UMich Confidence Tumbles, Misses By Most In 8 Years

After April's confidence-inspiring reflexive rebound (thanks to hope for the future more than current perceptions) back near post-crisis highs, it seems the less-than-frigid-weather and record-er highs in stocks were not enough to maintain the status quo enhancing exuberance. UMich confidence dropped and missed expectations by the most since June 2006. Maybe its fears of El Nino? Maybe its concerns at the bond market signals? Or maybe - the reality is that the average joe is not as cock-a-hoop as the man-on-the-TV says he should be. Economic conditions dropped to their lowest since November. Higher highs in stocks and lower highs in confidence - not what the Fed wants.

Bernanke The Sophist: The Deception Behind QE

Bernanke's legacy: a deceptive case for a failed policy.

Sophistry: the use of fallacious arguments, especially with the intention of deceiving. The Federal Reserve's core policy of quantitative easing (QE) is based on a deceptive but appealing argument voiced by former Fed Chair Ben Bernanke.

Housing Starts, Permits Smash Expectations On Surge In Rental Construction

The serial extrapolators will be pleased... and the talking heads will now proclaim this as clear evidence that the cold-weather dysphoria has abated and its blue skies for real estate from here... Housing Permits back over 1 million homes SAAR (and biggest jump in a year) to new 6 year highs and Housing Starts back above 1 million SAAR near last year's highs. However, there is one major caveat - almost the entire surge was led by an almost 40% spike in multi-family units as the 'rental nation' grows ever stronger. Multi-family accounted for almost 30% of all starts - the highest in over 4 years as single-family starts rose a dismal 0.8%. Not exactly the "but housing inventories are so low and they must builder more homes" kind of growth that the headlines will crow about...

Moscow Says Massive "Holy Grail" Gas Deal With China Is 98% Ready

We have previously profiled the "holy grail" gas deal between Russia and China on several occasions, and with its announcement scheduled for next week (barring some unmitigated disaster) during Putin's first visit to China since Xi's appointment as president last March, it is time to do a status update on where it stands even if according to SCMP, at this point finding the "holy grail" is merely a formality.  "Russian Deputy Energy Minister Anatoly Yanovsky said on Monday that the deal was "98 per cent ready". Supply would begin no later than the end of 2018."

The Indian Election Is Over: The Full Summary

Congress party President Sonia Gandhi concedes defeat after coalition led by Narendra Modi’s opposition Bharatiya Janata Party sweeps Indian election.
BJP bloc leads in 335 seats and Congress-led bloc in 59, according to NDTV tally of count as of 4:39 p.m. in Mumbai.
BJP alone set to cross majority mark of 272 seats from 543 up for grabs: Election Commission data
“India has won,” Modi says on Twitter
BJP poised for biggest victory for any single Indian party in 30 years on pledge to revive growth, improve governance
Congress heading for wost-ever performance after graft scandals, economic slowdown, elevated inflation

Frontrunning: May 16

  • Bank of England sees 'no housing bubble' (Independent)
  • ‘If the euro falls, Europe falls’ (FT)
  • India's pro-business Modi storms to historic election win (Reuters)
  • Global Growth Worries Climb (WSJ)
  • Bitcoin Foundation hit by resignations over new director (Reuters)
  • Blackstone Goes All In After the Flop (WSJ)
  • SAC's Steinberg loses bid for insider trading acquittal (Reuters)
  • Beats Satan: Republicans Paint Reid as Bogeyman in 2014 Senate Races (BBG)
  • Tech Firms, Small Startups Object to Paying for Internet 'Fast Lanes' (WSJ) - but they just provide liquidity
  • U.S. Warns Russia of Sanctions as Ukraine Troops Advance (BBG)
  • Major U.S. hedge funds sold 'momentum' Internet names in first-quarter (Reuters)

Yen Carry Slide Drags Futures To Lows

The perfectly expected if completely irrational overnight ramp in various Yen carry pairs tried, and failed, and both the USDJPY and EURJPY were tumbling to overnight lows as we go to print. This is happening despite a rout in India in which Narendra Modi's opposition block is poised for the biggest Indian election win in 30 years, with his BJP party currently leading in 332 of 543 seat - an outcome that is seen as very pro business (and seemingly pro asset bubbles: the INR soared and the Sensex was up as much as 6% in intraday trading before paring virtually all gains following what many say was RBI intervention). And while the Nikkei (down 200 points) did not help the mood this move was mostly in response to yesterday's US selling, which means as usual the culprit for lack of algo risk-taking overnight has been the Yen carry, which moments ago hit intraday lows, and is increasingly flirting with the 101 level (after which double digits, and Abe's second resignation, come very quickly).

