Confidence is soaring (or sliding) depending on what survey you choose to believe. The UMich confidence's collapse (the biggest miss in 8 years) has been matched by more 'baffle 'em with bullshit' as the Conference Board beats expectations by the most in 5 months and pushes back towards 2013 highs (near the highest in over 5 years). Both the Present situation and Expectations rose notably - despite 1.4 million people losing their benefits, a lackluster holiday season for retailers, and stagnant incomes - but the Present Situation index rose to the highest since April 2008.
Back in the years just before the previous housing bubble burst (not to be confused with the current, even more acute one), one person did the math on subprime, realized that the housing - and credit bubble - collapse was imminent, and warned anyone who cared to listen - almost nobody did. That man was Kyle Bass, and because he had the guts to put the money where his mouth was, he made a lot of money. Fast forward to 2014 when subprime is all the rage again and the subprime bubble is bigger than ever: it may comes as a surprise to some that in 2013, subprime debt was one of the best performing fixed income instruments, returning a whopping 17% in a year when most other debt instruments generated negative returns. And this time, while Kyle Bass is busy - collecting nickels (each costing a dime) perhaps - it is someone else who has stepped into Bass' Cassandra shoes: that someone is Jeff Gundlach. “These properties are rotting away,”
Back in August, when we wrote that "A Stunning 60% Of All Home Purchases Are "Cash Only" - A 200% Jump In Five Years" based on Goldman data, many laughed, unable to fathom that the majority of the US housing market has become a flippers' game played by institutions and the uber wealthy, who don't need a stinking mortgage to buy that South Beach mansion. As it turns out we were just a little ahead of the curve as usual, and as real estate company RealtyTrac reported overnight, with data that naturally is delayed due to the delayed impact of houses coming out of the much delayed foreclosure pipeline, "All-cash purchases accounted for 42.1 percent of all U.S. residential sales in December, up from a revised 38.1 percent in November, and up from 18.0 percent in December 2012." That's a 10% increase in one month for a 6-9 month delayed series, which means that in reality, roughly about 60% of all homes are now purchased with cold, hard cash.
- Hilsenrath: Next Cut in Fed Bond Buys Looms - Reduction to $65 Billion Could Be Announced on Jan. 29 (WSJ)
- China Workforce Slide Robs Xi of Growth Engine (BBG)
- Obama pulls the race card: Obama Says Race May Blunt Poll Standing in Interview (BBG)
- Chinese firm's IPO deal switches banks as chairman's daughter moves from JPMorgan to UBS (SCMP)
- China and Russia may hold joint naval drill in the Mediterranean (RT)
- Iran invite to Syria talks withdrawn after boycott threat (Reuters)
- Seven Chinese IPOs Halt Trading After 44 Percent Share (BBG)
- U.S. military says readying plans for Olympic security assistance (Reuters)
- Thank you Bernanke: Investors Most Upbeat in 5 Years With Record 59% Bullish in Poll (BBG)
- From His Refuge in the Poconos, Reclusive Imam Fethullah Gulen Roils Turkey (WSJ)
Markets have started the week on the back foot, despite a brief rally following a better-than-expected Q4 GDP print in China. Indeed, Asian equities recorded a small pop following the GDP report, but the gains were shortlived as the general negativity on China’s growth trajectory continues to weigh on Asian markets. In terms of the data itself, China’s Q4 GDP (7.7% YoY) was slightly ahead of expectations of 7.6% but it was slower than Q3’s 7.8%. DB’s China economist Jun Ma maintains his view that economic growth will likely accelerate in 2014 on stronger external demand and the benefits from deregulation. The slight slowdown was also evident in China’s December industrial production (9.7% YoY vs 10% previous), fixed asset investment (19.6% YoY vs 19.9% previous) and retail sales (13.6% vs 13.7% previous) data which were all released overnight. Gains in Chinese growth assets were quickly pared and as we type the Shanghai Composite (-0.8%), HSCEI (-1.1%) and AUDUSD (-0.1%) are all trading weaker on the day. On a more positive note, the stocks of mining companies BHP (+0.29%) and Rio Tinto (+0.26%) are trading flat to slightly firmer and LME copper is up 0.1%. Across the region, equities are generally trading lower paced by the Nikkei (-0.5%) and the Hang Seng (-0.7%). Staying in China, the 7 day repo rate is another 50bp higher to a three month high of 9.0% with many investors continuing to focus on the Chinese shadow banking system following the looming restructuring of a $500m trust product that was sold to ICBC’s customers.
