The people of Spain are prisoners of an economic adjustment that looks like something dreamed up by Torquemada. A lot of the recent compensation decline had to do with public sector workers (who export nothing) and not private sector ones. Is this a sustainable way to regain competitiveness? Torquemada the Inquisitor would be impressed with the pain that Spain is inflicting on itself. The bad news for Spanish labor markets isn’t over: most measures of Spanish competitiveness show that only half the gap has been closed vs Germany. I don’t see how this can be sustained indefinitely, even with the rally in Spanish sovereign and bank spreads, and with looser fiscal policy sanctioned by the EU. Without a true fiscal transfer union in Europe, caveat emptor in its Periphery, unless prices for stocks, bank loans and real estate are sufficiently cheap.
A small note on the frankly hilarious news that the Dow Jones Industrial Average smashed through to all-time-highs. First of all, while stock prices are soaring household income and household confidence are slumping to all-time lows. Employment remains depressed, energy remains expensive, housing remains depressed, wages and salaries as a percentage of GDP keep falling, and the economy remains in a deleveraging cycle. Essentially, these are not the conditions for strong organic business growth, for a sustainable boom. We’re going through a structural economic adjustment, and suffering the consequences of a huge 40-year debt-fuelled boom. While the fundamentals remain weak, it can only be expected that equity markets should remain weak. But that is patently not what has happened. With every day that the DJIA climbs to new all-time highs, more suckers will be drawn into the market. But it won’t last. Insiders have already gone aggressively bearish. This time isn’t different.
When even Home Depot's Ken Langone is questioning the reality of this rally (CEO of one of the best performing stocks since the Dow last traded here), you have to be a little concerned. However, it is Duquesne's Stanley Druckenmiller's point that with QE4EVA it is impossible to know when this will end but warns that "all the lobsters are in the pot" now as he notes that "if you print enough money, everything is subsidized - bonds, stocks, real estate." He dismisses the notion of any sell-off in bonds for the same reason as the Fed is buying $85 bn per month (75-80% all off Treasury issuance). The Fed has cancelled all market signals (whether these are to Congress or market participants) and just as we did in the 1970s, we will find out about all the mal-investments sooner or later. "This is a big, big gamble," he notes, "manipulating the most important price in all of free markets," that ends one of only two ways, a mal-investment bust (as we saw in 2007-8) or full debt monetization and "off we go into inflation."
One of China's wealthiest men, Zong Qinghou - founder of the privately listed beverage empire Hangzhou Wahaha Group - is hunting fort deals overseas as the WSJ reports, he believes “The capital markets suck in China.” Since China's stock market bubble burst (after running up from 1000 in 2005 to 7000 in 2007), it has never recovered from its collapse, loitering around 2,000 points ever since. Plagued by too many offerings (run by the government) and a slowing economy, WSJ notes that a common complaint is that the only investors who make money from China’s stock markets are those with inside information. The retail investors that fueled the bubble in the first place remain scarred by the experience, and have mostly stayed away, as Zong concludes: "When the ordinary people invest in it, the market should reward them with some benefits. But it does not." This has driven the desire to 'invest' or speculate in real estate - a topic we discussed yesterday - leading to a looming bubble there also.
When we reported on JCPenney's horrendous quarterly results, we made the comments that when "speaking of [the] credit facility, JCP had no borrowings under its 2012 Revolver, and about $1.3 billion available net of L/Cs. Expect these numbers to change." The reason we pointed this out, is that the second a retailer goes from "unused Revolver" to "used Revolver", the bankruptcy deathwatch drums begin their steady beat. Indeed, it was only a matter of time before even the traditionally slow sellside brigade figured out that JCP's liquidity is horrifying and about to get much worse, and moments ago Bank of America downgraded JCP by $3 to a $13 price target on expectations of an imminent revolver draw. To wit: "JCPenney intends to self-fund its transformation, but we think it will need to draw down on the revolver as early as this quarter." This explains why Ackman is down another $60 million in the name at last check.
Not like a market test was needed, but in a time when bad news is great for stocks, we fully expected today's Service ISM consensus beat to be great-er for the several hot potato passing algos still trading. Sure enough, the February non-manufacturing ISM just printed at 56.0, higher than the 55.0 expected, up from the 55.2 in February and the 8th beat of expectations in a row. That the service sector output rose despite consensus it wouldn't due to tax hikes, and higher gas prices, indicates just how "valid" and accurate it truly is, but with every data point now geared to only one goal - to get everyone to play musical chairs while the music plays, does any data actually even matter? After all, an improving economy would mean a tapering QE, but Bernanke has now made it clear no matter what the actual real or fake state of the economy is, he will never stop the liquid(ity) moprhine. Perhaps that is why the employment index actually dipped in February from 57.5 to 57.2 - supposedly this makes it "realistic."
