Bulgaria speaks up in the euro fiasco. A balanced budget, growth, and an income tax rate of 10%?
So the end stage of neoliberalism threatens a Dark Age of poverty/immiseration – most characteristically, one of debt peonage. ~ Michael Hudson
Time to panic? Or heading to the next whisky bar? Question is now what next? Somehow, we’ve been here before, but since then we had LTRO1, LTRO2, a (bank) bail-out, lots of European haggling and bickering… Hot Summer.
With IBEX down 6%, 10Y yields over 7.30%, 10Y spread over 610bps, and EURJPY at 12 year lows; the hits just keep coming...
- EWP: Egan-jones cuts Spain sovereign rating to CC+ from CCC+
- Spain Won't Grow Until 2014 as Eurozone Agrees Bank Bailout
- *SPAIN BAD BANK MAY INCLUDE NON REAL-ESTATE DETERIORATED ASSETS
- *SPAIN BAD BANK TO APPLY `REAL LONG-TERM' ECONOMIC VALUATIONS
- *SPAIN TO MAKE ROADMAP BY END-NOV FOR LISTING OF RESCUED LENDERS
- *SPAIN'S LOAN-LOSS PROVISIONING FRAMEWORK TO BE REASSESSED (will we see the same in the US?)
Consumers are paying an easy $35 dollars per barrel over what they would otherwise dole out for a barrel of oil if fund managers didn`t use the benchmark futures contracts as their own personal ATMs.
With Corn hitting its highs again, we are reminded that global food production has been hitting constraints as rising populations and changing diets hit against flattening productivity, water and fertility constraints, and the likely early effects of climate change. As was described in the recent all-encompassing theory of global-collapse, there is general agreement that one of the contributing factors to the rolling revolutions beginning at the end of 2010 was increasing food prices eating into already strained incomes. It is unclear how much impact easing has had on food prices this time, weather has very much made its presence felt (as we noted here). From one omnipotent force (central bankers) to another (hand of god), the fear is that more broadly, food is likely to be a more persistent problem than oil supply. This is because we require almost continual replenishment of food to stay alive and avoid severe social and behavioral stress - food is the most inelastic part of consumption. This says nothing of the pernicious inflationary impact that will likely quell the kind of free-flowing printing so many hope to see from China et al.
For investors, the continued increases in profitability, at the expense of wages, is very finite. It is revenue that matters in the long term - without subsequent increases at the top line; bottom line profitability is severely at risk. The stock market is not cheap, especially in an environment where interest rates are artificially suppressed and earnings are inflated due to "accounting magic." This increases the risk of a significant market correction particularly with a market driven by "hopes" of further central bank interventions. This reeks of a risky environment, which can remain irrational longer than expected, that will eventually revert when expectations and reality collide.
In the U.S. economy, the driplines are debt-based spending and leverage. Thanks to endless intervention and manipulation, the economy is now totally dependent on massive debt-based spending and increased leverage for its "growth." The person or business that becomes dependent on welfare loses resiliency and resourcefulness. To the degree that economies become dependent on debt and leverage just like individuals and companies become dependent on welfare, entire economies lose their resilience and resourcefulness. A healthy forest offers another apt analogy. A healthy temperate-region forest depends on occasional forest fires to clear out deadwood and refertilize the depleted soil with ashes. In suppressing all fires--what we might call "stress" and feedback-- management virtually guaranteed that when the forest was eventually set ablaze by a random lightning strike, the resulting fire would be catastrophic because the deadwood had been allowed to pile far higher than Nature would have allowed. The "managers" of the economy have let a couple hundred billion dollars in bad debt burn, and they think the $15 trillion economy is now restored to health. Writing off a couple hundred billion is like letting a few acres of grassland around the parking lot burn and reckoning you've cleared the entire forest of deadwood. The buildup of deadwood--fraud, impaired debt, leverage, bogus accounting, malinvestments, promises that cannot possibly be met and the multiple pathologies of crony capitalism--continues apace, untouched by Federal Reserve intervention. Masking risk and suppressing feedback do not restore resiliency or vitality; they cripple the system's ability to respond to reality.
China has proposed to broaden trading of precious metals in its local market in order to help China become a "major gold trading centre" (see News). The Wall Street Journal was briefed about China's plans by "a person involved with the matter." The paper reports that "the move could increase liquidity and help Beijing gain stronger pricing power for key commodities like gold". China is the largest consumer and now the largest producer of gold in the world and has aspirations to become a major gold trading center on a par with London and New York. China is also the fifth largest holder of gold reserves in the world after the U.S., Germany, France, Italy. Chinese officials have spoken of China’s aspirations to have gold reserves as large as the U.S. in order to help position the yuan or renminbi as a global reserve currency. Indeed, it would be only natural for China to aspire to have their currency become the global reserve currency in the long term. In the longer term, being a major gold trading center would make China a more powerful financial and economic player and indeed could allow them to influence commodity and other important market prices. Indeed, Reuters reported that becoming a major gold trading center "would boost the country's clout in setting global prices".
