Bloomberg's Joshua Zumbrun has released a much overdue, MSM apocryphal, somewhat realistic outlook on the endspiel of Bernanke's central planning: i.e., the unwind of the Fed's balance sheet that from just under $3 trillion will reach $5 trillion by the end of 2014. We say "somewhat" because the conclusion in the article is that there is some hope still for an orderly wind down of the Fed's assets without a complete market collapse. The reality is that there is no such hope.
Yesterday we presented Goldman's first 3 Top Trades for 2013 as they come out, while also noting Goldman's recent disfatuation (sic) with gold. Today, we present Goldman's 4th Top Trade for 2013, which is, drumroll, to go long Spanish Government Bonds, specifically, the 5 year, which should be bought at a current yield of 4.30%. with a target of 3.50% and a stop loss of 5.50%. This reco comes out after the SPGB complex has already enjoyed unprecedented gains - but not driven by economic improvement, far from it - but merely on the vaporware threat of ECB OMT intervention. Of course, once the "threat of intervention" moves to "fact of intervention", everything will promptly unwind as it always does (QE was far more potent as a stock boost when it was merely a daily threat: the market's peak not incidentally occurred the day after Bernanke dropped his entire load: one simply can't move beyond infinity). And with Spain's massive bond buying cliff in Q1 2013, the days its bailout could be postponed are coming to an end.
Citi's Robert Buckland explains: If policymakers really do want to encourage stronger economic growth (and especially higher employment) then we would suggest that they take a closer look at the equity market's part in driving corporate behaviour. Despite high profitability, strong balance sheets and ultra-low interest rates, any stock market observer can see daily evidence of why the listed sector is unlikely to kick-start a meaningful acceleration in the global economy. A recent Reuters headline says it all: "P&G Plans to Cut More Jobs, Repurchasing More Shares". If anything, low interest rates are increasingly part of the problem rather than the solution. Perversely, they may be turning the world's largest companies into capital distributors rather than investors.
Warren Buffett’s General Re-New England Asset Management has warned that until central bank monetary policies around the world change “there will be a tendency to higher gold prices.” General Re-New England Asset Management, a unit of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., said gold may advance as businesses temper spending and central- bank stimulus measures fall short. Gold’s climb last year to more than $1,900 an ounce was fuelled by the expectation that government spending cuts in Europe would reduce demand for goods and services, GR-NEAM Chief Investment Officer John Gilbert wrote in a newsletter posted on the unit’s website today, as reported by Bloomberg. “There is growing evidence that the rising price of gold is a statement about the discouraging prospects for returns on productive investments,” Gilbert said. “We hope that this analysis is wrong. We fear that it is not.”
After recently selling the most expensive per-square-foot residential property in the world recently, the liquidity slooshing around the world has been modestly stymied by Hong Kong's curbs on home-buying in the world's most expensive market. But there is always a greater fool to sell to, right? So, that Fed-sponsored liquidity has found a new yield-grabbing spot - parking spaces! Average HK parking space prices have started to surge (up 6.7% in Q3) to its second highest on record and as Bloomberg Businessweek notes, a parking space in the exclusive Repulse Bay are sold for $387,000 (yes, that's a place to park your car; and no, it doesn't come with a happy ending) - double the average US home price! "There's just too much liquidity in the market," said Simon Lo, Hong Kong-based executive director of research and advisory at property broker Colliers International. "The government has set up a firewall for residential properties, but all this money still needs to find a place." Once again we are reminded of the Fed mantra - repeat in monotone: 'there is no inflation and money-printing has no adverse effect'.
In a recent article at the NYT entitled 'Incredible Credibility', Paul Krugman once again takes aim at those who believe it may not be a good idea to let the government's debt rise without limit. In order to understand the backdrop to this, Krugman is a Keynesian who thinks that recessions should be fought by increasing the government deficit spending and printing gobs of money. Moreover, he is a past master at presenting whatever evidence appears to support his case, while ignoring or disparaging evidence that seems to contradict his beliefs. Krugman compounds his error by asserting that there is an 'absence of default risk' in the rest of the developed world (on the basis of low interest rates and completely missing point of a 'default' by devaluation). We are generally of the opinion that it is in any case impossible to decide or prove points of economic theory with the help of economic history – the method Krugman seems to regularly employ, but then again it is a well-known flaw of Keynesian thinking in general that it tends to put the cart before the horse (e.g. the idea that one can consume oneself to economic wealth).
Somewhere in the deep bowels of Brussels bureaucratic labyrinth, a murder of European ministers (as they most closely approximate the Corvus Corvidae Genus/Species) currently sitting down and trying to come with a solution that "fixed" Greece. It will do no such thing: in fact, all that the Eurogroup is doing today, in addition to trying to do with it already did twice before without success, is to find a socially palatable way to disclose a policy that will see Greek debt haircut by a very modest amount (modest enough to be considered prohibited under Article 123, but who is counting any more), either through an outright haircut of official sector debt (something Germany has repeatedly said "9" to), or through a debt buyback of existing private debt (something which will have no impact now that the debt has soared following a long-running political leak which has allowed bondholders to trade accordingly). Aside for applying lipstick on a dead pig, what Europe is doing is focusing on the numerator in the all critical debt/GDP ratio. Sadly, this is just half of what Europe should be focusing on. The other half? Why GDP of course. Because it is here that things get truly hilarious.