The end of 2013 saw bond yields at their highs and the US equity markets making higher highs. This came as the Federal Reserve started to finally slow down its asset purchases and, as Citi's Tom Fitzpatrick suggest, has now seemingly turned a corner in its so called “emergency” policy. That now leaves room for the market/economy to determine the proper rate of interest; and, he notes, given the patchy economic recovery, the fragile level of confidence and the low levels of inflation, Citi questions whether asset prices belong where they are today. As the Fed’s stimulus program appears to have “peaked” Citi warned investors yesterday to be cautious with the Equity markets; and recent price action across the Treasury curve suggests lower yields can be seen and US 10 year yields are in danger of retesting the 2.40% area.
The housing recovery is ultimately a story of the "real" employment situation. With roughly a quarter of the home buying cohort unemployed and living at home with their parents the option to buy simply is not available. The rest of that group are employed but at the lower end of the pay scale which pushes them to rent due to budgetary considerations and an inability to qualify for a mortgage. The optimism over the housing recovery has gotten well ahead of the underlying fundamentals. While the belief was that the Government, and Fed's, interventions would ignite the housing market creating a self-perpetuating recovery in the economy - it did not turn out that way. Instead, it led to a speculative rush into buying rental properties creating a temporary, and artificial, inventory suppression. While there are many hopes pinned on the housing recovery as a "driver" of economic growth in 2014 - the lack of recovery in the home ownership data suggests otherwise.
Following December's biggest-surge-in-4-years for UMich consumer confidence (though a miss), UMich data has fallen back to 80.4 - missing expectations by the biggest margin in 8 years. This is the 4th miss in the last 5 months as hope for moar multiple expansion begins to fade. Both current conditions and the outlook indices fell (for the first time sicne October). As UPS would says, confidence dropped because there was too much confidence...
The positive momentum in equities slowed in Asian trading with losses seen on the Nikkei (-0.4%), and HSCEI , the SCHOMP unchanged and EM indices such as the Nifty (-
0.1%). In Australia, a disappointing December employment report saw a 23k fall in jobs for the month against consensus expectations of rise of 10k. The 10yr Australian government bond has rallied 5bp and the front end is outperforming as a number of investors expect the RBA to continue its easing bias over 2014. AUDUSD has sold off -1.1% to a three year low of 0.881. The ASX200 closed up 1.2% however, boosted by mining-giant Rio Tinto (+2%) who reported better than anticipated Q4 production. Amid recent fears of a Chinese growth deceleration, Rio Tinto reported record levels of production of iron-ore, coal and bauxite. In FX, USDJPY is finding further support in Asia, adding 0.1% to yesterday’s 0.38% gain to trade not too far from the 105 level. Which is also why the S&P futures are trading modestly lower: without a major breakout in the Yen carry, there can't be a sustained ramp in the US stock market which is driven entirely by the value of the Yen, which in turn is a reflection of the expectations of future BOJ easing.
Americans have never had less economic freedom than they do right now. The 2014 Index of Economic Freedom has just been released, and it turns out that the level of economic freedom in the United States has now fallen for seven consecutive years. But of course none of us need a report or a survey to tell us that. All we have to do is open our eyes and look around. At this point our entire society is completely dominated by control freaks and bureaucrats. Our economy is literally being suffocated to death by millions of laws, rules and regulations and each year brings a fresh tsunami of red tape. As you will see below, the U.S. government issued more than 80,000 pages of brand new rules and regulations last year on top of what we already had. Even if we didn't have all of the other monumental economic problems that we are currently facing, all of this bureaucracy alone would be enough to kill our economy.
