Bureau of Labor Statistics
The past several years have seen a growing backlash against "paper" investments as more and more investors consider hard assets to be a safe haven against the implications of central bank money printing. But as the global economy visibly slows, this question arises in many minds: Are commodities, which have been on a tear since the March 2009 bottom, finally topping out? The question requires both a fundamental economic response as well as a technical chart analysis. We can start by observing the common-sense connection between demand for commodities such as copper, cement, steel,etc. and economic expansion. When demand rises faster than supply, prices rise. Since supplies of commodities face all sorts of restraints in terms of extraction rates, energy costs, and declining reserves, increased demand quickly pushes prices higher.
My thoughts on the coming year.
Core Durable, Capital Goods Orders Miss Despite Inventory Stuffing, To Push Q4 GDP Lower; Savings Rate DeclinesSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 12/23/2011 08:46 -0500
So much for ending the year on a positive economic tone: today's November durable goods number, while better than expected on a headline basis including volatile transportation data coming at 3.8% on expectations of 2.2%, was a big disappointment when looking at the core economic indicators such as Durables ex-transportation and non-defense capital goods orders ex-transportation, both of which missed, 0.3 vs 0.4% in the former case, and a whopping 11st devs for the latter: at -1.2% on expectations of 1.0% (Joe LaVorgna was +1.2%... of course), the worst since January 2011. Simply said the trend of downward GDP revisions is now coming to Q4 GDP which will likely see the consensus dip below 3.0%. While we are at it, why not stuff channels a little more: "Inventories of manufactured durable goods in November, up twenty three consecutive months, increased $2.0 billion or 0.6 percent to $368.8 billion. This was at the highest level since the series was first published on a NAICS basis and followed a 0.4 percent October increase. Transportation equipment, also up twenty three consecutive months, had the largest increase, $1.0 billion or 0.9 percent to $114.3 billion." And in other news, both consumer income (0.1%, exp 0.2%) and spending (0.1%, exp 0.3%) missed, pushing the savings rate lower again from an upward revised 3.6% in October to 3.5% in November. The reason consumers had to rely on their savings? "Private wage and salary disbursements decreased $7.1 billion in November, in contrast to an increase of $37.2 billion in October." And yet, "Government wage and salary disbursements increased $0.1 billion in November, the same increase as in October." But that's ok - for a slow motion economic trainwreck there is Obama and fudged labor data from the BLS; for everything else's there's Mastercard and soon to be unlimited lines of credit for everyone drawn straight from the Discount Window.
And so the year ends not with a bang but with an economic whimper, as the final Q3 GDP is revised lower from 2.0% to 1.8% on expectations of an unchanged print. The reason: Personal Consumption contributed only 1.24% instead of the 1.63% in the second revision and 1.72% in the advance forecast. No bias there at all. But sure enough, here comes the inventory kicker, which subtracted just 1.35% instead of the 1.55% seen previously. What this means is that the inventory kick which was expected to come in Q4 2011 was pushed forward to prevent a 20% collapse in GDP today as keeping inventory change fixed would have resulted in a 1.6% Q3 final GDP. Net net - very weak report and one which portends weakness from Q3 is spilling over in Q4, where in addition to everything we will soon see the NAR existing home sale adjustment hit the economy with a double whammy of historical adjustments.
While this will hardly come as a surprise to any of our regular readers, occasional visitors may be confused to learn that according to a discovery by the Carolina Journal, North Carolina "Gov. Bev Perdue’s press office has received access to confidential employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics hours if not days before its scheduled release, quite likely in violation of federal law." Once again the rabbit hole, which these days is pretty much everywhere, emerges: "Documents and correspondence obtained by Carolina Journal show that the Division of Employment Security, formerly known as the Employment Security Commission, sent a draft of the press release each month to Perdue’s press office. The governor’s spokesmen typically rewrote the text and added a positive spin, even if the data did not support Perdue’s talking points." And while one may say this is a perfectly innocuous leak of otherwise embargoed data, others may highlight the following facts: "While the operation may sound like a harmless effort to add political spin to the release of jobs data, sharing confidential BLS estimates while they are protected by an embargo violates a federal law barring the early release of employment data. This is no small matter: A conviction for breaching the Confidential Information Protection and Statistical Efficiency Act of 2002 carries a fine of up to $250,000, up to five years in prison, or both." Of course, when it comes to breaking the law, both members of the US banking class, as well as America's politicians, are perfectly immune from any repercussions. But at least the next time the market does its usual pre-NFP acrobats, the only question will be: which particular US politicians i) traded in advance of the embargo lift, and ii) leaked the information to ten of their closest friends, who did the same, who did the same, etc.
