The chart below shows 2050 years of relative global GDP, during which there was a surprisingly flat distribution of the major economic powers: China, India, and the "West", at least until the mid-1800s, when the "Western" Golden Age began primarily courtesy of the industrial revolution, followed by the arrival of the Fed and virtually endless leverage (i.e., borrowing from the future until such time as no more debt capacity remains at either the public or private sectors), only to end in the late 1900s when the marginal balance of power shifted back to Asia, which became the next nexus of debt accumulation (see our earlier post on The Great Recoupling for some additional perspectives). And while the chart, from Deutsche Bank and PWC, attempts to predict the next 40 years of relative GDP distribution by eventually regressing back to the the long-term trendline, we feel that this is quite an optimistic assumption for a world in which virtually every "developed" country is insolvent, begs for China to ease whenever western inflation sends gas prices soaring making reelection of the incumbent impossible, and is reliant on the indefinite continuation of the USD's reserve status to preserve the last traces of western superiority (not to mention cheap funding of $-trillion deficits as far as the eye can see).
While the official number from the FMS is not out yet, according to an advance look by the CBO, the August deficit soared from a modest $70 billion to a whopping $192 billion, the highest August deficit in history, and coming at a time when traditionally the US Treasury does not generate substantial deficits. It also means that "that" $59 billion budget surplus in April, coming after 42 straight months of deficits, and which surprised so many, was just as we suspected, nothing but a play on the temporal mismatch between treasury receipts and outlays. Most importantly, with one month left in the fiscal year, a month which, too, will likely come well above last year's $63 billion, the US has now spent $1.165 trillion more than it has received via various taxes. Finally so much for the year over year improvement: at $1.23 trillion deficit in the LTM period, this is only 3.2% less than the August 2011 LTM deficit which was $1.27 trillion, despite nearly 2 million more workers employed (at least according to the BLS) and generating tax revenue. Expect the US to end Fiscal 2012 with a total deficit of well over $1.2 trillion, which in turn means that the average burn rate of $100 billion in new debt issuance each month, will continue into the indefinite future.
Since The Dreme (Draghi Scheme) began shortly after the EU Summit, the P/E multiple on the S&P 500 has risen by a faith-defining 2x. This is the largest three-month rise in this indicator-of-indifference-to-reality since the initial burst rally off the March 2009 lows. Meanwhile, the actual earnings consensus is being marked down further, heading for an earnings recession as we pointed out last week. It seems investors are too afraid not to believe in P/E miracles or perhaps it is just faith that central banks have it all under control and their 'promises' are as good-as-gold.
Bill Gross may be credited with inventing the term 'the New Normal', although his recommendation to purchase gold above all other asset classes, something which only fringe blogs such as this one have been saying is the best trade (in terms of return, Sharpe Ratio, and the ability to sleep soundly) for the past three and a half years, he is sure to be increasingly ostracized by the establishment, and told to take all his newfangled idioms with him in his exile to less than serious people land. Which takes us to David Rosenberg, who today revisits his own definition of the New Normal. And it, too, is just as applicable as that of the Pimco boss: "The new normal is that the economy doesn't drive markets any more." Short and sweet, although it also is up for debate whether the economy ever drove the markets in the first place. But that would open up a whole new conspiratorial can of worms, and is a discussion best saved for after Ben Bernanke decides to save the "housing market" by buying more hundreds of billions in MBS and lowering mortgage yields further, even though mortgage rates already are at record lows (something that mortgage applications apparently couldn't care less about as we showed last week), while "avoiding" to do everything in his power to boost the S&P, which recently was at 5 year highs, and certainly "avoiding" to listen to Chuck Schumer telling him to do his CTRL+P job, and "get to work" guaranteeing Schumer's donors have another whopper of a bonus season.
The almighty Dollar is looking less mighty these days. By almost every measure, the purchasing power of the US Dollar is in precipitous decline. The following infographic, whose contents should be well-known to our readers, visualizes the sad state of affairs that the average American seems to have ignored for far too long. And since the whole world is now engaged in the 4th year of all out currency debasement one can safely channel Lester Burnham and say it's "all downhill from here."
One of the deepest mysteries related to the ongoing rally in U.S. equities is the persistent lack of retail investor involvement. QAs we have vociferously noted, U.S. equity mutual fund flows remain solidly negative and interest in single stock trading among individual investors is similarly moribund - while corporate bond volumes remain flat and Treasury volumes higher. As Nick Colas, of ConvergEx group, notes, one missing link to explain this dichotomy must be the fundamental lack of financial literacy among U.S. retail investors, yet this relationship is seldom mentioned as a reason for this group’s ongoing apathy in the face of 4-year highs for domestic stocks. You might argue that “It was always thus…” and that is a fair point. American investors haven’t grown dumber on financial matters in the last decade; they never had the requisite knowledge to begin with. But it does appear that the events of the last few years have caused some kind of “Tipping point” with regard to investors’ ability to process the world around them.
