If you want to know how weak the economy really is all you need to do is look at the 30-year bond. It is one of the best economic indicators available today. If economic conditions are robust then the yield will be rising and vice versa. What the current low levels of yield on 30 year bonds is telling you is that the underlying economy is weak. "The 30-year yield is not at these low levels DUE to the Federal Reserve; but in SPITE OF the Fed," Hunt said. The actions of the Federal Reserve have continued to undermine the economy which is reflected by the low yield of the 30 year bond. The "cancerous" side effects of nonproductive debt are being reflected in real disposable incomes. Just over the last two years real disposable incomes slid from 5% in 2010 and -0.5% in 2012 on a 3-month percentage change at an annual rate basis. This is critically important to understand. While the media remains focused on GDP it is the wrong measure by which to measure the economy. A truly growing economy leads to rises in prosperity. GDP does NOT measure prosperity — it measures spending. It is the measure of real personal incomes that measures prosperity. Prosperity MUST come from rising incomes.
Just because bailing out the ECB is not enough for Europe's (and now America's) long-suffering taxpayers, it also makes sense to throw in the occasional McKinsey paperweight in there, in this case the following 72 page behemoth titled "Greece 10 Years Ahead" which was issued in March 2010. Where does it come from - it "was jointly sponsored by McKinsey & Company, the Hellenic Bank Association (HBA) and the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV)." Translated: thank you taxpayers. Unfortunately, since the study "took place between December 2010 and October 2011" it is hopelessly wrong, inaccurate, and outright misleading. But at least it provides a pretty brochure to throw around around conference tables when eurocrats decide how to best spend even more taxpayer cash.
The last week has offered an amusing display of the difference between the cheerleading corporate mainstream media, lying Wall Street shills and the critical thinking analysts. What passes for journalism at CNBC and the rest of the mainstream print and TV media is beyond laughable. Their America is all about feelings. Are we confident? Are we bullish? Are we optimistic about the future? America has turned into a giant confidence game. The governing elite spend their time spinning stories about recovery and manipulating public opinion so people will feel good and spend money. Facts are inconvenient to their storyline. The truth is for suckers. They know what is best for us and will tell us what to do and when to do it.... The drones at this government propaganda agency relentlessly massage the data until they achieve a happy ending. They use a birth/death model to create jobs out of thin air, later adjusting those phantom jobs away in a press release on a Friday night. They create new categories of Americans to pretend they aren’t really unemployed. They use more models to make adjustments for seasonality. Then they make massive one-time adjustments for the Census. Essentially, you can conclude that anything the BLS reports on a monthly basis is a wild ass guess, massaged to present the most optimistic view of the world. The government preferred unemployment rate of 8.3% is a terrible joke and the MSM dutifully spouts this drivel to a zombie-like public. If the governing elite were to report the truth, the public would realize we are in the midst of a 2nd Great Depression.
Our discussions (here, here, and here) of the dispersion of deleveraging efforts across developed nations, from the McKinsey report last week, raised a number of questions on the timeliness of the deflationary deleveraging process. David Rosenberg, of Gluskin Sheff, notes that the multi-decade debt boom will take years to mean revert and agrees with our views that we are still in the early stages of the global deleveraging cycle. He adds that while many believe last year's extreme volatility was an aberration, he wonders if in fact the opposite is true and that what we saw in 2009-2010 - a double in the S&P 500 from the low to nearby high - was the aberration and market's demands for more and more QE/easing becomes the volatility-inducing swings of dysphoric reality mixed with euphoric money printing salvation. In his words, perhaps the entire three years of angst turned to euphoria turned to angst (and back to euphoria in the first three weeks of 2012?) is the new normal. After all we had angst from 1929 to 1932 then ebullience from 1933 to 1936 and then back to despair in 1937-1938. Without the central banks of the world constantly teasing markets with more and more liquidity, the new baseline normal is dramatically lower than many believe and as such the former's impacts will need to be greater and greater to maintain the mirage of the old normal.
