According to a recent report in the FT, the former treasurer of Spain's ruling Popular Party, Luis Bárcenas, has claimed in an interview that the party has been in breach of Spain's campaign finance laws for a minimum of 20 years. Presumably he was moved to talk because he was the one who got caught and is expected to fall on his sword. Now that he is facing a lengthy prison sentence, he no longer has a reason to clam up. Incidentally, no-one in Spain was surprised to learn what he had to say. What we are seeing here is actually a strong parallel to Greece. The EU has been complaining about the Greek government's inability to collect taxes, without considering that Greek tax payers may have very good reason to pay as little as possible to the corrupt apparatus installed by the ruling class. As a Greek shipowner told a journalist when asked why he thought it was fine that rich shipowners are tax-exempt in Greece: “Would you want to pay money to Al Capone?” Pause. “Me neither.” Finally, as the bankruptcy of the Western welfare/warfare states becomes more glaringly evident, even stronger growth of the informal economy seems likely to ensue.
It was never going to be easy, but central banks in the world’s two largest economies – the United States and China – finally appear to be embarking on a path to policy normalization. Addicted to an open-ended strain of über monetary accommodation that was established in the depths of the Great Crisis of 2008-2009, financial markets are now gasping for breath. Ironically, because the traction of unconventional policies has always been limited, the fallout on real economies is likely to be muted. Breaking bad habits is hardly a painless experience for liquidity-addicted investors. But better now than later, when excesses in asset and credit markets would spawn new and dangerous distortions on the real side of the global economy. That is exactly what pushed the world to the brink in 2008-2009, and there is no reason why it could not happen again.
Richmond Fed's Lacker: "Falling Markets Should Not Be Too Surprising... Further Volatility Seems Likely"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 06/28/2013 09:24 -0400
"Bond and stock markets fell sharply in response, but that should not be too surprising. The Chairman’s statement forced financial market participants to re-evaluate the likely total amount of securities the Fed would buy under this open-ended purchase plan — in other words, how much liquor would ultimately be poured into the punch bowl. Market participants also had to reconsider their estimate of when the Federal Reserve would begin to remove the punch bowl by raising interest rates. These reassessments appear to have warranted price changes across an array of financial assets. As market participants gain additional insight from the words of Federal Reserve officials or by policy actions in coming quarters, further asset price volatility seems likely." - Richmond Fed's Jeffrey Lacker
Overnight newsflow (which nowadays has zero impact on markets which only care what Ben Bernanke had for dinner) started in Japan where factory orders were reported to have risen the most since December 2011, retail sales climbed, the unemployment rate rose modestly, consumer prices stayed flat compared to a year ago, however real spending plunged -1.6% significantly below the market consensus forecast for +1.3% yoy, marking the first yoy decline in five months. This suggests that households are cutting utility costs more so than the level of increase in prices. By contrast, real spending on clothing and footwear grew sharply by 6.9% yoy (+0.6% in April) marking positive growth for a fourth consecutive month. Simply said, the Japanese reflation continues to be limited by the lack of wage growth even as utility and energy prices are exploding and limiting the potential for core inflation across the board.
There was little of note in today's May Personal Income and Spending report (aside from the now-traditional backward looking revision of Q1 data): personal spending was expected to come increase 0.3% in May, and so it did, up from a revised 0.3% drop in April. Income, however, spurted by 0.5% in the month, more than double the expected 0.2%, up from an adjusted 0.1% increase in April. The income rise was as a result of a $24 billion increase in wages, and a $31 billion rise in income on assets (interest and dividend income). Finally $19.4 billion in personal current transfer receipts (government generosity) completed the picture of why Americans' incomes rose in May. However, despite this beat in income, spending was in line with expectations, and following the revisions of January-April data, the May 3.2% savings rate was the highest reported so far in 2013. For the Keynesians out there, this is hardly the strong indicator of consumer spending they have been looking for.
It's almost as if the manic-depressive market has gotten exhausted with the script of surging overnight volatility, and following a week of breathless global "taper tantrumed" trading, tonight's gentle ramp seems modest by comparison to recent violent swings. With no incremental news out of China, the Shanghai composite ended just modestly lower, the Nikkei rushed higher to catch up to the USDJPY implied value, Europe has been largely muted despite better than expected news out of Germany on the unemployment front. This however was offset by a decline in Europe's May M3 (from 3.2% to 2.9%) while bank lending to NFCs and households simply imploded, confirming that there is no hope for a Keynesian, insolvent Europe in which there isn't any credit creation either by commercial banks or by the central bank (and in fact there is ongoing deleveraging across the board). US futures are rangebound with ES just shy of 1,500. We will need some truly ugly data in today's economic docket which includes claims, personal income/spending and pending home sales to push stocks that next leg higher. To think the S&P could have been higher by triple digits yesterday if the final Q1 GDP has just printed red. Failing that, the Fed's doves jawboning may be sufficient for a 100+ DJIA points today with Dudley, Lockhart and Powell all set to speak later today.
