Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse... In a veritable deluge of data from Japan tonight, there is - simply put - no silver lining. First, Japan's jobless rate unexpectedly jumped to 3.8% - its highest since Nov 2013 (despite the highest job-to-applicant ratio in 22 years). Then, household spending re-collapsed 5.9% for the 4th month in a row (showingh no sign of post-tax-hike-recovery). Industrial Production was up next and dramatically missed expectations with a mere 0.2% rebound after last month's plunge (-0.9% YoY - worst in 13 months), quickly followed by a 0.5% drop in Japanes retail trade MoM (missing hope for a 0.3% gain). That's good news, right? Means moar QQE, right? Wrong! Japanese CPI came hot at 3.4% YoY with energy costs and electronic goods 'hyperinflating' at 8.8% and 9.1% respectively. As Goldman's chief Japan economist warns, "the BOJ doesn’t have another bazooka," adding that "The window for reform may already have been half closed." We're gonna need another arrow, Abe!
Financial markets are broken. Fundamental analysis and Modern Portfolio Theory are relics of the past. Investors used to care about maximizing a portfolio’s expected return for a given amount of targeted risk. Fed policies have led to (investor) herd behavior that has plunged market volatilities and manipulated asset prices and correlations to lofty levels. The allure of the Fed’s magic spell has lapsed investors into a soporific state of cognitive dissonance, with them focusing more on trying to justify valuations, rather than on the Upside Downside Capture Ratio. Markets have thus mutated into one of two possible combustible states. Either financial assets have all transcended into prodigious bubbles, or stocks and bonds are signifying two completely separate outcomes. Either possibility will have dangerous repercussions for the economy, and for portfolios and investors.
- Clearly it's time to bomb Assad (on Qatar instructions): Islamic State executes dozens of Syrian army soldiers (Reuters)
- Ukraine Declares Russian Invasion as Sanctions Threat Raised (BBG)
- Ukraine Reports Russian Invasion on a New Front (NYT)
- German Unemployment Rises as Risks to Economy Build (BBG)
- Ebola spreads to Nigeria oil hub Port Harcourt (BBC)
- FBI Probes Possible Hacking Incident at J.P. Morgan (WSJ)
- FBI, Secret Service investigate reports of cyber attacks on U.S. banks (Reuters)
- If you like your Venezuela, you can stay in Venezuela: Airlines Abandon Fliers Amid Currency Dispute (WSJ)
- Boomer Wealth Dented by Mortgages Poses U.S. Risk (BBG)
- People Aren't Buying Guns (BusinessWeek)
If you like your de-escalation, you can keep your de-escalation. To think that heading into, and following the Russia-Ukraine "summit" earlier this week there was so much hope that the tense Ukraine civil war "situation" would somehow fix itself. Oh how wrong that thinking was considering overnight, following rebel separatists gains in the southeast of Ukraine which included the strategic port of Novoazvosk and which is "threatening to open up a new front in the war" including setting up a land corridor to Russia controlled-Crimea, Ukraine's president Poroshenko for the first time came out and directly accused Russia of an "Invasion", or at least a first time in recent weeks, saying he has convened the security council on the recent Russian actions.
"Germany will flirt with recession by Q4 of this year," warns Saxo Bank's Chief Economist Steen Jakobsen, adding that "the US is in worse shape than most people believe." It's important to underline, he notes, that major US investment houses, and certainly every single sales person we talk to, believe US is about to accelerate in growth not slow down. Jakobsen warns though that Q3 could be ok but the real damage will come in Q4 as the lead-lag factor of geopolitical risk, lack of reforms and excess global supply leads to low inflation. His conclusion, "it’s time to be defensive... very defensive."
There's only one small problem with relying on artifice: we haven't actually fixed what's broken in the real world.
"Rather than trying to spur private-sector spending through asset purchases or interest-rate changes, central banks, such as the Fed, should hand consumers cash directly.... Central banks, including the U.S. Federal Reserve, have taken aggressive action, consistently lowering interest rates such that today they hover near zero. They have also pumped trillions of dollars’ worth of new money into the financial system. Yet such policies have only fed a damaging cycle of booms and busts, warping incentives and distorting asset prices, and now economic growth is stagnating while inequality gets worse. It’s well past time, then, for U.S. policymakers -- as well as their counterparts in other developed countries -- to consider a version of Friedman’s helicopter drops. In the short term, such cash transfers could jump-start the economy... The transfers wouldn’t cause damaging inflation, and few doubt that they would work. The only real question is why no government has tried them"...
