Sometimes it is what is not discussed among the mainstream media that is most critical to understanding the new normal...
Succinctly summarizing the positive and negative news, data, and market events of the week...
It wouldn't be the new normal if the collapse in Q2 US GDP to sub-1% wasn't met by a new record high in the Dow Jones. And it certainly wouldn't be the new abnormal if a day of resplendent green in European bourses didn't have some "matching" economic news out of that perpetual reminder that Keynesianism in the end always fails: Greece. Luckily, validating that all is unwell and stocks can proceed to soar to record highs unbothered, on one hand the Greek Statistics Office reported that Greek unemployment in April just rose to a new all time high of 26.9%, up from 26.8% in March, and up from 23.1% a year ago, while Kathimerini reports that Non-performing loans: those perpetual thorns of insolvency in bank balance sheets, just surged to €66 billion, amounting to a whopping 29% at the end of March from a "manageable" 24.2% at end-December. That's a ridiculous 20% increase in total NPLs in three months that was only exposed due to the Troika's stress testing! Just how atrocious is the reality on European bank books anyway?
Anyone who followed today's trading action with a very distinct sense of summer of 2008 deja vu dread, where soaring crude led to just one thing, soaring stocks, they are forgiven, because this is precisely how one can summarize today's action. In a day devoid of any news (except for the JOLTS survey of course, which confirmed the gaming of NFP payroll numbers), in which bonds did absolutely nothing, with the 10 Year trading in a very tight range just shy of 2.65%, it was all about low-volume levitating equities and the energy complex.
What can be said here that we haven't said countless times before? If the braintrust behind Comcast's acquisition of the CNBC package deal, not to mention assorted increasingly more desperate CNBC producers, had hoped that an artificial "wealth effect" created under a central planning world would lead to greater viewership, more retail stock market participation, and better advertising terms (not to mention revenues), they were wrong. Very, very wrong.
It seems that US investors has become so institutionalized in the new normal world of government bailouts and handouts that when the central planners make a decision that is not instantly accretive to the equity shareholders' bottom-line, the first instinct is to sue them. Following the conservatorship that was forced upon FNM/FRE in 2008, which required the companies to pay a quarterly dividend of 10% on the government's near-80% stake (and obviously implicitly benefited the tag-along bailout riders), the decision in 2012 to change the bailout terms to instead hand over most of their profits to the government (since they moved into profitability - thanks to a Fed-sponsored MBS market). This action "impaired shareholder value" according to Perry Capital - who, Reuters reports, is suing the government, noting "investors had every right to expect these rules to be followed." Indeed, just as the 'rules' have been followed in every bailout that has occurred since 2007.
While global equity markets (alone) celebrated what appeared to be a somewhat lackluster jobs data dump yesterday, it's not all rainbows and unicorns for the US employee. It is not just manufacturing jobs that are bleeding (as bartenders and waitresses surge), but the following 14 professions have been in decline for the last decade and are projected to drop even further going forward. From shipping clerks to sewing machine operators and typists, the new normal looks a little different from the old normal of the last century.
A priest, a banker and a spook… not the start of a joke or a John LeCarre spy novel, but merely the latest addition to a long list of financial scandals involving the Vatican Bank. Yet despite its quasi comedian if convoluted plotline, the latest attempt to defraud the Catholic church will likely pale in comparison to the most infamous incident involving the Institute of Religious Works (or IOR) as the Vatican Bank is also known. That one involves one Roberto Calvi, the chairman of Banco Ambrosiano, who in 1982 was found hanging from London’s Blackfriars bridge, a short distance away from JPMorgan’s gold vault, his pockets stuffed will cash and bricks in what at the time was a presumed hit by the mafia taking revenge for funds lost through the collapse of Calvi’s bank – a bank in which the Vatican was a significant shareholder. This time, however, with plenty of living loose ends, we may finally get a glimpse into how deep the rabbit hole involving the legal, and more importantly illegal, (ab)use of Catholic funds really goes.
Last week's liquidity crunch and market panic is a reminder that Beijing is playing a difficult game. Regardless of what happens next, the consensus expectations that China's economy will grow at roughly 7 percent over the next few years can be safely ignored. Growth driven by consumption, instead of trade and investment, is alone sufficient to grow China's GDP by 3 to 4 percent annually. But it is not clear that consumption can be sustained if investment growth levels are sharply reduced. If Beijing can successfully manage the employment consequences of decreased investment growth, perhaps it can keep consumption growing at current levels. But that's a tricky proposition. It's likely that the days of the super-powered Chinese economy are over. Instead, Beijing must content itself with grinding its way through the debt that has accumulated over the past decade.
If judging a state's intellectual capacity can be quantified by the percentage of the population with higher education (or the street smarts to garner student loans... to gain a degree of course because anything else would be illegal), then the District of Columbia ranks as the 'smartest' while Mississippi and West Virginia rank as the 'dumbest'. Perhaps most notable is that 52% of US Graduates are either employed with jobs that don't require a degree or are unemployed.
Another faux-hawk takes the dovish tone and walks back the new normal 'template-less' Taper tantrum that Bernanke created...
- LACKER SAYS FED NOT 'ANYWHERE NEAR' CUTTING BALANCE SHEET SIZE
- LACKER SAYS 'MAYBE MARKETS GOT A LITTLE BIT AHEAD OF US' ON QE
So no tightening (duh). But Lacker, once upon a time a hawk too, just like Plosser and Kosher-Lakota (sic), tries to regain some credibility as follows:
- LACKER SAYS HE WOULD BE `FINE' WITH FOMC TAPERING QE NOW
- LACKER SAYS HE WOULD LIKE TO SEE FED BALANCE SHEET DECREASE
Equities jerked higher by 3-4 S&P points (bonds didn't) - so it looks like the impact of the jawboning is fading.
As shown two months ago, the marginal cost of production of gold (90% percentile) in 2013 was estimated at $1300 including capex. Which means that as of a few days ago, gold is now trading well below not only the cash cost, but is rapidly approaching the marginal cash cost of $1104...
A week ago, we provided a simple, irrefutable analysis of "What The Recent Surge In Rates Means For Your Home Purchasing Power" in which we demonstrated how the average home affordability goes down (due to the declining marginal purchasing power in a rising rate environment) as interest rates (for mortgages and all rate-sensitive products) go up. What this means is that all else equal, absent a massive increase in disposable income (especially when the opposite is happening to disposable income), the average home affordability plunges as rates go up. So here is the benchmark price-rate curve updated for a reality, in which the national average 30 Year fixed has exploded from 3.40% on May 1 to a whopping (for the New Normal) 4.875% as of today for Wells Fargo customers. The matching affordability collapse: from $450K to $378K, or a stunning 16% equilibrium price drop in under two months!
Meet General Keith Alexander, "a man few even in Washington would likely recognize", which is troubling because Alexander is now quite possibly the most powerful person in the world, whom nobody talks about. Which is just the way he likes it. ... And also meet Bonesaw: "Bonesaw is the ability to map, basically every device connected to the Internet and what hardware and software it is."