Guest Post: This Is What Crisis Feels Like

On December 1, 2001, Argentina’s economy was in trouble. Unemployment was high, debt was high, and recession had taken hold. But life was somewhat ‘normal’. Basic services still functioned. And no one had to really worry about... food. Or water. Then it all changed. Literally within a day...

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Paul Fisher Head of Markets at the Bank of England told the economic worriers of the UK that the BoE would not pull the stoppers out on the economic stimulus plan in the UK and that the “macroeconomic outlook here is not as bright as in the US, therefore we are some way behind them in terms of return to anything like trend growth”. Has Mr. Fisher been to the US recently?

Dear Primary Dealer: Please Tell The Fed What To Do

It may come as news to some, but the Fed really has no idea what it is doing (no, really - just read "Fed Confused Reality Doesn't Conform To Its Economic Models, Shocked Its Models Predict "Explosive Inflation" if you don't believe us ). After all, there is a reason for the saying "we are in uncharted waters." Which is why, to help it in its monetary decision-making, every few months, the Fed issues a survey to the 21 Primary Dealers (used to be 22 but MF Global showed that often the PDs also have no idea what they are doing) asking for their feedback on when it should tighten, how big it's balance sheet should be, how big monthly POMO should be, what the Fed Funds target range "may" be, where the GDP and unemployment rate will be, what the likelihood of the 10 Year soaring to 4% by the end of 2014 is, and other pertinent questions that frame the "independent" thinking of the Fed.

Wednesday The New Tuesday As Overnight Equity Ramp Returns?

Wednesday may be the new Tuesday (which halted its relentless and statistically impossible streak of 20 out of 20 up DJIA days last week), if only in terms of the overnight no news stock futures ramp, which today is back with a vengeance. In a session that was devoid of any news, the e-Mini is up enough to practically erase all of yesterday's losses. Whether this is due to a relatively calm Nikkei trading session, to no further surge (or collapse) in the USDJPY, or to the 10 Year trading flat inside 2.20% is unclear. What is clear is that the bipolar market swings from extreme to extreme on speculation about the largely irrelevant topic of whether the Fed will taper (because if it does, it will be very promptly followed by an untapering once risk assets around the world implode.)

Is The Eurozone Crisis Set To Flare Up?

The lack of a centralized constitutional and monetary union has led to several years of inaction in the process of unification of the Euro-zone.  While it was a "grand experiement" to run the Euro-zone under a single currency the underlying structure to make it effective long term was never achieved. There are currently many promises that have been made to the financial system by the ECB.  The question is whether or not they can ultimately "cash the check." While we do not have certain answers as to the where, the who or the when - we are fairly confident that it will be sooner than many currently imagine. We do believe that the ECB will be able to skirt by the ratification of the ESM this coming week and get some limited funding into place, however, we still believe the bigger problem comes at the end of summer when the German voters begin to voice their concerns - after all it is their money that is being wasted.

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  • S&P Revises U.S. Credit Outlook To "Stable" From Negative
  • Fed's Bullard Details How QE Can Be Cut
  • Fed Retreat From Bond Buying Expected By Fourth Quarter - Poll
  • U.S., Japan Leading Recovery In Major Economies - OECD

Guest Post: Social Security: The New Deal’s Fiscal Ponzi

The New Deal social insurance philosophers thus struck a Faustian bargain... To get government funded pensions and unemployment benefits for the most needy, they eschewed a means test and, instead, agreed to generous wage replacement on a universal basis. To fund the massive cost of these universal benefits they agreed to a regressive payroll tax by disguising it as an insurance premium. Yet the long run results could not have been more perverse. The payroll tax has become an anti-jobs monster, but under the banner of a universal entitlement organized labor tenaciously defends what should be its nemesis. The puzzling thing is that 75 years later - with all the terrible facts fully known - the doctrinaire conviction abides on the Left that social insurance is the New Deal’s crowning achievement. In fact, it is its costliest mistake.

