Global Central Banks agree to another year of access to FRBNY FX Swap Lines
After the success of the 'scariest charts for equity bulls', the following 12 charts are the most important, in CitiFX's view, to establish a 'starting point' for views on markets as we head into 2013. From employment trends echoing the 1970s, one-last-low in Treasury yields and '90s analogs, to EURUSD and its mid-'80s mirror, and the ongoing trend higher in gold; there is something here to scare equity and bond bulls and bears alike.
At the end of October, as the Tristate Area was being flooded by Hurricane Sandy, one after another Wall Street firm tried to position Sandy virtually as a non-event, with total damage "forecasts" by such "reputable" firms as Goldman Sachs and Bank of America forecasting a total bill between $10 and $20 billion (as anything above that and the Q3 damage to GDP would be far more substantial than their recently bullish forecasts had accounted for, and would also imply a substantial spillover effect into Q1 2013), the same as various insurance companies who had other far more obvious reasons to undershoot on the total damages. We said the opposite, and based on historic damage forecasts, predicted the damage would likely be between $50 and $100 billion. Once again the sellside consensus was wrong and a fringe blog was accurate, as the CBO has just released the Obama administration's full aid request. Bottom line: $60.4 billion, or roughly what one year of what the ultimate tax hike compromise will bring into the government's treasury. Furthermore, if fully funded by debt today, this amount would send the US (which has a $57 billion debt buffer as of this moment) over the debt ceiling immediately.
Investors are being hit from all sides now. We face the fiscal cliff and the quite real possibility that we will go over it, the debt ceiling and then we are assuaged by various tax and spending schemes. The stock market chugs along with their “What me worry” attitude. Just because we are now in a world drowning in apathy do not think that this will go on forever. The problems have become magnified by the slush of capital thrown about by the world’s central banks so that when the bough breaks; it will be a systemic break. It will flash right across the world and we will have another “Oh My God” moment which, as I peer into the future, may come in the next year.
InTrade may have gotten the Obamacare outcome horribly wrong, but it was spot on in predicting the Obama presidential victory. And if it has continued its accurately predictive ways, it will mean a lot of pain is in store for the market (if not so much the President) very shortly, because the online betting service, now only accessible to offshore based US residents just saw odds on a debt ceiling deal plunge to all time lows of 10% earlier today, before rebounding weakly to 16%. As a reminder, Harry Reid has said on numerous occasions that there will be no Fiscal Cliff resolution without a favorable debt ceiling outcome, which therefore means that according to InTrade the odds of a Fiscal Cliff getting done in 2012 have plunged to 16%, and the probability of a market tumble, as the cliff moving over to 2013 means a cornucopia of unintended consequences, is logically (1-16%).
US leaders see that this strategy has worked for EU leaders (those who went along with it are still in office, those who didn’t have been kicked out). And so they are now adopting a similar strategy with discussions on the fiscal cliff.
Tim Geithner's time is almost done, but the former NY Fed head is only one of very many whose position is expected to be replaced in Obama's second term (just so there is a non-continuous chain of command if and when the time comes for the people to demand an explanation for the state of the US economy from the talented Mr. Geithner). Who else is out and who is expected to be in? The following list attempts to cover all upcoming rotations at the top of the US cabinet. What is not attempted is a prediction of where in the private sector people such as Geithner will end up: that is considered largely self-explanatory.
The market continues to track the same pattern it performed going into the failed debt ceiling talks of July 2011. As you’ll recall, then as is the case now, US politicians failed to reach a credible solution to the US’s debt problems. What followed was a credit rating downgrade and a market collapse.
Since the 2nd Liberty Act of 1917 birthed the debt ceiling, due to issues financing USA's entry into World War I, CNBC's Rick Santelli notes that there has been many documented 'violations'. However, as Rick so vociferously points out President Obama's comment yesterday on the debt limit and highlights the fact that "to have an unlimited amount of money to call upon is too much power power for one person. It's always in our country been about checks and balances but I think this administration just wants more checks and no balancing of the checkbook." Rick is right, of course, and the current diatribe from Geithner and Obama yesterday on the possible 'removal' of the debt limit beggars belief - and yet has become a negotiating point to be 'traded'. While some argue the premise of the debt limit for a reserve currency nation is nonsense, Santelli sums it perfectly in ten little words: "Debt Ceiling Is Not The Problem. Debt Is The Problem," adding the debt ceiling, as we have pointed out regularly, is an important (perhaps the most important) issue facing us currently (and inseparable from the supposed 'austerity' of the fiscal cliff - lower spending growth not lower spending).
