Stocks have slipped, precious metals have round-tripped, and the FOMC did nothing to save us but nevertheless the world's analysts and economists came to the rescue of yesterday's negative GDP growth print yammering over a never-ending series of reasons why ignoring the bad parts, it was great. UBS' Art Cashin, as always, cuts through all the spin as he notes, while most of headlines concentrated on the 4th Quarter GDP, it did give us a look at the annual GDP for 2012 at about 1.5% (not the 4% growth that was the Fed's projection, he snarks); and it is that 1.5% growth rate that has a 65-year history of concerning implications...
We have discussed Dallas Fed's Richard Fisher's money-where-his-mouth-is perspective on the world before and the (sadly) non-voting member is among UBS' Art Cashin's most respected and candid of the FOMC. A glance through the transcripts that Art highlights below should both make readers sick at the constant pollyanna-ish nature of Fisher's comrades and perhaps more confident that his insights will be listened to more astutely 'the next time' as he noted at the time "No amount of rewriting of history will exonerate us". Once again, after reading these transcripts, do we really believe that central bankers are omnipotent? or incompetent?
The last few months have seen US equity markets swinging from confidence to grave concerns (briefly) and back to exuberance even as the looming 'debt ceiling' and sequester remains dead ahead. The pattern is eerily similar in price (and volatility) terms to the movements ahead of the Summer 2011 'debt ceiling' debacle. What is just as concerning is, as Bloomberg's Chart of the Day shows, is the mass psychology aspect, as mentions of the words 'debt ceiling' are once again gathering pace, just as they did in 2011. Markets may not repeat, but they do echo; and as UBS' Art Cashin noted, this month marks the 40-year anniversary of a significant top in the market as stocks broke to all-time highs and "all appeared right with the world." Perhaps, it is our inexorably optimistic belief that the politicians will fix it all (or kick the can) at the last minute - so there is nothing to fear but fear itself; or perhaps this time, there is a line in the sand that both sides need to defend.
We already posted Howard Marks' most recent letter in its entirety previously, but it bears reposting a section from Art Cashin's daily letter which focuses on one segment of Marks' thoughts, which is especially relevant in light of today's most recent comment from one Warren Buffett - a person who very directly benefited from the government/Fed's bailout of the banking sector in 2008 - who said that "Bank Risk No Longer Threatens U.S. Economy." The same banks, incidentally, who are TBerTFer than ever. An objective assessment or merely yet another example of the "handcuff volunteerism" (not to mention crony hubris) Marks touches on? Readers can decide on their own.
It would appear that even the venerable Art Cashin had to rub his eyes in incredulity at the recircling of the idea of the Treasury minting a "Trillion Dollar Platinum Coin" to solve the debt-ceiling 'problem'. His brief discussion on the idea is summed up perfectly in his final six words "anybody got an ebook on alchemy?"
Today's anecdote from Art Cashin has nothing to do with the fiscal cliff, the stock market, the economy, geopolitics or even the fermentation committee. Instead it is a deep tangent from all things financial: an amusing anecdote focusing on the life and more notably, death anniversary of one Rasputin, narrated in the way only Art can do. So while we await the inevitable 3:35 pm rumor that a Fiscal Cliff resolution is imminent, just like all those other 99 rumors in the past few weeks, which sent the market soaring before they popped, what better way to kill the time until the next algo driven buying frenzy than with stories of possessed, mad monks in tsarist, WWI Russia.
We have discussed the alternate views of the terrible events that occurred in Connecticut from mental health to video games (Adam Lanza obsessively played "Call of Duty"), as opposed to simply attacking assault weapons. All, we are sure, have a share in the blame for this monstrosity but UBS' Art Cashin opines on the influence of video games suggesting this needs to be examined more closely. It seems, judging from FTC and FCC 'discussion drafts' that this is indeed on its way as “Recent court decisions demonstrate that some people still do not get it. They believe that violent video games are no more dangerous to young minds than classic literature or Saturday morning cartoons. Parents, pediatricians and psychologists know better". The picture, however common-sensically desensitized the argument is, remains unclear as Bloomberg reports from an industry study: "We can’t find any evidence to support this idea that exposure to video-game violence contributes in any way to support the idea that these types of games or movies or TV shows are a contributing factor, it doesn’t need to be studied again."
Short and sweet from the Chairman of the fermentation committee: "the central banks of the world are poised to simultaneously embark on aggressive new rounds of quantitative easing. There will be lots of focus on Thursday's BOJ comments. This is a world even Keynes could not conceive." Of course, Keynes never worked out of 1954 Stalingrad, or 2012 Washington, D.C.
