Without wasting our readers' time, here are the only two numbers that matter today:
- $15,564,809,891,767.99 - This is how high record US federal debt is as of today. Although "record" and "US debt" in the same sentence is now redundant. So just debt. (source)
- $8.354 billion. This is how much net US tax revenues (net of refunds of course) are lower in fiscal 2012 to date compared to the same period in 2011. In this Bizarro world, economic recovery is apparently based on weaker numbers (source).
Back in early February, Zero Hedge was among the first to suggest that abnormally warm temperatures and a record hot winter, were among the primary causes for various employment trackers to indicate a better than expected trendline (even as many other components of the economy were declining), in "Is It The Weather, Stupid? David Rosenberg On What "April In January" Means For Seasonal Adjustments." It is rather logical: after all the market is the first to forgive companies that excuse poor performance, or economies that report a data miss due to "inclement" weather. So why should the direction of exculpation only be valid when it serves to justify underperformance? Naturally, the permabullish bias of the media and the commentariat will ignore this critical variable, and attribute "strength" to other factors, when instead all that abnormally warm weather has done is to pull demand forward - whether it is for construction and repair, for part-time jobs, or for retail (and even so retail numbers had been abysmal until the just released expectations meet). Ironically, while everyone else continues to ignore this glaringly obvious observation, it is Bank of America, who as already noted before are desperate to validate a QE as soon as possible (even if their stock has factored in not only the NEW QE, but the NEW QE HD), that expounds on the topic of the impact of record warm weather. In fact, not only that, but BofA makes sense of the fact why GDP growth continues to be in the mid 1% range while various other indicators are representative of much higher growth. The culprit? Global Warming.
Confused why every asset class is up again today (yes, even gold), despite the pundit interpretation by the media of the FOMC statement that the Fed has halted more easing? Simple - as we said yesterday, there is $3.6 trillion more in QE coming. But while we are too humble to take credit for moving something as idiotic as the market, the fact that just today, none other than Goldman Sachs' Jan Hatzius came out, roughly at the same time as its call to buy Russell 2000, and said that the Fed would announce THE NEW QETM, as soon as next month, and as late as June. Furthermore, as Goldman has previously explained, sterilization of QE makes absolutely no difference on risk asset behavior, and it is a certainty that the $500-$750 billion in new money (well on its way to fulfilling our expectation of a total $3.6 trillion in more easing to come), in the form of UST and MBS purchases, will blow out all assets across all classes, while impaling the dollar. Which in turn explains all of today's action - dollar down, everything else (including bonds, which Goldman said yesterday to sell which we correctly, at least for now, said was the bottom in rates) up. Finally, as we said, yesterday, "In conclusion we wish to say - thank you Chairman for the firesale in physical precious metals." Because when the market finally understands what is happening, despite all the relentless smoke and mirrors whose only goal is to avoid a surge in crude like a few weeks ago ahead of the presidential election, gold will be far, far higher. Yet for some truly high humor, here is the justification for why the Fed will need to do more QE, even though Goldman itself has been expounding on the improving economy: "The improvement might not last." In other words, unless the "economic improvement" is guaranteed in perpetuity, the Fed will always ease. Thank you central planning - because of you we no longer have to worry about either mean reversion or a business cycle.
South Africa's gold output fell again in January and was down a very large 11.3% in volume terms in January. Annual gold production is set to be close to 220 tonnes which is a level of gold production not seen since 1922 (see chart below). The falls were seen only in the gold market with production of other minerals holding up with total mineral production down only 2.5% compared with the same month last year. South Africa as recently as two decades ago was the world's largest producer of gold by a huge margin. Only 40 years ago South Africa produced more than 1,000 tonnes of gold per annum but will only produce some 220 tonnes in 2012. Production peaked in 1970 and has been falling steadily and sharply since. The nearly 80% fall in South African gold production has led to it being recently overtaken by China, Australia and the U.S. It is now even at risk of being overtaken by Russia. The massive 11.3% decline in South Africa was more than even that seen in December when gold output fell by 8.2%. The continuing output decline is due to many of the country's biggest gold mining operations having reached the ends of their lives and having closed down.
