The dividend theme has hardly run its course. As David Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff illustrates in his latest note, the income-starved retiring boomers are being forced to garner income more and more via the equity market where dividends are up more than 8% over the past year. Because of ultra-low interest rates, interest income growth has vanished completely. And here is the great anomaly. Back in the early 1980s, investors bought equities for capital appreciation and they purchased Treasury securities for yield. Today it is the complete opposite.
According to the plethora of long-only managers willing to trot out on the public stage and beg for more commissions, the US has been (and will remain) the cleanest-dirty-shirt in the global risk asset laundry basket; but as David Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff points out not only has the S&P 500 hit a new record high in its total return index but it also possesses a rather 'ebullient' valuation premium (2012E P/E) of 13.8x relative to China 9.8x and Europe 11.4x. However, while this is more than enough to slow some investors from backing up the long-truck, Rosie goes on to highlight a very worrisome indicator - that favored by ex-PIMCO's Paul McCulley. The YoY trend in the three-month moving average of core capex orders (which was updated last Friday) has just cracked negative, crushing the hopes of US growth prospects and we assume equity superlatives. However, since the market no longer reflects anything; certainly not the economy, but merely who will ease more when and how, one really can't short much if anything, even if McCulley is 100% spot on.
"It is rather amazing that a 2.8% yield on the long bond couldn't do the trick. By hook or by nook, it looks like the Fed is going to make an attempt to drive the rate down even further — but if that was the answer, wouldn't Switzerland, Japan and Germany be in major economic booms right now seeing as how low their 30-year bond yields are? Monetary policy in the U.S.A. is not the problem, so it is doubtful that it will be the solution. It all boils down to fiscal and regulatory policy and how the government can part the clouds of uncertainty — the Fed may be able at the margin to cushion the blow, but that's about it."
As Bill Gross has been more than happy to demonstrate on several recent occasions, the recent sell off in US Treasurys has been sharp and violent, wiping out all year to date capital gains in the 10 Year in a few short weeks. The flipside to that is that this is not the first such headfake in the bond market, and it certainly will not be the last as David Rosenberg shows today with a chart summarizing all the "spasms" experienced in the 10 year Treasury since 2007. In fact, based on the average duration and move severity, the 10 Year sell off may not only continue for twice as long (on average it has been 49 days, and we are only 19 days in in the current sell off episode), but the final tally may be a further selloff well into the 2% range (the average decline in yield is 88 bps, double the 43 bps widening to date). At the end of the day will it make much of a difference? Very likely not: after all the deflationary implosion has far more to go before all the central banks engage in coordinated easing, and as a result superglue the CTRL and P buttons in the on position, leading to the final round in the global currency devaluation race.
It would appear that the dilemma of the world exporting more than it imports (that we initially pointed out here) is starting to come to a head in reality with a negative export trade shock. As Gluskin Sheff's David Rosenberg notes, since the recovery began three years ago, over 70% of the real GDP growth we have seen was concentrated in export volumes and inventory investment; and recent data from the ISM (here and here) points to a dramatic slowdown in both. Compounding this weakness is the fact that the remaining growth was from Capex - which is now likely to slow given the weakening trend in corporate profits - and will more than offset any nascent turnaround in the housing sector - if that is to be believed. The consumer has all but stalled and adding up all these effects and there is a high probability of a 0% GDP growth print as early as Q4.
Gluskin Sheff's David Rosenberg details the four major downside risks for US growth over the next four quarters:
- More Adverse News Out Of Europe
- The Sharp Run-Up In Food Prices
- Negative Export Shock
- The Proverbial Fiscal Cliff
The S&P 500 has made little headway for two years running and as Gluskin Sheff's David Rosenberg points out, it first crossed 1380 on July 1, 1999 and since then has run around like a headless chicken (while other asset classes have not). Meanwhile, Europe's bottomless pit of debt deleveraging (which is as much a problem for the US and China but less ion focus for now) makes the entire discourse of some new and aggressive intervention by the ECB even more ridiculous (and all so deja vu); and the US is facing up to an entirely topless earnings season as revenues are coming in at only 1.2% above last year as it appears Q2 EPS is on track for a 0.2% YoY dip - with guidance falling fast. But apart from all that, Rosie sees the only source of real buying support for the stock market is the stranded short-seller forced to cover in the face of CB-jawboning as there is little sign of long-term believers stepping into the void.
This is looking more and more like a modem-day depression. After all, last month alone, 85,000 Americans signed on for Social Security disability cheques, which exceeded the 80,000 net new jobs that were created: and a record 46 million Americans or 14.8% of the population (also a record) are in the Food Stamp program (participation averaged 7.9% from 1970 to 2000, by way of contrast) — enrollment has risen an average of over 400,000 per month over the past four years. A record share of 41% pay zero national incomes tax as well (58 million), a share that has doubled over the past two decades. Increasingly, the U.S. is following in the footsteps of Europe of becoming a nation of dependants. Meanwhile, policy stimulus, whether traditional or non-conventional, are still falling well short of generating self-sustaining economic growth.
