Another month down, another month in which US consumers deleveraged by paying down their credit cards. Although that is not exactly correct: as we showed recently, the New Normal source of credit has nothing to do with revolving debt, or credit cards, or any other old normal notions, and everything to do with student debt, which is used for everything except paying for tuition. That, and car loans of course. Sure enough, in February, of the $13.7 billion in new loans created, $13.9 billion, or 102% of all, was there to fund student and car loans. And looking further back at the data over the past year, of the $172 billion in new consumer debt, a stunning 96% has gone to new student and car loans.
Today's nonfarm payroll number is set to be a virtual non-event: with consensus expecting an abysmal print, it is almost assured that the real seasonally adjusted number (and keep in mind that the average February seasonal adjustment to the actual number is 1.5 million "jobs" higher) will be a major beat to expectations, which will crash the "harsh weather" narrative but who cares. Alternatively, if the number is truly horrendous, no problem there either: just blame it on the cold February... because after all what are seasonal adjustments for? Either way, whatever the number, the algos will send stocks higher - that much is given in a blow off top bubble market in which any news is an excuse to buy more. So while everyone is focused on the NFP placeholder, the real key event that nobody is paying attention to took place in China, where overnight China’s Shanghai Chaori Solar defaulted on bond interest payments, failing to repay CNY 89.9mln (USD 14.7mln), as had been reported here extensively previously. This marked the first domestic corporate bond default in the country's history - indicating a further shift toward responsibility and focus on moral hazard in China.
Case Shiller Has Second Consecutive Monthly Decline, Warns Of "Bleaker Picture For Housing", Momentum GoneSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/25/2014 10:28 -0400
While the sell-side community urgently continues to pimp Seasonally Adjusted Case Shiller data, despite the Case-Shiller index creators' own wishes that NSA data be used, it is becoming increasingly difficult to mask the fact that home price momentum is fading. This is precisely what one sees when looking at the change in unadjusted prices, which in December posted the second sequential decline in a row, dropping by -0.08%, following a -0.05% drop in November for the 20-City Composite index, and the biggest sequential decline since November 2012. The annual increase of 13.42% was in line with the expected 13.4%, and was the third month in a row of declines in annual house prices, something we have known for a while, and which the 2 month delayed Case Shiler index finally confirmed. Finally, we are grateful to Case Shiller for being the first to admit that it was not all the weather: "Some of the weakness reflects the cold weather in much of the country. However, higher home prices and mortgage rates are taking a toll on affordability." Let's hope there is no rain in the Spring and sun in the summer then as everything else is already bad and getting worse.
The mirage of prosperity created by massive levels of debt has begun to show it foundational cracks. Without increased levels of personal savings, production and investment there is little ability to achieve stronger economic growth. While we can certainly "hope" for something different, there are some basic laws which are insurmountable. The physics of debt is one of them.
The number of Americans that renounced their citizenship was 221 percent higher in 2013 than it was in 2012. That is a staggering figure, and it is symptomatic of a larger trend. In recent years, a lot of really good people with very deep roots in this country have made the difficult decision to say goodbye to the United States permanently. A few actually go to the trouble to renounce their citizenship, and that is mostly done for tax purposes. But most willingly choose to leave America for other reasons. Once upon a time, the United States was seen as "the land of opportunity" all over the globe and it seemed like everyone wanted to come here. But now that is all changing. As we have abandoned the principles that this country was founded upon, our economy has gone steadily downhill.
Today, we got the credit side of the "savings debit" ledger with the December consumer credit report, in which we learned that in addition to the now traditional draw of Car and Student loans, which came out to $13.8 billion, or exactly in line with the 12 month average draw, sending the total notional to a record $2.24 trillion, it was revolving credit, i.e., credit cards, which saw a substantial $5 billion increase in outstandings - the most since May 2013 - bringing total revolving credit to $862 billion if still far below the nearly $1.1 trillion in student loans outstanding. So just as the US consumer was tapped out, and saw their personal income remain unchanged from November and real disposable income cratered, as a result having to draw down on their savings, the remainder of all purchases was funded through the use of credit cards, which may or may not be repaid in 2014. There is always hope that this time will be different and incomes finally pick up.
