Earlier this week two former Merrill colleagues, since separated, were reunited on several media occasions, and allowed to spar over their conflicting views of the world. The two people in question, of course, are Gluskin Sheff's David Rosenberg, best known during the past 3 years for not drinking the propaganda Kool-Aid, and systematically deconstructing every "bullish" macroeconomic datapoint into its far more downbeat constituent parts, and his ebullient ex-coworker, Richard Bernstein, formerly head of equity strategy at a firm that had to be rescued by none other than Bank of America and currently head of RBA advisors, who just happens to be bullish on, well, everything. And since any attempt at holding an intelligent conversation on CNBC is ultimately futile (as can be seen here) and is constantly broken up by both ads, and interjecting anchors and show producers who care far less about facts than keeping the presentation 'engaging' (and going to such lengths to even allow Jim Cramer to have his own TV show), Rosenberg decided to dedicate his entire letter to clients today to "providing a rebuttal" of the slate of reasons why according to Bernstein the "we are on the precipice of a 1982-2000 style of secular market." What follows is one of the most comprehensive "white papers" debunking the bullish view we have seen in a while. Read on.
What kind of batter crowds the plate after a pitcher has aimed a fastball at his head? “Batters” have been doing it routinely on Wall Street lately — most recently yesterday, when they held the broad averages buoyant while Google shares were getting pasted for 80 points. During this single-stock onslaught, the Dow Industrials were never down more than 50 points and closed off only slightly with GOOG still $53 in the hole. This wasn’t the first time bulls have leaned into the plate while “dusters” whizzed past their ears.
We want to 'believe', we really do; but anyone with any sense (and no skin in the game) can see through the data; the eon-like periods of foreclosure and the drastically reduced supply. No matter how 'bullish' homebuilders are, or how much they dream of a future pickup, calling the recovery (as Bob Shiller recently noted) is just a fool's errand. The truth is, for the average citizen, housing is not recovering - the wealth effect is not creating animal spirits - and we do indeed have more to fear than fear itself. The following 79 second clip from Bloomberg TV should perhaps clarify the 'difference' in demand for housing. Primary residence 'buyers' are down remarkably, while 'investors' are up dramatically - now at pre-crisis bubble levels! Perhaps, as we noted here, Och-Ziff's stepping away from the 'flip-that-house' or 'REO-to-Rental' game is as good an indicator of exuberance as any.
BP's New Excuse Doesn't Hold Water
Although we showed these earlier, we believe the charts showing the trendlines in the two most critical components of US household purchasing power deserve to be shown again, without much if any commentary necessary. Just because.
GOOG’s ill timed oops in the early afternoon dumped the S&P 500 approximately 12 handles from what been shaping up previously as a fourth straight “checkmark” session. The technology behemoth provided another example of a non-financial firm’s missing earnings expectations by a country mile. Despite the shocking nature of the disappointment, the TICK never registered a print worse than –925 in the immediate wake of the surprise headline, a highly unusual phenomenon given the aggressiveness of the downward move. This suggests large institutions stayed with their VWAP buy programs out of confusion or necessity. We can envision only two scenarios for such adherence to purchasing in the face of clear extremely negative news on, what was at the time, the third biggest stock in America...
Today's just announced revenue and EPS misses from both megacaps McDonalds and GE (in addition to MSFT, GOOG, INTC, IBM and everyone else) merely adds to what has so far been an abysmal earnings season, and one which is set to continue for far more weakness into Q4 (why? Hint: China, and its unwillingness to ease, and thus provide the much needed demand oomph US corporates need). Yet, the pundits will claim, economic conditions in the US have improved. How does one reconcile this disconnect? Simple: as Bloomberg Brief shows in two simple charts, what we are undergoing is not the first, but second case of annual deja vu, as the economy supposedly picks up in Q3 and Q4, courtesy of the latest and greatest artificial sugar high from the Fed, only to slide promptly back into decline once the initial euphoria fizzles. However, this time there is a major difference: corporate Y/Y revenue (and in many cases EPS) comps have turned negative, which means that unlike before when corporations would be the silver lining in a dreary macro environment once the economic downward trend resumed, this time around there won't be a convenient Deus Ex to provide a last gasp reason to hold on to the myth that things are getting better. This, in turn means, that with "dividend" assets no longer attractive, the investing/trading crowd will rush into hard assets like crude (recall the $125/barrell Brent barrier for economic decline)... and gold. But that is a story for another day.
Readers may recall that Ron Paul once surprised everyone with a seemingly very elegant proposal to bring the debt ceiling wrangle to a close. If you're all so worried about the federal deficit and the debt ceiling, so Paul asked, then why doesn't the treasury simply cancel the treasury bonds held by the Fed? After all, the Fed is a government organization as well, so it could well be argued that the government literally owes the money to itself. He even introduced a bill which if adopted, would have led to the cancellation of $1.6 trillion in federal debt held by the Fed. Of course the proposal was not really meant to be taken serious: rather, it was meant to highlight the absurdities of the modern-day monetary system. In a way, we would actually not necessarily be entirely inimical to the idea, for similar reasons Ron Paul had in mind: it would no doubt speed up the inevitable demise of the fiat money system. Control can be lost, and it usually happens only after a considerable period of time during which their interventions appear to have no ill effects if looked at only superficially: “Thus we learn….to be ignorant of political economy is to allow ourselves to be dazzled by the immediate effect of a phenomenon."
