Those who have been following our year-long series exposing the student debt bubble are by now well aware that this latest $1 trillion+ reincarnation of subprime will have a very unhappy ending. Which is why today's release of the quarterly Fed report on household debt and credit will hold few surprises for them. There is however, one data point which is notable: as of December 31, 2012, the soaring delinquency rate on student loans (first reported here, and subsequently confirmed by the Fed itself), has surpassed that of credit card debt.
On the heels of Abe's final decision to appoint a somewhat middle-of-the-road 'dove' as BoJ Governor, we thought it appropriate to look at the year's FX performance to see who is 'winning' the currency wars so far this year. The answer may surprise you (or not if you had read this or this).
The question is will he (fold) or won't he? It seems the market still believes he will...
That the policies of central states and banks have led to one disastrous asset bubble after another over the past 15 years is undeniable. This poses the question: is this serial bubble-blowing intentional, or are the bubbles merely unintended consequences of the neoliberal, neofeudal model of financialization that dominates global finance? The answer boils down to this: inflate assets or die. Inflating phantom assets to collateralize expanding debt is failing due to diminishing returns on stimulus, zero-interest rates, money-printing and monetization of Federal debt.
While last night's earnings (and conference call) were anything but promising, credit markets appear to have grown even more concerned about JCP's future than the equity market. As Barclays notes that JCP will "likely need bridge liquidity", CDS on JCP has surged 90bps crossing the worrying 1000bps level (+1.5pts to 15pts upfront), implying fears of insolvency growing very fast. With Groupon having lost a quarter of its market-cap this morning, it appears JCP is not be outdone as it stock (and Ackman's dreams) cross the down 20% mark. The question is - will Icahn provide the DIP financing? Finally: why, oh why, can't JCP just expand its multiple a few turns: works for the S&P every day, and after all it's not like cash flow, or rather lack thereof, matters in the New Normal.
The Chinese PMI may be slowing down (first HSBC, official one coming out soon), but why bother when according to MarkIt it is now the US' turn to carry the torch of economic growth, reality notwithstanding. As the just released Chicago PMI indicated, in February the broad index rose to 56.8, higher by 1.2 points and beating expectations of a 54.0 print. It is only logical that with the rest of the world in contraction mode, and China about to enter, that the US would have the highest print in 11 months (or Q1 2012, when US GDP was just a tad higher). Or not. Remember: it is all about playing along the script that always, at some place, there is at least some growth taking place. That said, while last month cojoined PMI and Mfg ISM were flipped, as has happened nearly every month in the past year to keep everyone baffled with BS, today's PMI beat likely means that the Manufacturing ISM will be a miss, which according to GETCO's algos will be just as positive for stocks, as today's beat.
Greece is facing a serious shortage of medicines amid claims that pharmaceutical multinationals have halted shipments to the country because of the economic crisis and, as The Guardian reports, concerns that the drugs will be exported by middlemen because prices are higher in other European countries. Rubbing further salt into the Greek (un-medicated) wound, the Red Cross slashed its supply of donor blood to Greece because it had not paid its bills on time. Pharmacies in Greece describe chaotic scenes as clients desperately search from shop to shop for much-needed drugs. Greece's Pharmaceutical Association said "around 300 drugs are in very short supply," adding that "It's a disgrace. The companies are ensuring that they come in dribs and drabs to avoid prosecution. Everyone is really frightened." The fear for the multinationals remains that wholesalers can legally sell to other nations at higher prices and a "combination of Greece's low medicine prices and unpaid debt by the state." Lines form early and 'get very aggressive' one pharmacy exclaimed, "We have reached a tragic point."
Initial claims beat expectations but remain in a narrow 'flat' range for the last year. Non-seasonally-adjusted claims dropped notably to their lowest in 5 months. Since January we have seen multiple estimated states and a lot of choppy noise in the initial claims data. Against this choppiness in the main headline data is the swings in Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) benefits which rose 10% or 187k. One thing is for sure, the last two months have seen an unprecedented amount of noise in the claims data that we can only put down to seasonally-affected-disorder (or statistical idiocy with 5 sigma swings the new normal).
From -0.1% to +0.1% (on expectations of a 0.5% print): the Q4 GDP revision was the smallest possible to make it seem that the US economy grew in the fourth quarter. A quick look at the components, however, reveals more of the same, with a small drop in the consumption contribution to GDP (from 1.52% to 1.47%), Fixed investment growing modestly, as well as imports, while the negative components remained roughly in line, with Inventories detracting the most from growth in Q4, or 1.55%. If JCP is any indication, expectations of aggressive inventory restocking in Q1 may be very optimistic. One thing is clear - the general GDP trendline is ugly, and we may now see downward revisions to Q1 growth forecasts in the aftermath of today's number.
