July Trade Deficit Better Than Expected, But Excluding Oil Remains Near Record High

After several months of disappointing trade data which dragged on GDP for the past two quarters, the July trade balance finally was a welcome beat of already low expectations, printing at a deficit of $40.5, better than the $42.4 billion expected, and an improvement from the downward revised deficit of $40.8 billion in July. The deficit declined as exports increased more than imports. The goods deficit decreased $0.2 billion from June to $60.2 billion in July; the services surplus was nearly unchanged from June at $19.6 billion. And yet, even as the deficit contracted, the trade balance excluding the shale revolution, has almost never been worse.

ADP Private Payrolls Miss, Add Only 204K Private Jobs, Lowest Since March

In what will hardly be a good sign for tomorrow's "critical" non-farm payrolls report, moments ago ADP reported that in August only 204K private payrolls were created in the US economy, below the downward revised 212K in July, and below the consensus estimate of 220K. The good news, as Carlos Rodriguez, president and chief executive officer of ADP said, is that "August marks the fifth straight month of employment gains above 200,000, continuing an encouraging trend for the U.S. labor market.” Just barely. The bad news: this was the lowest ADP print since March, and hardly the "lift off"  trend that many were expecting. Notably, the June 281K jobs print was revised even higher to 297K the highest in years and makes one wonder how much forward demand was pulled back into Q2 as a result of abnormally easy credit conditions and generous government spending.

In Shocking Move, ECB Cuts By 10 Bps, Sends Deposit Rate Further Into Negative Territory

While everyone was expecting Mario Draghi to announce ABS purchases, few if any had expected the ECB to also cut rates. Which it just did whacking its corridor rates across the board by 10 bps, in the process sending the Deposit Facility rate even further into negative territory, now down at -0.2%.

  • The interest rate on the main refinancing operations of the Eurosystem will be decreased by 10 basis points to 0.05%, starting from the operation to be settled on 10 September 2014.
  • The interest rate on the marginal lending facility will be decreased by 10 basis points to 0.30%, with effect from 10 September 2014.
  • The interest rate on the deposit facility will be decreased by 10 basis points to -0.20%, with effect from 10 September 2014.

Frontrunning: September 4

  • Global stocks bounce on sign ECB could launch ABS program (Reuters)
  • Putin unveils Ukraine ceasefire plan, France halts warship (Reuters)
  • Poroshenko Flummoxes Investors With About-Face on Truce (BBG)
  • No Free Lunch for Companies as IRS Weighs Meal Tax Rules (BBG)
  • Turkey Struggles to Halt Islamic State 'Jihadist Highway' (WSJ)
  • Lego Becomes World's Largest Toy Maker on Movie Success (WSJ)
  • U.N. says $600 million needed to tackle Ebola as deaths top 1,900 (Reuters)
  • Goldman Sachs Named 'Stabilization Agent' for Alibaba Stock Offering (WSJ)

Equity/Bond Markets At Overnight Highs On Hopes Of More ECB Stimulus; Geopolitics On Back Burner

Even as the NATO summit began hours ago in Wales, conveniently enough (for Obama) at the venue of the 2010 Ryder Cup, so far today geopolitics has taken a backseat to the biggest event of the day - the ECB's much hyped and anticipated announcement. So anticipated in fact that even as it has been priced in for the past month, especially by BlackRock which is already calculating the Christmas bonus on its "consultancy" in implementing the ECB's ABS purchasing program and manifesting itself in record low yields across Europe's bond market, Reuters decided to milk it some more moments ago with the following blast: "Plans to launch an asset-backed securities (ABS) and covered bond purchase programme worth up to 500 billion euros are on the table at Thursday's European Central Bank policy meeting..." The notable being the size of the program, which at €500 billion, is precisely what Deutsche Bank said a week ago the size of the ABS program would be. Almost as if the bank with the world's biggest derivative exposure is helping coordinate the "Private QE"...

Icahn, Soros, Druckenmiller, And Now Zell: The Billionaires Are All Quietly Preparing For The Plunge

"The stock market is at an all-time, but economic activity is not at an all-time," explains billionaire investor Sam Zell adding that "I don't remember any time in my career where there have been as many wildcards floating out there that have the potential to be very significant and alter people's thinking." Zell concludes that "this is the first time I ever remember where having cash isn't such a terrible thing." Zell's calls should not be shocking following Soros. Druckenmiller, and Icahn's warnings that there is trouble ahead.

