Chart Of The Day: Goodbye Manufacturing Profits?

There are many hopes and dreams surrounding the massive multiple expansion of 2013 (that Goldman has warned is entirely unsustainable). Top-line growth is already disappointing in the current results season. The bottom-line is going nowhere but faith remains that we are not near 'peak margins'. While financial engineering (e.g. buybacks) remain possible (though harder in a Fed tapering, rising rate, credit saturated environment) the following chart from Philly Fed data indicates that a 'belief' in the margin story is over - as the spread between prices paid and prices received plunges to its lowest since April 2009 (and in line with previous recessionary periods).

What If Nations Were Less Dependent on One Another?

Autarky is more than a ten-dollar word for self-sufficiency, as it implies a number of questions that “self-sufficiency” alone might not. The ability to survive without trade or aid from other nations, for example, is not the same as the ability to reap enormous profits or grow one’s economy without trade with other nations. In other words, 'self-sufficiency' in terms of survival does not necessarily imply prosperity, but it does imply freedom of action without dependency on foreign approval, capital, resources, and expertise. 

Ben Bernanke's Final Speech As Fed Chair - Live Feed

In what will likely be the current Federal Reserve chairman's "exit interview", Ben Bernanke will be speaking at the Brookings Institution on "The Fed Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow." We are sure there are plenty of messages our readers would like to leave for outgoing chair who Senator Bob Corker described as "the biggest dove since World War II," proclaiming his "degrading effects on our society." Of course, Bernanke will leave knowing he started to exit (and all is well - so what happens next is not his fault) though the following chart may be useful when he, we are sure, reminds the world of his inflation record...

Philly Fed Beats Even As New Order Drop To May 2013 Levels, Inventories Tumble

On the surface, the January Philly Fed was a beat, printing at 9.4 on expectations of a 8.7 number and up from a downward revised 6.4. However, the internals were hardly as pretty with the most notable, New Orders, plunging from 12.9 to 5.1, the lowest print since May 2013, and also the biggest three month drop since August 2011. Additionally, while unfilled orders posted a modest increase from -6.6 to -1.0, Inventories were crushed sliding from 16.0 to -19.6, on what one can assume were wholesale liquidations, and judging by the retailers abysmal numbers, at hardly profitable levels. Furthermore, the optimism of the diffusion index respondents seems to be waning as the 6 Months forecast slide from 44.8 to 34.4 after hitting a recent near all time high of just shy of 60. Also bad news for margins, as Prices Paid increased by 2.3 points to 18.7, while Prices Received decline from 10.8 to 5.1 - a delta, in the wrong direction, of 13.6. The only good news in the report was the increase in number of employees from 4.4 to 10.0, however offset by the average employee workweek which dropped from 4.8 to -5.3. So more workers, doing less: so much for wage inflation pressures.

Hombuilder Sentiment Slips As Buyer Traffic Tumbles

NAHB's confidence indicator dropped modestly, missing expectations (for the 4th time in the last 5 months) by the most since October as prospective buyer traffic tumbled. While the "hope" of realtors remains notably disconnected from the reality of sales (for the 3rd time in 20 years, the 4-month slide in prospective buyer traffic is the largest since Spetember 2010 and has dropped to its weakest since May 2013.

US Treasury's Lew (Ironically) Tells Japan: Stop Manipulating The Yen

Despite Lagarde's call for more manipulation and money-printing from the world's central banks yesterday, US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew is not amused with his Japanese 'colleagues'. Speaking in Washington, Lew had plenty to say on Europe (not out of the woods), China (need to open markets more), and the IMF (US commitment remains solid - oh, apart from the funding part); but it was his entirely ironic comments aimed at Abe and Kuroda that were risible:

*LEW SAYS JAPAN NEEDS TO `GET THEIR DOMESTIC ECONOMY GROWING'
*LEW SAYS JAPAN CAN'T RELY ON FX RATE FOR ECONOMIC ADVANTAGE

Pot calling kettle black? Or a person who lives in a currency-war "glass-house" throwing stones? Pick your tortured analogy but the US hypocrisy continues.

Best Buy's Collapse Was Not A Surprise To This Man

It would appear that the meteoric 300% rise of Best Buy's shares last year was promoted to the general investing public as the renaissance of the on-the-verge-of-bankruptcy warehouse store and sure enough, the world and his mom piled in to chase the momo higher and higher... until today. With a 30% tumble this morning, those momo-chasing moms and pops may be less enamored to buy-the-dip but there was one 'smart-money' insider who was selling as fast as retail was buying. Co-Founder Richard Schulze (who indicated in August he would be selling to 'diversify' his holdings) piled out of the stock through most of the fourth quarter (at a level well above this morning's opening print).

