Argentina's Jorge Mario Bergoglio Elected As Pope Francis

A surprising pick for Pope, Argentina's 76 year old Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who was not among the front-runners, is now the Pope of the Catholic Church. His chosen name is Pope Francis. He is the first non-European pope since 741.

Major US CEOs' Outlook On Rising Jobs, CapEx Worst Since Early 2010

Despite the plethora of propagandist panderings, the reality of the Business Roundtable (BRT - an association of chief executive officers of leading U.S. companies) findings are far less enthralling than the headlines might suggest. In fact, despite the protestation that their economic outlook ticked up - which as the chart below shows so evidently - is merely a reversion to the lows of 2011; the sad 'fact' is that expectations for higher Sales, CapEx, and Employment are as bad as they have been since early 2010. CapEx, the much-vaunted miracle driver of revenues this year, is below Q4 2009 levels of expectation. Even the BRT itself offers up the words 'moderate' when describing the changes and yet the mainstream media pounce on an uptick like cardinals to the new Pope. It appears that we will have to wait another quarter to see what the CEOs of the nations largest companies are really doing as their stocks soar to record highs.

Guest Post: Net Worth Vs. Net Value

Bhutan's guiding national policy is Gross Domestic Happiness, as a reference point for Net Value. Here in the U.S., we give lip-service to all these values, but ask yourself: where do we spend most of our time? Serving our masters in the State/market economy, creating Net Worth for ourselves or someone else. Yes, we all still need to earn a livelihood, but imagine a society constructed around generating Net Value and Gross Domestic Happiness instead of Net Worth. The power structure would collapse because none of these activities or accomplishments generate enough profits or taxes to keep the Machine operational. A brush with mortality has a way of stripping away the superficial and the false. How many ghosts are we living with while our real lives have been abandoned as insufficiently ambitious and net-worthy?

White Smoke Rises As New Pope Is Elected, Dow Jones Hits New All Time High

Moments ago white smoke emerged from the Sistine Chapel which means that the Cardinals of the Catholic church have elected a new pope on the second day of Conclave. The identity will be revealed shortly. Stocks take this as a bullish signal and hit intraday highs, and for the DJIA, new all time record highs. All is well in the world.

NYSE Volume Lowest Of 2013

Aside from a very much vacated President's Day trading market, for 1400ET, today is the lowest volume day of the year (in line with Monday's scarcity)... given this lack of real market, the algos are let loose to ply their levitation magic - and sure enough, Dow Transports reach new highs and the S&P pushes on towards that record...

Farage Slams Eurozone As "Complete Economic Disaster"

"The air is thick with denial in this chamber," is how UKIP's Nigel Farage begins his truthiness rant at the most recent European Council meeting. Reflecting on the Italian election and overwhelming success of 'Eurosceptic' political parties, Farage barks that it "is absolutely clear that Eurozone membership is completely incompatible with nation-state democracy." The complete denial (and "unutterable drivel") about the Eurozone crisis incenses him as he says "you'd think listening to everyone this morning that it's over." The real problem, he explains, is that they won't face up to the reality that "You are not facing up to the consequences for what you've done," as he tries to make the technocrats comprehend, "the Eurozone has been a complete economic disaster," because of the Euro - and the disaster is still coming down the tracks.

Gas Prices Resume Rise As RBOB Hits 2013 Highs

The meme of the moment appears to be that sliding gas prices (which by the way merely fell back to mid-February levels) will no longer hamper the over-taxed and under-incomed consumer providing yet more upsided-ness for stocks. Sorry to burst another fictional bubble but Gas prices have now risen for the 3rd day in a row as RBOB (wholesale gas prices) surge to new 2013 highs and crude oil prices push back to one-month highs. Perhaps that is why today's retail sales data (unadjusted) is not providing the pop that so many talking-heads believe is warranted. Between RBOB highs and the RIN issues, is it any wonder the CME just hiked 'crack spread' margins in an effort to keep prices under control?

No Rotation Here: Buyside Demand Soars In 10 Year Treasury Auction

Those expecting to see any indication of that mythical, if completely non-existent rotation out of bonds into stocks (which is really originating out of money markets and savings accounts, and has already tapered out), will not find it in today's US bond auction, which saw the Treasury sell $21 billion in Treasury paper at the low, low yield of just 2.029% (70.31% allotted at the high), below February's 2.046% auction yield, and stopping well inside the When Issued of 2.053% at 1 PM, indicating massive buyside demand and confirmed by all the internals. The Bid To Cover jumped to 3.19, the highest since October's 3.26, and far above the TTM average of 2.96. The Indirect take down was a massive 47.7%, the highest December 2011, when it printed at 61.9%, leaving 30% for Directs, and a tiny 22.3% for the Dealers, which was the second lowest Primary Dealer take down in history, higher only than July 2012's 14%. Overall a whopper of an auction, and confirmation that if anyone has lost interest in frontrunning the Fed, they sure were not in today's auction roster.

