Forget Florida. This election it is all about Ohio: without Ohio, Romney's winning chances plummet (as can be observed at the following interactive chart), even if one ignores history which is that since 1862 no Republican has won the presidency without winning Ohio. This is a fact well-known to the Obama administration, which explains why the incumbent has spent so much time in the ravaged state, where he has spent so much time ruminating on the the Ohio "unemployment rate miracle." Sure enough, in September, the Ohio unemployment dipped to 7.0%, the lowest since September 2008! On the surface, a tremendous metric and great improvement for a state that would have certainly been firmly in the pro-GOP camp had Obama not been able to hammer on this statistic time and time again. Yet, as always, the unemployment rate is only part of the story. The bigger question is whether or not another data set is being fudged to make the Ohio jobs situation appear better than it is in real life. The answer is, predictably, yes.
Ahead of today's presidential and congressional elections, Goldman provides some brief thoughts on various election-night (and beyond) events. From a viewer's guide to the poll-closing times to a discussion of the apparent 'closeness' of the race and post-election market performance, they note that equity performance post 'tight' races has been better than in elections where the winner is more clear-cut. This election has a twist though in that it will be immediately followed by debate on the fiscal cliff, and thus resolution of the election will reduce, but not eliminate policy uncertainty.
The GDP of Nicaragua: $6.4 billion; the cost of the US presidential election to the two candidates: $6 billion, or $20 in petty cash per every US man, woman and child. Some things Wall Street (with Diebold's help) can buy (because no matter which candidate is left standing after the recount and the legal challenge to the SCOTUS, Wall Street again wins). For everything else, there's BernankeCard.
Less than impressive macro data from the Eurozone failed to depress investor sentiment and as such, equity markets in Europe traded higher as market participants looked forward to US elections. Heading into the North American open, all ten equity sectors are seen in the green, with technology and financial stocks leading the pack. Still, despite the choppy price action and lack of progress on the much desired Spanish bailout, peripheral bond yield spreads are tighter, with SP/GE and IT/GE tighter by c. 6bps. EUR/USD failed to break below 1.2750 barrier level earlier in the session and since then stages an impressive recovery, partly helped by weaker macro data from the UK.
- Obama-Romney: Breaking the Tie (BBG)
- Fiscal cliff looms over campaign climax (FT)
- Tough Calls on Deficit Await the Winner (WSJ)
- Election Likely to Leave Housing Unmoved (WSJ)
- Regulator Investigating Rochdale Trading (WSJ)
- Greeks Plan Strikes On Eve of Votes (WSJ)
- China Communists consider internal democratic reform (Reuters)
- Wen urges Asia-Europe co-op to promote world economy (China Daily)
- Italy Said to Reject Bad Bank That May Boost Ties to Sovereign (BBG)
- IMF warning adds to French economy fears (FT)
- Europe, Central Bank Spar Over Athens Aid (WSJ)
- Unlimited Lending May Help Weaken the Yen, BOJ Official Says (BBG)
- PBOC Official Says U.S. Election Won’t Impact Yuan Level (BBG) - Just the USD level to which it is pegged
Today it is all about the elections. It is not about last night's relatively surprising RBA decision to not cut rates (on an attempt to create a reflexive feedback loop when it said that China has bottomed; it hasn't, and the RBA will be forced into another "surprising" rate cut as it did previously). It is also not about Europe missing its Service PMI estimate (just like the US), with the composite printing at 45.7 on expectations of a 45.8 print (with both core countries - Germany and France - missing badly, at 48.4 and 44.6 on expectations of 49.3 and 46.2, respectively). It is not about reports that the EU believes Spain's GDP will again contract more than expected (it will, and certainly without any reports or beliefs). It is not about Greece selling €1.3 billion in 26-week bills even as, according to ANA, its striking power workers have taken 5 power plants online just as winter approaches. It is not about Jean-Claude Juncker telling the truth for once, and saying that Europe is still in crisis, and is facing the viability of the Euro (after saying weeks ago that the Euro is unshakable) and that some countries aren't facing up to their responsibilities. It most certainly isn't about German factory orders finally collapsing as the country is no longer able to delay its slide into full-blown recession, with a September decline of 3.3% on expectations of a modest drop of -0.5%, from the previous decline of 0.8% (the German ministry said that a weak Eurozone and lack of global growth are taking its toll; they will continue taking its toll for years and decades longer). No. It is all about the US elections, with the peak frenzy starting as soon as polls officially close at 8 pm. Everything else is noise.
To us, the ECB's superficial, amusing take on BitCoin was merely a source of (Friday) humor. To others, such as Tuur Demeester, the ECB's report on "Virtual Currency Schemes" which was merely a confused attempt to validate the Euro by bashing a prototype electronic currency that others have written far more informed articles on, has far more profound insights into central banker mentality. We are skeptical: the ECB has far more existential issues to worry about than whether people will be paying for that house in Calabria with BitCoin (they won't; at least not any time soon), such as how fast until Spain and Greece run out of rehypothecatable and repoable assets, that allow the ECB to continue creating its own version of electronic money (in this case named Euro) out of thin air. But for those seeking more than what meets the central-planner's eye (because what better ploy than to divert attention from where it truly needs to be focused: such as Spanish bonds for example getting a 0% haircut instead of 5%), here are some answers to the question whether "the CB’s toolbox have what it takes to contain a private, decentralised cryptocurrency? Or: Bitcoin seen through the eyes of a central banker."
