'Nothing can stop us now' appears to be the message we are being fed as Bullard et al. confirm we should rest assured that the Fed will pump as long as there's a sun in the sky. However, there is a little fly in that ointment that just keeps on popping up. As Barclays' Barry Knapp notes, gas prices have risen high enough to hurt stocks if history is any guide. Gas prices, which have risen every day since January 17th are pressuring the critical $3.80 level that has capped valuations for the equity market in the last three years. The last times gas prices have risen this high, consumer spending growth has stalled and just as we have noted previously, it appears the only thing that can tame the enthusiasm of a liquidity-addicted equity market is a cash-strapped consumer pulling back. The double-edged sword is simple, Knapp notes: any slowing of economic growth that stems from higher gas prices may prevent companies from meeting earnings projections; whereas sustained expansion would increase the risk of inflation and put pressure on the Fed to scale back its QE4EVA. Rock meet hard place.
Every year over 1.5 million Americans go through some form of drug and alcohol abuse treatment, according to the last large survey done by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, an agency of the Federal government. Only about half – 47%, to be precise – complete their treatment. One quarter drop out, and the remaining 25% either transfer facilities or end treatment for some other reason. In general, the more intensive the treatment – inpatient hospital care, for example – the more successful the outcome. The length of treatment varies, as one might imagine, based on what addiction is being treated. Heroin and other opioids take over 150 days, but the median is anywhere from 90 – 121 days. Needless to say, these are long days for anyone who goes through them as well as the family and friends who support them. Somewhere over the past few years, the serious term ‘Addiction’ has entered the lexicon of capital markets watchers as it relates to how central bank policies enable and distort the price of debt and equity securities. Essentially, the analogy is that markets have become dependent on both artificially low interest rates and the cash provided by liquidity programs such as “Quantitative Easing” in much the same way that a person can become addicted to a dangerous drug or alcohol. If you’ve ever seen addiction first hand, you know this is a spurious anthropomorphizing of financial markets. If you haven’t, well, just trust me.
Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Lexington Partners; Tudor Investment, Brevan Howard, Goldman Sachs, UBS, Bank of Korea; BNP Paribas, Fidelity Investments, Deutsche Bank,, Freeman and Co., Bank America, National Bureau of Economic Research, FDIC, Interamerican Development Bank; 4 hedge funds, BTG Pactual, Gavea Investimentos; Reserve Bank of Australia, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, Einaudi Institute, Bank of Italy; Swiss National Bank; Pension Real Estate Association; Goodwin Proctor, Penn State University, Villanova University, Shroeder’s Investment Management, Premiere, Inc, Muira Global, Bidvest, NRUCF, BTG Asset Management, Futures Industry Association, ACLI, Handelsbanken, National Business Travel Association, Urban Land Institute, Deloitte, CME Group; Barclays Capiital, Treasury Mangement Association, International Monetary Fund; Kairos Investments, Deloitte and Touche, Instituto para el Desarrollo Empreserial de lat Argentina, Handelsbanken, Danske Capital, WIPRO, University of Calgary, Pictet & Cie, Zurich Insurance Company, Central Bank of Chile, and many, many more.
While Abenomics has failed in spurring exports, while the rise in the Nikkei has benefited some 1-2% of the population, the most direct consequence of crushing the yen some 20% is that energy costs, virtually all of them imported, are if not surging, then about to soar to all time highs. In other words, our sincerest condolences to Japan, for whom this winter will be a very cold one (and a very hot summer follows), unless of course in Japan, like in the US, energy costs don't matter when calculating CPI and inflation and the consumer can spend any amount to keep themelves warm, or cold as the case may be.
It has now been two years since the self-immolation of the Tunisian street vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, provided the spark that set the Arab world aflame. A wave of protests spread throughout the region in quick succession and led to the overthrow of long ruling autocrats in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Libya, and possibly Syria. The collapse of regimes like Hosni Mubarak’s in Egypt, which many considered "an exemplar of... durable authoritarianism" was a salient reminder to many that such revolutions are "inherently unpredictable." Before long some began to speculate that the protest movements might spread to authoritarian states outside the Arab world, including China. Although sharing many of the same problems as Arab societies, the Arab Spring never arrived in Beijing. Why?
