This objective report concisely summarizes important macro events over the past week. It is not geared to push an agenda. Impartiality is necessary to avoid costly psychological traps, which all investors are prone to, such as confirmation, conservatism, and endowment biases.
Excess cash on corporate balance sheets has been a hot topic the better part of the last decade, but ConvergEx's Nick Colas believes it's about to become even more important to capital markets. U.S. companies have, after all, regained all the profitability they collectively enjoyed prior to the Financial Crisis. Moreover, they've accomplished that by rationalizing their business models to succeed in a period of distinctly sub-par growth. Combine that with markets that will likely offer only average returns, and activist investing seems like a worthwhile approach to alpha generation. Sometimes, however, it pays to look at the world through the eyes of the fox rather than the hounds. As the Einhorn-Cook battle commences, we graciously offer up a few kernels of advice for other companies who get the "Where’s my money at?" call from an activist. E.g. #1 – The country’s central bank doesn’t think we are really out of the crisis – why do you?
Remember the popular myth that there are some things that the private sector can never, ever possibly replicate the public sector in because, you know, "they didn't build that" and they couldn't possibly build that, even after accumulating some $16,487,564,297,892.03 in debt - no, only the government can be that efficient? We do. And apparently so does FedEx, which does so with just the faintest of a smirk...
While the rest of the developed world is scrambling here and there, politely prodding its central bankers to destroy their relative currencies, all the while naming said devaluation assorted names, "quantitative easing" being the most popular, here comes Venezuela and shows the banana republics of the developed world what lobbing a nuclear bomb into a currency war knife fight looks like:
VENEZUELA DEVALUES FROM 4.30 TO 6.30 BOLIVARS
VENEZUELA NEW CURRENCY BODY TO MANAGE DOLLAR INFLOWS
CARACAS CONSUMER PRICES ROSE 3.3% IN JAN.
And that, ladies and gents of Caracas, is how you just lost 46% of your purchasing power, unless of course your fiat was in gold and silver, which just jumped by about 46%. And, in case there is confusion, this is in process, and coming soon to every "developed world" banana republic near you.
"Central Bankers and policymakers can’t stop themselves from interfering." To be fair on them (unusual in his case), SocGen's Albert Edwards admits the pressure to do something in the face of “bad” economic news is overwhelming. The general public or more inconveniently, the electorate, clamor for action from policymakers to counter any economic pain. Any ‘Austrian School’-type suggestion that it is best to let the cycle play out is derided as heartless and defeatist. Something can and must always be done. Whether intervention makes things worse in the medium to long run is an inconvenience that can be ignored until later. We feel Edwards pain as he "sheds tears of despair as [he] was reminded of the blundering incompetence of our overconfident policymakers, whose interventions, despite their best intentions, seem to bring about financial crises with increasing rather than decreasing regularity."
After having less than half the total US deposits back in 2005, China has pumped enough cash into the economy using various public and private conduits to make even Ben Bernanke blush: between January 2005 and January 2013, Chinese bank deposits have soared by a whopping $11 trillion, rising from $4 trillion to $15 trillion! We have no idea what the real Chinese GDP number is but this expansion alone is anywhere between 200 and 300% of the real GDP as it stands now. And more: between January 2012 and January 2013 Chinese deposits rose by just over $2 trillion. In other words, while everyone focuses on Uncle Ben and his measly $1 trillion in base money creation in 2013 (while loan creation at commercial banks continues to decline), China will have created well more than double this amount of money in the current year alone!
Keep Calm and Keep Buying. We are sure this will be the message as for the first time this year, the Dow closed the week in the red. First time in 42 years that the S&P 500 started the year up six weeks in a row... as the S&P and Nasdaq managed modest gains (thanks to AAPL's help) - making new multi-year highs as yet another high stop-run was sent out early. After testing back under 13%, VIX popped back higher in the afternoon to close the week slightly higher. However, while stocks stumbled along sideways not really doing anything - every other asset class saw significant risk-off related moves. The USD saw its biggest weekly rise in 7 months! Treasury yields dropped 6-8bps - the biggest rally in bonds in 5 weeks. High-yield credit has suffered its biggest 2-week plunge in 9 months. WTI Crude saw its biggest weekly drop in 2 months. Given the USD strength, gold performed very well (ending the week unch). Stocks remain significantly dislocated from credit, rates, and FX markets in the medium-term (all of which closed the week with a risk-off shift). Volume, amid the blizzard, was dismal today.
