Central bankers overshadow the economic data in the week ahead.
European Union Launches Investigation Into Manipulation of Oil Prices Since 2002
Is a $400,000 house with NINJA loan normal? How about a $200,000 REO with missing appliances, a dead yard, a long list of maintenance and no financing? Maybe normal is a $300,000 flip after the flipper fixed everything and colored up the yard, and did some upgrades to the interior. Some may suggest that normal is more like a $300,000 sale with a 5.5% fixed rate and 20% down. Then again, it may be more normal if this $300,000 sale is financed with a 3.5% down FHA loan at 4%. Of course, all of the above is actually referring to the same house. So what is normal? At the moment, we know prices are going up in certain markets, and so are sales. Mortgage rates are higher now than when QE3 started in September 2012. Investors are gobbling up everything in sight in their favored target markets. As an example, they are buying 30% of the houses in Southern California, 38% in Phoenix and 53% in Vegas. First time buyers do not stand a chance. The percentage of home ownership is declining. Are policy makers happy with these results? Are these intended or unintended consequences of public policies?
We feel that now there is a Bermuda Triangle of economics - a space where everything tends to disappear without radar contact, a black hole in which rationality and science is replaced by hope, superstition and nonsense pundits pretending to understand the real drivers of the economy. The Bermuda Triangle in real life runs from Bermuda to Puerto Rico to Miami. The Economic Bermuda Triangle (EBT) one runs from high stock market valuations to high unemployment to low growth/productivity. There is a myth that the sunken Atlantis could be in the middle of this triangle. It has been renamed Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) to make it suit the black hole's main premise of ensuring there is a fancy name for what is essentially the same economic recipe: print and spend money, then wait and pray for better weather. The EBT is getting harder and harder to justify - if for nothing else because the constant reminders of crisis keep us all defensive and non-committed to investing beyond the next quarter. We all naively think we can exit the "risk-on" trade before anyone else. We are due for a new crisis. We have governments and central banks proactively pursuing bubbles. A long time ago, policymakers entered a one-way street where reversing is, if not illegal, then impossible.
There have been quite a few bold predictions, since the beginning of the year, that the dollar was set to soar and that the great "bond bull market" was dead. The primary thesis behind these views was that the economy was set to strengthen and inflation would begin to seep its way back into the system. Furthermore, the "Great Rotation" of bonds into stocks, on the back of said economic strength, would push interest rates substantially higher. While we have no doubt that at some point down the road that inflation will become an issue, interest rates will rise and the dollar will strengthen - it just won't be anytime soon. A wave of "disinflation" is currently engulfing the globe. The deflationary pressures that weigh on the consumer and the economy are likely going to keep downward pressure on rates for some time to come as the Fed comes to realize that they have been caught in the same "liquidity trap" that has plagued Japan for a generation. The real concern for investors, and individuals, is the actual economy.
Now that the Federal Reserve has hired every single pennystock trader and momentum-chasing algo in the world (or at least is enjoying Citadel's helping hand in regards to the latter) it is time for the Fed's human resources department to branch out and fill those really important gaping holes.
Great job opportunity! Penetration Tester: rfer.us/FRS5ERsd.
— Federal Reserve Jobs (@FedReserveJobs) May 18, 2013
Five days ago, when describing the launch of the joint-US, South Korean naval military exercise in the East Sea, we said that "for all his endless posturing, North Korea's Un has done absolutely nothing. And if his inability and unwillingness to translate threats into actions continue, that will pretty much be it for North Korea's hope to even get a few loose pennies as a nuisance factor" be it from the US, Japan, South Korea, or anyone else who is listening. It seems the North Korean leader has taken the hint, and overnight escalated from merely constant jawboning into at least some variant of activity, when he fired three short-range missiles into the sea off the eastern coast of the Korean peninsula on Saturday, "once again stirring tensions that had appeared to ease in the wake of a recent series of bellicose statements directed at South Korea and the U.S."
Everyone knows the odds of winning in a casino are worse than 50% (often much worse depending on the game played). So who wouldn't rush to a casino where, instead, the odds were overwhelmingly in the gambler's favor? That's the promise of today's stock market, which has been experiencing an aberrantly high percentage of up days all year. Like all good benders though, this is going to end with one heck of a hangover...
