Anyone who spends any amount of time on the internet has seen them. They are the moonbats, the wingnuts, the whackjobs, the Conspiratorialists. They are America’s new Lunatic Fringe, and their numbers are growing. To the uninitiated this all seems rather humorous, albeit slightly unsettling. It would be both wrong and unwise just to slough it off as the ramblings of the insane. The reason such beliefs are gaining favor is because many Americans have lost faith and lost trust in the government and in America’s elected leadership. Given what has happened over the last decade, this is not only understandable, it is even, in an odd way, reasonable. A continual drift to the fringe can be expected because of the many very real things that make the foolish things suddenly more believable. The American people are well aware they have been lied to by the leadership. They know that a lobbyist has an infinitely greater chance of getting his way than an entire nation of voters. When trust is gone, everything becomes an affront, a conspiracy, a power grab by the elite.
Nobody ever really wins at Thumb Wars, which makes the whole thing rather pointless; and, as it turns out, the same can be said about the subject of Grant Williams discussions in this week's 'Things That Make You Go Hmmm...' - Currency Wars - which seem to be erupting across the globe. There are many parts of the current financial equation that puzzle us; but beneath it all, at the wellspring of all the disconnects and false price signals that are making investing in today’s supposedly free markets an impossible task, lies the source of my greatest consternation: central banks. I have one simple question for those august institutions, and it is this: Do they really think it is possible for them all to devalue their currencies against each other simultaneously and achieve anything but rampant and universal inflation at some future point in time? There are 38 countries with negative or near-zero real rates,and/or have either had explicit QE programs in place or were actively intervening in or verbally manipulating their currencies. Now, does it seem remotely possible that all these countries can have weak currencies at the same time? Of course it isn't possible. Not without rampant inflation, it isn't.
In just under 30 minutes, contrarian libertarians Peter Schiff and Doug Casey muse on many facets of the crumbling edifice of the status quo that is our current world. The conversation is wide-ranging and absolutely must-see as they remind market-watchers that "the whole thing is artificial." You can't just keep printing money and monetizing debt without the dollar imploding even with monetary policy descending (along with its trillion dollar coin) into 'Three Stooges'-like comedy. The conversation ranges from gold heading to $5,000 and beyond (and why) to Schiff's father's imprisonment but ends with a discussion of what the future brings: "the biggest change that is coming to the global economy is a realignment of global living standards," and that will not play well for the USA. It's hump-day, grab a beer and watch...
"History is replete with examples of societies whose downfalls were related to or caused by the destruction of money. The end of this phase of global financial history will likely erupt suddenly. It will take almost everyone by surprise, and then it may grind a great deal of capital and societal cohesion into dust and pain. We wish more global leaders understood the value of sound economic policy, the necessity of sound money, and the difference between governmental actions that enable growth and economic stability and those that risk abject ruin. Unfortunately, it appears that few leaders do."
- Paul Singer, Elliott Management
Since the peak in 2008, the Dow Transports and the price of crude oil has been extremely highly correlated. Whether this is due to the inextricable factor of central bank liquidity flushing 'money' into each and every market around the world - or an increase in the link between demand for energy and increasing transportation needs - it seems something has recently changed. Oil prices have been stymied in the last year as global growth slowed and in spite of a plethora of hot-spots for geo-political risk flares has been unable to see premia rise. On the other hand, the Dow Transports have screamed higher. Different this time? It would appear so... or is this a return to the anti-correlated (somewhat more sensible) energy-cost-to-transports world that existed before the crisis?
Following today's dismal GDP print, the massive ongoing borrowing being undertaken by our government, and the Bernankian policies which appear inescapable (and entirely ineffective for anything but the market), we thought Ken Rogoff's recent op-ed from the FT was extremely appropriate. Many foreign observers look at the US budget shenanigans with confusion and dismay, wondering how a country that seems to have it all can manage its fiscal affairs so chaotically. The root problem is not just a hugely elevated level of public debt, or a patently unsustainable trajectory for old age entitlements. It is an electorate deeply divided over the direction of government, with differences compounded by changing demographics and sustained sluggish growth. It is hard to escape the notion that today’s budget battles are but a skirmish in a much longer-term war that won’t be settled soon. The idea that one should just ignore all these problems and apply crude Keynesian stimulus is a dangerous one. It matters a great deal how the government taxes and spends, not just how much. The US debt level is a constraint.
Today we look at long term charts of some key commodities and investigate means by which we might gain insight into the dynamics of their price movements. The charts are most commonly studied as a plot of price vs time. However, the dynamical evolution of a complex system is described by a succession of states through which the system has evolved. Even though gold and silver have been in a bull market for over ten years, the real regime change only happened about three years ago. What was evident was the separation of the precious metals (which still includes silver) from the industrial metals and agricultural commodities. What happened?