- As ZH has been saying for months... Draghi Will Need to Push the Euro Down Some More (WSJ) ... but careful with "redenomination risk"
- Senate Report Said to Fault JPMorgan (NYT)
- EU Opens Way for Easier Budgets After Backlash (BBG)
- China Moves to Temper Growth - Property Bubble Is a Key Concern (WSJ)
- China bets on consumer-led growth to cure social ills (Reuters)
- Italian president mulls new technocrat government (Reuters)
- Grillo says MPS won't back technocrats (ANSA)
- The Russians will be angry: Euro Chiefs Won’t Rule Out Cyprus Depositor Losses (BBG)
- China Bankers Earn Less Than New York Peers as Pay Dives (BBG)
- Investors click out of Apple into Google (FT)
- Community colleges' cash crunch threatens Obama's retraining plan (Reuters)
- Alwaleed challenges Forbes over his billions - Calculation of $20bn net worth is flawed, says Saudi prince (FT)
- Guy Hands Dips Into Own Pockets to Fund Bonuses at Terra Firma (BBG)
- North Korea to scrap armistice if South and U.S. continue drills (Reuters)
If Friday and yesterday it was Europe's reporting of ugly and below expectation economic data that pushed US stock futures ultimately higher, today it will be Europe's modest economic data beats that will send futures, where else, higher, and result in the Dow Jones breaking its nominal all time highs at the open or shortly thereafter. Following the Chinese economic update in its State of the Union address, which as we reported earlier, saw China set more moderate growth targets for itself resulting in the SHCOMP nearly wiping out Monday's losses, it was Europe's turn to shine which it did following the report of various Service PMI, which unlike last week's horrible manufacturing PMI data, were better than expected with the natural exception of Spain which printed at 44.7, well below the January 47.0, the first drop since September driven by the sharpest job losses since March of 2009, and Italy which dropped from 43.9 to 43.6, same as expected. The core countries' Services PMI beat: France coming at 43.7, on expectation of an unchanged print from last month's 42.7, and Germany printing at 54.7 vs also an expectation of an unchanged 54.1. Not very surprisingly, however, it was not the EURUSD which benefited the most from this data, which has lost nearly 50 pips from its overnight highs following the better economic news, but the various equity futures which have one centrally-planned goal: to take out all time DJIA highs or else, and unless something changes in the next three hours, precisely this will happen.
It has been four years since we first introduced the non-believing world to China's ghost cities. Two years later, we revisited to check on the widescale immigration that was expected to occur into these salubrious suburbs. Alas, another epic Keynesian fail as we so delicately described the 'if we build it, they will come' mentality. Now, four years after the news of the Chinese real estate bubble began to break on tin-foil hat-wearing blogs, the mainstream media (to wit, Sixty Minutes) have gone in depth - taking a wonderfully eery trip through these ghost cicties explaining the growing (and in some places popping) bubble in Chinese real estate markets. The incredulous host concludes this chilling saga, "Meanwhile, people who can afford it are still buying as much real estate as they can... potential buyers crowding buses to see new construction and new owners line up to register their new apts... Like us in our bubble, they just don't believe the good times will ever end." It's all make-believe -- non-existent supply for non existent demand.
Earlier we reviewed the overnight plunge in China stocks, especially those related to the real-estate market in the aftermath of the latest move by the State Council to be far more hawkish than expected, in its effort to curb property inflation. The economic and market weakness that resulted has followed through to overnight US and European futures, even as peripheral bonds are trading roughly unchanged, surprising many who thought this weekend's Beppe Grillo statement on the future of Italian debt and presence in the Eurozone would be market moving: it wasn't as Grillo said nothing that he had not already made quite clear. In other, more recent economic news, UK construction PMI imploded to recession levels, plunging to 46.8 from 49.0, far below expectations and the lowest print since October 2009, setting the stage for much more Goldman-led reflation by the BOE. Also negative was the drop in the Eurozone Sentix Investor Confidence index which tumbled to -10.6 from -3.9 on expectations of -4.3, sending the EURUSD deep into 1.29 territory. It appears the Sentix excludes the soaring German confidence, which two weeks ago was the sole driver of all upside, not once but twice in one week. Today we get the first day of the sequester being digested by the market - this togetger with an empty macro calendar in the US means rumors and headlines will determine how far GETCO's algo push the stop hunts during the first and last 30 minutes of trading.
