While cherry-picking individual macro data points to confirm self-referential biases appears to work for the majority of Wall Street's strategists and asset-gatherers, the sad truth is that fundamentally (top-down and bottom-up) things are not doing so great. We have exposed many of the divergences in the last few weeks and some cracks are appearing in the unbreakable vestibule of central bank liquidity; however, just as we saw late last summer (as gas prices rose once again), macro fundamentals have collapsed (based on Goldman's Macro data assessment platform) and with the normal hope-driven 2-3 month lag, equities are set to follow soon. The size of the shift implies a 5-10% correction to revert to 'reality' though we suspect - given positioning - if we ever saw it, the over-reach could be notably worse.
Eric Sprott's findings support the growing meme that there is a massive bullion transfer from West to East. This should particularly concern those in the U.S., EU and Canada as his suspicion is that, increasingly, it's monetary gold that is being sold. "We are well into the financial crisis. Everyone’s trying to keep it together, even though it would appear from the reading of the economy things are not going well at all here. And everyone's ignoring things. But I think, in their hearts, the Central Bankers must know what they’re doing is totally irresponsible. And the tell of that irresponsibility – which is the debasing of the currencies – is the fact that real things will go up in value. This should be reflected in the price of gold and silver." For precious metals holders licking their wounds from the carnage of the past several months , this note offers both new insights and sound reminders of the long-term reasons for owning gold and silver.
In our prediction two weeks ago of who the next Bank of Japan governor was likely to be, we said that "the tussle lies between a slightly less dovish bureaucrat in Toshiro Muto (favored by the opposition) and a banker, Haruhiko Kuroda, who is a front-runner in Abe's camp.... we suspect Abe will err on the side of uber-dovish to fight the currency wars alongside him." Sure enough, the uber-dove Kuroda, not to be confused with the Yankees pitcher, is now set to become BOJ governor. From Reuters, "Japan's government is likely to nominate Asian Development Bank President Haruhiko Kuroda, who has called for pumping more money into the economy, as its next central bank governor, the Nikkei newspaper reported on Monday. Kuroda, formerly Japan's top currency diplomat, has already been offered the post unofficially by the government, which plans to submit its nominees for three BOJ leadership posts to parliament this week, the paper said. Kikuo Iwata, an academic known as one of the most vocal advocates of aggressive monetary expansion, is likely to be nominated as deputy BOJ governor, the Nikkei said without citing sources."
For several long months now, the market has been treated to an unadulterated diet of such gross monetary irresponsibility, both concrete and conceptual, from what seems like the four corners of the globe and it has reacted accordingly by putting Other People's Money where the relevant central banker's mouth is. Sadly, it seems we are not only past the point where what was formerly viewed as a slightly risqué "unorthodoxy" has become almost trite in its application, but that like the nerdy kid who happens to have done something cool for once in his life, your average central banker has begun to revel in what he supposes to be his new-found daring – a behaviour in whose prosecution he is largely free from any vestige outside control or accountability. Indeed, this attitude has become so widespread that he and his speck-eyed peers now appear to be engaged in some kind of juvenile, mine's-bigger-than-yours contest to push the boundaries of what both historical record and theoretical understanding tell us to be advisable.
U.S. Department of Justice, Airgas, Alternative Investment Group, American Century, America’s Health Insurance Plans, ApexBrasil, Association for Corporate Growth, Bank of America, Bank of New York Mellon, Barclays Services Corporation, BNP Paribas, Capital Research, Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, Fidelity, Franklin Resources, Freddie Mac, Goldman Sachs, Intel, JP Morgan Chase, Microsoft, National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation, NMS Group, Oracle, Pension Real Estate Association, Real Estate Roundtable, Reynolds American, Royal Bank of Scotland, Visa, Wells Fargo, Nomura Holdings America, Laurus Funds, Ripplewood Holdings
Back in December 2011, a US RQ-170 Sentinel drone was either brought down or crash landed smack in the middle of Iran, allowing the local military and scientists to reverse engineer it furthering their own understanding of possible countermeasures, as well as selling the underlying technology to China and other countries eager to peek inside America's remote-controlled "oppression liberators." All this happened because someone during the drone design phase forgot to add a self-destruct option. Now, over a year later, we will see if someone finally thought of adding this simple feature following news that Iran has just brought down another (just modestly antagonizing) foreign spy drone over its territory.
