It’s not mere anecdotal evidence: Visibly melting sea ice is the best evidence that the planet is warming. So prospecting for oil in the Arctic is a tricky endeavor that must be undertaken slowly and with extreme caution. So just how hot is it going to get? Hotter than we can handle if we fail to reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly...
Wild swings in asset prices have produced two recessions in the last 15 years - and, we suspect, FOMC members are keen not to see a repeat of the collapses of the last decade. As the following chart shows, measured relative to an equally nominally inflated USD-based disposable income, the wealth effect is nothing like as strong as some suggest and indeed it should be clear that time after time in the last 20 years we have seen the artificially blown 'wealth-effect-creating' bubbles implode back to what was an old-normal level of 'sustainable' wealth (and in fact the Fed is having to work harder to keep us from that level).
The Japanese stereotype of excessive courtesy is being confirmed by the actions of prime minster Shinzo Abe who is giving the world a free and timely lesson on the dangers of overly accommodative monetary policy. Whether or not we benefit from the tutorial (Japan will surely not) depends on our ability to understand what is currently happening there. This time around investors in the Japanese market were similarly deluded by fairy tales. Leading economists told them that Japan could cheapen its currency to improve trade, use inflation to create real growth, increase prices to encourage spending, and drastically increase inflation without raising interest rates. In short, monetary policy was seen as substitute for an actual economy.
The Supreme Court struck down the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (as we noted here), leaving states to decide on the legality of same-sex marriage. As the infographic below from Bloomberg shows, laws ban same-sex-marriage in 35 states, with five of those allowing civil union or domestic partnerships.
There may come a day soon where the markets sell off if one of the whiskers in Big Ben's beard is out of place. Or perhaps if his tie is a bit crooked. Or maybe we end up with Janet Yellen as the next puppet in charge over at the local banking cabal and we fret about her hairdo. I don't know, but one thing that is for certain is that this central bank so wants to be loved and we are so under psychological attack with all of this QE nonsense that it isn't even funny. QE is the endgame. ZIRP was only the beginning. QE, or monetization (which they'll never call it because of the negative connotations), is the heroic measure applied to an already dead system. Our system, for all intent and purposes, died in 2008. It ceased to exist. The investing, economic, and business paradigm that has existed since is drastically different than its predecessor despite all the efforts being made to convince everyone, including Humpty Dumpty, that it is in fact 2005 all over again.
Now that even the media world is once again looking closely at the impact of wild bond swings on bank balance sheets, and especially the P&L impact of their Available For Sale portfolios, it makes sense to take a quick glance at just which banks are considered the most overlevered in the world. Luckily, Goldman did just that, and the results are below. Some advice to our French readers: you may want to turn away. If the ongoing bond volatility continues, Credit Agricole and Natixis may be the first two banks that the French socialist president will proudly be forced to nationalize to avoid a collapse of the country's banking sector.
Imagine a football coach who hasn’t caught onto the game’s complexities and continues to run the same play - call it a fullback dive - over and over. When we read calls for more monetary stimulus, we feel as though we're listening to that coach’s brethren in the economist community. These economists argue that the Fed should simply ramp the money supply higher and higher for as long as some economic statistic - GDP is a popular one - remains below a targeted outcome. Dive, dive, dive, punt and repeat. There’s an important difference between football and economics, though. One-dimensional approaches are quickly exposed in football, whereas economies don’t yield clear and timely verdicts on whether policies are effective. There are far too many moving parts to prove cause and effect in a way that everyone can understand and agree. Therefore, bad economic policies persist for a long time before they’re finally found out, and this may be the best way to describe the last 100 years or so of America’s economic history.
Chinese investors are holding their collective breaths to see if the banking crisis predicted two years ago by renowned Chinese economist Li Zuojun will come to fruition in the next couple of months. Li's astounding accuracy in predicting China's economy has led to him earning the nickname "China's most successful doomsayer." Though far from perfect, a lot of what he said here rings true, but the interesting insight is that he forecasts that the incoming regime will want to take its lumps early, in 2013, so as to minimize blame ("it was the old crew’s fault") and maximize praise for subsequent recovery... He notes three other drivers (aside from this political one) including external flows and credit expansion and fears social instability should the status quo be maintained.
From the moment China opened last night, precious metals were under pressure; this accelerated during the middle of the European day, recovered modestly into the US open (on crappy data and implicitly no taper) and then slid lower for the rest of the day ending at its lows (gold -4.3%, silver -5.6%). Stocks were loving it - but again we saw the opening spike in homebuilders sold all day and Staples and Utilities outperforming (not really risk-on?). Treasuries never looked back and rallied all day (belly -7bps) to leave rates practically unchanged on the week (while S&P is up 20 points). The USD is up 0.7% on the week having rallied all day today - led by EUR weakness (and notably AUDJPY once again recoupled with stocks this afternoon). Credit modestly underperformed but rallied technically (more below) as the cash S&P 500 regained the all-important 1,600 level but Trannies rolled over into the close (and stocks remain down around 3% from FOMC levels). Oh, and AAPL <$400
It should be obvious by now that the old adage– study hard, get good grades, go to a good school, get a great job, and work your way up the ladder– really doesn’t apply anymore. And it’s time to re-invent the model. Based on the eight reasons below, it’s no wonder they call them the “Boomerang Generation”, and that 45% of college grads aged 18-24 in the United States were still living with Mom and Dad...
Both the absolute levels and the implied volatility of credit markets are significantly divergent from the recovering exuberance in stocks. As we discussed here and here, this cannot last. If you 'believe' that Bernanke was bluffing and the taper is off then credit is grossly cheaper than stocks; if not, equity shorts seem an appropriate position into Q3.
Another faux-hawk takes the dovish tone and walks back the new normal 'template-less' Taper tantrum that Bernanke created...
- LACKER SAYS FED NOT 'ANYWHERE NEAR' CUTTING BALANCE SHEET SIZE
- LACKER SAYS 'MAYBE MARKETS GOT A LITTLE BIT AHEAD OF US' ON QE
So no tightening (duh). But Lacker, once upon a time a hawk too, just like Plosser and Kosher-Lakota (sic), tries to regain some credibility as follows:
- LACKER SAYS HE WOULD BE `FINE' WITH FOMC TAPERING QE NOW
- LACKER SAYS HE WOULD LIKE TO SEE FED BALANCE SHEET DECREASE
Equities jerked higher by 3-4 S&P points (bonds didn't) - so it looks like the impact of the jawboning is fading.
As we pointed out here, the impact on both 'real' housing affordability of surging mortgage rates is extremely significant for the so-called 'housing recovery' but as Charles Hugh-Smith notes, there is a more insidious (inflation-like) effect (aside from the consumer-confidence sapping one we described here). Rising mortgage rates reduce household purchasing power just like higher taxes and inflation. That means there is less household income to spend on other things, and that's not good for "growth."
The late 1990s for the resource sector was so challenging that it is now often referred to as the "nuclear winter" of the industry. Some analysts are comparing our current circumstances to that period, while others purport we haven't hit bottom yet...