One can debate whether QE has benefitted Main Street or Wall Street until one is blue in the face, even though five years later, the answer is perfectly clear to all but the staunchest Keynesians and monetarists (and if it isn't, just pay attention to the 3:30 pm S&P ramp every day). One thing, however, that is undisputed is what the market itself says about where the QE money ends up when it is being spent by its recipients. And that story is so simple even a Keynesian would get it. Stated briefly, luxury retailers such as Tiffany, Coach and LVMH are now up 500% since the Lehman lows, and about 30% above the prior cycle highs. On the other hand, regular retailers such as Macy's, Kohl's and JC Penney are barely up 100% from the crisis lows, and still more than 30% below the last bubble highs.
Yesterday the US Senate held hearings on "virtual currencies" (meaning Bitcoin). Meanwhile the "virtual currency" ran up above $800/USD and it was reported it got above $900. It pulled back but as of now, is hovering above $700.
Depending on the time of day, Bitcoin is up 100% (or 200% or 300%) or down 50% as the crypto-currency swings violently around in what appears a death spasm only to transform into a Tesla-like phoenician rise. But there is another crypto-related bubble that is exploding - and showing no signs of stopping. As Russia Today notes, the so-called "Snowden Effect" has seen Freedom of Information Act requests filed with the National Security Agency increase 888% this fiscal year.
Over three years after current Warburg Pincus Managing Director and former US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner welcomed everyone to the recovery, here is where we stand: "According to Markit, optimism is improving among developed economies while emerging markets still show low levels of confidence. Subdued expectations about future activity have led to restrained hiring plans. On net, only 14% of companies worldwide expect to add employees." And just in the U.S. this number is 19%. Per the WSJ: "Companies continue to fret about further disruptions from unresolved fiscal issues, and are still particularly cautious about committing to hiring in this uncertain environment," says Chris Williamson, Markit’s chief economist. That is all.
Bitcoin has increased more than tenfold since the beginning of 2013. One of the reasons for the incredible surge is that bitcoin is a freely traded market and not subject to rigging or price manipulation by banks or government. Physical Gold, either in your possession or in allocated accounts, remains a far safer alternative both to bitcoin, to digital gold platforms and to paper and electronic currencies in what is still a vulnerable banking system.
Tonight at 7 pm Ben Bernanke will be speaking at the National Economists Club Annual Members Dinner. As Credit Suisse's Carl Lantz notes, nobody knows the topic or the title of the speech: we can only assume it is some variation of the now trite and generic "BTFATH" coming from the Fed endlessly for the past 5 years. However, we do know one thing: the menu of the dinner that will accompany Bernanke's remarks. We are certain that in a world in which a tweet by a 70 year old billionaire moves markets as much as a statement by a current or future uber CTRL-Peers, it is the details of what the glorious chairman eats that is the most marking-moving event du jour, and as such the menu will be today's most important "fundamental" news. Jon Hilsenrath will follow up with his detailed analysis shortly.
It is time for the centrally-planned markets to "try" for the round number trifecta of 16000, 1800 and 4000 again, although it may be a tad more difficult on a day in which there is no double POMO and just $2.75-$3.50 billion will be injected by the NY Fed into the S&P - perhaps it is Bitcoin that will hit the nice round number of $1000 first? Overnight, the Chinese Plenum news rerun finally was priced in and the SHComp closed red, as did the Nikkei 225 as the Asian euphoria based on communist promises about what may happen by 2020 fades. What's worse, the Chinese 7-day repo rate is up 140bp this morning to 6.63% amid talk of tightening domestic liquidity conditions, and back to levels seen during the June liquidity squeeze. All this is happening as China continues leaking more details and hope of what reform the mercantilist country can achieve, and how much internal consumption the export-driven country can attain: overnight there were also additional reports of interest rate liberalization and that the PBOC are to set up a floating CNY rate. Good luck with that.
Moments ago, the following news broke across various news feeds:
BREAKING: Princeton U. to distribute meningitis vaccine not approved in the US to halt campus outbreak.
— NBCWashington (@nbcwashington) November 18, 2013
This is great news. But we wonder: considering the list of such prominent Econ department graduates as Ben Bernanke and Paul Krugman, couldn't the vaccine have been distributed some years earlier?