Italian Stocks/Bonds Dump (And EUR Slump) On Auction Disappointment

Europe saw red today. Italian equities and bonds traded notably off (with FTSEMIB now -2.7% on the week) amid their biggest drop in over a week and heading back to post-election lows. The driver was a less-than-desirous auction at the short-end of the Italian bond curve (the part of the curve that Draghi 'promised' would be fine) as the 12-month bill went out 43bps above the January lows. This sparked weakness overall as across the board weakness was evident in stocks and bonds in Europe. EURUSD dropped back below 1.2950 for the first time in 3 months. Commerzbank's recap also stumbled markets a little even though it was widely rumored and Europe's financials underperformed broadly. A late-day ramp - oddly starting at 1130ET (when Europe used to close pre-DST) - just like we saw yesterday - saved the day for stocks and crediy overall.

Founder Of Federally-Subsidized Electric Car Fisker Calls It Quits

It turns out that when peddling a flaming paperweight (recall "Total Karma Recall: Fisker Pulls All Cars Due To Fire Risk", "As Another Fisker Karma Spontaneously Combusts, "Green" Dreams Go Up In Smoke" and of course "Fisker Karma Is First Car To Burn Underwater"), even if it is a very pretty and streamline paperweight, not even $529 million (or perhaps due to) in government subsidies can lead to a Hollywood ending and everlasing prosperity. As the WSJ reports, "The founder and executive chairman of electric-car start up Fisker Automotive Inc. said he resigned Wednesday because of "disagreements" over business strategy with the ailing company's management." The founder, "said in an email sent to a small number of journalists that has "left the company." Reached by phone, Mr. Fisker confirmed that he sent the email and that he had resigned."

Samsung Outspends Apple In Smartphone Advertising Dollars

With the marked shift in "coolness" surrounding smartphones away from Apple and toward Samsung (one of the primary reasons why AAPL is trading at or near its 52 week low and at the price target set for it by Jeffrey Gundlach back when the Smart Money crowd was advising their soon to be broke viewers to sell AAPL puts day after day), many wonder if this is merely a drop in innovation by Apple under it new, less visionary and far more Wall Street-friendly CEO, or is it something else? A possible answer is that is may be something as trivial as marketing. As the WSJ reports, in 2012 Samsung for the first time outspent AAPL in advertising dollars, handing out $401 million to raise brand awareness compared to Apple's $333 million.

Has the European Spring Started?

With Angela Merkel and her vassal at the ECB Mario Draghi seemingly in control of markets on the European continent, there is a temptation to pull a George W. Bush and unfurl the “Mission Accomplished” banner.  However, that was a PR blunder for Bush the Younger and it would be a blunder for Merghi as well. There are a couple of items that have hit the tape recently that seem to indicate the ground upon which the Euro is based is shaking. Perhaps you believe Draghi’s open-ended commitment to do, “...whatever it takes,” to bail out Europe’s broken banking system will be enough to stabilize things for good.  Could be. On the other hand, the Merghi doctrine of open-ended support depends upon the sovereigns of Europe voting more or less along traditional lines.  I feel pretty confident saying this will not happen.  Over 25% of the people in two of Europe’s largest, best educated, richest, most populous countries are already saying they reject the status quo.

Dash For Absolute Trash Outperforms Everything In 2013

Worried about potential bankruptcy next week, buy the stock. Concerned at slumping top- and bottom-line misses, buy the stock. Regulatory oversight, buy the stock. Over-leveraged, buy the stock. Fortress-like balance sheet, not so much... Since the mid-November lows at the start of this liquidity-fueled rally de luxe, the most-shorted names in the Russell 2000 have risen an impressive 27% - even more impressive is that this is a 1150bps outperformance over the index itself. As we warned a few times, the list of most-shorted stocks is often a place to find epic (and ridiculous) returns but with our macro hats on for one second, if this kind of 'capital' is flooding into these kinds of companies - we can only imagine the landscape of mal-investment that will be exposed if and when the tide ever ebbs even modestly. For now, the dash-for-trash continues - though today is the first 2-day drop in 3 weeks (but still outperforming the not-most-shorted names).

Fed Pre-Monetizes 30 Year Bond To Be Reauctioned Off Tomorrow

Steven Spielberg gave us Pre-Crime; Ben Bernanke gave us Pre-Monetization. Moments ago, as part of today's concluded $1.464 billion market funding POMO operation, one of the issues purchased by the Fed was the 30 year Treasury identified as CUSIP 912810QZ4. Why is this CUSIP interesting? Because at 1 pm tomorrow, the US Treasury will issue $13 billion in the form of a 29 year 11 month bond reopening. The CUSIP of the issue: 912810QZ4. Because the only thing better than monetizing the US debt is, well, pre-monetizing the US debt.

