Wearing a shirt that only a mother could love, Charles Biderman of TrimTabs offers his insightful perspective on the year ahead. Against the backdrop of a fog-bound Sausalito, Biderman sees only one path over the medium-term for Gold (up) as developed market central bankers print their respective fiat currencies and emerging market central bankers horde the one true sound money alternative. Just as we have been pointing out, he notes that the ECB has been QE-ing in all but name and the region faces at best a recession and at worst a depressionary breakup. Cost averaging into a Long Gold, Short EUR position is among his favorite ideas for 2012. Furthermore, he likes non-USD commodity producers in local currencies - implicitly long commodities and short the USD but it is his epiphany that a 'Miracle on Main Street' is hoped for by any and every market observer and media hack that rings truest. The hoped-for miracle that explosive growth (just as has always been the case post WWII) is just around the corner and will rescue us from the doldrums-like state we are meandering through is simply our heuristic biases run wild (together with an entire industry of asset managers and strategists who always see 10-15% appreciation ahead in broad equity markets over the next year). Until there is a total restructuring of developed market economies to the point where entrepreneurs are encouraged to act and where government spending is 'closer' to government income and not to 'wish fulfillment', there can be no jump-start to growth. Political will remains bereft of desire to do anything but kick the can down the road - and unfortunately, that can is getting bigger and heavier by the minute.
The Wall Street mantra of stocks for the long run is beginning to get a little stale. If Abbey Joseph Cohen had been right for the last twelve years, the S&P 500 would be 4,000. For this level of accuracy, she is paid millions. Her 2011 prediction of 1,500 only missed by16%. The S&P 500 began the year at 1,258 and hasn’t budged. The lowest prediction from the Wall Street shysters at the outset of the year was 1,333, with the majority between 1,400 and 1,500. The same Wall Street clowns are now being quoted in the mainstream media predicting a 10% to 15% increase in stock prices in 2012, despite the fact we are headed back into recession, China’s property bubble has burst, and Europe teeters on the brink of dissolution. They lie on behalf of their Too Big To Tell the Truth employers by declaring stocks undervalued, when honest analysts such as Jeremy Grantham, John Hussman and Robert Shiller truthfully report that stocks are overvalued and will provide pitiful returns over the next year and the next decade.
With the S&P 500 cash index closing 2011 down for the year (admittedly down 0.003181% is just 0.003181%, but it is also down),having traveled a remarkable 3240 total points from close-to-close over the course of the year, we look across asset classes and notable markets as we reflect on an increasingly intervention-driven and gap-heavy uber-correlated global investing framework. UK Gilts, 10Y Treasuries, Gold, and Oil outperformed (rebased to USD terms) while Greek bonds, Copper, Emerging Market stocks, and Asia Ex-Japan stocks underperformed. The Dollar closed almost 1% higher on the year, the EUR down 2.6% versus the USD as the CRB Commodity Index closed -6.67% for the year. Japanese stocks and bonds had a tough year. US investment grade bonds outperformed high yield bonds. There is much to discuss and we open the thread for any and all discussions...
As we pop the corks of our proverbial champagne this weekend with an eye to a better year ahead, perhaps it is worth thinking about these 11 incredible trends that have evolved in a rather disturbing manner over the last 11 years. As John Lohman points out, the 21st century has not been pretty for ongoing centrally planned attempts to defer the 30 year overdue mean reversion.
By now everyone has heard the parable explaining how the entire European bailout, courtesy of near-infinite fractional reserve banking, can be taken care of using one €100 bill. Or so the yet again flawed economist thinking went. Unfortunately, this was just a parable, and a massively flawed one at that. As the below interaction between a ZH reader and his broker elucidates, here is what this idealized story would look like in the real world, that as we explained before, is drowning in about $21.2 trillion in excess debt.
The genius of globalization is not in how it “works”, but in how it DOESN’T work. Globalization chains mismatched cultures together through circumstance and throws us into the deep end of the pool. If one sinks, we all sink, enslaving us with interdependency. The question one must ask, then, is if all sovereign economies are currently tied together in the same way? The answer is no, not anymore. Certain countries have moved to insulate themselves from the domino effect of debt implosion, one of the primary examples being China. Since at least 2005, China has been taking the exact steps required to counter the brunt of a global debt collapse; not enough to make it untouchable, but enough that its infrastructure will survive. One could even surmise that China’s actions indicate a foreknowledge of the events that would eventually escalate in 2008. How they knew is hard to say, but if the available evidence causes you to lean towards collapse as a Hegelian creation (and it should if you are paying any attention), then China’s activity begins to make perfect sense. If a globalist insider told you that in a few short years the two most powerful financial empires in the world were going to topple like bowling pins under the weight of their own liabilities, what would you do? Probably separate yourself as much as possible from the diseased dynamic and construct your own replacement system. This is what China has done…
Earlier in the week, we discussed at length the funding gaps that various European sovereign nations face as the gap between supply and coupon/redemptions can't be assumed to be rolled away (and Europe faces EUR43.5bn of net cash-flow surplus from sovereigns into the 'market'). In order to better comprehend the timeline, Morgan Stanley has published both the complete issuance calendar for European bonds and bills over the next five weeks as well as a breakdown of the flows that are dominated by next week and the first week of February. It seems the market this week is starting to reprice for this risk in Italy and France not being able to roll so easily (and perhaps front-run that 'cash-flow' into US Treasuries as a haven) as the latter faces a considerable supply and flow on Thursday January 5th.
