While we have long asserted that any attempt to be bullish this market (and economy) by necessity should at least involve the thought experiment of eliminating such pro forma crutches as trillions in excess liquidity from the Fed, not to mention direct and indirect intervention by the central planners in virtually all asset classes, which in turn drives frequent periods of brief decoupling between various geographies and asset classes (which always converge) and thus economic performance (because as Bernanke will tell you gladly, the economy is the market), an exercise which would expose a hollow facade, a broken market and an economy in shambles, in never hurts to ask just what, if anything, do the bulls "see" and how do they spin a convincing case that attempts to sucker in others into the great ponzi either voluntarily, or like in China, at gun point. Alas, our imagination is lacking for an exercise such as this, but luckily David Rosenberg has dedicated his entire letter to clients from this morning precisely to answer this question. So for anyone who is wondering just what it is that those who have supposedly "climbed the wall of worry" see, here is your answer.
While the market continues to simply fret over when and where to start buying up risk in advance of inevitable printing by the US and European central banks, those of a slightly more contemplative constitution continue to wonder just what it is that has allowed the US to detach from the rest of the world for as long as it has - because decoupling, contrary to all hopes to the contrary, does not exist. And yet the lag has now endured for many more months than most thought possible. And making things even more complicated, the market which doesn't follow either the US nor European economy has decoupled from everything, breaking any traditional linkages when analyzing data, not to mention cause and effect. How does reconcile this ungodly mess? To help with the answer we turn to David Rosenberg who always seems to have the question on such topics. His answer - declining gas prices (kiss that goodbye with WTI at $103), and collapsing savings. What happens next: "in the absence of these dual effects — lower gas prices AND lower savings rates — we would have seen real PCE contract $125 billion or at a 3% annual rate since mid-2011 (looking at the monthly GDP estimates, there would have also been zero growth in the overall economy). Instead, real PCE managed to eke out a 2.7% annualized gain — but aided and abated by non-recurring items. Yes, employment growth has held up, but from an income standpoint, the advances in low paying retail and accommodation jobs have not compensated the losses in high paying financial sector and government employment." Indeed, one little noted tidbit in the monthly NFP data is that those who "find" jobs offset far better paying jobs in other sectors - as a simple example the carnage on Wall Street this year will be the worst since 2008. So quantity over quality, but when dealing with the government who cares. Finally, will the market continue to decouple from the HEADLINE driven economy, which in turn will decouple from everyone else? Not unless it can dodge many more bullets: "As was the case last year, the first quarter promises to be an interesting one from a macro standpoint. The U.S. economy has indeed been dodging bullets for a good year and a half now. It might not be October 26, 1881, but something tells me we have a gunfight at the O.K. Corral on our hands this quarter between Mr. Market and Mr. Data." Read on.
Rosenberg, Ryding, Zandi, Arbess, Zuckermann And Rickards All Chime In On The Future Of The EurozoneSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 12/27/2011 16:49 -0400
When six out of five economists (thanks to the magic of Keynesianism... and self promotion from general counsel to general expert) all agree on the same topic, and the very definition of groupthink is that the Eurozone will survive, the glaringly obvious call is precisely the opposite. If there was ever an argument to say that 2012 is the year the Eurozone finally dies, the below video is it.
There has been a large debate as of late about the economy going into 2012. Will it "muddle through" at a sub -2% rate, rebound sharply to more than 3% as currently estimated, or will we decline into a secondary recession? Cases can clearly be made for all three scenarios and only time will tell who is correct. However, this debate entirely misses the essence of what we are most concerned about - our investment portfolios and the risks to those investments from economic pressures. I have clearly made the case in past missives about the potential for a recession in 2012. When real GDP has declined below 2% growth on a year over year basis the economy has normally been, or was about to be, in a recession. With today's downward revision to Q3 GDP we have now had two consecutive quarters of sub-2% GDP growth. There are only two instances in history (Q3-1956 and Q1-2007) where there were two consecutive quarters of sub-2% GDP annual growth and the economy wasn't already in a recession. In 1956 the economy rebounded for one quarter to 2.93% annual growth in Q4, slipped to 1.88% in Q1 of 1957, rebounded once again to 2.99% growth in Q2 1957 as the recession officially started. The other was in Q1 and Q2 of 2007 and we all know how that worked out in next couple of quarters. These are the only instances where the economy "muddled" along for a period of time before way to the recession. The reality is that an economy cannot muddle along - it will either grow or contract. "Muddling" isn't historically an option.
