The causal relationship between scarcity, demand, and price is intuitive. Whatever is scarce and in demand will rise in price; whatever is abundant and in low demand will decline in price to its cost basis. The corollary is somewhat less intuitive, but still solidly sensible: the cure for high prices is high prices, meaning that as the price of a commodity or service reaches a threshold of affordability/pain, suppliers and consumers will seek out alternatives or modify their behaviors to lower consumption. Much of the supposedly inelastic demand for goods is based on the presumptive value of ownership. For many workers, there simply won’t be enough income to indulge in the ownership model. The cost in cash and opportunity are too high. This leads to a profound conclusion: What will be scarce is income, not commodities.
China’s credit risk is rising, probably much more rapidly than the official non-performing loan (NPL) statistics indicate. SocGen is concerned as they think we are only seeing the beginning of the end of this NPL cycle. While they do not anticipate an outright banking crisis, as the government will certainly keep intervening at each turn on the way to avoid such an outcome, this is no reason to feel relieved. The reason being a major structural element in China's NPL cycle as many industries have massive excess capacity - after years of aggressive expansion that ran way ahead of demand growth - which eventually has to be eliminated. This process will take some time, during which faster depreciation in the form of deleveraging and consolidation will be unavoidable; and while expectations of an imminent hard landing may be overdone, the landing will nevertheless be multi-year and bumpy in their view.
When Ben Bernanke launched QE 2 in 2010 he outlined a third mandate for the Federal Reserve - the boosting of consumer confidence. He stated that the goal of QE 2 was to boost asset prices in order to spur consumer confidence through the "wealth effect" which should translate into economic growth. In 2010 he was right, and QE 2 not only boosted asset prices sharply, but kept the economy from slipping into a recessionary spat. As Friday's speech from the economic summit in "Jackson Hole" draws near - Bernanke should be taking a clue from today's release of consumer confidence in considering his next move.
Regimes are shifting. Can you feel it? While at the surface, indices tumble along in small ranges and AAPL does its thing, asset-class movements and sector-rotations suggest something is afoot. Since the peak in the S&P 500 last week, we have seen a clear rotation from cyclicals to non-cyclicals, a major rotation from stocks into bonds, and a significant regime change in the relationship between Gold, the USD, and Treasury prices. One thing is clear - the heads-I-win, tails-you-lose high-beta strategy (on the ECB/Fed 'has your back' thesis) appears to be weakening a little (though in 100 milliseconds from now - who knows?)
A week ago everyone was convinced that in three days, Bernanke would reveal the second coming or whatever the equivalent biblical event is these days that would send the Dow to 36,000 in a heartbeat. We laughed at such naive suggestions. Then over the past five days the market has seen a profound transformation with what was initially a seed of doubt that the Chairman may in fact disappoint his stock buying disciples, having sprouted into a full blown weed of outright denial, fear and loathing. Which makes sense: in a world in which everything is jawboning, everyone's hope is always on the event just over the event horizon, but never on the one that is imminent: that way when the inevitable disappointment happens one can just say it was all premeditated and is coming "next time." However, in case the market has finally had enough of being led by the nose, lied to, and does throw a temper tantrum, there are way to take advantage of this. One bank that suggests just a way to do this without trading in that insane asset class known as stocks, where up is down, down is purple, and the triangle-square-square-circle killer combo sequence now works in reverse, is Credit Suisse, which suggests to put on a short bond position in anticipation of a major selloff which should inevitably accompany a disappointment from the Fed. Their suggestion: put on a $50K DV01 short at 1.64% and expect a steep selloff when the Fed disappoints, with a 1.75% target. If all works out according to plan, everyone involved should be $500,000 richer at market close on Friday with Bollingers all around.
Complicity reigns supreme as everyone benefiting from a scam keeps quiet about everyone else's skim lest their own share of the spoils fall under the harsh light of inquiry. Can an economy that has become dependent on lies, misrepresentation, "fudging" of numbers, fraud, embezzlement and a multitude of skimming and scamming operations escape the moral and financial black hole it has created? The self-evident answer is "no."