Lots of sellside squeals this morning following the epic bloodbath in China, where in addition to what we already covered hours ago, has seen at least five companies (China Development Bank, Shanghai ShenTong Metro, China Three Gorges Corp., Doosan Infracore China Co. and Chongqing Shipping Construction Development) delay or cancel bond offerings as the PBOC's admission of capital "misallocation" is slowly but surely freezing both bond and stock markets. And while the plunge was contained first to China, then to Asia, then to Europe (where the Spanish 10 Year once again surpassed 5% as expected following the carry trade unwind), with the arrival of bleary-eyed US traders the contagion is finally coming home. In a redux of last week, 10 Year yields are shooting up, hitting as high as 2.63% a few hours ago, while equity futures are now at the lows of the session. It could turn very ugly, very fast, especially if the Hamptons crowd were to actually read the stunning BIS annual report released on Sunday, which not even Hilsenrath explaining "what the BIS really meant" will do much to change the fact that the days of monetary Koolaid are ending.
In the final section of this five-part series (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4) on the dismal reality behind the non-recovery, David Stockman explains what lies ahead. He details in his new book 'The Great Deformation', that the mainstream notion that there is a choice between fiscal austerity and fiscal stimulus is wishful thinking. It does not recognize that owing to the triumph of crony capitalism and printing-press money America has become a failed state fiscally. What lies ahead is a continuous, mad-cap cycling back and forth - virtually on an odd-even day basis - between deficit cutting and fiscal stimulus to the GDP. As Stockman notes, the proximate cause of this recession waiting to happen is the federal government’s unfolding encounter with Peak Debt. The latter is not a magical statistical point such as a federal debt ratio of 100 percent of GDP, but a condition of permanent crisis - "no viable economy can survive on chronic fiscal deficits nor can it fail to save at a sufficient rate to fund a healthy level of investment in productive capital assets. The blithe assumption to the contrary which animates current policy rests on self-serving clichés such as “deficits don’t matter” and the Chinese savings glut." So the American economy faces a long twilight of no growth, rising taxes, and brutally intensifying fiscal conflict. These are the wages of five decades of Keynesian sin - the price of abandoning financial discipline.
From Part 1's post-2009 faux prosperity to Part 2's detailed analysis of the "wholy unnatural" recovery to the discussion of the "recovery living on borrowed time" in Part 3 (of this 5-part series), David Stockman's new book 'The Great Deformation" then takes on the holiest of holies - The Fed's Potemkin village. The long-standing Wall Street mantra held that the American consumer is endlessly resilient and always able to bounce back into the malls. In truth, however, that was just another way of saying that consumers were willing to spend all they could borrow. That was the essence of Keynesian policy, and to accept the current situation as benign is also to deny that interest rates will ever normalize. The implication is that Bernanke has invented the free lunch after all - zero rates forever. Implicitly, then, Wall Street economists are financial repression deniers.
The mere mention that tapering was even possible, combined with the Chairman's fairly sunny disposition (perhaps caused by the realization that the real mess will likely be his successor's problem to clean up) was enough to convince the market that the post-QE world was at hand. This conclusion is wrong. Although many haven't yet realized it, the financial markets are stuck in a "Waiting for Godot" era in which the change in policy that all are straining to see, will never in fact arrive. Most fail to grasp the degree to which the "recovery" will stall without the $85 billion per month that the Fed is currently pumping into the economy. Of course, when the Fed is forced to make this concession, it should be obvious to a critical mass that the recovery is a sham.
While arguments will likely flare over just how 'miserable' the occupants of Louisiana are relative to those of Minnesota, based on Bloomberg's quantification of 'misery' these two states are the most and least miserable in our Union. Based on thirteen factors, ranging from child poverty rates to pollution, income inequality, and mental health it seems New Mexico and West Virginia are moving up the most miserable ranks most rapidly year over year.
Almost three years ago we first highlighted the real math behind the surging entitlement class that America has become. So why does a large portion of the population choose not to work when there are many jobs available? The answer is simple. If you can receive 2-3 times as much money from unemployment, disability, and/or welfare benefits (subsidized housing, food stamps, free cellphones, etc.) as you can from a temporary or part-time job, and live a life of leisure, why work? This is the ugly reality we illustrated just six months ago and the situation - amid what is apparently called a 'recovery' remains a depressingly real sign of the times. The political allure of free is so strong that an alarming number of people choose to become wards of the entitlement/welfare state rather than captain their own destiny. Indeed, while many are 'proud', 49% of American households now receive one or more government transfer benefits amounting to 18% of all personal income and a burden of $7,400 for every American - seemingly threatening the supposed self-reliance that has long characterized the American national psyche.
Evidence of the sequester remains elusive. The warning signs that we track closely – initial jobless claims, Richmond Fed, personal income and payrolls – do not show any material deterioration that we can attribute to the sequester. One mystery is why personal income of government workers has not contracted, as fewer hours worked should equal less pay. The answer, BofAML notes, is simple - it's just beginning...
Since Mr. Krugman tells us all this spending and debt issuance/guarantees are not only good and necessary but in the long run, painless, why are we bothering with personal income taxes?
The US government will collect approximately $2.0bn this year in Personal Income and Payroll taxes. But why? Why are we even bothering with this when today’s leading economists and politicians are telling us that debts/deficits don’t matter and running up astronomical debts is a long-term painless process? It’s practically patriotic. So why shouldn’t we just add our tax burden to the list of items the Fed should be monetizing? Seriously. Why not relieve the burden on every tax paying citizen in the United States (about 53% of us according to Mitt Romney)? You want an economic recovery? Reduce my taxes to zero and see how fast I go out and start spending some of that extra income.
Sell in May and go away will be on every investor’s mind after Friday’s week performance. It’s always been when you sell that’s been the measure for this maxim to be effective. If so the high for SPY would have been May 21st at $167.17. Then there’s the reappearance of the Hindenburg Omen but that’s for another day’s discussion.