The Senate Banking Committee’s confirmation hearing for current Vice-Chair of the Federal Reserve began with Janet Yellen delivering prepared remarks. Most observers likely tuned out well before the completion of the 2 ½ hours meeting to decide whether Yellen was worthy to succeed outgoing Chair Ben Bernanke and ascend to the top spot at the Fed. With the ongoing debacle of the Affordable Health Care website handcuffing Democrats, tough questions about QE, ZIRP, the oft talked about Taper and the possibility of reducing the Fed’s gargantuan $4 trillion balance sheet were verboten. That left Republicans to address the elephant(s) in the room. Predictably, it took nearly the entire hearing until a Senator from Nebraska offered his views about the damage being done by the various fiscal and monetary machinations undertaken to combat the Great Recession. What happened, beginning just after the 2 hour point of the meeting, was both remarkable and revealing...
As Silk Road emerged from the "dark-web", other sites have appeared offering services that are frowned upon by most. As Forbes reports, perhaps the most-disturbing is "The Assassination Market" run by a pseudnymous Kuwabatake Sanjuro. The site, remarkably, a crowdfunding service that lets anyone anonymously contribute bitcoins towards a bounty on the head of any government official–a kind of Kickstarter for political assassinations. As Forbes reports, NSA Director Alexander and President Obama have a BTC40 bounty (~$24,000) but the highest bounty - perhaps not entirely surprising - is BTC 124.14 (~$75,000) for none other than Ben Bernanke. Sanjuro's raison d'etre is chilling, "as a few politicians gets offed and they realize they’ve lost the war on privacy, the killings can stop and we can transition to a phase of peace, privacy and laissez-faire."
If one was a foreigner visiting for the first time, one would think Space Available was the hot new retailer in the country. Thousands of Space Available signs dot the bleak landscape, as office buildings, strip malls, and industrial complexes wither and die. At least the Chinese "Space Available" sign manufacturers are doing well. The only buildings doing brisk business are the food banks and homeless shelters. However, reports like the recent one from SNL Financial – Branch Networks Continue to Shrink - are emblematic of the mal-investment spurred by the Federal Reserve easy money policies, zero interest rates, and QEternity... In a truly free, non-manipulated market the weak would be culled, new dynamic competitors would fill the void, and consumers would benefit. However, extending debt payment schedules of the largest zombie entities and pretending you will get paid has been the mantra of the insolvent zombie Wall Street banks since 2009.
"Debt increases tail-risk," warns anti-fragility expert Nassim Taleb, "whether it's personal, corporate, or governmental." A rise in debt, he warns, implies nothing less than a rise in "the risk of catastrophe," and Taleb chides, governments "should be focused in risk-management... instead of creating these risks." This brief Bloomberg TV clip cuts to the chase as the normally circumlocutory Taleb unloads on the perils of central banks, "Mr. Greenspan created tail risk by eliminating the business cycle," and since then tail-risks have accumulated with debt the "number one creator of these risks." In a fascinating phrase, Taleb notes, "corporate debt is benign," since in failure it turns into equity, "but government debt is another matter... for it turns into inflation or worse invasion..."
"Every American family deserves a false sense of security," said Chris Reppto, a risk analyst for Citigroup in New York. "Once we have a bubble to provide a fragile foundation, we can begin building pyramid scheme on top of pyramid scheme, and before we know it, the financial situation will return to normal." Despite the overwhelming support for a new bubble among investors, some in Washington are critical of the idea, calling continued reliance on bubble-based economics a mistake. Regardless of the outcome of this week's congressional hearings, however, one thing will remain certain: The calls for a new bubble are only going to get louder. "America needs another bubble," said Chicago investor Bob Taiken. "At this point, bubbles are the only thing keeping us afloat."
What is more valuable than the life-giving properties of human blood? Why, in the new normal, it's the life-blood of the financial markets - printer ink!!
When Tim Geithner announced his departure from the US Treasury in January, the only question was how long would it take the former NY Fed head to get a job with the only industry that he cared about as either a Fed or Treasury official: Wall Street. Tim did his best to diffuse such speculation with amusing stories about writing books, which were accentuated by his refusal to join the Fed chairmanship race. Why not? After all there was nobody that Wall Street would benefit more from as the head of the Fed than TurboTax Tim. Today, less than a year after his exit from public service, the answer has presented itself - Tim Geithner is joining private equity titan Warburg Pincus, his first private sector job in decades since working for Henry Kissinger early in his career.