Hedge fund icon Stanley Druckenmiller sat down with Bloomberg TV's Stephanie Ruhle, saying that he’s decided to speak out now because he sees "a storm coming, maybe bigger than the storm we had in 2008, 2010." His fear is that the ballooning costs of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid (which with unfunded liabilities are as high as $211 trillion) will bankrupt the nation's youth an pose a much greater danger than the debt currently being debated in Congress. He said, "While everybody is focusing on the here and now, there's a much, much bigger storm that's about to hit... I am not against seniors. What I am against is current seniors stealing from future seniors." While not exactly Maxine Waters' sequestration-based 170 million job loss, this concerning interview is must-see for his clarity and forthrightness from who is to blame, to the consequences of gridlock, our society's short-term thinking, and the concerning demographics the US faces.
What could go wrong with the housing 'recovery' in 2013? To answer this question, we need to understand that housing is the key component a middle class squeezed by historically high debt loads, stagnant incomes, and a net worth largely dependent on their home. In response, Central Planners have pulled out all the stops to reflate housing as the only available means to spark a broad-based “wealth effect” that would support higher spending and an expansion of household debt. This returns us to the key question: Are all these Central Planning interventions sustainable, or might they falter in 2013? Once markets become dependent on intervention and support to price risk and assets, they are intrinsically vulnerable to any reduction in that support. Should these supports diminish or lose their effectiveness, it will be sink-or-swim for housing. Either organic demand rises without subsidies and lenders originate mortgages without agency guarantees, or the market could resume the fall in valuations Central Planning halted in 2009.
Think Americans are the only people in the world toiling under a gargantuan debtload, which at last check was a massive $55.3 trillion, or about $175K per person? Think again. Meet Sherry Sheng, a 29-year-old Shanghai policewoman, who bought herself a 4,000 yuan ($642) black fur jacket, splurging for the last time before she starts paying off the mortgage on her first home.
Sherry is what is known as a Chinese "housing slave."
As always happens when central planning is involved, when one tries to stop a leak here, two new leaks appear elsewhere. Because while the Homeowners Bill of Rights managed to grind foreclosure activity to a halt in California, what is happening elsewhere is the dreaded Boomerang Foreclosure phenomenon, or, said simply, redefaults. In other words, those homeowners who tried to take advantage of the most recent housing bubble mania created over the past year by the unholy trinity of the Fed (open-ended liquidity, REO-to-Rent programs, and $40 billion in monthly purchases of MBS), foreign buyers (who launder illicit money courtesy of the NAR's anti-money laundering exemption and park it in ultra luxury US real estate, usually sight-unseen) and of course, the banks, who with the aid of the robosigning fiasco and the Homeowner Bill of Rights, have over the past year subsidized the housing market by keeping non-cash flow generating mortgages on their books in exchange for a wholesale subsidizied rise in housing prices, ran out of cash before they could flip the "hot potato" that is the house they just bought, to a greater fool, and since they had no actual cash to pay the mortgage with, and with no fear of retribution, handed it right back to the bank. As the chart below shows, while California foreclosure activity is collapsing, things in other places are starting to indicate that the second housing bubble blown by Bernanke in 5 years, is finally starting to crack:
Whether you're aware of it or not, a great battle is being waged around us. It is a war of two opposing narratives: the future of our economy and our standard of living. The dominant story, championed by flotillas of press releases and parading talking heads, tells an inspiring tale of recovery and return to growth. The other side, less visible but with a full armament of high-caliber data, tells a very different story. One of growing instability, downside risk, and inequality. As different as they are in substance, they both share one fundamental prediction – and this is why you should care: This battle is about to break. And when it does, one side will turn out to be much more 'right' than the other. The time for action has arrived. To position yourself in the direction of the break you think is most likely to happen. It's time to choose a side.
The mainstream media is overflowing with stories proclaiming the global economy is on the mend. Really? Based on what engine of growth? If we cut through the Keynesian jargon of aggregate demand and other Cargo-Cult mumbo-jumbo, what we find is the Status Quo is hoping to boost its precious aggregate demand with the same bag of tricks that imploded so spectacularly in 2008: the wealth effect based on phantom collateral created by Centrally Planned asset bubbles. Though you will not find a Keynesian pundit or economist with the courage required to admit it, the same problem of phantom collateral applies to Federal and state debt: the consumption all that debt funded is soon forgotten, but the debt remains to be paid, essentially forever.
