Rate of Change
While the argument that declines in energy and gasoline prices should lead to stronger consumption sounds logical, the data suggests that this is not actually the case.
At the end of the day, it is overwhelming clear that the headline jobs number is thoroughly and dangerously misleading because there has been a systematic and relentless deterioration in the quality and value added of the jobs mix beneath the headline. It has no value whatsoever as an index of labor market conditions, labor market slack or even implied GDP growth. The truth is, in an open global economy the quantity of labor utilized by the US economy is a function of its price - not the level of interest rates or the S&P 500. Currently, wage rates on the margin are too high, but the Fed’s ZIRP and money printing campaigns only compound the problem. They permit the government to fund with ultra low-cost bonds and notes a massive transfer payment system that keeps potential productive labor out of the economy, and thereby props up bloated wages rates; and it enables households to carry more debt than would be feasible with honest interest rates and competitively priced wage rates, thereby further inhibiting the labor market adjustments that would be required to actually achieve full employment and sustainable growth.
Having served up a large bowl of nothing with the official statement, the job of jawboning 'hope' for future monetary policy idiocy falls once again on Mario Draghi's shoulders as he takes the stage in what may well be a highly contentious press conference. Will he admit the mutiny? Will he 'fess up that OMT is a mirage? Will he admit to being a secretive dictator? Will he remove his spectacles and angrily point at a reporter?
Recapping the tenets we presented here, here, and here, once an economy is subjected to a bout of monetary inflation, whether that be via direct central bank money creation or via money (and credit) creation by the fractional reserve banking system, an unsustainable, artificial economic boom is born, whereby malinvestments (bubbles if you like) are created that sooner or later must be liquidated. And whether that bust takes the form of a hyperinflationary bust or a deflationary bust, bust we will get.
In the past few years the stock market has always recovered from corrections to make new highs, and we cannot be sure if the party is indeed over. However, both from a fundamental and technical perspective, the probability that it is over seems quite high. Should market internals and trend uniformity to the upside improve again, this assessment would obviously have to be revised. However, there are surely more than enough warning signs extant now and every financial asset bubble must end at some point.
By now it is well known that Argentina has been declared in default by the major credit rating agencies. However, the default is really a sideshow to Argentina's real problem, which is a profligate government financing its spending increasingly via the printing press, while publishing severely falsified “inflation” data in order to mask this fact. Inflationary policy is and always will be extremely destructive. In the developed world, a situation like that observed in Argentina has so far been avoided, but that doesn't exactly mean that central banks in the industrialized nations are slouches in the money printing department. Their actions buy us what appear to be “good times” by diverting scarce resources into various bubble activities, but in reality they impoverish us.
The question of whether 'tapering is tightening' is often discussed but what is really meant is - when the Fed tapers, will risk assets suffer (and bonds benefit)? The answer is - yes. As Gavekal finds, long-dated US government bonds are following the reduction in QE nearly perfectly so far. The link between Fed asset accumulation and these various bond yields is unmistakable, especially for longer duration bonds, and this simple model shows how even lower bond yields may be in the offing as the Fed puts on the breaks. For junk bonds, this seems to portend higher spreads, which may help to put the recent widening of spreads in context.
This is it! The holy grail of forecasting, Jeffrey Kleintop has discovered it. You'll never have to worry about actual earnings reports, a massive bubble in junk debt, the sluggishness of the economy, new record levels in sentiment measures and margin debt, record low mutual fund cash reserves, the pace of money supply growth, or anything else again. Just watch the yield curve! Unfortunately, as we showed here in the US, this advice could turn out to be extremely dangerous for one's financial health - and has been across many nations throughout time. People remain desperate for excuses as to why the latest bit of asset boom insanity will never end
With the market firmly under the control of the Fed, VIX plunging and the S&P at all time highs is the a different indicator to look at for "fear"? For one possible answer we refer to the latest note by FBN's JC O'Hara who looks at a different "fear" index, namely the Credit Suisse Fear Barometer. He finds that, at 37%, it has never been higher.
Anyone reading the regular Federal Open Market Committee press releases can easily envision Chairman Yellen and the Federal Reserve team at the economic controls, carefully adjusting the economy’s price level and employment numbers. The dashboard of macroeconomic data is vigilantly monitored while the monetary switches, accelerators, and other devices are constantly tweaked, all in order to “foster maximum employment and price stability." The Federal Reserve believes increasing the money supply spurs economic growth, and that such growth, if too strong, will in turn cause price inflation. But if the monetary expansion slows, economic growth may stall and unemployment will rise. So the dilemma can only be solved with a constant iterative process: monetary growth is continuously adjusted until a delicate balance exists between price inflation and unemployment. This faulty reasoning finds its empirical justification in the Phillips curve. Like many Keynesian artifacts, its legacy governs policy long after it has been rendered defunct.
It was interesting this week to watch the media explode in a frenzy of reporting over the "stronger than expected" auto sales. The increase in auto sales to 16.9 million units was certainly a welcome number. However, was it really the "long awaited" sign of economic recovery that it was portrayed to be?
Draghi Reveals More: Will Do Targeted LTRO, Suspends Sterilization, Prepares ABS Purchases; No QE RevealedSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 06/05/2014 07:39 -0500
The much anticipated additional measures have been revealed:
- DRAGHI UNVEILS PACKAGE OF TARGETED LTROS, WORK TO PREPARE QE
- DRAGHI SAYS INITIAL SIZE OF TARGETED LTRO PLAN IS 400BLN EUROS
- ECB EXTENDS FIXED RATE FULL ALLOTMENT, SUSPENDS SMP STERILIZING
- DRAGHI SAYS PACKAGE INCLUDES PREPARATIONS FOR ABS PURCHASES
In other words, even more actions along what was expected: keep in mind the last time the ECB did €1 trillion in LTROs it did exactly nothing to boost inflation or the "real economy." Furthermore, the ABS purchases aren't activated: just being "prepared." However, what was not revealed was the biggest wildcard: European QE, which as we said repeatedly, won't happen until Europe's deflation is far worse, if ever.
With the economy now more than 5 years into an expansion, which is long by historical standards, the question for you to answer by looking at the charts below is: "Are we closer to an economic recession or a continued expansion?" How you answer that question should have a significant impact on your investment outlook as financial markets tend to lose roughly 30% on average during recessionary periods. However, with margin debt at record levels, earnings deteriorating and junk bond yields near all-time lows, this is hardly a normal market environment within which we are currently invested. Therefore, we present a series of charts which view the overall economy from the same perspective utilizing an annualized rate of change. For the Federal Reserve, these charts make the case that continued monetary interventions are not healing the economy, but rather just keeping it afloat by dragging forward future consumption. The problem is that it leaves a void in the future that must be continually filled.
On the 'growth' side, Commercial and Industrial loans are rising at a double digit annual rate of change (although it is unclear whether this is an indication of business optimism or stress - after all, we did see a big jump in these loans leading into the last recession). On the flip side, the bond market and the US dollar index seem to be flashing some warning signs about future growth. Simply put, the outlook for the economy is decidedly uncertain right now and we think so is the confidence in Janet Yellen. We think the more dire outcome for stocks would be if Toto fully pulled back the curtain on monetary policy and revealed it to be nothing more than a bunch clueless economists sitting in a conference room with no ability to control the economy or the markets. If US growth disappoints after all the Fed has done, how could anyone continue to view the Fed wizards as omnipotent? That would send the stock market back over the rainbow to the reality of an economy with big structural problems that can only be solved through political negotiation, something that has been notable only by its absence over – at least – the last 6 years. Are we headed back to Kansas?