We have long been pounding the table on what in our view is the biggest detriment to any future growth for not only corporate America, but the entire US (where, sadly, government investment IRRs just happen to be negative - a fact that most won't understand until it is too late, especially not self-anointed economic wisemen whose only solution to everything is "do more of the same" yet who thought the utility of the Internet would be eclipsed by that of the fax machine): the complete lack of capital expenditures at the corporate level, and lack of (re)investment spending. It turns out that, however, that there is more to the story, and as the following chart from SocGen's Albert Edwards shows, not only are companies using up what actual free cash flows they have for such stupid stock boosting gimmicks such as harebrained M&A (just look at the recent fiasco between HP and Autonomy to see how rushed M&A always ends), and of course buybacks, but they are now levering to the hilt to do even more of this. The last time they did this? The golden days of the credit bubble.
The dollar rises for the same reason gold and grain rise: scarcity and demand. Which is easier to export: manufactured goods that require shipping ore and oil halfway around the world, smelting the ore into steel and turning the oil into plastics, laboriously fabricating real products and then shipping the finished manufactured goods to the U.S. where fierce pricing competition strips away much of the premium/profit? Or electronically printing money and exchanging it for real products, steel, oil, etc.? I think we can safely say that creating money out of thin air and "exporting" that is much easier than actually mining, extracting or manufacturing real goods. This astonishing exchange of conjured money for real goods is the heart of the "exorbitant privilege" that accrues to the issuer of the global reserve currency (U.S. dollar). To understand the reserve currency, we must understand Triffin's Paradox.
It just is not Barclays' year. After being exposed (so far the only one) as a ringleader in a massive LIBOR-rigging scandal which cost Bob Diamond his job, yesterday the British bank added insult to injury, after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) fined it $470 million - the largest penalty ever levied by the energy regulator, and even larger than the bank's LIBOR fine - for getting caught doing what Enron got caught doing about a decade ago: manipulating California's electricity markets. Although while the former ended up being the biggest corporate bankruptcy at the time, led to the end of one of the nation's largest auditors and sparked a scandal so great it was all corporate America spoke for about for the next year, this time the news has come and gone, and nobody cares. Perhaps this is to be expected: in a time when none other than the central bank intervenes each and every day in every single market to preserve the "wealth effect", habituation to epic corporate manipulation of every imaginable kind is perfectly normal.
There were two major datapoints overnight: the first one came out early in the session, when the Chinese Flash HSBC PMI (not the official one), printed in contraction territory for a 12th consecutive month but jumped sufficiently to 3 month highs to give the algobots hope that China may be turning (it isn't: China, like the US has a major political event early November and all its data is more manipulated than ever). Regardless, this sent future rising to session highs until virtually yesterday's entire gap down was eliminated. The euphoria continued until several hours later we got composite European (as well as the most important German PMI data, and to far less relevant extent France, which always has been the dynamo in European economic growth), manufacturing and services PMI, both of which missed expectations or declined substantially, reaffirming that the German economy is getting dragged down more and more into recession even as continues funding the rescue of the periphery. As the chart from Markit below shows, German PMI is hinting at a solidly negative German GDP print, further confirmed by the German IFO business print which came at 100, a drop from 101.4 and below expectations of 101.6. Other secondary macroeconomic data was just as bad, which explains why futures are now well on their way to dropping back to their lows. Finally, today we get the FOMC statement, which will be much ado about nothing, and will merely serve as an appetizer to the December FOMC meeting, when Goldman (and Zero Hedge) now expected the Fed to expand unsterilized monthly monetization to increase from $40 billion to $85 billion (more on the shortly). Yet perhaps the biggest shift in mood has been coming out of our old friend Greece, where Troika negotiations, largely under the radar, are progressing from bad to worse, where the bond buyback plan was scuttled last night (as ZH reported sending Greek bonds 70 bps wider on the day and rising), and where the probability of another flash election, which can crash the precarious European balance in an instant, is rising with each passing day.
- Germany will pay Greek aid (Spiegel)
- Spain Banks Face More Pain as Worst-Case Scenario Turns Real (Bloomberg)
- China’s Growth Continues to Slow (WSJ)
- Executives Lack Confidence in U.S. Competitiveness (WSJ)
- Poor Market Conditions will See 180 Solar Manufacturers Fail by 2015 (OilPrice)
- Wen upbeat on China’s economy (FT)
- Gold remains popular, despite the doubts of economists (Economist)
- Armstrong Stands to Lose $30 Million as Sponsors Flee (Bloomberg)
- IMF urges aid for Italy, Spain but Rome baulking (Reuters)
- EU Summit Highlights Financial Divide (WSJ)
- FOMC Straying on Price Target, Former Fed Officials Say (Bloomberg)
- Putin defiant over weapons sales (FT)
Just before Lehman, these people had exactly zero predictive capabilities.