Scotiabank On Treasuries & The Fed: "You Got Some 'Splaining To Do"

Treasuries are still cheap. The FOMC statement says that “even after employment and inflation are near mandate-consistent levels” the committee may keep “the target federal funds rate below levels” viewed as normal in the longer run. Whenever we read this, we think of Desi Arnaz screaming, “Lucy! You got some ‘splainin’ to do!” Treasury prices do not care if Q4 is around 4%. Economic data matters little for the time being. Prices are being driven more by positions, relative value, and future Fed policy. Markets know the Fed is ending QE. What it really wants to know is the terminal Fed Funds level in the new ‘world order’. In the meantime, stay long.

David Stockman Debunks More Keynesian Rubbish From Europe's Jon Hilsenrath

Once upon a time Wall Street Journal reporters were economically literate. Now, apparently, when they muster-in for the job they get a Keynesian chip implant while signing their HR forms. Otherwise, how can you explain the bullshit penned this morning by Brian Blackstone on the EU’s “disappointing” Q1 GDP report. He didn’t say Keynesian economists say you need more inflation to get jobs and growth. He just declared it!

US Officially "Takes No Position" On China's Provocative Actions In Disputed Waters

In a somewhat stunningly hypocritical step for a nation that seems so hell-bent on proclaiming Russia's provactive actions as tantamount to World War over Ukraine, the White House has issued a statement "taking no position" on China's "disputes" in the China Seas...

  • *BIDEN MEETS CHINESE ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF FANG AT WHITE HOUSE
  • *BIDEN SAYS U.S. TAKES NO POSITION ON TERRITORY CLAIMS AT ISSUE
  • *BIDEN SAYS NATIONS SHOULD AVOID PROVOCATIVE STEPS IN DISPUTES

So - the Chinese undertook "provacative actions" into the "disputed territory" of another sovereign (allied) nation... and the US retaliates with no sanctions, no damnation, no hellfire? Good to know who your friends are...

The Lightbulb Goes Off In China: "If You Don't Pay Me And I Pay Others, I Am The Sucker"

Just last month we highlighted how the collapse in China's shadow-banking system, it's concomittant credit crunch, and vicious circle of commodity-financed credit creation could spread contagiously to the rest of the world - through refusal to pay. It seems we were prophetic as Reuters confirms that money owed to Chinese firms by their customers has reached a record high. As China's economy continues to cool, companies are waiting longer and finding it harder to get paid for goods and services they've already sold, leading to record amounts of receivables - and potential write-offs - on corporate balance sheets. As one Chinese business owner exclaimed: "If you don't pay me and I pay others, aren't I just a sucker? I'm not that stupid." Receivables on average (across 2300 firms) reached $160.49 million at the end of last year, more than double the $65.9 million average at the end of 2009 and median collection time for billings crawled up from 71.4 days to 90.42 days (the first time above 90 days). "It's a pretty loud warning bell," warns a Peking professor.

Guest Post: Why Belgium Can Never Work

The political situation in Belgium - as Europe heads into elections - could well be the writing on the wall for every European country. Economists and politicians love to juggle with figures in the trees so you can not see the forest. Economics is not always easy, but we have noticed that you can do it with an island of 100 people to make it understandable. Let's call this island "Rainbowland"... as we show below, you do not have to be a genius to realize that a country such as " Rainbowland" can not survive in reality.

Rocket Carrying Russia's Most Advanced Communications Satellite Crashes During Take Off

Two days ago Russia retaliated against US sanctions by banning the US from using the International Space Station after 2020, and by barring the use of Russian rockets as launch vehicles for US military satellites. Then, moments ago, a Russian Proton rocket, with advanced satellites on board, crashed during take off, during the activation of the third rocket stage some 9 minutes into the launch.

The International Brotherhood Of Burger Flippers Will Not Take It Any More

Having unsuccessfully lobbied its slave-driving masters with one-day strikes and angry tongue-lashings, Thursday sees the fast food workers’ movement wants to broaden its reach as it pushes for a $15-an-hour wage (that restaurant companies say is unrealistic). In addition to 150 strikes across the US, NY Times reports, support protests will take place in 80 cities in more than 30 countries, from Dublin to Venice to Casablanca to Seoul to Panama City. "Fast food workers in many other parts of the world face the same corporate policies — low pay, no guaranteed hours and no benefits," warned one union leader but judging by the response from the restaurants association, "These are made-for-TV media moments - that’s pretty much it." Workers generally have the same message - "I don’t make enough money to take care of my kids," but as we have noted before (and as Motoman Robot below indicates) raising the minimum wage will have unintended consequences few strikers consider, "it would have consequences on hiring patterns for Main Street businesses across the country."