Initial jobless claims fell 20k from a previously revised up 351k (the highest in a month) and hovers at the the average level of the last eight months as the downward trend in this apparently key indicator has broken. The BLS cites nothing unusual in this report aside from Kansas estimated its numbers (so we have no real way of deciphering signal from noise once again). Continung claims rose a modest 15k seasonally-adjusted (and less modest 44k non-adjusted) as emergency benefits remains at 0.
The US minimum wage has been a common news topic lately - increasing its sound and fury since President Obama's State of the Union proclamation of a rise in federal employee minimum wages to $10.10 (from $7.25). While obviously a contentious political issue, one question keeps coming up - will this help? As BofAML notes in a recent report, a simple back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that the rise in wages from a minimum wage increase would amount to fractions of a percentage point on macroenomic data. There simply are not enough people working at (or below, since some jobs are exempted) the minimum wage to have a noticeable impact on the total wage bill and in the end, there are just too few people, earning far too little, at the minimum wage to meaningful affect aggregate macroeconomic statistics. So why is he doing it?
It's snowing in New York so the market must be down. Just kidding - everyone know the only thing that matters for the state of global risk is the level of USDJPY and it is this that nearly caused a bump in the night after pushing the Nikkei as low as 13,995, before the Japanese PPT intervened and rammed the carry trade higher, and thus the Japanese index higher by 1.23% before the close of Japan trading. However, since then the USDJPY has failed to levitate as it usually does overnight and at last check was fluctuating within dangerous territory of 101.000, below which there be tigers. The earlier report of European retail sales tumbling by 1.6% on expectations of a modest 0.6% drop from a downward revised 0.9% only confirmed that the last traces of last year's illusionary European recovery have long gone. Then again, it's all the cold weather's fault. In Europe, not in the US that is.
Curious why Michael Dell was so eager to take the company he founded private? So he could do stuff like this without attracting too much attention. According to the Channel Register, the recently LBOed company is "starting the expected huge layoff program this week, claiming numbers will be north of 15,000." Of course, with a private sponsor in charge of the recently public company, the only thing that matters now is maximizing cash flows in an environment of falling PC sales, a commoditisation of the server market and a perceived need to better serve enterprises with their ever-increasing mobile and cloud-focused IT requirements - things that do not bode well for Dell's EBITDA - and the result is perhaps the largest axing round in the company's history. But at least the shareholders cashed out while they could.
Reality will reassert itself in 2014, with lemmings, flippers, and hedgies getting slaughtered as the housing market comes back to earth with a thud. The continued tapering by the Fed will remove the marginal dollars used by Wall Street to fund this housing Ponzi. The Wall Street lemmings all follow the same MBA created financial models. They will all attempt to exit the market simultaneously when their models all say sell. If the economy improves, interest rates will rise and kill the housing market. If the economy tanks, the stock market will plunge, creating fear and killing the housing market. Once it becomes clear that prices have begun to fall, the flippers will panic and start dumping, exacerbating the price declines. This scenario never grows old.
The worst news that could happen for stocks today was a Chicago PMI beat - after all it is becoming all too clear that the market is begging for a tapering of the tapering, and any and every bad news will be welcome. Alas, the Purchasing Managers Institute did not get the memo, and moments ago MNI-Deutsche Boerse reported (to subscribers first), that the January print was 59.6, below the revised December print of 60.8 but above the expected 59.0. This was thje third consecutive monthly fall following October’s jump to the highest since March 2011. The only silver lining for stocks was that the Employment component slipped into contraction for the first time in nine months, printing at 49.2, down from 51.6. Must have been the fault of that horrible polar vortex in January then.. Or Bush of course.
Moments ago, the US Treasury sold its first $15 billion in 2 Year Floating Rate Notes, providing investors with yet another product that "protects" against inflation, following the 1997 introduction of TIPS, which courtesy of their linkage to the official BLS hedonically and seasonally-adjusted definition of "inflation" have mostly protected investors from any real gains. Here are the results.
