Global Economy

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Koo Concerned Keynesian Class Contracting

The fear of 'turning-Greek', which is now apparently worse than 'turning-Japanese', is the anchoring bias that seems to be driving more and more countries to dramatically adjust their fiscal affairs. However, Nomura's Richard Koo (whose blood pressure was already elevated last week at the ignorance of many nations to his balance sheet recession diagnosis and treatment protocol) points out in a note this week that Greece's problems stem from fiscal profligacy, a lack of domestic savings, and dishonest reporting by the government (it does kind of ring a bell). His point being that the rest of the eurozone - not to mention Japan, US, and the UK - are suffering balance sheet recessions (unlike Greece), which occur when the collapse of an asset price bubble drives sharp increases in private savings. His problem is that traditional economists are not taught of a situation in which private sector deleveraging (which we discussed last week also) leaves fiscal stimulus as the only way to stabilize an economy and in the currrent environment of deficits being watched and denigrated by any and all politician, market participant, and talking head, Koo's borrow-and-spend 'all deficits are good deficits' medicine is hard to swallow. Koo believes that the post-Lehman world was saved by fiscal stimulus, that Greece is different, and that the anti-Koo austerity actions have 'thrown a large wrench into the works of many world economies' and while the UK is coming around to the notion that austerity is not working, he worries on recent actions in the US and Japan at a time of excess private saving. It seems to us that his argument boils down to - given the system's fragility - an Austrian solution to the broken Keynesian problem is unworkable (without depression), and he hopes that the growing doubts (recessions popping up left, right, and center) about an overriding focus on fiscal consolidation will bring people back to Keynesian (Kooian) fold. He concludes with a worrying reflection on his countrymen in the MoF that seem to have learnt none of his lessons as they look to raise the consumption tax and Japan's rising sun sets.

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Frontrunning: January 25

  • Angela Merkel casts doubt on saving Greece from financial meltdown (Guardian)
  • Germany Rejects ‘Indecent’ Call to ECB on Greece, Meister Says (Bloomberg)
  • Obama Calls for Higher Taxes on Wealthy (Bloomberg)
  • Fed set to push back timing of eventual rate hike (Reuters)
  • Recession Looms As UK Economy Shrinks By 0.2%, more than expected (SKY)
  • King Says BOE Can Increase Bond Purchases If Needed to Meet Inflation Goal (Bloomberg)
  • When One Quadrillion Yen is not enough: Japan's first trade deficit since 1980 raises debt doubts (Reuters)
  • Sarkozy to quit if he loses poll (FT)
  • U.S. Shifts Policy on Nuclear Pacts (WSJ)
  • ECB under pressure over Greek bond hit (FT)
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Brevan Howard Made Money In 2011 Betting On Market Stupidity, Sees "Substantial Dislocation" In 2012

While Paulson's star was finally setting in 2011, that of mega macro fund Brevan Howard was rising, and has been rising for years by never posting a negative return since 2003. The $34.2 billion fund, now about double the size of John Paulson's, returned 12.12% in a year marked by abysmal hedge fund performance. But how did it make money? Simple - by taking advantage of the same permabullish market myopia that marked the beginning of 2011, and that has gripped the market once again. "The Fund’s large gains during the third quarter were due predominantly to pressing the thematic view that markets were ignoring clear signs of economic slowdown and were not correctly pricing the probability of central bank accommodation, particularly the reversal of the ECB rate hikes in April and July." Not to mention the €800 billion ECB liquidity accommodation that started in July and has continued since. So yes: those betting again that the market correction is overdue, will once again be proven right Why? Because "we are about to witness an unprecedented policy move. In the US, Eurozone and UK, fiscal austerity is being prescribed as the cure following the bursting of the credit bubble and to overcome the malaise following a balance-sheet recession. Unfortunately, there is no historical example of when this approach has been successful." As for looking into the future, "we continue to believe that markets remain at risk of  substantial dislocation."

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"Dreams Versus Reality" - Former IMF Chief Economist On Europe's Last Stand

Successive plans to restore confidence in the euro area have failed. Proposals currently on the table also seem likely to fail. The market cost of borrowing is at unsustainable levels for many banks and a significant number of governments that share the euro. In three short sentences, the Peterson Institute for International Economics' (PIIE) Simon Johnson introduces the clear and present danger that Europe has become in a comprehensive article on the deepening European crisis. The circular nature of the realization of sovereign credit risk realities and the subsequent effective insolvency of banks exacerbates a credit crunch and exaggerates problems in the real economy - most specifically in the periphery. Johnson outlines five measures that are needed to enable the euro area to survive but the big bazooka of up to EUR5tn just for the PIIGS is what the PIIE senior fellow fears as the ECB is pushed down a dangerous path. The coordination of 17 disaparate nations leaves the former IMF man greatly concerned as the unique nature of this crisis leaves "four economic, social, and political events as possible causes of systemic collapse with each at risk of occurring in the next weeks, months, or years and these risks will not disappear quickly." As European sovereign bonds are now deeply subordinated claims on recessionary economies, it is no surprise that Johnson ends by noting that Europe's economy remains in a dangerous state.

