Just as we saw with UMich, it appears the hope for change is wearing thin among the people. Today's Consumer Confidence data missed by its biggest margin in 7 months, dropped below the year's average, and saw the largest 2-month drop in over 15 months. All age cohorts lost confidence with the eldest most and it appears those earning over $35k are also beginning to worry (as those between $35k and $15k seem more confident). Over 40% expect stock prices to decline and it is expectations that have plummeted from a hope-filled 80.9 to a 13-month low of 66.5. In other news, we got the November New Homes Sales report from the Census Bureau. On the surface the number was good, but like the initial claims dats, below the surface its not as pretty - on an unadjusted, unannualized basis, November saw a tiny 27K houses sold - lowest since Feb 2012. In fact, the only thing that really did soar was the number of homes for sale at the end of the period which rose to 151K: the highest since November of 2011.
Update: the BLS disclosed that it had to estimate the data for 19 states due to holiday office closures. Good enough for Ministry of Truth work.
In what is a traditional slowdown to the layoffs season in the week leading into Christmas, initial unemployment claims, dropped from an upward revised 362K (was 361K) to 350K, below a consensus print of 360K, and the lowest seasonally-adjusted number in nearly 5 years. The boost, of course, was all in the ARIMA X-12 seasonal adjustments, as the not seasonally adjusted number rose by 39K to 441K. Although in a world in which only Case-Shiller says to use its Non-Seasonally Adjusted print as a far more accurate indicator of concurrent data, nobody cares about the BLS pre-adjustment data. In fact, judging by the market response, nobody cares about BLS data anymore, period, with absolutely no response by the market following the Claims print. Perhaps the only realm, unfudged notable number was the jump in people claiming claims at the State level, which soared by 71K in the week ending December 8, to a 3.238MM total. This happened even the surge of those collecting EUCs finally ended, with just 4K new collectors of EUCs and Extended Benefits. The good news is that at least nothing is Sandy's fault, at least this week.
We know its not Paulson, Ackman, or SAC; is it Dalio's Bridgewater? No, the world's most profitable private entity that is in business to generate profits via speculation in financial markets is, drum roll please, the Federal Reserve. Stone & McCarthy (SMRA) estimates the Fed will make around $90bn profits in 2012. Of this around $87.5bn will be remitted to the US Treasury - a new record high (quite helpful when one is trying to avoid a debt ceiling using 'extraordinary measures' though we assume this is already penciled in due to its consistency). Since 1947 the Federal Reserve has paid the Treasury roundly $975 bln, about 1/3 of which has been paid over the past 6 years. In other words, the cumulative Federal deficit since 1947 has been reduced by nearly $1 trillion since 1947 due to the repatriation of Fed earnings to the Treasury Department. SMRA estimates that this profitability, thanks to the spread between SOMA coupon income and IOER will likely lift the Fed's profitability to around $120bn in 2013, but a 1% rise in yields would translate into a $275bn loss.
With four days to go until the end of 2012, it means that Europe can finally reveal its dirty underwear, and as it does at the end of every year, scramble to "window dress" its banks, who for one reason or another, suddenly find themselves needing gobs of liquidity - not USD-denominated liquidity, but domestic, EUR-based. So what do they do? They all, or at least those without direct access to FX markets and without assets to dispose of, engage in what is now a traditional year end surge in loans at the ECB's Marginal Lending Facility, whose punitive rate of 1.5% - a true outlier in this day and age of global ZIRP - makes borrowing from this facility truly a last resort option. And as the chart below shows, in the past few days, various European banks have come begging at the front door of the ECB's Frankfurt HQ and have demanded a whopping €16.3 billion, the highest amount in just about a year, going back to December 29, 2011.
Been a while since we had some amusement out of the Bazooko Circus known as Europe, which for the past month has gone completely dormant, not because "it is fixed" but because, just like in Japan where the JPY has plunged on expectations of an action by the BOJ, so Europe has continued to benefit from the threat of the latest and greatest proposed ECB intervention: the OMT, which on one hand keeps the vigilantes in check, but on the other delays any painful reforms even as the underlying Spanish economy continues to deteriorate without any real structural reforms: something which a surge in rates would promptly precipitate (and once expectations turn to reality, it's all over: just see the recent QE3 and QE4 attempts by the Fed). So speaking of Spain, today's recap sentence of the day goes to Reuters' Julien Toyer with the following: "Spanish lender Bankia will wipe out 350,000 shareholders, many of them small savers with little knowledge of financial markets, after it emerged it had a negative value of 4.2 billion euros." Now if only the Spanish wipe out ended with Bankia's shareholders...
