As equity markets revert to their new normal BTFATH, Japanese-Yen-pinned reality, we thought a gentle reminder of the longer-term state of the real (not financial) economy would prod more than a few into the realization of just how 'encouraged' they should be by the nominal high after nominal high that is gloated over day after day...
Following ongoing promises from the Fed that the Taper will continue at a pace of $10 billion per month come rain or shine, suddenly good news are critical for stocks, as the stock market is desperate for a strong economy to which Yellen can pass the baton. It did not get that with Friday's payrolls number so it was hoping for some good news in today's retail sales. And judging by the market response to the just released December retail sales, it got it, if only for now: headline December retail sales rose 0.2%, on expectation on a 0.1% increase even as auto sales tumbled -1.8%. Retail Sales ex autos rose 0.7% higher than the 0.4% expected, while ex autos and gas was up a more modest 0.6%, also better than the 0.3% expected. How is it possible that December retail sales according to the US government were better than expected, when every retailer has posted abysmal results? Well it seems the Census Bureau merely engaged in some recalendarization, with November numbers all revised substantially lower: headline down from 0.7% to 0.4%, ex autos 0.4% to 0.1%, and ex autos and gas from 0.6% to 0.3%. In other words, a complete wash with today's "beat." So when netting away the calendar effect of an early start to the holiday season, perhaps the only value added data in the retail sales report was the data involving Electronics and Appliance Stores.They posted the biggest 2 month drop in 2 years!
Welcome To The Blackstone Recovery: Over 11 Million Americans Spend More Than Half Their Income On RentSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/13/2014 17:47 -0400
As 11.3 million Americans spend more than half their income on rent, a record increase of 28% in four years, increasingly more are faced with the core "New normal recovery" choice: “We either eat, or we pay rent.” Welcome to the Blackstone recovery...
Curious why despite the huge miss in payrolls the unemployment rate tumbled from 7.0% to 6.7%? The reason is because in December the civilian labor force did what it usually does in the New Normal: it dropped from 155.3 million to 154.9 million, which means the labor participation rate just dropped to a fresh 35 year low, hitting levels not seen since 1978, at 62.8% down from 63.0%. And the piece de resistance: Americans not in the labor force exploded higher by 535,000 to a new all time high 91.8 million.
- From the guy who said the market is not overvalued: Q&A with Fed’s Williams on Upbeat 2014 Outlook and What Keeps Him up at Night (Hilsenrath)
- Obama Readies Revamp of NSA (WSJ)
- Indian envoy leaves U.S. in deal to calm diplomatic row (Reuters)
- China overtakes US as largest goods trader (FT)
- Wall Street Predicts $50 Billion Bill to Settle U.S. Mortgage Suits (NYT)
- Low-End Retailers Had a Rough Holiday: Family Dollar, Sears Struggle as Lower-Income Customers Remain Under Pressure (WSJ)
- ECB charts familiar course as Japan, US and UK begin to diverge (FT)
- Housing experts warn of hiccups as new U.S. mortgage rules go live (Reuters)
- It's a HFT eat HFT world: Infinium ex-employees sue over $4.1m loss (FT)
- Slowing China crude imports to challenge exporters (FT)
Just over a year ago, in one simple graphic, we showed why Bridgewater, which currently manages around $150 billion, is the world's biggest hedge fund. Quite simply, its flagship $80 billion Pure Alpha strategy had generated a 16% annualized return since inception in 1991, with a modest 11% standard deviation - returns that even Bernie Madoff would be proud of. And, true to form, according to various media reports, Pure Alpha's winning ways continued in 2013, when it generated a 5.25% return: certainly underperfoming the market but a respectable return nonetheless. However, Pure Alpha's smaller cousin, the $70 billion All Weather "beta" fund was a different matter in the past year. The fund, which touts itself as "the foundation of the "Risk Parity" movement", showed that in a centrally-planned market, even the best asset managers are hardly equipped to deal with what has largely become an irrational market, and ended the year down -3.9%.
Putting it all into perspective, of the total $178 billion in consumer credit expansion in the past 12 months, a tiny $9 billion, or just 5% of total, was to fund credit card purchases. The rest went - you guessed it - into purchases of cars and paying for tuition, for which GM and strateospheric college tuitions are most grateful. And that is the New Normal economy in a nutshell.
A few days ago it was revealed that numerous European users of Yahoo, as many as two million, had gotten infected with malware from virus-laden ads served by Yahoo's homepage during the period from December 31 to January 3. The company admitted as much when it revealed that "From December 31 to January 3 on our European sites, we served some advertisements that did not meet our editorial guidelines – specifically, they spread malware." Users in North America, Asia Pacific and Latin America weren't affected, Yahoo said. Nor were users of Apple Macs or mobile devices. "We will continue to monitor and block any advertisements being used for this activity," the company added. "We will post more information for our users shortly." What was not clear is just what function the ad virus served. According to the Guardian, the purpose of the most prevalent virus spread by the website was to convert the infected computers into Bitcoin mining slaves.
