- Fed's No. 2 Strongly Backs Low-Rate Policy (Hilsenrath)
- World Bank Cuts China 2012 Growth Outlook on Exports (Bloomberg)
- BlackRock's Street Shortcut: Big Banks Would Be Bypassed With Bond Platform; 'Not Going to Cannibalize' (WSJ)
- George Soros - Europe’s Future is Not Up to The Bundesbank (FT)
- Fed May Have Aggravated Income Inequality, El-Erian Says(Bloomberg)
- Shirakawa Pledges Japan Easing Amid Political Pressure (Bloomberg)
- Spain’s Debt Struggle Opens Door to Sarkozy Campaign Message (Bloomberg)
- Iran Woos Oil Buyers With Easy Credit (FT)
- Syria Pledges to Observe Ceasefire (FT)
Now that every morning the US market is once again in full on European debt issuance stress mode, it makes sense to see just when the real stress will hit the tape, or in other words, how long until the LTRO money fully runs out. Remember that the latest contraption in the European ponzi, the LTRO, took worthless collateral from European banks, and flooded them with fresh money good cash so they could use this cash to buy their own sovereign debt, and specifically to prefund the hundreds of billions in 2012 issuance net of debt maturities. So how does the math work out? Deutsche Bank summarizes the unpleasant picture.
While every soon-to-be-retired boomer and his or her long-only asset-manager stock-broker commission-leecher lies awake at night in the forlorn hope that Ben "I'm-all-in" Bernanke finds another pile of printing presses to make use of in his game of Global No-Limit Texas Central-Banking; the economy, judging by 'selective' macro data and today's Beige Book, is limping along quite happily with no need for QE3 anytime soon (and that spells trouble for a market that is entirely dependent on the spice flow of liquidity and not just the stock of central bank assets). The sad truth is, as we first pointed out back in early February, that the economy is significantly less upwardly mobile than it 'optically' appears (or the market signals it to be) thanks to the extreme weather that has occurred and so while the spin-masters will attempt to make every headline look like we are in self-sustaining recovery mode, the Fed knows full well the reality is far different (hence Bernanke's recent comments) and yet they have not admitted to this animal-spirits-shattering reality (yet). Perhaps this shockingly simple 'chart-that's-worth-a-thousand-words' will force their hand as the correlation between regions showing extreme positivity within today's Beige book and the regions with the extremest weather disconnects is, well, extreme itself. It seems the Fed is caught between a rock of stagnating inaction and a hard-place of independence-removing LSAP.
In an attempt to not steal too much thunder from Gary Shilling's thought-provoking interview with Bloomberg TV, his view of the S&P 500 hitting 800, as operating earnings compress to $80 per share, is founded in more than just a perma-bear's perspective of the real state of the US economy. As he points out "The analysts have been cranking their numbers down. They started off north of 110 then 105. They are now 102. They are moving in my direction." The combination of a hard landing in China, a recession in Europe, and a stronger USD will weigh on earnings and inevitably the US consumer (who's recent spending spree has considerably outpaced income growth) with the end result a moderate recession in the US. The story is "there is nothing else except consumers that can really hype the U.S. economy" and that is supported by employment but last week's employment report throws cold water in that. "Consumers have a lot of reasons to save as opposed to spend. They need to rebuild their assets, save for retirement. A lot of reasons suggest that they should be saving to work down debt as opposed to going the other way, which they have done in recent months. So if consumers retrench, there is not really anything else in the U.S. economy that can hold things up." While the argument that the US is the best of a bad lot was summarily dismissed as Shilling prefers the 'best horse in the glue factory' analogy and does not believe investors will flock to US equities - instead preferring US Treasuries noting that "everyone has said, rates cannot go lower, they will go up, they will go up. They have been saying that for 30 years."
Last week we had the Fed's hawks line up one after another telling us how no more QE would ever happen. We ignored them because they are simply the bad cops to the Fed's good cop doves. Sure enough, here comes Bernanke's right hand man, or in this case woman, hinting that one can forget everything the hawkish stance, and that ZIRP may last not until 2014 but 2015! Which, by the way, is to be expected: since ZIRP can never expire, it will always be rolled to T+3 years, as the short end will never be allowed to rise, until the Fed has enough FRNs in circulation to absorb the surge in rates without crushing the principal, as explained yesterday.
In its latest note, Goldman is not providing any actionable "advice" which is naturally to be faded and would have been thus quite profitable, but merely updates its outlook for the second quarter, which is not pretty. The firm now expects a slowing down in the overall economy to a 2% GDP rate, and an "additional loss of momentum during the next few months", which is to be expected as every bank wants to keep the perception that NEW QE is just around the corner, as economic stagnation can rapidly become a contraction. Most importantly, the firm expects just 150,000 payrolls to be created every month, which net of the 90,000 monthly labor force increase (yes, forget what the BLS tells you - every month courtesy of demographics the American labor force grows by an average of 90k people) means that only 60k jobs will be added to offset the structural job collapse since December 2007. It also means that the pre-election rhetoric will change significantly as the economic strength from the start of the year disappears, and with it any hope of an economic upswing, providing additional ammo for exciting GOP pre-election theater.
