All you need to read and some more.
These people will say anything!
- Downgrades Loom for Banks (WSJ)
- China Loosens Grip on Yuan (WSJ)
- Sarkozy Embraces Growth Role for ECB (WSJ)
- A Top Euro Banker Calls for Boost to IMF (WSJ)
- Wolfgang Münchau - Spain has accepted mission impossible (FT)
- Hong Kong Takeovers Loom Large With Banks Lending Yuan: Real M&A (Bloomberg)
- Banks urge Fed retreat on credit exposure (FT)
- Drought in U.K. Adds to Inflation Fears (WSJ)
- France faces revival of radical left (FT)
- Euro Area Seeks Bigger IMF War Chest as Spanish Concerns Mount (Bloomberg)
Addressing his perception of lessons learned from the financial crisis, Ben Bernanke is speaking this afternoon on poor risk management and shadow banking vulnerabilities - all of which remain obviously as we continue to draw attention to. However, more worrisome for the junkies is the total lack of QE3 chatter in his speech. While he does note the words 'collateral' and 'repo' the proximity of the words 'Shadow, Institutions, & Vulnerabilities' are awkwardly close.
From the first day of 2012 we predicted, and have done so until we were blue in the face, that 2012 would be a carbon copy of 2011... and thus 2010. Unfortunately when setting the screenplay, the central planners of the world really don't have that much imagination and recycling scripts is the best they can do. And while this forecast will not be glaringly obvious until the debt ceiling fiasco is repeated at almost the same time in 2012 as it was in 2011, we are happy that more and more people are starting to, as quite often happens, see things our way. We present David Rosenberg who summarizes why 2012 is Deja 2011 all over again.
...Add all these charts up and we get a snapshot of a housing recovery that seems to have stalled or rolled over. The reasons why are apparent: mortgage debt remains elevated, a vast "shadow inventory" of underwater or foreclosed homes remains off the market and household income has stagnated or declined, as reported in What If Housing Is Done for a Generation?.
The introduction of the “Mintchip” is really just another extension of the state’s effort to wield supremacy over private affairs. It is creeping socialism under the guise of efficiency. But, as anyone familiar with the nature of state understands, government efficiency is an illusion. As anonymity in free transactions goes, so goes another barrier on further centralized planning. The trick here is that nothing government does is voluntary. The forced usage of the Canadian dollar via legal tender laws renders the assertion of “voluntary” laughable. The Mint claims the chip can be used anonymously but this assurance comes from the institution in cahoots with a central bank that can’t manage a simple metal standard for more than a few decades.
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."
"In the last three plus years, central banks have had little choice but to do the unsustainable in order to sustain the unsustainable until others do the sustainable to restore sustainability!" is how PIMCO's El-Erian introduces the game-theoretic catastrophe that is potentially occurring around us. In a lecture to the St.Louis Fed, the moustachioed maestro of monetary munificence states "let me say right here that the analysis will suggest that central banks can no longer – indeed, should no longer – carry the bulk of the policy burden" and "it is a recognition of the declining effectiveness of central banks’ tools in countering deleveraging forces amid impediments to growth that dominate the outlook. It is also about the growing risk of collateral damage and unintended circumstances." It appears that we have reached the legitimate point of – and the need for – much greater debate on whether the benefits of such unusual central bank activism sufficiently justify the costs and risks. This is not an issue of central banks’ desire to do good in a world facing an “unusually uncertain” outlook. Rather, it relates to questions about diminishing returns and the eroding potency of the current policy stances. The question is will investors remain "numb and sedated…. by the money sloshing around the system?" or will "the welfare of millions in the United States, if not billions of people around the world, will have suffered greatly if central banks end up in the unpleasant position of having to clean up after a parade of advanced nations that headed straight into a global recession and a disorderly debt deflation." Of course, it is a rhetorical question.
Last night it was uber-dove Janet Yellen, today it is uberer-dove, former Goldmanite (what is it about Goldman central bankers and easing: Dudley unleashing QE2 in 2010, Draghi unleashing QE LTRO in Europe?) Bill Dudley joining the fray and saying QE is pretty much on the table. Of course, the only one that matters is Benny, and he will complete the doves on parade tomorrow, when he shows that all the hawkish rhetoric recently has been for naught. Cutting straight to the chase from just released Dudley comments:"we cannot lose sight of the fact that the economy still faces significant headwinds and that there are some meaningful downside risks... To sum up, the incoming data on the U.S. economy has been a bit more upbeat of late, suggesting that the recovery may be getting better established. But, while these developments are certainly encouraging, it is far too soon to conclude that we are out of the woods in terms of generating a strong, sustainable recovery. On the inflation front, the year-over-year rate of consumer price inflation has slowed in recent months, and despite the recent rise of gasoline prices, we expect inflation to moderate further in 2012." Translate: NEW QE is but a CTRL-P keystroke away now that all the inflation the Fed usually ignores continues to be ignored.
