while you still can.  It certainly will not last for too much longer.

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