Moments ago yet another industrial bellwether company, United Technologies, which is at the nexus of the building and aerospace industries, reported Q4 EPS and revenues, which missed, but worse, cut 2015 EPS guidance from $7.00 - $7.25 to $6.85-$7.05, blaming FX headwinds. Well, yeah, it's always something. And that something is why 2015 EPS on not only a GAAP but increasingly non-GAAP basis will be lower in 2015 than in 2014. However, while the guide-down means that UTC will soon join the seemingly endless parade of (mostly energy) companies that have laid off employees, there is great news for shareholders. Because even as the company see less growth opportunities and can barely keep up with Wall Street expectations, it has found a great way to reward those who buy its stock: by buying it right back from them.
The more detached from reality American culture becomes the more strictly ceremonial leadership gets, as illustrated by the raft of bromides Barack Obama floated past the assembled vassalage of government last week in another grand effort to avoid the necessities of the moment. Those necessities include freeing a hostage public from the tyrannical clutches of corporate despotism — the evil empire of big boxes, big burgers, big pharma, Big Brother — and the atrocious rackets fostered by them that masquerade as an economy. The template of the life we have known is broken and the pieces within are flying apart, and no amount of wishing or promising can keep them going. If this society is even going to survive, the people have to smash their way out of this template prison, probably against the efforts of the people and organizations now running it merely for their own benefit.
It’s not entirely clear what will happen in the near term, but the financial markets are already pushed to extremes by central-bank induced speculation. With speculators massively short the now steeply-depressed euro and yen, with equity margin debt still near record levels in a market valued at more than double its pre-bubble norms on historically reliable measures, and with several major European banks running at gross leverage ratios comparable to those of Bear Stearns and Lehman before the 2008 crisis, we're seeing an abundance of what we call "leveraged mismatches" - a preponderance one-way bets, using borrowed money, that permeates the entire financial system. With market internals and credit spreads behaving badly, while Treasury yields, oil and industrial commodity prices slide in a manner consistent with abrupt weakening in global economic activity, we can hardly bear to watch...
There was some excitement in the capital markets overnight, when what was initially seen as an outright victory for Syriza, giving it an absolute, 151-seat majority in parliament - a fear that briefly pushed the EURUSD under 1.11 when the Euro PPT stepped in - ended up being a placing just shy of a majority with 149 seats. However, that same excitement fizzled several hours ago when the "radical left" party agreed to form a government with the "rightwing" group of the Independent Greeks in the aftermath of Syriza's historic win which harnessed the public backlash against years of belt-tightening, job losses and hardship.
The post-QECB euphoria in Greek asset markets was prognosticated by those who prefer to do such things as indicative that "the markets know something," positive about Sunday's (yesterday's) election... because markets are efficient and always 'price in' events (just like 1987, 2000, 2008 etc...). However, this morning ugliness in both Greek stock (especially banks) and bond markets suggests it was nothing more than algo-driven carry-inspired short-squeezes as both stocks and bonds plunged at the open. Stocks received the ubiquitous - well it's down so we better buy 'em treatment - but even that is fading as stocks catch back down to bonds' weakness, having unwound most of QECB's goodness...
This morning both the SNB stunner from two weeks ago, and the less than stunning ECB QE announcement from last Thursday are long forgotten, and the only topic on markets' minds is the startling surge of Syriza and its formation of a coalition government with another anti-bailout party - a development that many in Europe never expected could happen, and which has pushed Europe to the bring of the unexpected yet again. And while there is much speculation that this time Europe is much better positioned to "handle a Grexit", the reality is that European bank balance sheets are as bad if not worse than in 2014, 2013, 2012 or any other year for that matter, because none of ther €1+ trillion in NPLs have been addressed and the only thing that has happened is funding bank capital deficiencies with newly printed money. You know what they say about solvency and liquidity.
Non-bombastic, non-insulting simply straight-forward look at next week's key events and data. If you are so inclined...
"My humble thesis tonight is that the entire 20th Century was a giant mistake. And that you can put the blame for this monumental error squarely on Thomas Woodrow Wilson - a megalomaniacal madman who was the very worst President in American history... well, except for the last two."
When you read about female doctors feeling forced to prostitute themselves to feed their children, about the number of miscarriages doubling, and about the overall sense of helplessness and destitution among the Greek population, especially the young, who see no way of even starting to build a family, then I can only say: Brussels is a bunch of criminals. And Draghi’s QE announcement is a criminal act. It’s a good thing the bond-buying doesn’t start until March, and that it’s on a monthly basis: that means it can still be stopped.
- Sovereign QE not working in Europe
- Emerging market capital flight
- Political risk/popularist governments
- US wage inflation
- Increased currency volatility
- Insurance against natural catastrophes
"The second quarter is going to be devastating for the service companies," warns Conway Mackenzie - the largest U.S. restructuring firm - adding that, despite slashing thousands of jobs, delaying (or scrapping) billions in capex amid the prolonged rout in oil prices, "there are certainly companies that are going to die." As Bloomberg reports, oil drillers will begin collapsing under the weight of lower crude prices during the second quarter and energy explorers who employ them will shortly follow with oilfield-service providers are facing a "double-whammy." As we noted here, there are more than a few candidates for this 'death' list as it appears increasingly clear that what was considered an "unambiguously good" narrative for the nation is anything but...
Over the past 48 hours, the world has been bombarded with a relentless array of soundbites, originating either at the ECB, or - inexplicably - out of Greece, the one place which has been explicitly isolated by Frankfurt, that the European Central Bank's QE will benefit everyone. Setting the record straight: it won't, and not just in our own words but those of JPM's Nikolaos Panigirtzoglou, who just said what has been painfully clear to all but the 99% ever since the start of QE, namely this: "The wealth effects that come with QE are not evenly distributing. The boost in equity and housing wealth is mostly benefiting their major owners, i.e. the wealthy." Thank you JPM. Now if only the central banks will also admit what we have been saying for 6 years, then there will be one less reason for us to continue existing.
Someday, maybe, these central banks will find that secret formula that unlocks the commanded utopia from its monetary prison, but I think it more like what led to the end of the first Gulf War, where continued air raids upon Iraqi positions amounted to destroying rubble. As Colin Powell put it, “we were bouncing rubble with billion-dollar missiles.” That seems to be a fitting, paraphrased description of the European state of monetarism, bouncing economic rubble with trillion-euro debt missiles.
I have told you the US dollar was going up for months. Some mocked me. Others insulted me. So what? I tell you the dollar's bull market remains intact.
Over a month ago we presented a ranking of "America's most levered energy companies." Since then they have all, without exception gotten clobbered, not only in their publicly traded stock but also their debt. Today, long after the liquidation whirlwind has left junk bond owners dazed and confused, Goldman catches up, and lays out a matrix of shale companies sorted not only by leveraged (they see 2.5x as the cutoff; we used 4.0x) but also by shale asset quality. From there, it also lays out the various opportunities, if any, available to the management teams in the resultant 4 quadrants. Readers will be most interested in the "restructuring/bankruptcy" option, most applicable for Group 4, because these are the names which, all else equal, will file for bankruptcy first.