With less than 20 days to go to the election, the Presidential race has tightened following Romney's performances in the debates, as the Republican challenger has overtaken the president in the national averages for the first time this year (and RealClearPolitics has him with an edge in the electoral college also). But ever the fair-and-balance bank, Citi believes that Obama's advantages remain substantial, as an incumbent president in an improving economic environment. In this broad discussion, the Pandit-less bank addresses 'the data' driving their Obama call, what would have to happen for a Romney win, the Senate and House split, The Tea Party (and other unusual events), and the 'bungee jump'-causing headline risk of the pending Fiscal Cliff debate. Everything you need to know about the election-critical states, players, and events (and who would win in a fist-fight), but were afraid to ask Wolf Blitzer.
A month ago every single bank was delighted when Bernanke proudly announced QEternity. What they did not realize is that by doing so, and by "getting to work" as Chuck Schumer had previously requested of the Chairsatan, Congress suddenly has no impetus to do anything over the fiscal cliff, i.e., to lose face with the electorate by compromising over difficult fiscal issues, because, guess what, Bernanke is on top of it. After all look at the market - no risk is allowed ever again. Because since the Fed is now in charge the market, and of fiscal policy, why bother with protection or Plan B. The banks, however, know better, and know that without hundreds of billions in continued stimulus from D.C., the musical chairs game is about to end and the market will implode. Which is why the warnings of Mutual Assured Destruction (M.A.D.) were only a matter of time. Sure enough, here comes JPM with the first of many official GDP revisions (don't worry - JPM's Mike Feroli will promptly revise everything much higher if a fiscal cliff deal is done... some time in March long after the S&P has tumbled by 20% in a replay of August 2011), in which he sees the fiscal cliff now reducing 2013 GDP growth by 1%, up from the previous estimate of 0.5%, and specifically sees Q1 and Q2 GDP of 1.0% and 1.5%. And it's all downhill from there...
The unending efforts of our glorious central-banking planners to raise asset prices and encourage 'animal spirits' through the trickle-down of unicorn-tears via the wealth effect have side-effects. Unintended consequences of 'leaking liquidity' finding its way into hard assets and 'things that have relatively limited supply' have stalled hopes of a stimulus in China (food inflation) and caused refis to mysteriously lag on misplaced future rate expectations in the US (ZIRP). The biggest 'problem' the central-bankers face, however, is energy prices. The liquidity surges directly impact the price of oil (which is already under pressure from the ever-igniting fears of Middle-East flare-ups). Critically, as Goldman notes, once the price of Brent crude reaches $125, global economic growth becomes challenged and ultimately makes QE self-defeating. This means Bernanke and his cohorts are threading an ever-narrowing needle as crude's price range remains high enough to motivate supply, but not so high as to undermine the global economic recovery - and with a tight physical market, any disruption or 'anomaly' will be hard to jawbone us back from (SPR rumors aside).
As the Euro infection commences, is it time to profit?
Translation: Goldman is now buying Brent from its clients, aka Goldman 101.
Reality Storms Back As Initial Claims Explode Higher By 46K From Last Week's Upward Revised AberrationSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 10/18/2012 08:42 -0400
So much for last week's aberration initial claims print of 339K (revised higher of course to 342K). With expectations of an increase to 365K, the DOL just came out with a whopper of a miss, the largest in three months, at 388K, an increase of 46K in one week, which was also the highest print in three months. Remember: this number will be revised to 391K next week. So much for single print indicative of a recovery. As the chart below shows, the rate of change was a 13.45% from last week: the highest in five years! So far, there has been no explanation from the BLS or DOL for last week's outlier print. And no, last week's print was not due to California, which the DOL reported just decreased by 4,979 in the week ended Oct 6, not the required 49K. What is however worse, is that it is becoming increasingly clear that nobody at the DOL knows what is actually going on following a statement by the Labor Dept that "it appeared that state-level administrative issues were distorting the data", and numbers are simply picked out of thin air. Finally, in truly amusing news, those on Extended Benefits have once again started to rise, after dropping to virtually 0 following expiration of state benefits.
It just refuses to get any better in Spain, whose banks are now aggressively marking down real estate to something resembling fair value. Last month we reported that Spanish bad loans jumped by the most ever, rising by over 1% to just under 10%. Today, last month's number was revised even higher to 10.1%. But the worst news is that the August bad loan total just hit a fresh record of €178.6 billion, or 10.5% of the total €1,698.7 billion in bank loans. Making things worse is that the primary bank funding lifeline - deposits - continues to flow out. That both Spain, and its banking sector are utterly insolvent, is clear to anyone but Oliver Wyman and those who have bought SPGBs (although granted the latter are merely hoping for a quick flip). And the ECB of course. Indicatively, as a % of GDP, this would be equivalent to roughly $2.7 trillion in US bank loans going sour (for more on the collapse of Spanish banking, and the laughable stress test whose worst case has already become the baseline, read here). The chart summarizing this staggering statistic is below.