Confidence leads to spending; spending strengthens the economy; and economic strength buttresses confidence. It’s a circular, self-fulfilling prophesy. Confidence can also fuel market movements. Belief that the price of an asset will rise causes people to buy the asset... making its price rise. This is another way in which confidence is self-fulfilling. But, of course, as Oak Tree Capital's Howard Marks points out, the confidence that underlies economic gains and price increases only has an impact as long as it exists. Once it dies, its effect turns out to be far from permanent. As the economist Herb Stein said, "If something cannot go on forever, it will stop." This is certainly true for confidence and its influence. As far as confidence today, Marks notes significant uncertainty is one of the outstanding characteristics of today’s investing environment. It discourages optimism regarding the future and limits investors’ certainty that the future is knowable and controllable. In other words, it saps confidence. This is a major difference from conditions in the pre-crisis years. In fact, Marks warns he doesn't remember when his list of 'uncertainties' was this long...
The media, the financial markets and investors have become fixated on the unemployment rate, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, particularly since it was directly linked by the Federal Reserve to its current bond buying program. What is clearly evident is that, despite the headline reports, there is clearly an alarming divergence in employment from the long-term trend. The structural shift in employment away from manufacturing and production to a service and outsourced based economy has clearly created a deviation that will not likely be corrected for decades to come. The implications for the Federal Reserve, and the economy, should be concerning. While the hope is that the economy will suddenly spark back towards stronger growth; the supply/demand imbalance suggests otherwise.
August is traditionally Europe’s holiday month, with many government officials taking several weeks off. In the process, important initiatives are put on hold until the “great return” at the beginning of September. This year, there is another reason why Europe has pressed the pause button for August. With a looming election in Germany, few wish to undermine Chancellor Angela Merkel’s likely victory. Some of the recent economic news has seemed to justify this approach. Yet no one should be fooled. This summer’s sense of normality is neither natural nor necessarily tenable in the long term. It is the result of temporary and – if Europe is not attentive – potentially reversible factors. If officials do not return quickly to addressing economic challenges in a more comprehensive manner, the current calm may give way to renewed turmoil. In essence, Europe (and the West more generally) owes its recent tranquility to a series of experimental measures by central banks; consequently, the resulting surface calm masks still-worrisome economic and financial fundamentals.
This insane world was created through decades of bad decisions, believing in false prophets, choosing current consumption over sustainable long-term savings based growth, electing corruptible men who promised voters entitlements that were mathematically impossible to deliver, the disintegration of a sense of civic and community obligation and a gradual degradation of the national intelligence and character. There is a common denominator in all the bubbles created over the last century – Wall Street bankers and their puppets at the Federal Reserve. Fractional reserve banking, control of a fiat currency by a privately owned central bank, and an economy dependent upon ever increasing levels of debt are nothing more than ingredients of a Ponzi scheme that will ultimately implode and destroy the worldwide financial system. Since 1913 we have been enduring the largest fraud and embezzlement scheme in world history, but the law of diminishing returns is revealing the plot and illuminating the culprits. Bernanke and his cronies have proven themselves to be highly educated one trick pony protectors of the status quo. Bernanke will eventually roll craps. When he does, the collapse will be epic and 2008 will seem like a walk in the park.
As the Fed gets ready to taper ‘QE’, UBS' Larry Hatheway warns investors to brace for a period of increased international policy tension. Previously harmonized - but not coordinated - monetary policy stances will give way to conflicting objectives and new strains as adverse ‘spillovers’ occur. As Hatheway notes, we are about to rediscover several inconvenient truths. First, the Fed is the US, not the world’s, central bank. Second, international policy coordination is desirable in an interdependent world but, third, it is no more likely to materialize now than in the past. The world, it seems, is destined for a less comfortable policy co-existence in the coming few years.
Day after day, CNBC's Rick Santelli hears analysts arguing how the economy is doing pretty well and that there is always some anecdotal fact that backs up their cognitively dissonant view with fundamentals. However, as Santelli asks (rhetorically), it always comes back to the same question, "if things are really that good, why do we still need the [Fed] training wheels on?" The answer is presumably obvious as actions ($85bn per month of POMO-provided liquidity to the 21 primary dealers) speak louder than analysts words (we promise recovery is just around the next corner.) While careful not to explicitly rebuff the exuberance of his channel's clients revenue-base, Santelli notes the oddly correlated relationship (that has time and again appeared in pixelated format on these very pages) between the Federal Reserve balance sheet and the ebbs and flows of the US equity market. As he concludes, the only (causal) transmission mechanism for the Fed's actions is via the primary dealers and implicitly the Fed is the entity that is goosing the stock market.
