Not so long ago, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said it expected the U.S. government to register a budget deficit in the current fiscal year of $642 billion. But hold on a minute... The budget deficit so far (as of May 31, 2013) has already hit $626.3 billion, and we still have four more months to go in the government’s current fiscal year! The U.S. has been the family that spends more than it earns for many years now. In the short term, spending more than one takes in can work (especially if the Fed just prints new money and gives it to the government to pay its bills). But in the long term, if fundamental changes are not made to the government’s spending habits, financial chaos just starts all over again. Posting a budget deficit year after year is not sustainable. The debt-infested eurozone nations did very much the same; they borrowed to spend. Look where they are now.
Following April's surprising drop in crude imports which led to a multi-year low in the March trade balance (revised to -$37.1 billion), the just released April data showed an 8.5% jump in the deficit to $40.3 billion, if modestly better than the expected $41.1 billion. This was driven by a $2.2 billion increase in exports to $185.2 billion offset by a more than double sequential jump in imports by $5.4 billion, to $222.3 billion. More than all of the change was driven by a $3.2 billion increase in the goods deficit, offset by a $0.1 billion surplus in services.The Census Bureau also revised the entire historical data series, the result of which was a drop in the March deficit from $38.8 billion to $37.1 billion. In April 233,215K barrels of oil were imported, well above the 215,734K in March, and the highest since January. Furthermore, since the Q1 cumulative trade deficit has been revised from $126.9 billion to $123.7 billion, expect higher Q1 GDP revisions, offset by even more tapering of Q2 GDP tracking forecasts. And since the data is hardly as horrible as yesterday's ISM, we don't think it will be enough on its own to guarantee the 21 out of 21 Tuesday track record, so we eagerly look forward to today's POMO as the catalyst that seals the deal.
When two weeks ago we reported on the core retail sales "beat", we were surprised. Here's why: "Retail sales ex autos were in line with expectations at -0.1%, on expectations of a -0.2% print, but it was the sales number ex-autos and gas which surprised the most, rising 0.6% on expectations of a +0.3% increase, up from a -0.1% decline." We are no longer surprised. Reuters has the answer:
- US APRIL RETAIL SALES EX-AUTOS/GASOLINE REVISED TO +0.2 PCT (PREV +0.6 PCT)
And, as a reminder, the consensus was for a +0.3% print. So instead of a 100% beat relative to consensus, it was a 50% miss. Why did this happen: from the Census Bureau: "retail sales estimates were revised to reflect the introduction of a new sample, new seasonal factors, and results of the 2011 Annual Retail Trade Survey." Of course, the algos who bid stocks up on the flashing read headline of this now outdated and flawed "beat", will certainly go back and sell all the stocks they were otherwise going to buy, since it is now a "miss."
When you step back and look at the long-term trends, it is undeniable what is happening to us. We are in the midst of a horrifying economic decline that is the result of decades of very bad decisions. 30 years ago, the U.S. national debt was about one trillion dollars. Today, it is almost 17 trillion dollars. 40 years ago, the total amount of debt in the United States was about 2 trillion dollars. Today, it is more than 56 trillion dollars. At the same time that we have been running up all of this debt, our economic infrastructure and our ability to produce wealth has been absolutely gutted. Since 2001, the United States has lost more than 56,000 manufacturing facilities and millions of good jobs have been shipped overseas. Our share of global GDP declined from 31.8 percent in 2001 to 21.6 percent in 2011. The percentage of Americans that are self-employed is at a record low, and the percentage of Americans that are dependent on the government is at a record high. The U.S. economy is a complete and total mess, and it is time that we faced the truth.
Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who died in service to their country. The holiday was officially proclaimed in 1868 to honor Union and Confederate soldiers and was expanded after World War I to honor those who died in all wars. Today, Memorial Day honors over one million men and women who have died in military service since the Civil War. This infographic compiles statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau and Department of Defense to honor our men and women who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Curious why in yesterday's FOMC minutes the following line "a few participants expressed concern that conditions in certain U.S. financial markets were becoming too buoyant" received special attention? Here is the reason: as the chart below shows, according to the census bureau, the average new home sale price just hit a new all time high, rising by a record 15.4% to a record $330,800. In a country in which real disposable consumer income is flat at best and in reality declining, it only makes sense that the average new home price just hit a level not seen since the prior credit-bubble fueled housing peak.
One of the widely accepted misconceptions surrounding the so-called "housing recovery" fanfared by misleading headlines such as this "Remodeling activity keeps up positive momentum", which in reality has merely turned out to be a housing bubble in various liquified "flip that house" MSAs (offset by continuing deteriorating conditions in those places where the Fed's trillions in excess reserves have trouble reaching coupled with ongoing foreclosure stuffing), is that "renovation spending", the amount of cash spent to upgrade and update a fixer-upper, has surged. Sadly, this is merely the latest lie about the US economy: as the attached chart showing renovation spending in the past 6 months, it has absolutely imploded, confirming that not only is a broad housing recovery a myth (instead of localized pockets of bubbly liquidity here and there), but that the US home-owning household is now more tapped out than at any time in the past two years.
The middle class is being absolutely eviscerated, and poverty is soaring to unprecedented heights. The fact that 90 percent of the population is constantly sliding downhill is not good for our society. The United States is supposed to be a land of opportunity with a vibrant free market system that enables average people to make better lives for themselves. Unfortunately, free enterprise is being strangled to death in the United States today. Entrepreneurs and small business are being pounded into oblivion by rules, regulations, red tape and oppressive levels of taxation. Our founding fathers warned that we should not allow such large concentrations of wealth and power, because they tend to funnel the rewards of society into the hands of a select few. The following are 22 facts that prove that the bottom 90 percent of America is systematically getting poorer...
