What can we say? All makes perfect sense: earnings dismal (worse than expected) means BTFD and if there is one lever to do that effectively given the massive over-exposure in every levered fund in the world, its AAPL. A 4% rally in AAPL - which perfectly topped out at Thursday's closing VWAP - was enough to drag stocks comfortably green by the close with a near-vertical ramp in S&P futures just to help things along. Seems like the standard pre-debate rally that we warned about last week - so let's not get too carried away by today's 'all-is-well' rally. Broadly speaking, risk-assets did not dip as hard as stocks and the ramp into the close (which as is typical) pulled stocks back up to 'fair' - but with the inevitable overshoot. While we leave up to our readers to divine the implications of such outlier moves on debate days, our only suggestion for those who have missed their opportunity to buy the central bank policy vehicle, formerly known as the S&P 500, with both hands and feet, is to wait until the next presidential debate and go all in. After all, "it's only fair" that the market will soar hours ahead of the two teleprompter-less candidates debating highly irrelevant stuff.
Government programs created in the 1960s created a culture of dependency, government control, relentlessly higher debt, materialism, and willful ignorance. The incompetence, arrogance, ineptitude and insanity of government officials at the Federal, State, and Local level are stunning to behold. We need to ask ourselves whether we the people are getting better government service and efficiency today; with government spending at 35% to 40% of GDP, than we did in the 1950’s and early 1960’s when government spending was 20% to 25% of GDP. We doubt that most people are getting 60% more value from our benevolent government today than they did in the 1950’s. By encouraging dependency and reliance upon the all-powerful government, the motivation to educate yourself, get married before having children, work hard, and pull yourself out of poverty is diminished. Can a small minority of critical thinking citizens lead a revolution that topples the existing social order and restores the Republic to its founding principles of liberty, self-responsibility, civic duty, and mutual obligation to future generations?
It was just over a month ago that the Chairsatan formalized the incorrect named QE 3, aka the open-ended QEternity, whose purpose, for now, was to increase the Fed's balance sheet by $40 billion/month in new MBS purchases. Well, according to MarketWatch, whose previously unheard of Greg Robb is seemingly vying for the role of Jon Hilsenrath, Ben Shalom is preparing to unveil a number bigger than eternity: " After historic changes last month, Federal Reserve officials this week will discuss a possible expansion of the size of its third round of bond buying and better ways to guide markets about future policy actions." Just because $40 billion per month in new flow is apparently not enough, and because the market is now well below the level it was when "QE 3" was announced.
The blinding nominal light of a Dow Jones Industrial Index near pre-crisis highs is enough provocation for most of the well-assuming US citizenry to 'believe'. Ahead of the third and final Presidential debate this evening, QBAMCO's Paul Brodsky and Lee Quaintance distill the listening audience into Realists and Nominalists. The critical difference between the two, which is described below, is hidden notably from view as the rhetoric within the institutionalized process of vetting and voting for our next President is narrowly focused, intentionally avoiding any major sticking points that will really bring change. As a result, they note, public policy and the people picked to craft and execute it have become anodyne; further implying that regardless of the outcome of the election, inflation will be the accepted manner of de-leveraging to be pursued; but the re-awakening of the so-called 'Chicago Plan' does acknowledge that significant monetary change is likely (for better or worse). Our leaders are dividing us with idealism and conquering us with vote counting. And yet... we all know it’s fake.
The irony of Monster Beverage's absolute 'Baumgartnering' cannot be lost on many in the market as news of incident reports released by the FDA show five people 'may' have died in recent years after drinking the energy drink. While the NYTimes notes that these reports do not prove a link between Monster Energy and the deaths or health problems, it would appear by the 18% plunge in the stock price that investors are not second-guessing. The company states it is "unaware of any fatality anywhere that has been caused by its drinks" but we suspect, just as NYC is now under the cosh of 16oz coke limits, soon enough we will see Caffeine Caps and Taurine Tariffs subjected on our un-Darwinian selves. In the meantime, may we humbly suggest the makes of the sugary energy drink undertake the (potentially job-saving or creating) manufacture of a giant catapult in an effort to be the first rubber-band-powered manned satellite launch in order to draw attention to the more important capabilities of people who drink Monster.
Over the weekend there appears to have been more confusion about pretty much everything finance related by aspiring CTRL-V majors-cum-'market experts.' In this specific case, the correlation between the soaring US deficit is magically supposed to imply the causation of surging corporate profits. Standalone this would be wonderful, because in a socialist utopia thought experiment, where one could hit infinite deficits funded by some magic MMT money tree, corporation would make, well, an infinite amount of profits, and would be an incentive for the government to spend itself to oblivion. And everyone would be happy right: infinite corporate profits means at least some trickle down wealth, and infinity even minus a big number is still infinity, meaning full employment for everyone. Hence utopia. Idiocy of this conclusion aside, the bigger problem with making the biggest rookie mistake in finance (and statistics), namely confusing correlation with causation, is that it is, as usual, 100% wrong when presented with one counterfactual. And when it comes to counterfactuals of soaring deficits, one always goes to the place that has "been there and done all of that" before. Japan.
While Tom Lee may well spit out his morning tea at yet another one of his truisms smashed in front of his eyes, it seems that not only is the market the most net long it has been since the top in 2008, but now Barclays proprietary risk appetite index has reached extreme bullish levels - signaling contrarian-wise, consolidation at best and a more significant sell-off typically. It is oh-so-annoying when the facts get in the way of a good wall-of-worry-climbing, money-on-the-sidelines-spewing, beta-performance catch-up chasing market rally that appears to have stalled - especially when your year-end target is inexorably rising...
