"I happen to think that 2014 is a VERY different year than 2013 from a variety of viewpoints. First, there appears to be a dispersion of opinion about markets, valuations, policy frameworks and more. This is a healthy departure from YEARS of artificiality. Artificiality in valuations, artificiality in market and policy mechanics and essentially artificiality in EVERY financial, and real, relationship on the planet based on central bank(s) balance sheet expansion and other measures intended to be a stop-gap resolution to tightening financial conditions, adverse expectations of economic activity, and the great rollover" - Russ Certo, Brean Capital
As we begin 2014, it is important to recognize the levels of INSANITY currently existent in the world enabling us to understand the apocryphal nature of the times we live in and prepare ourselves to meet the challenges it represents. The world is leveraged to an extent that has never before seen in history! Debt now masquerades as NOMINAL growth and REAL growth has ceased. Headline economic reports are now nothing more than POLITICALLY CORRECT HOAXES to FOOL the public at large and mask the betrayal of the public by the leaders who hold the reins of power. ECONOMIC Stagnation emerged after the 2008 Global financial crisis and in real terms has NEVER ENDED!
The major disconnect between the rising of Brent Oil prices with global production outpacing demand on a weekly, monthly and annual basis is just an interesting feat in and of itself.
Europe is recovering, right? Wrong. As Nigel Farage raged last night, things are not what they seem and even the IMF is now beginning to get concerned again (especially after Lagarde's call yesterday for moar from Draghi and every other central banker). As Bloomberg's Niraj Shah notes, it's not just the PIIGS we have to worry about (or not), Denmark, Finland, Norway and Poland have been added to the IMF’s list of countries with the potential to destabilize the global economy.
With the Q4 earnings season beginning, ConvergEx's Nick Colas reminds that the top of the income statement matters more than the bottom line if we expect further upside to domestic equities in 2014. Revenue growth has been in short supply over the last four quarters, with the companies of the Dow only able to average a 0.6% top line growth rate over the last year. If 2013 was all about multiple expansion in equity markets, then, Colas warns this will be the year when revenue growth must fulfill the promise of a U.S. stock market so near all-time highs. Analysts have been perennial over-optimists on revenues every month since early 2012. Maybe they finally have it right, but that is purely a matter of faith at this point; their track record on this count is not good.
The Status Quo system is failing. Its collapse will be messy. Starting to call things what they really are is a necessary first step to working with this reality.
The Baltic Dry Index, a measure of commodity-shipping rates, has collapsed 39% in just the nine trading days of 2014. It has fallen from 2277 at the end of December 2013 to 1370 today (see chart). This key indicator of global economic health is a warning signal for the global economy in 2014.
"The Fed's policies have actually led to a lot of problems around the world," Marc Faber begins his discussion with Bloomberg TV's Trish Regan, especially "people in the lower income groups [who] spend say 30% of their income on energy, transportation, and so forth, electricity and gasoline." The Gloom, Boom & Doom Report author goes on to discuss everything from how the Fed is creating a two-class system around the world, the inexorable growth of governments, buying votes, Bitcoin, interest rates, wealth taxes, and overall market valuations. "We are in a gigantic financial asset bubble," Faber explains, "everybody's bullish," but he sees a slowing global economy (as do we e.g. Baltic Dry Index); "[The bubble] could burst any day. I think we are very stretched." Faber is on fire...
When it comes to forecasts and outlooks for 2014 (or 2013, or 2012, or 2011, etc), there is no way one can't be tired of the endless Keynesian drivel which the sellside bombards its gullible client base, which can be summarized as follows: "this is the year when the central bank strategies, which have failed to boost the global economy for the past 5 years, will finally work and the economy picks up - yes, this time will be different, we promise. Oh, and 'if' we are wrong (again), well just blame it on cold weather in the winter, or warm weather in the summer and if need be, delay the 'recovery" to the following year, while blaming the lack of insufficient stimulus - because $1 trillion in balance sheet expansion per year is obviously not enough." Rinse. Repeat. One would think spinning the same yarn year after year, they would get it right purely by luck at this point. Alas, they haven't. So for everyone tired of listening to the same old broken record, here is a completely different "Austrian" perspective, one shared by Scotiabank's Guy Haselmann.
... We have created an apparently wonderful economic model that seems to provide us with so many benefits. When you consider the incredible feats of technology and the global consumerist lifestyle we enjoy it is easy to marvel at what has been achieved. Of course what may be less obvious is the dark side of the growth economic model which is deeply inequitable, restricting its benefits to the relative elite in the western world and trapping the rest of the world in poverty. Most dangerous of all is the unsustainability of the model and where it is taking us in the future. There is now a perfect storm gathering that includes economic indebtedness, resource shortages, population pressures, and climate change that is guaranteed to derail civilisation. Despite this the political and economic mainstream are largely in denial about what is happening– like the hapless engineer and politician in the story everyone agrees that we must restart the ‘growth economy’ and continue to progress down the business as usual pathway. Very few people are taking the long term view and watching the direction towards doom that this pathway leads us. Too invested in the benefits of our current lifestyle, no one wants to hear the counsel of the philosopher who sees the disaster that looms ahead.
These names can fall farther than investors ever think once the downside momentum kicks in......
Even if you don’t buy that QE and ZIRP will lead to a dollar collapse, you do have to admit that these Fed policies have severely brainwashed investors. The Federal Reserve is the boiler room operation that has pumped up the equities market by way of QE and ZIRP. You are investing in a pump-and-dump scam. And like in all such scams, you will lose. Clear enough for ya?
Last week, Grant Williams reviewed the equity markets in an attempt to see how equity investors managed to scamper through 2013 with the friskiness of puppies when all about them lay doubt and potential disaster. His answer - of course - quantitative easing. This week Williams takes a deep dive into bonds and bullion in an effort to comprehend how the bond market managed to navigate the same 12-month period and see what can be learned about 2013 in order to forecast for 2014. The effect on the Fed’s balance sheet is plain to see - a very steady, predictable line; and markets love steady and predictable. So what happens when the 'predictability' ends...? The guardians of the global economy are relying on numerous logical fallacies to continue their path to oblivion...
The one item that caught our attention in the just released earnings was the GAAP EPS: a whopping loss of $2.19/share. Ok so, Alcoa added back a few things to get the Non-GAAP number: about $2.1 billion in goodwill impairment and restructuring charges to be precise - happens all the time. The only problem is that for Alcoa, this indeed happens all the time! The chart below shows just how freely Alcoa abuses the non-GAAP EPS definition, and how adding back charges has become ordinary course of business for the alluminum company. Very much in the same way as adding back litigation charges for JPM is now a quarterly ritual...
If one listens to Goldman's chief economist Jan Hatzius these days, it is all roses for the global economy in 2014... much like it was for Goldman at the end of 2010, a case of optimism which went stupendously wrong. Goldman's Dominic Wilson admits as much in a brand new note in which he says, "Our economic and market views for 2014 are quite upbeat." However, unlike the blind faith Goldman had in a recovery that was promptly dashed, this time it is hedging, and as a result has just released the following not titled "Where we worry: Risks to our outlook", where Wilson notes: "After significant equity gains in 2013 and with more of a consensus that US growth will improve, it is important to think about the risks to that view. There are two main ways in which our market outlook could be wrong. The first is that our economic forecasts could be wrong. The second is that our economic forecasts could be right but our view of the market implications of those forecasts could be wrong. We highlight five key risks on each front here." In short: these are the ten things that keep Goldman up at night: the following five economic risks, and five market view risks.