When the phantom wealth evaporates and risk assets go bidless, cash will once again be king, for the simple reason there will be so little of it.
Does it really take purportedly intelligent people six years to see that the macros are not responding? Better still, isn’t it time for the Fed to explain the exact channel by which its interest rate pegging and forward guidance is supposed to be transmitted to the main street economy? After all, if these channels are blocked or ineffective - then its flood of liquidity never leaves the canyons of Wall Street. In that event, the central bank actually functions as a financial doomsday machine, inflating the next financial bubble until it bursts. Then, apparently, its job is to rinse and repeat.
From almost 2.5% GDP growth expectations in February, The Atlanta Fed's GDPNow model has now collapsed its estimates of Q1 GDP growth to just 0.2% - plunging from +1.4% just 2 weeks ago. The reality of plunging capex and no decoupling is starting to rear its ugly head in the hard data and as the sun warms things up, weather will start to lose its ability to sway sentiment. While sell-side consensus has dropped (Goldman, Morgan Stanley, and Barclays all cut today following Durable goods), it remains unable to quite accept the reality of massively weaker than expected macro data evident everywhere (except in the soft-survey PMI data).
This is how ridiculous goverment data has become: in the same month in which both Housing Starts and Existing Home sales significantly missed expectations, misses which were promptly blamed on the weather, the Census Bureau moments ago released a stunner of a New Home Sales number, which supposedly rose from an upward revised 500K to 539K, a 25% spike from a year ago and up 7.8% from January, which incidentally is also the highest number since February 2008, even as the median home price dropped to the lowest since September. All of this would be great... if it was remotely credible. It isn't.
Despite the continuing commentary that all is well in America, economic growth expectations for Q1 just collapsed to a new cycle low. From just 4 months ago, growth expectations have been cut 20% to 2.4%... but that is still double The Atlanta Fed's dismal 0.6% forecast...
Stick a fork in the now proven wrong theory that plunging gas prices would boost consumer spending. Why? Because 4 months after the full impact of tumbling gas price was said to become apparent, consumer spending is not only not picking up, it is in fact slowing down more, especially in those places where there was snow in the winter, and gasp, where oil price actually fell the most!
The GDPNow model forecast for real GDP growth (seasonally adjusted annual rate) in the first quarter of 2015 was 1.2 percent on March 6, unchanged from its March 2 reading. The nowcast for the contribution of net exports to first-quarter real GDP growth fell from -0.5 percentage point to -0.8 percentage point following this morning's international trade report from the U.S. Census Bureau. This was offset by increases in the nowcasts of equipment investment and inventory investment.
"Competitive devaluation” doesn’t actually work, as it is not a zero sum game (one country gaining at the expense of another) but rather currency “wars” subtract from the whole altogether (both countries lose). The entire point of currency destabilization is exactly that, and business transpires less and less under more extreme versions of instability – intentional or not. And to top it all off - No matter how you want to view all this, January was perhaps the worst month for US trade since the Great Recession.
On a daily basis individuals jump into the financial markets with their "savings" in the hope of a thrilling ride. However, very much like skiing, inevitably you are going to take a tumble. Importantly, that "tumble" generally occurs when one becomes overly confident in their abilities and pushes the "risk" just beyond their inherent capabilities to react quickly enough. The result has tended to not be a pretty one. As we discussed earlier this week, there are many signs that suggest the current market environment has begun to push the outer boundaries of the "risk" curve. While this doesn't mean that the markets are about to "crash," it does suggest that individuals with a lesser skill set may want to be a bit more cautious.
Pensioners are under attack. With yields depressed across asset classes, public pension funds in the U.S. are diving into risky investments in order to justify clinging to unrealistic investment rate assumptions. In Europe, low rates are causing corporations to adopt lower discount rates to determine the present value of their pension liabilities, dramatically increasing EU pension deficits. While in Greece, the government is robbing the public purse to make good on its commitments to the IMF.
While every other word from talking-heads and policy-makers relates various anecdotes (or simple lies) about US economic growth, The Atlanta Fed appears to have taken a 'data-dependent' perspective on the real economy (as opposed to smoke and mirrors). Based on their GDPNow "nowcasting" model, The Atlanta Fed projects Q1 2015 GDP growth os just 1.2% (less than half current sell-side economist consensus) and getting weaker...
Earlier today, we got a hint that hopes that the 5th dead cat "housing rebound" bounce have been indefinitely delayed after Mortgage Applications cratered by over 13% after tumbling 9% in the week before on even the most fractional of 10 Year yield increases. That hope suffered another embarrassing defeat moments ago when the Census Bureau reported that in January both housing starts and permits missed expectations, rising at 1070K and 1053K, respectively, once again missing Wall Street consensus of 1089K and 1067K. The reason: yet another drop in single-family housing. Because while multi-family, i.e., rental units, remained brisk and rose from 340K to 381K for the starts and from 360K to 372K for the permits...
Following last month's narrative-crushing drop in retail sales, despite all that low interest rate low gas price stimulus, January was more of the same as hopeful expectations for a modest rebound were denied. Falling 0.8% (against a 0.9% drop in Dec), missing expectations of -0.4%, this is the worst back-to-back drop in retail sales since Oct 2009. Retail sales declined in 6 of the 13 categories.
"According to the University of Michigan survey, consumers have not been this upbeat since January 2004, when the economy was booming. The natural outcome should be for consumers to splurge, hitting the malls and going out to restaurants. But much to our surprise, the data suggest otherwise." - BofA
Remember that whopping 353K jobs number in November? Well, following the data revision, it was boosted by 20% to a whopping 423K - the second biggest monthly increase in jobs in the 21st century! And breaking it more fully down, what was supposed to be a total gain of 2,952K jobs in 2014 has now been revised to 3,197K. And the best news of the day: that average weekly wage you thought you were collecting during all months of 2014? That too was just revised higher across the board.