Here come the revisionists with new malarkey about the 2008 financial crisis. No less august a forum than the New York Times today carries a front page piece by journeyman financial reporter James Stewart suggesting that Lehman Brothers was solvent; could and should have been bailed out; and that the entire trauma of the financial crisis and Great Recession might have been avoided or substantially mitigated. That is not just meretricious nonsense; its a measure of how thoroughly corrupted public discourse about the fundamental financial and economic realities of the present era has become owing to the cult of central banking. The great error of September 2008 was not in failing to bailout Lehman. It was in providing a $100 billion liquidity hose to Morgan Stanley and an even larger one to Goldman. They too were insolvent. That was the essence of their business model. Fed policies inherently generate runs, and then it stands ready with limitless free money to rescue the gamblers. You can call that pragmatism, if you like. But don’t call it capitalism.
While Greek government yields (and political leaders) proclaim the troubled peripheral European nation is 'recovering', the risk of major political upheaval in Greece has not gone away ahead of next year's presidential vote next year. As Reuters notes, under growing pressure from anti-bailout leftists, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras desperately needs a new narrative to get the backing of lawmakers and rally Greeks fed up with four years of austerity. We wish him luck as Keep Talking Greece notes, it is high time that the real data of the economic situation of the Greek society come to the surface and so it did this week. A report from Greece's State Budget Office found that three in every five Greeks, or some 6.3 million people, were living in poverty or under the threat of poverty in 2013 due to material deprivation and unemployment.
For a long time, Fed printing via balance sheet expansion has been the key to understanding markets and the predominant driver that has trumped all other matters. Investors have been able to ignore significant global events, tensions, and economic conditions in faraway places, because a lower real and perceived risk premium from implicit Fed promises was the single most important aspect driving asset prices higher. This game is quickly coming to an end. As the Fed’s asset purchase program ends next month, global events and global economic fundamentals will have to be taken into account and priced accordingly.
The pool of greater fools willing and able to buy assets at higher prices with leveraged free money has been drained by six years of credit/risk expansion. Those who believe the stock market can continue rising despite the end of the Fed's "free money for financiers" programs are implicitly claiming that the pool of greater fools is still filled to the brim. Simply put, speculating with leveraged free money and extending credit to marginal borrowers is not sustainable or productive, and the stock market seems poised to reflect these three dynamics...
For the 3rd month in a row, S&P Case-Shiller home prices fell MoM with July's 0.5% drop the biggest since November 2011. This dragged the YoY growth to 6.75% (missing expectations of 7.4%) and its slowest rate of increase since November 2012. Non-seasonally-adjusted the drop is even larger (-0.6% MoM). Perhaps most notably San Francisco was the biggest drag on the index.
It has been a night of relentless and pervasive disappointing economic data from just about every point on the globe: first the Chinese HSBC manufacturing data was well short of expectations (50.2 vs. Exp. 50.5), which was promptly spun as bullish and a reason for more stimulus by the PBOC even though the central bank has been constantly repeating it will not engage in western-style shotgun easing. Then Japanese wages, household spending and industrial production came in far below expectations - in fact at levels which suggest Japan is once again in a recession - which once again was spun as bullish, because the BOJ has no choice but to do more of the same failed policies that have made Abenomics the laughing stock of the world. Finally, moments ago Europe reported the lowest inflation data in 5 years, as well as core CPI sliding to just 0.7%, and which was, wait for it, immediately spun as bullish for risk as once again the local central bank would have "no choice but to ease." In other words, thank god for horrible news: because how else will the rich get even richer?
Anyone confused why futures are doing their best to surge in the overnight session, the answer is simple: first it was Japan reporting the latest batch of atrocious economic data, which an hour ago was followed by Europe own abysmal econofreakshow, where Eurostat just reported that in September Eurozone inflation rose a meager 0.3% from a year ago, the lowest annual increase since October 2009.This marks the 12th straight month that Euro inflation has been below 1%, and far below the ECB's goal of 2% inflation.
