As we reported first thing this morning, Spain, while happy to receive the effect of plunging bond yields, most certainly does not want the cause - requesting the inevitable sovereign bailout. To paraphrase Italy's undersecretary of finance, Gianfranco Polillo: "There won’t be any nation that voluntarily, with a preemptive move, even if rationally justified, would go to an international body and say -- ‘I give up my national sovereignty." He is spot on. However, the one thing that will force countries to request a bailout is the inevitable outcome of soaring budget deficits: i.e., running out of cash (as calculated here previously, an event Spain has to certainly look forward to all else equal). Which simply means that sooner or later Mariano Rajoy will have to throw in the towel and push the red button, knowing full well it most certainly means the end of his administration, and very likely substantial social and political unrest for a country which already has 25% unemployment, all just to preserve the ability to fund its deficits, instead of biting the bullet and slashing public spending (and funding needs), which too would cause social unrest - hence no way out. But why would a bailout request result in unrest? Reuters finally brings us the details of what the Spanish bailout would entail, and they are not pretty: "Spain is considering freezing pensions and speeding up a planned rise in the retirement age as it races to cut spending and meet conditions of an expected international sovereign aid package, sources with knowledge of the matter said...The accelerated raising of the retirement age to 67 from 65, currently scheduled to take place over 15 years, is a done deal, the sources said. The elimination of an inflation-linked annual pension hike is still being considered."
The last couple of months have been characterised by some weak but 'relatively positive' surprises in macro economic data compared to dismal expectations; but that rising momentum has begun to fade very recently. Sagging domestic growth and weak external demand have created noticeable slowdowns in the industrial production and manufacturing sector. This, as Bloomberg Brief notes, has been the area of the economy that has been the primary driver of growth throughout the recovery and represents the greatest risk to the current economic outlook for sub-trend growth at or below 2 percent. As Joseph Brusuelas points out, these disappointing charts indicate, fiscal gridlock aside, the deterioration in the industrial sector is a 'dagger pointed straight at the heart of a weak cyclical expansion'.
As we enter the North American cross over, equity indices in Europe are seen higher, supported by telecom and health care sectors. There was little in terms of fresh news flow and instead the price action was largely driven by expiration of various futures and option contracts. On that note, it is not only the quadruple witching day, but also quarterly S&P rebalancing. As such, brief spells of volatility will be observed as market participants close out remaining positions. Looking elsewhere, range bound price action was observed in the fixed income market, where the benchmark German Bund is currently trading in close proximity to 140.00 level. Talk of demand from Middle Eastern accounts in EUR/USD earlier in the session saw the pair trip buy stops above 1.3000 and then above 1.3025. GBP/USD was a direct beneficiary of USD weakness, which in turn pushed the pair above 1.6300 level (touted option barrier). Going forward, the second half of the session will see the release of the latest CPI from Canada.
The torching of US embassies across the Muslim world may have been put on the backburner, perhaps driven by the withdrawal of virtually all embassy personnel across the affected regions, but the anti-US sentiment, whether predicated by some movie or not - and oddly enough nobody appears to have set any French embassies on fire following the Prophet Mohammad cartoon which appeared earlier this week, continues. The latest affected country: Pakistan, where "police opened fire on rioters who were torching a cinema during a protest against an anti-Islam film Friday, killing one man on a holiday declared by the government so that people could demonstrate against the video." So, the government specifically creates a "holiday" to protest the video then shoots people who protest the video? Does anyone else get the feeling that all authorities here are urgently doing their best to preempt a war? Was there a secret G-50 meeting in which it was decided the world was too overpopulated and a war was desperately needed? Surely that is ludicrous: just look at the natural growth that the world experienced after the first great depression unaided and unabetted by such trivialities as world war.
