Dreams usually come to an end when we get to the good part. The juiciest part of the American dream has ended too
Last week, the main area of focus was the political situation in the US where Democrats and Republicans finally agreed upon a short term fix to reopen the government and extend the debt ceiling. The conclusion of this saw equity markets rally to all time highs in Europe and the US, with the USD continuing to slide as markets turn their attention to the Fed’s QE programme and push back expectations of when the central bank will begin to pull back on asset purchases. With the government now reopen, attention will turn to the numerous data releases that were delayed but will now take place over the next two weeks, including the jobs report which is due on Tuesday. The release of this report will once again be used to help predict when the Fed will begin to taper QE however, recent comments from Fed members have suggested that October is likely to be too soon trim bond buying due to the lack of key macroeconomic data and the unknown economic impact as a result of the government closing for 16 days.
Following last week's last two day panic buying driven not by data (since in the US it has been delayed until late October and November, and elsewhere in the world it is just getting worse) but by the catalyst that the US isn't going to default (yes, that's all that is needed to push the S&P to all time highs) and just hopes that the tapering - that horrifying prospect of the Fed reducing its monthly monetization by $15 billion from $85 to $70 billion in line with the decline in the US deficit - will be delayed until March or June 2014 because, you see, the Fed isn't sure how the economy is doing, it makes no sense to even comment on the market. Squeezes, momentum ignitions, rumors about what Messers Bernanke and Yellen had for breakfast, Goldman's 2015 S&P forecast of 2100: that's the lunacy that passes for market moving factors. News, and reality, have long since been put in the dust. Just keep an eye on flashing read headlines, and try to buy (remember: anyone caught selling by the NSA is guaranteed a lifetime of annual IRS audits) ahead of the algos. That's what Bernanke's centrally-planned "market" has devolved to.
A broad look at the political and economic consequences of the govt shutdown.
It is oddly appropriate for the BS New Normal, in which as the DOL showed earlier virtually every data point is made up, that moments after the Bloomberg Consumer Confidence Index showed a plunge in consumer expectations to the lowest leve in two years, that the October Philly Fed would come out with a six-month general activity outlook indicator of 60.8 (up from 58.2) and the second highest ever in the history of the series! One really can't make up the farce that biased, propaganda data "reporting" has become.
While there haven't been many economic data points to highlights the so-called damage to if not the economy, then the confidence of the all important US consumer, data on consumer confidence has been trickling in, and as expected, has been sliding. However, nowhere more so than in the just released latest read in the Bloomberg Weekly Consumer confidence index, whose expectations gauge just tumbled to -31, or the lowest level since November 2011. Bloomberg reports: "Americans in October were the most pessimistic about the nation’s economic prospects in almost two years as concern mounted that continued political gridlock will hurt the expansion. The monthly Bloomberg Consumer Confidence Index expectations gauge plunged to minus 31, the lowest level since November 2011, from minus 9 in September, a report showed today. The share of people projecting the economy will worsen jumped by the most since the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. five years ago. The weekly measure of current conditions fell to minus 34.1 in the period ended Oct. 13, the weakest since March."
If there is anything the market has shown in the past 16 days of government shutdown, which is set to reopen this morning in grandiose fashion following last night's 10 pm'th hour vote in the House, is that it no longer needs Washington not only to function but to ramp higher. All it needs is the Fed, which in turn needs an unlimited debt issuance capacity by the US Treasury which it can monetize indefinitely, which is why the debt ceiling was always the far more pressing issue. In other words, the good news is that the can has been kicked, and now the government workers (who will need about a week to get up to speed), can resume releasing various government data showing just how much 5 years of now-open ended QE have impaired the US economy, and why as a result, even more years of unlimited QE are in stock (because in a Keynesian world, what caused the problem is obviously what will fix it). The bad news: the whole charade will be repeated in three months. More importantly, with futures no longer having the hopium bogey on the horizon, namely the always last minute debt deal, they have finally sold off on the back of a weaker USD. It is unclear if the reason for this has more to do with climbing the wall of shorters which is now gone at least until February when the soap opera returns, or what for now, has been an absolutely abysmal Q3 earnings season. Luckily, in a centrally-planned world, plunging stocks is bullish for stocks, as it means even more Fed intervention, and so on ad inf.
While the specter of the debt ceiling debate continues to haunt the halls of Washington D.C. it is the state of retail sales that investors should be potentially focusing on. While the latest retail sales figures from the Bureau of Economic Analysis are unavailable due to the government shutdown; we can look at other data sources to derive the trend and direction of consumer spending as we head into the beginning of the biggest shopping periods of the year - Halloween, Thanks Giving (Black Friday) and Christmas. The recent downturns in consumer confidence and spending are likely being exacerbated by the controversy in Washington; but it is clear that the consumer was already feeling the pressure of the surge in interest rates, higher energy and food costs and stagnant wages. As we have warned in the past - these divergences do not last forever and tend to end very badly.