Unions Are Not Capitalism

Labor unions are a dying breed. According to the Pew Research Center, union membership in America “is at its lowest level since the Great Depression.” In 1983, there were approximately 17.7 million union workers. Today, that number stands at 14.5 million, with every estimate showing a continued downward trajectory. Clearly, the Norma Raes of the world are going extinct. But as Samuel Johnson quipped, one should never dismiss the triumph of hope over experience. With economic growth still staggering, the decline of union membership can’t come soon enough. Freed from the demands of overpaid bargainers, innovation and productivity inevitably rise. Increasing numbers of Americans are migrating to states with less strenuous union laws. When given a choice, workers go where the money is; not where there’s tough talk about bargaining rights. Ayn Rand had unions pegged best when she declared their purpose has never been to empower the average worker. “Unions and trade associations,” she wrote, “are not directed against employers or the public but against the best among their own members.” The goal has never been about “raising the weak in any way whatever, but simply forcing the strong down to the level of the moron.”

30 Million Americans On Antidepressants And 21 Other Facts About America's Endless Pharmaceutical Nightmare

Has there ever been a nation more hooked on drugs than the United States? And we are not just talking about illegal drugs – the truth is that the number of Americans addicted to legal drugs is far greater than the number of Americans addicted to illegal drugs. They trusted that their doctors would never prescribe something for them that would be harmful, and they trusted that the federal government would never approve any drugs that were not safe. And once the drug companies get you hooked, they often have you for life. Very powerful people will often do some really crazy things when there are hundreds of billions of dollars at stake. The following are 22 facts about America’s endless pharmaceutical nightmare that everyone should know...

The Death Knell Of The European Union (In 1 Chart)

How many times in the last few years have you (or any of Europe's less-than-core leaders) said to yourselves- "EU, what's the point?" All this ceding of sovereignty, centralization of power, relinquishment of decision-making; and for what? The answer - of course - free-er trade, a customs union enabling cross-border trade to flourish and in the great economics textbooks of the world for each member state to do what they do best (German VWs and Greek yogurt?) and maximally profit from that. That all sounds wunderbar in practice... except this rather uncomfortable truth-seeking chart shows that the last decade has seen an accelerating decline in intra-European-Union trade, especially in the last 4 years - to levels that are now below those pre-EU. So, once again, "what's the point?"

"God of Crude Oil Trading" Goes All In On Crude At $150 Bet

Andy Hall - known as the God of Crude Oil Trading to some of his peers - has, according to Bloomberg, built his success on a simple creed: Everyone who disagrees with him is wrong. He was one of the few traders who anticipated both the run-up in and the eventual crash of oil prices in 2008. Hall has made billions for the companies for which he’s traded by placing one aggressive bet after another; and now, he is all-in again. Hall is going all in on a bet that the shale-oil boom will play out far sooner than many analysts expect, resulting in a steady increase in prices to as much as $150 a barrel in five years or less. As one industry CEO warned, "anybody who bets against Andy Hall might be making a poor bet."

145 Years Of Japanese "Growth" And Inflation

Well into the second year of Abenomics, doubts have risen about the effectiveness of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s approach of boosting economic growth and overcoming deflation via “three arrows” of monetary, fiscal, and structural policy. Yet another set of disappointing data recently released for July has reinforced these doubts. As several key turning points approach before year-end, whether Abenomics will succeed or stumble is at the forefront of most traders' minds (whether they understand that or not). In the interest of some context for just how far Japan has fallen, we present 145 years of growth and XX-flation for the Japanese economy... one might argue that 'lost decade' or two is generous...

Is This Why Obama Is Rushing To This Week's NATO Summit?

As is well-known, tomorrow, September 4, a NATO summit begins in Wales to discuss and coordinate the western response to ongoing "Russian intervention" in Ukraine (not to be confused by US intervention in Ukraine meant to remove an standing, democratically-elected president), a summit for which Barack Obama has demonstrated impressive enthusiasm following his blitz tour of Europe, a continent reeling on the edge of a recessionary abyss courtesy of the "costs" Obama has imposed on Germany Russia in the aftermath of the Victoria Nuland-instituted local Kiev government. Perhaps it has something to do with this...

