A total of 22 companies, 4% of the S&P 500 market cap, have reported 4Q12 results. Of these, 64% have topped revenue estimates and 68% topped earnings estimates (considerably lower than average). Aggregate earnings results have exceeded estimates by 1%, revenues have missed by 0.5%, and blended margins are down 12bps y/y. As Barclays' Barry Knapp notes, the last several quarters, earnings seasons have generally been characterized by revenue misses, earnings beats (but by a shrinking amount), and negative guidance; as a result, there has been a negative skew to stock prices. In other words, in the immediate aftermath of the report, earnings beats are marginally outperforming the market, while misses get hammered, primarily due to weak forward guidance. The sustainability of earnings growth remains key given the weak top-line environment and these three self-explanatory charts should hopefully put some fundamental color around the perspective that earnings season will be a negative for the market overall.
As is clear by this chart, inflation was virtually unheard of until the Creature from Jekyll Island (the Federal Reserve) took over. However, more importantly, things didn’t really start to get bad until the 1970?s right after Nixon took the nation off the gold standard in 1971. Since that time, America has seen a period of non-existent real wage growth and a huge gap grow between the rich and the poor ever since. Nothing like livin’ the debt slave dream!
The following was received via email. Supposedly it appeared in the Waco Tribune. We don’t know the author, but we assume those interested could look her up. Since the Constitution no longer matters, we assume we can make her President, even though she doesn’t meet the (formerly valid) age restriction. This was written by a 21 yr old female who gets it. It’s her future she’s worried about and this is how she feels about the social welfare big government state that she’s being forced to live in! These solutions are just common sense in her opinion. "Put Me In Charge... If we are expected to pay for other people’s mistakes we should at least attempt to make them learn from their bad choices. The current system rewards them for continuing to make bad choices."
S&P 500 futures (ES) ended practically unchanged (though cash was down ~5pts) on relatively weak volume but decent average trade size - thanks in large part to the entirely ubiquitous rampathon into the close. A less-than-8pt range in ES saw the standard larger block sizes come through into the close as we ramped. Stocks were supported by USD weakness (-0.35%) but commodities ignored it (as did Treasuries). The front-end of the VIX term structure was the ramping-weapon choice today once again collapsing to red as S&P 500 futures were driven up to unchanged (and Friday's VWAP). The VIX term-structure has is its steepest in over three months and has steepened its most in 20 months over the past 5 days. HYG (also levered for a ramp) surged once again (to last week's key VWAP) squeezed this afternoon as its short-interest reaches record high levels (as it seems every HY manager is hedging via the ETF since the underlying has become increasingly illiquid) with some big blocks going through. Rates overall oscillated in a narrow +/-2bps range today (not exactly the big rotation) as we suspect, given the chatter of IG issuance this week, that last week's weakness was more rate-locks and hedging (as we have seen time after time) than asset rotations. Overall, today was an equity catch-down day to risk-assets overall.
In addition to our recent discussion of the macro-economic data in the US rolling over, and the epic proportions of net risk-taking longs, Credit Suisse outlines ten further indications that equities might be due for a 'consolidation'. Translating from sell-side research gobbledygook into reality, equity bulls are merely demonstrating the traditional phases of momentum-inspired euphoria in the face of ongoing fundamental contraction (not to mention a decline in consumption and marginal US purchasing power) - and earnings expectations, US fiscal tightening, and a modest rise in deficit-increasing real bond yields will not help.
Cliff Asness: "Nobody, Left Or Right, Really Thinks The Math Works, No Matter What They Say In Public"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 01/07/2013 15:47 -0400
The only way to finance a big European-style state is to have it paid for by massive taxation of everyone, mostly the middle class. Right now, we are avoiding honest debate on this fact. The central issue of our time is the debate over the size and scope of government. Two unpleasant but undeniable mathematical truths limit the feasible policy choices. The first truth is that the current tax rates cannot support the promises made to middle-class Americans. The second truth is that you cannot pay for the Life of Julia, or any vision of a cradle-to-grave welfare state, without massive and increasingly regressive middle-class taxes. Not only that, it's easy to tax middle-class assets and transactions but soaking the rich means taxing investments, and problematically, investments are the lifeblood of economic growth. The choice the country faces is simple. What we cannot have is the Life of Julia at no additional burden to 99 out of 100 of us. The way to boil the frog of freedom is slowly.
Today, to little fanfare, the Fed announced a major binding settlement with the banks over robosigning and fraudclosure, which benefited the large banks, impaired the small ones (which is great: room for even more consolidation, and even more TBest-erTF, which benefits America's handful of remaining megabanks), and was nothing but one minor slap on the banking sector's consolidated wrist involving a laughable $3 billion cash payment. As part of the settlement, the US public is expected to ignore how much money the banks actually made in the primary and secondary market over the years courtesy of countless Linda Greens and robosigning abuses. A guess: the "settlement" represents an IRR of some 10,000% to 100,000% for the settling banks. We are confident once the details are ironed out, this will be an accurate range. Yet what is most disturbing, or not at all, depending on one's level of naivete, is the response of Elijah Cummings, ranking member of the house Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. As a reminder, Congress had demanded that the settlement not be announced before there was a hearing on it. This did not even dent the Fed's plans to proceed with today's 11 am public announcement which can now not be revoked. It is Cummings' response which shows, yet again, just who is the true master of the Federal Reserve.
