Americans have been conditioned for three generations to expect the Savior State to "do something" during downturns to "make it right." The idea that systemic problems are now beyond the reach of the Federal government does not compute; there must be something the government can do to "fix" everything. This notion that the Central State is effectively omniscient and all-powerful is central to the belief system of Americans now. The concept that the government cannot fix the problem, or that government central-planning has made the problem worse, is anathema to everyone conditioned to believe government intervention will "save the day." The basic reality is the Federal government has already pulled out all the stops in the past four years to "make the economy recover," and all its unprecedented actions have accomplished is to maintain the Status Quo via unsustainably gargantuan borrowing, spending and backstopping. If we scrape away the rhetoric and bogus statistics, at heart the current fantasy that the U.S. has "decoupled" from the global economy and will remain an island of "permanent prosperity" in a sea of recession boils down to this belief: the Federal government "won't let us stay in recession." In other words, it's within the power of the Central State to make good every loss, guarantee every debt, maintain the Empire, solve every geopolitical challenge and find technological or military solutions to potential energy shortages. All we need is the "will" to force the government to use its essentially unlimited power to "fix everything." A people conditioned to this expectation will have great difficulty accepting that their government has already done everything possible, and that these stupendous debt-based expenditures are simply not sustainable going forward. Some problems are not fixable by more government intervention; indeed, government intervention in the marketplace is like insulin: the system begins to lose sensitivity to Central State manipulation and intervention.
European Indices are trading up at the midpoint of the session following strong performance from financials, however, Italian bond auction results dampened this effect after failing to replicate the success of the Spanish bond auction yesterday with relatively lacklustre demand. There has been market talk that this lull in demand for Italian bonds is due to technical error preventing some participants from bidding in the auction, but this still remains unconfirmed. Heading into the North American open, fixed income futures are still trading higher on the day having seen the Bund touch on a fresh session high and with peripheral 10-year government bond yield spreads widening ahead of the treasury pit open. Markets now anticipate the release of US trade balance figures and The University of Michigan confidence report.
If JPM, which just launched the financials earnings onslaught by first reporting Q4 results, is any indication, it will not be pretty for the financial sector which has seen dramatic moves higher in the past several weeks, because as Jamie Dimon says, Q4 was "Modestly Disappointing." The reason: a top line miss, and a continuing contraction in capital markets leading to yet another decline in Investment Banking results. Also, what DVA giveth, DVA taketh away, and with CDS tightening in the quarter, DVA resulted in a $567 million loss in the quarter. Yet even with the DVA impact exclusion, revenue, which was reported at $21.47 billion would still have missed estimates of $22.56 billion. Finally, what would a quarter be if a bank did not reduce its loan loss allowance and release even more reserves, no matter how the market is actually doing: JPM did just that in its mortgage banking division, lowering its net loan loss allowance by $230 million following a $1 billion allowance reduction in loan-losses offset by actual impairments of $770 million. Stock is down following the release.
Cover up? What cover up?
Imagine pensions not paying retiree funds, insurers not paying claims, and banks collapsing everywhere. Sounds like fun? I will be discussing this live on RT's Capital Account with the lusciously locquacious Lauryn Lyster at 4:30pm.
FoxConn, which at last count had well over 1 million workers and rising, appears to have had enough of being the global electronic gadget sweatshop, and as the Telegraph reports, saw its workers threaten with mass suicides unless working conditions are not improved. "Around 150 Chinese workers at Foxconn, the world's largest electronics manufacturer, threatened to commit suicide by leaping from their factory roof in protest at their working conditions. The workers were eventually coaxed down after two days on top of their three-floor plant in Wuhan by Foxconn managers and local Chinese Communist party officials." Does this mean that in the latest Apple prospectus there will be a Risk Factor which says: "Our profit margins may be severely impaired if our contracted work force decides to proceed with mass self-induced genocide." We will find out, but if anyone needed a loud and clear warning that the record profitability of high margin electronics producers is about to go down, this is it.
One of the recurring analogues we have used in the past to describe the centrally planned farce that capital markets have become and the global economy in general has been one of a increasingly chaotic sine wave with ever greater amplitude and ever higher frequency (shorter wavelength). By definition, the greater the central intervention, the bigger the dampening or promoting effect, as central banks attempt to mute or enhance a given wave leg. As a result, each oscillation becomes ever more acute, ever more chaotic, and increasingly more unpredictable. And with "Austrian" analytics becoming increasingly dominant, i.e., how much money on the margin is entering or leaving the closed monetary system at any given moment, the same analysis can be drawn out to the primary driver of virtually everything: the inflation-vs-deflation debate. This in turn is why we are increasingly convinced that as the system gets caught in an ever more rapid round trip scramble peak deflation to peak inflation (and vice versa) so the ever more desperate central planners will have no choice but to ultimately throw the kitchen sink at the massive deflationary problem - because after all it is their prerogative to spur inflation, and will do as at any cost - a process which will culminate with the only possible outcome: terminal currency debasement as the Chaotic monetary swings finally become uncontrollable. Ironically, the reason why bring this up is an essay by Pimco's Neel Kashkari titled simply enough: "Chaos Theory" which looks at unfolding events precisely in the very same light, and whose observations we agree with entirely. Furthermore, since he lays it out more coherently, we present it in its entirety below. His conclusion, especially as pertains to the ubiquitous inflation-deflation debate however, is worth nothing upfront: "I believe societies will in the end choose inflation because it is the less painful option for the largest number of its citizens. I am hopeful central banks will be effective in preventing runaway inflation. But it is going to be a long, bumpy journey until the destination becomes clear. This equity market is best for long-term investors who can withstand extended volatility. Day traders beware: chaos is here to stay for the foreseeable future." Unfortunately, we are far less optimistic that the very same central bankers who have blundered in virtually everything, will succeed this one time. But, for the sake of the status quo, one can hope...
