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Larry Summers Resumes Exercises In Pontificating Sophistry

Over the weekend, just because apparently someone really needed content at any cost (in this case zero), we got a new intellectual stillborn from none other than the man who more than anyone is responsible for the global economic collapse the world has been in for the past 4 years, and from which it is nowhere even close in escaping. The man of course is Larry Summers, who first crushed global finance, then Harvard, and finally Obama's economic platform, whom the FT saw fit to give the chance to pontificate on such concepts at growth and austerity, because apparently, growth through austerity, whereby banking sector debt is written down in parallel is not growth, but there is some subsegment of "growth", heretofore unknown, that Europe has not tried before, and will instead focus on that going forward. To paraphrase Lewis Black: don't think about that sentence too hard, or blood will shoot out of your nose.



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Chicago PMI Plunges To Lowest Since November 2009, Biggest Miss To Expectations Since September 2009

... the only question is whether the number,which printed at 56.2, down from 62.2, and missing expectations of 60.0, is horrible enough to send stocks soaring. Based on some of the core numbers it may be: the headline nuimber was the worst since November 2009, the miss was the biggest since September 2009, Production of 57.1 was the lowest since September 2009, New Orders slide to 57.4 from 63.3, Supplier deliveries lowest since September 2011, and so on. The only good print was employment which mysteriously rose from 56.3 to 58.7, just in time for the NFP print to come really, really ugly. On, and Joe LaVorgna was at 61.0: way to earn that bonus Joe. ISM downward revisions to come. But not from Joe- look for upward revisions there. Finally, comment #6 from the PMI respondents says it all: "Despite all of the rhetoric to the contrary, it looks like the air got let out of the balloon."



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The New-Normal Class Warfare: Old Vs Young?

While the most commonly held perspective on the aging demographic in the US is a retiring Boomer generation that is increasingly risk-averse (rotating to fixed income) and in desperate need of a growing segment of the healthcare pie, it appears that this may not be the entire picture. The data shows, via UBS Larry Hatheway, that in fact asset preferences do not change much by age cohort and therefore is not the driving reason behind a secular rotation out of stocks per se (as opposed to more simple reasons such as mistrust) and more notably the perception of an increased longevity could actually incentivize older investors to extend investment horizons (whether in stocks or fixed income). There does, however, remain a clear correlation (intuitive rather than causal if one is splitting hairs) between equity valuations (P/E ratios) and the older cohort (implying expectations of dropping equity valuations). Critically though, it appears from the data that older investors are not more risk averse. There is one further issue that is quietly emerging and that is US fertility data which points to an 'eventual' rejuvenation of US society - which could eventually shift the demographic influence back in the opposite direction. The simple take-away is that while old people continue to desperately cling to wealth preservation in their longer-than-expected lives, with their notably higher-than-average net worths, there will be an increasing pressure to stealthily tax part the aged of their wealth to cover the costs of a growing and even more state-dependent youth demographic that is emerging. Forget the 99% versus the 1%, it appears the new and more clearly-defined class warfare could well be the old versus the young.



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A House of Cards aka Un Castillo de Naipes

May had arrived in Spain. It was not, however, the May of years’ past but a Spring that was somehow devoid of warmth and of joy. The flowers had begun to blossom but they were gnarled, deformed, as if the land was reflecting the mood of the people. It seemed as if the Devil had arrived in Spain and, having conducted his Inquisition, was loosening various punishments upon the country based upon the confessions that he had witnessed.  The Cathedrals appeared to have been defaced, the bones of the Saints were pocked with mildew and the once dazzling Crosses in the churches were inlaid with some type of worm that had not been seen before. Sadness, like a thick band of fog, had descended upon the coastline and it moved inward untouched by any wind or plea to God for Salvation. The malfeasance of what Spain had brought upon herself was about to be bourne and the hope of any other conclusion was now but a faint prayer remembered in our winter memories. The Piper has arrived from Hamelin; and Spain, like so many before her, will be forced to pay.



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Savings Rate Rises From 4 Year Low As Spending Tumbles, Income Boosted By Government Transfer Receipts

While expectations for today's March Personal Income and Spending were for a rise of 0.3% and 0.4%, which if confirmed would have pushed the 3.7% savings rate to the lowest since 2007. Instead we got a reversion, with Income rising 0.4%, higher than expected, while Spending printed at 0.3%, the lowest since December 2011, just below expectations, and tumbling from February's 0.9% print, the biggest slide since August 2011. In real terms, spending was up 0.1% and income up 0.2%. The data also confirms that at every moment somewhere in the world, people are laughing at Joe LaVorgna, whose forecast of a 0.6% rise in personal spending was just 50% off. Most importantly, the surprising inversion between spending and income, pushed the savings rate from 3.7% to 3.8%, just shy of 4 year lows, and the first increase in 2012, although well below the 4.9% savings rate in March 2011, which means that increasingly the consumer is tapped out. When one takes away the impact of the record warm winter (of which March data was still part of), it becomes quite clear that unless Joe Sixpack is charging everything, then Q2 GDP will be a very big disappointment.



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Interactive Map Of Europe's Recessionary Tide

As noted earlier, and in the aftermath of both the UK and Spain officially double dipping, very soon a majority of Europe will be submerged under the latest recessionary tide which has already engulfed Spain, UK, Greece, Italy,  Portugal, Ireland, Belgium, Denmark,  Holland, Czech Republic, and  Slovenia. The primary wildcard remains Germany, although there is a more than 50% chance that following some very weak PMI data, the country will follow up its already negative Q4 GDP print with another decline, officially pushing the European growth dynamo into recession as well (as for France which reps and warrants that everything is great, it is not as if anyone actually believes those numbers, especially after Hollande becomes president in one week). For everyone who wants to track the European double dip tsunami in real time, the following interactive chart from Reuters is just for you.



