If you don't like the frequency of your air-quality alerts, you don't have to keep them. That is the message that the Chinese government has made loud and clear as Bloomberg reports, Shanghai's environmental authority took decisive action to address the pollution - it cynically adjusted the threshold for "alerts" to ensure there won't be so many. In a move remininscent of Japan's raising of the "safe" radioactive threshold level, China has apparently decided - rather than accept responsibility for the disaster - to avoid it by making the "safe" pollution level over 50% more polluted (up from 75 to 115 micrograms per cubic meter) - almost 5 times the WHO's "safe" level of 25 micrograms.
Absent the "obvious" bubble in the late 90s, the US equity market is at its most expensive valuation since right before the '30s crash. As Bloomberg notes, thanks to the exuberance of stocks in the last quarter, Pavilion Global Markets has calculated Tobin's Q (a valuation indicator based on market 'price' versus 'asset value' for non-financial companies) has only been higher at the peak of bubble exuberance. Still want to BTFATH? Afraid of missing out?
A stunning 64% of American say the US no longer offers everyone an equal chance of 'getting ahead', according to a new poll by Bloomberg. The widening gap between rich and poor - as we have previously noted as wide as during the roaring 20s - has eroded faith in the American dream. The lack of faith, Bloomberg reports, is especially pronounced among those making less than $50,000 a year with 73% of those saying the economy is unfair. As class warfare is stoked, by none other than the President himself in his recent speech, noting economic trends have “jeopardized middle-class America’s basic bargain, that if you work hard, you have a chance to get ahead," man-of-the-year Pope Francis recently commented, "such an economy kills."
The last time the housing bubble popped, the "frontier" marginal market of Las Vegas was the first harbinger of what was about to come. It is that again, and as real estate expert Mark Hanson explains, "Las Vegas housing demand has crashed." This is hardly an auspicious sign for the rest of the epically reflated housing market which as we have been tirelelessly pointing out for the past two years, has not recovered, but has merely had its 4th dead cat bounce on the back of i) the implicit bank subsidy of foreclosure stuffing, ii) money laundering by "all cash" foreign buyers using the NAR's anti-money laundering exemption loophole, and iii) private equity zero cost of credit REO-to-Rent programs which are now in their last days.
The 21st century has proven interesting when it comes to Time's choices for person of the year: George Dubya, twice, Barack Obama, twice, Vladimir Putin, Ben Bernanke, and of course, Mark Zuckerberg. And now, moments ago, the Time person of the year 2013 has been revealed: the winner - Pope Francis, best known recently for bashing materialists and those who cry over a 2 point drop in stocks everywhere. Sorry Miley Cyrus - more twerking will be required in 2014 to make up for this epic loss.
- Wall Street Exhales as Volcker Rule Seen Sparing Market-Making (Bloomberg)
- GM to End Manufacturing Down Under, Citing Costs (WSJ)
- U.S. budget deal could usher in new era of cooperation (Reuters)
- Ukraine Police Back Off After Failing to Stop Protest (WSJ)
- First Walmart, now Costco misses (AP)
- Dan Fuss Joins Bill Gross Shunning Long-Term Debt Before Taper (BBG)
- China New Yuan Loans Higher Than Expected (WSJ)
- China bitcoin arbitrage ends as traders work around capital controls (Reuters)
- Blackstone’s Hilton Joins Ranks of Biggest Deal Paydays (BBG)
Contrary to some expectations, the budget deal has done absolutely nothing to push global markets or US futures higher which was to be expected: markets are no longer driven by fundamentals but by such things as carry pairs which signal monetary policies. Sure enough, as a result of the strength in the Yen, overnight markets have reacted with a mixture of cautiousness and optimism. On the cautious side, Asian equities are down across the board which can at least be partially attributed to nervousness at the prospect of a December Fed taper. If Congress passes the budget over the next few days, the probability of a taper next week increase at the margin, given that we have lower fiscal uncertainty (and higher spending) over the next two years. Losses in equities are being led by the Nikkei (-0.7%) and the Hang Seng (-1.3%). Asian credit shows no sign of taper nervousness this morning with the Asia IG index 4bp tighter and high beta EM names such as Indonesia trading firmer (5yr CDS -10bp). 10yr UST yields are unchanged at 2.80% and the US dollar is slightly stronger against the major crosses. The Hang Seng China Enterprises index is down 2.3% ahead of the results of China’s central economic work conference which is expected to end tomorrow and may set a number of economic targets for 2014.
A recent report released by U.S. computer security firm FireEye revealed that Chinese hackers had accessed computers at the foreign ministries of five European countries. The report concluded that these “seemingly unrelated cyberattacks” could actually be “part of a broader offensive fueled by shared development and logistics infrastructure.” The laundry list of hacking targets mirrors the recent avalanche of accusations leveled at the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). As we move further into the 21st century, the U.S. and China will be the major rule-makers for the new global order. As such, the U.S. and China will together help define what is acceptable behavior in the cyberspace. There have already been calls for the U.S. and China to discuss limits on hacking activities and to define clear “rules of the road” for cyberspace. Unfortunately, it seems that (though neither would admit it) the U.S. and China have very similar ideas on cyberspace — anything goes.
"The attitudes toward cannabis are shifting rapidly," says a former DEA-agent-turned-pot-growing-company-lawyer, adding that "the potential social and financial returns are enormous." As ironic as that maybe, perhaps it is why Uruguay has just become the first nation in the world to allow its citizens to grow, buy and smoke marijuana. As Reuters reports, the pioneering government-sponsored bill establishes state regulation of the cultivation, distribution and consumption of marijuana and is aimed at wresting the business from criminals. "Our country can't wait for international consensus on this issue," said one politician as demand is rising globally as the following chart shows...
If you understand the difference between the first pair of shoes and the 25th, and the increasing diversion of income to interest payments that results from debt-based consumption, then you understand why America's debt-dependent consumer economy is doomed.
BlackRock said there is a 20% risk that world events could go badly wrong, either because the eurozone acts too late to head off deflation or because of a chain reaction as the Fed starts to wind down stimulus in earnest. As The Telegraph notes, BlackRock’s risk indicator is almost as high as it was just before the dotcom bust. "The ratio of the two is the key. High valuations combined with low volatility can make for a lethal mix. This market gauge sounded the alarm well before the Great Financial Crisis." Furthermore, the largest asset manager in the world warns, "troubling trends of growing inequality and weak wage growth, bring into question the sustainability of profit margins." What is good for investors is corrosive for societies, hardly tenable equilibrium.
Investors all over the world are confronted by markets that have been dressed up for the amusement of the crew in charge of the ship, and nobody seems to recognize what they are looking at. Sure, they look like markets, but at the same time there is an unfamiliarity that is extremely unnerving to at least a few in the gathering crowd. The majority of the mob, however, have decided that they look enough like markets to charge in blindly in the expectation that all will be as it should. Things are not as they should be. Far from it.
We’ve spent the last five decades learning to love our oppression, adoring our technology, glorying in our distaste for reading books, and wilfully embracing our ignorance. Huxley’s vision of a population, passively sleep walking through lives of self- absorption, triviality, drug induced gratification, materialism and irrelevance has come to pass. Only in the last two decades has Orwell’s darker vision of oppression, fear, surveillance, hate and intimidation begun to be implemented by the ruling class. We’ve become a people controlled by pleasure and pain, utilized in varying degrees by those in power. Stay tuned for our modern day Hunger Games after this commercial for your very own Duck Dynasty Chia Pet.