Last week, we presented an equity "valuation" analysis based on Austrian economics, which concluded that the only thing that matters for the economy and for asset prices in general, is the amount of credit money moving one way or another at the margin, ie how active global central banker printers are. Unfortunately, in this economy of record correlations, and in which alpha creation is now impossible, this may well be the only approach to capital markets that works any more. Today, Tradition Analytics takes this analysis from the micro the macro level, explaining why the US, and global, economy is now like a shark - cash has to move (inward) or else the economy will suffocate. Naturally, nothing could make Bernanke happy- according to Tradition, "To sustain the up-cycle banks will have to pump out net new credit probably in the order of about $1 trillion in the coming 8-10 months, even larger than the $700 billion pumped out in the previous 8-10 months." Alas there is a problem with this, very much along the lines of what we discussed last week, which is that the new crude baseline is now a triple digit number, not one in the $30s or even $60s: "it is going to be difficult to sustain this level of credit expansion, not only due to the sheer gravity of the inflation problem that would follow, but also simply due to the fact that it is always increasingly difficult to extend more credit at the margin, and this time into an economy that is already steeped in credit."
UPDATE: And then Dallas Fed manufacturing misses (at -3.0 vs +4.8 expectations) as expectations for future finished goods plunge as do current inventories.
As if we needed yet further evidence of the dichotomous macro data that seems to provide as much bearish fodder as bullish decoupling confidence, today sees a near-record two-month jump in conference board confidence at the same time as S&P/Case-Shiller prints at a seasonally-adjusted 103 month low. With the Richmond Fed also missing expectations (though positive), we remain in the miasma of CONfidence uninspiring macro data as the underlying sub-indices of the conference board data show little to no shift in purchasing decisions despite some seemingly incredulous ramp in confidence that incomes will rise more than they decline in the next six months.
America Maxes Out Its Credit Card Again - Treasury To Raise Debt Limit By Another $1.2 Trillion On December 30Submitted by Tyler Durden on 12/27/2011 - 11:22
You didn't think US consumer confidence could be bought for free now did you?
- U.S. TREASURY SAYS DEBT LIMIT TO BE RAISED BY $1.2 TRILLION
- U.S. DEBT TO BE $100 BLN WITHIN LIMIT ON DEC. 30, TREASURY SAYS
- STEPS FOR INCREASING DEBT LIMIT UNDER 2011 BUDGET CONTROL ACT
And the piece de resistance that 100% debt to GDP brings:
- OBAMA ON DEC. 30 LIKELY TO ASK CONGRESS TO RAISE DEBT LIMIT
Just as we thought the circus was over if only for a few weeks. Also, this means that in a few days, the US debt ceiling will be raised from $15.194 trillion to $16.394 trillion. As a reminder, US GDP was just revised down to $15.176 trillion.
Readers often ask me to post something hopeful, and I understand why: doom-and-gloom gets tiresome. Human beings need hope just as they need oxygen, and the destruction of the Status Quo via over-reach and internal contradictions doesn't leave much to be happy about. The most hopeful thing in my mind is that the Status Quo is devolving from its internal contradictions and excesses. It is a perverse, intensely destructive system with horrific incentives for predation, exploitation, fraud and complicity and few disincentives. A more human world lies just beyond the edge of the Status Quo. I know many smart, well-informed people expect the worst once the Status Quo (the Savior State and its corporatocracy partners) devolves, and there is abundant evidence of the ugliness of human nature under duress. But we should temper this Id ugliness with the stronger impulses of community and compassion. If greed and rapaciousness were the dominant forces within human nature, then the species would have either died out at its own hand or been limited to small savage populations kept in check by the predation of neighboring groups, none of which could expand much because inner conflict would limit their ability to grow. The remarkable success of humanity as a species is not simply the result of a big brain, opposable thumbs, year-round sex, innovation or even language; it is also the result of social and cultural associations that act as a "network" for storing knowledge and good will--what we call technical and social capital.
Despite it being a holiday shortened week, and volume already abysmal, there still are some robotic kneejerk reaction inducing economic datapoints, both today and Thursday. Here is what the consensus expects today, even as US economic data is once again irrelevant as Italy has taken front and center following the Zero Hedge report that ECB deposit facilities hit an all time record, leading to Italian BTPs widening to over 7% yet again, an a margin hike by LCH imminent.
Thanksgiving Day Massacre: Sears Slaughtered On Collapsing Margins, To Shutter Hundreds Of Stores, Provides Revolver UpdateSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 12/27/2011 - 07:24
That retailer Sears, aka K-Mart, just preannounced what can only be described as catastrophic Q4 results should not be a surprise to anyone: after all we have been warning ever since the "record" thanksgiving holiday that when you literally dump merchandize at stunning losses, losses will, stunningly, follow. Sure enough enter Sears. What we, however, are ourselves stunned by is that as part of its preannouncement, Sears has decided it would be prudent to provide an update on its credit facility status... and availability. As a reminder to anyone and everyone - there is no more sure way of committing corporate suicide than openly inviting the bear raid which always appears whenever the words "revolving credit facility" and "availability" appear in the same press release. Just recall MF Global. And here, as there, we expect shorting to death to commence in 5...4...3...
