In one of the most coherent take-downs of the government's data gatherers, economists, reporters, and the general investing public that soak up the propaganda spewed forth by the former, TrimTab's CEO Charles Biderman destroys today's 'Advance' retail sales, and crushes the Census Bureau's process. Needing little additional comment, we can only hope that the 'ignorance is bliss' approach of the mainstream media and self-serving talking heads is at least questioned by the broad investing public when they hear the sense that Biderman speaks with regard to the antiquated methodologies used to gather data and the factual destruction of Wall Street Journal "I am the law" headlines straight off the government's press releases. The simple fact is that while anyone suggesting the government's data may not be accurate is dismissed as a tin-foil-hat-wearing conspiracy theorist (Goldman Sachs client 'muppetry', high-frequency-trading liquidity destruction, rehypothecation and shadow-banking deleveraging, LTRO-Stigma, and real European sovereign balance sheet aside for example), when faced with the facts - the unadulterated numbers - it is hard to argue with tough reality; leaving only the shrug, 'money-on-the-sidelines', 'trend-is-your-friend', 'retail not participating yet', self-fulfilling mutual masturbation that is now become our virtuous circle of reporting, government data, and sell-side economists.
On a long enough timeline, all things come to an end. Even for such venerable venues as the London Metals Exchange, with its 130 year history, and its annual turnover of over $11 trillion in metal contracts, which also makes it the largest market for non-ferrous metals. As the English FT reminisces, "When the LME was established in 1877, Britain was one of the world’s most important manufacturing powerhouses, and the LME’s benchmark contracts for delivery in three months were designed to mirror the length of time needed to reach British ports for shipments of copper from Chile and tin from Malaysia." Furthermore, in the beginning, and all the way through 1993, the flagship copper contract was denominated in sterling, at which point it was switched to the USD following the "Black Wednesday" ERM sterling crisis, courtesy of George Soros who made about $1 billion by shorting the GBP, and formally ended the sterling's role as even an informal backup reserve currency. As of today, insult follows inury, as the LME has formally asked the members of the exchange to drop the sterling contract denomination (in addition to USD, EUR, and JPY contracts) and replace it with the Chinese renminbi. Why this sudden and dramatic, if gradual and tacit, admission that the CNY is the ascendent reserve currency? Because, as the FT reminds us, China has become the market for non-ferrous metals: it is "the dominant force in the market, accounting for more than 40 per cent of global demand for most metals and a rapidly increasing share of trading in LME futures." Add that to yesterday's news of a widening in the CNY band (which incidentally is much ado about nothing, at least for now: at best it will allow China to devalue its currency when and if it so desires much faster than before, much to Geithner's final humiliation), and to the previously reported extensive network of bilateral CNY-based trade agreements already kris-crossing Asia, and one can see why if America is not worried about the reserve status of the dollar, it damn well should be.
Sniffing around the moves in today's market suggest one very strong trend - that of European bank repatriation flows gathering pace. We pointed this out during the day as it occurred but looking back now, and remembering our critical analysis of these same flow patterns back in October of last year as the crisis was surging to crescendo, brings back some concerning memories. Today's cross asset-class price action had five very clear phases with the period around the European close and the afternoon in the US day session most directly evident of the generalized selling of USD-based assets and repatriating EURs in whatever format can be found. A picture paints a thousand words (perhaps more if it's scratch'n'sniff) and this one smells like forced selling - which combined with ECB margin calls and the rapidly worsening EUR-USD basis swap (funding issues) paints a rather concerning picture for (already collateral starved) European banks. As Europe faces bank downgrades (collateral calls) and auctions (real-money needed to bid in the reach-around), we suspect we will see more repatriation of EUR and understanding the flows these movements may cause will help make sense of the markets' movements during the day
Before there was seamless connectivity, before there was one global electronic currency and instantaneous global debt creation, before there was the internet, supply-chain "logistics", World Bank, IMF, and economic hitmen, there were... ships. Because in order to allow modern Ricardian economics to flourish (we would be curious to read some/any scholarly papers probing the failure of Ricardo's theories in a ZIRP regime, unfortunately there are none, as never before has the cost of money been zero essentially until regime end), and before money could be printed with impunity, backed solely by full lack of faith and eroding credit, nations had to actually trade with each other, and money was simply a means to facilitate said trade, which in turn allowed the formation of wealth and subsequent asymmetric power relationships. Needless to say, any nation that imported itself to death would be promptly wiped out by its heretofore friendly neighbors who would simply invade it when the money to buy stuff and to fund armies ran out: sadly TARGET2 was not available during Victorian times. So where are we going with this? Ben Schmidt, a Princeton graduate student, using ship logs has conceived of this tremendous time lapse of every single major known ship route taken by Dutch, Spanish and English vessels during the "age of transition", the period between 1750 and 1850, which set the stage for today's "global economy." The result is a fantastic insight into the early stages of globalization.
Santiago Capital has put together a concise and highly informative 10 minutes video, which explains in the amount of time that a traditional economics professor takes to prepare their coffee, virtually everything that is at risk, and fundamentally flawed, with the current monetary system. While this presentation will not be news to regular readers, we suggest it is watched with recent revelations elsewhere (certainly not here: this has been the default assumption here since day one), that it is flow, not stock that matters to price formation. Which means the exponential curve discussed below will only get ever steeper to asymptote, if the true purpose of the Fed is simply to ramp stocks come hell or high water, in its artificial pursuit of "price stability."
