What is wrong with this market? The S&P 500, instead of grinding higher in the aftermath of QE3 actually hit its peak for the year the day after the policy announcement. Go figure. Maybe economic reality finally caught up with Mr. Market (there is a very fine line between "'resiliency" and "denial" — and keep in mind that the S&P 500 is still up 14% in a year in which profits are now contracting, not just slowing down)... On average, six weeks hence, the S&P 500 was up more than 9% after the policy announcement. It was all so novel! Tech on average was up over 11%, industrials were up 12%... ditto for Consumer Discretionary and Materials. The cyclicals flew off the shelves. But this time around. either Mr. Market is jaded or the laws of diminishing returns are setting in. Six weeks after the unveiling of QE3, the market is down 2%. This hasn't happened before. Every economic-sensitive sector is in the red, and even Financials — the one sector that should benefit from all the "sucking at the Fed teat" — have made no money for anybody!
Forget black swans, Nigel Farage is rapidly turning himself into the black sheep of the EU Parliament with his constant stream of truthiness and honest pragmatism. It seems the broadly nodding-donkeys that fill the chamber remain cognitively dissonant to any and everything in the real world - hanging instead on the next soundbite from Van Rompuy or Barroso on how well things are going, or how the crisis is 'almost' over. If only the Germans would bless them all with their money. In one his plainest-speaking rants, Farage provides clarity to his 'peers' on just exactly what the bailouts of Greece, Portugal, Ireland, and soon to be Spain and Italy are actually about - the "total subjugation of the states to a completely undemocratic structure in Brussels." Is it any wonder Samaras and crew - while happy to accept cash and make promises - are pulling away from yet another (this time is the last time) Troika-driven austerity push? "The euro-zone is in a very dark place; economically, socially, and politically."
Those holding their breath that the PBOC will finally relent and join its "developed world" central planning colleagues in easing - something the tech companies of the world, not to mention everyone else, desperately needs - will have to do so for quite a bit longer (and today's earlier latest reverse repo was merely confirmation of this). The reason is that the just released HSBC Flash PMI for October, the first preliminary snapshot of Chinese data, posted a material rise from 47.9 to 49.1. Yes, this was the 12th consecutive print in sub-50 contraction territory in a row, but the direction is one which may give the economy and the people hope that things are getting better. They most certainly are not, but remember: in China every data point is massaged, manipulated, and then massaged some more before it is finally telegraphed to represent only what the Politburo wants it to say. And as a reminder, China, like the US, has elections (in quotes of course) in two weeks. As such neither the economy will tip the boat, nor the PBOC will drive more inflation at a time when everyone else is already easing. In other words: goldilocks goalseeked data... which for the monetarists was the worst possible outcome, as it means no new and free money.
Sometimes you just have to laugh; or else committing harakiri comes dangerously close to mind. Japan's increasingly terrifying fiscal situation combined with a central bank that is rapidly becoming the laughing stock of the world (though all the other central banks are merely mimicking its actions) is becoming so self-referential (with its almost total domestic ownership of government debt), so short-termist (with its dramatically high short-term funding requirements constantly rolling), and demographically challenged (with its elderly almost entirely reliant upon government transfer payments) that it is hard to comprehend how much longer this farce can carry on. We have previously discussed Japan's WTF charts, but the following collection from Deutsche Bank's Torsten Slok must be seen to be believed. For now - the problem in a nutshell is government-debt per working-age person in Japan will be $140,000 in 2016 - almost triple the rest of the G7.
US reliance on oil imports as a share of consumption is gradually declining; but China's, however, is rising and is now higher than the US. As JPMorgan's Michael Cembalest notes, China now has the world's largest new car market and most extensive network of superhighways - which given the lack of a viable, affordable electric car - means fossil fuel consumption is expected to continue to rise. The trends that lead to this inexorable rise have critically important implications for the West in the ongoing containment of Iran's nuclear ambitions. Unfortunately for the West, the prospects for cooperation on sanctions appear dim as the following nine points (on China's relationship with Iran) should make clear.
The primary reason the U.S. economy is stagnating is that it is dominated by an increasingly dysfunctional Central State and the private cartels it protects. The solutions, therefore, cannot come from State central-planning or from global corporate cartels. The solution is to develop alternative models that reinvigorate the local, community-based economy and that leverage the new tools of productivity: the Internet, freely available software tools and new technologies such as desktop fabrication. One sure way to improve the local economy is to keep more of the community's income in the community itself rather than send it to distant corporate cartel headquarters. Guilds can play a dynamic role in that relocalization movement.
We cannot escape the conclusion that things remain hopelessly off track. Whatever form of 'recovery' is being sought here simply will not arrive. The core of our views is shaped by the idea that the very thing being sought, more economic growth (and exponential growth, at that), is exactly the root of the problem. We suppose we would take a similarly dim view of an alcoholic trying to drink their way back to health as we do the increasingly interventionist central bank and associated political policies the world over. We are losing hope that we will navigate towards anything other than a hard landing at some point because even with copious amounts of data accumulating suggesting that the old ways are not working, we cannot detect even the slightest hint of original thinking or new thoughts coming out of the marbled halls of power. Business-as-usual and more-of-the-same seem to be the only operative ideas right now. But what is a bit startling to me is the number of individuals that have not yet caught onto the idea that things have permanently and irrevocably changed.
