There has been much angst over Bernanke's recent comments regarding an "improving economic environment" and the need to begin reducing ("taper") the current monetary interventions in the future. What is interesting, however, is the mainstream analysis which continues to focus on one data point, to the next, to determine if the Fed is going to continue its interventions. Why is this so important? Because, as we have addressed in the past, the sole driver for the markets, and the majority of economic growth, has been derived solely from the Federal Reserve's programs. The reality is that such analysis is completely useless when considering the volatility that exists in the monthly data already but then compounding that issue with rather subjective "seasonal adjustments." The question, however, is whether such "QE" programs have actually sparked any type of substantive, organic, growth or simply inflated asset prices, and pulled forward future consumption, for a short term positive effect with negative long term consequences? The recent increases in interest rates, combined with still very weak wage growth, higher costs of living and still elevated unemployment is likely to keep the Fed engaged for the foreseeable future as any attempt to remove its "invisible hand" is likely to result in unexpected instability in the financial markets and economy.
The bloodbath in the bond markets has led some 'greatly rotating' commentators to see this as the end of the long bull market (and the beginning of a lost decade for Treasuries); in fact, as SocGen's Albert Edwards notes, the financial wreckage left in the wake of Bernanke's taper talk has generated a lot of interesting commentary. But, he asks (and answers eloquently in this far-reaching anatomy of all-the-world's-views-on-what-the-Fed-is-doing) what if (as we have noted) tapering has nothing to do with the US economy having reached a sustainable take-off velocity? From Janjuah to Rosenberg, and from Wolf to Faber, Edwards explains how his Ice-Age thesis (lower lows and lower highs for nominal economic quantities in each cycle... with each recovery bringing a partial reversal to the process and each recessionary phase taking us to shocking new lows, both in bond yields and in equity multiples) is very much still in play (despite the risks that are evident) since governments will take the path of least resistance, which is to print their way out of this looming fiscal catastrophe. Marc Faber is right. QE99 here we come.
... the Complaint charges that MF Global (i) unlawfully failed to notify the CFTC immediately when it knew or should have known of the deficiencies in its customer accounts; (ii) filed false reports with the CFTC that failed to show the deficits in the customer accounts; and (iii) used customer funds for impermissible investments in securities that were not considered readily marketable or highly liquid in violation of CFTC regulation; and that Holdings controlled the operations of MF Global and is therefore liable as a principal for MF Global’s violations of the Commodity Exchange Act and CFTC regulations.
Gluskin Sheff's David Rosenberg has ten nagging concerns...
If what Rosie is "hearing" is accurate, then the bulls better pray that David Tepper's view of the taper as being bullish is correct, or else Bernanke may go ahead and shock the market as soon as next week's FOMC press conference (the last until September) with a very disturbing gravitational reality check.
Given that ALL of the stock market gains since 2008 were based on Fed money printing… what do you think will happen when the Fed tries to taper QE?
From Rosie: "The next major theme is stagflation — this will be the legacy of the Bernanke regime. You cannot keep real short-term rates negative for this long in the face of even modestly positive real economic growth without generating financial excesses today and inflationary pressures in the future. Imagine dusting off the Phillips Curve and getting away with it — it's as if the Fed has changed religions as it now believes there is some trade-off between inflation and unemployment The last time we had negative real policy rates for this long with a central bank wedded to the Phillips Curve was under the Burns-led Fed of the early 1970s. As I have said recently — I am undergoing my own epiphany. I am renowned for being very early — to a fault — in my calls and no doubt am early yet again."
An increasing number of people have complained about governments and central banks in recent years, even using the word “tyranny” to describe them. They are, of course, called names in the establishment press: conspiracy theorists, mainly. Calling someone a name, however, does not erase their argument (at least not among rational people) and both the governments and the big banks stand accused. Up till now, however, these accusations were never accepted by the general public. The average guy really didn’t want to hear about the evils of government money. After all, that was the only thing he had ever used to buy food, clothes, gasoline, cars, and so on. He didn’t want to acknowledge the accusations because he feared what might happen to him without his usual money. Now, however, we have a brand new currency (called Bitcoin) available to us: something radically different. This gives us a new way to directly address the subject of monetary tyranny, providing a clear test for the governments and money masters of the world.