While we have discussed the strategic implications of this tomorrow's critical Italian elections previously (An Italian "Hung Parliament" - Europe's Biggest Political Risk), the actual chronology of events of tomorrow's Italian elections which proceed through Monday is somewhat nebulous. So courtesy of JPM's Alex White, here is the complete 10 step walk-thru of what to expect starting tomorrow, and ending, perhaps, with the appointment of a new President in May, unless of course there is a slight detour...
This document is one of several found by The Associated Press in buildings recently occupied by Al-Qaeda fighters in Timbuktu, Mali. Written by Abdullah bin Mohammed, apparently with God’s help, with the goal "of disabling the new strategy of the American army at the medium or long-range levels," through three methods: the formation of a public opinion to stand against the attacks, deterring of spies, and tactics of deception and blurring. These 22 tactics are as follows...
With recent (post-Minutes) chatter of a gradually-tightening Fed since curtailed by a plethora of Federal Reserve market savants jawboning us back to creditopia - "the liquidity must flow"; we thought a gentle reminder of what Quantitative Easing really is was worthwhile. Whether goldbug, bond-vigilante, or permabull-stock-muppet; two-and-a-half minutes of reality (or comedy) depending on your perspective.
And now for a quick lesson in government spending: in the 1940s the federal government created the now mostly decommissioned Washington's Hanford Nuclear Reservation as part of the Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb. During the Cold War, the project was expanded to include nine nuclear reactors and five large plutonium processing complexes, which produced plutonium for most of the 60,000 weapons in the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Sadly, many of the early safety procedures and waste disposal practices were inadequate, and government documents have since confirmed that Hanford's operations released significant amounts of radioactive materials into the air and the Columbia River. The weapons production reactors were decommissioned at the end of the Cold War, but the decades of manufacturing left behind 53 million US gallons of high-level radioactive waste, an additional 25 million cubic feet of solid radioactive waste, 200 square miles of contaminated groundwater beneath the site and occasional discoveries of undocumented contaminations that slow the pace and raise the cost of cleanup. The Hanford site represents two-thirds of the nation's high-level radioactive waste by volume. Today, Hanford is the most contaminated nuclear site in the United States and is the focus of the nation's largest environmental cleanup. The government spends $2 billion each year on Hanford cleanup — one-third of its entire budget for nuclear cleanup nationally. The cleanup is expected to last decades. It turns out that as Krugman would say, the government was not spending nearly enough, and moments ago Governor Jay Inslee said that six underground radioactive waste tanks at the nation's most contaminated nuclear site are leaking.
Instead of asking the endless question of "who should pay for healthcare?" Time magazine's cover story this week by Steve Brill asks a much more sensible - and disturbing question - "why does healthcare cost so much?" While it will not come as a surprise to any ZeroHedge reader - as we most recently noted here - this brief clip on the outrageous pricing and egregious profits that are destroying our health care quickly summarizes just how disastrous the situation really is. A simplified perspective here is simple, as with higher education costs and student loans: since all the expenses incurred are covered by debt/entitlements, there is no price discrimination which allows vendors to hike prices to whatever levels they want. From the $21,000 heartburn to "giving our CT scans like candy," Brill concludes "put simply, with Obamacare we’ve changed the rules related to who pays for what, but we haven’t done much to change the prices we pay."
Osborne's statement was prepared well in advance, which means Moody's action was not only prepared and distributed long ago but it got the blessing of both the UK government and Goldman Sachs. And why not: so far it has achieved precisely what it was intended to: crush the Pound. The next question: when does talk of GBP-EUR parity begin?
And another AAA-club member quietly exits not with a bang but a whimper:
MOODY’S DOWNGRADES UK’S GOVERNMENT BOND RATING TO Aa1 FROM AAA
Someone must have clued Moody's on the fact that the UK is about to have its very own Goldman banker, which means consolidated debt/GDP will soon need four digits. In other news, every lawyer in the UK is now celebrating because come Monday Moody's will be sued to smithereens. Cable not happy as it tests 31 month lows, which however also explains why the Moody's action has another name: accelerated cable devaluation. Those who heeded our call to short Cable when Goldman's Mark Carney was appointed are now 1000 pips richer. Also, please sacrifice a lamb at the altar of Goldman: It's the polite thing to do.