Unemployment

Spending On Gambling And Low-End Hookers Slides; Weak Booze Sales Blamed On Weather

In yet another indication that the US consumer is tapped out and rolling over, a report from the "Vice Index" reporting firm SouthBay Research which tracks spending on gambling, liquor sales and prostitution, says that "spending on vices wasn’t very strong in December, a sign that overall consumer spending was weak, according to the latest reading of the Vice Index from SouthBay Research’s Andrew Zatlin" as the WSJ reports. "The Vice Index for December points to stable but subdued consumer spending," according to SouthBay's head Andrew Zatlin further predicting that retail sales slipped 0.1% in December from November.  And while the split between "the 1%" and "everyone else" was evident in the faster decline in beer sales compared to wine sales, as well as gambling where the low-end contracted while the high end expanded, nothing says a recovery for the 1% like the following sentence: "High-end escorts successfully raised prices,” Zatlin wrote in the report. “Lower-end escorts did not.

Deep Freeze Day Market Summary

Heading into the North American open, stocks in Europe are seen broadly higher, with peripheral EU stock indices outperforming after Ireland successfully returned to capital markets with its 10y syndication that attracted over EUR 10bln. Financials benefited the most from the consequent credit and bond yield spreads tightening, with smaller Italian and Spanish banks gaining around 4%. Following the successful placement, IR/GE 10y bond yield spread was seen at its tightest level since April 2010, while PO/GE 10y spread also tightened in reaction to premarket reports by Diario Economico citing sources that Portuguese govt and debt agency IGCP consider that the current level of yields already allows Portugal to go ahead with a bond sale. Looking elsewhere, the release of better than expected macroeconomic data from Germany, together with an in line Eurozone CPI, supported EUR which gradually moved into positive territory. In addition to that, smaller MRO allotment by the ECB resulted in bear steepening of the Euribor curve and also buoyed EONIA 1y1y rates. The Spanish and Italian markets are the best-performing larger bourses, Swedish the worst. The euro is stronger against the dollar. Japanese 10yr bond yields fall; Spanish yields decline. Commodities gain, with wheat, silver underperforming and Brent crude outperforming. U.S. trade balance data released later.

S&P At 2,200, 4% On The 10 Year, WTI Over $110 And Bitcoin At $0 - Byron Wien's 2014 Predictions

The predictions of Blackstone's octogenarian Byron Wien (born in 1933) have been all over the place in the past 10 years, some correct, most wrong (with a recent hit rate of about 25%) - his 2013 year end S&P forecast was for 1300 - yet always entertaining. Which is the only value in the latest release of his 10 forecasts for 2014. Naturally, take all of these with a salt mine.

Guest Post: Debunking Real Estate Myths – Part 2: Overly Stringent Underwriting

Are current underwriting practices overly stringent? Yes and no. With the exception of the sub-prime era, underwriting has never been easier. At the same time, it has never been more difficult for many qualified borrowers to get a loan. This strange phenomenon is among the unintended consequences of ill-guided public policies. 

"Polar Vortex" Day Market Summary

The "polar vortex" (no, really) which is about to unleash even record-er cold temperatures upon the US may be the greatest thing to happen to the economy: after all once Q1 GDP estimates miss once again, what better scapegoat to blame it on than cold winter weather during... the winter. However, for the overnight markets, the weather seems to have had an less than desired effect following both much weaker Services PMI data out of China, and after the entire USDJPY ramp achieved during Bernanke's late Friday speech evaporated in the span of two hours in Japanese Monday morning trading, sending the Nikkei reeling lower by 2.35%. One reason for this may be that like in the early summer when both the Yen and the Nikkei froze in a rangebound formation, South Korea has vocally started t0 complain about the weak Yen, which as readers may recall was one of the catalysts to put an end to the surge in the USDJPY and EURJPY. This time may not be different, furthermore as Goldman forecast overnight, it now expects a BOK rate cut of 25 bps as soon as this Thursday. Should that happen expect the JPY coiled-short spring to pounce.

Precious Metals In 2014

As we enter 2014 mainstream economists relying on inaccurate statistics, many of which are not even relevant to a true understanding of our economic condition, seem convinced that the crises of recent years are now laid to rest. If we objectively assess the state of the labour markets in most welfare-driven economies the truth conforms to a continuing slump; and if we take a realistic view of price increases, including capital assets, price inflation may even be in double figures. The corruption of price inflation statistics in turn makes a mockery of GDP numbers, which realistically adjusted for price inflation are contracting. This gloomy conclusion should come as no surprise to thoughtful souls in any era. These conditions are the logical outcome of the corruption of currencies and the effect of unsound money... and two conclusions for 2014...

