A few years back Chairman Bernanke was asked by a financial reporter how confident he was that the Fed could easily start the process of withdrawing from the accommodation of “unorthodox” monetary policy. Some might argue (ourselves included) that the answer 'should' be something like “very confident” or “We feel we have the right tools and the right people to manage that process”. Instead the answer given was “100%”. At last week's press conference, Chairman Bernanke, in CitiFX Technicals' view, looked like the “cat that got the cheese", despite the more downbeat message he was giving? Why? Because he got his way. In their “conspiracy theory” interpretation it is likely that Janet Yellen’s nomination will indeed be announced in the near future and that tapering is now firmly back off the table despite the guidance given in recent months to the contrary. Bonds seem to agree (so far).
This one's for you Mom...
Many well-meaning commentators look back on the era of strong private-sector unions and robust U.S. trade surpluses with longing. The trade surpluses vanished for two reasons: global competition and to protect the dollar as the world's reserve currency. It is impossible for the U.S. to maintain the reserve currency and run trade surpluses. It's Hobson's Choice: if you run trade surpluses, you cannot supply the global economy with the currency flows it needs for trade, reserves, payment of debt denominated in the reserve currency and credit expansion. If you don't possess the reserve currency, you can't print money and have it accepted as payment. In other words, the U.S. must "export" U.S. dollars by running a trade deficit to supply the world with dollars to hold as reserves and to use to pay debt denominated in dollars. Other nations need U.S. dollars in reserve to back their own credit creation.
As it turns out, a lot... and also very little.
Imagine for a second you're a terrorist intent on inflicting unimaginable harm on your enemy. Now let's further imagine that your enemy is the United States...
In a world in which when the numbers don't comply with the propaganda, the only recourse is to change the rules, and if that fails, change the numbers themselves (see Fukushima radiation count, US GDP, Employment numbers, anything out of Europe, etc.) it was only a matter of time before that last sticking point of the grand made up narrative, the lack of economic improvement in the European despite evil, evil austerity (which somehow has resulted in record debt which is rising faster than expected virtually everywhere in Europe) resulting in unpalatable deficits, was magically "fixed." This was resolved moments ago when as the AP reports, "European Union finance officials have reached a preliminary agreement to change the way the bloc determines some deficit figures, which might lessen the pressure for austerity measures in crisis-hit economies." In other words, Europe's "recovery" will now be based on even more made up numbers. One wonders: since Europe is finally admitting that the numbers are fake, i.e., lying, are things finally getting truly serious again?
There is one good thing about money, apart from the fact that there is a race to grab it and keep in in our claws making it highly in demand, and that’s the fact that wealth attracts wealth. Money is a dirty little magnate that can only attract more money and it’s not a question of opposites attracting here.
It is undeniable that America is thoroughly addicted to fiat stimulus. Every aspect of our economy, from stocks, to bonds, to banks, and by indirect extension main street, is now utterly dependent on the continued 24/7 currency creation bonanza. The stock market no longer rallies to the tune of increased retail sales, growing export markets or improved employment expectations. In fact, “good” economic news today is met with panic and market sell-offs! Why? Because investors and banks still playing equities understand full well that any sign of fiscal improvement might mean the end of the private Federal Reserve’s QE pajama party. They know that without the Fed’s opiate-laced lifeline, the economy dies a fast and painful death. All mainstream economic news currently revolves around the Fed, as pundits clamor to divine whether the latest signals mean the free money will flow, trickle, or dry up. At the edge of the Federal Reserve’s 100th anniversary, it is vital that we see the current developments for what they really are – history changing, in a fashion so violent they are apt to scar America forever.
In mathematics, the term ‘linearity’ describes a relationship in which the rate of change for a variable is constant. However, just like the erosion of civil liberties, the destruction of financial privacy, the growth in world population, the expansion of the money supply, and the demand/depletion of natural resources, debt is an exponential challenge. The danger with exponential problems is that they can really sneak up on you. The numbers do not lie. Debt grows exponentially. Tax revenue grows linearly. So the only question is – what time would you leave?
The number whispered on Wall Street is $10 billion (or $14-$15 if you ask The Saudis), but potential investors in the micro-blogger’s IPO will need more to go on than simple valuation math and guided judgment. As ConvergEx's Nick Colas notes, Tech firms are particularly dependent on innovation and human capital for their viability. So while Twitter may come out with a double-digit billion dollar IPO, Colas points out the most important question – Is it actually worth buying there? The bottom line to the success of thriving tech companies (historically names such as Amazon, Google and Apple) is that they consistently and reliably build products that people want to purchase and use. Colas explores multiple avenues to determine whether Twitter has the engine to do this, or whether it could emerge more “Groupon” than “Google” in the public company tech arena – and the answer lies in how you weigh the pros and cons of our top 10 points related to the social network’s IPO.
...the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
...except in New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Colorado, California, etc.?
As we head for the fateful FOMC announcement on September 18, US data have continued to moderate. Accordingly, the consensus seems to be converging on a $10-15 billion initial reduction in monthly purchases (mostly focused on the Treasury side and less so on MBS) with any 'tightening' talk tempered by exaggerated forward-guidance discussions and the potential to drop thresholds to appear more easy for longer, since as CS notes, assuming Fed policymakers have learned anything in the last four months, they must know that the markets view “tapering” as “tightening,” even though they themselves for the most part do not. Thus, they are going to need to sugar-coat the message of tapering somehow. But as UBS notes, political risks have grown and there is little clarity on the Fed's thinking about the housing market. This leaves 3 crucial surprise scenarios for the FOMC "Taper" outcome.
Not just “softness in the female business”
Following Barroso's State of the EU speech, we thought it useful to reflect on the true state of the EU. Nigel Farage's recent tirade slamming "Communist" Barroso's pro-bureaucrat policies are poignant as he exclaims the "disaster" that the EU has become for the poor and unemployed. To further color this rant we note Charles Gavekal's recent note on why Europe's still broken as worthless IOUs are 'transferred' around the union and "no one really knows who is going to take the final loss." Perhaps it is The Hamiltonian's summary of the structural problem (an interlocking set of European political, bureaucratic, media, academic and financial elites) and the sad fact that history suggests a crisis deferred is a crisis magnified.
Equity markets have to explaining to do, regardless of where you think they are heading. As ConvesrgEx's Nick Colas notes, if bullish, riddle me this: are stocks just going to hop-skip-jump over Fed tapering, U.S. budget battles, a new Federal Reserve Chair, Syria, Greek bailout 3.0, German Elections, and other near term speedbumps? Last time we checked "hope" still isn’t a strategy. And for the bears: Colas asks, how has that been working out for you over the last week of boa constrictor-like squeezes higher? Not so good. In the following note, Colas takes an out-of-the-box approach to explaining the recent rally by looking at some new academic work on the subject of stress. As it turns out, stress is only harmful if you believe it is. Maybe markets have 'learned' that lesson and view all these potential stomach-churning headlines as annoyances, rather than existential crises-in-waiting.