- Fed's No. 2 Strongly Backs Low-Rate Policy (Hilsenrath)
- World Bank Cuts China 2012 Growth Outlook on Exports (Bloomberg)
- BlackRock's Street Shortcut: Big Banks Would Be Bypassed With Bond Platform; 'Not Going to Cannibalize' (WSJ)
- George Soros - Europe’s Future is Not Up to The Bundesbank (FT)
- Fed May Have Aggravated Income Inequality, El-Erian Says(Bloomberg)
- Shirakawa Pledges Japan Easing Amid Political Pressure (Bloomberg)
- Spain’s Debt Struggle Opens Door to Sarkozy Campaign Message (Bloomberg)
- Iran Woos Oil Buyers With Easy Credit (FT)
- Syria Pledges to Observe Ceasefire (FT)
In an attempt to not steal too much thunder from Gary Shilling's thought-provoking interview with Bloomberg TV, his view of the S&P 500 hitting 800, as operating earnings compress to $80 per share, is founded in more than just a perma-bear's perspective of the real state of the US economy. As he points out "The analysts have been cranking their numbers down. They started off north of 110 then 105. They are now 102. They are moving in my direction." The combination of a hard landing in China, a recession in Europe, and a stronger USD will weigh on earnings and inevitably the US consumer (who's recent spending spree has considerably outpaced income growth) with the end result a moderate recession in the US. The story is "there is nothing else except consumers that can really hype the U.S. economy" and that is supported by employment but last week's employment report throws cold water in that. "Consumers have a lot of reasons to save as opposed to spend. They need to rebuild their assets, save for retirement. A lot of reasons suggest that they should be saving to work down debt as opposed to going the other way, which they have done in recent months. So if consumers retrench, there is not really anything else in the U.S. economy that can hold things up." While the argument that the US is the best of a bad lot was summarily dismissed as Shilling prefers the 'best horse in the glue factory' analogy and does not believe investors will flock to US equities - instead preferring US Treasuries noting that "everyone has said, rates cannot go lower, they will go up, they will go up. They have been saying that for 30 years."
Last week we had the Fed's hawks line up one after another telling us how no more QE would ever happen. We ignored them because they are simply the bad cops to the Fed's good cop doves. Sure enough, here comes Bernanke's right hand man, or in this case woman, hinting that one can forget everything the hawkish stance, and that ZIRP may last not until 2014 but 2015! Which, by the way, is to be expected: since ZIRP can never expire, it will always be rolled to T+3 years, as the short end will never be allowed to rise, until the Fed has enough FRNs in circulation to absorb the surge in rates without crushing the principal, as explained yesterday.
What makes this time different? Several items:
- The Crisis coming from Europe will be far, far larger in scope than anything the Fed has dealt with before.
- The Fed is now politically toxic and cannot engage in aggressive monetary policy without experiencing severe political backlash (this is an election year).
- The Fed’s resources are spent to the point that the only thing the Fed could do would be to announce an ENORMOUS monetary program which would cause a Crisis in of itself.
We all know that central banks and governments have been actively intervening in markets since the 2007 subprime mortgage meltdown destabilized the leveraged-debt-dependent global economy. We also know that unprecedented intervention is now the de facto institutionalized policy of central banks and governments. In some cases, the financial authorities have explicitly stated their intention to “stabilize markets” (translation: reinflate credit-driven speculative bubbles) by whatever means are necessary, while in others the interventions are performed by proxies so the policy remains implicit. All through the waning months of 2007 and the first two quarters of 2008, the market gyrated as the Federal Reserve and other central banks issued reassurances that the subprime mortgage meltdown was “contained” and posed no threat to the global economy. The equity market turned to its standard-issue reassurance: “Don’t fight the Fed,” a maxim that elevated the Federal Reserve’s power to goose markets to godlike status. But alas, the global financial meltdown of late 2008 showed that hubris should not be confused with godlike power. Despite the “impossibility” of the market disobeying the Fed’s commands (“Away with thee, oh tides, for we are the Federal Reserve!”) and the “sure-fire” cycle of stocks always rising in an election year, global markets imploded as the usual bag of central bank and Sovereign State tricks failed in spectacular fashion.