Over the last decade, the economy (and implicitly the jobs of US citizens) have suffered significant swings. The chart below, however, clarifies exactly where the 'missing' jobs have gone (and with a slight silver-lining) where we have gained jobs. As is clear, the Oil & Gas industry has seen its total number of employees rise over 40% in the last ten years - while Manufacturing and Construction industries have each lost around 20% of the total employees. Of course, net net, given the precipitous drop in labor force participation, the US is losing the 'employed' dramatically over this period as the incentive (as we noted here) to work and demand for work (in a cost-cutting ZIRP environment) remain negligible.
Yesterday we broke the news of what is prima facie evidence, sourced by none other than the Federal Reserve's official August 16, 2007 conference call transcript, that then-NY Fed president and FOMC Vice Chairman Tim Geithner leaked material, non-public, and very much market moving information (the "Geithner Leak") to at least one banker, in this case then Bank of America CEO Ken Leiws, in advance of a formal Fed announcement - an act explicitly prohibited by virtually every capital markets law (and reading thereof). It was refreshing to see that at least several other mainstream outlets, including Reuters, The Hill and the NYT, carried this story which is far more significant than Season 1 of Lance Armstrong's produced theatrical confession and rating bonanza. What, however, the mainstream media has not touched upon, yet, is just how profound the market response to the Geithner Leak was, and by implication, how much money those who were aware of what the Fed was about to do, made. Perhaps, it should because as we show below, the implications were staggering. But perhaps what is even more relevant, is why the Fed's previously disclosed details of Mr. Geithner's daily actions at the time, have exactly no mention of any of this.
China now buys more gold than the Western world. Does that mean, as some commentators are suggesting, that future price growth for the gold price depends on China? That if the Chinese economy weakens and has a hard landing or a recession that gold will fall steeply? Of course, this is only one factor. With the global monetary system in a state of flux - with many nations creating bilateral and multilateral trade agreements to trade in non-dollar currencies, including gold - emerging market central banks see gold — the oldest existing form of money — as an insurance policy against unpredictable changes, and as a way to win global monetary influence. As Zhang Jianhua of the People’s Bank of China said: "No asset is safe now. The only choice to hedge risks is to hold hard currency - gold."
Almost two years after the awful nuclear disaster occurred, a fish caught near Fukushima on Friday January 18th had a record-breaking level of radioactive contamination over 2500x the legal limit. TEPCO measured 'Mike the Murasoi' at 254,000 becquerels per kilogram (with the limit for edible seafood at 100 becquerels). As Le Monde reports, the previous record (caught on August 21st 2012) was a mere 25,800 becquerels/kg. As further precautions, TEPCO is installing new nets 20km around the Fukushima Daichi site to avoid highly contaminated fish gettig too far and being consumed by other species. While Mike's family are no doubt distraught (at him being caught and being so radioactive), it appears (somewhat disappointingly) that there is no apparent third eye, lazer fins, legs, or other 'expected' 'blinky' malformations.
We make more than we’ve ever made, we owe more than we’ve ever owed, and we have less than we've had in decades which is distributed to those that did not earn the money. This is a working definition of Trouble. The stock market is at an all-time high while the financial condition of the country has seriously deteriorated. The world is in a gigantic bubble and it is going to get pricked. You cannot keep printing money without consequences and when absolute and intrinsic valuations replace relative valuations then the game is afoot. When the survival of the State puts its people in dire straits then, eventually, the citizens will rebel as the nation has forgotten just who composes its constituents. The people and institutions that have the capital will only go along quietly for so long when nations try to take what they have earned and dispossess it for others. The rich will become poorer and the poor will become poorer and when those with the capital have been deprived of it so that everyone is worse off then the Lords of Chaos will be in control once again.
