Obama has been reelected, the Senate remains in the hands of the democrats, while Congress is controlled by the GOP. Most importantly, the printer is firmly in the hands of Ben Bernanke. In other words, nothing has changed, as was largely expected all along. The worst case scenario - a protracted litigation, challenging the results of the election - has been avoided after Mitt Romney contested shortly before midnight, and as a result the immediate downward gap in risk following the election has been largely recouped overnight. More importantly, '4 more years' of the same monetary policy and no end to currency dilution have resulted in a nearly $50 jump in gold overnight with the metal in the $1720s this morning, because while the Fiscal Cliff remains hopelessly unresolved, and the baseline scenario that the market will need to tumble to shock politicians into waking up, remains (as does Goldman's 1250 year end S&P price target), the reality is that no matter what happens, Bernanke and crew will print and monetize the coming deluge of debt (which would also have been the case if Romney had won). And with total debt set to rise to $22+ trillion over the next 4 years, a deluge it will be. Most importantly, with Obama reelected, Europe is now "off the hook" and can finally rock the boat, which means Greece can take its rightful place at the front of the domino chain. Remember: the latest Greek austerity vote is today and voting (i.e. debating) has begun, and with vote results expected later today. It also means that the military festivities in the middle east, where the US now has 2 aircraft carriers and 2 marine assault groups, can resume.
Ahead of today's presidential and congressional elections, Goldman provides some brief thoughts on various election-night (and beyond) events. From a viewer's guide to the poll-closing times to a discussion of the apparent 'closeness' of the race and post-election market performance, they note that equity performance post 'tight' races has been better than in elections where the winner is more clear-cut. This election has a twist though in that it will be immediately followed by debate on the fiscal cliff, and thus resolution of the election will reduce, but not eliminate policy uncertainty.
Today it is all about the elections. It is not about last night's relatively surprising RBA decision to not cut rates (on an attempt to create a reflexive feedback loop when it said that China has bottomed; it hasn't, and the RBA will be forced into another "surprising" rate cut as it did previously). It is also not about Europe missing its Service PMI estimate (just like the US), with the composite printing at 45.7 on expectations of a 45.8 print (with both core countries - Germany and France - missing badly, at 48.4 and 44.6 on expectations of 49.3 and 46.2, respectively). It is not about reports that the EU believes Spain's GDP will again contract more than expected (it will, and certainly without any reports or beliefs). It is not about Greece selling €1.3 billion in 26-week bills even as, according to ANA, its striking power workers have taken 5 power plants online just as winter approaches. It is not about Jean-Claude Juncker telling the truth for once, and saying that Europe is still in crisis, and is facing the viability of the Euro (after saying weeks ago that the Euro is unshakable) and that some countries aren't facing up to their responsibilities. It most certainly isn't about German factory orders finally collapsing as the country is no longer able to delay its slide into full-blown recession, with a September decline of 3.3% on expectations of a modest drop of -0.5%, from the previous decline of 0.8% (the German ministry said that a weak Eurozone and lack of global growth are taking its toll; they will continue taking its toll for years and decades longer). No. It is all about the US elections, with the peak frenzy starting as soon as polls officially close at 8 pm. Everything else is noise.
Equity markets kick started the week on a negative footing, with the troubled Iberian giant back in focus after it was reported that the ECB is checking whether it may have contravened its own strict rules by lending to Spanish banks on overly generous terms, an ECB spokesman said on Sunday. According to press reports, Spanish banks had borrowed funds from the ECB at a preferential interest rate of 0.5% even though the creditworthiness of the T-bills they provide as collateral should have required them to pay 5.5%. The never-ending Greek drama is another factor for the risk-averse sentiment, with only weeks before the country runs out of cash and still no evidence that lawmakers will find a solution to diffuse the situation, there is a risk of another speculative attack on weaker EU states. As a result, credit and bond yield spreads widened, led by Italian and Spanish bonds, both wider by around 9bps in 10s. Despite the evident distress in credit markets, EUR/GBP is essentially flat, with GBP underperforming following the lacklustre PMI report from the UK.
As we warned here first, and as the sellside crew finally caught on, while the key macro event this week is the US presidential election, the one most "under the radar" catalyst will take place in Greece (currently on strike for the next 48 hours, or, "as usual") on Wednesday, when a vote to pass the latest round of Troika mandated austerity (too bad there is no vote to cut corruption and to actually collect taxes) takes place even as the government coalition has now torn, and there is a high probability the ruling coalition may not have the required majority to pass the vote, which would send Greece into limbo, and move up right back from the naive concept of Grimbo and right back into Grexit. Which is why the market's attention is slowly shifting to Europe once more, and perhaps not at the best time, as news out of the old continent was anything but good: Spain's October jobless claims rose by 128,242, higher than the estimated 110,000 and the biggest jump in 9 months, bringing the total number of unemployed to 4,833,521, a rise of 2.7%, according to official statistics released Monday. This means broad Spanish unemployment is now well above 25%. In the UK, the Services PMI plunged from 52.2 to 50.6, which was the lowest print in nearly two years or since December 2010, and proved that the Olympics-driven bump of the past few months is not only over, but the vicious snapback has begun.
