We often hear that if there is not enough oil at a given price, the situation will lead to substitution or to demand destruction. Because of the networked nature of the economy, this demand destruction comes about in a different way than most economists expect–it comes from fewer people having jobs with good wages. With lower wages, it also comes from less debt being available. We end up with a disparity between what consumers can afford to pay for oil, and the amount that it costs to extract the oil. This is the problem we are facing today, and it is a very difficult issue.
As Pepe Escobar explains, way beyond economy and finance, this is essentially about geopolitics - as in emerging powers offering an alternative to the failed Washington consensus. Or, as consensus apologists say, the BRICS may be able to "alleviate challenges" they face from the "international financial system".
Now that the World Cup is over, and following last week's global macro reporting slumber (aside for the Portuguese risk flaring episode of course), things pick up quite a bit in the coming week. Here are the key events.
- Carl Icahn says 'time to be cautious' on U.S. stocks (Reuters)
- Banco Espirito Santo Lifts Lid on Exposure to Group (BBG)
- Slowing Customer Traffic Worries U.S. Retailers (WSJ)
- Insurgents enter military base northeast of Baghdad (Reuters)
- Obama tells Israel U.S. ready to help end hostilities (Reuters)
- Japan economics minister warns of premature QE exit, sees room for more easing (Reuters)
- Greek Banks See Quadrupling of Housing Loans by Next Year (BBG) ... to fund buybacks like in the US?
- Piggy Banks Being Raided Signal Swedish Housing Dilemma (BBG)
- London Seeks New Spenders as Russians Skip $719 Champagne (BBG)
No lesser mortal than commodity-king Andy Lees (ex-UBS and current manage of ALM Macro) explains that today's declining global productivity is and was always a consequence of government policy of taxing productivity in favor of social transfers. The gradual dumbing down of capitalism and move towards social democracy over the last 50 years relied on building a Ponzi scheme of financial innovation to keep the illusion alive. But, he offers hopefully, system dynamics of the natural environment (how land that was once lost to the desert by over taxing it can be returned to a productive use) offer hope that this ponzi trend can be broken. Simply put, Lees concludes, "the system has to change. The issue is whether government and ultimately society can survive during the change; whether the public can unite behind a leadership that can implement tough decisions and allocate capital productively, or whether further sacrifice will be needed first, and how that sacrifice may come"
- Carl Icahn wins again: Actavis to Buy Forest Labs for $25 Billion (WSJ)
- ECB governing council member attacks German court ruling on OMT (FT)
- China Tackles $1 Trillion Data Gap as Xi Changes Metrics (BBG)
- FX Traders Facing Extinction as Computers Replace Humans (BBG)
- BOJ Boost to Loan Programs Signals Room for More Easing (BBG) - actually no it doesn't as it was "factored in"
- Four killed in Thai clashes; PM to face charges over rice scheme (Reuters)
- Goodbye unsterilized SMP: Bundesbank Backs Measure to Boost Funds in Banking System (WSJ)
- Iranian Hacking to Test NSA Nominee Michael Rogers (WSJ)
- Ukraine Clashes Leave Dozens Wounded as Putin Resumes Bailout (BBG)
Spain's unemployment rate hit 26% again this week. Despite Rajoy's please for people to believe things are getting better, that the crisis is over (even as Draghi proclaims it otherwise and Axel Weber warns it is still festering), Spanish local ex-pat newspaper "The Local" has uncovered seven statistics that will help you understand just how serious the situation is. What is perhaps even more surreal is that in a year in which the economy supposedly grew, they depleted their pension reserve fund by 15%...
*SPAIN WITHDREW EU11.6B FROM PENSION RESERVE FUND IN 2013; Spain pension reserve fund ends 2013 With EU53.7 bln
So apart from that, here is how bad it really is in Spain...
Another of history’s many lessons is that governments under pressure become thieves. And today’s governments are under a lot of pressure.
JP Morgan Money Market Funds Join Fidelity, Sell Bills "In Light Of Possible U.S. Government Default"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 10/10/2013 15:48 -0500
Yesterday, it was Fidelity who in conducting its fiduciary duty, announced it was getting out of any and all near-term risky Bill insturments, namely those that mature just around the time of a possible technical debt default. Today, while the stock market was soaring on hope that a Washington debt ceiling deal was imminent, it was another firm that was quietly doing the opposite, and was taking "action in light of a possible US government default), and as highlighted earlier when we showed the ongoing divergence between stocks and Bills, was quietly "boosting" liquidity (i.e. selling short-term securities) in order to avoid breaking the buck (which as we also learned yesterday had been breached by not only the Reserve fund but by 28 other heretofore unknown money market funds). The firm: JPMorgan.
