If ever a chart provided unequivocal proof the economic recovery storyline is a fraud, the one below is the smoking gun.
Last week we were the first to raise the very real and imminent threat of a default for a Chinese wealth management product (WMP) default - specifically China Credit Trust's Credit Equals Gold #1 (CEQ1) - and its potential contagion concerns. It seems BofAML is now beginning to get concerned, noting that over 60% of market participants expects repo rates to rise if a trust product defaults and based on the analysis below, they think there is a high probability for CEQ1 to default on 31 January, i.e. no full redemption of principal and back-coupon on the day. Crucially, with the stratospheric leverage ratios now engaged in such products, BofAML warns trust companies must answer some serious questions: will they stand back behind every trust investment or will they have to default on some or potentially many of them? BofAML believes the question needs an answer because investors and Trusts can’t have their cake and eat it too. The potential first default, even if it’s not CEQ1 on 1/31, would be important based on the experience of what happened to the US and Europe; the market has tended to underestimate the initial event.
Bernanke may be printing the wealth effect to the benefit of the richest 1%, but that only serves to make the already wealthiest even wealthier. When it comes to the creation of new millionaire households, the epicenter of new wealth creation is about as far from Wall Street, West Putnam Avenue or Rodeo Drive as can be. In fact, the state that saw the fastest climb up in millionaire rankings in 2013 doesn't have a single Tiffany or Saks Fifth Avenue, and the closest BMW dealership is a six-hour drive from the capital (stats which are guaranteed to change by the end of the year). Presenting North Dakota: the state which jumped 14 spots in the latest ranking of millionaire households.
Frontier markets offer some of the best investment opportunities over the next decade. We like Vietnam which is recovering after a massive credit bust.
If the Federal Reserve is trying to force feed us prosperity then the inevitable blowback will be adversity. If the Fed is trying to compel the most dramatic economic recovery in history, then the blowback may well be the deepest depression in history. If the Fed is trying to enforce confidence and optimism then the blowback will be fear and despair. If the Fed is trying to force consumers to spend then the blowback will be a collapse in consumer confidence.
"Sooner or later everyone sits down to a banquet of consequences." - Robert Louis Stevenson
We sincerely hope that we are completely wrong here, that we are missing something, that there is a flaw in our logic. However until we can locate such a flaw we must trust the technical case for treating this Fed force-fed rally in the stock market as something that will end badly.
On the heels of his less-than-optimistic presentation, DoubleLine's Jeff Gundlach tells Europe's Finanz und Wirtschaft "he's concerned about the growing amount of speculation" and draws a parallel between today’s markets and the dot-com boom of the late Nineties. This excellent interview takes the themes of his recent conference call and extends them as he warns "In the over thirty years I’ve been in the financial investment industry, I don’t recall a single year where I saw the year begin with the consensus being so solidified in its thinking across virtually every asset class." His biggest worry (for investors, as opposed to his funds), "the most unthinkable things happen this year and that is a basic pain trade that forces people into treasury bonds."
The housing recovery is ultimately a story of the "real" employment situation. With roughly a quarter of the home buying cohort unemployed and living at home with their parents the option to buy simply is not available. The rest of that group are employed but at the lower end of the pay scale which pushes them to rent due to budgetary considerations and an inability to qualify for a mortgage. The optimism over the housing recovery has gotten well ahead of the underlying fundamentals. While the belief was that the Government, and Fed's, interventions would ignite the housing market creating a self-perpetuating recovery in the economy - it did not turn out that way. Instead, it led to a speculative rush into buying rental properties creating a temporary, and artificial, inventory suppression. While there are many hopes pinned on the housing recovery as a "driver" of economic growth in 2014 - the lack of recovery in the home ownership data suggests otherwise.
"The Fed's policies have actually led to a lot of problems around the world," Marc Faber begins his discussion with Bloomberg TV's Trish Regan, especially "people in the lower income groups [who] spend say 30% of their income on energy, transportation, and so forth, electricity and gasoline." The Gloom, Boom & Doom Report author goes on to discuss everything from how the Fed is creating a two-class system around the world, the inexorable growth of governments, buying votes, Bitcoin, interest rates, wealth taxes, and overall market valuations. "We are in a gigantic financial asset bubble," Faber explains, "everybody's bullish," but he sees a slowing global economy (as do we e.g. Baltic Dry Index); "[The bubble] could burst any day. I think we are very stretched." Faber is on fire...
