Pretend, from now on, that when you see this word it is written in Moldavian and needs to be translated. France and the periphery nations are screaming this word now while almost all of Europe is in recession and one that we believe will be much deeper than forecast. Consequently “growth” does not mean “growth” and the correct translation is “Inflation.” We have long said it would come to this in Europe and here we go. The troubled countries are going to beg and plead for Inflation and Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Finland are going to resist. With Hollande the most likely next President of France you are going to see a stand-off between the socialist and the centrist countries so that a log jam will develop and the consequences of its uncoupling are anyone’s guess except that it will be likely violent and an extreme series of events. The governance of Europe on May 5 will not be what is found on May 6 and preparation for this should be high upon everyone’s list.
Recall what we said less than an hour ago: "what will most likely happen is a print in the mid to upper 380,000s, while last week's number will be revised to a 390K+ print, allowing the media to once again declare that the number was an improvement week over week. In other words, SSDD." SSDD it is: last week's 386K number was revised to 389K, meaning the massive miss relative to expectations of 370K last week just got even worse. This is the 10th week in a row of misses to the weaker side and the 16th of the last 18. And while this week's miss was whopping as usual, with expectations of 375K being soundly missed after the print came at 388K on its way back to 400K, the media can sleep soundly because the absolute lack of BLS propaganda means that the sequential progression is one of, you got it, improvement. In other words here is what the headlines in the Mainstream Media will be: "Initial claims improve over prior week." In fact here it is from Bloomberg: "U.S. Initial Jobless Claims Fell 1,000 to 388,000 Last Week." Absolutely brilliant.No propaganda. No data fudging. No manipulation at all. Just endless laughter at the desperation.
I don’t understand the furore around Obama’s secret service handlers being (ahem) secretly serviced by Colombian hookers. To writers like myself who specialise in salacious analogies, the incident was a gift. To the rest of the press, who don’t normally get to write about such matters, it was an excuse to shoot off pent-up sexual frustration. So I can understand the press pushing the story just the way Bill Clinton pushes expensive cigar cases (enthusiastically, by all accounts). The worry, apparently, is the potential to compromise the President’s security. Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House committee that oversees the Secret Service, says the key question is whether the prostitutes could have accessed “any data or information that could have compromised the president of the United States or made an enemy force aware of the practices and procedures of the Secret Service.” But surely this applies to all sexual relationships, not strictly ones for money? Surely prostitutes are absolutely the safest kind of liaisons? After all, why would a foreign agent trying to sequester intelligence information try and charge the American agent for sex? If you were setting a honey trap, why would you create some barrier to entry, such as a fee? There’s playing hard to get, and then there’s playing easy to brush off, and that would be the latter.
After rising in the overnight session following the overbought momentum chasing yesterday's hawkish tone by the Fed (don't ask), futures, European stocks, and sovereign spreads took a turn for the worse following the big miss in European confidence and sentiment, all of which posted material declines, and slid to two and a half year lows. And while the traditional upward stock levitation will resume once the European market close is in sight, only one thing can spoil the party and derail the most recent pseudo-hawkish statement out of the Fed: initial claims, which are expected to decline to 375-380,000 from 386,000 last week. Instead what will most likely happen is a print in the mid to upper 380,000s, while last week's number will be revised to a 390K+ print, allowing the media to once again declare that the number was an improvement week over week. In other words, SSDD.
- Fed Holds Rates Steady, But Outlooks Shift (Hilsenrath)
- Has Obama Stacked the Fed? Not Really (Hilsenrath)
- High Court Skeptical of Obama’s Use of Power as Campaign Starts (Bloomberg)
- Europe Seen Adding Growth Terms to Budget Rules as Focus Shifts (Bloomberg)
- China Reaches Out to Its Adversaries Over Rare Earths (WSJ)
- Iran Says It May Halt Nuclear Program Over Sanctions (Bloomberg)
- Europe Shifts Crisis Focus to Growth as Merkel Backs Draghi Call (Bloomberg)
- Merkel Wants Rules for Raw Material Derivative Trade (Reuters)
- Evercore Profit Falls 62% as Investment Banking Expenses Rise (Bloomberg)
Following this week's ongoing battery of abysmal economic news out of Europe it will hardly come as a surprise that yet another indicator has been released and is pointing to a multi-year low in the deleveraging (elsewhere called incorrectly austere) continent, namely the Euro-area wide confidence index which just slide to the lowest leve since 2009, missing every single estimate and declining sequentially across the board... And with the UK, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Ireland, Belgium, Denmark, Holland, Czech Republic, and Slovenia now in re-recession, and Spain a definitive shoo in next week, the kicker is that German GDP will almost certainly now report a second consecutive GDP print in a few days, thus pushing the entire European continent in a double dip.
