One of the few things that we do know - for certain - about the future is that actions have consequences. In the world studied by the physical sciences of inanimate matter, it is possible to predict the future with certainty. That is because the entities being studied ARE inanimate. They have no power to initiate an action so they have no power to vary their reaction to a force which is applied to them. In the field of the study of HUMAN action, the situation is fundamentally different. No “stimulus” will ever produce the same response on entities which have the power of thought and the power of choice.
A generation of market participants has grown up knowing only the era of central bankers and the 'Great Moderation' of (most of) the last two decades elevated their status significantly. While central bankers are generally very well aware of the limits of their own power, financial markets seem inclined to overstress the direct scope of monetary policy in the real world.
If markets fall, investors need only to run to central bankers, and Ben Bernanke and his ilk will put on a sticking plaster and offer a liquidity lollipop to the investment community for being such brave little soldiers in the face of adversity
Monetary policy impacts the real economy because it is transmitted to the real economy through the money transmission mechanism. This has become particularly important in the current environment, where, as UBS' Paul Donovan notes, some aspects of that transmission mechanism have become damaged in some economies. Simplifying the monetary transmission mechanism into four very broad categories: the cost of capital; the willingness to lend; the willingness to save; and the foreign exchange rate; UBS finds strains in each that negate some or all of a central bank's stimulus efforts. In the current climate, it may well be that the state of the monetary transmission mechanism is even more important than monetary policy decisions themselves. Some monetary policy makers may be at the limits of their influence.
While not being cool enough to warrant instant-QE, the June employment report reinforced the sense that US growth has slowed further and that the labor market recovery remains sluggish. Besides the underwhelming employment report, this week’s releases offered more signs of slowing in the US manufacturing sector. The ISM manufacturing index falling below the symbolic 50 threshold for the first time since JUL09 and hard data on manufacturing activity, such as factory orders, have also cooled. Goldman's Zach Pandl notes that deteriorating external (Europe and China) demand is likely one factor behind the slowdown (with ISM new export orders index -11.5 points between APR and JUN) but suspects domestic factors could be at work as well. In particular, the slower growth in the US manufacturing sector could simply be that activity has already rebounded substantially since the recession (dominated by the channel-stuffing, China-dependent Autos sector). If the relatively fast growth in the manufacturing sector over the last few years reflected a “catch-up” from exceptional weakness in 2008-09, then this tailwind should gradually diminish and this led them to lower their Q2 GDP estimate to +1.5% as we face another sluggish summer.
Following his somewhat epic blog debate with Paul Krugman, Steve Keen appears on Capital Account with Lauren Lyster to debunk more Keynesian propaganda and the kleptocratic status quo 'debt doesn't matter' arguments. Poking holes in the stable/exogenous shock equilibrium 'model' versus the real-world's dynamic systems, the Aussie economist warms up with the zero-interest rate conundrum and liquidity trap; moves on to the empirical falseness of the debt-to-unemployment relationship - implying 'debt matters all the time' as Keen explains common-sensibly (but not Neoclassically) that the 'change in debt adds to demand' and that involves banks which breaks modern economic theory (since lending is credit creation not savings transfer). Echoing the deleveraging from the Great Depression, it could take 15 years of unwinding this epic debt bubble before its all over - but not if the status quo of deficit spending is maintained - as Keen somewhat controversially concludes: "you can't just cure this with deficit spending [since debt is already beyond the black-hole's 'event horizon'], you have to abolish the private debt as well" by "quantitative easing for the public".
We have long warned that the effects of a ban on 'free-market' hedging instruments could well have a negative impact on the underlying market that political leaders are 'trying' to protect (consider the fall in equity prices after the short-sale-bans) and this week brought some clarity with regard Europe's Short-Selling-Regulation (SSR) on CDS. As Citi's Matt King notes: "the technical standards underlying its short selling ban reinforce the view we held previously: the ban seems likely to add to selling pressure on cash bond spreads in peripherals, even if it brings down CDS and tightens the basis." The SSR defines 'naked' as CDS that are 'highly correlated' with long bond positions, but bonds have only tended to be quite correlated to their own CDS at periods of low volatility, and this correlation breaks down over sell-offs, which is precisely when hedging is needed most. This will leave portfolio managers unlikely to want to rely on sovereign CDS hedges (which they may now be forced to unwind at any moment) and presumably means they will be reluctant to take out initial long positions in both peripheral sovereigns and corporates in the first place - reducing demand for cash bonds. Once again - regulators and politicians should be careful what they wish for.
Steve Forbes has a message for a nation dominated by increasingly short-term decisions made on Wall Street and in Washington D.C., and by ever greater economic, financial and currency instability. As long as America continues moving away from sound money; away from sound financial and economic policies; and, ultimately, away from freedom, its future grows more dim. The dot-com and housing bubbles followed by the 2008 financial crisis and the most severe economic decline since the Great Depression serve as powerful lessons. A future of bigger government, higher taxes, more burdensome regulations, less consumer choice and more unrealistic government promises requires more and more Federal Reserve play money. Steve Forbes has a quintessentially American policy prescription rooted in American history. The answer to America’s economic problems is—and has always been—new wealth creation. New wealth creation doesn’t come from the government or from the Federal Reserve’s printing press. New wealth creation is what happens naturally with stable money based on the gold standard, lower taxes on individuals, a simplified tax code, reduced bureaucracy and free markets.
With the US presidential election just 4 months away, focus on tier 1 economic data will become acute, as will headlines blasting top-line data without much, if any, underlying "between the lines" analysis. Which is why we have decided to put together a template of key data series that in our opinion best capture the dramatic shift in the labor composition of the US welfare state under the Obama administration, starting with January 2009. Here are the facts...
