Anyone who hasn’t sensed a mood change in this country since the 2008 financial meltdown is either ignorant or in denial. Millions of Americans fall into one of these categories, but many people realize something has changed – and not for the better. The sense of pure financial panic that existed during September and October of 2008 had not been seen since the dark days of 1929. Our leaders used the initial terror and fear to ram through TARP and stimulus packages that rewarded the perpetrators of the financial collapse rather than helping the middle class who lost 8 million jobs, destroyed by Wall Street criminality. The stock market plunged by 57% from its 2007 high by March 2009. What has happened since September 2008 has set the stage for the next downward leg in this Crisis. The rich and powerful have pulled out all the stops and saved themselves at the expense of the many. Despite overwhelming proof of unabashed mortgage fraud, rating agency bribery, document forgery on a grand scale and insider trading based on non-public information, the brazen audacity of Wall Street oligarchs is reminiscent of the late stages of the Roman Empire.
European cash equities are trading in the red heading towards the US session, with particular underperformance in the periphery as financials continue to remain the biggest laggard. The EU session so far has consisted of downbeat commentary in regards to both Ireland and Portugal. An EU/ECB report noted that, Portuguese debt is now predicted to peak at 115% of GDP in 2013 and that contraction in 2012 is likely more pronounced than thought. Elsewhere, the Irish Fiscal panel said Ireland may need extra budget cuts to reach its 2012 target and 2012 growth has weakened. In terms of economic releases the UK observed a stronger than expected reading on its Construction PMI hitting a 21-month high, which saw some brief strength in GBP.
As markets crave their next fix of the money-printing elixir, perhaps it is worth noting the ever-decreasing impact that the quantitative easing experiments have had on 'measures' of the real economy. This seems to suggest that either: "we're gonna need a bigger boat" and the ongoing QEs will need to be exponentially larger than the prior in order to enact change in the 'measures' of real economy; or, the Fed has hit its limit as yet another 'multiplier effect' has been proved wrong in the limit and all we get to play with is the unintended consequences of a hidden inflation peering into view. Of course this is typical Keynesian dogma: if at first you don't succeed, do it again but bigger, more global, and with more geopolitical danger.
The week ahead will offer significant inputs to our views. ISM and payrolls will likely set the market tone for the next few weeks. Despite the softer signals from regional surveys, Goldman expects the ISM to improve at the margin relative to last month’s print. In contrast, it expects payrolls to grow by 175k, down from last month’s 227k jobs gain. FOMC minutes will likely show that Fed officials had a discussion on further easing but are unlikely to offer strong hints about the likelihood and possible timing of a third round of Quantitative Easing.
Inflection point, yes. There yet, no.
European markets got off to a bad start following early reports that the Greek PM has not ruled out a further aid package for the country, however European cash equities are now trading higher as US participants come to market. Markets have been reacting to the announcement from EU’s Juncker that the Eurogroup has agreed upon Eurozone bailout funds of EUR 800bln. Elsewhere in the session, FPC member Clark commented that the FPC should not aim to stimulate credit growth in the UK, adding that direct intervention in the mortgage market is too politically volatile, but may be considered in the coming years. Following the reports, GBP/USD spiked lower around 15 pips, however it remains in positive territory, moving above the 1.6000 level in recent trade. In terms of data, the Eurozone CPI estimate for March came in just above expectations at 2.6%, 0.1% above the 2.5% consensus. The market reaction to this data, however, was relatively muted as participants await Eurogroup commentary. Looking ahead in the session, participants await commentary on the Spanish budget, US Personal Spending and Canadian GDP.
There is noise and fluff and soap bubbles floating in the wind but don’t be distracted. Like so many things connected to the European Union it is just hype. In the first place do you think that any nation in Europe is actually going to put up money for the firewall no matter what size that they claim it will be? Let me give you the answer; it is “NO.” The firewall is just one more contingent liability that is not counted for any country’s financials, one more public statement of guarantee that everyone on the Continent hopes and prays will never be taken too seriously and certainly never used. Any rational person knows that some promise to pay in the future will not solve anything and it certainly won’t create some kind of magic ring fence around any nation. Think it through; what will it do to stop Spain or Italy from knocking at the door of the Continental Bank if they get in trouble and the answer is clearly nothing, not one thing. The firewall is just a distraction to lull all of you back to sleep and all of the headlines and discussion about it makes zero difference to any outcome and so is nothing more than a ruse. “Look this way please, do not look that way, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, put up your money to buy our sovereign debt like a good boy and everything will be just fine.”
All you need to read and some more.
The Fed is clearly worried about the economy. Ben Bernanke's latest speeches aren't exactly inspiring. It is as if he thinks the rosy(ier) numbers are some prank being played upon him by the gods; that soon this will all be taken away. He is right. He admits he doesn't understand why the economy is the way it is. Reality doesn't fit his theory. ("It's supposed to work, dammit!") So, what do you do when you are the head of the world's biggest printing press, and don't know what else to do? Why QE3 of course.
Firstly, Britain’s ‘safe-haven status’ is a fallacy. It is no more safe than many of the other major economies who are choking on debts that cannot be paid off. The only reason it HAS that status currently is because of the very Achilles Heel that will ultimately prove to be its demise - the ability to print its own currency. By NOT being a part of the euro experiment, Britain has kept control of its fate and has been able to print its way out of trouble - so far - while its neighbours to the east have all been lashed to the deck of the same sinking boat, but the day is coming when Britain’s profligacy will become important again. As I keep saying; none of this matters to anyone until it matters to everyone. Secondly, interest rates may have ‘fallen to a record low’ but they have done so in the same way heavily-indebted gamblers often ‘fall’ from hotel rooms - with a big push (only this time from the Bank of England and not a guy called Fat Tony). Like US Treasurys, the price of UK gilts would be nowhere near these levels without a captive and very friendly buyer in the shape of the central bank.
Oil as a commodity has always been a highly valuable early warning indicator of economic instability. Every conceivable element of our financial system depends on the price of energy, from fabrication, to production, to shipping, to the consumer’s very ability to travel and make purchases. High energy prices derail healthy economies and completely decimate systems already on the verge of collapse. Oil affects everything. This is why oil markets also tend to be the most misrepresented in the mainstream financial media. With so much at stake over the price of petroleum, and the cost steadily climbing over the past year returning to disastrous levels last seen in 2008, the American public will soon be looking for someone to blame, and you can bet the MSM will do its utmost to ensure that blame is focused in the wrong direction. While there are, indeed, multiple reasons for the current high costs of oil, the primary culprits are obscured by considerable disinformation… The most prominent but false conclusions on the expanding value of oil are centered on assertions that supply is decreasing dramatically, while demand is increasing dramatically. Neither of these claims is true…
Fed chairman Ben Bernanke is covered in a long profile by Roger Lowenstein in the Atlantic. The sympathetic account takes the reader blow-by-blow through the criticism that he has received from virtually all quarters during his tenure as Fed chair. What Lowenstein hones in on are the reviews and criticisms of Bernanke’s performance in “resurrecting the economy” — the interest rate policy, his interpretation of the dual mandate, quantitative easing, Operation Twist, etc. But for a piece that clocks in at 8,287 words, Lowenstein pays scant attention to the emergency actions taken to save the financial system itself.