With Greece and Spain (and arguably Portugal and a few others) stuck in dramatic debt-deflation spirals, the political need for maintaining these nations in the euro far outweigh the economic 'benefits'. As UBS notes, looking at the euro area today, one cannot help but notice the parallels to Japan of the early 1990s. Europe today, as with Japan a generation ago, is an aging society with structural rigidities, pockets of corporate excellence, but wide swathes of inefficiency; but the two most striking similarities (and not in a good way) lie in the banking system (bloated from over-leveraging, under-capitalization, and bad loans); and fiscal policy (which is inherently pro-cyclical - as the politics of monetary union preclude national level stimulus - leaving ineffective monetary transmission channels unable to help fiscal failure). As UBS concludes, the current euro's similarities to Japan are key impediments to growth - and as such we should expect sclerotic economic activity for a five-year period.
After an almost uninterrupted period of decline over the last few years, US home prices now have some positive momentum. For one, the S&P/Case-Shiller index of property values in 20 cities has seen its highest increase in more than two years. In addition, JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon recently stated that his bank was seeing a surge in mortgage applications. And perhaps most importantly, the National Association of Realtors has reported that the nation’s inventory of homes on the market has dropped to its lowest level since March 2006, while the median home price is 11.3% higher than a year ago. These are definitely good signs for housing. But remember, nothing goes up or down in a straight line. Just like a stock market that suffers a serious crash, housing has been due for an upward correction. But it is a false premise to conflate ‘rebound’ with full blown ‘recovery’. The market could just as easily improve, then decline once again in a few months’ time. Positive data is great, but doesn’t necessarily portend long-term growth.
The Fed has never met a large bank merger that it did not like and has never been willing to deny such an application by a bank holding company, especialy a BHC that houses a primary dealer.
"Obama/Romney, Romney/Obama – the most important election of our lifetime? Fact is they’re all the same – bought and paid for with the same money. Ours is a country of the SuperPAC, by the SuperPAC, and for the SuperPAC. The “people” are merely election-day pawns, pulling a Democratic or Republican lever that will deliver the same results every four years. “Change you can believe in?” I bought that one hook, line and sinker in 2008 during the last vestige of my disappearing middle age optimism. We got a more intelligent President, but we hardly got change. Healthcare dominated by corporate interests – what’s new? Financial regulation dominated by Wall Street – what’s new? Continuing pointless foreign wars – what’s new? I’ll tell you what isn’t new. Our two-party system continues to play ping pong with the American people, and the electorate is that white little ball going back and forth over the net. This side’s better – no, that one looks best. Elephants/Donkeys, Donkeys/Elephants. Perhaps the most farcical aspect of it all is that the choice between the two seems to occupy most of our time. Instead of digging in and digging out of this mess on a community level, we sit in front of our flat screens and watch endless debates about red and blue state theologies or listen to demagogues like Rush Limbaugh or his ex-cable counterpart Keith Olbermann."
The US elections have the potential to have a significant impact on US equities and rates markets, according to a recent survey by Barclays Research. Investors seem to believe in a more promising growth outlook under a Romney win, in spite of their concerns about a likely tighter monetary policy stance. They favor long equities and short bond portfolios as the best way to express a Romney win. Under an Obama win, investors favor bonds and are divided about the direction of equities, but would choose bonds and equities over FX and commodities to express this scenario. Obama’s victory would likely be perceived as preserving the status quo (asset market moves are expected to be muted across the board), while a Romney win is more likely to suggest a change of direction to clients by way of a better growth outlook. Congressional deadlock remains the biggest economic/policy concern no matter who wins.
Equity markets in Europe traded higher today, supported by solid corporate earnings, further monetary policy easing from Japan, as well as what can only be described as “less bad” GDP report from Spain. Also, commodity complex benefited from upward revision to China’s GDP estimate by analysts at Bank of America (Q4 GDP estimate now stands at 7.8% vs. Prev. view of 7.5%). Decent demand for the latest debt issuance saw IT/GE 10s tighten by c.5bps, with SP/GE 10s also seen tighter by 3bps.
It was only yesterday that we pointed out the ever decreasing halflives of central bank interventions. We are grateful that none other than the biggest intervention basket case of all came out and proved us 100% correct, when the BOJ announced none other than QE 9 just one month after the impact from QE 8 fizzled about 8 hours after it was disclosed. This time around, the destructive "benefit" to the JPY was negative from the first second, resulting in the first instance of monetary easing that.. wasn't. Japan just came up with a brand new New Normal concept: tightening through easing, when its ¥11 trillion intervention proved to be woefully insufficient for a market addicted to ever more liquidity injections.
Plenty of talk has gone into the rising income inequality that America has experienced since the early 1970s. But income is merely a wealth flow, and the truer measure of equality is the distribution of net worth and financial wealth (the wealth stock). The historical change is clear: the bottom 80% have gotten considerably poorer both in financial wealth and in terms of total net worth.
Through a wider looking glass, apart from Gold, commodity prices remain mostly driven by economic cycles rather than central bank actions. The correlation of Gold with Central Bank balance sheets remains the dominant theme as it grows in substance as a true global currency and a hedge against money debauchment. Since September’s coordinated easing from central banks, commodities have turned in mixed performances (-5% for oil, -3% for metals). The direct impact of monetary policy on industrial commodity prices appears very limited today (contrary to the situation during QE2 period), given the bleak global economic outlook and the absence of aggressive easing from China.