Three years ago, we noted the dumbification of America was accelerating as SAT scores hit record lows. It appears the need for the Derek Zoolander Center For Kids Who Can't Read Good And Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too has never been greater as Bloomberg reports that students in the high school class of 2015 turned in the lowest critical reading score on the SAT college entrance exam in more than 40 years, with all three sections declining from the previous year.
For years, many had mocked both European and US stress tests as futile exercises in boosting investor and public confidence, which instead of being taken seriously repeatedly failed to highlight failing banks such as Dexia, Bankia and all the Greek banks, in the process rendering the exercise a total farce. The implication of course, is that regulators, thus central bankers, openly lied to the public over and over just to preserve what little confidence in the system has left. Now we know that this is precisely the policy intent: as Reuters reports citing a paper co-authored by a Bundesbank economist, "banking supervisors should withhold some information when they publish stress test results to prevent both bank runs and excessive risk taking by lenders."
In other words: lie.
How did the world manage to go from one acute crisis to mutliple acute crises in the space of seven years despite trillions in central bank asset purchases, you ask? Here's the crisis contagion roadmap to help explain.
The US economy was not “decoupled” in the slightest during the expansion of the great global monetary boom that has now crested. Nor will it uncouple during the deflationary bust that must necessarily ensue. The ultimate worldwide hit to US exports is evident in the 20% drop in shipments to Brazil, and that’s just for starters because its economic depression is just getting underway. Likewise, the panicked flight of hot dollars from Brazil now besetting the global financial markets is only indicative of the turmoil to come as the massive “dollar short” unwinds on a global basis. So this is not a retest. We are in the midst of an unprecedented global deflation. A real live bear market is once again at hand.
The volatile sell-off in global equities from Thursday August 20th through Tuesday August 24th, alongside a relatively muted diversification benefit from fixed income, led many risk parity funds to suffer a sudden and sharp drawdown over the four-day period. The performance drawdown and subsequent spike in the volatility of risk parity funds likely triggered a significant deleveraging in their assets.
An assistant professor from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point recently declared that professionals critical of the “War on Terror” constitute a “treasonous” opposition that should be subject to military force.
The risk-off tide is rising, and sand castles of QE will only hold the tide back for a brief period of apparent calm.
WTI Crude oil prices are in total panic buying mode this morning as the algos are fully in charge once again. WTI is up 5% this morning in a straight line since US equity markets opened (and USO went vertical). What is most ironic is that Saudi Aramco just slashed prices for crude oil to everyone around the world.
By monetizing more than the entire Japanese budget deficit, the BOJ is running of out willing sellers. Without those, Japan's QE, just like that of the ECB, will grind to a halt. Better yet, this creates a vicious loop, because with every passing month, the inevitable D-Day when the BOJ has no more TSYs on the offer gets closer, which in turn will force those who bought stocks to sell in anticipation of the end of QE, and to seek the safety of bonds themsleves, in effect precipitating the next inevitable Japanese stock market crash.
Democrats are the happiest relative to Republicans in over 3 months according to Bloomberg's Consumer Comfort index. In fact, whether because the market is tumbling or The Donald is soaring, Republican 'comfort' is the lowest since Nov 2014 while Democrat 'comfort' remains relatively stable...
Markit's US Services PMI printed a healthy 56.1 for August, rising for the 2nd consecutive month, comfortably beating expectations and giving The Fed more ammo for a September hike. This rise was achieved despite the weakest rise in new work in 3 months. While Markit notes that this headline print suggest 'everything is awesome' it suggests the need for more stimulus just in case, as prices are falling. Following the dramatic spike in the July ISM Services to 10 year highs, it dropped back modestly, thanks to slide in New Orders, with an August print of 59.0 - still the highest since Nov 2005, again offering no excuse for The Fed to stay on hold.
"This is a dangerous time," warns Nobel laureate Bob Schiller as he warns of the false signal that typical P/E ratios are misleading and in fact his CAPE ratio (looking through the cycle) implies "fair value" for The Dow should trade around 11,000 and around 1300 for the S&P 500. "There is a risk of a substantial decline," he adds, warning that the recent rebound "maybe someone's good will effort to stabilize the market," and in fact the market's valuation is high now and people are over-exposed.
Draghi - we have a problem. They hoped, he came, they sold. US stocks and bonds knee-jerk rallied on the "expanding QE" promise from Draghi thi8s morning but all those gains have been erased now as USDJPY 'fun-durr-mentals' drag it lower. If not even the latest reduction in European economic forecasts can push stocks higher, we central banks may have a real problem on their hands.
Back in March, we mocked the ECB's inflation forecasts with a post titled "Mario Draghi Reveals Biggest. Hockeystick. Ever!", which highlighted the ECB's ridiculous expectation that inflation would soar from 0.0% in 2015 to 2016. We though no other hockeystick could possibly surpass this. We were wrong.