For many years, the Chinese politburo had a simple solution to accusations that central planning doesn't work: just make up the economic numbers. However, a few months ago China found itself in hot water when it became impossible to pretend its manipulated numbers were even remotely credible, driven by a massive discrepancy between China exports to Hong Kong and HK imports from China. The immediate result by China, and the PBOC, as it attempted to regain some credibility was an drastic and epic move to force capital reallocation, in the process nearly wiping out its banking sector when interbank lending rates exploded to over 25%. For now, China appears to have regained some control even if the ensuing CNY1 trillion deleveraging that is imminent is sure to lead to unprecedented pain for the country that is more addicted to credit creation than any other. But in the meantime, China has once again fallen bank to doing what it does best: manipulating economic data, in this case the recently announced PMI. Only this time there is a twist: instead of goalseeking reported data to comply with some artificial reality that Beijing approves of, now China is simply flat out refusing to report numbers, period!
North American crude oil has been in the news on several fronts this week, including some rapid price moves and an unexpected intervention by President Obama. Despite the publication of a new report projecting a much more rapid rate of tight oil supply growth than is generally expected and the entire Buffet-Railroad-Traffic-Pipeline meme relying on increasingly exponential dreams of the Bakken et al. saving us from our excess-energy-consuming selves, Barclays questions just how realistic these forecasts are, noting "it is perhaps wise to exercise a degree of caution over longer-term shale oil forecasts... partly because of the steepness of decline rates for shale oil wells, a lot of the very big productivity gains have already been made, and finally, skepticism around some of the more ambitious projections of US shale output due to the existence of numerous logistical barriers."
While last night's Tankan manufacturing reports met lowered expectations, it seems the reality of the domestic Japanese economy remains as bleak as ever. As Nikkei reports, Japan's domestic sales of new cars, trucks, and buses declined 15.8% for a year earlier in June for the second consecutive month. Even if one argues that Abenomics goal is not just boosting the domestic economy, total Japanese car sales were down almost 11% YoY as Honda saw its sales drop a stunning 40.7%. The latest figures continue this year's downward trend and while some blame the particularly sharp drop on fewer selling days in June, the auto dealer's association also said reflects the "ongoing severe" situation in the domestic market.
As of 2013, the composition of the leadership in China has changed dramatically. The engineers are gone. Today the leadership is comprised of Economists and Lawyers.
There is no European Banking Union. This is a good place to start. It does not exist which is why all of the ballyhoo and discussion in the Press is of such little importance. This grand scheme is nothing more than theory at this point and not a very good theory at that.
A busy week, with a bevy of significant data releases, starting with the already reported PMIs out of China and Europe (as well as unemployment and inflation numbers from the Old World), the US Manufacturing and Services PMI, another Bill Dudley speech on Tuesday, US factory orders, statements by the ECB and BOE, where Goldman's new head Mark Carney will preside over his first meeting, and much more in a holiday shortened US week.
Day after day we are bombarded by the sound and fury of each and every macro-economic data point that is then extrapolated as meaning either a) it's bad enough that the Fed will be behind us forever more, or b) it's good enoughthat we are on the path to self-sustainable escape-velocity based utopia. The US, especially, seems to have been proclaimed the cleanest dirty shirt ("where else are you going to put your money" is mantra'd into our minds - especially odd now since treasury yields exceed equity dividends by such a large margin). But, as usual, a glimpse at the data and reality hits the investor squarely in the face. The following 12 charts of global macro surprise indices - i.e. just how well nations are doing relative to PhD economist expectations - should summarize the sturm und drang we suffer each day.
The Way-Back Machine strikes again...
Something is way off: either the unemployment data is very much wrong and the real unemployment rate is far higher especially when normalized for the collapsing labor participation rate and the surge in part-time and temp workers, or the GDP calculation is incorrect and the economy is growing at a 4%+ rate. (It isn't). The scarier implication is that in addition to all other seasonally adjusted economic data points which have become painfully unreliable, daily Treasury tax receipts must also now be added to the docket of meaningless and corrupt data points. The question of just how the Treasury could explain a massive (and deficit boosting) cash discrepancy could only be answered if somehow the Fed is found to be parking cash directly into the Treasury's secret basement.
From Bill Gross: "In trying to be specific about which conditions would prompt a tapering of QE, the Fed tilted overrisked investors to one side of an overloaded and overlevered boat. Everyone was looking for lifeboats on the starboard side of the ship, and selling begat more selling, even in Treasuries. While the Fed’s move may ultimately be better understood or even praised, it no doubt induced market panic. Without the presence of a “Bernanke Put” or the promise of a continuing program of QE check writing, investors found the lifeboats dysfunctional. They could only sell to themselves and almost all of them had too much risk. A band somewhere on the upper deck began to play “Nearer, My God, to Thee.”"
Day after day we are force-fed the typical mumbo-jumbo jargon memes from strategists, analysts, and asset-gethering commission-takers. Today we get a breath of fresh air from, arguably, the man on the street - whose perspective seems very prescient. 'Pawn Star' show business owner Rick Harrison explains to CNBC - in words that we can all understand - why gold remains a crucial insurance for people because "governments can screw up the currency," how our economy is based purely on printing money, physical gold and paper gold disconnects - "I'm having a real difficult time right now getting physical metal. It is the crazy world of gold and silver; sometimes the paper market is going down, but you can't actually find the physical items," and the increasingly bubble-like reality of our housing market (especially in Las Vegas).
From time to time it is necessary to quietly sit down and assess where we are going. Sovereign revenues cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, support the imbedded costs of countries. Investors of the world are in another reality altogether. They do not want to hear anything about these sorts of things. They are in the state of, "ignore and deplore." You can live there for a while. Government induced fantasies have occupied the center stage before and for some time. Our current denial of reality is fueled by all of the money that the central banks have pumped into the world but that will be diminishing as the Fed and others examine the longer term consequences of their actions. There are always consequences. What has been put off will arrive. It was always just a matter of time.
Nearly a year after revelations of financial fraud involving the Vatican Bank, and months after a German lawyer was picked to become the new head of the bank that is collateralized by the full faith and credit of Catholicism, the scandal is back following news tha a cleric, a spook and a banker were arrested as part of the ongoing Italian investigation into the troubled bank.
With the Comex futures prices becoming increasingly irrelevant, a Physical Gold price datasource for buyers of physical Gold
The bloodbath in the bond markets has led some 'greatly rotating' commentators to see this as the end of the long bull market (and the beginning of a lost decade for Treasuries); in fact, as SocGen's Albert Edwards notes, the financial wreckage left in the wake of Bernanke's taper talk has generated a lot of interesting commentary. But, he asks (and answers eloquently in this far-reaching anatomy of all-the-world's-views-on-what-the-Fed-is-doing) what if (as we have noted) tapering has nothing to do with the US economy having reached a sustainable take-off velocity? From Janjuah to Rosenberg, and from Wolf to Faber, Edwards explains how his Ice-Age thesis (lower lows and lower highs for nominal economic quantities in each cycle... with each recovery bringing a partial reversal to the process and each recessionary phase taking us to shocking new lows, both in bond yields and in equity multiples) is very much still in play (despite the risks that are evident) since governments will take the path of least resistance, which is to print their way out of this looming fiscal catastrophe. Marc Faber is right. QE99 here we come.