Ah Silvio, never change or, if possible, resign: the comedic world of Italian politics will never be the same without you. The latest soundbite by the billionaire with a penchant for easy, underage women comes by way of an interview conducted by Italian television journalist Bruno Vespa for his latest book, and summarized by Reuters. To wit: "Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi said his children feel persecuted just as Jewish families did in Nazi Germany because he is being hounded by the country's magistrates who want to eliminate him politically."
It was the deep of illiquid night when the momentum ignition trading algos struck. Out of the blue, a liftathon in all JPY crosses without any accompanying news sent the all important ES leading EURJPY surging by 50 pips, which in turn sent both the Nikkei up over 1% in minutes, and led to an E-Mini futures melt up of just about 8 points just when everyone was going to sleep. All of this happened completely independent of the actual data, which was chiefly European retail sales which missed (-0.6%, Exp. 0.4%, prior revised lower to 0.5%), Eurozone Service PMI which dropped (from 52.2 to 51.6) but beat expectations of 50.9 (notably the Spanish Service PMI of 49.6, up from 49.0 saw its employment index drop from 46.5 to 45.3, the lowest print since June), and finally, German Factory Orders which surged from last month's -0.3% to +3.3% in September. And while all this impacted the EUR modestly stronger, it had little if any residual effect on the ES. The bigger question is whether these slightly stronger than expected data point will offset the ECB's expected dovishness when Mario takes to the mic tomorrow).
As Mike "Hidden Secrets Of Money" Maloney has said many times before, the economic crisis of 2008 was only a speed bump on the way to the main event. He believes that before the end of this decade there will be an economic crisis so historic that it will eclipse the crash of 29 and the subsequent great depression. He also believes it is both unavoidable and inevitable, because it is merely the free market releasing the stored up energy from decades of economic manipulation. As Maolney notes, "the best investment that you will ever make in your lifetime is your own financial education," and the following provides a succinct reminder of the top reasons to buy gold and silver...
As the S&P 500 continues to push to one new high after the next, the bullish arguments of valuation have quietly given way to "it's all about the Fed." The biggest angst that weighs on professional, and retail investors alike, are not deteriorating economic strength, weak revenue growth or concerns over the next political drama - but rather when will the Fed pull its support from the financial markets. For the Federal Reserve, they are now caught in the same "liquidity trap" that has been the history of Japan for the last three decades. Should we have an expectation that the same monetary policies employed by Japan will have a different outcome in the U.S? More importantly, this is no longer a domestic question - but rather a global one since every major central bank is now engaged in a coordinated infusion of liquidity. Will the Federal Reserve "taper" in December or March - it's possible. However, the revulsion by the markets, combined with the deterioration of economic growth, will likely lead to a quick reversal of any such a decision.
European unemployment hits a new record high. China's see-saw taper no taper talk. And the beginning of US Housing Bust 2.0
The extreme experiment of current US monetary policy has evolved (as we noted yesterday), from explicit end-dates, to unlimited end-dates, to threshold-based end-dates. Of course, this 'threshold' was no problem for the liquidty whores when unemployment rates were extremely high themselves, but as the world awoke to what we have been pointing out - that it's all a mirage of collapsing participation rates - the FOMC (and sell-side strategists) realized that the endgame may be 'too close'. Cue Goldman's Jan Hatzius, who in today's note, citing two influential Fed staff economists, shifts the base case and forecasts that the Fed will lower its threshold for rate hikes to 6.0% (and perhaps as low as 5.5%) as early as December (as a dovish forward-guidance balance to an expected Taper announcement).
In a stunning series of lies, damned lies, and twisted statistics, the Fed's Jim Bullard unleashed a torrent of self-agrandizing comfort-speak on CNBC this morning. From his comment that "bubbles, such as housing and dot-com, were blindingly obvious at the time," despite Bernanke's (and Greenspan's) insistence at the time that they were not to his comments about the size of Fed Treasury holdings (and monetization) as being "average" based on some statistic, the Fed president gave himself one more out as he admonished:
*BULLARD SAYS FED DOESN'T WANT TO SUPPORT 'FISCAL RECKLESSNESS'
Oh no, you'd never want to do that... With an administration lying to the American people's face over Obamacare and now the even more powerful Fed incapable of the truth, what hope is there that anyone gets out of this debacle in tact.
Looking ahead, Thursday will be a busy day with the ECB (plus Draghi’s press conference) and BoE meetings. Some are expecting the ECB to cut rates as early at this week although most believe the rate cut will not happen until December. Draghi will likely deflect the exchange rate’s relevance via its impact on inflation forecasts. This could strengthen the credibility of the forward guidance message, but this is just rhetoric — a rate cut would require a rejection of the current recovery hypothesis. They expect more focus on low inflation at this press conference, albeit without pre-empting the ECB staff new macroeconomic forecasts that will be published in December.
