Archive - Feb 7, 2011
Global institutional pension fund assets in the 13 major markets increased by 12% during 2010 to reach a new high of US$ 26 trillion according to Towers Watson’s Global Pension Assets Study. Despite the impressive rise in assets, the global asset/liability ratio is still well down from its 1998 level, highlighting the fact that global pensions remain vulnerable...
Most of U.S. corn-ethanol producers are barely profitable at present, some are already losing money. With rising corn prices, could there be an ethanol bailout? Cool infographic summarizes pros and cons.
Imagine if a grizzly bear got up and tried to attack you after you already brought it down with repeated gunfire. What would you do? You’d blow its head off and then walk up to the body and shoot it until you ran out of bullets to make sure the thing didn’t get up again. Bernanke would do the same thing to deflation today.
Call TODAY if you want your freedom back ...
For over a year now, Zero Hedge has been predicting that in its foolhardy attempt of "inflation or bust", the Fed's actions would sooner or later lead to mass rioting and possible revolutions as a result of surging and out of control food prices (which are just the peak of the alternative investment pyramid - yes, stunningly free money can go into other things besides stocks). There have been those who have claimed that deflation is still a far greater force, despite that the all important shadow banking system made a positive inflection point in ending deleveraging in Q3 (and on March 10 we will know whether the Q3 strength persisted into Q4) as was discussed previously, and today's first time in over two years increase in revolving credit merely confirms this view. Alas, to all who believe that deflation or deleveraging is a greater threat: you have our sympathies, as fundamentally your are correct, and were the business cycle have the benefit of playing out in normal course, all the world's banks would become insolvent and yes, deflation would be rampaging. The problem is that these same people do not realize that to Bernanke (whom we have referred Genocide Ben for precisely this reason) there is no other alternative, and inflation must be achieved no matter how terrible the social cost, or the damage to the monetary system. Regardless, the actions in North Africa are just the start. Commodities will run up far higher, and discontent will sooner or later reach to Asia, and possibly to countries which have nuclear arsenals at their disposal. What happens then is anyone guess. Yet for anyone who is still confused about the ultimate Fed agenda, Dylan Ratigan and Bill Fleckenstein sat down late last week to make it so clear that virtually anyone and everyone can understand what the Bernanke endgame is.
Rummy sticks his foot in it again ...
Ever wanted to run a Sid Meyer Civilization end of game recap scenario on the world and see which country, region or continent had built up the most debt the fastest? Or, far simpler, just to watch a time lapse video of total debt/GDP by country or by region? The IMF now allows you to do both. The international monetary organization has released a Data Mapper tool which not only shows a snapshot map chart of instantaneous sovereign leverage at any given moment, but also shows just how global debt levels have changed through the ages. Of particular note is total debt/GDP at advanced countries in the post-WW1, Great Depression and WW2 period. And while back then the result was either hyperinflation (Weimar) or various stages of removal of the gold standard (until all currencies became freely floating under Nixon), we now no longer have the option of a relative devaluation, and the only chance left for a world levered to its gills is either absolute revaluation of a brick of gold, accelerating, rampant inflation or outright default. Have fun playing with the drilldown function.
While it is well-known by now that Bernanke is slowly but surely losing control of the long-end of the curve, and increasingly more so the 10 Year (3.66%) and the belly itself, little has been said about the short end, which is where the bond vigilantes get to say a thing or two about future QE. And just like last year, when the 2 Year surged to over 1% in Q1 and early Q2 before it was made clear that the Fed's first attempt at pulling out of the central planning business was a failure and required the gradual reintroduction of yet another quantitative easing episode, so now the 2 Year is starting to slide rapidly higher in what is becoming an identical replica of last year's episode. If that is indeed the case look for the 2 Year to close March just wide of 1% and to peak at 1.2% in April before the wheels fall off in the latest attempt to extricate the Fed from the US economy, and we get a QE3 announcement some time in May. Yet what is even more important than spot levels, are 2Yr10Yr forwards. As the chart below shows, the spread has just jumped to 3.70%, taking out previous recent early 2010 highs (yes, when the 2 Year spot was trading north of 1%), and is all the way back to levels last seen in 2004, when the Fed was actively in the process of deliquifying markets. Is the forward curve telling us it is high time for the Chairsatan to finally do the right thing? And if not the case, is it time to put on a convergence trade between the spot and the 10 Yr forward?
That's GROUP-OM, not Groupon (or "Group-Moron").
Call it the no volume melt up, edition XYZ. Total NYSE volume 8 minutes before close is 662.15 compared to an average of 1133. In other words today's latest market upswing is due to market participation that is 40% below average. Don't look for any bank to make money on commissions with days like today. Which unfortunately is increasingly more what the typical daily volume is starting to look like. And with the curve starting to flatten, soon none of the banks "adjusted" drivers of top line strength will be much of a factor. Let's hope that M&A activity picks up or else Q1 financial earnings will be, just like in Q4, only up to par due to another multi-billion "reserve and NPL reduction" accounting scam.
After it was already confirmed that December was a subpar month for US retailers (whether snow can be blamed or not is irrelevant), and less money than expected was spent (it's ok, we no longer need the US consumer to lead the economy - the Fed is buying all the debt, it can also buy everything else), we finally get our first glimpse as to how even the week consumer performance in December was funded. Two words: "Charge it." Total US Consumer Debt in December rose by $6.09 billion December, on expectations of a $2.4 billion increase (and $4 billion higher than November's revised $2.022 billion). Yet what is most notable is that while Non-revolving loans increased by $3.8 billion (the lowest in the past 4 months), revolving loans posted their first increase since August 2008, increasing by $2.3 billion. Is the US consumer so tapped out that it is time to go to the credit card once again? And if so, does this mean that the drop off in excess reserves by over $180 billion compared to where they should be has been due to consumer lending. If that is the case, we may be far closer to Bernanke losing control of the trillions in excess reserves (and a surge in "velocity" or however one calls this archaic construct) than we had expected previously.
As of the end of December, total NYSE margin debt of $276.6 billion hit a fresh post-Lehman high, as increasingly more investors continue to purchase securities on margin (i.e., debt). The $2.5 billion rise from November margin levels is the highest since September 2008, and $103 billion from the market lows of March 2009. That said, margin fever still has a way to go and it could easily reach the June 2007 all time high of $381 billion, a little over $100 billion from here. Notable is that while investors had a negative net worth for the sixth month in a row, the differential declined modestly primarily due to a jump in credit balances in margin accounts which hit $148 billion: the highest since February 2009. As historically there is a decline in credit margin balances into the new year, we expect total free credit less margin debt to increase materially in January, especially as the expected January correction (in parallel with the market activity of early 2010) has not materialized, and bullish bets have to be increasingly funded on margin. More relevantly, should short-term interest rates continue to jump (we will have more to say on the recent move in 2 Years), margin interest may soon be forced higher, making life for those who use nothing but debt to fund stock purchases a little more problematic.
Believe it or not, all of the officials at the Fed are not quite as blind as Bubble Blowing Ben. The Dallas Fed, run by our hands-down favorite Fed President Richard Fisher, publishes a regular Economic Letter that is always insightful and lacks the bias of certain other elected officials whose Helicopters will remain nameless. We’d recommend those expecting a strong rebound in housing anytime soon take a look at the December 2010 issue titled The Fallacy of a Pain-Free Path to a Healthy Housing Market. Mean reversion is a powerful force in finance and a picture is worth a thousand words.
As the United States of Zimbabwe barrels forward on Ben Bernanke's hyper-inflationary crazy train - we will go along for the ride...