On November 27th, 2012, the Eurogroup (comprising the Eurozone’s finance ministers) reached a decision on Greece. Its essence is a guarantee that Greece will remain in the Eurozone (and therefore off the Northern European agenda) for another ten to twelve months; at the very least until the German federal political cycle has seen through the election of a new Bundestag. The repercussions of this short-sighted agreement are grave not only for Greece but for the Eurozone, and indeed the European Union, more broadly. The fact that the markets’ expectation of some OMT assistance for Italy and Spain are keeping their bonds’ yields low, for the time being, does not alter the fact that the vicious contagion dynamic is gathering strength. Beyond this ‘small’ matter, Rome, Madrid and, indeed, Paris must now reckon with a Eurogroup decision that demonstrates how bogus all talk of a Growth Pact really has been. The fact that the Eurozone’s finance ministers declared, without the slightest hesitation, that substantial growth will come to depression-hit Greece without an iota of a smidgeon of a hint of fresh public investment reveals that Europe is truly blind to what it will take to deal with the recession it faces in aggregate and with the various depressions in its Periphery. So, what will come of Greece, given the latest Eurogroup ‘decision’? It is my fear, and belief, that the country is becoming a version of Kosovo – a protectorate in which the euro remains the currency, sovereignty is minimal, the population is ruled over by a glorified kleptocracy with strong links with Berlin and, last but not least, a permanent migratory flow is established that sees the young and the skilled move to northern Europe and beyond.
Right now the world produces more Oil than it consumes each day, and it has for the past 16 months, this trend will only get worse in 2013.
In the recent past we noted the somewhat startling reality that "the single mom is better off earning gross income of $29,000 with $57,327 in net income & benefits than to earn gross income of $69,000 with net income and benefits of $57,045." While mathematics is our tool - as opposed to the mathemagics of some of the more politically biased media who did not like our message - the painful reality in America is that: for increasingly more Americans it is now more lucrative - in the form of actual disposable income - to sit, do nothing, and collect various welfare entitlements, than to work. This is such an important topic that we felt it necessary to warrant a second look. The graphic below quite clearly, and very painfully, confirms that there is an earnings vacuum of around $40k in which US workers are perfectly ambivalent toward inputting more effort since it does not result in any additional incremental disposable income. With the ongoing 'fiscal cliff' battles over taxes and entitlements, this is a problematic finding, since - as a result - it is the US government that will have to keep funding indirectly this lost productivity and worker output (via wealth redistribution).
Two critical developments give us clues that the days of Central Bank intervention holding the system together are coming to an end.
The greater story behind Mark Carney’s appointment to the Bank of England may be the completion of Goldman Sachs’ multi-tentacled takeover of the European regulatory and central banking system. But let’s take a moment to look at the mess he is leaving behind in Canada, the home of moose, maple syrup, Jean Poutine and now colossal housing bubbles. George Osborne (who as I noted last month wants more big banks in Britain) might have recruited Carney on the basis of his “success” in Canada. But in reality he is just another Greenspan — a bubble-maker and reinflationist happy to pump the banking sector full of loose money and call it “prosperity” before the irrational exuberance runs dry, and the bubble inevitably bursts.
The United States is more than four years into its current form of economic purgatory. The government pronounced the recession over in June of 2009. That announcement does not conform with reality or even subsequent government suspect data. To believe the recession ended requires a bizarro interpretation of economics where bad is actually good and good is actually bad. 21st Century politics sees no need for truth. When government believes itself to be responsible for the economy and convinces the people of that, it has put itself into a box. The reality is that government does not create wealth or economic abundance. (They can create poverty, however.) The country’s economic problems began decades ago. In trying to cover them up with economic interventions (stimuli), government actions prevented the economy from correcting the imbalances that caused slow growth. After decades of such interventions, the economy no longer is able to function efficiently. We are coming off the biggest boom in the history of the world. Thus far all the Keynesian dollars expended have had little effect other than to make this country poorer. We are set up to have a Depression greater than the one in the 1930s. A Depression is not a good thing. Yet in this case, it may be the one event that can prevent a chapter in future history books entitled “The Demise of the Great American Empire.” The “greatest generation” handed us a gift and we fumbled it away by allowing government to run wild.
I am not really a doomer. But I do think that societies and individuals that do not prepare for the worst (and hope for the best) are needlessly endangering themselves. Tail risk events happen. An MIT study earlier this year predicted that the global economy would collapse by 2030. A new national survey by National Geographic and Kelton Research finds some interesting results... 9% of people have alternative power sources? 21% have made some attempt to grow their own food? Only 43% have a spare supply of drinking water? Not prepared at all.
Europe rather direction-less on its own. Equities still rather firmer than not; with Bonds just the same. Macro data generally rather bleak, although expectations have been put so low lately that anything about palatable will do. Peeking over the Pond to see whether Fiscal Cliff discussions could scuttle things. Here late valuations are such that numbers should be really good to get things going. So: Drifting. Chatting. Checking.