Anonymous' Barrett Brown speaks: "Stratfor was not breached in order to obtain customer credit card numbers, which the hackers in question could not have expected to be as easily obtainable as they were. Rather, the operation was pursued in order to obtain the 2.7 million e-mails that exist on the firm's servers. This wealth of data includes correspondence with untold thousands of contacts who have spoken to Stratfor's employees off the record over more than a decade. Many of those contacts work for major corporations within the intelligence and military contracting sectors, government agencies, and other institutions for which Anonymous and associated parties have developed an interest since February of 2011, when another hack against the intelligence contractor/security firm HBGary revealed, among many other things, a widespread conspiracy by the Justice Department, Bank of America, and other parties to attack and discredit Wikileaks and other activist groups. Since that time, many of us in the movement have dedicated our lives to investigating this state-corporate alliance against the free information movement. For this and other reasons, operations have been conducted against Booz Allen Hamilton, Unveillance, NATO, and other relevant institutions."
LTRO "Bazooka" Is Epic Disaster As Banks Scramble To Redeposit "Free Carry" Cash With ECB, Lose Money On "Inverse Carry"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 12/27/2011 - 05:54
When on Friday we penned "And This Is Where The LTRO Money Went" we said that the final nail in the "Carry Trade" theory was that instead of using the LTRO "Bazooka" cash to collect meaningless pennies in front of a steamroller, Europe's banks turned around and deposited it right back with the ECB after the bank's deposit facility soared to a 2011 record €347 billion, €82 billion more than the day before. Today, any residual doubt of where the LTRO cash proceeds went is eliminated, as the ECB has just confirmed that what goes out of one pocket comes back in the other, as the ECB's deposit facility has just exploded to not a 2011 record, but an all time record high €412 billion, a €65 billion increase overnight, and €167 billion higher in the past two days alone, which effectively accounts for practically all of the LTRO's free €210 billion... But the biggest slap in the face of Sarkozy is that instead of banks pocketing the "guaranteed" 2-3% in carry trade between the 1% LTRO rate and the soveriegn bond yield, banks are losing 75 basis point on this inverse carry trade, where they take LTRO cash and deposit it with the ECB where it yields... 0.25%!
It appears the PBoC is stepping up the monitoring and management of their gold reserves. Headlines, via Bloomberg, suggest controls tightening on the trading of gold away from official channels:
- *CHINA TO INCREASE MANAGEMENT OF GOLD TRADING, PBOC SAYS
- *CHINA GOLD TRADING RESTRICTED TO SHANGHAI EXCHANGES, PBOC SAYS
- *CHINA ORDERS UNAUTHORIZED GOLD TRADING PLATFORMS TO STOP: PBOC
- *PBOC ASKS SHANGHAI GOLD, FUTURES EXCHANGES TO BOOST MANAGEMENT
Despite more ramblings from Juncker this morning, the overnight session in Asia saw comments on downside risks from the BoJ drive risk assets modestly lower. Led by Japan, Asia-Pac equities were down around 0.3%. While EURUSD is higher by 25pips or so from Christmas Eve's close (and implicitly USD weaker), commodities are broadly underperforming with Copper worst (-1.3%), Gold (under $1600) and Silver in line -0.8%, and Oil just underwater from 12/23 close. European credit markets just started trading and are a smidge tighter - though liquidity is questionable for now - but sovereigns are leaking wider in spread with Italian 10Y worst for now +13bps (and BTP yields now breaking 7% again). US TSYs are 1-2bps lower in yield from the afternoon surge on Christmas Eve's discorrelated action. Given the markets that are open so far, CONTEXT (a broad risk market proxy for where ES - the e-mini S&P futures contract - should trade) is practically unchanged, which given the late-day surge on 12/23, leaves us looking for modest weakness when it re-opens later today.
In an interesting analogy to the 'tragedy of the commons', Philipp Bagus, of Madrid's Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, explains how European governments have 'outfished' their respective pools of spending/borrowing capabilities as the enforcements of the Maastricht Treaty were entirely impotent. After addressing his perspective on how Europe got here, he discusses, with Alasdair Macleod of the GoldMoney Foundation, possible solutions to (and consequences of) the euro crisis. Bagus points out that there are basically three different ways to go about it. Firstly, governments could make drastic cuts in public spending and privatise public assets in order to balance their budgets. However, there will be – and is – strong political resistance to such proposals. Secondly, the eurozone could disintegrate, driven by a reluctance of German citizens to pay for other countries’ expenditures. And lastly, central banks and governments could decide to print their way out of the crisis, leading to high inflation. The thought-provoking professor provides some interesting color on the dichotomy between the official opinion in Europe and the sentiment on the street. Amid the ongoing expansion of the money supply and persistent deficits, Bagus can’t see the dollar gaining in value over the medium to long term. He also says that ECB policies are a lot more pragmatic than the ones undertaken by the US Federal Reserve. Talking about sound money, Bagus explains different ways to go about its introduction. One way would be to back all the money in existence by gold, adjusting the price of gold accordingly.
