The following fascinating chart from Tableausoftware shows the history of US unemployment by state since 1976, and specifically the difference from historical averages. What the chart shows is that as more and more people have migrated to populated coastal areas, or those areas hit hardest from the recent deleveraging mean reversion depression, it is the flyover states, typically considered the least interesting, that are actually performing by far the best, with some places like North Dakota, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Vermont paradoxically having better relative employment right now than during any time in the past 40 years! As the economy continues to revert to trendline along every possible axis, despite the Fed's persistent efforts to overrule nature, how long until reverse migration kicks in, and all those hopefuls who had trekked to the big coastal cities dreaming of better prospects, leave in disenchantment and head back to where they came from, and just how would that impact the future of US economic and demographic trends?
As details from Thursday's European Memorandum of Understanding, which has all the binding power of a 'highly confident letter' issued by a third tier investment bank, continue to be non-existent, the questions, and conditions, are accumulating fast. While the ESM passed with a solid majority in both the lower and upper houses of German parliament yesterday, its fate is now in the hands of the German constitutional court which as reported previously has requested extra time to study the bailout plan, before it gives the all clear for a presidential signature. Sound familiar? And barely did the ESM pass the ratification vote, before lawsuits alleging its unconstitutionality start pouring in. But probably more importantly, Focus magazine reported overnight that the first clear condition from Germany will be the enactment of a Financial transaction tax for all countries where the ESM would be operational in order to minimize the burden on German taxpayers. In other words, banks would effectively pool their profits, in order to fund the bailout of other banks (or their own). In retrospect, it does not sound like a bad idea. It may even pass the recently conceived "fairness doctrine" of the Great June Socialist Revolution. Most importantly, however, it appears that events over the past week may have been merely a gambit for something that Schauble and Weidmann have already hinted at: a popular referendum that decides the fate of Europe once and for all, washing Merkel's hands and letting the people decide if they want the European experiment to continue or not.
With so much hollow and pointless discussion over the past week, month and year over such fundamentally trivial things as who will inject more money faster, who will be bailed out first, who will go back to their own currency before everyone else, it is easy to forget that reality actually matters. And the reality is not who has their CTRL-P macro stuck, but what does the future of the world truly hold when one sidesteps such idiotic flights of fancy that debt may be cured with more debt. In order to completely change the topic from what has become trivial and generic - i.e., the various encroaching forms of central planning: Fed, SCOTUS, G-8 through G-20; European Finance Ministers, and now, with the ESM passing German parliament, the German Constitutional Court, we focus on something few have discussed, yet all have a morbid fascination with: Robots... And China. And why the combination of the two just may be the most dangerous thing for China's several hundred million strong migrant labor force, which, on the margin may just be the deciding factor defining the engine of global growth for the next decade. Oh, and did we mention global structural unemployment which will only get worse as increasing automation leaves more and more millions collecting their 99 weeks of extended unemployment benefits.
Given the rather weak near-term and long-term outlook for US coal demand, it’s not surprising that within such a capital-intensive business, a number of smaller coal producers were hit recently with bankruptcy rumors. Indeed, even large cap names like Arch Coal have seen an escalation of concern over debt levels. Accordingly, many have concluded that coal -- in an era of solar, wind, and natural gas -- has finally displaced itself due to its problematic extraction, distant transportation, and overall costs. Is coal finally going away as an energy source?
Not a chance.
Indeed, everything currently unfolding for coal in the United States is precisely what is not unfolding for coal globally. Prices to import natural gas to most countries via LNG remain sky-high, easily protecting coal’s cost advantage. And the demand for coal in the developing world remains gargantuan. Accordingly, just as with oil, lower US demand simply frees up supply to elsewhere in the world. The global coal juggernaut rolls onward.
I won a bet today.
A few weeks ago I wagered with a coworker that the United States Supreme Court would uphold the Affordable Care Act otherwise known as Obamacare. He reasoned that the federal government has no authority under the Constitution to force an individual to purchase a product from a private company. My reasoning was much simpler. Because the Supreme Court is a functioning arm of the state, it will do nothing to stunt Leviathan’s growth. The fact that the Court declared no federal law unconstitutional from 1937 to 1995—from the tail end of the New Deal through Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society—should have been proof enough. He naively believed in the impartialness of politically-appointed judges. For the first time he saw that those nine individuals are nothing more than politicians with an allegiance to state supremacy.
It was a tough but valuable lesson to learn.
The most recent decade of 2000 to 2010 has seen the fastest rate of change in the global economic balance in history. During this period, a recent McKinsey research article notes, the world's economic center of gravity has shifted by about 140km per year - about 30% faster than in the period after World War II when global GDP shifted from Europe to North America. The world’s center of economic gravity has changed over past centuries. But since the mid-1980s, the pace of that shift—from the United States and Europe toward Asia— has been increasing dramatically as China is urbanizing on 100 times the scale of Britain in the 18th century and at more than 10 times the speed. One has to wonder what the difference would be were it not for the flawed economic model adopted since the 1980s that relied on debt and asset price inflation to drive demand (as opposed to wage growth linked to productivity growth).
UPDATE: Added 'The Post-FOMC Window-Dressing Roadmap' - or high-beta-rescue...