Fraudulent Chinese corporations are nothing new - we have been warning about them since late 2010, spurring the creation of a cottage industry focused exclusively on unmasking such public reverse merger companies (and generating trading profits along the way). One company, however, which apparently was completely unaware of the now pervasive and proven for the past two years Chinese corporate fraud, is US industrial titan Caterpillar. This was made clear when, after hours on Friday night naturally, the company revealed that it had been misled by "deliberate, multi-year, coordinated accounting misconduct" at a subsidiary of a Chinese company it acquired last summer, leading it to write off most of the value of the deal. In the process it would also take a $580 million, or $0.87 cent charge to earnings, which would wipe out more than half its expected earnings of $1.70 for the fourth quarter of 2012. One wonders, however, is there more to this story than just a case of a gentle, naive board duped by fraudulent, evil, cunning "Chinamen" which may have watched one too many episodes of Autonomy does Hewlett Packard?
The hyper-correlation of Japanese stocks (Bass - The people that buying Japanese stocks, are picking up a dime in front of a bulldozer) and the JPY have led many to believe that Abe's miracle promise will be just the ticket to bring the nation's two-decade slump to an end - a 2% inflation target is all you need. However, in a brief CNBC interview, Kyle Bass explains that not only are 99.9% of people wrong about the crisis (explaining the critical aspect of the abrupt turn of twenty years of the 'procylicality of thought' - that deflation is the norm), but Abe's actions have actually brought forward the date of the "detonation of Japan's Debt Time Bomb. Bass goes on to discuss the US Housing stabilization, European stress, and China's economic opacity (and tensions with Japan), but leaves us with the clear and present danger in Japan that the clock has started on the qualitative shift in participants' minds that the situation is untenable (signs are already among the elite with recent JPY-extricating M&A deals) and "All of the components for this [bomb] to go off 'all of a sudden' are in place." Must watch.
The Fiscal Cliff theater was great 'off Broadway' drama, but the real show for traders took center stage Sunday December 16th in Japan. The curtain went up for the newly elected Prime Minister of Japan as the star actor in the unfolding global fiat currency drama. In the last 90 days the US, EU and now Japan have announced "unlimited", "Uncapped" monetary policy with UK's soon to be bank of England Governor, Carney indicating he wants inflation & growth targeting also when he assumes the reins. The goal has been to get interest REAL interest rates as low as possible, and the expected duration to be as long as possible. Market have reacted to this strategic and obvious debasement by stampeding, relentlessly into the Bond Market and creating a disturbing potentially destabilizing bond bubble. However, remember, Financial Repression is at work here and US Bond Yields and Interest Rates must be further reduced. We presently expect the 10 Year US Treasury Bill to eventually break below 1% and Equities will fall on the re-pricing of credit and risk, earnings revenue and margin issues and slowing real global growth.
Following the recent fall of the Swiss franc against the euro, there were paradoxical comments on the opportunity on both moving the Swiss National Bank’s floor lower (say to 1.25 for example) or on abandoning it altogether (or moving it higher). We believe both options are very unlikely, at least in the coming months. Moving the floor lower would be a bad idea in our view. As we have seen, the extent of the franc’s overvaluation is quite debatable and the lower the floor, the quicker a monetary policy dilemma may emerge. Moreover, in the event renewed upward pressures on the franc occur once again, a lower floor may prove more costly in terms of FX interventions.
The recovery since the 2008 financial crisis is just an illusion created by the papering-over of our insolvency by central-bank printing. Doug Casey adds that the current state is akin to being "in the eye of the hurricane thanks to this 'cover'" and believes the printing which will ultimately lead to very high inflation once bank lending starts to pick up again. This excellent interview moves from Casey's view of a looming loss of confidence in the dollar (and the impact of mass repatriation) to what must the Keynesians be thinking as the "apparency of prosperity" remains all that we have to lift animal spirits. With an eye to gold (and non-western central banks behavior towards it as they realize "the USD is just an unsecured liability of a bankrupt government"), he evaluates the likelihood of a western economic collapse in 2013 and what that would imply for an implicit gold standard in the world. From Austrian economist Hans Herman-Hoppe's view of a post-Keynesian-crash era to his potential triggers for this collapse (such as gold-energy barter and non-dollar blocs), Casey succinctly reminds us that there is not just one asset-class bubble but that "we are living in the middle of the biggest bubble in history."
