The biggest highlight of the day is the launch of Q4 earnings season with Alcoa after the close. The question is by how much will the ES/SPY correlation have dragged individual stock prices higher from far lower cash flow implied valuations - we will get a glimpse this week, as well as get a sense of how Q1 is shaping up, this week but mostly next week as earnings reports start coming in earnest. There was the usual non-event newsflow out of Europe, which has no impact on risk levels, now driven solely by every twitch of Mario Draghi's face, and best summarized by this from SocGen: "In the wake of September's 3 point VAT increase in Spain, which saw a significant bringing forward of consumption to beat the tax hike, euro area activity in Q4 has been genuinely awful."
There are seven items that will be on the radar screen of global investors in the week ahead. 1. There is confusion over Fed policy. Despite the leadership (Bernanke, Yellen and Dudley) demonstrating their unwavering commitment to use heterodox monetary policy in an attempt to promote a stronger economy in the face of household de-leveraging and fiscal consolidation, many have read the FOMC minutes to imply an early end to the $85 bln a month in long-term asset (MBS and Treasuries). That December meeting was historic not because it marked the beginning of the end of QE, but the exact opposite, the nearly doubling monthly purchases and the adoption of macro-economic guidance (6.5% unemployment and 2.5% inflation) before rates are lifted.
Why must the debt grow every year? To keep the debt-servitude paradigm going. To increase economic activity in a country operating in this type of system, you need to increase the level of credit and thus debt grows in tandem. This is self serving: if debt is the “fuel” to increase economic activity, interest payments will become larger and larger, until eventually it reaches a point where debt can no longer be increased. This point is known as the Minsky moment–when there is no net benefit to extra debt. So there we have it, in our “creditopia” world, if debt does not expand, the economy cannot grow and jobs cannot be created. In order to increase debt, foreigners have to continually finance the ever growing debt by purchasing government bonds and selling consumer products to the US. In turn, the US must increase the level of consumption, decrease savings, and eliminate the threat of any nation posing a risk to the US dollar hegemony. Is this a symbiotic or a parasitic relationship? Is is certainly a relationship that cannot grow forever. It poses an economic risk for ALL nations due to the interconnectedness of the global economy.
The fiscal cliff deal appears to be a done deal and markets have reacted accordingly (although President Obama is apparently awaiting a photo-op later today to sign it). However, the deal leaves a large number of loose ends that ensure high drama for the next two months on the US fiscal front. The immediate impact of all the loose ends and deadlines may be smaller than the Dec 31 fiscal cliff, but all of these loose ends are important and could lead to short-term price action. Several of them are very important for the long run USD outlook as well.
On May 10, 2000 a GATA delegation consisting of Reg Howe, Frank Veneroso, Chris Powell and Bill Murphy met with Denny Hastert, The Speaker of the House in the United States Congress; Spencer Bachus, the Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Domestic and International Monetary Policy; and Dr. John Silvia, the Chief Economist of the Senate Banking Committee. We presented each of them our 100 page "Gold Derivative Banking Crisis" document and personally delivered it to the staff of every House and Senate Banking Committee member.
What a year 2012 has been! The mainstream media continues to tell us what a “great job” the Obama administration and the Federal Reserve are doing of managing the economy, but meanwhile things just continue to get even worse for the poor and the middle class. Right now we are living in a bubble of debt-fueled false prosperity that allows us to continue to consume far more wealth than we produce, but when that bubble bursts we are going to experience the most painful economic “adjustment” that America has ever gone through. We need to be able to explain to our fellow Americans what is coming, why it is coming and what needs to be done. Hopefully the crazy economic numbers that we have included in this article will be shocking enough to wake some people up.
An abysmal indicator for Europe
Turkey’s trade balance may turn on whether President Barack Obama vetoes more stringent sanctions against Iran after the U.S. Senate passed a measure targeting loopholes in gold exports to the Islamic Republic. Turkey’s gold trade with neighbouring Iran has helped shrink its trade deficit over the past year according to Bloomberg. Incredibly, precious metals accounted for about half of the almost $21 billion decline. That’s calmed investor concern over its current-account gap, and helped persuade Fitch Ratings to give Turkey its first investment-grade rating since 1994. The U.S. Senate voted 94-0 on Nov. 30 to approve new sanctions against Iran, closing gaps from previous measures, including trade in precious metals. Obama, who opposes the move on the grounds it may undercut existing efforts to rein in the nation’s nuclear ambitions, signed an executive order in July restricting gold payments to Iranian state institutions. Turkey exported $11.9 billion of gold in the first 10 months of the year, according to the Ankara-based statistics agency’s website. A very large 85% of the shipments went to Iran and the United Arab Emirates. Iran is buying the gold with payments Turkey makes for natural gas it purchases in liras, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan told a parliamentary committee in Ankara on Nov. 23.
