Yesterday we joked that we:
Need a short selling ban in Italy. All the evil speculators' fault
— zerohedge (@zerohedge) February 25, 2013
Today, we were reminded, that in a socio-fascist, insolvent world, the thin line between the Onion and reality no longer exists:
- ITALY'S CONSOB CONSIDERS SHORT-SELL BANS FOR HEAVILY SOLD STKS
- ITALY REGULATORS CONSIDER MEASURES TO TIGHTEN VOLATILITY LIMITS
- ITALY REGULATOR DISCUSSING VOLATILITY MEASURES WITH EXCHANGE
Next, as always happens, will be a ban on selling, then finally, a confiscation of all discretionary accounts by the government. Because the government knows what's best for you, and are here to help you with your "sell" execution.
While the market will do everything in its power to forget yesterday's Hung Parliament outcome ever happened, and merrily look forward to today's Bernanke testimony (first of two) before the Senate, Europe is not quite so forgiving. Because moments after today's Italian Bill auction in which the now government-less country sold €8.75 billion in 6 month bills at a yield of 1.237% nearly double the 0.731% yield for the same issue previously, things went bump in the night, leading Italian 2Y yields to surge +38bps to 2.086%, vs 2.063% earlier, while the benchmark Italian 10Y yields soared +28bps to 4.766%, vs 4.739% earlier, and just shy of JPM's 5% target. Spain is not immune from the Italian developments, and while it will take the market some time to realize that the next political scandal may be dropping this time in Spain (as reported yesterday), the Spanish 10 Year is already up 7% to 5.23%. Suddenly talk of parity between Italy and Spain may be on the table all over again. And while unlike yesterday there is US macro data, in the form of US consumer confidence, new homes sales and house price data, all the market will care about is soothing Wall Street sellside spin that Italy is not really as bad as everyone said it would be if precisely what happened, happened. With the EURUSD on the verge of breaking down the 1.3000 support, it is very unclear if they will succeed.
Italy is driving the markets. Japanese developments means the market is closer to give Abenomics its first test. Bernanke to set the record straight after many gave the regional non-voting Fed presidents too much weight in understanding trajectory of Fed policy.
Peak oil we can handle. We find new sources, we develop alternatives, and/or prices rise. It's all but certain that by the time we actually run out of oil, we'll already have shifted to something else. But "peak water" is a different story. There are no new sources; what we have is what we have. Absent a profound climate change that turns the evaporation/rainfall hydrologic cycle much more to our advantage, there likely isn't going to be enough to around. As the biosphere continually adds more billions of humans (the UN projects there will be another 3.5 billion people on the planet, a greater than 50% increase, by 2050 before a natural plateau really starts to dampen growth), the demand for clean water has the potential to far outstrip dwindling supplies. If that comes to pass, the result will be catastrophic. People around the world are already suffering and dying en masse from lack of access to something drinkable... and the problems look poised to get worse long before they get better.
Whenever I endeavor to explain America’s current economic situation to a person who likely receives most of his information from skewed mainstream news sources, I try to use two comparisons; the Great Depression, and Weimar Germany, because what we are experiencing is actually a combination of elements from both events. In the end, the madness of debt spending is going to annihilate this country anyway. Fiat printing and infinite QE will eventually result in the dumping of our currency as the world reserve, causing devaluation and hyperstagflation. Stimulus and the monetization of government liabilities are crippling us. The problem is, this nation is irrevocably dependent on such measures. Cuts will result in almost similar catastrophe, but on a faster time frame and perhaps a slightly shorter duration (depending on who runs the show in the aftermath). I’ve been saying it since 2008 – there is no easy way out of this situation. There is no silver bullet solution. There will be struggle, and there will be consequence. It is unavoidable. All we have to decide now is how we will respond when the inevitable disaster comes.
