If one looks at various sovereign states, it seemingly doesn't matter that their public debts continue to rise at a hefty clip. The largest ones are considered to have economies that are big and resilient enough to be able to support the growing debt load. Part of the calculus is no doubt the notion that they contain enough accumulated wealth to allow their governments to confiscate even more of their citizens property and income in order to make good on their debts. Then there are the small and mid-sized states in the EU that are getting bailed out by their larger brethren, or rather, the tax payers of their larger brethren. However, things are different when the territories or municipalities concerned are considered too small and have no such back-up. Detroit was a recent case in point, and it seems that the US territory of Puerto Rico is the next domino to fall.
David Stockman, author of The Great Deformation, summarizes the last quarter century thus: What has been growing is the wealth of the rich, the remit of the state, the girth of Wall Street, the debt burden of the people, the prosperity of the beltway and the sway of the three great branches of government - that is, the warfare state, the welfare state and the central bank...
What is flailing is the vast expanse of the Main Street economy where the great majority have experienced stagnant living standards, rising job insecurity, failure to accumulate material savings, rapidly approach old age and the certainty of a Hobbesian future where, inexorably, taxes will rise and social benefits will be cut...
He calls this condition "Sundown in America".
The standard wisdom on gold is that it does well in times of economic bad news such as in the 1970s, a period of stagflation and recessions, when the yellow metal rose from $35/oz to peak at $850/oz in 1980. But this time, Don Coxe, a portfolio adviser to BMO Asset Management, believes, things are different. In this interview with The Gold Report, Coxe explains why gold will rise when the economy improves.
A week ago, we first reported that Bridgewater's Ray Dalio had finally thrown in the towel on his latest iteration of hope in the "Beautiful deleveraging", and realizing that a 3% yield is enough to grind the US economy to a halt, moved from the pro-inflation camp (someone tell David Rosenberg) back to buying bonds (i.e., deflation). This was music to Bill Gross' ears who in his latest letter, in which he notes in addition to everything else that while the Fed has to taper eventually, it doesn't actually ever have to raise rates, and writes: "The objective, Dalio writes, is to achieve a “beautiful deleveraging,” which assumes minimal defaults and an eventual return of investors’ willingness to take risk again. The beautiful deleveraging of course takes place at the expense of private market savers via financially repressed interest rates, but what the heck. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and if the Fed’s (and Dalio’s) objective is to grow normally again, then there is likely no more beautiful or deleveraging solution than one that is accomplished via abnormally low interest rates for a long, long time." How long one may ask? "the last time the U.S. economy was this highly levered (early 1940s) it took over 25 years of 10-year Treasury rates averaging 3% less than nominal GDP to accomplish a “beautiful deleveraging.” That would place the 10-year Treasury at close to 1% and the policy rate at 25 basis points until sometime around 2035!" In the early 1940s there was also a world war, but the bottom line is clear: lots and lots of central planning for a long time.
A few years back Chairman Bernanke was asked by a financial reporter how confident he was that the Fed could easily start the process of withdrawing from the accommodation of “unorthodox” monetary policy. Some might argue (ourselves included) that the answer 'should' be something like “very confident” or “We feel we have the right tools and the right people to manage that process”. Instead the answer given was “100%”. At last week's press conference, Chairman Bernanke, in CitiFX Technicals' view, looked like the “cat that got the cheese", despite the more downbeat message he was giving? Why? Because he got his way. In their “conspiracy theory” interpretation it is likely that Janet Yellen’s nomination will indeed be announced in the near future and that tapering is now firmly back off the table despite the guidance given in recent months to the contrary. Bonds seem to agree (so far).
The end. The dollar collapsing into zero interest is like a spacecraft crashing into a black hole. The singularity's pull is irresistable.
Are you ready for Janet Yellen? Wall Street wants her, the mainstream media wants her and it appears that her confirmation would be a slam dunk. She would be the first woman ever to chair the Federal Reserve, and her philosophy is that a little bit of inflation is actually good for an economy. She was reportedly the architect for many of the unprecedented monetary decisions that Ben Bernanke made during his tenure, and that has many on Wall Street and in the media very excited. Noting that we "already know that Yellen is on board with Bernanke's easy money policies", CNN recently even went so far as to publish a rabidly pro-Yellen article with this stunning headline: "Dear Mr. President: Name Yellen now!" But after watching what a disaster Bernanke has been, do we really want more of the same? It doesn't really matter whether she is a woman, a man, a giant lizard or a robot, the question is whether or not she is going to continue to take us down the path to ruin that Bernanke has taken us.
Yes, yes, only the Fed matters. Still, there was some event flow overnight which while completely meaningless for the epic liquidity bubble, may have some implications eventually when the music finally stops. In thie regard, perhaps the best summary of the the lunacy coming out of the Marriner Eccles building is the following sentence from Bloomberg: "Bernanke said he was concerned that market interest rates, driven higher by his own suggestion he would scale back QE, would curb growth." One can't make this up.
