Bernanke takes the wind out of the market's euphoric sails: "Substantial further expansions of the balance sheet could reduce public confidence in the Fed's ability to exit smoothly from its accommodative policies at the appropriate time. Even if unjustified, such a reduction in confidence might increase the risk of a costly unanchoring of inflation expectations, leading in turn to financial and economic instability."
After this morning's low volume stop-run to the highs (divergent from Spain's 10Y fulcrum security), we have gone nowhere during the day-session so far - even with a small miss on Chicago PMI and beat in Confidence. But with a few minutes to go until his big moment, markets are trading in a QE-ON mode in anticipation of Ben's big words (except FB -4%). Treasury yields down, USD down, Stocks Up, Gold Up, Oil Up. Primed for disappointment...
It is no secret that having failed repeatedly at the trickle down aspect of QE1, QE2, Op Twist 1, Op Twist 2 (and implicitly LTRO 1 and LTRO 2) as it pertains to the man in the street (if not the man in Wall Street, who was subject to 1-2 years of subpar bonuses which have since regained their upward trendline), the last effort the central planners of the world, and the administration, have is to furiously do everything in their power to reflate housing one more time, following what is already a triple dip in home prices ever since the December 2007 start of the Second Great Depression. Which is why month after month we get seasonally fudged, conflicted and outright manipulated data from various sources how housing has bottomed, for real this time, and things are finally looking up. Remember: with any con game, the key word is confidence, and the US consumers need to regain their confidence. Sadly, as the following very simple chart and accompanying explanation, the answer to the housing question is only one: there will be no housing recovery until much more debt is eliminated. $3.2 trillion to be precise. Everything else is merely fits and spurts of upward action predicated by easy money hitting the market either directly, or via the "REO-to-Rental" stimulus program du jour, which lasts for a few months then promptly evaporates.
Despite high-flying equity indices, there is some underlying concern that all is not rosy in the global economy (and that Fed/ECB/PBoC might not save the day this time). As Morgan Stanley notes, the overcrowded trades are overweight US and within US overweight defensives - implying cyclicals are starting to reflect the current global macro weakness and that there are further downgrades to global growth forecasts to come. Expectations for a repeat of H2 2011's surge in positive surprises are misplaced as several unique factors were at play last year - and are very much lacking this year; moreover global growth indicators are significantly weaker than a year ago. With this background, MS also does not expect imminent QE in the US; the Chinese policy response continues to lag expectations; and there are several hurdles to executing ECB action - all of which leave them expecting further substantial downgrades to 2013 consensus earning forecasts in the US.
We fear that the data given to us by Europe is erroneous. The resident institutions in the world where one thinks that accurate data may be found for Europe are Eurostat and the Bank for International Settlements. Spain and her official admission of "dynamic provisioning" has raised all kinds of questions in our mind and has unsettled our belief in the data provided by Europe. It is now quite apparent that the numbers for all of the Spanish banks, are inaccurate. It may well be that the EU or the ECB could bury what may be found but it would be awfully tough for the IMF to hide any material breaches. Even when considering the IMF however, certain questions are raised. Their projections for Europe and each and every country in Europe have been wrong, dead wrong and far too optimistic. This then would explain why Europe is in such trouble because if the data is not truthful then the truth, as most often happens, leaks out from underneath that which is hidden and provides the outcomes that the Europeans have tried so hard to avoid. Whatever the real numbers are, they are providing the consequences that result from their actuality.
Overnight the WSJ's Jon Hilsenrath did his best to entirely redirect the discussion of Bernanke's legacy by setting up so many strawmen even TS Eliot would be totally lost. Instead of focusing on the person who was, together with his predecessor, was directly responsible for a crisis, which over the course of 30 years of "great moderation" pulled over $30 trillion in future demand to the present (benefiting almost exclusively the banker class), and which will guarantee pain and suffering for generations of Joe Sixpacks, he portrayed Bernanke in the light of St. Ben, or the person who may or may not have done enough to save Capitalism. We fail to fall for the bait. We hope nobody else will either. Which is why we present the following compilation of documented Chairsatan greatest hits from the public record. It speaks more than any planted article ever could.