For many months, if not years, we have been beating the drum on what we believe is the most hushed, but significant story in the metamorphosis of the US labor pool under the New Normal, one which has nothing to with quantity considerations, which can easily be fudged using seasonal and birth death adjustments, and other statistical "smoothing" but with quality of jobs: namely America's transformation to a part-time worker society. Today, one of the very few economists we respect, David Rosenberg, pick up on this theme when he says in his daily letter that "the use of temps is outpacing outright new hirings by a 10-to-1 ratio." And unlike in the old normal, or even as recently as 2011, temp hires are no longer a full-time gateway position: "Moreover, according to a Manpower survey, 30% of temporary staffing this year has led to permanent jobs, down from 45% in 2011.... In today's world, the reliance on temp agencies is akin to "just in time" employment strategies." Everyone's skillset is now a la carte in the form of self-employed mini S-Corps, for reason that Charles Hugh Smith explained perfectly well in "Dear Person Seeking a Job: Why I Can't Hire You." Sadly, that statistic summarizes about everything there is to know about the three years of "recovery" since the recession "ended" some time in 2009.
Tomorrow's NFP may or may not beat expectations, following some modestly better than expected employment-related data points (then again last month NFP was again supposed to come in solidly above 100K only to cross below the critical threshold), but keep one thing in mind: with the average June seasonal adjustment being a deduction of over 1 million jobs, several tens of thousands in marginal absolute job numbers + or - will be nothing but statistical noise. Furthermore, with seasonality playing such a huge role tomorrow, it is quite likely that merely the ongoing seasonal giveback will result in June being yet another subpar month. And that does not even take into account the quality assessment of the job number, which if recent trends are any indication, will be another record in part-time jobs at the expense of full-time jobs. Yet no matter where the NFP data ends up, the following chart from David Rosenberg puts a few thousand job into perspective, showing that regardless of how many part-time jobs the US service industry has added, there is a far greater problem currently developing in the world: "We now have 80% of the world posting a contraction in industrial activity." This is the second worst since the great financial crisis and only matched by last fall, when in response Europe launched a $1.3 trillion LTRO and the Fed commenced Operation Twist. Now except the occasional rate drop out of the PBOC or modest QE expansion out of the BOE (not to mention the Bank of Kenya's rate cut earlier), there is no real, unsterilized flow of money coming from central bank CTRL-P macros to stabilize the global economy. Which leaves open the question: just where will the latest spark to rekindle global growth come from? And no, 10 hours a week waitressing jobs in Topeka just won't cut it.
Confused by all the amusing arguments of a housing "recovery" (because if you believe in it, it just may come true.... maybe) in the sad context of a reality in which the economy is once again turning from bad to worse missing expectations left and right (for every report surprising to the upside, two do the opposite), corporate earnings and margins have rolled over, US states and cities and European countries are filing for default or demanding bailouts at an ever faster pace, and only headlines such as "stocks rise on hopes of more central bank easing" appear in the good news columns of mainstream media? Don't be: David Rosenberg explains it all.
For the past six months we have extensively discussed the topics of asset depletion, aging and encumbrance in Europe - a theme that has become quite poignant in recent days, culminating with the ECB once again been "forced" to expand the universe of eligible collateral confirming that credible, money-good European assets have all but run out. We have also argued that a key culprit for this asset quality deterioration has been none other than central banks, whose ruinous ZIRP policies have forced companies to hoard cash, but not to reinvest in their businesses and renew their asset bases, in the form of CapEx spending, but merely to have dry powder to hand out as dividends in order to retain shareholders who now demand substantial dividend sweeteners in a time when stocks are the new "fixed income." Yet while historically we have focused on Europe whose plight is more than anything a result of dwindling cash inflows from declining assets even as cash outflow producing liabilities stay the same or increase, the "asset" problem is starting to shift to the US. And as everyone who has taken finance knows, when CapEx goes, revenues promptly follow. Needless to say, at a time when still near record corporate revenues and profit margins are all that is supporting the US stock market from joining its global brethren in tumbling, this will soon be a very popular point of discussion in the mainstream media... in about 3-6 months.
In a detailed discussion with Bloomberg TV's Tom Keene, Gluskin Sheff's David Rosenberg addresses everything from Europe's "inability to grow its way out of the problem" amid its 'existential moment', Asian 'trade shock' and commodity contagion, and US housing, saving, and fiscal uncertainty. He believes we are far from a bottom in housing, despite all the rapacious calls for it from everyone, as the over-supply overhang remains far too high. "The last six quarters of US GDP growth are running below two percent" he notes that given the past sixty years of experience this is stall speed, and inevitably you slip into recession". He is back to his new normal of 'frugality' and bearishness on the possibilities of any solution for Europe but, most disconcertingly he advises Keene that "when you model fiscal uncertainty into any sort of economic scenario in the U.S., what it means is that businesses raise their liquidity ratios and households build up their savings rates. This comes out of spending growth. And that's the problem - you've got the fiscal uncertainty coupled with a US export 'trade shock'."
The middle class has a gut feeling they are being screwed by somebody, they just can’t figure out who to blame. The ultra-wealthy elite keep up an endless cacophony of propaganda and misinformation designed to confuse an increasingly uneducated and willfully ignorant public while blurring the facts for those educated few capable of understanding the truth. They have been able to keep the masses dumbed down through government run education; distracted by sports, reality TV, Facebook, internet porn, and igadgets; lured by mass media messages of materialism; and shackled with the chains of debt used to acquire the goods sold by mega-corporations. We’ve become a society oppressed by a small faction of ultra-wealthy masters served by millions of impoverished, uneducated, sedated slaves. But the slaves are getting restless and angry. The illegally generated wealth disparity chasm is growing so large that even the ideologue talking head representatives of the elite are having difficulty spinning it. Even uneducated rubes understand when they are getting pissed on.