Debt Ceiling

Boehner On 'Debt Prioritization' Vote - Live Webcast

By the end of next week, the Obama administration will no longer be able to borrow money to fund government operations because Congress has only agreed to extend the government's borrowing authority until May 19. While he has smartly expressed his preference that the most liquid bond market in the world "not default,", Speaker Boehner will take to the lectern this morning at 1045ET to discuss the upcoming "debt prioritization" bill.  As Reuters notes, House Republicans are expected to pass the bill today that would require the Obama administration to prioritize government debt payments and retirement benefits if Congress fails to reach a deal to raise the U.S. debt ceiling. The legislation is not expected to go anywhere in the Democratic-controlled Senate and the White House has said it will veto the bill, but what is essentially a tactical maneuver will allow the Republicans, who control the House, to argue they have done their best to avoid a potential U.S. credit default. We are sure the M.A.D. defense card will be played at least once...

Frontrunning: April 25

  • UK economy shows 0.3% growth (FT)
  • Texas University Fund Sold $375 Million in Gold Bars (BBG)
  • Spain Jobless Rate Breaches 27% on Recession Woes (BBG)
  • Letta calls for easing of austerity policies (FT)
  • Italy Led by Letta Brings Berlusconi Back as Winner (BBG)
  • Fed Debate Moves From Tapering to Extending Bond Buying (BBG)
  • South Korea wants talks with North on shuttered industrial zone (Reuters)
  • Republicans advance bill to prepare for debt ceiling fight (Reuters)
  • Republicans claim White House failed to warn on severity of cuts (FT)
  • Xi meets former US heavyweights (China Daily)
  • Next BoE chief Carney says clear framework key to policy success (Reuters)
  • Chinese roll out red carpet for Hollande (FT)

US GDP Will Be Revised Higher By $500 Billion Following Addition Of "Intangibles" To Economy

Those who have been following the US debt to GDP ratio now that the US officially does not have a debt ceiling indefinitely, may have had the occasional panic attack seeing how this country's leverage ratio is rapidly approaching that of a Troika case study of a PIIG in complete failure. And at 107% debt/GDP no explanations are necessary. Luckily, the official gatekeepers of America's economic growth (with decimal point precision), the Bureau of Economic Analysis have a plan on how to make the US economy, which is now growing at an abysmal 1.5% annualized pace, or about 5 times slower than US debt growing at 7.5% annually, catch up: magically make up a number out of thin air, and add it to the total. And it literally is out of thin air: according to the FT the addition will constitute of a one-time addition of intangibles, amounting to 3% of total US GDP, or more than the size of Belgium at $500 billion, to the US economy.

Guest Post: Gold Crash: What It's Not Telling Us

The recent plunge in gold prices below $1500 an ounce has suddenly awoken, well, just about everyone.  The "gold bugs" are yelling that it is a conspiracy theory by the Fed while the stock market bulls say it is a sign that the Fed has achieved its goal of creating economic growth.  Unfortunately, both arguments, while great for headlines, are wrong. The real concern for investors should not be the fall of gold - but the overall stock market.  With investors fully allocated to the markets - the lurking correction therein is potentially far more dangerous to portfolios than the current fall in gold simply due to weighting differences. Even with earnings hurdles moved substantially lower in recent weeks it may not be enough to offset the softening global economy. Perhaps, just perhaps, this is what gold, commodities and interest rates are really telling us.

10 Year US Paper Prices In Subpar Auction

Moments ago the Treasury priced it latest monthly issuance of 10 Year bonds in the form of a $21 billion reopening of one of the Fed's favorite CUSIPs to monetize, the 912828UN8 first auctioned off in February. The auction was hardly stellar, with the yield closing at 1.795%, tailing the When Issued of 1.790% by half a basis point. The Bid to Cover was also rather weak at 2.79, well below March's 3.19, and under the TTM average of 2.96%. Yet for all the complaining by the Dealer community, they ended up taking down 33.6% of the auction, with $40.8 billion in bids tendered, a 17.3% hit rate, and well above the 22.3% take down in March. The direct took down a sizable 29.1%, above the TTM average of 21.6%, leaving 37.3% to the Indirects, precisely as much as they had been allotted in the average auction during the past year. Still, hardly was the auction the disaster that Goldman's downgrade of the 10 Year point on the curve would have made it seem earlier today.

The Knockout Blow People Will Not See Coming

Have you ever done something really stupid, just because you were in love? Something you look back on and cringe, thinking “why on earth did I do that?” Of course. Who hasn’t? In the world of economics and finance, they call this ‘sentiment’. Consumer confidence, business confidence, investor confidence… these are basically emotional readings. Screw the numbers. To hell with the truth. It’s all about how people feel. It seems crazy, but it’s true. Right now, for example, ‘sentiment’ is telling us that the euro crisis is over. It’s telling us that the debt ceiling is pretty much resolved. And, after taking five years to reach pre-crash levels, it’s telling us that the stock market is once again safe for the average investor. Yet the numbers tell a completely different story. Something just doesn’t add up. Investors are throwing caution to the wind right now... ignoring the basic fundamentals and focusing exclusively on euphoric sentiment. (Or central bank policy). We can personally attest, and any boxer will tell you, that it’s the punch that you don’t see coming which knocks you out.