There was a time in the financial industry when the many wouldn't suffer for the sins of the few (although taxpayers were certainly excluded from this maxim). Well, for the "many" who work at JPMorgan, that is no longer the case because as Reuters reports, JPM employees can forget getting a pay raise in 2013 (although with sub-2% annual inflation as calculated by the BLS one wonders just why anyone should be getting a raise: just hand out an edible iPad or two and the COLA is fixed). The reason for the lack of a raise: "the bank's massive legal bills" - bills which incidentally were incurred when a select few JPM employees cheated and defrauded the system - illegally - in order to procure massive year end bonuses, most if not all of which were not clawed back, and subsequently were caught (one can only imagine how many of the "few" are still at the bank, doing manipulation and defrauding as usual. And now it is everyone else's turn to pay because the bank lacked the most elementary supervision of its criminal employees (long since fired) and raked up roughly $20 billion in litigation and legal settlement charges.
No matter how centrally-planned and meticulously managed the US economy/market has become, the policy-setting powers-that-be have yet to be able to control one thing... mother nature...
Why is hiring important? Because that is the actual process by which those without a job end up with a job. And as we just learned today after the latest JOLTS release, which showed that there were over 4 million job openings (4,001 to be precisely) for the first time since 2008, a far more important number is the update on Hires which at 4.5 million barely changed from last month, but more importantly, is barely a fraction of where it should be based on the number of job gains reported by the BLS monthly. The chart below confirms this stunning discrepancy: a surge in jobs with barely half the pre-recession hiring?
If yesterday's rising PPI print suggested the Fed may continue its $10 billion a month taper at its next meeting, today's comparably rising CPI for December will likely mean that absent another payroll-like shock, the Fed will soon monetize "only" $65 billion per month. The reason: in December core consumer inflation rose by 0.3%, compared to the 0.0% change in November, and in line with expectations. Stripping away food and energy however, the increase was only 0.1%, also in line with expectations, and a decline from November's 0.2% increase. More importantly, on a Y/Y basis, core CPI was up by 1.7%, still shy of the Fed's 2% target but not too far.
Following October and November's disturbing declines in Producer Prices, which many misread as an indication that the Fed will delay tapering for a few months, today's PPI reversed the recent drop, and posted a 0.4% jump for the headline number in line with expectations, following two months of declines and the highest print since June's 0.6% sequential increase. And while the Foods PPI dropped by 0.6% in December, Energy prices jumped by 1.6% once again the highest monthly increase since June. But it was the core increase of 0.3%, the highest jump since July 2012 that caught everyone's attention. So is inflation finally seeping back in the production channel? Not really: as the BLS reported, "Nearly half of the December increase is attributable to prices for tobacco products, which climbed 3.6 percent." So bad inflationary news for smokers. For everyone else (who eats and drives hedonically) the status quo still remains.
In January 2009, the number of "officially unemployed" workers plus the number of Americans "not in the labor force" was sitting at a grand total of 92.6 million. Today, that number has risen to 102.2 million. That means that the number of working age Americans that are not working has grown by close to 10 million since Barack Obama first took office. The cold, hard reality of the matter is that there has not been an economic recovery in this nation. Anyone that tries to tell you that is lying to you. If we were going to have a recovery, it would have happened by this point. In fact, this is all the "recovery" that we are going to experience. From here on out, this is about as good as things are going to get.
It's just sad now: with every passing day bringing new (and previously unseen) cases of high frequency trading algo-generated market halts or crashes, that none of the regulators are willing to take a stand against this market scourge that we have written about for nearly 5 years now, is a clear indication that the HFT lobby is firmly in control of what were once "capital markets" and that the retail investor is once again, the sacrificial lamb. But while it was one thing for the high freak thugs to control marginal price action through momentum ignition, quote stuffing, hide not slide, flash trades, and all the other well-known manipulative techniques which seemingly are too complicated for the SEC to figure out, in equities where things get really bad is when HFTs start crashing, or at least halting, the bond market at key market inflection points such as during the most important monthly data release, the payrolls release. This is precisely what happened on Friday, when as Nanex clearly shows, a momentum ignition algo sent the ZF (5 Year T-Note future) soaring and resulting in a 5 second - an eternity in today's nanosecond age - trading halt during the actual release of the BLS report.
Just when everyone thought the infamous polar vortex is gone (if not quite forgotten, having dipped the temperatures in some part of the US to sub-Martian levels), it's baaaack. Sky News reports that America is set to be hit by another blast from the polar vortex although this time Niagara falls may not freeze, as temperatures are likely to be higher than last week's extreme conditions. "The polar plunge is expected to move south from Canada, bringing colder air and sub-zero temperatures to the US this week. Forecasters say it will sweep over the lower Mississippi Valley and Midwest on Tuesday and Wednesday, and then hit the East on Thursday. The main thrust of the cold air will follow up a couple of days later."