Even Draghi proclaimed anyone calling the crisis over as 'premature' but that was ignored by the fast-money momo chasers looking for where to rotate their cash on the sidelines as US momentum fades. Greece, Portugal, and Spain stocks literally exploded higher this week:
Greece +7.7% - best week in 8 months
Portugal +4.7% - best week in 9 months
Spain +4.98% - best week in 16 months
Sounds right?! Efficient markets, indeed...
If you are anxiously awaiting the arrival of the "economic collapse", just open up your eyes and look at what is happening in Europe. The entire continent is a giant economic mess right now. Unemployment and poverty levels are setting record highs, car sales are setting record lows, and there is an ocean of bad loans and red ink everywhere you look. Over the past several years, most of the attention has been on the economic struggles of Greece, Spain and Portugal and without a doubt things continue to get even worse in those nations. But in 2014 and 2015, Italy and France will start to take center stage. France has the 5th largest economy on the planet, and Italy has the 9th largest economy on the planet, and at this point both of those economies are rapidly falling to pieces. Expect both France and Italy to make major headlines throughout the rest of 2014. The following are just a few of the statistics that show that an "economic collapse" is happening in Europe right now...
Much like the rest of peripheral Europe, Greek stocks have been on a rampage in the first few days of the year. Whether this is a global rotation into the junkiest of the junk - betting on the inevitable rescue and intervention to keep everyone safe, or merely front-running an ECB QE effort as inflation tumbles - is unclear but it is worth noting that this is the best start to a year for Greek stocks since 1994!! Remember Greece is not Japan (or Venezuela).
No surprises here: hours after we reported that youth unemployment in Spain soared to fresh record highs (surpassing the already nosebleeding number of jobless people under 25 in Greece), here comes Gallup with a poll showing the approval rating of the (unelected) EU Leadership across the peripheral countries. And while there was a slight uptick in approval among respondents in Italy - the country that has so far benefited the most from the Italian central banker at the helm of the ECB - the EU's lack of approval just rose to all time highs in the two countries that continue to see their youth employment hopes crushed by the European experiment, with approval in Spain sliding to 27% (from 55% in 2010), while Greece, plunged to only 19%, which makes one wonder: just who has an interest in keeping Greece in Europe?
There has been much speculation recently about some immaculately conceived Spanish economic recovery. And while it has certainly sent the local Ibex stock market soaring, we fail to see any indication of such a recovery, at least in official economic data. The latest example being, of course, today's European unemployment for November, which at the Euroarea level remained flat at 12.1%, which also is the all time record high following a prior revision. However, what is more troubling is that according to the official European statistics keeper, Spanish unemployment in November was 26.7%: tied for the all time high seen in October and hardly an indicator of some imminent economic renaissance. There is, of course, always December - that month in the New Normal when hiring really picks up. But where things get really bad is when one looks at Spain's youth unemployment. At 57.7% in November, nearly two in three Spaniards under 25 had no job, and the nail in the coffin for the "recovery" is that this rate is now well above the latest update from Greece, where the youth unemployment was "only" 54.8% as of September.
Some better than expected economic news out of Europe, Greek 10 Year yields dropping to 7.65% or the lowest since May 2010, and futures are... red? Alas, such is life in a world in which the S&P500, aka the E-mini, is simply a derivative of the Yen funding currency pairs, where the USDJPY touched on 105 after a straight line diagonal move only to sell off in recent trading. Heading into the North American open, stocks in Europe are seen mixed, with peripheral stock indices outperforming, buoyed by the prospect of Portugal echoing yesterday’s Irish NTMA return to capital markets with its 10y bond syndication. As such, despite the cautious sentiment, financials led the move higher, with Italian banks gaining for 4th session as IT/GE 10y spread narrowed to its tightest level since early July 2011. Of note, FTSE-100 index underperformed its peers since the get-go, with retailers and tobacco names under pressure. In spite of opening higher by over 3%, Sainsbury's shares have since reversed and are seen lower by almost 2% after co. CFO said that he expects FY LFL sales to be just below 1% and expects Q4 to be similar to Q3. Elsewhere, tobacco names came under selling pressure following reports that China is planning a ban on smoking in public by year's end.
