Expiring tax and expenditure policies, if not addressed, will likely trigger a US recession in early 2013 that will affect every citizen in the nation. It seems, however, that no matter how much the mainstream media talks about the cliff and its implications, the average-joe is still focused on who will win X-Factor and whether Maria Carey and Nikki Minaj will have a knock-down drag-out fight on American Idol. Into this breach - to educate everyone - steps Bloomberg Briefs' Joe Brusuelas with this excellent primer on the US Fiscal Cliff and its Debt. Notably the senior economist outlines the upcoming risks to the economy, from the pending fiscal shock and why those risks may be greater than policy makers or investors are acknowledging.
The technicals were in charge today as S&P futures coiled around VWAP early on, tested lows, then pushed to highs (coinciding with the 50DMA) - ending the day-session in the green. Low volume and low average trade size suggest this was not the pros filling their boots and the lack of enthusiasm among Treasury traders (despite a very late day ramp higher in yields), FX traders (EUR weakness dragged USD back to Unchanged on the week), and Oil (ending the day -2.9% on the week) didn't fill us with fear of a next leg higher (for now). Gold and stocks traded tick for tick most of the day as the precious metal toyed with $1700 again and HYG (the high-yield bond ETF) also recoupled with SPY (stocks) all day (shifting richer to its fair-value). Of course, AAPL is the name of the day with its death spiral, VWAP save, and VWAP reversion amid gigantic volume - but low average trade size (to close +1.5%). VIX ignored equity strength and closed +0.15 vols at 16.6% (very close to where it opened).
Just yesterday, Goldman Sachs suggested its clients should sell their gold (to them?) as the precious metal cycle had turned. It seems Morgan Stanley disagrees; the firm's preferred fundamental metal exposure for 20913 is Gold. Expecting Silver to outperform also (given its 'cheaper' store of value), MS believes nothing has changed on the fundamental thesis for owning gold as the adoption of QE 3 (and 4...) and the ECB's commitments (and BoJ) remain the most important factors for a continuation of weakness in the TWI trend for the US Dollar. They also add that low nominal and negative real interest rates, ongoing geopolitical risk in the Middle East and continued mine supply issues are also supportive. From India and ETF demand to central bank buying and USD weakness - MS seems to be buying what GS is selling (or is less about muppet-mauling).
Just a few months back we noted the FBI's arrest of Tony Mack, the Mayor of New Jersey's salubrious capital Trenton. Today, via AP, the mayor and his brother have been indicted on eight counts of extortion, bribery, and mail and wire fraud. The Mayor has continued in his position - even since the September arrest - but the federal indictment relates to an alleged scheme to accept $119,000 in bribes in exchange for his influence in the development of a garage on city-owned land. Shocked? not so much; but it seems maybe "Trenton Makes, The Mayor Takes" is more appropriate.
With debt ceilings being summarily dismissed and billions and trillions of dollars being thrown around like confetti, we have become almost entirely de-sensitized to the colossal size of the numbers involved (and to be frank de minimus impact from any 'compromise'. In order to comprehend the size of the US Debt load, Demonocracy created this video visualized in physical $100 bills. And you thought a Jumbo-Jet full of cash was a lot...
The news Deutsche Bank apparently sat on potential super-senior losses of $12 bln through the banking crisis is bound to anger the many bankers who saw their careers crumble or subsumed into bureaucracy. Other banks up the ying-yang with unhedgable risk went bust or were forced into the ignominy of public bailouts. From a proper accounting or risk-management perspective DB should have been bust - but to the unknowing world it wasn't. And that sums up the complexity of the bank world - if management can hide or not recognise risks (and even sack whistleblowers who disagree with them), what's the answer? It's the No-See-Ums that kill institutions. On the basis if you can't see it, then it can't see you... should DB have survived? If Lehman had kept schtumm about its leverage and unquantifiable risk, would it still be with us? Not getting caught is an objective all management have quietly inscribed into their heads. And as far as the UK's fiscal projections... on the basis QE has historically proved to be little less effective than pushing uphill on a length of wet wool, then we might just be staring down the Japanese abyss - no growth as CAPEX will stay subdued on the weak outlook. Lastly, we've been told (forceably) our concerns the Greek buyback could be difficult are completely overstated. We are idiots for even thinking it... apparently.
