As noted earlier, Europe has been so obviously crippled by years of brutal austerity (which, as we pointed out before never actually happened), that it has had to experience the supreme indignity - a miserable two years of plunging flat GDP growth. Because under the old normal, it appears that unless one is issuing massive debt, pardon "growing", society grinds to a halt. Well, it appears that France has finally had enough, and as of today, "the French government approved a measure Wednesday that will lower the retirement age to 60 from 62 for a narrow group of workers, partly reversing unpopular pension reforms made by former President Nicolas Sarkozy as he sought to improve France's public finances." Obviously, this means that more welfare funding will have to be sourced as all else equal, this means less money will be produced by the country's workforce, and more money will be consumed by its retirees. Who will do it? Why German of course. Because after Merkel caved first on Greece, and then on Spain, it is now game over for German "prudence" and everyone will line up at the trough. Congrats Berlin: we can only hope you have discovered those magical money-growing trees. You will need them.
Everyone will be scouring for apocalyptic suggestions (need.moar.NEW Kew - EEE) in the following...
- FED SAYS `HIRING WAS STEADY OR SHOWED A MODEST INCREASE'
- FED SAYS ECONOMY EXPANDED AT `MODERATE PACE' LAST MONTH
- FED SAYS `AUTOMOBILE SALES GENERALLY REMAINED STRONG'
- FED: `CONTACTS WERE SLIGHTLY MORE GUARDED IN THEIR OPTIMISM'
- FED SAYS `INFLATION REMAINED MODEST ACROSS DISTRICTS'
- FED SAYS MANUFACTURING EXPANDED, CONSUMER SPENDING WAS STEADY
- FED ECONOMIC SURVEY COVERS PERIOD FROM LATE APRIL UNTIL MAY 25
- FED SAYS DEMAND WAS STRONGEST IN AUTO AND STEEL MANUFACTURING
...And won't find them. So: just what basis will the Fed have to do more QE again? Paging Jon Hilsenrath: Jon? Jon?
From early October of last year (Grand Plan and Global CB intervention) until the start of the LTRO program in Europe, Gold and Stocks (and Treasuries and the USD) all traded in sync with one another. Since the LTRO program, the equity market has generally been on its own in terms of belief. While growth hope, Europe's recovery, and the Bernanke Put (as well as a short-squeeze of epic proportions) were at play, it seems to us that the Fed's Twist program has been ignored by the money-printing crowd (since Twist was sterilized and did not expand the monetary base (excess reserves) - which gold reacts to; but did provide flow - helping stocks - as the Fed's DV01 increased; implicitly devaluing the currency even though Fed's efforts to dissuade have worked) while the ECB's LTRO provided a liquidity overhang that at-first-glance removed one short-term structural risk from US markets (the Europe contagion). Since we made clear that LTRO is in fact an encumbrance and not 'clean' debt monetization (which fits with gold not moving as much), equity markets in Europe have retraced all of those gains - leaving US still elevated. The last few days, gold and stocks have surged together as hope for LTRO3 (seemingly gone now) and Fed QE3/4 (not sterilized; with ES -7.75% from its highs?) has become imminent. However, Gold and stocks remain very far apart in the medium-term and Rick Bensignor sees trendline support and DeMark TD Setups providing an excellent risk-reward for a Short Stocks, Long Gold trade from here.
While the Reuters story, which we noted earlier, and which speculated that a no-strings attached bailout of Spanish banks may be coming courtesy of a German stealth funding of the nearly empty Spanish bank bailout fund, has been making the rounds over and over, the latest incarnation of the underlying narrative, brought to us courtesy of the FT, has a novel twist: "EU officials are also debating the size of the loans needed. Senior Spanish banking executives have put the figure at about €40bn, but EU officials have been looking at plans that are at least double that, according to people briefed on the discussions." In other words, just as we speculated, Goldman's big picture estimate of Spanish bank funding needs was woefully inadequate, and once the dirty truth is uncovered, it will become apparent that losses, which at this point are nothing more than capital shortfalls from deposit runs, are far, far greater than anyone speculated. It also means that the disconnect between the European reality, and what the media and politicians are spoonfeeding the gullible public, has hit unprecedented levels. Finally, once Germans once again realize they have been lied to, what happens then: will they simply fork over the cash as rumored, or will they finally say enough? According to this lead article in German Welt, the answer is not looking too good for the broken European monetary experiment.
The big news out of New York City these days is Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s proposed ban on the sale of soda drinks over 16-ounces (about 1/2 liter) at restaurants, movie theaters, sports stadia, street carts, fast food chains, etc. Bloomberg stressed that we have a responsibility to combat obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, and that the government must consequently regulate what people can/cannot put in their bodies. Michelle Obama even came down to applaud the idea.“Excuse me,” I asked, “but who exactly is ‘we’…? I certainly didn’t come into this world born with a burden prevent obesity. And I’m pretty sure nobody else signed up for it either.” ‘We’ is one of the most dangerous words in the English language, particularly when bandied about in Western representative democracy. It’s a term often used when a politician wants to thrust a burden or obligation onto everyone else’s shoulders, but without being too direct about it... Such policies, however, fall on a very slippery slope. When government begins regulating X, the regulation of Y and Z will follow by extension. This is how frogs are brought to a boil– slowly, deliberately, gradually, and grounded in good intentions. The real question is whether you want to be trapped in the same pot as everyone else.
