Two months ago, we warned that while the world had decided to blissfully move on from last year's topic #1, the MENA revolutions, and specifically the massive power vacuum left in their wake, things in the region were far from fixed. Quite the contrary, and as we added back then "it is very likely that the Mediterranean region, flanked on one side by the broke European countries of Greece, Italy, Spain (and implicitly Portugal), and on the other by the unstable powder keg of post-revolutionary Libya and Egypt, will likely become quite active yet again. Only this time, in addition to social and economic upheavals, a religious flavor may also be added to the mix". Yet nobody cared as after a year of daily videos showing Molotov Cocktails dropping like flies, people had simply gotten habituated and needed some other source of excitement. Nobody cared also when a week ago Art Cashin warned that the hidden geopolitcal risk is not Spain but Egypt. Today, Egypt just reminded at least one country why perhaps caution about the instability caused by having a military in charge of the most populous Arabic country and the one boasting "the Canal", should have been heeded after Egypt just announced that it is cutting off its natural gas supplies to Israel, which just so happens relies on Egypt for 40% of its energy needs.
Nothing dramatic here, but the Chairman of the fermentation committee just has that unique flair in explaining things so simply, even an economics Ph.D., a caveman, or the other kind of 'Chairman', would understand...
No, not Italy, and certainly not Spain. Egypt.
Art Cashin goes through the history of Friday the 13th on Wall Street, and tells us it has a slight upward bias, being "up 55% to 60% of the time." Just don't tell that to Europe today, and especially Spain and Italian banks, both of which are getting monkeyhammered at this moment.
We all have had our fair share recently of Gartman the "market timer" (here and here). However, little have we experienced of Gartman "the historian". Here he is, by way of Art Cashin, being off by 300 years notwithstanding, describing something that he has intoned on recently in his ever-so-frequent appearances on CNBC: the "they" who are in control, or in this case the central planners whose decisions ultimately lead to nothing but ruin.
Four months ago we presented what was easily the clearest and most undiluted by media propaganda clue about the future of the European experiment, when we noted that even immigrants from places such as Afghanistan and Bangladesh, using Greece as a stepping stone onward to the gateway Shengen country of Italy, no longer have the urge to pursue their European dreams, and instead return home. As Art Cashin explained, "Over the decades, immigrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and other poor nations would work their way to Patras. They would stay for days or weeks awaiting a chance to smuggle themselves on to a freighter headed for Italy. Once there, they could make their way north into Europe to find hope and opportunity and maybe a job. Last week his relatives told him that things were changing. The immigrants still come to their way station of Patras (hope still blooms). But now, after a couple of weeks in Greece, they are trying to hop ships going the other way. They are going back home. Life was better, or at least no worse, where they came from and they had friends and family for support back there." It appears that the immigrant boycott is spreading, only this time instead of "discretionary" immigrants, or those that have not been fully assumed by society (think "cheap labor" along America's south, such as California, Texas and Arizona), it is starting to hit the core of the cheap PIIGS labor force: the migrant workforce, and in this case the Albanian diaspora working out of Greece at a fraction of the normal cost. And as one Albanian migrant worker, so critical to keeping the Greek construction sector supplied with cheap jobs puts it, "It looks like there's no money left," he said of Greece. "It all dried up." As a result even the Greek illegal-yet-symbiotic-aliens are giving up and going back home. Yes folks: the "indicators" on the ground are telling us that it is now easier to make money in Albania than in Greece.
Last week Mario Monti, like a good (ex) Goldmanite, did his best to buy what Goldman is selling, namely telling anyone gullible enough to believe that the "European crisis is almost over." Funny then that we learn that just as this was happening, Ben Bernanke held a secret meeting with the entire banker caretel, in which discussed was not American jobs (seasonally adjusted or otherwise), nor $5 gas, but... helping European with its debt crisis. But, but... Mario said. In the meantime, European spreads are back to late 2011 levels.