As comparisons between US and European debt to GDP levels and the finger-pointing of who is deleveraging more continues, McKinsey notes (in their quarterly Debt and Deleveraging article) that there may be a light at the end of the tunnel for the US as private-sector deleveraging has been rapid since 2008. However, reading on a little, we find that the light at the end of the tunnel may well be the front of the oncoming train of financial distress as some two-thirds of the 4% ($584bn) in US household debt deleveraging is from defaults on home-loans (and other consumer debt). Of course, with homebuilder stock prices surging (notably rather dramatically relative to lumber or ABS/CMBS), consensus has once again agreed that the bottom in housing is in. McKinsey's initial forecast that the pent-up foreclosures and implicit deleveraging will bring us back to trend by 2013 seems like a pipe-dream and we tend to agree with their more conservative perspective that reversion in household debt will not be to trend but to pre-credit-bubble levels, implying a 22% further reduction (or a couple more trillion dollars of defaults).
In most countries, deleveraging is only in its early stages. In a report today, McKinsey notes that total debt to GDP has declined in only three countries since the 2008-09 crisis (US, South Korea, and Australia) as total debt has actually grown in the world's ten largest mature economies (due mainly to rising government debt - Keynesian style?). Greatly concerned that the UK and Spain are slow to delever, they do note that the US is more closely following the two phase deleveraging process that 1990s Finland and Sweden followed but point to the household segment as leading the way with 15% reduction in debt to disposable income (driven unsurprisingly in major part by mortgage defaults). The bottom line is US (households) are at best one-third of the way through their deleveraging and the UK (financials) and Spain (non-financials) face much more significant pressures (which will inevitably impact aggregate demand given governmental borrowing pressures) as their deleveraging has only just begun. Historically, deleveraging has begun in the private sector and government has stepped up to borrow and fill the aggregate Keynesian hole left behind. McKinsey points out deleveraging normally takes 4-6 years which we suspect will remain an anchor for demand and growth in the mean-time (perhaps as disappointing earnings revisions are already pointing to).
From Kyle Bass / Dylan Grice prognostications on Japan as poster-boy for the end-results of a desperate central bank / government cabal to Richard Koo's perception of the land of the rising sun as a great example of how to get out of a depressionary funk, no one can argue with the facts that Japan's debt situation and total lack of financial flexibility is a ticking debt-bomb (with a fuse varying from 3 months to infinity given market participants' pricing implications). McKinsey provides some clarifying perspective on the Lessons from Japan today suggesting the country provides a 'cautionary tale for economies today'. Noting that neither the public nor the private sectors made the structural changed that would enable growth (a theme often discussed here) with public debt having grown steadily as economic stimulus efforts continue. But, as they note, the price - two decades of slow growth - has been high, and the final resolution of Japan's enormous public debt has yet to come.
The current governments in place in Italy and Greece are puppets of the banking system, making sure that countries do not default and pay as much interest for as long as possible by implementing short term austerity measures. This is not the type of technocratic government these countries need. They need a technocratic government that sees that the current debt burden is unsustainable and cannot be serviced, acknowledging that defaults are necessary. They should seize this opportunity to change the financial system and implement structural reforms, while exercising their powers to facilitate orderly defaults for both governments and household debt. This way countries will be able to start from a situation where there is breathing room to implement much needed structural reforms throughout society.