- Here is why AAPL bounced off $500: Apple Repurchases $14 Billion of Own Shares in Two Weeks (WSJ)
- German Court Refers OMT Decision to Europe's Top Court (WSJ)
- Inflation Fuels Crises in Two Latin Nations (WSJ)
- U.S. job growth seen snapping back from winter chill (Reuters)
- Google to own $750 million Lenovo stake after Motorola deal closes: HK exchange (Reuters)
- Frigid Winter Spells Trouble for U.S. Economy (BBG)
- Winter Games to open, Putin keen to prove doubters wrong (Reuters)
- Regulators Ready to Proceed on Bank Leverage Limit (WSJ)
- Abe Eyes Window for Biggest Military-Rule Change Since WWII (BBG)
It's that time again, when a largely random, statistically-sampled, weather-impacted, seasonally-adjusted, and finally goalseeked number, sets the mood in the market for the next month: we are talking of course about the "most important ever" once again non-farm payroll print, and to a lesser extent the unemployment rate which even the Fed has admitted is meaningless in a time when the participation rate is crashing (for the "philosophy" of why it is all the context that matters in reading the jobs report, see here). Adding to the confusion, or hilarity, or both, is that while everyone knows it snowed in December and January, Goldman now warns that... it may have been too hot! To wit: "We expect a weather-related boost to January payroll job growth because weather during the survey week itself - which we find is most relevant to a given month's payroll number - was unusually mild." In other words, if the number is abnormally good - don't assume more tapering, just blame it on the warm weather!
The death of the middle class in America has become so painfully obvious that now even the New York Times is doing stories about it. Millions of middle class jobs have disappeared, incomes are steadily decreasing, the rate of homeownership has declined for eight years in a row and U.S. consumers have accumulated record-setting levels of debt. Being independent is at the heart of what it means to be "middle class", and unfortunately the percentage of Americans that are able to take care of themselves without government assistance continues to decline. In fact, the percentage of Americans that are receiving government assistance is now at an all-time record high. This is not a good thing. Anyone that tries to tell you that the middle class is going to be "okay" simply has no idea what they are talking about. The following are 28 signs that the middle class is heading toward extinction...
The key events this week are have non-farm payrolls (consensus 181K) and unemployment rate (consensus 6.7%). There is also going to be a number of speeches given by Fed policymakers. Production surveys from the US (ISM) and other parts of the world are due Monday. We also get trade balance updates from the English-speaking economies - US, UK, Australia and Canada. Finally, keep track on inflation data from Italy and Turkey: the latter is important to track given current high correlation among 'fragile' EM currencies.
All this boils down to one simple question: can the top 10% (roughly 11 million households) support the billions of square feet of retail space that were added in the 2000s? If the answer is no, as it clearly is, then the retail CRE sector is doomed to implode. Let's try a second simple question: what's holding the retail CRE sector up? Answer: leases that will soon expire or be voided by insolvency, bankruptcy, etc. as retailers close stores and shutter their businesses. One last question: who's holding all the immense debt that's piled on top of this soon-to-collapse sector? The domino of retail CRE will not fall in isolation; it will topple the domino of debt next to it, and that will topple the lenders who are bankrupted by the implosion of retail-CRE debt. And once that domino falls, it will take what's left of the nation's illusory financial stability down with it.
If ever a chart provided unequivocal proof the economic recovery storyline is a fraud, the one below is the smoking gun.
In his 712-page tour de force, The Great Deformation, David Stockman dissects America’s descent into the present era of “bubble finance.” it’s hard to refute Stockman’s perspective on the Fed’s role in the housing bubble. But that won’t stop some from trying, and especially the many academic economists beholden to the Fed. Research papers have stealthily danced around the Fed’s culpability for our crappy economy, as we discussed here. More importantly, if Stockman is right about bubble finance, there’s more mayhem to come. Consider that denying failure and persisting with the same strategy are two sides of the same coin. Just as investors avoid the pain of admitting mistakes by holding onto losing positions, Fed officials who claim to have done little wrong are also more committed than ever to propping up asset markets with cheap money. For those concerned about another policy failure, a key question is: “As of today, where do we stand with respect to bubbles and bubble finance?”
Putting it all into perspective, of the total $178 billion in consumer credit expansion in the past 12 months, a tiny $9 billion, or just 5% of total, was to fund credit card purchases. The rest went - you guessed it - into purchases of cars and paying for tuition, for which GM and strateospheric college tuitions are most grateful. And that is the New Normal economy in a nutshell.
Some better than expected economic news out of Europe, Greek 10 Year yields dropping to 7.65% or the lowest since May 2010, and futures are... red? Alas, such is life in a world in which the S&P500, aka the E-mini, is simply a derivative of the Yen funding currency pairs, where the USDJPY touched on 105 after a straight line diagonal move only to sell off in recent trading. Heading into the North American open, stocks in Europe are seen mixed, with peripheral stock indices outperforming, buoyed by the prospect of Portugal echoing yesterday’s Irish NTMA return to capital markets with its 10y bond syndication. As such, despite the cautious sentiment, financials led the move higher, with Italian banks gaining for 4th session as IT/GE 10y spread narrowed to its tightest level since early July 2011. Of note, FTSE-100 index underperformed its peers since the get-go, with retailers and tobacco names under pressure. In spite of opening higher by over 3%, Sainsbury's shares have since reversed and are seen lower by almost 2% after co. CFO said that he expects FY LFL sales to be just below 1% and expects Q4 to be similar to Q3. Elsewhere, tobacco names came under selling pressure following reports that China is planning a ban on smoking in public by year's end.