We cannot collect enough taxes to catch up with spending
A Monetary Cliff or a Fiscal Cliff: these are the two poisons that Barton Biggs sees rushing straight toward America, with little hope of an uneventful collision. While we have not been shy of our opinions on Barton Biggs' flip-flopping positions, his note on the US "as a nation of totally self-centered special interest groups that terrorize our politicians" struck a chord and deserves praise in its clarity. Noting that Europe seems stuck again, he points to the US market being data and Europe-dependent for the next month and believes the correction is little less than half way over (in terms of size not time). In Biggs opinion "although the Monetary Cliff is more long-term dangerous, the proximity of the Fiscal Cliff, if not dealt with, will trigger the dreaded double-dip recession we are all terrified of and bring on another financial crisis."
The second bond auction of the week prices uneventfully, with the Treasury selling $21 billion of 10 Years at a yield of 2.043%, better than the 2.045% When Issued, and better than last month's 2.08%. Yet keep in mind that inbetween the March auction and today, the 10 year hit nearly 2.40%, so don't let the apparently stability give the impression that there is no volatility under the surface. Unlike the yield, the Bid To Cover dropped from last month's 3.24 to 3.08, which while week for recent auctions was just below the TTM average of 3.12. What is of note is that Dealers had to once again take down more than half the auction, or 50.5%, with the last time there was more than a 50% takedown being back in November 2011. Of the balance 11% went to Direct, and the remainder or 38.5% to Indirects. Overall, a quiet auction and now we just have tomorrow's $13 billion 30 Years to look forward to as total US debt approaches the $15.7 trillion milestone next on its way to the $16.3 trillion debt ceiling breach in 6 months. In the meantime enjoy fixed coupon bonds: for in one month, the FRN cometh.
Here is a number for you: 70% That is roughly how many economic reports have missed their mark in the last month. Why is this important? Believe it or not - It has a lot to do with the weather. We have written many times recently about the weather related effects skewing the seasonal adjustment figures in everything from the leading indicators and retail sales to employment numbers. Now those weather related boosts are beginning to run in reverse as weather patterns return to normal and realign with the seasonal adjustments. This resurgence of economic weakness is only just beginning to appear in the fabric of the various manufacturing reports. The Chicago Fed National Activity Index (a broad measure of 85 different data points) has declined from its recent peak in December of .54 to .33 in January and -.09 in February. The ISM Composite index (an average of manufacturing and non-manufacturing data), Richmond, Dallas and Kansas Fed Manufacturing indexes all posted declines in March.
One can write lengthy essays, op-eds, and client letters explaining both why the labor force participation rate is plunging due to innocuous reasons such as everyone over 40 retiring yesterday full of jouissance and excitement to begin the sunset phase of their lives using copious life savings earning 0.0001% in interest, or, inversely, why this is one great big propaganda ploy by the BLS to make Obama look good a few short months ahead of the pre-election debt ceiling breach, pardon, his re-election date. We prefer cutting to the chase. Here is today's chart of the day from BofA, which begs one simple question: when will the two time series recouple, because recouple they will, and how will America react to the realization it was lied to for 2% worth of unemployment "improvement"? The chart says it all.
A few weeks ago when discussing the imminent debt ceiling breach, and the progression of US debt/GDP into the 100%+ ballpark, we reminded readers that in February S&P said it could downgrade the US again in as soon as 6 months if there was no budget plan. Not only is there no budget plan, but the US is about to have its debt ceiling fiasco repeat all over as soon in as September. Which means another downgrade from S&P is imminent, and continuing the theme of deja vu 2011, the late summer is shaping up for a major market sell off. Minutes ago, Egan Jones just reminded us of all of this, after the only rating agency that matters, just downgraded the US from AA+ to AA, with a negative outlook.
Who will buy our debt in the coming months and years? Europe is saturated with debt and doesn’t have the means to purchase our debt. Japan is a train wreck waiting to happen. China’s customers aren’t buying their crap, so their economic miracle is about to go in reverse. The Federal Reserve cannot buy $1 trillion of Treasury bonds per year forever without creating more speculative bubbles and raging inflation in the things people need to live. The Minsky Moment will be the point when the U.S. Treasury begins having funding problems due to the spiraling debt incurred in financing perpetual government deficits. At this point no buyer will be found to bid at 2% to 3% yields for U.S. Treasuries; consequently, a major sell-off will ensue leading to a sudden and precipitous collapse in market clearing asset prices and a sharp drop in market liquidity. In layman terms that means – the shit will hit the fan. The Federal Reserve and Treasury will be caught in their own web of lies. The only way to attract buyers will be to dramatically increase interest rates. Doing this in a country up to its eyeballs in debt will be suicide. We will abruptly know how it feels to be Greek....The entire financial world is hopelessly entangled by the $700 trillion of derivatives that ensure mass destruction if one of the dominoes falls. This is the reason an otherwise inconsequential country like Greece had to be “saved”.
