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Bank Of America On US Decoupling: Enjoy It While It Lasts

Whether it is strong-USD-based forward revenue reductions for US corporations, rear-view mirror-based fuel-cost implicit tax-cuts, or unsustainable savings rate reductions, the recent US data has created a plethora of 'this time is different' decoupling theorists. We discussed David Rosenberg's perspective on this unsustainability last week and now his old employer (Bank of America) is notably out with a rather negative note on the chances of this 'local' European problem becoming a global issue and impacting US growth through both trade and financial linkages. In their view, we will see a steady deceleration in growth this year while the consensus sees a pick up and by the spring these negative revisions (from sell-side economists) will weigh heavily on stock markets and support bonds. They sum it up succinctly: 'Enjoy the recent price action while it lasts.'

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Weekly Bull/Bear Recap: New Year’s ‘12 Edition

Brief and concise summary of the week's key bullish and bearish events.

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Goldman's Stolper Speaks, Sees EUR Downside To 1.20: Time To Go All In

By now Zero Hedge readers know that there is no better contrarian signal in the world than Goldman's Tom Stolper: in fact it is well known his "predictions" are a gift from god (no pun intended ) because without fail the opposite of what he predicts happens - see here. 100% of the time. Which is why, following up on our previous post identifying the record short interest in the EUR and the possibility for CME shennanigans any second now, it was only logical that Stolper would come out, warning of further downside to the EURUSD (despite having a 1.45 target). To wit: "With considerable downside risk in the short term, within our regular 3-month forecasting horizon, the key questions are about the speed and magnitude of the initial sell-off. If we had to publish forecasts on a 1- and 2-month horizon, we could see EUR/$ reach 1.20. In other words, we expect the EUR/$ sell-off to continue for now as risk premia have to rise initially." In yet other words, if there is a clearer signal to go tactically long the EURUSD we do not know what it may be. We would set the initial target at 1.30 on the pair.

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Pre-NFP Summary And Miscellenia

According to Bloomberg's First Word Cross Asset Dashboard, sentiment rose modestly in European session and into U.S. open, with EU and U.S. equity indexes as well as Bunds and Treasury yields modestly higher, Bloomberg analyst TJ Marta writes in following note:

  • Payrolls est. 155k; market possibly expecting upside surprise after yesterday’s ADP 325k vs est. 178k
  • After most Asia equity indexes fell moderately, EU equity indexes, U.S. futures modestly higher; S&P futures +0.7%
  • Treasury yields modestly higher ~1bps; Bund yields modestly to significantly higher, led by 2-yr +3.6bps
  • FX, commodities, EU sovereign yield to Bund spreads mixed in mostly modest ranges
  • In Europe, Hungarian bonds jumped by the most in 6 weeks following hope that talks between the Premier, Central Bank Chief and Ministers would resolve the IMF rescue impasse. The meeting was concluded with Orban saying that Hungary wants IMF aid and is ready to support central bank - in other words Hungary just caved to the banking status quo. CDS declined modestly from all time records.
  • Germany November factory orders collapsed by 4.8%, on expectations of a 1.8% drop - biggest drop since September 2008 - the recession has now firmly moved into the core.
  • ECB deposit facility usage rose to a new record of €455.3 billion.
  • Liquidity conditions are measured by Swap Spreads improved modestly, and are now at early November levels: the 3M EURUSD basis swap rose 6.8 bps to -102.25, highest since November 7; the 3M Euribor/OIS dropped to 0.93, lowest since November 25
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CMA Now Officially Assumes 20% Recovery In Greek Default - Time To Change Sovereign Debt Risk Management Defaults?