There has been much speculation recently about some immaculately conceived Spanish economic recovery. And while it has certainly sent the local Ibex stock market soaring, we fail to see any indication of such a recovery, at least in official economic data. The latest example being, of course, today's European unemployment for November, which at the Euroarea level remained flat at 12.1%, which also is the all time record high following a prior revision. However, what is more troubling is that according to the official European statistics keeper, Spanish unemployment in November was 26.7%: tied for the all time high seen in October and hardly an indicator of some imminent economic renaissance. There is, of course, always December - that month in the New Normal when hiring really picks up. But where things get really bad is when one looks at Spain's youth unemployment. At 57.7% in November, nearly two in three Spaniards under 25 had no job, and the nail in the coffin for the "recovery" is that this rate is now well above the latest update from Greece, where the youth unemployment was "only" 54.8% as of September.
Yesterday's chart of the day was the stunning prevalence of poverty in Greece, which soaring to 44%, up from 14% a year ago, was too mindboggling to even comment on. Today, courtesy of the Census Bureau, we get a glance at a just as disturbing aspect of poverty not in some country in depressed Europe, but in the US itself. The bad news: in the period from 2009 to 2011, 31.6% of Americans were in poverty for at least two months, "a 4.5 percentage point increase over the prerecession period of 2005 to 2007.
On a satellite interview from Pyongyang, North Korea, former NBA player Dennis Rodman 'lost it' this morning with the anchor from CNN's "New Day" show. Describing his (and his team's) visit to North Korea as a "great trip for the world," Rodman started to get frustrated when questioned about whether he will use the opportunity to speak about Kenneth Bae, an American citizen who has been held in North Korea. "Do you understand what he did?" Rodman exclaimed, "You tell me! You tell me! Why is he held captive?" Having described Kim Jong Un as a "friend for life," Rodman went on to tell the CNN anchor, "I don't give a rat's ass what you think." Ah, the new normal diplomacy. We wonder if Kim's uncle also described him as a 'friend for life.'? As WaPo reports, The White House is not happy.
Despite the surge in prices for NatGas (and record time-of-year prices for gasoline), WTI crude oil prices are stumbling back to $93.50 this morning. Copper is also sliding but the real action - once again - is in Gold and Silver. Following yesterday's flash crash in gold, silver is having a conniption this morning as the 8amET period once again brings volatility. The selling coincided with the smaller-than-expected trade deficit - perhaps indicating indirectly less room for Fed QE? But in this new normal market, do they really need a reason to smack them down. Stocks are not moving as this occurs but bonds and the USD are modestly bid.
The possibility of a French recession is not exactly new: even the venerable Economist penned an an extensive article - with a humorous cover - over a year ago describing just such a possibility (the French were unamused). Yet to this date, not only has France managed to avoid the dreaded "Triple Dip" but its bonds continue to be well-bid, with the yield on the 10 Year well inside the US, at only 2.53%, nearly 1% below the wides seen in 2011. However, and especially now that Hollande's 75% millionaire tax has finally been enacted, the fuse on the baguette time bomb is getting shorter. So a French recession would be a bad thing, right? Well, yes - for the French population, and certainly whatever is left of its middle class. However, it is the wealthiest 1% and the stock market which, in keeping up with the old bad news is good news maxim, that may be the biggest beneficiary of a French triple dip. The reason, at least according to GaveKal and increasingly others, is that a French re-re-recession would be precisely the catalyst that forces the ECB out of its inaction slumber and pushes it to engage in what every other "self-respecting" bank has been doing for the past five years - unsterilized quantitative easing: an event which the soaring European stocks have largely been expecting in recent weeks and months.
With Trader Monthly magazine having, ironically, gone out business long ago, all those traders whose egos demanded that their insider trading connections put them at least in one of the iconic "Top X under X" league tables, pardon, rankings, had to bide their time in expectation of one day when their prowess to frontrun others or move markets with repeated calls to 555-7617 (with or without references to Anacott Steel) would be appreciated by such sterling Wall Street "experts" as Anthony Scaramucci. Well, for this year's crop of some 30 traders under 30, the day has arrived. And while Forbes may not be Trader Monthly, the amusement, the hubris and the behind the scenes dealing to appear in such a list, sure are still the same...
JFK, Roads Closed, Northeast Paralyzed After Up To 20 Inches Of Snow Drop; Wind Chill Hits -40; 100 Milllion AffectedSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/03/2014 08:28 -0400
Snow and cold weather... in the Northeast... in January. Surely, such an unprecedented development in the New Normal should predictably justify explaining away at least a 1% miss of Q1 GDP (which when inventory destocking is factored in, will likely come in negative). Still, 20 inches of snow dropping in one night is somewhat abnormal, especially when one adds a blast of cold air to accompany them, and explains why even the area major airport hubs - JFK in New York and Logan in Boston - are all closed currently, while key NYC transportation hubs, I-84 and the LIE, closed at midnight and won't open until 8 am.