The Richmond Fed's Jeffrey Lacker, a 2012 voting member of the FOMC, who has so far been the sole objector to the Fed's policy of exiting a hole by continuing to dig deeper, has released his traditional "good cop" response to Bernanke's QE4EVA plan. The highlights: "I disagreed with the Committee’s decision to continue purchasing additional assets to stimulate the economy. With economic activity growing at a modest pace and inflation fluctuating close to 2 percent — the Committee’s inflation goal — further monetary stimulus runs the risk of raising inflation and destabilizing inflation expectations....Deliberately tilting the flow of credit to one particular economic sector is an inappropriate role for the Federal Reserve....I have dissented previously against the use of date-based forward guidance, and I supported the decision to drop such language at the December meeting....monetary policy has only a limited ability to reduce unemployment, and such effects are transitory and generally short-lived. Moreover, a single indicator cannot provide a complete picture of labor market conditions. Therefore, I do not believe that tying the federal funds rate to a specific numerical threshold for unemployment is an appropriate and balanced approach to the FOMC’s price stability and maximum employment mandates." Of course, his objection is duly noted, and summarily rejected and forgotten.
- Obama, Boehner hold "frank" meeting amid "fiscal cliff" frustration (Reuters)
- Rice Ends Bid Amid Criticism (WSJ)
- EU summit delays crucial decisions (FT)
- EU moves to cap bank bonuses at 2 times annual salary (CBC)
- Europe Wins a Battle, but Not Yet the War (WSJ)
- Banks Spurn Europe Bond Rush Amid Central Bank Loan Largesse (BBG)
- German-French Sparring Over Euro Caps 2012 Crisis Fight (BBG)
- Fed begins stress tests on bank liquidity (FT)
- Draghi’s rallying cry for new EU powers (FT)
- EU Seeks Plan to Handle Failing Banks Amid Cost Concerns (BBG)
- Berlusconi says Monti has strong EU backing (FT)
- Abe Set for Japan Victory Faces 7-Month Window to Keep Hold (BBG)
- Japan's Abe would try to keep China ties calm-lawmakers (Reuters)
In a world in which the Fiscal Cliff, including headlines, rumors, leaks, and mere whispers thereof, is the main show, all other data points are at best supporting data actors. There was a lot of support overnight - for the futures, which once again closed the prior session at the lows - with a battery of PMIs released, starting with the December HSBC China Flash PMI which printed at a excel picture perfect 50.9 vs an expectation 50.8 and above 50 for the second straight month, which sent the Shanghai Composite up 4.32%, and wiped out the bitter aftertaste from the Japan December large manufacturer Tankan index which tumbled to -12 on expectation of a -10 print, confirming the Japanese recession is deteriorating at the worst possible time. Then after China, Markit released a bevy of European PMI data which came in mixed: Services PMI rose from 46.7 to 47.8 in December, beating expectations of a 47.0 print, while the Manufacturing PMI rose modestly from 46.2 to 46.3, missing expectations of a 46.6 result. The biggest wildcard once again was Germany, where the Service PMI, like in the US, posted a sizable rise, posting above 50 for the first time in months, or at 52.1 on expectations of 50.0, and up from 49.7 last, although more disturbing was the ongoing collapse in German manufacturing which dipped from 46.8 to 46.3, on expectations of a rise to 47.2. French manufacturing data did not help posting a tiny rise from 44.5 to 44.6, missing expectations of a 45.0 print. Economic data was further confounded when Spain released its quarterly home price update, which dipped 3.8%, accelerated last quarter's -3.3% drop, and sliding by a massive -15.2% in Q3, faster than the -14.4% drop in Q2, and confirming Spanish housing has a long way to go before it is fixed.
If there is one thing better than Marc Faber providing a free, must-watch (and listen) 50 minute lecture on virtually everything that has transpired in the end days of modern capitalism, starting with who caused it, adjustable rate mortgages, leverage, why did the Fed let Lehman fail, why was AIG bailed out, quantitative easing, Operation Twist, where the interest on the debt is going, which bubbles he is most concerned about, a discussion of gold and silver, and culminating with his views on a world reserve currency, is him saying the following: "The views of the Keynesians like Mr. Krugman is that the fiscal deficits are far too small. One of the problems of the crisis is that it was caused by government intervention with fiscal and monetary measures. Now they tells us we didn't intervene enough. If they really believe that they should go and live in North Korea where you have a communist system. There the government intervenes into every aspect of the economy. And look at the economic performance of North Korea." Priceless.
What is going on here, for those understandably confused, is North Korea's gregarious and gorgeous leader, Kim Jong-un, sitting in the Korean equivalent of Houston, watching the recent Korean rocket launch... and smoking a cigarette. Take it away.
