Once upon a time in the good old U.S. of A, way back in the 19th century, there were gigantic companies that were known as trusts. We had trusts for Steel, we had trusts for oil, we had trusts for railroads, and we had trusts for just about everything except trust itself.
It has just been released that the UK came within 6 hours of seeing itself deprived of its eggs and bacon as gas supplies across the entire country depleted to danger levels on March 22nd.
A week later and everyone is a bit more nervous, with the speculation that US sovereign debt purchases by the Federal Reserve will wind down and with the Bank of Japan completely cornered. In anticipation to the debate on the Fed’s bond purchase tapering, on April 28th (see here) we wrote why the Federal Reserve cannot exit Quantitative Easing: Any tightening must be preceded by a change in policy that addresses fiscal deficits. It has absolutely nothing to do with unemployment or activity levels. Furthermore, it will require international coordination. This is also not possible. In light of this, we are now beginning to see research that incorporates the problem of future higher inflation to the valuation of different asset classes. Why is this relevant? The gap between current valuations in the capital markets (both debt and credit) and the weak activity data releases could mistakenly be interpreted as a reflection of the collective expectation of an imminent recovery. The question therefore is: Can inflation bring a recovery? Can inflation positively affect valuations? The answer, as explained below, is that the inflationary policies carried out globally today, if successful will have a considerably negative impact on economic growth.
However, the best argument why the type of Quantitative Easing imposed by Ben Bernanke, and the associated "necessary and sufficient" condition to exit this greatest of all monetary experiments, or eventually allow Ben and Kuroda to taper QE, i.e., the "great rotation" from government bonds into stocks (because otherwise both the Fed and the BOJ will be stuck monetizing and monetizing and monetizing until one day, soon, they own all government bonds), will never work in Japan is a simple one. And quite visual...
What is going to happen when the greatest economic bubble in the history of the world pops? The mainstream media never talks about that. They are much too busy covering the latest dogfights in Washington and what Justin Bieber has been up to. And most Americans seem to think that if the Dow keeps setting new all-time highs that everything must be okay. Sadly, that is not the case at all. Right now, the U.S. economy is exhibiting all of the classic symptoms of a bubble economy. What we are witnessing right now is the calm before the storm. Let us hope that it lasts for as long as possible so that we can have more time to prepare. Unfortunately, this bubble of false hope will not last forever. At some point it will end, and then the pain will begin.
What may come as a surprise to most, is that as of this week's H.4.1 update, the amount of ten-year equivalents held by the Fed increased to $1.583 trillion from $1.576 trillion in the prior week, which reduces the amount available to the private sector to $3.637 trillion from $3.668 trillion in the prior week. And also, thanks to maturities, and purchase by the Fed from the secondary market, there were $5.219 trillion ten-year equivalents outstanding, down from $5.244 trillion in the prior week. What this means simply is that as of this moment, the Fed has, in its possession, a record 30.32% of all outstanding ten year equivalents, or said in plain English: duration-adjusted government bonds. It also means that the amount of bonds left in the hands of the private sector has dropped to a record low 69.68% from 69.95% in the prior week. Finally, the above means that with every passing week, the Fed's creeping takeover of the US bond market absorbs just under 0.3% of all TSY bonds outstanding: a pace which means the Fed will own 45% of all in 2014, 60% in 2015, 75% in 2016 and 90% or so by the end of 2017 (and ifthe US budget deficit is indeed contracting, these targets will be hit far sooner). By the end of 2018 there would be no privately held US treasury paper.
Today is one on those rare days in which everyone stops pretending fundamentals matter, and admits every market uptick is purely a function of what side of the bed Bernanke wakes up on, how loudly Kuroda sneezes, or how much coffee Mark Carney has had before lunch, but more importantly: that all "risk" is in the hands of a few good central-planners. Following last night's uneventful Bank of Japan meeting, in which Kuroda announced no changes to the "full speed ahead" policy of inflation or bust(ed bank sector following soaring JGB yields) and which pushed the Nikkei225 to surge above the DJIA closing at 15,627, today it is Bernanke's turn not once but twice, when he first takes the chair in the Joint Economic Committee's "Economic Outlook" hearing at 10 am, followed by the May 1 minutes release at 2pm (which may or may not have been previously leaked like last month). As a reminder, Politico reported last night that Ben Bernanke had previously met in secret with Darrell Issa and other lawmakers "to discuss the central bank’s efforts to stimulate the economy and how it could exit this strategy in the future, according to people who attended the meeting." And since we know how important transparency is to Bernanke and the Congress, "Participants in the meeting declined to disclose specifically what Bernanke told lawmakers beyond saying there was discussion about the Fed’s bond buying programs and other issues." But as long as Mr. Issa, the wealthiest man in the House, has his advance marching orders, all is well.
