Much has been made of the lack of retail participation in the casino equity market rally of the last few months (and few years for that matter). Whether it is a signal of the individual investor's overly anxious nature and only the pros 'get it' or more likely this is the end of the baby-boomer-driven secular savings and investment bonanza is perhaps more likely as a nation of soon-to-be-retirees rotate from massive-drawdown-inducing stocks (no matter how diversified your group of trees, when the tornado hits the forest, they all fall down) to the relative (low-drawdown) safety (and steady income) of fixed income. Nowhere is this 'its different this time' secular shift more evident than in cumulative fund flows.
The labor data since last fall has been rather encouraging, writes UBS' Art Cashin in a note today. However, he is skeptical at this reality, agreeing with "lots of folks [who] think it may be the warm winter weather that accounts for it." The warm weather allows for construction (and other outdoor industries) to start p[rojects earlier than planned and also avoids the short shutdowns that winter storms often cause in Jan and Feb. While Art believes the weather could be a significant impact on the positivity, and suspects the follow-through will be disappointing (a la Bernanke), he also notes (as we have commented numerous times) that perhaps it is the distortions in seasonal adjustments that have become warped in the post-Lehman collapse era.
Italy has issued €157 billion of debt between November of last year and the end of last week. This is direct Italian government issuance and doesn’t include any of the debt the government has guaranteed in the meantime, which seems to be at least €70 billion more, but hey, who counts guaranteed debt. Of the €157 billion that has been issued, about €122 billion matures within the lifetime of LTRO. So over 77.5% of Italian new debt is 3 years and in. In fact, at least 56% was issued with maturities of less than a year. So in spite of LTRO, in spite of a big rally in Italian yields, in spite of having a technocrat in charge of the country, they continue to issue well over half their debt so that it will mature within a year from now. That means they will be continuously rolling over debt. The prudent country would be trying to extend maturity, not shrink it. The market celebrates each “successful” auction, but we should be focusing on what they are actually issuing. If Germany is serious about a firewall, they or the ECB, should be encouraging countries to pay up and borrow longer.
UPDATE (via Bloomberg): *BERNANKE: `FORCEFUL' RESPONSE PREVENTED WORSE RECESSION and AIG HAS STABILIZED - phewee...
Today could be the day when all your beliefs and misconceptions of the great central banking machine are set straight. After explaining to us in the previous two lecture how the gold standard is just silly, why central banks are constitutionally awesome, and how the Fed almost single-handedly created the US since World War II, today's piece-de-resistance is Bernanke's take on his own response to the financial crisis. We are sure it will be thorough in its discussion of the massive and entirely hidden loans for nothing that were given to the banks, how they encouraged the risk-taking that led to it via their regulatory mis-controls, and removing MtM and unlimited free-money helped the world go around - all the while maintaining a strong-dollar policy inline with Treasury's apparent mandate. As far as Word-Bingo: Tweet if you hear the word 'Helicopter' or 'Printing Press' or 'Level 3 Assets are all worthless illiquid junk at best' and if Bernanke says 'CDO' more than 10 times, we all get an animated silver bear.
In a brief but as usual succinct statement, MEP Daniel Hannan points out the country that decided to say no to establishment-rules and stuck to its guns by taking losses, devaluing its currency, and growing its way out of its pit of despair. The eloquent Englishman notes Iceland's current enviable position in terms of not just growth but Debt to GDP and proffers upon his European Parliamentarian peers that perhaps, just perhaps, there is a lesson in here for all European governments (cough Greece/Portugal cough). 67% of 'shrewd and canny' Icelanders are now against joining the Euro.