While the market will look with some last trace of hope to Obama's return from Hawaii to D.C. today, the reality is that even the mainstream media, which had so far gotten everything about the cliff spectacularly wrong (proving that sample polling and actual "predicting" are two very different things), is waking up and smelling the coffee. As Politico reports, "nearly all the major players in the fiscal cliff negotiations are starting to agree on one thing: A deal is virtually impossible before the New Year. Unlike the bank bailout in 2008, the tax deal in 2010 and the debt ceiling in 2011, the Senate almost certainly won’t swoop in and help sidestep a potential economic calamity, senior officials in both parties predicted on Wednesday. Hopes of a grand-bargain — to shave trillions of dollars off the deficit by cutting entitlement programs and raising revenue — are shattered. House Republicans already failed to pass their “Plan B” proposal. And now aides and senators say the White House’s smaller, fall-back plan floated last week is a non-starter among Republicans in Senate — much less the House. On top of that, the Treasury Department announced Wednesday that the nation would hit the debt limit on Dec. 31, and would then have to take “extraordinary measures” to avoid exhausting the government’s borrowing limit in the New Year."
- U.S. Family of Mao’s General Assimilates, Votes for Obama (Bloomberg)
- Iron ore prices hit eight-month high (FT)... four months after plunging and crushing iron ore miners
- Obama seeks 60 Senate votes for cliff deal (MarketWatch)
- Need. Moar. InfinitQEeee: Japan PM adviser urges unlimited BOJ easing, higher price goal (Reuters)
- Yen Touches 16-Month Low Versus Euro Before Japan CPI (BBG)
- China consumers driving economic rebound (Reuters) - ot just year end window dressing to accompany the new Politburo
- Rajaratnam agrees to pay $1.5 million disgorgement in SEC case (Reuters)
- France should review 2013 deficit target with EU partners (Reuters)
- Monti-led poll alliance takes shape (FT)
- Bersani wants growth-oriented Europe (FT)
Perhaps one of the most startling and telling charts of the New Normal, one which few talk about, is the soaring difference between bank loans - traditionally the source of growth for banks, at least in their Old Normal business model which did not envision all of them becoming glorified, Too Big To Fail hedge funds, ala the Goldman Sachs "Bank Holding Company" model; and deposits - traditionally the source of capital banks use to fund said loans. Historically, and logically, the relationship between the two time series has been virtually one to one. However, ever since the advent of actively managed Central Planning by the Fed, as a result of which Ben Bernanke dumped nearly $2 trillion in excess deposits on banks to facilitate their risk taking even more, the traditional correlation between loans and deposits has broken down. It is time to once again start talking about this chart as for the first time ever the difference between deposits and loans has hit a record $2 trillion! But that's just the beginning - the rabbit hole goes so much deeper...
If breaking one window in a Keynesian utopia is good, then breaking moar windows is betterer; and it appears, therefore, our friends across the Pacific will be celebrating the rebirth of the Chinese economy as a 33-ton glass shark tank shattered in a Shanghai mall. According to local media (via Gizmodo), three lemon sharks surfed the water explosion into the shopping mall when the 6-inch thick acrylic glass burst, as you can see in this video captured by CCTV cameras. Unfortunately, given the images below it appears the sharks did not make it - but then again that means more new sharks will need to be purchased so that's upside, right?
With JPY bleeding lower once again overnight extending to 28-month lows against the USD (and the long-end of the JGB curve starting to show some signs of anxiety), it is perhaps timely to revisit Kyle Bass's five key reasons why Japan is the epicenter of the world's failed monetary policy experiment. In this excellent and much-requested summary 8-minute clip, Bass summarizes his Japan thesis and destroys several of the myths that talking-heads like to assign to the so-called widow-maker trade.
America may have the Octogenarian (Oracle) of Omaha but China has the Octagon of Oligarchy: an octet of the families that run the world's (still) fastest growing, marginal economy, which by extension likely makes them the eight most powerful families in the world. So powerful, that Bloomberg has just released a series not only mapping out the various linkages and profiling said families but has appropriately dubbed them the "Eight Immortals." In doing so it has revealed "the origins of princelings, an elite class that has been able to amass wealth and influence, and exploit opportunities unavailable to most Chinese. Bloomberg tracked 103 people – descendants including children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, and their respective spouses. The Immortals, now all dead, are revered in communist lore as revolutionary fighters who led China’s economic opening after Mao Zedong’s death.
