Bill Gross may be credited with inventing the term 'the New Normal', although his recommendation to purchase gold above all other asset classes, something which only fringe blogs such as this one have been saying is the best trade (in terms of return, Sharpe Ratio, and the ability to sleep soundly) for the past three and a half years, he is sure to be increasingly ostracized by the establishment, and told to take all his newfangled idioms with him in his exile to less than serious people land. Which takes us to David Rosenberg, who today revisits his own definition of the New Normal. And it, too, is just as applicable as that of the Pimco boss: "The new normal is that the economy doesn't drive markets any more." Short and sweet, although it also is up for debate whether the economy ever drove the markets in the first place. But that would open up a whole new conspiratorial can of worms, and is a discussion best saved for after Ben Bernanke decides to save the "housing market" by buying more hundreds of billions in MBS and lowering mortgage yields further, even though mortgage rates already are at record lows (something that mortgage applications apparently couldn't care less about as we showed last week), while "avoiding" to do everything in his power to boost the S&P, which recently was at 5 year highs, and certainly "avoiding" to listen to Chuck Schumer telling him to do his CTRL+P job, and "get to work" guaranteeing Schumer's donors have another whopper of a bonus season.
Peter Schiff pulled an OccupyWallStreet (remember that whole Occupy movement?) at the Democratic National Convention. What he did, was succeed in exposing some very disturbing prevailing beliefs about the government's role in establishing the 'utility' value of the free market as manifested by corporations, namely that according to a broad cross-section of society, it is the government job to "explicitly outlaw profitability." We wish to remind readers that this has been done on numerous occasions in the past, but most "effectively" in the Soviet Union's centrally planned regime. Until the USSR's failure of course. The premise of eliminating profitability is also quite popular, and even has its own name: nationalization, and its result in a business "manager" who is perfectly ambivalent if the state owned enterprise makes or loses money. After all the wage is determined by a politburo, and is not a function of the profits, or losses, a business may engender. Furthermore, it is probably worth reminding that the primary tenet behind capitalism is the production of goods and services for a profit. Sadly, quite a few of these concepts appear to have not been made clear to not just one or two Americans as the following clip demonstrates.
The dividend theme has hardly run its course. As David Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff illustrates in his latest note, the income-starved retiring boomers are being forced to garner income more and more via the equity market where dividends are up more than 8% over the past year. Because of ultra-low interest rates, interest income growth has vanished completely. And here is the great anomaly. Back in the early 1980s, investors bought equities for capital appreciation and they purchased Treasury securities for yield. Today it is the complete opposite.
According to the plethora of long-only managers willing to trot out on the public stage and beg for more commissions, the US has been (and will remain) the cleanest-dirty-shirt in the global risk asset laundry basket; but as David Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff points out not only has the S&P 500 hit a new record high in its total return index but it also possesses a rather 'ebullient' valuation premium (2012E P/E) of 13.8x relative to China 9.8x and Europe 11.4x. However, while this is more than enough to slow some investors from backing up the long-truck, Rosie goes on to highlight a very worrisome indicator - that favored by ex-PIMCO's Paul McCulley. The YoY trend in the three-month moving average of core capex orders (which was updated last Friday) has just cracked negative, crushing the hopes of US growth prospects and we assume equity superlatives. However, since the market no longer reflects anything; certainly not the economy, but merely who will ease more when and how, one really can't short much if anything, even if McCulley is 100% spot on.
Gluskin Sheff's David Rosenberg may be cautious on the outlook for risk assets and cyclical securities over the near- and intermediate-term, but, he notes, change is always at the margin, and it usually starts in the political sphere. Austerity is not some dirty nine-letter word as the socialists in Europe would have you believe. It is all about living within your means and living up to your commitments. There is some good news in the United States with respect to this topic, but the uncertainty over the extent of next year's tax bite is likely to cause households and businesses to pull spending back and raise cash, at the margin, which means the economy won't turn around in time for Mr. Obama. As was the case with Ronald Reagan, just having a clear and coherent fiscal plan will part the clouds of uncertainty and encourage capital to be put at risk rather than sit as idle unproductive cash on corporate balance sheets. In a somewhat stunning sentence from the no-longer-a-permabear, he notes that "The future is brighter than you think", but just in case you are backing up the truck, he adds "this does not mean we will not have another recession, by the way — as we suffer through a deflationary debt deleveraging. I'm noticing a certain degree of despair these days, just as I am getting enthusiastic about the future. Much depends on what happens on November 6th and between now and then we still have the European mess, China hard landing risks and the U.S. debt ceiling issue to confront. Be that as it may, those with some dry powder on hand will be in a solid position to take advantage of whatever forced "panic" selling takes place."
