Last week we pointed out the seemingly bizarro strategy that by now must have become mainstream mantra that buy-and-hold is dead but buy-the-dips-in-the-most-hated-stocks is a winning strategy. Since we pointed this out, our index of the 30 most shorted stocks has surged by 5% compared to a measly 2% (Fed-assisted) gain in the S&P itself. It appears the break with reality started on Tuesday morning (pre-empting the Fed high beta ramp?) and today's sell-off is seeing the index of the shortest-of-the-shorts give some gains back from an open over 6% to around 5% currently. For most managers, their year is done - a 300bps outperformance - for others, we suggest perhaps reducing size a little. It appears the man behind the curtain may just have removed some of the juice for more bizarro strategies (and maybe take those hard-earned gains and buy gold) as even with ZIRP extended, QE's nominal surge will likely remain absent until we see some market (otherwise known to Bernanke as the economy) disruption (and we suspect the names to suffer will not be the Utilities - that have outperformed handily post FOMC - and remember high beta up and higher beta down).
Below we present the indexed return of ES (or stocks) and of gold over the past 24 hours since the Bernanke announcement of virtually infinite ZIRP, and the latent threat of QE3 any time the Russell 2000 has a downtick. It is unnecessary to point out just when Bernanke made it all too clear that the Fed has nothing left up its sleeve, expect to directly compete with the ECB over "whose (balance sheet) is bigger," as it is quite obvious. What is not so obvious, is that for all intents and purposes, Bernanke may have unwillingly, become a gold bug's best friend, as gold (and implicitly silver) has benefited substantially more that general risk. Much more. So for the sake of all gold bugs out there, could the Fed perhaps add a few more FOMC statements and press conferences? At this rate gold should be at well over $2000 by the June 20 FOMC meeting. And yet it is not smooth sailing: the time has come to watch out again for potential CME margin hikes (or rumors thereof) in gold at any given moment. After all, any increase in the price of protection against central planning stupidity is "irrational" and must be promptly punished by the keepers of the trillions in "stable derivative markets", who are too busy to police the MF Globals of the world and instead have a mandate of killing any PM price breakout.
Confused by the Greece situation? Dizzied by the PSI haircuts, retractive CACs, Troika promises, ECB participations, local vs non-local law implications, CDS triggers, and ultimately contagion concerns? Fear no more (just like Jamie Dimon apparently) as Barclays presents the definitive Greek End-Game Scenario decision tree.
"All markets trade their way to Perdition" is how TrimTabs' CEO Charles Biderman concludes a rather clear and factually full exposition of the reason we have gone up and the reality of why a drop is inevitable. Between the outsize number of investment vehicles relative to investable assets, the trend bias that every wealth manager seems stuck with that we will grow our way out of this mess (which Biderman suggests means a long-term rate of 5-10% GDP growth for the US - which seems obviously beyond our reach). He takes on the irony of the Wall Street vs Main Street arguments and warns of the inevitable plunge in the stock market (further believing that the winner of the next election is irrelevant given the cash vs special needs imbalance that exists). The US economy, if marked to market, is broke. Take home pay for all taxpayers is now only $6.2tn, down from $7tn at its peak in 07, and additionally we have created $5tn of new debt since the start of QE1 and owe a PV of $50tn in 'unfunded' liabilities leaving the future looking quite grim in his view. Perdition indeed appears to be looming given the Fed's far from sanguine view of reality.
Remember that one keyword that oddly enough never made it's way into the president's largely recycled SOTU address - "Solyndra"? It is about to make a double or nothing repeat appearance, now that Ener1, another company that was backed by Obama, this time a electric car battery-maker, has filed for bankruptcy. Net result: taxpayers lose $118.5 million. The irony is that while Solyndra may have been missing from the SOTU, Ener1 made an indirect appearance: "In three years, our partnership with the private sector has already positioned America to be the world’s leading manufacturer of high-tech batteries." Uh, no. Actually, the correct phrasing is: "...positioned America to be the world's leading manufacturer of insolvent, bloated subsidized entities that are proof central planning at any level does not work but we can keep doing the same idiocy over and over hoping the final result will actually be different eventually." We can't wait to find out just which of Obama's handlers was may have been responsible for this latest gross capital misallocation. In the meantime, the 1,700 jobs "created" with the fake creation of Ener1, have just been lost. Yet nothing, nothing, compares to the irony from the statement issued by the CEO when the company proudly received taxpayer funding on its merry way to insolvency: " "These government incentives will provide a powerful stimulus to a vital industry and help ensure that the batteries eventually powering millions of cars around the world carry the stamp 'Made in the USA'." Brilliant - and no, they are laughing with us, not at us.
