5.7% GDP growth for Q4 2009 is a phantom. Understand that a normal part of the business cycle is to replenish shelves when retailers realize that 90% (or 84%, depending on what you believe) of Americans are working and buy some stuff. But the fundamentals are still bad. It's just the foam off the stimulus brew.
As David Rosenberg points out, "what a difference a year makes." Here is the compare and contrast. And some observations on why real GDP, absent non-recurring stimulus benefits, was more than 7% lower in Q4 compared to the disclosed number.
Rosie already shared some insights on last week's blockbuster GDP number. Today, he refuses to leave the topic alone, and warns investors to "expect big-time [downward] revisions." Additionally, and more relevantly, the entire validity of the economic reporting segment of the administration is put into ever greater question, and with good reason: "if you believe that GDP result, then you de facto are of the view that all of a sudden, with no capital deepening or major technological change in the past half decade to speak of, the potential growth rate in the United States has reached an epic scale of 7%." And this key reading into the divergence between pumped-up and real revenue growth "When one weighs in a zero Fed funds rate, $862 billion in “stimulus” (and counting) and $700 billion in bank and auto sector bailouts, sales should be running at a 10% clip by now — not 1.7%." With economic data increasingly unreliable (to keep it politically correct), and China having the ability to make or break the U.S., what is the point of continuing the charade that the U.S. is nothing more than an extension of the Chinese experiment across the Pacific.
The last thing that the fixed income market needs now, with ever greater uncertainty out of European bond land, is weakness where it hurts the most: the US balance sheet. Yet last Thursday's H.4.1 report indicated something which could be more troubling than even Greece's credit crisis morphing into a liquidity one, namely, that foreign central banks' UST holdings at the Fed declined for the first time in over two years. And while the indirect take down for auction after ever larger auction seems to not miss beat, we are very interested in how Mr. Geithner will explain this trend, especially should it persist into February, and maybe longer.
Zero Hedge has compiled Treasury Auction data going back to early 2008, for the 3 very critical "no man's land" bonds - the 2 year, 5 Year and 7 Year. We observe that notional increases with each subsequent auction, yet an interesting paradox is that with every single auction (juxtaposed with an ever-greater cumulative sovereign leverage), the demand metrics for auctions have consistently been improving. We compare Bid-To-Cover, Direct Bidder and Tail data. We find as supply increases, both in notional and as a portion of total GDP, demand for USTs increases incrementally more, resulting in ever better auction ratios. We have picked the 2-7 Year points on the curve, as this is where the presumed inflation inflection point will most likely strike based on market expectations. So while purchasing a 30 Year Bond certainly presents inflation expectations considerations as part of the purchase process, the same is not true of 52-week Bills. And the further up the curve one moves, the more of a factor inflation worries become.
Yet oddly, over the past year, it would appear accounts both international and domestic have invested ever more money into the 2-7Y interval. Following today's unprecedented GDP number (which one has the choice of ignoring as David Rosenberg pointed out, due to the certainty that it will not repeat in a long time), one immediate measure of the credibility of this economic data point will be observing the performance of future 2-7 Year bonds (and especially the 7 Year, which has the greatest duration-adjusted sensitivity to yield moves on the curve). If historical trends persist, there is no reason to be concerned that the Treasury will not find a multitude of willing buyers: did Geithner finally figure out how to use Say's law properly? Or is this merely the magic touch of the Federal Reserve and the Primary Dealers, greasing up the market? You decide.
A Skeptical Rosenberg On The GDP Number: The Inventory-Imports Dichotomy And The Productivity ParadoxSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/29/2010 13:03 -0400
"The GDP number today represented not just a rare but an unprecedented event, and as such, we are willing to treat the report with an entire saltshaker — a few grains won’t do." David Rosenberg
Yesterday's uptick in the housing inventory backlog (from 7.6 months supply to 8.1) has another corollary, which, as David Rosenberg points out, is the median amount of time it takes builders to sell a completed unit. The number is now 13.9 months: an all time record, and 50% higher than a year ago. Good thing all that shadow inventory is nothing to be worried about as Cramer says.
The last time we had a sudden and unexpected turnover at the Fed was back on June 2, 1987 when Paul Volcker surprisingly announced his resignation. That day, the S&P 500 slipped 0.5%, which was a big deal then since we were in the throes of a major rally, the yield the 10-year note surged 27 basis points, the VIX index jumped 5%, the DXY was crushed 1.2% and gold rallied 1.3%. Keep that in your back pocket just in case.
- Must read: Did foreigners cause America's financial crisis? Or what happens when all your debt and equities are belong to us (Newsweek)
- Ben Bernanke's term running out as Senate democrats try to set a vote (The Hill)
- Banks set for record pay, and you thought Goldman was bad - Morgan Stanley prepares to fork over a stunning 63.8% of revenue as compensation (WSJ)
- Dark pools may face pricing disclosure rules, EU watchdog says (Bloomberg)
- In defense of the case against HiFTers (Cassandra)
- Senate to vote on PAYGO legislation to clear way for debate over debt ceiling (The Hill)
- Dubai flare up 2.0? Abu Dhabi's Dubai aid shrinks to $5 billion (Reuters)
And you thought JP Morgan was aggressive. Goldman just threw out the last trump card in its current sell-side arsenal by increasing Q4 GDP estimates from 4% to a paroxysmal attack inducing 5.8%. While Zero Hedge long ago gave up discussing corporate fundamentals due to our long-held tenet that currently the only relevant pieces of financial information are contained in the Fed's H.4.1, H.3 statements, and, when Ron Paul's attempt at Fed deobfuscation is finally successful, the Fed's daily Sources and Uses of Funds statement, it would appear even macro economic data now is essentially one big joke. We are confident that JPM and Goldman are right on the money, and that the government will present the economy as having grown by nearly 6% in Q4. What is troubling is that after having taken over the housing and treasury market, and according to some others, the equity market as well, the Treserve (thank you Marla) has also singlehandedly added several log scale orders of magnitude of volatility to the general economy itself. Too bad GETCO does not have some predatory algo floating around, and overextending GDP momentum in any one general direction, as at this rate we would not be in the least surprised if Obama's Disinformation Czar (TBD) were to announce that the US is now competing for 10% GDP growth with China. As the two countries' centrally-planned economic systems now differ, well, not at all, it is only a matter of time before the race to the bottom in currency devaluation is enjoined by a competition as to who can fabricate, manipulate, inflate, stimulate and other "-ates", the fastest.
Mom and Pop investors aren't buying stocks ...
By now everyone knows about the Rip Van Winkle effect in stocks: the "noughties" were a snoozer, with the stock market lower on December 31, 2009 than on January 1, 2000. Yet what may have escaped most people is that the decade was also a scratch in terms of employment: the country now has essentially the same number of employed people as it did 10 years ago.
Goldman now anticipates an S&P peak of 1,300 intrayear which is somehow equivalent to a 15x EPS. Of course, that makes sense if one believes Goldman's 2010 S&P EPS of $86 ex provisions and writedowns. Somewhere David Rosenberg is vomiting loudly.
One table, two markets. All you need to compare the present market with 1982, courtesy of David Rosenberg. The numbers, unlike TV stations, don't like.
Due to popular demand, and in response to the earlier post by David Rosenberg, we present the Top Ten Surprises for 2010 as laid out by Blackstone Vice Chairman Byron Wien. No commentary necessary.