It is just getting stupid. Europe officially enters recession, Japan GDP declines nominally, China admits to food inflation which locks the PBOC out of easing for months, UK inflation is again rising faster than expected which will soon force the BOE to reevaluate its latest easing episode, Brent is once again rising on supply fears and middle east war fears to a 3 month high, corporate revenues have never been worse in this recession cycle and what happens? Futures spike following a very visible invisible finger pushing ES higher by 0.5% at 9 pm Eastern and setting the scene for trading throughout the night. And since the market has reverted back to full retard mode full of hope of an absolution from the Fed, this time at the August 31 Jackson Hole meeting, which will be very disappointing as Ben will say absolutely nothing yet again, why not take the S&P to new 2012 highs? After all well over 100% of QE3 is now priced in. Finally, expect the ES to surge by 10 points should advance retail sales miss wildly the consensus of a +0.3% print. After all, inverted is the NKI.
The two major overnight data points were European Q2 GDP which printed at -0.2%, or the expected continuation of the European double dip. As SocGen explains, these numbers continue to paint an all too predictable picture of growth in Europe, with expansion in Germany driven by exports and consumption, growth in France stagnating and deep recessions continuing in southern Europe. The European GDP pattern is now expected to be a copy of 2011. Amongst the country details, growth beat expectations in Germany (+0.3 q/q), Austria (0.2%), Slovakia (+0.7%) and the Netherlands (0.2%) but this was offset by deep declines in Finland (-1.0%) and Portugal (-1.2%). Amongst data already published we know Italy declined 0.7%, Spain declined 0.4% and Belgian GDP declined 0.6%. And while the market was clutching at the German GDP beat straw, it was the German ZEW Survey which threw a cog in the spikes of German economic perception, after the number came at a whopping -25.5, declining for the 4th consecutive month and far below expectations of -19.3, and a drop from the already negative -19.6. Finally, while there may be hopes that this is the bottom, already weak IP data confirms that the weakness in Europe has continued into Q3 and as such as the continental contraction will likely not stop contracting for the foreseeable future.
Conjuring images of Jack Nicholson in 'A Few Good Men', Alan Simpson laid out the sad and terrible truth that none of us or our politicians can handle in a very direct and sincere interview with Bloomberg TV's Deirdre Bolton. "Medicare costs stand to squeeze out the rest of domestic government spending," Simpson said, "it is on automatic pilot. It will use up every resource in the government." Simpson also said that the current path of debt, deficit and interest is “totally unsustainable” confirming once again the facade that his 18 years in Washington proved to him that he "never saw any projection of any economist ever come true." From Paul Ryan's plan to the 'simple math' of CBO budget projections, and whether older Americans should be afraid, Simpson pulls no punches as he sums up American society thus: "we don't care about our money, all we want is more money for our money."
It is important to note that markets were also unusually calm during the two weeks of the Chinese Olympics in 2008. The 2008 Summer Olympic Games took place slightly later in August than the London Olympics – starting August 8 and ending August 24. Only days after the ending of the Chinese Olympics came massive market volatility in September and then seven months of market turmoil. Similarly to this Olympic year, in Olympic year 2008, gold traded sideways to down in a period of consolidation prior to further gains. Gold bottomed in September 2008 in euro and sterling terms. Another brief bout of dollar strength saw gold bottom in November 2008 in dollar terms. Besides the eurozone crisis (and the significant risk of the German Constitutional Court deciding on September 12th to reject the recently cobbled together alphabet soup response to the crisis (ESM etc etc) and significant instability in the Middle East, there is also the not inconsequential risk from the US Presidential campaign and the upcoming ‘fiscal cliff’.