The Death Of Humanities Majors

"People say you should do what you love," but in the new normal reality, it appears - based on the flagging applications at Harvard's humanities division - that oft-used phrase has been appended with, "but, I don't want to be doing what I love and be homeless." As The WSJ reports, among recent college graduates who majored in English, the unemployment rate was 9.8%; for philosophy and religious-studies majors, it was 9.5%; and for history majors, it was also 9.5%. By comparison, recent chemistry graduates were unemployed at a rate of just 5.8%; and elementary-education graduates were at 5%. Students have taken note. At Harvard, humanities majors have fallen to 20% in 2012 from 36% in 1954. School presidents and administrators at liberal-arts colleges have already started to take a more job-oriented approach to a liberal-arts education, but face an uphill battle in the wake of stepped-up global economic competition, a job market that is disproportionately rewarding graduates in the hard sciences, rising tuition and sky-high student-debt levels.


Key Events And Market Issues In The Coming Week

Currency markets are anticipating the conclusion of the BOJ meeting on Tuesday. No changes are expected to the current policy scheme and asset purchase targets, but it is likely that the committee will introduce measures to try to stem JGB volatility.  Based on their recent record, it is unlikely they will succeed. Later in the week, the focal point will shift to the US where the monthly Treasury statement on Wednesday and retail sales data on Thursday will shed more light on how automatic federal spending cuts are affecting the broader economy.

Gas Prices, Consumption, And Why The Average American Is Being Left Behind

The summer driving season is upon us. For many, that means vacations, barbeques, and of course, higher gas prices. For 23 out of the last 35 years, gas prices have risen an average of 14.7% from one summer to the next, while 12 decline years have only averaged -8.1%. Prices tend to be highest in June for any given year, with some years’ prices spiking in late May or early July. Retail gasoline prices are at their highest levels since 1980, in real dollars. But as we have uncomfortably noted previously, Americans have not returned to pre-crisis consumption patterns yet, despite all the chatter of recovery. So far in 2013, in fact, we have consumed 14 million fewer gallons of motor gasoline than in 2012, and nearly 55 million less than we did at the peak in 2007. But, as ConvergEx's Nick Colas notes, we aren’t necessarily "cutting back", as this data suggests: the Consumer Expenditure Survey shows that Americans spent nearly $700 more on gas in 2011 as compared to 2010, the two latest data sets available. What does appear to happening, though, is that Americans are restructuring their spending as healthcare, lodging, and overall taxes take a larger chunk out of every paycheck. Another explanation is fewer commuters to buy gasoline based on a still-high unemployment rate. Basically, we’re not necessarily consuming less 'on purpose': we’re just adjusting to a "New Normal" way of spending. What the data shows is a disconnect between the life of the average worker and the energy market: we assume that strength in the latter goes hand-in-hand with strength in the former. Unfortunately, the average American is being left behind: they’re still struggling.

Guest Post: Employment - The Macro Trends

One thing is for certain -- the job market is very tight as layoffs and discharges have reached the lowest levels since the turn of the century.  While this is leading to lower initial jobless claims it is not translating into higher levels of full-time employment relative to the population. It is not surprising that with an economy that is mired at a near 2% economic growth rate that employment is "muddling" right along with it.  While the economy is indeed creating jobs, it is a function of population growth rather than a sign that the economy is on the road to recovery. What is clear is that current detachment between the financial markets and the real economy continues.

Greek GDP Plunges To Year 2000 Levels

That things in Greece are hopeless and getting worse is an understatement. With unemployment levels off the charts, the pension and retirement systems effectively gone and every able-bodied individual (what little remains of them) moving to the shadow economy which now accounts for 24% of GDP, there are few incentives for people to remain on payrolls, pay taxes and otherwise grow the economy via conventional channels. As a result, instead of an improvement in the economy despite all Greek foreign debt now having been forgiven courtesy of its recent conversion to perpetual Zero Coupons, not even during the depths of the recent economic collapse in late 2011 and early 2012 has the economic collapse been as bad. Kathimerini reports that figures released by ELSTAT on Friday showed GDP at 37.7 billion euros in the period from January to March 2013 – the lowest quarterly GDP since 2000.