Guest Post: 'Available'

It is clear now that we must have been wrong about the economy. No more proof is needed than the fact the Dow has gone up 1,500 points. Everyone knows the stock market reflects the true health of the nation – multi-millionaire Jim Cramer and his millionaire CNBC talking head cohorts tell us so. Ignore the fact that the bottom 80% only own 5% of the financial assets in this country and are not benefitted by the stock market in any way. It is time to open your eyes and arise from your stupor. Observe what is happening around you. Look closely. Does the storyline match what you see in your ever day reality? It is them versus us. Whether you call them the invisible government, ruling class, financial overlords, oligarchs, the powers that be, ruling elite, or owners; there are powerful wealthy men who call the shots in this global criminal enterprise. No amount of propaganda can cover up the physical, economic, social, and psychological descent afflicting our world. There’s a bad moon rising and trouble is on the way.

Key Events And Issues In The Week Ahead

While the news flow is dominated by Cyprus, it will be important to not lose sight of the developments in Italy, where we will watch the steps taken towards forming a government.  The key release this week is likely to be US consumer confidence. Keep a watchful eye on the health of the consumer in the US after the tax rises in January. So far, household optimism and demand has held up better than expected. The IP data from Taiwan, Singapore, Korea, Thailand, Japan will provide a useful gauge on activity in the region and what it reflects about global activity, however Chinese New Year effects will need to be accounted for in the process.

Guest Post: NFIB: "No Sign Of A Surge In Confidence"

The latest release of the National Federation of Independent Business Small Business Survey was a bit of dichotomy of interpretation. Is the inventory increase really a sign of optimism or is it an unwanted buildup as sales have slowed as shown by the latest wholsesale inventory report?  Are capital outlays really a sign of optimism or is it simply just required maintenance and upkeep?  The interpretation of the data is key to understanding the direction of the overall economy. Economic confidence still remains at levels lower than in 2011 or in 2008 during the depths of the financial crisis. Concerns for businesses remain weighted toward the consumer and the government.  Weak sales, government regulations and taxes are the top 3 biggest headwinds curtailing small business currently.  With the upcoming debates over the debt ceiling and the budget it is unlikely that these concerns are going to improve much anytime soon.

What "Austerity"?

Sequesters; continuing resolutions; "spending brakes"; government shutdowns; fiscal restraint..... austerity.  For all the ceaseless talk about the "prudent", "responsible" action out of Congress, even if it is a result of the president-proposed, and Congress endorsed automatic spending cuts enacted as a result of the August 2011 debt ceiling fiasco, we have a minor problem identifying just where this so-called spending restraint is manifesting itself. Perhaps that is because we look at the facts, not the propaganda, or the empty rhetoric. Here as the facts: in the year to date period of the past four fiscal years, starting October 1 and going through the current day in March, the current year has seen the issuance of exactly $635 billion in Federal Debt, which as of Friday crossed the "psychological barrier" of $16.7 trillion. This is the second highest cumulative debt issuance in one fiscal year, surpassing both 2010 and 2011, and lower only compared to the $726.7 billion raked up in Fiscal 2012... just after President and Congress swore to cut back on spending following the US downgrade by S&P.

Gold And The Next Great Monetary Easing

Gold's rise over the past few years has been driven by a number of factors. Aside from the unprecedented monetary easing and skepticism over the global financial system in recent years, Morgan Stanley notes that 1) a persistent increase in investment demand, 2) acceleration in producer de-hedging, 3) a decline in net official sector sales, and 4) a persistent failure on the part of the mining companies to respond to the incentive of a steadily rising price and materially lift production; all also impacted gold's premium. A recent re-evaluation of gold’s security premium followed from the various mitigations of the numerous risks to global growth. However, as they note, a decisive break lower heralding the end of the bull market has not appeared and they believe we are about to witness the third installment of the Great Monetary Easing that started to play out when the credit bubble burst five years ago and that the gold bull market will enter its strongest phase.

Guest Post: There Is No Asset Bubble?

What really strikes us is the universal belief by the majority of analysts, economists and commentators, that there is currently "no evidence" of an asset bubble.  This idea was further confirmed by Bernanke's testimony last week he explicitly stated: "I don't see much evidence of an equity bubble" In the long term it will ultimately be the fundamentals that drive the markets.  Currently, the deterioration in the growth rate of earnings, and economic strength, are not supportive of the speculative rise in asset prices or leverage.  The idea of whether, or not, the Federal Reserve, along with virtually every other central bank in the world, are inflating the next asset bubble is of significant importance to investors who can ill afford to once again lose a large chunk of their net worth. It is all reminiscent of the market peak of 1929 when Dr. Irving Fisher uttered his now famous words: "Stocks have now reached a permanently high plateau."  The clamoring of voices that the bull market is just beginning is telling much the same story.  History is repleat with market crashes that occurred just as the mainstream belief made heretics out of anyone who dared to contradict the bullish bias.