Albert Edwards, one of the most prominent uber-bears just got even more bearish: "Our view that this economic and market recovery will collapse like a pack of cards as soon as the steroid-like stimulus is reduced is gaining ground. Most forward-looking leading indicators now signal some sort of second-half slowdown. The only area of debate now seems to be in its magnitude. By the end of this year, I believe we will be back in recession." Albert's vision of a deflationary collapse, following by a reactionary episode in which the Fed (in typical reactive fashion) ends up printing tens trillions in one last attempt to restimulate the economy, resulting in hyperinflation, is well-known, and conforms with our view. As for the turning point, it is still anyone's guess: as today's Freddie record low mortgage rates demonstrates, deflation has now firmly gotten the upper hand. The Fed has can not afford to wait and see how this plays out. Obviously, with ZIRP here at least through 2013, if not much longer, the only true recourse is another failed monetary stimulus. However, with the president's rating in shambles, and any form if stimulus, monetary or fiscal, likely guaranteed to bite another 10% at least from his plunging popularity rating (see latest Gallup numbers here), Bernanke likely has his hands tied at least until 2011. Which is why deflationists are likely safe for at least 6 months, assuming of course the forward looking credit market (not stocks, stocks no longer reflect anything except for the latest latency arbitrage available to those rich enough to afford the latest and greatest Routers) does not begin to price in the hyperinflationary episode sooner. With 30 Day Bills near zero, there is little to worry about... for now.
Edwards agrees with this:
Although our deflationary arguments are gaining some traction in the bond market, investors have yet to fully acknowledge we are now walking on the deflationary quicksand that will inevitably suck us towards total fiscal and financial ruin - you ain?t seen nothing yet. With core inflation rates now sub-1% in the eurozone and the US, we are only one recession away from Japanese-style deflation. Recent fiscal tightening will hasten the speed of our descent into this quagmire. The market reaction to the acknowledgement of that fact is likely to be unprecedented in its savagery. The response to the coming deflationary maelstrom will be additional money printing that will make the recent QE seem insignificant. The super-inflationary end result will become obvious to all.
As the SocGen strategist further observes, is that while financials have rished to deleverage (not surprising, considering if they were to mark their assets to market even after the last year of debt to equity conversion, all banks would still be undercapitalized by trillions), a glimpse at the economy which excludes financials indicates that there has been no economic deleveraging yet.
Edwards goes on to demonstrate the painfully obvious double dip in housing, whose collapse was only prevented by ongoing stimulus. Sure enough, he completely agrees with Meredith Whitney that housing is in a double dip, and is yet another argument for the Fed's imminent reinvolvement.
And another critical note regarding the "massive" build up in cash by the corporate sector- it turns out the bulk of the cash retention was purely a function of inventory liquidation as presented by the most recent Z.1. Further, as we pointed out previously, the only differential from the cash and cash equivalents trendline is due to an identical and opposite contraction in corporate taxes. Now that the administration will have no choice but to extract as much cash as possible, especially through repatriation of money held by offshore subs of corporations, and much increased corporate tax rates, we anticipate this last bastion of the "money on the sidelines" brigade to promptly be gone with the double dip wind.
Many see USA Inc generating huge surplus cash which they conjecture can be spent either to boost capital investment directly, or alternatively to buy other companies? productive capacity via mergers and acquisitions. We looked at this back in January and offered a word of caution. The newly released Federal Reserve Flow of Funds data suggest that on their version of this important measure, no such surplus now exists and to the extent there was one recently, it was due to the inventory liquidation that has now ended (see chart below). We acknowledge that we are indeed far better placed than when we saw 3%+ deficits, but on the Fed?s measure there is no compelling evidence that an investment/M&A boom is imminent.
Little by little every arrow in the bullish quiver is taken away. The only thing remaining, is the last recourse of the Keynesian radioactive fall out: more money borrowed from the future. Alas, as John Taylor pointed out earlier, there is no growth. The global death spiral is complete. We disagree with Edwards - the next recession is not coming by the end of 2010 - we never left it in the first place. We would agree with Rosenberg, however, that the second coming of the Second Great Depression is now upon us, after the brief Fed-moderated extension, which merely allowed Wall Street to extract yet another record round of bonuses on the backs of the middle class.