The third stage of bull markets, the mania phase, can last longer and go farther that logic would dictate. However, the data suggests that the risk of a more meaningful reversion is rising. It is unknown, unexpected and unanticipated events that strike the crucial blow that begins the market rout. Unfortunately, due to the increased impact of high frequency and program trading, reversions are likely to occur faster than most can adequately respond to. This is the danger that exists today. Are we in the third phase of a bull market? Most who read this article will say "no." However, those were the utterances made at the peak of every previous bull market cycle.
It seems, as Jim Quinn notes, the 99% are not cooperating with the 1% plan for economic recovery. As Gallup reports, average Americans plan on spending 10% less for Christmas gifts this year than last year. Not only that, but they are spending 19% less than they spent in 2007 and 18% less than they spent in 1999. The average American is spending less because they have less as the talking heads on CNBC and the rest of the MSM tell me that things are great. Opening stores on Thanksgiving will not save anyone and perhaps more critically, the last 2 times the November forecast for holiday spending slumped - the US entered recession!
Despite Janet Yellen's commitment to continue supporting the economic recovery the transmission system of government interventions is clearly broken. As STA Wealth Management's Lance Roberts shows in the simple chart below, it has taken $35.17 of government intervention to generate $1 of economic growth over the past 5 years. More importantly, the rate of diminishing returns is increasing. In other words, it is taking consistently more dollars of intervention to create an incremental increase in economic growth.
- China to Ease One-Child Policy (WSJ), China announces major economic and social reforms (Reuters)
- Consumers line up for launch of PlayStation 4 (USAToday)
- Trust frays between Obama, Democrats (Politico)
- Yellen Stands by Fed Strategy (Hilsenrath)
- Hero to zero? Philippine president feels typhoon backlash (Reuters)
- Brussels warns Spain and Italy on budgets (FT)
- Moody’s Downgrades Four U.S. Banks on Federal Support Review (BBG)
- CIA's Financial Spying Bags Data on Americans (WSJ)
- Germany Digs In Against Risk Sharing in EU Bank-Failure Plan (BBG)
- Bill Gates wants Norway's $800 billion fund to spend more in Africa, Asia (RTRS)
The overnight global scramble to buy stocks, any stocks, anywhere, continued, with the Nikkei soaring higher by 2% as the USDJPY rose firmly over 100, to levels not seen since May as the previously reported speculation that more QE from the BOJ is just around the corner takes a firm hold. Sentiment that the liquidity bonanza would accelerate around the world (with possibly more QE from the ECB) was undented by news of a surge in Chinese short-term money market rates or the Moody's one-notch downgrade of four TBTF banks on Federal support review. The release of more market-friendly promises from China only added fuel to the fire and as a result S&P futures are now just shy of 1800, a level which will almost certainly be taken out today as the multiple expansion ramp continues unabated. At this point absolutely nobody is even remotely considering standing in front of the centrally-planned liquidity juggernaut that has made "market" down days a thing of the past.
It is becoming increasingly obvious that we are seeing the disconnect between financial markets and the real economy grow. It is also increasingly obvious (to Citi's FX Technicals team) that not only is QE not helping this dynamic, it is making things worse. It encourages misallocation of capital out of the real economy, it encourages poor risk management, it increases the danger of financial asset inflation/bubbles, and it emboldens fiscal irresponsibility etc.etc. If the Fed was prepared to draw a line under this experiment now rather than continuing to "kick the can down the road" it would not be painless but it would likely be less painful than what we might see later. Failure to do so will likely see us at the "end of the road" at some time in the future and the 'can' being "kicked over the edge of a cliff." Enough is enough.
How is inflation of 2% acceptable? Why is this base assumption never challenged? At this rate, in 10 years you’ve lost roughly 20% of your purchasing power. And during the average worker’s lifetime, they will see a 40-60% decrease in purchasing power.
We have seen a confluence of events that suggests we may be reaching the terminal point of the financial markets merry-go-round – that point just before the ride stops suddenly and unexpectedly and the passengers are thrown from their seats. Having waited with increasing concern to see what might transpire from the gridlocked US political system, the market was rewarded with a few more months’ grace before the next agonising debate about raising the US debt ceiling. There was widespread relief, if not outright jubilation. Stock markets rose, in some cases to all-time highs. But let there be no misunderstanding on this point: the US administration is hopelessly bankrupt. (As are those of the UK, most of western Europe, and Japan.) The market preferred to sit tight on the ride, for the time being.
