Consumer Confidence

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NAR Continues Tradition Of Making Mockery Of Itself, Revises December Home Sales From +5% to -0.5%

And here is yet another reason why we will permanently ignore the pathologically lying real estate syndicate known as the NAR (link): December data was just revised from +5% to -0.5% (from 4.61 million to 4.38 million). Since December market expectations were for a +5.2% print, imagine the sheer horror the algos would have been faced with had the real number been reported on time. Needless to say, if this number had been unrevised, the January +4.3% increase would have been a decline. This way the aglos focused only on the immediate moment get two months of beats in a row. Huzzah. Anyone who trades anything based on this borderline criminal self-reporting enterprise needs to have their head checked. In other news, when will the LIBOR investigation finally target the NAR?

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Sentiment Weaker Following Euroarea PMI Contraction, Refutation Of "Technical Recession"

January's hopium catchphrase of the month was that Europe's recession would be "technical" which is simply a euphemism for our Fed's beloved word - "transitory." Based on the just released Euroarea PMI, we can scratch this Euro-accented "transitory" addition to the lexicon, because contrary to expectations that the Euroarea composite PMI would show expansion at 50.5, instead it came out at 49.7 - the manufacturing PMI was 49.0 on Exp of 49.4, while the Services PMI was 49.4, on hopes of expansion at 50.6, which as Reuters notes suggests that firms are still cutting prices to drum up business and reducing workforces to cut costs. This was accompanied by a overnight contraction in China, where the flash manufacturing PMI rose modestly from 48.8, but was again in contraction at 49.7. We would not be surprised if this is merely the sacrifice the weakest lamb in the pack in an attempt to get crude prices lower. So far this has failed to dent WTI much if at all following rapidly escalating Iran tensions. What is curious is that Germany and France continue to do far better than the rest of the Eurozone - just as America has decoupled from Europe, so apparently have Germany and France. This too is surely "sustainable."

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Frontrunning: February 21

  • Spiegel: Stop the 130-billion bank transfer! (Spiegel)
  • Greece Wins Bailout as Europe Chooses Aid Over Default (Bloomberg)
  • Greek pro-bailout parties at all-time low, poll shows (Reuters)
  • Eurozone agrees €130bn Greek bail-out (FT)
  • Top Banks in EU Rush for Safety (WSJ)
  • Medvedev Adviser Says Kudrin Would Be Better Prime Minister (Bloomberg)
  • US and Mexico in landmark oil deal (FT)
  • McCain calls for US to support Syria rebels (FT)
  • Coal Shipments to India Overtaking China on Fuel Shortage (Bloomberg)
  • Gillard Shrugs Off Ousting Threat (WSJ)
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The Week In Review And Key Global Macro Events In The Coming Week

The week ahead is fairly light on big ticket data releases, but what is released will provide more evidence of the strength of global activity. The most important of these will be the flash PMIs for China and the Euro area and the German IFO reading . There is no consensus expectation for the China print, however the Euro area indices are both expected to rise slightly, as is the German IFO. In terms of cyclical hard data, Taiwan export orders and IP for Singapore and Taiwan, Euro area industrial orders and trade data from Japan and Thailand will be notable. Admittedly the data from Asia is likely to be complicated by Chinese New Year which fell in the third week of January, and presumably this is why the consensus expects such a sharp drop in Taiwan IP, however the data are still worth watching for indications of the strength in global activity. Generally, consensus expectations for these prints are not particularly encouraging and any 'beats' would be a positive surprise. It goes without saying that ongoing negotiations towards signing off on Greece's second package will also remain on the radar screen. As we write, Reuters has posted suggestions that the debt swap will be open by March 8 and complete by March 11.

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S&P500 Q4 Profit Margins Decline By 27 bps, 52 bps Excluding Apple

What a difference a quarter makes: back in Q4 2011, in light of the imploding global economic reality, the only recourse equity bulls had to was to point out that corporate profitability was still at all time highs, and to ignore the macro. Fast forward a few months, when Europe's economic situation continues to deteriorate with the recession now in its second quarter, China's home prices have just slumped for a 4th consecutive month (forcing the PBOC to do only its second RRR cute since November), Japan is, well, Japan, yet where the US economic decoupling miracle is now taken at face value following an abnormally high seasonal adjustment in the NFP establishment survey leading to a big beat in payrolls and setting the economic mood for the entire month (with flows into confidence-driven regional Fed indices and the PMI and ISM, not to mention the Consumer Confidence data) as one of ongoing economic improvement. That this "improvement" has been predicated upon another record liquidity tsunami unleashed by the world's central banks has been ignored: decoupling is as decoupling does damn it, truth be damned. Yet the bullish sentiment anchor has flip flopped: from corporate profitability it is now the US "golden age." How long said "golden age" (which is nothing but an attempt to sugar coat the headline reality for millions of jobless Americans in an election year) lasts is unclear: America's self-delusion skills are legendary. But when it comes to corporate profit margin math, things are all too clear: the corporate profitability boom is over. As Goldman points out: with the bulk of companies reporting, in Q4 corporate profits have now declined by a significant 27 bps sequentially, and an even more significant 52 bps excluding Apple.

