Today Europe awakes to yet another Eurozone summit, one at which such topics as Greece, Spain, the banking union project or a economic/budgetary union will have to gain further traction, if not resolution. In fact Greece could hardly wait and has already launched it latest 24 hour strike against austerity. The same Greece which demands a 2 year, €30 billion extension from Europe to comply with reform, a move which Europe has/has not agreed to as while the core have said yes to more time, all have refused to fund Greece with any more money. Alas the two are synonymous. As SocGen predicts unless there is some credible progress today, all the progress since the September ECB meeting, which has seen SPGB 10 Year yields decline from 690 bps to sub 550 bps, may simply drift away. And as everyone knows, there is never any progress at these meetings, except for lots of headlines, lots of promises (the Eurozone June summit's conclusions have yet to be implemented) and lots of bottom line profits by Belgian caterers. Elsewhere, Spain sold 3, 4 and 10 year bonds at declining yields on residual optimism from the pro forma bailed out country's paradoxical Investment Grade rating. In non-hopium based news, Spanish bad loans rose to a record 10.5% in August from 10.1% previously while the oldest bank in the world, Italy's Banka Monte dei Paschi was cut to junk status. All this is irrelevant though, as no negative news will ever matter again in a centrally-planned world. Finally the only real good news (at least until it is revised)came out of the UK, where retail sales posted a 0.4% increase on expectations of a 0.2% rise from -0.2%.
"The consensus view was that QE3 was going to send the stock market to the moon. Yet the peak level on the S&P 500 was 1,465 on September 14th, the day after the FOMC meeting. The consensus view was that the lagging hedge funds were going to be forced to play some major catch-up and take the stock market to the moon too. Surveys show that the hedge funds have already made this adjustment...Q3 EPS estimates are still coming down and now stand at -3% YoY from -2% at the start of October....this is the first time the Fed embarked on a nonconventional easing initiative with the market overbought and with profits and earning expectations on a discernible downtrend. Not only that, but the fact the pace of U.S. economic activity is still running below a 2% annual rate, which is less than half of what is normal at this stage of the business cycle with the massive amount of government stimulus, is truly remarkable. Keep an eye on the debt ceiling being re-tested — the cap is $16.394 trillion and we are now at $16.119 trillion. This is likely to make the headlines again before year-end — the rating agencies may not be taking off much time for a Christmas break."
As we patiently await tonight's much-anticipated debate - and its zinger-ful diatribe of tax, spend, save, borrow, jobs, jobs, jobs word bingo - we thought this perfectly succinct clip dismissing the myth of how government stimulus leads to economic growth was particularly pertinent. Professor Antony Davies provides evidence, via empirical data from 1955, that there is no connection between federal spending and economic improvement - and as we have repeatedly noted - it merely adds to government debt. From the 'magic' of the Keynesian multiplier to the eyes-wide-shut view of spending creating jobs while ignoring the taxing-borrowing-printing nature of that spending. Government doesn't create jobs, it 'moves' jobs; as three years of stimulus spending has left us with ~8% unemployment and $4.6tn more debt.
Even now, after the Chinese economy has consistently disappointed everyone, we still get the impression from market participants that it will all be fine in the end, because the Chinese government know what they are doing, and all they need is to let the floodgate of money open. Whenever a bad data point comes out, the market interprets that as more easing ahead, and it will most certainly save the economy. If only running the Chinese economy is that easy. Every growth engine of the Chinese economy is failing, and there is only one thing which can sustain these failing engines for longer, which is government stimulus, and whether the government is actually willing to deploy massive stimulus that is questionable.
Firm That Brought You Holo-Tupac Dies Less Than A Year After IPOing, Taking Millions In Taxpayer Subsidies With ItSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 09/11/2012 18:23 -0500
Most people know that during this year's Coachella festival, Tupac made a surprising appearance, if not in the flesh for obvious reasons, then in hologram form. What fewer people know is that the firm that created Holo-Tupac is special effects producer Digital Domain Media, which after years of failed attempts to do so, finally went public in November with Roth Capital as underwriter (there is now an Urban Dictionary definition for 'Rothed') at a price of $8.50 (well below the preliminary range of $10-12/share) and at a time when its burn rate was well above 50% of revenues, and which filed for bankruptcy hours ago. In other words, the company destroyed over $400 million in market cap in under 10 months. What is known by very few is that this is yet another public equity disaster of this administration: as filed in the bankruptcy Affidavit, "the Company has worked closely with State and local government authorities in Florida to execute economic stimulus contracts designed to create jobs and stimulate Florida’s economy. As of the Petition Date, the Company had contracted to receive a total of approximately $135 million in such government stimulus financing, including $19.9 million in tax credits. This financing consists of cash grants, land grants, low-interest financing, and tax incentives." In other words, in addition to the government's remarkable track record in the alternative energy field, public equity is now in the digital movie studio subsidization business. End result: bankruptcy, of a publicly funded company, shortly after IPO and sadly the realization that US capital markets are now so broken that the combination of private and public funding can sustain a company for less than one year.