What makes this time different? Several items:
- The Crisis coming from Europe will be far, far larger in scope than anything the Fed has dealt with before.
- The Fed is now politically toxic and cannot engage in aggressive monetary policy without experiencing severe political backlash (this is an election year).
- The Fed’s resources are spent to the point that the only thing the Fed could do would be to announce an ENORMOUS monetary program which would cause a Crisis in of itself.
The real problem with CDS trading by large banks such as JPM is not the speculative positions but instead the vast conflict of interest between the lending side of the house and the trading side
When building a house in Spain a substantial part of the cost now involves paying people 'off-grid' or 'under the table'. This seems endemic and we imagine is partially historic but IF it is increasing in extent as a result of the financial crisis it is an important trend. Extrapolating this trend out to the whole population, one suddenly realizes that the private sector could be slowly going 'off-grid', further starving governments of revenue and thus the means of the economy’s and therefore the government’s recovery. The downward spiral will continue until eventually social unrest will rise to the point where there will be a “European spring”. One country will ditch the Euro and/or their cumulative debt holdings and/or move back to their own currency. The pain of action will be less than the pain of in-action. So here we sit watching a couple of PIGS not trying consciously to fly but flapping their baby wings anyway. We watch on, content in the knowledge that PIGS can’t fly… Until, that is, the first one takes flight.
Back in June 2011, Zero Hedge first pointed out something very troubling: the labor share of national income had dropped to an all time low, just shy of 58%. This is quite an important number as none other than the Fed noted few years previously that "The allocation of national income between workers and the owners of capital is considered one of the more remarkably stable relationships in the U.S. economy. As a general rule of thumb, economists often cite labor’s share of income to be about two-thirds of national income—although the exact figure is sensitive to the specific data used to calculate the ratio. Over time, this ratio has shown no clear tendency to rise or fall." Yet like pretty much every other relationship in the new normal, this rule of thumb got yanked out of the socket, and the 66% rapidly became 58%. This troubling shift away from the mean prompted David Rosenberg to say that "extremes like this, unfortunately, never seem to lead us to a very stable place." Which is why we are happy to note that as of last quarter, the labor share of income has finally seen an uptick, and while certainly not back at its old normal, has finally started to tick up, which leads us to ask: have we passed the moment of peak Marxism of this particular period in US history?
Americans have been listening to the mainstream financial media’s song and dance for around four years now. Every year, the song tells a comforting tale of good ol’ fashioned down home economic recovery with biscuits and gravy. And, every year, more people are left to wonder where this fantastic smorgasbord turnaround is taking place? Two blocks down? The next city over? Or perhaps only the neighborhoods surrounding the offices of CNN, MSNBC, and FOX? Certainly, it’s not spreading like wildfire in our own neck of the woods…Many in the general public are at the very least asking “where is the root of the recovery?” However, what they should really be asking is “where is the trigger for collapse?” Since 2007/2008, I and many other independent economic analysts have outlined numerous possible fiscal weaknesses and warning signs that could bring disaster if allowed to fully develop. What we find to our dismay here in 2012, however, is not one or two of these triggers coming to fruition, but nearly EVERY SINGLE conceivable Achilles’ heel within the foundation of our system raw and ready to snap at a moment’s notice. We are trapped on a river rapid leading to multiple economic disasters, and the only thing left for any sincere analyst to do is to carefully anticipate where the first hits will come from. Four years seems like a long time for global banks and government entities to subdue or postpone a financial breakdown, and an overly optimistic person might suggest that there may never be a sharp downturn in the markets. Couldn’t we simply roll with the tide forever, buoyed by intermittent fiat injections, treasury swaps, and policy shifts? The answer……is no.
Chinese gold demand remains very strong as seen in the importation of 40 metric tonnes or nearly 40,000 kilos of gold bullion from Hong Kong alone in February. Hong Kong’s gold exports to China in February were nearly 13 times higher than the 3,115 kilograms in the same month last year, the data shows. Shipments were 72,617 kilograms in the first two months, compared with 10,564 kilograms a year ago or nearly a seven fold increase from the record levels seen last year. China’s appetite for gold remains strong and Chinese demand alone is likely to put a floor under the gold market.
Yesterday we predicted it was imminent, and sure enough, adding insult to injury for any muppet who rode the "once in a lifetime" opportunity to buy stocks and sell bonds, Goldman just hit the stop loss on its 10 Year Treasury short, after getting stopped out in its Russell 2000 long two days prior.
But anyway, the big thing is liquidity right now, not whether or not you have a job.
Here is a number for you: 70% That is roughly how many economic reports have missed their mark in the last month. Why is this important? Believe it or not - It has a lot to do with the weather. We have written many times recently about the weather related effects skewing the seasonal adjustment figures in everything from the leading indicators and retail sales to employment numbers. Now those weather related boosts are beginning to run in reverse as weather patterns return to normal and realign with the seasonal adjustments. This resurgence of economic weakness is only just beginning to appear in the fabric of the various manufacturing reports. The Chicago Fed National Activity Index (a broad measure of 85 different data points) has declined from its recent peak in December of .54 to .33 in January and -.09 in February. The ISM Composite index (an average of manufacturing and non-manufacturing data), Richmond, Dallas and Kansas Fed Manufacturing indexes all posted declines in March.