With the economy now more than 5 years into an expansion, which is long by historical standards, the question for you to answer by looking at the charts below is: "Are we closer to an economic recession or a continued expansion?" How you answer that question should have a significant impact on your investment outlook as financial markets tend to lose roughly 30% on average during recessionary periods. However, with margin debt at record levels, earnings deteriorating and junk bond yields near all-time lows, this is hardly a normal market environment within which we are currently invested. Therefore, we present a series of charts which view the overall economy from the same perspective utilizing an annualized rate of change. For the Federal Reserve, these charts make the case that continued monetary interventions are not healing the economy, but rather just keeping it afloat by dragging forward future consumption. The problem is that it leaves a void in the future that must be continually filled.
A look at what German is doing and what it does not want to do.
It is perhaps worth reflecting on the smorgasbord of free advice given out by the talking-heads after last night's closing ramp proclaiming the dip to be bought and that everything was fixed once again. It was not. Stocks are making fresh cycle lows and the Nasdaq and Russell 2000 are both now below the 200-day moving-average and appraoching the 10% (correction) from their highs. 10Y is back under 2.6% and the 30Y yield is back at 10-month lows... which perhaps explains why "growth" stocks are back at 7-month lows versus "value" stocks...
While Grant Williams can’t speak for anybody else, his nearly thirty years immersed in equity, bond, and commodity markets all around the world, have shown him enough to absolutely confirm in his own mind that the markets are rigged. Not just some of them. All of them. In different ways, to be sure, but they’re all rigged. Not only are they rigged, but they are rigged in ways that beggar belief; and in many places they are rigged by the very people who ought to be responsible for stopping any rigging... Whether Bill O’Brien (or Bob Pisani) likes it or not, Michael Lewis was speaking the truth when he said the market was rigged. He was talking about US equity markets, but rigging goes much, much deeper.
With Italian and Spanish bond yields at record lows (and spreads - risk premia - near record lows) one can only ascertain that Europe is fixed, Draghi has no need to do QE, and everything in the world is fine again. Except it's not... Draghi is cornered from QE by a lack of uncommitted collateral and a banking system glued at the hip to the sovereign bond markets. But perhaps, for those who are buying Italian and Spanish bonds, it is not enough to see record high unemployment, record loan delinquencies, and record low credit creation... In order to help further with the BTFD, we offer the following chart - showing Spanish and Italian home prices continue to slump (along with Cyprus).
On the 'growth' side, Commercial and Industrial loans are rising at a double digit annual rate of change (although it is unclear whether this is an indication of business optimism or stress - after all, we did see a big jump in these loans leading into the last recession). On the flip side, the bond market and the US dollar index seem to be flashing some warning signs about future growth. Simply put, the outlook for the economy is decidedly uncertain right now and we think so is the confidence in Janet Yellen. We think the more dire outcome for stocks would be if Toto fully pulled back the curtain on monetary policy and revealed it to be nothing more than a bunch clueless economists sitting in a conference room with no ability to control the economy or the markets. If US growth disappoints after all the Fed has done, how could anyone continue to view the Fed wizards as omnipotent? That would send the stock market back over the rainbow to the reality of an economy with big structural problems that can only be solved through political negotiation, something that has been notable only by its absence over – at least – the last 6 years. Are we headed back to Kansas?
During the course of its massive money printing campaign after the financial crisis of 2008, the Fed drove the 30-year mortgage financing rate down from 6.5% to 3.3% at its mid-2012 low. The ostensible purpose was revive the shattered housing market which had resulted from the crash of its previous exercise in bubble finance. But what it really did was touch off another of those pointless “refi” booms which enable homeowners to swap an existing mortgage for a new one carrying a significantly lower interest rate and monthly service cost. Such debt churning exercises have been sponsored repeatedly by the Fed since the S&L debacle of the late 1980s.
- Three dead in shootings at Kansas Jewish centers; man to face charges (WSJ)
- Sanctions Blowback in Russia Targets Burgers to Movies (BBG)
- Deadly Virus's Spread Raises Alarms in Mideast (WSJ)
- China group buys $6bn Glencore Peru copper mine (BBG)
- Iran lodges complaint against United States over U.N. envoy ban (Reuters)
- Russian assets down sharply on Ukraine conflict fears (Reuters)
- ECB comments knock euro, but not much (Reuters)
- World-Leading $25 Hourly Wage Roils Swiss Businesses (BBG)
Futures are treading water once more now that Ukraine has stormed to center stage from the backburner after everyone was convinced Putin would let the situation cool off after annexing Crimea. Guess not. Adding the renewed geopolitical jitters to what has already been a beta stock bloodbath into a holiday shortened week assures some high volatility fireworks. Cautious sentiment was observed over in Asia (Nikkei 225 -0.36%) amid renewed fears that geopolitical tensions in Ukraine will flare up again following reports of exchange gunfire with pro-Russian militants. This sentiment carried over into the European session with stocks lower across the board (Eurostoxx50 -0.71%). EUR is lower after ECB’s Draghi said any further strengthening of the EUR would warrant further action by the ECB, including non-standard measures such as quantitative easing - it is amazing how frequently and often the Virtu algos still fall for Draghi's jawboning trick which has now become all too clear will never be implemented and certainly not if he keeps talking about it daily, as he does.
Dispassionate discussion of the macro-political economic climate.
For a decade or two, it's been dubbed the widowmaker (though truth be told, the losses are more bleed than massive capital loss like those holding US growth stocks currently), but as Barclays notes the Japanese bond market 'conundrum' (that nothing like a recovery is priced into the JGB curve, which is failing to price even a partial, eventual success of the Abe government's reflationary agenda) may finally be ready to be played..."We are always on the lookout for asset prices that seem inconsistent with the more plausible economic and financial scenarios. Sometimes these discrepancies point toward necessary alterations of our fundamental world view. In other cases, they point toward investment opportunity. At the moment, one of the most glaring discrepancies between macro and markets is the long end of the Japanese curve."
In light of the recent "triumphant" return of Greece to the capital markets with its brand new 5 Year bond issuance (which much to the chagrin of the flippers is already trading below its breaking price), one of our Greek readers decided to provide his "on the ground" perspective on what is really happening in Greece: "I am writing you in an effort to get you to provide a more public and harsh(I mean realistic) description of what has been going on, for the past few days with relation to what’s left of my country. I doubt it will not take you long to discover its mostly spent on “political commissions” and interest payments (I’d bet only 6-7% actually flows through). I am sure you are aware that according to Greek law all political parties receive some kind of (substantial) financial support from the government budget. The government has not delivered. There are still over 900,000 people working for public and government related services, for a population of roughly 11 million. The banks still maintain negative real equity and have consistently defrauded investors over the past few years."
After tens of millions in legal fees, a river of negative press, and ripple effects to other local municipalities, we have U-turned and are back to where we started.
Almost 10 million out of 43.7 million part-time workers in the European Union were under-employed in 2013. As Bloomberg Brief's Niraj Shah notes, based on Eurostat's Labour Forces Study, a record 72 percent of Greek part-time workers wished to work more hours compared with 4.2 percent in the Netherlands. As we explained in great detail here, the Greek "recovery" is a mirage and these numbers do not lie.
Despite bond yields at record lows, stock markets at record highs, and a general 'faith' that we are heading towards a Keynesian utopia of escape velocity growth (despite IMF downgrades and the reality of current data), the following table of the world's PMIs is your handy cocktail-party cheat sheet for 'smart' discussion of soft-survey-based economic progress... UK, Ireland, and UAE are the fastest growers while France, Italy, and the broad Eurozone are contracting at the fastest pace.