The USD ends the week up over 0.6%, Treasury yields down 2-4bps, Silver up 4.6%, Oil 2%, and Gold 1.4%; but it is VIX that rules the waves of unreality this week as it collapsed from this morning's unchanged on the week, played catch down to stocks (from yesterday) and then led stocks on a vol steepening/compression extravaganza down to 12.31% - its lowest since June 2007 as the 'contingent' extension of the debt-limit appeared the initial trigger and nothing at all the secondary trigger. AAPL wavered below and tested up to $500 (amid very large average trade size) but was the distinct loser once again with size sellers as S&P 500 futures surged (yet agin inferring the unwind of the long-AAPL, short-ES trade continues). Once the fire was lit, there was no stopping the stop-chasing momo run in stocks as ES chased all the way up above the week's highs. VXX was crushed (as the curve also compressed) and high-yield credit and stocks tracked each other in the rampapalooza. Of course the moment the day-session close, ES cracked back lower but for now no one cares (ending up just 5 points in the S&P cash). Average trade size was high once again in the S&P as the USD, Bonds, and Stocks were bid.
On August 17, 2007, the Fed's Board of Governors announced a key change to primary credit lending terms, whereby the discount rate was cut by 50 bp — to 5.75% from 6.25% — and the term of loans was extended from overnight to up to thirty days. This reduced the spread of the primary credit rate over the fed funds rate from 100 basis points to 50 basis points. News of the emergency measure was supposed to be kept secret from market participants as it was substantially market moving. It wasn't. And just when we thought our opinion of the outgoing Treasury Secretary and former NY Fed head Tim Geithner, whose TurboTax incompetence is now legendary, couldn't get lower, it got lower. Much lower.
It is no secret to anyone that as we said some 3 years ago, the world is now engaged in all out currency warfare whose sole goal is destroying one's own currency faster and more brutally than "the other guy" can. Because while devaluing one's currency is imperative in order to return to a viable debt load, about $40 trillion less than where it is now (as per BCG) by pushing monetary inflation upon one's people and inflating said debt away, just as important is to stimulate one's economy and exports which, all else equal, can only be done by making them cheaper to one's trading partners. It is, after all, a zero sum world. This is precisely the tug of war that the developed world is caught in currently, where every attempt is made to talk down one's currency, and when that fails, to dilute it by printing more of it (the Fed), to backstop it with collateral of every lower quality (the ECB, although in Europe's case it is more of an involuntary phenomenon), or just to talk, and talk, ant talk (Japan). Yet while every country with a self-respecting central bank (i.e., currency printer) hopes that they will be the ultimate winner of the currency debasement export race, what has become obvious over the past 30 years, is that when it comes to specializing in exports, there is just one true winner: a winner which is self-evident from the chart below.
After witnessing the fighting of undeclared never ending wars, passage of freedom destroying legislation like the Patriot Act & NDAA, approval of pork barrel spending to the tune of hundreds of billions, rule by Executive Order, using ZIRP to extract hundreds of billions from senior citizen savers and give it to criminal Wall Street banks, forcing the American people at gunpoint to replenish the Wall Street banks with $700 billion after they had committed the greatest financial fraud in history, and a continuing trampling of the U.S. Constitution, the American people continue to remain willfully ignorant of the truth. The American Dream is dead. We’ve allowed a rich, privileged, elite few to achieve hegemony over our economic and political system with their control of the media and manipulation of our financial markets. They will collapse the country because they will never be satisfied with the amount of wealth and power they’ve accumulated. Their voracious greed will be their downfall.