JP Morgan Sucks at the Government Teat
The global economy is now addicted to debt. Once debt stops expanding, the economy shrivels. But expanding dent forever is unsustainable. Welcome to the endgame. Regardless of whether you call it debt saturation or diminishing return on new debt, the notion that taking on more debt will magically enable us to "grow our way out of debt" is not supported by data.
Nothing exemplifies the ghetto status of the U.S. economy more than the success of Wal-Mart in the face of the ongoing destruction of what was once a vibrant and strong middle class. In case you missed it, Marion Nestle, Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at NYU, came out with some interesting tidbits regarding the food stamp program. One of them is extraordinarily disturbing. She shows that Wal-Mart’s gets as much as 25% to 40% of revenue at some stores from food stamp dollars. This says it all folks. Food stamps are or course the perfect business for Wal-Mart and JP Morgan, which as I pointed out previously makes a lot of money running the program and keeping the populace in perpetual serfdom. Meanwhile, guess what another of the best performing stocks this year is? Corrections Corp of America, ticker CXW, up 41% YTD! Guess what they do? Yep, you guessed it. They lock up the serfs that get out of line.
We can finally close the case on the massive Libor manipulation issue that we first brough to the world's attention back in January 2009 when we penned: "This Makes No Sense: Libor By Bank." As of minutes ago, Barclays is the first bank to admit it has engaged in gross manipulation of the key benchmark rate that sets the cost of capital for $350 trillion in interest-rate sensitive products. As the CFTC notes, as it produly announces an epic wristslap of $200 million for Barclays Bank: "The Order finds that Barclays attempted to manipulate and made false reports concerning two global benchmark interest rates, LIBOR and Euribor, on numerous occasions and sometimes on a daily basis over a four-year period, commencing as early as 2005." Surely this massive fine will teach them to never do it again, until tomorrow at least, when the British Banker Association once again finds 3 month USD liEbor to be... unchanged. In other news, who would have thought that the fringe "conspiracy" brigade was right all along once again.
“Pessimism has become tiresome, so optimism is gaining a foothold”
- On the continuing fraud that is Liebor: Libor Guardians Said to Resist Changes to Broken Rate (Bloomberg)
- Bank bailout to spark firesale of corporate Spain (Reuters) with Goldman and China just waiting
- EU Could Rewrite Eurozone Budgets (FT) but it won't because Germany will just say Nein again
- Congress Said to Delay Automatic Budget Cuts Until March (Bloomberg)
- China Says June Trade Improving in Sign Slowdown Stabilizing (Bloomberg)
- Biggest U.S. Banks Curb Loans as Regional Firms Fill Gap (Bloomberg)
- New York Fed Sells $4bn in Mortgage Debt (FT)
- Julian Assange’s fall from the heavens (Reuters)
- Wheeler to Lead N.Z. Central Bank as Kiwi Hits Exports: Economy (Bloomberg)
- Japan Lower House Passes Sales Tax Bill as Vote Divides DPJ (Bloomberg)
Last week, Europe was the source of transitory euphoria on some inexplicable assumption that just because the continent has run out of assets, and the ECB has no choice but to expand "eligible" collateral to include, well, everything, things are fixed and it is safe to buy. Today, it is the opposite. Go figure. Call it pre-eurosummit burnout, call it profit taking on hope and prayer, call it Brian Sack packing up his trading desk (just 5 more days to go), and handing over proper capital markets functioning to a B-grade economist, or best just call it deja vu all over again.
- Merkel Backs Debt Sharing in Germany Amid Closer EU Push (Bloomberg)
- With a ruling as early as today, here are four health care questions the Supreme Court is asking (CBS)
- George Soros - Germany’s Reticence to Agree Threatens European Stability (FT)
- China Stocks Drop to Five-Month Low (Bloomberg)
- The New Republic of Porn (Bloomberg)
- That's a costly detached retina: Greek Lenders Postpone Mission to Athens (FT)
- Spain Asks for Aid as EU Fights Debt Crisis (FT)
- Wolfgang Münchau - Why Mario Monti Needs to Speak Truth to Power (FT)
- U.S. Banks Aren’t Nearly Ready for Coming European Crisis (Bloomberg)
- MPC Member Wants £50bn Easing (FT)
- India Boosts Foreign Debt Ceiling by $5 Billion to Defend Rupee (Bloomberg)
No one believes in their positions (other than people that hold hard assets like precious metals outside of the banking system and will not sell until the system is reset), rather investors and traders are forced to be involved in positions as a function of their mandates. Their decisions are no longer driven by economic or business prospects but rather by some view on what the Central Planners of the world will do next. The markets seem calm but there is a storm brewing beneath them and the pressure will be released one way or the other. We are now in the crucial six week period between Fed meetings. The reason I think this is such an important time is because not only will investors come to grips with the reality on the ground (recession) but it is also earnings season. As I pointed out during the last earnings period, stocks that had even a whiff of weakness in their numbers or outlook were decimated. Even names that had good results did not break out. This sent a clear signal that too much goodness is priced into many shares out there.