We have often spoken of the disconnect between Wall Street and Main Street. While asset prices are inflated by continued interventions of monetary policy from the Federal Reserve, boosting Wall Street profits and widening the wealth gap between the top 20% of Americans and the rest, "Main Street" continues to suffer a from a rising cost of living and falling wage growth. "How long can the disconnect last between Wall Street and Main Street?" There is no clear answer for that as consumers have shown a willingness to draw down savings rates to historically low levels while quickly returning to cheap credit forgetting the disaster that it caused them not so long ago. However, in reality, when you have a family to feed, clothe and house - it really doesn't matter what is logical, but what is necessary, regardless of the consequences down the road. Of course, for many American's today, the only real difference between now and the "bread lines" of the 30's is that the "bread" is delivered in the mail rather than at the "soup kitchen" on the corner.
Since "it just doesn't matter" anymore, we hope that soon financial network TV, plagued by the lowest ratings in a decade for the simple fact that nobody cares anymore what Federal Reserve Capital LP does, will at least invite some funnier guests, such as Bill Murray, to dispense hot stock tips.
Read 'Em and Weep
Parasites must balance their drive to maximize what they extract from their host with the risk of losing everything by killing their host. This is the dilemma of the parasitic partnership of the central state and financial Elites everywhere: to extract the maximum possible in debt payments and taxes without sparking rebellion and revolution. The 30 million whose labor funds the parasitic status quo don't have to rebel; they simply have to stop going to work, stop starting enterprises, stop being productive. They just have to tire of being the host, tire of being debt-serfs, tire of being tax donkeys. The trick to suppressing revolution is to keep debt-tax serfdom bearable. The parasitic Elites are keeping the host going, but at a high cost in resiliency. Let's see how long the host lasts once a crisis hits.
It is only logical that when one of the smarter people in finance warns that he "sees bubbles everywhere" that he should be roundly ignored by those who have no choice but to dance. Because Bernanke and company are still playing the music with the volume on Max, and if not for POMO there is always FOMO. However, if there is any doubt why this "rally is the most hated ever", here are some insights from the Bond King from an interview with Bloomberg TV earlier today: "We see bubbles everywhere, and that is not to be dramatic and not to suggest they will pop immediately. I just suggested in the bond market with a bubble in treasuries and bubble in narrow credit spreads and high-yield prices, that perhaps there is a significant distortion there. Having said that, it suggests that as long as the FED and Bank of Japan and other Central Banks keep writing checks and do not withdraw, then the bubble can be supported as in blowing bubbles. They are blowing bubbles. When that stops there will be repercussions. It doesn't mean something like 2008 but the potential end of the bull markets everywhere. Not just in the bond market but in the stock market as well and a developing one in the house market as well."
While there are a plethora of Wall Street analysts calling for much higher levels for the S&P 500; most of these calls are based simply on the belief that the current trajectory must continue indefinitely. While you certainly cannot "fight the Fed" the underlying fundamentals and economics that support the markets long term are not present for the party. What is very important to understand, and can be clearly seen in the chart below, is that despite repeated calls for "ever rising" stock markets in the past eventually left investors devastated. Markets do not, and cannot, continue indefinitely in one direction. Unfortunately, for most individuals, by the time they realize what is happening it will likely be far too late to act. Could the catalyst be 'language' changes from the FOMC as they see bubbles and froth in high-yield credit and margined stocks?
- As scandals mount, White House springs into damage control (Reuters)
- Glencore Xstrata chairman ousted in surprise coup (Reuters), former BP CEO Tony Hayward appointed as interim chairman (WSJ)
- JPMorgan Chase asks Bloomberg for data records (Telegraph)
- Platts Retains Energy Trader Confidence Amid Price-Fix Probe (BBG)
- Syrian Internet service comes back online (PCWorld)
- Japan Q1 growth hits 3.5% on Abe impact although fall in business investment clouds optimism for recovery (FT)
- Soros Joins Gold-Stake Cuts Before Bear Market Drop (BBG)
- Factory Ceiling Collapses in Cambodia (WSJ)
- Sony’s $100 Billion Lost Decade Supports Loeb Breakup (BBG)
- Snags await favourite for Federal Reserve job (FT)
- James Bond’s Pinewood Turned Down on $300 Million Plan (BBG)