Earlier we described why it is clear that the Fed will need to print exponentially to fill the void of the crunch in consolidated credit money but why does Bernanke remain so hedged and guarded in his optimism when the market is tearing bears' arms-and-legs off and every talking head from here to Tokyo is claiming we have reached the nirvana of self-sustaining recovery (with, we note one such reconstituted deal-maker claiming "we don't need the Fed's help anyway" after the FOMC meeting). It's the data stupid. Simply put, as the chart below shows, the strength of trend of key US data over the past three months has been disappointing in aggregate (of course one can cherry pick BLS prints or sub-indices of ISM) and the worrying similarities between 2011 (when the same overshoot of optimism occurred) is only too real a problem for Ben and his buddies if they take away the Kool-Aid too early once again and let us drink our own stale sugar-free water. So the next time you hear some long-only asset manager or octogenarian wealth adviser say the 'data has been very strong' so buy-and-hold big-tech or dividend-payers, do them a favor and remind them of this chart and what happened last year.
UPDATE: The UK outlook change has had little reaction so far: TSY yield down 1-2bps, gold/silver bounced up a little, and a small drop in GBP.
While most of the talk will be about the drop in precious metals today, the sell-off in Treasuries is of a much larger relative magnitude and yet equities broadly ignored this re-risking 'signal'. At almost 2.5 standard deviations, today's 10Y rate jump (closing it above the 200DMA for the first time in eight months) trumps the 1.3 standard deviation drop in Gold prices - taking prices back to mid-January levels. According to our data (h/t JL) for only the 14th time in the last five years (and not seen for 16 months) Treasury yields rose significantly and stocks fell as the broad gains in yesterday's financials (on the JPM rip) were held on to at the ETF level but not for Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, or Citigroup (who gave all the knee-jerk reaction back). Tech led the way as AAPL surged once again (though faltered a few times intraday) having now completed back-to-back unfilled gap-up-openings. Credit and equity were generally in sync until mid afternoon when the up-in-quality rotation took over and stocks and high-yield sold off (notably HYG - the high-yield bond ETF underperformed all day long) while investment grade credit rallied to multi-month tights. VIX bounced higher (notably more than the S&P would have implied) recovering to Monday's closing levels and back above 15%. The Treasury sell-off was 'balanced' in terms of risk-on/-off by the strength in the USD (and modest weakness in FX carry pairs as JPY's weakness was largely in sync with the rest of the majors - hinting its was a USD story). Oil and Copper both lost ground (as did Silver - the most on the day) though they tracked more in line with USD strength than the PMs.
In keeping with the tradition of waking up to reality with a several month delay on downgrades (if being the first to upgrade insolvent Eurozone members), here comes Fitch, to boldly go where Moody's went long ago.
- UNITED KINGDOM L-T IDR OUTLOOK TO NEGATIVE FROM STABLE BY FITCH
- FITCH AFFS UNITED KINGDOM AT 'AAA'; REVISES OUTLOOK TO NEGATIVE
As a reminder, UK consolidated debt/GDP is... oh... ~1000%
The Fed Chairman, who is too busy to tweet at the moment, has just released his pre-recorded speech on Community Banking. In its we find the following pearl: "Despite some recent signs of improvement, the recovery has been frustratingly slow, constraining opportunities for profitable lending." Wait, hold on, yesterday the same Chairman told an eager headline scanning robotic world that economic growth was upgraded from "modest" to "moderate" - so which is it? Or will the Fed merely feed the HFT robots whatever cherry picked keywords are needed to nudge the market in the appropriate direction as required? Oh wait, we forgot... Election year. Carry on.
Sean Corrigan presents an interesting chart for everyone who still believes that, contrary to millennia of evidence otherwise, money is not fungible. Such as the Lerry Meyers of the world, who in a CNBC interview earlier said the following: "I’m sorry, I’m sorry, you think he doesn't have the right model of inflation, he would allow hyperinflation. Not a prayer. Not a prayer. If you wanted to forecast inflation three or four years out and you don't have it close to 2%, I don't know why. Balance sheet, no impact. Level of reserves, no impact, so you have a different model of inflation, hey, you like the hawk on the committee, you got good company." (coupled with a stunning pronouncement by Steve Liesman: "I think the Fed is going to be dead wrong on inflation. I think inflation is going up." - yes, quite curious for a man who for the longest time has been arguing just the opposite: 5 minutes into the clip). Because despite what monetary theorists say, monetary practitioners know that money always finds a way to go from point A (even, or especially if, said point is defined as "excess reserves" which in a stationary phase generate a ridiculously low cash yield) to point B, where point B are risk assets that generate the highest returns. Such as high beta stocks (and of course crude and other hard commodities). And the following chart of Inside vs Outside Money from Sean Corrigan shows precisely how this is accomplished.