We do not inhabit a “normal” economy. We live in a financialised world in which our banks cannot be trusted, our politicians cannot be trusted, our money cannot be trusted, and – not least thanks to ongoing spasms of QE and expectations of much more of the same – our markets cannot be trusted. At some point (though the timing is impossible to predict), asset markets that cannot be pumped artificially any higher will start moving, under the forces of inevitable gravitation, lower.
Back in late 2012, Goldman's Jan Hatzius did precisely what he did at the end of 2010: predicted that after many years of delays, the US economy would finally soar higher on the back of the reignition of the virtuous cycle driven by now endless Fed micromanagement of virtually every aspect of the economy. We mocked him in 2010 (6 months later he pulled his call following a series of embarrassing mea culpas), and did the same in 2012. So here we are, 8 months later, and this much-delayed recovery has been "delayed" again - just as we thought. Of course, once bitten by the fringe blogosphere, Jan is not willing to pull his recovery call for the second time in a row despite deteriorating GDP and employment data, and instead (like everyone else) if placing his faith with the Fed, despite five consecutive years of disappointment from St. Ben. Maybe this time it will be different... although it won't. In the meantime, from a glass fully full (which is where it was supposed to be by this time in the year), the Goldmanite has now reduced his economic assessment to half that.
Compared to last week's macro-event juggernaut, this week will be an absolute bore, although with a bevy of Fed speakers on deck - both good and bad cops - there will be more than enough catalysts to preserve the "upward channel" scramble in the S&P and the zero volume levitation to new all time daily highs despite the lack of daily bad news. Speaking of Fed speakers, we have Fisher today, Evans’ tomorrow followed by both Plosser and Pianalto on Wednesday. The key overnight data point was the continuation of July PMIs out of Europe, this time focusing on the service industry. As Goldman summarizes, the Final Euro area Composite PMI for July came in at 50.5, marginally above the Flash reading and consensus expectations (50.4). Relative to the June final reading, this was a sold 1.8pt increase, and building on consecutive increases in the past three months, the July Euro area PMI stands 4.0pts above the March print. Solid increases were observed across all of the EMU4 in July, most notably Italy. The July reading is the highest Euro area PMI level observed since July 2011.
A discussion of this week's key events and data within the context of the investment climate characterized by shifting Fed tapering expectations, evidence still pointing to a soft landing of the Chinese economy, a cyclical recovery in Europe and renewed capital outflows from Japan, while foreign investors slow their purchases of Japanese equities.
Over two years after Zero Hedge first accused Goldman and JPMorgan of becoming monopolists in the commodity warehousing business (see "Goldman, JP Morgan Have Now Become A Commodity Cartel"), and two weeks after the NYT's reminder the world of just this leading to the latest Kangaroo Court congressional hearing on the matter, which may or may not have resulted in JPMorgan announcing it would exit the physical commodities business, the long overdue legal fight began this Friday when lead plaintiff Superior Extrusion sued Goldman and London Metal Exchange owner HKEx for engaging in "anticompetitive and monopolistic behaviour in the warehousing market in connection with aluminium prices" and accusing the firms of violating the Sherman anti-trust act. Precisely what Zero Hedge said, some 26 months ago.
With manufacturing flatlining, I was surprised to find that Industrials were actually the only outperforming equity in the entire bunch.
It started moments after the release of the Federal Reserve’s latest decision on interest rates. Even though officially they announced maintaining the same policies of low rates and Quantitative Easing, it was a single word change in the official text of their press release from the prior month that sent shockwaves around the world and changed everything forever...
Despite rising gas prices, rising mortgage rates, slowing income growth and the rise of 'low-quality' part-time jobs, 'con'sumer 'con'fidence 'con'tinues to rise to post-recession highs. However, as Citi's FX Technicals group notes, for the 3rd time in the last 17 year period we may be looking at a 4-year-4-month rise in consumer confidence before a turn lower again; and in spite of the Fed's rosy forecasts (and the market's expectations), we should be careful being too quick to believe that the sluggish economic dynamic that has 'dogged us' for the last 6 years is yet fully behind us.
There are very few segments of the U.S. economy that are more heavily affected by interest rates than the real estate market is. When mortgage rates reached all-time low levels late last year, it fueled a little "mini-bubble" in housing which was greatly celebrated by the mainstream media. Unfortunately, the tide is now turning.