Droughts tend to produce vast yield variations. This week's ProFramer crop tour reaffirmed this tendency and as UBS notes, conditions declined with the expectations of low yields compounded by the harsher reality of poor quality - likely to be a major issue for corn feeders. Interestingly, Soybeans looked good from the road but up close (pod formation and beans/pod) were well below normal; and UBS adds to forget the CME for the moment - the cash market is now the attention grabber as they expect it to lead this rally in Ags higher - especially the July 2013s, raising an interesting question of if (or when) the US will restrict exports? Especially with no let-up in the drought conditions.
Moments ago the US Treasury auctioned off the latest monthly batch of 2 Year bonds, this time $35 billion, or toward the higher end of the issuance range, which was a bit of a dud. Pricing at 0.273%, this was a brisk move from July's record low 0.22%, a weakness which was substantiated by the expected pricing of 0.266% even though the When Issued traded at 0.275% coming into the auction, so technically there was no tail. That said, a very modest 9.01% was allotted at the high yield, implying the bulk of the action in the Dutch Auction was below the closing yield. Beneath the headline, the internals were not pretty either, with just 22.3% of the total bond taken down by Indirect bidders, well below the 32.78% TTM average, demanding an increase in both the Direct and Primary take downs, the former taking down 16.08% while the Dealers having to push 54.66% of the entire auction promptly into the tri-party repo market in exchange for cash to be used for much wiser purposes, such as buying Las Vegas REO real estate and converting it into rentals. Was the weakness of the auction a harbinger of disappointment from Jackson Hole - stay tuned for an opinion from Credit Suisse which says precisely this. And while the auction itself may have been unspectacular, there is a very historic aspect to this particular $35 billion bond issue, which we will reveal after market close.
"We accept the world as it is presented to us. If True American really wished to discover the truth, I would be unable to prevent him from doing so. But he is much happier in my artificial world than he would be in the real world. Since there are so many painful consequences to seeking the truth, he quite rightly prefers to live in my artificial world."
We noted yesterday that the mice of the European equities markets have tended to run when the credit cats are away; and sure enough, London comes back from a long-weekend and risk appetite disappears. European stocks gave back most of their gains from yesterday (and more in some cases) as Sovereign, corporate, and financial credit opened far less exuberantly and drifted wider for most of the day (with some slight US-open-driven strength into the close). Financials modestly outperformed as Sovereigns did not - with Spain now 48bps wider than last week's best levels, Italy 39bps wider, and seemingly forgotten (yet a total disaster) Portugal +52bps. Swiss 2Y rates have tumbled back lower in the last few days to -35bps. The standout was the OMX (Stockholm) which fell 2.3%, its biggest fall in 4 months, as Swedish banks stumbled.
With Draghi stepping aside, the headliner can shine and while Goldman does not expect Chairman Bernanke's speech on Friday morning, entitled "Monetary Policy Since the Crisis", to shed much additional light on the near-term tactics of monetary policy beyond last week's FOMC minutes; their main question is whether he breaks new ground regarding the Fed's longer-term strategy. An aggressive approach would be to signal that the committee is moving closer to the "unconventional unconventional" easing options that Goldman has been ever-so-generously advocating for months, although even they have to admit that expectations are that any moves in this direction will be gingerly.
It’s a safe statement to make that when Mitt Romney is finally crowned the GOP nominee for president during the Republican National Convention, any vestige of liberty will be firmly wiped away from the ballot box come this November. For those who have followed his campaign in the United States, Congressman Ron Paul has been swindled out of the nomination through various underhanded tricks at state conventions. The explanation is straightforward: Paul’s views are not comfortable within the Republican Party establishment. Today’s GOP is a party of banker interests, imperialism, and clandestine state empowerment while claiming to represent small, limited government. Romney embraces this platform while Paul’s decades-long voting record stands in opposition. For towing the party line, Romney has been anointed the “electable” candidate while Paul has been deemed an extremist.
The data out from Spain this morning should be one serious wake-up call for anyone exposed to Europe. The fourth largest economy in the Eurozone is getting hammered and for anyone that has doubted that they will need a full scale bailout; think again. The numbers are a disaster. One year ago the Central Bank of Spain was borrowing $71.53 billion from the European Central Bank. In the last figures available, July, the Central Bank of Spain was borrowing $530.8 billion (an increase of 86.5%) from the ECB either directly or through the Target2 funding which impacts the Bundesbank and Germany quite directly. In other words Germany is now at a huge risk which is not just their 22% ownership of the ECB but a direct and full risk of impairment or default by Spain in the Target2 funding provided by the Bundesbank.