Goldman's ex-employee Mario Draghi is in a box: he knows he has to do something, but he also knows his options are very limited politically and financially. Yet he has no choice but to escalate and must surprise markets with a forceful intervention as per his words last week or else. What does that leave him? Well, according to Goldman's Huw Pill, nothing short of pulling a BOJ and announcing on Thursday that he will proceed with monetization of private assets, an event which so far only the Bank of Japan has publicly engaged in, and one which will confirm the world's relentless Japanization. From Pill: "Given the (to us) surprisingly bold tone of Mr. Draghi’s comments last week, we nevertheless think a new initiative may well be in the offing. We have argued in the past that the next step in the escalation of the ECB response would be outright purchases of private assets. Acting in this direction on Thursday would represent a significant event. We forecast the announcement of measures to permit NCBs to purchase private-sector assets under their own risk to implement ‘credit easing’, within a general framework approved by the Governing Council. This would allow purchases of unsecured bank debt and corporate debt, enabling NCBs to ease private-sector financial conditions where such support is most needed." Why would the ECB do this: "A natural objection to outright purchases of assets issued by the private sector is that they involve the assumption of too much credit risk by the ECB. But substantial risk is already assumed via credit operations." In other words, the only thing better than a little global central banker put is a whole lot global central banker put, and when every central planner is now all in, there is no longer any downside to putting in even more taxpayer risk on the table. Or so the thinking goes.
There are only three words that send a chill down the spine of Ben Bernanke - Ron, Paul, and Deflation. His life's work is devoted to the avoidance-at-all-costs of the latter (and probably the former in reality). As we discussed here two weeks ago, his actions in extreme monetary policy have all occurred at periods when the market's expectations of future rapid de- or dis-inflation have increased rapidly. As we noted then: without inflation break-evens dropping, the Bernanke put will not arrive; but the market in its infinitely efficient wisdom has created a self-defeating spiral of BTFD reflexive front-running on any rapid spike down in future inflation expectations - which implicitly sparks a non-dis-inflationary reaction and removes Bernanke's punchbowl for another day. This has occurred 4 times this year - with this week's early plunge being caught by Draghi and Hilsenrath - and with inflation break-evens almost at their highest in 10 months, it would appear the 'desperate-not-to-miss-the-life-giving-rally' market just removed its own blood supply.
The secular bear market that the US has been caught in for a better part of the last decade will end. Eventually. The only question is when. Last week we reported that the bulk of market gains year to date, has been driven exclusively by PE multiple expansion, which is to be expected: EPS forecasts for the end of 2012 are now the lowest they have been since the beginning of the year. Yet while such sharp, sudden and short and bear-market rallies, exclusively on the back of the global central banks, are to be expected, the bigger question is how much more of a secular decline in PE multiples is to be expected before the bear market ends and a new bull market can begin. As the following chart from Crestmont Research shows there is quite a bit more to go, even with Fed assistance (or rather, because of it, and its forced rejection of reaching a fair clearing price sooner rather than later), before the bear market is officially over. Just over 50% more. To the downside.
The insolvent banana continent is back. Recall back in May 2011:
“When it becomes serious, you have to lie." -Jean Claude Juncker
Ergo, things in Europe are very serious again because the Eurogroup's head, who until recently promised he was quitting his post because "he had gotten tired of the Franco-German interference in managing the region's debt crisis", only to spoil the fun and say he was lying about that too, is back to doing what he does best - lying. To wit: "the euro countries are preparing together with the bailout fund EFSF and the European Central Bank to buy government bonds if necessary clip euro countries." And now cue Schauble: "Federal Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has rejected speculation about impending purchases of government bonds by Spanish EFSF and ECB."
Yes, we know it doesn't matter because Ben & Mario have got our backs at whatever multiple is required to levitate the economy market, but as Citi's credit desk points out; despite the constant chatter about EPS beats (despite top-line misses), the trick is that analysts have been dragging down expectations since the earnings-cycle began and so judging 'misses' must be done against a 'frozen' pre-earnings number. If we do this 'fair' approach to considering expectations, the percentage miss in the S&P 500's EPS for Q2 2012 is as bad as the Q2/Q3 2011 Tsunami-driven miss - and the worst we have seen since Lehman Brothers shuffled off this mortal coil. So as usual, be careful what truth you believe and consider just how much more 'hope' is now in this market given this reality.
So we have two weeks of sport to take our minds off the global financial malaise. The EU commissars have all gone on holiday, but not before Mario Draghi (ECB Chairman) announced that he will do whatever it takes to save the euro. Really? His statement did knock the Spanish 10 year bond yield back below 7%, but this had become a one way and illiquid trade that was due for break. We have seen it all before with Greece. Denial, denial, denial all the way until days before default restructuring. Talking of which, the Greeks think they are in line for a further handout. Those whirring sounds you can hear in the distance are printing presses knocking out “new” drachma.