When Tim Geithner announced an hour ago that the US debt ceiling will officially be "risen above" on December 31, he stated that there are approximately two months in which the Treasury can take emergency measures to delay the actual debt ceiling breach, a moment in time which we believe will take place some time in March. Upon further reflection, with the automatic spending cuts and tax hikes that will take place on January 1, the irony is that the debt ceiling extension may last materially longer due to a substantial reduction in the US budget deficit, potentially pushing the final threshold to as late April or even May which means the political theater is going to last for even longer than we expected - something which both parties now appear set to capitalize on as much as possible. So the question now is what are the options before Tim Geithner and what are the "emergency measures" the Treasury take to delay the inevitable moment when one of three things happens: i) the US hikes its ceiling, ii) the US begins living within its means, iii) the US defaults on its debt. Since the third, and certainly second are impossible, and since the debt ceiling theater is something we all lived through as recently as 2011, here is the article we penned in January 2011, when that long ago debt ceiling of a mere $14.3 trillion was about to be breached, and whose ultimate rise required a 20% market plunge together with an S&P downgrade of the then pristine US AAA rating (an event which Tim Geithner had said shortly prior there is no risk of ever occuring), answering precisely this question.
Not surprisingly when wages and salaries are growing at a slower rate there is a corresponding weakness in the level of retail sales. The peak in wages and salaries occurred in early 2011 with the subsequent growth rate trending weaker. This corresponds with the economy which has continued to muddle along at a very anemic pace. While it may be likely that the damage from Hurricane Sandy may have soured some sales, particularly in the North East, it is unlikely to have had much of an effect on the retail sales nation wide. For majority of America the "fiscal cliff" debate largely goes unnoticed as it remains a battle between the White House and the "rich" - for the rest the country it is more of a distraction from the things that matter like "Honey Boo Boo" and "Housewives Of Whereever". What does matter though, as stated above, are incomes. The decline in incomes, which can be seen in the roughly 1.2 million person increase in food stamp participation from June to September, is why retail "holiday" spending is weaker. With credit limits reduced, incomes stagnant and real costs of living on the rise - it is not surprising that retail sales are far weaker than the NRF's holiday season predictions.
Despite the fact that Europe was closed today, the algos were not to be put off as the day broke beautifully into two pieces with a linear sell-off across assets into 1130ET and then a de-correlated nothing-burger all afternoon amid volumes lower than a CNBC anchor's IQ. Makes perfect sense right? The market dribbled higher off the lows into the close and then we got a little discombobulated in the last few minutes as Boehner rumors hit and ETFs (notably bonds - TLT) went a little jiggy. VIX remains bid (as we have been so clear to explain why) and while stocks weakened today, risk-assets in general were just not moving much - thanks generally to Oil's 2.75% gain offsetting Treasuries modest risk-off view. HYG (the high-yield bond ETF) went vertical into the close (following TLT's lead) but between negligible volumes and desparate attempts to pull any and every lever (EUR early and HYG late) to get things going, VIX's message is stay hedged into the new year (at 5-month highs with biggest 5-day jump in 7 months). S&P 500 futures closed the day-session at the low-end of the channel post last week's flash crash.
Just because the Fiscal Cliff was not enough...
- GEITHNER SAYS U.S. WILL REACH STATUTORY DEBT LIMIT ON DEC. 31
- GEITHNER: WILL USE `EXTRAORDINARY MEASURES' TO AVOID DEBT LIMIT
- TREASURY: SPECIAL MEASURES TO MAKE $200 BLN ROOM UNDER LIMIT
- GEITHNER: $200 BLN TO LAST TWO MONTHS IN `NORMAL CIRCUMSTANCES'
- GEITHNER: TAX, SPENDING `UNCERTAINTY' MAKES DURATION NOT CLEAR
- GEITHNER SAYS ALL MEASURES HAVE BEEN USED IN PRIOR IMPASSES
- GEITHNER OUTLINES PLANS IN LETTER TO SENATE MAJORITY LEADER
So since America's dysfunctional congress failed to "rise above" the Fiscal Cliff, it at least succeeded to "rise above" the debt ceiling. One out of two is not too bad...