Over the weekend, we pointed out that the old mechanism for the People’s Bank of China to expand its balance sheet and create base money has been broken by new funds flow pattern, and it will sooner or later require some sort of large scale asset purchases programme a.k.a. quantitative easing to offset the impact of the broken mechanism (after other tools such as cutting RRR reach their limits). However, we also mentioned that as the private sector is currently quite overstretched and will start the deleveraging process (if they have not already started), and that would render traditional monetary tools useless, and quantitative easing ineffective. And that would necessitate deficit spending at both local and central government levels. If we have read the social mood correctly that China might be more pro-austerity than pro-Keynesian, and if policymakers indeed share that view, then the consequence in the near term could be rather grim. The delay in stimulus as well as the small size of it so far has already done damage, if you like. The economy is already on course to a hard landing.
When we wrote Part I of this paper in June 2009, the total U.S. public debt was just north of $10 trillion. Since then, that figure has increased by more than 50% to almost $16 trillion, thanks largely to unprecedented levels of government intervention. Once the exclusive domain of central bankers and policy makers, acronyms such as QE, LTRO, SMP, TWIST, TARP, TALF have found their way into the mainstream. With the aim of providing stimulus to the economy, central planners of all stripes have both increased spending and reduced taxes in most rich countries. But do these fiscal and monetary measures really increase economic activity or do they have other perverse effects?... The politically favoured option of financial repression and negative real interest rates has important implications. Negative real interest rates are basically a thinly disguised tax on savers and a subsidy to profligate borrowers. By definition, taxes distort incentives and, as discussed earlier, discourage savings.... The current misconception that our economic salvation lies with more stimulus is both treacherous and self-defeating. As long as we continue down this path, the “solution” will continue to be the problem. There is no miracle cure to our current woes and recent proposals by central planners risk worsening the economic outlook for decades to come.
There are roughly 19 million vacant dwellings in the U.S., of which around 4 million are second homes and a million or two are on the market. Let's stipulate that several million more are in areas with very low demand (i.e. few want to live there year-round). Let's also stipulate that several million more are in the "shadow inventory" of homes that are neither on the market nor even officially in the foreclosure pipeline, i.e. zombie homes. Even if you account for 9 million of these homes, that still leaves 10 million vacant dwellings in the U.S. which could be occupied. That means 1 in 12 of all dwellings are vacant. Even if you discount this by half, that still leaves 5 million vacant dwellings that could be occupied. Given that the total rental market is 40 million households, that constitutes a very large inventory of supply that remains untapped. Lastly, it is important to note that the ratio of residents to dwellings is rather low in the U.S., with millions of single-person households and large homes occupied by one or two people. The potential pool of existing homeowners who could enter the "informal" rental market by offering bedrooms, basements and even enclosed garages for rent is extremely large, and that is a difficult-to-count "shadow" inventory of potential rentals.
What makes for a good investment is price. Price is everything. You need to receive value in excess of the price paid. An investment’s value is the amount of real cash its underlying assets can reasonably be expected to deliver to its shareholders in the future, discounted for its risk – period. The investment’s price will either be higher than its value (an uncompensated risk), the same as (neutral) or lower than its value (a compensated risk). But since value is an imprecise measurement, the best one can do is to build in a margin of safety by buying investments that are at deep discounts to a reasonable estimated value. Too many investors let an investment’s short-term price movements, or perceptions of short-term price movements drive their decisions. But since short-term price moves are unknowable, irrelevant and independent of investment merits, this is not worthy of any time spent analyzing. If short-term price moves were knowable, then a cadre of top-performing chartists and market technicians would have far greater net worths than Warren Buffett, Charlie Munger and the Saudi Royal Family. They would need only apply leverage to their process and repeat it a few times in order to accrue hundreds of billions of dollars. Question: How many market technicians occupy the Forbes 400? Answer: Zero. Why? Because successfully guessing future price moves based on charts, MACD indicators or tea leaves is not a repeatable process. Investors who do this generally have poor outcomes because they are pursuing answers to the wrong question.
The right question is: where is the value?
All you need to read and some more.