Presented with little comment - but we are here once again. Who will play Sylvester Stallone in this Cliffhanger?
The German court of auditors (Bundesrechnungshof) has demanded that the Bundesbank undertake an audit of its gold reserves. In an 'audit-the-fed' style effort, the court wants to ensure that the nearly 3400 tons of gold is in fact in existence - 'because stocks have never been checked for authenticity and weight'. Furthermore, the Bundesbank's gold is stored in three other vaults around the world: The Bank of England, The Bank of France, and the US Federal Reserve. The court questions the practice of relying on a written confirmation from the custodians (foreign central banks). The decision means negotiating with the three foreign central banks for physical verification but in anticipation, the Bundesbank has begun the process of shipping 50 tons per year from the Fed back to Germany for the next three years.
Usually the Troika is held responsible for all things evil in Europe, but as Die Welt notes, the latest demand that all senior officials at the Ministry of Finance (including all current Greek tax inspectors) be fired by Friday (over corruption and incompetence concerns) has been greeted more positively by many. "The Troika is the only hope to purge this country of the gangs that plunder it - the ONLY hope!" is how one Skai TV commentator summed up the move, adding that "it would be nice if we could read one day that all presiding judges are dismissed." The plan to "collect record amounts of money in record time" involves the interviewing of 2235 new tax investigators (with no written exam!) who will be judged on how much money they bring in (with minimum quotas) and maximum tenure of one year before re-applying. The new plan is likened to 'medieval tax collectors' and the tax-collectors union, unsurprisingly upset at this new plan, added that the Troika never had to face "a destitute pensioner who cannot pay his tax bill." With rumors of government resignation and re-election, the external pressure and internal strife are coming to a head rapidly.
The U.S. has a three-and-a-half class society. According to demographer Joel Kotkin, California has become a two-and-a-half-class society, with a thin slice of "entrenched incumbents" on top (the "half class"), a dwindling middle class of public employees and private-sector professionals/technocrats, and an expanding permanent welfare class: about 40% of Californians don't pay any income tax and a quarter are on the Federal Medicaid program. I would break it down somewhat differently, into a three-and-a-half class society: the "entrenched incumbents" on top (the "half class"), the high-earners who pay most of the taxes (the first class), the working poor who pay Social Security payroll taxes and sales taxes (the second class), and State dependents who pay nothing (the third class). This class structure has political ramifications. In effect, those paying most of the tax are in a pressure cooker: the lid is sealed by the "entrenched incumbents" on top, and the fire beneath is the Central State's insatiable need for more tax revenues to support the entrenched incumbents and its growing army of dependents. Let's start our analysis of the three-and-a-half-class society by noting that the top 25% pay most of the Federal income tax, and within that "middle class" the top 10% pay the lion's share of all taxes.
European stocks closed red for the third day in a row amid what we can only assume CNBC's Simon Hobbs would call profit-taking. Spain underperformed Italy but the DAX was worst on the day -0.8%. European govvies were quiet except for Spain. Spanish 2Y yield jumped the most in a month as 10Y spreads rose 10bps. It's a little early to sound the alarms here but the trend does appear to have stalled and with 2Y Swiss at its lowest (most negative) rate in 6 weeks, risk appetite seems to be lagging in Europe as Rajoy just won't says 'Si'. EURUSD is a little stronger on the day. Credit markets were as quiet as sovereigns with equities underperforming into the close and Europe's VIX popped back above 21% for the first time in 2 weeks.
Bill Gross has become quite the expert at explaining the Fed's flawed, ruinous and destructive "policies" in 140 characters or less. Today is no exception.
Gross: Fed merry-go-round: inflate stocks til 2000. Then inflate housing til 2007. Then inflate stocks til 2012. Now inflate housing again.
— PIMCO (@PIMCO) October 22, 2012
By now everyone knows, even the mainstream media, that in Europe if one is a member of the oligarchy, "when it becomes serious, you have to lie" as the unelected viceroy of neofeudal Europe Jean-Claude Juncker said once upon a time, back when Greece and Spain were still "fine." Everyone also knows that judging by politican commentary and statement, in Europe it has been very serious for the past 3 years, as the lies have not ended. In fact, the more insolvent a country, the more serious it got, and the more gruesome and unbelievable the lies emanating thereof were. The one place where lying was at least somewhat contained was Europe's paymaster, Germany, which now is actively vying to not only not cede banking supervision to the ECB, but is seeking to displace the central bank in the budget and FX central planning category with a push to be elected budget commissioner and FX tsar. Eventually it will get its wish, but more when we cross to that bridge. Which is why it is surprising that today, German financial magazine Spiegel calls out none other than German FinMin Wolfi Schauble for doing precisely what Juncker was caught doing 2 years ago. Lying.
With over a third of the S&P 500's market cap having reported, results have been mixed. Aggregate earnings are tracking ahead of expectations but this miracle is driven almost entirely by financials (which account for 85% of the beat) as lower expenses and higher reserve bleeds offset contracting NIMs (combined with a lack of MtM) to enable a total manufacturing of what S&P 500 EPS is. As Morgan Stanley's Adam Parker notes, the quality of the beats has been low, with companies benefiting from a mix of lower operating costs and lower taxes. Revenues are missing estimates (hurt by a stronger USD and macro weakness) and Tech has been particularly weak. More importantly, for all the hope-driven, recovery-is-around-the-corner, 'fiscal-cliff'-won't-happen believers, the majority of forward guidance has been negative resulting in the highest negative-to-positive ratio since 1Q07 but this is not priced in as top-down 4Q12 estimates have hardly budged.