Yesterday's trading was a balance between Italy fears and fiscal cliff hopes-fears-and-hopes-again. While UBS' Art Cashin notes that on the bright side, this will all be over on December 21st when the Mayans predicted the end of the world, he also details what is perhaps even more fearsome - not-the-end-of-the-world as, in his words, demographics, destiny, and the fiscal cliff loom very large not just for the next few weeks but heading out over the next decade as baby boomers retire. As Cashin so wisely points out: "Somewhat lost in the posturing is the fact that the Fiscal Cliff was put in place to force Washington to address the exploding government debt problem. That problem is greatly exacerbated by the rapidly changing demographics in this country. If you fast forward 20 years until all the boomers are retired government debt (taking into account unfunded liabilities) soars to $202 trillion. Perhaps worth remembering that "The real problem is that regardless of the resolution it will not solve anything. We have passed the point of no return. We cannot mathematically solve this debt problem. We can only slow its progression."
Forget the Fiscal Cliff: it is merely a much needed economic distraction for the next 3-4 months (distracting from what? Why Europe of course). Yes, it will be resolved, and yes taxes will go up, and yes, debates over it will most likely be carried over into 2013 and nothing will be compromised until the ultimate debt ceiling deadline (because it is really a Fiscal Cliff-Debt Ceiling package deal) is hit some time in March 2013, but eventually one or both parties will cave, right after the market plunges to put it all into the proper perspective as it did around the time of TARP and the August 2011 debt ceiling debate, and a resolution will materialize. The bigger issue has nothing to do with the Fiscal Cliff, which is indeed a sideshow. The bigger issue, as Art Cashin explains, has everything to do with a secular decline in the US economy, where a 1% growth rate will soon be the "New Killing It", where millions more (in part-time workers) will soon be let go, and where businesses no longer generate the cash flows needed to stay open. Art Cashin explains.
"We all know what to do, we just don't know how to get re-elected after we have done it." - Jean-Claude Juncker
Art Cashin's Cynical Recollections Of Black Fridays Past And The End Of Washington's Cone Of SilenceSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 11/26/2012 12:20 -0400
The two day rally, wrapped around Thanksgiving, is hardly a surprise to UBS' Art Cashin. It’s an old pattern that he discussed on CNBC on Tuesday. What was a surprise to him was the magnitude of Friday’s move. "A bit unusual" he notes, adding that "the markets then began to buy into the Black Friday hype that filled TV screens. Mobs of people clutching all manner of electronic devices. That seemed to inspire interest and short covering in the recently depressed tech sector. That allowed the market, led by the techs to close the abbreviated session with a full flourish," but Cashin warns that this new week often starts with a rethink - as he advises a "solid skepticism about early reports... Other years, we learn that Black Friday success just cannibalized other sales. We’ll see what happens this year." Also, with over 400 microphone hunting legislators returning to Washington, the cone of silence on the fiscal cliff is probably just a memory.
As investors' and traders' attention spans diminish at ever-increasing speed, it is perhaps useful to step back and survey a landscape of global economic growth from a longer-term panorama in order to grasp the real trend and the real unusualness of our current environment. UBS' Art Cashin, while not 800 years old, reflects on such a long-term cycle providing some perspective on our belief that "economic growth be regarded as a continuous process that will persist forever," opining that perhaps, based on the study below (Is US Economic Growth Over?), we "could well be a unique episode in human history rather than a guarantee of endless future advance at the same rate." Of course, that would never fit with the current meme that growth is credit is life, but nevertheless well worth some introspection as we give thanks this week.
On this day (-1) in 1918, Pvt. Henry Gunther of Baltimore, Maryland thought he saw a suspicious movement in the German trenches across the way. Fearing that the "Huns" were using the mid-morning sun to get some territorial advantage while the peace talks dragged on, Gunther decided to rush the suspicious area. Henry was fast but unfortunately, not invisible. A single shot from a German rifle struck him in the heart and killed him instantly. The time was 11:01 a.m. just 1 minute after the war officially ended, making Put Henry Gunther the final casualty of World War I.
We have discussed in detail the potential ramifications of a 'close' vote (here, here, and here), and only yesterday UBS Art Cashin opined on the potential for an 'embarrassing victory'. Today, the wizened market participant turns the rhetoric dial to 11 (and rightly so) as he warns "pray it's not close" for fear of the polarization of the populace that could occur. If Florida 2000 was a horror, a close election this year could present six or seven Floridas.