When you step back and look at the long-term trends, it is undeniable what is happening to us. We are in the midst of a horrifying economic decline that is the result of decades of very bad decisions. 30 years ago, the U.S. national debt was about one trillion dollars. Today, it is almost 17 trillion dollars. 40 years ago, the total amount of debt in the United States was about 2 trillion dollars. Today, it is more than 56 trillion dollars. At the same time that we have been running up all of this debt, our economic infrastructure and our ability to produce wealth has been absolutely gutted. Since 2001, the United States has lost more than 56,000 manufacturing facilities and millions of good jobs have been shipped overseas. Our share of global GDP declined from 31.8 percent in 2001 to 21.6 percent in 2011. The percentage of Americans that are self-employed is at a record low, and the percentage of Americans that are dependent on the government is at a record high. The U.S. economy is a complete and total mess, and it is time that we faced the truth.
Is the coming financial collapse going to be inflationary or deflationary? Are we headed for rampant inflation or crippling deflation? This is a subject that is hotly debated by economists all over the country. Some insist that the wild money printing that the Federal Reserve is doing combined with out of control government spending will eventually result in hyperinflation. Others point to all of the deflationary factors in our economy and argue that we will experience tremendous deflation when the bubble economy that we are currently living in bursts. So what is the truth? Well, for the reasons listed below, we believe that we will see both.
Surging nominal imports and a miss for exports just about sums up perfectly just how the reality of Abenomics is crushing the real economy as the market goes from strength to strength on the hope that recovery is just around the corner. For the 28th month in a row Japan trade deficit has dropped YoY and its 12-month average is now at its worst ever. Energy costs are driving up imports (and adjusted for the devaluation in the JPY, the data is simply horrendous. Of course, there are green shoots - CPI is not deflating as fast as it was... and 'some' inflation expectations are rising (though as we noted here that is simply due to the tax expectations). Contrary to expectations held by some in the bond market, the BOJ did not comment on the sharp fluctuation in JGB yields since April as a result of monetary relaxation - on the basis, we assume, that if they don't mention it, it never happened. The result post a nothing-burger of 'more uncertainty' from the BoJ, the Nikkei keeps screaming higher, JPY rallied then fell back, and JGBs are sliding higher in yield.
Driving the sentiment was the report that U.S. jobless benefits decreased to their lowest rate since 2007. Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser forecasted that day unemployment will drop to 7% by December 2013 and he favours reducing the Fed’s $85 billion monthly bond purchases next month. Plosser however has no vote on Fed policy this year.
While hedge funds are seeing outflows of $20.8 billion from gold funds this year, BlackRock Inc. the world’ biggest money manager is still bullish, reported Bloomberg.
India's economic boogeyman, the monthly trade deficit, continues to rear its ugly head, this and every time, driven be the country's insatiable desire for gold which is so powerful, the country took full advantage of the plunge in gold prices, and saw business imports of gold soar by 138% y/y in April, forcing the trade deficit to hit a 3 month high of $17.8 billion as more fiat left the country in return for bringing in more of the "barbarous relic." Gold imports more than doubled on both a Y/Y and sequential basis, with gold accounting for $7.5 billion, or 18% of total imports, compared to $3.1 billion in March.
As the global economic slump continues central bankers, such as Mario Draghi, and politicians have vowed “to do whatever it takes” to get economies back on track. Such policies while having near term benefits are considered extremely risky in the longer run by many commentators as they could beckon runaway inflation or stagflation, with ruinous results.
Shinzo Abe unleashed his plan with the blessing of the Bank of Japan to begin aggressive government bond purchases. This has led to a massive growth of 60% on the Nikkei and is deflating the yen and boosting their exports.
The yen is weak AND the dollar is strong. Two forces at work. Discuss.
With equity valuations no longer levitating but in a different, 4th dimension altogether, and credit spreads compressing dramatically (and unreasonably)... It is in situations like these, when the crash comes, that the proverbial run for liquidity forces central banks to coordinate liquidity injections. However, something tells me that this time, the trick won’t work. Over almost a century, we have witnessed the slow and progressive destruction of the best global mechanism available to cooperate in the creation and allocation of resources. This process began with the loss of the ability to address flow imbalances (i.e. savings, trade). After the World Wars, it became clear that we had also lost the ability to address stock imbalances, and by 1971 we ensured that any price flexibility left to reset the system in the face of an adjustment would be wiped out too. From this moment, adjustments can only make way through a growing series of global systemic risk events with increasingly relevant consequences. Swaps, as a tool, will no longer be able to face the upcoming challenges. When this fact finally sets in, governments will be forced to resort directly to basic asset confiscation.