Who Has The Time And Motivation to Comprehend The Mess We're In? Almost Nobody

If we don't understand the problem or the dynamics that are generating the problem, it is impossible to reach a solution or practical plan of action. The four points of ignorance below doom us just as surely as the actual underlying dynamics of insolvency, corruption, debt servitude, and Tyranny of the Majority.

Prescription Drug Price Plunging By Most On Record Keeps Tepid Inflation In Line With Expectations

If yesterday's rising PPI print suggested the Fed may continue its $10 billion a month taper at its next meeting, today's comparably rising CPI for December will likely mean that absent another payroll-like shock, the Fed will soon monetize "only" $65 billion per month. The reason: in December core consumer inflation rose by 0.3%, compared to the 0.0% change in November, and in line with expectations. Stripping away food and energy however, the increase was only 0.1%, also in line with expectations, and a decline from November's 0.2% increase. More importantly, on a Y/Y basis, core CPI was up by 1.7%, still shy of the Fed's 2% target but not too far.

Continuing Claims Surge Most In Over 5 Years To 6-Month Highs.

Initial claims beat expectations very modestly (326k vs 328k expected) and hover at their average level of the last 6 months. Non-seasonally-adjusted saw initial claims surge to 438k. It would appear the trend of improving claims has ended for now. What is perhaps more worrying is the continuing claims surged by their most in over 5 years - at 3.03 million, this is the highest in 6 months (and the biggest miss in 6 months. It is worth noting that this is before the emergency benefits for 1.3 million Americans disappear (which will likely begin to show up next week or the week after).

Best Buy Plummets 30%, Is Better Sell Following Abysmal Holiday Sales Update

Despite several apparently well respected sell-side shops proclaiming that all would be well, the electronics warehouse missed comps (Sales at stores open at least 14 months were down 0.9 percent in the US (compared to expectations of +2.0%) and is being punished. Revenues fell 2.6% for the comparable period also. Shares are down 30% in the pre-market to 7-month lows as the company claims an "intensely promotional holiday season." It seems, perhaps, that following several other retailers' earnings updates the holiday season was even worse than many had expected (especially in the bricks-and-mortar stores that actually employ real people).

Average Pay Of Goldman Banker Rises To $383,374 On Expectations Beat Despite Plunge In Order Flow

Yesterday Bank of America beat thanks to (among other things) ye olde "plunge in the effective tax rate" gimmick which let it beat EPS by two cents instead of missing by three. Today it was Goldman's turn to "beat" lowered EPS expectations of $4.18, posting a substantial beat of $4.60. So did Goldman also fudge its tax rate? Not exactly: instead, what Goldman did was to reduce its compensation benefits from $2.4 billion to $2.2 billion, which meant the firm's compensation margin declined from 35.2% to a tiny 24.9% of revenue. Had Goldman kept the comp margin flat it would have missed EPS by about 50 cents. However, unlike the other "banks" Goldman at least did post a notable beat in GAAP revenues (it was reluctant to use a non-GAAP top line, hear that Jamie?) as well, with Q4 sales rising from $6.7 billion in Q3 to $8.8 billion, on expectations of $7.8 billion. However, compared to a year ago, the top line was 5% lower, while Net Income of $4.60 was 21% lower than a year earlier.

Frontrunning: January 16

  • Charter, Comcast in renewed talks on Time Warner Cable bid (Reuters)
  • Bankers' Stock Awards Jet Higher (WSJ)
  • Yahoo CEO Mayer Dismisses Operating Chief De Castro (BBG)
  • Amazon Employees Vote to Reject Union (Reuters)
  • Luxury in China loses luster as wealthy flee (Reuters)
  • UnitedHealth Profit Up on Stronger Enrollments (WSJ)
  • U.S. government failed to secure Obamacare site: experts (Reuters)
  • Spain Sells Bonds at Record-Low Yield as Rajoy Touts Rebound (BBG)
  • Newport Beach’s $100,000 Lifeguards Feel Pension Squeeze (BBG)
  • Bailed-Out Euro Nations Expect Painful Challenges to Remain (BBG)