Two years ago, in August of 2010, Ben Bernanke pre-announced QE2 at the annual Jackson Hole economic policy symposium. What followed was a 20% spike in the stock market as the impact of another liquidity deluge was digested by the market, leading to such luminaries as Tepper to make his first ever TV appearance telling everyone he was "balls to the wall" long. The QE effect came and went, and Tepper made money, and then lost it, as QE2 was followed by Twist, and then by more easing out of Europe, including a global coordinated intervention. This year, as the US and global economies have been floundering, the Fed has so far disappointed, and despite a "mere" continuation of Twist, has so far refused to implement the same bazooka measure that it did 2 years ago, no doubt well aware that doing so would merely confirm that every successive intervention has less of an impact, and last about half as long as each previous one (as we demonstrated over the weekend). The market, however, like the honey badger, does not care: and with stocks trading just shy of 2012 highs, and with Crude having soared by 20% since July, and with Brent at 3 month highs, is very much convinced that the imminent Jackson Hole symposium of 2012 will be a repeat of 2010, and Bernanke will announce something (and if not, there is always September, and if the disappoints then there is October, and December - in a world addicted to Fed liquidity the only thing that matters is when is the next fix). So what happened in the last run up to the 2010 Jackson Hole meeting? Here is a visual and factual summary.
Last week was a scratch in terms of events, if not in terms of multiple expansion, as 2012 forward EPS continued contraction even as the market continued rising and is on the verge of taking out 2012 highs - surely an immediate catalyst for the New QE it is pricing in. This week promises to be just as boring with few events on the global docket as Europe continues to bask in mid-August vacation, and prepare for the September event crunch. Via DB, In Europe, apart from GDP tomorrow we will also get inflation data from the UK, Spain and France as well as the German ZEW survey. Greece will also auction EU3.125bn in 12-week T-bills to help repay a EU3.2bn bond due 20 August held by the ECB. Elsewhere will get Spanish trade balance and euroland inflation data on Thursday, German PPI and the Euroland trade balance on Friday. In the US we will get PPI, retail sales and business inventories tomorrow. On Wednesday we get US CPI, industrial production, NY Fed manufacturing, and the NAHB housing index. Building permits/Housing starts and Philly Fed survey are the highlights for Thursday before the preliminary UofM consumer sentiment survey on Friday.
While Frau Merkel remains beach-bound somewhere, hence the lack of 'Neins' recently, her deputy chancellor Michael Fuchs made it unequivocally clear this morning in a Handelsblatt interview that Germany had "reached the limit of its capacity" over additional EFSF payments to Greece and reiterated the double-whammy that the ESM should NOT receive a banking license and that the ECB should NOT act as "money printing press in disguise" by extending emergency loans and bypassing EFSF/ESM. A decision about whether Greece should be given the second tranche of its loan will not be made until October, after the Troika finalizes its first review of the second rescue program in September. However, BNP Paribas notes that there have been a couple of developments worth noting over the past week and more are likely in the coming weeks.
Perhaps summarising best how so many of the back-to-school shoppers feel, Reuters cites this insightful 18-year-old thus: "I feel like the economy is messed up [and it] feels like we are still in recession." The equity market's response, of course, is "whatev'" and while it has been three years since the 'official' end of the recession, unemployment among teenagers is the highest since 1964! The anecdotal evidence is starting to pile up as we see retailer after retailer cut outlooks - which is especially concerning since the back-to-school period is the second-biggest selling season after the winter holiday season and as the head of BizDev from Mall of America notes: "We used to see people starting [back-to-school shopping] in late July but I don't see that anymore" as "consumers have shown tentativeness in their spending habits" and are likely to push off the spend until September, and "just shopping when there is a good sale." Once again, consumers have become conditioned to wait for discounts - and sure enough 20%-plus price reductions and more aggressive promotions are planned according to Accenture's retail practice. However, one quote on 'thriftiness' struck a chord: "We are borrowing this year to fund a lot of things that we normally would not have borrowed to do. It makes me nervous, we are selling our second home to help pay for things" - oh, no - not your second home!
Yes, There's A NEW Bubble It's Near Guaranteed To Pop Bringing Consumer Discretionary and Durable Sector Stocks Along With It!
