"When the market is in the depressive phase of what President Lockhart referred to as a bipolar disorder, crafting policy to satisfy it is like feeding Jabba the Hutt—doing so is fruitless, if not dangerous, because it simply will insist upon more." - Fed's Dick Fisher
While US organized labor has been in a state of steady decline for several generations, never had it suffered as crushing a blow as it did last night, when in a 712 to 626 vote, Volkswagen's hourly workers in Chattanooga, TN, rejected joining the United Auto Workers labor union. What makes the defeat even more bitter is that a win would have marked the first time the union has been able to organize a foreign-owned auto plant in a Southern U.S. state, and would have been particularly meaningful, because the vote was set in a right-to-work state in the South, where anti-union sentiment is strong and all past UAW organizing drives at automobile plants have failed. What is most shocking, however, is that the defeat came even though the UAW had the cooperation of Volkswagen management and the aid of Germany's powerful IG Metall union, and yet it still failed to win a majority among the plants 1,550 hourly workers. As the WSJ notes, "the defeat raises questions about the future of a union that for years has suffered from declining membership and influence, and almost certainly leaves its president, Bob King, who had vowed to organize at least one foreign auto maker by the time he retires in June, with a tarnished legacy."
Now that absolutely everyone is laser-focused more on the participation print, recently at 35 year lows, than the actual unemployment number which even the Fed has implied is meaningless in the current context, one thing to note is that while the overall number is a blended average across the US, it certainly differs on a state by state basis. 4In order to get a sense of which states are the winners and losers in the payroll to participation ratio, we go to Gallup, which conveniently has broken down this number on a far more granular basis. Gallup finds that Washington, D.C., had the highest Payroll to Population (P2P) rate in the country in 2013, at 55.7%. A cluster of states in the Northern Great Plains and Rocky Mountain regions -- North Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wyoming, Iowa, Colorado, and South Dakota -- all made the top 10. West Virginia (36.1%) had the lowest P2P rate of all the states.
So far the overnight session has been a replica of yesterday, with the all important carry trade once again fizzling overnight during Japan trading hours, and dipping as low at 101.60 before staging a modest rebound to the 101.8 level. We expect the "invisible" 102.000 USDJPY tractor beam to be again engaged shortly and provide market support and/or levitate stocks higher as the now standard selling in Japan, buying in the US trade pattern repeats. On the other hand, US equity futures appear to have decoupled from the pure carry trade, and instead latched on to USD weakness and EUR strength following European Q4 GDP data, which came at 0.3% on expectations of 0.2%, up from 0.1%. Considering the constant adjustments to the European definition of GDP, at this point Mongolia would have been able to demonstrate growth if it was in Europe (but apparently not Greece which once again missed GDP expectations with Q4 GDP of -2.6% vs Exp. -2.0%). Expect ES and USDJPY to recouple shortly, as they always do - the only question if the recoupling will take place lower or higher.
Today, more than 10,000 Baby Boomers will retire. This is going to happen day after day, month after month, year after year until 2030. It is the greatest demographic tsunami in the history of the United States, and we are woefully unprepared for it. We have made financial promises to the Baby Boomers worth tens of trillions of dollars that we simply are not going to be able to keep. Even if we didn't have all of the other massive economic problems that we are currently dealing with, this retirement crisis would be enough to destroy our economy all by itself. During the first half of this century, the number of senior citizens in the United States is being projected to more than double. As a nation, we are already drowning in debt. So where in the world are we going to get the money to take care of all of these elderly people?
The clean debt ceiling bill has just passed the House where it got the required majority in a 221 to 201 final vote, with just 28 Republicans voting Yea (and 199 voting Nay) - a vote that has made history with the fewest number of votes from a majority on a bill that passed the House since 1991. It also means means that with a Senate passage assured, the US can now spend away until March 15, 2015. The final breakdown:
- GOP: Yea - 28; Nay -199
- DEM: Yea - 193; Nay -2
- Total: Yea - 221; Nay - 201
Considering that the vast majority of Republicans voted against John Boehner's latest "plan" to do the Democrats' work for them, and pass a clean debt ceiling, perhaps it is time to look for a speaker who represents the interests of more than just a tiny fraction of the party... and the Democrats of course.