No Overnight Levitation In Quiet Markets - Full Recap

The positive momentum in equities slowed in Asian trading with losses seen on the Nikkei (-0.4%), and HSCEI , the SCHOMP unchanged and EM indices such as the Nifty (-
0.1%). In Australia, a disappointing December employment report saw a 23k fall in jobs for the month against consensus expectations of rise of 10k. The 10yr Australian government bond has rallied 5bp and the front end is outperforming as a number of investors expect the RBA to continue its easing bias over 2014. AUDUSD has sold off -1.1% to a three year low of 0.881. The ASX200 closed up 1.2% however, boosted by mining-giant Rio Tinto (+2%) who reported better than anticipated Q4 production. Amid recent fears of a Chinese growth deceleration, Rio Tinto reported record levels of production of iron-ore, coal and bauxite. In FX, USDJPY is finding further support in Asia, adding 0.1% to yesterday’s 0.38% gain to trade not too far from the 105 level. Which is also why the S&P futures are trading modestly lower: without a major breakout in the Yen carry, there can't be a sustained ramp in the US stock market which is driven entirely by the value of the Yen, which in turn is a reflection of the expectations of future BOJ easing.

Nigel Farage Booms "Europe Is Now Run By Big Banks, Big Business, And Big Bureaucrats"

With Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras settling into his role as EU President, UKIP's Nigel Farage stunned the "Goldman Sachs puppet" with a 150-second tirade of truthiness he has likely never experienced. Farage sarcastically remarks how Greeks "will be dancing in the streets" at Samaras' 'successful' negotiation on MiFiD reminding him that "60% of youth are unemployed and the neo-nazi party are on the march." Europe is now run by "big business, big banks, and big bureaucrats," Farage goes on, suggesting the smarmy-looking Samaras should "rename his party from New Democracy to No Democracy." People do not want a United State of Europe, the outspoken UKIP leader explains, they want a "Europe of sovereign states," and concludes ominously, "the European elections will be a watershed."

Beijing Shuts Down As Pollution Over Past 12 Hours Literally "Off The Chart"

For the past 12 hours, the so-called PM2.5 level (or China's new pollution threshold) has been above the "serious" level. Bear in mind this is the newly adjusted-upwards threshold that already far exceeds the WHO's health-threatening levels.

BEIJING WARNS RESIDENTS TO AVOID OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES ON SMOG
BEIJING MONITORING CENTER REPORTS `SERIOUS' AIR POLLUTION TODAY

Levels are officially "beyond index" today (with a peak at 613 so far compred to 500 "hazardous") and the streets are empty!

Guest Post: America Is Plunging Into Kafka's Nightmare

There is a certain level of dishonesty in the common study of history. We look back at the tyrannies of the past, the monstrous governments, the devastating wars and the unimaginable crimes, and we wonder how it could have been possible. How could the people of that particular generation let such atrocities come to pass? Why didn’t they do something? Why didn’t they protest? Why didn’t they fight back? Perhaps many societies fail to prepare or act in the face of tyranny because they had forgotten their own histories, making the demise of their culture appear so schizophrenic they would not believe what their eyes were telling them. When we examine recent U.S. legislation, the exposure of classified documents, and the openly admitted criminality of political leadership, we are consistently reminded of Franz Kafka’s The Trial.

Wednesday Humor: Iran Has "Incontrovertible Proof" That US Is Run By Aliens

While some will not be surprised, Al Arabiya reports that Iran's FARS News Agency claimed in a recent report that:

"The United States' domestic and international policy has been driven by an 'alien/extraterrestrial intelligence agenda' since 1945."

The "incontrovertible proof" supporting the revelations was (apparently) found in a Federal Security Service (FSB) report, carried out by American computer specialist Edward Snowden - and is confirmed (somewhat amazingly) by former Canadian Defense Minister Paul Hellyer in the following interview.

Mapping Li(e)borgate - Presenting The Octopus In The Libor-Rigging Scandal

The Libor manipulation scandal has, as WSJ reports, ensnared at least 17 financial institutions and 22 individuals in a wide-ranging investigation spanning 11 countries and four continents. So far, it has netted at least $5 billion in penalties, with more on the way. The Wall Street Journal has taken the most complete list of allegedly involved parties and mapped an extensive web of 298 reported connections that reveals the depth of the alleged conspiracy from the 'alleged' ringleader Tom Hayes and involving practically ever major bank in the world.

Now Sold At CostCo, For The Low, Low Price Of Only $15,999.99

It hasn't been a good year for discount retailers which rely on the broke US consumer to grow, such as Walmart, Target and Costco, the latter of which in the past has seemingly tried everything it could in the commodity business, even going as far as selling bundled provisions for the apocalypse. Alas, so far it has been unable to boost its margins, and since it is not Amazon where failure is rewarded, or else Jeff Bezos just hypnotizes everyone with his latest money-losing contraption (but, but it has such a great growth rate), it is time Costco tried something different to boost margins. Something really different. Such as selling a Superbowl lower level package for two for the low, low price of $15,999.99.