Just as Friday ended with a last minute meltup, there continues to be nothing that can stop Bernanke's runaway liquidity train, and the overnight trading session has been one of a continuing slow melt up in risk assets, which as expected merely ape the Fed's balance sheet to their implied fair year end target of roughly 1900. The data in the past 48 hours was hot but not too hot, with China Non-mfg PMI rising from 55.4 to 56.3 a 14 month high (and entirely made up as all other China data) - hot but not too hot to concern the PBOC additionally over cutting additional liquidity - while the Eurozone Mfg PMI came as expected at 51.3 up from 51.1 prior driven by rising German PMI (up from 51.1 to 51.7 on 51.5 expected), declining French PMI (from 49.8 to 49.1, exp. 49.4), declining Italian PMI (from 50.8 to 50.7, exp. 51.0), Spain up (from 50.7 to 50.9, vs 51.0 expected), and finally the UK construction PMI up from 58.9 to 59.4.
The philosophical roots of Janet Yellen's economics voodoo, it seems, are in many ways even more appalling than the Bernanke paradigm (which in turn is based on Bernanke's erroneous interpretation of what caused the Great Depression, which he obtained in essence from Milton Friedman). The following excerpt perfectly encapsulates her philosophy (which is thoroughly Keynesian and downright scary): Fed Vice Chairman Yellen laid out what she called the 'Yale macroeconomics paradigm' in a speech to a reunion of the economics department in April 1999. "Will capitalist economies operate at full employment in the absence of routine intervention? Certainly not," said Yellen, then chairman of President Bill Clinton's Council of Economic Advisers. "Do policy makers have the knowledge and ability to improve macroeconomic outcomes rather than make matters worse? Yes," although there is "uncertainty with which to contend." She couldn't be more wrong if she tried. We cannot even call someone like that an 'economist', because the above is in our opinion an example of utter economic illiteracy.
Here we go again, creating another asset bubble for the third time in a decade and a half, is how Monument Securities' Paul Mylchreest begins his latest must-read Thunder Road report. As Eckhard Tolle once wrote, “the primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it," and that seems apt right now. After Lehman, policy makers went “all-in” on bailouts/ZIRP/QE etc. This avoided an “all-out” collapse and bought time in which a self-sustaining recovery could materialize. The Fed’s tapering threat showed that, five years on from Lehman, the recovery was still not self-sustaining. Mylchreest's study of long-wave (Kondratieff) cycles, however, leaves us concerned as to whether it ever will be. More commentators are having doubts; and the problem looming into view is that we might need a new "plan." The (rhetorical) question then is "Have we really got to the point where it's just about more and more QE, corralling more and more flow into the equity market until it becomes (unsustainably) 'top-heavy'?"
There are three dimensions to the broader investment climate: the trajectory of Fed tapering, the ECB's response to the draining of excess liquidity and threat of deflation, and Chinese reforms to be unveiled at the Third Plenary session of the Central Committee of the Communist Party.
Westerners aren't used to the kind of inflation levels, government confiscation, and currency volatility so common in places like India; and so the need to own gold as protection isn't fully appreciated in the West. Westerners pay lip service to gold's being "an inflation hedge" or "a currency" or "a safe asset", but these terms are used in an extremely abstract way by the vast majority of the investing public, who see gold as mostly just another trading vehicle. India's love affair with gold is well-understood in Asia but completely misunderstood in the West — a phenomenon we have always found fascinating — but recently it has become abundantly clear that this disconnect is widening almost daily as the Western fixation with 'The Gold Price' and the Eastern obsession with 'The Price of Gold' take ever more divergent paths... In short, Asians like their gold to be heavy, shiny, and made of ... well, gold.
The Fed will have to increase QE (not taper it) because systemic debt is compounding faster than production and interest rates are already zero-bound. Lee Quaintance noted many years ago that the Fed was holding a burning match. This remains true today (only it is a bomb with a short fuse). Thirteen years after the over-levered US equity market collapsed, eleven years following Bernanke’s speech, five years after the over-levered housing bubble burst, and four years into the necessary onset of global Zero Interest Rate Policies and Long-Term Refinancing Operations, global monetary authorities seem to have run out of new outlets for credit. In real economic terms, central bank policies have become ineffective. In other words, the US is now producing as much new debt as goods and services.
With the recent adoption of explicit forward guidance as a stimulative policy tool by the major European central banks, virtually every major central bank is now using the tool in some form. The potential benefits and dangers of such policies as central bank communications have evolved are unclear as "the form of guidance" matters. As Robin Brooks notes, and is so well illusrated below in the example of the Riksbank's and Norges Bank's 'failures', "[In terms of implications for rates] the jury is still out on how well forward guidance works. What is clear, though, is that markets prefer 'deeds' to 'words'."