As if the 'risk-less' dollar-swaps the Fed has extended to any and every major central bank were not enough, William Dudley just unashamedly admitted that the Fed now holds 'a very small amount of European Sovereign Debt'. Explaining this position, as Bloomberg notes:
- *DUDLEY: FED HOLDS OVERSEAS SOVEREIGN DEBT TO MANAGE RESERVES
- *DUDLEY: HIGH BAR FOR ADDITIONAL PURCHASES OF EUROPE DEBT
Dudley, testifying to a House panel, noted that he doesn't see more efforts by the Fed to buffer the US from Europe's tempests and believes European banks are deleveraging in an orderly manner. So not only is the US taxpayer bailing out Europe via the IMF (as we noted here a week ago using Greece as an intermediary) and the Fed is providing limitless USD swap lines but now we join the ECB in monetizing European government bonds - something we warned might happen back in December 2010. As for being a small amount - wasn't MF Global's holding relatively small too? And aren't we getting a little full from all this 'buying'?
With today's less than stellar consumer confidence number and continued path of missed expectations on key macro data over the past few weeks, it is perhaps wondrous that our brain-trust of analysts and economists continue to forecast higher expectations across the board. While this may not come as a surprise to readers used to comprehending the magic of the Birinyi ruler's extrapolation and the inevitable and clockwork 'miss' of turning points of any and every educated talking-heads model, this chart from Deutsche Bank's asset allocation group should contextualize where we are actually versus where LaVorgna and friends see us going. The sad truth is - we have seen this play out again and again and as the printing-press-pressure drives up asset prices (providing confirmation bias upon anchoring bias for any and every economist or long-only manager quoting the 'recovery' or decoupling), the truth is that as prices (and expectations) distend from value and actual reality, the central bank's efforts to 'maintain' the status quo simply create a larger and larger vacuum for asset prices to fall through when sad reality is finally peeked.
Guest Post: Welcome to the United States of Orwell, Part 2: Law-Abiding Taxpayers Treated As CriminalsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/27/2012 - 09:40
Law-abiding taxpayers are treated like criminals while the criminal class of financiers and State apparatchiks are free to loot and pillage muppets and taxpayers alike. It's actually very simple: whatever the state or Federal government does to you, that's legal. Whatever action you take to protect your rights is illegal. In case you have any doubts about where our "leadership" is taking us, please review these Assorted quotes by Fascists or about Fascism.
Consumer Confidence fell for only the second time since this unerring rally began and basically met expectations but it is under the covers that is concerning. Expectations for high inflation in the next six months has reached its highest level in six months jumping considerably from the previous month. Combine this with the overall drop in the expectations subindex of the consumer confidence index which fell for the first time in 5 months and all is not well in the 'stocks are going up so we are all doing great and the economy must be awesome'-transmission mechanism. On top of this wonderful news, the Richmond Fed missed expectations (with its biggest miss in 10 months) - taking us to 15 of 17 (removing the consumer confidence and S&P Case Shiller meets) missed economic data prints now. 7 of the 9 subindices of the Richmond Fed index dropped precipitously with only wages rising notably (more inflation?) even as 'number of employees' slumped by more than half and expectations for 'number of employees' in six months fell to its lowest since September. It would appear that higher gas prices are much more of a detrimental impact on the individual's confidence than a rising equity market is a boost - whocouldanode?
"The statistical component of the European Union, Eurostat, is quite clear; they do not count guarantees or contingent liabilities as part of any nation’s debt. We might all note that if Nestle or IBM or General Electric did this they would find their senior executives jailed for Fraud but never mind; this is the methodology of the EU which quite obviously masks the truth. The problem then is not the simple math used to obtain a more accurate debt to GDP ratio but in digging out the various guarantees, contingent liabilities and obligations of any member nation of the European Union. “Time consuming” would be the accurate words because you have to sleuth around like Sherlock Holmes to come up with the data. Yes, it is all there somewhere or another but it is nowhere all together and so must be found." And as Mark Grant points out what we noted last July, when one factors in all the various guarantees and contingent liabilites by Germany to date, something peculiar appears: instead of a 81.8% Debt/GDP, the country's actual Debt to GDP soars to a Italy-lie 139.8%.