Amid the fourth heaviest volume of the year, Apple shares fell over 4% today - its largest single-day drop in six months (and largest two-day drop in 23 months) and GOOG also fell over 3%. This dragged the NASDAQ down but the S&P 500 (which was implicitly hurt by this major underperformance) managed to survive with relatively minimal damage close-to-close as the EUR repatriation drove TSY yields up and the USD down with correlations doing the rest to support stocks. Heavier volume and trade size came in as ES (the S&P 500 e-mini future) slid notably into the close though - almost 10pts off its afternoon highs and over 1% off its day-session opening levels (which were the highs). USD weakness accelerated rapidly after the European close - quite evenly distributed across all the majors but EUR weighed heavily as it retraced most of Friday's losses. The USD selling stopped around 130pm ET. The USD weakness supported some recovery from early weakness in commodities but the second largest compression in Brent-WTI in 16 months to around $15 - led by Brent more than WTI - on the Seaway reversal date being brought forward, was the biggest news in commodities. Silver ended unch and gold down modestly. Credit outperformed stocks on the day (and from open-to-close) but this seems as much credit-equity index arb as credit remains notably weaker. HYG stayed in sync with SPY today after we first noted the convergence on Friday (following the April asset allocation shift). After rallying early, Treasuries stabilized through the USD selling frenzy immediately post-European close but as the USD stabilized in the late afternoon (and AUD weakened) so Treasuries were oddly sold off (along with stocks) ending the day basically unchanged (after being lower by 4-5bps before the US open). VIX closed unchanged after opening lower and pushing to well over 20% at its worst - as 19% seemed to support it as we rallied in the afternoon. ES tested above its 50DMA once again and closed back below it on a relatively heavy day with very low average trade size.
Correction: the Gundlach call is tomorrow. We got a little ahead of ourselves. We will bring this post back tomorrow after the close.
DoubleLine's Jeff Gundlach (whose AUM is now well into the $30 billion area - a scorching ascent for the former TCW manager) will host a live call at 4:15 PM Eastern today, on the ever so salient topic (if somewhat regurgitated soundbite) of whether "To QE3 or Not To QE3: That is the question." As is traditional, Gundlach will accept questions from the audience. And as always, lots of very interesting tangential info to be gleaned from one of the truly objective and original thinkers out there.
Slowly but surely, the Spanish authorities are gradually socializing the rest of the world to the dismal truth that we have been so vociferously arguing - that their debt levels (or more specifically their debt/GDP ratios) are significantly higher (explicitly) than their current official data suggest. Today's news, via the WSJ, that the Spanish government may take over some regions' finances, in an attempt to shore up investor confidence (just as Ireland did with its banks and we know how well that worked out?) is yet another step closer to the 'realization' that all that is "contingent" is actually "explicitly guaranteed." As we noted here, this leaves Spain's Debt/GDP nearer 135% than its 'official' 68.5%. The WSJ notes comments from a top government official that "there will soon be new tools to control regional spending" and that they may take over at least one of the country's cash-strapped regions this year. As we broke down extensively here, this is no surprise as yet another group of political elite find the truth harder to deal with than the blinkered optimism they face the media with every day and yet as PM Rajoy notes "Nobody can expect that deep-seated problems be solved in just a few weeks", the irony of the euphoria felt around the world at the optical rally in Spanish spreads for the first few months of the year is not lost as Spain heads back into the abyss ahead of pending auctions and what appears to be more ponzified guarantees of regional finances (as long as they promise to pay it back and have 'a plan'). The simple truth is, as acknowledged by Rajoy, Spain has lost the trust of financial markets.
Gallup Finds Obama, Romney In Dead Heat As Daily Tracking Begins, With Independents Leaning Toward GOPSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 04/16/2012 - 14:05
Now that the GOP primary is essentially over, and Mitt Romney is set, for better or worse, to be the Republican frontrunner, Gallup has launched its daily tracking poll to keep an eye on each one's presidential prospects. Not surprisingly, the result is a dead heat. "Mitt Romney is supported by 47% of national registered voters and Barack Obama by 45% in the inaugural Gallup Daily tracking results from April 11-15. Both Obama and Romney are supported by 90% of their respective partisans." What is curious is that "The crucial voting bloc of independents breaks toward Romney by 45% to 39%, giving the GOP challenger his slight overall edge." So will Obama now be forced to make a moderate push to attract what will likely be the critical voter constituency in November? We will find out over the next few months.
The time has come to raise the 'noise' level for global markets to Defcon 3 as Clive Hale, of View from the Bridge, discusses his four largest stressors currently. Instead of going 'hmmm' as Grant Williams regularly does, Hale is screaming 'aaargh' as he sees Japanese radioactivity uncertainty, market manipulation, the main-stream media's anaesthetising propaganda, and finally the euro (that last lingering but fatally flawed bastion of european union) plethora problems all increasingly weighing on global macro concerns.
While it is not unusual for everyone's favorite truth-seeker in Chicago to cut to the chase and simplify the over-complex world of data and nuance that is thrust upon us day after day, CNBC's Rick Santelli outdoes himself today. Initially addressing the retail sales and housing data dichotomy, Rick jumps above the noise of day-to-day data and focuses on what is critical - in his view - the weather and the debt. If only he had used the term "It's the debt stupid" as it would have made for better headlines but the clip below should help anyone and everyone decide on whether this dip is for buying or fading/waiting. In the end, Santelli notes, "It is simple. There are questions about weather and questions about debt. First one we'll know more about in the next two or three months. [For the] latter, we'll have to look toward our neighbors in Europe to see how it ultimately turns out and see if our political class is going to do a better job than the European bureaucracies."