"It's impossible to have a political solution to a balance sheet problem" says Paul Brodsky, bond market expert and co-founder of QB Asset Management. The world has simply gotten itself into too much debt. There are creditors that expect to be paid, and debtors that are having an increasingly difficult time making their coupon payments. No amount of political or policy intervention is going to change that reality. (Unless a global "debt jubilee" transpires, which Paul thinks is unlikely). Looking at the global monetary base, Paul sees it dwarfed by the staggering amount of debts that need to be repaid or serviced. The reckless use of leverage has resulted in a chasm between total credit and the money that can service it. So how will this debt overhang be resolved?
Central bank money printing -- and lots of it -- thinks Paul.
California's budget deficit may be $16 billion (up from $9 billion in January), the state's cities may be keeling over and filing for bankruptcy left and right (Stockton and Mammoth Lakes), and overall container traffic at the Port of Long Beach may have dropped 7.2% in May compared to last year, but at least California is about to get its own monorail. Well, maybe not monorail, but certainly a high speed line between Los Angeles and San Francisco for the low, low price of at least $4.5 billion in debt to start (and much, much more to actually end). The winners: Keynesians and labor groups. The losers: anyone who has ever taken math for idiots. From USA Today: "California lawmakers approved billions of dollars Friday in construction financing for the initial segment of what would be the nation's first dedicated high-speed rail line connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco. The state Senate voted 21-16 on a party-line vote after intense lobbying by Gov. Jerry Brown, Democratic leaders and labor groups." And while nobody really expects the train to actually be built, here is the real reason for passing the legislation: "The bill authorizes the state to begin selling $4.5 billion in voter-approved bonds that includes $2.6 billion to build an initial 130-mile (210-kilometer) stretch of the high-speed rail line in the Central Valley. That will allow the state to collect another $3.2 billion in federal funding that could have been rescinded if lawmakers failed to act Friday." In summary, just passing the bill, gives California a $3.2 billion federal bailout while the actual use of funds may or may not ever appear (or money is on the latter). If still confused think Greece and Germany, because Federal tax collections were just used to give California a very fungible cash injection. Where the money ends up now is anyone's guess.
In the second quarter, despite the ludicrous ramp in the S&P on the last day of the month on what has now been proven to be yet another fizzled European summit, the S&P dropped by 275 bps. Below is the full breakdown of which sectors contributed or detracted from the S&P's performance, as well as which companies were the biggest winners and losers in the quarter. In short: boring old Telecom (AT&T and Verizon at the top), Consumer Staples and Utilities did great, while IT, Financial and Energy got crushed.
It is truly difficult to believe that social tensions may be contained indefinitely under a deteriorating economic scenario – although there is the 'frog in the pot analogy' again. There are also escape valves which surely help keep social tension from mounting such as the ongoing criminal investigation in which former Bankia chairman Rodrigo Rato and 32 members of the failed bank’s board were formally cited this week as suspects of fraud, misappropriation of funds, and the falsification of financial documents; a necessary but inconceivable turn of events compared to only two months ago. Ultimately, however, unless the long-yearned European breakthrough (which nobody has managed to properly define) occurs soon and some form of economic upturn begins to be seen as within reach, there is no reason to believe that Spain’s situation will improve over the next several months. If the summer turns out to be as “hot” as expected, Rajoy may at least have to revise his communication strategy and start facing the public. The cooling variables which currently work in favor of keeping society simmering in a state of fear rather than boiling with outrage may not hold the fire.
Hillary Clinton just made a very memorable statement.
I do not believe that Russia and China are paying any price at all – nothing at all – for standing up on behalf of the Assad regime. The only way that will change is if every nation represented here directly and urgently makes it clear that Russia and China will pay a price
So — exactly what price must Russia and China pay? The real question though, is what Hillary Clinton thinks she can achieve through throwing unveiled threats around and destabilising the fragile global system?
In the ongoing reincarnation of Lie-borgate (because as Jon Weil reminds everyone, this is nothing new under the sun, except for a few e-mails, and a bottle of Bollinger), there is just one missing link right about now. From Bloomberg, April 16, 2008:
"It's very important to us that we preserve the integrity of the figures," said Lesley McLeod, a BBA spokeswoman in London. "It's something we have been looking at. If we find that people have been putting in figures which don't reflect accurately their financial figures, the ultimate sanction is to throw them out of the pond.''
And just so there is no confusion, from the NYT, June 6, 2008
The British Bankers Association (BBA) -- which oversees the daily benchmark setting process -- in April announced that it was bringing forward its annual review of the process. It stated that any member found to be deliberately misquoting would be banned.
So: Will the British Bankers' Association now ban Barclays as it said it would? After all, there is all that "integrity" to be preserved.
Over a year ago we penned "QE 2 Was A Disaster: Here Is Why US Fiscal "Stimulus" Was A Complete Failure As Well", because, well, QE2 was a disaster, which is important to remember as we are about to set off on the NEW QE as per Hilsenrath, because apparently creating 80,000 jobs per month (with the S&P a whopping 5% off multi-year highs) "Leaves Door For Fed Wide Open" even though the Fed has shown beyond a shadow of a doubt it is incapable of creating jobs and at best can ramp the Russell 2000 for a few months. But more importantly, a year later it is obvious that the ARRA just kept on being wronger and wronger with each passing month, until we get to today. We will spare readers our conclusion about ARRA architect Christina Romer's (long gone from the administration for obvious reasons) predictive powers, suffice it to say they are on par with those of the Fed itself. Simon Black, using AEI data, reminds us how the ARRA chart looks, one year later.