recovery

Existing Home Sales Tumble, Post First Annual Decline In 29 Months On Day After Taper Begins

If anyone is still wondering why back in June Zero Hedge first presented what the adverse impact on housing affordability as a result of soaring rates, today's NAR release on existing home sales should set all questions to the side. Because after rising in a seemingly relentless fashion, existing home sales have (and this is before the traditional downward revision by Larry Yun's conflicted organization which will expose all of its numbers as flawed regardless) finally hit a brick wall, and not only did November existing home sales tumble from 5.12MM to 4.90MM, missing estimates of 5.02MM, they also posted the first year over year decline in 29 consecutive months of increases.

Caterpillar Global Sales Down 12%, Crushes Recovery Hopes With Negative Sales Around The World

Among other things, the month of November was memorable because for the first time, Caterpillar - that bellwether of the old industrial economy in which "stuff" was actually made, dug out of the ground, erected, or otherwise processed instead of merely hosted ad impressions - posted declining retail sales in every region around the globe. This was the first time of uniform declining retail sales since February 2010. To say that this data conflicts massively with all the rumors, fairytales and lies about a global recovery, is an understatement which is why it has not been mentioned anywhere, in hopes the subsequent month would demonstrate some improvement and perhaps an upward inflection point. That did not happen. Moments ago CAT released its November dealer retail sales: for the second time in a row CAT posted negative retail sales across the world, with total retail sales down a whopping 12%.

Frontrunning: December 19

  • Traders Seek an Edge With High-Tech Snooping (WSJ)
  • Gold Drops Below $1,200 an Ounce for First Time Since June (Bloomberg)
  • SAC Manager Guilty as Insider Focus Turns to Martoma (Bloomberg)
  • Why Ukraine spurned the EU and embraced Russia (Reuters)
  • Target confirms major card data theft during Thanksgiving (Reuters)
  • Zuckerberg is no suckerberg: Company to Sell 27 Million Class A Shares While CEO Will Offer 41.4 Million (WSJ)
  • Facebook, Zuckerberg, banks must face IPO lawsuit (Reuters)
  • Swiss Christmas Trees Feel Chill as Franc Helps Rivals (BBG)
  • Iran, six powers to resume nuclear talks after snag (Reuters)
  • Dolphins Suffering From Lung Disease Due to Gulf Oil Spill, Study Says (WSJ)

Chart Of The Day: The Taper In Perspective (And What We Learned Today)

... we learned what the difference between $85 billion and $75 billion is in the grand scheme of things. Or, in case we haven’t, here is a chart showing just how “vast” the impact of today’s announcement will be on the Fed’s balance sheet at December 31, 2014 when instead of printing well over $5 trillion at its old monetization pace, the Fed’s balance sheet will be only $4.9 trillion.

 

The Real Numbers Behind America's Phony Recovery

Today is the big day. Investors are on the edges of their seats, waiting to find out what the Fed will do. Taper? No taper? Or maybe it will taper on the tapering off? Investors don't seem worried... Most of the reports we read tell us the economy is improving. Unemployment is going down. Meanwhile, manufacturing levels are rising. Compared to Europe, the US is a powerhouse of growth and innovation, they say. Compared to emerging markets, it is a paragon of stability and confidence. But wait... What if all these things were delusions... statistical folderol... or outright lies? What if the true measures of the economy were feeble and disappointing? What if the US economy was only barely stumbling and staggering along? As Rick Santelli so uncomfortably asked, "What is Bernanke afraid of?"

Housing Starts, Permits Surge On Seasonal Adjustments, Rental Units

Today's key economic data point, aside from the FOMC announcement of course, was the monthly Housing Starts and Permits report. And with November starts printing at 1091K, a massive 202K unit surge compared to the revised 889K in October, this was the highest monthly print since early 2008 and biggest monthly jump since... January 1990! Supposedly builders just can't get enough. Well, maybe. Until one again looks below the headlines, where one finds that a substantial portion of the jump is once again due to the builders' bet that rental housing demand will continue growing, as multi-family unit starts soared from 281K to 354K - just shy of the highest print since 2008 as well. Additionally, the single-family print barely rose from 49.2 to just 51.9, well below the highs seen in the summer of 2013, when unadjusted single-family starts were higher than the November print from March until August! In fact, at 51.9K, single unit homes are back to mid-2011 levels. Thank you seasonal adjustments. But nowhere was the seasonal adjustment in today's data more evident than in the Housing Permits number. What happens when one looks at the non-seasonally adjusted number? It cratered from 90.3 to 70.9K - this was the lowest print since February and the biggest absolute monthly drop in 5 years since November 2008!

Frontrunning: December 18

  • MOAR: BOJ Said to See Significant Room for More Bond Purchases (BBG)
  • Meltdown Averted, Bernanke Struggled to Stoke Growth (Hilsenrath)
  • New Mortgages to Get Pricier Next Year (WSJ)
  • Republicans to Seek Concessions From Obama on Debt Limit (BBG)
  • Hunting for U.S. arms technology, China enlists a legion of amateurs (Reuters)
  • Jury Begins Deliberating in Case of SAC Portfolio Manager (WSJ)
  • BP to Write Off $1 Billion on Failed Well (WSJ)
  • Rajan Unexpectedly Keeps India Rates Unchanged to Support Growth (BBG)
  • Thai protesters say they will rally to hound PM from office (Reuters)
  • SEC Brings Fewer Enforcement Actions, Slows Early-Stage Probes (WSJ)