Guest Post: The Minimum Wage Forces Low-Skill Workers To Compete With Higher-Skill Workers

The efforts underway by the Service Employees International Union, and its political and media allies, to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 per hour would, if successful, cause major unemployment among low-skilled workers, who are the supposed beneficiaries of those efforts. No one can question the desirability of being able to earn $15 an hour rather than $7.25 an hour. Still more desirable would be the ability to earn $50 an hour instead of $15 an hour. However, it is necessary to know considerably more than this about economics before attempting to enact sweeping changes in economic policy...

11 Nasty Trends That Will Test America's Resilience

The resilience that has long been one of America's remarkable traits was on display in 2013. Not only did businesses create 2 million jobs, but the struggling economy actually grew and profits and stock prices soared to near-record levels. Still, five years into the Obama presidency, the economy is grossly underperforming. Contrary to the dominant media narrative, it's not bad luck or the financial crisis to blame, but bad policies — from the $860 billion "stimulus" that didn't stimulate to the Dodd-Frank financial reform that killed lending. Last year was a challenging one for entrepreneurs and other productive Americans. No fewer than 13 new taxes were put into place. Big government now consumes one of every four dollars of our GDP and is getting bigger. Entering 2014, we face problems, including taxes and spending, that neither the White House nor Congress is addressing. In the following charts, we look at a few of the more alarming and intractable ones.

75% Of Spaniards Don't Believe Rajoy's "Economic Recovery" Meme

With unemployment stuck at record highs and loan delinquencies surging (as we discussed here, here and here), it is hardly surprising that El Economista reports that more than two-thirds of Spaniards do not believe the "recovery" promised by Prime Minister Rajoy has been created. While Cramer ignorantly confidently espoused this morning that Spain is recovering (and with Spanish stocks and bonds back near pre-crisis levels), a massive 75% of the Spanish people believe their personal situation will be the same or worse in 2014.

Snow Day Market Summary

In a day that will be remembered for the first major snowstorm to hit New York in 2014 and test the clean up capabilities and resolve of the city's new populist mayor (not starting on a good note following reports that JFK airport will be closed at least until 8:30 am Eastern), it was only fitting that there was virtually no overnight news aside for the Chinese non-manufacturing PMI which dropped from 56.0 to 54.6, a new 4 month low. Still, following yesterday's ugly start to the new year, stocks in Europe traded higher this morning, in part driven by value related flows following the sell-off yesterday. Retailers led the move higher, with Next shares in London up as much as 11% which is the most since January 2009 and to its highest level since 1988 after the company lifted profit forecast after strong Christmas trading performance. Other UK based retailers with likes of AB Foods and M&S also advanced around 2%.

Government Set To End Data Lockups; Removes "Unintentional & Unfair Advantage"

All it took was a year or two of extremely obvious "catches" of leaked data for the government to begin to decide that perhaps, just perhaps, it is time to end the press lockup for each week's initial jobless claims data. As the WSJ reports, the original idea behind lockups was to give reporters time to digest complicated economic reports to produce accurate reports for the public. In the past decade, news organizations have also built expensive networks to send government data to high-speed investors who can make trades on the data before members of the public can react. Now, however, the BLS believes, "government data is for the public good and it is paid for by taxpayer dollars. There must be a commitment to a level playing field."

Four Key Lessons From 2013

2013 already saw violent unrest in some of the most stable countries in the world like Singapore and Sweden, all underpinned by absolute disgust for the status quo. Whether today or tomorrow, this year or next, there will be a reckoning. The system is far too broken to repair, it must be reset. It’s simply absurd to look at the situation objectively and presume this status quo can continue indefinitely... that this time is different… that we’re somehow special and immune to universal principles.

George Soros On The World's Shifting Challenges

As 2013 comes to a close, efforts to revive growth in the world’s most influential economies – with the exception of the eurozone – are having a beneficial effect worldwide. However, All of the looming problems for the global economy are political in character; and there are some eerie resemblances with the financial conditions that prevailed in the US in the years preceding the crash of 2008.

Things That Make You Go Hmmm... Like The Year That 'Weak' Worked

Throughout 2013, the distortions created by intervention in once-free markets have left many scratching their heads. The interventions have worked - almost faultlessly - but for them to do so has required the suspension of one belief system (economic reality) and the adoption of another - namely, that everything will be OK because ... well, just because. Can the fantasy persist into 2014? Sadly, Grant Williams states "Yes. It most certainly can." Will it continue into 2014? Most likely. Will this new belief system become the new economic reality? Not a chance.