Much has been made of Europe's impressive market performance last year (and ongoing this year) with its strength yet another confirmation-bias proving indication that every US stock dip should be bought. In recent days a few cracks in the armor of European invincibility have begun to show as political and banking system fraud comes back top haunt along with rising concerns and jawboning about the strength (or lack thereof) of the Euro. With a somewhat split view of Thursday's ECB meeting (will Draghi cut to hold EUR down for exports or hold to maintain the optics of a strong EURUSD meaning a strong Europe), it is perhaps notable that the outlook for 2013's GDP growth continues to sink. However, as the chart below so obviously highlights, expectations for earnings growth in Europe have massively disconnected from macro fundamentals (just as in the US) as nominal stock indices is all that matters anymore.
The Egyptian government is facing potential collapse and a re-run of a revolution that has never really ended. The economy is facing total collapse, and Qatari aid efforts will only go so far. The first half of 2013 will produce only worse economic indicators and the market will feed off of this. The regulatory environment in the meantime remains uncertain at best, and much will depend on which group (or combination of groups) comes out on top after the dust settles and if April elections indeed proceed. If this turns out to be a successful power grab by radical Salafi forces, it will not proceed without a great deal of bloodshed, and it will destroy Egypt’s investment climate.
Back in 2007, at the peak of the credit and housing bubble, Wall Street knew very well the securitization (and every other) party was ending, which is why the internal names used for most of the Collateralized Debt Obligations - securitized products designed to provide a last dash trace of yield in a market in which all the upside had already been taken out - sold to less sophisticated, primarily European, investors were as follows: "Subprime Meltdown," "Hitman," "Nuclear Holocaust," "Mike Tyson's Punchout," and, naturally, "Shitbag." Yet even in the last days of the bubble, Wall Street had a certain integrity - it sold securitized products collateralized by houses, which as S&P, and certainly Moody's, will attest were expected to never drop in price again. But one thing that was hardly ever sold even in the peak days of the 2007 credit bubble were securitizations based on personal-loans, the reason being even back then everyone's memory was still fresh with the recollection that it was precisely personal-loan securitization that was at the core of the previous, and in some ways worse, credit bubble - that of the late 1990s, which resulted with the bankruptcy of Conseco Finance. Well, in a few short days, those stalwarts of suicidal financial innovation Fortress and AIG, are about to unleash on the market (or at least those who invest other people's money in the absolutely worst possible trash to preserve their Wall Street careers while chasing a few basis points of yield) the second coming of the very worst of the last two credit bubbles.
S&P 500 (henceforth - under the Un-Patriot Act - to be known as the Moodys & Fitch 500 at least until such time as Moodys too downgrades the US) futures scrambled up to fill yesterday's day-session gap-down open and then pressed on to run stops to new highs. The Dow did not make new highs - but managed a third day in a row of greater-than-100 point swings and tested back above the magic 14,000 level. Credit markets were absolutely not buying it. VIX was not playing along either (though did compress). Treasury yields rose but nothing on par with stock's surge. The USD fall very modestly - not supportive of stocks. And sure enough, after running those highs, S&P 500 futures cracked back lower into the close with the Dow losing 14,000. A gain of around 0.8 to 1% on the day for stocks with reasonable volume as early haters like JCP and AAPL surged handily on the day by the close. The S&P 500 ended the day recoupling perfectly with Gold on the week...
We have not been shy about exposing the massive (and unsustainable) bubble of credit being blown into the economy via Student Loans from the government. We have not been afraid to note the dramatic rise in delinquencies among these loans - and the implications for the government. However, as Bloomberg reports, it appears the impact of this exuberance has come back to bite the colleges themselves. In what can only be described as a vendor-financing model, the so-called Perkins loans (for students with extraordinary financial hardships) have seen defaults surging more than 20%. The vicious circle, though, has begun as the ponzi of using these revolving loan funds to 'fund' the next round of students is collapsing thanks to the rise in delinquencies. Schools such as Yale, Penn, and George Washington are becoming very aggressive at going after delinquent student borrowers. While financially hard-up graduates complain of no jobs, the schools are not impressed: "You could take a job at Subway or wherever to pay the bills ... It seems like basic responsibility to me," but perhaps that is the point - avoiding responsibility is seemingly rewarded in the new normal.
From Whitney Tilson: "After a strong 12-year run, 2011 and 2012 were lost years. I feel very badly about this and apologize to you. But I know you don’t want an apology – you want performance! To that end, I’ve reflected on the mistakes I’ve made, learned from them, and taken significant steps to maximize our chances of success going forward: I’m now the sole portfolio manager and have dramatically simplified, focused, and de-risked the fund. I’m confident that my strategy is sound, I will execute it well going forward, and we will all profit."
The Chairman of Goldman's Asset Management group, unwise supporter of Man Utd, promoter of 'decoupling' myths, and creator of the BRIC mnemonic has decided, with everything looking so tickety-boo, to retire. Whether his great Buy BRICS fail or his BoE leadership bid fail was the final straw is unclear, but for now, the erstwhile permabull (and mocker of market skeptics) leaves us on a bright note:
- *O'NEILL SAYS CLEAR EVIDENCE OF THINGS DOING BETTER ECONOMICALLY
20 years of 'broken record' survival and the Brit throws in his chips now - just as everything looks be taking off? Leave your farewell message below...