Update: the Senate has failed to reject a bid to stop the debt ceiling hike with a simple 52 vote majority all of it along party lines. The US now has $16.4 trillion in debt capacity as of Friday. Since roughly $100 billion was plundered from Pension Funds in the past month, The US will have about $15.4 trillion in debt with the Monday DTS. The question then is how long will the $1 trillion in debt capacity last: at $125 billion/month it won't be enough to carry the US past the election without another massive debt ceiling spectacle.
While Congress recently voted down the increase in the US debt ceiling, that vote was largely irrelevant. And all that matters is how the Senate will vote. Watch it live in progress below. It is virtually unlikely that the process of debt ceiling increase will be overturned so within minutes the US should have a brand spaking new debt ceiling of $16.4 trillion.
The headlines are crowing of the magnificent CAT earnings (channel stuffing?) which in turn is helping the Dow reach its highest point since May 2008 (CAT is responsible for 27 of the Dow's 30 point gain today alone). This must be the signal that we-the-consuming-people need to borrow-and-spend again right? Well, no. Unfortunately, as many already know, the process of indexing is implicitly flawed in many ways - most importantly survivorship bias. If we compare the performance of the components of the Dow at the start of 2008 to the actual Dow index performance, there is a very significant divergence of around 7% (or around 900 points). This is actually understating the difference (as it is an average) as we note that 5 of the 30 names from 2008 have lost more than 70% of their value (GM, AIG, C, BAC, and AA) since January 2008 (averaging -88% among those). Three names have risen by more than 70% (MCD, HD, and IBM - thank you Warren) as 18 of the 2008 Dow 30 names are lower (on average -36.5%) with the remaining 12 Dow 2008 names up on average 33%. What is worse is the realization of the dramatic loss in real purchasing power as Gold has risen by more than 100% since the start of January 2008 as the Fed continues to realize it can abuse the lemming-like focus on nominal returns.
After Wikipedia and Wikileaks shone light on science, history and politics, Wikirating may bring open source financial transparency to the web. Attempting to iron out structural problems of traditional rating procedures, Wikirating is open source, fully transparent and retrieves its results from participants input. Initiated by Austrian mathematics Dorian Credé and and finance whiz Erwan Salembier, ratings are derived from weighted user input. They stress to point out that their model will improve with rising user input who also have a say in improving the formulae used.
Looks like the earlier analysis that the US is slowly morphing into a second Japan just got even more confirmation. According to the Census Bureau (not NAR data, which we will hence ignore completely due to its consistent bias, error and overall worthlessness) December New Home Sales declined from 321K to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 307K in December, on expectations of a rise to 321K from last month's revised 315K. On a non-seasonally adjusted basis the US sold a whopping 21K homes, the lowest since January 2011, and on par with the lowest on record. What is more troubling is that according to Bloomberg, the 2011 number of 302K sales is the lowest on record. Of these 21K, 5K were not even started. So much for that housing recovery. And also confirming that there is not even a glimmer of hope for the US housing market is that the Median Price for new homes just dropped from $215,700 to $210,300, which is the lowest median price since October 2010. The chart below of pricing trends indicates all that is needed to know which way the housing market is going.
Even as Goldman's economists have been bashing the Fed for not proceeding with a full blown LSAP QE, and have been warning repeatedly that the economy is due for a significant leg lower, here is Goldman once again doing all it can to trade (i.e. dump) its own inventory first and foremost, with a just released trade reco which in our opinion marks a market top far better than any squiggle on a DeMark chart. From Goldman: "We are recommending long positions in the Russell 2000 with a target of 860 (c+8%) and a stop of 765 (c-3%), marked relative to today’s open." As a reminder, for every client who is buying from Goldman, Goldman is selling. That is all.