Overall, there are both internal structural factors and external global factors, which contribute to the making of an epic hard landing in China. China will be really vulnerable when the US and Europe both unleash the quantitative easing. These are things China has no control of. Nevertheless, the best China can do to avoid the worst is to continue the painful structural adjustment: marketize the “big four”-dominated banking industry to allow for more efficient monetary allocation; Transform the labor intensive low value-added economy to the high value-added knowledge economy; reform the wealth redistribution system to empower the broad consumer base and honor its promise of a consumption-led economy.
While the US enjoys the luxury provided by the dollar’s world currency status and diplomatic alliance with many major trade partners to export its liquidity and inflation, China enjoys none of that. They should look at the dollars in their hands with fear and doubt. So called Beijing consensus makes little sense, because the world is fast changing, pegging a country’s growth to a certain set of policy tools or a certain reserve currency (the US dollar) is equally dangerous. The battle between Keynes and Friedman has long proven the only consensus is to adapt and change. Right now China needs to adapt and change fast. Or this will be the best time in history to short China.
Events in Italy must be watched closely. The country that gifted Fascism to the world in the 1930s was widely admired even by FDR, who held Mussolini in high regard and was no doubt inspired in many of his own policy choices. Will Italy lead the way once more, as politicians in Europe and the US watch to see what oppressive policies they may get away with? And while Russell Napier (correctly) foresees capital controls being imposed and suggested that one parks his cash in Singapore dollars, Italians may want to get themselves out as well before the current group of Professors slams the gates shut. Things are moving even faster than one of the world’s leading financial historians could foresee.
If the pundits are counting on the US to be the engine that drives Global growth - it's going to be a very slow year indeed!
Commodities such as copper have led the market for years; recently they've rolled over while the stock market surges higher. Once again, either historic correlations have been decisively severed or there is a gargantuan divergence that's about to be resolved. Sentiment readings are firmly in extreme bullish territory, but hey, maybe the market will reward the majority with a rally that feeds on rising complacency. And maybe the truism "volume is the weapon of the bull" is also voided, as low volume rallies may well lead to lower-volume rallies. The market has been acting as if all these signs are bullish. Maybe, maybe not. Meanwhile, the witches are cackling quietly over their bubbling brew, and it certainly sounds like some evil is being conjured up.
We dont' need any water, let the mo@#$#%ker burn!
"I hold a deeply held view of Ron Paul as an honorable, genuine and trustworthy American statesman. In fact, I cannot really think of anyone else in the tepid cesspool of American politics today whom I could even remotely categorize as a statesman as opposed to a run of the mill politician (or ideologue as Mr. Lucas puts it). Mr. Lucas moves on to explain that to an ideologue it is current ideas that matter, while to a statesman it is certain principles that matter. He states that an ideologue’s view of the world and its inhabitants is political, while to a statesman it is historical. These simple sentences are what I believe inherently separate Ron Paul at his very core from everyone else currently running for president. This is merely what separates the man’s character from the others. This is reason enough to consider him, but not reason enough to vote for him. His ideas about liberty, war and economics also separate him from the pack and it is his strongly held principles on these subjects that in my view make him the only one capable and with enough conviction to help heal this country’s wounds, get us back on the right and moral path and foster real change as opposed to a campaign slogan."
Those attempting to pressure Iran by increasing "tensions" and thus the price of oil have it precisely backwards. The one sure way to fatally destabilize the Iranian theocracy is to adjust the demand and supply of oil so the price plummets (as it did in December 2008) to $25/barrel, and stays there for at least six months. It has been estimated that the Iranian theocracy cannot fund its bloated bureaucracies, military and its welfare state if oil falls below around $40-$45/barrel. Drop oil to $25/barrel and keep it there, and the Iranian regime will implode, along with the Chavez regime in Venezuela. Saber-rattling actually aids the Iranian regime by artificially injecting a "disruptive war" premium into the price of oil: they can make the same profits from fewer barrels of oil. The way to put them out of business is drop the price of oil and restrict their sales by whatever means are available. They will be selling fewer barrels and getting less than production costs for those barrels. With no income, the regime will face the wrath of a people who have become dependent on the State for their sustenance and subsidized fuel. How do you drop oil to $25/barrel? Easy: stop saber-rattling in the mideast and engineer a massive global recession with a side order of low-level trade war. Though you wouldn't know it from the high price of oil, the world is awash in oil; storage facilities are full, and production has actually increased a bit in North America.