And so another disingenuous display of avoiding saying anything definitive about anything specific is complete. Without doubt the winner of this evening's 'round-table' is Martha Raddatz. Despite the incessant interruption and grinning/laughing/anger/frustration of Biden (and Ryan bringing up a 'car-crash' - awkward), the two candidates had relatively equal talking time (via CNN Biden Won 41:32 vs Ryan 40:12) but Ryan pipped Biden by 7,434 words to 7,425! Picking a winner is tough - so we won't - but Obama's odds rose from a pre-debate dump to 61% to over 64% (this morning's levels) - but stopped rising once the candidates began to discuss Afghanistan and Syria and when Ryan 'summed-up', Obama's odds crashed back to unchanged at 61.2%. Ryan won the drinking game 32 to 26.
We are now five years into the Great Fiat Money Endgame and our freedom is increasingly under attack from the state, liberty’s eternal enemy. It is true that by any realistic measure most states today are heading for bankruptcy. But it would be wrong to assume that ‘austerity’ policies must now lead to a diminishing of government influence and a shrinking of state power. The opposite is true: the state asserts itself more forcefully in the economy, and the political class feels licensed by the crisis to abandon whatever restraint it may have adhered to in the past. Ever more prices in financial markets are manipulated by the central banks, either directly or indirectly; and through legislation, regulation, and taxation the state takes more control of the employment of scarce means. An anti-wealth rhetoric is seeping back into political discourse everywhere and is setting the stage for more confiscation of wealth and income in the future. This will end badly.
At 9pm Eastern, the debate that we suspect will go down in infamy begins. As the two Vice-Presidential candidates square off in a David-and-Goliath, young-and-the-restless, Palin-vs-Couric, 'Marquez-Pacquiao 3'-style debate-a-thon. The critical question remains - will Ryan ask if he can call Biden 'Joe'? Pick up your drinking-game cheat-sheet and grab the popcorn as the battle for of the ages begins...
Those looking for info on the Fed's now weely non-sterilized MBS purchases in the weekly H.4.1 update will be disappointed. The reason why the MBS line in the Fed's balance sheet will not move higher for a while is because, unlike TSYs, the settlement period for mortgage debt is usually many weeks and will months for all purchases already completed to appear in the "stock" total. One number, however, which may be of interest is the Fed's "Other Assets" because in the week ended October 10, this number hit an all time high of $205 billion and rising at an exponential phase.
After incumbent Barack 'barrel-o'-bitter" Obama narrowly defeated challenger Mitt "make-mine-a-Virgin-Daiquiri" Romney in last week's Presidential debate drinking game, the chaps at DebateDrinking.com have risen to the challenge as Joe "Wino" Biden takes on the young upstart Paul 'Shandy' Ryan. The new rules are here and if you lose count - the live stream scored event is embedded below...
Education plays a fundamental role in American Society. This ultimate infographic from Census.gov provides the ultimate visualization of what all you tax dollars ($602.6bn on elementary and secondary education) and student loan debt (57.6mm people over 25 have at least a Bachelor's degree) has created - for instance: only 7% of <34-year-olds had gone to college in 1970, as opposed to 18.9% currently!
With 'private equity' discussions sliding for one moment off the front pages, NYTimes' DealBook notes that it appears these 'honorable' job-creating entities were allegedly colluding to drive down the prices of more than two dozen takeovers. During the last decade's buyout boom, according to newly released e-mails in a civil lawsuit accusing them of collusion, the two firms appeared to be on much cozier terms.
"Henry Kravis just called to say congratulations and that they were standing down because he had told me before they would not jump a signed deal of ours,"
"We would much rather work with you guys than against you, together we can be unstoppable but in opposition we can cost each other a lot of money."... "Agreed."
As we have painstakingly pointed out, rising equity markets in 2012 have mostly been a function of rising multiples applied to relatively stagnant earnings. While JPMorgan's CIO Michael Cembalest would have given odds no better than 1 in 4 of a 17% advance in the S&P this year, he does note that forecasting annual equity returns is an entirely treacherous (and we add foolish) exercise as real return variation has completely swamped industry expectations for the last 60 years. The traditional Graham-Dodd/Shiller valuation model makes equities look expensive currently, but Cembalest notes, valuations might not be the driving factor at this point. The debasement of money by the Fed has altered the calculus of investing for many participants, and not necessarily for the better. Of course, by driving interest rates down and promising to keep them there, a 7% nominal equity earnings yield (i.e., a 14 P/E) is transformed into a more compelling investment - but critically (especially for social and political reasons) the 'value' of this adjusted earnings yield is questionable given the earnings boom is derived from extraordinarily weak labor compensation and potentially unsustainable demand from Europe/China.