Instead of tackling any specific and highly volatile high frequency macroeconomic data points today (which will most likely be diametrically inverted in the next update iteration), today David Rosenberg focuses on sundry items and flights of fancy that are worth noting, such as that "the S&P 500 has recorded 62 consecutive days in which it has swung by 1% or more in intraday trading. The Dow has also closed 1% higher or lower 38 times since the beginning of August (compared with just 25 in the first seven months of the year)." Additionally, Rosie shares some views on the Paradox of thrift, i.e., that "spending on appliances, jewellery, watches, air travel, recreation vehicles, cameras, gambling is actually lower today than in 2005", on credit unions whose customers don't want to borrow money, " "Too few of its 95,000 members, most of whom live or work in five counties in the San Francisco Bay Area, want to borrow money. And too many are making extra payments on mortgages and car loans — or paying off personal loans ... Provident's loan portfolio has shrunk by 25% since the end of 2008, including a 5% drop in the first nine months of this year" but most notably concludes with the observation that while the 2008 "Great Financial Crisis" was quite memorably, "I wonder whether we'll say 2008 wasn't the real crisis — it was a warm-up, but the real crisis was the sovereign debt crisis in Europe....It is clear that the situation in Greece has deteriorated markedly and that the scope for any further fiscal restraint without triggering some sort of revolution is small. The only way toward fiscal sustainability — to get the sovereign debt/GDP ratio down to 110% by 2020 — is for investors to grant the country a jubilee of sorts and accept a 60% write-down." Naturally, France will throw up over any proposal that sees a 60% haircut Greek haircut, not so much due to Greek losses per se, but due to imminent losses when Portugal, Ireland, Italy and lastly Spain (to which four countries France has exponentially more exposure) decide to do the same as Greece and start underreporting data, striking daily, and overall just shut down their economies.
While Angelo Mozilo is working on his tan and pretending he did not engage in blatant 10(b)-5 fraud for years and years. Oh well, justice is served. Don't look for the Gerson Lehrman IPO any times soon.
- RAJARATNAM GETS 132 MONTH PRISON TERM FOR INSIDER TRADING. - BBG
Lockhart Hints At More QE: "No Policy Option Can Be Ruled Out At The Moment" And "Slow Growth Bigger Problem Than Inflation"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 08/31/2011 13:06 -0500
Yesterday it was Evans saying explicitly it was QE3 or bust. Today it is Lockhart's turn to stop just short of reiterating what is now getting prices in every single day: "As you know, the FOMC stated after its last meeting the intention to keep the policy rate at near zero for two more years. Also, the current policy is to maintain the Fed's balance sheet scale for the foreseeable future. I support this position. Given the weak data we've seen recently and considering the rising concern about chronic slow growth or worse, I don't think any policy option can be ruled out at the moment. However, it is important that monetary policy not be seen as a panacea. The kinds of structural adjustments I've been discussing today take time, and I am acutely aware that pushing beyond what monetary policy can plausibly deliver runs the risk of creating new distortions and imbalances." He is aware, yet he will gladly vote for it when the time comes. And the time will come very soon because as he just said during his speech Q&A, "slow growth is now a bigger problem than inflation"... which as we showed yesterday is 4%, and "that we have a jobs crisis." Net net: one more dove doing what he does best - beg for more inkjet cartridges.
They say that the simplest analysis is always the most powerful one. That appears to certainly have been the case with our presentation of global banks' Tangible Common Equity ("TCE") ratio to total assets from last Thursday, and specifically our observation of the glaringly obvious, namely that of the 30 most undercapitalized banks in the world, Canadian ones represented a whopping 33% of all. Note: this was not an attack on Canada, this was not some hedge-fund inspired start of a bear-raid on the Canadian banking system, this was nothing but an attempt to warn our readers of, again, what is out there for anyone (who is not blinded by cognitive bias) to see for themselves. Alas, the reaction to that post, particularly in the Canadian media, has been swift and severe, provoking such respected publications as The Globe And Mail to pen not one but two responses, one being the by now so-oft discredited attempt to ignore the message and target the messenger (Who is Zero Hedge, and why should we care?), followed by a more coherent attempt to debunk the claim that a painfully low TCE ratio is never a good thing (Is Zero Hedge looking at the wrong numbers?). The argument of G&M's Boyd Erman boils down to the statement that TCE is not a fair indicator of balance sheet stress and instead one should focus on a "Tier 1" approach of risk estimation, one that includes Risk Weighted Assets. Here we could provide the reference to Lehman's Tier 1 ratio, which was well in the double digits on the day when it filed for bankruptcy, even as the bank's true leverage was about 40x, a number which eventually brought on the biggest bankruptcy in history. We could but we won't, instead we will ask, rhetorically, who is John Paulson, and why should the Globe and Mail care?