The whole fulcrum of the bloated American state is beyond ready for a radical deconstruction. The same goes for most nation-states in the West. The continual borrowing, serviced indiscreetly by an accommodating central bank, has made an entirety of the populace fat and happy off of debt. This is no realistic method for operating any institution. Something has to give eventually. Any conservative who places high value on civil society over the intrusion of government should balk at the prospect of a higher debt load. It makes certain that the ruling political class will not cease in their effort to infiltrate private life. Unfortunately it appears as if some otherwise sharp minds have fallen prey to the liberal device of alarmism.
While the downward Q4 GDP revisions were inevitable courtesy of the government shutdown scapegoat (making a joke out of the sellside exuberance in late 2012 which had seen 3% growth some time around now,) starting first at Goldman, and shortly after at JPM both of which cut their Q4 GDP forecasts by 0.5% to 2.0%, we had yet to see the persistent bullish bias spill over into 2014. That just changed following an overnight cut by Bank of America of Q1 2014 growth estimates from 3.3% to 2.8%. Certainly, this is the first of many as once again optimism proves unjustified. But who can blame it: after all there will have been "only" 5 years of QE, and the Fed's balance sheet will be only $4 trillion at December 31, 2013, implying a S&P of 1800.
- Republican Civil War Erupts: Business Groups v. Tea Party (BBG)
- Budget fight leaves Boehner 'damaged' but still standing (Reuters)
- Madoff Was Like a God, Wizard of Oz, Lawyers Tell Jury (BBG) - just like Bernanke
- Republicans press U.S. officials over Obamacare snags (Reuters)
- Brilliant: Fed Unlikely to Trim Bond Buying in October (Hilsenrath)
- More brilliant: Fed could taper as early as December (FT)
- Russia Roofing Billionaires Seen Among Country’s Youngest (BBG)
- Ford's Mulally won't dismiss Boeing, Microsoft speculation (Reuters)
- China reverses first-half slowdown (FT)
- NY Fed’s Fired Goldman Examiner Makes Weird Case (BBG)
While the US economic data reporting machinery slowly starts churning again following the "reactivation" of government, last night it was China 's turn to report a slew of goalseeked economic items. Q3 GDP (+7.8% yoy), Industrial Production (+10.2% yoy), Fixed Asset Investments (+20.2% YTD yoy) and Retail sales (+13.3% yoy) for September all came in broadly in line with market consensus. The economy grew at a faster pace on a sequential basis with Q3 growth being 0.3ppts higher than Q2. Nonetheless, many observers forecast yoy Q4 GDP growth to decline due to the end of inventory restocking and the fade out of a major credit stimulus in the prior quarter, even as total Chinese debt continues to push ever higher into bubble territory.Speaking of China, however, it is worth noting that overnight the Chinese Yuan rose to the highest level against the dollar in 20 years. This happens as the USD tumbles to nearly a year low, which incidentally is the theme of the overnight session: the ongoing dollar poundage is reverberating across the globe, and the resulting unleashing of global funding carry trades looks set to take the S&P (and everything else) to fresh record highs on the back of even more generous Fed Kool Aid expectations.
The U.S. is engaged in fiscal and monetary policies that are akin to a Banana Republic.
In addition to electronically creating out of nothing $85 billion every month to buy its own debt in the form of bonds, the U.S. is also borrowing more money than it is authorized to borrow, from itself again.
Today there is a great sense of relief that has swept the nation as news flowed through the media that the government shutdown had come to an end. After all, during the 16 days of the shutdown, there was great hardship inflicted on the average American as the stock market rose by 2.4%, government workers that were furloughed received a 2+ week paid vacation and interest rates fell from a peak of 2.65% on October 1st to 2.59% on October 17th. Outside of the financial markets, which were never concerned of a "default," the reality is that the government shutdown did likely clip up to 0.5% off of 4th quarter's GDP. While that clip to economic growth created by the government standoff is temporary - the ongoing persistant weakness of economic growth is another issue entirely. This is the focus of this discussion. The most disturbing sentence uttered during the debt ceiling debate/government shut down, that should raise some concerns by both political parties, is: "We must increase our debt limit so that we can pay our bills."
Last night, after more than two weeks of utterly embarrassing theater, the government in the Land of the Free inked a deal to kick the can down the road a few more months. And in doing so, they set a very dangerous precedent. As part of the bargain codified in HR 2775 (which President Obama signed into law), the Treasury Department is authorized to SUSPEND the debt ceiling. In other words, for all intents and purposes, there is now NO LIMIT government borrowing. This limitless borrowing authority will expire on February 7, 2014. But it sets the precedent that dismissing the debt ceiling is a perfectly viable course of action. Congress has effectively removed their handcuffs… so you can almost assuredly bet down the road that this provision will be extended, and ultimately become permanent.