One of the ironclad assumptions in CDS trading was that recovery assumptions, especially on sovereign bonds, would be 40% of par come hell or high water. This key variable, which drives various other downstream implied data points, was never really touched as most i) had never really experienced a freefall sovereign default and ii) 40% recovery on sovereign bonds seemed more than fair. Obviously with Greek bonds already trading in the 20s this assumption was substantially challenged, although the methodology for all intents and purposes remained at 40%. No more - according to CMA, the default recovery on Greece is now 20%. So how long before both this number is adjusted, before recovery assumptions for all sovereigns are adjusted lower, and before all existing risk model have to be scrapped and redone with this new assumption which would impact how trillions in cash is allocated across the board. Of course, none of this will happen - after all what happens in Greece stays in Greece. In fact since America can decouple from the outside world, it now also appears that Greece can decouple from within the Eurozone, even though it has to be in the eurozone for there to be a Eurozone. We may go as suggesting that the word of the year 2012 will be "decoupling", even though as everyone knows, decoupling does not exist: thank you 60 years of globalization, $100 trillion in cross-held debt, and a $1 quadrillion interlinked derivatives framework.

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Equity Valuations And The Jobless Recovery

Whether its our old friend Binky from Deutsche or Tommy Lee from JPMorgan, the uber-bullish permanence of these well-paid serial extrapolators seems to pivot critically for 2012's forecasts on one thing: multiple expansion. On whatever empirical metric the Bill Millers of the world look at, stocks are cheap - no matter the changing dynamics underlying the entire system that seems so obvious to the rest of us. As JPMorgan notes, even assuming a 15% earnings decline (possible since in Q4 2011, the percent of negative S&P 500 earnings pre-announcements matched its 2001 and 2008 peak) the S&P 500 is priced at the cheap end of history. The answer to why measures such as Price-to-Book and Price-to-Earnings have adjusted down so considerably is, however, very evident when once considers where the profitability has come. In contrast to prior recovery cycles, current cycle profits have been driven significantly by very low labor compensation. David Cembalest says it best: "Given the fiscal, social and political issues this creates, it’s hard to pay a very high multiple for this kind of profits boom."

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Frontrunning: January 4

  • Iowa result leads to GOP confusion (FT)
  • Romney ekes out Iowa caucus victory (FT)
  • MF Global sold assets to Goldman before collapse (Reuters)
  • China’s Wen Jiacao sees ‘relatively difficult’ first quarter (Bloomberg)
  • German Scandal Adds to Pressure on Merkel (WSJ)
  • US mortgage demand fell at year-end, purchases sag (Reuters)
  • Bank worries hit Europe stocks, euro down (Reuters)
  • Martin Wolf: The 2012 recovery: handle with care (FT)
  • SNB Chief’s Wife Defends Dollar Trades (Bloomberg)
  • China Home Prices Slide Amid Reserve-Ratio Speculation (Bloomberg)
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Guest Post: A Punch to the Mouth - Food Price Volatility Hits the World

2011 was an abysmal year for the global insurance industry, which had to cover yet another enormous increase in damages from natural disasters. Unknown to most casual observers is the fact that during the past few decades the frequency of weather-related disasters (floods, fires, storms) has been growing at a much faster pace than geological disasters (such as earthquakes). This spread between the two types of insurable losses has moved so strongly that it prompted Munich Re to note in a late 2010 letter that weather-related disasters due to wind have doubled and flooding events have tripled in frequency since 1980. The world now has to contend with a much higher degree of risk from weather and climate volatility, and this has broad-reaching implications. And critically, it has a particular impact on food.

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Exposing American Banks' Multi-Trillion Umbilical Cord With Europe

