It seems like it was an eternity ago that Obama was doing his post-government shutdown gloating media tour, when day after day the world was bombarded with news of the GOP's record low popularity rating, paradoxically following their attempt to do what even the president is now desperate to achieve: delay Obamacare. Well, the tables have turned and now that the government shutdown is history, at least until January, and the public focus has shifted to where it should have been in the first place - namely the embarrassing ponzi scheme experiment that is Obamacare, and the epic failure surrounding its rushed rollout - it is Obama's turn to suffer a record low rating, which is precisely what happened according to a just concluded WSJ/NBC News poll.
Just when you think the Obama Administration can’t stoop any lower they immediately come in and surprise you.
Following Japan's scrambling of fighter jets for the 3rd day in a row, China has revealed that its first fleet of nuclear submarines has started sea patrols, in the latest sign of its military’s growing confidence which has raised concerns in the region. As The FT reports, Xinhua, China's official news agency, released photographs of what appeared to be Xia-class vessels – China’s first generation of nuclear-armed submarines, which are several decades old – saying they were being “declassified” for the first time, adding with supremely colorful language that, the subs would "gallop to the depths of the ocean, serving as mysterious forces igniting the sound of thunder in the deep sea", and be an "assassin’s mace that would make adversaries tremble".
When will the U.S. labor market start to accelerate? That is the single most critical question for global capital markets, for it speaks directly to both economic growth and Federal Reserve monetary policy. But, as ConvergEx's Nick Colas notes, just as important, however, is the question "Where do people actually want to work?" Nick's key conclusions: there is no evidence of any faster pace of hiring, and the trend of hiring part time labor over full time is both strong (a 3:1 ratio) and accelerating.
If one watches (or reads) any of the mainstream media, it might seem 'obvious' that Europe is doing well; it's recovering; and the crisis is over (almost over..). However, as Punk Economic's David McWilliams explains in this excellent overview of the European delusion and Merkel's dilemma, there is a "wedge" of unreality between the so-called "markets" and the reality of economic progress. From playing with Germany's money to moar bailouts, and from Merkel's enabling of Draghi's excess to the reality that nothing has changed across the European region, in under 9 minutes, McWilliams brief tour-de-force is a must-watch before you 'chase' more performance with the herd. McWilliams concludes, however, with a darker edge of the inevitable endgame of a "slow trudge" to federalization (and loss of sovereignty) that will likely see Nigel Farage (and many others) apoplectic.
The debut of Healthcare.gov has been probably the worst launch of a major website in history, millions of Americans are having their current health insurance policies canceled, millions of others are seeing the size of their health insurance premiums absolutely explode, and this new law is going to result in massive numbers of jobs being lost. It is almost as if Obamacare was specifically designed to wreck the U.S. economy. Americans are going to pay far more for health care, the quality of that care is going to go down, they are going to have to deal with far more medical red tape, and thousands upon thousands of U.S. employers are considering getting rid of the health plans that they offer to employees altogether due to Obamacare. If the U.S. health care system was a separate nation, it would be the 6th largest economy on the entire planet, and now Obamacare is going to absolutely cripple it. To say that Obamacare is an "economic catastrophe" would be a massive understatement. Of course we were assured that it wouldn't turn out this way.
The Bank of Japan's governor Kuroda proudly told the world "long-term yields are bound to rise at some point, but we can curb it when it happens," and on a grand scale - that is what they have done (for now). But market participants are growing increasingly concerned. As we have warned numerous times, the suppression of 'normal' volatility in teh short-term can only lead to larger uncontrollable moves in the future. As The FT reports, some worry, too, that the BoJ has pushed up JGB prices to the point where interest rates no longer bear any relation to the government’s creditworthiness - "effectively we have removed the light from the lighthouse." Some say the transition has been unsettling as many analysts talk more openly of the risks inherent in what the BoJ is trying to pull off. For one thing, liquidity has evaporated... "volatility looks low now, but if some investors start selling, the impact on the market could be much bigger than expected. That is a big risk."
While the White House spied on Frau Merkel and Obamacare developed into a slow-moving train wreck, while Syria was saved from all-out war by the Russian bell and the Republicrats fought bitterly about the debt ceiling… something monumental happened that went unnoticed by most of the globe. The US quietly surpassed Saudi Arabia as the biggest oil producer in the world. You read that correctly: "The jump in output from shale plays has led to the second biggest oil boom in history," stated Reuters on October 15. "U.S. output, which includes natural gas liquids and biofuels, has swelled 3.2 million barrels per day (bpd) since 2009, the fastest expansion in production over a four-year period since a surge in Saudi Arabia's output from 1970-1974." After the initial moment of awe, pragmatic readers will surely wonder: Then why isn't gasoline dirt-cheap in the US?