To the point of causing intestinal convulsions, there has been no shortage of analysis on the elections of 2012. The word “journalist” has today become synonymous with “whore”, simply because success in the field makes whoredom essential. One meme that is being spread widely in the mainstream that I do actually agree with is that the Republican Party is “dying”. During the 2010 mid-term elections, there was a mass resurgence in conservative voting based almost entirely on Tea Party optimism. That changed, though, when Neo-Con elites began weaseling their way into the club, gushing about how they loved freedom. What these vermin do not understand, though, is that it takes more than rhetoric to hold onto Liberty Movement voters. Those of us in the movement who have deeply considered the election aftermath have predominantly concluded that it is WE who have taken the mojo out of the GOP. Let’s take a look at just a few of the mainstream media and GOP leadership arguments and propaganda initiatives and why they are shameless fabrications meant to hide Liberty Movement influence... The GOP is dying and we are thriving. Whether or not the two are related, I leave for you to decide...
UPDATE: Senate Republicans block vote on President Obama's debt-limit plan
The Pharaoh-like power-grab of omnipotence that Egypt's Morsi recently pulled seems to have set a precedent among newly 'elected' leaders. This morning, as per Bloomberg, we hear that Obama (and his viceroy Harry Reid) plan to demolish the idea of congressional checks on the debt limit. Incredibly ironic timing - given our previous post (in which Rick Santelli explains why this is a potential disaster), but placing that much unlimited money power in the hands of one man seems like a mistake:
- *OBAMA PLAN CALLS FOR END OF LAWMAKER APPROVAL OF DEBT LIMIT
- *REID SAYS SENATE MAY VOTE ON OBAMA DEBT-LIMIT PLAN TODAY
McConnell's response: “Look: the only way we ever cut spending around here is by using the debate over the debt limit to do it, now the President wants to remove that spur to cut altogether.”
Since the 2nd Liberty Act of 1917 birthed the debt ceiling, due to issues financing USA's entry into World War I, CNBC's Rick Santelli notes that there has been many documented 'violations'. However, as Rick so vociferously points out President Obama's comment yesterday on the debt limit and highlights the fact that "to have an unlimited amount of money to call upon is too much power power for one person. It's always in our country been about checks and balances but I think this administration just wants more checks and no balancing of the checkbook." Rick is right, of course, and the current diatribe from Geithner and Obama yesterday on the possible 'removal' of the debt limit beggars belief - and yet has become a negotiating point to be 'traded'. While some argue the premise of the debt limit for a reserve currency nation is nonsense, Santelli sums it perfectly in ten little words: "Debt Ceiling Is Not The Problem. Debt Is The Problem," adding the debt ceiling, as we have pointed out regularly, is an important (perhaps the most important) issue facing us currently (and inseparable from the supposed 'austerity' of the fiscal cliff - lower spending growth not lower spending).
AAPL's phoneix-like rise from the WWJTD lows this morning has been capped at yesterday's closing VWAP. Stocks and Gold are recoupled for the week pushing towards the highs (and high yield credit and stocks have recoupled). While equities are pushing their highs, Treasury yields plumb new lows, EURUSD has given up all the week's gains and more, and Oil is plunging. So, another day, another dislocation as not even Harrry Reid's indignance can move markets today...
Despite Draghi's insistence that 'significant' progress has been made, that the ECB's efforts have not been "killer medicine", that stocks are higher and spreads are lower (implying the ECB "has already done much that is needed"), and how optimistically-biased cherry-picked economic surveys are positive despite weak economic projections; the fact of the matter is that youth unemployment is only getting worse - much worse. Euro-zone youth unemployment is at a record 23.9% but Spain and Italy saw the biggest jumps (to 55.9% and 36.5% respectively). Greece remains the worst at over 56% based on last data, while Germany rests at 8.1%.
