recovery

Frontrunning: January 3

  • Heavy snowstorm hammers northeastern U.S. (Reuters)
  • Coins Remain a Bright Spot for Gold (WSJ)
  • Gross’s Mistake on Fed Taper Echoes Across Pimco Funds (BBG)
  • China December services PMI falls to four-month low (Reuters)
  • General Mills Starts Making Some Cheerios Without GMOs (WSJ)
  • U.S. considers flammability risk of Bakken crude after accidents (Reuters)
  • China Mobile’s Costly iPhone Deal with Apple (WSJ)
  • Hezbollah Upgrades Missile Threat to Israel (WSJ)
  • UK House Prices Cap Best Year Since 2006 as Mortgages Surge (BBG)
  • China tells police to be loyal to party amid graft crackdown (Reuters)

The Ivy League's New Dream Job: Not Wall Street, But Waiting Tables

As recently as October, we joked that the "best-performing" job category in the US was also the most miserable one - i.e., "bartenders and waiters", also known as jobs which often times get paid below minimum wages and rely on the goodwill of their customers for tips to survive. And indeed, as of November, there were a record 10.4 million waiters in the US, representing a record 45 consecutive monthly increases in this job category - hardly the stuff robust recoveries are made of. However, it turns out the joke may be on us after all because as the WSJ explains, "Waiting Tables at Top-Tier Restaurants Is New Career Path for Ivy League and Culinary School Grads." It appears that gone are the days when every Ivy graduate's fast-track to stardom dream was to become a banker (or in the worst case, a corporate lawyer). And with Wall Street's increasing conversion into a utility, the aspirations of the best and the brightest will progressively shift elsewhere. But waiting tables? Well, as it turns out that's where the money is because "head waiters at top-tier restaurants can earn from $80,000 to as much as $150,000 a year including tips, according to industry executives."

Four Key Lessons From 2013

2013 already saw violent unrest in some of the most stable countries in the world like Singapore and Sweden, all underpinned by absolute disgust for the status quo. Whether today or tomorrow, this year or next, there will be a reckoning. The system is far too broken to repair, it must be reset. It’s simply absurd to look at the situation objectively and presume this status quo can continue indefinitely... that this time is different… that we’re somehow special and immune to universal principles.

Alan Greenspan's Modest Proposal: Fix Broken Economic Models By... Modeling Irrational "Animal Spirits"

We leave it to everyone's supreme amusement to enjoy the Maestro's full non-mea culpa essay, but we will highlight Greenspan's two most amusing incosistencies contained in the span of a few hundred words. On one hand the former Chairman admits that "The financial crisis [...] represented an existential crisis for economic forecasting. The conventional method of predicting macroeconomic developments -- econometric modeling, the roots of which lie in the work of John Maynard Keynes -- had failed when it was needed most, much to the chagrin of economists." On the other, his solution is to do... more of the same: "if economists better integrate animal spirits into our models, we can improve our forecasting accuracy. Economic models should, when possible, measure and forecast systematic human behavior and the tendencies of corporate culture.... Forecasters may never approach the fantasy success of the Oracle of Delphi or Nostradamus, but we can surely improve on the discouraging performance of the past." So, Greenspan's solution to the failure of linear models is to... model animal spirits, or said otherwise human irrationality. Brilliant.

"Rich Will Keep Getting Richer In 2014" - In 2013, Top 300 Billionaires Added Half A Trillion In Net Worth

All the pundits who preach an economic recovery in the US always fall strangely silent when asked to share their thoughts on the following chart (taken from the St. Louis Fed), showing the annual change in real disposable income per capita in the US. What seems to stump them most is that aside from the 2012 year end aberration (due to accelerated distribution of dividends ahead of the 2013 tax hikes) is that in November the series finally posted its first Y/Y decline (-0.1%) since the Lehman collapse. But as the chart notes, the data is "per capita" and as everyone knows, under the New Normal, some "per capitas" are more equal than other "per capitas." Enter the billionaires. As Bloomberg summarizes, "The richest people on the planet got even richer in 2013, adding $524 billion to their collective net worth, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, a daily ranking of the world’s 300 wealthiest individuals. The aggregate net worth of the world’s top billionaires stood at $3.7 trillion at the market close on Dec. 31, according to the ranking. "The rich will keep getting richer in 2014," John Catsimatidis, the billionaire founder of real estate and energy conglomerate Red Apple Group Inc., said in a telephone interview from his New York office.

Frontrunning: January 2

  • Threatening snowstorm may be early test for N.Y. Mayor de Blasio (Reuters), U.S. Northeast Threatened With Blizzard, Travel Delays (BBG)
  • Scarred U.S. consumers a hard sell for traditional retail (Reuters)
  • Edward Snowden, Whistle-Blower (NYT)
  • A Few Brave Investors Scored Huge, Market-Beating Wins (WSJ)
  • Fiat gets full control of Chrysler for $4.35 billion (Reuters)
  • Billions Vanish in Kazakh Banking Scandal (WSJ)
  • SAC’s Cohen Focus of Trial as Martoma Rebuffs U.S. (BBG)
  • World's first state-licensed marijuana retailers open doors in Colorado (Reuters)
  • Hyundai, Kia face fading growth as currency tides buoy Japan rivals (Reuters)
  • Bond investors braced for new year shock (FT)
  • Putin vows total destruction of 'terrorists' after bombings (AFP)

