UMichigan Confidence Drops For The First Time Since August 2011, Below Expectations - Drop Not Big EnoughSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 04/13/2012 10:05 -0400
As predicted earlier, UMich had no choice but to miss, because in centrally planned Bizarro markets only weak economic data leads to a rise in risk. Sure enough, with expectations of 76.2, the same as the March print, Consumer Confidence posted only its first decline since August, while missing expectations, printing at 75.7. And while a miss on its own would have led to a surge in stocks as NEW QE WOULD BE IMMINENT ANY SECOND NOW, the miss was less than the whisper number of 73.2 predicted, and as such this was merely one month of coincident data propaganda flushed down the drain. Also not helping things is that the Expectations index printed at 72.5, up from 69.8 and the highest since September 2009. With hope still so high it is hardly likely that the Fed will go ahead and appease everyone. Hope first has to be brutalized before Bernanke comes in to save the day and make the Fed appear like the 401(k)night in shining armor.
In an attempt to not steal too much thunder from Gary Shilling's thought-provoking interview with Bloomberg TV, his view of the S&P 500 hitting 800, as operating earnings compress to $80 per share, is founded in more than just a perma-bear's perspective of the real state of the US economy. As he points out "The analysts have been cranking their numbers down. They started off north of 110 then 105. They are now 102. They are moving in my direction." The combination of a hard landing in China, a recession in Europe, and a stronger USD will weigh on earnings and inevitably the US consumer (who's recent spending spree has considerably outpaced income growth) with the end result a moderate recession in the US. The story is "there is nothing else except consumers that can really hype the U.S. economy" and that is supported by employment but last week's employment report throws cold water in that. "Consumers have a lot of reasons to save as opposed to spend. They need to rebuild their assets, save for retirement. A lot of reasons suggest that they should be saving to work down debt as opposed to going the other way, which they have done in recent months. So if consumers retrench, there is not really anything else in the U.S. economy that can hold things up." While the argument that the US is the best of a bad lot was summarily dismissed as Shilling prefers the 'best horse in the glue factory' analogy and does not believe investors will flock to US equities - instead preferring US Treasuries noting that "everyone has said, rates cannot go lower, they will go up, they will go up. They have been saying that for 30 years."
US Households haven't shaken their 'junk bond' credit rating, given their poor income statement and balance sheet. Reversing Mitt Romney's famous quote "corporations are people", Bank Of America remains skeptical of this self-sustaining recovery - expecting second half growth to slow significantly as businesses and households react to the risk of a major fiscal shock (and in the short-term, momentum looks unsustainable). From an income statement perspective, 'a paycheck just ain't what it used to be' with food and energy prices rising and payroll growth (typically a good proxy for income growth) is disappointingly timid leaving real disposable income diverging weakly from a supposed job recovery. The balance sheet perspective has been helped by the rise of the equity market but the recovery in net worth in the last three years has barely outstripped income growth, leaving the ratio deeply depressed. The upshot is that the recent pick-up in consumption is not being fueled by income or wealth gains, but mainly by drawing down savings. Many households remain deeply distressed and react to higher costs of living by drawing down savings further. In sum, a true virtuous cycle still seems a long way off. As weather effects fade and gas pain builds the data should soften. BofA expects businesses to recognize the risks of the fiscal cliff first and pull back on hiring. Then with weaker job growth and with the growing awareness of the cliff, consumers will likely start delaying some discretionary spending.
