In a move that will surely shock, shock, the monetary purists out there, the Bank of Japan has just gone and done what we predicted back in May 2011, with the first of our "Hyprintspeed" series articles: "A Look At The BOJ's Current, And Future, Quantitative Easing" (the second one which discussed the imminent advent of the ¥1 quadrillion in total debt threshold was also fulfilled three weeks ago). So just what did the BOJ do? Why nothing short of join the ECB, the BOE, and the Fed (and don't get us started on those crack FX traders at the SNB) in electronically printing even more 1 and 0-based monetary equivalents (full statement here). From WSJ: "The Bank of Japan surprised markets Tuesday by implementing new easing policies and moving closer to an explicit price target, the latest sign of growing worries around the world about the ripple effects of the European debt crisis on the global economy. With interest rates already close to zero, the BOJ has relied in recent months on asset purchases to stimulate the economy. In Tuesday's meeting, the central bank expanded that plan by ¥10 trillion, or about $130 billion. The facility, which includes low-cost loans, is now worth about ¥65 trillion, or $844 billion." The rub however lies in the total Japanese GDP, which at last check was $6 trillion (give or take), and declining. Which means this announcement was the functional equivalent to a surprise $325 billion QE announced by the Fed. What is ironic is the market reaction: the BOJ expands its LSAP by 18% and the USDJPY moves by 30 pips. As for gold, not a peep: as if the market has now priced in that the world's central banks will dilute themselves to death. Unfortunately, it is only at death, and the failure of all status quo fiat paper, that the real value of the yellow metal, whose metallic nature continues to be suppressed via paper pathways, will truly shine.
ZeroHedge’s post on the apparent breakdown of Okun’s “Law” highlights the ongoing tragicomedy of how the science of central economic planning eventually confounds, and then consumes itself. Economics is, after all, a social “science”, an elaborate study of human beings and, most importantly, human interactions. Robert Okun, for his part, merely observed in 1962 that when “output” (whatever statistical measure is en vogue) rises by 3%, the unemployment rate seems to fall by 1%. For some reason, economics assumes that if it is true in the past, it will be true forever, so it was written into the canon of orthodox economic practice. Economics has inferred causation into that relationship, giving it a layer of permanence that may not be warranted. Econometrics has always had this inherent flaw. The science of modern economics makes assumptions based on certain data, and then extrapolates them as if these assumptions will always and everywhere be valid. There is this non-trivial postulation that correlation equals causation. In the case of Okun’s Law, it seems fully logical that there might be causation since it makes intuitive sense – more economic activity should probably lead to more jobs, and vice versa. But to assume a two-variable approach to something that should be far more complex is more than just dangerous, it is unscientific. In fact, Okun’s Law has already been adjusted somewhat, most famously by Ben Bernanke and Andrew Abel in their 1991 book. It was upgraded to a 2% change in output corresponding with a 1% inverse change in unemployment. Apparently with the economic “success” of that period, Okun needed a re-calibration.
Today's Black Gold Swan - Presenting The Reason Why The CME's Crude Market Was Halted For Over One HourSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/13/2012 - 20:49
Earlier today, we reported on the extended halt of the CME Globex crude market, which following an errant trading pattern, did not quite crash, but did the next best thing - go offline for a full 75 minutes. Why did this happen? Our initial speculation was that this "may have been an algo gone berserk in advance of what may or may not have been a block order.... Someone take quote stuffing a little too far today?" It turns out we were not too far off. Below is Nanex visualization of just what occurred in those seconds between 13:59:57 and 14:04:55 when "a blast of quotes corrupted a memory queue causing the software to believe the queue was full all the time." In other words just under two years after the May 2010 flash crash, another algo may have been the reason for the halt in one of the world's most important markets. At least this time there was no 10% "correction." How long until there is, and when it does happen again, will it be limited to just 10%? Oh, and whatever you do, most certainly don't expect this little incident to be brought up ever again by those in control, for any precautionary measure to be taken, or for the SEC to ever get involved. Any of those three would immediately imply something is very wrong with the market. And that's simply not allowed.
Moody's Downgrades Italy, Spain, Portugal And Others; Puts UK, France On Outlook Negative - Full StatementSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/13/2012 - 19:00
You know there is a reason why Europe just came crawling with an advance handout looking for US assistance: Moody's just went apeshit on Europe.
- Austria: outlook on Aaa rating changed to negative
- France: outlook on Aaa rating changed to negative
- Italy: downgraded to A3 from A2, negative outlook
- Malta: downgraded to A3 from A2, negative outlook
- Portugal: downgraded to Ba3 from Ba2, negative outlook
- Slovakia: downgraded to A2 from A1, negative outlook
- Slovenia: downgraded to A2 from A1, negative outlook
- Spain: downgraded to A3 from A1, negative outlook
- United Kingdom: outlook on Aaa rating changed to negative
In other news, we wouldn't want to be the company that insured Moody's Milan offices.