"A Printer And A Prayer" - The Three Problems With The Fed "Liquidity Coverage Ratio" Plan

Today we learned that as part of the domestic "macroprudential" effort to ensure firms don't run out of cash in a crisis, the so-called Liquidity Coverage Ratio, US regulators said banks likely will have to raise an additional $100 billion to satisfy the new requirement, the WSJ reported. The disclosure is part of the final draft of the so-called Liquidity Coverage Ratio, released by the Fed earlier today, and which was promptly passed on a 5-0 vote Wednesday that will subject big U.S. banks for the first time to so-called "liquidity" requirements. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the Treasury Department's Office of the Comptroller of the Currency adopted the rules later in the day.  On the surface, this is all great macroprudential news: forcing banks to hold even more "high quality collateral" is a great idea, to minimize the amount of money taxpayers will have to fork over when the system crashes once again as it certainly will thanks to the unprecedented Fed micromanaging interventions over the past6 years. There are just three problems...

The "Other" Immigration Problem

When Americans talk about immigration, they picture those they want to keep out: undocumented people sneaking across the southern border. But, as Bloomberg's Kathleen Hunter reports, when U.S. businesses talk about immigration, they picture people they’d like to bring in: ones with science, math or technology skills, notable artists or those willing to pick tomatoes. The U.S. wants these immigrants. The 'other' immigration problem, then, is in deciding who and how many should be admitted.

Scotiabank Expects A Dovish Draghi, But Markets Will Be Disappointed

Draghi is a savvy political operator. He is fully aware of the limitations and consequences of a sovereign debt QE program. He knows that a central bank’s willingness to purchase a country’s debt (in ‘whatever –it-takes’ quantities), basically places an implicit cap on the price of a country’s funding. Such a program rids a government of fiscal discipline, while simultaneously eliminating the spikes in yields that would normally result. Complacency or fiscal stalemate ensues; enabled specifically by monetary actions. We expect Draghi to be dovish on Thursday, but it likely too presumptuous to expect any new measures.

Home Sweet Drone - Apple's New Global HQ Unveiled

Thanks to the ingenious combination of a camera and a drone, also known as a GoPro Camera-on-a-drone, we have the first aerial footage of Apple's new $5bn spaceship-shaped global headquarters in Cupertino, known imaginatively as Apple Campus 2...

Presenting The Worst-Capitalized Central Bank In The West (Hint: Not The Fed)

Canada is seen as the new banking safe haven and an “island of safety and stability” because of its perceived sound fiscal position, commodity wealth and solid economic performance. Now, anytime we see central bankers slapping each other on the back, we're going to be skeptical. As it turns out, Banque du Canada is actually the most pitifully capitalized central bank in the western world. They’re in such bad shape they actually make the Fed look healthy. Hong Kong’s Monetary Authority Exchange Fund is a good example of a strong balance sheet; their latest figures as of 30 June show a whopping capital reserve equal to nearly 22% of total assets. This is a massive margin of safety for the central bank. The US Federal Reserve, on the other hand, shows a capital reserve of just 1.27%. And Canada? A tiny 0.47%... as in less than one half of one percent. This isn’t safety and stability. It’s a rounding error.

"Deflation In Europe Is Just Beginning"... And How To Trade It

Zero inflation is like death penalty to debt-laden countries. It has been estimated that Italy would need a primary surplus of ~8% if it wanted to stabilize its debt/GDP at zero inflation, which means just stopping it from moving even higher. Spain would need a primary surplus of 2%+, instead of current negative 1.44%. Which means more austerity and more contractionary policies, to cause more internal devaluation than it is currently the case, more declines in unit labor costs, more salary cuts, more unemployment, less consumer spending, less corporate investments.... Incidentally, we have for European assets and the ECB the same feeling we have for Japan and the BoJ. Abenomics has a high chance of failure, in the long term. Nevertheless, on the road to perdition, chances are that efforts will be stepped up and more bullets shot in an attempt to avert the end game. As stakes are raised, financial assets will be supported and melt-up in bubble territory, doing so at the expenses of a more turbulent end-game in the years ahead.