It would appear the US consumer has become entirely bipolar. Bloomberg's US Consumer Comfort index has swung in +/- 3-sigma ranges for much of the last few months as hope turns to despair and once again rises phoenix-like to hope. The last four weeks have seen the biggest rise in 'comfort' in six years - mirroring quite closely the chaos that was occurring in the lead up to the financial crisis. What is a little perplexing - with all this exuberant optimism and confidence, that factory orders just plunged off a cliff - falling the most since Jan 2009 (though slightly better than expected). Or is it so bad that it can only get better as the imploding economy is imploding slightly slower than expected?
One-by-one, the highest quality collateral in the world (according to ratings that is) is disappearing. To wit, Fitch warns that a downgrade of the UK's AAA rating is increasingly likely: "weaker than expected growth and fiscal outturns in 2012 have increased pressure on the UK's 'AAA' rating, which has been on Negative Outlook since March 2012." The Negative Outlook on the UK rating reflects the very limited fiscal space, at the 'AAA' level, to absorb further adverse economic shocks in light of the UK's elevated debt levels and uncertain growth outlook. Global economic headwinds, including those emanating from the on-going eurozone crisis, have compounded the drag on UK growth from private sector deleveraging and fiscal consolidation as well as from depressed business and consumer confidence, weak investment, and constrained credit growth. But no mention of unlimited QE? Fitch expects only a weak recovery beginning in 2013 and output is not expected to surpass its 2007 pre-crisis peak until 2014.
- China accuses Bo Xilai of multiple crimes, expels him from communist party (Reuters), China seals Bo's fate ahead of November 8 leadership congress (Reuters)
- "Dozens of phone calls on days, nights and weekends" - How Bernanke Pulled the Fed His Way - Hilsenrath (WSJ)
- Fed won't "enable" irresponsible fiscal policy-Bullard (Reuters)
- PBOC Adviser Says Easing Restrained by Concerns on Homes (Bloomberg)
- Data Point to Euro-Zone Recession (WSJ)
- Fiscal cliff dims business mood (FT)
- FSA to Oversee Libor in Streamlining of Tarnished Rates (Bloomberg)
- Monti Says ECB Conditions, IMF Role Hinder Bond Requests (Bloomberg)
- Japan Heads for GDP Contraction as South Korea Weakens (Bloomberg)
- Moody’s downgrades South Africa (FT)
- Madrid Struggles With Homage to Catalonia (WSJ)
After seeing its stock market tumbling to fresh 2009 lows, the PBOC decided it couldn't take it any more, and joined the Fed's QE3 and the BOJ's QE8 (RIP) in easing. Sort of. Because while the PBOC is prevented from outright easing as we have been saying for months now (even as "experts" screamed an RRR or outright rate cut is imminent every day while we warned that Chinese inflation has proven quite sticky especially in home prices and food and China's central bank will not attempt to push its stocks up as long as the situation persists, so for quite a while) it can inject liquidity on a ultra-short term basis using reverse repos (or what are called repos here in the US). And shortly after it was found that Chinese companies industrial profits fell 6.2% in August after tumbling 5.4% in July, we learned that the PBOC added a record 365 billion Yuan to the financial system in order to prevent a creeping lockup in the banking system. While this managed to push the Shanghai Composite by nearly 3% overnight, this injection will prove meaningless in even the medium-term as the liquidity is now internalized and the PBOC has no choice but to add ever more liquidity or face fresh post-2009 lows every single day. Which it won't as very soon it will seep over into the broader market. And as long as the threat of surging pork prices next year is there, and with a global bacon shortage already appearing, and food prices set to surge in a few short months on the delayed effects of the US drought, one thing is certain: China will need a rumor that someone- even Spain- is coming to its rescue.
Yes, it did feel kinda rainy already yesterday with “Purple Rain”.
Total Risk Off close today.
Bad Rain. Bad, Bad Rain...