Santa Yellen Or Scrooge McBen

Of the 8 "most important ever" FOMC decisions in 2013, this one is undisputedly, and without doubt, the 8th. As Jim Reid summarizes, what everyone wonders is whether today’s decision by the FOMC will have a bearing on a few last-minute Xmas presents around global financial markets. No taper and markets probably breathe a sigh of relief and the feel-good factor might turn that handheld game machine into a full-blown PS4 by Xmas day. However a taper now might just take the edge off the festivities and leave a few presents on the shelves. Given that the S&P 500 has pretty much flat-lined since early-mid November in spite of better data one would have to say that some risk of tapering has been priced in but perhaps not all of it. Alternatively if they don’t taper one would expect markets to see a pretty decent relief rally over the rest of the year. So will it be Santa or Scrooge from the Fed tonight at 2pm EST?

Guest Post: Collapse Is In The Eye Of The Bagholder

America’s political economy has changed incrementally enough that many people have not noticed what is really happening. It’s over for most of us. You can call it collapse, or you can call it restructuring. You can even call it a recovery. But you can not call it sustainable, or pleasant. The overall trajectory is toward decline, decay, destitution... This collapse is the collapse of dreams, hopes and expectations, not an obvious one like the collapse of the currency or the government. And if you have no hopes or dreams, and your expectations are sufficiently low, then you might not even be aware of it. For the time being, what is really in everyone’s interest, here and abroad, is to keep playing along. Collapse? What collapse? We all have to keep pretending everything is fine, or things will get even worse quickly - for us. But if things are continuing to get worse for us in any case...

Marc Faber Warns The Fed "Will Never End Its Insane Policies"

"The Fed will never end QE for good..." blasts Marc Faber, "they may do some cosmetic adjustments, but within a few years, [Fed] asset purchases will be substantially higher than they are today." There will be another weakening in the US economy, Faber warns, and "the Fed will argue it hasn't done enough and will do more... they have been irresponsible for 20 years." Use rallies to reduce exposure, he warns, "we will go up until it is over; and when it is over the drop will be larger than 20%," and the best opportunity, Faber notes, is in the most-depressed asset-class he looks at: gold and gold stocks.

Change In US Net Worth - By Age Group

By now it is a well-known fact that the Fed's monetary policies over the past 5 years (and really ever since Greenspan unleashed the Great Moderation) have been very successful at one thing: transferring wealth from the US (and global) middle class and handing it over to the already wealthiest strata of society, either through financial repression, zero savings rates, or generally boosting financial asset values, which as we showed hit a record $63.9 trillion in Q3, or over 70% of total. However, just like the general public's attention is focused on the quantitative components of the monthly payroll number and completely ignores the qualitative gains or losses in the US labor force, so the broad definition of "middle class" leaves quite a bit to be desired. So what happens if one quantizes society instead of by class with wealth of income cutoff ranges but instead by age? In that case, one gets the following chart prepared by the Urban Institute showing the change in net worth in the period 1983-2010 by age group.

A Word Of Caution To The "Vibrant Economic Recovery" Optimists

Current price levels and related trends are similar today, Bloomberg's Rich Yamarone warns, to recent periods when deflation fears forced the Federal Reserve to ease policy. To determine the course of monetary policy, the Fed, Yamarone notes, looks at a number of indicators. What is worrying today is that several of them – production and employment – are moving in a somewhat softer direction (despite MSM propaganda). For those optimists leaning toward the potential for a more vibrant economic recovery, a word of caution: Comparisons to month-ago or even year-ago levels may be deceiving. However, given the fragility of the economy and the Fed’s unprecedented policy actions, a renewed threat of deflation leaves policy makers with few options.

As First Volcker Rule Victim Emerges, Implications Could "Roil The Market"

Yesterday afternoon, Zions Bancorp, Utah's biggest lender, stunned the financial community with a regulatory filing in which it announced that as a result of the final Volcker Rule implementation, it will need to make some very dramatic changes to its balance sheet, which would also have a follow through, and quite adverse, impact on its income statement. To wit: "Under the published rule, the Company would no longer have the ability to hold disallowed securities until the anticipated recovery of their amortized cost. Therefore, as of December 15, 2013, Zions anticipates that in the fourth quarter of 2013 it will reclassify all covered CDOs that currently are classified as “Held to Maturity” into “Available for Sale,” and that all covered CDOs, regardless of the accounting classification, will be adjusted to Fair Value through an Other Than Temporary Impairment non-cash charge to earnings. The net result would eliminate substantially all of the accumulated other comprehensive income adjustment to equity related to the covered securities." The implications of this announcement could be severe, and in a worst case scenario, as Sterne Agee notes, could "roil the market"...

2014, A Bull Year? Of Course...But Maybe...

Could we have another bullish year in 2014?  It is certainly possible as long as the Federal Reserve remains engaged in their ongoing balance sheet expansions. But maybe the ongoing inflation of assets, without the underlying improvement in organic, sustainable, economic growth, will eventually lead to the next market bubble and bust. Of course, for anyone that has payed attention, such an outcome would be of little surprise. The important point is that, as an investor, you need to pay attention to the ever decreasing reward/risk ratio of chasing the financial markets. The "low hanging fruit" has long been harvested and the risk currently far outweighs the potential reward of being aggressively invested. Of course, it is not popular, or fun, to rain on the bullish parade.  However, while they will likely appear to be correct in the short term; the long term outcome will most likely be far less pleasant.