The realization that the European debacle is much more an issue of political harmonization and Empire-building than one of pure economic band-aid provision should be clear to any- and every-one who has followed the words and deeds of the various European factions for the past year or two. Yesterday, we discussed the dithering and competing camps but what is really critical is to understand how we got here and what the underlying social and political wills are among all of the players. There is no better summation of the formation, driving forces, and tensions among European leaders and central bankers than Phillip Bagus' 'Tragedy Of The Euro'. From the simple divergence of the dual visions of Europe with northern libertarians and southern socialists to the Bundesbank's fearsome reputation for showing up weak governments, Bagus offers a clear perspective on why the EMU is a 'self-destroying' and 'conflict-aggregating' system but counters that with some views on what the outcome will be and how French governmental pressure remains the cornerstone of the establishment of a European Empire for better or more likely for worse. As we enter a new year with the first quarter dominated by action-forcing events, perhaps there has never been a more important time to understand the political and economic vices and virtues of the European nations.
A few weeks ago we discussed the pressure the Greeks were under to source their energy needs from Iran since no one else would extend them credit. The European credit strain contagion now appears to be spreading rapidly as Europe's largest independent refiner by capacity, Petroplus Holdings AG, is suspending operations at three plants as banks freeze a $1bn revolving loan facility. S&P cut its rating from B to CCC+ citing a sharp deterioration in the firm's liquidity position. As a pure play refiner, meaning it needs to buy all of its crude supplies (on credit obviously) to feed its plants, it seems evident that both vendor- and bank-financing mechansims are starting to clog up very seriously. Bloomberg notes that refining margins are down considerably and we suspect that the closure of the Petroplus plants will help margins implicitly but as headlines show:
- *PETROPLUS SAYS TEMPORARY ECONOMIC SHUTDOWNS IN JAN. '12
- *PETROPLUS SAYS RESTART DEPENDS ON ECONOMIC CONDITIONS, CREDIT AVAILABLE
Presented with little comment - equities and bonds are diverging aggressively now as 10Y accelerates towards its all-time low yields (1.67 on 9/23). As we noted earlier, foreigners are dumping Treasuries at a record pace and yet it grinds tighter and stocks rally on USD weakness. Our 'thesis' from yesterday that a reactive Fed QE is being priced in seems the most 'sensible' but year-end flows for now are tough to call.
Rather than making some predictions, here is a list of words and phrases that were popular in 2011 that just annoy us. It would be nice if they become less popular in 2012, but we predict they will remain in use.
UPDATE: Spanish bonds are leaking wider after the defiict projection looks set to be significantly worse than previously expected.
Something strange is happening in European risk markets this week. While that sentence is entirely 'normal' for what has become a diverging/converging flip-flopping correlation microstructure but the clear trend this week has been European Sovereign derisking and European Stock rerisking. The Bloomberg 500 index (that tracks a broad swathe of European stocks) is up 0.75% from Christmas Eve (and 1.6% from yesterday's lows) while 10Y sovereign spreads are wider by 10 to 30bps in the same period. France stands out as one of the worst performers - more than 25bps wider this week alone. Only Spain is notably improved on the week (-17bps) but all 10Y sovereigns are well off their best levels as stocks make new highs. Whether this is a front-run on asset rotation into the new year or expectations of the same risk-on ramp-job we saw on the first trading of this year is unclear - we do remind those front-runners that mutual fund cash levels are significantly lower this year than last. It is clear that yet another 'sensible' correlation (such as BTPs to equities) has broken but when volumes return and the reality of the huge supply calendar we face in the next month alone sinks in, perhaps equity ebullience will pull to bond bereavement. If stocks are reacting to a quasi-QE from the ECB, why wouldn't sovereigns who are the direct beneficiaries in that surreal LTRO-driven-carry trade?
The only thing of note today (there are no economic announcements at all, just the Fed disclosing the latest Op Twist schedule at 2 pm) is that while the bond market closes at 2pm, stocks will be left unsupervised for two hours of sheer idiocy between then and their normal closing time of 4pm by which point there will be nobody left trading, just some GETCO algo lifting every offer then dumping it all having made money over VWAP and suckered in the momos, as happens every single day on no volume levitation.