At the high level, our global economic plight is quite simple to understand says noted Australian deflationist Steve Keen. Banks began lending money at a faster rate than the global economy grew, and we're now at the turning point where we simply have run out of new borrowers for the ever-growing debt the system has become addicted to. Once borrowers start eschewing rather than seeking debt, asset prices begin to fall -- which in turn makes these same people want to liquidate their holdings, which puts further downward pressure on asset prices.
The standard Keynesian narrative that "Households and countries are not spending because they can’t borrow the funds to do so, and the best way to revive growth, the argument goes, is to find ways to get the money flowing again." is not working. In fact, former IMF Director Raghuram Rajan points out, today’s economic troubles are not simply the result of inadequate demand but the result, equally, of a distorted supply side as technology and foreign competition means that "advanced economies were losing their ability to grow by making useful things." Detailing his view of the mistakes of the Keynesian dream, Rajan notes "The growth that these countries engineered, with its dependence on borrowing, proved unsustainable.", and critically his conclusion that the industrial countries have a choice. They can act as if all is well except that their consumers are in a funk and so what John Maynard Keynes called “animal spirits” must be revived through stimulus measures. Or they can treat the crisis as a wake-up call and move to fix all that has been papered over in the last few decades and thus put themselves in a better position to take advantage of coming opportunities.
There is no free-lunch - especially if that lunch is liquidity-fueled - is how Gluskin-Sheff's David Rosenberg reminds us of the reality facing US markets this year and next. As (former Fed governor) Kevin Warsh noted in the WSJ "The 'fiscal cliff' in early 2013 - when government stimulus spending and tax relief are set to fall - is not misfortune. It is the inevitable result of policies that kick the can down the road." Between the jobs data and three months in a row of declining ISM orders/inventories it seems the key manufacturing sector of support for the economy may be quaking and add to that the deleveraging that is now recurring (consumer credit) and Rosenberg sees six rather sizable stumbling-blocks facing markets as we move forward. On this basis, the market as a whole is overpriced by more than 20%.
In our busy days, it is all too easy to fall into the trap of hearing (and believing) the latest headline and its associated spin. For some reason, three minute videos can quickly and easily remove these 'spins' without the need for a PhD. In today's 3:06 un-spin, the broken-window-fallacy is addressed as the seen versus unseen impact of the idiocy of a broken-window's (or war, or destroying homes, or...) positive impact on an economy is explained in cartoon style. The sad fact is that this fallacy remains at the core of mainstream policy-making and as the video notes, the government's 'creation' of jobs via public works programs (or any number of stimulus-driven enterprises) it does so at the expense of the tax-payer via higher taxes or inflation and that 'spending' which would have otherwise gone to new fridges or iPads is removed and this does nothing to significantly improve aggregate demand (should there be such an amorphous thing) and in fact (as we recently noted here and here) leaves us more and more dependent on the state for corporate profit margins leaving any organic growth a dim and distant memory.
10 Good And Bad Things About The Economy And Rosenberg On Whether This Isn't Still Just A Modern Day DepressionSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/23/2012 16:17 -0500
Two things of note in today's Rosie piece. On one hand he breaks out the 10 good and bad things that investors are factoring, and while focusing on the positive, and completely ignoring the negative, are pushing the market to its best start since 1997. As Rosie says: "The equity market has gotten off to its best start in a good 15 years and being led by the deep cyclicals (materials, homebuilders, semiconductors) and financials — last year's woeful laggards (the 50 worst performing stocks in 2011 are up over 10% so far this year; the 50 best are up a mere 2%). Bonds are off to their worst start since 2003 with the 10-year note yield back up to 2%. The S&P 500 is now up 20% from the early October low and just 3.5% away from the April 2011 recovery high (in fact, in euro terms, it has rallied 30% and at its best level since 2007)." Is there anything more to this than precisely the same short-covering spree we saw both in 2010 and 2011? Not really: "This still smacks of a classic short-covering rally as opposed to a broad asset- allocation shift, but there is no doubt that there is plenty of cash on the sidelines and if it gets put to use, this rally could be extended. This by no means suggests a shift in my fundamental views, and keep in mind that we went into 2011 with a similar level of euphoria and hope in place and the uptrend lasted through April before the trap door opened. Remember too that the acute problems in the housing and mortgage market began in early 2007 and yet the equity market did not really appreciate or understand the severity of the situation until we were into October of that year and even then the consensus was one of a 'soft landing'." Finally, Rosie steps back from the noise and focuses on the forest, asking the rhetorical question: "Isn't this still a "modern day depression?" - his answer, and ours - "sure it is."