The Turkish central bank has doubled the amount of gold that lenders can hold in reserves (as opposed to paper money - Lira) as part of their reserve requirement changes. As the WSJ reports, this shift from 10% to 20% means that Turkish banks can use their shiny yellow metal as fungible money reserves against foreign currency deposits. This move follows closely on the heels of our comments on last week's 'gold transfer' efforts in Turkey to unleash some of the country's vast personal holdings of Gold. This effort to draw down on the nation's individual gold reserves - the traditional form of savings in Turkey - is part of Ankara's efforts to reduce a finance gap that is currently around 10% of GDP but more importantly it should serve as a lesson reality-check for Bernanke that gold is money and in the words of a 70-year-old housewife "In an emergency, I can convert [gold] to cash and I don't have to wait for the bank to say the asset has matured." It would seem a better store of value than the Lira over the past decade or two and we suspect incentives will have to rise considerably to 'help' the people part with their savings-gold.
Despite January being the first of 3 record warm winter months, which saw virtually all other economic indicators boosted on the heels of 'April in February', today's incomplete Case Shiller data (Charlotte, NA was missing), indicated that in the first month of the year, prices across the top 20 MSAs dropped once again, posting a 9th consecutive decline, declining by 0.04% to 136.60. The Seasonally Adjusted print brings the average home price to December 2002 levels. And just to avoid Seasonal Adjustment confusion which courtesy of a record warm winter is all the rage, the NSA data showed a -0.84% drop in January.
First it was Bob Janjuah throwing in the towel in the face of central planning, now we get the same sense from Bill Gross who in his latest letter once again laments the forced transfer of risk from the private to the public sector: "The game as we all have known it appears to be over... moving for the moment from private to public balance sheets, but even there facing investor and political limits. Actually global financial markets are only selectively delevering. What delevering there is, is most visible with household balance sheets in the U.S. and Euroland peripheral sovereigns like Greece." Gross' long-term view is well-known - inflation is coming: "The total amount of debt however is daunting and continued credit expansion will produce accelerating global inflation and slower growth in PIMCO’s most likely outcome." The primary reason for Pimco's pessimism, which is nothing new, is that in a world of deleveraging there will be no packets of leverage within the primary traditional source of cheap credit-money growth: financial firms. So what is a fund manager to do? Why find their own Steve McQueen'ian Great Escape from Financial Repression of course. " it is your duty to try to escape today’s repression. Your living conditions are OK for now – the food and in this case the returns are good – but they aren’t enough to get you what you need to cover liabilities. You need to think of an escape route that gets you back home yet at the same time doesn’t get you killed in the process. You need a Great Escape to deliver in this financial repressive world." In the meantime Gross advises readers to do just what we have been saying for years: buy commodities and real (non-dilutable) assets: "Commodities and real assets become ascendant, certainly in relative terms, as we by necessity delever or lever less." As for the endgame: "Is a systemic implosion still possible in 2012 as opposed to 2008? It is, but we will likely face much more monetary and credit inflation before the balloon pops. Until then, you should budget for “safe carry” to help pay your bills. The bunker portfolio lies further ahead."
As we head into the US open, European cash equities are seen in positive territory with strong performance observed earlier in the session from the FTSE MIB. This follows reports from the Italian press regarding commentary from the Chinese President Hu Jintao who promised to encourage Chinese industry to look towards Italy with confidence, in a conversation with the Italian PM Monti on the sidelines of the nuclear safety summit in Seoul. Markets have also been reacting to an article from Der Spiegel, citing economists who have warned that the German central bank could be facing hidden liabilities of up to EUR 500bln should there be a break up in the Eurozone. This has prompted some risk-averse flows into the Bund which has seen fluctuating trade so far in the session but remains in positive territory as North America comes to market. In individual equities news, following overnight reports from Abu Dhabi concerning buying a stake in RBS, company shares were seen up 6%. Source comments from earlier in the session regarding the sale speculated that the stake could be up to a third of RBS. Looking ahead in the session, the market awaits US Consumer Confidence data due at 1500BST.