Anyone who buys their own groceries (as opposed to having a full-time cook handle such mundane chores) knows that the cost of basic foods keeps rising, despite the official claims that inflation is essentially near-zero. Common-sense causes include severe weather and droughts than reduce crop yields, rising demand from the increasingly wealthy global middle class and money printing, which devalues the purchasing power of income. While these factors undoubtedly influence the cost of food, it turns out that food moves in virtual lockstep with the one master commodity in an industrialized global economy: oil.
One week ago we reported that while Russia was dumping a record amount of Treasurys it was buying gold, or some 900,000 ounces to be precise. Today we learn that as Russia continues to purchase gold, and is likely taking advantage of the recent rout in gold prices, it certainly won't be storing its physical metal with any of the western Central Banks. According to Reuters, shortly after Russia and China announced their historic gas deal, Vladimit Putin said at the recent International Economic Forum, that Russia need to ensure its gold and currency reserves are secure. And not just Russia: China too. Because apparently when it comes to speaking for "hard" monetary policy, Putin is now authorized to speak for both nations.
"For us (Russia and China) it is important to deposit those (gold and currency reserves) in a rational and secure way," Putin said. "And we together need to think of how to do that keeping in mind the uneasy situation in the global economy."
Do not look at this chart if you remain of the opinion that everything is fine in the world. For the 3rd time in the last 4 months, world trade volumes dropped. The 0.5% fall in March - it must have been weathery all over the world? - continues the biggest plunge in global trade since May 2009. As WSJ reports, exports from developing economies in Asia recorded the largest decline, a drop of 4.5%. Central and Eastern Europe was the only region to record a rise in exports as the decline in trade flows is consistent with other evidence that suggests the global economy got off to a weak start this year. So, $12 trillion of global money printing and world trade is unable to sustain growth...
Central banks see their main role now in supporting asset markets, the economy, the banks, and the government. They are positively petrified of potentially derailing anything through tighter policy. They will structurally “under-tighten”. Higher inflation will be the endgame but when that will come is anyone’s guess. Growth will, by itself, not lead to a meaningful response from central bankers. No country has ever become more prosperous by debasing its currency and ripping off its savers. This will end badly...
It is not too early to ask how the present US business cycle expansion, already more than five years old, will end. The history of the last great US monetary experiment in “quantitative easing” (QE) from 1934-7 suggests that the end could be violent. Autumn 1937 featured one of the largest New York stock market crashes ever accompanied by the descent of the US economy into the notorious Roosevelt Recession. As we noted previously - it's never different this time...
If you believe that the U.S. economy is heading in the right direction, you really need to read this article. As we look toward the second half of 2014, there are economic red flags all over the place.
As we have discussed numerous times, the dash-for-trash in US equities has been insatiable as any and every consequence of screwing up is slowly removed from capitalism (and capital markets). As Goldman's David Kostin notes, companies with weak balance sheets have outperformed peers with strong balance sheets by 49 percentage points during the past two years (89% vs. 40%) with realized volatility of just 7%. Although the trend is daunting - to say the least - Goldman believes it will continue for three reasons...
Forget all the talk about "dots", "6 months", or any other prognostication from the Fed's new leadership about what will happen in the near and not so near future. For the real answer prepare to shelve out the usual fee of $250,000 for an hour with the Chairsatan, or read Reuters' account of what others who have done so, have learned. The answer is a stunner. "At least one guest left a New York restaurant with the impression Bernanke, 60, does not expect the federal funds rate, the Fed's main benchmark interest rate, to rise back to its long-term average of around 4 percent in Bernanke's lifetime. "Shocking when he said this," the guest scribbled in his notes. "Is that really true?" he scribbled at another point, according to the notes reviewed by Reuters."
The threat of "sectoral" sanctions is the latest arrow in America's quiver against Russia's unwillingness to back off and, as the FT reports, the US is seeking support from Europe for these efforts. The problem, as we have discussed, is that energy binds Russia to the rest of the world in a codependent relationship. Consumers – especially in Europe – need Russian oil and gas as much as Russia needs the revenue they bring in. The US believes it can circumvent that obstacle as "the situation calls for a scalpel, not a meat axe... we need targeted asymmetric sanctions that hurt them more than they hurt us." In other words, do you believe in miracles? “In a global economy, each of these actions may also come at a cost to the countries imposing the sanctions that needs to be considered.”
Treasuries are still cheap. The FOMC statement says that “even after employment and inflation are near mandate-consistent levels” the committee may keep “the target federal funds rate below levels” viewed as normal in the longer run. Whenever we read this, we think of Desi Arnaz screaming, “Lucy! You got some ‘splainin’ to do!” Treasury prices do not care if Q4 is around 4%. Economic data matters little for the time being. Prices are being driven more by positions, relative value, and future Fed policy. Markets know the Fed is ending QE. What it really wants to know is the terminal Fed Funds level in the new ‘world order’. In the meantime, stay long.
If ever there was a better indication of the malinvestment boom created by an interfering Fed, this is it. As demand for shipping collapses on real slowing in the global economy - markets have "told" shipbuilders to "build it and they will come"... here is a ship-shipping ship, shipping shipping ships.
Does the economy move in predictable waves, cycles or patterns? There are many economists that believe that it does, and if their projections are correct, the rest of this decade is going to be pure hell for the United States. Many mainstream economists want nothing to do with economic cycle theorists, but it should be noted that economic cycle theories have enabled some analysts to correctly predict the timing of recessions, stock market peaks and stock market crashes over the past couple of decades. Of course none of the theories discussed below is perfect, but it is very interesting to note that all of them seem to indicate that the U.S. economy is about to enter a major downturn. So will the period of 2015 to 2020 turn out to be pure hell for the United States? We will just have to wait and see.
The Dow had its narrowest range day of the year today and volume was dismal (as weak as yesterday's) but we made new record highs so USA USA USA. From the start of the day stocks were in a wild world of low volume levitation of their own as bonds made lower and lower yields and USDJPY was not supportive at all. Once Europe closed, the bid for US equities disappeared and Nasdaq and Russell tumbled, with the Dow and S&P catching down to unch. Bundesbank bullshit sent the EUR lower (cracking below 1.37 at 6 week lows) and thus the USD higher (+0.3% on the week). Treasury yields tumbled (and flattened) all day with 30Y -2bps on the week (and 7Y -6bps from today's highs). VIX had another seizure today (this time spiking up) and closed higher.