A. Gary Shilling's discussion of how to invest during a deleveraging cycle is a very necessary antidote to the ecstacy and euphoria that surrounds the nominal surges in risk-assets around the world sponsored by central banking largesse. Shilling ties six fundamental realities together: Private Sector Deleveraging And Government Policy Responses, Rising Protectionism, the Grand Disconnect Between Markets And Economy, a Zeal For Yield, the End Of Export Driven Economies, and why Equities Are Vulnerable. The risk on trade is alive and well - but will not last forever. We are still within a secular bear market that begin in 2000 with P/E ratios still contained within a declining trend. Despite media commentary to the contrary - this time is likely not different.
Succinctly summarizing the positive and negative news, data, and market events of the week...
While everyone's attention this morning will be focused on the sheer, seasonally-adjusted noise that is the monthly NFP report (keep in mind that any number +/- 200,000 of the actual, is entirely in the seasonal adjustments and is thus entirely in the eye of the Arima X 13 beholder), which is expected to print at 140,000, resulting in an unemployment rate of 7.6%, there were some events overnight worth noting. First, the China non-manufacturing PMI printed at 54.5 in April, down from 55.6, and tied with the lowest such print in two years. The biggest red flag was that New Orders dropped below 50, with the price index also declining sharply, indicating that either the Chinese slowdown is for real, and the national bank will have no choice but to ease unleashing inflation, or that the politburo wishes to telegraph to the world that China is slowing, because what goes on in China, and what data is released out of China are never the same thing. Elsewhere, in Europe Mario Draghi's henchmen were stuck in damage control mode, and Ewald Nowotny said markets over-interpreted a signal yesterday that the ECB would consider a deposit rate below zero. Policy makers have “no plan in this direction,” Nowotny said in an interview with CNBC today. This helped boost the EUR from its languishing levels in the mid 1.30s higher by some 50 pips following his statement.
Mission Accomplished it would seem. Initial claims printed at its lowest since January 2008 at 324k. This is well below expectations of 345k - the biggest beat since September 2011. California and New York dominated the data with over 70,000 claims between them (though both dropped from last week). Michigan added the most from last month's rolls with 'educational service indutrsy' job losses affecting MA, CT, and RI. Emergency Unemployment Claims appears to have shaken off its statistical aberration of 2013 and is down a modest 12k this week.
What is happening to you America? Once upon a time, the United States was a place where free enterprise thrived and the greatest cities that the world had ever seen sprouted up from coast to coast. Good jobs were plentiful and a manufacturing boom helped fuel the rise of the largest and most vibrant middle class in the history of the planet. Cities such as Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Philadelphia and Baltimore were all teeming with economic activity and the rest of the globe looked on our economic miracle with a mixture of wonder and envy. But now look at us. Our once proud cities are being transformed into poverty-stricken hellholes. We are in the midst of a long-term economic collapse that is eating away at us like cancer, and things are going to get a lot worse than this. So if you still live in a prosperous area of the country, don't laugh at what is happening to others. What is happening to them will be coming to your area soon enough.
“Recovery” has become the shibboleth constantly invoked by people running things after the crisis of 2008. Unfortunately, no such recovery was underway. It was papered over by the twin Federal Reserve policies of quantitative easing and financial repression – a combination of the nation’s central bank loaning vast new amounts of money into existence at ultra-low interest rates (hardly any interest to pay back) and creating steady monetary inflation to reduce the burden of existing debt by shrinking the dollar value of the debt. The program was a racket in the sense that it was fundamentally dishonest. The presumed purpose of these shenanigans from the point of view of the Federal Reserve and the White House was to keep the financial system stable and afloat, and therefore to keep “normal” American daily life going. Unfortunately, it was based on the unreal assumption that the financial norms of, say, 2006 could be ginned back up again, and this premise was just inconsistent with the reality of a post-Peak-Cheap-Oil world. Unfortunately, there was no organized counter-view to this wishful thinking anywhere within the boundaries of the political establishment.
The commodity market is saying global growth is slowing. But, there is hope, as BofAML's David Woo notes, the US equity market is saying US consumers are still going strong; and the FX and European sovereign markets seem to believe Mrs. Watanabe is about to embark on a global shopping spree. However, like us, Woo thinks it is unlikely that these markets will all turn out to be right. At the same time, we agree completely with Woo's assessment that markets may be under pricing three macro risks: the ability of Beijing to ease policy aggressively in the face of strong home price appreciation may be limited; the positive wealth effect of US housing recovery may not be enough to offset the contractionary impact of fiscal tightening; Japanese money may stay at home longer than expected. As he concludes, "something will have to give and a major re-alignment of the markets, the odds of which are rising, will probably not be either smooth or benign."