Once again, the flood of momentum-chasing hot-money provided by the world's central banks' printfest is leading investors to push up European equities markets to the highest level since 2011 amid optimism that the region is recovering (top-down GDP dashed that hope this morning). Furthermore, since earnings are apparently the mother's milk of stocks, investors are entirely ignoring the fact that earnings expectations for the European region are collapsing to their lowest since September 2009. As Bloomberg notes, "investors in Europe continue to buy hope for an upcoming earnings recovery," but as Tristan Abet of Louis Capital warns, "there is a limit to that rationale... the risk is that the market loses patience."
In response to questions from members of the Senate Banking Committee at her confirmation hearing, Janet Yellen emphasized the need to maintain a highly accommodative stance of monetary policy in light of the disappointing economic recovery. Her comments were broadly in line with what Goldman would have expected, and by-and-large were very similar to statements made by Chairman Bernanke in the past; confirming moar of the same blindness to bubbles, lots of tools, and over-optimism.
The soon-to-be-confirmed Mr. Chairwoman had plenty to say - none of which came as a great surprise. Overall we scored her comments 32 Dovish to 18 Hawkish (which fits with all pre-conceved ideas about the size of her index-finger in relation to the 'print' button). A few cherubs include:
- *YELLEN SAYS BENEFITS OF QE STILL EXCEED THE COSTS
- *YELLEN SAYS QE `CANNOT CONTINUE FOREVER'
- *YELLEN DOESN'T SEE ASSET BUBBLE IN HOUSING PRICES
- *YELLEN SAYS QE IS NOT AIMED AT HELPING TO FINANCE U.S. DEFICIT
- *YELLEN: NO ONE HAS A GOOD MODEL ON WHAT INFLUENCES GOLD PRICES
She covered fiscal policy, regulation, gold, income inequality, and bubbles; but it was her admission late in the Q&A that "real" unemployment is around 10% that perhaps leaves the most room for moar...
The financial crisis of 2007-2008 has sparked the most intense interest in international monetary reform since Richard Nixon closed the gold window at the New York Fed and devalued the U.S. dollar in 1971.
It would appear that much of the rally yesterday (and early overnight) was driven by hope (and confirmed relief) that Fed chair nominee Yellen is not about to take on a substantially less-dovish tone in today’s testimony in an effort to garner the support of the more hawkish elements of the Senate Banking Committee. There was a great deal of confirmation bias in the market's move and interpretation but, as BofAML notes below, this may be misplaced. The more important part of today’s testimony is yet to come in the Q&A session - where we will hear likely more unscripted thoughts from the QEeen at her Senate confirmation this morning.
Japan growth cut in half, Europe growth cut by more than half, but none of that matters: today it will be all about the coronation of QEeen Yellen, who testifies before the Senate Banking Committee at 10am. Not even Japanese finance minister Aso's return to outright currency intervention warnings (in addition to the BOJ's QE monetary base dilution), when he said that Japan must always be ready to send signal to markets to curb excessive and one sided FX moves and it is important that Japan has intervention as FX policy option, which sent the USDJPY back up to 100 for the first time since September 11 made much of an impact on futures trading which after surging early in the session following the release of Yellen's prepared remarks, have now "tapered" virtually all gains. Certainly, the follow up from Europe doing the same and also warning it too may engage in QE, has been lost. Which is odd considering the entire developed world is now on the verge of engaging in the most furious open monetization of virtually everything in history.
Following the second quarter 0.3% rise in Eurozone GDP, which ended a multi year European recession (and who can possibly forget all those "strong" PMI numbers that helped launch a thousand clickbait slideshows), the proclamations for an imminent European golden age came hot and heavy. This was before the imploding European inflation print was announced and certainly before the ECB had no choice but to cut rates and even hint at QE, shattering all hopes of European growth. And just over an hour ago, the latest validation that just as we expected Europe is on the verge of a triple dip recession, came out of Eurostat (which may or may not get back to the issue of Spanish data integrity eventually), which reported that just like in Japan, the sequential growth rate in Europe is once again not only stalling but was dangerously close to once again contracting in the third quarter when it printed by the smallest possible positive quantum of 0.1%.