Japan growth cut in half, Europe growth cut by more than half, but none of that matters: today it will be all about the coronation of QEeen Yellen, who testifies before the Senate Banking Committee at 10am. Not even Japanese finance minister Aso's return to outright currency intervention warnings (in addition to the BOJ's QE monetary base dilution), when he said that Japan must always be ready to send signal to markets to curb excessive and one sided FX moves and it is important that Japan has intervention as FX policy option, which sent the USDJPY back up to 100 for the first time since September 11 made much of an impact on futures trading which after surging early in the session following the release of Yellen's prepared remarks, have now "tapered" virtually all gains. Certainly, the follow up from Europe doing the same and also warning it too may engage in QE, has been lost. Which is odd considering the entire developed world is now on the verge of engaging in the most furious open monetization of virtually everything in history.
Following the second quarter 0.3% rise in Eurozone GDP, which ended a multi year European recession (and who can possibly forget all those "strong" PMI numbers that helped launch a thousand clickbait slideshows), the proclamations for an imminent European golden age came hot and heavy. This was before the imploding European inflation print was announced and certainly before the ECB had no choice but to cut rates and even hint at QE, shattering all hopes of European growth. And just over an hour ago, the latest validation that just as we expected Europe is on the verge of a triple dip recession, came out of Eurostat (which may or may not get back to the issue of Spanish data integrity eventually), which reported that just like in Japan, the sequential growth rate in Europe is once again not only stalling but was dangerously close to once again contracting in the third quarter when it printed by the smallest possible positive quantum of 0.1%.
Last month’s US government shutdown – the result of a partisan standoff in congressional budget negotiations – epitomizes the polarization that prevails in modern economic-policy debates. In developed countries, many advocate a greater role for the state, in order to ensure that promised social benefits are delivered to rapidly aging populations. But relegating free-market principles to the past would simply create a new set of imbalances.
Just as the market was expecting, and may have been leaked once again, Janet didn't let anyone down. Today's exuberance in stocks matched only by confirmation that Janet Yellen has gained her helicopter pilot's license and is ready to take over the reigns of printer-in-chief from Bernanke. Key extracts: "Unemployment is down from a peak of 10 percent, but at 7.3 percent in October, it is still too high, reflecting a labor market and economy performing far short of their potential... I believe the Federal Reserve has made significant progress toward its goals but has more work to do." In short: Get to work Mr. Chairwoman, and allow Congress to keep doing more of what they have been doing under the Fed's central planning: nothing.
As DB notes, it appears that markets continue to steadily price in a greater probability of a December taper judging by the 2bp increase in 10yr UST yields, 1.2% drop in the gold price and an edging up in the USD crosses yesterday. Indeed, the Atlanta Fed’s Lockhart, who is considered a bellwether within the Fed, kept the possibility of a December tapering open in public comments yesterday. But his other comments were quite dovish, particularly when he said that he wants to see inflation accelerate toward 2% before reducing asset purchases to give him confidence that the US economy was not dealing with a “downside scenario”. Lockhart stressed that any decision by the Fed on QE would be data dependent - so his comments that the government shutdown will make coming data "less reliable" than might otherwise have been, until at least December, were also quite telling. The dovish sentiments were echoed by Kocherlakota, a FOMC voter next year. In other words, an Oscar-worthy good-cop/bad-cop performance by the Fed's henchmen, confusing algotrons for the second day in a row.
For many in the US, as WSJ reports based on the bifurcated 'recovery' in the US, the recession never ended, "we're still in it... it feels like like we're still in it and it's getting worse." Simply out, America's jobs recovery is proceeding on two separate tracks - a pattern that is persisting far longer than after past economic rebounds and lately has been growing worse. For those with decent jobs, wages are rising, albeit slowly, and job security is the strongest it has been since before the recession. But many others - the young, the less educated and particularly the unemployed - are experiencing hardly any recovery at all. As we have vociferously explained, hiring remains weak, and the jobs that are available are disproportionately low-paying and often part-time.
