Currently, central banks around the world are walking in lock step down a dangerous path of money creation. Led by the Federal Reserve and the Bank of Japan, economic policy is driven by the idea that printed money can be the true basis of growth. The result is an unprecedented global orgy of currency creation. The only holdout to this open ended commitment has been the hard money bias of the German-dominated European Central Bank (ECB). However, growing political pressure from around the world, and growing dissatisfaction among domestic voters have shaken, and perhaps cracked, the German resolve. While German capitulations in the past have been welcome occurrences, in this instance the world would be better served if the Germans could stick to their guns. However, it seems presciently, that the ECB is looking for ways around Germany's oppostion to outright monetization by securitizing SME loans and buying ABS directly on to their own balance sheet.
Update: we decided it may be an opportune time to remind readers of this particular fact... not opinion, not propaganda, not insinuation. Fact, which apparently has forced a once informative medium, and now purely propaganda infomercial, to stoop so low to be in need of trolling websites to generate incremental eyeballs.
One of the main, unintended consequences of this development to prop up markets at all costs, even if it means removing all logic and reliance on fundamental data, has been the complete evaporation of interest in any finance-related media, forcing the bulk of financial outlets to rely on such cheap gimmicks as slideshows, pictures of kittens, trolling and generally hiring liberal arts majors straight out of school to copy and paste articles while paying them minimum wage, and providing absolutely no insight (and then wondering why the Series ZZ preferred investors will never get their money back, let alone the A round). However, nowhere is this more obvious than in the relentless imploding viewership of once financial media titan, CNBC, which lately has become a sad, one-sided caricature of its once informative self, whose only agenda is to get the most marginal Joe Sixpack to dump his hard-earned cash into 100x P/E stocks, and where according to data from Nielsen Media Research, the total and demographic (25-54) viewership during the prime time segment (9:30am - 5:00 pm) just tumbled to 216K and 40K - the lowest recorded viewership since mid 2005 and sliding.
All Chinese economic data is manipulated: that much is known. So is its trade data. However, the manipulation has become so grossly evident, some wonder if there is a far bigger problem behind the scenes. Turns out there is: a $60 billion per month "hot capital" inflow problem, and an economy on the very of bursting at the inflationary seams.
- Pentagon Plans for the Worst in Syria (WSJ)
- Russia and US agree to Syria conference after Moscow talks (FT)
- Hedge Funds Rush Into Debt Trading With $108 Billion (BBG)
- Detroit is the new "deep value" - Hedge funds in search of distress take a look at Detroit (Reuters)
- Commodities hedge funds suffer weak first quarter (FT)
- But... but... Abenomics - Toshiba posts 62% decline in Q1 net profit (WSJ)
- Americans Are Borrowing Again but Still Less Than Before Freeze (WSJ)
- Man Utd announce Alex Ferguson to retire (FT)
- Asmussen Says ECB Discussed ABS Purchases to Spur SME Lending (BBG)
- Benghazi Attack Set for New Review (WSJ)
- Belgium Says 31 People Arrested Over $50 Million Diamond Theft (BBG)
- Brazilian diplomat Roberto Azevêdo wins WTO leadership battle (FT)
- Bangladesh Garment Factory Building Collapse Toll Reaches 782 (BBG)
The overnight economic data dump started in China, where both exports and imports rose more than expected, at 14.7% and 16.8% respectively, on expectations of a 9.2% and 13% rise. The result was a trade surplus of $18.16 billion versus expectations of $16.15 billion. The only problem with the data is that as always, but especially in the past few months, it continued to be completely made up as SocGen analysts, and others, pointed out. The good data continued into the European trading session, where moments ago German Industrial Production rose 1.2% despite expectations of a -0.1% drop, up from 0.6% and the best print since March 2012. The followed yesterday's better than expected factory orders data, which also came at the best level since October. Whether this data too was made up, remains unknown, but it is clear that Germany will do everything it can to telegraph its economic contraction is not accelerating. It also means that any concerns of an imminent ECB rate cut, or a negative deposit rate, are likely overblown for the time being, as reflected in the kneejerk jump in the EURUSD higher.
If the American people truly understood how the Federal Reserve system works and what it has done to us, they would be screaming for it to be abolished immediately. It is a system that was designed by international bankers for the benefit of international bankers, and it is systematically impoverishing the American people. The Federal Reserve system is the primary reason why our currency has declined in value by well over 95 percent and our national debt has gotten more than 5000 times larger over the past 100 years. The Fed creates our "booms" and our "busts", and they have done an absolutely miserable job of managing our economy. So why is the Federal Reserve doing it? Sadly, this is the way it works all over the globe today. In fact, all 187 nations that belong to the IMF have a central bank. But the truth is that there are much better alternatives.
