Yet another story we have been following for nearly two years (and here) has finally migrated over to the Mainstream Media as attempts to hush it down before it become painfully obvious and problematic, have failed miserably. The WSJ writes that "Detroit auto makers are piling up big stocks of passenger cars at dealers despite brisk new-vehicle sales in the U.S.—a problem that executives vowed to avoid since their painful downturn three years ago."
The Bank of Korea increased gold reserves 20% last month to diversify investments, boosting holdings for the fourth time since June 2011 and underscoring increased demand by central banks according to Bloomberg. The bank added 14 metric tons in November, bringing the total to 84.4 tons, the bank said in a statement today. By value, holdings increased about $780 million to $3.76 billion, equivalent to 1.2% of total reserves, the bank said. “Gold is a physical, safe asset,” the Bank of Korea said in the statement. The precious metal “is a way of diversification, which helps reduce investment risk in terms of foreign-exchange reserves management,” it said. The Bank of Korea bought 16 tons in July, 15 tons in November 2011 a further 25 tons over a one-month period from June to July last year.
- Stay short AUD/NOK, opened at 5.90 on 03 Dec 2012, with a target of 5.00 and a stop on a close above 6.35, currently at 5.88.
- Stay long risk (sell protection) on the CDX High Yield on-the-run index, opened at 506bp on 04 Dec 2012, with a spread target of 450 and a stop on a close above 550, currently at 516.
- Go long the Commodity Carry Basket (Crude, Corn and Base), opened at 100 on 05 Dec 2012, with a target of 112 and a stop on a close below 94, currently at 100.
- LA port workers to return Wednesday (AP)
- Iran says extracts data from U.S. spy drone (Reuters)
- Obama to stress need to raise debt limit "without drama" (Reuters)
- Big Lots Chief Probed by SEC (WSJ)
- NATO missiles to be sent to Turkey, Syria clashes rage (Reuters)
- GOP Deficit Plan Irks Conservatives (WSJ)
- Japan Can End Deflation in Months, Shirakawa Professor Says (BBG) ... almost as good as Bernanke ending inflation in 15 minutes.
- Osborne Prepares to Breach Fiscal Rules Amid U.K. Growth Slump (BBG)
- Global Banking Under Siege as Regulators Guard National Interest (BBG)
- Freeport plans return to energy (FT)
- Serbian NATO envoy jumps to death at Brussels airport (Reuters)
- Tide Turns After a Flood of Chinese Listings (WSJ)
- Australian economy loses steam (FT)
- Euro Crisis Feeds Corruption as Greece Slides in Rankings (BBG)
To think it took a really ugly economic number, such as the Services PMI reported last night, to stir the Chinese stock market out of a hypnotic drift lower, and push it up by 2.7%. Why? Because in the New Normal bad economic news means hope that central banks get involved, and as we have explained the ongoing SHCOMP collapse is purely a function of the PBOC remaining on the sidelines. Last night, rumors (very unfounded and very incorrect) that the central bank would intervene put a stop to the drop. Sadly, as the PBOC has no intention of ending its ultra-short term reverse-repo driven market support strategy, the bounce will be very short lived. However, that coupled with more jawboning out of the BOJ that it would act, if it has to (whether under Abe or Noda), sent the JPY even weaker, and futures ramping on tiny overnight volume which wiped out all the previous day's losses.
I recently received the following question from a friend of mine and wanted to share my thoughts with my market pals, and throw this out for feedback. I would be particularly interested in hearing from my derivatives friends who are much more technically informed than I am on the subject.
“I was looking at something today that I thought you would probably have some comment on: have you noticed how wide the out months on the VIX are versus the one or two month? How are you interpreting this?”
From my viewpoint this has been a key debate/driver in the equity derivatives world for a good while now (I started having this discussion in early 2011 with some market pals and the situation has only grown more extreme since then).
Japan's years of quantitative easing, forced financial repression, and Koo-nesian stimulus efforts are an altogether too accurate test-tube for the accelerated policies that Bernanke has engaged. A glance at the charts below and one wonders how many times did Japanese investors look at the equity market's exuberance relative to bond yields and scoff greedily; how many times did Japanese equity managers ask "what are you gonna do, buy JGBs?" But time and again, the Japanese equity market realized the errors of its ways and attempted to 'creatively destruct' the status quo - only to be dragged kicking and screaming into the next bubble. What awaits the US?
While much will be made of the greater-than-50 level for HSBC's China Services PMI, we note that the drop in the last two months is the largest in 15 months and takes the index back to its lowest levels since August 2011. While China's Manufacturing PMI was lauded as evidence that all is well and the slowdown has stopped, we note that in the history of the China Services PMI, it has only been lower than the current print in five of the forty-four months. It seems perhaps the transition is not going quite as according to plan.
Forget Citius, Altius, Fortius ("Faster, Higher, Stronger"), the real Olympic challenge among Europe's nations is Pinguissimam, Ignavissumi, Bibe Maxime (Fattest, Laziest, Drunkest). As WaPo notes, there's nothing like tales of butter-eating, wine-guzzling, yet somehow-still thin Europeans to add to American angst over holiday calories and upcoming resolutions, but while overall Europeans are fairly healthy, a recently-released report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (below) found that the prevalence of diseases such as diabetes and asthma has also increased — in part because of better diagnosis, but also thanks to underlying causes such as drinking, smoking and eating fattening foods. Here’s a look at which Europeans are most obese, most inactive and drink most (no, it's not the Brits):
We have shown the recent surges in both sales and capitalization of several far, far smaller weapons-makers in the US: Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger (along with the world's seemingly inexorable demand for 'bulk ammo'), but one can only wonder whether the market cap. of Kalashnikov (the maker of the world's most popular rifle) would be greater than that of AAPL if the firm had been based in the US and gone public at inception.
"When we finish with Assad, we will fight the U.S.!" one Nusra fighter shouted in the northeastern Syrian city of Ras al Ayn when he was told an American journalist present.
Did you catch that? We are literally allied with some of the same fighters that we battled in Iraq! The bigger point is we are supposed to be willing to give up our freedoms and civil liberties to fight an enemy that we are supporting in Syria? Our “leaders” have no shame.
Eleven states made Forbes' list of danger spots for investors including California, New York, Illinois, and Ohio. They warned (and with the cliff it is even more critical), if you have muni bonds in these states - clean up your portfolio; if your career takes you there - rent, don't buy! Two factors determine their list of 'fiscal hellholes'. The first is whether there are more takers (someone who draws money from the government) than makers (the gainfully employed). The second is a state credit-worthiness score (via Conning) based on large debts, uncompetitive business climates, weak home prices, and bad trends in employment. Conning rates North Dakota the safest state to lend money to, Connecticut the most hazardous. A state qualifies for the Forbes' death spiral list if its taker/maker ratio exceeds 1.0 and it resides in the bottom half of Conning’s ranking. See below for the 11 states to avoid...no matter what Bob Toll, Larry Yun, Bob Pisani, or Alexandra Lebenthal tells you..
If you want to send a roomful of 100 wealth managers into an icy chill, have Russell Napier address them. Napier’s presentation, “Deflation in an Age of Fiat Currency,” is thought-provoking, and the precise polar opposite of investing as usual. US stock markets aren’t cheap, not by a long chalk. Napier, like us, favors the 10-year cyclically adjusted price / earnings ratio, or CAPE, as the best metric to assess the affordability of the market. At around 21, the US market’s CAPE is near the top end of its historic range. The S&P 500 stock index currently trades at a level of around 1400. Napier believes it will reach its bear market nadir at around 450, driven by a loss of faith in US Treasury bonds, and in the dollar, by foreigners.