There is a one way conveyor belt taking businesses, jobs and money out of this country.
So just what is below "stall-speed" growth in the New Normal? And with 48 out of 49 economists now predicting what we said would happen back in September, namely that the Fed will go all in with QEternity+1 and take its balance sheet to $4 trillion (and then $5 trillion in 2014) yet firmly holding their 2013 year end GDP forecast at 2.0%, lower than Q3 2011's 2.7%, does it mean that even $1 trillion in additional flow and stock from the Fed can barely keep the economy above the Old Normal stall speed definition? What exactly would happen if the Fed were to not monetize hundreds of billions in debt? We shiver to even think.
The US Census Bureau reported that in October, the total deficit with China hit a record $29.5 billion. What did America need to export so much that it is willing to impair its GDP (net imports are a GDP drain) and boost the GDP of China? "Primarily computers and toys, games, and sporting goods." In other words, gizmos and iPhones. And no, China did not buy US bonds - recall that China has boycotted US Treasurys for precisely one year - so the age old equality that we export China worthless paper in exchange for just as worthless gizmos, yet somehow everyone benefits, is no longer valid. What the US does, however, export to China, is inflation, courtesy of the USDCNY peg, and is the reason why the PBOC is still terrified, and certainly will be after Bernanke announces QE4EVA (RIP QEternity) tomorrow, to ease more as the last thing it can afford is to create its own inflation in addition to importing America's.
The boost to GDP from the declining US trade deficit is over. While the September trade deficit number was revised further lower, to $40.3 billion from $41.5 previously, October saw a pick up to $42.2 billion, slightly less than the expected $42.7 billion, but a headwind to Q4 GDP already. As a result, expect a modest boost to Q3 GDP in its final revision, even as Q4 GDP continues to contract below its consensus of sub stall-speed ~1%. The reason for the decline: a 3.6% decline in exports of goods and services. This was the biggest percent drop in exports since January 2009 as the traditional US import partners are all wrapped in a major recession. What helped, however, was the offsetting drop in imports by 2.1%, the lowest since April 2011, as US businesses are likewise consumed by a concerns about the global economy. And without global trade, whose nexus just happens to be Europe, there can be no global or even regional recovery. So far, all hopes of a pick up in global economy have been largely dashed. Yet one country benefits from the ongoing US slump is China: imports from China - consisting primarily of computers and toys, games, and sporting goods- jumped 6.4% to a record $40.3 billion, offset be a modest rise in exports - primarily soybeans - to $10.8 billion, bring the China deficit to a record $29.5 billion from $29.1 billion in September. Of course, one wouldn't get that impression looking at the Chinese side of the ledger: the Chinese Customs department, reported a September and October trade surplus with the US amounting to $21.1 and $21.7 billion. One wonders, somewhat, where the over $16 billion difference has gone.
In a session that has been largely quiet there was one notable macro update, and this was the German ZEW Economic Sentiment survey, which after months in negative territory, surprised to the upside in December, printing at 6.9, on expectations of a -11.5 number, and up from -15.7. This was the first positive print since May, and in stark contrast with the dramatic cut of German GDP prospects by the Bundesbank from last Friday, which saw 2013 GDP slashed by 75% from 1.6 to 0.4%. In fact, moments after the ZEW report, which is mostly driven by market-sentiment, in which regard a soaring DAX has been quite helpful, the German RWI Institute cut German 2012 and 2013 GDP forecasts from 0.8% to 0.7% and from 1% to 0.3%. In other words, any "confidence" will have to keep coming on the back of the market, and not the economy, which is set to slow down even further in the coming year. But for a market which will goalseek any and all data to suit the narrative (recall the huge miss in US Michigan consumer confidence which lead to a market rise), this datapoint will undoubtedly serve as merely another reinforecement that all is well, when nothing could be further from reality. Also, since we live in interesting "Baffle with BS" times, expect the far more important IFO index to diverge once again with its leading ZEW indicator (as it did in November) - after all everyone must be constantly confused and live headline to positive headline.
Nationalizations and protectionism have run into a buzz saw.
We have been tracking the deterioration of the US dollar's technical tone over the past three weeks. That ended abruptly. Weak euro area data, a more dovish than expected ECB, and heightened political uncertainty in Italy, saw the euro reverse lower after briefly moving above an eighteen month-old downtrend.
The UK also cut its growth outlook, and poor data increases the likelihood that the BOE may have to resume its gilt purchases in the new year, though consumer inflation expectations have ticked up recently.
At the same time, there appears to be little progress on the US fiscal talks. Whenever a top official signals this, the dollar seems to tick up on risk-off considerations, though with diminishing impact. The stronger than expected November employment data is not sufficient to stay the Fed's hand and the FOMC will most likely expand the long-term assets purchased under QE3+ at its meeting that concludes on December 12.