European Risk Is Back: CDS Surge, Spain 10 Year Back Over 6%, Germany Has Second Uncovered Auction In Three WeeksSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 09/26/2012 05:14 -0500
Remember when we said two months ago that one way or another the market will need to tumble to enforce the chain of events that lead to Spain demanding the bailout which has long been priced in, and (especially after yesterday's violent protest) Rajoy handing in his resignation? Well, it's "another." After nearly 3 months of suspending reality, in hopes to not "rock the boat" until the US presidential election, reality has made a quick and dramatic appearance in Europe, where after a day in which the EURUSD tumbled, events overnight have finally caught up. What happened? First, ECB's Asmussen said that the central bank would not participate in any debt restructuring, confirming any and all hopes that the ECB would ever be pari passu with regular bondholders were a pipe dream. Second, Plosser in the US said additional QE probably won't boost growth which has reverberated across a globe in which the only recourse left is, well, additional QE. Finally, pictures of tens of thousands rioting unemployed young men and women in Madrid did not help. The result: Spain's 10 Year is over 20 bps wider, and back over 6%, Germany just had a €5 billion 10 Year auction for which it only got €3.95 billion in bids, which means it was technically a failure, and the second uncovered auction in one month, and finally CDS across the continent, not to mention the option value that is the Spanish IBEX which may fall 3% today, have finally realized they are priced far too much to perfection and have, as a result, blown out.
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As we noted earlier, the main reason for the surge in consumer "confidence" in September was the near record surge in sentiment for those making $15,000-$25,000, which soared from 43.5 to 62.4 in the month, the most since April 2009. And whether this was due to their forecast of the future, and expectation that things will get much better, or not, we don't know, what we do know is that half all of those people whose sentiment defined the market tone today, and who may be quite instrumental in the outcome of the upcoming election (per Mitt Romney), have less than $100 in cash savings. Other findings: both males and females reported similar savings patterns, however, 55 percent of Americans with children under the age of 18 reported having less than $800 in emergency savings compared to 42 percent of those without. Findings also reflect disparities across geographic regions, with 60 percent of individuals living in both the Northeast and the West having $800 or more in savings, yet 31 percent of those living in the North Central region reported that they had less than $100. Most importantly, 23% of all Americans have less than $100 in savings to cover any emergency expenses, and 46% have less than $800. One can see why when it comes to the discussion of whether or not financial assets should be taxes, soon 46% may be the new 47%.
Another fairly uninspiring day.
In absence of hard data, subject to rumours and sentiment, as well as sudden “squeezes” or “sell-offs”, albeit in very tight ranges.
Mood maybe less rainy then yesterday, but, call me a bear, it doesn’t feel very convincing out there.
The NY Fed is not the only place where Hopium grows anew. Moments ago the conference board reported its September confidence print, which soared by nearly 10 points to 70.3, from 60.6 in August, and expectations of a 63.1 print: this was the highest print since February when hopes that the European LTRO may work (it didn't), and the largest beat in seven months. Ironically, the February beat was driven by 6 month forward hope as well, hope which have been dashed by today's current conditions number as the spread between hope and reality once again collapses. Naturally, the driver for today's miraculous pre-election beat: 6 month outlook soared from 71.1 to 83.7. In other words, if the present did not quite work out as had been hoped, one can just defer hope one more time - surely this time the future will certainly be different. Finally, and as was to be expected, the "confidence" when broken down by income buckets: those with $50k and more in income feel better, those with $35k and less in income feel better. Who is worse off? Why the middle class of course, or those with incomes between $35-$50k.
Some time ago, before China's hard landing was virtually assured (see Iron Ore prices), there was a period when its data was a veritable cornucopia of Schrodingerian ambivalence, with various economic indicators representing either growth or contraction at the same time. It appears that the modified wave-particle duality has just shifted to the US, whose housing segment is the latest patient of wave function collapse as the July Case Shiller index printed both a beat and a miss at the same time. The Top 20 composite index beat in the NSA Year over Year price change, which was +1.2%, on expectations of +1.05%, and up from a revised 0.59. However, it missed in the sequential Top 20 Composite price change, which printed at 0.44%, below expectations and half off the June price increase of 0.91%. In fact, as the chart below shows, the July increase was now the slowest sequential increase in the past 5 months, and at this rate, the August, or September data at the latest, will show a sequential decline in prices, as the euphoria from the Rent-to-REO fades, and as the massively pent up foreclosure inventory is finally forced to come to market and drag prices far below where the currently artificially propped up market "clears" (read Foreclosure Stuffing).
Risk-averse sentiment was prevalent throughout the session, after both Spain and Italy sold bonds/T-bills, which attracted weak bidding and hence saw lower than exp. b/c. In addition to that, yields on 3m and 6m Spanish T-bills were higher, with some pointing to the fact that the Treasury has been forced to step up its T-bill issuance to meet its zero net funding target (higher supply). As a result, peripheral bond yield spreads are wider by around 9bps, with Italian bonds underperforming given the supply later on in the week. This underperformance was also evident in the equity space, where the domestic stock exchange is seen lower by over 1%, compared to DAX which is only lower by 0.4%. In the FX space, firmer USD weighed on both EUR/USD and GBP/USD, both trading in close proximity to intraday option expiry levels.