When it comes to the US housing market there appear to be three groups of people: those who who have either unlimited cash and/or access to credit, and like the most rabid of bubble-chasing speculators, are perfectly happy to engage in a game of Flip That House for a short-term profit pending the discovery of a greater fool (often times converting the house into rental properties as numerous hedge funds have been doing on cost-free basis courtesy of the government's REO-To-Rent program) - they are the vast minority of speculators; then there are those who currently rent and are opportunistically looking at home prices, willing to dip their toe at the right price - these too are few and far between and mostly represent a function of the natural growth of the US household offset by the availability of jobs; and then there is everyone else. Sadly, it is the "everyone else" that is the vast majority of the US population. It is this "everyone else" who comprises the bulk of those who have been kicked out of the American Dream, whose core pillar has always been owning your own home (with or without a massive mortgage attached), not renting. As the US Census Bureau reported earlier today, the US homeownership rates in the first quarter of 2013 dropped by another 0.4% to a fresh 18 years low, or 65% - the lowest since 1995!
Did you know that there are thousands upon thousands of homeless people that are living underground beneath the streets of major U.S. cities? It is happening in Las Vegas, it is happening in New York City and it is even happening in Kansas City. As the economy crumbles, poverty in the United States is absolutely exploding and so is homelessness. In addition to the thousands of "tunnel people" living under the streets of America, there are also thousands that are living in tent cities, there are tens of thousands that are living in their vehicles and there are more than a million public school children that do not have a home to go back to at night. The federal government tells us that the recession "is over" and that "things are getting better", and yet poverty and homelessness in this country continue to rise with no end in sight. So what in the world are things going to look like when the next economic crisis hits?
If the economy is getting better, then why does poverty in America continue to grow so rapidly? Yes, the stock market has been hitting all-time highs recently, but also the number of Americans living in poverty has now reached a level not seen since the 1960s. Yes, corporate profits are at levels never seen before, but so is the number of Americans on food stamps. Yes, housing prices have started to rebound a little bit (especially in wealthy areas), but there are also more than a million public school students in America that are homeless. That is the first time that has ever happened in U.S. history. So should we measure our economic progress by the false stock market bubble that has been inflated by Ben Bernanke's reckless money printing, or should we measure our economic progress by how the poor and the middle class are doing? Because if we look at how average Americans are doing these days, then there is not much to be excited about. Unfortunately, that bubble of false hope is not going to last much longer. In fact, we are already seeing signs that it is getting ready to burst.
That the US manufacturing sector has hardly performed in line with a record stock market is not news to anyone, and was confirmed most recently when the February CapEx number was revealed (i.e., Durable Goods non-defense ex aircraft) and missed expectations. Today, we closed to page on February production with the monthly Factory Orders, which printed just better than expected at the headline level or 3.0% vs expectations of a 2.9% number. However, just like with the Durable Goods data, this was entirely driven by the transportation industry, i.e., Boeing airplanes. Stripping transports, the increase from January to February was a tiny 0.3%, far below the 2.0% sequential increase in the prior month, as the entire delta in the headline increase from $477.5 billion to $492 billion was purely as a result of transports. Finally, when looked at correct on a Year over Year basis, this is how Factory Orders (headline and ex-trans) look. Surely this chart of economic activity should explains record stock prices, as sadly no other one can.
We are currently in an environment where policy makers are intent on devaluing their currencies in an effort to create growth. Real rates continue to stay negative in most of the developed world. Every marginal dollar of debt that is created is producing lower and lower amounts of growth. In a world overwhelmed by mountains of debt and economic growth which is sub-par at best, precious metals and real assets can act as insurance against the stupidity of policy makers. The evidence pointing towards the suppression of the gold price is becoming increasingly apparent. Don’t be the last person to figure this out! The current sell-off in gold should be viewed not with extreme trepidation but as an unbelievable opportunity to buy the metal at an artificially low value.
The Dow is at a record high and so are corporate profits - so why does it feel like most of the country is deeply suffering right now? Real household income is the lowest that it has been in a decade, poverty is absolutely soaring, 47 million Americans are on food stamps and the middle class is being systematically destroyed. How can big corporations be doing so well while most American families are having such a hard time? Isn't their wealth supposed to "trickle down" to the rest of us? Unfortunately, that is not how the real world works. But now we have replaced capitalism with something that we like to call "corporatism". In many ways, it shares a lot of characteristics with communism, and that is why nations such as communist China have embraced it so readily. Today, most big corporations are trying to minimize the number of "expensive" American workers on their payrolls as much as they can. Right now, the system is designed to continually funnel more money and more power to the very top of the pyramid. The global elite are becoming more dominant with each passing day. The idea of a very tiny elite completely dominating all the rest of us goes against everything that America is supposed to stand for. In the end, it will result in absolute tyranny if it is not stopped.
Today, the Federal Government's office in D.C. will be closed due to weather: we note this because supposedly someone would notice a difference. Not the sequester, no matter how hard the administration would like to blame it for today's shutdown, but the weather is to blame. Stone McCarthy explains what this means for today's economic reports. "The Office of Personal Management announced Wednesday, March 6 that federal government offices in the Washington, DC area would be closed due to weather. As a result, the usual lockup procedures for the release of economic data will be suspended. The only economic report of note set for release by the federal government on Wednesday is the data for factory orders in January. It will be published on the Census Bureau website at 10:00 ET as scheduled. The Federal Reserve's Beige Book is scheduled for release at 14:00 ET on Wednesday, and we anticipate it will be available on that website at the announced time."