When Mr. Market ultimately becomes disenchanted with the fiscal excesses of the sovereign deadbeats, he can express his ire most energetically. When the current bond bubble here in the US ultimately bursts, as it must, it's going to be a bloodbath. Of course, there is much, much more at stake to coming to the correct answer on the recovery, or lack thereof, than that. For instance, poor economies make for poor reelection odds for political incumbents. And when it comes to maintaining a civil society, the lack of jobs inherent in poor economies often leads to a breakdown in civility. On that note, overall unemployment in Spain is now running at depression levels of almost 25%, and youth unemployment at close to 50%. How long do you think it will be before the citizens of this prominent member of the PIIGS will refuse being led to the slaughter and start taking out their anger on the swine (governmental and private) seen as bearing some responsibility for the malaise? Meanwhile, back here in the United States, the commander-in-chief is striding around the deck of the ship of state trying to look like the right man for the job in the upcoming election, despite the gaping hole of unemployment just under the economic water line. His future prospects are very much entangled with this question of recovery.
So, what's it going to be? Recovery… no recovery… or worse, maybe even a crash?
Highly respected economist and strategist David Rosenberg has told that Financial Times in a video interview (see below) that gold “will go to $3,000 per ounce before this cycle is over.” Markets are repeating the downturns of 2010 and 2011 and it is time to search for safety, David Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff tells James Mackintosh, the FT Investment Editor. Rosenberg sees a “very good opportunity in gold” as it has corrected and seems to be “off the radar screen right now”. He sees gold as a currency and says the best way to value gold is in terms of money supply and “currency in circulation.” As the “volume of dollars is going up as we get more quantitative easing” he sees gold at $3,000 per ounce. Mackintosh says that Rosenberg’s view is a “pretty bearish view”. To which Rosenberg responds that it is “bullish view on gold and gold mining stocks.” Mackintosh says that it is “bearish on everything else”. Rosenberg says that it is not about being “bullish or bearish,” it is about “stating how you view the world” and he warns that the major central banks are all going to print more money and keep real interest rates negative “as far as the eye can see.”
There was a little mentioned tangent to last Friday's very disappointing NFP print of +115,000 (driven by a surge in temp jobs offsetting a collapse in full time positions): as David Rosenberg notes, the jobs number was about half of another far more important number - that of Americans applying for disability, which in April was +225,000. He continues: "this is the new stealth stimulus program - so far in 2011, nearly one million Americans have applied for disability and year-to-date, 333k have actually enrolled (covering 539k family members). In total, more than five million people have been added to disability coverage since President Obama took over three years ago." The punchline will make all those who adore (insolvent) welfare states shake with giddy delight: "So look - either safety standards at work have eroded dramatically or the "99%" have found a creative way to milk the system and turn the economy into a quasi welfare state".... Yup. What he said. Because remember: the BLS assumes that any amount up to the total 53 million people, is not in the labor force as they have other "wefare" based forms of government handouts and see no need at all to look for a job. Is there any wonder why US unemployment is realistically 20% if not much higher? As for the other chart, food stamps, we know that story all too well.
If you want to know how weak the economy really is all you need to do is look at the 30-year bond. It is one of the best economic indicators available today. If economic conditions are robust then the yield will be rising and vice versa. What the current low levels of yield on 30 year bonds is telling you is that the underlying economy is weak. "The 30-year yield is not at these low levels DUE to the Federal Reserve; but in SPITE OF the Fed," Hunt said. The actions of the Federal Reserve have continued to undermine the economy which is reflected by the low yield of the 30 year bond. The "cancerous" side effects of nonproductive debt are being reflected in real disposable incomes. Just over the last two years real disposable incomes slid from 5% in 2010 and -0.5% in 2012 on a 3-month percentage change at an annual rate basis. This is critically important to understand. While the media remains focused on GDP it is the wrong measure by which to measure the economy. A truly growing economy leads to rises in prosperity. GDP does NOT measure prosperity — it measures spending. It is the measure of real personal incomes that measures prosperity. Prosperity MUST come from rising incomes.
