The week ahead is light on data releases with probably the key prints at the start and the end of the week. On Monday, the focus will be on the flash PMIs out of Euroland and the German IFO. Japanese CPI will be important and the US Q4 GDP print will be watched for revisions. Otherwise, attention will continue to be paid to the DM/EM rotation theme, the events in the Middle East and the European Sovereign issue. Also, lots and lots of POMOs.
Jan Hatzius is the bellwether of the sellside economist crowd. When he was bearish (2009), most were bearish, when he turned bullish (early half of 2010), everyone else followed suit. Then he turned bearish again (early August 2010) and convinced his friend and former co-worker Bill Dudley to launch QE2. Then, in December, he turned very bullish again. And now we are here. We expect Hatzius to be fake bullish for another 3 months max, at which point he will have no choice than to start telegraphing to Jon Hilsenrath that it is time for QE3. In the meantime, for those who are not too familiar with his work, here is an extended interview with Bloomberg TV, in which the GS head economist talks about Goldman's call for 18% gain in stocks this year as well as trends in jobs, inflation and other data indicators.
First it was "Get Ready For Higher Food Prices" going mainstream... Now, logically following, it is "Get Ready For Margin Collapse." As Zero Hedge has long been warning, the one immediate consequence of surging commodity prices as a result of endless liquidity, is a collapse in corporate margins. Now, about 6 months after we first broached the topic, it has finally hit the mainstream media. The WSJ highlights what is so obvious, it is no wonder no sellside "strategist" is willing to touch the topic with a ten foot pole: "This earnings season has seen a much-welcomed return to revenue growth, giving investors another reason to push stocks to two-year highs. But beneath the surface lurks a fresh worry: For many companies, the cost of raw materials is rising at a faster pace than revenue. Blame it on soaring prices of everything from cotton to copper and corn. That has squeezed profit margins more markedly than many analysts anticipated—and is serving as a worrying sign for future earnings." But yes, aside from the painfully obvious collapse in margins, and thus plunge in net income (sorry, companies can't fire their skeleton crew workers any further) which will mean 2011 S&P 500 EPS will come far, far lower than prevailing consensus, everything is fine...and don't forget to BTFD.
Albert Edwards (And Goldman Sachs) On "The Biggest Scandal Of The Last Decade": Plunging Labor Force ParticipationSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/12/2011 16:20 -0400
Seven months ago, when the horrendous August 6 NFP print set the stage for Jan Hatzius to lower his outlook for the economy (and all the other sellside lemmings to follow suit), resulting in the announcement of QE2 three weeks later at Jackson Hole by our dangerous monetary Dr. Moreau (not our definition: Sean Corrigan's - more on that later), we dubbed an article titled "Real U-3 Unemployment Rate When Adjusted For Labor Force Participation: Around 14%" in which we warned that the unemployment rate presented for public consumption is really one big lie. Fast forward to today, when we now read that the topic of labor force participation, and specifically the massive plunge therein, is now seen by one of the brightest strategist minds, that of SocGen's Albert Edwards, as "one of the scandals of the last decade." We thoroughly agree. In fact, we are certain that the labor force participation rate is the greatest scam the government is attempting to pull in order to create the impression that QE is working. The threat of this issue being comprehended by the broader population is finally so big that it necessitated Goldman Sachs' Sven Jari Stehn to come out with yet another extremely humiliating apologist piece of drivel, explaining how the labor force participation rate is really not at all concerning and that one should welcome the fact that less people are in the "labor pool", as a percentage of the total population, than at any time in the last 26 years. Nothing could be further from the truth, and in fact it underscores Bernanke's latest Catch 22 - the "lower" the unemployment (U3) rate is, the worse the economy is, as more and more workers get terminally disenchanted with their labor prospects, thereby validating just how ugly the truth behind the scenes truly is.
Can A Sovereign Debt Crisis Happen Here? A Case Study Of The 1995 Debt Ceiling-Precipitated Government ShutdownSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/16/2011 22:49 -0400
Lately there has been a lot of chatter among the supposedly smarter-than-mainstream media that even should the debt ceiling not be raised, it would not mean the bankruptcy of America as interest payments would still be satisfied. While that technicality is absolutely true, it is even more absolutely irrelevant. What propagators of such theories forget is that lately there are just two exponential curve trendlines that are worth noting: that of the cumulative debt issuance, and of the US cumulative deficit (see chart below). Each month, the US issues around $50 billion more debt than is needed to just fund the deficit. This is debt that is on top of the debt that is needed to plug the different between revenues and expenditures. As Zero Hedge has pointed out repeatedly before, that ratio is already roughly 1 to 2, meaning for every dollar in revenue the US government issues more than one dollar of debt just to fund the deficit. And then some. As the chart below shows, in December alone the government issued $84.4 billion on top of the budget funding shortfall ($80 billion deficit and $164.4 billion in debt issuance)! So yes, while the Treasury can fund interest expense at record low interest levels, that is completely irrelevant. Unable to fund incremental expenses to the tune of hundreds of billions per month, the US government will shut down (a point when nobody will accept US government IOUs, not Social Security which passed the point of being self sustaining last year, and certainly not Medicare and Medicaid, and most certainly not private sector Defense Vendors) just like it did in 1995. Below, we present the key charts and the full report from a must read SocGen report on the sovereign debt crisis, titled Can It Happen Here? We urge all those who pretend to have an educated opinion on the US funding crisis to read this report before they open their mouths in public and once again validate their critics.