UPDATE: NFLX Tilson'd -14% AH
Yesterday's late-day rampapalooza seemed like just the confidence-inspiring rally that was needed to enable sellers out at better prices. The absolute schizophrenia (debate-day shenanigans?) remains remarkable - and today the silver-lining appears to be the Dow Transports - which end green. But as always context is key - the rest of the US equity market is converging down to the Trannies measly 0.8% YTD gain in a hurry. Stocks and broad risk-assets were once again highly correlated as systemic weakness dragged an exuberant overnight equity market back down to reality. Today's higher-beta weakness was widespread but AAPL's crashtastic 3.25% plunge on an underwhelming sales and over-expensive product seems as good a catalyst as any (and if anyone on TV tells you its all the shorts driving it - just think about the dominance of this stock in all those long-only manager's books that are now underperforming - long sales at VWAP!!!). USD strength dragged commodities lower - Oil underperforming, Gold outperforming (though lower); Treasury yields cracked lower (down 6-7bps from high to low); and credit modestly underperformed as VIX also rose more than implied by stocks as protection was bid. The S&P has lost the Bernanke Floor and thanks to some late VWAP support is holding at Draghi's Dike.
One of the zanier proposals floated in the past few weeks, yet sufficient to send Greek bonds soaring to post-restructuring highs on hopes of a take out, was the suggestion that Greece would repurchase its fresh-start bonds in the open market, which recently traded in the teens, and have since virtually doubled, at a price ~25 cents of par. Obviously since the price of the bonds had been much lower, even the mere possibility of what is termed in the industry as a distressed buyback, sent everyone scurrying to purchase the paper, as if it had any intrinsic economic value (it did not), instead of mere hopes that Greece would throw even more good money after bad (especially since the fresh start bonds have a meaningless cash coupon and nobody expects them to be repaid at maturity). There is also the detail that a distressed buyback is, for the rating agencies, equivalent to an Event of Default, but knowledge of that small fact would be demanding too much out of those who scrambled in the latest chase for yield. Anyway, with all that said, it now appears that the whole idea is over, with Greek Kathimerini reporting moments ago that Greece has scuttled the proposal for a bond buyback.
Everyone's favorite Whitney Tilson repeat-endorsed, slow motion trainwreck, NetFlix, has reported results after hours. They are, as expected, terrible with lots of cash burn, declining margins and excuses, and as a result the short squeeze is over and the stock is imploding after hours. Among the details:
- Q3 Gross profit declined to 26.8% from 27.6% in Q2 and 34.7% in Q3 2011.
- Total cash declined by $32 million
- Free cash flow was -$20 million, despite positive "net income"
- Q3 Streaming content obligations were flat at a whopping $5 billion. $2.1 billion is due in the next year. The brilliance strikes here first. These obligations "not include obligations that we cannot quantify but could be significant." Uh... What?
And while the firm forecasts a net income loss in Q4 of ($13)MM to $2MM as seen in the table below, which means a far worse free cash flow loss in Q4, the absolute pearl was the following:
"The biggest issue holding back much stronger growth is payments."
Corzine Tells Judge That Due To Purchase Of 50,000 MF Global Shares Before Bankruptcy, He Must AcquitSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 10/23/2012 15:35 -0400
That former Goldman, New Jersey and MF Global head Jon Corzine is absolutely convinced he is innocent of any client money vaporization or wrongdoing, and that the definition of the phrase "to Corzine (verb- to trust your money to a prominent individual and to find it has mysteriously disappeared)" is absolutely arbitrary, is not news to anyone. And if not convinced then at least at a complete loss to what actually happened. One just had to recall all the "I don't recalls" the Honorable Corzine told congress during the makeshift kangaroo court hearing on MF Global's collapse (even if the final outcome was less than desired). So it's only logical that the Honorable Corzine asked a federal judge to "toss a civil fraud lawsuit accusing him of misleading investors about the risky bets the futures firm was taking before its collapse a year ago." The WSJ reports that "Corzine's lawyers blasted the investors' suit as a "jumble of assertions and accusations" that makes "no sense" that should be dismissed in a filing Friday in U.S. District Court in New York." But here is the kicker: MF Global may have mismanaged trades, Corzine's lawyers admit, but he sure didn't hide the risks or mislead investors about the firm's risk appetite or liquidity. Why? Because he was so convinced in the profitability of MFG he bought a whopping 50,000 MF Global shares in the open market two months before the firm collapsed. So let's get this straight: Corzine invested a whopping $225,000 (as a reminder, Corzine was CEO of Goldman Sachs for years) because he believed in the firm and not to give the impression that the firm was "safe" in order to avoid a full blown panic once the realization its was insolvent could no longer be hidden, and be wiped out on all of his stock, option and other MFG holdings? And this is what sophisticated lawyers use as evidence of his innocence? Seriously?
The most important alliance within the EU, the one that has ultimately defined the union's course over the past few decades, is the French-German axis. It appears that this is no longer the case. The once so strong friendship is in danger of fraying ever since the socialist Francois Hollande has become president of France. Not only was he elected on an 'anti austerity' platform (disguised as a 'pro growth' agenda, which is of course one of the most laughable misrepresentations ever), it has turned out that his big-brother, anti-free market socialist agenda wasn't merely an electoral ploy to differentiate himself from Sarkozy. He actually means it. One thing is certain: the markets have not yet fully assimilated what is going on here.
UPDATE: AAPL Stock -2.5% - below Friday's Closing VWAP
Below is a picture of the product that Steve Jobs never wanted launched, and which Apple has been forced to release due to competitors which are suddenly beating it in its own game. And the price: $329. The Nexus starting price is $199 which is also Kindle Fire territory. Anyway, the 8 inch iPad is here (which upon measurement actually turns out to be 5"... particularly the white version). So when is the iPad 36C coming? Finally: will there be an iDiscount for those with over $100,000 in student debt?