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Global Economic 'Mojo' Still Lacking

As of Q3 2011, the citizens of less than 20% of the countries involved in Nielsen's Global Consumer Confidence, Concerns, and Spending Intentions Survey were on average confident in their future economic confidence. Not surprisingly, Nic Colas of ConvergEx points out, six were in Asia, the least confident were in Eastern and Peripheral European nations, and furthermore overall global consumer confidence remains 9.3% below 2H 2006 (and 6.4% below Q4 2010) readings as the global economy still has a long way to get its 'mojo' back. Colas points to the fact that 'confidence is an essential lubricant of any capitalist-based system' and one of the key challenges that worst hit Europe (and other regions and nations) face is capital markets that are assessing the long shadow of the Financial Crisis of 2007-2008 and the ongoing European sovereign debt crisis impact on the world's Consumer Confidence.

ilene's picture


Stocks usually follow the Fed, but this time when the ECB pumped, so much of it flowed into the US that not only Treasuries, but also stocks, got a lift.

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Economic Data Flood Summary: Claims, Housing Noisy, CPI May Return "Disinflation" Talk At FOMC Meeting

First, Initial Claims - the new yoyo.Initial claims drop from revised 402K (as expected) in last week, to 352K this week, 50K swing in one week, on expectations of 384K. All in the seasonal adjustment, which tries to compensate for the 124K drop in Non Seasonally Adjusted claims. Fired bankers and everyone else no longer registers to the B(L)S. This number was below the lowest Wall Street estimate of 363K. Continuing claims: 3.432MM, below expectations of 3.590MM, previous revised naturally higher from 3.628MM to 3.647MM. The reason? People on EUC and Extended benefits in last week: +105,000. More and more people move away from 6 month support to extended 99 week cliff.  Housing Starts and Permits: Largely irrelevant, as crawling at a bottom, but starts at 657K, below expectations of 680K, and down from 685K previously; Permits in line with expectations at 679K, down from 680K before. Fed “clearly concerned with the return of disinflation;” watch for “talk of further central bank action to support the economy” at next week’s FOMC meeting, says Brusuelas

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Nomura Skeptical On Bullish Consensus

Last week we heard from Nomura's bearded bear as Bob Janjuah restated his less-then-optimistic scenario for the global economy. Today his partner-in-crime, Kevin Gaynor, takes on the bullish consensus cognoscenti's three mutually supportive themes in his usual skeptical manner. While he respects the market's potential view that fundamentals, flow, valuation, and sentiment seem aligned for meaningful outperformance, it seems actual positioning does not reflect this (yet). Taking on each of the three bullish threads (EM policy shift as inflation slows, ECB has done and will do more QE, and US decoupling), the strategist teases out the reality and what is priced in as he does not see this as the March-2009-equivalent 'big-one' in rerisking (warranting concerns on chasing here).

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Headline PPI Drops By 0.1%, Core PPI Rises By 0.3%, Highest Y/Y NSA Jump Since June 2009, BLS To Change PPI Weights

Mixed picture in today's PPI which saw headline prices decline by 0.1%, on expectations of a 0.1% increase, driven by a 0.8% drop in both food and energy finished goods. Alternatively, core PPI rose by 0.3%, with the same +0.1% consensus, and is the largest M/M increase since July 2011. Just as curious, the Year over Year change in the NSA PPI of 3.0% is the highest in the series since June 2009. It appears money printing even in the face of multi-trillion debt deleveraging can be inflationary. Finally, and in pulling a page straight out of the BLS playbook, the BLS announced it would change the weighting in its PPI categories. "The new weights, which will be introduced in February 2012 with the release of January 2012 index data, will be based on shipment values from the year 2007. These value weights come from the Census of Manufactures, the Census of Mining, the Census of Services, and the Census of Agriculture. PPI weights have been based on 2002 census shipment values since January 2007. All PPIs will be affected by this weight update, including all the industry net output indexes, as well as indexes for traditional commodity groupings. In addition, weights will be updated from the 2002 to the 2007 census for all stage-of-processing indexes, durability of product indexes, and special commodity-grouping indexes. This weight revision will not change any arithmetic reference bases for indexes, the dates when PPIs were set to 100." This is a lot of words to say that going forward even more inflation will be crammed into smoothed core price indices, so as to completely ignore any swings in the margins. Because after all who cares about energy and food?

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Nomura's Koo Plays The Pre-Blame Game For The Pessimism Ahead

While his diagnosis of the balance sheet recessionary outbreak that is sweeping global economies (including China now he fears) is a useful framework for understanding ZIRP's (and monetary stimulus broadly) general inability to create a sustainable recovery, his one-size-fits-all government-borrow-and-spend to infinity (fiscal deficits during balance sheet recessions are good deficits) solution is perhaps becoming (just as he said it would) politically impossible to implement. In his latest missive, the Nomura economist does not hold back with the blame-bazooka for the mess we are in and face in 2012. Initially criticizing US and now European bankers and politicians for not recognizing the balance sheet recession, Koo takes to task the ECB and European governments (for implementing LTRO which simply papers over the cracks without solving the underlying problem of the real economy suggesting bank capital injections should be implemented immediately), then unloads on the EBA's 9% Tier 1 capital by June 2012 decision, and ends with a significant dressing-down of the Western ratings agencies (and their 'ignorance of economic realities'). While believing that Greece is the lone profligate nation in Europe, he concludes that Germany should spend-it-or-send-it (to the EFSF) as capital flight flows end up at Berlin's gates. Given he had the holidays to unwind, we sense a growing level of frustration in the thoughtful economist's calm demeanor as he realizes his prescription is being ignored (for better or worse) and what this means for a global economy (facing deflationary deleveraging and debt minimization) - "It appears as though the world economy will remain under the spell of the housing bubble collapse that began in 2007 for some time yet" and it will be a "miracle if Europe does not experience a full-blown credit contraction."

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