We have previewed the phasing out of the LTRO effect previously here on several occasions. Now, courtesy of Art Cashin, everyone is aware that the eye of the European hurricane has officially passed, especially in the aftermath of this morning's horrendous Spanish bond auction, which shows that reality is back with a bang.
The labor data since last fall has been rather encouraging, writes UBS' Art Cashin in a note today. However, he is skeptical at this reality, agreeing with "lots of folks [who] think it may be the warm winter weather that accounts for it." The warm weather allows for construction (and other outdoor industries) to start p[rojects earlier than planned and also avoids the short shutdowns that winter storms often cause in Jan and Feb. While Art believes the weather could be a significant impact on the positivity, and suspects the follow-through will be disappointing (a la Bernanke), he also notes (as we have commented numerous times) that perhaps it is the distortions in seasonal adjustments that have become warped in the post-Lehman collapse era.
We have covered the topic of BLS seasonal adjustment to death and beyond, as well as the endless expansion of those dropping out like flies from the labor pool (did those not in the US labor force, one way or another, whether due to mistracking, statistical aberrations, or outright data manipulation, increase by 1.2 million in January? It did? Next question... or does the government now desperately need an apologist for its own upwardly biased data 'mismanagement'?). Yet some of the formerly relevant elements at the less than cutting edge of asset management-cum-blogging decided to call out Art Cashin for daring to point out just this glaringly obvious seasonal adjustment issue. Of course, Art does not need us rushing to his defense. He can do a good enough job on his own.
We (and Charles Biderman) have previously discussed the seasonal adjustments to NFP data, which while potentially credible in a releveraging context, is far less meaningful when used on apples to apples basis for months in which there is material wholesale deleveraging and record warm weather. Yet the rub lies precisely in the seasonal adjustment, which for January and February has "added" nearly 4 million jobs based on nothing but historical regression patterns, and the "beats" represented less than 5% of the total addition, implying even a modest miscalculcation would have had a huge impact on market, and political, interpretation of the data (as explained here). Today, it is the turn of Art Cashin, quoting Lakshman Achuthan, to provide his take on "unadjusted seasonal adjustments."
Greece just defaulted. Again. No surprise - the country has been in default half the time since 1820. Curiously, Greece is also the first recorded sovereign defaulted as Art Cashin notes in his piece today. He also reminds us that the UK's plans to return the 100 Year bond are nothing new. In fact, the Consol, or the UK perpetual, was around in the 1700's. Things did not work out very well back then...
Yesterday we were quite amused to note that following the Hilsenrath leak (pre-backpeddaling as a result of some FRBNY spanking) of a sterilized QE that for supposedly tries to avoid "generating" inflation (hence confirming that QE does in fact stimulate inflation instead of being a tool to lower rates and make housing affordable) the market reaction was... inflationary, with stocks rising, but far less than crude and gold. So much for the Fed's trial balloon to see if it can intervene in the market without costing Obama a few million ballots. Today, Art Cashin observes precisely the same paradoxical response in his daily note.
Readers know that among the things the we find most meaningless in the New Normal are those anachronisms known as 'charts' - after all when it comes to central planners exclusively running the market, this has never occurred before in history at this level. Yet the impact of technical analysis should not to be discounted, as it does create a self-fulfilling prophecy (far weaker than the impact of marginal liquidity but it is there nonetheless), in which case today's note from Art Cashin may have an impact on risk appetite. Or not - all it takes for any bout of selling to end is a sideways glance from the Chairsatan and we see a 20% surge in risk in the next few months on nothing but a whisper of a new multi-trillion liquidity injection.
The key focus of Cashin's daily letter today has to do with the steadfast resilience of the ECRI's Lakshman Achuthan, who called for a recession back in September, and when asked yesterday if he reaffirms his call, he says "Consider it reaffirmed." He then proceeds to list out the "key, hard facts" summarizing the litany of truth as follows: "The economy is weaker today than it has been in 21 months." And scene.