Today doesn't matter. Tomorrow won't matter either.
"Around the year 2005, a sudden spark will catalyze a Crisis mood. Remnants of the old social order will disintegrate. Political and economic trust will implode. Real hardship will beset the land, with severe distress that could involve questions of class, race, nation and empire." Strauss & Howe wrote these words in 1997. They understood the dynamics of how generations interact and how the mood of the country shifts every twenty or so years based upon the generational alignment that occurs as predictably as the turning of the seasons. The last generation that lived through the entire previous Crisis from 1929 through 1946 has virtually died off. For those who doubt generational theory and believe history is a linear path of human progress, I would point to the last week of chaos, disarray, government dysfunction, and misery of those who didn’t prepare for Superstorm Sandy, as a prelude to the worst of this Crisis. The lack of preparation by government officials and citizens, death, destruction, panic, anger, helplessness and realization of how fragile our system has become is a perfect analogy to our preparation for this Fourth Turning. The regeneracy of the nation will occur during the next presidential term. The mathematical impossibility of sustaining our economic system is absolute.
Could Cost Billions to Replace
Yesterday we assessed the impact a second Obama term would have on the US economy and markets. Now let’s assess what impact a Romney Presidency would have on the US economy and financial markets.
Moments ago the Non-manufacturing ISM came out, and in keeping with the theme of Baffle with BS, started last night when the China HSBC services PMI dropped even as the Manufacturing PMI from last week signaled the start of a "new recovery" or something (just don't look at the Baltic Dry, and definitely don't look at the endless barrage of reverse repos proving the PBOC will not engage in wholesale easing), it printed the first miss and decline in three month, coming at 54.2 on expectations of a 54.5 print and down from 55.1 previously. What is troubling is that while otherwise an economic miss such as this one would have been sufficient to ramp the bizarro marke, today it has merely sent ES to fresh intraday lows. Perhaps the reason is that unlike last week's Manufacturing ISM, whose headline was good but internals were not, this time it is the other way around with New Orders down but Employment rising from 51.1 to 54.9, the highest since March. Does this meant the Fed will prematurely end QEternity? Of course not, but the market appears to be shooting first, as usual, and asking questions later.
Equity markets kick started the week on a negative footing, with the troubled Iberian giant back in focus after it was reported that the ECB is checking whether it may have contravened its own strict rules by lending to Spanish banks on overly generous terms, an ECB spokesman said on Sunday. According to press reports, Spanish banks had borrowed funds from the ECB at a preferential interest rate of 0.5% even though the creditworthiness of the T-bills they provide as collateral should have required them to pay 5.5%. The never-ending Greek drama is another factor for the risk-averse sentiment, with only weeks before the country runs out of cash and still no evidence that lawmakers will find a solution to diffuse the situation, there is a risk of another speculative attack on weaker EU states. As a result, credit and bond yield spreads widened, led by Italian and Spanish bonds, both wider by around 9bps in 10s. Despite the evident distress in credit markets, EUR/GBP is essentially flat, with GBP underperforming following the lacklustre PMI report from the UK.
As we warned here first, and as the sellside crew finally caught on, while the key macro event this week is the US presidential election, the one most "under the radar" catalyst will take place in Greece (currently on strike for the next 48 hours, or, "as usual") on Wednesday, when a vote to pass the latest round of Troika mandated austerity (too bad there is no vote to cut corruption and to actually collect taxes) takes place even as the government coalition has now torn, and there is a high probability the ruling coalition may not have the required majority to pass the vote, which would send Greece into limbo, and move up right back from the naive concept of Grimbo and right back into Grexit. Which is why the market's attention is slowly shifting to Europe once more, and perhaps not at the best time, as news out of the old continent was anything but good: Spain's October jobless claims rose by 128,242, higher than the estimated 110,000 and the biggest jump in 9 months, bringing the total number of unemployed to 4,833,521, a rise of 2.7%, according to official statistics released Monday. This means broad Spanish unemployment is now well above 25%. In the UK, the Services PMI plunged from 52.2 to 50.6, which was the lowest print in nearly two years or since December 2010, and proved that the Olympics-driven bump of the past few months is not only over, but the vicious snapback has begun.
With the dominance of IT spend (whether consulting or outsourcing) in many of today's investment theses, Morgan Stanley's new forward-looking models should have more than a few long-only money managers rocking quietly in the corner of the office (especially given IBM's dominance of the Dow). Their proprietary models (discussed below) predict decelerating revenues in both consulting and outsourcing through Q2 2013 reflecting the weak discretionary spend environment. The inflection in outsourcing is particularly notable and is far from priced in with the velocity of the fall suggesting 2009-like cutbacks. After the last recession's drop, IT outsourcing was a key area of cost reduction that also provided additional revenues for a new sector; one has to wonder if the recovery this time would be so acute (since sooner rather than later the cutting of fat leads to lascerations in the muscle).
The following is a list of key events (and commentary) to watch over the next two months. From Germany's voting phases for Greek aid to various national strikes and regional elections, there's plenty here of critical importance to the future of the sovereign debt crisis.
