Central bank's ongoing and so-far-successful efforts to crush short-term volatility and encourage hapless individuals into the world's nominally rising stock markets has had consequences. Inequalities abound (rich vs poor, corporate profits vs capex/jobs, bond yields vs growth hopes) but nowhere else is this more evident - given the ever-increasing crescendo of the drum-beat of war around the world - than in oil price volatility. As the chart below shows... oil price volatility is at its lowest in 21 years. We can't help but be reminded of Taleb's priceless phrase that "there is no freedom without noise - and no stability without volatility."
"...policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened...
...even when 80% of the population favored a particular public policy change, it was only instituted 43% of the time."
For an administration run by a "straight to TV" teleprompter, it is only fitting that the inspiration for reaching out to the unemployed masses should come straight from the Oscars. No Samsung's media stunt this time, just America's figurehead leaders kindly requesting everyone to please wave to the NSA-controlled webcam: after all they are on the other end, and smiling.
Based on Bloomberg's Smart Money Flow indicator, there is a very significant amount of distribution going on... the question is just who is soaking up the smart money selling? Company buybacks, Johnny 5, or a greater-fool retail investor?
That the official rate of inflation doesn't reflect reality is obvious to anyone paying college tuition and healthcare out of pocket. The debate over the accuracy of the official consumer price index (CPI) and personal consumption expenditures (PCE--the so-called core rate of inflation) has raged for years, with no resolution in sight. So why does the government maintain such a transparently inaccurate and misleading metric? For three reasons.
As we reported last night, whether as a result of Snowden revelations and NSA blowback by BRIC nations, or simply because the global economy is contracting far faster than rigged and manipulated markets worldwide will admit, IBM's Q1 revenues not only missed consensus earnings, but dropped to their lowest level since 2009. And yet, IBM stock is just shy off its all time highs and earnings per share have been flat if not rising during this period, leading even such acclaimed investors who never invest in tech companies as Warren Buffett to give IBM the seal of approval. How is that possible? Simple: all that investment grade companies like IBM have done in the New Normal in order to preserve the illusion of growth, is to use cash from operations, or incremental zero-cost leverage, to fund stock buybacks. In essence a balance sheet for income statement tradeoff. However, that "great stock buyback gimmick" as we call it, is finally coming to an end.
VIX-slamming, USDJPY-ramping, BTFDe-escalating muppetry and we end the week near the highs with the S&P and Trannies comfortably green YTD (though notably underperforming gold still). Treasuries were sold hard today (7Y +10bps) as the D word was bandied about by the politicians (while in reality de-escalation was anything but what was happening), but the 5s30s still flattened modestly further. 10Y saw one of its worst days of the year and yields pressed up to their 200DMA. Gold and silver were flat to modestly lower as copper and oil limped higher. FX markets were relatively calm as the USD pushed higher on the week (+0.5%). Stocks closed weak into the close but after 3 days of ramp, it's hardly surprising.
An impromptu press conference... on Obamacare but we are sure there'll be time to poke the bear...
The latest development out of NATO, which was already largely expected, must be part of the just announced elaborate de-escalation scheme. From VOA: "NATO members are sending navy ships to the Baltic Sea to increase the security of the alliance's eastern European allies in response to the Ukraine crisis. NATO's Maritime Command said Thursday it is sending four minesweepers and a support vessel to the Baltic Sea. The ships are from Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium and Estonia."
Here’s something you don’t see very often: For a day and a half this week, the Japanese government’s benchmark 10-year bonds attracted not a single successful private sector bid. At today’s artificially-depressed yields, no one wants this paper — except of course the Bank of Japan, which is buying up the bonds with newly-created yen. In a world of markets rather than manipulations, this kind of imbalance would be an automatic short candidate. Actually, this kind of imbalance would never occur and as one trader noted "I know this could end badly."
Everyone knows that the half-life of these pointless diplomatic summits aimed at "de-escalating" geopolitical tensions is measured in days if not hours... But minutes? Moments ago from RT, and literally minutes after the final Geneva "agreement" was blasted, we get this: "Kiev says Military operation in Ukraine southeast to go on despite Geneva agreement." The agreement, which as a reminder, said "All sides must refrain from any violence, intimidation or provocative actions." That's right: not just "pro-Russian separatist terrorists", but all sides.
Krugman: "There's zero evidence that the kind of extreme inequality that we have is good for economic growth. In fact, there's a lot of evidence that it is actually bad for economic growth. Nobody wants us to become Cuba." Ah yes, inequality, the same inequality that the Fed - Krugman's favorite monetary stimulus machine - has been creating at an unprecedented pace since it launched QE. Just recall: "The "Massive Gift" That Keeps On Giving: How QE Boosted Inequality To Levels Surpassing The Great Depression." So while Krugman is right in lamenting the record surge in class divide between the 1% haves and the 99% have nots, you certainly won't find him touching with a ten foot pole the root cause of America's current surge in inequality. And, tangentially, another thing you won't find him touching, is yesterday's revelation by Gawker that the Nobel laureate is the proud recipient of $25,000 per month from CUNY to... study inequality.
Those munificently rising stock prices and options cash-outs owe much to the Fed’s campaign to suppress interest rates and fuel stock market based ”wealth effects”, but the CEOs are doing their part, too. They have become full-time financial engineers who use the Fed’s flood of liquidity, cheap debt and soaring stock prices to perform a giant strip-mining operation on their own companies. That is, through endless stock buybacks and M&A maneuvers they create the appearance of “growth” while actually liquidating the balance sheet equity and future asset base on which legitimate earnings growth depends. The poster boy for this deformation is IBM which for all intents and purposes has become a stock buyback machine on steroids. It had a bad hair day yesterday, reporting still another year/year decline in sales, but that goes right to the heart of the matter. During the last seven years IBM has been a stock traders dream, climbing an almost picture perfect chart from $94 per share in March 2007 to a recent peak of $212.
First it was Lavrov announcing the "roadmap" to de-escalate Ukraine tensions. Now it is the turn of John Kerry.