What is the meaning of the markets hitting new all-time highs. The general consensus of the analysts and economists is that the rise in capital markets, given weak current economic data and a resurgence of the Eurozone crisis, is clearly a sign of economic strength; and, combined with rising corporate profitability, makes stocks the only investment worth having. There is, however, a more pragmatic perspective. Suppressed wage growth, layoffs, cost-cutting, productivity increases, accounting gimmickry and stock buybacks have been the primary factors in surging profitability. However, these actions are finite in nature and inevitably it will come down to topline revenue growth. However, since consumer incomes have been cannibalized by suppressed wages and interest rates - there is nowhere left to generate further sales gains from in excess of population growth. The reality is that all the stimulus and financial support available from the Fed, and the government, can't put a broken financial transmission system back together again. Eventually, the current disconnect between the economy and the markets will merge. Our bet is that such a convergence is not likely to be a pleasant one.
The Fed Isn’t Providing “Monetary Morphine”; It’s Spreading Financial Cancer That is Killing the Markets and Democratic CapitaliSubmitted by Phoenix Capital Research on 04/01/2013 08:55 -0500
I disagree with the “addiction” metaphor because it implies that the markets/ addict could potentially become healthy if the dealer stopped dishing out the drugs. This ties in with Bernanke’s claims that everything is under control and that he can remove the excess liquidity anytime he wants to.
When it comes to popular finance myths, cash hoarding by corporates may be one of the most perpetuated. It's not that the data is wrong; US companies are holding more cash on their balance sheets than at any time in the past, as a report by Moody's this week notes. What's misguided is the narrative, in Citi's view, in particular among equity investors. What they most take issue with is the implication that corporates have lots of cash to return to shareholders. Indeed, there's plenty of data to the contrary that challenges the prevailing notion that corporates are the picture of good health.
A review of the implications of the new deal struck on Cyprus. We think three of the worst pitfalls have ultimately been avoided--small depositors protected, orthodox seniority of claims respected, and extensive capital controls averted. The political will to preserve EMU has once again triumphed over ideological purity. We review the economic calendar for the week ahead.
Up until just a week or so ago, the euro, the market seems to be telling us, has been saved, and peripheral Europe is widely seen as being out of the woods. Thanks to the ECB - who are willing to pump as much liquidity into the markets as it needs - it seems rising debt levels, greater political fragmentation, and a worsening economy somehow don't really matter and it is impolitic to sound pessimistic. But is peripheral Europe really suffering primarily from a liquidity crisis? It would help me feel a lot better if I could find even one case in history of a sovereign solvency crisis in which the authorities didn’t assure us for years that we were facing not a solvency crisis, but merely a short-term problem with liquidity. A sovereign solvency crisis always begins with many years of assurances from policymakers in both the creditor and the debtor nations that the problem can be resolved with time, confidence, and a just few more debt rollovers. The key point is that bankers are not stupid. They just could not formally acknowledge reality until they had built up sufficient capital through many years of high earnings – thanks in no small part to the help provided by the Fed in the form of distorted yield curves and free money – to recognize the losses without becoming insolvent.
An overview of the technical condition of the major currencies. See why we anticipate a heavier US dollar in the week ahead.
It may be that a larger correction is in order given that some important global powers are struggling. Money printing by itself isn’t cure-all for what ails us.
Friday not much is happening beyond Cyprus tensions—how fun!
Let’s see what happens.
A dispassionate review of yesterday's developments and today's.
February marks the first three-months of consecutive declines in restaurant sales in almost three years as Bloomberg reports consumers caught in "an emotional moment" spooked by higher payroll taxes, surging healthcare premia, and spiking energy costs. "February was pretty ugly" for many chains after January delivered an initial blow." Malcolm Knapp notes that "it's important to keep in mind that companies also are facing unusually tough comparable sales because of favorable weather in 2012," so the result is an industry that’s been "a lot softer so far this year." "People are acting fearfully, or you could almost say rationally in a way,” because it’s not surprising they change their dining habits when they feel less confident; as once again it's the middle class that appears under pressure. Casual dining is "definitely being squeezed" because "it's not food on-the-go and it's not high-end food for people trying to treat themselves."
"Having faith in policymakers' ability to provide a perpetual put may yet prove to be a serious error; and, with interest rates stuck at zero, investors' ability to easily earn back losses remains severely impaired," is the not so subtle manner in which, Reuters reports, Brevan Howard, which manages $40 billion (and has never had a losing year) describes the current shambles of a market. "Tail risks, which have haunted the markets for the last five years, appear to have receded for the time being, but have by no means disappeared," they go on to say, noting that while policymakers promise to do "whatever it takes," investors betting that actions by policymakers will prop up financial markets indefinitely will face problems as "policy hyperactivity coupled with investor apathy could lead to significant and persistent price moves in multiple capital markets." But that's just an absolute return $40bn fund manager's view as opposed to a day-trading fast money trend masher or asset-gathering index-tracker.
Given the relatively calm market reaction to yesterday's vote by the Cyprus Parliament, the UK budget and the US FOMC meeting will be vying for attention today. Got Milk? Milk prices have soared again in New Zealand to distribute the drought induced scarcity. Whole powder milk prices jumped 21% in the latest fortnightly auction, while volumes fell 28%.
There was a time when pervasive financial crimes would if not shock and appall people, then at least make them think for a minute or two. Sadly, now that even the biggest bank by assets is found to have misled regulators, shareholders and the broad public and its CEO is proven to have perjured himself before Congress, and absolutely nothing happens, not even one of those token SEC wristslap settlements, we are way past the point of even pretending to care. Which is why there is little we can comment on the news that Federico Buenrostro Jr., 62, the former CEO of the nation's largest pension fund, California's Calpers, has been indicted by a federal grand jury in a scheme to defraud Apollo Management, one of the biggest private equity firms in the nation, of $20 million. How is one supposed to have any faith, or worse, any hope that there is something more than mere criminality pushing the US capital markets to "new highs", and why is anyone surprised the retail investor has given up on the Fed-backstopped US "wealth creation mechanism" long ago.
An update on Cyprus and what else the week has in store.
A dispassionate discussion of developments in Cyprus and a few broader implications.
Meetings between public company managements and investors are the bedrock of the fundamental investment process. The reason for that, however, is often lost in translation. It is not, for example, because most investors or analysts are systematically better at reading “Body language” about the quarter or new products. Seriously – they aren’t. No – the reason that management meetings are useful is because, over time, managements let down their guards and act like regular people. And in those moments, truth – about character, about wisdom, about judgment – comes rolling out. Today we offer up a personal highlight reel of examples from +20 years of management meetings. Between the earnings forecast and the actual results sit only two things: time and management. Time is uniform; management quality is not.