Exactly ten years ago to the day, Simon Black was in the Kuwaiti desert waiting for George W. Bush to ‘make his decision’. He knew it was going to happen. At the time, he was a rising intelligence officer, his head still filled with ideals of national duty from my time at West Point. It all came crashing down ten years ago today. On February 5, 2003 Colin Powell, four-star general turned US Secretary of State, made a case to the United Nations that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Now, we won’t bother delving into the inaccuracies of the intelligence he presented. In Powell’s own words, making that presentation to the UN was “the lowest point in [his] life” and a “lasting blot on his record.”For Black, it was pivotal. At that instant, he knew without doubt that his government had reprehensibly lied through its teeth. And if they were lying about this... what else were they lying about? As destructive as these politicians are, though, they’re easy to defeat. Individuals who take action early have plenty of options to buy precious metals, move a portion of their savings abroad to a stable banking jurisdiction, and scout out locations overseas in case they ever need to get out of dodge.
We won't spend any time discussing the accuracy of the "impartial" Congressional Budget Office: we already did that in August 2011 when we showed that back in 2001 the CBO forecast total 2011 public debt would be negative $2.4 trillion; instead the real number was positive $10.4 trillion, a delta of only $12.8 trillion. We also won't spend much time on the just released CBO headline grabbing projection that the 2013 budget deficit will be under $1 trillion, or $845 billion to be precise. Instead we will show the progression of the CBO's baseline forecasts for the period 2012 and onward. We will also note that the now-forecast 2013 budget deficit of $845 billion was supposed to be a deficit of just $585 billion one short year ago, a token 40%+ error rate, but in the immortal words of Hillary Clinton: "who cares." Of course we should note that if we apply the same forecast error to the 2013 budget, it means the real final deficit print will be $1.2 trillion - just a tad more realistic. Finally, we will certainly note that while the CBO believes 2013 may see the first sub $1 trillion deficit in 4 years, a number which will decline modestly in the coming years, the deficit then proceeds to grow and grow and grow, until we reach 2024, at which point the US deficit returns to $1 trillion once again... and never gets smaller. And this is the optimistic version.
Sequester, Schmequester. It would seem Q4's initial warning from the DoD was enough to get the DC-ites scrambling. President Obama takes to the teleprompter to suggest (we assume) humbly that we swap today's sequester plans for tomorrow's 'balanced' slower rate of spending growth (oh and we are sure some new taxes). And yay verily, all will be well once again in the land of make-believe fiscal policy...
The raging second Egyptian Spring isn't quite the webcast ratings bonanza it was when it first struck in 2011, which makes sense as the current Muslim Brotherhood government has the full backing of the US and thus it is in "everyone's best interest" to not follow how close to a counterrevolution the nation once again is. And while for the time being the country's most valuable asset, the Egypt-controlled Suez Canal Authority is in "stable" hands, that does not mean that the government, which today announced its foreign reserves had dipped precariously to only $13.6 billion, can't enforce inflation where everyone else says deflation reigns. As a result, as of May 1, the tolls for any crude oil and other liquid tankers will rise by 5%, while tolls for other commodities will increase by 2-3%. Expect said additional infrastructure costs to be promptly passed on to end consumers around the globe.
The mainstream media is overflowing with stories proclaiming the global economy is on the mend. Really? Based on what engine of growth? If we cut through the Keynesian jargon of aggregate demand and other Cargo-Cult mumbo-jumbo, what we find is the Status Quo is hoping to boost its precious aggregate demand with the same bag of tricks that imploded so spectacularly in 2008: the wealth effect based on phantom collateral created by Centrally Planned asset bubbles. Though you will not find a Keynesian pundit or economist with the courage required to admit it, the same problem of phantom collateral applies to Federal and state debt: the consumption all that debt funded is soon forgotten, but the debt remains to be paid, essentially forever.
While every central banker and policy-leech spews forth the government-supplied statistics on inflation - noting that all is well, carry on - we recently pointed out that Gas Prices are their highest ever for this time of year. Of course, the standard supply constraints (or technical) reasoning was applied to dismiss this as transitory (even though it has continued to rise since); but what is perhaps more worrisome is the broad-based nature of the real inflation that is leaking into our global supply chain. The 24-commodity heavy S&P GSCI index (widely recognized as a leading measure of general price movements and inflation in the world economy) has never been as high in early February as it is currently - ever. And with global growth stagnating at best, it seems a tough call to blame 'recovery' for this inflating (fastest pace in 8 years) raw material price leaking cost-push inflation (and margin-compression) into the real economy.
We urge readers to do a word search for "Moody's" in the official department of justice release below. Here are the highlights:
DOJ COMPLAINT ALLEGES S&P LIED ABOUT ITS OBJECTIVITY - when it downgraded the US?
HOLDER SAYS S&P'S ACTIONS CAUSED `BILLIONS' IN LOSSES - did Moody's actions, profiled previously here, which happens to be a major holding of one Warren Buffett, cause billions in profits?
HOLDER SAYS `NO CONNECTION' BETWEEN S&P SUIT, U.S. DOWNGRADE - just brilliant
Pure pathetic political posturing, because it was the rating agencies, whose complicity and conflicts of interest everyone knew about, who were responsible for the financial crisis. Not Alan Greenspan, not Ben Bernanke, and certainly not Wall Street which made tens of billions in profits selling CDOs to idiots in Europe and Asia. Of course, the US consumer who had a gun held against their head when they were buying McMansions with no money down and no future cash flow is not even mentioned.
Back in December, as always happens every year for the past 3, a margin call driven liquidation wave pushed the price of the gold to multi-month lows, providing merely yet another lowball buying opportunity (for which let's all thank John Paulson, again). One buyer who certainly would love to thank whichever marginal seller was liquidating their gold, is none other than China, which as was reported a few hours ago, imported an all time record 114.4 tons of gold in the month of December, or more than all the gold held by the Greek central bank (assuming it hasn't been confiscated by ze Germans or the ECB, or deposited in G-Pap or Venizelos' private HSBC safe in Geneva yet: a very aggressive assumption).