In the past several years, one of the topics covered in detail on these pages has been the surge in such gimmicks designed to disguise lack of demand and end customer sales, used extensively by US automotive manufacturers, better known as "channel stuffing", of which General Motors is particularly guilty and whose inventory at dealer lots just hit a new record high. But did you know that when it comes to flat or declining sales and stagnant end demand, channel stuffing is merely the beginning? Presenting... Where the World's Unsold Cars Go To Die
Over a third of the global population is now overweight, and the percentages are increasing. Some neuroscientists have suggested that the rise of so-called "hyperpalatable foods" may partially explain the unprecedented rates of obesity.
This week markets are likely to focus on a few important data prints in DMs, including Philly Fed in the US (expect solid expansionary territory) and 1Q GDP releases in the Euro area (with upside risks). In DMs, the highlights of the week include [on Monday] Japan’s trade balance data and Australia business conditions; [on Tuesday] US retail sales, CPI in Italy and Sweden; [on Wednesday] US PPI, Euro area IP, CPI in France, Germany and Spain; [on Thursday] US Philly Fed, CPI, capacity utilization, Euro area and Japan GDP; and [on Friday] US Univ. of Michigan Confidence. In the US, we expect Philly Fed to print in solidly expansionary territory (at 14, similar to consensus) and to inaugurate what we call the active data period of the month. We also expect CPI inflation to print at 0.3% mom (similar to consensus), and core CPI inflation at 0.18% mom (slightly above consensus).
- Alibaba files for what may be biggest tech IPO (Reuters)
- Early Tap of 401(k) Replaces Homes as American Piggy Bank (BBG)
- Developers Turn Former Office Buildings Into High-End Apartments (WSJ)
- Thai court orders Yingluck Shinawatra to step down as PM (Guardian)
- German industry orders fell 2.8% in March, the biggest drop in one and a half years (RTE)
- Ukraine Bulls Scatter as Death Toll Mounts (BBG)
- China Property Slump Adds Danger to Local Finances (BBG)
- Stein Says Fed May See Bouts of Volatility as It Approaches Exit (BBG)
This week, markets are likely to focus on US ISM Nonmanufacturing, services and composite PMIs in the Euro area (expect increases), ECB’s Monetary Policy Decision (expect no change in policy until further ahead), and Congressional testimony by Fed’s Yellen.
The clip below explains that in response to Russia no longer following the globalist playbook, NATO has tripled its air policing mission assets guarding the skies over the Baltic region. In the video: Danish fighter jets land in Estonia, while Poland and the United Kingdom take over guarding the skies in Lithuania, tripling the NATO air policing mission strength in the Baltic region.
Whoever is looking for the flashpoint, that lethal moment when the war of words and diplomatic lies turns into full-blown physical conflict between the East and the West, they will find it relatively soon if we are to believe the markets and how they are reacting this morning.
The coming week will be busy in terms of data releases in the US; highlights include an improvement in consumer confidence, anemic 1Q GDP growth, and solid non-farm payrolls (consensus expects 215K). Wednesday brings advanced 1Q GDP - consensus expected a pathetic 1.1% qoq, on the back of what Goldman scapegoats as "weather distortions and an inventory investment drag", personal consumption (consensus 1.9%), and FOMC (the meeting is not associated with economic projections or a press conference). Thursday brings PCE Core (consensus 0.20%). Friday brings non-farm payrolls (consensus of 215K) and unemployment (6.6%). Other indicators for the week include pending home sales, S&P/Case Shiller home price index, Chicago PMI, ADP employment, personal income/spending, and hourly earnings.
While the news that Pfizer has been sniffing around AstraZeneca has been around for a while, it is the confirmation this morning from Pfizer that it is considering a cash and stock offer for AZN that has been the catalyst to push futures off their early trading levels, on yet another instance of the Pharma M&A bubble which we have been chronicling here in recent weeks. Needless to say, a Pfizer-AstraZeneca combination valued at roughly $100 billion would create the largest healthcare company by revenue and likely serve as the pharma bubble "peak "indicator very much like the Blackstone IPO marked the financial top in 2007.
The US State Department announced the launch of its third annual "Free the Press" campaign today, which will purportedly highlight "journalists or media outlets that are censored, attacked, threatened, or otherwise oppressed because of their reporting." A noble mission for sure. But maybe they should kick off the campaign by criticizing their own Justice Department, which on the very same day, has asked the Supreme Court to help them force Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times reporter James Risen into jail.
Distilling an economy's success in delivering "prosperity" to a single number has outlived its purpose. Political authorities knew exactly what was happening: they realized that their own credibility could be boosted by a rigged GDP number. Thus we have the central government of China issuing blatantly bogus claims of 7+% annual GDP, as anything less will severely erode their claim of managerial brilliance. In our own propaganda-dependent state, GDP is almost always positive, much like corporate earnings always beat expectations by a penny. But we should be paying attention to an even deeper critique of GDP: that prosperity no longer depends of the "growth" of consumption, financialization, etc. but on the Degrowth of narcissistic consumerism and more efficient use of resources and capital.
Having warned just 6 weeks ago that high-yield credit and small high-tech firms may be in a bubble, Fed Governor Tarullo, ironically speaking at the Hyman Minsky Financial Instability Conference, suggested that the recuction in share of national income for "workers" (i.e. income inequality) is troubling. Furthermore, he added, "changes reflect serious challenges not only to the functioning of the American economy over the coming decades, but also to some of the ideals that undergird the nation's democratic heritage." His speech, below, adds that since there has been only slow growth so far, expectations for a growth spurt are misplaced and that the Fed-policy-driven recovery has "benefited high-earners disproportionately."
- Russia's Gazprom says Ukraine did not pay for gas on time (Reuters)
- Ukraine Moves to Keep Control in East (BBG)
- Banks Set to Report Lower Earnings as Debt Trading Slumps (BBG)
- More DeGeners and Obama selfies needed: Samsung's lower first-quarter estimate highlights smartphone challenges (Reuters)
- Citi Is Bracing to Miss a Profit Target (WSJ)
- Another slam from GM? Safety group calls for U.S. probe of Chevy Impala air bags (Reuters)
- Japan drugmaker Takeda to fight $6 billion damages imposed by U.S. jury (Reuters)
- EU court rules against requirement to keep data of telecom users (Reuters)
- White House may ban selfies with president after Ortiz-Obama photo promotes Samsung (Syracuse)
There is a reasonably quiet start to the week before we head into the highlights of the week including the start of US reporting season tomorrow, FOMC minutes on Wednesday and IMF meetings in Washington on Friday. On the schedule for today central bank officials from the ECB including Mersch, Weidmann and Constancio will be speaking. The Fed’s Bullard speaks today, and no doubt there will be interest in his comments from last week suggesting that the Fed will hike rates in early 2015.
It appears the U.S. government is doing its best to ensure that nobody anywhere in any corner of planet earth will ever trust American technology again (or U.S. aid for that matter). This process of distrust first really got going with the Edward Snowden revelations, which demonstrated that essentially all major U.S. tech firms are mere wards of the state with little to no privacy protections, and absolutely zero backbone. This story of the U.S. government covertly creating a “Cuban Twitter” called ZunZuneo in order to overthrow the regime there has enormous long-term ramifications on many, many levels, which we will address below...