Surging nominal imports and a miss for exports just about sums up perfectly just how the reality of Abenomics is crushing the real economy as the market goes from strength to strength on the hope that recovery is just around the corner. For the 28th month in a row Japan trade deficit has dropped YoY and its 12-month average is now at its worst ever. Energy costs are driving up imports (and adjusted for the devaluation in the JPY, the data is simply horrendous. Of course, there are green shoots - CPI is not deflating as fast as it was... and 'some' inflation expectations are rising (though as we noted here that is simply due to the tax expectations). Contrary to expectations held by some in the bond market, the BOJ did not comment on the sharp fluctuation in JGB yields since April as a result of monetary relaxation - on the basis, we assume, that if they don't mention it, it never happened. The result post a nothing-burger of 'more uncertainty' from the BoJ, the Nikkei keeps screaming higher, JPY rallied then fell back, and JGBs are sliding higher in yield.
Last Thursday at a hearing held by the Senate Armed Services Committee, we found out what many of us already knew. That the “war on terror” is never going to end. Indeed, it was never supposed to end. This never-ending “war” on a fantastical enemy provides the American oligarch class with too much money and too much power to ever make it worthwhile for the establishment to shut down. "Nobody really even knows with whom the US is at war, or where. Everyone just knows that it is vital that it continue in unlimited form indefinitely." 1984 really was an instruction manual for the people in power.
We thought most readers would be rather surprised to learn what the result of a simple Bloomberg query comparing S&P EBITDA per share (BBG mnemonic TRAIL_12M_EBITDA_PER_SHARE) to the S&P looks like. For one: not only is corporate LTM EBITDA per share not at all time highs (it is well off the record levels seen in 2008), but it is at levels last seen in January 2007. But perhaps most surprising is what happens when on juxtaposes the S&P500's EBITDA level relative to the actual S&P. The stunning result is charted below:
While we are told day after day that not only is Europe 'fixed' but that Cyprus was not a template, it seems the bankers in the peripheral nations are a little less confident (never mind their record amount of reach-around-based domestic bond buying). European "leaders need to moderate their language," warned one bank CEO, and as the FT reports, another feared a "Cyprus virus," adding that "you can't keep playing with fire." The comments come in the wake of the depositor haircuts in Cyprus as a rush of clients wanted to move cash from deposit accounts to vaults: "most clients in Portugal don't trust deposit guarantees... they choose vaults instead." Fixed indeed... and why would these bankers worry about the 'precedent' if it were not a 'template' for future bail-ins?
- Obama's Counsel Was Told of IRS Audit Findings Weeks Ago (WSJ)
- North Korea fires sixth missile in three days (Reuters)
- Enron No Lesson to Traders as EU Probes Oil-Price Manipulation (BBG)
- Don't cry for me, Eurozone: Thinking the Unthinkable - Quitting a Currency (WSJ)
- H-1B Models Strut Into U.S. as Programmers Pray for Help (BBG)
- Gold Bear Bets Reach Record as Soros Cuts Holdings (BBG)
- Yahoo has agreed to pay $1.1 billion for Tumblr (WSJ)
- JPMorgan Holders Led by Chairmen-CEOs to Vote on Dimon (BBG)
- Apple faces grilling over US tax rate (FT)
- Nissan to Sell First Joint Minicar to Expand in Japan Market (BBG)
- Fierce battle for corporate loans sparks US bank risk concerns (FT)
- Microsoft Updates Xbox as Apple to Facebook Gain in Games (BBG)
European Union Launches Investigation Into Manipulation of Oil Prices Since 2002
Is a $400,000 house with NINJA loan normal? How about a $200,000 REO with missing appliances, a dead yard, a long list of maintenance and no financing? Maybe normal is a $300,000 flip after the flipper fixed everything and colored up the yard, and did some upgrades to the interior. Some may suggest that normal is more like a $300,000 sale with a 5.5% fixed rate and 20% down. Then again, it may be more normal if this $300,000 sale is financed with a 3.5% down FHA loan at 4%. Of course, all of the above is actually referring to the same house. So what is normal? At the moment, we know prices are going up in certain markets, and so are sales. Mortgage rates are higher now than when QE3 started in September 2012. Investors are gobbling up everything in sight in their favored target markets. As an example, they are buying 30% of the houses in Southern California, 38% in Phoenix and 53% in Vegas. First time buyers do not stand a chance. The percentage of home ownership is declining. Are policy makers happy with these results? Are these intended or unintended consequences of public policies?
Those hoping for a slew of negative news to push stocks much higher today will be disappointed in this largely catalyst-free day. So far today we have gotten only the ECB's weekly 3y LTRO announcement whereby seven banks will repay a total of €1.1 billion from both LTRO issues, as repayments slow to a trickle because the last thing the ECB, which was rumored to be inquiring banks if they can handle negative deposit rates earlier in the session, needs is even more balance sheet contraction. The biggest economic European economic data point was the EU construction output which contracted for a fifth consecutive month, dropping -1.7% compared to -0.3% previously, and tumbled 7.9% from a year before. Elsewhere, Spain announced trade data for March, which printed at yet another surplus of €0.63 billion, prompted not so much by soaring exports which rose a tiny 2% from a year ago to €20.3 billion but due to a collapse in imports of 15% to €19.7 billion - a further sign that the Spanish economy is truly contracting even if the ultimate accounting entry will be GDP positive. More importantly for Spain, the country reported a March bad loan ratio - which has been persistently underreproted - at 10.5% up from 10.4% in February. We will have more to say on why this is the latest and greatest ticking timebomb for the Eurozone shortly.