The ability of reflationary policy to mute the worst risks of debt deflation has been a source of enormous frustration for stock market bears ever since the 2008 collapse. Yes, the initial moderate rally out of the S&P500’s black hole was perhaps not so surprising in 2009. Bombed-out stock markets can always manage some sort of rally. But the ability of the rally to continue through 2010, and then 2011, and now 2012 has been quite vexing and painful for bearish investors. Indeed, the entire post-2008 market phase has now produced an era of consistently poor performance for hedge funds. Recent data, for example, shows that an incredible 90% of hedge funds are underperforming the S&P500 through mid-September. Will the pain continue? If OECD policy makers do in fact lose stock markets as the main transmission mechanism for reflationary policy, then trouble of a very serious nature will make itself known in the biggest way imaginable since the 2008 crisis began.
Forget Micro economists.
If yesterday it was Greece that the market was once again inexplicably enthused about, today it is Spain's turn, which is once again in the open-ended action crosshairs, following an unsourced (are there any other kind these days?) report by the FT, saying the country with the 25% unemployment is prepared for an imminent bailout request (contrary to a previous report by Reuters saying the ETA on this is November). That these are simply more bureaucratic tests to gauge the market's response is by now known to all - the truth is nobody knows what happens even if Spain finally requests a (long overdue and priced in) rescue. Because even with bond yields briefly sliding, they will only ramp right back up, even as the Spanish economic deterioration continues. But that bridge will be crossed only when Rajoy is prepared to hand in his resignation together with a signed MOU to a Troika boarding commission. In other news, Spain sold €3.4 billion in 1 year Bills at a yield of 2.823% compared to 2.835% last, and €1.46 billion in 18 month Bills at a yield of 3.022% versus 3.072% last. Since both of these are within the LTRO's maturity (whose 1 year anniversary, and potential partial repayments, is coming fast in January) the bond was a token exercise in optics. Elsewhere, German ZEW Economic Sentiment rose more than expected from -18.2 to -11.5 on expectations of a -14.9 print, despite the ZEW's Dick summarizing the current Eurozone situation simply as "bad", and adding that "downward risks are more pronounced than upward." Confirming his fears was a government official sited by Bild who said that 2013 growth has been reduced from 1.6% to 1.0%. In all this newsflow, the EURUSD has quietly managed to do its usual early am levitation, and was at overnight highs of 1.3015 at last check.
Spain Is Losing Its People, Catalonia Fights For Independence, And The EU Gets Pushed Into The ConflictSubmitted by testosteronepit on 10/15/2012 22:40 -0400
Catalonia’s independence “would do away with Spain” - Justice Minister
This summer Roger Bootle won Lord Wolfson's £250,000 prize for the best advice for a country leaving the European Monetary Union (one may assume that this advice is aimed at Greece). Despite his lengthy and repetitive prize submission, Mr. Bootle's recommendations can be summarized in this one sentence: In complete secrecy and with no prior discussion, redenominate all Greek euro-denominated bank accounts into drachma-denominated accounts and devalue the drachma. That's it! There is no need to cut public spending. Quite the contrary, because public spending adds to the Keynesian concept of aggregate demand, and aggregate demand cannot be allowed to fall. Dr. Philipp Bagus offered the truly liberal alternative. He proposed a long period of public discussion about alternatives to leaving the euro, which would allow ample time for Greeks to move their property out of the greedy reach of their own government, should they decide to do so. The currency crisis might be solved in this manner as Greek banks closed and the Greek government shut down its welfare and regulatory system for lack of funds. The Greek government could repeal legal-tender laws, which currently require Greek citizens to transact business in one currency only — always that issued by the state itself. Concomitantly it could reinstate the drachma as a strong currency backed by gold. Then good money would drive out bad, as people freely chose which currency to use.
Against a deflationary environment of austerity-driven wage and pension cuts combined with rising unemployment; food, commodity, and fuel prices continue to surge in Greece. The government has taken an unusual step - allowing the sale of expired food at lower prices. As Voz Populi reports, this act means the government has 'virtually admitted their inability to control prices" as the worst aspects of stagflation crush the Hellenic Republic. The regulation (allowing from one-week to one-month extensions of foods for sale post their eat-before-this-day-or-you'll-get-Salmonella date) has existed for many years, according to a ministerial decree and this action merely states that these foods must be sold at a lower price. Meat and dairy is excluded but this move is described as "an immoral act" as few believe prices will actually be reduced - since that is at the discretion of the merchant. As the National Food Agency notes: "This is also a moral dilemma, to divide consumers into two groups: those who can afford basic food and those who, because of poverty, are forced to resort to dubious quality food." We presume this will also reduce the drag on pension and healthcare costs as death rates will rise?
After starting the overnight trading at its lows, the EURUSD has once again seen the now traditional overnight levitation, this time with absolutely no economic news, in the process raising equity futures across the Atlantic, even as unfounded Chinese optimism for more liquidity has waned leading to the SHCOMP closing down 0.3%. Perhaps the most notable event in the quiet trading session so far has been the surge in 10 year Greek debt whose yield has tumbled to post-restructuring lows, driven by more and more hedge funds piling in to piggyback on Dan Loeb's recent public GGB purchase announcement (strength into which he has long since sold), and hopes that Greece will somehow see an Official Sector Initiative (OSI) to make recovery prospects for Private Investors more attractive: a capital impairment the ECB has said would happen only over its dead body. But in the new normal, facts and rules are for chumps, and only exist to be broken. More on this amusing stupidity here. Amusingly, this comes just as Greece’s Staikouras says the economy’s downward spiral is not over yet. But, again, who cares about fundamentals.