Guest Post: NFIB: "No Sign Of A Surge In Confidence"

The latest release of the National Federation of Independent Business Small Business Survey was a bit of dichotomy of interpretation. Is the inventory increase really a sign of optimism or is it an unwanted buildup as sales have slowed as shown by the latest wholsesale inventory report?  Are capital outlays really a sign of optimism or is it simply just required maintenance and upkeep?  The interpretation of the data is key to understanding the direction of the overall economy. Economic confidence still remains at levels lower than in 2011 or in 2008 during the depths of the financial crisis. Concerns for businesses remain weighted toward the consumer and the government.  Weak sales, government regulations and taxes are the top 3 biggest headwinds curtailing small business currently.  With the upcoming debates over the debt ceiling and the budget it is unlikely that these concerns are going to improve much anytime soon.

Obama's Next 'Sweet' Bailout

"Clearly, the USDA has made up its mind that Big Sugar is going to trump the American consumer," is how industry exec perceives the news that the government is considerng buying 400,000 tons of sugar, as WSJ reports, to stave off a wave of defaults by sugar processors that borrowed $862 million under a government price-support program. Since these 'loans' were given nine-months ago, sugar prices have plunged 18% - and could leave the government's price-support program with an embarrassing $80 million loss given the additional sugar-to-ethanol purchase losses. Of course, rather than pass on lower prices to a struggling consumer, the government's decision is to avoid a loss for corporations such as American Crystal Sugar Co., Amalgamated Sugar Co. and U.S. Sugar Corp., and, as Sen. Jeanne Shaheen notes "unfairly leaving consumers and businesses on the hook to foot the bill and that is unacceptable." Moar Big Gulps...

If History Is Any Lesson - Naaah!

I would say that we are in the void; a place where not much matters. The actions of the world’s central bankers have created not only a global financial bubble but a market assumption that everything is backstopped and that nothing can go seriously wrong. Equities rise, bonds compress and everyone plays along. The last time I felt so strongly about this was in the infamous era of “money for nothing, checks for free” just prior to the subprime prick that sent the financial markets into the balloon careening around the room event. It is Ben and Mario’s ice cream store; open twenty-four seven, dessert for breakfast, lunch and dinner and the “full faith and credit” promise that you won’t put on an ounce. It is a world full of “non-conforming loans” and you might wish to remember what happened last time.

Chart Of The Day: Chinese Stocks Turn Red For The Year

There was much chatter by the punditry in the early part of 2013, when the Shanghai Composite appeared relentless in its surge, when it was tracking the S&P virtually tick for tick, hitting a 2013 high in mid-February, and which was "explained" to be the prima facie proof of the Chinese rebound. The reason said chatter has disappeared is that as of last night's close, the SHCOMP is now officially red for the year.

Adjusted February Retail Sales Rise More Than Expected As Actual Retail Sales Post First Decline In Three Years

In a news release that would have been blamed on delayed tax refunds and "the weather" if it was a miss, but confirms a stronger consumer if it beat, and denies everything Wal Mart was warning about regarding February sales, today's retail sales just came stronger than expected in both the headline print (+1.1%, on expectations of a +0.5% rise), the Ex-Autos (+1.0%, Exp. 0.5%), and the Ex-autos and gas (0.4%, Exp. 0.2%). All of this of course was on a seasonally-adjusted basis (more on this shortly). This was the biggest beat of expectations since October 2011, and the biggest monthly rise in five months. The number was driven by a 5.0% jump in gasoline station sales, a 1.8% increase in Miscellaneous store retailers, a 1.6% rise in non-store retailers and a 1.1% increase in the broad retail and food services category. Declines were noted in Furniture stores (-1.6%), Electronics and Appliance stores (-0.2%), and Sporting goods and music stores (-0.9%). So on the surface all was good. The seasonally adjusted surface. because the unadjusted headline number in February actually posted the first sequential decline since 2010, as retail sales declined from $382.4 billion to $381.0 billion: this was the first sequential decline in retail sales in the month of February in three years. Yet somehow the decline actually translated into a growth of $4.4 billion on an adjusted basis, meaning the entire beat was, once more, purely in the calendar adjustment.

Beppe Grillo: "Italy Is Already De Facto Out Of The Euro"

In a preview of an interview he will conduct today with German's Handelsblatt, the surprise winner of last month's Italian elections Beppe Grillo said that Italy is “already de facto” outside the euro and runs the risk of being “dropped” by the region’s wealthiest members as soon as their banks recoup what they invested in the nation’s bonds. His suggestion - the same that got Greece's G-Pap promptle sacked in late 2011 - a popular referendum to decide if Italy should remain in the Eurozone. Grillo's best line, however, was saved for Mario Monti: "he is a bankruptcy trustee on behalf of the banks" which is perhaps the most astute description we have read of the former Goldman operative ever. Still think Grillo is just a simple-minded comic with a penchant for anarchy?