Today's otherwise key news event - the ECB rate announcement (which just printed at unchanged as expected) and press conference, will be trivial. As such, everyone is set to ignore the latest update from Mario Draghi, who courtesy of a $1.3 trillion liquidity injection since December has now largely wasted all his liquidity dry powder, at least until Spanish and Italian bonds are trading back at 7%, some time in the next few months. The result is that people like Citi's Steven Englander are saying to ignore the ECB, and to focus solely on the ADP (which has a horrendous predictive track record of the actual NFP print) report, to be released at 8:15 am, as it may be the only tradable hint ahead of the NFP report which as noted before is coming out on Friday, which is an equity holiday, although futures and bonds will be trading at the time of the release. More importantly, since the Fed now responds to economic data points in real time, a big miss to the consensus print of 206K will likely set the market surging as it will mean the Fed doves are back in control. Paradoxically, a meat or big beat, will be very market negative, as it will justify the withdrawal of liquidity support for at least 3-4 months, when the election fight will be in full swing, and Obama would be quite happy for another boost to the S&P in advance of November, and the repeat of the debt ceiling fiasco.
...For those confused why the market is reacting like a stung bee to today's announcement that contrary to Jan Hatzius' expectations, Twist may not be extended (at least not before we get a 20% market correction), here is where all, repeat all, market "growth" has come from in the past three months. Hint: $2 trillion in central bank easy money. Because the ECB is now shooting blanks, the Fed will find it difficult to ease so close to the debt ceiling farce, and the BOJ is irrelevant. And if the spigot is shut off, watch out below.
It is no secret that when it comes to attention spans and 'deep thought', Americans would rather be at the movies. After all, for a country which prides itself on its distractability and sales of ADHD medications, the only thing that matters is the line up of entertainment. Perhaps one reason why last summer's debt ceiling fiasco ended up being such a popular thriller with the masses is that the movie lineup at the time was less than inspiring, leading to a 1.4% decline in summer theater attendance. Which begs the question: what is in store for this year? Because as we have noted, we already know that the US debt ceiling will likely be breached sometime in September, leading into the presidential election, and as a result Americans will demand distraction, or else there is an all too real possibility the same market crash as happened in August of 2011, may recur. So what are the distractions in store for the herd? Courtesy of BofA and the Hollywood Stock Exchange, here is the complete summer lineup, coupled with the HSX movie stock price (an indicator of expected revenues). Will it be enough to offset reality setting in with a thud? You decide.
As it now stands, the US economy faces a “fiscal cliff” in early 2013 – meaningful Government spending cuts AND tax increases at the household level. Nothing like a double whammy, now is there? Unquestionably this is one of the reasons why the Fed has pledged to leave short-term interest rates low for some time. So what happens if nothing is changed and both tax increases and spending cuts are allowed to materialize? Although it’s an approximation, the deadly combo could shave 1.5% plus from US GDP next year. Estimates from the Congressional Budget Office are for a more meaningful contractionary impact. And that’s before the ultimate global economic fallout influence of Europe and China slowing. But there is a larger and very important issue beyond this, although the “cliff” is something investors will not ignore and could be very meaningful to forward economic and financial market outcomes, especially given the relative complacent market mood of the moment.
It is funny to hear the talking heads preface virtually every bullish statement with "the US economic data is getting better." It's funny because it's wrong. We have been tracking economic data based on our universe of indicators and as of today we have seen a miss rate of about 80%. And now, Deutsche Bank has joined us in keeping track of economic beats and misses, with their own universe of 31 economic indicators. The results are shown below and the verdict is in: the US economy has officially turned the corner... lower, now that the seasonally adjusted boost from a record warm winter fades and becomes an actual drag (not to mention the fading of the $2 trillion in central bank liquidity).