- Boeing misses Q4 top line ($22.3 bn, Exp. $22.33 bn) beats EPS ($1.28, Exp. $1.18), guides lower: 2013 revenue $82-85 bn, Exp. 87.9 bn
- Hilsenrath discovers DV01: Fed Risks Losses From Bonds (WSJ)
- Airlines had 787 battery issues before groundings (Reuters)
- Monte Paschi ignored warnings over risk, documents show (Reuters) as did Mario Draghi
- China averts local government defaults (FT)
- Economy Probably Slowed as U.S. Spending Gain Drained Stockpiles (Bloomberg)
- Bono Is No Match for Retail Slump Hitting Dublin’s Fifth Avenue (BBG)
- Catalonia requests €9bn from rescue fund (FT)
- US plans more skilled migrant visas (FT)
- Japan PM shrugs off global criticism over latest stimulus steps (Reuters)
- CIA nominee had detailed knowledge of "enhanced interrogation techniques" (Reuters)
- Cleanliness Meets Godliness as Russia Reeled Into Cyprus (BBG)
- Deutsche Bank Seen Missing Goldman-Led Gains on Cost Rise (BBG)
G4+CHF can fight the currency wars longer and more aggressively than small G10 and EM countries can. However, as Citi's Steven Englander notes, it also takes a lot of depreciation to crowd in a meaningful amount of net exports. His bottom line, GBP, CHF and JPY have a lot further to depreciate. In principle, the USD can easily fall into this category as well, but right now the USD debate is focused on Fed policy – were it to become clear that balance sheet expansion will end well beyond end-2013, the USD would fall into the category of currency war ‘winners’ as well. Critically, though, the reality of currency wars is that policymakers do not use FX as cyclical stimulus because of its effectiveness; they use it because they have hit a wall with respect to the effectiveness of fiscal and monetary policies, and are unwilling to bite the structural policy bullet. The following seven points will be on every policymakers' mind - or should be.
It was rumored that the 2008 crisis hit the Queen of England particularly hard – over USD 40 million in stock market losses. This experience must have jilted something, as when The Queen was visiting the esteemed London School of Economics she asked the professor a rather “un-queen” like question – why did economists fail to predict the biggest global recession since the Great Depression? Speaking on behalf of economists, investment managers and mutual fund sales people everywhere, the professor responded that “at every stage, someone was relying on somebody else and everyone thought they were doing the right thing.“ In short, no one could have predicted the 2008 crash. Meanwhile, in the parallel universe called America, Ben Bernanke January 2013 The Queen was selling everyone the exact same story. If the famed London School of Economics and the Chairman and full committee of the US Federal Reserve were unable to predict the crisis, what hope does the World have with predicting future crises? In actual truth, and despite claims by the US Federal Reserve and the London School of Economics, many people accurately predicted the collapse of the US housing market and the subsequent collapse of the stock market. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way. Accepting, understanding, and embracing the fact that today there are plenty of investment professionals who are willing to view the World objectively should be comforting.
“Those are my principles,” Marx said. “And if you don't like them... well, I have others.”