More than half a decade has passed since the recession that triggered the financial panic and the Great Recession, but the condition of the world continues to be summed up by what The Spectator's Michael Lind calls ‘turboparalysis’ - a prolonged condition of furious motion without movement in any particular direction, a situation in which the engine roars and the wheels spin but the vehicle refuses to move. By now one might have expected the emergence of innovative and taboo-breaking schools of thought seeking to account for and respond to the global crisis. But to date there is no insurgent political and intellectual left, nor a new right, for that matter. Why has a global calamity produced so little political change and, at the same time, so little rethinking? Part of the answer, has to do with the collapse of the two-way transmission belt that linked the public to the political elite. But there is a deeper, structural reason for the persistence of turboparalysis. And that has to do with the power and wealth that incumbent elites accumulated during the decades of the global bubble economy. But it is coming...
The epic farce that is the opaque balance sheets of European banks, sovereigns, NCBs, and the ECB, continues to occur under our very eyes. Only when one sniffs below the headlines is the truth exposed with no apology or recognition of 'cheating' anywhere. To wit, following November's farcical over-payment on collateral by the ECB to Spanish banks (that was quietly brushed under the carpet by Draghi et al.), Germany's Die Welt am Sonntag has found that the Bank of France overpaid up to EUR550mm ($720mm) on its short-term paper financing to six French and Italian banks. The reason - incorrect evaluation of the crappy collateral (i.e. the NCB not taking a big enough haircut for risk purposes) on 113 separate occasions. The problem lies in the increasingly poor quality of collateral the CBs are willing to accept (and the illiquidity of the underlying markets) - as higher quality collateral disappears; which leaves the central bankers clearly out of depth when it comes to 'risk management', no matter how many times Draghi tells us this week.
Listening to talking heads and certainly to various retail associations, US consumer spending in December was lackluster driven by such traditional scapegoats as "lack of confidence ahead of the Fiscal Cliff", lack of clarity on taxation, fears about what the market may do, etc. And while retailers certainly did report a very mixed sales report for both November and December, it certainly was not due to lack of spending, at least not according to Gallup. Curiously, and rather inexplicably, the polling organization found that in December the average self-reported daily spending in stores, online, and in restaurants rose by a whopping $10 to $83. This was the highest monthly figure Gallup has reported since December 2008. It is also the first reading above the $80 mark since the 2008-2009 recession. But how is that possible? Wasn't the strawman that nobody would spend due to fiscal and tax uncertainty? Apparently not, and this unleashes merely the latest episode of baffle with BS, where data from one source contradicts directly what has been reported from other aggregators of spending data.
From a week after the election, the most-shorted names in the major indices have been the massive outperformers and drivers of this market exuberance (+16.4% versus 8.4% market). That story has not stopped as 2013 has seen the squeeze continue as the year-end strategy of piling into the most-shorted names has worked. From the opening levels on January 2nd (with today seeing even more divergence), the most-shorted Russell 2000 names are dramatically outperforming. It would appear, as Bloomberg notes in its recent article on 2012's most-hated companies' outperformance, that "It's not just hard to be short, it is painful." Of course, they also note one manager's view that "The risk is that if this market rally has been based on short covering and that was all it was, then there’s no further money following, the rally is then either dead or not sustainable." Especially with net spec longs at near-record highs, this has unsustainability written all over it.
The chapter on robosigning, i.e., Fraudclosure, is now closed with a $10 billion wristslap on US banks, of which a whopping $3.3 billion in the form of direct cash and $5.2 billion in "other assistance." The banks who are now absolved from any and all Linda Green transgressions in the past include: Aurora, Bank of America, Citibank, JPMorgan Chase, MetLife Bank, PNC, Sovereign, SunTrust, U.S. Bank, and Wells Fargo. And so, banks can resume to resell properties with mortgages on which the original lien may or may not have been lost in the sands of time.
Fannie was already in the news this morning courtesy of the $10 billion settlement announced between the GSE and Bank of America. Let's make it two in a row courtesy of the firm's monthly housing survey in which one aspect, the ongoing expectation that home prices will continue to rise driven by the recent momentum, should come as no surprise: there is always hope that this dead cat bounce is different and unlike the previous three, and will result in something substantial. It won't, once all those millions of properties held on bank books and generating zero cash flow (remember: BAC's 6+ month delinquent mortgages now amount to a whopping $64 billion) are unleashed on the market once the subsidized housing price is perceived as sufficient by most as a new, and satisfactory, clearing price. What was surprising was the consumer outlook on the economy and personal finances, which was diametrically opposite, and in fact those who expect that their personal financial situation will get worse in the next 12 months rose to the highest since August 2011.