German daily Der Spiegel has conducted a rather unexpected interview with Mark Meckler, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, or about as right as they come, in which he discusses the US debt ceiling, the radical right's "uncompromising fight against the national debt" and the "complete economic disaster" he claims President Barack Obama has created. Naturally, the bottom line should not come as a surprise to anyone: the great reset is overdue, and it is all Obama's fault. What is curious is that Germany is giving such a prominent soapbox to one of the US administration's biggest critics. Is Germany becoming more actively involved in doing what ECB's Trichet and Noyer have done over the past month, namely deflecting Europe's own problems by pointing out the country which Europeans have said has even worse credit fundamentals? Will ridiculing America be the dominant theme in Europe's media over the next few weeks even as the second European bailout falls apart (Intesa Sanpaolo was halted again earlier, for the nth time). Is the game of G-8 scapegoating about to take on a whole new dimension? And what does that mean for future consensus in an organization that has for now been largely submissive to every US whim? We will find out in the coming months.
News from last night out of China, coupled with early morning news from Europe confirmed what many speculated: namely that global manufacturing is now in a toxic spiral and absent another stimulus kick from various monetary and fiscal authorities there is no catalyst on the horizon to put the global economy into second gear. As Reuters observes, factories in Asia and Europe all but stagnated in July, according to business surveys that showed the weakest rates of growth since major industrial powers were struggling through the 2009 recession. While stock markets rose on signs of a last minute solution that would avoid a U.S. debt default, manufacturing purchasing managers indexes (PMIs) provided the latest evidence of a slowing global economy. The euro zone manufacturing PMI, which gauges the activities of thousands of businesses, fell to 50.4 in July from 52.0 in June -- its worst showing since September 2009 and barely above the 50 mark dividing growth and contraction. Perhaps more worryingly, China's official government PMI dropped to 50.7 from 50.9 in June, its weakest in more than two years, while the HSBC PMI fell below the 50 mark for the first time in a year -- to 49.3 in July from 51.6. Following Friday's horrendous GDP and Chicago PMI readings these are hardly a surprise. Needless to say, the reverse decoupling thesis will be tested once again today after the July ISM is released with consensus looking for a 54.9 print, and Zero Hedge looking for number just a tad above 50. But none of this matters. As Bloomberg's James Halloway points out, "Markets are for now shrugging off Friday’s poor U.S. GDP report, softening PMI prints in China and Germany, contractionary PMI readings for Ireland, Spain, U.K." One couldn't have put the idiocy of the market any better. Oh, and did we mention there is actually still no deal on the debt ceiling. It is merely priced in. As was Tarp 1 before the vote, leading to the biggest then historical collapse in the Dow once the market realized it had gotten ahead of itself. Deja vu coming up?
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Resolved for a moment or not it's time to give this chasm in American political and economic life a closer look from a decidedly off South Main Street USA perspective.
And there you have it. Mark Zandi, better known for predicting at least 18 occurrences of a US recovery in the past 4 quarters, and being as wrong on the shape of the US growth curve as everyone else on Wall Street (although being Moody's head economist that is a perfectly normal track record), just told CNN's State of the Union that the deal is substantive enough to where Moody's will not move to downgrade the US' AAA rating. Naturally, the fact that this is merely another massive can kicking exercise which will see the US debt ceiling raised by $3 trillion with actual cumulative cuts of about $100 billion tops by November 2012 at which point yet another debt ceiling hike will have to be planned is irrelevant. All that matters is to get the S&P back to the year's highs, 120% debt/GDP (same as Greece) be damned.
While the biggest winner of the ongoing political melodrama is C-SPAN, whose ratings have likely never been higher, and the broad audience is logically largely distracted by the hourly lack of development out of the White House, what we do know is that QE2 has failed to generate any growth in the economy, with both Q2 and Q1 GDP crashing spectacularly to a point where post another revision Q1 will be the inflection point where America re-entered another recession. Furthermore, we have seen a stark example of the economic snake eating its tail, whereby the more than proportional increase in the price of commodities, courtesy of Bernanke's policies, has offset any potential incipient growth germs that may have been lingering in the economy in Q3 2010 through Q2 2011. Yet all of these are backward looking indicators. The question is what happens to the global economy going forward? For the answer we again turn to Sean Corrigan, who remarks on some very disturbing developments in the global macro arena, which when tied in to core tenets of the Austrian Business Cycle theory, indicate that the global soft landing may be a mirage, and that the downslope we are already in, may convert into a stall from which the global airborne Titanic does not recover.
