- Australia says nothing spotted in search for plane (AP)
- Putin looks to Asia as West threatens to isolate Russia (Reuters)
- China Billionaire Builds Metals With Dreyfus, Glencore Hires (BBG)
- China Beige Book Says Economy Slowing (BBG)
- Caterpillar Said to Be Focus of Senate Overseas Tax Probe (BBG)
- US Cancels Summit With Divided Group of Gulf Nations (WSJ)
- Cyprus defense minister suffers aneurysm (AP)
- Abe to zero in on economy as tax hike looms (Nikkei)
- Europe strikes deal to complete banking union (Reuters)
It's mid-March, which means it is time for the annual confidence boosting theatrical spectacle known as the Fed's stress test (for those who may have forgotten last year's farce when Jamie Dimon preempted the Fed by announcing a dividend in advance of the results, can read here). And like in the past, there were absolutely no surprises with 29 of 30 banks passing with flying colors. Of course, since it is a "test", and someone has the be sacrificial calf, this year that honor falls to Zions Bankshares. Last year its was Citi, SunTrust and MetLife. In both years the results are completely meaningless, as the Fed neither then, nor now, has any methodology for how to calculate capital in case of the same kind of counterparty failure chain as happened during Lehman, and when no amount of capital would have been sufficient to preserve the financial sector. Like we said: theatrical spectacle. But at least everyone's confidence has been boosted. So Buy stawks, and build your paper wealth! And here is the truly funny part: in the baseline stress test scenario, the Dow Jones "plunges" to 11.4K in Q3 2014, and then somehow surges back to all time highs by Q4 2016! Does the Fed understand the word Stress?
A critical element for investors to consider is that the Fed is not forward thinking when it comes to monetary policy. Indeed, if we reflect on the last 15 years, we see that the Fed has been well behind the curve on everything.
The Fed and the other major central banks have been planting time bombs all over the global financial system for years, but especially since their post-crisis money printing spree incepted in the fall of 2008. Now comes a new leader to the Eccles Building who is not only bubble-blind like her two predecessors, but is also apparently bubble-mute. Janet Yellen is pleased to speak of financial bubbles as a “misalignment of asset prices,” and professes not to espy any on the horizon. Actually, the Fed’s bubble blindness stems from even worse than servility. The problem is an irredeemably flawed monetary doctrine that tracks, targets and aims to goose Keynesian GDP flows using the crude tools of central banking. Not surprisingly, therefore, our monetary central planners are always, well, surprised, when financial fire storms break-out. Even now, after more than a half-dozen collapses since the Greenspan era of Bubble Finance incepted in 1987, they don’t recognize that it is they who are carrying what amounts to monetary gas cans.
"Higher equity prices will boost consumer wealth and help increase confidence, which can spur spending" - Ben Bernanke, 2010 But history suggests the opposite: it is higher savings rates which lead to economic prosperity. Examine any economic success story such as modern China, nineteenth century America, or post-World War II Japan and South Korea: did their economic rise derive from unbridled consumption, or strict frugality? The answer is self-evident: it is the savings from the curtailment of consumption, combined with minimal government involvement in economic affairs, which generates economic growth.
So you want to be a mortgage banker? then listen now to what i say Just get liability insurance... and get ready to pay and pay...
If you have been waiting for the "global economic crisis" to begin, just open up your eyes and look around. I know that most Americans tend to ignore what happens in the rest of the world because they consider it to be "irrelevant" to their daily lives, but the truth is that the massive economic problems that are currently sweeping across Europe, Asia and South America are going to be affecting all of us here in the U.S. very soon. Sadly, most of the big news organizations in this country seem to be more concerned about the fate of Justin Bieber's wax statue in Times Square than about the horrible financial nightmare that is gripping emerging markets all over the planet. After a brief period of relative calm, we are beginning to see signs of global financial instability that are unlike anything that we have witnessed since the financial crisis of 2008. As you will see below, the problems are not just isolated to a few countries. This is truly a global phenomenon.
If a third of all US homes cannot trade due to being underwater or not sufficiently above water to clear closing costs, then the US economy is going to suffer
The Status Quo views real estate bubbles as a "good thing": as home prices rise, the homeowner's collateral (equity) rises, creating both a psychological "wealth effect" (now that we're richer, we can afford to borrow and blow more money) and a temporary (and thus phantom) increase in collateral that will support more household debt. What few seem to realize (or discuss) is how rising home prices push rents higher.This is an entirely pernicious effect, as renters aren't getting any more "home" for the higher rent--they're paying more money for the same shelter. Central Planning pushing housing prices higher is not win-win--it is lose-lose-lose.
Welcome To The Blackstone Recovery: Over 11 Million Americans Spend More Than Half Their Income On RentSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/13/2014 17:47 -0400
As 11.3 million Americans spend more than half their income on rent, a record increase of 28% in four years, increasingly more are faced with the core "New normal recovery" choice: “We either eat, or we pay rent.” Welcome to the Blackstone recovery...
Most are aware of Alan Greenspan’s 1966 essay - written when he was an acolyte of Ayn Rand - in which he sang the praises of the gold standard. Obviously, that early work would later prove awkward for Greenspan, as he held the reins of the fiat money engine known as the Federal Reserve. However, a reporter for Barron's unearthed a copy of Greenspan’s NYU doctoral dissertation, which he took great pains to bury, showing that when his professional ambition wasn’t involved, Greenspan could understand perfectly well (a) the virtues of a commodity money and (b) the dangers of a housing bubble. If the Austrians are right in laying the blame for the housing bubble on Greenspan’s loose monetary policy following the dot-com crash, then Greenspan can’t plead ignorance: He knew what he was doing.
In 1970, when 11% of adult Americans had bachelor's degrees or more, degree holders were viewed as the nation's best and brightest. Today, with over 30% with degrees, as the WSJ notes, a significant portion of college graduates are similar to the average American - not demonstrably smarter or more disciplined. Furthermore, declining academic standards and grade inflation add to employers' perceptions that college degrees say little about job readiness. As we noted recently, change is coming as more and more realize college may not be worth it. Educational entrepreneurship offers hope that creative destruction is coming to higher education. The cleansing would be good for a higher education system still tied to its medieval origins - and for the students it's robbing.
Most economic observers are predicting that 2014 will be the year in which the United States finally shrugs off the persistent malaise of the Great Recession. In contrast, we believe that the episode has, for the moment, established supreme confidence in the powers of monetary policy to keep the economy afloat and to keep a floor under asset prices, even in the worst of circumstances. The shift in sentiment can only be explained by the growing acceptance of monetary policy as the magic elixir that Keynesians have always claimed it to be. This blind faith has prevented investors from seeing the obvious economic crises that may lay ahead. Based on nothing but pure optimism, the market believes that the Fed can somehow contract its $4 trillion balance sheet without pushing up rates to the point where asset prices are threatened, or where debt service costs become too big a burden for debtors to bear. The more likely truth is that this widespread mistake will allow us to drift into the next crisis.
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?