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Guest Post: 2030: The World In Five Graphs

The following are from a report published last week by the European Union’s Institute for Security Studies (ISS). They’re projections that assume today’s trends will continue in one direction only — which may not be the case.



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Daily US Opening News And Market Re-Cap: April 30

All major European bourses are trading lower with the exception of the DAX, which holds just above the open by a modest margin. Adidas ranks among the top performers in the German index, following the report of a strong set of sales figures, contributing to the positive trade. Spanish concerns continue to build up as Standard & Poor’s took ratings action on 16 of the country’s banks, downgrading the notable names of Banco Santander and BBVA. Although the move was not a surprise as this is the usual procedure following a sovereign downgrade, both Santander and BBVA, along with the IBEX are in negative territory.  The Bund is seen higher amid a generally risk-off theme to markets this morning. Volumes have been relatively light, however a slight pick-up has been observed in recent trade, grinding the security upwards in the last hour or so.  EUR/USD continues to experience weakness and now trades close to a touted option expiry of 1.3200, as traders seek the safety of the USD across a number of currency crosses.



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Give Austerity A Chance: Growth Spending Failed

The markets may decide to play along with the renewed talk of growth and the death of austerity, but it is shocking how quickly writers and the media have latched on to the idea that growth will somehow save us and that the entire problem is the fault of austerity. Although it seems like it has been around for awhile, austerity is fairly new.  I don’t think Greece even got nailed with austerity until May of 2010.  In September 2010 when EFSF and ESM were first officially launched, Portugal and Ireland were both contributing members.  The first time austerity was mentioned in Spain and Italy had to be the summer of 2011, if not later? Until that time, I assume growth was part of the policy of most countries?  I find it hard to believe any country engaged in an anti-growth policy?  Was not every policy in Europe, up until at least 2010 if not beyond, actually a “growth” policy?  Why did they fail to create enough growth to stop the debt crisis? Ah, that is the other problem.  It isn’t just growth that is needed, certainly not to comfort the bond market, it is growth that surpasses the amount spent (borrowed) to create it.



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Funds Cut Positions In Gold By 4% And Silver By 20% - Gold Positions At 3 Year Low

CFTC data from Friday showed that money managers cut long positions on Comex gold futures and options in the week ended April 24 to the lowest level in more than three years. Managed funds slashed 2,225 long positions, or bets prices will rise, and added 2,450 short positions, or bets prices will fall.  The managed-fund net long position was cut by 4% and now represents around 10.7 million troy ounces of gold. This took their net position down 4% to 107,600 long contracts, from 112,275 long contracts. That's the lowest in CFTC data since the week ended Jan. 20, 2009. The low in January 2009 corresponded with the low in the gold price for 2009 - monthly low of $807/oz - prior to seeing gains which saw the gold price rise more than 50% to above $1,200/oz in late November 2009 (see chart below). A similar price gain would see gold rise from $1,663/oz today to $2,494.50/oz in the coming months. Also of note is the fact that large commercial traders have greatly cut back their short positions in gold and especially in silver. This has often been a sign of a bottom and suggests that they do not expect gold and silver to fall much further. In Comex silver futures and options, these traders added 248 long contracts and 2,883 short contracts. This reduced their net long position by 20% to 10,756 contracts, from 13,390 contracts the previous week. The net silver position represents around 53.7 million troy ounces of silver.



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Frontrunning: April 30

  • Only the cattle cars are missing: Greece opens detention camp for immigrants as election looms (Reuters)
  • China really wants that Iran oil - China mulls guarantees for ships carrying Iran oil (Reuters)
  • U.S. eyes testy China talks, Chen backer expects Chinese decision (Reuters, FT)
  • Possible arsenic poisoning probed in death of coroner's official (LA Times)
  • Europe’s Anti-Austerity Calls Mount as Elections Near (Bloomberg)
  • Law firm Dewey dumps executive; talks with rival end (Reuters)
  • Greek bank appeals for fresh equity (FT)
  • Banks seek to put pressure on small rivals (FT)
  • Obama falls short of meteoric expectations abroad (Reuters)


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Overnight Sentiment: Ambivalent

Another day of ugly news out of Europe, with both macroeconomic and monetary data coming in to confirm that downward slope of the European forward trajectory (not to mention funny: below is a chart of Greek retail sales. Hardly any commentary is necessary). Yet despite some recently gravity in the EURUSD, for the time being the futures are trending flat to slightly down, perfectly ambivalent as to how will ease first as long as someone eases. Will this sustain, or will a disappointing Chicago PMI at 9:45 am once again send stocks first plunging then soaring on hope of imminent NEW QE? We will find out shortly. In the meantime, here is a recap of the overnight market action.



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Previewing This Week's Key Macro Events

Goldman summarizes what to look forward to in the next few days, when once again fundamental will be ignored and all attention will be on the ECB. "The Week ahead will be dominated by global PMI and US labour market data as the two key releases. A few central banks meetings are on schedule, but market consensus suggests clearly that that ECB will not change its policy, while the RBA will likely cut interest rates by 25bp. There are also central bank meetings in Columbia, Thailand and the Czech Republic.  The impact of these events on the FX markets, in particular the key activity data, will mainly be driven by the usual risk-on/risk-off mechanics. Moreover, with cyclical data generally weakening, chances are that risk-off currencies could perform relatively better this week. Some additional Yen strength is therefore possible, as well some under-performance of pro-cyclical currencies. The AUD may be worth some particular attention with the RBA meeting this week and the Chinese PMI - both key drivers of the currency."



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