The Status Quo views real estate bubbles as a "good thing": as home prices rise, the homeowner's collateral (equity) rises, creating both a psychological "wealth effect" (now that we're richer, we can afford to borrow and blow more money) and a temporary (and thus phantom) increase in collateral that will support more household debt. What few seem to realize (or discuss) is how rising home prices push rents higher.This is an entirely pernicious effect, as renters aren't getting any more "home" for the higher rent--they're paying more money for the same shelter. Central Planning pushing housing prices higher is not win-win--it is lose-lose-lose.
- House Unveils $1.01 Trillion Measure to Fund Government (BBG)
- Credit Suisse Tells Junior Bankers to Take Saturdays Off (BBG)
- Spot the odd word out: ECB Sees Bad-Debt Rules as Threat to Credible Bank Review (BBG)
- Insert laugh track here: Spain GDP grows at fastest pace in almost six years (FT)
- Scandinavian Debt Crisis Waiting to Happen Puzzles Krugman (BBG)
- Fed Said to Release Plan to Limit Banks’ Commodities Activities (BBG)
- Thai Protesters Extend Blockade After Rejecting Poll Talks (BBG)
- China provinces set lower growth goals for 2014 (BBG)
While Amazon's online business is booming (in revenues - but decidedly not profits), its somewhat sunning inactions at CES this past week raised more than a few eyebrows. Quietly and with no grandiose Michael-Bay-style presentation, Wired reports the 'we-can-make-a-profit-any-time-we-like-if-we-really-wanted' company placed an Amazon Vending Machine at the Las Vegas Airport. As Wired continues, any foray by Amazon into the world of offline retail is a big deal... when Amazon ventures into the physical world - whether with in-store delivery lockers or grocery trucks or vending machines - the company’s sheer scale and ambition demand that you think in terms of world domination. Hhmmm...
Welcome To The Blackstone Recovery: Over 11 Million Americans Spend More Than Half Their Income On RentSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/13/2014 17:47 -0400
As 11.3 million Americans spend more than half their income on rent, a record increase of 28% in four years, increasingly more are faced with the core "New normal recovery" choice: “We either eat, or we pay rent.” Welcome to the Blackstone recovery...
Worried that Starbucks is running out of real estate? Concerned that McDonalds will be unable to fill its quota of minimum-wage employees as urban sprawl caps out? Have no fear for as the following map shows, there is plenty of room left in the world for the chains to expand... and of course, where there is a Starbucks there is mass affluence, right? Of course, extremes of heat and cold will require a little adaptation but that's what free easy money is for...
After Seven Lean Years, Part 1: US Residential Real Estate: The Present Position And Future ProspectsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/13/2014 10:24 -0400
In the last 8+ years, housing has proceeded through a cycle of bubble-bust-echo-bubble: now the echo bubble is crumbling, for all the same reasons the 2006-7 bubble burst: a prosperity based on asset bubbles and low interest rates is a phantom prosperity that cannot last.
With no major macro news on today's docket, it is a day of continuing reflection of Friday's abysmal jobs report, which for now has hammered the USDJPY carry first and foremost, a pair which is now down 170 pips from the 105 level seen on Friday, which in turn is putting pressure on global equities. As DB summarizes, everyone "knows" that Friday's US December employment report had a sizeable weather impact but no-one can quite grasp how much or why it didn't show up in other reports. Given that parts of the US were colder than Mars last week one would have to think a few people might have struggled to get to work this month too. So we could be in for another difficult to decipher report at the start of February. Will the Fed look through the distortions? It’s fair to say that equities just about saw the report as good news (S&P 500 +0.23%) probably due to it increasing the possibility in a pause in tapering at the end of the month. However if the equity market was content the bond market was ecstatic with 10 year USTs rallying 11bps. The price action suggests the market was looking for a pretty strong print.