The rock is reality. The squishy place is the illusion that pervasive racketeering is an okay replacement for an economy. The essence of racketeering is the use of dishonest schemes to get money, often (but not always) employing coercion to make it work. Some rackets can function on the sheer cluelessness of the victim(s).
Here's your Excuse Book, America. There's something for almost everyone. Luckily, there is still an infinite abundance of excuses, guilt-tripping, victimhood, rage against those with "more" (never mind what they sacrificed to build it) and denial of choice, consequence, risk and fact. Sadly, there are consequences to the pursuit of victimhood and the denial of will, choice, consequence, risk and fact, and they will be consequential indeed.
Over the past 30 years, the rise in the price of Christmas according to PNC's annual 12-days-of-Christmas price index has matched the CPI at around 2.9% YoY. However, in recent years, the reality is considerably worse than the well-managed inflation data the government profers. The price of Christmas in 2013 is up a stunning 7.7% over 2012 - the biggest jump since 2010' 9.2% rise. The biggest driver of the increase were the dancing ladies (must be the minimum wage decree?) though 8 items saw modest increases also. Once again, it seems the government's benign inflation data is fictionalized by reality's rising price of everything.
If somehow the scramble to open stores earlier and earlier on Thanksgiving day, until such time as the very Thanksgiving dinner had to be interrupted early for the annual rush out to the (un)friendly neighborhood Thug-Mart (Toys'R'Us opened at a ridiculous 5pm on Thanksgiving day) and punching people in the face just to get that 42 inch, 2010-model Plasma TV for $99, was supposed to boost overall sales instead of merely pulling them forward (see cash for clunkers), it didn't work. According to ShopperTrak, total Black Friday traffic plunged 11% and total sales fell 13.2%, the second consecutive year of declines following last year's 1.8%. The reason, as largely expected, is that a substantial portion of Friday shopping was pulled back to Thursday: as ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin said, "if retailers continue to promote Thanksgiving as the start of the holiday buying season, he thinks the holiday will eventually surpass Black Friday in sales. "We're just taking Black Friday sales and spreading them across a larger number of days," Martin said."
Taking a “short position” in either Japanese interest rates or their currency is a fundamentally sound idea; however it may take three to seven years for the “Macro-profits” to be fully realized. Over that time, a short position will demand a cost, either in the terms of the negative carry of a spot position or the time decay of a short-dated option. Additionally, since it is unlikely you will enter the trade at the extreme, there could be some mark-to-market vibrations that may breach your risk limits. To the rescue is the strange circumstance of a widening USD vs. JPY Rate differential in conjunction with a flattening Volatility Term Surface. Below is a table of mid-market values for Par Strike USD call // JPY put options with expiries from one-year to ten-years. The critical observation is that a five-year option costs more than a ten-year option; thus the weird dynamic of owning an option with (effectively) positive “theta”: You are paid to own an option !
Grant Williams "pulls no punches" in this all-encompassing presentation as the "Things That Make You Go Hmmm" author reflects on what is behind us and looks ahead at the ugly reality that we will face when "the impurities of QE are finally flushed from the system." Central bankers of today have "changed everything" he chides, "in ways that will ultimately end in disaster." Following extraordinarily easy monetary policies across all of the world's central banks, Williams explains why "we are now near the popping point of the 3rd major bubble of the last 15 years," each bigger than the last. The only way Janet Yellen avoids being at the helm when this ship goes down is to blow an even bigger bubble than Bernanke's government bond experiment, "which is highly unlikely." From how QE works, why many don't "feel" wealthy anymore, to the fact that "the geniuses that gave this thing life, don't have the guts to kill it," Williams warns, ominously, "the bills have come due on the blissful latst 30 years."
"We are on the eve of a deflationary shock which will likely reduce equity valuations from very high to very low levels.... Each investor must decide for themselves just how close to midnight they want to leave this particular party. The advice of Solid Ground is leave now as it is increasingly likely that one event will be the catalyst to very rapidly change inflationary into deflationary expectations... So perhaps it is global deflationary forces creating a bankruptcy event, somewhere in the world, that is the catalyst for a sudden change in inflationary expectations in the developed world. It can all happen very quickly; and it is dangerous to stay at an equity party driven by disinflation when it can spill so rapidly into deflation... When there is plenty of leverage in the system and any key price starts to decline then a credit event and a sudden change in inflationary expectations are much more possible than the consensus believes. So watch the TIPS, BAA bond spreads and copper if you must, but this analyst prefers to observe the party from outside.... Each investor must decide for themselves just how close to midnight they want to leave this particular party."