After briefly attempting to stage a rise in the early overnight session, the EUR has since resumed its lower glidepath (something which Germany's export-focused economy and the only realy economic driver in Europe desperately needs: after all Europe is the only entity in the world whose central bank is working to promote a stronger currency) to the 1.2900 support, as once again Europe comes back into focus, exposing all its warts, scars and boils in perfect 1080HD resolution. Among the key events were a Spanish €4.00 billion bill sale as well as an Italian €3.94 billion 2 year bond sale, which despite selling at the maximum of the intended range, showed far less investor demand than on recent occasions, a development which Rabobank said is to be expected as the "Draghi effect" wanes, and once again Europe is left to its own devices. "The longer Spain delays on requesting bailout, the more the improvement in sentiment following Draghi’s pledge to save euro is likely to unwind" Richard McGuire, fixed income strategist at Rabobank, writes in client note. "Unraveling of “Draghi effect” may accelerate, with possible Moody’s downgrade this week and lack of progress at Oct. 8 Eurogroup summit." Other events out of Europe include the ongoing attempts in Spain to package lots of trash under the rug (see: Spanish Bad Bank Risks Investor Conflict With Stressed Lenders), the realization that the Swiss National Bank instead of continuing to exchange EUR for AUD, bought €80 billion of core debt according to S&P, the print of Italy's September consumer confidence which held near 15-Year lows, a French industrial sentiment which held near Two-Year lows, and so on. Greece too continues to make noises but it seems that the little country is being ignored by everyone. Catalonia's separatist tensions however are getting louder after the Barcelona province did not get the unconditional bailout it demanded (as we wrote yesterday).
Ray Dalio, founder and co-chief investment officer of Bridgewater Associates, L.P. and one of the most successful hedge fund managers of all time told Maria Bartiromo last week that he owns gold and that he sees no “sensible reason not to own gold”. The interview was part of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) Corporate Program's CEO Speaker Series, which provides a forum for leading global CEOs to share their priorities and insights before a high-level audience of wealthy and influential CFR members. The respected hedge fund manager suggested that a depression and not a recession was likely and warned of social unrest and the risk of radical politics as was seen with Hitler and the Nazis in the Depression of the 1930’s. Dalio spoke about how “gold is a currency” and when asked by Bartiromo “do you own gold?”, he smiled and said “Oh yeah, I do.” The admission elicited a laugh from the CFR audience. Dalio’s interview is important as it again indicates how slowly but surely gold is moving from a fringe asset of a few hard money advocates and risk averse individuals to a mainstream asset. Wealthier people and some of the wealthiest and most influential people in the world are slowly realising the importance of gold as financial insurance in an investment portfolio and as money. This will result in sizeable flows into the gold market in the coming months which should push prices above the inflation adjusted high of 1980 - $2,500/oz. The interview section where Dalio is asked about gold by an audience member begins in the 43rd minute and can be seen here.
The last time we saw a bevy of regurgitated European rumors shortly refuted was last Friday. Today we get a redux, following a hard push by none other than Spiegel (precisely as we predicted a month ago: "And now, time for Spiegel to cite "unnamed sources" that the EFSF is going to use 3-4x leverage") to imagine a world in which the ESM can be leveraged 4x to €2 trillion. This is merely a replay of last fall when Europe's deus ex for 2 months was clutching at a cobbled up superficial plan of 3-4x EFSF leverage, which ultimately proved futile. Why? Because, just like in 2011, one would need China in on this strategy as there is simply not enough endogenous leverage in either the US or Europe which would make this plan feasible. And China, we are sad to say, has a whole lot of its own problems to worry about right about now, than bailing out the shattered dream of a failed monetary unions still held by a few lifelong European bureaucrats, which this thing is all about. As expected, moments ago Germany refuted everything. Via Reuters: "Germany's finance ministry said on Monday that talk of the euro zone's permanent bailout fund being leveraged to 2 trillion euros via private sector involvement was not realistic, adding that any discussion of precise figures was "purely abstract." This also explains why we devoted precisely zero space to this latest leverage incarnation rumor yesterday: we were merely waiting for the refutation.