We now appear to be close to the day of reckoning that likely determines what the coming weeks/months hold.
- Do we step back from the brink, see our politicians reach an agreement and carry on? Although to be fair, in 2011 the break below supports that led to accelerated losses in the equity markets actually took place once an agreement was reached.
- Do we break lower thereby causing the negative feedback loop/concerns that feed back into the economy, kill any possibility of tapering and sees the Fed re-establish its dovish credentials (Like 1998 and 2011)
- Do bond yields push higher after an agreement thereby increasing concerns about a negative feedback loop into the economy, housing, emerging markets, Europe (Like 2011) and ultimately the equity market?
Time will tell us the answers to the above questions, but whatever happens, Citi notes it looks like the price action in the near future is at pivotal levels that need to be watched closely.
Stock market now held up by its one and final prop, a jerry-rigged, haphazard device with destructive side effects.
With Gallup indicating the biggest 3-week decline in economic confidence since Lehman, it is hardly a surprise that UMich consumer confidence slumped to its lowest since January having fallen 3 months in a row. This is the 2nd monthly miss in a row - and biggest 3-month drop in 25 months - and appears to confirm the cyclical turn we have been discussing for a few months. And remember, the exuberance of multiple expansion relies on the ever-rising confidence of the people to lift it back to nebulous heights.
Despite stock (not bond) euphoria yesterday that a DC debt ceiling deal was sealed leading to the second largest risk ramp of 2013, last night was spent diffusing the excitement as one after another politician talked back the success of a "non-deal" that Obama rejected, at least according to the NYT. As a result, with both retail sales data and the PPI not being released (and the only data of note the always leaked UMichigan consumer confidence) markets will again be at the behest of developments on Capitol Hill, with some talk from Republicans suggesting a deal as early as today could be possible in an effort to reopen government on Monday. It is entirely possible that talks could continue over the weekend though, which would ensure a gappy open to Asian markets on Monday.
Quick: which BRIC nation has the highest consumer loan default rate?
If you said China, India or Russia, you are wrong. Actually, if you said China you are probably right, but since absolutely all economic "data" in China is worthless, manipulated propaganda, only a retrospective post-mortem after the Chinese credit, housing, commodity, consumption bubbles have all burst will we know the answer. So excluding China, which country's consumers after a multi-year shopping spree funded entirely on credit, are suddenly suffering the epic hangover of soaring non-performing loans as they suddenly find themselves unable to even pay the interest on the debt? Just ask former billionaire Eike Batista whose OGX oil corporation is days away from filing bankruptcy. The answer, with 5.6% of all loans in default, above Russia, South Africa, Mexico, Turkey and India, is Brazil.
While the ongoing government shutdown, now in its second week, means even more macro data will be retained by the random number generators, central banks are up and running. This means that in the upcoming week the key event will be the release of the FOMC minutes from the last meeting at which the Fed surprised almost the entire market by not tapering asset purchases as effectively pre-announced. There are MPC meetings in the UK, Brazil, South Korea and Indonesia. The main focus, however, will be on the US political situation still. Data that will most likely be delayed this week includes the US Trade balance, JOLTs, Wholesale and Business inventories, Retail sales, PPI, Import Prices, and the Monthly Federal budget.
Overnight trading over the past week has been a bipolar affair based on algo sentiment about what is coming out of D.C. But which the last session was optimistic for some inexplicable reason that a deal on both the government shutdown and the debt ceiling out of DC was imminent, today any optimism is gone in the aftermath of the latest comments by Boehner on ABC, in which he implied that a US default is not unavoidable and that it would be used as more political capital, as it would be once again blamed on Obama for not resuming negotiations. As a result both global equities and US futures are down sharpy in overnight trading. And since the government shutdown, better known as a retroactively paid vacation, for everyone but the Pentagon (whose 400,000 workers have been recalled from furlough) continues it means zero government economic statistics in today's session with the only macro data being the Fed-sourced consumer credit report at 3 pm. This week also marks the unofficial start of the Q3 reporting season in the US with Alcoa doing the usual opening honous after the US closing bell tomorrow. JPMorgan’s and Wells Fargo’s results on Friday are the other main ones to watch to see just how much in reserves are released to pretend that banks are still making money. As usual, expect disinformation leaks that send the market sharply higher throughout the day, which however will only make the final outcome that much more painful, because as during every US government crisis in the past, stocks have to plunge so they can soar again.