Over two years ago (and reiterated last year) Zero Hedge first wrote on what was and is an undisputed transition within the US labor force: a shift from full-time to temp, or part-time labor, with virtually no contractual or welfare benefits, and where workers are lucky to get minimum wage. This is because in the "New Normal" where copious amounts of structural slack are pervasive due precisely to the Fed's constant flawed micromanagement of the economy, the US has now become an "employers' market." Furthermore, we were the first to make the critical distinction that it is absolutely not all about the quantity of jobs, but much more importantly, the quality of the new jobs being created. However, just like 99% of the general public, and all of the mainstream media, has an inborn genetic disorder preventing it from grasping the distinction between nominal and real, so these two critical aspects of the US jobs market languished unperturbed. Until now, two years later, when we are happy to see that the mainstream media has finally caught up with what our readers knew in December 2010.
We noted yesterday the growing disconnect between stocks and credit - today saw stocks start to play catch-down. High-yield credit (specifically HYG - the bond ETF) has fallen four days in a row - its biggest four day plunge in over 2 months (with today's drop the biggest single-day drop in almost 4 months) amid mega volume. VIX (another notable disconnect) continued to push higher (above 14% for the first time in 3 weeks). Treasuries had been leaking higher in yield on the week (30Y +8bps as FOMC hit) but slid lower as the post-FOMC day wore on. The USD weakness (led by significant strength in CHF and EUR) supported precious metals (and commodities broadly) but not stocks. Silver are up almost 3% on the week (and Gold outperforming USD's implied shift). Homebuilders faded from the open with all the QE-sensitive sectors (Materials, Energy, and Discretionary) all red on the week now. It would appear that bonds recoupling (higher in yield) with stocks was the end of the catalyst for this run higher for now as divergences are appearing everywhere. S&P futures end the day red on the week, on large average trade size and volume.
While some would look at the surge in government spending in Q3 last year (ahead of the election) and subsequent plunge in Q4 as conspiratorial, CNBC's Rick Santelli takes a step slightly further back as he draws the analogy between the mystical monetary experimentation of Ben Bernanke and his horde of central bank cronies and the "bloodletting of leeching" of medieval medicine providers. The point being that if you were sick in the middle ages, leeches were applied; and if you returned weeks later (still sick), more leeches and blood-letting took place - with no lesson learned. The fact that we borrowed $300bn in Q4 and managed a dismally dire drop in GDP growth offers little hope as the world glares agog at the Dow Jones Industrial Average index while Bernanke, six years on from the start of the recession continues to apply the same medicine that has done nothing to resurrect our economy. In Rick's words, "Whatever you're doing; It isn't working!" and in fact the monetary support could potentially hurt the economy in the medium-term as debt piles up exponentially. An epic rant...
In what was the first clear instance of aggression by Israel toward Syria, overnight Israeli jets conducted a bombing run over a military site in Syria, targeting what according to Israel was a military convoy heading to Lebanon. As Al Arabiya reports: "Israeli jets bombed a convoy on Syria's border with Lebanon on Wednesday, sources told Reuters, apparently targeting weapons destined for Hezbollah in what some called a warning to Damascus not to arm Israel's Lebanese enemy. "The target was a truck loaded with weapons, heading from Syria to Lebanon," said one Western diplomat, adding that the consignment may well have included anti-aircraft missiles. The overnight attack, which several sources placed on the Syrian side of the border, followed warnings from Israel that it was ready to act to prevent the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad leading to Syria's chemical weapons and modern rockets reaching either his Hezbollah allies or his Islamist enemies."
Out of the gate, Treasury yields dropped 4bps, Gold rallied $5, Oil popped, and Stocks leaked lower. But 30 minutes after the main-event, it seems that initial excitement has worn off. Gold has reverted (down) and Treasury yields (up) though we note that though it is marginal at best, S&P 500 futures are testing the day-session lows still (down 2-3 points). It would appear that infinity is still a big number and suggesting that they will add moar to infinity has done little to change what is priced in. The most notable change (we can see) is in JPY weakness and Oil strength so far... though stocks are leaking once again
In a slight surprise, the FOMC appears to have seen the recent weakness in macro data as supportive of its ongoing pumpathon even suggesting more is possible:
- *FED SAYS GLOBAL MARKET STRAINS EASED
- *FED SAYS ECONOMY PAUSED DUE TO WEATHER, TRANSITORY ISSUES
- *FED SAYS ECONOMIC ACTIVITY `PAUSED IN RECENT MONTHS'
- *GEORGE DISSENTS FROM FOMC DECISION
Pre-FOMC: ES 1502.5, 10Y 2.025%, Crude $97.75, Gold $1678, EUR 1.3570