Futures Unhappy On The First Trading Day Of 2014

The first trading session of previous years has always been a whopper for those betting on central planning and capital flows. In fact, if one adds up the S&P performance on the first trading day of each year going back to 2009 (i.e., 1/2/13: + 2.54%, 1/3/12: + 1.55%, 1/3/11: + 1.13%, 1/4/10: + 1.60%, and 1/2/09: + 3.16%), one gets a whopping 10% return just on that one trading session. Which is why the fact that futures are glowing read, if only for the moment, may be disturbing for index investors and all those others who put all their faith, not to mention money, in St. Janet. Today's red open is hardly being helped by the 10 Year which continues to drift lower with the yield now at 3.04%, even as the Spanish 10 Year yield just got a 3 handle as well. At this rate the two streams should cross some time in the next two months. Just what a higher yield in the US vs Spain would imply for fair and efficient markets, we leave up to readers to decide.

But the Progressives Told Us Abenomics Would Be Great for Japan

When newly elected Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promised new deficit spending and pedal-to-the-metal monetary inflation, the progressive Keynesians were excited. And indeed, debasing the yen seemed to work for a few months, with analysts saying US policymakers should follow Japan’s lead. Yet now Japan’s recovery seems to be collapsing, leading its Cabinet to approve yet another “stimulus” package. Does anyone else have a sense of deja vu?

The Trends To Watch For In 2014

The following 8 key dynamics (from government over-reach and economic stagnation to civil discontent and beyond) will play out over the next two to three years...

2013 – Dense Fog Turns Into Toxic Smog

As usual, in 2013, sticking to facts was a mistake in a world fueled by misinformation, propaganda, delusion and wishful thinking. Those in power have successfully held off the unavoidable collapse which will be brought about by their ravenous unbridled greed, and blatant disregard for the rule of law, the U.S. Constitution and rights and liberties of the American people.

"There is no disputing the facts. The economic situation is deteriorating for the average American, the mood of the country is darkening, and the world is awash in debt and turmoil. Every country is attempting to print their way to renewed prosperity. No one wins a race to the bottom. The oligarchs have chosen a path of currency debasement, propping up insolvent banks, propaganda and impoverishing the masses as their preferred course. They attempt to keep the masses distracted with political theater, gun control vitriol, reality TV and iGadgets. What can be said about a society where 10% of the population follows Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga on Twitter and where 50% think the National Debt is a monument in Washington D.C. The country is controlled by evil sycophants, intellectually dishonest toadies and blood sucking leeches. Their lies and deception have held sway for the last four years, but they have only delayed the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. They will not reverse course and believe their intellectual superiority will allow them to retain their control after the collapse.”

2013 Greatest Hits: Presenting The Most Popular Posts Of The Past Year

The fifth anniversary of Zero Hedge is just around the corner, and so, for the fifth year in a row we continue our tradition of summarizing what you, our readers, found to be the most relevant, exciting, and actionable news of the year, determined objectively by the number of page views. Those eager for a brief stroll down memory lane of prior years can do so at their leisure, by going back in time to our top articles of 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. For everyone else, without further ado, these are the articles that readers found to be the most popular posts of the past 365 days...

Is America About To Reach A Breaking Point?

In America today, there are close to 50 million people living in poverty and there are more than 100 million people that get money from the federal government every month.  As the middle class disintegrates, poverty is climbing to unprecedented levels.  Even though the stock market has been setting record high after record high, the amount of anger and frustration boiling just under the surface in our nation grows with each passing day.  And now extended unemployment benefits have been cut off for 1.3 million unemployed Americans, and it is being projected that a total of 5 million unemployed Americans will lose their benefits by the end of 2014.  In addition, 47 million Americans recently had their food stamp benefits reduced.  The conditions for a "perfect storm" are certainly being created.  So how much longer will it be until we see all of this anger and frustration boil over in the streets of our major cities?  Is America about to reach a breaking point?

Consumer Confidence Jumps Most In 6 Months As "Hope" Soars

Similar to UMich's confidence measure soaring by the most in 4 years, the Conference Board's confidence measure beat expectations and jumped the most in 6 months (though remains below the year's highs). This is the best beat in 4 months. The improvement is all based on "expectations" which soared the most in 6 months. Confidence is critical (as we noted below) especially since the massive majority of actual investors are already bullish...(and definitely not bearish)...

Consensus Now Believes Abenomics "Recovery" Will Fail

Despite Shinzo Abe proudly proclaiming at the Tokyo Stock Exchange that "Abenomics will be a 'buy' next year as well," Bloomberg notes surveys of economists believe his policies will fail to spark the wage increases required to outpace inflation. In fact - due to the collapsing JPY - those surveyed expect consumer prices to rise 3% next year - 5 times faster than wage growth at a mere 0.6%. Officials are concerned; Japan can’t wait one or two years for salary gains, which are needed sooner for the economy to enter a virtuous cycle of rising profits, wages and growth, Deputy Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said. But, any increase in wages depends on a pick-up in demand, not just pleas by Abe for companies to do their part for economic recovery.