Look around. Take a good long and hard look because the data is becoming unsettling and it is pouring in from all over the world. In China, where a hard landing was thought to have been avoided; one moment please, not so fast. The world’s growth engine is sputtering and there will be consequences. In Europe the situation is dramatically worsening with virtually every country in a recession with the notable exception of Germany though we predict they will join the club by the fourth quarter of this year or by the first quarter of next year. For those that think that the Fed will save the day, if not the planet, we suggest to you that you may be in for an unpleasant surprise. There is only so much they can do now and each Fed action is being met by a less and less reaction in the markets and of a shorter duration.
The Obama campaign has amplified its push on increasing taxes on the wealthy and has painted Mitt Romney as a Robin-hood in reverse saying that he wants to take from the poor and give to the rich. The attack on Romney is incorrect as the real truth is that it is the current Administration that is failing, once again, to recognize that the problems facing the economy has nothing to do with the current tax rate structure. It is election season, however, and the Obama campaign's "eat the rich" rhetoric will play well with the 22% of the population that is either unemployed, discouraged, working part-time for economic reasons or have just given up looking for work. It will also play well with the rest of the country that are living paycheck to paycheck as real wages have been on the decline over the last couple of years while the cost of living has risen. While the speeches, finger pointing and podium pounding will certainly tug at the heart strings of those living in a recessionary economy - it only serves to deflect attention from where it should be directed - employment.
All you need to know about the fiscal cliff which will savage the US economy in under 5 months, unless Congress finds a way to compromise at a time when animosity and polarization in congress is the worst it has ever been in history.
- Gu Kailai Trial Has Ended, verdict imminent (WSJ)
- Greek unemployment rises to 23.1 pct in May, new record (Reuters)
- Greece’s Power Generator Tests Euro Fitness Amid Blackout Threat (Bloomberg)
- Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac Results May Ease Wind-Down Push (Bloomberg)
- Monti takes off gloves in euro zone fight (Reuters)
- U.S. Fed extends comment period for Basel III (Reuters)
- HP in $8bn writedown on services arm (FT) - must be good for +10% in the stock
- News Corp in $2.8bn writedown (FT) - must be good for +10% in the stock
- Japan to Pass Sales Tax Bill After Noda Avoids Election Push (Bloomberg)
- China May Set New Property Controls This Month, Securities Says (Bloomberg)
It would appear that the dilemma of the world exporting more than it imports (that we initially pointed out here) is starting to come to a head in reality with a negative export trade shock. As Gluskin Sheff's David Rosenberg notes, since the recovery began three years ago, over 70% of the real GDP growth we have seen was concentrated in export volumes and inventory investment; and recent data from the ISM (here and here) points to a dramatic slowdown in both. Compounding this weakness is the fact that the remaining growth was from Capex - which is now likely to slow given the weakening trend in corporate profits - and will more than offset any nascent turnaround in the housing sector - if that is to be believed. The consumer has all but stalled and adding up all these effects and there is a high probability of a 0% GDP growth print as early as Q4.
The lunatics are running the asylum. This is the only conclusion one can come to when considering the nonchalance with which what was once considered an extraordinary policy with a firm 'exit' in mind is now propagated as a perfectly normal 'tool' to be employed at the drop of a hat. We refer of course to so-called 'quantitative easing' (QE), which really is a euphemism for money printing. Apart from his sole focus on short term outcomes, an important point that seems not be considered by the FOMC's Rosengren this week is the question of what should happen if the 'open-ended' QE policy were to fail to achieve its stated goals. He seems to assume that it will succeed in lowering unemployment and creating 'economic growth' as a matter of course. It goes without saying that money printing cannot create a single molecule of real wealth. If it could, then Zimbabwe wouldn't be a basket case, but a Utopia of riches. We must infer from Rosengren's idea of implementing open-ended QE until certain benchmarks in terms of unemployment and 'growth' are achieved, that in case they remain elusive, extraordinary rates of money printing would simply continue until the underlying monetary system breaks down.