Rick Davis of The Consumer Metrics Institute plays Clark Kent to Charles Biderman's Superman as the two dig into the latest GDP data. Critically, they break down the components and using inflation levels (CPI-U or The BPP) that make some sense Davis and Biderman are "really worried" that the real economy appears to be in a contractionary state if inflation is adjusted for correctly. Even the anemic BEA's 1.88% growth rate is 'very very poor' for an economy that is supposed to be 3 years into a recovery. The per-capita income (the money available to all households to spend) actually shrank - even using the BEA's inflation data. This juxtaposes shrinking household disposable income with a real economy supposedly growing (though slowly) which was driven almost exclusively by consumer spending - leaving Davis and Biderman questioning 'where this money is coming from?'. The simple answer is the savings rate has plunged, freeing up over $200bn in annual spending (and student loans have added another $100bn, refis $50bn, and strategic defaults $80bn) - all unsustainable one-time increases. Spending is not coming from income. Davis concludes that the BEA is notoriously bad at calling turning points (only getting the Great Recession 'direction' correct after 16 months and magnitude after 40 months) - leaving him of the opinion that we may well be in the first quarter of the next recession.
"The global banking system is functionally insolvent and will fail without exogenous policy action" is how QBAMCO's Paul Brodsky begins his latest treatise noting that asset monetization (and in, particular, gold monetization) would solve many more problems than it would create. The negatives would merely recognize the balance sheet damage already done and beginning to be manifest (first, in the private sector and now, increasingly in the public sector). The global economy is threatened because, in real terms, it continues to misallocate capital and rolling unfunded debts and debating in the political sphere over the merits and risks of unfunded growth or policy-administered national austerity programs is a futile endeavor. The math suggests strongly neither can work. Brodsky is convinced policy-administered asset monetization would stop the global financial system from seizing, restore sorely needed economic balance, and reset commercial incentives so that real growth can once again gain traction.
"Fortress Paper Ltd. announces that its wholly-owned subsidiary, Landqart AG, a leading manufacturer of banknote and security papers, has had a material banknote order reinstated. This order was unexpectedly suspended in the fourth quarter of 2011 which negatively impacted the financial results of Landqart's operations in the first half of 2012."
Reports citing European sources state that Eurozone finance ministry officials, followed by finance ministers themselves, will hold conference calls on Saturday. A formal request for Spanish EFSF/ESM/IMF support, solely for the purposes of bank recapitalization, could be announced after these calls, and appears to be the motivation for them. As JPMorgan notes, while the timing of such a request would come as something of a surprise, the substance does not. A key question is whether this request for external support will serve to improve conditions in the Spanish bond market and raise Spain's chances of avoiding a broader support package. Our best guess is that it will not as JPMorgan believe that this is merely a stepping stone to a broader package of support for Spain and that the request for support has at least three negative consequences.
"The next stage in the crisis will be blatant blackmail....
With their refusal to accept money from the bailout fund to recapitalize their banks, the Spanish are not far from causing the entire system to explode. They clearly figure that the Germans will lose their nerve and agree to rehabilitate their banks for them without demanding any guarantee in return that things will take a lasting turn for the better."
With a quiet start and more violent end to the week, Europe was a technical mess across asset classes. Sovereign bond strength through Thursday seemed much more a story of a missing CDS market (Monday and Tuesday) and basis traders into the end of the week than any underlying confidence. As Spain's and Italy's basis (the spread between CDS and bonds) pushed back up and over zero so sure enough Friday saw their bonds underperforming. Further banking system bailout fears weighing on debt concerns and the contagion to Italy were evident as Italy and Spain gavce up most of the week's gains into the close. Notably France and Austria were significantly wider on the week (burden-sharing). The bailout hopes spureed significant outperformance in European financial credit spreads - both relative to their stocks and the broad credit market overall. The long credit, short stock trade played out as the capital structure effects of any banking bailout were figured into dilution or further encumbrance of whatever equity value is deemed left. Swiss 2Y rates plunged under -30bps today and EURUSD weakened notably (almost roundtripping the week's strength) as clearly the seeming positives of the word 'bailout' are beginning to sink into the reality of what more debt, more encumbrance, and more stigma means for banks and sovereigns now more and more closely tied thanks to LTRO.