- When the cash runs out: Nokia to Omit Dividend for First Time in 143 Years (BBG)
- Passing Debt Bill, GOP Pledges End to Deficits (WSJ)
- Japan logs record trade gap in 2012 as exports struggle (Reuters)
- so naturally... Yen at 100 Per Dollar Endorsed by Japan Government’s Nishimura (BBG)
- Japan rejects currency war fears (FT)
- In Amenas attack brings global jihad home to Algeria (Reuters)
- Investors grow cagey as Italy election nears (Reuters)
- Mafia Victim’s Son Holds Key to Bersani Winning Key Region (BBG)
- Bernanke Seen Pressing On With Stimulus Amid Debate on QE (BBG)
- U.S. to lift ban on women in front-line combat jobs (Reuters)
- Red flags revealed in filings of firm linked to Caterpillar fraud (Reuters)
- Apple Sales Gain Slowest Since ’09 as Competition Climbs (BBG)
- Spanish Jobless Rate Hits Record After Rajoy’s First Year (BBG)
- North Korea Threatens Nuclear Test to Derail U.S. Policies (BBG)
After digesting the opinions of the shills, shysters and scam artists, I am ready to predict that I have no clue what will happen during 2013. The fog of uncertainty is engulfing the nation, making consumers hesitant to spend and businesses reluctant to hire or invest. Virtually all of the mainstream media, Wall Street banks and paid shill economists are in agreement that 2013 will see improvement in employment, housing, retail spending and, of course the only thing that matters to the ruling class, the stock market. Even among the alternative media, there seems to be a consensus that we will continue to muddle through and the day of reckoning is still a few years off. Those who are predicting improvements are either ignorant of history or are being paid to predict improvement, despite the overwhelming evidence of a worsening economic climate. The mainstream media pundits, fulfilling their assigned task of purveying feel good propaganda, use the 10% stock market gain in 2012 as proof of economic recovery. The facts prove otherwise... Every day more people are realizing the con-job being perpetuated by the owners of this country. Will the tipping point be reached in 2013? I don’t know. But the era of decisiveness and confrontation has arrived. The existing social order will be swept away. Are you prepared?
Since Alan Greenspan became the Fed chairman in 1987, there has been a policy consensus on the primary role and effectiveness of monetary policy in cushioning an economic downturn and kicking it back to growth. Fiscal policy, due to the political difficulties in making meaningful changes, was relegated to a minor role in economic management. Staving off crisis and reviving growth still dominate today's conversation. The prima facie evidence is that the experiment has failed. The dominant voice in policy discussions is advocating more of the same. When a medicine isn't working, it could be the wrong one or the dosage isn't sufficient. The world is trying the latter. But, if the medicine is really wrong, more and more of the same will kill the patient one day. The global economy was a debt bubble, functioning on China over-borrowing and investing and the West over-borrowing and consuming. The dynamic came to an end when the debt crises exposed debt levels in the West as too high. The last source of debt growth, the U.S. government, is coming to an end, too, as politics forces it to reduce the deficit. Trying to bring back yesterday through monetary growth will eventually bring inflation, not growth.
It is hard to find a policymaker who hasn’t actively tried to talk his currency down. The few who don’t talk, act as if they were intent on driving their currency lower. Citi's Steven Englander argues below that the ‘currency wars’ impact is collective monetary/liquidity easing. Collective easing is not neutral for currencies, the USD and JPY tend to fall when risk appetite grows while other currencies appreciate. Moreover, despite the rhetoric on intervention, we think that direct or indirect intervention is credible only in countries where domestic asset prices are undervalued and CPI/asset price inflation are not issues. In other countries, intervention can boost domestic asset prices and borrowing and create more medium-term economic and asset price risk than conventional currency overvaluation would. So the MoF/BoJ may be credible in their intervention, but countries whose economies and asset markets are performing more favorably have much more to lose from losing control of asset markets. So JPY and, eventually CHF, are likely to fall, but if the RBA or BoC were to engage in active intervention they may find themselves quickly facing unfavorable domestic asset market dynamics.
The Chinese economy has been enjoying a cyclical rebound since the beginning of Q4 2012. SocGen's central scenario is that this recovery will last until early Q2 2013 and then gradually lose momentum. In the medium term, they still anticipate a bumpy path of secular deceleration, leading to an average growth rate of 6-7% over the next five to seven years, down from 10% per annum over the last three decades. This piece focuses on what is probably the most popular “what-if” question about the Chinese economy – what if China hard lands (with real GDP growth rate plummets to below 6%)? As China undergoes demographic ageing and growth of the working-age population slows, this minimum stable growth level will decline further. However, if progress in rebalancing and structural reform remains slow, the probability of a hard landing will rise over the medium term. In the tail risk scenario set out below, 2013 will see several quarters with just 3% growth and full year growth would stand at just 4.2%, but what are th triggers, how would it evolve, how would the government respond, and how bad could things get?