As Messers Frank and Paul take on the Bernank this morning, we reflect on the four easing options that the illustrious fed-head laid out in a statement-of-the-obvious that still managed to get the algos ripping. As Goldman notes, his prepared remarks were terse (and lacking in 'easing options' discussion) - cautious on his outlook, concerned at Europe, and fearful of the 'fiscal cliff' - but his response in the Q&A were a little more revealing as he laid out his choices: asset purchases, discount window lending programs, changes in communication about the likely path of rates or the Fed balance sheet, or a cut in the interest rate on excess reserves. We discuss each below but note, just as Goldman believes, that while we think that a modest easing step is a strong possibility at the August or September meeting, we suspect that a large move is more likely to come after the election or in early 2013 (and not before), barring a very rapid further deterioration in the already-cautious near term Fed economic outlook (which we assume implicitly brings the threat of deflation).
As we approach 'peak earnings reporting' in the next two weeks, a quick glance at the state of the 65 companies of the S&P 500 that have reported so far may be useful. In yet another miracle of modern-day accounting, and just when you thought there was no more fat to cut, staff to lay-off, or Capex to cut, 73% of companies reporting have surprised positively on EPS while 65% have surprised negatively on Revenues. Industrials stand out in the liberal sprinkling of accounting fairy dust with 100% of the firms having missed top-line while 88% beat bottom-line. Is it any wonder that unemployment is rising once again and CapEx is falling?
- Who Needs the Euro When You Can Pay With Deutsche Marks? (WSJ)
- Now it's personal and ad hominem: Is German Economist Exacerbating Euro Crisis? (Spiegel)
- Bernanke Outlines Range Of Options For Additional Easing (Bloomberg)
- Italy's Monti says serious worry Sicily region may default (Reuters)
- Libor ‘structurally flawed’, says Fed (FT)
- Some Firms Opt to Bring Manufacturing Back to U.S. (WSJ)
- ECB Signals Support for Easing Irish Debt Terms (WSJ)
- China’s Wen Warns Of Severe Job Outlook As Growth Yet To Return (Bloomberg)
- Hollande scraps tax breaks on overtime (WSJ)
- China’s June Home Prices Rebound As Sentiment Improves (Bloomberg)
During an economic boom, exuberance finds itself lodged in all types of industries. When profits soar, so does the public’s disregard for prudence. And as tax revenues rise, politicians can’t help but give in to their bread and butter of buying votes. In the case of a credit-expansion boom fueled primarily by fractional reserve banking and interest rate manipulation through a central bank, the boom conditions are destined toward bust. Liquidation then becomes necessary as the bust gets underway and malinvestments come to light. What the city of Scranton has in common with San Bernardino, Detroit, et al. is that its dire fiscal condition is due to one thing and one thing only: benefits promised to unionized workers, and, it appears, "the salad days of the government employee are coming to an end, as they have already in Greece, Italy and Spain." To those sick and tired of the tax-eater mentality that is destroying the very core of society’s productive capacity and moral base, those days can’t come soon enough.
Since the financial crisis hit and exposed the reality of a credit-fueled economic growth strategy, Americans have tried to maintain any kind of quality of life. With the HELOC ATM empty, they switched to Credit Cards and once limits were full, there was only one place left - their retirement plans. As the LA Times reports today, Americans are borrowing huge amounts of money from their 401(k) retirement plans - and then having big trouble paying off their debt. Stunningly, in recent years 20% to 28% of people eligible to borrow from their 401(k) accounts have an outstanding loan at any given time, the Navigant Economics study said, having borrowed a collective $105 billion from their 401(k) accounts as of 2009 - and likely considerably more since. Estimating the 'leakage' from these retirement funds, they see loan-loss rates typically double that of the average unemployment and estimate up to $37 billion of loan defaults per year. In the 12 months through May 2012, they estimate the 401(k) default rate hit 17.4% - more than double its pre-crisis average and only marginally lower than its peak in 2009. As they note, many people use the money to pay off other debt or to meet day-to-day expenses, and "Of course, participants are not deliberately defaulting," the study said. "They only do so when they have no other option." As unemployment rates look set to rise, one can only imagine that these 401(k) loan losses, based on their study, are set to rise significantly.
Ben Bernanke will deliver the semiannual report on monetary policy to the Senate Banking Committee Tuesday. The market is hoping and praying that the Chairsatan will make it rain. He won't. In fact, as explained earlier, it is likely that Ben will say absolutely nothing of significance today and in a world in which only the H.4.1 matters, this is not going to be taken well by the market. Of course, if Benny does crack and promises to push the S&P to 1450 just in time for the re-election, all bets are off.