Typically limited to 90 second soundbite-gathering exercises on mainstream financial media, Australia's Finance News Network gives Jim Rogers the chance to discuss much more broadly his outlook not just for 2012 but beyond. Surprised by the false optimism he sees globally, he is not concerned that consensus is too bearish, and worries that the political pressure and central banker un-independence will inevitably lead to more and more money printing. We have discussed the kick-the-can thesis extensively but Rogers moves from the desire-to-print to the consequences while covering Ron Paul and the US election, the myth of government job creation, his potentially controversial view of the Euro (and separately the Euro-zone) - all the while reminding us that he expects at least another lost decade for the US and Europe as Japan ebbs ever lower. With a view to both his geographical location and his investments, the global commodity bull remains optimistic that a Chinese slowdown will not be the end of the Asian economy (as we see in Western economies) but is broadly short equities around the world while urging investors to own real assets. Summing up, Rogers notes "...the problems are going to continue to get worse until somebody solves the basic underlying problem of too much spending and too much debt... [governments and central bankers] are not going to do anything until there’s a serious crisis or semi-crisis."
While someone continues to guietly push the EUR offer ever higher in the quiet holiday session, the reality is that with only 5 days to go in 2011, the holiday for Europe is ending, and "the pain"TM it about to be unleashed. All 740 billion worth of it. Because while Japan is monetizing its deficit (and having to issue more debt than it collects in taxes), and America is hot on its heels (as a reminder the US also issues roughly one dollar of debt for each dollar in taxes collected), Europe is still unsure whether it will monetize explicitly (that said, we did clear up that little bit of confusion over implicit monetization, with the ECB's balance sheet having exploded by €500 billion since June, or more than all of QE2). Unfortunately, as the following analysis from UBS indicates, it won't have much of a choice. Here are Europe's numbers: €82 billion in gross debt issuance in January, €234 billion in gross debt issuance in Q1, €740 billion in gross debt issuance in 2012. And then it really picks up because what is largley ignored in such "roll" analyses are the hundreds of billions in debt that financials (i.e., banks) will also have to roll in 2012. In other words, the biggest risk for 2012, in our humble opinion, is that the global repo perpetual ponzi engine (where every primary dealer buys sovereign debt than promptly repos it back to its respective central bank, and courtesy of Prime Broker conduits is allowed to do so without ever encumbering its balance sheet - explained in detail here) is about to choke.
It is not unusual for us to note the Knightian uncertainty that lies ahead of us (the unknown unknowns) and question the nth-decimal-place accuracy of VaR-based risk budgeting when the next long-only strategist suggests 90% allocation to high-dividend-US-Equities. In a quick and thought-provoking Q&A from the Swiss Private Bank Pictet, they see the world in a similarly non-normal manner and focus in one case on the growing tension that globalization has created between winners and losers. As the crisis of confidence spreads from asset class to asset class and from sovereign to financial entity to macro-economy and back in its viciously circular manner, the realization that forecasts are useless when judged in the linear normal bias that investors have carried with them for decades, must bias current and future investment decisions to more asymmetric or 'hedged' perspectives. With the veil of financial complexity (and implicit opacity) being taken down brick-by-brick (by us as well as many others), we suspect the credit creation process and project-financing in general will shift from a game-theoretically optimal 'one-in-all-in', to a more nuanced 'if-you-don't-know-who-the-sucker-is-at-the-table-it's-you!' view of investing - especially given the balance between indefinitely long low real rates and the insatiable need for yield - leaving the cost of funding indefinitely floored at a much higher premium than in the past.
While the world is watching Europe and the US for signs of imminent decoupling, and now has added China to its insolvency focus list, things in Japan, which is "fine" courtesy of a self-destruct autopilot, are just getting plain ridiculous. As we reported earlier this year, Japan's marketable public debt, already the largest in the world at $11.2 trillion compared to America's $10 trillion (of course this assumes the whole SSN sleight of hand is funded, which it isn't), is due to surpass ¥1 quadrillion any month now (aka the exponential phase). And that's just the beginning. As Bloomberg reports, "Bond sales to the market will climb to a record 149.7 trillion yen ($1.9 trillion), while the national budget’s reliance on debt for funding will rise to an unprecedented 49 percent in the year starting April 1, Japan’s government said Dec. 24. The government said it plans to sell 44.2 trillion yen of new bonds to fund 90.3 trillion yen of spending in next fiscal year’s budget. It estimates that tax revenue will total 42.3 trillion yen in fiscal 2012, meaning that new bond sales will exceed tax revenue for a fourth year." In other words, in a world increasingly disconnected form any sort of reality, very soon no taxes at all will be needed: after all each and every government (or uber-union in teh EU's case, once the imploding Eurozone turns to the final Deus Ex - a fiscal protectorate issuing joining Eurobonds) will simply fund all its cash needs by printing its own money. Naturally, anyone daring to suggest that this is beyond idiotic will be given an MMT 101 manual and/or incarcerated for grand treason. And any last voices of sanity will be promptly muted: "I think the reliance on bonds to compile budgets is reaching its limit,” Japanese Finance Minister Jun Azumi said Dec. 24, after the announcement of the budget plan.