Last time around, Draghi hinted at a fresh round of rate cuts. Nothing happened. In today's press conference, he will likely hint at it again, and nothing will happen once more: for now the ongoing threat of a Spanish bailout (now in its 6th month) has pushed Spanish 2 year yields to the lowest level since 2010, which means the ECB is safely out of the picture for a while, or at least until the Spanish social security funds runs out of all cash to buy Spanish bonds. Only then, will the ECB be forced out of hibernation.
Judging by ongoing momentum moves in various European stock and bond market indicators, one could be left with the impression that something in the continent is actually improving. And while hope of improvement is certainly be high, the reality is vastly different as confirmed by the just released Greek unemployment data, which saw the broad unemployment rate soar to a fresh record high of 26.8% in October (24.1% males, 30.4% females - that's nearly one in three), up from a pre-revision 26.0% in September, and up from 19.7% a year ago, the youth (15-24 age group) unemployment rising again to a new all time high of 56.6% (up from 56.4%), and the ratio of those employed (3.68MM) to unemployed (1.34MM) plunging to a record low 2.75x. At this rate it may well hit 1.00x quite soon. But even sooner, perhaps in a few months, the total number of inactive workers (3.34MM) will surpass all those who are working. In short, the Greek collapse is just getting worse and worse.
No change from the ECB as expected, and despite a hint by Draghi last time that the governing council may cut rates, it did not. The boredom continues until 8:30 am Eastern when Draghi takes the podium and resumes his rendition of Greenspan.
- Obama Picking Lew for Treasury Fuels Fight on Budget (BBG)
- Deutsche Bank Bank Made Huge Bet, and Profit, on Libor (WSJ)
- Spain Beats Maximum Target in First 2013 Debt Sale (BBG) - In other news, the social security fund is now running on negative?
- "Icahn is also believed to have taken a long position in Herbalife" (NYPost) - HLF +5% premarket
- Lew-for-Geithner Switch Closes Era of Tight Fed-Treasury Ties (BBG)
- Turkey Beating Norway as Biggest Regional Oil Driller (BBG)
- Greek State Firms are Facing Closure (WSJ)
- Draghi Spared as Confidence Swing Quells Rate-Cut Talk (BBG)
- China’s Yuan Loans Trail Estimates (BBG)
- SEC enforcement chief steps down (WSJ)
- CFPB releases new mortgage rules in bid to reduce risky lending (WaPo)
- Japan Bond Investors Expect Extra Sales From February (BBG)
The main macro event today will be the interest rate announcement by the ECB due out at 7:45 am (with the Bank of England reporting earlier on its rate and QE plan, both of which remained unchanged as expected, which will remain the case until Carney comes on board) which is expected to be a continuation of the policy, with no rate cut despite some clamoring by pundits that Draghi should cut rates even more. Overnight, we got Chinese December trade (better than expected) and loan (slightly worse than expected) data, coming in precisely as a country which has a new communist politburo leadership implied they would. Of particular note was that the US has now replaced the EU as the largest Chinese export market: what happens when the euro weakens even further? But at least the net benefit to European GDP as a result of declining imports will, paradoxically, help. Elsewhere, Spain auctioned off more than than the expected €4-5 billion in its first 2013 auctions of 2015, 2018 and 2026 bonds, sending the 10 year SPGB yield to under 5%, or the lowest since 2010, a process driven by expectations of a Spanish bailout. Thus the incredible odyssey of Schrodinger Spain continues, whose interest rates are improving on hopes it is insolvent. Fundamentally, things got better nowhere, with Greek unemployment rising to 26.8% in October from 26.0% previously, while bad loans in Italy soared by 16.7% Y/Y to €121.8 billion, while loans to businesses dropped at the fastest pace ever. And so the scramble to offset the trade and economic collapse of Europe using central bank tools continues.