SocGen’s Sebastian Galy:
The market decided rose tinted glasses were not enough, put on its dark shades and hit the nightlife.
And the uber-bullishness is based on what? Hopium. Hope that the Fed will unleash QE3, or nominal GDP level targeting and buy, buy, buy — because what the market really needs right now is more bond flippers, right? Hope that Europeans have finally gotten their act together in respect to buying up periphery debt to create a ceiling on borrowing costs. Hope that this time is different in China, and that throwing a huge splash of stimulus cash at infrastructure will soften the landing.
The chart below from UBS' George Magnus captures perhaps better than anything, not only the reason why the global economy grew with the speed it did over the past 40 years, not only why "globalization" (a/k/a finding news places to issue debt in exchange for secured assets and unsecured cash flows all the while under the umbrella of globalist organizations: see Confessions of an Economic Hit Man) was the primary urgency for the status quo, not only why the developed world managed to delay the inevitable day of reckoning for as long as it did, but most importantly, why the global day of debt-saturated reckoning is coming.
While the plight of precious metal mining in the 3rd largest gold producer in the world has been well-documented here, as on ongoing strike in various South African mines has crippled precious metal supply, so far the mining shut down had not spread outside the continent of Africa (excluding the occasional Bolivian and Venezuelan mine nationalization). Today, however, even more mining capacity was taken offline, as India's Goa, the country's second largest iron ore producer, announced it was temporarily ceasing all mining activity "after an expert panel formed by the central government found "serious illegalities and irregularities" in mining operations." While no gold production has been impacted yet, this move, which likely has political overtones, will likely shift to other extractors soon, as more production capacity is taken offline, for either labor or kickback reasons. And as reported previously, demand by the now largest importer of gold in the world China, refuses to decline with supply, which has clear implications for the equilibrium price. It remains to be seen if Goa going dark will push iron-ore prices higher. It is quite likely that the collapse in Chinese iron-ore demand offline is far greater than anything Goa will remove from the market and as such will hardly push iron prices higher.
Casting a broad eye across all asset classes today, the theme of QE-Off was quite apparent. USD strength, Gold/Silver leaking lower, Stocks gathering downward momentum (as high-beta hotels underperform - AAPL 2nd biggest drop in over 3 months), Treasuries underperforming, and VIX rising rapidly with notable term structure flattening (to its lowest of the year). Volume was on the light side - which suggests this was more longs covering than shorts being laid out (as positioning into recent strength was light and looks to have capitulated Thurs/Fri. Dow Transports outperformed - which appeared more a value rotation as NASDAQ fell back to practically unch (along with the Dow) from the 8/21 swing highs. Equities definitely led the weakness today as cross-asset-class correlation broke down, and futures kept falling after-hours with S&P 500 e-mini futures closing down 12pts - right at the up-trendline of the recent move.
It seems most have strong views on who should not be the Chairman of the Fed but based on a recent survey at a Morgan Stanley conference, it seems Ron Paul still has an outside chance. What of Justin Bieber? Jim Grant? Maria Bartiromo? Chuck Norris?
On the surface, today's G.19 update, aka the monthly Consumer Credit Data, was a big disappointment due to a major miss in consumer credit, which in July dropped by $3.3 billion from $2.708 trillion to $2.705 trillion. The drop was, as always, on a slide in revolving credit, which dropped for a second consecutive month, this time by just under $5 billion, while non-revolving credit, aka student loans and GM subprime debt, rose by just $1.5 billion: the lowest monthly increase in this series since August 2011, when it declined by $9 billion. Expectations were for an increase of over $9 billion. There was a far bigger problem, however. The problem is the spike on the chart below which represents the November to December 2010 transition (source: Fed). What happened there is that 3 months after the Fed revised the consumer credit data last, it decided to re-revise it again. Frankly, at this point nothing the Fed releases has any credibility, as the central planners are literally making up data every three months as it suits them.
The fundamental backdrop, in the shape of economic lead indicators and earnings momentum, has been deteriorating: manufacturing PMIs for the US, China, Japan, Korea, the Euro zone, and the UK are all now sub-50, and consensus earnings growth estimates for 2012 have been halved in recent months. What has this meant for Global Equities? Well, as UBS notes, in the last three months, very little. The MSCI AC World index is up more than 12% from the 4 June low. That markets have rallied while fundamentals have deteriorated in this manner is unusual. Historically, equity market rebounds have tended to coincide with a trough in PMIs and earnings momentum – that is, when PMIs have stopped going down and the pace of earnings downgrades slows (waiting for PMIs to recover to 50 or for earnings momentum to turn positive is usually too late). Markets now appear to be taking their cues from central bankers: potential policy actions are becoming a sort of ‘lead indicator of the lead indicators’, if you will. Given the recent rally, in addition to underlying macro weakness, policy action - and effective action at that – has become increasingly important for investors. Without it this recent rally could end up looking more like a false start than a head start.