On the surface, the fact that NYSE short interest was just reported today to have risen to 13.1 billion shares as of April 30 could be troubling for the bears, as this just happens to be the highest short interest number of 2012. Indeed, an increase in short interest into a centrally-planned market is always disturbing, as it opens up stocks to the kinds of baseless short covering melt ups that simply have some HFT algo going on a stop hunt as their source, that we have seen in the past several weeks. Naturally, it would be far easier to be short a market in which Ben Bernanke managed to eradicate all other bears, especially when considering that a year ago the Short Interest as of April 30 was virtually identical.
As the S&P 500 oscillates in a 20pt range this week between its 50DMA and the 4/23-4 Bernanke Hope lows, it is becoming increasingly clear that the breadth of the hopium-infused float-all-boats new-normal reality is seriously fading.
When most people think of Brazil, it’s the incredible beaches that come to mind. Or the crazy parties of Carnival. Or the spectacular vistas and great weather. Or how indescribably gorgeous (and welcoming) the locals are. But here’s a little known fact, and it’s something that sets Brazil apart from most other places: Brazil’s constitution prohibits the extradition of Brazilian citizens to other countries. This is a rare gem in the world… I’ll explain.
In what S&P calls a 'Perfect Storm', the next four years will see a minimum of $30 trillion in companies' refinancing needs related to maturing bonds and loans and further they expect $13-$16 trillion more debt will be required to finance growth. With bond portfolios over-stuffed with corporate debt (since angst over sovereign risk has skewed asset allocation away from that cohort) the rating agency is concerned that ongoing bank deleveraging, these huge debt re-funding requirements, and the diminishment of central banks and governments to do anything about it leave serious problems with a credit overhang so large. Critically, especially as we hear calls for 'growth' plans from Europe, is the increasing likelihood that, as Reuters reports, this will potentially influence corporate credit quality and "alter the fragile equilibrium that currently exists in the global corporate credit landscape". While S&P expect the refinancing needs may well be met "This global wall of nonfinancial corporate debt will potentially compound the credit rationing that may occur as banks seek to restructure their balance sheets, and bond and equity investors reassess their risk-return thresholds" which "raises the downside risk in global markets" as an inability to finance growth may well be the catalyst for another risk flare. "Governments and central banks have less fiscal and monetary flexibility to prevent serious problems emanating from future market disturbances. A perfect storm scenario would likely cause financing disruptions even for borrowers that are not highly leveraged."
Below is the letter that the man who will most likely be Greece's next premier sent out earlier today to "the European leadership" including Jean-Claude "I only lie when it is reeeeeealy important" Juncker, and Gollum Van Vompuy. According to local, pro-bailout Greek media, the tone is far more conciliatory than his remarks from the past few days. Well, it must be google-translated Greek to us, because we sure don't see much if any conciliation in the letter.
Now that the first parliamentary election vote is meaningless, with no party able to form a coalition government, everyone is focusing on the outcome of the next election, which will take place some time in mid-June. Minutes ago Marc and Alpha (via Reuters) released the results of a poll conducted on Tuesday but just published, and which, if sustained means major trouble for the EMU, because the results show that Anti-bailout Syriza is alone going to have almost as much represented as its two main pro-bailout opponents combined, and confirms that all the other parties are losing voters which instead are going toward the one party that seeks above all, to sever the terms of the Memorandum.
You may think only European countries have VAT (value-added taxes), but America has one, too--it's just hidden in the sprawling "healthcare" system, i.e. sickcare. A value-added tax (VAT) is a broad-based consumption tax designed to raise tax revenues from across the entire economy. Since it's in everything you buy, you can't escape paying it unless you go to another country without a VAT. While the U.S. doesn't have an official VAT, it has an unofficial one that we all end up paying for indirectly: the 8% difference between what we pay for our bloated, fraud-ridden healthcare system and what our global competitors pay for their universal-care healthcare systems.
When given the opportunity to expand on his thoughts, Marc Faber, of the Gloom, Boom, & Doom Report, provides dismally clarifying detail on the state of the world. In this excellent (must-watch on a day when nothing changed but European stocks dead-cat-bounced) Bloomberg TV interview, the admittedly ursine Faber reflects on the US (slowing of revenue growth and the real linkages to European stress) noting that unless we get a huge QE3, there will be "a crash, like in 1987" noting he believes we have seen the highs for the year; on the likelihood of QE3 (agreeing with us that the Fed won't act unless asset markets plunge first); on Greece's exit of the Euro and whether policy-makers can manage the exit properly "bureaucrats in Brussels and the media are brainwashing everybody that if Greece exited the euro, it would be a disaster. My view is the best would be to dissolve the whole euro zone"; on the difference between investment markets and economic reality (thanks to financial repression); and on the global race-to-debase "I do not have a high opinion of the U.S. government, but the bureaucrats in Brussels make the government in the U.S. look like an organization consisting of geniuses. The bureaucrats in Brussels are completely useless functionaries".