Gallup, which unlike the BLS, does not fudge, Birth/Die, or seasonally adjust its data, has just released its most recent (un)employment data. And it's not pretty: for all those hoping that the Labor Participation Rate fudge that managed to stun the world a few weeks ago with a major drop in the November jobless rate, don't hold your breath. Gallup which constantly pools 30,000 people on a weekly basis, has found that for the past 4 weeks, both underemployment and unemployment have risen for 4 weeks in a row. And while the number of US workers "working part time and wanting full-time work" one of the traditional short cuts to boosting US jobs has risen to almost a 2 year high, it is the Job Creation Index in December which plunged in the last week, confirming that the Initial Claims data out of the BLS has been spurious and is likely to revert back over 400k on short notice. In summary, here is how Gallup debunks the BLS' propganda: "The sharp drop in the government-reported unemployment rate for November and the sharp drop in jobless claims during the most recent reporting week have combined to create the perception that the job market may be improving. Economists are wondering whether this means the economy is stronger than previously estimated. Political observers are wondering how fast and how far the unemployment rate needs to fall to significantly improve the president's re-election prospects. In contrast, Gallup's data suggest little improvement in the jobs situation. December unemployment is up slightly on an unadjusted basis. In fact, the government is likely to report essentially no change in the unemployment rate when it issues its report on December unemployment in the first week of 2012. Of course, this assumes that the labor force doesn't continue to shrink at so rapid a pace that it drives down the unemployment rate, as it did last month. Gallup's most recent weekly job creation numbers also suggest little improvement in the jobs situation. As a result, it may be wise to exercise caution in interpreting the drop in the government's most recent jobless claims numbers." Or, less diplomatically, the BLS is lying like a drunken sailor just as the economy is about to turn. And if BAC continues languishing under $5, it will turn very hard.
The Economic Collapse Blog does a terrific job of periodically putting together a compilation of the scariest data points about the US economy. Today is one such day, and the list of 50 economic numbers presented is indeed, as the author puts it, "almost too crazy to believe"... Almost. As noted: "At this time of the year, a lot of families get together, and in most homes the conversation usually gets around to politics at some point. Hopefully many of you will use the list below as a tool to help you share the reality of the U.S. economic crisis with your family and friends. If we all work together, hopefully we can get millions of people to wake up and realize that "business as usual" will result in a national economic apocalypse." Or, far more likely, 99% of the population can continue watching Dancing with the Stars, as what little wealth remains is terminally transferred to those who are paying attention right below everyone's eyes.
California on the way to a banana republic. Culprits: declining incomes and disappearing jobs. Where the heck is the recovery?
Most of human history conforms to established patterns, forming the basis of modern statistical analysis. Random walk extrapolation from any data series seems to hold up in the face of reality because the data series is extracted from the pattern itself, a sort of logical fallacy. Models constructed in this way “behave” rather well until the pattern and paradigm shifts. At that point, models should be recalibrated to the new pattern in order to maintain any kind of usefulness (or simply scrapped). This is especially true if the model failed to see the paradigm shift coming, a predictive capacity that is almost built-in since inflection points are not really points at all; they are an eventual slide into the new pattern. During the inflection “period”, models conditioned by the old pattern will increasingly look out of sync and render confusing results to their practitioners. But, due to human nature intruding into this “scientific” process, all too often these human practitioners look to rationalize and fit the wider world into their models, rather than see the paradigm shift for what it is. Combining this willful blindness with the simplifications that models have to incorporate just to function, the fact that they rarely see inflections is not at all surprising.
A few days ago we presented an analysis by ConvergEx showing that due to the very close historical correlation between home prices and employment, it is the Fed's view that the only way to stimulate employment (aside from such BLS shennanigans as pretending that despite the natural growth of the labor force by 90k a month to keep up with population, those willing to work are in fact declining) is to raise home prices. Raising home prices be definition means either reducing supply - an event which is proving impossible with shadow inventory in the millions and rising, even as thousands of new delinquent mortgages appear each day while homebuilders keep on chugging out new homes that remain vacant for years, or increasing demand. It is the latter that the Fed targets, by attempting to make mortgage rates ever cheaper via LSAP, Operation Twist or other Treasury curve interventions that attempt to push down long-dated yields ever lower. This works in theory. In practice, however, as the chart below demonstrates, the Fed's entire ZIRP-targeting policy over the past several years has been one abysmal failure (for everyone expect those with immediate access to the Fed's zero interest rate capital - i.e., the Primary Dealers). As proof of this we present the following chart, which maps the SAAR in New Home Sales against the 30 Year Fannie Cash Mortgage. What appears very clearly on this chart is that despite ever declining mortgage rates, there is simply no interest in home turnover, and sales are at record low levels due to lack of demand, and lack of desire to sell into a bidless market, in essence causing the entire housing market to halt.