It feels different this time. It also 'looks' different this time in that our 'recovery' just is not bouncing back from its Friedman-ite 'plucked' level to rise phoenix-like back to Potential GDP - as it is 'supposed' to. In an excellent two-part animated series, Stanford's John 'Rule' Taylor and Russ Roberts discuss this recovery's differences along many variables including GDP trend reversion, percent of the population that is working and, economic growth overall. They then go on to discuss potential reasons for this sluggish recovery; the ongoing slump in construction employment, the effect of housing prices on saving and spending decisions by households, and this recovery's having been preceded by a financial crisis. Taylor rejects these arguments, arguing instead that the sluggish recovery can be explained by poor economic policy decisions made by the Bush and the Obama administrations. Simple, clear, 20 minutes of Sunday evening preparation for the week.
The overhwelming majority of investors seem to believe that some compromise will be reached to resolve the looming fiscal drag, and as we noted here, this fact is more than priced into markets. As Barclays notes however, a big deal that encompasses entitlement and tax reform is very unlikely before year-end. Hence, if the ‘cliff’ is avoided, it will be because Congress extends all expiring provisions for some time while it works on a bigger deal. Such an 'extension/compromise' move would not reduce investor uncertainty if it were only for a few months; bond markets would simply start counting down to the new date. More importantly, the discussion about the fiscal cliff misses a broader point: the US will probably have significant fiscal tightening over the next decade that is a drag on medium-term growth. Yet more investors dismiss last year's reaction to the debt-ceiling debate - a 17% decline in 2 weeks - as any kind of precedent, claiming (falsely) that this was more due to European financial difficulties. We expect fiscal issues to be the defining drivers of the next several quarters and as BofAML notes, Washington's view of this 'process' as a 'slope' combined with the dangerously negative election campaign (which will need a 180-degree reversal for any compromise) means the likelihood of a Wile E. Coyote Moment is considerably higher than most expect.
In continuing the pre-election twilight zone data series, respondents to the UMichigan consumer confidence poll apparently have not a care in the world about the upcoming fiscal cliff, or record high gas prices in California for that matter, and are more confident than they have ever been in the past 5 years. With the final number printing at 83.1, well above the highest Wall Street forecast of 81.0 from DB's Joe LaVorgna of course, and 5 std deviations above the consensus forecast (a 7 year beat of expectations) of a decline to 78.0 from last month's 78.3, all one can do at this point is pull a Biden and just keep on laughing. The internal, while completely irrelevant as we have uncovered merely the latest doctored economic data set, joining the unemployment rate and the initial claims number, current conditions rose to 88.6 from 85.7, while it was expectations that set the mood, rising to the highest since July 2007 or 79.5, up from 73.5. And while last month it was the inflation expectations, both 1 and 5 year, that soared because apparently UMich was unaware these have to decline for "inflation expectations to be anchored" this time around respondents saw 5 year inflation decline from 2.8% to 2.6%, apparently confused that the only reason why expectations are soaring is because the Chairman promised to send future inflation soaring. But who cares about logic when massaging data.
California Demands Business Insider Retract False Story On Jobless Claims Misreporting; Business Insider RefusesSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 10/12/2012 09:24 -0400
After yesterday Zero Hedge first reported the reason for the surprising plunge in the past week's initial claims, which as the BLS explained was due to "a state" (whose identity despite all tabloid speculation to the contrary is still unknown) not reporting "some" figures, assorted blogs picked up on what has since been confirmed to be an incorrect report by Business Insider's Henry Blodget claiming that "Well, we're glad to say that we've finally gotten to the bottom of what happened" and that the state in question is none other than California (supposedly as opposed to Illinois to shut up those wacky conspiracy theorists). Turns out the site known best for its slideshow presentations (which will soon double down as advertisements) may have once again fibbed just a little, following an official demand by none other than California state Employment Development Department direct, Pam Harris, that BI retract its article. To wit: "Reports that California failed to fully report data to the U.S. Department of Labor, as required, are incorrect and irresponsible... It’s unfortunate this ‘reporter’ and others who repeated the article’s erroneous statements chose to speculate rather than report, failing to confirm this information with EDD." Sure enough, the 'reporter' in question replied, and it appears that Business Insider is better informed than California when it comes to matters such as these, and has refused to retract.
And so another disingenuous display of avoiding saying anything definitive about anything specific is complete. Without doubt the winner of this evening's 'round-table' is Martha Raddatz. Despite the incessant interruption and grinning/laughing/anger/frustration of Biden (and Ryan bringing up a 'car-crash' - awkward), the two candidates had relatively equal talking time (via CNN Biden Won 41:32 vs Ryan 40:12) but Ryan pipped Biden by 7,434 words to 7,425! Picking a winner is tough - so we won't - but Obama's odds rose from a pre-debate dump to 61% to over 64% (this morning's levels) - but stopped rising once the candidates began to discuss Afghanistan and Syria and when Ryan 'summed-up', Obama's odds crashed back to unchanged at 61.2%. Ryan won the drinking game 32 to 26.
Just how much havoc does living within one’s means wreak?
The recent trade report does not provide much support for the economic and stock market bulls. As we have stated many times - the current fundamental and economic backdrops are not supportive of higher asset prices at current levels. However, while the market may advance due to the injections of liquidity into the financial system - it doesn't make it a "healthy" market. The outlook, and ultimately actions taken, by businesses are driven by demand for their products, goods and services. Unfortunately the Fed's bond buying program does not impact these core issues.
A new monetary era has began in the West. Its consequences will probably be very different in the United States and Europe. However, one way or the other, investors now operate under a regime of central bank asset price targeting. Everything we know about investors’ traditional reflexes and all historical points of reference are potentially invalid.