We noted the particular shift in Europe's sentiment toward Greece back in January, observing that ever since the "favorable" uptake of the LTRO (all of which has since been recycled and parked at the ECB's deposit facility which was at €510 billion as of today), Europe has become convinced that letting Greece fail is not a bad idea (an idea which is so ludicrous, and so Lehman deja vuish it makes us shudder, and which CS' William Porter wrote his entire February 10 piece "The Flaw" on, an excerpt of which can be found here). This culminated with the following observations by UBS. Ever since then everything Europe has done has been in preparation of an "orderly" Greek default (odd - try as we might we fail to find that section in the MiniCode MiniRules) and all the posturing about Greece saving itself has been beyond a farce. Yet as has been beaten to death, the final outcome won't be certain until March 20, at which point the market may finally grasp the new reality. In the meantime, here is Peter Tchir explaining how Germany just broke up with Greece... via a text message.
While the government propaganda machine chugs along and tells us to move along, there is nothing to see in the plunging labor participation rate, it is just 50 year olds pulling a Greek and retiring (fully intent on milking those 0.001% interest checking accounts, CDs and 3 Year Treasury Bonds for all they are worth - they are after all called fixed "income" not "outcome") there is more than meets the eye here. Yet while we will happily debunk any and all stupidity that Americans actually have the wherewithal to retire in droves as we are meant to believe (with the oldest labor segment's participation rate surging to multi-decade highs), there is a distinct subset of the population that migrates from being a 99-week'er to moving to merely yet another government trough - disability. Art Cashin explains.
While we mock and ridicule the corrupt and often times purposefully obtuse Greek politicians, we often ignore the human cost in the equation (and so does the rest of the world). Unfortunately this is becoming an ever greater issue for a country that is rapidly devolving to sub-3rd world status. Because while we have previously discussed the miserable conditions for a country where ever more people are sliding out of the middle class and into poverty status, in reality it is far worse. Spiegel has profiled the new Misery in Athens where "aid workers and soup kitchens in Athens are struggling to provide for the city's "new poor." Since the economic crisis has taken hold, poverty has taken hold among Greece's middle class. And suicide rates have nearly doubled." Just like in the US, those in misery are growing exponentially, but the last thing anyone needs is a reminder of their existence. Yet perhaps they should, because when the Bastille moment hits, the spark to overthrow tyranny, especially that masking under the guise of democracy, will come precisely from the slums of the impoverished and disenfranchised, from those who have nothing left to lose. In Greece, with 28% of the population living "at risk of poverty or social exclusion" this moment may arrive any second.
Forget the weather, forget AAPL, forget American Idol, forget Greece, forget the Middle East, forget inventories, forget USD strength, forget the SPR, and forget the implicit tax cut we 'received' in Q4 from low gas prices... the average gasoline price in the US was the highest ever for January - is it any wonder that retail sales disappointed? So as we all await the tax-cut extension to pass, perhaps we should remember just how big a chunk of our consumer-spending bias is anchored from the starting point of our energy needs and seasonals will do nothing to help this time, like it did in Q4.
And the boot in the Greek face comes from Jean-Claude Juncker who obviously has his marching orders from Die Frau:
- Juncker: I did not yet receive the required political assurances from" Greek coalition party leaders "on the implementation of the program - DJ
And to think if only Samaras had kept his mouth shut...
EURUSD sliding on the by now so very, very, very painfully obvious outcome of a Greek default. In other news, only 200 pips more lower until Stolper is stopped out. Again. We, for one, dread the day when we will no longer be able to fade the Goldman's head FX tactician's calls...