China Tumbles On Real-Estate Inflation Curbs: Biggest Property Index Drop Since 2008; Japan Downgraded On AbenomicsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/04/2013 04:28 -0400
As we have been warning for nearly a year, the biggest threat facing China has been the fact that contrary to solemn promises, the problem of persistent, strong and very much relentless real-estate inflation has not only not been tamed but has been first and foremost on the minds of both the PBOC and the local government. After all with the entire "developed" world flooding the market every single day with countless billions in new cheap, hot money, it was inevitable that much of it would end up in the mainland Chinese real estate market. And since both the central bank and the politburo are well aware that the path from property inflation to broad price hikes, including the all critical to social stability pork and other food, is very short, it was inevitable that the issue of inflation would have to be dealt with eventually. Tonight is that "eventually", when following news from two days ago that yet another Chinese PMI indicator missed, this time the Services data which slid from 56.2 to 54.5, the government announced its most aggressive round of property curbs yet. The immediate result was that the Shanghai Stock Exchange Property Index slumped by a whopping 9.3%, the steepest drop since June 2008, and pushing it down to -11% for the year. The weakness also spread to the broader market, with the Composite closing down 3.65% the biggest drop in months, and now just barely positive, at +0.2%, year to date. We expect all 2013 gains to be promptly wiped out when tonight's risk off session resumes in earnest.
Value Your College Degree Now In 30 Minutes! I Mathematically Prove Ivy League To Be A Waste Of Money!Submitted by Reggie Middleton on 03/03/2013 13:06 -0400
Don't hate me, and don't shoot the messenger. As a matter of fact, don't argue with simple arithmetic. Those high falutin' Ivy diplomas just ain't worth the time & money & here's a simple way to PROVE IT!!!
The gravy train that poses as the Electoral College in the States is rigged to make it near impossible for anyone other than the Democrat or GOP nominee to get into the White House.... In Europe it is very different. We can vote for the Monster Raving Looney Party – yes there truly is such a thing – the Beer party and one day soon the Blessed Nigel of Farage. To get on the list of candidates over here you have to stump up £500, be a UK, Commonwealth or Republic of Ireland (how did that happen?) citizen, be seconded by 10 voters in the constituency and not be a police officer, in the military or a member of the House of Lords or bankrupt or bonkers. UKIP may well have won the Eastleigh by-election had Farage stood as a candidate – along with 13 others - but as it was Diane James took votes off the Tories and Liberal Democrats in equal measure. This may have been spun as an inconsequential protest vote the happenings in Italy earlier in the week is beginning to cause the establishment some angst.
Recent news about Federal plans to "help" manage private retirement accounts renewed our interest in the topic of capital controls. One example of capital control is to limit the amount of money that can be transferred out of the country; another is limiting the amount of cash that can be withdrawn from accounts; a third is the government mandates private capital must be invested in government bonds. Though presented as "helping" households, the real purpose of the power grab would be to enable the Federal government to borrow the nation's retirement accounts at near-zero rates of return. As things fall apart, Central States pursue all sorts of politically expedient measures to protect the State's power and the wealth of the political and financial Elites. Precedent won't matter; survival of the State and its Elites will trump every other consideration. All this raises an interesting question: what would America look like at $5000 an ounce gold?
Hedge fund icon Stanley Druckenmiller sat down with Bloomberg TV's Stephanie Ruhle, saying that he’s decided to speak out now because he sees "a storm coming, maybe bigger than the storm we had in 2008, 2010." His fear is that the ballooning costs of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid (which with unfunded liabilities are as high as $211 trillion) will bankrupt the nation's youth an pose a much greater danger than the debt currently being debated in Congress. He said, "While everybody is focusing on the here and now, there's a much, much bigger storm that's about to hit... I am not against seniors. What I am against is current seniors stealing from future seniors." While not exactly Maxine Waters' sequestration-based 170 million job loss, this concerning interview is must-see for his clarity and forthrightness from who is to blame, to the consequences of gridlock, our society's short-term thinking, and the concerning demographics the US faces.