While the entire financial world is hanging on to every Mario Draghi word in hope Europe finally improves the market's (if not the economy's) "fundamentals" to new record highs, and joins the rest of the "developed" world's central banks in injecting trillions of liquidity into the Div/0 P/E stocks "whatever it takes" (because in a world where only multiple expansion is left, the ECB is the last wildcard at least until the US is dragged right back into the global recession and the Fed admits any pipe dreams of a rate hike in 2015 were just that), something far more different may be taking place behind the scenes. According to at least one journalist, the Fiscal Times' Patrick Smith, "Draghi appears set to leave Frankfurt and return to his native Italy the first chance he gets."
In space, no one can hear you scream... unless you happen to be Venezuela's (soon to be former) leader Nicolas Maduro, who has been doing a lot of screaming this morning following news that UAE's Energy Minister Suhail Al-Mazrouei said OPEC will stand by its decision not to cut crude output "even if oil prices fall as low as $40 a barrel" and will wait at least three months before considering an emergency meeting.
As we noted previously, counterparty risk concerns (and thus financial system fragility) are starting to rear their ugly heads. In the mid 2000s, it was massive one-way levered bets on "house prices will never go down again." When the cracks started to appear, the mark-to-market losses in derivatives led to forced liquidations and snowballed systemically. In the mid 2010s, it is massively levered one-way asymmetric bets on "commodity prices [oil] will never go down again." Meet WTI-structured-notes: the convenient transmission mechanism for oil-price-shocks blowing up the financial system.
Hooray, oil is suddenly much cheaper than it used to be. That's great news, right? Not so fast. For certain it's not good news for those counting on a continued rise in US oil production from the "shale miracle". But even if oil prices rise and rise soon, there's new data that indicates... We're pinning our hopes of "oil independence" on faulty data.
"Boy, was I wrong," exclaimed Federal Reserve Vice-Chairman Stanley Fischer, "I thought that when Dodd-Frank started, that the banks would not succeed in influencing it, having lost all the prestige they lost." Just like the Fed's economic and rate forecasts, Fischer's political perspective could not have been more incorrect. Rather stunningly confirming Fischer's admission, The Hill reports JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon made calls to lawmakers on Thursday urging them to support the "cromnibus" spending bill, according to no lesser brain-trust than Rep. Maxine Waters. Perhaps Fischer inadvertently summed up the state of reality as WSJ reports, when he opined, "we are two bad decisions away from not being an independent central bank." We might suggest the "two" decisions went by a long time ago.
Median household income peaked at least 15 years ago in 81% of US counties. As WaPo reports, for a stunning 210 counties, income peaked over 45 years ago!!!
The Federal Reserve conducted a study on Millennials and tried to ascertain why so many of them are living at home. Is it too much student debt? Lower incomes? Or is it that home prices are simply unaffordable? The study finds that all of these factors have a big impact on why many Millennials are living at home and why the first time home buyer market is performing so badly. (Hint: EB-5)
It is amazing the speed at which FOMC officials have embraced not falling oil prices but collapsing crude. The pace of the decline is being driven, contrary to the fracking miracle, by the fact that nobody seems to want to bid on the stuff. That is, as I noted earlier, a demand problem. But officials like Fed Vice Chair Stanley Fischer and FRBNY President Bill Dudley are saying that these lower oil prices, due to lower demand, will end up boosting demand – big time. That is the essence of their argument, that recession is the latest “stimulus.”
One month ago, shortly after we reported that "Silver Coin Sales At US Mint Soar To Highest In Two Years" we learned that the "US Mint Sells Out Of Silver Eagles Following "Tremendous" Demand." That, however, did not prevent the mint from selling just about 5 million ounces in the period since the announcement, and as Reuters reported last week, "Strong investor demand lifted American Eagle Silver Bullion coin sales to a record for the second straight year, the U.S. Mint said on Tuesday." For those confused, it is clear that another year of record demand for physical silver explains why the price of silver is down 12.5% in 2014 after being down 36% last year. Why? Because as we said a month ago, "when it comes to precious metals, thanks to the BIS and the central banks, Paper beats Rock every time."
In recent years Geoffrey Raymond's annotating opportunities have slowed to a trickle courtesy of every central bank going all-in on some $11 trillion in QE (and rising fast) to create the artificial impression that the financial system is stable (because in some parallel universe 6 years of endless bailouts somehow is equivalent to stability and is expected to "boost confidence"), although if recent market volatility is any indication, he may soon be making a repeat appearance, if only in front of energy trading desks at first. And while we await Raymond to once again make mainstream media headlines, he has a special holiday gift idea for all those Zero Hedgers who have not yet parlayed their trillions (if Joe LaVorgna is correct) in savings from plunging crude prices into even more consumerism. Presenting "Existential Rage in the Workplace" from Geoffrey Raymond.
Within the last 90 days there has been more convoluted messaging coming from the financial media, the main stream, as well as academia than we can remember. The more one looks or tries to find relevant, useful, actionable insights – the more they get conjecture. Personally we’ll take our chances with not gambling at all or looking to any of the so-called “experts” for clues. It keeps becoming abundantly more clear by the day: without the “Chair” behind the curtain. OZ is more attainable than following the road to financial freedom these people want to point out.
Following Friday's US weakness and UAE's hint that $40 oil is coming next, the crude carnage continues as Middle East markets are crashing. As WSJ reports, the bearish direction of oil prices again spooked investors in Dubai where the DFM General Index finished down 7.6%, extending Thursday’s 7.4% rout. The bloodbath extended across the entire region with Abu Dhabi down 3.6%, Qatar slid 5.9%, Kuwait fell 2.9%, and Saudi Arabia’s market, the largest bourse in the region, retreated 3.3%. As one analyst warned, "the severity of this decline could very well be explained by investors covering margin calls as leverage was used on the way up over the past year."
While the market, and America's media, was focusing over the passage of the Cromnibus, and whether Wall Street would dump a few hundred trillion in derivatives on the laps of US taxpayers once again (it did), quietly and unanimously both houses passed The Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014, which authorizes providing lethal assistance to Ukraine’s military as well as sweeping sanctions on Russia’s energy sector. And as has happened for the entire duration of the second Cold War, any action by the US was promptly met with a just as provocative reaction by Russia. In this case, a leftist member of the Russian Duma said the US Senate’s decision to arm the Kiev regime should prompt ‘adequate measures’ from Russia, such as deploying military force on Ukrainian territory before the threat becomes too high. "It is quite possible that we should return to the decision by our Upper House and give the Russian president an opportunity to use military force on Ukrainian territory preemptively. We should not wait until Ukraine is armed and becomes really dangerous."
Who said economics can’t be fun?! How is it not absolutely brilliant that in the face of a collapsing shale oil industry – or at least, for the moment, of its financing model -, and the worst week for the Dow since 2011, the Thomson Reuters/UofMichigan consumer sentiment index shows American consumers are more optimistic than they’ve been in 8 years, and that “more consumers volunteered good news than bad news than in any month since 1984?? 1984! How does one trump that as a contrarian signal? And that I don’t mean to sound funny: that is serious.