James Grant, of Grant's Interest Rate Observer makes some thought-provoking statements in his must-listen Bloomberg Radio interview with Tom Keene today. While noting America's exceptionalism (h/t Clint Eastwood?), he perhaps doesn't mean all Americans as he takes the Fed and Treasury to task over their actions in recent years (and in fact for decades). His long-held view that rates should be higher and follow generational cycles raises concerns for him that government intervention is in fact 'prolonging the symptoms' of the recession. In considering Tom Keene's well-thought-out question of why the US does not take advantage of low rates and issue exceptionally long-dated bonds, Grant agrees with the odd premise that they do not but then goes on to what would be sounder policy. "Why not issue bonds backed by gold bullion? Gold is a better money and is grounded in something besides the power of the people that print the dollar bills." The interview goes on to discuss population growth as a more potent 'fix' for housing in the US than QE, that the US is a preferable investment environment (given valuations) than Germany or Japan, the drastic drop in NYSE volumes, and the "leeching out of excitement, hope, and expectation of improvement (particularly for the young)." His compare and contrast of the 1920-21 depression to the current Great Recession (which seems not to end), focused on the fiscal and monetary actions, is an eye opener that its just possible the present-day orthodoxy is wrong. Urging that we maintain our sense of shock at the size of our 'peacetime' deficits, Grant worries that we are in a secular stagnation.
Yes, another indirect Greek headline. Oh well.
- EUROZONE FINANCE MINISTERS UNLIKELY TO MEET IN BRUSSELS ON WEDS AS NOT ALL PAPERWORK ON GREECE IS READY - EU OFFICIALS - RTRS
- EUROZONE FINANCE MINISTERS EXPECTED TO HOLD A CONFERENCE CALL ON SECOND PACKAGE FORE GREECE INSTEAD
At least the dog and the homework were not invoked. yet. March 20 is just 35 days away. After that, it is mercifully over.
"Uh, Marriner Eccles: We Have A Problem" - Obama Predicts He Will Breach Debt Ceiling Two Months Before ElectionSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/14/2012 - 11:19
In light of the epic fiasco from last August, when the US debt ceiling hike became a 2 month televized affair, culminating with the GOP caving, but not before the S&P downgraded the US (and in the process breaking the US stock market), Zero Hedge has long been analyzing the chronology of future debt breaches, as with the presidential election in November, what happens in the months and weeks ahead of it as pertains to the number one problem facing America - its lethal debt addiction - will be by far the biggest weakness of Obama's campaign. This is something we believe the GOP has finally understood, and they want a full replay of last August's insanity, to remind America just how broke (and broken) this country is. Yet it turns out all of our analyses have been for naught (if 100% correct). Because it is none other than President Barack Obama who has been kind enough to point out, that on September 30, 2012, or in just over 7 months, total US debt subject to the limit will be, wait for it, $16,333,900,000,000. Why is this an issue: because the final debt ceiling that Obama has been afforded with automatic Senatorial roll overs (even as Congress theatrically votes these down), is $16,394,000,000. In other words, with two months ahead of the election, the US will have a de minimis $60 billion in debt capacity. And since the implied burn rate is $133 billion/month this means that the United States will be in full blown debt ceiling hike chaos just as the final electoral debates take place. And one wonders why the GOP rushed to green light Obama an additional $160 billion in debt issuance. If indeed the $160 billion in new debt is added, the US may not even last to September before Tim Geithner is forced to start plundering G-fund and other retirement accounts. It also means that two months of America in a debt ceiling breach situation will deal a dramatic blow to Obama's reelection chances as the last thing the US population will want is a replay of last summer.
A number of readers kindly forwarded additional data sources to me as followup on last week's entry describing sharply lower deliveries of gasoline. The basic thesis here is that petroleum consumption is a key proxy of economic activity. In periods of economic expansion, energy consumption rises. In periods of contraction, consumption levels off or declines. This common sense correlation calls into question the Status Quo's insistence that the U.S. economy has decoupled from the global ecoomy and is still growing. This growth will create more jobs, the story goes, and expand corporate profits which will power the stock market ever higher.... Here are links and charts of petroleum consumption, imports/exports, and electricity consumption. Let's start with a chart of total petroleum products, which includes all products derived from petroleum (distillates, fuels, etc.) provided by Bob C. The chart shows the U.S. consumed about 21 million barrels a day (MBD) at the recent peak of economic activity 2005-07; from that peak, "product supplied" has fallen to 18 MBD. The current decline is very steep and has not bottomed.