Economists will long debate the efficacy of our traditional policy response but, whatever the results so far, there are constraints that place severe limitations on the effectiveness of such policy going forward. The US deficit and the trajectory of US spending is unsustainably high and, as the late economist Herbert Stein famously observed, “what cannot last, will not do so”. Any further fiscal stimulus risks pushing US finances past the tipping point, which would be a reckless gamble. At near zero short term interest rates, traditional monetary policy has become impotent, QE has been ineffective and the Fed has entered uncharted waters with its massive increase in the monetary base, risking inflation once private sector deleveraging ceases and velocity picks up. So neither traditional remedy is available any longer.
With US unemployment lodged stubbornly above 9%, what is to be done? Our policymakers, economists and commentators appear trapped in the confines of a paradigm that is no longer viable. Is there any other policy that might help spur recovery, or must we become resigned to waiting it out?
The recession still has not ended, but Bernanke's hands are tied by inflation.
That David Rosenberg - the skeptic - threw up all over the Q2 (and revised Q1) GDP in his note to clients yesterday is no surprise. Even Joe Lavorgna did it (which makes us quietly wonder if America is not poised to discover cold fusion, perpetual motion, nirvana, a truly edible iPad, and peace on earth). That David Rosenberg - the deflationist - makes light fare ("ceiling will be raised") of the ongoing debt debacle is also no surprise: after all should the US default, the long bond strategy the Gluskin Sheff strategist has long been espousing will go up in a puff of smoke. What, however, is surprising, is the fact that as of yesterday's Breakfast with Rosie we get to put a political face to the financial man, and it very well may be... David Rosenberg - Tea Partier.
Q1 2011 GDP was revised one final time from 1.9% to 0.4% and Q2 2011 GDP the first estimate was 1.3%. Before analyzing the data I have one very simple question. Economic growth slowed during Q2 as acknowledged by the Fed and indicated by regional Fed surveys, ISM, durable goods, etc so how could Q2 GDP be higher than Q1 GDP? That would imply the economy accelerated and clearly that has not happened. In other words just as Q1 2008 was eventually shown as the start of the great recession so will Q2 2011 in subsequent revisions... Don't be fooled by the state of the US economy. In reality we never left recession but regardless we are clearly back and the data points to anything but a soft patch. This report and the Q1 revision was truly horrible. In my view it shows the US far more vulnerable to a prolonged period of contraction versus a Japanese style period of rolling recessions.
Your one stop summary for all the major bullish and bearish events in the past week.
Back in May when we presented our humble and succinct analysis on what the preliminary 1.8% GDP looked like, we said "Ex the now traditional inventory build [of 1.2%], Q1 GDP growth was sub 1%" basically being the only party who said that aside for the "old faithful plug" better known as the traditional BEA fudge to get GDP to whereever the administration wants it, growth was where it ultimately ended up being: 0.4%. And the kicker? The primary cause of the downward revision was, you guessed it, Inventories, which imploded from 1.31% to 0.32% (see chart). In other words, the next time we are skeptical about government data in any format, believe us, and not "them." Which also goes for our skepticism when it comes to the predictive ability of one Goldman Sachs, most notably our take on Goldman's December 1 2010 "watershed" report in which Hatzius said: "This outlook represents a fundamental shift in the thinking that has governed our forecast for at least the last five years... Five years ago, we became very pessimistic about the US economic outlook...So why do we now expect growth to pick up? In a nutshell, it is because underlying demand has strengthened significantly" Total and utter fail. Our summary then was also rather spot on: "Much more hopium inside. This is unfortunate. Jan Hatzius used to have credibility." Indeed, after waiting for so long, the firm once again capitulated per its most recent report released last night: "Our forecasts for 3%-3.5% growth in Q4 and 2012 are under review for probable downgrade." So with apologies for the self-backpatting, this brings us to the topic of this post. As we have said for over a year, the catalyst for QE3 will be none other than Goldman. Which is convenient because the title of Goldman's report is "The Fed's Easing Options." Pretty much as subtle as it gets.
When Deutsche Bank's Joey perma-LaWronga finally gives up on his call that has been wrong for about 3 years now, it may be time to i) panic or ii) buy everything with three hands (thank you Fukushima). We are leaning to the former, especially after the upcoming downgrade forces the Fed to launch QE3 in about a month.
Here are some of the first sell-side and media perspectives on the abysmal Q2 GDP. And of course, nobody could have foreseen this huge collapse in the US economy. Nobody.