Gallup Finds Recent Job Boost Due To "Temp And Part-Time" Hiring; Underemployment Greater Than Prior YearSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 12/05/2011 19:10 -0500
While the BLS unemployment number, fudged strategically to lower the denominator, or the total labor force, may have come well better than expected (as somehow miraculously ever more people find the shadow economy a more hospitable place where to make their money and drop off the BLS roll forever) we once again go to that trusty fallback, the monthly Gallup poll of underemployment. What we find here is rather different from what the BLS, and the administration would like us to believe, namely that "underemployment, a measure that combines the percentage of workers who are unemployed with the percentage working part time but wanting full-time work, is 18.1% in November, as measured by Gallup without seasonal adjustment. That is up from 17.8% a month ago and 17.2% a year ago." Said simply, "many employers appear to have chosen to hire part-time rather than full-time employees for this holiday season." Naturally, this should come as no surprise: it was first discussed here in May, when we said: "As the attached chart shows, since the start of the depression, America has lost 9.1 million full time jobs, offsetting this by a gain of 2.3 million part time jobs. No need to outsource to Asia any more: America now outsources jobs to temp agencies. And so the transition of America into a part-time worker society, first discussed in December of 2010 continues." (the attached chart can be seen here). As for the Gallup chart which comes from the real economy, not from some seasonally fudged, birth/death adjusted grotesque model deep in the bowels of 2 Massachusetts Ave NE Washington, here it is.
This mornings release of the Employment Situation report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics was in truth bitter sweet. On the positive side there were 120,000 jobs created in the previous month and the unemployment rate fell from 9.0% to 8.6%. Furthermore, September and October jobs were also revised higher. That is the sweet part. Unfortunately, while the headlines give us the sweetness the underlying data provides the bitter. As we discussed earlier this week with the ADP Employment report, which showed a 206,000 job increase, this is the seasonally strong time of year for employment increases due to the retail shopping season. Therefore, it is no surprise that we saw a fairly healthy jump in employment but unfortunately these jobs tend to be very temporary in nature. Secondly, 120,000 new jobs is well below the necessary job creation level to return the country to full, healthy, emplyment. I say "healthy employment" because technically if enough people fall off the rolls into the category of "discouraged worker", where they are no longer counted, we could have a much lower unemployment rate - it just won't be a good thing.
Reality once again creeps back in, confirming that the 4 sigma beats in the economic indicators pointed out yesterday were mostly duds, except of course for the drop in the Employment index in the Chicago PMI. After a few brief weeks with a 3 handle in initial claims, initial layoffs once again jumped over 400k, to 402,000 in the Thanksgiving shortened week. As is now par for the course of the data fudgers at the BLS, the previous number was revised higher as is 100% the case always now on a weekly basis, from 393K to 396K. As a reminder, last week's forecast had been for a 388K print, so the 5k miss certainly looked better than an 8k, or 60% higher miss. Unadjusted claims was the silver lining, declining by 69.7k following the massive surge the week prior. Continuing claims also missed expectations, rising from an upward revised 3,705K to 3,740K, on consensus print of 3,650K. Probably most notable is the surge in EUCs as over 76k people dropped off continuing claims and had to file for extended benefits. Absent a further extension in the 99 week cliff at the end of the year, many people are going to lose their continuing continuing benefits. And going back to the BS from the BLS, as John Lohman's chart below shows that in 2011 initial and continuing claims have been revised higher the week following 91% and 100% of the time, respectively. A purely statistical explanation for this phenomenon is "impossible."
The '-flations' are as much part of the commonplace parlance for every sell-side strategist, talking-head, and gold-bug as dividend-stock, quality balance sheet, and long-time-horizon is for long-only managers. Whether deflation, stagflation, inflation, disinflation, or reflation, they all have their moments of sublime glory. Bank of America's Economics team have found some extremely timely 'inflation' signs in the food industry, where it is becoming, somewhat incredibly in this age of supposed frugality and deleveraging, cheaper to eat-out than to cook-at-home. This price disequilibrium has seen consumers respond accordingly; spending on food away from home has picked up while spending on food at home has slowed and also very notably households spending the marginal unit of 'time' working as opposed to 'eating' as economic frailties continue.
Today's ISDA settlement auction process for the Dynegy CDS credit event offers some perspective on the smartest of the smart of our dealer community. Bloomberg notes that RBS was forced to pay a $1.9mm penalty for massively missing the inside bid-offer at the initial auction. In our humble opinion, it would appear that the CDS trading desk got their math wrong and posted a discount (1-R) instead of the Price they were willing to trade the deliverable bonds at. Their 29.5/31.5 bid/offer would invert to a much more reasonable 68.5/70.5 perfectly straddling the $69.5 initial midpoint of the auction. We suspect the RBS pink slips were flying rather fast on this mathematical error... Although since the BLS also works on a 1-R basis, this means that initial jobless claims will be one less for the week.