The controversial cybersecurity bill, known, ever so gently as, the Cyber Information Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) - since it's for your own good - that passed the House last week looks set to be shelved in the Senate according to representatives. The bill would have allowed the federal government to share classified "cyber threat" information with companies, but it also provided provisions that would have allowed companies to share information about specific users with the government. Privacy advocates also worried, rightly so given previous experience, that the National Security Administration would have gotten involved. As US News reports, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.V., chairman of the committee, said the passage of CISPA was "important," but said the bill's "privacy protections are insufficient." One of CISPA's staunchest opponents, the ACLU, added, "CISPA is too controversial, it's too expansive, it's just not the same sort of program contemplated by the Senate last year." While this is a short-term victory for everyone who uses the web, the ACLU warns, "we need to be vigilant as the year moves on to make sure that whatever the next product is, it's not CISPA- lite."
Earlier in the week we discussed the dismal downward spiral that bank lending was implying for the euro-zone. Today, we get further confirmation that the credit creation business in Europe, the very life-blood of the pump-at-all-costs Keynesian economic world in which our super-inflated debt economies now live, is dead in the water. Not only did M3 come out well below expectations at 2.6% YoY (vs 3% Exp.) but loans to the private sector remain drastically in the red. The fragmentation across the individual nations is dramatic, indicating that even if Draghi were to cut rates next week it will be largely ineffective - given overnight rates are already close to zero and demand appears absolutely non-existent (due to balance sheet destruction). Of course, that is the entire point of the central bank, to lower the cost of funding to a point where it's impossible to refuse (force feed supply) but with the LTRO repayments an explicit tightening, banks delevering, and collateralizable assets in very short supply, Draghi will have to look long and hard to find an extraordinary measure to solve this vicious spiral.
Despite the many differences between China and the U.S., their basic problems are remarkably similiar: an economy that increasingly serves a tiny Elite, and a political/financial system that is incapable of meaningful reform. Setting aside the latest bird flu outbreak and sagging indicators of growth, China 2.0 is in trouble (with 1.0 being the Communist era of 1949 -1977 and 2.0 being the modernization/globalization era of 1978 - 2013), for it remains overly reliant on unsustainable growth dynamics. Add it all up and you get a clear picture of a government and economy that is incapable of making the kind of structural reforms that are needed to make growth sustainable.
And it was shaping up like your typical boring, noonish "gold-smackdown-so-JPM-can-refill-its-vault" Friday. Trust the White House to come out, guns blazing, false flags waving, and make those selling hard assets into the weekend think twice:
- US PURSUING "DEFINITIVE" EVIDENCE ON SYRIAN CHEMICAL WEAPONS
- WHITE HOUSE SAYS OPTIONS FOR DEALING WITH SYRIA USE OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS INCLUDE, BUT ARE NOT EXCLUSIVE TO, MILITARY FORCE
Well, you know what they say: seek and ye shall find. Just ask Bush. As for what the White House failed to mention is that the other options are, well, military force.
Gold and silver prices are plunging after the European equity markets closed. It seems someone got the tap on the shoulder and needed to fund some liquidity. Given the 'unusual' strength in high-beta European assets this week, it would suggest someone (or many someones) were short and squeezed to cover in a hurry and perhaps this post-close dump in gold and silver reflects the final end-of-week realization of losses that need to be funded.
It all makes so much sense. Broad European stocks have just completed their best week in 5 months. Even though today saw some of the exuberance wear off a little, the market is up 3.6% broadly (with Spain and Italy up around 5%) as everyone anticipates something magical from Draghi next week. Macro data is a disaster. Micro (earnings) data is far worse then expected. Italy remains government-less. The money (Merkel) faces problems at home. The Buba is strongly critical of the ECB and OMT/ESM plans. But apart from that, stocks ended near multi-year highs. The EUR closed down modestly on the week. European sovereign bonds are perhaps the canary in the coalmine here - as they have been smashed to near record low yields, the last 3 days have seen spreads leaking back wider (even as stocks continue to surge).
Last week it was Rwanda issuing USD-denominated debt at 7% (lower than Spain yields less than a year ago) just as bond yields of 90% of global sovereign bonds are at or near all time lows. And now, moments ago, we just learned that Ghana (nominal 2013 GDP: $42.8 billion) has just upsized its dollar-denominated $750MM bond issue to $1 billion.
When it comes to true demand for the "unfondleable" barbaric relic, one can look at spot prices (or listen to CNBC, at least when gold is correcting when it is being commented on every 5 minutes; when it has soared by $150 in 10 days, one hardly hears a peep), or one can continue looking at the absolute frenzy in the physical markets, now all over the world, where those who refuse to take their eyes off the ball, or the G-7 printers as the case may be, understand very well how this story ends. They also understand that the recent gold correction has simply been a buying opportunity, and the further the price fell, the more gold was bought until finally mints, refineries, and brokerages have run out of physical in inventory. Bloomberg reports on the ground from India, the world's biggest importer of gold, where gold consumers "thronged jewelry stores across the country for a second week on speculation that bullion may extend a rally after the biggest plunge in three decades." “Demand has been extraordinary in the past 15 days and sales this April have been much better than last year,” Kamal Gupta, chairman of P.P. Jewellers Ltd., said by phone from Delhi. “We waited for sometime to see if prices will fall more but when we saw them moving up again, we decided it’s time,” said Sripal Jain, a 77-year-old silver dealer who came with his younger brother, daughter and daughter-in-law to buy gold necklaces at Mumbai’s Zaveri Bazaar. “We don’t have any wedding or occasion coming up. The rates fell, so we decided to buy"
It would appear the connections that have been supporting stocks for weeks are beginning to break a little. As the following two charts show, JPY carry trades and bond markets are suggesting rough-sledding ahead for the risk-on crowd. Meanwhile, AMZN is having its worst day in 15 months...