In the rush to make QE’s taper and the follow-on “forward guidance” appear more data-related than of due concerns about the structural (and ultimately philosophical) flaws in the economy, the regressionists of the Federal Reserve have come up with more regressions - a 19-factor model to determine Yellen's 'labor market conditions'. What does this mathematical reconstruction of the labor market tell us about the labor market? If you believe the figures, this has been one of the best recoveries on record. No, seriously...
Wondering why US and European stocks knee-jerked higher in the last hour - wonder no more. JPMorgan released a report stating they expect the ECB to ease next week, masking some policy changes next week to make TLTROs more attractive and even a slight disappointment in data may trigger sovereign QE (30% chance next week and 50% by year-end). Of course, the kicker in all of this discussion of QE is that the ECB is already doing it - willing to buy whetever bonds European banks buy via repo agreements (with no haircut) - and with yields already at record lows (or negative) in the face of record-high 'real' financing costs for non-financials, the exuberance appears misplaced.
It is unclear exactly why stock futures, bonds - with European peripheral yields hitting new record lows for the second day in a row - gold, oil and pretty much everything else is up this morning but it is safe to say the central banks are behind it, as is the "de-escalation" algo as a meeting between Russia and Ukraine begins today in Belarus' capital Minsk. Belarusian and Kazakhstani leaders will also be at the summit. Hopes of a significant progress on the peace talks were dampened following Merkel’s visit to Kiev over the weekend. The German Chancellor said that a big breakthrough is unlikely at today’s meeting. Russian FM Lavrov said that the discussion will focus on economic ties, the humanitarian crisis and prospects for a political resolution. On that note Lavrov also told reporters yesterday that Russia hopes to send a second humanitarian aid convoy to Ukraine this week. What he didn't say is that he would also send a cohort of Russian troops which supposedly were captured by overnight by the Ukraine army (more shortly).
When the majority of Americans examine the world around them, they see a stock market at record highs and modest apparent improvement in the economy, but, as John Hussman notes, they also have the sense that something remains terribly wrong, and they can't quite put their finger on it. QE-induced speculation misallocates resources that might otherwise contribute to long-run growth, and while conditions could certainly be worse, the benefits of this economic recovery have been highly uneven. The economy is starting to take on features of a winner-take-all monoculture that encourages and subsidizes too-big-to-fail banks and large-scale financial speculation at the expense of productive real investment and small-to-medium size enterprises.
The Status Quo is desperate to mask the declining fortunes of those who earn income from work, and the Misery Index 2.0 strips away the phony facade of bogus unemployment and inflation numbers.
Key highlights in the coming week: US Durable Goods, Michigan Conf., Services PMI, PCE, and CPI in Euro area and Japan. Broken down by day: Monday - US Services PMI, New Home Sales (Consensus 4.7%); Singapore CPI; Tuesday - US Durable Goods (consensus 7.5%) and Consumer Confidence; Wednesday - Germany GfK Consumer Confidence; Thursday - US GDP 2Q (2nd est., expect 3.70%, below consensus) and Personal Consumption; Euro area Confidence; CPI in Germany and Spain; Friday - US Michigan Conf. (consensus 80.1), PCE (consensus 0.10%), Chicago PMI; Core CPI in Euro area and Japan (consensus 2.30%). Additionally, with a long weekend in the US coming up, expect volumes into the close of the week to slump below even recent near-record lows observed recently as the CYNKing of the S&P 500 goes into overdrive.
Earlier this morning, those expecting an out of control European deflationary tumble got one step closer to their goal when French President Francois Hollande asked his prime minister, who only assumed the post a few short months ago in March, to form a new government, following what Reuters reported was him "looking to impose his will on the cabinet after rebel leftist ministers had called for an economic policy U-turn" spearheaded by economy minister Arnaud Montebourg demanding an end to French "austerity." The Guardian is somewhat more direct and to the point: "France has entered uncharted political waters after the prime minister, Manuel Valls, presented his government's resignation amid a political crisis triggered by his maverick economy minister who called for an end to austerity policies imposed by Germany."
This essay is not intended to address a crisis that may be occurring on the border at this time. We make no comment on that. Nor does it discuss the issues around war, such as how to deal with citizens of enemy nations. This essay is not a policy proposal, it does not set out, for example, when an immigrant can become a citizen and attain the vote or what to do to immigrants who commit crimes. It has but one purpose: to enumerate and respond to the common arguments used in favor of an impenetrable and guarded border fence to shut down immigration.