A place incapable of supporting life as we know it – a good description of where ECB monetary policy is leading us. In its current form the euro is a busted flush and is being held together solely by political intransigence and ECB connivance. From the very beginning the rules of engagement were ignored because without political and fiscal centralisation they weren’t going to work anyway. We now have OMT to ponder upon - Outright Monetary Transactions - which is just another short term breathing space to allow the PIIGS to refinance their maturing debt at less penal rates, but does absolutely nothing to solve the longer term problems of creating growth in economies stifled by ECB "conditionality"; a very sterile landscape indeed. But cheer up! QE3 will be along any day now to help the banks remain solvent for a while longer. 'Can' exits stage right after another good kicking...
Ken Burns and Alfred Hitchcock are movie makers. 'The Ken Burns Effect' - panning and zooming to focus attention on a certain isolated piece of the full picture; and the 'Hitchcock Zoom' - a 'shocking' dramatic change in perspective; keep the viewer occupied and entertained by material that would otherwise look a little staid and to ensure that attention is paid to the precise piece of the picture that the director wishes to be the center of focus. As Grant Williams ruminates on the Draghi Scheme (The Dreme), the devices of Burns and Hitchcock came to mind as central bankers attempt to either unsettle the viewers or make them focus on a specific part of the whole, rather than the big picture. For the last eighteen months, we, the viewers, have been manipulated by a seemingly never-ending procession of Eurocrats, bureaucrats, technocrats and who-said-thats to look at a very precise part of the economic picture rather than be allowed to step back and try to take in the wider situation. Accordingly, we thought this week we would take a step back, ignore where the Ken Burns Effect of Draghi’s words were pointing our attention, turn a blind eye to the conflicting rhetoric emanating from the various actors in the Theater of the Absurd and concentrate on the big picture - to try and make sense of the broader reality in Greece, Spain, TARGET2, and The Dreme. It damned near gave us vertigo.
During the height of the 'Goldilocks economy' of the mid-1990s, Mat Stein wrote When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving the Long Emergency , a master compendium of do-it-yourself preparation skills. Fast-forward to today's Great Recession, drought-stricken, $100+ oil, post-Katrina, post-Fukushima world -- many are realizing the prudence of taking basic precautionary steps to reduce their vulnerability to whatever the future may bring. Whether you're concerned about the fallout from a breakdown of today's weakened global economy, or simply want to be better able to deal with the aftermath of a natural disaster if you live in an earthquake/hurricane/flood/wildfire/tornado-prone part of the world, the personal resiliency measures Mat recommends make sense for almost everyone to consider. It's important to note that Mat isn't a doomer bent on fanning fears of a zombie apocalypse (though those concerned about social collapse will find much utility in his work), but believes that our current fossil fuel-driven, hyper-consumptive, and over-leveraged way of life is not sustainable.
With both political parties having concluded their respective rah-rah-fests and each vehemntly proclaiming "The Other Side" as failing miserably; it appears, as Raghuram Rajan points out in his latest article that while America’s presidential election campaign is superficially a debate about health care and taxes; it is much more fundamentally about democracy and/or free enterprise. As he notes, democracy implies regarding individuals as equal and treating them as such, with every adult getting an equal vote, whereas free enterprise empowers individuals based on how much economic value they create and how much property they own. What prevents the median voter in a democracy from voting to dispossess the rich and successful? And why do the latter not erode the political power of the former? The answer relies upon the 'dream' (American or otherwise) of a level playing field and hard-work paying off...
Continuing with the theme of the secular shift in the labor pool (not cyclical, as the Fed still mistakenly believes: it will take it at least one more year to understand it has been wrong about this aspect of the New Normal economy too, just as it was wrong for decades about the Flow vs Stock debate), it is not only men who are fresh out of luck. As a reminder, we observed earlier that the labor force participation rate for men has just dropped to an all time low. It turns out there is another class of workers whose participation rate is at the lowest in series history: that of "25 year olds with a Bachelor's degree and higher", i.e. college grads. At 75.5%, it is the lowest since this data has been kept by the BLS. But not all is abysmal in America's labor force. While the share of workers with a college degree has plunged to all time lows, a bright spot can be found when observing the labor force participation rate of those who never bothered with college, and for whom high school was their last known degree-granting institution. At 59.9%, the participation rate is well of its 2012 lows of 59.0% and steadily rising, in fact, to borrow a term from the housing bulls, it may well have "bottomed". Now there is some truly great news for the future of America's highly educated workforce.
While there is still some debate whether the proper alternative nomenclature of the Greek ultranationalist party Golden Dawn is "neo-nazi", there is no debate that the party, which is a manifestation of every broken Greek hope and dream, after posting a shocking result in the recent Greek parliamentary election which saw it coming in fifth and entering parliament after, continues to soar in popularity and is now the third most popular party in Greece with 12% of the vote. Above it are only two other parties: the conservative New Democracy which won the June elections with 29.6% of the vote, which is now down to 28%, and on top, in an ominous development for EUR-bulls, is the anti-bailout and anti-memorandum leftist coalition Syriza, which has threatened to end the bailout, and effectively to take Greece out of the Eurozone, setting off the much dreaded dominoes.
