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...
Having started trading gold futures over 30 years ago, CNBC's Rick Santelli has seen a few changes over the years. From its true high in Feb 1980 at around $2300 (inflation-adjusted), the biggest shift he and his guest have seen is the evolution of ETFs and the implicit securitization of gold. This took the 'complication' out of trading gold and enabled those who did not wish to hold physical to participate. But Santelli asks the critical question, "didn't it take the whole point away [of investing in gold]?" From the 'old days' when gold and silver were physically held and passed down and considered wealth to the current incorrect belief system of paper gold, the myth-shattering-Chicagoan exclaims to the precious metal ETF holders, "for the Ayn Rand'ers, if the financial world comes to an end, you're not going to have the gold, you're going to have a piece of paper."
The prevalence of counter-factuals or 'coulda-shoulda-woulda's in mainstream economics is stunningly biased to explaining "why we're still in the doldrums outside of course of the stock market." As CNBC's Rick Santelli exclaims, we are told at every turn that if we just do more - more stimulus, more monetization, more bailouts - then the recovery would have been better by now and will be in the future. In his typically calm and stoic fashion, the igneous Illinoisan asks, rhetorically, "What if the Fed had done less?" His answer - rather obviously - is that everything would have been different (but not necessarily worse). In a little under 3 minutes, Rick explains why "the Federal Reserve has done nothing but keep politicians from having to do anything."
The rise in energy prices; the surge in food prices; and the march higher in nominal stock market indices - all symptoms of one thing - central bank (or government) policy; and CNBC's Rick Santelli is calling them to task for their two-faced ignorance. "What is the difference between outright currency manipulation versus the collateral damage to one's currency based on central bank programs?" he rhetorically asks, "in my mind, very little, but obviously, in the minds of many leaders of G-7 developed economies, there's a huge distinction." And therein lies the rub. As Japan follows Bernanke's decade-old plan to reflate by literally printing money into existence - just as every other developed fiat currency nation - their argument is that they are fighting deflation - or stimulating growth - when, in fact "The distinction between collateral damage and outright manipulation is absolute malarkey." Now that the currency wars have gone global - no matter what well-placed op-eds will try to convince otherwise - Santelli sums it all up perfectly, "in the end when you don't have a standard and you have printing and fiat currency, what level of value is real?" We remind those bullish Japanese stocks that the 11% rise in the NKY since the holidays has created 0% wealth for a USD investor thanks to the JPY destruction - ask the Zimbabweans how wealthy they felt.
The overwhelming herding of AAPL's analysts highlighted by James Stewart in today's NY Times sets CNBC's Rick Santelli on a path of truthiness not often seen on business media. Citing the findings, most specifically, "analysts are, in the end, salesmen," Santelli notes that the average investor (listeners and viewers of financial media) have limited time and thus are forced to rely on this herd-like behavior. The audience, of course, hears what it wants to hear as confirmation or 'myside' bias' dominates each and every word uttered. But it's not just the financial analysts, its the political pundits who continue to abjectly ignore an exploding deficit in order to support the 'brand' of independence their media provides. The 'safety in numbers' argument holds up as the analysts group together - all knowing the reality ahead, but terrified to break ranks and admit the emperor is indeed naked.
The infamous Bob Rubin appeared on CNBC this morning - extolling the "nobody could have seen this crisis coming" meme - and Rick Santelli went after the hypocrisy of these so-called elites and what they did and didn't know. The glaring hypocrisy of claiming that S&P knew that everything they rated was a P.O.S. and yet no-one else could have seen the crisis coming. The crony capitalism of Geithner's proximity to Rubin's Citi during the dark days - especially considering the increasing evidence in book after book - prompts Santelli to suggest we "draw our own conclusions." From saving the GSEs to Maxine Waters ignorance and Barney Frank's slamming of any pessimists, Santelli covers a lot of ground fast but notes, with venom, that none of these 'elites' ever want to be the naysayer (due to the implications) and they will never "take away the punchbowl," and while he proclaims that if S&P goes down then everyone should suffer clawbacks, he reminds us all, "you can't fight City Hall."
With Dow at 14,000 and rates rising, those that need to take commissions and get their ratings up are seeing the 'conventional wisdom' seemingly proved right. However, Rick Santelli does not see it quite as clearly. Bianco Research's James Bianco joins Santelli for what they call 'mythbusting' as the two skeptics rightfully expose the unreality of the 'fiscal cliff' fears, the untruth that is the 'Great Rotation' due to tax concerns ahead of the fiscal cliff, and dismal performance of the Fed's failed forecast ranges. As extreme monetary policy continues (crisis-mode) - seemingly in absolute opposition to what the talking heads will say about jobs and the economy - Santelli and Bianco conclude that "right now the market is not bothered by [the Fed setting rates], but at some point it might be, Trust Capitalism" as they reiterate the need for Market Forces to be allowed to act. 3 minutes well spent.
While cogitating on yesterday's weak GDP print, CNBC's Rick Santelli confirmed his view that forecasting is complex (at best) and impossible (most likely). The 2010 view of the Fed was that 2012 growth would be 3.5-4% - quite a destructive miss as it turned out; and while Santelli is not attacking the Fed for its ridiculously bad forecasts, he makes a critical point. Forecasting such a massively complex and dynamic system as the global economy is foolhardy but attempting to control a few of the pieces (and not all of the pieces - which is akin to herding cats) is insane. His suggestion, "maybe [the Fed] should look at what has worked in the past; that is market forces." Indeed, two minutes of sanity...