We're like a sprawling family bickering over the inheritance: we'll keep arguing over who deserves what until the inheritance is gone. That will trigger one final outburst of finger-pointing, resentment and betrayal, and then we'll go do something else to get by. The "solution" is thus collapse. This model has been very effectively explored in The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity, and the Renewal of Civilization by Thomas Homer-Dixon. The basic idea is that when the carrying costs of the society exceed its output, the whole contraption collapses. The political adjunct to this systemic implosion is that the productive people just stop supporting the Status Quo because it's become too burdensome. The calculus of self-interest shifts from supporting the bloated, marginal-return Status Quo to abandoning it.
So the root problem is the system, human nature, blah blah blah. There are no "solutions" that can fix those defaults. The "solution" is collapse, as only collapse will force everyone to go do something more sustainable to get by.
The significant rise in global systemic risk that occurred in 2008 remained until mid 2010 when it began to subside a little as Jackson Hole and QE2 seemed to allay fears somewhat. However, in the last year or so, BofA's market fragility index has soared higher alarmingly signaling higher systemic risks than in the peak pre-Lehman era. This confirms the massively elevated signal for global systemic risk that credit markets are also sending.
Just as predicted earlier, the GDP downgrades begin.
We revised down our Q2 GDP tracking estimate by two tenths to +1.8% (quarter-over-quarter, annualized) from +2.0% previously. The downward revision primarily reflects weaker-than-expected real export growth in April. This was partly offset by stronger than expected wholesale inventories, which increased by 0.6% (month-over-month) in April.
Surely this explains why the market is about to turn green.
Actually, we are not sure just what the president will discuss in his 10:15 am address on the economy, but our suggestion that the president will suggest more spending as the cause solution to all of America's problems seems like a fair guess. That or blaming Merkel for the epic NFP miss last Friday. We are not sure what the shot keyword is today (aside for thingamajig of course), but we know what isn't: $15,734,596,578,458.59. That's was US Federal debt as of close on Wednesday: another fair guess is that it will receive exactly zero prominence in Obama's latest sermon.
The biggest news this morning is the talk that Spain's Rajoy will discuss 'how to shore up' his banking system with the EU officials this weekend. As SocGen noted earlier, EURUSD managed a 30 pip bounce and then promptly sold off - 'That says it all really'. A 'bailout' of Spanish banks poses a lot more questions than it answers. Specifically that this crisis began with Greece and now has spread to Spain. Will the focus move on again? The market believes that European officials have yet to put in place contingencies that will stem contagion and stress on other European countries. Hence the anemic response from currencies. What is clear is that Greece, and now Spain, have set the dismal example for their peers: 'Crush the banks, then get bailed out' which leaves only one course of action it seems, banks will be shorting themselves to force action from their overlords in Berlin and Brussels. If we get a risk-on bounce in Italian banks, on any weekend 'interim' resolution for Spanish banks, then shorting into that strength seems more than appropriate (or long credit, short equity as burdens are shared).
Dear German readers: please avert your eyes.
While the ever-present analogs to the last few years of crisis-response-improvement-complacency (CRIC), as Morgan Stanley so clearly described, have provided a clear picture of what to expect, the treja vu is now starting to fade in one very important market indicator. As BofA notes, the forward expectations of Fed Funds rates have finally started to shift from an endless string of 'hope' for growth and reflation just around the corner and rate hikes any quarter now (despite the Fed's 'exceptional' chatter) to a much less sanguine pit of despair that rates will indeed stay low for 'ever' reflecting a stagnating deleveraging economic reality. At some point they will be right as the Japanization of rates around the fiat world becomes the new normal and 'smart/fast-money' traders appear hope-less.