It will not come as a surprise to too many Zero Hedge readers but we feel a big told-you-so dance coming on again. Via BATS:
- *BATS SAYS 'SYSTEM ISSUE' CAUSED PRICING PROBLEMS OVER 4 YRS:WSJ
- BZX Exchange (10/24/08 - 01/04/13) Average Daily Incidents: 410.1 Total Incidents: 433,039
In simple terms BATS admits that the Reg NMS trading principle of NBBO (National Best Bid or Offer) has failed; meaning the core premise of market structure since 2005 has been massively abused by at least one and likely all exchanges. The bottom-line is that the primary and really only safeguard in the market when HFT was unleashed was never operational and the SEC has had i) no actual supervision over who or what was abusing the NBBO and ii) no way of keeping track of what really happens in the market.
Every nation-state has a body of laws woven into the fabric of society. As Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto has commented on extensively, the stronger the rule of law, the stronger the economy. And by "stronger" laws, I mean laws that are impervious to tampering for personal or political gains. The connection between a sound judiciary and economic health is readily comprehensible, except maybe to a politician... businesses and individuals are far more likely to invest capital in a country with understandable laws that are impartially and universally enforced than if the opposite condition exists. That's because the lack of a consistent body of law breeds uncertainty and adds a huge element of risk for entrepreneurs. Which brings us back to the matter at hand – American justice on a slippery slope.
The release of the National Federation Of Independent Business (NFIB) Small Business Survey for December was much like the report we discussed in November. In short - there were very few positives to be found. The current survey was completed prior to the last minute "fiscal cliff" deal that raised taxes on small business owners and employers. It is unlikely that higher tax rates will spur businesses to expand employment, make capital expenditures or increase production. Furthermore, with the resolution to the upcoming debt ceiling likely resulting in few, if any, real spending cuts the worries about future economic strength will likely persist.
In light of this evening's entertainment from Paul Krugman, we thought QBAMCO's Paul Brodsky's view of the present debt-ceiling policy-through-the-looking-glass extremely apropos. Speaking of monetary abstractionism, there has been recent talk of a fiscal gimmick called “The Trillion Dollar Coin,” in which a platinum coin valued at $1 trillion would be created by the U.S. Mint for the Treasury Department. Treasury would then rid itself of its pesky fiscal deficit in one fell swoop by simply keeping the coin on deposit at the Fed. The TDC idea is a marvel of political imagination and public ignorance. Obviously, the TDC idea is a political ploy with a targeted mission: to rid the US Treasury of its debt ceiling, which is an increasingly frequent and embarrassing public reminder of government ineptitude. Everyone knows government-led de-levering is not a serious threat. However, the irony of the scheme and its MMT (Modern Money Theory, is espoused by imaginative economists technically proficient in double-entry bookkeeping and deficient in confidence that free marketplaces can provide accurate valuations) / liberal Keynesian promoters could not be more delicious. The scheme exposes the forty year-old charade, otherwise known as the global monetary system, better than any mind-exercise we have been able to come up with.
Moments ago, MSNBC showed a clip in which "gun tzar" VP Joe Biden made it clear that "the President is going to act" on the issue of gun control, and that "executive orders and executive action can be taken." Of course "can" does not mean "will" as the fallout from an executive order bypassing Congress would be rather dramatic, especially on a topic so near and dear to at least half of America, and the response, to put it mildly, would make the Piers Morgan vs Alex Jones screaming match seems like a tranquil discussion between two dignified stoics. If "can" however, does become "will", America may have far bigger issues over the next two months than the debt ceiling, kicking the sequester down another several months, or even the quadrillion yen tuna.
