A weaker jobs number may be precisely what the bulls are hoping for now that Fed rate hikes are back again on the horizon. Here is Bloomberg's Mark Cudmore explaining why a match or a beat to expectations may be the worst case scenario for stocks: "Futures markets price only a 35% probability of the Federal Reserve hiking by June. If today’s labor data doesn’t disappoint, that likelihood could easily double within the next two weeks."
Two weeks ago we reported that while for most of 2015, tax withholdings rose at a rate of 5% or more from a year ago, on the back of job growth and gains in wages, commissions and other incentive pay, in recent months there has been a substantial dropoff in this key indicator. Today, TrimTabs put an actual jobs number to this particular decline in tax withholdings: according to the research service, the US added only 55,000 to 85,000 jobs in February, less than half of the official estimate.
Official Treasury tax-receipt data are at major odds with the much more upbeat numbers reported by the Labor Department. January’s year-over-year payroll increase of 2.665 million, or 1.9%, along with a 2.5% gain in average hourly earnings should yield something in the neighborhood of 4.5% year-over-year growth in tax withholdings — or more than double the actual growth rate in recent weeks. And yet over the past 10 full weeks, starting Dec. 7, tax withholdings have grown just 3.1% from a year ago.
Here’s one for the "actions speak louder than words" file: Investment research firm TrimTabs reported on Wednesday that insider selling reached $7.6 billion for the month of November, the fourth-highest monthly level on record.
"Things are crazy," says Charles Biderman summing up this bizarre situation. "We’re seeing the impact of the global slowdown on the US and that’s going to continue" adds the TrimTabs founder, and, in contrast to the mainstream view on Wall Street, he doesn’t think that the Fed is going to raise interest rates (and is more likely to start a new stimulus program). "Ultimately there will be a major correction," he warns and any new stimulus will merely serve the drug-addicted market.
It is unknowable how much more pronounced these excesses can become, especially in light of extremely loose monetary policy around the world. Things could easily become quite dicey as soon as tomorrow, but it is just as easily possible that valuations will continue to expand for some time yet. However, these data do indicate one thing: risk has increased enormously, and it will keep increasing the longer the bubble persists. Frankly, the situation also scares us a bit, because we expect that governments and their agencies (such as central banks) will find it extremely difficult to deal with the next crisis. They have become quite overstretched as a result of the last one. After having gone “all in” last time around, what are they supposed to do for an encore? The only options that come to mind are repressive measures such as capital controls, confiscation of private wealth, and a host of other unpleasantries.
"Right now, we’re living in a make believe world. Debt can’t be the main source of growth. Without a pick-up in final demand a lot of bad debts are out there. As long as you have excess capacity in the commodity production you have bad loans throughout the system. That means you have governments who can’t repay their debt without selling new loans and all their bad loans are funded by the central banks.... I think a global recession is inevitable...You just can’t devalue your way to prosperity. As long as the number of shares keeps declining, stock prices are going to go up and nobody cares [but] in the long term there has to be a major correction."
"Companies that obsessively buy back their shares could be making a big mistake," Moody's head of head of leveraged finance tells CNBC, echoing what we have said on too many occasions to count. With IG supply at all-time highs and with companies pouring the money into share repurchases instead of investing in future productivity and growth, we say yet again that the theatre of financial engineering will continue only until it can no longer continue.
Now we can see the real tragedy of negative interest rates: they not only have the perverse effect of reversing the flow of time, but they demonstrate that borrowers are not acting with the good faith incentives normally associated with someone who needs money. Rather than paying forward, borrowers are paying backwards because they are effectively trying to return something they don’t want. Such an arrangement renders it impossible for an economy to grow. By destroying the temporal and moral structure of money, negative interest rates destroy the economy. When tomorrow cannot be paid, the current regime must fail. The only question to be determined is the form that failure will assume. This may sound like philosophy but it is cold, hard reality.
According to the official government data, the United States asserts its future obligations, as of Q2 2014, are $16.5 trillion. However, TrimTabs founder Charles Biderman says that is wrong, the actual figure of the country’s future obligations, which is $98 trillion. "This does not bode well for future generations," Biderman warns, adding "either Obama is ignorant of future US government obligations or he is hiding the truth."
There are many ways to look at the United States government debt, obligations, and assets. But TrimTabs's Charles Biderman cuts straight to the bottom line and add it all up - $89.5 trillion in liabilities and $82 trillion in assets. There. It’s not a secret anymore, and although these are all government numbers, for some strange reason the government never adds them all together or explains them - but we will. No one can really know what will have value in this politicized crony capitalistic system as the hyper-monetization ramps up... all I can suggest is to hedge your bets with some physical precious metals and some minimal leveraged real estate. Unfortunately, the more you know, the more you know you don’t know... invest and live accordingly.
"We’re in a world where there are very few unambiguously cheap assets...If you ask me to give you the one big bargain out there, I’m not sure there is one." But frustrating as the situation can be for investors hoping for better returns, the bigger question for the global economy is what happens next. How long will this low-return environment last? And what risks are being created that might be realized only if and when the Everything Boom ends?
This week's "Things To Ponder" is focused on things that, in my opinion, far too many individuals are ignoring. Bob Farrell once wrote that "when all experts and forecasts agree; something else is bound to happen." Today, that is the case as much as it ever was. Despite rising geopolitical risks, weak economic data, deteriorating fundamentals and softer internals - the overwhelming belief is "equities are the only game in town." Of course, we have seen this mentality many times in past history whether it was 1929, 1987, 2000 or 2007. While every market peak was different, there were all the same.
Even if you don't have a Nobel Prize, it should be glaringly apparent to anyone with half a brain - the financial markets have been soaring while the overall economy has been stagnating. Despite assurances from the mainstream media and the Federal Reserve that everything is just fine, many Americans are beginning to realize that we have seen this movie before. We saw it during the dotcom bubble, and we saw it during the lead up to the horrible financial crisis of 2008. So precisely when will the bubble burst this time? Nobody knows for sure, but without a doubt this irrational financial bubble will burst at some point. Remember, a bubble is always the biggest right before it bursts, and the following are 15 signs that we are near the peak of an absolutely massive stock market bubble...