Cue the fireworks in 3...2...1...
- FRIEDEN EUROPEANS CAN'T DO MUCH FOR GREECE BEYOND AGREEMENT - BBG
- FRIEDEN: GREECE NEEDS STRUCTURAL REFORMS, SHORT-TERM FINANCING - BBG
- FRIEDEN: GREECE HAS HISTORY OF PROBLEMS IMPLEMENTING DECISIONS - BBG
- FRIEDEN: GREECE SHOULDN'T BE IN EURO-ZONE IF CONDITIONS NOT MET - BBG
And... drumroll please:
- FRIEDEN SAYS HE WISHES U.S. MORE INVOLVED IN STRENGTHENING IMF - BBG
Translation: Hey America, we've done all we can, now it's your turn to sustain the Ponzi. Because if we go, you go.
UPDATE: EURUSD is sliding on our earlier note on German 'not so fast' comments
As we noted earlier, volumes in equity (cash and futures) were dismal today and yet we managed to close at the highs of the day after gapping up to open last night, sliding into Europe's close (as they derisked broadly) only to limp above VWAP and close just under 1350 in ES (the e-mini S&P futures contract) - right around the level of the open at the day-session - though we note that while financials outperformed, the majors all lost considerable ground from the open. Credit (HY and IG) tracked pretty well all day with stocks (and we heard liquidity was even worse over there) but maintains its underperforming stance post-NFP (especially high-yield credit). EURUSD was the standout today though as it leaked all the way back from a positive morning to close unchanged from Friday - just under 1.32 and at its worst levels of the day. Among FX majors, AUD outperformed but JPY's push after the European close held FX carry swings in check and provided little fillip for ES. Treasuries rallied well off early morning high yields, bounced after the European close and then rallied into the day session close in the US (ignored by stocks) to end mixed with the short-end higher by 1-2bps and the long-end lower in yield by 1-2bps as the flattening dragged an earlier ebullient CONTEXT (broad risk asset proxy) back down to earth again. Oil dominated chatter as the halt gapped up ETFs only to slide back after it reopened though ending +1.9% from Friday and above $100.5 at the close. Gold tracked the USD almost perfectly (ending unch) while Silver outperformed its precious friend modestly and Copper underperformed.
Europe's now painfully transparent policy of demanding that Greece decide to default on its own is becoming so glaringly obvious, we truly fear for the intellectual capacity of everyone who ramps the EURUSD on any incremental "europe is saved" rumor. As a reminder, yesterday we said, in parallel with the Greek irrelevant MoU vote: "The only real questions are i) what the Greek population may do in response to this latest selling out of a population "led" by an unelected banker, which if history is any precedent, the answer is not much, and ii) how Germany will subvert this latest event, and put the bail [sic] back in Greece's court once again." We documented on i) earlier today - a couple of burned down buildings, a few vandalized store fronts, lots of tear gas and that's about it, as people still either don't believe or can't grasp the seriousness of the situation. As for ii) we now get the first indication that not all may be well on Wednesday. From the FT: "European officials rushed to finalise details of a €130bn Greek bail-out on Monday amid signs Germany and its eurozone allies may not be prepared to approve the deal at a finance minsters’ meeting on Wednesday, despite Athens backing new austerity measures." And so the bail [sic] is once again back in Greece's court, where however since the last such occurrence, the parliament has 43 MPs less. Quite soon, the only person left in "charge" of the country will be the ECB apparatchick and unelected banker Lucas Papademos.
We have been struggling with two issues that we just can't make sense of. At the risk of coming across as bigger geeks than usual, we feel like the darn computer in war games trying to win at tic tac toe (was tic tac toe ever fun again after that movie?) Two things make even less sense to us, and the more we think about them, the more convinced we are that someone somewhere is missing something and the level of disorganization in Europe is higher than we thought. Why is the March 20th date still in play? and perhaps more importantly, Do the EU politicians really think what happened over the weekend was an endorsement of the measures adopted? We can't remember the message out of Wargames, but we think it was saying that if you play the game, there is no way to win, yet here we have so many politicians and lobbyists eager to play.
Surrealer and Surrealer (sp.) is the only way to describe today's activity. With a technical halt in CME's oil complex trading which was quite obviously driven by some rogue algo between Oil futures and the USO oil ETF, perhaps it is no surprise that today's NYSE volume (16% below the year's average volume) is the lowest on Bloomberg data for a non-Holiday day in over a decade. ES (the e-mini S&P futures contract) also had a dismal day with the day's total just beating February 6th previous multi-year low (non-holiday) volume and 30% below the 50-day average volume.