The world has done everything humanly possible to put off any tough financial decisions and that is especially true in Europe and in America. The leaders on both Continents just cannot take the heat and so everything possible has been pushed forward in the hopes that economies will improve and that growth will cure the ills brought on by the lack of any real leadership. The centerpiece of the success of lower yields in all of the countries in Europe rests squarely upon Draghi’s “Save the World” plan where the ECB will backstop everything. A careful examination of the numbers and the possibilities limit what can be done in 2013 and the countries in question are Greece, Portugal, Cyprus, Spain and Italy. The other side of the coin here is social unrest that I believe will surface in the spring so that the present general belief that things have improved in Europe is nothing more than a hope which is fashioned by political design. The debt to GDP ratios for each nation in Europe are nothing more than gimmickry. The central banks, phony accounting and a promise by the ECB may well have saved 2012 from an implosion but 2013 brings a new set of circumstances that are far less appealing than last year. Stay safe!
The economic implosion of Europe is accelerating. Even while the mainstream media continues to proclaim that the financial crisis in Europe has been “averted”, the economic statistics that are coming out of Europe just continue to get worse. Meanwhile, those of us living in the United States smugly look down our noses at Europe because we are still living in a false bubble of debt-fueled prosperity. But eventually we will feel the sting of austerity as well. The recent fiscal cliff deal was an indication of that. Taxes are going up and government spending is at least going to slow down. It won’t be too long before the effects of that are felt in the economy. And of course the reality of the situation is that the U.S. economy really did not perform very well at all during 2012 when you take a look at the numbers. The cold, hard truth is that the U.S. economy has been declining for a very long time, and there are a whole bunch of reasons to expect that our decline will accelerate even further in 2013. So if you are an American, don’t laugh at what is happening over in Europe at the moment. We are headed down the exact same path that they have gone, and we are going to experience the same kind of suffering that they are going through right now. Use these last few “bubble months” to prepare for what is ahead.
The saga of an American family centered around Kunta Kinte's roller-coaster life through freedom and slavery made Santiago Capital's Brent Johnson reflect on just how critical 'roots' are in many aspects of our lives. From anthropology and linguistics to the root of law in the US Constitution and Bill of Rights, Johnson extends the analogy to precious metal derivatives exchanges rooted in trust and explains that money is not the root of all evil. While his political taunts and Keynesian antagonism is well worth the price of admission, it is the discussion of the 'manipulation and debasement of money' as the root of all evil that is key as the manager explains gold's centuries long avoidance of this Lenin- or Keynes-inspired comprehension of how governments can "confiscate wealth" and by a "process of inflation... can overturn the existing basis of society." Gold provides the roots or solid base on which economies have grown (or individuals stored value) for all of recorded history. His conclusion is key - a tree (currency) with no roots simply cannot stand for long and the market will eventually come to the same conclusion it has for the last 5000 years as the OTC derivative bubble implodes.
On the day that California's Governor Jerry Brown asks federal judges to lift an order to release prisoners to reduce overcrowding, this brief clip seemed extremely appropriate when considering just why it is that the US prison population is so high (as we noted most recently here). Professor Daniel D'Amico provides some insightful color, noting that fully 24 percent of inmates in U.S. prisons are non-violent drug offenders. The drug war has been adding to a growing U.S. prison population for the past 40 years. Today, the United States holds more human beings in prisons than any other country, both as a percentage of the population and in counting total numbers. The war on drugs has led to significant increases in the U.S. prison population and he argues that perhaps this is an ineffective way to address drug use in America. An interesting dilemma on the day when another 'freedom', that of gun ownership, is up for potential prohibition.
Update: those (few) worried if America's overactive Attorney General, best known for soon to be confiscating guns and perhaps shipping them off to Mexico, and doing nothing else in the past 4 years, will stick around for Obama's second term.
And no, before the questions pile in, she was not fired, as poetic as that would be (nor was she replaced by a 65 year old, part-time worker as is the case with the vast majority of the US labor force). She quit, saying "decided to begin a new future, and return to the people and places I love" and that as the product of "a large Mexican-American family I never imagined that I would...serve in a president’s Cabinet." From WaPo: "Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said in a letter to colleagues Wednesday she was stepping down from her post." Of course, using the BLS' own policies and "logic", this means the unemployment rate just ticked even lower. We look forward to Hilda's book due out in 6-12 months bashing, who else, Tim Geithner.