Ever since his transition from a critical, respected and objective economist to the third coming of A Joseph Cohen, Goldman's Jan Hatzius has become an increasingly irrelevant second fiddle-cum-broken record, and as such his observations have merited less and less attention. His latest spin piece on why the centrally planned US economy will grow within the parameters of "perfection pricing" is merely more confirmation of this sad transition. To wit: "2012 is still a long way off, and the uncertainty surrounding any forecast is large. But if we are right, the implications of this forecast are reasonably benign for the US Treasury market and very benign for the equity market. Indeed, our strategists expect only a moderate increase in 10-year Treasury note yields to 3¾% at the end of 2011 and 4¼% at the end of 2012, as well as an increase in the S&P 500 index to 1500 by the end of 2011." In other words: the debt-fueled Frankenstein of a Goldilocks monster, currently rampaging around on government-funded steroids, is really completely under control. It appears that all the gloves have come off in this last attempt to reflate the global ponzi, and sadly credibility once relevant, is now completely out of the window.
We present two takes on the NFP number: first from Knight Capital, and second from most recent entrant in the ridiculous propaganda drama queen race, Goldman Sachs, which is most gladly selling ES as its customers are buying with visions of S&P 1,500 as per David Kostin's latest chartmongery.
The biggest spin master in the Obama administration, Press secretary Robert Gibbs, who obstinately had refused to answer Zero Hedge questions about the economic "recovery" in his daily tweetersessions , has joined pretty much everybody else in dumping the titanic that is the Obama administration. There is one thing we can be sure of, however, Tim Geithner, the only man who is officially on economic retainer (yet gets about 1% the use of Goldman's Jan Hatzius when it comes to monetary and fiscal policy) will be forever by Obama's side.
Contrary To The IMF's Lies, The IEA Finds That Surging Oil Price Actually Will Be A "Threat To The Recovery"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 01/04/2011 19:47 -0400
Can they please at least keep their lies straight? While two months ago the IMF said that "Oil price rise not threat to global recovery", we now get an FT article with the following title: "Oil price ‘threat to recovery’" based on a quote from the IEA." H.M.M.M.M. we wonder whose opinion is more accurate: an organization run by idiots (who subsequently matriculate into modestly coherent people whose only job is to bash their former employer), whose only purpose is to destroy economies under mountains of debt (or is that the World Bank?) and to bail out insolvent PIIGS... or the International Energy Agency? We'll have to get back to you on that.
It was the night before Christmas Eve, and CNBC trucked out TrimTabs' Charles Biderman to a de minimis audience, knowing full well that a man with his understanding of money flows would very likely repeat his statement from last year, that there is no real, valid explanation for the inexorable move in stocks higher, as equity money flows in 2010 were decidedly negative, and any explanation of the upward melt up would need to account for Fed intervention (and no-volume HFT offer-lifting feedback loops but that is a story for another day). A year after the first scandalous report was published, TrimTabs is sticking with its story: "If the money to boost stock prices by almost $9 trillion from the March
2009 lows did not come from the traditional players, it had to have come
from somewhere else. We believe that place is the Fed. By funneling
trillions of dollars in cash to the primary dealers in exchange for
debt, the Fed has given Wall Street lots of firepower to ramp up the
prices of risk assets, including equities." And, wisely, Biderman, just like Zero Hedge, asks what happens when the buying one day, some day, ends: "...stock prices will be higher by the time
QE2 ends, but economic growth will not be sustainable without massive
government support. Then even more QE will be needed, and stock prices
could keep rising for a while. In our opinion, however, no amount of QE
will be able to keep the current stock market bubble from bursting
eventually." Ergo our call earlier that Bernanke has at best +/- 150 days to assuage the market's fear that QE2 is ending (not to mention that we have a huge economic recovery, right Jan Hatzius? We don't need no stinking QE...). Therefore the best Bernanke can hope for is to buy some additional time. At the end of the day, the biggest problem is that the massive slack in the economy means that LSAP will have to continue for a long, long time, before the virtuous circle of self-sustaining growth can even hope to take over. By then bond yields may very well be high enough that Ron Paul will demands someone finally bring Paul Volcker out of the fridge.