In summary: Greek 2022 debt/GDP will be 115% if and only if Greece not only cuts its debt by EUR50 billion, but manages to grow its GDP by EUR60 billion.
Catalonia's exit polls confirm over two-thirds of votes will go to pro-independence parties that will likely push for a referendum to break away from Spain, which the central government will challenge as unconstitutional. The more-populous-than-Denmark region is home to car factories and banks that generate one-fifth of Spain's economic wealth (larger than Portugal's). The incumbent, Artur Mas, has converted to a more radical separatist bias since huge street demonstrations in September showed the will of the people. As Reuters notes, growing Catalan separatism is a huge challenge for Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who is trying to bring down painfully high borrowing costs by persuading investors of Spain's fiscal and political stability. Critically, the exit polls suggest the dominance of separatist parties will mean a referendum for secession within two years - leaving us asking the simple question: who will buy any Spanish debt, even fully backstopped by the ECB, if there is a real risk that in under two years, 20% of Spanish GDP will simply pick up and leave.
Forget Chuck Schumer's cat-out-of-the-bag 'get back to work' comments to Bernanke, now it is union-leaders who are advising the world's central bankers. "There is a not a single reason not to lower rates" exclaims Sweden's trade union confederation to the central bank as he begins negotiations with employers on wage deals for next year. His demands (for lower rates) are "far from excessive" and he adds "should not cause inflation" as Swedish organized labor have "never called for levels that ... could not be supported economically." It seems that everyone, from NYTimes bloggers & NY politicians to Swedish Hoffas know best what the central planners must do - and furthermore, it is becoming clear to an increasing mob who is really in charge (sadly).
Greece? Sorry, what’s with Greece? French downgrade. Unexpected, but then again not that much. So what? Fiscal Cliff? As no one speaks about it, it can be ignored. Risk? If it doesn’t fall, it has to rise.
"Rise To The Occasion" (Bunds 1,43% +2; Spain 5,7% -9; Stoxx 2518 +0,4%; EUR 1,282 +10)
What Happens When The Markets Call The Collective Bluffs Of The IMF, EC & ALL Major Rating Agencies' Spanish LIES?Submitted by Reggie Middleton on 11/21/2012 09:15 -0500
10.7% bank NPAs, youth unemployment over 50%, Banks stuffed with levered devalued bonds carried as RISK FREE & RE going for half off during a recession: What could go wrong?
John Williams, president of the San Francisco Fed, yet another noted dove, thinks nothing can go wrong by printing gobs of money. There is no inflation, and there never will be. They have the 'tools' to avert it. Never mind the explosion of the money supply over the past four years – it is all good. Have no fear though, as Williams notes: "Once it comes time to exit its super-easy monetary policy, the Fed will target a 'soft landing,'" The hubris of these guys is jaw-dropping. We are struck by the continued refusal by Fed officials to even think for a second about the long range effects of their policies. In the meantime, money printing continues to undermine the economy. Wealth cannot be generated by increasing the money supply – all that can be achieved by this is an ephemeral improvement in the 'data' even while scarce capital continues to be malinvested and consumed.
Less than impressive macro data from the Eurozone failed to depress investor sentiment and as such, equity markets in Europe traded higher as market participants looked forward to US elections. Heading into the North American open, all ten equity sectors are seen in the green, with technology and financial stocks leading the pack. Still, despite the choppy price action and lack of progress on the much desired Spanish bailout, peripheral bond yield spreads are tighter, with SP/GE and IT/GE tighter by c. 6bps. EUR/USD failed to break below 1.2750 barrier level earlier in the session and since then stages an impressive recovery, partly helped by weaker macro data from the UK.
While the media continues to push the idea that the housing market is on the mend the data really doesn't yet support such optimism. The current percentage of the total number of housing units available that are currently occupied remains at very depressed levels. When it comes to the reality of the housing recovery the 4-panel chart (below) tells the whole story. There is another problem with the housing recovery story. It isn't real. The nascent recovery in the housing market, such as it has been, has been driven by the largest amount of fiscal subsidy in the history of world. The problem, however, is that for all of the financial support and programs that have been thrown at the housing market - only a very minor recovery could be mustered. With household formation at very low levels and the 25-35 cohort facing the highest levels of unemployment since the "Great Depression" it is no wonder that being a "renter" is no longer a derogatory label.
The Mañana approach endorsed by the Spanish government is finally beginning to have its toll on investor confidence and after being contained by the so-called Draghi put, 2y bond yields are up over 20bps for the second consecutive day. The decoupling that is being observed is being driven by yesterday’s downgrade of several Spanish regions by Moody’s, citing deterioration in their liquidity positions. As a result, Spain runs a risk of being forced to raise the size of its regional bailout fund which stands at EUR 18bln, with EUR 17.2bln already tapped, as the latest downgrade will likely put an upward pressure on borrowing costs. Major equity markets in Europe are down close to 1%, led by basic materials and oil & gas sectors, as WTI continues to consolidate below the key USD 90 level, while spot Gold continues to lose its shine and is looking to make a test USD 1700. The second half of the session sees the release of the latest Richmond Fed report, as well as the weekly API report.