It started as your everyday hexagonal discussion on CNBC with the anchors up-in-arms over the fact that (shocker) some firms can pay for early access to critical economic data items. The disdain for the 'rich' was palpable as Bernstein, Sullivan, and then Cramer all exclaimed both their amazement and surprise that this was even possible. That was when Santelli stepped into the ring and explained - in what was a relatively well-behaved exclamation - that not only was the fact that early data releases were well-known to every real trader (as opposed to those who pretend for TV) but that the issue was absolutely not about 'early access' but about HFT. When we first brought the perils of HFT to the attention of the broader trading community in 2009, it was the stuff of conspiracy theory - but now (as with many other things) it is conspiracy fact and in a few short minutes, Rick Santelli showed off his co-hosts ignorance of the real market and opened many new eyes to the damage that HFT can do in a market that is, well, anything but Reg-FD fair and balanced to all.
On the two-year anniversary of our most in-depth explanation of how all stimulus globally is fungible, CNBC's Rick Santelli took up the mission of explaining how the never-ending rush of global central bank provided liquidity flows any and everywhere fungibly around the world in an instant. Furthermore, as we explained to Rick's colleague Mr. Liesman, not only is the stimulus fungible but it means all global leverage is 'shared', and available for use in any and every risk-asset-funding. In other words, as Rick so eloquently points out, thanks to the fungibility of stimulus, the speed of modern finance, and the shared leverage of global banks and hedge funds seeking (to enter and exit) the same leveraged carry trades wherever they are in the world, even a small 'David' of a Taper by the Fed is instantly transformed (3% swings in JPY, 800 point swings in Nikkei, 8bp ranges in IG credit, 10% drops in GGB prices, limit down breaks in European banks, 12% collapses in EM stocks) into a 'Goliath' of global deleveraging and, "you will hear a flush."
In the old normal ("when we had an honest Fed," under Volcker), David Stockman explains to CNBC's Rick Santelli, "the market could judge what Congress and the White House was doing and decide where the risk/reward equation was and how to price the bond, the note, the bills," but in the new normal, "today, the market is entirely rigged." Stockman is no fan of deficits and as he notes "is no fan of money-printing," pointing out that "it's not honest," for the Fed to fund these chronically growing deficits and "created an unsustainably dangerous financial system." In thie brief interview, Stockman (of The Great Deformation fame) sums it up perfectly to a just-as-concerned Santelli, when he notes, "the error of central banking has become unversal." We're taxing the futures generations, he concludes, "they're going to thank you for the massive disaster that was handed to them." The honesty will never come...
This morning we were treated, once again, to confirmation that Europe is still in the middle of a deepening crisis. No, this was not a reflection of the terrible data, it was Mr. Hollande's insistence that "the crisis is behind us." Luckily we have a foil for this idiocy. Bernard Connolly, author of 'The Rotten Heart of Europe' explains to CNBC's Rick Santelli, "the point is that the union has produced this disaster; and the people who put the disaster in place hail it as a success. are they crazy? If they are, that's pretty disturbing! If they're not crazy, then the question of why they have done it is more disturbing." In a few brief minutes, uninterrupted by an anchor desperate for silver linings, Connolly explains to Santelli when asked of the future, that nothing will change in the short-term, "the potential ways of getting out of the mess are simply unthinkable," to both beggar and chooser, adding that "you have a cycle of deflation, depression, default, more banking crisis, more sovereign debt crisis, and social and political crisis." Simply put, Connolly concludes on social unrest, "I don't see any way of avoiding it."
In a perfect follow-up to both President Obama's earlier comments and the news that a hearing is to be held ion May 17th, Rick Santelli has a few things to say. Clearly irritated at the incredible reality of big brother and government intervention, Santelli pushes his blood pressure to 11 on the dial as he comes to grip with the repercussions of the IRS actions. "Truth is power," he exclaims, "you can't assume someone is fair and honest," just because a politician says so. His bigger fears lie in the IRS administration of Obamacare where he is concerned that "No stent for you," will be heard when the powers that be know what groups you support, what thoughts you have, and what area you live in. Think he is exaggerating? Did you really believe the tin-foil hat wearers conspiracies that the IRS was doing this before it became mainstream news?
While notably 'not' the Fed's opinion, Dallas Fed head Richard Fisher provided more than a few compellingly truthy comments in this excellent discussion with CNBC's Rick Santelli. It is fiscal policy that is holding us back, he warns, "we have a massive fog here," and despite the extremely accommodation monetary policy, we are not seeing the transmission to job creation." The "conditions of total uncertainty," mean the politicians are holding us back; but it is when Santelli asks him about the Fed's exit that things get a little uncomfortable, "no central bank anywhere on the planet has the experience of successfully navigating a return home from the place in which we now find ourselves." When pressed he exposes the flaw (much to the chagrin of Kuroda and Bernanke we suspect), "somewhere we have to have practical limits as to where we can build the balance sheet. We're moving in the direction of a $4 trillion balance sheet. We know we can't go on forever."
As we reported earlier, spending on home improvements has paradoxically tumbled, a fact which did not escape Santelli, who brings it up and gets the following logical response: "when the homeowner is confident about the future of price appreciation, they're willing to invest and remodel." And vice versa: so does that by impliation imply a slide in expectations about future home appreciation? Santelli's conclusion is, as usually happens, spot on: "who will remodel more: a homeowner or a renter?" The answer is self-explanatory, as is any doubt as to whether the US is becoming a nation of renters.
