With the Fed pumping $118 million per hour into excess (and fungible) reserves into the banking system, the market has once again front-run the exuberance expected from the CCAR (or bank stress tests). Sadly, just as we saw last year, the 'hope' priced into US financial stocks is absolutely not priced into US financial credit markets and the strange case of deja vu all over again that we saw in last year's stress test makes us wonder why all those professional investors aren't snapping up the 'cheap' debt of the banks - unless they are well aware of reality. Of course, as we noted last year, the combination of pure economic guesswork and financial analysis leaves belief in the Stress Tests a total 'act of faith' and it seems, once again, credit markets don't believe.
Another Beige Book comes and goes providing little real color as to anything useful about the real world. The excessive use of words synonymous with 'mediocre' appears to be the best we can do (on a $1 trillion deficit?) - but of course, the Dow is still near all-time highs...
- *FED SAYS ECONOMY GREW AT 'MODEST TO MODERATE PACE' IN FEBRUARY
- *FED SAYS 'MANUFACTURING MODESTLY IMPROVED IN MOST REGIONS'
- *FED SAYS SEVERAL DISTRICTS REPORTED 'RESTRAINED HIRING'
- *FED SAYS MOST DISTRICTS SAW MODEST PRESSURES ON PRICES
- *FED SAYS 'WAGE PRESSURES WERE MOSTLY LIMITED'
Of course, the spin will be, at least it's not bad... the S&P is 3 points off the highs, BTFD. Perhaps of most note, though: "Many District contacts commented on the expired payroll tax holiday and the Affordable Care Act as having restrained sales growth."
During the Great Depression, there were countless suicides. People jumping out of buildings because they lost everything and could not face a future that was destitute. The photographs of such scenes will live forever. The same is taking place throughout Southern Europe today and it is a cry for fiscal responsibility upon government. In Italy, just since the start of the year, 23 entrepreneurs have committed suicide. Politicians are responsible for these economic declines.
Niall Ferguson "In my view Paul Krugman has done fundamental damage to the quality of public discourse on economics. He can be forgiven for being wrong, as he frequently is--though he never admits it. He can be forgiven for relentlessly and monotonously politicizing every issue. What is unforgivable is the total absence of civility that characterizes his writing. His inability to debate a question without insulting his opponent suggests some kind of deep insecurity perhaps the result of a childhood trauma. It is a pity that a once talented scholar should demean himself in this way."
Steven Rattner, investment banker and former member of the Obama Administration, is terrified that under a proposed law companies will be able to raise money without investment bankers: "most troublesome is the legalization of 'crowd funding,' the ability of start-up companies to raise capital from small investors on the Internet..." This is absolutely, classically representative of the technocratic arrogance of the Obama Administration and the investment bankers that inhabit it. Here are three quick thoughts...
As we recently noted, despite the incessant chatter that the worst is behind them and the unending belief that if European politicians repeat a lie often enough it will become truth, the following chart perhaps better than many others shows the sorry state that exists in Europe's core and periphery - no green shoots, no second-derivative shifts, and only the 'Merkel-Draghi' wager holding things together. And despite US equity strength, European markets disappointed today with EURUSD back under 1.3000, European stock indices closing red (not holding US equity-driven gains), and Italian and Spanish bond spreads leaking wider into the close (about 10bps off their intrday tights).
Hauser's law contends that Federal tax revenues rarely rise above 20% of GDP, regardless of where nominal tax rates are set. The implicit dynamic here is that when taxes exceed 20% of GDP, participants modify their behavior to lower their taxes. Corporations will shift operations overseas. Some high-wage earners will simply work less, reducing their income to lower tax brackets. Small business owners will decrease their compensation, cut back their workload, or simply bail out. Others will leave the high-tax market and slip into the cash/informal economy where the tax rate is zero. In a $15 trillion economy, this suggests the maximum Federal tax revenue that can realistically be collected is around $3 trillion. Currently, Federal tax revenues are around $2.5 trillion, and Federal spending is about $3.8 trillion. That leaves a $1.3 trillion deficit that is filled with borrowed money. Tradeoffs will have to be made. That is the essence of adulthood. Too bad we've become a nation of spoiled adolescents.
