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.
We can certainly "hope" that the markets will continue to march endlessly higher. However, "hope" has never been an effective portfolio management strategy. Considering that the decline in oil prices is supposed to good for the consumer, even though personal spending declined in the most recently reported period, the decline in dividends will certainly have a negative effect on those depending on those dividends. The current detachment between spending and the stock market will likely be corrected rather harshly at some point.
The Face Of The Oligarch Recovery: Luxury Skyscrapers Empty As NYC Homeless Population Hits Record HighSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/04/2015 15:55 -0500
As Manhattan builds eight figure luxury apartment units merely to serve as bank accounts for international oligarchs, New York City’s homeless population soars to a new record high. It’s the ultimate manifestation of how criminal and crony this so-called “recovery” has been.
For the past couple of years, the economic optimists have been telling us that the economy has been getting better. Well, if the economy really has been getting better, why does the homeownership rate keep going down? If the economy really was healthy, more people would be getting good jobs and thus would be able to buy homes. But instead, the homeownership rate has continued to plummet throughout the entire “Obama recovery”.
Quietly, and with essentially no coverage from the mainstream media, an obscure resolution (No. 41) was introduced in the US House of Representatives this week. The entire point of the resolution (The Federal Government should not bail out State and local government employee pension plans or other plans that provide post-employment benefits to State and local government retirees) is to say that the federal government is broke. It can’t pay its own bills, and therefore is shouldn’t be responsible to pay anyone else’s either. This Resolution is a pretty scary dose of honesty.
For decades, the rest of the planet has regarded the United States as “the land of opportunity” where almost anyone can be successful if they are willing to work hard. The “American Dream” has been transformed into a very twisted game of musical chairs. With each passing year, more people are falling out of the middle class, and most of the rest are scrambling really hard to keep their own places. Something has gone horribly wrong... We are the generation that gets to witness the end of the American Dream.
Is the BLS overstating employment growth? I guess it depends on whose data set you choose to believe. However, there is little denying the fact that with over 60% of the population living paycheck-to-paycheck, stagnant wage growth and declining net worth over the last five years, there is something that simply does not add up. If employment growth were indeed growing as strongly as in the late 90's, it would seem logical to expect that many of the disparities in the economic landscape should be starting to equalize somewhat. Unfortunately, that has yet to be the case.
In the early 1970s, there were about 200,000 new US businesses created each year (net of closures). Now, the number is negative. Why are Americans getting poorer? Look no further. No new businesses (net). No new jobs (again net). No new wealth. Under Obama and Draghi, crony capitalism flourishes. Real capitalism dies.
Once upon a time, there was a saying "no taxation without representation." Well, in America's transition to an utopia of French or even Venezuelan caliber, for half the population taxation became an anachronism from a bygone era, which in turn meant that representation likewise lost its charm. However, in order to preserve a political system in which the votes of the many are bought with the money of the few or, as the case may be these days, with money printed out of thin air by the Federal Reserve, there was one bureaucratic hurdle: one still needed a US passport in order to vote. However if a newly introduced bill in Washington D.C. passes, one won't even need to be a citizen in order to vote in local elections.