Few have been as steadfast in their correct call that the US economy sugar high of the first quarter was nothing but a liquidity-driven, hot weather-facilitated uptick in the economy, which has now ended with a thud, as seen by the recent epic collapse in all high-frequency economic indicators, which have not translated into a market crash simply because the market is absolutely convinced that the worse things get, the more likely the Fed is to come in with another round of nominal value dilution. Perhaps: it is unclear if the Fed will risk a spike in inflation in Q2 especially since as one of the respondents in today's Chicago PMI warned very prudently that Chinese inflation is about to hit America in the next 60 days. That said, here are some of today's must read observations on where we stand currently, on why 1937-38 may be the next imminent calendar period deja vu, and most importantly, the fact that Rosie now too has realized that the next credit bubble is student debt as we have been warning since last summer.
It appears that when it comes to mocking consensus groupthink emanating from lazy career 'financiers' who seek protection from their lack of imagination and original thought, 'creation' of negative alpha and general underperformance (not to mention reliance on rating agencies, only to jump at the first opportunity to demonize the clueless raters), in the sheer herds of other D-grade asset "managers" (for much more read Jeremy Grantham explaining this and much more here), David Rosenberg enjoys even more linguistic flexibility than even us. Case in point, his just released trashing of the latest Barron's permabull groupthink effort titled "Outlook: Mostly Sunny." And just as it so often happens, no sooner did those words hit the cover of that particular rag, that it started raining, generously providing material for the latest "Roasting with Rosie."
The money-on-the-sidelines argument has reached deafening and self-confirming as anchoring bias among any and every swollen long-only manager seems to have made them ignore the realities of the situation. David Rosenberg, of Gluskin Sheff to the rescue with good old fashioned facts - as much as they might disappoint the audience. Barton Biggs quote in the USA Today article points out how bullish he is and how cash levels are very high and "idled money is ready to be put to work". However, as Rosie points out equity fund cash ratios are at a de minimus 3.6%, the same level as in the fall of 2007 and near its lowest level ever. The time when cash was heavy and 'ample' was at the market lows in 2009 when the ratio was very close to 6%. Bond fund managers, it should be noted this includes the exuberant HY funds, are now sitting on less than 2% cash so if retail inflows continue to subside as they did this week, buying power could weaken over the near-term. What David points out that is more interesting perhaps is the converse of most people's contrarian dumb money perspective - the household sector appears to have used the rally of the past three years, for the most part, to diversify out of the equity market (getting out at price levels they could only dream of seeing again). As we have pointed out again and again, the retail investor has been a net redeemer in equity funds for nine-months running and has been rebalancing since the March 2009 lows in a clearly demographic shift towards income strategies as the memory of two bursting bubbles within seven years is seared into most private investors' minds.
Rosie: "Somehow a long gold, short euro barbell looks really good here. Bernanke, after all, now seems reluctant to embark on QE3 barring a renewed economic turndown while the ECB is moving further away from the role of a traditional central bank to take on the role of quasi fiscal policymaking, The German central bank, after all, is responsible for 25% of any losses that would ever be incurred by the massive Draghi balance sheet expansion. Why would anyone want to be long a currency representing a region with a 10.7% unemployment rate, rising inflation rates and free money? Mind you — the same can be said for the US (where U-6 jobless rate is even higher), which is why the best currency may be physical gold."
While nothing is more certain than death and taxes (and central bank largesse), David Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff uncovers The Unlucky Seven major tax-related uncertainties facing households and businesses that will likely lead to multiple compression in markets (rather than the much-heralded multiple expansion 'story' which appears to have topped the talking-head charts - just above 'money on the sidelines' and 'wall of worry', as 'earnings-driven' arguments are failing on the back of this quarter). As he notes the radically changed taxation climate in 2013 and beyond will have an impact on all economic participants as they will probably opt to bolster their cash reserves in the second half of the year in preparation for the proverbial rainy day.