The final print for UMich Consumer Confidence beat expectations but that is about the best anyone can hope to glean from it. A slight improvement from the preliminary April data, the current and outlook economic indices both dropped for the first time this year and it has now been four months of no change year-over-year in this important sentiment indicator as today's measure of 'happiness' is exactly the same as that of April 2012. Perhaps US consumer are the most confident because their personal savings are now the lowest they have been in the past five years.
With their economy appearing to slow dramatically, if the PMI and Ifo data is anything to go by, and a nation increasingly disavowed with the European project, it seems the 'people' are not amused. As MNI reports, a poll by Forchungsgruppe shows Merkel's CDU/CSU support fading. Critically, with only 40% backing Merkel, and the 'Merkel bloc' down to only 44%, the opposition and more anti-Europe SPD party gained a point and shifted their 'bloc' vote to 48%. Given that the mainstream parties have excluded a coalition with the Left party, such results would allow only coalitions of Merkel's CDU/CSU with the SPD or the Greens. This raises the question of whether Merkel becomes more hard-nosed in her treatment of European bailouts, cow-towing to her populist needs (especially as Euro membership remains the most popular 'concern' for Germans); or eases the pressure in the hope of a short-term juice of markets believing in joint-debt dreams into the election. We suspect the former, especially given the clear signals from the people as the 'Alternative for Germany' party gathers more headlines - if not representative votes.
The worst miss for US GDP since September 2011 was greeted by financial markets around the world in a variety of ways. Gold surged; the USD weakened (with JPY surging in an anti-Abe way); and Treasury yields plunged (amid increasing growth concerns. But the one market that anyone in power cares about, the US equity market, did nothing, absolutely nothing. We have two words for what the monetary policy heroine has done to our once useful 'markets', comfortably numb. It seems the bad-is-good, moar-QE trade is on in every asset class except stocks (for now).
Now that we have the first estimate of Q1 GDP growth in both rate of change and absolute current dollar terms ($16,010 billion), we can finally assign the appropriate debt number, which we know on a daily basis and which was $16,771.4 billion as of March 31, to the growth number. The end result: as of March 31, 2013, the US debt/GDP was 104.8%, up from 103% as of December 31, 2012 or a debt growth rate that would make the most insolvent Eurozone nation blush. There was a time when people were concerned about this unsustainable trajectory, but then there was an infamous excel error, and now nobody cares anymore.
Less than an hour ago we speculated that "it wouldn't be surprising for GDP to come substantially weaker than expected, only to be revised higher (or lower) subsequently." Sure enough, we have gotten at least the first part right for now, with the advance Q1 GDP number printing a very disappointing 2.5%, on expectations of a 3.0% increase, up from 0.4% in Q4, and the biggest miss since Q3 2011. The reason for the big miss: Inventory and Fixed Investment came well below expectations, comprising 1.03% (of which autos represented 0.24%) and 0.53% of the 2.5% annualized increase GDP. Kiss the great CapEx investment story goodbye.
It took about one week from R&R's excel error until the first European country rebelled against "austerity" (which it never implemented in the first place, but that's a different story). Moments ago Spain officially said to hell with Germany's austerity, and announced it would delay achieving Europe's deficit target by two years, pushing it back by 2 years to 2016. Oh, and it slashed growth forecasts confirming what everyone else had known: it's economy is a total disaster, and the country can finally stop pretending there is any hope for "growth" in the near, mid or long-term future.
- SPAIN REVISES DOWN 2013 GROWTH FORECAST TO -1.3 PCT OF GDP VS -0.5 PCT PREVIOUSLY
- SEES DEFICITS OF 6.3% vs. 4.5% EU 2013 TARGET, 5.5% vs. 2.8% EU 2014, TARGET; 4.1% vs. 1.9% EU 2015 TARGET
- SPAIN TO DELAY DEFICIT REDUCTION 2 YEARS AS UNEMPLOYMENT RISES.
- SPAIN REVISES DOWN DEFICIT FORECAST TO 6.3 PCT OF GDP IN 2013
- SPAIN DELAYS REACHING EU BUDGET DEFICIT TARGET 2 YEARS TIL 2016
- SPAIN SEES UNEMPLOYMENT AT 27.1% IN 2013, 26.7% IN 2014
Luckily, this is not a surprise: the collapse in the Spanish economy is just as bad as had been expected, so this should be good for 10-20 points this morning in the Stalingrad & Poorski 500 stock index.