What's the difference between today's global finance system and a Ponzi scheme? This is the question that a 56-year-old veteran Russian financial scammer has been asking his victims. As Bloomberg points out, chillingly, he almost has a point. Sergei Mavrodi is one of the most infamous names in Russia's recent history. Back in February 1994, amid the turmoil of the country's transition to a market economy, the mathematician organized a Ponzi scheme called MMM. Now he's back with an even more audacious endeavor: the honest scam. Last year, he announced the new project, MMM-2011, by stating boldly that it would be another Ponzi scheme. Depositors would be paid solely from funds invested by other depositors. There would be no attempt to generate income in any other way. This, he said, was perfectly all right, and no different than the way some of the largest institutions in global finance operated, from the Russian pension fund to the U.S. Federal Reserve. Perhaps most notably, Bloomberg reports his perspective on "What is money?" he wrote. "Nothing! Nihil. A phantom. … It is backed by nothing at all and printed by the masters in any quantity, at will."
Between Hilsenrath's humoring, Draghi's 'ready-to-act', and Merkel's 'fold', it appears all-is-well once again in the world. European banks are soaring - especially the most recently devastated as the broad European bank index jumps its most in 5 months. Italian and Spanish sovereign bond spreads compress notably, perhaps on hope of a renewed SMP - even as LTRO3 seems to have lost favor with the ECB (effectiveness?). Basis-swaps popped higher (better), Bund yields rose, Swiss 2Y was flat (but low) and Crossover spreads (high-beta credit) are outperforming. It seems that markets are pricing in a best-case scenario. EURUSD is oscillating higher but stocks remain notable underperformers over the last few weeks and frankly this feels more like a short-squeeze bounce than a renewed rally as we know all too well that nothing has been solved (even if Germany is caving on Spanish banks). With the long-weekend and lack of liquidity, it seems markets have simply round-tripped to pre-NFP levels and now it gets interesting - context, as always, is critical.
With all proposed Spanish bank bailout plans so far either shot down, or found to be inadequate, the question always has boiled down to whether Germany, which as we have noted in the past is the true lender of last resort in Europe, not the ECB, will agree to the trade off of preserving the Eurozone, i.e. temporarily ending the latest Spanish risk flare out, in exchange for the risk of political disgrace domestically, where more and more people are against sweeping European bail outs, due to soaring "contingent liabilities" which increasingly more people on the street are realizing are all too real (see: TARGET2). On the other hand, a direct bank bailout request for Spain using traditional European channels, which would fund the government, would result in a deterioration in the Spanish sovereign leverage, and make the country even riskier, thereby putting more pressure on the banks, and so in a toxic loop. It now seems that this dilemma may have been resolved, at least on paper. As Reuters reports, "A deal is in the works that would allow Spain to recapitalize its stricken banks with aid from its European partners but avoid the embarrassment of having to adopt new economic reforms imposed from the outside, German officials say. While Berlin remains firm in its rejection of Spain's calls for Europe's rescue funds to lend directly to its banks, the officials said that if Madrid put in a formal aid request, funds could flow without it submitting to the kind of strict reform program agreed for Greece, Portugal and Ireland."
On our current course, there is no other choice for the average American but to say no, regardless of the law, or the threat of its violent enforcement. Rebellion, in all its forms, is as natural as the cycles of the Earth. It reoccurs time and again, sometimes suppressed, but not for long. The horrors of governments gone rogue are no secret. We have so many examples in history to draw from it is hard to imagine any crime despots have NOT visited upon innocents. Frankly, if control thirsty elites can refine tyranny down to a science by examining the mistakes of the past, there is nothing stopping us from refining defiance down to an art form as well. Again, what other choice do we have, but to take heart in the knowledge that though there is no assurance of victory, there is also no assurance of defeat.
'The unbearable harshness of being' a European in the midst of crushing austerity has forced everyone from France to Greece to pick up their pitchforks against those stability-minded and conscientious Germans. As Diapason's Sean Corrigan shows in this clarifying chart, the 0.18% drop in Eurozone Real Government GDP must have been truly devastating; or perhaps, just as we have said again and again, it's all about the flow not the stock and any lack of growth is the death-knell for what is called capitalism.
Sadly the man who thought (with good reason) he was more important than the Chairsatan (until the whole CIO fiasco blew up in his face of course), Jamie Dimon, will not be there (and will thus not be available to provide an update on the CIO's losses to date, which are likely orders of magnitude greater than the $2 billion benchmark previously disclosed, but that does not mean today's Senate hearing on lack of regulatory oversight and massive bank prop losses will be any less interesting. From C-Span: The Senate Banking Committee will hold an oversight hearing on efforts to overhaul the regulation of derivatives. Lawmakers will focus on the steps the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) are taking to implement provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act, and their efforts to reduce systemic risk and improve market oversight. The session also will spotlight J.P. Morgan Chase's $2 billion trading loss, which is under investigated by the FBI and the SEC." We, for one, can't wait to find out what the FBI's trained CDS forensic experts discover on this one...
Reflecting on yesterday's monetary-policy-hope-driven rally, UBS' Art Cashin prefers to focus on Richard Fisher's very frank (and succinct) speech on the limits of monetary policy and the importance of fiscal policy. Urging everyone to read it, and send it to your Congressman and Senators, he reminds us that Fisher is the only Fed policymaker to have been a banker and a money manager, and in the words of Richard Fisher, he worries that: "there is a growing sense that we are unwittingly, or worse, deliberately, monetizing the wayward ways of Congress."