For the 5th month in a row, US treasury bonds started with a 2-day sell-off as yields rose arond 6bps today (back to unch from FOMC). Gold, silver, and copper all gained notably (despite a knee-jerk lower on the ADP data). The US Dollar jumped instantly on the ADP print then flatlined for the rest of the day but USDJPY pushed higher. However, stocks chose to ignore their ubiquitous drivers - VIX was slammed lower (stocks ignored it) and USDJPY surged (stocks ignored it) as early weakness in Trannies was overtaken by Russell 2000 losses as the S&P and Dow flatlined in a very narrow range. Shortly after the US markets opened, credit markets diverged notably from equity markets (but caught up into the close). VIX closed lower. The Dow had its narrowest range since Dec - funny what happens when there's no $190 billion repo injection, eh? The S&P and Dow closed marginally green at new record highs. (and Camera-on-a-stick tumbles 17% from its highs)
Have you been paying attention to what has been happening in Argentina, Venezuela, Brazil, Ukraine, Turkey and China? If you are like most Americans, you have not been. Most Americans don't seem to really care too much about what is happening in the rest of the world, but they should. In major cities all over the globe right now, there is looting, violence, shortages of basic supplies, and runs on the banks. We are not at a "global crisis" stage yet, but things are getting worse with each passing day. Many have felt that 2014 could turn out to be a major "turning point" for the global economy, and so far that is exactly what it is turning out to be. The following are 20 early warning signs that we are rapidly approaching a global economic meltdown...
From Paula Dean and twerking to Drones and Duck Dynasty with a peotic sprinkling of Mandela, Thatcher, "if you like it you can keep it", and government shutdown; UBS' avuncular floor director Art Cashin unleashes his latest ode with a subtle reminder of the most important 'word' for 2013 - FOMO - "fear of missing out."
"Twas the days before Christmas, and all across the street, not a human was trading..." but, as tradition demands, UBS' venerable director floor operations - Art Cashin - unleashes his annual poem. Summing up the year in amazing alliteration, Cashin takes on Bitcoins, The Fed, the Volcker Rule, and... Anthony Weiner.
The Federal Reserve System was created on December 23, 1913, when President Woodrow Wilson signed the Federal Reserve Act into law. Today, the Fed has decided to commemorate the event today with all three living Fed chairman delivering remarks. We are sure it will be very exciting but in the interests of 'balance' we offer a few alternative views of the "success" of the venerable monopoly including its cost: since 1913, the dollar has lost nearly 90% of its purchasing power.
With enough real and electronic ink spilled over the past two weeks to describe every nuance of the Lehman crisis (as if anyone can ever forget those vivid days) that nearly 3 months worth of Treasury issuance could be monetized, we decided to go further back, some 140 years back in fact, to this day in 1873 which just happens to be day the first Great market Panic gripped the US, and resulted in the first ever shutdown of the New York Stock Exchange. Granted, these days the NYSE or N-ICE as it is currently known, and the NASDARK shut down on a daily basis courtesy of a billion collocated vacuum tubes and the rigged casino formerly known as the stock market, on a virtually daily basis. But back then, when the general population was still largely clueless just how broken and corrupt the ideal of market efficiency would become when commingled with political and corporate interests, it was quite a shock.
The current regime of extreme monetary policy that has become the new normal - to which we have become entirely desensitized and addicted - remains the biggest (and most dangerous) experiment in central planning in the 100 year history of the Fed. Trusting the beard and his band of PhDs to get this right may be a stretch though, as UBS' Art Cashin notes, their track record has not been stellar and as he notes from the 10th Annual Report of the Fed: "the Fed was supposed to extend credit only for 'productive' and not for 'speculative' purposes."
Those following day to day flow (buys and sells) data of Treasurys and MBS by the Fed, are aware that in the past few months Ben Bernanke's net purchases of MBS have declined modestly. Naturally this is not due to a stated policy of tapering one or more purchasing programs (at least not yet), but due to what appears to have been a drop off in origination, as confirmed by recent plunging mortgage applications data (and which today literally crashed out of bed). So is this net change in Fed flow, in a world in which Fed flow is all that matters (sorry "Stock" purists: 2009 called, they want their discredited ideas back) an indication of stealth Fed tapering? Read on for Cashin's explanation.
The venerable UBS floorman asks (and answers) an interesting question. With the re-institution of the payroll tax and higher level rates and with spending lowered by sequestration, will the Treasury need to offer fewer bonds? And if so, will the Fed remain steadfast in its purchasing 'size' (good for bond bulls since secondary demand will increase) or reduce its 'size' to meet the lower monetization needs of the Treasury (bad for equity bulls since flow is all that matters.) Thoughts below...
Is the U.S. economy about to experience a major downturn? Unfortunately, there are a whole bunch of signs that economic activity in the United States is really slowing down right now. In many ways, what we are going through right now feels very similar to 2008 before the crash happened. Back then the warning signs of economic trouble were very obvious, but our politicians and the mainstream media insisted that everything was just fine, and the stock market was very much detached from reality. When the stock market did finally catch up with reality, it happened very, very rapidly. Sadly, most people do not appear to have learned any lessons from the crisis of 2008. Americans continue to rack up staggering amounts of debt, and Wall Street is more reckless than ever. As a society, we seem to have concluded that 2008 was just a temporary malfunction rather than an indication that our entire system was fundamentally flawed. In the end, we will pay a great price for our overconfidence and our recklessness.
One can spend all day watching financial media channels stuffed full of self-promoting index-hugging asset-managers and be left with the belief that all is well and that the market does indeed represent our reality... Or, as UBS' Art Cashin notes today (confirming what we first published a month ago - here, here, and here), there is more (well less) to today's global economy and markets than meets the eye or rests in the headlines. His excellent diatribe today reiterates our previous comments of investing icons such as Baupost's Seth Klarman and Oaktree's Howard Marks that "(The) underpinnings of our economy and financial system are so precarious that the un-abating risks of collapse dwarf all other factors."
While UBS' Art Cashin sees the 'uptrend' in stocks as largely in tact, though warns of the start of what appears to be a stalling formation, there is another 'bigger' potential crash on his mind. Having survived the Mayan apocalypse, and a Papal resignation, our home planet is due for a record setting space encounter on Friday (Feb. 15) of this week... which means it is now too late to even send Bruce Willis (or better yet, Bob Pisani) into space for an Armageddon sequel. We are told to keep calm and carry on - Bernanke-like "there is nothing to worry about", but no known asteroid has traveled this close to earth in recorded history. Let's hope the slide rule guys have it nailed - or the grand central planner.
As most of Asia is on vacation for the lunar new year, UBS' Art Cashin is growing more and more concerned with the excessively bullish tone. While not screaming for an outright short, the venerable volatility-handler fears many factors he sees in the market currently from sentiment to vauation, and a lack of 'rotation', and while the January Effect and the Super-Bowl are in the bulls favor, he gently reminds that the 'Year of the Snake' has typically not been a good one for markets or man...
As UBS' Art Cashin points out, the weekend talk shows were filled with talk of immigration reform, and yet, as he exclaims, no discussion of Social Security. The avuncular arbitrageur, however, sees immigration reform from a different and insightful perspective noting that while immigration reform may finally get the undocumented worker a fairer break, Social Security will lose significantly...