- Europe’s crisis will be followed by a more devastating one, likely beginning in Japan. (Simon Johnson)
- Porsche, Daimler Indicate Europe’s Car Crisis Spreading (Bloomberg)
- No progress in Catalonia-Madrid talks (FT)
- Hilsenrath speaks: Fed's Kocherlakota Shifts on Unemployment (WSJ) - luckily QEternity made both obsolete
- Lenders Reportedly Consider New Greek Haircut (Spiegel)
- Fed Officials Highlight Benefits of Bond-Buying (WSJ)
- ESM to Launch without Leverage Vehicle Options (WSJ)
- Japanese companies report China delays (FT)
- Borg Says Swedish Taxes Can’t Go Into Ill-Managed European Banks (Bloomberg)
- Greek Leaders Struggle With Spending Reductions (Bloomberg)
- Asian Stocks Rise as iPhone 5 Debut Boosts Tech Shares (Bloomberg)
- China government's hand seen in anti-Japan protests (LA Times)
The overnight session has been dead, leading to continued trading on the two regurgitated rumors appearing overnight, one coming from the FT that the EU is in "fresh" talks over a Spanish rescue plan - something which is not news, but is merely the occasional catalyst to get algos snapping up EURUSD and to keep it from sliding far below the 1.3000 barrier. This rumor has subsequently been swatted down later when Italy's undersecretary of finance, Gianfranco Polillo, in an interview in Rome, repeated what has been known to most for over two months, namely that Italy and Spain won’t request bailouts unless there a new surge in bond yields (just as we explained first thing in August), and adding that "There won’t be any nation that voluntarily, with a preemptive move, even if rationally justified, would go to an international body and say -- ‘I give up my national sovereignty." A surprising moment of lucidity and truth for a European. Naturally the reemergence of the rumor is supposed to draw attention away from the real news, which is that broke Catalonia is ever closer to bluffing its independence in exchange for a bailout, or else. The other real news is that as Confidencial reported, the Spanish government has asked Santander, Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria and CaixaBank to take 30% stake in the Spanish bad bank, something which will hardly make shareholders in these companies happy for the simple reason that no bank in Spain is "not bad" if the current rate of deposit outflows continues. Finally, a second rumor appearing late yesterday is that Greek lenders are considering a new Greek bond haircut. This too has since been refuted when German Finance Ministry spokesman Martin Kotthaus told reporters in Berlin at a regular press conference that this report is without basis. In other words, as we said, rumors refuted, leaving us with essentially no real news overnight.
It appears it is after all not Scott Sumner who 'saved the US economy' by urging the helicopter pilot to create even more money ex nihilo than hitherto. What will save us instead is Apple, or rather, its latest product, the iPhone 5. Who needs Bernanke when this wondrous device stands ready to pull the economy up by its bootstraps? A story has made the rounds lately – propagated by 'economist' (we should use the term loosely…) Michael Feroli at JP Morgan, that sales of the iPhone "could potentially add from one-quarter to one-half of a percentage point to the growth rate of U.S. gross domestic product in the final quarter of the year”. If we were to assume that he is correct, then what this would mainly tell us is how useless a statistic GDP actually is. However, what really takes the cake is a small posting of Krugman's on the same topic entitled “Broken Windows and the iPhone 5”. This view is erroneous – economic laws are not dependent on economic conditions. This is akin to arguing that the laws of nature will cease to be operational on Wednesdays. In Krugman's capable hands, a fallacy becomes a 'theory'.
The US Will Spend Between $3 And $7 Per Gallon Of Gasoline "Saved" By Consumers Driving Electric VehiclesSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 09/20/2012 - 21:51
Sometimes you just have to laugh - for fear of the hysterical crying fit that would ensue from recognizing our shameful pathological reality. To wit: Reuters is reporting on a CBO study that shows the US electric car policy will cost $7.5bn by 2019. The report finds that the government's policy will have 'little to no impact' on overall gasoline consumption. 25% of the cost of the program is going up in Fisker Karma-inspired smoke as part of the $7,500 per vehicle tax credit and the rest of the cost is in grants to such well-deserved and successful operations as GM's Chevy Volt - which will backfire since the more electric vehicles the automakers sell (thanks to government subsidy) the more 'higher-margin' low-fuel-economy guzzlers it can sell and still meet CAFE standards (re-read that - amazing!) In 2012, 13,497 Chevy Volts and 4.228 Nissan Leafs have been sold (all that pent-up demand) as the CBO notes that despite the $7,500 subsidy, the cost-differential to conventional cars remains too wide - inferring a $12,000 tax credit would be more comparable; as the U.S. government will spend anywhere from $3 to $7 for each gallon of gasoline saved by consumers driving electric vehicles.
While it is impossible to predict where the S&P will be in 10 years (or even 1), one can safely make some assumptions about what the world will look like in a decade (assuming of course it hasn't blown up by then). It will be hungry, it will be thirsty, it will demand resources, and it will be crowded (and it will certainly have lots and lots of wheelbarrows carrying pieces of paper to and fro the local bakery). Implicitly then, countries which control the production and export of various key natural resources and commodities channels will become increasingly more strategic and important. However, for some economies, such as the Middle East, whose entire export-based welfare is reliant on a core set of commodities, this export-benefit may be a doubled-edged sword, should it lead to militant antagonism by one time friends and outright enemies, and/or complacency leading to lack of revenue stream diversity. In order to determine who the key resource players in the future will be, we present the below commodity trade matrix which answers two questions: how important is a commodity to a country, and how important is a country to a commodity. As GS notes, those on the riskier side of this equation are economies that are heavily reliant on oil, such as the Middle East or even Russia (which albeit scores better on other hard commodities). On the other hand, food exporters enjoy relatively better diversity in their trade portfolios. We highlight the LatAm economies here, while Canada and the US also look healthy. Will food (and water) be the oil of the future, and will the next resource war be not over black, or even yellow, gold, but, pardon the pun, edible gold?