As we have pointed out previously, in the context of corporations that have given up on growing the top line (as virtually all free cash goes into stock buybacks and dividends and none into growth capex), and in pursuit of a rising bottom line, employee wages are the one variable cost that corporations will touch last of all. But what's worse, these same unionized employees have zero negotiating leverage. Perhaps nowhere is this more visible than in the recent strategy of smoothie retailer Jamba Juice, which in order to battle a 4% drop in Q3 same store sales has decided to radically transform its entire retailing strategy by getting rid of labor, cheap, part-time or otherwise, altogether. Presenting the biggest threat to minimum-wage restaurant workers everywhere: the JambaGo self-serve machine that just made the vast majority of Jamba's employees obsolete. Coming soon to a fast-food retailer near you.
I am a Central Banker
With Ben Bernanke's tenure closing, many financial TV pundits delight in touting the stellar performance of Ben Bernanke as Federal Reserve Chairman with just a couple months left in his term. Before the re-writers of history begin spinning performance, we thought why not compare Mr. Bernanke against all the other Federal Reserve Chairman to determine which Chairman deserves recognition. Bernanke's overall score across all factors was the lowest (let the spin begin counterfactualists). The data suggests that Mr. Bernanke ranks last in performance between the two mandates since 1948. Quite an accomplishment considering what events transpired during the last 60+ years; Korea & Vietnam, Oil Shock, high interest rates, etc...
The EU may have many worries and woes that are slapping it around its face right now (and it could be said for a number of years), but there is one thing that is worrying economists more than the sovereign-debt crisis and that’s the fact that prices are not increasing enough.
If you have not already, it is time to modify your UST trading strategy to adapt to current market conditions. Buyer beware...
Did you know that there are more than 102 million working age Americans that do not have a job? Right now, there are more than 11 million Americans that are considered to be "officially unemployed", and there are more than 91 million Americans that are not employed and that are considered to be "not in the labor force". When you add those two numbers together, the total is more than 102 million. Overall, the number of working age Americans that do not have a job has increased by about 27 million since the year 2000. But aren't things getting better? After all, the mainstream media is full of headlines about how "good" the jobs numbers for October were. Sadly, the truth is that the mainstream media is not being straight with the American people. As you will see below, we are in the midst of a long-term unemployment crisis in America, and things got even worse last month.
The latest myth of a European recovery came crashing down two weeks ago when Eurostat reported an inflation print of 0.7% (putting Europe's official inflation below that of Japan's 1.1%), followed promptly by a surprise rate cut by Mario Draghi which achieves nothing but sends a message that the ECB is, impotently, watching the collapse in European inflation and loan creation coupled by an ongoing rise in unemployment to record levels (not to mention the record prints in the amount of peripheral bad debt). Needless to say, all of this is largely aggravated by the EURUSD which until a week ago was trading at a two year high against the dollar, and while helpful for Germany, makes the so-needed external rebelancing of the peripheral Eurozone countries next to impossible. Which means that like it or not, and certainly as long as hawkish Germany says "nein", Draghi is stuck in a corner when it comes to truly decisive inflation-boosting actions. But what is Draghi to do? Well, according to BNP's Paul-Mortimer Lee, it should join the "no holds barred" monetary "policy" of the Fed and the BOJ, and promptly resume a €50 billion per month QE.
One of the mysteries surrounding the insolvent, and already once bailed out Spanish banking sector, has been the question why reported bad loans - sharply rising as they may be - are still as relatively low as they are currently, considering the nation's near highest in the Eurozone unemployment rate, and in comparison to such even more insolvent European nations as Greece, Cyprus and Slovenia. Courtesy of the just completed bank earnings season, and a WSJ report, we now know why: it turns out that for the past several years, instead of accurately designating non-performing loans, banks would constantly "refinance" bad loans making them appear viable even though banks have known full well there would be zero recoveries on those loans. In fact, as the story below describes, banks would even go so far as making additional loans whose proceeds would be just to pay interest on the existing NPLs - a morbid debt pyramid scheme, which when it collapses, no amount of EFSF, ESM or any other acronym-based bailout, will be able to make the country's irreparably damaged banks appear even remotely viable.
While the noise and seasonality of the various measures of employment (or lack thereof) in the US make interpretation nigh on impossible (for all but the most linear extrapolators), many strategists recognize that their is a correlated (if not causative) relationship between the rate of unemployment and the S&P 500. However, as Bloomberg's Chase Van Der Rhoer notes, using the unemployment rate to predict the S&P 500 Index may be an oversimplification, but doing so yields surprisingly robust results and suggests the index is overvalued to the tune of 150 points.