If there is one physics rule that the central planners know all about, in their utter disdain of virtually every other natural principle, regression to the mean being the most prominent one, it is the law of communicating vessels. Only instead of water, the central banks use monetary liquidity to achieve equivalency across the various different vessels a/k/a capital shortfall locations. Such as the Spanish financial sector. Think that "Spain is fine"? Look at the chart below and think again. And don't even get us started on Portugal. How long before the residents of Portugal and Spain pull a Greece and withdraw 20% of statutory bank deposits in a year, in the process starting the terminal unwind of these two countries financial cores and putting them on day to day ECB life support? Oh wait, they already have. The chart below, showing Spanish bank borrowings from the ECB, is self-explanatory, even when factored in for "seasonal adjustments."
We noted last week that credit spreads (particularly for financials in Europe and the US) were deteriorating rapidly. In Europe we saw financial stocks hold and then drop to catch up and once again today we see them holding up as credit drops further. In the US, from yesterday's gap up open exuberance, the major financials are significantly underperforming as they catch up to the ugly reality of the credit markets. Morgan Stanley and Citi are down 6% from yesterday's opening level, BofA and Goldman are down 3.5-4% and Wells Fargo is tracking the financial ETF (XLF) down around 2%. Even JPMorgan is down 1.4%. Several of these names are retesting their 200DMAs from above and volumes are picking up.
A few weeks ago, some of the more naive media elements reported that Greece has "all the cards" in its negotiations with private creditors, a topic we had the pleasure of deconstructing in its entirety to its constituent flaws? Well, a day ahead of the February 15 Eurozone meeting at which Greece's fate is finally supposed to be settled, things appear to be quite amiss. As a reminder, a critical part of the Greek debt deal is the private sector's agreement to roll over existing holdings into new bonds, which as we learned may now see the 15 cent per bond sweetener into new EFSF debt reduced. According to the Handelsblatt, that is now off the table. Dow Jones summarizes: "Some central bankers expect that Greece will fail to enlist enough private investors in a voluntary debt restructuring to avoid a technical default, a German newspaper reported Tuesday. Greece is likely to make its case for a voluntary debt swap after a meeting of euro group finance ministers Wednesday, the Handelsblatt newspaper says. The Greek government is seeking to lower its burden by EUR100 billion. Handelsblatt cites unnamed central bank sources as saying the country will fail to achieve that goal, leaving the government little choice but to make the write-down mandatory for investors holding out. Requiring investors to take a loss would prompt credit rating agencies to declare a debt default for Greece, an event with unforeseeable consequences for financial markets. The report doesn't specify whether its sources are with the European Central Bank or with the German Bundesbank. Neither bank would comment early Tuesday." Which of course is not news: after all even the rating agencies have long warned a Greek default is now inevitable, and a CDS trigger will follow. The only thing that there is massive confusion over is whether and how this event will impact everyone else, and whether it will lead to an explusion of Greece from the Eurozone. Optimism is that it is all priced in. So was Lehman.
The topic of BLS propaganda seasonal adjustments has been discussed extensively here especially in light of January's NFP beat. We'll leave it at that. However, we were rather surprised to note that the Census Bureau may have also ramped up its seasonal adjustment "fudge factoring" because when looking at the January headline retail sales data, which naturally was a smoothly continuous line on a Seasonally Adjusted basis, rising from $399.9 billion in December to $401.4 billion in January, something rather odd happened in the Unadjusted data set: the plunge from $459.8 billion in December to $361.4 billion in January, or -$98.5 billion in one month, was the biggest one month drop in retail sales in history. Now we won't say much on this topic, suffice to say that it would be far more useful if the BLS and Census Bureaus were to open up their models and explain in nuanced detail just what "old normal" adjustments they still incorporate into data sets. Because as many have already noted, seasonal adjustments used for data from 1980 to 2008 when "up" was the only allowed direction for everything, are completely irrelevant and misleading in the New Deleveraging Normal. Which reminds us: Zero Hedge will offer $10,000 to the first BLS employee to share with us the full and complete excel model set, including assumptions, data tables, and comprehensive output parameters that the agency uses to go from input A to output X. We hope that by spending that money we will finally do society a service and open up to everyone just how it is that the BLS adjusts its Non-Farm Payrolls data.