- Greek PM does not rule out new bailout package (Reuters)
- Euro zone agrees temporary boost to rescue capacity (Reuters)
- Madrid Commits to Reforms Despite Strike (FT)
- China PBOC: To Keep Reasonable Social Financing, Prudent Monetary Policy In 2012 (WSJ)
- Germany Launches Strategy to Counter ECB Largesse (Telegraph)
- Iran Sanctions Fuel 'Junk for Oil' Barter With China, India (Bloomberg)
- BRICS Nations Threaten IMF Funding (FT)
- Bernanke Optimistic on Long-Term Economic Growth (AP)
A bevy of economic data misses overnight, including German and UK retail sales, Japan industrial production, UK consumer confidence, and a European economy which is overheating more than expected (2.6% vs 2.5% exp, although with $10/gas this is hardly surprising), and futures are naturally green. The reason: the broken record that is the European FinMins who are now redirecting attention from the slowly fading LTRO impact to the good old standby EFSFESM, which according to a statement by de Jager has now been agreed on at €800 billion, lower than last week's preliminary expectation for €940 billion in joint firepower. That this is nothing but a headline grabber is as we have noted before, as there is much doublecounting, capital allocation to and by the PIIGS as well as funding already assigned. It will likely take stocks some time before the realization dawns that this is not new capital and liquidity entering the markets, unlike QE on either side of the Atlantic, while the amount is largely inadequate to fill the multi-trillion liquidity shortfall, let alone "solvency" of European sovereigns and banks. So for now enjoy the greenness all around.
- Obama budget defeated 414-0 (Washington Times) yes, the Democrats too...
- German Central Banker: ECB Loans Only Buy Time (AP)
- Baku grants Israel use of its air bases (Jerusalem Times)
- Japan May Understate Deflation, Hampering BOJ, Economist Says (Bloomberg)
- BRICS flay West over IMF reform, monetary policy (Reuters)
- Five Portugal Lenders Downgraded by Moody’s (Bloomberg)
- SEC Registration Captures More Hedge Fund Advisers (Bloomberg)
- EU Nears One-Year Boost in Rescue Fund to $1.3 Trillion (Bloomberg)
- Consumers plot emergency oil release as Saudi decries high prices (Reuters)
- Japan Plans to Draft Stopgap Budget for First Time in 14 Years (Bloomberg)
After two months of quiet from the old world, Europe is again on the radar, pushing futures in the red, and the EURUSD lower, following a miss in March European Economic and Consumer confidence, printing at 94.4 and -19.1, on expectations of 94.5 and -19.0, as well as an Italian 5 and 10 Year auction which seemingly was weaker than the market had expected, especially at the 10 Year side, confirming the Italian long-end will be a major difficulty as noted here before, and pushing Italian yields higher (more on the market reaction below). The primary driver of bearish European sentiment continues to be a negative Willem Buiter note on Spain, as well as S&P's Kramer saying Greece will need a new restructuring. Lastly, the OECD published its G-7 report and reminded markets that Italian and likely UK GDP will shrink in the short-term. This was offset by better than expected German unemployment data but this is largely being ignored by a prevailing risk off sentiment. In other words, absolutely nothing new, but merely a smokescreen narrative to justify stock declines, which further leads us to believe that next week's NFP will be worse than expected as discussed last night.
For every semi-positive data point the bulls have emphasized since the market rally began, there's a counter-point that makes us question what all the fuss is about. The bulls will cite expanding US GDP in late 2011, while the bears can cite US food stamp participation reaching an all-time record of 46,514,238 in December 2011, up 227,922 participantsfrom the month before, and up 6% year-over-year. The bulls can praise February's 15.7% year-over-year increase in US auto sales, while the bears can cite Europe's 9.7% year-over-year decrease in auto sales, led by a 20.2% slump in France. The bulls can exclaim somewhat firmer housing starts in February (as if the US needs more new houses), while the bears can cite the unexpected 100bp drop in the March consumer confidence index five consecutive months of manufacturing contraction in China, and more recently, a 0.9% drop in US February existing home sales. Give us a half-baked bullish indicator and we can provide at least two bearish indicators of equal or greater significance. It has become fairly evident over the past several months that most new jobs created in the US tend to be low-paying, while the jobs lost are generally higher-paying. This seems to be confirmed by the monthly US Treasury Tax Receipts, which are lower so far this year despite the seeming improvement in unemployment. Take February 2012, for example, where the Treasury reported $103.4 billion in tax receipts, versus $110.6 billion in February 2011. BLS had unemployment running at 9% in February 2011, versus 8.3% in February 2012. Barring some major tax break we've missed, the only way these numbers balance out is if the new jobs created produce less income to tax, because they're lower paying, OR, if the unemployment numbers are wrong. The bulls won't dwell on these details, but they cannot be ignored.
