After touching multi-year highs amid the exuberance of liquidity sloshing around the world, Oil became too glaring a concern and two weeks of suppression took the only Central-Bank-'Governor' to much more comfortable levels. But, the last week has seen the biggest 5-day jump in WTI in 8 months and today the biggest jump in 5 months. It seems the 'Brent Vigilantes' are back. Equities traded in a very narrow range after yesterday's #HashCrash and eMini volumes were among the lowest of the year. An early afternoon ramp, aided by EURUSD, failed at overnight highs and collapsed back to VWAP as the machines were in charge once again. Treasuries rallied from early morning high yields ending the day lower in yield (TSY yields down 1-2bps on the week against a 30 point rally in the S&P!!) Durable goods dismal data just reinforced Europe's donut and stirred the bad-is-good mantra as Trannies outperformed, but interestingly once again the Dow was unable to break above pre-Boston levels. FX markets were relatively calm for once as gold, silver, and copper all gained. VIX ended up for the day by 0.25vols at 13.75%.
Forget the papered over cracks of manufactured EPS 'beats', or the talking-head anecdotes of one or two companies chosen to represent the 'earnings season' visibility. This chart from S&P shows the simple reality that operating earnings per share has been growing at an ever-decreasing pace since QE began. Of course, just as they were saying in June 2011, the next few quarters will see this growth re-accelerate...
How much changes in six months. Last September, everyone, including the hotdog vendor, the shoeshine boy and the kitchen sink, was screaming that AAPL $1000 is just around the corner, and cartoon analysts named for state capitals were coming up with idiotic price targets (hint: $1111) that only intellectually-stunted dyslexics could love. Six months later, the former growth company (and now levered-divdend value play) can barely break above $300. So, just to set the record straight, here, courtesy of marketsqueeze.com, is a small sample of the penguins who could barely outscream each other on the way to a "certain" $1 trillion market cap. Ooops.
It appears, once again, that the government's inept approach to spending 'other people's money' has blown up in their face. As HotAir.com reports, newly obtained documents show the Obama administration was warned as early as 2010 that electric car maker Fisker Automotive Inc. was not meeting milestones set up for a half-billion dollar government loan, nearly a year before U.S. officials froze the loan. Just as with Solyndra, Congress seemed convinced to spend billions of taxpayer money 'investing' in green-tech startups - only to lose everything. Simply put, in our humble opinion, the pattern is explained by the 'monopoly money' perspective we suspect these funds are viewed as in light of Bernanke's inexorable funding of the government's largesse. None other than the great Joe Biden reveled in the news in 2009 that Fisker would re-open a closed GM plant creating jobs, jobs, jobs; it never completed the task and never created one job. When the money isn't yours, 'investing' public funds is oh so easy and it appears, with zero consequence for the decision makers - again. But this story is not over yet, as Fisker heads to Congress looking for the right "financial and stretgic resources" once again.
While broad US macro-economic data has been sliding rapidly of late - now at equivalently bad levels as we saw in August of last year's 'swoon', we have often seen 'survey-based' data provide some fillip to the hard-data deterioration. Hope and faith that recovery is just around the corner provides just enough to hang new all-time high stock prices on. But... in the last two weeks, the surprises from US business cycle and survey-based indicators have plunged. In fact they have dropped at a pace only matched by 2011's Q2 slump that required global coordinated central bank intervention to save it. Perhaps even more interesting from the chart below, is the lower highs being made in these indicators of the business cycle - which confirm the fading reality of any spillover-effect from QE.
When Spanish bonds traded at yields above 7% last Summer, the world's central banks went into a whirlwind to proclaim that these levels did not represent reality (in spite of the depression-era style economic data the nation was spewing). Fast forward nine months, the data is worse and getting worserer but yields - through the guiding hand of Draghi, the self-referential buying of domestic banks, and the BoJ's risk-is-no-object reach for anything non-JPY denominated - have crushed to 4.3% pre-crisis levels. Meanwhile, a few thousand miles south, the nation of Rwanda is issuing its first international debt today at a 7% yield (to the Japanese we are sure) as over 90% of the world's sovereign bond markets are at or near all-time low yields. But, the smart money is leaving, as PIMCO notes, "this central bank-inspired rally has made the markets expensive... relative to fundamentals"
Things in the US have gotten so bad, not only are most online dealers backlogged weeks and months in advance for most PMs (as the CEO of Texas Precious Metals explained in detail), but respected bullion vaults are also now on the verge of running out of inventory. As Reuters described, "Michael Kramer, president of Manfra, Tordella & Brookes (MTB), a major U.S. coin dealer in New York, has been inundated by orders from existing and new wholesale and retail customers. "It's panic. This is one of the busiest times in quite a while. People think gold's at the lows and they want to take advantage." It was only a matter of time before the last bastion of paper money, London, also succumbed to the soaring demand for physical, and sure enough moments ago Bloomberg reported that the "Britain’s Royal Mint, established in the 13th century, sold more than three times more gold coins this month than a year earlier as prices declined." Sales are more than 150 percent higher than last month, according to Shane Bissett, director of bullion and commemorative coin at the Royal Mint.
