— PIMCO (@PIMCO) November 28, 2013
On November 7, when the ECB announced a "surprising" rate cut, 67 out of 70 economists who never saw it coming, were shocked. We were not. As we observed ten days prior, Europe had just seen the latest month of record low private sector loan growth in history. Or rather contraction. Back than we said that "one of our favorite series of posts describing the "Walking Dead" monetary zombie-infested continent that is Europe is the one showing the abysmal state Europe's credit creation machinery, operated by none other than the Bank of Italy's, Goldman's ECB's Mario Draghi, finds itself in." We concluded: "we now fully expect a very unclear Draghi, plagued by monetary zombie dreams, to do everything in his power, even though as SocGen notes, he really has no power in this case, to show he has not lost control and start with a rate cut in the November ECB meeting (eventually proceeding to a full-blown QE) in order to boost loan creation." Less than two weeks later he did just that. The problem, as the ECB reported today, is that not only did M3 decline once more, to 1.4% or the slowest pace in over 2 years and well below the ECB's 4.5% reference growth value, but more importantly lending to companies and households shrank 2.1% in October - the biggest drop on record! Draghi's monetary zombies are winning.
Despite the US being largely on holiday, the demand for digital currencies continues to surge. Bitcoin has rallied another 10% overnight as Chinese appetite for alternative stores of value remains unabated (BTC China is nearing its record highs) as USD/BTC is trading at $1170 - on its way to crossing the Maginot line of gold's spot price (within a few hours at this pace). Bitcoin though has nothing on its smaller cousin Litecoin which has now run from $1.11 to over $48 in the last 5 weeks. In fact, almost every crypto-currency in the world - from Infinitecoin to AnonCoin is surging... with only the ironically named PhoenixCoin (-68% overnight) not rising from the flames of fiat torment.
With every other bear throwing in the towel left and right these days, we fully expected that the latest letter by SocGen's Albert Edwards would have something about "how much he hates looking at himself in the mirror, but..." Luckily none of that happened. Instead we were greeted by the sharp insight and keen intellect that we have grown to expect from AE, and that have disappeared from the repertoire of so many other sellouts and lemming cheerleaders. Ironically, the topic of Edwards' latest piece is precisely the chart above - the explosion in future margins, or rather the complete lack thereof. But not only that. For everyone else who has dutifully thrown in the towel, very much as the Chairman expects, Edwards has a few words: 'The doomsayers who predicted that this recovery was on the verge of faltering have been proved wrong, and like the boy who cried wolf, can be safely ignored by the market. Yet that is exactly what happened in 2006 with the US consumer and housing boom, where the voices of caution had been so wrong, for so long, that their Cassandra-like utterances were ignored. Cassandra?s forecasts may have been ignored, but they proved to be correct. Investors demand a sign of when to get out and that trigger may have just arrived."
As frequent readers will recall, one of our favorite series of posts describing the "Walking Dead" monetary zombie-infested continent that is Europe is the one showing the abysmal state Europe's credit creation machinery, operated by none other than the Bank of Italy's, Goldman's ECB's Mario Draghi, finds itself in. As a reminder, it was as recently as September when we found that "Mario Draghi's Nightmare Gets Worse" because "European Loans Declined At Record Rate." To our complete lack of surprise, when a few hours ago the ECB released the latest monetary and credit creation update for the month of September, it showed... no change. Or rather, while loans to the private sector are at all time record lows, that other metric which Draghi at least has some direct control over (since he obviously can't control the amount of confidence in the system aside from threats of brute force), M3, just had its lowest pace of increase since January 2012.