Is A Bad NFP Print Days Away - Goldman Says Warm Weather Added 70,000-100,000 Jobs; Now It's Payback TimeSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/28/2012 20:20 -0500
Three months ago, this site was the first to discuss the impact of abnormally high temperatures on "better than expected" economic data, which the mainstream media in its perpetual permabullish bias attributed to economic "growth", and not even to $1.3 trillion in ECB liquidity, which today even the ECB's Constancio admitted was nothing but QE: "The purpose of the European Central Bank's two three-year longer-term refinancing operations was to address banks' short-term funding issues and "nothing else." "The sole aim of the LTRO was to cater to the funding stress of euro area banks in general," Constancio said at a colloquium on macro-prudential regulation here. "It never crossed our minds that we were solving the sovereign debt crisis" with these measures. Hence QE, albeit masked by worthless collateral exchange to make the naive Germans believe the ECB was not outright printing money. It was. Now that the 'economy', and by that we mean the stock market of course, is finally turning over, the topic of the weather will start being far more prominently featured, as there will have to be a validation to unleash QE at either the April or the June FOMC meeting (something which the Chairman hinted at on Monday, and which Bill Gross has been saying for months). Why blame it on the weather of course. It is in this context that we show the latest Goldman Sachs economic outlook piece from Zach Pandl who now states that "unseasonably warm temperatures have lifted the level of nonfarm payrolls by 70,000-100,000 as of February." Call it erroneous seasonal adjustments (as we have for the past two months), call it a trigger happy BLS, or just call it people leaving their home more than if there was 6 feet of snow outside, the point is that now up to 100,000 jobs will have to be "given back." Which in turn means that next Friday's NFP forecast of +213K may just end up being as low as 113K, with the print coming just in time for the Chairman to commence warming up the printers, and soon enough to where more QE will give the president the sufficient bounce in stocks he needs to mask the debt ceiling breach in September.
Earlier today, outgoing Treasury Secretary and tax challenged part-time pathological liar (see here) Tim Geithner said that any worries of the US debt ceiling are misplaced, and that at best such an event would occur "late in the year" (and to think the August 2011 extended $16.394 trillion debt ceiling was supposed to last well into 2013). Naturally, coming from Geithner, it meant this statement was a flat out lief the second it left his mouth, which is why we decided to do our own analysis of just when the latest and greatest debt ceiling would be breached. The answer is that at the current rate of debt issuance, which incidentally is going to accelerate sharply due to the recent extension of the payroll tax cuts which will require an incremental $100-150 billion total debt to be funded, and extrapolating future issuance solely on historical patterns, the US debt ceiling D-Day will be September 14, 2012. This means that there will be just over 6 weeks for the GOP to hijack each and every presidential debate before the November election with just this topic. Because there will hardly be anything more humiliating for Obama than to have to defend his platform even as the country is once again past the verge of insolvency, and forced to "commingle" retirement funds to keep Treasury operations running. Which incidentally is just as we predicted would happen when we explained why the GOP fast shelved the payroll tax debate so rapidly. It was nothing but a prelude to precisely this. Because once it is raised, and it will be raised of course, next up will be yet another ratings downgrade by S&P and this time, Moody's as well. All of which will most likely happen before November.
US Issues New 5 Year Bonds At Lowest Bid To Cover Since August, Sends Total US Debt Over $15.6 trillionSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/28/2012 12:17 -0500
Today's $35 billion 5 Year auction was not very pretty: coming at a high yield of 1.04%, it was a tail to the When Issued trading 1.03% at 1pm, and the highest rate since October's 1.055%, and the first 1%+ print in 2012. Also notable was the drop in the Bid To Cover to 2.85, which in turn was the lowest since the 2.71 in August of last year. Aside from that the internals were in line: Directs took down 11.3%, in line with the 11.4% average, Indiricts 41.9%, just below the 42.8% TTM average, and the remainder was Dealers, whose 46.8% allocation was just slightly lower than the 45.8% they have taken down previously. All in all another auction that squeezed by courtesy of the PD syndicate, which as has been noted before, is already loaded to the gills with the short-term bonds that Uncle Ben is selling. More importantly, this is the auction that in conjunction with tomorrow's last of three, will send total US debt higher by another $39 billion and brings it to a fresh record high $15.6 trillion. There is now about $700 billion in debt issuance capacity before the debt ceiling is breached again. At this run rate, this is just under 6 months before the debt ceiling scandal ramp up again, or just in time to be used by the GOP as the biggest trump card in the Obama reelection debates, just as we suggested here first back in February.