In addition to the already noted fireworks out of China, where the Yuan saw the biggest daily plunge since 2008 and the ongoing and very rapid newsflow out of the Ukraine, focus this morning was very much of the latest Eurozone CPI data, which despite matching previous low levels, came in above expectations and in turn resulted in an aggressive unwind of short-EUR bets as market participants were forced to re-asses the likelihood of more easing by the ECB. Still, even though the Euribor curve bear steepened and Bunds came under significant selling pressure, the EONIA forward curve remained inverted, signifying that there is still a degree of apprehension over what is unarguably very low inflation data.
It would indeed be supremely ironic if the "strong" foreign law bond indenture would be tested, and breached, not by Greek bonds, as so many expected in late 2011 and early 2012, but by one of the last contries in Europe which is still AAA-rated. We would find it less ironic if the next leg of the global financial crisis was once again unleashed by an Austrian bank: after all history does rhyme...
Have you noticed that people are becoming angrier? You can see it everywhere – in our homes, in our schools, in our workplaces, in our television shows, in our movies, and certainly in Washington. In fact, many have said that there is an “epidemic” of anger in America today. And it is undeniably true. As you will see below, a whole host of surveys and opinion polls show that America has become a seething cauldron of anger and frustration unlike anything that we have ever seen before. The very fabric of our society is coming apart at the seams and the thin veneer of civilization that we all take for granted is beginning to disappear. What is America going to look like if we continue to go even farther down this road?
Scratch one more bullish thesis for the housing recovery, and the economic recovery in general.
Now that absolutely everyone is laser-focused more on the participation print, recently at 35 year lows, than the actual unemployment number which even the Fed has implied is meaningless in the current context, one thing to note is that while the overall number is a blended average across the US, it certainly differs on a state by state basis. 4In order to get a sense of which states are the winners and losers in the payroll to participation ratio, we go to Gallup, which conveniently has broken down this number on a far more granular basis. Gallup finds that Washington, D.C., had the highest Payroll to Population (P2P) rate in the country in 2013, at 55.7%. A cluster of states in the Northern Great Plains and Rocky Mountain regions -- North Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wyoming, Iowa, Colorado, and South Dakota -- all made the top 10. West Virginia (36.1%) had the lowest P2P rate of all the states.
Despite the yeah-meh-bleh nature of consumer confidence measures, Gallup's more broadly surveyed, and seemingly consistent with the reality of the American workforce, index of economic confidence remains lackluster at best and dismal at worst. However, there is one bright shining beacon of light across the "United" States of America... one state stands proud as the lone state that is economically confident... that state is... drum roll please... D.C.
A classicial economist... and Harvard professor... preaching to the world that one's money is not safe in the US banking system due to Ben Bernanke's actions? And putting his withdrawal slip where his mouth is and pulling $1 million out of Bank America? Say it isn't so...
Since his appointment, the balance sheet of Ben Bernanke's Fed has exploded, stock prices have resurged to newerer highs, and home prices are breaking (bad) records once again. However, the following chart of sentiment towards the money-printer-in-chief by income bracket sums it all up... (despite Bernanke's "belief" that "Fed policy is a Main Street policy") Greenspan will be happy though, as Bernanke's disapproval rating is almost double that of his when he left office in 2006 (and approval rating considerably lower).
And so following yet another Fed taper, coupled with another disappointing manufacturing data point out of China, emerging markets did their thing first thing this morning and all the most unstable EM currency pairs - the TRY, the RUB, the ZAR and the HUF - all plunged promptly in the process pushing down the USDJPY which as become a natural carry offset to EM troubles, only to rebound promptly. Specifically, USDTRY blew out 400 pips to 2.3010 highs after which it bounced, and has now stabilized around 2.27, well above the Turkish central bank intervention level, USDZAR is back down to 11.2120 after hitting five-year highs of 11.3850, the Ruble also plunged after which it jumped on speculation of Russian central bank intervention, while futures are tracking even the tiniest moves by USDJPY and pushing the Emini which is trading in a liquidity vaccum by a quarter point for ever 2 or pips. And with all news overnight shifting from bad to worse (keep an eye on declining German inflation now) it goes without saying, that EM central banks around the world now are desperately trying to keep their currencies under control: which is why the market's jitteryness is only set to increase from here on out.
Beginning by disavowing Mario Gabelli of any belief that rising stock prices help 'most' people, Marc Faber discusses his increasingly imminent fears of the markets in this recent Barron's interview. Quoting Hussman as a caveat, "The problem with bubbles is that they force one to decide whether to look like an idiot before the peak, or an idiot after the peak. There's no calling the top," Faber warns there are a lot of questions about the quality of earnings but "statistics show that company insiders are selling their shares like crazy." His first recommendation - short the Russell 2000, buy 10-year US Treasuries ("there will be no magnificent US recovery"), and miners and adds "own physical gold because the old system will implode. Those who own paper assets are doomed."
As the nation anxiously awaits President Obama's State of the Union speech tomorrow, we thought a brief reflection on the nation's view of him and his government was worthwhile. A glance at Gallup's front page tells us all we need to know. A mere 17% of respondents say their representatives deserve re-election; Obama's approval ratings are among the most polarized on record; 65% are unsaitsified with how government works; and, at 40%, the President's overall approval rating is practically at record lows. But, apart from that, we are sure the state of the union will be strong and it's nothing but up from here...
6 CONSERVATIVE Reasons – Based Upon CONSERVATIVE Values – For Making Sure Inequality Doesn't Spiral Out of Control Even More
The current Administration has taken on the "war on poverty" as its primary battle ground going into the mid-term elections later this year. As NFIB's Bill Dunkleberg recently noted, "since it is an election year, the main theme will be addressing the disparities in income and wealth (i.e. tax the rich and increase welfare programs) rather than promoting policies that would create jobs and raise incomes in a growing economy. This year, policy will be all about votes." This isn't a new fight. As Robert Rector stated recently - that particular war has been less than successful.
"Fifty years and $20 trillion later, LBJ's goal to help the poor become self-supporting has failed."
However, while the Administration will use the argument to garner votes in an election year, the most interesting aspect about the income inequality debate is that it is the very policies of the current Administration that is fueling the income shift.
Two of the largest retailers in America are steamrolling toward bankruptcy. Sears and J.C. Penney are both losing hundreds of millions of dollars each quarter, and both of them appear to be caught in the grip of a death spiral from which it will be impossible to escape. Once upon a time, Sears was actually the largest retailer in the United States, and even today Sears and J.C. Penney are "anchor stores" in malls all over the country. They are both shutting down unprofitable stores and laying off employees in a desperate attempt to avoid bankruptcy, but everyone knows that they are just delaying the inevitable. These two great retail giants are dying, and they certainly won't be the last to fall. This is just the beginning.
With the market more bullishly positioned, more euphoric, and more levered than almost any time in history, it is perhaps worth "pondering" what some of the risks to this optimism could be...