China's Leading Index has fallen to its lowest since Feb 2009 this evening, down 4 straight months from credit-driven 18 month highs. This economic weakness has exaggerated the already weak tone in Yuan trading this evening pushing CNY to its weakest in almost 7 months (against the USD), its furthest on record from the CNY Fix (10-month highs), and very close to the PBOC's upper +2% band for CNY trading. At 6.23, USDCNY is over 1000 pips weaker than the CNY fix.
While inflation (explicit in price rises or implicit in USD debauchery) over the past 30 years has eaten away at the average American's standard of living, it is the cost of living the 1%-life that has truly soared. As Forbes' "Cost of Living Extremely Well" index (CLEWI) shows, since 1982, the 1% have seen prices for their goods rise at double the pace of the average joe. However, do not feel too sorry for them, as their net worth, courtesy of various Fed interventions has outpaced the cost of living extremely well by over 4 times.
All of this is political theater. The big story for the markets is not interest rates. It is the US Dollar.
Despite the widely held belief that 2015 will be the year in which a patient Fed finally begins to normalize rate policy, we believe the Fed has no possibility of withdrawing the stimulus to which it has addicted us. QE4 was always much more probable than anyone in government or on Wall Street cares to admit. A recession and a financial panic caused by sub $60 oil will significantly quicken the timetable by which the Fed cranks up the presses. When it does, oil could once again increase in price, along with all the other things we need on a daily basis. That should finally dispel any remaining illusions that the Fed could successfully land the metaphorical plane. More QE may minimize the damage in the short-term, but we believe it will keep us trapped in our current cocoon of endless stimulus, where we will slowly suffocate to death.
Following the start of Abenomics in 2012, Japan moved back to the center of attention of global financial markets. After two and a half decades of economic stagnation, hopes were high that Japan would escape its long stagnation and deflation. Plenty of economists around the globe hoped that, in so doing, Japan would show the western world, mainly the Eurozone, the way to do the same and avoid a similar long period of low growth and stagnating incomes. Conversely, the failure of Abe’s plan for Japan’s recovery would not only be a disaster for the country of the rising sun. It would also be very bad news for central bankers and politicians in the west as well. It would prove that Keynesian policies don’t work in a world of too much debt and shrinking populations.
- Police officers' slaying raises pressure on New York mayor (Reuters)
- People Call for Cooling of Racial Tensions After Murder of NYPD Officers (BBG)
- The $6.3 Trillion Frenzy That Vanquished Treasury Bears (BBG)
- China Investigates Possible Stock-Price Manipulation (WSJ)
- Citigroup Was Wary of Metals-Backed Loans (WSJ)
- UPS Turns Parking Lots Into Sorting Centers to Add Speed (BBG)
- U.S. Move to Normalize Cuba Ties Boosts Firms’ Asset Claims (WSJ)
- Meredith Whitney’s Fund Said to Drop 11% as Office Put on Market (BBG)
- Railcar Bottleneck Looms for Oil (WSJ)
Fast forward to today when we are about to learn that Newton's third law of Keynesian economics states that every boom, has an equal and opposite bust. Which brings us to Texas, the one state that more than any other, has benefited over the past 5 years from the Shale miracle. And now with crude sinking by the day, it is time to unwind all those gains, and give back all those jobs. Did we mention: highly compensated, very well-paying jobs, not the restaurant, clerical, waiter, retail, part-time minimum-wage jobs the "recovery" has been flooded with. Here is JPM's Michael Feroli explaining why Houston suddenly has a very big problem.
Despite the authorities' best efforts to keep everything orderly, we know how this global Game of Geopolitical Tetris ends: "Players lose a typical game of Tetris when they can no longer keep up with the increasing speed, and the Tetriminos stack up to the top of the playing field. This is commonly referred to as topping out."
"I’m tired of being outraged!"
Every year, David Collum writes a detailed "Year in Review" synopsis full of keen perspective and plenty of wit. This year's is no exception. "I have not seen a year in which so many risks - some truly existential - piled up so quickly. Each risk has its own, often unknown, probability of morphing into a destructive force. It feels like we’re in the final throes of a geopolitical Game of Tetris as financial and political authorities race to place the pieces correctly. But the acceleration is palpable. The proximate trigger for pain and ultimately a collapse can be small, as anyone who’s ever stepped barefoot on a Lego knows..."
"Most investors go about their job trying to identify ‘winners’. But more often than not, investing is about avoiding losers. Like successful gamblers at the racing track, an investor’s starting point should be to eliminate the assets that do not stand a chance, and then spread the rest of one’s capital amongst the remainder." So as the year draws to a close, it may be helpful if we recap the main questions confronting investors and the themes we strongly believe in, region by region.
The current illusion of recovery is a result mainly of windfalls to the financial asset owning upper strata, the explosion of transfer payments funded with borrowed public money and another supply-side bubble - this time in the energy sector and its suppliers and infrastructure. But that’s not real growth or wealth. Indeed, the desultory truth about the latter is better revealed by the fact that the American economy is not even maintaining its 20th century level of breadwinner jobs. And the real state of affairs is further testified to by the lamentable trend in real median household incomes. That figure - not distorted by the bubble at the top of the income ladder - is still lower than it was two decades ago. So much for the Keynesian rap. Yet that’s about all that underpins the latest Wall Street rip.
Regardless what happens with the U.S. Shale, the Cartel is always going to be worse off by not agreeing to production cuts.
- Citigroup is pleased: Obama signs $1.1 trillion government spending bill (Reuters)
- Oil holds below $60 as OPEC, Russia keep pumping (Reuters)
- 5 Things to watch at the December Fed Meeting (WSJ)
- Russia Tries Emergency Steps for 2nd Day to Stem Ruble Rout (BBG)
- Ruble crisis could shake Putin's grip on power (Reuters)
- Apple Curbs Russia Sales as McDonald’s Lifts Prices (BBG)
- Traders Betting Russia’s Next Move Will Be to Sell Gold (BBG)
- China Warms to a More Flexible Yuan (WSJ)
Run away... just 6 weeks ago when we first highlighted the FBI was probing multi-billion-dollar REIT American Realty Capital, the company's stock crashed, wiping out billions leading the CEO to note, "we don't have bad people, we had some bad judgment there." Now, as The WSJ reports, it appears the CEO David Kay, COO Lisa Beacon, and founder & Executive Chairman Nicholas Schorsch have all decided to "stabilize the company and... strengthen future leadership and strategy," by jumping ship. We are sure their jets will be fueled up and ready for the nearest extradition-free nation...