Since reams of Powerpoint presentations, or pages of PDFs seem to pass most 'investors' by these days, PIMCO's Bill Gross' new chosen media appears to be Twitter's 140 characters. He is on a roll of soundbite superbness. Today's headline suggests just four little words we should all be aware of: "Bubbles are getting Bubbly."
— PIMCO (@PIMCO) April 24, 2013
Yesterday's #Hash-Crash has brought the tough reality of just how entirely mechanized the so-called equity 'markets' have become in the US to every mom-and-pop who watch nightly news. Mainstream media is even discussing the correlations between JPY carry trades and equity indices now as CNBC's Rick Santelli notes "the high-speed casinos our markets have become". All things we have discussed for years. But there is one potentially fascinating insight from the ongoing robotization of the TBTF banking sector - Wall Street jobs are now at an all-time record low. Once again, it would appear, that cost-cutting demands (and a government backstop and huge subsidy no matter how bad the things are that you do) trumps any job creation. As Joe Saluzzi explains to CNBC's Rick Santelli in this excellent clip, the "liquidity is fickle" - the fake-tweet was a mere catalyst, he added, "we see these flash-crashes every day." The benefits for the major exchanges far exceed the conflicts of interest of these so-called "market-makers" who front-run their clients millisecond by millisecond.
Another day, another set of horrible European data that merely stokes the idiocy of bad is good front-running of an ECB rate cut next week. We remain somewhat skeptical that a rate-cut will actually do anything here for this 'fragmented' continent when simple old 'free-money' is not fixing anything. But anyway... European stocks surged ahead again - even after yesterday's best day in 9 months. The difference today... European sovereign bonds deteriorated quite notably with Italian spreads wider by 10bps (despite its equity market's strength reasoned on the possibility of a new PM). Spain and Italy are up 6% and 5% respectively this week, and their bond spreads -32bps and 21bps respectively. We are sure this will end well. No pressure, Mr. Draghi...
Update: we decided it may be an opportune time to remind readers of this particular fact, not opinion, not propaganda, not insinuation.
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.
The heart and soul of the Keynesian Cargo Cult is the dogma that the cure for all economic ailments is more aggregate demand, i.e. consumption. The Keynesians' fanatic faith in boosting consumption would be merely childishly naive if it didn't directly support a parasitic neofeudal debt-serfdom. Sadly, Krugman and his fellow cultists' single-minded parroting of "aggregate demand" makes them well-paid lackeys and toadies for an extractive neofeudal-neocolonial debtocracy. If you set out to design a system that would implode with devastating consequences, it would be the Keynesian Cargo Cult's neofeudal financialization debtocracy. All the incentives favor increasing debt, misallocation of capital and mindless consumption, and all the disincentives weaken investments in productivity and the creative destruction of malinvestments and subsidies to favored cartels.
While the dismal news of endlessly rising food stamp recipients in the US seems to be glossed over by most of the media because, well, stock markets are at all-time highs, in Britain, things are becoming increasingly awful. As the FT reports, the number of people receiving emergency food rations has surged from 130,000 to almost 350,000 in the past year. As inflation eroded incomes and government austerity pushed hundreds of thousands into crisis, the 'working poor' has emerged. The food bank provider estimates about half of the households it helped has at least one person in work. During the Great Depression, the desperation was graphically evident with long lines of families waiting for soup; in the new depression, the record levels of starving and needy are hidden by a blanket of EBT cards and direct transfers from government. The situation is no less terrible - no matter how hidden from view. As one food bank manager noted, "the fundamental thing is that more and more people are living an increasingly precarious life financially."
As we have discussed numerous times over the past year, there is a quiet movement among the world's central banks to diversify their reserves away from the pejorative USD. Whether it is direct trade linkages, hording physical precious metals, or simply buying foreign sovereign debt, there is a trend emerging. The latest defection, as BusinessWeek reports, is Australia's plan to invest about 5% of foreign currency reserves in China. The decision "represents the first time that the RBA will have invested directly in a sovereign bond market of an Asian country other than Japan," the country's deputy governor noted, adding that this step was an "important milestone" to "stronger financial linkages" leaving Australia "better positioned to benefit from the shift in global economic growth towards Asia." Of course, palling up to its closest trade partner is a big driver, but in a somewhat barbed comment on the strength of the AUD, Lowe noted, "quantitative easing that has taken place in a number of countries is having a significant effect on exchange rates of freely floating currencies... which is clearly making for difficult conditions in certain parts of the Australian economy."