While nearly three years after the Fukushima disaster the world is finally focused, rightfully so, on the epic ecological and radioactive clusterfuck unfolding in Japan, where in a desperate effort to distract the population from what is going on in its back yard, the Premier has launched the most ridiculous monetary experiment doomed to failure, the reality is that the US itself harbors a veritable waste land of radioactive fallout, much of it hidden in plain sight. As the following interactive map from the WSJ shows, of the 517 active sites in the continental US, found on the Department of Energy's listing of facilities "considered" for radioactive cleanup through its Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program, some 43 have a "potential for significant radioactive contamination" through the time of the study. Find out if your state, city, or town is located next to a potential dormant and largely secret Fukushima, using the following handy interactive map.
"The recent trading environment has felt something like walking into a place and having a sense that something is wrong and dangerous but not knowing exactly what will happen or when. “QE Infinity” has so distorted the prices of stocks and bonds that nobody can possibly determine what the investing landscape would look like, or what the condition of the economy and financial system would be, in the absence of Fed bond-buying."
-Paul Singer, Elliott Management
The big question is whether it will function as intended and survive permanently. There is a serious risk that it will not. The potentially fatal flaw in Obamacare is the very same feature that appeals most to its supporters: the ability of even those with a serious preexisting health condition to buy insurance at the standard premium. The biggest danger to Obamacare’s survival is that many individuals who do not receive insurance from their employer will choose not to insure themselves and will instead pay the fine of just 1% of income (rising permanently after 2015 to 2.5%). The preferred alternative for these individuals is to wait to buy insurance until they are ill and are facing large medical bills. The “wait-to-insure” option could cause the number of insured individuals to decline rapidly as premiums rise for those who remain insured. In this scenario, the unraveling of Obamacare could lead to renewed political pressure from the left for a European-style single-payer health-care system.
Recent surveys and research studies by sources from the UN to streetRx.com put the size of the illegal drug market in the U.S. at anywhere from $200 to $750 billion. The market is notoriously hard to track by design, and it is constantly evolving as prices and usage fluctuates; but as ConvergEx's Nick Colas notes, there’s a plethora of data on the topic: formal surveys by the CDC and user-submitted blog posted on websites like Hightimes.com trace price, usage, and traffic stats for marijuana, powder and crack cocaine, d-methamphetamine, and heroin. Legalized dispensaries now allow us to estimate potential tax revenue from marijuana sales, while incarceration rates for drug offenders reveal the economic impact of the illegal drug trade. In short, while the illegal drug market might be hard to track – if only by virtue of its illegality – Colas points out that we can learn a lot about its size and scope by aggregating these formal and informal data. Most surprising of them all: illicit drug use is no longer the realm of just the youth.
Surprised why FB stock is soaring higher by 15% after hours on results that were a beat but nothing all that spectacular, with $2.02 billion in revenues ($1.91 billion expected), and EPS of $0.25 ($0.19 expected)? Because according to the company, it will soon need to colonize a new planet as it will promptly run out of real, bot-based, imaginary and potential users on planet earth following a ridiculous 25% increase Y/Y in daily active users to 728 million, and a mindblowing 18% increase in Monthly Active Users to 1.19 billion (however look at the charts below to see just where the bulk of the growth comes from). Putting Facebook's numbers in perspective: it has 199 million Monthly Active Users in the US, where the average revenue per user is highest. This is 44 million more than the entire labor force, and 63 million more than the number of employed people in the US.
But, but, but... was the common refrain heard across mainstream media - perplexed that i) stocks could close anything but green, and ii) stocks could close green after the FOMC kept the dream alive. Markets broke everywhere (stock and options) and VIX saw flash-smashes a number of times as the great rotation from stocks to levered stocks (i.e. options) continued (in what smells a lot like the 'what could go wrong' 'portfolio insurance' days of yore). Stocks slid lower into the FOMC, knee-jerked up to VWAP, then skidded to 2-day lows, bounced towards VWAP once again then slumped into the close for the worst day in 3 weeks (down a measly 0.6%). Treasury yields had fallen notably into the FOMC statement and snapped higher after (30Y +4bps on the week). The USD had been rising all week and was smashed higher on the FOMC news (+0.7% on the week). Gold and silver kneejerked lower but bounced back (-0.5% and +0.75% respectively) on the week. Bear in mind that credit markets are now at the worst levels in 2 week as stocks hover just below all-time highs.
The most succinct post-mortem summary of the FOMC announcement comes from Citi's Stephen Englander.