We start today's story of the day by pointing out that Deutsche Bank - easily Europe's most critical financial institution - reported results that were far worse than expected, following a decline in equity and debt trading revenues of 23% and 8%, but primarily due to Europe simply "not being fixed yet" despite what its various politicians tell us. And if DB is still impaired, then something else will have to give. Next, we go to none other than Deutsche Bank strategist Jim Reid, who in his daily Morning Reid piece, reminds the world that with austerity still the primary driver in a double dipping Europe (luckily... at least for now, because no matter how many economists repeat the dogmatic mantra, more debt will never fix an excess debt problem, and in reality austerity is the wrong word - the right one is deleveraging) to wit: "an unconditional ECB is probably what Europe needs now given the austerity drive." However, as German taxpayers who will never fall for unconditional money printing by the ECB (at least someone remembers the Weimar case), the ECB will likely have to keep coming up with creative solutions. Which bring us to the story du jour brought by Suddeutsche Zeitung, according to which the ECB and countries that use the euro are working on an initiative to allow cash-strapped banks direct access to funding from the European Stability Mechanism. As a reminder, both Germany and the ECB have been against this kind of direct uncollateralized, unsterilized injections, so this move is likely a precursor to even more pervasive easing by the European central bank, with the only question being how many headlines of denials by Schauble will hit the tape before this plan is approved. And if all eyes are again back on the ECB, does it mean that the recent distraction face by the IMF can now be forgotten, and more importantly, if the ECB is once again prepping to reliquify, just how bad are things again in Europe? And what happens if this time around the plan to fix a solvency problem with more electronic 1s and 0s does not work?
In the science of physics, we know that ice freezes at 32 degrees. We can predict with immense accuracy exactly how far a rocket ship will travel filled with 500 gallons of fuel. There is preciseness because there are constants, which do not change and upon which equations can be constructed.. There are no such constants in the field of economics since the science of economics deals with human action, which can change at any time. If potato prices remain the same for 10 weeks, it does not mean they will be the same the following day. I defy anyone in this room to provide me with a constant in the field of economics that has the same unchanging constancy that exists in the fields of physics or chemistry. And yet, in paper after paper here at the Federal Reserve, I see equations built as though constants do exist. It is as if one were to assume a constant relationship existed between interest rates here and in Russia and throughout the world, and create equations based on this belief and then attempt to trade based on these equations. That was tried and the result was the blow up of the fund Long Term Capital Management, a blow up that resulted in high level meetings in this very building. It is as if traders assumed a given default rate was constant for subprime mortgage paper and traded on that belief. Only to see it blow up in their faces, as it did, again, with intense meetings being held in this very building. Yet, the equations, assuming constants, continue to be published in papers throughout the Fed system. I scratch my head.
On the whole, Goldman viewed today's FOMC meeting as moderately more hawkish than expected. The post-meeting statement was close to their expectations but a few changes added a more upbeat tone. Fed officials revised up their forecast for core inflation and down their forecasts for unemployment, in both cases by larger amounts than many had expected. Likely as a result, some participants also lifted their forecasts for the federal funds rate. The updated funds rate forecasts now contrast even more starkly with the “exceptionally low …at least through late 2014” guidance in the statement. Bernanke’s press conference was more neutral for the outlook than the statement and the updated SEP. On one hand, he defended a question about the Fed’s current policy stance by arguing that the committee was not willing to tolerate materially higher inflation. On the other hand, his comments on the policy options were tilted toward further easing. SchizoFEDia indeed.
Once again pundits are claiming that housing is "finally recovering." But they're overlooking three peaks: Peak Housing, Peak Financial Fraud, and Peak Suburbia, all of which suggest years of stagnation and decline, not "recovery." Once the belief that housing is the bedrock of middle class wealth fades, so too will the motivation to risk homeownership in an economy that puts a premium on mobility and frequent changes of careers and jobs. Only one aspect of housing hasn't yet peaked: property taxes. If the risks of homeownership weren't apparent before, they certainly are now as local governments jack up property taxes to indenture homeowners into tax donkeys.
The always-outspoken Doug Casey addresses a broader view of taxation and its costs to both individuals and society in general in this interview with Louis James. The Taxman can and will come for you, no matter how great or small the amount of tax he expects to extract from you. The IRS can impound your assets, take your computers, freeze your accounts, and make life just about impossible for you, while you struggle to defend yourself against their claims and keep the rest of your life going. But people should not just bow down and lick the boots of our masters. They can and should do everything they can to pay as little in taxes as possible. This is an ethical imperative; we must starve the beast.
It seems the PR machine was in full swing today for everyone's favorite Muppet-slayer-in-chief as Goldman Sachs' Lloyd Blankfein did the business media tour. Bloomberg TV, in the clip below, were perhaps toughest on the domed demi-god as they pressed him on the public's perspective of his firm as the 'vampire squid' to which he responded in glib-yet-deferential terms that "it is hyperbole and we'll have to do a better job of explaining how important this industry is". Indeed Lloyd, indeed. A grand collection of ducking-and-weaving as Erik Schatzker peppered the CEO with questions on his changing priorities as a CEO (wealth creation for partners clients), conflicts of interest ("if you want to rule out conflicts of interest, you'll just give advice to one client in one industry and never do any lending or support for the capital structure of the firm. It's just not feasible."), on Arthur Levitt's statement of Goldman's hypocrisy (as a market-maker we have to protect Goldman Sachs), being too big to fail, the markets and economy (tend to be a little more positive than what I am hearing from other people), and finally the Facebook IPO.