As we anticipate more demand-rigging, pump-priming, can-kicking experiments from Bernanke today, Ron Paul just came out with his latest stream of truthiness (via Bloomberg):
- *REP. PAUL SAYS BOTH PARTIES KEYNESIANS, GOP 'NOT HIS PARTY'
- *REP. PAUL SAYS FED PRICE FIXING
- *REP. PAUL SAYS FED FLOODING MARKET WITH MONEY
Indeed, what is the opposite of 'between a rock and a hard place' when deciding on just who will provide 'change' in November.
Yesterday, when the market was plunging (by less than a whopping 1%, yet magically defending the 13K "retirement off" threshold in the DJIA), we wondered: where is the Fed's favorite messageboard: WSJ "journalist" Jon Hilsenrath. We found out at 3 am, when instead of releasing another soon to be refuted rumor of more easing, we discovered that the scribe was busy doing something very different: discussing the pros and cons of the Chairsatan's legacy.
- Romney Promises to 'Restore' U.S. (WSJ)
- Dirty Harry Makes Surprise Appearance (WSJ)
- It has always been about the gold: Time for eurozone to reach for the gold reserves? (FT)
- EU Plan Said to Give ECB Sole Power to Grant Bank Licenses (Bloomberg)
- More attempts to marginalize Germanty: Brussels pushes for wide ECB powers (FT)
- Justice may be blind but it has geographic limits: Apple Loses Patent Lawsuit Against Samsung in Japan (BBG)
- ECB Said to Use Greek Myth for Security on New Euro Banknotes (Bloomberg)
- Alberta deficit set to triple on slumping oil prices (Globe and Mail)
- Reid's ties to China-Nevada solar plan draw ire (Reuters)
- Bernanke may hint at QE without boxing Fed in (Reuters)
- Berezovsky loses against Abramovich (FT)
- Spain Considers Bankia Re-Capitalization Without EU Money (Bloomberg)
Following a series of bad economic news (Eurozone unemployment, rising inflation, plunging retail sales in Germany, Spain and Greece) out of Europe, and the usual sound and fury out of the ECB signifying nothing (was there finally news that Weidmann and/or the Buba are endorsing anything Draghi is doing - instead of seeking to potentially quit his post leaving the ECB in limbo? No? Then stop flashing red headlines which are completely irrelevant), the EURUSD has decided to go on its usual countersensical stop hunt higher in hopes an algo or two will push it even higher on nothing but momentum, with has one purpose only: to allow the pair enough of a buffer so that when it does fall after the J-Hole disappointment, it has more room to drop. And as European newsflow fades into the periphery, everyone is once again focusing on Wyoming where Bernanke is now broadly expected to do absolutely nothing. What else are market participants focusing on? Here is the full ist courtesy of Bloomberg daybook.
In July European unemployment rose to 11.3% - a record post-Euro rate, and the highest since 1990 for the constituent countries. While this was in line with estimates, what surprised the market, and has sent the EUR paradoxically higher (paradoxically, because all a continent in stagflation, which Europe by now most certainly is, is to have its currency rise just when it needs to export more goods, in the process entrentching its economic plight even further) is that inflation in August picked up from 2.4% to 2.6%, beating expectations of a 2.5% increase, allowing the European misery index to stand head and shoulders above the rest of the world.
The following chart from Bank of America shows that with a few short hours ahead of the dangling strawman known as Bernanke's J-Hole address (now that Mario Draghi has more pressing issues to deal with elsewhere), expectations for QE3, in the form of what is actually priced in, just hit an all time high. So is, by implication, the potential for disappointment and that the petulant market, no longer caring about such trivia as fundamentals, technicals, newsflow or frankly anything except what the Chairsatan ate or what side of the bed Bill Dudley woke up on, will not get what it demands. It then begs the question: if the S&P is at 1400 with virtually all of QE3 priced in, what is the "fair value" if there is, gasp, no QE3 announced either today, in two weeks when the FOMC delivers it periodic oracular address to the plebs, or until the post-election FOMC meeting, which will take place on December 12, and just days ahead of the Fiscal Cliff arrival (which will certainly not be resolved by then)?