European economies straight from script of Les Miserables. The dispensing of horsemeat on the Continent in food and otherwise. The oncoming of some sort of Asian Flu. Class warfare in America and the entire construct supported by a House of Cards relying solely on the printing presses housed in Washington, Frankfurt, London, Tokyo and Beijing. The beginnings of a small game of “Currency Wars” and the markets sit and ask the famous question; “What, me worry?” Getting it right is NOT as important as not getting it wrong. Besides an event then, the next Black Swan that may appear on the horizon, there is a fundamental mis-match now caused by the actions of the central banks. The money pours out like honey and must be used somewhere and so it is but the economic fundamentals are horribly out of tune with the next high notes that are being played in the markets.
It started overnight in Japan, where Q4 GDP posted a surprising and disappointing 3rd quarter of declines, then quickly spread to France, whose Q4 GDP declined -0.3% Q/Q missing expectations of a -0.2% drop, down from a +0.1% increase, then Germany, whose GDP also missed expectations of a -0.5% drop, declining from a +0.2% increase to a -0.6% drop, then on to Italy (-0.9% vs Exp. -0.6%, last -0.2%), Portugal (-1.8%, Exp. -1.0%, last -0.9%), Greece (down -6.0%, previously -6.7%), Hungary (-0.9%, Exp. -0.3%), Austria (-0.2%, down from 0.1%), Cyprus (-3.1%, last -2.0%), and so on. To summarize: Eurozone GDP dropped far more than expected, or posting a -0.6% decline in Q4, worse than the -0.4% expected, which was the largest drop since Q1 2009, and down from the -0.1% posted in Q3. And since this was a second consecutive negative quarter of GDP decline for the Eurozone, the technical recession (double dip? triple dip? is anyone even counting anymore?) in Europe too is now official.
Europe’s banks are totally insolvent and have not been fixed. No EU leader is going to tell you this because their jobs depend on convincing people that everything is fine. Bankia was supposedly “fine” right up until the truth came out. Just like the Wall Street banks were “fine” going into 2008.
In Case The Mainstream Media Didn't Get The Memo, I Crush The Apple Reality Distortion Field On CNBCSubmitted by Reggie Middleton on 02/13/2013 11:19 -0400
Oh, this 35% Apple correction, drop in margins, increase in competition and decrease in competitiveness of products is a temporary thing. Seriously!!! That Reggie guy shouldn't even be allowed on TV. Really!!!
Reports indicating that Americans have invested more in equity funds here in 2013 than they did all last year have given rise to talk of the "Great Rotation". The idea is that Americans are selling fixed income investments bought during the financial crisis and now buying shares. We are less sanguine. There is a third asset class that needs to be integrated into the analysis: cash. After surveying the data and various reports, it looks to us that the flows into equities is not coming out of fixed income but rather money market funds and deposits.
The Eurozone is not a debt crisis that is "fixed," it is a debt crisis waiting to implode. The happy-talk that the Eurozone debt crisis has been resolved is ubiquitous. But when did ubiquitous happy-talk make it correct? Since the crisis is about debt--too much of it, and too much of it cannot and will not be paid back--then perhaps it would be prudent to look at two charts of eurozone credit.
Michael Woolfolk took the anti-gold position and Komal Sri-Kumar defended a gold standard on Bloomberg TV. Is it true that we don't have enough gold for a gold standard? Is it true that a gold standard is established by government fixing the price of gold?
Movements in equity prices are driven by many factors, such as the economy, government policy, earnings, interest rates and valuation. But we think tactical moves (<3 months) are often better explained by sentiment, positioning and technicals. While macro, policy and valuations matter, sentiment has worked well in recent years as a contrarian tool to identify short-term inflection points in asset prices. According to BofAML's new Bull & Bear Index investor sentiment toward risk assets is at a more bullish level today than 99% of all readings since 2002. The current reading of 9.6 (out of 10) is close to max bullish and thus triggers a contrarian "sell" signal for risk assets. In their view, the relative risk-reward of owning equities is unfavorable at this juncture. Since 2002 a "sell" signal of 8.0+ was on average followed by a 12% peak-to-trough correction in global equities within three months.
Concerns about the devaluations and the growing risk of a severe bout of inflation have led to calls for a return to fixed exchange rates and a gold standard. Bloomberg’s Trish Regan and Adam Johnson interviewed TCW Group’s Komal Sri-Kumar and Bank of New York Mellon's Michael Woolfolk about the risks from currency wars on Bloomberg Television's "Street Smart." Trish Regan asks whether there is a danger that “we have massive inflation worldwide for years to come?” The answer is yes and both agree that inflation is a real risk as is a loss of credibility by central banks.