When tin-foil-hat wearing digital dickweed blogs first suggested that Central Banks were actively buying stocks, the mainstream media scoffed at the idiocy and un-independence of such an idea. However, it is clear the central banks themselves are now not only actively buying stocks but are activley encouraging it and propagandizing their efforts to lever this last policy tool left in the toolbox. As Bloomberg reports, 23% of central bankers surveyed said the bank owns shares and plans to buy more. From the Bank of Japan to the Bank of Israel and with the SNB and the Czech National Bank now at over 10% allocation of reserves to stocks, is it any wonder there is an inexorable bid under the 'free' markets. Rick Santelli is rightly concerned that, "there is a danger that everyone is loaded in the same direction," asking what happens if all the Central Bank pump-priming does not work, given these equity valuations, "who gets caught holding the bag? What chairs are left when the music stops?"
Yesterday's #Hash-Crash has brought the tough reality of just how entirely mechanized the so-called equity 'markets' have become in the US to every mom-and-pop who watch nightly news. Mainstream media is even discussing the correlations between JPY carry trades and equity indices now as CNBC's Rick Santelli notes "the high-speed casinos our markets have become". All things we have discussed for years. But there is one potentially fascinating insight from the ongoing robotization of the TBTF banking sector - Wall Street jobs are now at an all-time record low. Once again, it would appear, that cost-cutting demands (and a government backstop and huge subsidy no matter how bad the things are that you do) trumps any job creation. As Joe Saluzzi explains to CNBC's Rick Santelli in this excellent clip, the "liquidity is fickle" - the fake-tweet was a mere catalyst, he added, "we see these flash-crashes every day." The benefits for the major exchanges far exceed the conflicts of interest of these so-called "market-makers" who front-run their clients millisecond by millisecond.
Two minutes into a somewhat boring pre-close wrap-up, the CNBC guests bring up the glaring revelation that perhaps, just perhaps, the Fed's $85 billion per month (plus the BoJ's exuberance) is not enough. But at three minutes, Rick Santelli dares to ask the question that no one wants to hear the answer to. Addressing questions over what bonds and commodities are telling us, Santelli notes the bubble-blowing tendencies of "re-applying [economic] medicines that don't work and don't take hold," and that the current weakness is deflationary. "Just look at 20-year lows in European car sales... or 13-year lows in China GDP growth," he explains, "you have to delever down to some sort of reality - that's the healing process;" but instead, due to "economic semantics," we "keep doing [building bigger bubbles]." With $14 trillion of central bank balance sheet reflation in place, Rick asks, what if its the "wrong medicine?"
The overtly inflationary policy stance of the FOMC is especially significant when you consider that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is no longer in control of monetary policy.
Central Banks remain aggressive accumulators of the precious metal as we noted last night, as their actions outweigh their words; but as CNBC's Rick Santelli notes today, there is a big difference between the physical bullion they are buying and the 'gold bug' trading currently going on in our markets:
I don't even look at gold as gold anymore since they securitized it. If things [went] badly in the world that I used to observe (as a gold bug); the gold would end up in the hands of the gold bugs. If things go badly now, they're going to end up with checks from ETFs! Sorry, it's not the same. The reign of [paper] gold as the Ayn Rand endgame, to me, that's over. Game, Set, Match.
Which likely explains the incessant demand for precious metals from the US Mint over the past few months - as the other great rotation (from paper to physical) proceeds.
The sad truth in the USA, as we explained in great detail here, incentives to 'work' are increasingly non-existent. Thanks to a never-ending stream of benefits from the great and powerful Oz, as CNBC's Rick Santelli notes, Disability payments (of which there are 14 million people covered in the US - none of which count towards the unemployment rate) pay around $13,000 per year (versus $15,000 for minimum wage work). However, Santelli exclaims, the people on disability get healthcare; and this program costs the US $300 billion per year. Is it any wonder that only 1% of those who were on disability in Q1 2011 have left? Santelli comments, "I'm not saying there aren't people that are on disability that shouldn't be, but much of it is illnesses like back pain... it's a judgment call," adding that, "without incentives, large issues go ...totally unfixed."
The relativity relationship that Grant Williams discusses in his latest 'Things That Make You Go Hmmm' newsletter is far simpler to understand than that proposed by Einstein (and far, far less likely to win him any prizes of a scientific nature, but we can live with that). Ladies and gentlemen, we are proud to unveil to you, for the first time: 'Williams's Theory of Disconnectivity' After long and painstaking research, I have distilled my theory down to the following equation: OS+ps2?R (where OS is 'official statistics', ps2 is 'political spin' (squared) and R is 'reality'. We must be missing something because, try as we might, we are having a hard time understanding the bull case right now. It seems to be predicated largely on the thesis that we should buy things 'because they are going up'. (Japan is the poster child for this curious strategy, as those terrible results from Sony demonstrated a few weeks ago. Despite them, Sony stock is back to where it was before the company laid out, in no uncertain terms, just how poorly it was doing. In every single division.) Yes, we understand that, in nominal terms, money printing is good for stocks 'just because'; but sooner or later, reality is going to reassert itself (painfully, we might add).
Our last discussion of the miracle of earnings expectations focused on the bottom-up hockey-stick that it seems the consensus believes is ahead (always out there in the future). Today's 'factual' and 'empirical' whiteboard lecture on the 'miracle' comes courtesy of CNBC's Rick Santelli, who appears as frustrated at his co-correspondents permabullishness (see Liesman's flip-flopping views on retail sales today) as the implicit disconnect between the market and fundamentals. To wit, the fact that expectations for GDP growth and earnings are so divergent. With earnings growth expected to be +14.7% this year and nominal GDP around +3-4%, Santelli asks his guest where nominal GDP 'normally' is for such strong earnings expectations - the answer 7.6% nominal GDP growth... reality discussion ensues...