"September will undoubtedly be the crunch time," one senior euro zone policymaker said. "In nearly 20 years of dealing with EU issues, I've never known a state of affairs like we are in now," one euro zone diplomat said this week. "It really is a very, very difficult fix and it's far from certain that we'll be able to find the right way out of it."
That the US government's activities as a share of GDP have gone from well under 10% at the beginning of the last century to over 40% today – and will go over 50% by the time Obamacare is fully implemented – makes it clear that this country is now operating on principles that run completely contrary to those that promote success and economic well-being. The consequence of continuing to operate on this model will be a steady decline in the quality of life for most Americans, while favoring a ruling elite that produces nothing… except more roadblocks.
Two weeks ago we observed that the broadest money aggregate tracked by the Fed, M2, was less than $10 billion away from crossing the historic $10 trillion mark. As of this week, this number now officially has 14 digits for the first time ever, or $10,035,100,000,000 to be precise (technically the non-seasonally adjusted number crossed $10T last week, but for some reason bank deposits need to be seasonally adjusted, so waiting for the traditionally fudged data seemed appropriate). And we have a $50 billion increase in savings deposits, aka deferred buying power to those who still have the capacity to save, in one week to thank for putting $10 trillion in the rearview mirror.
As every Olympic athlete knows, size matters. The London 2012 medals are the largest ever in terms of both weight and diameter - almost double the medals from Beijing. However, just as equally well-known is that quality beats quantity and that is where the current global austerity, coin-clipping, devaluation-fest begins. The 2012 gold is 92.5 percent silver, 6.16 copper and... 1.34 percent gold, with IOC rules specifying that it must contain 550 grams of high-quality silver and a whopping 6 grams of gold. The resulting medallion is worth about $500. For the silver medal, the gold is replaced with more copper, for a $260 bill of materials. The bronze medal is 97 percent copper, 2.5 percent zinc and 0.5 percent tin. Valued at about $3, you might be able to trade one for a bag of chips in Olympic park if you skip the fish.
Most people, most markets, operate on the basis of reality and probable scenarios based upon fact. This is not true for the equity markets however as it is here where hopes and prayers and visions of Tinkerbell and little blue fairies that will come to the rescue reside. It is in the stock markets where great dreams take place and where Batman guards Metropolis. It is also here, however, where eyes tightly closed are pried open from time-to-time and where the horrors of the known universe stare back at you with disquieting eyes. Draghi represents the Southern contingency, the periphery nations, the troubled cousins who cannot live on what they make. This is all fine and dandy but do not kid yourself; if the Germans say “Nein” then it is “Nein” and any other conclusion is foolhardy. Whoosh and sorry for the dose of reality.
Fixed income markets have always focused closely on news about the US macro-economy; while traditionally, equity market participants have focused more on the “micro” data – in particular, news about current and prospective corporate earnings – to form their views about the relative attractiveness of different stocks or the market as a whole. Goldman finds that the financial crisis changed all that. The responsiveness of the US equity market to economic news increased dramatically, now showing about twice as much sensitivity to macro data as it did in the years before the financial crisis. While micro data remains important - especially in quantifying just how much QE-hope the market is 'abiding' by, macro news is likely to be the critical driver of equity markets until the global economic outlook is considerably brighter than it looks today (or macro decouples from Fed/ECB jawboning). On average the market’s responsiveness to all these economic indicators suggests that we are still very much living in a macro world. In the meantime, there are some exceptions to the fairly consistent reactions to economic news that we see between equity and bond markets.
With the 2012 London Olympics now underway, ConvergEx's Nic Colas takes a look at the business of the Games. As it turns out, the five-circle logo of the International Olympic Committee is essentially one of the strongest brands on the planet. The reason for this success seems to boil down to two fundamental drivers. In the developed economies of the world, the games represent an opportunity to reach a large audience that has grown fragmented and hard to reach due to everything from the social media to DVR devices. In emerging markets, ever-larger middle classes represent excellent growth opportunities for global brands. The bottom line is that the Olympics may prove to be the last piece of media content that remains relevant and interesting to the majority of the world’s consumers. The Olympics is therefore an unequivocal business success story, unharmed by global recession, sovereign debt woes, and the other economic problems of the moment. It just seems a shame that live-pigeon shooting and one-armed-weightlifting have been removed from the events and did dwarf-tossing ever make it?
The unconscionable behavior of the political class should be thought of as a contagious disease that infiltrates any industry that comes within influence of the state. Government contractors, lobbying associations, favored corporations, and even the press all seek to use the monopolized power of government to further their own interests. Instead of attempting to roll back stifling regulations, many of these firms simply wish to get in on the spoils of the great extortionary scheme. The results are always the same. Politicians pretend to be saving the people from cold-natured capitalism while politically-connected businessmen and bankers act as if their commercial success is completely of their own doing. The hidden truth is both act in tandem to fleece the average taxpayer.