Sometimes, it feels good to hope. But since last September, nothing has really changed. At least not fundamentally. The zero-interest rate policies were going to encourage share buybacks, dividend payments and any method to allow the extraction of whatever real value is still available to extract from corporations/businesses by their owners. This meant leverage was going to increase, unemployment would remain high, capital expenditures were going to decrease and the risk of defaults was to going to rise. A year later, all these symptoms are starting to surface. One more reason to avoid stocks and be long gold. But in my view, it will take longer than many believe, for these imbalances to burst "...As long as the people of the EU put up with this situation and the EU Council (…) effectively kills democracy at the national level AND as long as the Fed continues to extend US dollar swaps, this status quo will remain… Whenever the political sustainability of the EU is challenged, we will see a run for liquidity... The trend is for asset inflation, and will last as long as the people of the EU and the US do not challenge the political status quo..." Unemployment and the tolerance of those unemployed will tell us when the time has come.
Back in November 2011, when the ECB did its damnedest to make sure Silvio Berlusconi resigned and never came back (it succeeded in the first, but is failing in the second as the Berlusconi block is rapidly rising in the polls two weeks ahead of the Italian elections and is now one margin of error away from the frontrunning Democratic Party) the central bank knew the Bunga Bunga PM would be bad news for the status quo - a fixed exchange status quo which as we showed in an earlier post, is there merely to enrich the rich, and impoverish the poor. The reason is that Sylvio has always refused to play ball with the banker oligarchy, whose survival depends first and foremost on the perpetuation of the EUR (as a collapse of the Eurozone means all reflation and DJIA 36,000 bets are off), and where every hint of a weakening of the Eurozone is to be eliminated at inception. Which is why news that Belusconi's coalition ally in the parliamentary election - Roberto Maroni, head of the Northern League, has suggested the creation and use of a local currency in northern Italy as an "alternative" to the Euro will hardly be seen as favorable by Europe's technocratic overlords for whom any initiative to structurally destabilize and weaken the European currency has to be crushed at the roots.
Let’s be very clear here: this is what the euro has wrought. This destruction of the non-German industrial bases has taken place with the active complicity of the European technocrats. They did not even realize that France, the EMU’s second largest economy, for example was becoming hopelessly uncompetitive. This is a zero sum game if there ever was one, with Germany being the main winner and the other three economies massive losers. Instead of leading to convergence in euroland economies, the euro project has led to massive divergences, with the strong getting stronger, and the weak getting weaker... The ECB has thrown enough money at the market to, for now, reduce borrowing costs and allow equity prices to rise (unfortunately so is the euro, threatening exports). This buys time—but these actions are not enough to solve the structural problems created by the euro. The private sector has shriveled in Southern Europe, as government spending and debt has soared. If we have France, Italy and Spain together enter a debt deflation/debt trap, the crisis will be far too big for Germany to handle: and if this happens before German federal elections are held (no later than October) we could see the European political crisis revive in full force.
Whether you're aware of it or not, a great battle is being waged around us. It is a war of two opposing narratives: the future of our economy and our standard of living. The dominant story, championed by flotillas of press releases and parading talking heads, tells an inspiring tale of recovery and return to growth. The other side, less visible but with a full armament of high-caliber data, tells a very different story. One of growing instability, downside risk, and inequality. As different as they are in substance, they both share one fundamental prediction – and this is why you should care: This battle is about to break. And when it does, one side will turn out to be much more 'right' than the other. The time for action has arrived. To position yourself in the direction of the break you think is most likely to happen. It's time to choose a side.
In a surprise announcement, BoJ Governor Shirakawa announced that he will step down on 3/19 (a month ahead of schedule) and while Barclays notes that there had been talk at one point that Mr Shirakawa might step down in a bid to protect the BoJ’s independence in response to Mr Abe’s threats to revise the BoJ Act; the decision, however, appears to have been motivated by policy considerations (the desire to have the governor and deputies start together). At a time when Japan’s stockmarkets are celebrating JPY weakness, Mr Shirakawa’s move provided yet more bounce as the new BoJ leader is expected to be even more dovish. Abe's push for a new governor, however, is meeting resistance from his own cabinet and financial bureaucrats, who fear extreme measures from the central bank may trigger a damaging rise in bond yields. The tussle, which Reuters notes, is testing Abe's resolve, but lies between a slightly less dovish bureaucrat in Toshiro Muto (favored by the opposition) and a banker, Haruhiko Kuroda, who is a front-runner in Abe's camp. With Draghi's comments today, we suspect Abe will err on the side of uber-dovish to fight the currency wars alongside him.
Jeremy Grantham: "I like the analogy of the Fed beating a donkey (the 1% growing economy) for not being a horse (his 3% growing economy). I assume he keeps beating it until it either turns into a horse or drops dead from too much beating!"