Waste and Fraud Are the Real Causes of the Deficit
Is the U.S. economy about to experience a major downturn? Unfortunately, there are a whole bunch of signs that economic activity in the United States is really slowing down right now. In many ways, what we are going through right now feels very similar to 2008 before the crash happened. Back then the warning signs of economic trouble were very obvious, but our politicians and the mainstream media insisted that everything was just fine, and the stock market was very much detached from reality. When the stock market did finally catch up with reality, it happened very, very rapidly. Sadly, most people do not appear to have learned any lessons from the crisis of 2008. Americans continue to rack up staggering amounts of debt, and Wall Street is more reckless than ever. As a society, we seem to have concluded that 2008 was just a temporary malfunction rather than an indication that our entire system was fundamentally flawed. In the end, we will pay a great price for our overconfidence and our recklessness.
It's a cat and mouse game, only you're unable to realise that you were neither to begin with.
When Moody's downgraded the UK's sovereign credit rating last week it was something of an anti-climax. The ratings agencies long ago lost what little credibility they ever had. Being downgraded by Moody's is like being called a moron by a moron; ask anyone who has ever set foot in a bond dealing room - the ratings agencies are always behind the curve. The UK has been on the skids, credit-wise, for years. Britain's debt to GDP has gone through the roof. We, and generations to come, will be left with the reckoning. Nobody believes that bonds are an objective reflection of economic reality. The game is rigged, and everybody knows it. But the Moody's downgrade should serve as a piercing smoke alarm to anybody still naive enough to be holding these instruments of value destruction. Get out now while the going is good.
Speculation, derivatives, and the price of food in poor countries
Who says necessity is not the mother of invention in the New Normal. While a tiny fraction of the Japanese population is enjoying the transitory effects of Abe's latest reflating "wealth effect" policy (even as China has made it clear said policy will end quite soon), the bigger problem for Japan is that even sooner, more and more of it will be reliant on hamster wheels to generate electricity, as LNG prices have just hit a record high and are rising at a breakneck pace, and as local nuclear power generation has collapsed to virtually zero. Which means one thing: electricity will soon become so unaffordable only those who are invested in the daily 2% Nikkei surges will be able to electrify their immediate surroundings. So what is Japan's solution? A quite ingenious one: as Geek.com and ASR both report, Japan's Fujifilm has created organic printed sheet that harvests energy from body heat, or in other words, converts body heat to electricity. Finally, at least one key part of the Matrix "reality" is now fully operational - the use of human beings as batteries.
There is a simple reason why the real money (as opposed to fast money tweakers) has been far less excited about the domestic equity fund inflows than the financial media and their sponsoring commission-takers would suggest. The reason is - as Goldman shows empirically, not anecdotally - fund flows 'lag' performance, 'not lead'! As we have noted previously, the great rotation myth is simply that - a unicorn-like belief that the investing public will sell down their bond portfolios (high-yield, investment-grade, and sovereign) to stake their future on stocks - when the reality is the flows (which are not rotating to stocks 'net' anyway) simply reflect the sheep-like herding of performance-chasing index-huggers hoping to beat the greater fool. There always has to be someone left holding the bag...
Equities have rallied to all-time highs, sovereign debt is still just off their all-time lows and risk assets have compressed to their benchmarks in ways not dreamed about five years ago. The absence of hyper-inflation, once thought to be the consequence of this type of behavior, is nowhere to be seen and this has befuddled many economist and money manager alike. In other words, what most people thought would happen has not happened and there is a lesson here which rests upon all of the Central Banks acting in concert. Money is always put to use, it is never idle because it then earns nothing, but since it cannot be invested off-world it must go into the spaces that are provided and so it has. One can honestly say that the game has been rigged and this is an accurate statement but it makes no difference; this is the game that we have been given to play. Investors get to make all kinds of choices but we do not make the rules and arguing with reality may be an interesting academic exercise but it changes nothing in the end.
The one-stop, comprehensive summary of the key positive and negative news and events in the past week.
With recent (post-Minutes) chatter of a gradually-tightening Fed since curtailed by a plethora of Federal Reserve market savants jawboning us back to creditopia - "the liquidity must flow"; we thought a gentle reminder of what Quantitative Easing really is was worthwhile. Whether goldbug, bond-vigilante, or permabull-stock-muppet; two-and-a-half minutes of reality (or comedy) depending on your perspective.