Even as it is ending, the fourth quarter of 2011 has been one of dramatic inversions and dislocations, the two main ones being the decoupling between corporate profits, which have for the first time in years started sagging, as ever more companies pre-announce misses or outright disappoint on the top and bottom line, while paradoxically Q4 GDP is expected to post its best quarter of the year, and print somewhere north of 3%. Which in turn has led to the other great inversion: contrary to 2010 when the US growth was lagging and investors (who still harbor the foolish atavism of believing the market reflects the economy) were told to ignore the US and focus on the rest of the world, now we are seeing the traditional reverse decoupling being blasted from every legacy media mouthpiece: namely that the US can withstand the economic crunch gripping Asia and Europe (incidentally, neither forward nor reverse decoupling has ever worked in the history of the globalized world but knock yourself out). How does one explain this paradox? Simple - as David Rosenberg shows, the payroll tax cut, with its gargantuan $10/week benefit is completely irrelevant. The far more important one is that the average price of gas has tumbled from $3.77 ten months ago to $3.29 currently: "That is practically equivalent to a $70 billion tax cut (at an annual rate) for the consumer sector, and happened right in time for the most important part of the year for retailers." The problem - the benefit is only felt while the price is declining; once it stabilized it has no incremental boost. So unless crude collapses (recall Saxo Bank's outrageous forecasts - it just might), there is no more exogenous boosting to economic growth. And if inversely gas starts rising again, then that $70 billion tax cut will become a tax hike. Long story short, the "US Economic Decoupling" is ending. Furthermore, even if tax manages to pass the payroll tax extension, it will at best not detract from growth. But it certainly will not add to it. Which is why the market which has so staunchly been ignoring what happens in Q1 2012, may want to reconsider. And with 9 days left in the year, it may want to do it soon... just in time for tax selling purposes.
David Rosenberg On The Difference Between The Buy And Sell Sides, And What He Is Investing In Right NowSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 12/21/2011 15:03 -0400
While part of Merrill Lynch, David Rosenberg was always an outlier, in that he never sugarcoated reality, and could always be relied upon to expose the dirt in the macro and micro picture, no matter how granular or nuanced, and how much it conflicted with other propaganda research to come from the bailed out broker. Then three years ago he moved to Canadian investment firm Gluskin Sheff, transitioning from the sell side to the buy side, yet for all intents and purposes his daily letters, so very appreciated by many, never ceased, in essence making him a buysider with an asterisk - one who daily shares his latest vision with the broader public, in addition to his personal investment team. In one of his last letters of the year, Rosie presents a detailed breakdown of all the key differences between the sell and buyside, at least from his perspective, and also how, now that he manages other people's money, he is investing in the future. To wit: "In my former role as chief economist at Merrill Lynch, I flew all over the world and saw all the legendary portfolio managers from Paul Tudor Jones to Jeremy Grantham to John Paulson to Bill Gross — at least three or four times a year. Now the only PM's I speak to are our PM's. Not that they "have to" agree with all of my calls, but I am here as their economic concierge 24/7. The same holds true for our clients. In my previous life on the "sell side", it was very rare for me to sit down one-on-one with private clients. Today, that takes up a good part of my day — helping our client base make investment decisions that will build their wealth in a prudent manner over time." As for what he likes (and dislikes) we will leave it up to the reader to find out, but will note that Rosie appears to take issue with being labelled a permabear. And why not: he has been far more right than not since the December 2007 start of the Second Great Depression.
David Rosenberg Discusses The Market With Bob Farrell, Sees Europe's Liquidity Crisis Becoming Solvency In Q1 2012Submitted by Tyler Durden on 12/14/2011 11:57 -0400
For the first time in while, Gluskin Sheff's David Rosenberg recounts his always informative chat session with Bob Farrell and shares Farrell's perspectives on the market ("his range on the S&P 500 is 1,350 to the high side and 1,000 to the low side. He was emphatic that there is more downside risk than upside potential from here. His big change of view is that we have entered a cyclical bear phase within this secular downtrend (he sees the P/E multiple trough at 8x). Rosie also looks at Europe and defines the term that we have been warning against since May of 2010: "implementation risk" namely the virtual impossibility of getting 17 Eurozone countries (and 27 broader European countries as the UK just demonstrated) on the same page when everyone has a different culture, language, history and religion... oh, and not to mention animosity to everyone else. So yes: Europe in its current format is finished, but what will it look like in its next reincarnation? And why does he think the European liquidity crisis will become a full blown solvency crisis in Q1 2012? Read on to find out.