With Greece and Spain (and arguably Portugal and a few others) stuck in dramatic debt-deflation spirals, the political need for maintaining these nations in the euro far outweigh the economic 'benefits'. As UBS notes, looking at the euro area today, one cannot help but notice the parallels to Japan of the early 1990s. Europe today, as with Japan a generation ago, is an aging society with structural rigidities, pockets of corporate excellence, but wide swathes of inefficiency; but the two most striking similarities (and not in a good way) lie in the banking system (bloated from over-leveraging, under-capitalization, and bad loans); and fiscal policy (which is inherently pro-cyclical - as the politics of monetary union preclude national level stimulus - leaving ineffective monetary transmission channels unable to help fiscal failure). As UBS concludes, the current euro's similarities to Japan are key impediments to growth - and as such we should expect sclerotic economic activity for a five-year period.
After The Flood Comes The Freeze: "Tens Of Thousands Need Housing" Says Cuomo, As Nor'Easter ApproachesSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 11/04/2012 12:19 -0400
First the flood, now the freeze (and the lack of fuel and gas and heating just making it much worse). And for tens of thousands of residents of New York and New Jersey this means that as many as 40,000 will need to find alternative housing, especially ahead of Wednesday when a Nor'easter formation is expected to hit the Tristate area and bring even more freezing rain and cold to the region. From Reuters: "Tens of thousands of people affected by superstorm Sandy could soon need housing as cold weather descends on the state of New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Sunday. Cuomo, in a televised press conference nearly a week after the storm hit the U.S. East Coast, said the fuel shortages are improving but problems will persist for "a number of days."" Elsewhere, and also from Reuters: "Victims of superstorm Sandy on the U.S. East Coast struggled against the cold early on Sunday amid fuel shortages and power outages even as officials fretted about getting voters displaced by the storm to polling stations for Tuesday's presidential election. Overnight, near-freezing temperatures gripped the U.S. northeast. At least two more victims were found in New Jersey, one dead of hypothermia, as the overall death toll from one of worst storms in U.S. history climbed to at least 112. Fuel supplies continued to rumble toward disaster zones and electricity was slowly returning to darkened neighborhoods after a storm that hit the coast last Monday. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said it would be days before power is fully restored and fuel shortages end."
Whilst the economic data shows at least some signs of an anaemic turnaround, China’s corporate results are demonstrating just how difficult things have been. During a slowdown, it is common for payments to be delayed as everyone hangs on to cash. Some companies, though, can be tempted to avoid curtailing production by offering reluctant customers much easier credit to encourage sales, the hope being that the slump will soon end and “natural” demand will pick up again. The trouble of course is that if the slowdown is prolonged, or the recovery weaker than expected, these accounts receivable (A/R) might turn “un-receivable”, and thus have to be written down as losses. An increase in A/R is expected, but such a large increase suggests that some companies have been staying in operations through this vendor financing. In the struggling coal sector, at the end of June, accounts receivable had jumped 52.8 % for the 90 biggest coal firms. The need for a stronger turnaround is becoming more and more urgent!
While top-down macro headlines, anchoring-biased surveys, and election-oriented government-aided statistics suggest a world of unicorns and teddy bears where everyone and their pet rabbit 'Dave' should be buying stocks with both hand and feet for the 'upside' when the fiscal cliff is 'solved' and 'Bernanke has got your back'; why-oh-why is every rally faded? In Size? Perhaps this is the answer? Goldman Sachs Analysts Index (GSAI) - a quantified bottom-up look at firm-by-firm views of the current and expected economic reality aggregated across all of the company's analysts - is bad and getting worse in a hurry. The main index slumped to 32.9 in October from 44.1 in September, with all sub-components falling 'suggesting depressed business activity from the bottom-up'. Perhaps worse, the employment index remains weak and price indices suggest a deflationary future. This index of real economic activity is its lowest since the 2008-9 recession and sends a considerably more pessimistic message than many of the business 'surveys' from the Philly Fed or Chicago PMI. Perhaps it is this reality on the ground that is stalling the wealth-building stock-levitation that is so economically required by our central planners - as it seems the broad improvement in September was transient.
For many, the collapse of the housing bubble was the trigger that began the era of economic slowdown Americans find themselves mired in. But recently there have been growing reports in the media of a housing "recovery." So we've invited Patrick Killelea, founder of the popular housing site Patrick.net and author of The Housing Trap: How Buyers Are Captured and Abused and How to Defend Yourself, to clarify the situation. The short answer is this: While there are some markets where home prices are back in line with both fundamental and historic norms, buyers still need to exert caution when making a purchase. Patrick also shares insights from his analysis of years of national home purchases. These include: don't sell too often (the transaction costs will kill your returns), don't upgrade too frequently (it's more costly than you think), and it's worth it to transact without an agent if you're able to do so.
Supposedly this is big news, so we probably have to report it. Just out from the NY Mayor's office:
We have decided to cancel the NYC marathon. The New York Road Runners will have additional information in days ahead for participants.
— NYC Mayor's Office (@NYCMayorsOffice) November 2, 2012
... and just as the residents of some NY boroughs were eagerly looking forward to the New York version of the hunger games.