The liquidity tsunami that started in September of 2012 in the Marriner Eccles building and continued with the BOJ's own epic QEasing expansion three weeks ago, has so far provided the impetus for Europe to kick the can of its inevitable dissolution for a few more months, yet slowly but surely the market is starting to read through the artificial levels implied by Italian and Spanish bonds, driven by recycled ECB funding via bank and repo conduits and of course Japanese carry cash, and rumblings of a return to crisis conditions are back. And as always happens, once the crisis talk is back, so is discussion of a fiscal union. Sure enough, earlier today Germany's Angela Merkel once again reminded everyone just what the stakes are in order to achieve a truly stable, and sustainable European union: nothing short of ceding sovereignty to Germany. And with that we are back to square one, because that has always been the trade off - want a unified, fiscally and monetarily, Europe? You can get it: just bow down to Merkel.
The week ahead brings key leading indicators of global activity. The flash PMI's in China and Euro area will be published on Tuesday. Bloomberg consensus expects the China flash to be slightly lower than the previous reading and that the Euro area flash releases for manufacturing and service activity will rise slightly. In addition, Korean 20-day export data for April will provide a good guide to both the external sector in Korea and the likely momentum of Asian exports more broadly. For the same reasons, Taiwan export orders are worth a look as well. The week ahead also provides Q1 GDP prints in US, UK, and Korea. Goldman expects US GDP to rise by 3.2%. The Australia CPI print may open the door to an RBA rate cut as soon as May and Japanese CPI is likely to underscore why the BoJ policy has shifted aggressively. Friday also brings an update of the BoJ's outlook, along with the next BoJ meeting (unchanged policy expected).
The state of Arizona may become the second state to use gold and silver coins as legal tender. Last week, Arizona lawmakers passed a bill that makes precious metals legal tender. Arizona is the second state after Utah to allow gold coins created by the U.S. Mint and private mints to be used as currency. Utah has had the law on the books for the past 2 years and is working on a system for using the precious metals as currency. The Arizona Senate Bill 1439 would allow the holder of gold or silver coins or bullion to pay a debt. However, the coins must be issued by the U.S. government or approved by a court, like an American Eagle Coin. Oddly the government does not require that persons or business must use or accept gold or silver as legal tender in contravention of the U.S. Constitution. The sponsor of the bill, Republican Sen. Chester Crandell, would need a final state Senate vote after approval by the House, and if passed the law would not take effect until 2014. Crandell said, "The whole thing came from constituents".
Caterpillar just can't catch a break. First, in January the firm was punk'd by a Chinese acquisition fraud, forcing the company to write off half of its Q4 earnings. This, of course, in the aftermath of the miss in both Q3 and Q4 earnings. And now we get the latest disappointing news from the firm as Q1 numbers are reported lower across the board.
- Q1 EPS $1.31, Exp $1.38; this includes a tax benefit of $87 million
- Q1 revenue: $13.2 billion, Exp. $13.8 billion
- Guides much lower, with revenue now seen at $57-61 billion, compared to $60-68 billion previously
- CAT forecasts profit per share of $7.00, compared to $7.00-9.00 previously.
- Operating cash flow of $900MM, but all of it generated from net working capital, i.e., inventory liquidation
- And when you can't spend on capex, you spend on buybacks: CAT to extend buyback through 2015
So much for that.
- Turn to Religion Split Bomb Suspects' Home (WSJ)
- The propaganda is back for the 4th year in a row: Spring Swoon Sequel No Reason for Economic Growth Scare in U.S. (BBG)
- Bernanke Jackson Hole Absence Contrasts With Greenspan Adulation (BBG)
- Large economies promise to boost growth (FT)
- Tata Faces Crisis as $20 Billion Spent on Water (BBG)
- U.S. Eyes Pushback On China Hacking (WSJ)
- Fed's Bernanke sees no U.S. inflation risks: Nowotny (Reuters)
- Austerity on Trial With U.S. Versus Europe Amid New Evidence (BBG)
- Eurozone anti-austerity camp on the rise (FT)
- Spain Aims to Soften Budget Cuts (WSJ)
- Japan's Aso Calls Recovery 'Few Years' Away (WSJ)
- BOJ Said to Consider Price Forecast Upgrade (WSJ)
In what may come as a shock to an otherwise quiet Germany, which has hardly seen any of the vocal (and actionable) "Euroskepticism" prevalent among its smaller peripheral neighbors, Handeslbslatt reports that a whopping 19% of Germans have said they would vote the anti-euro party Alternative for Germany (AFD). This means Bernd Lucke's party, which appeared as if out of nowhere, has succeeded in taking Germany by storm, and is likely that his success and prominence will merely convert even more people on the fence about Europe's future to those demanding a Deutsche Mark return. And while the AFD has yet to pose a direct threat to Merkel's ruling CDU coalition which has 36.7% of the vote five months ahead of elections, recall that everyone ignored Beppe Grillo as a mere sideshow weeks before his blistering performance to nearly win the Italian election in February.
With no macro data on the docket (the NAR's self promotional "existing home sales" advertising brochure is anything but data), the market will be chasing the usual carry currency pair suspects for hints how to trade. Alas, with even more ominous economics news out of Europe, and an apparently inability of Mrs Watanabe to breach 100 on the USDJPY (hitting 99.98 for the second time in two weeks before rolling over once more), we may be rangebound, or downward boung if CAT shocks everyone with just how bad the Chinese (and global) heavy construction (and thus growth) reality truly is. One asset, however, that has outperformed and is up by well over 2% is gold, trading at $1435 at last check, over $100 from the lows posted a week ago, and rising rapidly on no particular news as the sell off appears to be over and now the snapback comes and the realization that Goldman was happily buying everything its clients were selling all along.