When a month ago we wrote "It's Deja Vu, All Over Again: This Time Is... Completely The Same" as the endless din over some non-existent "Great Rotation" had the TV anchors on the financial comedy channel giddy with excitement, we said one thing, when we compared the current environment with its carbon copy observed back in 2011: "Fund Flows into equities were unstoppable. Yes - that was 7 consecutive weeks of major equity inflows into stocks... back in January 2011." Moments ago ICI just released its latest weekly US equity mutual fund flow data for the week ended February 27. We can now officially end the 2013 version of the "great rotation" myth because we just got our first outflow, after how many weeks of inflows? That's right: seven. Just like in 2011.
Not every asset class in the world is buying this as the renaissance of risk-on...
You thought horse meatballs were bad? You haven’t seen anything yet. The iconic Swedish furniture store, where apparently some people buy groceries, has been forced to recall a batch of its almond cakes in 23 countries “after Chinese authorities said they contained coliform bacteria, normally present in fecal matter.” You know it’s bad when China calls you out on your food quality.
Following the earlier laughable seasonally adjusted ADP data (because for some reason Mark Zandi does not find it necessary to supplement his report with the unadjusted data), courtesy of which the gullible public was supposed to believe that in February as small businesses were running out of money they proceeded to engage in a massive hiring spree, we thought: "hmmm: maybe there is a free lunch, and a drop in government spending however meager, will not manifest itself in economic data. Why, just look at the ADP..." Alas, moments ago we got the January factory orders data, and our thought experiment was promptly terminated. The good news: the headline number posted a -2.0% drop in January, the biggest M/M drop in 5 month, which however beat expectations of an even more acute drop of -2.2%, which was driven by a collapse in defense and transportation orders, as spending cuts are finally felt through the supply chain. The bad news... well, we'll let the chart below do the talking.
A small note on the frankly hilarious news that the Dow Jones Industrial Average smashed through to all-time-highs. First of all, while stock prices are soaring household income and household confidence are slumping to all-time lows. Employment remains depressed, energy remains expensive, housing remains depressed, wages and salaries as a percentage of GDP keep falling, and the economy remains in a deleveraging cycle. Essentially, these are not the conditions for strong organic business growth, for a sustainable boom. We’re going through a structural economic adjustment, and suffering the consequences of a huge 40-year debt-fuelled boom. While the fundamentals remain weak, it can only be expected that equity markets should remain weak. But that is patently not what has happened. With every day that the DJIA climbs to new all-time highs, more suckers will be drawn into the market. But it won’t last. Insiders have already gone aggressively bearish. This time isn’t different.
That is how much money the Federal Reserve Bank of the United States is creating as you wake, work or sleep. That is $85 billion a month and the stuff must go somewhere. It pours out like sugar upon the markets, each market, every market and it is no wonder that the American stock markets are hitting new highs. The spice must flow. I have been asked numerous times why the Fed’s balance sheet can’t be thirty trillion dollars and so the game continues. The answer is that it can be but, and a very big but, is that the debt of the United States would also be ten times the size it is now and it would have to be serviced by an economy that only has so many resources as the debt to GDP ratio of the country would be out of sight. The catch here is the amount of debt that would be created along with the creation of money and that is where the game halts or reverses the course. It would no longer be, and we are close to it now in my opinion, that the Fed is “the lender of last resort” but the only important lender in town.
While the ADP private payroll monthly update (certainly before its wholesale revision every year or so to make it more accurate in retrospect) has traditionally been completely worthless in its predictive ability of the NFP number it precedes by two days, today it was the only source of US economic update, and as such everyone - certainly the handful of algos that trade stocks - at least pretended to pay attention when ADP reported the best private payrolls number since February 2012 (unrevised), printing at 198K, well above expectations of a decline to 170K from 192K in January. This was the fifth beat in a row, and the fifth beat since Moody's Mark Zandi starting making up the numbers in the ADP report. Additionally, the January number was revised higher to 215K. Why? Because defying all logic, it was small businesses which drove the surge in job creation in February, the month when gas prices soared to an all time high and when spending was curtailed due to impact of the payroll tax cut, at least according to such irrelevant indicators as Wal-Mart retail traffic, by creating some 77K jobs, more than either middle or large business. Realistic? Of course not. Does anyone care? Absolutely not: after all it simply allows the "head in the sand" trading style to continue indefinitely.