...the pushback from Wall Street was intense and multi-pronged. The Blob oozed through the halls of government, seeking, through its glutinous embrace, to immobilize the legislative and regulatory apparatus, thereby preserving the status quo. The executive jets of the Wall Street air force flew sortie after sortie, transporting high-ranking emissaries from new York to Washington to meet with the SEC, [Senator Chris] Dodd and [Senator Richard] Shelby staff, and the staff of other senators on the Banking Committee. Some of the executives, no doubt less enthusiastically, even met with Josh and me. The research companies and market experts Wall Street employs also raised their voices against us. At times it got ugly. Ted was called a crackpot and dangerously uninformed. He was accused of “politicizing” market regulation (a strange notion considering he wasn’t running for election). It seemed as if Wall Street, which wasn’t used to someone on Capitol Hill asking in-depth questions about arcane issues, wished to silence or marginalize its critics. Industry people would always ask me, “What got Kaufman so interested in this stuff?” Used to politicians whose top priorities were to please their home-state business interests and raise money, they had trouble fathoming that Ted was so interested because it was the right thing to do. He believed in fair markets. And because he was genuinely concerned about emerging issues that threatened the stock market, where half of all Americans keep a sizable portion of their retirement savings.
You put Jim Grant on TV and someone mentions the Fed and the result every single time is the equivalent of waving a red curtain in front of a rabid bull. This time was no different, as the Interest Rate Observer once again let Bernanke, with whom he clarified is no longer on speaking terms, have it. The ensuing central-planner bashing was in line with expectations, and just as we presented yesterday in "The Experiment Economy", so too does Grant believe that the Fed is "learning by doing" and follows up by clarifying that this is an experiment, "and we are lab rats in the financial markets." He then proceeds to lament that the credit markets, clueless NYT econopundits notwithstanding, have now lost all informational value as every rate instrument is purely in the manipulated domain of the Fed. "We are all living in a land of speculation and manipulation" is Grant's summary of the current predicament of anyone who wishes to trade these "markets" and it may as well be the best synopsis of the New (ab)normal. And aside from an odd detour into Government Motors, Grant once again hones in on the only true antidote to central planner idiocy, gold: "the best thing about gold is that it's got no P/E multiple. Gold is a speculation on an anticipated macroeconomic outcome, the systematic debasement of currencies by central banks. Why wouldn't they do QE4? What intellectual argument do they have against doing it again, and again, and again." Well...none.
When there is nothing left to base your permabullish stance on (earnings collapsing, top-line misses, end of surprise factor from ECB/Fed, and sentiment uber-bullish) there is always 'career-risk'. The high-beta performance chase - the need to reach for high-beta names/sectors/indices in the hope that if the market keeps ripping, your performance is levered and you don't lose your job - has been proffered by many 'strategists' for their optimistic short-term projections and year-end targets for the S&P. The problem with this thesis is that it already happened - and dramatically! Since Draghi uttered his magical words, the high-beta Russell 2000's P/E has soared relative to the other major indices. Just as it did during the LTRO exuberance, RTY has seen its P/E surge more than 2x more than the Dow (and reached an epic 9x above the Dow - at 22x Forward earnings on Friday). Since then, the beta-chase has actually decelerated, so either the chase is over, or PMs see 'flatter' as the new 'killing it'.
It doesn't get much more obvious than this. The S&P at multi year highs, and what does the CME do? Why it lowers initial (as in please come in and open new positions) spec margin for not only the E-Mini, but virtually every other major market "reflexive" product in existence including S&P, Dow Jones, Nasdaq, and subsector futures currently traded, by 12%. As a reminder, the last time that "other" asset class rose to multi-year highs, that would be gold, it hiked margin nearly every single day, with a culmination of two margins hikes in one day on May 4. Naturally, the margin hiker-in-chief is not as worried about stocks attaining the same bubble status since if anything it will merely cement reelection chances. That said, should WTI ever dare to go up above $100 watch as the CME proceeds to decimate anyone who dares to be long WTI futures on margin.
If you wanted to sum up the just-concluded Casey Research/Sprott Inc. Summit titled Navigating the Politicized Economy, you could say "The situation is hopeless but not serious." More than 20 speakers – many of them world-renowned financial experts and best-selling authors – gathered in Carlsbad, CA, from September 7 to 9 to ascertain exactly how hopeless, and what investors can do to protect themselves.