Observations On The Latest Debt "Inflection Point", And Why Bernanke Has At Most 5 Months In Which To Announce QE3Submitted by Tyler Durden on 01/01/2011 15:21 -0400
Yesterday on Tom Keene's always informative show, two of the world's most important economists, Goldman's Jan Hatzius and BofA's Ethan Harris presented their respective defenses for why GDP in 2011 would rise by nearly 4% as per their recent predictions. The straw man for the upside case: recently adopted fiscal stimuli which, however as David Rosenberg notes, are not really stimuli as much as lack of governmental disstimuli. Yet what is interesting is that both ceded that both employment and housing, the two key traditional drivers of economic growth and prosperity, would likely continue deteriorating, with employment ending the year over 9%. In other words, all growth in 2011 will be predicated upon very much more of the same: transfer payments and government stimulus (not to mention inventory accumulation) especially in the form of incremental debt to offset consumer deleveraging. No surprise there. After all the only reason why the economists of the world have expressed an unprecedented amount of bullishness in recent months is that the US is currently experiencing a rare confluence of both fiscal and monetary stimulus: an even that last occurred in March of 2009. The issue is that as we have noted previously, the benefit from the fiscal stimulus has already been negated by the jump in oil and other commodity prices, whereby the token weekly paycheck increase has been more than offset by gas price increases, while the monetary stimulus is already priced in, and absent rumors of another episode of QE in advance of the June end of QE2, the temporary stock market strength will quickly turn into weakness. Which leaves us with the hangover effect of federal deficit... and its funding. The chart below presents some interesting observations in this regard, and also makes us wonder just what will happen to risk assets if Bernanke does not leak the announcement of QE3 by May at the very latest.
It has been a good year for Goldman's David Kostin: not only did the strategist make partner this year, but virtually all of his analysis is simplistically goal seeked based on what New York Fed favorite Jan Hatzius says is bound to happen (which one way or another, does), and the entire Wall Street herd of C-grade economists follows suit. Nonetheless, he, or rather his subordinates, sure create some pretty charts. Below are the main charts summarizing both the last week and year, and the cheatsheets for Goldman's outlook on 2011, as well as some other Easter eggs.
It is only fitting that just minutes after we disclosed our skepticism about those who forecast future events in a centrally planned regime, either directly or rhetorically, we ran into Goldman's 10 questions for 2011: the firm to whom none other than Brian Sack is supposed to report. While everything else is mostly Koolaid, the only important thing according to Jan Hatzius, who minutes ago appeared on Tom Keene, is that he may still advise his underlying at the FRBNY Bill Dudley to press go on QE3. Full list below.
Following the release of Bill Dudley's daily schedules from the beginning of 2009, through September 30, 2010, there have been some amusing, if not very surprising, disclosures. Among them: Dudley's penchant to meet with Jamie Dimon, Vik Pandit and, of course, former boss Lloyd Blankfein. Other meetings include Sullivan and Cromwell chairman, and the banking cartel's personal chief attorney H. Rodgin Cohen. Those are to be expected: after all Dudley has to conduct the New York Fed policy exactly in accordance with Wall Street's expectations, and per Wall Street's recommendations. What is a little more surprising is that on February 9, 2009, Bill Dudley hosted a lunch roundtable with hedge fund SAC Capital... Perhaps now Dudley knows almost as much about the chances of various Phase II/III drugs to make it to market as ole' Stevie himself. Additionally, on May 14 Dudley invited Ken Griffin and Adam Cooper from Citadel into his office at about 2:00 pm. One wonders just what the quid pro quo between the New York Fed and Citadel may have been, over and above of the traditional dark pool securities purchasing relationship between the two entities of course. Where it gets a little confusing is why Dudley had to have two informal meetings with the man who singlehandedly determines US fiscal and monetary policy: Goldman's Jan Hatzius, first on March 11, and then, less than a month later, on April 6, both times as the Pound and Pence. And where it gets downright bizarre, is trying to explain why Bill Dudley on June 11, 2009, had to bring over one still unknown Brian Sack, now pervasively known as the head of the Fed's Open Market Operations Committee, to not only walk over to Goldman Sachs for a meet and greet (as opposed to Goldman coming over to the NY Fed), but specifically "introducing Brian Sack to the Goldman FX Committee" between 4:00 and 4:30 PM on that day. Just which of Brian's myriad functions is the one that requires the participation of Goldman's FX team? Last time we checked, purchasing bonds and MBS in POMO operations had little if any impact on Goldman's FX trading flow...
Sprott's John Embry is in fine form today: in a just released oped in the Investor's Digest of Canada, the Chief Investment Strategist of Sprott Asset Management LP, and one of the biggest fans of shiny metals in history, makes the following bold prediction, which also explains how he views the concerted attempts by the LBMA to keep gold below the $1,420 all time high: "I am not in the least bit concerned about these shenanigans because I believe considerable additional quantitative easing is inevitable, irrespective of what the Fed says or does in the short term. Goldman Sachs's chief U.S. economist Jan Hatzius clearly shares my view as he has suggested that ultimately as much as $4 trillion maybe required although he anticipates that it will be staged. In my opinion this will act as catnip for gold and silver prices, which could go ballistic by year-end." Presumably, he means 2011. So forget all you have heard about interest rate (real or otherwise) correlations: they don't exist. All that does exist is the willingness of the Fed to 'print.' And with China increasingly starting to tighten, the Fed will need to do double duty if it wishes to keep global liquidity well-offered with near-free fiat paper. While we don't quite share Embry's enthusiasm for gold's imminent escape velocity, we are confident that as long as loose monetary policy is the only means to extend and pretend the ponzi, gold will, in turn, be well-bid.