¥1,086,000,000,000,000 (Quadrillion) In Debt And Rising, And WhyThe ¥ Will Soon Be A $: "A Lost Decade... Or Two"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 01/26/2012 - 10:31
Yesterday the Japanese Finance Ministry made a whopper of an announcement: in the year ending March 2013, total Japanese debt will surpass one quadrillion yen, or ¥1,086,000,000,000,000. This is roughly in line with the Zero Hedge expectations that by this March total Japanese debt would surpass one quadrillion yen. In USD terms, at today's exchange rate, this is precisely $14 trillion. And while smaller than America's $15.4 trillion (net of all post debt ceiling breach auctions), which was $14 trillion about a year ago, the GDP backing this notional amount of debt, which just so happens is greater than the GDP of the entire Euro area, is a modest ¥481 trillion, so by the end of the next fiscal year, Japan will have a Debt to GDP ratio of 225%. And that's not counting all the household and financial debt. So prepare to add quadrillion to the vernacular. At this exponential rate of increase quintillion will appear some time in 2015 and so on. Yet the scariest conclusion is that as Bloomberg economist Joseph Brusuelas points out, America is not only next, it already is Japan. Actually scratch that, America is worse than Japan, which at least generated a real housing bubble in the years just preceding the onset of its multi-decade credit crunch, something not even America could do in comparable terms. More importantly, "the debt-to-GDP ratio of the U.S. recently surpassed 100 percent, and it did so in the four years after the onset of the recession, compared with the six years it took the Japanese debt-to-GDP ratio to do so." The Japanese may be better than America in most things, but when it comes to destroying its economy, the US has no equal. Brusuelas' conclusion: "If below trend growth is the most probable scenario in the U.S., the most likely alternative is that the U.S. economy is headed for a lost decade… or two." So... go all in?
Whether it is an over-abundance of ships (mis-allocation of capital) or a slowing global growth story (aggregate demand), the crash in the Baltic Dry Index has been significant to say the least. Seasonals are prevalent (and Chinese New Year impacts) but to try and clean up that perspective, we find that so far this year the Baltic Dry has fallen 42% more than its seasonal normal and is down by more than 50% since 12/30/11. Nothing to see here move along.
And so the volatility continues: initial claims go from 402K to an upward revised 356K, to 377K, on expectations of 370K. The swings in this data series are getting as big as those in the stock market on those rare occasions when reality sets in. The miss is in line with the Fed perceived weakness in the economy. Continuing claims also missed coming at 3554K up from an upward revised 3466K, higher than expectations of 3500K. A whopping 146K dropped out of extended claims: in fact, in the past year the unemployed collecting post 6 month benefits either EUCs or Extended Benefits have plunged from 4.6 million to 3.4 million. As for last week's massive drop of nearly 50K initial claims, we learn that somehow it was New York to thank for this, with 27.7K less claims than the week before due to "Fewer layoffs in the transportation, educational, and construction industries." How about layoffs in the financial services industry, and also how much do those jobs pay vs "transportation, educational and construction" jobs? What however does not justify the Fed's ZIRP through 2015 or so, is the Durable Goods number which came at 3.0%, on expectations of 2.0%, down from an upward revised 4.3%. The bulk of this was in airplane orders thanks to Boeing as noted previously. However what was surprising is that Durable Goods ex transportation came in at a blistering 2.1% on Exp of 0.9%, and Capital Goods Orders ex Non-Def and Aircraft which rose 2.9% on expectations of 1.0%. However since the Fed has made it clear it will boost its balance sheet, and as of today the implied increase is over $800 billion, at the smallest whiff of trouble, the risk bubble is in full on mode as bad news is good news, and good news is better news.
Riskier assets advanced today, as market participants reacted to yesterday’s FOMC statement, as well as reports that Greece is making progress in talks for a debt-swap deal. However despite a solid performance by EU stocks, German Bunds remain in positive territory on the back of reports that the ECB has ruled out taking voluntary losses on its Greek bond holdings but is now debating how it would handle any forced losses and whether to explore legal options to avoid such a hit according to sources. As such, should talks between private creditors and other governing bodies stall again, there is a risk that Greece may not be able to meet its looming financial obligations. Of note, Portuguese/German government bond yield spreads continued to widen today, especially in the shorter end of the curve.
As the world awaits resolution out of Greece and the debt exchange offer which even if passed today would have to cram 6 months of actual work into 54 days, the global bond vigilantes are not sticking around, and continue to attack the next weakest link - Portugal, whose 10 Year bonds just passed 15% in yield, and were trading well below 50 cents of par with CDS hitting a new record of 1350 bps. Naturally this has brought out the ECB's crack bond buying team (only at a central bank does a "trader" need only know how to buy, selling skills are optional) which tried to put the genie back in the bottle but now it is too late. After all, vigilantes are just wondering what form the Portuguese restructuring will take place considering that unlike Greece the bulk of its bonds have strong protections. So if one does use Greece as a benchmark how long does Portugal have? As the third chart shows, the last time 10 year GGBs passed 15% was back in August. So Portugal has 6 months. Give or take.