As the great Keynesian priests of Japan distract the world by pointing out repeatedly the modest and now declining rise in nominal wages, as testament of the "success"of Abenomics, what they want everyone to ignore is what is going on with real wages. So, without further ado, here is the difference between Nominal and Real wages, as demonstrates best by that sinking Keynesian titanic, which has already returned to recession as confirmed by the upcoming negative GDP print, Japan.
As we previously noted, only the highest income earners have seen any gains in compensation since the crisis began around 2007 to the current 'recovery' tops. It is perhaps not entirely surprising then that, the total income controlled by the Top 1% is drastically above that of the slave-included times of Ancient Rome and as high as the peak in the roaring 20s. "The greatest irony is that the President is railing against inequality as one of the most important problems of the day, despite the fact that his policies are squeezing the middle class and causing the Fed – with the President’s encouragement – to engage in the radical monetary policy, which is exacerbating inequality. This simple truth cannot be repeated often enough."
The essence of the Oil Head-Fake Dynamic is the inevitable drop in oil price resulting from a sharp decline in demand (i.e. global recession) will trigger disruption of the global oil supply chain that will eventually push prices higher than most currently think possible.
We actually to believe that the Federal Reserve can lift the entire front-end of the curve from 0-1% (current rates out to three years) to 2-4% over the next two years without adding massive further stress onto the deficit, and only adding to the debt? Servicing 2% interest when growth is 2% means you are doing worse than standing in place if you also have a budget deficit. Whatever the timing, the US, China and Europe are all headed for another Minsky moment: the point in debt inflation where the cash generated by assets is insufficient to service the debt taken on to acquire the asset. Productivity growth in the US last year was +0.36%. The real growth per capita was about 1.5%.
For the longest time anyone suggesting that Europe's economic collapse was nothing short of a deflationary collapse (which would only be remedied with the kind of a money paradopping response that Japan is currently experiment with and where, for example, prices of TVs are rising at a 10% clip courtesy of the BOJ before prices rise even more) aka a "Japan 2.0" event, was widely mocked by the very serious economist establishment, and every uptick in the EuroSTOXX was heralded by the drama majors posing as financial analysts as the incontrovertible sign the European recovery has finally arrived. Well, they were wrong, and Europe is now facing if not already deep in a triple-dip recession. Which also explains why now it is up to the ECB to do all those failed things that the BOJ did before the Fed convinced it it needs to do even more of those things that failed the first time around, just so the super rich can get even richer in the shortest time possible. So we were a little surprised when none other than Goldman Sachs today diverged with the ranks of the very serious economists and the drama major pundits, and declared that "recent trends in some European economies already qualify as a Japanese-style stagnation."
The bull case is not the recovery or the economy as it exists, it is the promise of one and the plausibility for that promise. Under that paradigm, the market doesn’t care whether orthodox economists are 'right', only that there is always next year. Other places in the world, however, are running out of “next year.” The greatest risk in investing under these conditions is the Greater Fool problem. Anyone using mainstream economic projections and thus expecting a bull market will be that Fool. That was what transpired in 2008 as the entire industry moved toward overdrive to convince anyone even thinking about mitigation or risk adjustments that it was 'no big deal'. Remember: "The risk that the economy has entered a substantial downturn appears to have diminished over the past month or so." - Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, June 9, 2008.
If you want to pinpoint the one dynamic pushing the global economy into not just a prolonged recession but a parallel period of massive social instability, look no farther than the social and financial stagnation that results from optimizing the system to benefit the Elites and the entrenched incumbents who protect them from competition and the dispossessed debt-serf classes below. The incestuous embrace of privilege and power by entrenched, socially isolated Elites characterizes failed states and brittle, doomed regimes throughout history.
"Despite the robust investment returns since 2004, annual growth in unfunded pension liabilities has outstripped these returns," Moody's warns in its latest report on the state of public pension systems. As Bloomberg reports, the 25 biggest systems by assets averaged a 7.45% return from 2004 to 2013, but liabilities tripled over the same period leaving them facing a $2 trillion shortfall as investment returns can’t keep up with ballooning obligations. The top 25 funds account for 40% of the entire US public pension system with Illinois, Kentucky, Connecticut, and Louisiana at the top of the 'most underfunded' list.