It seems the market's psychology has shifted, in its wonderfully temperamental and instantaneous manner, once again as the last great hope of Thomas Lee and his cohorts is removed. What better time than for David Rosenberg, of Gluskin Sheff, in his inimitable way, to introduce his outlook for 2012 in the form of eight behavioral changes that he expects to overwhelm market psychology in the coming months. Political, financial, and economic transitions for the US, Europe, and China respectively will dominate the coming year and as Rosie points out, the ability to recognize change at the margin (such as basis traders in European sovereigns) is going to be critical in 2012. The shift from one of cyclical extrapolation to secular change is always a hard one to navigate and tactical asset allocation will become foremost in most people's minds over longer-term strategic considerations. The global economy will be forced to endure the mother of all deleveraging cycles as we move through 2012 and capital preservation and income must dominate investment strategy as Rosie's 8 themes play out.
While everyone was celebrating "record" black Friday sales, we noted that the bulk of this was due to sales channels taking on negative margins, and due to a "cash for clunkers" like effect in which future sales were pulled forward. Sure enough, we now learn that this is precisely the case, after Reuters reports that "more than a third of U.S. shoppers are already done with most of their holiday shopping, a survey showed on Monday, signaling that retailers need to offer bigger incentives to win sales in the few weeks before Christmas... About 32 percent of people surveyed by America's Research Group said they finished a majority of their Christmas shopping in November. Last month included Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving when stores pulled out all the stops on discounts to woo shoppers during their biggest season of the year. More than 6 percent completed most of their holiday shopping in the first weekend of December." In other words so much for holiday shopping as a driver of stocks, as there is no way that the remaining two thirds of shoppers can carry the entire season regardless of what massive discounts retailers provide. This is also quite disturbing for US GDP which relies primarily on PCE as a driver to growth (although when that fails retailers can pretend they are stocking up on inventory), and will likely mean that banks which most recently (as of a week ago), had an upgrade round to Q4 GDP will be forced to promptly cut it back down. Lastly, as Rosenberg noted yesterday, once the bills come in January, that's when the wheels will really come off, just in time for the non-extension in the payroll tax.
Last week, while the market was soaring as news of the upcoming Fed's FX swap lines was being leaked, the general media's narrative goalseeked to the stock spike was that it was a function of "record" Black Friday sales. Alas, as often the case, there is some unpleasant fine print to go alongside this seemingly bullish proclamation. David Rosenberg explains why the shopping bonanza hangover is coming, and why, just like in the cash for clunkers case, it means that a late November shopping record means an imminent plunge in retail traffic...as soon as the bills come in.
Our good friend Doug B., a financial advisor based in Boulder, CO, has done well for his clients by keeping them heavily weighted in bonds. In the essay below, he explains why he intends to stick with this strategy even though many of his peers expect a rebounding stock market to outperform fixed-incomes in the years ahead. For Baby Boomers in particular, the deflationary trend that buttresses Doug’s strategy holds stark implications.
Rosenberg's note today mentioned the global bull market in agriculture. Which,as I recall, was becoming an issue pre-lehman. Inflation is just about the only thing stopping food prices from levitating once again. Trade balances, supply constraints, changing weather patterns, and emerging market demand continue to support a structural bull market.
While we spend a lot of our time pointing out critical factors driving the reality of our markets and economies, today's note from David Rosenberg, of Gluskin Sheff, provides a spot-on and unarguable description of what every one of your favorite long-only strategist, sell-side economist, and hope-heavy CNBC anchor told you would happen - and hasn't! Then Rosie goes on to compare Italy to Lehman in a not so flattering light.
Dramamine market got you down? You are not alone. David Rosenberg explains: "Yesterday's trade was rather telling. The Nasdaq dropped 2% and not only did volume rise but the breadth was awful with losers beating winners by a 5-to-2 margin (9-to-2 on the NYSE). The fact that the Nasdaq sliced below support of 2,600 and dipped below its 50-day moving average for the first time in six weeks is a bit ominous to say the least; while the S&P 500 undercut its lows of the past four weeks (even though it has managed to hold above the 50-day m.a. of 1,205). But between the slide in equities, commodities, oil and gold, coupled with the rally in Treasuries, yesterday had a certain eerie 2008 feel to it. And did you see the huge 70 point rally in the Dow just in the last couple of minutes? The volatility is incredible. Look at the charts below — they look the same, but one is the Dow's closing level each day this year and the other is the minute to minute ticker on any random session (we chose October 7th out of the hat). The new normal is seeing a year's worth of volatility bunched into 6 ½ hours!"