There are two key events in the coming week: first, on September 12, is the decision of the German Constitutional Court, aka the Krimson Kardinals of Karlsruhe, whether the ESM, or the ECB's primary market bond monetization program, is legal. A no vote would severely cripple the European "make it up as you go along" bailout and leave Europe's peripheral nations with little recourse, and Spain with even less cash as it faces a wall of bond maturities in both October and 2013. Then, on Thursday, the Federal Reserve will most likely underwhelm the market which is expecting a new substantial round of outright Asset Purchases, aka NEW QE, which however as we explained will almost certainly not occur due to various reason first described here last Friday. A third, and perhaps far more important event, will be the Dutch parliamentary election also on September 12, but more on that in a further post. For now, looking at Germany, and the piecemeal attempt to put back together the European house of monetary cards, we find that in Germany - the country taksed with funding the European implosion - the population has decided, by a 2 to 1 margin - that the constitutional court should just say "nein" to the ESM, and let Europe go on its merry way without German backing (because as a reminder, the primary source of ESM funding is Germany). From Spiegel: "A survey shows that the majority of Germans hope that the judges in Karlsruhe reject the permanent rescue fund ESM. 54% want a reversal of the Bundestag decisions on the ESM and Fiscal Pact, which should be legally halted. Only 25% believe that the court should dismiss the urgent appeals of the Euro-skeptics."
With "unlimited" bond purchases confirmed by Super Mario and the ECB and the Fed essentially doing the same thing without calling it so, it is nothing short of integral to juxtapose the current western world central banking revolution with that of the Bank of Japan in the 80s. Japan faced an asset bubble that forced the nationalization decapitation of many Japanese banks whose lending practices and balance sheets depended upon the appreciation of said frothy assets (mainly real-estate, sound familiar?), which threw the country into recession in 1990...four years after the crisis was considered to have begun.
By now much has been written about the joke that was the collapse in the labor force participation rate. Perhaps too much, especially for a topic which as we predicted back in early 2011, would be the primary fudge factor allowing mainstream media headlines to blast America's economic renaissance. Remember: it is all about "confidence." Little, however, has been said about the constituents of this dramatic plunge to a 31 year low, namely the simplest distinction: that between genders. As the chart below shows, when one spreads the labor force by sex, the Friday data is particularly sad for one class of workers: Men. Because as the seasonally adjusted data shows, the labor force participation rate for men just printed at 69.8%. It has never been lower.
Back in May, we decided to conduct a thought experiment of the absurd as these are usually the best demonstration of modern-day economic insanity, when we extrapolated, based on trailing 12 month average data in the key labor market indicators, namely the number of total employees, the number of unemployed, the size of the labor force, and most importantly, the number of people not in the labor force, just when the US unemployment rate would hit not only zero, but go negative. As a reminder, we found then "that at the current surge of those leaving the labor force, the US unemployment rate will hit 0.0% in December of 2021 and finally go negative, or -0.1% in January 2022." Today, in the aftermath of Friday's farcical jobs data, we decided to update his absurdist thought experiment, because sadly what we thought was absurdity four months ago has proven to be reality. Should the number of people not in the labor force continue to surge at the August rate of 581,000/month, America will be "unemployment free" in October 2016, before the end of the next president's term, which judging by the most recent opinion polls looks to be Obama. The fine print: the labor force participation rate in November 2016 will be a record low 48.1%, and which, if extrapolated further into the future, would see less than a third of eligible US workers have a job by May 2022, as two thirds of the US population live on perpetual government handouts.
"It Is Really Disheartening That This White House Did Not Have A Plan B" - A Preview Of The Next Debt Ceiling CrisisSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 09/09/2012 11:37 -0400
As of Friday, total US debt subject to the limit was $16.006 trillion, or $387 billion below the latest and greatest official debt ceiling. In the past 3 months the US has been raising debt at a slower pace than usual precisely for this reason. Debt issuance will now pick up at far faster pace as the trendline mean reversion reasserts itself. It means that sometime over the next few months, and certainly before the end of the year, the US debt ceiling will be breached (with all the usual tactics employed to delay this event from happening as much as possible, including resuming the pillaging of various government retirement funds) as the Treasury itself warned. It also means that either just before or just after the presidential election, the topic of the debt ceiling will be once again upon us. As a reminder, the reason why the market plunged back in August of 2011 is because as the GOP proved unwilling to compromise, suddenly everyone, led by Tim Geithner, realized just how close to a failed auction, read endgame, the US was, and the dire need for a wake up call became paramount. Furthermore as is well-known, the only stimulus Pavlovian politicians react to is a market collapse, which not only instills the fear of the "401(k)" god falling to earth, but lights up the switchboards as concerned "voters" suddenly realize that all their mark-to-Bernanke's market "wealth" may disappear in a puff of smoke. It is now, courtesy of Bob Woodward, that we learn just how close we came. And since the polarity and discord in Congress after the election, already at record levels, will soar to new all time highs after November, it is safe to say that the debt ceiling debacle deja vu is coming, and this time it will make the first one seem like child's play.
One of the populist buzzwords of the past 5 years, particularly in Europe, has been "austerity", which as we have said for the roughly the same past 5 years, is simply a synonym for "deleveraging" but one which carries just the right amount of negative connotations, and is used by crafty politicians to shift blame from their own failure to enact proper policy (which over the past 30 years has merely meant to borrow growth from future political cycles, aka, issue debt) onto a "technical" word conceived by Ph.D.-clad economists, who too, are looking for a passive victim on which to project their failure of enacting a voodoo economic theory. There is one problem with all of the above. As we have also been saying for the past five years, the austerity deleveraging myth is one big lie. We are setting the record straight below with facts and figures. We would be delighted if some politician, somewhere, could disprove these facts, which essentially imply that the world is now in a global recession, having experienced no growth as the recent 100% contractionary PMI print of all major economies confirms, yet without any country actually having implemented austerity, pardon deleveraging to have at least a modest justification for this failure of growth.