The composite index has now regained its pre-financial crisis levels of 55.4. However, more important than the current level is the trend of the data since the peak in 2010. I have noted the previous peaks of data and while the index is volatile from one month to the next the declining trend of the data should be concerning to those paying attention. As we have stated in the past "economic change occurs at the margin" so the focus on a single data point can be very misleading. With estimates for Q4 GDP being ratcheted down sharply to roughly 1% from Q3's 2.7% annualized rate - it is very likely that the latest print in the ISM Composite index is likely the peak that we will see for several months. Doing more with less has now been the mantra of businesses since the financial crisis, and despite the $30+ trillion dollars thrown at the economy since that time, there has been little movement by businesses to become more aggressive.
Late last night S&P placed Greece into “Selective Default” again, raising the issues, once again, of the $90 billion in Greek derivatives, the Greek bank bonds guaranteed by the country and now at the ECB, some central banks and some commercial banks where some clause may get triggered, various clauses in repos, inter-bank lending contracts and guarantees by Athens of various corporate entities all potentially seeing triggers. In the meantime, because Americans hate to be left out of anything, we continue to behave like fools. The raising of the tax rate on the wealthy will operate the country for about eight days and it seems like the savants in Washington have forgotten that there are three hundred and forty-eight days left in the year. Secretary Geithner’s ,“We are prepared to go over the fiscal cliff,” has all of the dramatics of some bluff on World Wide Poker. The focus on redistribution of wealth is a secondary consideration when you cannot pay your bills. We propose that unhappy Americans unite, buy the Abaco islands from the Bahamas, they need the money, and begin our own island nation and let the 46.5 million on food stamps fend for themselves. We honestly feel that way some days as the idiocy in Washington D.C. seems to recognize no boundaries.
While trading during US hours is all about the Cliff On/Cliff Off debate, the rest of the world is simple: the overnight session begins (and largely ends) with whether or not China has done another reverse repo (if yes, then PBOC will not lower rates, and inject unsterilized billions into the market) and whether the Shanghai Composite is up or down. Last night, after jumping by 3% the session before, it was down 0.13% to 2029. Was this it for the great Chinese "bottom?" Japan may or may not figure in the equations, although with the 10 Year future just hitting a record overnight, it is amusing to see how the bond complex is indicating record deflation just in time for the market to anticipate a surge in inflation. Ah, the joys of frontrunning central planning's monetization of government bonds. And then we move on to Europe, which is a whole new level of basket case-ness...
The use of economic pain to expand governmental control of a nation is not a new concept. It has been a tool successfully used many times in history. The reality that "taxing the wealthy" does not increase revenue or promote economic growth is lost on the 80% of Americans that are economically uninformed and are just struggling to maintain their current standard of living. The path over the "fiscal cliff" is bad for the economy, the average American family and the stock market. However, for the White House, going over the "cliff" is the next move in this elaborate game of chess which will clear the path towards completing Obama's long term objectives of complete socialization of the American economy.
"The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies... That is money that we have borrowed from the Social Security trust fund, borrowed from China and Japan, borrowed from American taxpayers. This rising debt is a hidden domestic enemy, robbing our cities and States of critical investments in infrastructure like bridges, ports, and levees; robbing our families and our children of critical investments in education and health care reform; robbing our seniors of the retirement and health security they have counted on. Every dollar we pay in interest is a dollar that is not going to investment in America’s priorities."
As the Fiscal Cliff discussions get progressively more acrimonious, more people are being reminded that the new and improved $16.4 trillion debt ceiling, which the US will breach in a few days, is just as important, and just as much at an impasse. Which is why the Treasury just opined on the issue, by openly supporting the "McConnell Provision" and in doing so may have made any future Cliff/Ceiling discussions more difficult as the US has effectively invoked the nuclear option, aka a Presidential Veto to effectively elimiante the debt ceiling, something which will antagonize the GOP to such an extent any potential Fiscal Cliff deal may become unfeasible. The market is hardly happy that the already record polarity in Congress is about to get even worse as a result of this hardline stance, and just took another big leg lower.