While some would argue (as they always do) that there are good reasons to be bullish going into 2014 (central bank liquidity provision being an obvious one); there are ample reasons to remain vigilant with respect to your investments. The stagnation of wage growth combined with higher costs leaves an already cash strapped consumer with few options. It is likely that we will see a push by consumers to re-leverage their household balance sheet which will be hailed by the media as a return of consumer confidence. However, one should not forget the last time a highly levered consumer ran into problems. Furthermore, there are three potential headwinds that are likely to weigh on the economy and the markets which are potentially being overlooked.
US Savings Rate Slides As Personal Incomes Below Expectations; Real Disposable Income Growth TumblesSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 12/23/2013 08:49 -0500
Moments ago the BEA reported the latest, November, data on Personal Income and Spending. For the second month in a row, Income, which rose a modest 0.2%, missed expectations of a 0.5% rise for the month, even as Personal Spending rose by 0.5% - driven by a 2.2% increase in spending on Durable Goods while Non-durable expenditures were unchanged on the month, in line with expectations. As a result, the US consumers dug even deeper into their meager savings, and in November the savings rate dropped once more, sliding from 4.5% to 4.2%, the lowest since January 2013, after hitting a high of 5.2% in September on "government shutdown uncertainty."
There has been quite a bit of discussion lately over the rapid reduction in the government's budget deficit as it relates to economic growth going forward. There are 3 issues that will likely impede further progress on the deficit reduction in the months ahead; 1) lower rates of tax revenue, 2) weaker economic growth and 3) greater levels of spending. The good news for stock market bulls is that deepening budget deficits increase the amount of bonds that the Treasury will need to issue to cover the shortfall in spending. This will give the Federal Reserve more room to continue their current monetary interventions which have inflated asset prices sharply over the last year. Creating financial instability to gain economic stability has been an elusive dream of the Federal Reserve since the turn of the century; yet someday it is hoped that they may just be able to "catch their own tail."
The spin does not get any better than this... As they reported they would,
- *LEW SAYS U.S. SOLD ALL REMAINING SHARES OF GENERAL MOTORS RECOUPING $39 BLN OF ORIGINAL GM INVESTMENT
That is a $10.5 Billion loss! But, The Center for Automotive Research, a Michigan nonprofit organization that analyzes auto industry issues, those funds “saved or avoided the loss of $105.3 billion in transfer payments and the loss of personal and social insurance tax collections -- or 768% of the net investment.” We can't wait to hear how much Bill Ackman made or saved on his Herbalife investment...
Biggest Drop In Personal Income Since Feb 2010 Can't Stop Borrowers Spending, While Savings Rate PlungesSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 12/06/2013 08:48 -0500
US personal income fell 0.1% MoM - missing the +0.3% expectations by the most since September 2011 - but that didn't stop spending which modestly beat expectations at +0.3%. The drop in incomes is the largest (absent the 2012 year-end debacle) since February 2010. Given the disparity, it is hardly surprising that the savigs rate dropped to its lowest since June. So unsaving is the route to freedom once again as borrowing helps drive durable good spending up 0.77%
Futures Pushed Higher On Weaker Yen, But All Could Change With Today's "Most Important Ever" Jobs NumberSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 12/06/2013 06:58 -0500
The latest "most important payrolls day of all time" day is finally upon us. Of course, this is a ridiculous statement: considering that the average December seasonal adjustment to the actual, unadjusted number is 824K jobs, it will once again be up to the BLS' Arima X 13 goal-seeking, seasonal adjusting software to determine whether the momentum ignition algos send stocks soaring or plunging, especially since the difference between up and down could be as small as 30K jobs. As Deutsche Bank explains: " today's number is probably one where anything above +200k (net of revisions) will lead to a further dip in risk as taper fears intensify and anything less than say +170k will probably see a decent relief rally after a tricky week for markets. Indeed yesterday saw the S&P500 (-0.43%) down for a fifth day - extending a sequence last seen in September." And then consider that nearly 30 times that difference comes from seasonal adjustments and it becomes clear why "farcial" is a far better definition of labor Friday.
Previewing the rest of this week’s events, we have a bumper week of US data over the next five days, in part making up for two days of blackout last week for Thanksgiving. Aside from Friday’s nonfarm payroll report, the key releases to look for are manufacturing ISM and construction spending (today), unit motor vehicle sales (tomorrow), non-manufacturing ISM (Wednesday), preliminary Q3 real GDP and initial jobless claims (Thursday), as well as personal income/consumption and consumer sentiment (Friday). Wednesday’s ADP employment report will, as usual, provide a preamble for Friday’s payrolls.
