There are a plethora of reasons underpinning the fact that manufacturing jobs are not coming back to the USA. Perhaps the simplest is purely economic. As McKinsey notes in a recent report, manufacturings' role in job creation shifts over time as manufacturing's share of output falls and as companies invest in technologies and process improvements that raise productivity. A critical finding is that as manufacturing's share of national output falls, so does its share of employment - following the inverted 'U' curve below. Manufacturing job losses in advanced economies have been concentrated in labor-intensive and highly tradable (read globalizable) industries such as apparel and electronics assembly. Thanks to the increased productivity and a 'high' credit-enabled standard-of-living, the US has simply priced itself out of the global manufacturing business (and so is China as its GDP per capita rises). Unless Americans are willing to put the twinkie (and iPad) down, those jobs will continue to bleed overseas (to India based on the chart below) building the ever-more self-fulfilling vicious circle of a nation dependent on state-aid to survive as only the 'unlucky' few remain employed.
The rumors have been flying around all morning, but now it's news...
- ITALY PRIME MINISTER MONTI RESIGNS, PRESIDENT SAYS
Italian credit spreads leaked wider all morning and EURUSD lower though the correlation to losing a technocrat is perhaps a stretch. And so the great "Mark-to-Monti" Goldman rotation (as described previously) is complete, with Goldman losing a technocratic scribe, who is no longer needed thanks to yet another Goldmanite now in charge of the ECB, but far more importantly, Goldman has now gained control over that most prized of central planner jewels: the Bank of England.
26-year-old Hu Bin is China's most popular online market commentator - just four years after starting his blog. As Bloomberg BusinessWeek notes, his success started when Premier Wen Jiabao announced a 4 trillion renminbi rescue plan and as 'Commander in Chief of the Stock Market Army' Hu says "I knew I just needed to be clever and use this chance of high liquidity in the market to make myself famous." The brash, eccentric, and outspoken blogger is among the Top 10 most influential people on the Chinese stock market (though under his alias 'Yerongtian' - though preferring the nickname 'Batman') and notes that "any eccentric behavior would attract people's attention. If you understood this vital point, you could control people's minds." Hu says he is not a financial rabble-rouser adding that "the stock market in the US is managed by regulations; the Chinese market is managed by humans. The 72 million 'retail' Chinese investors aren't as mature as American investors, and I write to meet their immediate needs." While recognizing the irresistible pull of stocks, he understands he's giving advice to people he knows probably shouldn’t be in the market but are going to invest anyway. What's Chinese for BooYaa?
Facing reality is positive. That's the upside to the fiscal cliff. The last decade's fantasy that we could borrow our way to prosperity while lowering taxes on upper-income earners (because it's so cheap to borrow trillions at near-zero interest rates) is finally running into reality-based resistance.
First gun sales soared, then Wal-Mart ran out of guns, then parents, stunned by the popular response in the aftermath of the Newtown mass murder which saw the White House threaten to curb the Second Amendment and lead to an even more unprecedented scramble for guns and ammo, and seeing nothing but confusion (but lots of bickering meant to extract nothing but political brownie points) out of the government instead of any hope of actual protection, decided it was time for some vigilante protection. The end result: sales of bulletproof backpacks have soared, with sales exploding as much as 500% since Friday. And since the white line from a defensive to an offensive posture is very thin, it is likely only a matter of time before we get the first media report of a 6 year old armed with a 44 caliber during recess.
While Italian and Spanish sovereign bonds weakened notably today, the equity markets across Europe decided that the limit-down move in US futures was a storm in a teacup and ignored it. EURUSD has broken its inexorable 10-day linear ramp leaving the USD almost perfectly unchanged on the week. Italy and Spain equity indices are up 2.6% and 3% respectively while Italian and Spanish bond spreads are around 16bps tighter. Rather like what we witnessed this week in the US, Europe's VIX exploded today (biggest jump since July) as protection was sought in a hurry but the underlying indices did not drop as (just like over here) they are simply too illiquid to cope with the kind of selling that is desired. This leads to the game-theoretical first-mover dilemma - and the preference was to hedge via bonds, FX, and options as Europe closed - because think of the optics if Spanish stocks were to fall? Spot The Odd Market Out!
Steve Jobs' EUR150mm yacht has been confiscated by a court in Amsterdam following Jobs' heirs decision not to pay the designer of the boat. As Holland's Nu.nl reports, the famous designer Philippe Starck had an 'agreement' with Steve Jobs that he would receive 6% of the price (or EUR9mm) of creating the yacht as his payment for designing the epic 80-meter, 27-iMac-controlled behemoth. Unfortunately, the 'agreement' was not on paper as the two men were 'friends' and so the heirs to Steve Jobs fortune have decided that the EUR6mm that Starck has received is quite enough. The yacht remains moored in the Port of Amsterdam under bailiff control. Must be a tough life eh?
"Interconnections serve as shock-ampliers, not dampeners, as losses cascade. The system acts not as a mutual insurance device but as a mutual incendiary device." - Andrew Haldane
We noted the VIX divergence (and most importantly the 14-month flatness of the term-structure - which is following the 'debt ceiling' path perfectly!) yesterday and pointed out how illiquid markets were. Critically, those that could were selling into strength and those that couldn't (due to size and illiquidity) bought protection. Overnight the flash crash recoupled S&P to VIX but this morning has seen more protecction buyers step in, driving VIX towards 20% (5 month highs). Given the recent correlations (and managers knowing full well they can't unwind their exposure into the cash market as the avalanche will be too large), VIX implies the S&P at around 1370. Interestingly, this level of S&P is also approximately what a 2% rally in the USD would imply (the FX implication we suggested yesterday of a failed cliff resolution in the short-term).
After theatrically soaring to a 5 year high in November, when the UMich confidence final print rose above the 82 level, the final UMich consumer confidence number just tumbled by a whopping 10 point down to 72.9, well below the expected 75.0 print, and below the preliminary read of 74.5. This was the biggest percentage slide since February 2007. So much for the great pick up in confidence, driven by the foreclosure stuffed subsidized "recovering" housing market. Perhaps it's time to get a seasonally adjusted confidence number?
If you were wondering why the Argentinian leadership were unwilling to pay off a few 'annoying' hedge funds with a few billion dollars (and were pissed about losing one yacht), then perhaps this report from the BBC will enlighten. Argentina authorities have sent hundreds of troops to the southern city of Bariloche after a spate of looting. Critically, Bariloche is not some shanty-town, it is one of the nation's most popular ski resorts and 'relatively' affluent. The following clip sums up the dangerous situation the nation finds itself in, despite the government's assurances that this is a "false picture of social and political collapse." Looks real to us?