For the third year in a row, crude oil prices have stumbled in April (-26% in 2010, -17% in 2011, and -10% in 2012 so far). Much has been made of the help this will offer the economy and consumer spending but this is ceteris-paribus linear thinking. There are a few other critical aspects to consider that make many, including Barclays, believe "there is little to the latest price action than the increasingly self-fulfilling prophecy of ‘sell it in May and go away’, exaggerated by market positioning, with broader macroeconomic concerns used as a lightening rod." With crude inventories on the high side and gasoline (and other oil product) inventories relatively low and falling - we would hold our breaths on the recent crude price drop funneling along to the retail pump price anytime soon as there is one critical aspect of the supply-demand equation that many have missed - a period of heavier-than-usual refinery maintenance which while temporary have reduced demand but tell us nothing about the state of final demand. In other words, even if a balance of sorts was achieved in terms of crude flows in March and April due to maintenance, that balance is likely to be disturbed from June onwards. The mainstream media is full of talking-heads on the chronic weakness in US oil demand, but it does not appear to be a real phenomenon according to the steadily improving flow of data and while Greece, Hollande, and US macro data has dragged out macro shorts, it would appear the fundamentals support oil prices higher from here. With the upward-sloping curve in crude to year-end and the relatively small drop this week (-1.2% only in WTI) despite all the derisking, perhaps the market is already starting to realize.
I’m in favour of consenting adults being able to do whatever they like with each other, but the fact that the current push for gay marriage is supported by Lloyd Blankfein and Goldman Sachs makes me very suspicious (does he want to sell securitised gay marriage debt?). It just seems like an easy issue for Obama to posture on, while trampling the Constitution into the dirt. When it comes to civil liberties, Obama has always talked a good game, and then acted more authoritarian than Bush. He talked about an end to the abuses of the Bush years and an open and transparent government, yet extended the Fourth-Amendment-shredding Patriot Act, empowered the TSA to produce naked body scans and engage in humiliatingly sexual pat-downs, signed indefinite detention of American citizens into law, claimed and exercised the power to assassinate American citizens without trial, and aggressively prosecuted whistleblowers. Under his watch the U.S. army even produced a document planning for the reeducation of political activists in internment camps. Reeducation camps? In America? And some on the left are still crowing that talking about being in favour of gay marriage makes him “pro civil liberties”? Is this a joke?
The ECB seems to be quite happy to comment on Greece, and most of the comments seem to say that Greece isn’t doing their part. Well, what about the ECB? What have they been doing for Greece? So far, not very much and I think they need to start to play nicely with their holdings. If the ECB just plays nicely, at no cost to the ECB, the situation in Greece would improve quickly and dramatically. The ECB must go from being a lender of last retort to a bona fide contributor to Greece and a true lender of last resort. Maybe the ECB should “Ask not what Greece can do for you, but what you can do for Greece”?
That China has finally given up on Europe is no news (granted, however, it will make it more complicated for various European newspaper to make up articles alleging China will bail out Europe now that this is no longer the case): after all even the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund has finally learned its lesson, and having been burned enough times, has made it quite clear it will have nothing to do with Europe's insolvent periphery. China, which has already lost enough money on Europe, has now decided to do the same. From Bloomberg: "China Investment Corp. has stopped buying European government debt because of an economic crisis on the continent, though it continues to look for new investments there, said CIC President Gao Xiqing. “What is happening in Europe right now is of course of concern,” Gao said yesterday in an interview in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, during the World Economic Forum on Africa. “We still have our people looking at opportunities in Europe, even though we don’t want to buy any government bonds.” Sorry Europe: you had your chance. As for where China will invest its capital in the future? Why the one continent so far untouched by globalization, and which has the most debt capacity of all...
Having staggered along the bottom, mired in misery and reality, for over 3 years, the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index finally signaled depression-fatigue in January of this year and started to break out - albeit to historically still low levels. This was then heralded in self-fulfilling style as an indication that everything was good again in the world, money would come off the sidelines, consumers would buy more iPads and American cars, and all would be well in the world. Well the sad reality is that the last 3 weeks - as stocks have begun to lag, economic data has begun to reflect an un-warmed winter reality, and Europe's conflagration reignites - have seen the largest collapse in consumer comfort in over 3 years and has fallen to 3-month lows. Digging into the detail is even more worrisome as in the last 3 weeks the comfort with personal finances has fallen by the most ever and back to six-month lows.
Overnight we got some good news on Italian industrial production. Well, get ready to scrap them as according to Italian Trade Union Confindustria, and validating the collapse as predicted by PMI indicators, Italy's Q2 GDP is now expected to shrink more than 1% in Q2: the worst print since 2009, cementing the country's "double dip", and that real-time industrial output in April, now that LTRO has fizzled, is expected to fall 0.6%. None of this should come as a surprise to anyone: after all the only way the periphery can rise is if it crashes hard enough to force the ECB to intervene again. Finally, the country that is next in line after Spain to nationalize its banks, need some pretext after all. Complete economic collapse will surely make stockholders, of other countries' banks at least, happy, as their Italian counterparty risk will soon be footed by the Italian taxpayers themselves.