The day when the Fed will begin the unwind of its latest QE program (for the fourth time) has finally arrived (as has the day when an impeachment committee will vote whether to ban Berlusconi from public office, but understandably that is getting far less press). In a few short hours the answer to all those questions of whether and how much of the taper was priced in, will be revealed. But while the Taper discussions will dominate the airwaves, as they have for the past five months, there actually were some news in the world that had nothing to do with the US Politburo in charge of capital markets and the US economy, located in the Marriner Eccles building. Here is a brief summary.
While the only market moving event of note had nothing to do with the economy (as usual), and everything to do with the Fed's potential propensity to print even more dollars and inject even more reserves into the stock market (now that Summers the wrongly perceived "hawk" is out) some other notable events did take place in the Monday trading session. Of note: while India's August inflation soared far higher than the expected 5.7%, rising to 6.1% from 5.79% (making life for the RBI even more miserable, as it is fighting inflation on one hand, and a lack of liquidity on the other), in Europe inflation decelerated to 1.3% from 1.6% in July driven by a drop in energy prices, while core inflation was a tiny 1.1%. In a continent with record negative loan growth this is to be expected. Additionally, as also reported, Merkel appears to be positioned stronger ahead of this weekend's Federal election following stronger results for her CDU/CSU, if weaker for her broader coalition. In Libya, oil protesters said they would continue stoppages at oil terminals until their demands are met in yet another startling outcome for US foreign intervention. Finally, some headline on Syria noted a Kerry statement "will not tolerate avoidance of a Syria deal", while Lavrov observed that it may be time to "force Syria opposition to peace talks." And one quote of the day so far: "Don't want market to become excessively exuberant" from the ECB's Mersch- just modestly so?
To say that bonds are under pressure would be an understatement. Over the last few months, sentiment about fixed income has flipped dramatically: from a favored investment destination that is deemed to benefit from exceptional support from central banks, to an asset class experiencing large outflows, negative returns and reduced standing as an anchor of a well-diversified asset allocation. Similar to prior periods, history will regard the ongoing phase of dislocations in the bond market as a transitional period of adjustment triggered by changing expectations about policy, the economy and asset preferences – all of which have been significantly turbocharged by a set of temporary and ultimately reversible technical factors. By contrast, history is unlikely to record a change in the important role that fixed income plays over time in prudent asset allocations and diversified investment portfolios – in generating returns, reducing volatility and lowering the risk of severe capital loss. Understanding well what created this change is critical to how investors may think about the future.
Jitters from Syria still abound, as confirmed by reports from the Israeli army that two shells had hit the Southern Golan region. Despite the reports that the shelling appeared to be errant, WTI remains near session highs as markets remain sensitive ahead of the meeting between US Secretary of State Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov in Geneva over the next two days. Buying of the 10Y is also prevalent and the yield on the benchmark bond was has dropped below 2.90%, or at 2.88% at last check. Today's key economic news in the US session will be the weekly claims report, the Fed buying 10 Year bonds at 11 am followed by the Treasury selling 30 Year bonds at 1 pm (this follows the Fed buying 30 Year bond yesterday: yes ironic).
The conflict in Syria is very complex, given the country’s diverse ethnic mix and the influence of foreign powers. This implies a high risk of a further dramatic escalation of the conflict, with negative spillovers into the broader region. Short term, UBS notes that the response of the Assad regime to a potential military strike will be crucial, while a key question for the medium term will be whether state structures can be preserved in Syria, so that contagious chaos can be avoided. UBS sees the impact on the international economy comes mainly via risk appetite and oil prices. Should the conflict be contained, the global economic fallout should be limited. However, the worst-case scenario of a regional spread of hostilities, involving Iran, Israel or the GCC, would be a lot more damaging.
If ever there was an investor reaction that summed up just how much the Federal Reserve has broken the markets it was yesterday morning's post-dismal-jobs-report surge. As John Phelan notes, we now appear to be in a position where the interests of financial markets are precisely at odds with the interests of the rest of the economy; where the good news for us is bad news for them and bad news for us is good news for them. The one way bet of the Greenspan Put maintained, so far, by Ben Bernanke, has created a market of monetary-punch-drunk liquidityholics. On its 100th birthday the Federal Reserve has the tricky task of sneaking the punch bowl out of the party, a task it seems they’ll struggle to manage without starting a riot. They may have printed themselves into a corner.
Ahead of tomorrow's all-important facade of the NFP print, US equity markets traded on very low volume in the 2nd narrowest range in 6 months. Sectors were a litte more disprsed with rate-sensitive names hurt and Utes underperforming. The real story of the day was the "Taper-On" trades in Treasuries, precious metals, and the USD. The belly of the Treasury curve smashed another 10-11bps higher (now up 21bps from Friday's pre-Obama speech) as the 10Y trod water at 2.98% from the European close only to jump up to 2.99% into the close. As we crossed the US open, gold and silver were summarily punched lower, down 1-2% on the week as the USD surged following Draghi's chatter and better macro data this morning. Credit markets were decidely more nervous going into the close than stocks. Gold and the S&P 500 are now exactly equal with each other and unchanged from the 6/18 FOMC "Taper" moment (and Silver is up 7%).