If we pursue the line of inquiry established by Chris Martenson’s recent call to Buckle Up -- Market Breakdown in Progress, we come to these basic questions: When will the market reflect the fundamental weakness of the global economy? And when will the market finally hit bottom? Clearly, the correlation between market action and the underlying economy is weak. While many would declare the stock market to be a “lagging indicator” of recession, even that may be overstating the connection. If we have learned anything in the past three years, it’s that weakening the dollar to foster the illusion of rising corporate profits, central bank monetary easing (QE), and central state borrow-and-spend stimulus can goose the market higher even as the underlying economy remains weak or recessionary. Will the Fed continue to support the U.S. market with QE programs every time it sags? Will QE always work as well as it did in 2010 and 2011? If the history of the deflationary-era Nikkei is any guide (and the BoJ's unprecedented monetary easing while the central government has borrowed and spent unprecedented sums on fiscal stimulus), the bottom could be a year away.
The revaluation that is underway now is beyond the simple scope of corporate earnings valuations, going to the very core of the system itself. Just like the equity pricing regime (and investor expectations for equity assets) needs to adjust to the twelve-year-old bear market reality, pricing within the global banking system as a whole needs to adjust to the reality that the artificial growth of the economic textbook is not replicable. The economic truth of 2012 is that much of the science of economics, and the foundation that gives to finance and financial pricing, was a temporal anomaly befitting only those specific conditions of that bygone era. In other words, the entire financial world needs to reset itself outside the paradigm of pre-2008. The secular bear market in US equities is one strand of this changing landscape, perhaps the first stirring of the collapse of the activist central bank experiment. In the end, the potential selling pressure of the dollar shortage is irresistible, no matter how “cheap” stock prices are to earnings, but none of it may matter in the grander scheme of a dramatic reset to the global system. The inability of that global system to escape this critical state, to simply move beyond crisis and function “normally” again, demonstrates conclusively, in my opinion, the foundational transformation that is still taking place well beyond the stock bear. Everything is a locked feedback loop of negative pressures in this age, no matter how much we want to see “value” where and how it used to exist.
Paradigm shifts are rarely orderly, but there are warning signs.
There are those (such as the entire world) who have in recent months ganged up on Germany, see "In The Case Of The World Vs Merkel, The Broke Prosecution Proposes Eurobonds Lite", and are now openly demanding that the German population shoulder even more of the broke continent's bailout costs, and not only that but implicitly foot the lowering of the French retirement age from 62 to 60. Nowhere is there any discussion of how Germany should go about achieving this: by raising its own retirement age to 100 maybe? Nor is there any discussion that Germany is now very actively engaged in bailing out Europe one day at a time to the tune of €2 billion each 24 hours via TARGET 2. Well, it was only a matter of time before Germany, having long kept radio silence, lashed out at its accusers. Spiegel summarizes: "Merkel was certainly in the hot seat, once again, as many nations pressed her to do more for the euro -- at a time when many Germans feel their country has already done too much." And finally the instigator of it all, TurboTaxCheat Tim Geithner, gets exposed: "It is rather hypocritical when the Americans and the British, whose own mountains of debt have reached a high point, try to lecture the Europeans. One number is sufficient to reveal what a bad tactic this is. At a time when the budget deficits of the US and Great Britain are about 8 percent, the euro-zone members have almost managed to bring their deficits as a whole down to 3 percent." And they are spot on: Europe may be going through a painful time but at least it is doing something to address its problems. America continues to rely on one simple, and very much transitory thing: reserve status. Newsflash: reserve status ends. And when it does: run.
America is spending more today drone-striking American citizens in Yemen, drone-surveilling Mexican drug lords and “turning our attention to the vast potential of the Asia-Pacific region“ than she was during the cold war when a hostile superpower had thousands of nukes pointing at her. Military contractors have nothing to fear. Whether it is the Pacific buildup to contain Chinese ambition, or drone strikes in the horn of Africa or Pakistan, or the completely-failed drug war, or using the ghost of Kony to establish a toehold in Africa to compete with China for African minerals, or an attempted deposition of Bashar Assad or Egypt’s new Islamist regime, or bombing Iran’s uranium-enrichment facilities, or a conflict over mineral rights in the Arctic, or (as Paul Krugman desires — and what the heck, it’s 2012, why not?) an alien invasion, or a new global conflict arising out of a global economic reset, it’s springtime for the military contractors. It’s everyone else who should be worried.