Two weeks ago when discussing the latest lunacy surrounding America's exponential curve #1 also known as its debt balance, we suggested what the GOP election strategy should be: "[if] the debt ceiling becomes a sticking point at the election, Obama's chances of reelection plunge. Which makes us wonder - will Republicans grasp that the paradox of defeating Obama is precisely in giving him a carte blanche on all the stimulus programs he wants? Because if Congress approves another $200, 300 or even $400 billion in stimulus pork (the only thing better than one Solyndra? One thousand Solyndras!) the Treasury will drown in the need to raise hundreds of billions more, and will in fact hit the ceiling well in advance of the elections. As for the stimulus projects themselves, they will crash and burn just like all centrally planned endeavors, and actually result in a far worse outcome than if they had never been attempted. [Because] the best way to finally get back to a fiscally prudent regime? Why go to town, of course." We were delighted to discover that our policy anti-recommendation has finally been adopted. Because as the WSJ reports when it comes to the latest payroll tax extension we find something quite stunning: "House Republican leaders said Monday they would introduce a bill extending the payroll-tax break for the rest of the year without finding spending cuts to offset the program's cost. The proposal marks a major shift for Republicans, who previously had insisted that the costs of extending a trio of provisions expiring at the end of the month be offset with spending cuts." That's right - no offsetting spending cuts. Which means one thing - much more debt. How much more? At least $160 billion much. Which means that the debt ceiling discussion will hit not in November as we speculated previously, but potentially as soon as September.
As the Germans ponder the truthiness of Greece's planned austerity measures it will perhaps come as a shock to many that since the start of the Euro (Dec 1998), Greece (followed closely by Spain and Ireland) has experienced the highest nominal GDP growth rates (rebased to USD) among a sample of large global economies (ex-China). As Deutsche Bank's Jim Reid points out from this surprising fact, these three nations (and to a lesser extent Portugal) have been major beneficiaries of the Euro and have seen their economies improve their international wealth position at a faster rate than their developed market peers since 1999. In the current environment, post the leverage super-cycle, this creates stress (as is all too obvious) and in the medium-term we would expect mean-reversion of this 'fake' wealth/growth. The dilemma is whether the peripheral nations see large and negative GDP growth to revert down or if Germany is willing to accept far higher growth and inflation (maybe 7% nominal) to adjust upwards to the seemingly unsustainable levels of the peripherals. Austerity versus Growth/Inflation. It seems from Ireland's suffering and Greece's slide that the former (peripheral deleveraging and austerity) is the path chosen for now though ongoing appetite (Papademos/Samaras aside) for this seems as unpalatable as German's accepting socialized losses via firewall and the specter of high inflation.
Those who actually recall the nuances of the endless Greek bailout may remember that at one point in 2010 and 2011, one of the main sticking points that threatened to derail the Greek bailout was the demand by Finland to collateralize its contribution to the Greek bailout package. Well, guess what: it's back. Kathimerini reports that "Finland may sign a deal on securing collateral in exchange for its commitment to Greece’s second bailout in the “next few days,” Finance Minister Jutta Urpilainen said on Monday. A vote in parliament on Finland’s participation in the bailout could follow next week, she told reporters in Helsinki." Translation: monkey wrench was just thrown into the Greek bailout in the 11th hour as now everyone else will follow in Finland's footsteps and demand equitable treatment. And it was all going so well...
Earlier today, Obama formally proposed his 2013 budget (link) which sees a $1.33 trn budget deficit in the 2013 fiscal year - more than the $1.296 trillion 2011 budget deficit, which unfortunately indicates that even with rather rosy assumptions, the deficit hole continues to grow, which also means that the debt plug will be higher in the next year compared to the prior, which in turn lends even more credibility to the US debt clock analysis which assumes a nearly 140% debt/GDP ratio by the end of a potential second Obama term. While that will likely end up being an optimistic estimate, for near-term discussion purposes, the probability of even this particular budget passing is slim to none as the GOP reaction in the republican controlled Congress has been swift and brutal. Per the WSJ: "Republicans moved quickly to denounce Mr. Obama's budget plan. "This proposal isn't really a budget at all. It's a campaign document," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said... Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), the chairman of the House Budget Committee, said, "Again the president has ducked responsibility, he has punted again, he has failed to take any notable action on this crisis." "All we're getting here is more spending, more borrowing and more debt that will lead to slower economic growth," Mr. Ryan said on a conference call with reporters. Republicans are expected to offer their own budget plan in the next month. The president's populist message is weaved throughout his proposal. "For many Americans, the basic bargain at the heart of the American dream has eroded," the president said while reiterating a call for nearly $1.5 trillion in tax increases on higher-income Americans over 10 years. He added he is seeing "signs that our economy is on the mend" and that this is a "make-or-break moment for the middle class, and for all those who are fighting to get there." So while this "budget" is not even worth the paper it is printed on (unlike reserves, they actually still use paper for these things) here per the WSJ, are the key charts that form the foundation of the budget forecast.