Good thing there is no inflation, you know, except in every single thing every single American needs to buy to survive that is! The hits just keep coming for California, America’s very own Greece. Remember the article I posted a couple of days ago titled: Payday Loans in California: School Districts Owe $1 Billion on $100 Million Borrowed. Now we find out from the LA Times: "Health insurer Blue Shield of California wants to raise rates as much as 20% for some individual policyholders, prompting calls for the nonprofit to use some of its record-high reserve of $3.9 billion to hold down premiums. In filings with state regulators, Blue Shield is seeking an average rate increase of 12% for more than 300,000 customers, effective in March, with a maximum increase of 20%." That should be a real boon for California’s economy. Meanwhile…
Remember when Americans used to mock Russia (f/k/a the USSR) for being one big Gulag prison colony? Those were the good days. One thing is sure: they no longer "hate us for our freedom." On the other hand, if instead of prison, one were to write in "minimum security, free room and board, out early for good behavior" (especially if the world's most famous hedge fund will fund all your cash needs for the rest of your life on the 'other side' just as we predicted three weeks ago), then they would certainly hate us for our benefits.
After the success of the 'scariest charts for equity bulls', the following 12 charts are the most important, in CitiFX's view, to establish a 'starting point' for views on markets as we head into 2013. From employment trends echoing the 1970s, one-last-low in Treasury yields and '90s analogs, to EURUSD and its mid-'80s mirror, and the ongoing trend higher in gold; there is something here to scare equity and bond bulls and bears alike.
A well-timed leak of an Obama-Boehner meeting this evening provided enough exuberance to allow algos to lift the markets (futures and ETFs first) from 'about to break the lows' to VWAP (to the tick!). S&P 500 futures picked off VWAP perfectly and slid back. The Dow and the S&P spent the afternoon stuck at unchanged on the week before the rally-monkey saved the day (as did Financials). Treasury yields continue to bleed higher (now up around 10bps on the week). Silver dislocated (worse) from its commodity peers who have recoupled +/-0.3% on the week (even as the USD is -0.6% on the week). Gold and silver (as we noted earlier) really fell out of love from the start of the day-session but silver was starting to recover into the close. AAPL was very close to its lowest close in 10 months (but again was rescued by some rampant white house leak about a totally fruitless rumor) though ended at a critical VWAP support level. By way of record-breakers - today marked the first time that we have seen stocks negative from the day before a QE announcement to the day after (no matter what Bob Pisani tells you). Equities tumbled into the close (after ringing the bell at VWAP) ending near the lows after-hours leaving financials and energy practically unchanged on the week. VIX jumped 0.5 vols to 16.4% and HYG had a very weak day on significant volume. But apart from that...
For the third year in a row, hedge funds will underperform the market, this time by nearly 50%, having returned 5.15% through the end of November (with just equity funds +5.20% YTD), less than half what the MSCI World has returned. And while one can make the argument (not correctly) that a manager has to beat only a given benchmark, and not the overall market, the reality is that for virtually all LPs, seeing their money return well below the S&P not for one, not two, but for three years running, is about the last thing they need before they make a decision to fax in that redemption form.
It may seem like a rhetorical question but Citi's credit stretgy team fears that the Fed may be pushing a bit too aggressively at this stage. The chart below shows monetary policy (defined as the funds rate and the Fed's balance sheet) vs. a "market health" index comprised of economic factors, systemic risk metrics, and valuation metrics. Historically the two have tracked well, but not recently. The health index is firming, but policy is getting easier, not tighter. Is the Fed out of its depth here, or do they know something we don't?
The following chart is perhaps the best glimpse of the excessively optimistic 'hope' relative to the rest of the world that US equity markets (and their extrapolators analysts) currently possess. Since the start of 2012, analysts, guided by both macro uncertainty and company expectations, have crushed 2013 EPS expectations across all global markets - well nearly all...
2012 has been a stellar year for oil and gas. From East Africa to North America, new technology, major new discoveries, an unparalleled appetite for exploration and a metamorphosing perception of risk have changed the playing field. We’re looking at potential rather than existing production, and here are our Top 5 picks for this year.
In a little under three minutes, CNBC's Rick Santelli clarifies (in a much-needed manner) that we do not live in a monarchy or dictatorship (hoping for benevolence) - no matter how many Democratic senators and congressmen believe the President was given a mandate leaving him "holding all the cards" - we live in a republic (where the sovereignty rests with all individuals) and removing 'debt ceiling' checks and balances (for example) is a ride down a slippery slope. The chagrined Chicagoan then goes on to discuss the fact that the Fed, having unloaded another package of potentially infinite unsterilized money-printing, was actively discussing its exit strategy. Put simply, Santelli notes, "mark my words" the market will decide that exit - and the Fed had better be ready when it comes.