One of the reports making the rounds today is a previously little-known academic presentation by Princeton University economist Hyun Song Shin, given in November, titled "Global Banking Glut and Loan Risk Premium" whose conclusion as recently reported by the Washington Post is that "European banks have played a much bigger role in the U.S. economy than has been generally thought — and could do a lot more damage than expected as they pull back." Apparently the fact that in an age of peak globalization where every bank's assets are every other banks liabilities and so forth in what is an infinite daisy chain of counterparty exposure, something we have been warning about for years, it is news that the US is not immune to Europe's banks crashing and burning. The same Europe which as Bridgewater described yesterday as follows: "You've got insolvent banks supporting insolvent sovereigns and insolvent sovereigns supporting insolvent banks." In other words, trillions (about $3 trillion to be exact) in exposure to Europe hangs in the balance on the insolvency continent's perpetuation of a ponzi by a set of insolvent nations, backstopping their insolvent banks. If this is not enough reason to buy XLF nothing is. Yet while CNBC's surprise at this finding is to be expected, one person whom we did not expect to be caught offguard by this was one of the only economists out there worth listening to: Ken Rogoff. Here is what he said: "Shin’s paper has orders of magnitude that I didn’t know"...Rogoff said it’s hard to calculate the impact that the unfolding European banking crisis could have on the United States. “If we saw a meltdown, it’s hard to be too hyperbolic about how grave the effects would be” he said. Actually not that hard - complete collapse sounds about right. Which is why the central banks will never let Europe fail - first they will print, then they will print, and lastly they will print some more. But we all knew that. Although the take home is the finally the talking heads who claim that financial decoupling is here will shut up once and for all.

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Art Cashin On Roller Coaster Commuting And Early 2012 Trading Patterns

We are always amused by technicians trying to predict what the market will do based on something that may have happened some time in the past, when in reality the only thing that matters is the distinction: "Pre-Central Planning" and "Post-Central Planning" or PCP (for both) - in other words, anything prior to 2009 is completely irrelevant when it comes to analyzing the market. Yet people continue doing it. And while the predictive pattern of such formerly "self-fulfilling prophecies" is now gone, courtesy of whatever side the Chairman wakes up on, traders habits die slowly. Here is Art Cashin with his summary of what trading patterns are relevant for the new year. That said, we remind readers that the first trading day of 2011 saw the S&P rise from 1257 and close at 1272, something which #CarbonCopy2012 seems dead set on imitating. After all, with central planning, why recreate the wheel - Brian Sack can just hit the "repeat 2011" program button and all shall be well. All the way up to a 2012 year end close at 1257.

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Meet The New Year, Same As The Old Year

Stock futures are up sharply after another week of unprecedented volatility. Although last week was relatively tame, only 13 times in the last 60 years has the S&P 500 had a down 1% day during the week between Christmas and New Year's.  We managed one of those days last week.  We also had a 1% positive day.  Futures are strong and looks like stocks will open above 1272 (where they closed on Jan. 3, 2011). Not only does volatility remain elevated, the stories are about the same. We have some new acronyms to contend with, but ultimately the European Debt Crisis (it is both a bank and sovereign crisis) and the strength of the US economy and China's ability to manage its slowdown are the primary stories. Issues in the Mid-East remain on the fringe but threaten to elevate to something more serious with Iran flexing its muscles more and more. So what to do?  Prepare for more headlines, more risk reversals, and more pain.

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Goldman On The Five Key Questions For 2012

As US markets remain in hibernation for a few more hours, Goldman picks out the five critical questions that need to be considered in the context of 2012's economic outlook. Jan Hatzius and his team ask and answer a veritable chart-fest of crucial items from whether US growth will pick up to above-trend (and remain 'decoupled' from Europe's downside drag), whether inflation will find its Goldilocks moment this year and if the US housing market will bottom in 2012 (this one is a stretch). Summarizing all of these in a final question, whether the Fed will ease further, the erudite economist continues to expect an expansion of LSAP (focused on Agency MBS) and an official re-adjustment to an inflation targeting environment. Their view remains that a nominal GDP target combined with more (larger) QE improves the chances of the Fed meeting its dual mandates (unemployment target?) over time but expectations for this radical shift remain predicated on considerably worse economic performance in the economy first (as they expect growth to disappoint). We feel the same way (worse is needed) and recall our recent (firstly here, then here and here) focus on the shift in the balance of power between the Fed and ECB balance sheets (forced Fed QE retaliation soon?).

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