The most notable event in this traditionally quiet post-payrolls week is Janet Yellen's Humphrey Hawkins testimony before Congress set for mid-week. In terms of economic data releases, the US retail sales (Exp. 0.05%) is on Thursday and consumer sentiment survey is on Friday (consensus 80.5). We also have IP numbers from Euro Area countries and the US. Most recent external account statistics are released from Japan, China, India and Turkey. It is also interesting to track CPI data in Germany, Spain and India, given the ECB and RBI currently face diverging inflation challenges and may be forced into further action. Finally, we have Q4 GDP data from the Euro Area economies (Friday).
People Powered Privacy Savior ... Or Honey Trap Pushed By the Central Banks and TBTF?
Would you like to buy a house for one dollar? If someone came up to you on the street and asked you that question, you would probably respond by saying that it sounds too good to be true. But this is actually happening in economically-depressed cities all over America. Of course there are a number of reasons why you might want to think twice before buying any of these homes...
The wild volatility continues, with markets set to open well in the negative wiping out all of yesterday's gains and then some, only this time the catalyst is not emerging market crashing and burning (at least not yet even though moments ago the ZAR weakened to a new 5 year low against the USD and the USDTRY is reaching back for the 2.30 level) but European inflation, where the CPI printed at 0.70%, dropping once again from 0.8%, remaining under 1% for the fourth straight month and missing estimates of a pick up to 0.9%. Perhaps only economists are surprised at this reading considering last night Japan reported its highest (energy and food-driven) inflation print in years: so to explain it once again for the cheap seats - Japan is exporting its "deflation monster", Europe is importing it. It also means Mario Draghi is again in a corner and this time will probably have to come up with some emergency tool to boost European inflation or otherwise the ECB will promptly start to lose credibility - is the long awaited unsterilized QE from the ECB finally imminent?
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
This week, much of the market focus will remain on the policymakers' responses to the challenges emerging out of the, well, emerging markets. In particular, the response of the Turkish Central bank will be key. This week we also have eight MPC meetings, with the US FOMC on Wednesday standing out. Consensus expects the continuation of the tapering of asset purchases – by another USD10bn, split equally between Treasuries and MBS. Other than that, the announcement should be fairly uneventful. In India GS forecasts an out-of-consensus hike of the repo rate to 8.00% after the central bank published a report on suggested changes to the monetary policy framework. In New Zealand, South Africa, Israel, Mexico, Malaysia and Colombia, consensus expects no change in the monetary policy stance. Among economic data releases, the focus will be on consumer surveys, as well as business surveys (US, Germany and Italy). There are also inflation numbers from the US, Euro Area, Japan and Brazil. Advanced Q4 GDP data prints will come out for the US and the UK. US consumption and production numbers are due at the end of the week.
As if the fact that the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board found the NSA's bulk telephone collection "has shown minimal value in safeguarding the nation from terrorism," the 238-page report concluded it was illegal in several ways and violates privacy. Coincidentally, on the day of the release of the 9/11 Commission-prompted report, Edward Snowden (in an online chat - below) stated, "It's not good for our country, it's not good for the world, and I wasn't going to stand by and watch it happen, no matter how much it cost me." Indeed, one wonders if this would have ever come to light; but now following these findings that the program is not authorized by the Patriot Act the panel may give ammunition to critics in Congress and fuel legal challenges presenting a problem for President Obama who said last week (instead of waiting for the report) that he would allow the program to continue.
Let's see: do massive sinkholes next to the headquarters of other massive sinkholes, located in a bankrupt city that may soon become a massive sinkhole, qualify for Federal bailouts?