Money is not like a commodity; there is no end to it. You don’t have to grow it, find it in the ground, drill for it or plant it in the spring. It is not even that the supply of lumber will curtail the paper for most of it is not printed at all. Made from nothing, recorded on a spreadsheet, sent out across the wires, a digital divinity of man’s own creation. It is a world that none have seen before. It is not Huxley’s “Brave New World” but something far stranger; a financial system cobbled together in counting houses and made from nothing but air. In the last days Bernanke promised that the feeding would continue, Draghi promised a food laden table without end and the Band of Merry Men rejoiced and the gauge of their elevated mood, the markets, responded accordingly and the party continued.
In addition to currency, trade, and disputed islands, Japan can add one more form of covert warfare it is now engaged in with China: atmospheric. We first wrote about the relentless exports of Beijing's toxic smog, which has been migrating in an eastern direction, over the East China Asia, and parking right over downtown Tokyo, nearly a month ago, but only now has Japan formally responded to what can only be classified as Chinese atmospheric sabotage. According to Japan Times, "Authorities will urge residents to stay indoors if the level of toxic smog spreading to Japan from China is expected to exceed twice the maximum limit set by the central government, officials said." And with Chinese smog overnight already literally off the charts virtually every day, one wonders just what is this great economic reflationary miracle Japan intends on conducting, with everyone ordered to stay indoors or better yet, not breathe? The good news, is that as explained previously, China's inbound toxic air should promptly fix Japan's untenable "top-heavy" demographic situation.
- Grillo kills move to break Italy deadlock (FT)
- Abe nominates Kuroda to run BoJ (FT)
- More WMT bad news: Wal-Mart Chief Administrative Officer Mars to Leave: WSJ (BBG)
- Japan's Abe: Islands Are Indisputably Ours (WSJ) - Except for China of course
- Low-key departure as pope steps down, to enter the final phase of his life "hidden from the world" (Reuters)
- Cuts unlikely to deliver promised budget savings (Reuters)
- European Union caps bankers’ bonuses (FT)
- White House, Republicans dig in ahead of budget talks (Reuters)
- Jockeying Stalls Deal on Cuts (WSJ)
- Argentina Says It Won’t Voluntarily Comply With Bond Ruling (BBG)
- Italian president says forming new government cannot be rushed (Reuters) - or happen at all
- Central Banks Spewing Cash Must Plan Exit Timing, Rohde Says (BBG)
- China Regional Targets Cut in Sign Debt Concerns Heeded (BBG)
- RBA Says Up to 34 Central Banks Holding Australian Dollars (BBG)
It has been yet another quiet overnight session, devoid of the usual EURUSD ramp, and thus ES, at the Europe open (although it is never too late), which has seen the Shangai Composite finally post a meaningful rise up 2.26%, followed by some unremarkable European macro data as Eurozone CPI came as expected at 2.0%, and German unemployment just a tad better, at -3K, with consensus looking for 0K. Italy continues to be the wildcard, with little clarity on just who the now expected grand coalition will consist of. According to Newedge's Jamal Meliani, a base case scenario of Bersani/Berlusconi coalition may see a relief rally, tightening 10Y BTP/bund spread toward 300bps. A coalition would maintain current fiscal agenda and won’t implement any major reforms with fresh elections being called within a year. A Bersani/Grillo coalition is least likely, may slow reforms which would see 10Y BTP/bund spreads widening to 375bps. Of course, everything is speculation now, with Grillo saying no to any coalition, and moments ago a PD official saying against a broad coalition. But at least the market has it all priced in already - for more see Italy gridlock deepens as Europe watches nervously.
Two weeks ago, Wal-Mart stunned the world when a leaked memo discloses that February sales had been a "total disaster" and the company was facing the worst February start since 2006. Today, Bloomberg's deep throat in Bentonville strikes again, as a new leak emerges. "Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT), already struggling to woo shoppers constrained by higher taxes, is “"getting worse" at keeping shelves stocked, the retailer’s U.S. chief told executives, according to minutes of an officers’ meeting obtained by Bloomberg News. "We run out quickly and the new stuff doesn’t come in," U.S. Chief Executive Officer Bill Simon said, according to the minutes of the Feb. 1 meeting. Simon called “self-inflicted wounds” Wal-Mart’s “biggest risk” and said an executive vice president had been appointed to fix the restocking problem, according to the minutes."