In the last few days we have seen reports suggesting Brazilian household debt and service payments are weighing on growth, that Southeast Asia’s commercial credit is approaching its pre-1997 financial crisis peak of 75% GDP, and that South Korea’s household debt has reached 164% of disposable income compared with 138% in the US at the start of the housing crisis. Chinese debt rose 15% in excess of GDP last year from 191% to 206%. Its corporate cash flow is around 50% of profitability whilst loan growth is way in excess of the banks’ return on equity meaning the growth is dependent on a continual supply of new capital to the banks. Over the last few years whilst the developed economies have struggled to reduce their debt relative to GDP – (the most successful of the major economies has probably been the US which has taken non-financial sector debt down from a high of 253.15% GDP to 248.18% GDP) – the developing economies have taken advantage of cheap funding to inflate their debt levels dramatically, leaving the global debt position worse than in 2007.. Some of the emerging market debt is relatively small and the necessary rebalancing of the economy should be relatively easy to achieve, but even if it is only a cyclical limit as oppose to the structural limits of the developed economies, it is coinciding at the same time and will add to the global problem. As data on world GDP growth would suggest, it is not just Brazil where the numbers show “the exhaustion of a growth model based on consumption”.
Equities have rallied to all-time highs, sovereign debt is still just off their all-time lows and risk assets have compressed to their benchmarks in ways not dreamed about five years ago. The absence of hyper-inflation, once thought to be the consequence of this type of behavior, is nowhere to be seen and this has befuddled many economist and money manager alike. In other words, what most people thought would happen has not happened and there is a lesson here which rests upon all of the Central Banks acting in concert. Money is always put to use, it is never idle because it then earns nothing, but since it cannot be invested off-world it must go into the spaces that are provided and so it has. One can honestly say that the game has been rigged and this is an accurate statement but it makes no difference; this is the game that we have been given to play. Investors get to make all kinds of choices but we do not make the rules and arguing with reality may be an interesting academic exercise but it changes nothing in the end.
For those who want to get a sense of who the leading candidate in Italy is, at least based on concurrent mentions on Twitter, here is an application that tracks candidate references in real-time. Needless to say, Grillo and Berlusconi are head and shoulders above the rest.
The 2011 failure of the Super Committee produced a sequester that reduces budget authority in FY2013 by $85bn; resulting in estimated actual spending cuts of $42bn. What is less commonly known is that in FY2013 there is also a second sequester. The math behind the second sequester is even messier than the Super Committee sequester, but the bottom line is that it adds to the fiscal pain and highlights the complexity of the budgetary process.
While the topic of net Fed capital flows, and implicit balance sheet risk has recently gotten substantial prominence some three years after Zero Hedge first started discussing it, one open question is what happens when we cross the "D-Rate" boundary, or as we defined it, the point at which the Fed's Net Interest Margin becomes negative i.e., when the outflows due to interest payable to reserve banks (from IOER) surpasses the cash inflows from the Fed's low-yielding asset portfolio, and when the remittances to the Treasury cease (or technically become negative). To get the full answer of what happens then, we once again refer readers to the paper released yesterday by Morgan Stanley's Greenlaw and Deutsche Bank's Hooper, which discusses not only the parabolic chart that US debt yield will certainly follow over the next several decades, but the trickier concept known as the Fed's technical insolvency, or that moment when the Fed's tiny capital buffer goes negative. In short what would happen is that the Fed will be then forced to print money just so it can continue to print money.
'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.