If party politics are weak, muddled, and contradictory, the divisions between Americans are starkly clear: wealth in America has never been so unevenly distributed — the fabled one percent versus everyone else. Despite the election of a mixed-race president, and the wish-fulfillment fantasies of Hollywood, race relations in the USA remain tense. Divisions between men and women are tragically compounded by the dangerous dynamics of work in America that leave many men (especially men) in a vacuum of purpose, meaning, and potency. It is almost impossible these days for low-skilled men to support a family. The indignity of this thunders through broken communities and the penitentiary cellblocks. The ongoing national culture war pits the “traditional values” faction against the sexual libertarians; the red states against the blue states; urban against the conflated suburban and rural; the Christian fundamentalists against an array of other positions and belief groups; the entitlement “socialists” against the “free market” conservatives. Perhaps most divisive of all will be the schism between the young and the old over the table scraps of the dying industrial economy.
Just when funds thought it was safe to buy short-term Treasuries and rehypothecate them to immeasurable leverage, yields on Bills due after the February 7th debt-ceiling suspension ends are lifting significantly in recent days. Since the year-end liquidity squeeze, yields on the March bills have developed a hump indicating concerns beginning. Of course, levels remain very low for now but the 'kink' is notable.
As usual, in 2013, sticking to facts was a mistake in a world fueled by misinformation, propaganda, delusion and wishful thinking. Those in power have successfully held off the unavoidable collapse which will be brought about by their ravenous unbridled greed, and blatant disregard for the rule of law, the U.S. Constitution and rights and liberties of the American people.
"There is no disputing the facts. The economic situation is deteriorating for the average American, the mood of the country is darkening, and the world is awash in debt and turmoil. Every country is attempting to print their way to renewed prosperity. No one wins a race to the bottom. The oligarchs have chosen a path of currency debasement, propping up insolvent banks, propaganda and impoverishing the masses as their preferred course. They attempt to keep the masses distracted with political theater, gun control vitriol, reality TV and iGadgets. What can be said about a society where 10% of the population follows Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga on Twitter and where 50% think the National Debt is a monument in Washington D.C. The country is controlled by evil sycophants, intellectually dishonest toadies and blood sucking leeches. Their lies and deception have held sway for the last four years, but they have only delayed the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. They will not reverse course and believe their intellectual superiority will allow them to retain their control after the collapse.”
Similar to UMich's confidence measure soaring by the most in 4 years, the Conference Board's confidence measure beat expectations and jumped the most in 6 months (though remains below the year's highs). This is the best beat in 4 months. The improvement is all based on "expectations" which soared the most in 6 months. Confidence is critical (as we noted below) especially since the massive majority of actual investors are already bullish...(and definitely not bearish)...
It was the Year of the Zombies. Not in the sense of most of humanity dying from a horrible plague and then reanimating as mindless flesh-eating ghouls. No, it was much worse than that...
The world economy has experienced another year of subdued growth, having failed to meet even the most modest projections for 2013. Most developed economies continued trudging along toward recovery, struggling to identify and implement the right policies. Meanwhile, many emerging economies encountered new internal and external headwinds, impeding their ability to sustain previous years’ economic performance. Nonetheless, some positive developments in the latter part of the year are expected to gain momentum through the coming year. But the global economy is still subject to significant downside risks. In short, while the global economic outlook for 2014 has improved, policymakers worldwide must remain vigilant about downside risks and strengthen international cooperation. Developments in 2013 provide strong incentive for policymakers to do so.
A look ahead into 2014.
From the first headline to the last, the following brief month-by-month summary of the year shows just how far markets and global happenings have come...
With both current conditions and future expectations indices jumping higher, the UMich consumer confidence headline final print rose at its equal fastest pace since Sept 2009. The surge in current conditions - the largest since Dec 2008 - has lifted it back to the highest level since July 2007. If there was anything to note that took the shine off such an exuberant surge it's the fact that the headline number did actually miss expectations (3rd miss of last 4) and the final outlook data dropped from the preliminary print. As we have noted before, it is confidence that 'inspires' the multiple-expanding hope as fundamental reality fades - bulls better hope it's different this time as we hit the year's highs in confidence.
Global monetary conditions remain easy and despite the Fed's decision to taper, peak monetary accommodation is not here yet.
"The powers of financial capitalism had (a) far-reaching aim, nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole. This system was to be controlled in a feudalist fashion by the central banks of the world acting in concert, by secret agreements arrived at in frequent meetings and conferences. The apex of the systems was to be the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland; a private bank owned and controlled by the world's central banks which were themselves private corporations. Each central bank... sought to dominate its government by its ability to control Treasury loans, to manipulate foreign exchanges, to influence the level of economic activity in the country, and to influence cooperative politicians by subsequent economic rewards in the business world." - Carroll Quigley, member of the Council on Foreign Relations
• the risk of runs and asset fire sales in repurchase (repo) markets;
• excessive credit risk-taking and weaker underwriting standards;
• exposure to duration risk in the event of a sudden, unanticipated rise in interest rates;
• exposure to shocks from greater risk-taking when volatility is low;
• the risk of impaired trading liquidity;
• spillovers to and from emerging markets;
• operational risk from automated trading systems, including high-frequency trading; and
• unresolved risks associated with uncertainty about the U.S. fiscal outlook.
Each quarter the Fed releases their assessment of the economy along with their forward looking projections for three years into the future. The reality is, however, is that the Federal Reserve simply cannot verbally state what they really see during each highly publicized meeting as it would roil the markets. Instead, they use their communications to guide the markets expectations toward reality in the hopes of reducing the risks of market dislocations. The most recent release of the Fed's economic projections on the economy, inflation and unemployment continue to follow the same previous trends of weaker growth, lower inflation and a complete misunderstanding of the real labor market. Reminiscent of the choices of Goldilocks - the reality is that the Fed's estimates for economic growth in 2013 was too hot, employment was too cold and inflation estimates were just about right. The real unspoken concern should be the continued threat of deflation and what actions will be available when the next recession eventually comes.
Those who adhere to the don’t-stop-til-you-get-enough theory of sovereign borrowing, and by extension argue for a scrapping of the debt ceiling, couldn’t be more misguided. In free markets with no Fed money market distortion, interest rates can be a useful guide of the amount of real savings being made available to borrowers. When borrowers want to borrow more, real interest rates will rise, and at some point this crimps the marginal demand for borrowing, acting as a natural “debt ceiling.” But when markets are heavily distorted by central bank money printing and contrived zero-bound rates, interest rates utterly cease to serve this purpose for prolonged periods of time. What takes over is the false signals of the unsustainable business cycle which fools people into thinking there is more savings than there really is. Debt monetization has a proven track record of ending badly. It is after all the implicit admission that no one but your monopoly money printer is willing to lend to you at the margin. The realization that this is unsustainable can take a while to sink in, but when it does, all it takes is an inevitable fat-tail event or crescendo of panic to topple the house of cards. If the market realizes it’s been duped into having too much before the government decides it’s had enough, a debt crisis won’t be far away.