- Russell Napier, CLSA
1974 Enders To Kissinger: "We Should Look Hard At Substantial Sales & Raid The Gold Market Once And For All"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 11/30/2013 14:57 -0500
Four years ago we exposed what appeared to be a 'smoking gun' of the Fed's willingness to manipulate the price of gold. Then Fed-chair Burns noted the equivalency of gold and money, and furthermore pointed out that if the Fed does not control this core relationship, it would "easily frustrate our efforts to control world liquidity." Through a "secret understanding in writing with the Bundesbank that Germany will not buy gold," the cloak-and-dagger CB negotiations were exposed as far back as 1975. Recently, we exposed Paul Volcker's fears of "PetroGold" and the importance of the US remaining "masters of gold." Today, via a transcript of then Secretary of State Kissinger's 1974 meeting we see how clearly they understood that demonetizing gold was a critical strategy to maintaining a dominant power position in the world, and "raiding the gold market once and for all."
Faith, hope, and confidence are the 3 key factors driving stocks at this point with fundamentals lagging an awkward 4th place. Faith in the perpetual central bank put (and bad news is thus good news); Hope that repeating the same 'experiment' following its previous failures will work this time; and confidence that the old normal is re-attainable (no matter how many times we kick the can). Year-to-date, S&P 500 earnings are up around 7% (and the trajectory is declining); accordingly, as we noted previously, confidence is ultimately responsible for levitating nominal stock prices through multiple expansion.. and is responsible for the rest of the market's gains. With confidence now fading (according to most surveys) investors will not be willing to pay increasing multiples unless they are confident that the future streams of earnings are sustainable and forecastable...
You can’t overstate the baleful effects for Americans of living in the tortured landscapes and townscapes we created for ourselves in the past century. This fiasco of cartoon suburbia, overgrown metroplexes, trashed small cities and abandoned small towns, and the gruesome connective tissue of roadways, commercial smarm, and free parking is the toxic medium of everyday life in this country. Its corrosive omnipresence induces a general failure of conscious awareness that it works implacably at every moment to diminish our lives. It is both the expression of our collapsed values and a self-reinforcing malady collapsing our values further. The worse it gets, the worse we become. The citizens who do recognize their own discomfort in this geography of nowhere generally articulate it as a response to “ugliness.” This is only part of the story. The effects actually run much deeper.
As the S&P 500 continues to make higher highs, Citi's FX Technicals group attempts to identify important levels to watch. As they have highlighted before, while they respect the price action and the fact that the markets are making higher highs, there is an underlying degree of skepticism surrounding the sustainability of this uptrend from a more medium term perspective. Important levels/targets on the S&P 500 converge between 1,806 and 1,833. A convincing rally through this range (weekly close above) may open the way for a test of the 1,990 area (coincidentally the Fed balance-sheet-implied levels for end-2014); however, at this stage they are watching closely over the coming weeks as we approach the New Year.
This brings me back to an earlier point, that profits and earnings are likely peaking. All of these point to a top forming.
Yesterday, it was fast-food workers explaining that a 100% minimum wage rise "would do just fine" and today it is Wal-Mart employees pressing for a 50% rise. As McClatchy reports, Wal-Mart employees plan to disrupt operations at 1,500 of the company's stores on Black Friday. "Wal-Mart raked in $15.7 billion in profits last year alone, but apparently they don't feel any need to share that wealth with their millions of workers," rages one union campaign organizer as they hope the protests will also put pressure on Congress to increase the minimum wage. The reality of raising the minimum wage remains lost on most who never stop to think of where the 'money' comes from. But the protest lines and "unprecedented" disruption is unlikely to encourage Wal-Mart executives to soften their stance.
- So much for the euphoria: Stores open early on Thanksgiving but shoppers in no rush (Reuters)
- Get to work Mr. Chairwoman: Do-Nothing Congress Dithers on Budget as Deadline Nears (BBG)
- FX to Libor Probes Leave U.K. Traders Looking for Lawyers (BBG)
- Protesters Briefly Storm Thai Army Headquarters (WSJ)
- Berlusconi accused of bribing witnesses in prostitution trial (Reuters)
- Japan Price Gauge Rises Most Since ’98 in Boost to Abe (BBG)
- S&P downgrades Netherlands’ AAA credit rating (FT)
- GrainCorp Verdict Clouds Australia Open-For-Business Pledge (BBG)
- Hertz Fix in Dollar Thrifty Deal Fails as Insider Warned (BBG)
- Narrow Budget Agreement Comes Into View (WSJ)
A hungover America slowly wakes up from a day of society-mandated consumption and purchasing excess to engage in even more Fed-mandated excess in the equity markets. The only difference is that while the "90%" was engaged in the former and depleting their equity, and savings, accounts in the process, far less than 10% will be doing the latter. Overnight attention was drawn to the rapidly escalating territorial dispute between China and Japan, now in the air, Bitcoin's brief surge above the price of an ounce of gold, and the ejection of the Holland from the AAA Eurozone club (where only Germany and Finland remain), following an S&P downgrade of the Netherlands from AAA to AA+, which however had been largely priced in long ago (and was coupled with an upgrade of Spain from negative to stable outlook, as well as an upgrade of Spain from CCC+ to B-). Europe surprised pleasantly on both the inflation (better than expected) and unemployment rate (dropped from an all time high of 12.2% to 12.1%), even if youth unemployment rose to fresh record highs.