"What's Up?" (Bunds 1,38% +1; Spain 5,3% -2; Stoxx 2580 unch; EUR 1,301 +30)
Following last night's explanation that the potential for a short-squeeze is significantly reduced, and given the end of the typical month-end shake-out of excess positioning, this morning has seen stocks pull back modestly intraday and catch down to risk assets' view of the world in the short-term. Volume remains light and the question remains - will the European close bring trend reversal, or will Washington open their mouths and change the game again?
Perhaps the Bureau of Economic Analysis was hoping that today's cornucopia of ugly income and spending data would be enough for those who keep track of the US government's Department of Truth shennanigans and ignore the meat behind the numbers. Whatever the reason, the real story in today's Personal Spending data was not the consumer weakness, but the unceremonious revision of historical data, which as the chart below mysteriously whacked away a whopping $40 billion in real (i.e., inflation adjusted) disposable income. Because as the chart below shows, somehow, somewhere starting in March and continuing through the last month just before the election (the September data was released on October 29 or a week before Obama's reelection), $40 billion in cumulative disposable income evaporated. Where it went, and/or why it had been counted in the first place is anyone's guess. But one thing is certain: 0.25% of annualized GDP was just whacked away. One wonders: how many more such retroactive revisions will we see before reality and economic propaganda myth are finally superimposed?
Romney's apparent victory in the first Presidential debate was the worst outcome for U.S. stocks, for it gave false hope to a Republican sweeping into the White House. A more gradual acceptance of the November result would give the market a better chance to absorb the news with minimal impact. We are presented with a similar scenario with Washington’s addressing the fiscal cliff. Optimistic comments about resolving the crisis has spawned gains in equities that are sustainable while losses resulting from downbeat remarks have offered profitable short term buying opportunities. While much of this price action the past few days has benefitted from typical calendar money flows that will disappear in the middle of next week, some of the positive sentiment arises from the overwhelming belief that both sides can consummate a deal on the budget ahead of the December 31 deadline. The longer investors anticipate such a compromise, the more violently shares will tumble upon recognition that assuaging the crisis with a comprehensive solution will take extra innings.
Credit and equity markets (should they avoid a catalcysmic year-end slump back to reality) are heading for much better results that one might have expected. As JPMorgan's Michael Cembalest somewhat passive aggressively notes, this year looks to be a reward to those who stuck to normal investment allocations despite the macro issues in play, and despite low global economic growth. One way to visualize 2012: the red dot in the chart, which shows global GDP growth and equity market returns each year since 1970. There’s normally a connection between growth and equity returns, with the exception of the dots in the box, which are low-growth equity rallies. If we remove post-recession rallies and rallies based on significant interest-rate declines; what we are left with is the conclusion that 2012 is kind of unique: a low-growth year with double-digit global equity returns not based on a recession rebound or a bond market rally. The only other was 1998. Of course, a huge factor this year was the European rescue. What about 2013?
Markets sold off earlier today when Boehner commented that "no substantive progress had been made" in the last two weeks, only to recover quite rapidly. The 'rejection' is now in full context as the WSJ has just reported the terms have not changed (or compromised) at all since we first discussed them two weeks ago. A $1.6tn tax increase (upfront), $50 billion economic stimulus, and most importantly (we suspect guided by the miscreant hand of Geithner) the removal of the need for congressional approval to raise the debt ceiling. Overnight futures are down 5-6 points pushing towards Boehner's intraday lows. This should throw a little light on exactly where the negotiations stand (nowhere) and how willing each party is to change and bring hope to the table for compromise (not at all). With DC this far apart still, the game for the next few weeks is not to solve the fiscal cliff but to avoid getting the blame for the cliff-dive.
In a recent article at the NYT entitled 'Incredible Credibility', Paul Krugman once again takes aim at those who believe it may not be a good idea to let the government's debt rise without limit. In order to understand the backdrop to this, Krugman is a Keynesian who thinks that recessions should be fought by increasing the government deficit spending and printing gobs of money. Moreover, he is a past master at presenting whatever evidence appears to support his case, while ignoring or disparaging evidence that seems to contradict his beliefs. Krugman compounds his error by asserting that there is an 'absence of default risk' in the rest of the developed world (on the basis of low interest rates and completely missing point of a 'default' by devaluation). We are generally of the opinion that it is in any case impossible to decide or prove points of economic theory with the help of economic history – the method Krugman seems to regularly employ, but then again it is a well-known flaw of Keynesian thinking in general that it tends to put the cart before the horse (e.g. the idea that one can consume oneself to economic wealth).
We noted the debacle that occurred at midnight Eastern last night but the impact of this sudden and completely unfounded voluminous surge in buying activity (on no news or rumors) was much more widespread than just e-mini S&P 500 futures. The other equity indices also tagged along and we saw volumes and quote-rates jump in EURUSD futures, but more so in Crude futures and AUD futures. Thanks to NANEX, the charts below show the millisecond-by-millisecond reality of a broad and deep-pocketed algo liftathon as most of the East coast was tucked up in bed and Europe had still to wake. PPT - who knows? But it seems unusual at best or someone somewhere getting a rather large tap on the shoulder to shut their entire futures book?