Asian equities have gotten off to a rocky start to the week despite some initial optimism around the twin-Chinese PMI beats at the start of the session. That optimism has been replaced by selling in Chinese equities, particularly small-cap Chinese stocks and A-shares after the Chinese security regulator issued a reform plan for domestic IPOs over the weekend. The market is expecting the reforms to lead to a higher number of IPOs in the coming quarters, and the fear is that this will bring a wave of new supply of stock to an already-underperforming market. Indeed, the Chinese securities regulator expects about 50 firms to complete IPOs by January 2014 – and another 763 firms have already submitted their IPO applications and are currently awaiting approval. A large number of small cap stocks listed on Hong Kong’s Growth Enterprise Market were down by more than 5% this morning, while the Shanghai Composite is down by 0.9%. The Hang Seng (+0.4%), Hang Seng China Enterprises Index (+0.8%) are performing better on a relative basis, and other China-growth assets including the AUDUSD is up 0.5%. The Nikkei (-0.1%) is also a touch weaker after Japan’s Q3 capital expenditure numbers came in well below estimates (1.5% YoY vs 3.6% forecast). Elsewhere Sterling continues to forge new multi-year highs against the USD (+0.3% overnight).
From consumer and retailer surveys to quantitative data such as household spending and private jet bookings, ConvergEx's Nick Colas has amassed a collection of 10 clues about this year's holiday shopping season. On the plus side, disposable personal income and consumer spending on discretionary items are rising, and travel to Palm Beach via private jet is quite popular this Christmas season. However, consumer confidence surveys are particularly weak, and consumer debt has ballooned to a 5-year high. Roughly equal parts good and bad, Colas' collection of holiday spending indicators points to a mediocre (at best) 2013 shopping season (as we noted earlier).
However, the reality of higher inflation won’t show up in China’s inflation data (which clocks in at an absurdly low 3%). However, you can see clear signs of this in China’s civil unrest: you don’t get wage and labor strikes for nothing.
As H.L. Mencken opined, 'The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, and intolerable.' It is no wonder that, according to a Gallup Poll conducted in early October, a record-low 14% of Americans thought that the country was headed in the right direction, down from 30% in September. That's the biggest single-month drop in the poll since the shutdown of 1990. Some 78% think the country is on the wrong track. Simply put, Faber explains, it is most unlikely that US economic growth will surprise on the upside in the next few years. It is more likely there will be negative surprises.
On December 23, 2013, the U.S. Federal Reserve (the Fed) will celebrate its 100th birthday, so we thought it was time to take a look at the Fed’s real accomplishment, and the practices and policies it has employed during this time to rob the public of its wealth. The criticism is directed not only at the world’s most powerful central bank - the Fed - but also at the concept of central banks in general, because they are the antithesis of fiscal responsibility and financial constraint as represented by gold and a gold standard. The Fed was sold to the public in much the same way as the Patriot Act was sold after 9/11 - as a sacrifice of personal freedom for the promise of greater government protection. Instead of providing protection, the Fed has robbed the public through the hidden tax of inflation brought about by currency devaluation.
Discussion of a market bubble (in stocks, credit, bonds, Farm-land, residential real estate, or art) have dominated headlines in recent weeks. However, QEeen Yellen gave us the all-clear this morning that there was "no bubble." Are we currently witnessing a market bubble? It is very possible; however, as STA's Lance Roberts notes, if we are, it will be the first market bubble in history to be seen in advance (despite Bullard's comments in opposition to that "fact"). From a contrarian investment view point, there is simply "too much bubble talk" currently which means that there is likely more irrational excess to come. The lack of "economic success" will likely mean that the Fed remains engaged in its ongoing QE programs for much longer than currently expected - and perhaps Hussman's pre-crash bubble anatomy is dead on...
This past week saw the initial public offering of the single most anticipated IPO of 2013 - Twitter. If you tweeted about it then you are not alone as the news dominated the media headlines and the market. With Twitter already sporting a 11x price-to-sales ratio, and no earnings, what could possibly go wrong? However, it is that growing complacency among investors that should be the most concerning as the general sentiment has become that nothing can stop the markets as long as the Fed is in the game. This week's issue of things to ponder over the weekend provides some thoughts in this regard...