Stocks opened around 2% gap higher this morning after the late-night headlines from Europe made many think that the tooth-fairy and Santa are real once again. S&P 500 e-mini futures saw some selling into the open but then stabilized amid a very narrow range for much of the rest of the day - leaking higher on low volume-driven short-covering. The news from Germany of ESM ratification was greeted with absolutely no price movement as an indication of just how insane things are but the need to drive stocks up in the last few minutes was crazy. Into the close, volume exploded as ES rose 10pts in minutes from absolutely nowhere. Average trade size was very heavy during this period and delta skewed notably to block selling into the ramp though it is never that obvious. ES closed above its 50DMA back to its highest since 5/8. Everyone enjoyed the day's window-dressing escapades aside from JPM which dropped 3% from its opening levels and closed in the red. The main takeaway is that most risk assets recovered to last week's highs but stocks turned the amplifier of insanity to 11 and pushed back to near two-month highs not to be outdone into quarter-end (wink wink).
How should we say this: we are shocked, shocked, that the DOJ won't prosecute itself.
BREAKING: DOJ says it won't prosecute Attorney General Holder after the GOP-led House voted to hold him in criminal contempt of Congress - Fox
And now, back to the far more important news of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes divorcing.
Journalism is about asking questions that corporations, governments and establishments don’t want to answer. It’s about reporting the full-story, no matter how many toes you step on. It’s about opening up power to real scrutiny. And that is something that the propagandists in big media are often incapable of — which of course is why big media is slowly dying. We need to know the depth and width of Fast and Furious and the programs which preceded it: how was it authorised, how was it designed, how did it go wrong, who was to blame for it going wrong. We need to know whether or not the widely-spread allegation that the Obama administration has sold guns directly to Los Zetas is true. We need to know whether or not El Chapo and the Sinaloa Cartel are working with the DEA and the Mexican government. (Both of these allegations are widely accepted as fact in Mexico). We need to know why Obama has chosen to continue the failed drug war, even in spite of overwhelming evidence that the illegality of drugs is the very thing that empowers the criminal cartels, and in spite of the fact that Obama is a former drug user.
With everyone scrambling to buy into the bathsalts rally, and shorts rushing to cover with a panic bordering on a QE-announcement, it is somewhat ironic that today's voice of muted reason comes from none other than Liebor expert extraordinaire: Barclays, whose suggestion is simple: lock your profits: "We remain bearish on EURUSD, expecting it to grind slowly down to 1.15 over the next 12 months. We therefore suggest investors look to fade this morning's European currency strength versus the USD and non European commodity currencies such as the AUD and CAD." Why? They have their listed reasons. The unlisted ones are the same that every other bank has for becoming bearish recently (we have recently listed Citi, Goldman, SocGen and DB to name but a few): for a real fiscal and monetary policy intervention to take place (i.e., a rescue package that lasts at least a few months, as opposed to today's several day max rally): the market has to be tumbling. That, as we have explained repeatedly, is the only way to get a powerful response. Everything else is (quarter end) window dressing.
The EU summit to save the Euro (the nineteenth, or thereabouts) has, quite remarkably, agreed to do something to try and save the Euro. As UBS' Paul Donavan notes "As ever with a Euro summit there are unanswered questions. Grandiose statements are what heads of government specialise in – the details are left to later" - it is one of the reasons why Maastricht produced a monetary union that was flawed from the outset. Once “create a single currency” had been agreed, politicians lost interest. The statement from the summit itself was woefully inadequate, but below UBS lays out what additional questions need to be answered. Always keep in mind though, "Going into this summit we had a monetary union in Europe that clearly did not work. Coming out of this summit we have a monetary union that still does not work."
Say what you will about JPM's soon to be former employee (once the IG trade complex is fully unwound... sometime in 2013) Bruno Iksil, but you don't get to run up a several hundred billions notional CDS book (and blow it up) by being stupid. No, Bruno was certainly not stupid. In fact, he has reportedly exhibited precisely the very same brilliant trait that Europe's also very smart central-planners, as well as all other people in positions of power under the current status quo regime, demonstrate day in and day out: "Baffle With Bullshit."
Everyone knows that Italy's unelected PM, Mario Monti, is a former Goldman Sachs International 'advisor.' As such, it is only natural that being part of the banking cartel he would do everything in his power to promote an inflationary agenda, one that seeks ECB bond monetization intervention, (another central bank headed by a former Goldmanite of course), perpetuates the status quo, and one that naturally contravenes everything that German citizens have been pushing for in their desire to avoid the risk of another hyperinflationary episode. Especially if, as is well-known, resolving Europe's problems, however briefly, facilitates an Obama re-election campaign because as conventional wisdom is also catching on, should Europe implode before November, Obama's reelection chances plunge accordingly. And yet, even as Goldman's tentacles had spread all over Europe (as seen here), conventional wisdom was that Goldman's influence in Germany was relatively muted.
Initially presenting the potential problems of our current healthcare environment, the creator of 'the bears that explained Quantitative Easing' provides much food for thought on the unintended consequences of Obamacare (in all its 2700 page glory). For everything you need to know about how it devolved to this ("To understand healthcare in America, you have to think about bananas") and how to think about the new tax's potential implications (e.g. lower quality of service, capped hiring rates among employers), seven minutes well spent.
Last week it was Merkel promising she would die before she allowed Eurobonds (technically this has not been refuted: all she has done is allowed... uhmm... err... we don't really know - lots of confusing headlines out there, lots of chatter, a big short squeeze and no actual details). And now, here comes...
- GERMAN FINANCE MINISTER SCHAEUBLE SAYS NO EURO BONDS IN HIS LIFETIME EITHER WITHOUT COMMON FINANCIAL POLICY
And by common financial policy of course they mean "joint sovereignty" or at least all European gold pledge at Geld4Gold. Time to send Goldman's ambassador to Germany to investigate.