In a day in which there was and will be virtually no A-list macro data (later we get the FHFA and Richmond Fed B-listers), the inevitable low volume centrally-planned levitation was attributed to news out of China, namely that Likonomics has set a hard (landing) floor of 7% for the GDP, and that just like other flourishing economies (Spain, Italy, California) China would invest in "monorails" to get rid of excess capacity, as well as a smattering of European M&A activity involving Telefonica Deutscheland and KPN. In Japan, the government upgraded its economic view for the 3rd straight month and also raised its view on capex for the 1st time in 4 months: who says the (negative Sharpe ratio) PenNikkeistock market is not the economy? All this led to a 2% rise in the Shanghai Composite - the most in 2 weeks - and the risk on sentiment also resulted into tighter credit spreads in Europe, with the iTraxx Crossover index falling 4bps and sr. financial also declining by around 4bps, with 5y CDS rates on Spanish lenders down by over 10bps. Naturally, US futures wouldn't be left far behind and took today's first major revenue miss of the day, that of DuPont, which beat EPS and naturally missed revenue estimates, as bullish and a signal to BTFATH (all time high). On the earnings side, in addition to Apple, other notable companies reporting include Lockheed Martin, Altria, AT&T and UPS.
Spain's slow-motion implosion into an insolvent singularity has been one of the most amusing sideshows for over a year. The chief reason for this is the sheer schizophrenic and absurdist polarity between the sad reality, visible to everyone, and the unprecedented propaganda by the government desperate to paint a rosy picture. While on one hand the economic data shows very clearly the painfully obvious sad ending for this chapter of European integration, it continues to be punctuated almost daily by such amusing confidence games as Spain's Economy Minister de Guindos telling anyone who cares to listen that the labor market is improving "beyond the seasonal pick up" and that Q2 GDP would be close to zero (because 0% GDP is the new killing it). That's the good news. The bad news is that as Reuters reports, and contrary to fairy tales of unicorns and soaring 0% GDP, Spain's government is so insolvent, it was just forced to "borrow" from its social security reserve to fund pension payments.
The United States’ current fiscal and monetary policies are unsustainable. The US government’s net debt as a share of GDP has doubled in the past five years, and the ratio is projected to be higher a decade from now, even if the economy has fully recovered and interest rates are in a normal range. An aging US population will cause social benefits to rise rapidly, pushing the debt to more than 100% of GDP and accelerating its rate of increase. While the future evolution of these imbalances remains unclear, the result could eventually be a sharp rise in long-term interest rates and a substantial fall in the dollar’s value, driven mainly by foreign investors’ reluctance to continue expanding their holdings of US debt. Investors frequently rely on two key arguments to dismiss the fear of a run on the dollar: the dollar is a reserve currency, and it carries fewer risks than other currencies. Neither argument is persuasive.
The great global rig of 2012 is ending. Central Banks used up their last remaining ammo trying to convince the world all was well. What ahppens when the markets call their bluff?
With Spanish 10Y yields hovering at a 'relatively' healthy 5%, having been driven inexorably lower on the promise of ECB assistance at some time in the future, the market has become increasingly unsure of just who it is that keeps bidding for this stuff. Well, wonder no longer. As the WSJ notes, Spain has been quietly tapping the country's richest piggy bank, the Social Security Reserve Fund, as a buyer of last resort for Spanish government bonds - with at least 90% of the €65 billion ($85.7 billion) fund has been invested in increasingly risky Spanish debt. Of course, this is nothing new, the US (and the Irish) have been using quasi-government entities to fund themselves in a mutually-destructive circle-jerk for years - the only difference being there are other buyers in the Treasury market, whereas in Spain the marginal buyer is critical to support the sinking ship. The Spanish defend the use of pension funds to buy bonds as sustainable as long as it can issue bonds - and yet the only way it can actually get the bonds off in the public markets is through using the pension fund assets. The pensioners sum it up perfectly "We are very worried about this, we just don't know who's going to pay for the pensions of those who are younger now," or those who are older we would add.
Bank of Japan Posts Whopping ¥233 Billion Loss As Its Soaring Balance Sheet Hits Record ¥156 TrillionSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 11/28/2012 12:38 -0500
But, but, a central bank can never lose money. Bzzzz, wrong. As it just so happens, the world's most tragicomic farce of a central bank, and one which is about to officially lost its (faux) "independence" and become a branch of the Japanese government if the up and coming PM Abe has his way, the Bank of Japan, just reported that in the quarter ended September 30, the Japanese central bank reported an operating loss of ¥183.4 billion, and a net loss of ¥232.9 billion. As a comparison, the loss in the same period in 2011 was "only" 91 billion. This is a harbinger of the total collapse that is the utterly meaningless capital tranche of all central banks will go through before the terminal phase of the global Keynesian experiment is finally completed. But in the meantime, enjoy this chart of the Bank of Japan's balance sheet returning back to a record ¥156... trillion.