JPY Dumps And Nikkei Explodes As Japan's (32nd Month In A Row) Adjusted Trade Deficit Hits Record HighSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 12/17/2013 - 19:43
Just because we thought it worthwhile to keep track of how out of control things are getting in Japan, a quick summary of this evening's data. The Japanese trade balance (adjusted) shows a deficit for the 32nd month in a row and has surged to its largest (worst) level on record. It has missed expectations in 5 of the last 6 months. Imports rose more than expected again with a 10.2% MoM gain in imports from the US (and 35% YoY). This massive deficit is before the military spending unveiled last night has hit though one thing is certain, Goldman Sachs will be out with a report any second proclaiming the mythical J-curve about to arrive any moment... The reaction - JPY dumps and NKY explodes higher as bad news is good news in QQE land.
Just when one thought the government's boondoggles couldn't get any worse, along comes this...
America’s political economy has changed incrementally enough that many people have not noticed what is really happening. It’s over for most of us. You can call it collapse, or you can call it restructuring. You can even call it a recovery. But you can not call it sustainable, or pleasant. The overall trajectory is toward decline, decay, destitution... This collapse is the collapse of dreams, hopes and expectations, not an obvious one like the collapse of the currency or the government. And if you have no hopes or dreams, and your expectations are sufficiently low, then you might not even be aware of it. For the time being, what is really in everyone’s interest, here and abroad, is to keep playing along. Collapse? What collapse? We all have to keep pretending everything is fine, or things will get even worse quickly - for us. But if things are continuing to get worse for us in any case...
According to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, just 33% of Americans think their children will have a better life than they did. On the other hand, 62% believe their children will be worse off. They’re likely to be right. The typical American family has seen its real income (adjusted for inflation) fall for 5 consecutive years now, and it earns less in real terms that it did in 1989.
When one imagines the world's two largest bureaucracies - the European Union and the US - trying to coordinate what may be the world's most sophisticated free-trade agreement, one would expect things like genetically modified crops, chlorine-washed chicken, and beef quotas to be key sticking points. One would not expect Greek Feta cheese to be one of the main hurdles. Which is precisely what has happened, because as Kathimerini reports "a fight over who can call Greek-style cheese “feta” is blocking the way toward the world’s largest free-trade deal. Of course, in a world in which something as "consequential" as who gets to call Feta by its name will require days if not weeks of negotiations, one wonders why bother with trade when central planners can just print commerce and wealth all day long anyway.
"The Fed will never end QE for good..." blasts Marc Faber, "they may do some cosmetic adjustments, but within a few years, [Fed] asset purchases will be substantially higher than they are today." There will be another weakening in the US economy, Faber warns, and "the Fed will argue it hasn't done enough and will do more... they have been irresponsible for 20 years." Use rallies to reduce exposure, he warns, "we will go up until it is over; and when it is over the drop will be larger than 20%," and the best opportunity, Faber notes, is in the most-depressed asset-class he looks at: gold and gold stocks.
Treasuries rallied from the pre-open release of inflation data this morning and never looked back (with 30Y unch on the week and 5Y -4bps). Stocks tumbled notably through the US open but recovered as Europe closed hovering quietly around VWAP all afternoon. The rally back in stocks coincided with a drop in VIX which smacked of hedges being lifted and exposure being reduced into the momentum-ignoted strength. Gold and silver saw weakness (though the latter is still +1% on the week). The USD weakened notably as Europe closed with some significant CHF buying. Stocks closed ugly...as VIX was significantly bid (up for the 6th day in a row - and 14 of last 16 days) and the 4th Hindenburg Omen appeared as the cluster grows.
While this morning we were re-assured by the government's statistics that there is no inflation (or deflation); implicitly enabling the Fed's extreme monetary policy to continue with no immediate consequence, it would appear there is an oddly synchronized rise in the price of something critical to day-to-day 'coping' for many - alcohol prices. Spurious correlation or unintended consequence? Cost-push or demand-pull?
There seem to be two camps at Deutsche Bank these days: one, lead by the observant and somewhat contrarian Jim Reid, who recently asked the all important question about 2014 ("what if there is a recession?"), who accurately observed that something "structurally changed" since the great financial crisis (pretty clear what), and who even dared to suggest that the Fed will never taper, especially with the economy so late in the cycle already. And then there is Joe LaVorgna, best known for having a losing track record to Groundhog Phil. It appears that this morning Joey emerged from his lair deep inside 60 Wall, sniffed the cold air, and saw the shadow of a $10 billion taper, which is what he predicts the Fed will do tomorrow.
By now it is a well-known fact that the Fed's monetary policies over the past 5 years (and really ever since Greenspan unleashed the Great Moderation) have been very successful at one thing: transferring wealth from the US (and global) middle class and handing it over to the already wealthiest strata of society, either through financial repression, zero savings rates, or generally boosting financial asset values, which as we showed hit a record $63.9 trillion in Q3, or over 70% of total. However, just like the general public's attention is focused on the quantitative components of the monthly payroll number and completely ignores the qualitative gains or losses in the US labor force, so the broad definition of "middle class" leaves quite a bit to be desired. So what happens if one quantizes society instead of by class with wealth of income cutoff ranges but instead by age? In that case, one gets the following chart prepared by the Urban Institute showing the change in net worth in the period 1983-2010 by age group.
Following Joerg Asmusen's somewhat surprisingly short 2-year stay at the ECB, stepping down as board member to become Germany's secretary of state for labor, the voice of economic reason in Europe has proposed 49-year-old female Sabine Lautenschlaeger to the ECB. Filling Asmussen's shoes among the ECB's "whatever it takes" crowd will be hard and while little is known of Lautenschlaeger's policy perspective, Reuters notes, she has been among those who have warned about potential conflicts of interest when the ECB has responsibility for both monetary policy and banking supervision, and argued against treating government bonds as risk-free assets in bank books.
Neofeudal financialization and unproductive State/corporate vested interests have bled the middle class dry. Yet we accept the officially sanctioned narratives as authentic and meaningful. Why? Perhaps the truth is simply too painful to accept, so we will reject it until we have no other alternative.
There’s a lot of chatter out there that the Fed will hold off on a taper announcement, but will put some sort of limit on the overall size of this latest round of QE launched in September 2012. In other words, monthly purchases will continue at the current rate, but this will no longer be a QE-forever program. From a CK game perspective, placing a limit on the QE program is a more market-negative statement than a taper. This is what I’m going to be watching for tomorrow, along with whatever dovish (market-positive) language is inserted around forward guidance on rates. And then the battle for meaning and interpretation will be joined …