- CME/CBOT/NYMEX Closed
- CME Globex -
- Equity products halted (halted between 1030CST/1630GMT and 1700CST/2300GMT);
- Interest Rate Products halted (halted between 1200CST/1800GMT and 1700CST/2300GMT);
- FX halted (halted between 1200CST/1800GMT and 1700CST/2300GMT)
- NYMEX and Comex halted (halted between 1215CST/1815GMT and 1700CST/2300GMT)
- NYSE Closed
- NYSE LIFFE Regular Close
- Eurex Regular Close
- The second coming of Obamacare website - will it work? (Reuters)
- Winter Storm Moves North as Macy’s Waits to Make Parade Call (BBG)
- Eyeing holiday sales, more U.S. retailers to open on Thanksgiving (Reuters)
- It's all Verizon's fault: H-P Will Replace Verizon in Hosting HealthCare.gov Website (WSJ)
- Bitcoin Service Targets Kenya Remittances With Cut-Rate Fees (BBG)
- Embattled Thai PM easily survives no-confidence vote, protests persist (Reuters)
- For U.S. stores it is ugly out there: in more ways than one (Reuters)
- Japan and S Korea military flout China air zone rules (FT)
- UBS Restructuring Forex Unit (WSJ)
- Trader Messages Scrutinized as UBS Bans Chats Among Firms (BBG)
- ECB warns on external risks to eurozone financial system (FT)
Some clarification from Wu Tang Financial on the ten key principles of economics...
"...they ain't no such thang as free lunch... if you haven't figured that out yet in yo life, we is shaking our heads at ya...
PV=MV bitches. Velocity of money just not picking up boo. People been deleveraging up in here..."
Based on the Fed's wealth effect creating surge in stock prices, Guggenheim's Scott Minerd believes retail sales should be up 5.8% in Q4 2013. However, as we noted before, expectations are for a dismal 1-2% holiday spending growth at best; as 2013 is set to be the worst holiday spending season since 2009. Stores from Tilly's to Abercrombie and Wal-Mart are warning, the NRF projects the first drop YoY since 2009, and gas prices are set to rise (further pressuring consumers' disposable incomes). The bottom line - as we already know - is that QE's effects on the real economy (if there were ever any?) are set to end in the 2013 holidays.
A zombie government armed with accounting tricks has bailed out a zombie banking industry using even more financial phoniness. A few numbers pushed here and there, and the industry is earning record profits. But out in the real world where people live and work, things aren't so rosy. Zombies make negligent landlords and dangerous neighbors.
In Feb 2007, Oaktree Capital's Howard Marks wrote 'The Race to the Bottom', providing a timely warning about the capital market behavior that ultimately led to the mortgage meltdown of 2007 and the crisis of 2008 as he worried about "carelessness-induced behavior." In the pre-crisis years, as described in his 2007 memo, the race to the bottom manifested itself in a number of ways, and as Marks notes, "now we’re seeing another upswing in risky behavior." Simply put, Marks warns, "when people start to posit that fundamentals don’t matter and momentum will carry the day, it’s an omen we must heed," adding that "the riskiest thing in the investment world is the belief that there’s no risk."
Since expectations of Q3's GDP growth began to get ratcheted lower with reality (in March), 'economists' have banked on Q4's fiscally-dragless-renaissance to fill the wedge between equity prices and fundamentals. That 'hope' has been dashed (once again) on the shores of QE insanity as Q4 2013 expectations have collapsed 30% in 2 months to only 1.8%... but 'hope' and 'faith' remain as Q1 2014 will save the day. Of course, all this is magically achievable - like this.
By any reasonable measure, we think it is safe to say that the last quarter of 2013 has been an insane game of economic Russian Roulette. Even more unsettling is the fact that most of the American population still has little to no clue that the U.S. was on the verge of a catastrophic catalyst event at least three times in the past three months alone, and that we face an even greater acceleration next year. Economic collapse is not necessarily an event, it is a process, the most frightening elements of which usually do not become visible until it is too late for common people to react in a productive way. All of the dangers covered in this article could very well set fires tomorrow, that is how close our nation is to the edge. However, the culmination of events so far seems to be setting the stage for something, an important something, in 2014.