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Goldman Raises Stop On Its Long Russell 2000 Reco, Cites Heightened Concerns Of Greek Default

Yesterday, it was Thomas Stolper who capitulated on his latest incursion into the field of 0.000 batting, when he closed his long EURUSD reco (only for the EUR to jump today of course). We can hardly wait for him to announce he is again long the EURUSD for the clearest EUR short signal possible. That said, it still left outstanding the Goldman Russell 2000 recommendation noted here previously. Sure enough, in the aftermath of yesterday's return of risk with a vengeance, Goldman is taking steps to make sure it locks in at least some profits on its RUT 2000 target of 860 by hiking the stop to 810 from 765. The reason? "What has clearly changed in the past week -- and the catalyst for this "leash tightening" -- is that European sovereign risks have reemerged, with continued near-term support for Greece now much more uncertain than we or the markets had previously assumed. With the amplification of these hard-to-assess risks emanating from Europe, and data continuing to support our main thesis, we think that protecting the gains at this point with relatively tight stop is prudent" But why if Europe is suddenly fixed, on the completely meaningless news that the ECB is funding Eurozone central banks with magic money on their Greek bond losses, even as the actual debt notional is not changing at all. At this point, we doubt we are the only one who no longer care.

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Guest Post: The Grand Game Of Perception Management

The task of the financial/political/media Status Quo is to convince Americans to overlook the abundant evidence of economic deterioration and focus on heavily juiced "evidence" of robust "growth." The game plan is this: if the Status Quo can convince you that the economy has righted itself and from here on in everything will get better and better, every day and in every way, then we will abandon financial rationality and start buying homes we can't afford on credit, cars we can't afford on credit and boatloads of stuff from China that we don't need on credit (of course looking cool is a "need," i.e. having an iPad to carry around). In other words, believing it is so will make it so. That is the essence of the campaign to stimulate "animal spirits" confidence: though the economy is actually tanking, if they can only convince us the Dow is moving to 15,000 and then on to 20,000, jobs are being created left and right and things are looking up everywhere, then the resulting piranha-like shopping-feeding-frenzy will create the expansion that is currently chimerical.

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European Recession Deepens As German Industrial Output Slides More Than Greek, Despite Favorable ZEW

Earlier today we got another indication that Europe's recession will hardly be a "technical" or "transitory" or whatever it is that local spin doctors call it, after the European December Industrial Output declined by 1.1% led by a whopping 2.7% drop by European growth dynamo Germany, which slid by 2.7% compared to November (which in turn was a 0.3% decline). This was worse than the Greek number which saw a 2.4% drop, however starting at zero somewhat limits one's downside. Yet even as the German economic decline accelerated, German ZEW investor expectations, which just like all of America's own consumer "CONfidence" metrics are driven primarily off the stock market, which in turn is a function of investor myopia to focus only on nominal numbers and not purchasing power loss - a fact well known to central bankers everywhere - do not indicate much if anything about the economy, and all about how people view the DAX stock index, which courtesy of the ECB's massive balance sheet expansion, has been going up. And if there has been any light at all in an otherwise dreary European tunnel, it has been the dropping EURUSD, which however has since resumed climbing, and with it making German industrial exports once again problematic. Which in turn brings us back to the primary these of this whole charade: that Germany needs controlled chaos to keep the EURUSD low - the last thing Merkel needs is a fixed Europe. It is surprising how few comprehend this.

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Moody's Downgrades Italy, Spain, Portugal And Others; Puts UK, France On Outlook Negative - Full Statement

You know there is a reason why Europe just came crawling with an advance handout looking for US assistance: Moody's just went apeshit on Europe.

  • Austria: outlook on Aaa rating changed to negative
  • France: outlook on Aaa rating changed to negative
  • Italy: downgraded to A3 from A2, negative outlook
  • Malta: downgraded to A3 from A2, negative outlook
  • Portugal: downgraded to Ba3 from Ba2, negative outlook
  • Slovakia: downgraded to A2 from A1, negative outlook
  • Slovenia: downgraded to A2 from A1, negative outlook
  • Spain: downgraded to A3 from A1, negative outlook
  • United Kingdom: outlook on Aaa rating changed to negative

In other news, we wouldn't want to be the company that insured Moody's Milan offices.