The chart shows dollars spent on entitlements for every dollar spent on non-defense discretionary spending (NDDS). This latter category includes education, infrastructure, energy R&D, law enforcement and a wide range of other things that affect the productivity and the general well-being of the US economy (see table), not just today but into the future. The entitlements-to-NDDS ratio is already at an all-time high, and is headed for the stratosphere during the next few years according to CBO projections.
While the stock bubble rages, and the E-mini is solidly in green territory, some are wondering why that is the case on a day in which even the hardcore bulls expected a sell the news event. The reason: the dollar has rightfully regained, much to China's delight, its position as the world's whipping currency, on expectations that the Fed will now not taper purchases until Q1 or even Q2 of 2014, coupled with the realization that the debt ceiling fiasco is set to repeat in another three short months. As a result, the prime broker carry traders are having a field day, shorting their USD-denominated excess deposits and ploughing proceeds into risk assets. But not only: as the chart of the 10 Year yield bond shows, there has been a buying spree in the 10 Year since yesterday's deal and moments ago we dipped below 2.6% for the first time in two weeks. So do your patriotic duty: kill the dollar and buy paper assets: after all the country that issues the "reserve" currency has not defaulted! And whatever you do: don't sell. Keith Alexander may be leaving soon but he is still in charge, and is carefully monitoring all those who dare to hit the sell button. For all of them, the NSA has three simple letters: IRS.
Yesterday, before the House vote, Obama's pre-GOP capitulation speech was technically Day Zero. In a few moments, the president will take his victory lap tour on the road for the next three months, at which point the next season of the government shutdown/debt ceiling soap opera returns. One notable difference between yesterday and today: then, he wasn't late; now, he is.
Yellen is yet another academic with no banking or business experience what-so-ever. This makes three in a row (Greenspan, Bernanke, and now Yellen). The results speak for themselves.
While there haven't been many economic data points to highlights the so-called damage to if not the economy, then the confidence of the all important US consumer, data on consumer confidence has been trickling in, and as expected, has been sliding. However, nowhere more so than in the just released latest read in the Bloomberg Weekly Consumer confidence index, whose expectations gauge just tumbled to -31, or the lowest level since November 2011. Bloomberg reports: "Americans in October were the most pessimistic about the nation’s economic prospects in almost two years as concern mounted that continued political gridlock will hurt the expansion. The monthly Bloomberg Consumer Confidence Index expectations gauge plunged to minus 31, the lowest level since November 2011, from minus 9 in September, a report showed today. The share of people projecting the economy will worsen jumped by the most since the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. five years ago. The weekly measure of current conditions fell to minus 34.1 in the period ended Oct. 13, the weakest since March."
If there is anything the market has shown in the past 16 days of government shutdown, which is set to reopen this morning in grandiose fashion following last night's 10 pm'th hour vote in the House, is that it no longer needs Washington not only to function but to ramp higher. All it needs is the Fed, which in turn needs an unlimited debt issuance capacity by the US Treasury which it can monetize indefinitely, which is why the debt ceiling was always the far more pressing issue. In other words, the good news is that the can has been kicked, and now the government workers (who will need about a week to get up to speed), can resume releasing various government data showing just how much 5 years of now-open ended QE have impaired the US economy, and why as a result, even more years of unlimited QE are in stock (because in a Keynesian world, what caused the problem is obviously what will fix it). The bad news: the whole charade will be repeated in three months. More importantly, with futures no longer having the hopium bogey on the horizon, namely the always last minute debt deal, they have finally sold off on the back of a weaker USD. It is unclear if the reason for this has more to do with climbing the wall of shorters which is now gone at least until February when the soap opera returns, or what for now, has been an absolutely abysmal Q3 earnings season. Luckily, in a centrally-planned world, plunging stocks is bullish for stocks, as it means even more Fed intervention, and so on ad inf.
Since all US rating agencies (Fitch is majority French-owned) have been terrified into submission and will never again touch the rating of the US following the DOJ's witch hunt of S&P, any US rating changes on the margin will come from abroad. Like China's Dagong rating agency, which several hours ago just downgraded the US from A to A-, maintaining its negative outlook. The agency said that while a default has been averted by a last minute agreement in Congress, the fundamental situation of debt growth outpacing fiscal income and GDP remains unchanged. "Hence the government is still approaching the verge of default crisis, a situation that cannot be substantially alleviated in the foreseeable future."
For those wondering, here is the full final roll call of the vote to extend the debt ceiling and temporarily end the government shutdown: