Exactly 50 years ago last month the US Supreme Court ruled on the now famous case of Jacobellis v. Ohio. At stake was whether a French movie with graphic sexual content could be outlawed by the state via its obscenity laws. The court ruled that it could not because the film wasn’t hardcore pornography. How could they tell? In an explanation that has now turned into one of the most famous quotes in court history, Justice Potter Stewart explained that although he could not define exactly what hardcore porn was, “I know it when I see it” Like porn, asset bubbles are also hard to define, but given our economic history, and especially our recent economic history, we know it when we see it, and now we see it everywhere. We all see it. Apparently the only people that don’t see the bubbles are the people creating them.
If the notion that the single most powerful entity in the world economy is ignoring warnings signs everywhere and continues to operate based on debunked and delusional academic theories worries you, you’re not alone.
Now that the World Cup is over, and following last week's global macro reporting slumber (aside for the Portuguese risk flaring episode of course), things pick up quite a bit in the coming week. Here are the key events.
Another round of overnight risk on exuberance helped Europe forget all about last week's Banco Espirito Santo worries, which earlier today announced a new CEO and executive team, concurrently with the announcement by the Espirito Santo family of a sale of 4.99% of the company to an unknown party, withe the proceeds used to repay a margin loan, issued during the bank's capital increase in May. This initially sent the stock of BES surging only to see it tumble promptly thereafter even despite the continuation of a short selling bank in BES shares this morning. Far more impotantly to macro risk, it was that 2013 staple, the European open surge in the USDJPY that has reset risk levels higher, while pushing gold lower by over 1% following the usual dump through the entire bid stack in overnight low volume trading. Clearly nothing has been fixed in Portugal, although at least for now, the investing community appears to have convinced itself that the slow motion wreck of Portugal's largest bank even after on Sunday, Portugal’s prime minister said taxpayers would not be called on to bail out failing banks, making clear there would be no state support for BES.
A look at key events and data in the week ahead.
The British government has just invested in water cannons because they are fearing the rising tide of civil unrest as austerity is forcing the reduction of state workers and their pensions. The British unions called for strikes nationwide. Teachers, firemen and civil servants joined the calls and and took the streets demonstrating for higher wages and pensions. Just where is this money supposed to come from they really have no idea. They merely argue to take it from someone else no matter what and give it to them. Simply put, it is the rising cost of government that is out of control and no level of tax increase can reverse this trend.
Amid consternation at the market's low levels of volatility - and concerns voiced regularly by Fed officials of 'complacency' - it appears the FOMC has never been more confident in its omnipotence. As WSJ reports, despite being consistently too optimistic about economic growth and too pessimistic about the falling unemployment rate, Federal reserve policy makers have never been less uncertain about their forecasts... With consensus 2014 GDP expectations collapsing to +1.7% (and the Fed still at 2.1 to 2.3%), it appears the Fed's peak complacency is perfectly anti-correlated to the actual uncertainty about the future.
Martin Armstrong warns that 50% of the municipal governments in Germany are on the verge of bankruptcy. This is part of the reason they are looking for bail-ins and even Merkel has determined they cannot allow any referendums fearing the people will vote against the EU. The Bremen state government has now imposed a spending freeze today. The reason has been the unexpected expenditure and revenue shortfalls in the total amount of 60 million euros. Politicians cannot see that this system is doomed. They keep looking for everything possible to raise more and more taxes. It is just amazing who disconnected government are from the reality of the economy. Everything is geared to move toward the confiscation of wealth not reforming the system.
Overview of the price action in the forward exchange market and a look ahead.
This clown parade of clueless opinions (did we mention Goldman had BES at a buy until this morning?), stretched all the way to the very top with Bank of Portugal itself issuing the following pearl:
- BANK OF PORTUGAL SAYS BES DEPOSITORS CAN STAY CALM
Uhhh, what else would the Portugal central bank say? Panic and withdraw your deposits from a bank whose exposures to insolvent entities have been largely unknown until today (and even now).
Cynicism is popular. Cynicism is popular these days. It's what passes off as wisdom. But cynics didn't put a man on the moon. Cynics never won a war. Cynics didn't cure a disease, or start a business, or feed a young mind. Cynicism didn't bring about the right for women to vote, or the right for African Americans to be full citizens. Cynicism is a choice. Hope is a better choice.
And so, as President, I'm going to keep a promise that I made when I first ran: Every day, I will keep asking the same question, and that is, how can I help you? And I'll keep treating your cares and your concerns as my own. And I will keep fighting to restore the American Dream for everybody who's willing to work for it. And I am going to need you to be right there with me. (Applause.) Do not get cynical. Hope is the better choice.
Maybe its time for a new version of the old regime at the Fed. That is, for the Eccles Building to eschew interest rate-pegging and ZIRP entirely, and thereby allow financial markets to once again engage in honest price discovery and two-way trading; and to allow the natural business cycle to meander along its own capitalist path as determined not by the 12 members of the monetary politburo, but the 317 million consumers, producers, investors, entrepreneurs and even speculators who comprise the real main street economy.
This week was interesting to say the least and it is ending with a bang. We are covering a number of brief subjects this week. I hope you enjoy them.
But... but... the VIX said everything is ok, and European rates were the lowest they have been in centuries... How can something possibly go wrong?
It just did.
1 minutes, 555 words, and Fed-whisperer Jon Hilsenrath declares that based on the FOMC minutes, QE is dead and now the uncertainty is all about rate-hike timing. Crucially, given the Fed's concerns over complacency, Hilsenrath explains, "while they don't expect rates to get very high because of lingering headwinds to the economy, they also don't want to give the public too much comfort that they'll remain near historically low levels far into the future."