- Greece's Fringe Parties Surge Amid Bailout Ire (WSJ)
- ECB fails to stem reduction in lending (FT)
- More Twists for Spanish Banks (WSJ)
- Banks use ECB cash to buy bonds, lend less to firms (IFR)
- UK still long way off pre-crisis growth – King (Reuters)
- Dublin confident of ECB deal to defer payment (FT)
- Goldman's European derivatives revenue soars (Reuters)
- Japan Faces Tax Battle as DPJ Finishes Plan on Sales Levy (Bloomberg)
- Insurance Mandate Splits US Court (FT)
Have you wondered what really drives consumer confidence? The answer is simple. Jobs. If consumers are to be confident about their future, they need to feel secure in the present and future employment. The chart shows (gold bar) the confidence gap, which is the difference between the present situation index and the future expectations index. The red and blue lines are the number of individuals surveyed who feel that jobs are currently hard to get or plentiful. When confidence is high, so are the number of people who feel that jobs are plentiful. This is generally because they are currently employed and feel like they could get another job if they wanted one. The opposite is true today. This gap between jobs being hard to get and plentiful has closed slightly in the last couple of years; however, we are a long way from getting back to levels that are more normally associated with recoveries.
With today's less than stellar consumer confidence number and continued path of missed expectations on key macro data over the past few weeks, it is perhaps wondrous that our brain-trust of analysts and economists continue to forecast higher expectations across the board. While this may not come as a surprise to readers used to comprehending the magic of the Birinyi ruler's extrapolation and the inevitable and clockwork 'miss' of turning points of any and every educated talking-heads model, this chart from Deutsche Bank's asset allocation group should contextualize where we are actually versus where LaVorgna and friends see us going. The sad truth is - we have seen this play out again and again and as the printing-press-pressure drives up asset prices (providing confirmation bias upon anchoring bias for any and every economist or long-only manager quoting the 'recovery' or decoupling), the truth is that as prices (and expectations) distend from value and actual reality, the central bank's efforts to 'maintain' the status quo simply create a larger and larger vacuum for asset prices to fall through when sad reality is finally peeked.
Consumer Confidence fell for only the second time since this unerring rally began and basically met expectations but it is under the covers that is concerning. Expectations for high inflation in the next six months has reached its highest level in six months jumping considerably from the previous month. Combine this with the overall drop in the expectations subindex of the consumer confidence index which fell for the first time in 5 months and all is not well in the 'stocks are going up so we are all doing great and the economy must be awesome'-transmission mechanism. On top of this wonderful news, the Richmond Fed missed expectations (with its biggest miss in 10 months) - taking us to 15 of 17 (removing the consumer confidence and S&P Case Shiller meets) missed economic data prints now. 7 of the 9 subindices of the Richmond Fed index dropped precipitously with only wages rising notably (more inflation?) even as 'number of employees' slumped by more than half and expectations for 'number of employees' in six months fell to its lowest since September. It would appear that higher gas prices are much more of a detrimental impact on the individual's confidence than a rising equity market is a boost - whocouldanode?
All you need to read and some more.
As we head into the US open, European cash equities are seen in positive territory with strong performance observed earlier in the session from the FTSE MIB. This follows reports from the Italian press regarding commentary from the Chinese President Hu Jintao who promised to encourage Chinese industry to look towards Italy with confidence, in a conversation with the Italian PM Monti on the sidelines of the nuclear safety summit in Seoul. Markets have also been reacting to an article from Der Spiegel, citing economists who have warned that the German central bank could be facing hidden liabilities of up to EUR 500bln should there be a break up in the Eurozone. This has prompted some risk-averse flows into the Bund which has seen fluctuating trade so far in the session but remains in positive territory as North America comes to market. In individual equities news, following overnight reports from Abu Dhabi concerning buying a stake in RBS, company shares were seen up 6%. Source comments from earlier in the session regarding the sale speculated that the stake could be up to a third of RBS. Looking ahead in the session, the market awaits US Consumer Confidence data due at 1500BST.