In a wide-ranging look at the history and present of the barbarous relic, CBC's Brian McKenna and Ann-Marie MacDonald have gathered many perspectives (pro and con) on gold. The following documentary moves from historical shipwrecks to Nazi 'death gold' and England's war chest to recent years where widespread economic uncertainty has given the yellow metal a "new lustre in the world of high finance." Valued for its permanence, beauty and scarcity, people will lie, cheat, steal and kill in the name of gold; and the clip provides color on many of the market manipulations of the last few years. As MacDonald says, whether it’s a few gold coins or gold bars stored in one of the many vaults around the world, many investors are taking a shine to gold. But there’s not a lot of it. It is said that, even melted down, there would not be enough to fill an Olympic swimming pool. Some claim that much of the gold held by the Bank of Canada, the Bank of England, the Federal Reserve and Fort Knox is gone - that for every 100 ounces of gold traded, there exists only one ounce of real, physical gold. So, where is the gold - and who really owns it?
A few weeks ago, we wrote of the Swiss People's Party's efforts to gain enough signatures to force the Swiss National Bank (SNB), who 'supposedly' guarantees the price stability in Switzerland, to stop selling its gold reserves. This last week, as the FT reports, they reached the required 100,000 signature mark and on Thursday the federal chancellery confirmed Switzerland is to hold a referendum that would ban the central bank from selling its gold reserves, force it to keep at least 20% of its assets in the metal, and repatriate gold reserves held abroad and keep them at home. Following Cyprus' forced sales and discussions of the net wealth in other European peripheral nations, proponents of the Swiss measure flatly reject the idea of sales, arguing that disposals of gold reserves at low prices between 2001 and 2006, as well as more recently, have cost Switzerland billions of Swiss francs. The "Save Our Swiss Franc" initiative proclaims, "today gold is almost the only really valuable asset left on the SNB’s balance sheet." The SNB, however, is concerned at, "the monetary policy implications of the demands in the initiative." A date for the referendum has not yet been set - but the FT notes that previous 'referenda' have taken up to several years from acceptance to actual vote.
Those who have been following the US debt to GDP ratio now that the US officially does not have a debt ceiling indefinitely, may have had the occasional panic attack seeing how this country's leverage ratio is rapidly approaching that of a Troika case study of a PIIG in complete failure. And at 107% debt/GDP no explanations are necessary. Luckily, the official gatekeepers of America's economic growth (with decimal point precision), the Bureau of Economic Analysis have a plan on how to make the US economy, which is now growing at an abysmal 1.5% annualized pace, or about 5 times slower than US debt growing at 7.5% annually, catch up: magically make up a number out of thin air, and add it to the total. And it literally is out of thin air: according to the FT the addition will constitute of a one-time addition of intangibles, amounting to 3% of total US GDP, or more than the size of Belgium at $500 billion, to the US economy.
One of the many things holding the nation back at the moment is the complete lack of incentive to be a creative, productive and honest member of society versus the tremendous incentive to be a corrupt, thieving, lackey for the establishment. In a free market system, with a strict set of rules governing the game that is applied to everyone equally, market signals and incentives exist for companies to create a great product and to meet customer needs with great service. In contrast, within a crony capitalist system, the primary incentive is to get as close as possible to political and corporate power in order to financially benefit from their oligarchical ownership of the controlled economy. It is only within a completely disconnected from reality, crony, fraudulent economy where you could have a situation in which hospitals actually earn much larger profit margins from making mistakes and harming their patients, than from providing excellent care.
Since prevailing fringe theory is that JPMorgan and the other bullion banks 'control' the price of gold, we thought it would be interesting to hear yet another explanation for last week's monumental precious metal market events... from the horse's mouth...
Forget the multitude of divergences from any and every sense of real fundamentals (or other market structures) that the US equity market is exhibiting; deny for just one moment the existential crisis that is inevitably drawing closer by the day as the world's central bankers/planners truly believe they have the 'final' solution; there is only one fool-proof method of knowing what is coming next. As we noted in September 2012, just 13 days before QEternity was announced, Barron's provided the 'cover' and it seems with this week's 'exuberance' that they have once again provided confirmation. If nothing else, Barron's is great at picking points where Bernanke (or Yellen) feels compelled to save the market from collapse.
Due to decades of unreserved credit growth that temporarily boosted the appearance of sustainable economic growth and prosperity, rational economic behavior cannot produce real (inflation-adjusted) economic growth from current levels. The nominal sizes of advanced economies have grown far larger than the rational scope of production that would be needed to sustain them. This fundamental problem explains best the current state of affairs: malaise (i.e., bank system de-leveraging and economic stagnation) spreading through the means of production and the need for increasing policy intervention to stabilize goods, service and asset prices (by depressing the first three and inflating the last?). We live and work in a contrived meta-economy that can be managed through narrow channels in financial and state capitals. Given the overwhelming past misallocation of capital cited above, we think the most important realization for investors in the current environment is that price levels of goods, services and assets may be biased to rise but they are not sustainable in real (inflation-adjusted) terms. The crowd is ignoring the obvious, as all signs point towards the next currency reset.