Two months ago, there were various prominent pundits who were furiously mocked and ridiculed by those whose job in the media it is to mock and ridicule, for suggesting what most know: that economic data is widely nuanced, massaged, adjusted, goalseeked and outright manipulated by various political interests. That someone would feign outrage by this allegation is laughable at best (and sorry, the "too many people were involved to keep it a secret" excuse is now absolute rubbish following the confirmation of Liborgate, yet another conspiracy theory until it became a conspiracy fact), yet all the "serious" outlets of insight did just that. Now that the election is over, for one reason or another "unnuanced" normalcy is about to strike back with a vengeance, as soon as tomorrow with the official release of November jobs data. And if the just released Gallup unemployment data is any indication, the amount of outright goalseeking by the fine folks at the BLS was nothing short of startling. Because after recording an adjusted unemployment rate of 7.4% in October, the November unemployment rate, based on a random sample of 29,308 adults, soared by a whopping 0.9% in one month to 8.3%, the most since the Great financial crisis itself! And furthermore, at 8.3% the unemployment rate is now the highest since May. Is it time yet for all those sellsiders to admit they were wrong weeks after producing beautiful pitchbooks of how 2013 will be "different this time" and the economy will soar? Or should we wait a few weeks first?
As we have discussed a number of times (most recently here), the infiltration of Goldman Sachs alumni into the highest ranks of political and monetary policy 'running the world' ranks is becoming pandemic. What is perhaps even more surprising is the fact that during the ECB's press conference this morning, the head of the world's 'almost' most powerful entity had to defend himself from such crackpot, tin-foil-hat-wearing, digital-dickweed-esque conspiracy theories that Draghi's affiliation to the Mother Squid is of greater importance than his current professional position. The sadly ironic aspect is that Draghi's membership of the Goldman Sachs-sponsored G-30 warranted more discussion during the press conference than that of Italy's Monti debacle (or Greece's "killer medicine").
As predicted in our overnight summary piece titled, "Sentiment Shaken By Concerns Of Political Circus Returning To Italy" Europe appears set to be gripped by yet another political crisis, this time by the country that most forgot in 2012, with the attention focusing primarily on Spain and Greece. The reason is what some may call Berlusconi's revenge, who after being eliminated by the ECB in November 2011 when Draghi sent Italian bond spreads soaring, and made Berlusconi's departure a condition to returning normalcy in exchange for planting yet another Goldman tentacle in Italy, Mario Monti, has now shaken the credibility of his successor by having his party PDL abstain from a vote of confidence in favor of Monti's growth measures. The result, as Il Giornale reported moments ago, is that the "the government is increasingly hanging by a thread". It continues: 'Now Prime Minister Mario Monti is likely to no longer have the numbers in parliament. The majority creaks." Is this the end of the technocratic quiet in the austerity regimes? And if the people have said Basta to Goldman and its appointees, does this open the door wide for the likes of Berlusconi to retake the power and force Goldman to scramble to regain status quo "normalcy" for another several months just as every sellside firm has bet the ranch on a global renaissance in 2013?
Margin Debt Rises To 18 Month High As Net Free Credit Plunges To -44 Billion: Keep The Margin Calls AwaySubmitted by Tyler Durden on 12/06/2012 - 11:28
A month ago, just before the market tumbled only to be rescued by a completely idiotic goal seeked narrative on November 16 that Congress and the President were close to a compromise on the Fiscal Cliff, since repeatedly refuted, we presented an update of NYSE margin debt and net investor net worth. The data was disturbing as it showed that just as the market had hit its 2012 peak so far, investors were truly "all in" stocks, and that "Margin Debt as of 9/30 hit $315 billion: a jump of $30 billion from the prior month, and the highest since March 2011, just before the market tanked. And confirming that there is simply no cash on hand to pay for margin calls when they start pouring in after today's massive sell off, is the total Net Worth, which in September was the lowest since April. Because with record complacency, and the Fed guaranteeing no further shocks are possible, who needs to hold cash?" Today we get the October data, and things have just gotten worse, because Margin Debt rose once more, this time to $318 billion, the highest in a year and a half, but more troubling is that Net Free Credit (i.e. real disposable cash to meet margin calls) sank even deeper into the red, at a whopping ($44) billion, the lowest since the summer of 2011. This simply means that like last month, if and when the margin calls start coming in, speculators will have no choice but to commence liquidating levered positions as there is simply not enough cash to fund capital losses. Which probably explains the resilience of the S&P: one or two 1% down days and Congress will get a far greater impetus to get a Fiscal Cliff deal done. Which, paradoxically, is precisely what needs to happen.