Yesterday's chart of the day was the stunning prevalence of poverty in Greece, which soaring to 44%, up from 14% a year ago, was too mindboggling to even comment on. Today, courtesy of the Census Bureau, we get a glance at a just as disturbing aspect of poverty not in some country in depressed Europe, but in the US itself. The bad news: in the period from 2009 to 2011, 31.6% of Americans were in poverty for at least two months, "a 4.5 percentage point increase over the prerecession period of 2005 to 2007.
"Paper and digital markets levitate, central banks pull out all the stops of their magical reality-tweaking machine to manipulate everything, accounting fraud pervades public and private enterprise, everything is mis-priced, all official statistics are lies of one kind or another, the regulating authorities sit on their hands, lost in raptures of online pornography (or dreams of future employment at Goldman Sachs), the news media sprinkles wishful-thinking propaganda about a mythical “recovery” and the “shale gas miracle” on a credulous public desperate to believe, the routine swindles of medicine get more cruel and blatant each month, a tiny cohort of financial vampire squids suck in all the nominal wealth of society, and everybody else is left whirling down the drain of posterity in a vortex of diminishing returns and scuttled expectations."
And now, the saddest chart of the day: Greek poverty since the crisis, and in 2013, when the so-called "Grecovery" arrived.
The predictions of Blackstone's octogenarian Byron Wien (born in 1933) have been all over the place in the past 10 years, some correct, most wrong (with a recent hit rate of about 25%) - his 2013 year end S&P forecast was for 1300 - yet always entertaining. Which is the only value in the latest release of his 10 forecasts for 2014. Naturally, take all of these with a salt mine.
Of the 21 nations covered by PMI "soft data" surveys, only 4 have sub-50 (deceleration) prints - Russia remains at multi-year lows along with France (core Europe?), Australia (but but China?), and Greece. Of course, as Goldman (some of the optimism on the basis of recent manufacturing PMIs... may not square with evidence of a structural break in the link between the PMIs and growth) and BofAML (it's important to understand how crude these surveys are) note, faith in these 'surveys' is often misplaced (and current levels suggest the rolling over is coming soon).
2013 Was A Year Of Calm In The World Of Finance ... 2014 May Not Be So Calm ... Highlights Of Year - German Gold Repatriation, Record Highs In Yen, Huge Chinese Demand - Lowlights Of Year - Massive Paper Sell Offs in April/June and First Deposit Confiscation and Capital Controls ...
At this point, the problem of hitting limits in a finite world has morphed into primarily a financial problem. Governments are particularly affected. They find that they need to borrow increasing amounts of money to provide promised services to their citizens. Debt is a huge problem, both for governments and for individual citizens. Interest rates need to stay very low, in order for the current system to “stick together.” Governments are either unaware of the true nature of their problems, or are doing everything they can to hide the true situation from their constituents. The public has been placated by all kinds of misleading stories about how oil from shale will be the solution. Quantitative Easing (used by governments to lower interest rates) has temporarily allowed stock markets to soar, and allowed interest rates to stay quite low. So superficially, everything looks great. The question is how long all of this will last?
Alan Greenspan's Modest Proposal: Fix Broken Economic Models By... Modeling Irrational "Animal Spirits"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 01/02/2014 15:26 -0400
We leave it to everyone's supreme amusement to enjoy the Maestro's full non-mea culpa essay, but we will highlight Greenspan's two most amusing incosistencies contained in the span of a few hundred words. On one hand the former Chairman admits that "The financial crisis [...] represented an existential crisis for economic forecasting. The conventional method of predicting macroeconomic developments -- econometric modeling, the roots of which lie in the work of John Maynard Keynes -- had failed when it was needed most, much to the chagrin of economists." On the other, his solution is to do... more of the same: "if economists better integrate animal spirits into our models, we can improve our forecasting accuracy. Economic models should, when possible, measure and forecast systematic human behavior and the tendencies of corporate culture.... Forecasters may never approach the fantasy success of the Oracle of Delphi or Nostradamus, but we can surely improve on the discouraging performance of the past." So, Greenspan's solution to the failure of linear models is to... model animal spirits, or said otherwise human irrationality. Brilliant.
Forget "the 1%-ers", meet the 3%-ers. As US Treasuries sell-off and European bonds continues to surge, the 3% handle on government debt is becoming a crowded trade with the following six nations now yielding between 3 and 4%... US, UK, Ireland, Israel, and drum roll please... Italy and Spain!