As Monty Python might have said, apart from AAPL; what has the market done for you today? S&P 500 cash managed (somehow) to cling to a green close while the Dow and Nasdaq ended red. Critically - markets went only one way all day - from upper left to lower right as we go out at the lows of the day - back again at the Draghi cliff edge and just below pre-QE levels. AAPL was a disaster - on heavy volume - as it pushed back down towards it 100DMA (over 3% from its opening highs today!) ending at its lowest in two months with its biggest slide in 5 months (last 14 days). Risk-assets in general tracked closely as while AAPL slide from the open, equity indices manage to hold opening gap gains until Europe closed and then it went pear-shaped. The USD slid all day but didn't 'help' stocks as JPY weakened more (carry offsetting). Treasury yields plunged - 30Y now down 12bps on the week. Commodities all gained on the day - led by Oil (with gold/silver lagging). Meanwhile VIX ignored the debacle, gapping lower at the open and holding down 0.7vols at 15.6% as HYG handily outperformed on low volume.
The recent trade report does not provide much support for the economic and stock market bulls. As we have stated many times - the current fundamental and economic backdrops are not supportive of higher asset prices at current levels. However, while the market may advance due to the injections of liquidity into the financial system - it doesn't make it a "healthy" market. The outlook, and ultimately actions taken, by businesses are driven by demand for their products, goods and services. Unfortunately the Fed's bond buying program does not impact these core issues.
It may come as a surprise (until very recently) to many who watch the flashing red headlines spewed forth by Bloomberg and Reuters terminals as each and every firm manages to coincidentally report earnings within a smidge of guidance (and maintain their 'near-perfect' records of 'sustainable' growth) when all around the signals seem to point to an economy in malaise. However, earnings quality - that ephemeral view of just how manipulated the end number really is - remains critical (in the medium-term, if not the short-term thanks to the headline-reading algos). To wit, Bloomberg notes a recent paper (below) that finds 20% of CFOs will "manage earnings to misrepresent economic performance" with 93.5% admitting it is to influence the stock price. 'Red flag's include EPS inconsistent with cash-flows, unusual accruals, or an industry outlier. Amid pressure to maintain stock prices (and keep a career going), 60% of earnings 'management' is to increase income and of course 66% of CFOs hope for fewer accounting rules going forward.
While stating the somewhat obvious - that the Fed's actions will cause 'pain' when they (try to) stop QE - when it comes from a high-ranking officer of the establishment elite (as opposed to a tin-foil-hat-wearing, BLS-exposing, HFT-undermining, fringe blog) such as Goldman Sachs' President Gary Cohn, perhaps more mainstream will begin to question the one-way path we are on. Cohn's interview on Bloomberg TV ranged from his reading habits (Greg Smith's tell-all) to the world's central bank printfest and how "we will have to go through the pains of stopping QE" and from his views of the election status quo to the global economic malaise, he does so well on the reality front - until he shovels undying praise on Mario Draghi's back for his "spectacular job" - though admits he has not solved Europe's real problems.
A new monetary era has began in the West. Its consequences will probably be very different in the United States and Europe. However, one way or the other, investors now operate under a regime of central bank asset price targeting. Everything we know about investors’ traditional reflexes and all historical points of reference are potentially invalid.
UBS' Art Cashin provides the clearest 'simile' for our current economic malaise as he remembers back 90 years... On this day in 1922, the German Central Bank and the German Treasury took an inevitable step in a process which had begun with their previous effort to "jump start" a stagnant economy. Many months earlier they had decided that what was needed was easier money. Their initial efforts brought little response. So, using the governmental "more is better" theory they simply created more and more money. But economic stagnation continued and so did the money growth. They kept making money more available. No reaction. Then, suddenly prices began to explode unbelievably (but, perversely, not business activity). Think it can't happen here? read on...
Another week, another retail outflow from domestic equity mutual funds - but this time it's different. Now 11 weeks-in-a-row of outflows have led to this week's highest outflow since August 2011 - just as stocks hit multi-year highs. It seems no matter how much Bernanke says 'come on in, the water is fine', the newly-smart money (or fooled one too many times perhaps - is it any wonder when only yesterday CNBC was discussing Selling AAPL Puts as a viable strategy?) of the retail investor is smelling sharks and fading the strength. With $250bn in outflows since the start of 2011, and $50bn alone in the last 11 weeks (as the market inexorably rises on Johnny-5's instruction), we can't help but think this week's $10.6bn outflow is redemptions at the end of Q3 - not exactly what the performance-chasing, money-on-the-sideline-hoping, recovery-is-around-the-corner-believing long-only commission-taking 'managers' wanted to see.