Last week's plunge in wholesale sales (and "completely involuntary" surge in inventories) has Gluskin Sheff's David Rosenberg greatly concerned that current quarter real GDP will be very close to stall speed. However, as he notes, "either Mr. Market has yet to figure this out or simply doesn't care any more because of the well ingrained belief that the 'Fed has my back'." When even the Fed is pimping stocks as cheap, he explains, you know what is dominating the thought process of the central bank's targeting - "they say unemployment rate, but they really mean the S&P 500." The 'wealth effect', however, only benefits a chosen few and as Rosie illustrates, an historically low 52% of American households have any money invested in the stock market (based on a recent Gallup poll) - which merely spurs the 'bulls' to argue that the Fed has to be more aggressive...
There are a dozen significant economic indicators that are warning that the U.S. economy is heading into a recession. The Dow may have soared past the 15,000 mark, but the economic fundamentals are telling an entirely different story. If historical patterns hold up, the economy is heading for a very rocky stretch. But most average Americans are not that concerned with the performance of the stock market. They just want to be able to go to work, pay the bills and provide for their families. During the last recession, millions of Americans lost their jobs and millions of Americans lost their homes. If we have another major recession, that will happen again. Sadly, it appears that another major recession is quickly approaching. The following are 12 recession indicators that are flashing red...
The financial and other markets do not seem to reflect the reality of subdued growth is how Hoisington Investment's Lacy Hunt describes the current environment. Stock prices are high, or at least back to levels reached more than a decade ago, and bond yields contain a significant inflationary expectations premium. Stock and commodity prices have risen in concert with the announcement of QE1, QE2 and QE3. Theoretically, as well as from a long-term historical perspective, a mechanical link between an expansion of the Fed's balance sheet and these markets is lacking. It is possible to conclude, therefore, that psychology typical of irrational market behavior is at play. As Lance Roberts notes, Hunt suggests that when expectations shift from inflation to deflation, irrational behavior might adjust risk asset prices significantly. Such signs that a shift is beginning can be viewed in the commodity markets. "Debt is future consumption denied," and regardless of the current debate - Reinhart and Rogoff were right. Simply put, "the problems have not been solved, they have merely been contained."
Gluskin Sheff's David Rosenberg exclaims we are currently are witnessing the Potemkin rally (the phrase Potemkin villages was originally used to describe a fake village, built only to impress). The term, however, is now used, typically in politics and economics, to describe any construction (literal or figurative) built solely to deceive others into thinking that some situation is better than it really is. Ben Bernanke, recently proclaimed “The Hero” by Atlantic Magazine, is the “Wizard of Potemkin.” Since 2009 Bernanke has engage in massive monetary experiments. These experiments lead to future dislocations. There is no doubt that the Fed wants inflation. The problem is they may get more than they ask for. We are currently witnessing the slowest economic recovery of any post-WWII period. However, It is important to challenge your thought process. Read material that challenges your views. Here are David's rules...
Seth Klarman Expains When "Investing Is At Its Hardest" And Why He Is Not Joining The Momentum TradeSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 05/05/2013 08:35 -0500
If you thought that Baupost's Seth Klarman would be the next to join twitter, #timestamp his minute-holding trades, ignore the money-losing ones, trumpet his winners, always make money, scream at all those who don't agree with his "strategy", and otherwise become what is known these days as a (momentum) investor, we have some bad news: it's not happening. Here's why.
Monday's income and spending (and implicitly 'saving') data provided plenty of fodder at the headline level for any and every opinion. We explained in great detail just how weak the data really was (here and here). But the following two charts suggest that any optimism of organic consumption-led exuberance is completely misplaced. Retail sales of clothing is growing at the slowest pace since 2010; but while major store sales are about to drop negative YoY for the first time in over 3 years, the utter collapse in general merchandise sales is worse that at the peak of the last recession at -5%. It seems tough to see how a nation with an economy built on 70% consumption is not in a recessionary environment. And while this alone is a dismal signal for the discretionary upside of the US economy/consumer; as Gluskin Sheff's David Rosenberg points out real personal income net of transfer receipts plunged at a stunning 5.8% annual rate in Q1. The other seven times we have seen such a collapse, the economy was either in recession of just coming out of one. But apart from that, everything is fine...
A lot of Americans know that the US government is out of control. Anyone who has cared enough to study the US Constitution even a little knows this. Still, very few of these people are taking any significant action, and largely because of one error: They are waiting for “the good guys” to show up and fix things. Some think that certain groups of politicians will pull it together and fix things, or that one magnificent politician will ride in to fix things. Others think that certain members of the military will step in and slap the politicians back into line. And, we're sure there are other variations. There are several problems with this. The sad truth: No one is going to ride in and save you. If you want things to get better, then YOU will have to make them better. YOU will have to stand up and take the arrows, yourself. Liberty, at this stage of human development, requires risk and pain.