Divergence in thinking.
Ruminations on the Fed, the Dollar, ZIRP, QE and Math vs Magic - Hey, Even Harry Potter Has Problems...Submitted by Reggie Middleton on 10/04/2012 10:15 -0500
Yeah, even if you do believe in math over magic, remember that even Harry Potter had his issues with it...
- China Output Growth Slows as Leadership Handover Looms (Bloomberg); Weak China trade data raises Beijing spending stakes (Reuters)
- Italy Q2 GDP revised down to -0.8% year-on-year on weak domestic demand (Economic Times)
- Troika disagreed with €2 billion in Greek "cuts" (Reuters)
- No Greek bottom in sight yet: Greek IP, Manufacturing Output plunge compared to year earlier (WSJ)
- France's Hollande sees 2013 growth forecast about 0.8 pct (Reuters), France plots tax hikes of up to 20 bln euros (Reuters)
- Euro Crisis Faces Tests in German Court, Greek Infighting (Bloomberg)
- Geithner sells more AIG stock (FT)
- Japan infuriates China by agreeing to buy disputed isles (Reuters)
- Euro crisis to worsen, Greece could exit euro: Swedish FinMin Anders Borg (Economic Times)
- ‘Lead or leave euro’, Soros tells Germany (FT)
- German MP makes new court complaint against euro plans (Reuters)
- Obama super-Pac in push to raise $150m (FT)
The three "de's:" deregulation, desupervision, and de facto decriminalization.
This is looking more and more like a modem-day depression. After all, last month alone, 85,000 Americans signed on for Social Security disability cheques, which exceeded the 80,000 net new jobs that were created: and a record 46 million Americans or 14.8% of the population (also a record) are in the Food Stamp program (participation averaged 7.9% from 1970 to 2000, by way of contrast) — enrollment has risen an average of over 400,000 per month over the past four years. A record share of 41% pay zero national incomes tax as well (58 million), a share that has doubled over the past two decades. Increasingly, the U.S. is following in the footsteps of Europe of becoming a nation of dependants. Meanwhile, policy stimulus, whether traditional or non-conventional, are still falling well short of generating self-sustaining economic growth.
- Lieborgate fallout: Bank of England Governor Sir Mervyn King faces MPs (Telegraph)
- Yahoo's brand new CEO to seek maternity leave shortly (NYT)
- China’s Foreign Investment Drops 6.9% In June (Bloomberg)
- Falling property investment drives China H1 FDI drop (Reuters)
- German Court Delays Ruling on Fund (WSJ)
- Fed's George Says U.S. Growth May Not Exceed 2% in 2012 (Bloomberg)
- China Echoes 2009 Stimulus Planned Railway Spending Boost (Bloomberg)
- ZEW: Investor Outlook For German Econ At Six-Month Low (MNI)
- Fed Shifts Focus To Jobs As Unemployment Stalls Above 8% (Bloomberg)
- Goldman Builds Private Bank (WSJ) - lock in those deposits asap
- UniCredit, Intesa Among 13 Italian Banks Cut By Moody’s (Bloomberg)
Potential employers have to respond to the incentives and disincentives that exist in today's world, and those do not favor conventional permanent employees. We know you're hard-working, motivated, tech-savvy and willing to learn. The reason we can't hire you has nothing to do with your work ethic or skills; it's the high-cost of the Status Quo, and the many perverse consequences of maintaining a failing Status Quo. The sad truth is that it's costly and risky to hire anyone to do anything, and "bankable projects" that might generate profit/require more labor are few and far between. The economy is different now, and wishing it were unchanged from 30 years ago won't reverse the clock. We have to respond to the incentives and disincentives that exist in today's world, and those do not favor conventional permanent employees except in sectors that are largely walled off from the market economy: government, healthcare, etc. But these moated sectors cannot remain isolated from the deflationary market economy forever.
If we pursue the line of inquiry established by Chris Martenson’s recent call to Buckle Up -- Market Breakdown in Progress, we come to these basic questions: When will the market reflect the fundamental weakness of the global economy? And when will the market finally hit bottom? Clearly, the correlation between market action and the underlying economy is weak. While many would declare the stock market to be a “lagging indicator” of recession, even that may be overstating the connection. If we have learned anything in the past three years, it’s that weakening the dollar to foster the illusion of rising corporate profits, central bank monetary easing (QE), and central state borrow-and-spend stimulus can goose the market higher even as the underlying economy remains weak or recessionary. Will the Fed continue to support the U.S. market with QE programs every time it sags? Will QE always work as well as it did in 2010 and 2011? If the history of the deflationary-era Nikkei is any guide (and the BoJ's unprecedented monetary easing while the central government has borrowed and spent unprecedented sums on fiscal stimulus), the bottom could be a year away.