"Rationalising away the imminent risk of inflation, the Fed leaves the door wide open for a QE3 announcement in April."
The money for Greece has not yet been wired, and already a deeper dive into the previously released Troika report shows what is glaringly obvious to anyone who follows the actual collapse of the Greek economy: that the country is already on course to miss its budget targets for the immediate future (for insane EU assumptions on what the Greek economy should look like through the lens of a Eurocrat, see our chart of the day). The Telegraph reports: "Athens has probably cut spending enough to bring its primary deficit down to 1.5pc this year as agreed. But "current projections reveal large fiscal gaps in 2013-14" according to a leaked draft report by the European Union (EU), the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In its report, the troika said Athens will have to impose further fiscal cuts of as much as 5.5pc of GDP to meet next year's targets." And while Europe may be terminally fixed, translated this means that the aborigines of the southern colony of Bavaria Sachs will see their wages cut even more, and even more people will be unemployed soon just to appears the first lien debt holders. This in a country of 10.8 million where just 36% of the population works. So Greece, which today received a rare bit of highly irrelevant but good news, when Fitch became the first rating agency to upgrade the country's credit rating from Default to B- (even as its new bonds saw their yield surge to 19% on the second day of trading), will in a few short months be forced to once again deal with even more consequences of being the proud recipient of the inverted European bailout, whereby the country's gold is used to fund Eurobank capital shortfalls.
The continual restatement by endless talking heads of the compression in Italian bond spreads/yields as some indicator of success and recovery in Europe is becoming nonsensical. Short-end rates have become anchored, and as UBS notes today, the huge liquidity injections have caused structural breaks between curve slop and spread levels (curve now at its steepest since EUR inception). However, what makes the nonsense-speak greatest is the disappointment in terms of market reaction post LTRO2. After the previous two major liquidity injections (LTRO1 and the Reserve Requirement shift) we saw a considerable spread compression very soon after. However, in the two weeks since LTRO2, Italian spreads have gone nowhere (and have in fact seen notably larger volatility and intraday decompression in the last few days post-Greece). With theeconomics of the carry trade diminished, and the market fully priced in LTRO's impact, expectations of further improvement in Italy's bond curve seem entirely dependent on more surprise liquidity (unlikely short-term) as the carry-trade engine appears to have run out of fuel (or collateral maybe?)
Today, almost every financial journalist that is published in the mainstream media prefers to be steered by their controlling interests into being a “cleaner”, scrubbing clean the facts and hard evidence of every financial crime scene and of inherent risks that lurk everywhere, and instead, opting to present a rosy, unrealistic, fantasy outlook of stock markets and the global economy.
Balestra Capital: "If Government Programs Were Cancelled, The Economy Would Collapse Back Into Severe Recession"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 03/12/2012 19:52 -0500
While hardly an opinion that would be questioned around these parts, it is still good to see that even some of the smart money shares our views about the Schrodinger Economy ('alive' and 'dead' at the same time, depending if the BLS or anyone else is observing it) and we are not totally insane vis-a-vis one-time, non recurring government bailouts, which just incidentally have become perpetual and endless: "The Federal government has manfully stepped up to fill the gap left by consumers who have been forced to retrench and who are trying to repair their finances by paying down debt and increasing their savings. So the next question has to be: Is this recovery self-sustaining or is the economy still on life support, held together by periodic massive liquidity injections and ultra low interest rates, and accompanied by a dangerous, if not reckless, expansion of government debt? We think that if government programs were canceled, the economy would collapse back into severe recession." And here Balestra's Chris Gorgone explains quite astutely why anyone betting on a decoupling or perpetual USD reserve status may want to reconsider: "the U.S. is no longer in complete control of its own destiny. We exist now in a world of increasing correlation in the arenas of economics, finance, trade, politics, etc. What happens in Europe, China, the Middle East, etc. will have major impacts on American economic, political, and social outcomes. The world is changing rapidly. The old rules that so many investors rely upon may no longer apply the way they did during the great growth years after World War II." Alas, this too is spot on.