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Asia Buying Gold On Dips - “Empires May Fall, Currencies May Change... Gold Will Always Survive”

Market focus tends to be almost solely on Chinese and Indian demand but demand is broad based throughout increasingly important Asian gold markets. Demand for gold remains robust in most Asian countries where consumers are buying gold as a store of wealth due to concerns about their local paper currency.  This phenomenon is happening throughout Asia including in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam and other large Asian countries (see news below regarding demand for gold by investors in Thailand).   AFP have a very interesting article on Vietnamese ‘gold fever’ which recounts how  “stashing gold at home rather than having cash in the bank is a generations-old habit in communist Vietnam”. And old habits are dying hard even if an ounce of gold bullion can now cost up to US $100 more in Hanoi than anywhere else in the world due to government meddling in the gold market. AFP quote 60-year-old retiree Truong Van Hue “I still like to keep my savings in gold. It's safe for retired people like me. I can sell the gold any time, anywhere, when I need cash,” he told AFP. Although the treasure has long been perceived as a safe haven, the recent gold rush has alarmed Vietnam's government, which is faced with an 18 percent inflation rate and an unstable national currency, the dong.

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Credit Card Fueled Binges No Longer Bring A Smile To US Consumers' Faces

To be happy is to be confident. And at least until the recent past, in America to be confident, meant to have purchasing power, which pretty much always, at least for the bulk of the population, meant to lever up, i.e., to take on debt and to spend it on worthless crap. Well, as we reported earlier this week, in December the US population literally jumped head first right back into the credit frenzy, experiencing the largest jump in unadjusted consumer credit since the peak of the credit bubble. however, very much contrary to naive interpretations that this would reignite the economy, as Lance Roberts explained, and as Charles Hugh Smith confirmed showing plunging gasoline usage, it merely indicated that with savings again at record lows, US consumer have no choice but to dig deep into their credit card stash merely to pay for staples, and non-discretionary spending. And one hardly is happy when one purchases a roll of toiler paper (not to be confused with US Treasurys - there is far less than 15.4 trillion pieces of toiler paper in the world) on credit. Sure enough, as the following chart from John Lohman demonstrates, the recent (mini) reincarnation (because it will last at most a month or two) of the consumer credit bubble has done absolutely nothing for consumer confidence. In fact, today's UMichigan data showed a decline in confidence. Which shows  all one needs to know about just what the true state of the US consumer is...

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Frontrunning: February 9

  • New Greek demands threaten debt deal (FT)
  • Greek Finance Minister Heads to Brussels; Loan Talks Stall (WSJ)
  • Talks Stalled on Greek Bailout as Venizelos Heads to Brussels (Bloomberg)
  • US banks near historic deal on foreclosures (FT)
  • Obama: Europe needs "absolute commitment" on debt crisis (Reuters)
  • Fed's Lacker sees no need for more easing for now (Reuters)
  • Europe compromise urged at summit (China Daily)
  • China to Punish Illicit Bank Lending, Shanghai Securities Says (Bloomberg)
  • Monti Meets Obama Amid ’Spectacular Progress’ (Bloomberg)
  • Draghi’s First 100 Days Presage Greek Help (Bloomberg)
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Daily US Opening News And Market Re-Cap: February 8

European stocks advanced today following reports that the ECB is said to be willing to exchange Greek bonds with EFSF. In addition to that, although a vast majority of officials remain adamant that no haircuts will be applied, WSJ report indicated that the concession by the ECB will contribute to the Greek debt reduction, and the concession depends on the overall debt agreement being set. However it remains to be seen what effect using the EFSF for such spurious purposes will have on the demand for EFSF issued bonds in the future. Still, the renewed sense of optimism that debt swap talks are nearing an end depressed investor appetite for fixed income securities, which in turn resulted in further tightening of peripheral bond yield spreads. The stand out was the 10-year Spanish bond, amid a syndicated issuance from the Treasury. Going forward, Greek PM is scheduled to meet party leaders on a loan deal at 1300GMT, while other reports have suggested that the Troika is keen on meeting Greek parties individually. There is little in terms of macro-economic data releases today, however the US Treasury is due to sell USD 24bln in 10y notes.

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Weekly Bull/Bear Recap: Jan. 30 - Feb. 3, 2012

A one-stop shop summary of bullish and bearish perspectives on this weeks news, data, and markets.

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Is The CBO Merely Another Manipulated Front For Wall Street To Dictate Washington Policy?

In the past, when discussing the goalseeking C-grade excel jockeys at the Congressional Budget Office (or CBO), we have not been technically full of reverence. After all when one uses a phrase such as this one: "What do the NAR, Consumer Confidence and CBO forecasts have in common? If you said, "they are all completely worthless" you are absolutely correct", it may be too late to worry about burned bridges. We do have our reasons: as we pointed out last year, following the whole US downgrade fiasco when the Treasury highlighted the CBO's sterling work in presenting a US future so bright, Timmy "TurboTax" G had to wear shades, we said "according to the same CBO back in 2001, net US indebtedness in 2011 would be negative $2.436 trillion, the ratio of debt held by the public to GDP would be 4.8%, total budget surplus would be $889 billion, and GDP would be $16.9 trillion." As we know now they were off only by a modest $17.5 trillion on that debt forecast. Yet we never attributed to malice and bias and outright corruption, what simple stupidity and gross incompetence could easily explain. Until today that is, when following a WSJ article, we are left wondering just how deep does the CBO stench truly go and whether its employees are far more corrupt than merely stupid?

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