"Around the year 2005, a sudden spark will catalyze a Crisis mood. Remnants of the old social order will disintegrate. Political and economic trust will implode. Real hardship will beset the land, with severe distress that could involve questions of class, race, nation and empire." Strauss & Howe wrote these words in 1997. They understood the dynamics of how generations interact and how the mood of the country shifts every twenty or so years based upon the generational alignment that occurs as predictably as the turning of the seasons. The last generation that lived through the entire previous Crisis from 1929 through 1946 has virtually died off. For those who doubt generational theory and believe history is a linear path of human progress, I would point to the last week of chaos, disarray, government dysfunction, and misery of those who didn’t prepare for Superstorm Sandy, as a prelude to the worst of this Crisis. The lack of preparation by government officials and citizens, death, destruction, panic, anger, helplessness and realization of how fragile our system has become is a perfect analogy to our preparation for this Fourth Turning. The regeneracy of the nation will occur during the next presidential term. The mathematical impossibility of sustaining our economic system is absolute.
Having made clear in Part 1 the various policy leanings, uncertainty, and potential reform headlines, we delve a little deeper into the specifics of what the systemic and idiosyncratic implications might be. In two simple tables, Goldman lays out the top-down asset-class perspectives as 'new' China addresses its systemic issues and then looks at how China's equities (and by implication global equity indices) can meaningfully re-rate with a background of economic sustainability concerns as reforms impact various sectors more or less. As Goldman concludes: "Cyclical adjustments can help to restore confidence, but investors will likely be unwilling to meaningfully re-rate the market until more concrete progress is made on the reform front…but reforms may not be good for all sectors."
The imminent once-in-a-decade leadership handover in China will likely be one of the most important if not the most important leadership changes in the world this year and beyond in Goldman Sachs' opinion. Not only because it has the potential to mark a shift in policy direction in what has become a global economic giant, but also, as they note, because it comes at a time of substantial economic and social uncertainty in the country, with the economic future of China and the legitimacy of its current power structure potentially at stake. On the eve of this important transition, understanding this somewhat complex power structure, the composition and policy leanings of the likely new leadership, and the potential new policy priorities and reforms ahead is critical.
While Chinese government and consumer debt can be whatever China wants it to be (and when it isn't, any discharged and non-performing debt is merely masked over with more debt: China doesn't have $3 trillion in foreign reserves for nothing) corporate debt, in keeping with Western-style reporting requirements, is far more difficult to obfuscate and falsify in recent years. It is here that we get the first glimpse of the true sheer extent of the Chinese credit bubble, which as the chart below shows, is already the largest in the entire world.
When it comes to sleepless nights, Toimi Soini of Finland originally set the record by using the "toothpicks under the eyelids" method for 11 straight days. In hindsight, Toimi was an amateur. Toimi Soini was not a banker and this was his downfall. As for the Canadians, Swiss and British – yes they are all bankers, but not just any bankers. This terrific trio have the displeasure of forever being known as the bankers who sold their gold. The irony of course, is the action of the World’s central bankers themselves is the reason why gold is destined to remain golden for sometime to come. And with gold sitting near $1700/oz, and with no end to the money printing games, the sleepless nights are destined to continue. IceCap's Keith Dicker opines on the wrong-ness of Alan Greenspan's economic miracle, equity manager's misplaced rationalization of performance as skill, China's gold-buying spree, the Nobel Peace Prize debacle, and the inexorable growth of 'fake money'.
Just over 400-years ago today, a group of 13 conspirators was caught trying to assassinate King James I of England and blow up the House of Lords in what became known as the Gunpowder Treason. If you’ve ever seen the movie V for Vendetta, you know the story. The plot of 1605 may have been a failure for the conspirators, but given enough time, a system so screwed up, so unsustainable, was destined to collapse on itself. Curiously, we’re not so different in the west today; just like the English monarchs, we have a tiny elite that controls absolutely everything about our economy– taxation, regulation, and the supply of money. Needless to say, this is also unsustainable. And history shows that these types of unsustainable systems will always collapse under their own weight.
The regional government of the Communidad Valencia owes pharmacies in Valencia, Alicante, and Castellon five and a half months of prescription payments. The EUR450mm debt that is owed has prompted a remarkable (and somewhat justified) action by the pharmacies. As ThinkSpain reports, from today, two in every three pharmacies will be closed each day, on rotation, until the debt is settled. Last week the government settled half of their April debt and half of their May debt using funds from the Regional Liquidity Fund (FLA) but as the pharmacists point out, "this [merely] moves [them] back to where [they] were, since on Wednesday, we'll be adding another month's worth to the ongoing debt." Perhaps this fact - among all the others - combined with the ECB's lies, will bring some reality to the minds of those who see these bailouts as anything but a band-aid - and in fact (in this case) an entirely back-filling band-aid as everyone is faced with a "dramatic situation which has forced [pharmacies] to close indefinitely."