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.

Guest Post: Krugman Blowing Bubbles

Saying we need continuous financial bubbles to keep full employment is such a flawed conception of economics, it belongs on an island of misfit philosophies. Krugman’s incessant promotion of statism is doing more harm to the economy than good. As an opinion-molder, he is perpetuating the economic malaise of the last few years. More bubbles won’t help the recovery, just harm it more. In the middle of a grease fire, Krugman calls for more pig fat. And the rest of us are the ones left burnt.

Why The US Capex Drought Will Continue: Archer Daniels' CEO Explains

Now that the CapEx drought has become a mainstream topic, it bears reminding that this phenomenon will continue indefinitely, and certainly as long as CapEx hurdle rates are far greater than issuing a low-yielding bond and using the proceeds to reward shareholders: indeed, this shareholders friendly topic has been perhaps the dominant theme of 2013 when activist investors stormed to the forefront once again, most prominently in the face of Carl Icahn, and have managed to force even lower revenue growth prospects by levering companies with debt loads that are now greater than during the prior credit bubble peak. Naturally, one after another bank has come out once again, as they did, and is predicting that the great deferred CapEx renaissance is upon us... any day now. Unfortunately, it isn't. And just to confirm this, here is Archer Daniels Midland summarizing the company's plans for its 2014 free cash flows. In short: they don't involve any US growth CapEx spending at all.

Larry Summers On Why "Stagnation Might Be The New Normal"... And Bubbles

"If secular stagnation concerns are relevant to our current economic situation, there are obviously profound policy implications... Some have suggested that a belief in secular stagnation implies the desirability of bubbles to support demand. This idea confuses prediction with recommendation. It is, of course, better to support demand by supporting productive investment or highly valued consumption than by artificially inflating bubbles. On the other hand, it is only rational to recognize that low interest rates raise asset values and drive investors to take greater risks, making bubbles more likely. So the risk of financial instability provides yet another reason why preempting structural stagnation is so profoundly important."

Overnight Ramp Capital Defends 50 DMA, Sends Futures Surging On Latest Low Volume Melt Up

Following last night's freak central-planning accident (previously in history known as "selling") in the S&P futures, we said that "we expect Overnight Ramp Capital to arrive promptly or else confidence in central-planning may take a hit ahead of the Wednesday Taperish FOMC, and Thursday's double POMO." A few hours later, even we were surprised by how high the low volume tape managed to drag ES, which staged a dramatic 20 point comeback, on the back of a sharp reversal in FX driven higher by both a stronger Euro (helped by better than expected German and Eurozone PMIs offsetting China PMI weakness, and lack of optimism in the core Japanese Tankan) and a weaker Yen, the two key signals for E-mini directionality. Sure enough, at last check the futures we trading just why of the "independence day" 1776, after briefly breaking the 50-DMA and then being supported by 1760 in the futures. The rest is perfectly predictable central-planning history.

The Uncomfortable Truth Of A New Normal America (In One Cartoon)

Despite the ongoing declarations by Wall Street's strategists and Washington's leaders that recovery is here (or just around the corner), record numbers of Americans in poverty and government handouts suggest otherwise. However, the insidious chipping away at the possibility of the American Dream has been replaced by an IPO-chasing, zero-interest-income-earning, yield-reaching, insider-trading, 'dance-while-the-music-is-playing', beggars can be choosers, get-rich-quick-scheme nation of takers (and entitled-ers)...

Peripheral Europe's New Normal: 50 Applicants For One Minimum Wage Job

While it is arguable whether two instances of the same event are sufficient to indicate a pattern, when it comes to Europe under the New (feudal) Normal we are willing to make a generalizing extrapolation. Recall a week ago when we reported that hours after unleashing a campaign to hire 400 employees for its brand new megastore in the Mediterranean city Valencia, Ikea's servers in Spain promptly crashed after the company got at least 20,000 applicants (and possibly many more that would have registered had the system not experienced its Obamacare moment). The punchline here, of course, is not the dilapidated server infrastructure of Ikea - in a world in which nobody spends any growth CapEx any more that is to be expected - but that there were 20,000 applicants for what were effectively 400 minimum wage jobs, or, said otherwise: 50 candidates for each job. Hardly a ringing endorsement of the mythical recovery that Spain's premier Rajoy fabulates in people's minds on a daily basis. Needless to say, the 2% "success rate" of applicants means it is three times harder to get a minimum wage job in this European country than to get into Harvard. Today, we find the same 2% number in action once again, as if by magic, only this time relating to minimum wage job applicants in that other European basket case - Greece.

Spanish Debt-To-GDP Surges To New Record High

The last 2 years have seen the clearest indication of the health of Spain deteriorate at its fastest rate on record. In spite of constant reassurances from Rajoy et al. that recovery is here, as we noted here, it's not just unemployment that is dogging Spain; and now - having risen at a stunning 25.8 percentage points in the last 2 years, as Reuters reports, Spain's debt-to-GDP has hit 93.4% - the highest level in more than a century. Of course, we should not worry... Spain has reassured investors that sees the debt-to-GDP ratio peaking at 101% in 2015 and 2016, then it's plain-sailing to nirvana.. (and do not contradict them!)

Safe-Havens Sought As Stocks Stumble To Worst Run In 4 Months

The small-cap-dominated Russell 2000 fell for the 2nd week in a row for its worst performance in 4 months (though bounced modestly off its 50DMA today). Stocks traded in a relatively tight range today - swinging around VWAP - following their only driver - JPY crosses, most of the day. NASDAQ 400 was rescued to ensure the headline-writers do not panic. Treasuries were flat to modestly better on the day but end the week mixed with 30Y -1bp and 5Y +5bps - collapsing the term structure to 6 week lows. Precious metals bounced to end the week +1%, which with the USD closing unchanged on the week, made them the outperformer across asset classes. VIX closed higher for the 4th day in a row (with the curve now its flattest in 28 months).

China's Colonization Of London Hits Ludicrous Speed, And Now: It's Detroit's Turn

Chinese investment in London between 2010 and Q3 of this year has risen by a "ludicrous speed" comparable 1,500%, or from a frugal GBP54 million to over GBP 1 billion! And boy do the Chinese love London - according to the same report, over 50% of European property investment by Chinese buyers is now in London.  As a result, China is now the third-largest overseas purchaser in U.K. behind Germany and U.S., which invested GBP 1.2 billion and GBP 1.1 billion respectively. "We expect the pool of investors from China targeting London to grow significantly in the coming years. They will consider everything from urban regeneration sites through to trophy assets." Which brings us to point number two: the latest target of the Chinese hot money colonization is none other than bankrupt Detroit.