The lessons of Jeremy Grantham's recent interview with Charlie Rose seem to be becoming increasingly prescient as the stock market surges to new highs amid a crumbling macro (and micro) economy. "Bernanke is whipping the economic donkey that can only grow at 1-2% as if it was a race horse growing above 3%," and unfortunately he will keep doing it "until the donkey is dead." As Grantham says, it is a "very dangerous situation to have the most powerful man in the world," doing this as simply put, the Fed, "does not have the tools to generate employment." But while Grantham's clarity on Bernanke's actions are unquestionable in their endgame, his views (below) on Keynes, debt, and wealth transfer are even more concerning. "We had this amazing experiment... but we have been conned into believing by the financial world that debt is everything."
Over the weekend Israel carried out two air strikes against Syrian positions within 48 hours. Iran is a strong supporter of Assad’s regime in Syria, and is deeply involved in the efforts to repel the rebel forces. Israel has long voiced its desires to attack Iran in order to force them to end their nuclear program before they achieve the capability to create nuclear weapons. This attack against Syria could be viewed as an indirect attack on Iran. "Israel is taking a calculated risk that Assad, Iran and Hezbollah are right now fighting a war against the Syrian rebels and probably don’t want to open up a second front against a far more formidable enemy."
In yet another example of the massive gap between the American people's perception of what is going on around them (whether by propaganda channels or simply cognitive bias) and the actual reality, Reuters reports that while gun-related homicides are down 39% from the 1993 peak, only 12% of people believe that gun crimes have fallen. Non-fatal firearm crimes declined by 69% to 467,300 in the same period but 56% of Americans believe that gun crime is higher now than it was 20 years ago, the Pew Research Center said its poll showed. The dichotomy between record food stamp usage (and non-employment) and multi-year highs in consumer sentiment comes to mind - we wonder which is more 'real'.
Of course, it doesn't matter (for now) but today's JOLTS data internals and Consumer Credit's miss just piled on to the misery and pushed Bloomberg's US Macro Surprise Index to its lowest in seven months. What is worse is the rate of collapse - the last five weeks have dropped faster than at any time since May 2011. The current level of US macro data suggests the S&P should be over 200 points lower - but as the charts below show relative volatility levels are more complacent now than in the pre-crisis vinegar strokes in 2008.
The policy approach that no one dares to question - "In the long-term, we need to fix our public finances. We’re on an unsustainable path that needs to be corrected to protect younger and future generations. But in the short-term, we need to focus on growth. The economy stinks and people are suffering. Any attempt to lower debt in these conditions would be folly. On the contrary, the government needs to provide more stimulus to promote growth" has no support to its key premise in business cycle history, the idea that the economy will return to full employment and stick there, allowing ample time for debt reduction. Once stimulus is removed, expansions often struggle to continue for much longer. And if the stimulus is replaced with restraint, it seems logical that the expansion’s expected life shortens further. In other words, there is no Magic Pendulum. What’s the typical life of an unassisted expansion? Based on the data presented here, I’ll call it two years.
We recently discussed the 'dead-weight' problem of youth unemployment in developed economies. The Economist estimates that the world's population of NEETs (not in employment, education, or training) is a stunning 290 million - or around one-quarter of the world's youth. Sadly, many of the 'employed' young have only informal and intermittent jobs. In rich countries more than a third, on average, are on temporary contracts which make it hard to gain skills. Young people have long had a raw deal in the labour market. Why is this so important? A number of studies have found that people who begin their careers without work are likely to have lower wages and greater odds of future joblessness than those who don’t. A wage penalty of up to 20%, lasting for around 20 years, is common. The scarring seems to worsen fast with the length of joblessness and is handed down to the next generation, too - leading to a vicious cycle that weighs on growth dramatically. With a stunning 71% now expecting to work in their 'retirement' in the US, it would seem the opportunity for the jobs and wealth transfer to the younger generation is being blocked by a generation hamstrung by an increasingly repressive Federal Reserve.
The financial and other markets do not seem to reflect the reality of subdued growth is how Hoisington Investment's Lacy Hunt describes the current environment. Stock prices are high, or at least back to levels reached more than a decade ago, and bond yields contain a significant inflationary expectations premium. Stock and commodity prices have risen in concert with the announcement of QE1, QE2 and QE3. Theoretically, as well as from a long-term historical perspective, a mechanical link between an expansion of the Fed's balance sheet and these markets is lacking. It is possible to conclude, therefore, that psychology typical of irrational market behavior is at play. As Lance Roberts notes, Hunt suggests that when expectations shift from inflation to deflation, irrational behavior might adjust risk asset prices significantly. Such signs that a shift is beginning can be viewed in the commodity markets. "Debt is future consumption denied," and regardless of the current debate - Reinhart and Rogoff were right. Simply put, "the problems have not been solved, they have merely been contained."