The S&P 500 P/E ratio is testing 15x - its highest in 19 months. This takes the stock market's valuation back to its highest since the debt-ceiling debacle and USAAA downgrade (as if nothing ever happened). Since that time, expectations for GDP growth in 2013 has plunged from 3.2% to a measly 2.0%. The 'Market of Dreams' economy continues as Bernanke's "If you BTFD, we will recover" is the only mantra left. Was it only August 2007 that Bob Pisani was reminding us all that: "improved policies on the part of those steering the economy are the likely reason we have avoided recessions."
Whether you're aware of it or not, a great battle is being waged around us. It is a war of two opposing narratives: the future of our economy and our standard of living. The dominant story, championed by flotillas of press releases and parading talking heads, tells an inspiring tale of recovery and return to growth. The other side, less visible but with a full armament of high-caliber data, tells a very different story. One of growing instability, downside risk, and inequality. As different as they are in substance, they both share one fundamental prediction – and this is why you should care: This battle is about to break. And when it does, one side will turn out to be much more 'right' than the other. The time for action has arrived. To position yourself in the direction of the break you think is most likely to happen. It's time to choose a side.
"I will veto any effort to get rid of the automatic spending cuts" - Barack Obama, November 21, 2011
"The President will urge Congress to come together and act to ensure these devastating cuts to defense and job-creating programs don’t take effect." - White House statement, February 5, 2013
Whether it is Euro-Skeptic MEPs, tin-foil-hat-wearing bloggers, anarchic facebook-friends, or 'V-for-Vendetta'-atavar'd twitterati, the European Union is now engaging in a social media blast to "correct their misconceptions". In what appears to be a coordinated troll-patrol, Nigel Farage notes the "very very scared" leaders of the European Union are spending taxpayers money to counter growing skepticism at the unelected leaders dragging citizens into a United States of Europe. The outspoken British MEP makes it very clear he thinks this social media smear campaign is leading towards a 'mugabe-like' banana republic, as Europe's leaders, who he believes are the "most dangerous people in Europe in 70 years," are terrified at the citizenry's realization that none of this removal of sovereignty was ever voted for. Banana Republic indeed...
We have been monitoring the shifts in the high-yield bond market for a few weeks, noting that bond ETF and credit derivative markets are showing some serious (divergent from stocks) signs of risk-off. Whether this was driven by call-constraints limiting upside potential, a fundamental realization of a shifting macro background, or ad hoc idiosyncratic risk elevation due to releveragings and potential public-to-private transactions is unclear. What is clear is that this week saw the largest HY ETF outflow on record. Furthermore, HYG's shares outstanding have plunged over 11% in the last 90 days as ETF units are for the first time destroyed QoQ not created. The rotation appears to be up-in-quality and up-in-capital structure as loan funds saw inflows - but with stocks and credit linked inexorably via the balance sheet, the divergence cannot last forever (and never has). Until very recently this has not spilled over into the cash bond market, but the last few days have seen selling pressure picking up into this illiquid market.
Friday Farce: 16 Year Old Outperforms 99% Of Hedge Funds: "Oh My Gosh, That's So Easy, I Have To Do This"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 02/08/2013 - 12:31
Forget Ackman, Einhorn, Bass, And Hendry. There is only one name in the world of equity market performance in 2012 - Rachel Fox, of 'Desperate Housewives' fame. With a 30%-plus performance, the day-trading debutante has turned from actress to activist as she day-trades her way through the day. The 16-year-old actress who made 338 trades last year, based mostly on technicals, ""...fell in love with the idea and the concept of being able to just buy something, have it go up, or have it go down, depending on which way you bet it and have it make you money. I thought, oh, my, gosh, that's amazing, and so easy, I have to do this." If ever there was a sign of the extreme bubble that central planning has re-created for us - it has to be this. Her advice: "you have to really just trade on your own instincts and not just be like, oh, this person says this is great, let me just go for it." LOL, OMG, IKR ;-( Our advice: next time readers are discussing stock tips with a random employee of Hustler Club, Scores or Spearmint Rhino - don't just stare, listen! Said 'random employee' is almost certainly outpeforming the "smart money", and the broader market, by a wide margin. Thank you Ben.
This is just a disaster - and more prolonged than the depression of the 1930s. If British businesses don’t have confidence in Cameron and Osborne’s policies, if their policies don’t lower unemployment, don’t create growth, don’t boost imports and exports, don’t result in recovery, and don’t even result in less borrowing (their stated aim), why do they continue to pursue them?