Fed's Fisher Says "Investors Have Beer Goggles From Liquidity", Joins Goldman In Stock Correction WarningSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/14/2014 14:40 -0400
"Continuing large-scale asset purchases risks placing us in an untenable position, both from the standpoint of unreasonably inflating the stock, bond and other tradable asset markets and from the perspective of complicating the future conduct of monetary policy," warns the admittedly-hawkish Dallas Fed head. Fisher goes on to confirm Peter Boockvar's "QE puts beer goggles on investors," analogy adding that while he is "not among those who think we are presently in a 'bubble' mode for stocks or bonds; he is reminded of William McChesney Martin comments - the longest-serving Fed chair - "markets for anything tradable overshoot and one must be prepared for adjustments that bring markets back to normal valuations."
The eye of the needle of pulling off a clean exit is narrow; the camel is already too fat. As soon as feasible, we should change tack. We should stop digging. I plan to cast my votes at FOMC meetings accordingly.
After last week's economic fireworks, this one will be far more quiet with earnings dominating investors' attention: US financials reporting this week include JPM and Wells Fargo tomorrow, BofA on Wednesday, GS and Citi on Thursday, BoNY and MS on Friday. Industrial bellwethers Intel (Thurs) and General Electric (Fri) are also on this week’s earnings docket. On the macro front, this coming week we have two MPC meetings - both in LatAm. For Brazil consensus expects a 25bps hike in the policy rate. For Chile consensus forecasts monetary policy to remain on hold. Among the data releases, one should point out inflation numbers from the US (CPI and PPI), Eurozone, the UK and India. We also have three important US producer and consumer surveys - Empire Manufacturing, Philadelphia Fed (consensus +8.5), and U. of Michigan (consensus 83.5). Among external trade and capital flow stats, we would emphasize US TIC data, as well as current account balances from Japan and Turkey. Finally, the accumulation of FX reserves in China is interesting to track as it provides an indication of CNY appreciation pressure.
Last week, Grant Williams reviewed the equity markets in an attempt to see how equity investors managed to scamper through 2013 with the friskiness of puppies when all about them lay doubt and potential disaster. His answer - of course - quantitative easing. This week Williams takes a deep dive into bonds and bullion in an effort to comprehend how the bond market managed to navigate the same 12-month period and see what can be learned about 2013 in order to forecast for 2014. The effect on the Fed’s balance sheet is plain to see - a very steady, predictable line; and markets love steady and predictable. So what happens when the 'predictability' ends...? The guardians of the global economy are relying on numerous logical fallacies to continue their path to oblivion...
It looks like Time just hinted at who its man, er woman, of 2014 will be with its just released cover showcasing Janet Yellen "The Sixteen Trillion Dollar Woman" which wraps her first interview since being confirmed as Fed chair.
If one listens to Goldman's chief economist Jan Hatzius these days, it is all roses for the global economy in 2014... much like it was for Goldman at the end of 2010, a case of optimism which went stupendously wrong. Goldman's Dominic Wilson admits as much in a brand new note in which he says, "Our economic and market views for 2014 are quite upbeat." However, unlike the blind faith Goldman had in a recovery that was promptly dashed, this time it is hedging, and as a result has just released the following not titled "Where we worry: Risks to our outlook", where Wilson notes: "After significant equity gains in 2013 and with more of a consensus that US growth will improve, it is important to think about the risks to that view. There are two main ways in which our market outlook could be wrong. The first is that our economic forecasts could be wrong. The second is that our economic forecasts could be right but our view of the market implications of those forecasts could be wrong. We highlight five key risks on each front here." In short: these are the ten things that keep Goldman up at night: the following five economic risks, and five market view risks.