It appears paying more for gasoline and higher taxes trumps the exuberance of the equity markets as UMich Consumer Sentiment crashed in February. Printing at 71.8 on expectations of 78.0 this is the biggest miss on record based on Bloomberg data. The 71.8 level is the lowest since December 2011 as it appears that the Fed's only remaining policy tool is just not sparking that animal spirit in the real economy's anchor - the US consumer - as while current conditions did drop, it is future expectations that plunged.
As Marc Faber noted, we hardly expect China to report GDP growth rates that do not perfectly fit the goal-seeked solution for utopian society, but under the covers, there appears to be some considerably more ugly real data. One of the hardest to manipulate, manage, or mitigate for a centrally planned economy is Electricity production. The year-over-year drop in China's electricity production is the largest since the slump in Q1 2009; and the seasonal drop (associated with the New Year) is the largest on record at 25.3%! So on one hand China is discussing tightening monetary policy amid inflation anxiety and a potential real estate bubble - thanks to the rest of the world pumping free money - and on the other hand Chinese officials are faced with the reality of a drastically slowing 'real' economy. At the same time, we note that it appears China's export-import data appears overstated. Rock meet hard place.
Perhaps there is a reason why Bernanke has not been completely hysterical about the sequester crashing his free-money induced party. The following chart shows the relatively strong correlation between US military spending and oil prices over the past 25 years. As we have discussed in depth, there is only one thing that can stop an over-confident central banker - the Brent Vigilantes - but should the sequester kick in with all its defense-spending slashing might, perhaps - just perhaps - that will weigh on the price of oil at the margin and provide just enough cushion for Bernanke et al. to do moar to maintain their key policy tool - the equity index.
February Inflation Rises By Most In One Year; Empire Fed Misses Even As Optimism Rises To Highest In 12 MonthsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/15/2013 08:47 -0400
Following last month's surprising surge in the Empire Fed from a deep negative number to 10.04, the March print was less exciting, declining modestly to 9.24, on expectations of an unchanged number. Per the report, the new orders and shipments indexes also remained above zero, though both were somewhat lower than last month’s levels. Price indexes showed that input price increases continued at a steady pace while selling prices were flat. Employment indexes suggested that labor market conditions were sluggish, with little change in employment levels and the length of the average workweek. The Number of Employees index dropped from 8.08 to 3.23, back to September 2012 levels. Naturally, with reality worse than expected, all hopes were put in the future as indexes for the six-month outlook pointed to an increasing level of optimism about future conditions, with the future general business conditions index rising to its highest level in nearly a year. This is only the 4th year in a row in which optimism about the future is orders of magnitude higher than the current reality. Thank the Fed's "wealth channel to support consumer spending." In other economic news, headline inflation came slighlty higher than the expected 0.5%, with the 0.7% sequential print the highest in one year, driven by a surge in the gasoline index which rose 9.1% in February, "to account for almost three-fourths of the seasonally adjusted all items increase. The indexes for electricity, natural gas, and fuel oil also increased, leading to a 5.4 percent rise in the energy index. The food index increased slightly in February, rising 0.1 percent."
Bank Of America: "Today’s Stock Market Has Lost Some Of Its Ability To Reflect Underlying Economic Trends"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 03/15/2013 07:56 -0400
With Greenspan emerging from his crypt to confirm that he is now as clueless about everything as he was 15 years ago (although the absolutely zero reaction out of "stocks" to his statement that stocks are "very undervalued" is perhaps indicative that SkyNet may just be learning), it is appropriate to remind readers that this thing known as the "market" died some four years ago. What we have now is a vehicle with a "role in the policy fight to support spending" while "today’s stock market has arguably lost some of its ability to reflect underlying economic trends." Not our words - those of Bank of America's Ethan Harris, who, four years after the fringe blogs, finally "gets it."
- JPMorgan Report Piles Pressure on Dimon in Too-Big Debate (BBG)
- Employers Blast Fees From New Health Law (WSJ)
- Obama unveils US energy blueprint (FT)
- Obama to Push Advanced-Vehicle Research (WSJ) - here come Solar-powered cars?
- BRICs Abandoned by Locals as Fund Outflows Reach 1996 High (BBG)
- Obama won't trip over Netanyahu's Iran "red line" (Reuters)
- Samsung puts firepower behind Galaxy (FT)
- Boeing sees 787 airborne in weeks with fortified battery (Reuters)
- Greece Counts on Gas, Gambling to Revive Asset Sales Tied to Aid (BBG)
- Goldman’s O’Neill Says S&P 500 Beyond 1,600 Needs Growth (BBG)
- China’s new president in corruption battle (FT)
- Post-Chavez Venezuela as Chilly for Companies From P&G to Coke (BBG)
"Equity prices in the US and Europe have been hovering at multi-year highs. To the extent that this reflects powerful policy easing, equity markets may have lost some of its ability to reflect economic trends in exchange for an important role in the policy fight to support spending." This is a statement from a Bank of America report overnight in which the bailed out bank confirms what has been said here since the launch of QE1 - there is no "market", there is no economic growth discounting mechanism, there is merely a monetary policy vehicle. To those, therefore, who can "forecast" what this vehicle does based on the whims of a few good central planners, we congratulate them. Because, explicitly, there is no actual forecasting involved. The only question is how long does the "career trade", in which everyone must be herded into the same trades or else risk loss of a bonus or job, go on for before mean reversion finally strikes. One thing that is clear is that since news is market positive, irrelevant of whether it is good or bad, virtually everything that has happened overnight, or will happen today, does not matter, and all stock watchers have to look forward to is another low volume grind higher, as has been the case for the past two weeks.
Five-year plans in the Land of the Free? Apparently it’s not that far off from reality. Yesterday Senator Tom Harkin introduced S. 544, “a bill to require the President to develop a comprehensive national manufacturing strategy.” In effect, Senator Harkin wants the President to centrally plan the economy. Never mind that the President has zero experience in business or manufacturing. But hey, this worked out so well for Stalinist Russia, it’s no wonder Mr. Harkin wants to copy that model... The trend is clear. Every single day the political elite gives us even more evidence that they’re working overtime to destroy the economy and what few remaining civil liberties still exist.
Surprise, surprise... the 'most transparent administration ever' is, well, the least transparent. Not that any of you are shocked by this revelation, but a new report by the Associated Press demonstrates just how secret our government and intelligence agencies have become. Not only did they claim “national security” over and over like a bunch of drunk parrots, they also claimed the need to protect “internal deliberations.” Specifically, the number of times the government withheld or censored reports in 2012 was 479,000 times, up 22% from 2011. The CIA denied 60% of requests, up from 49% in 2011. "In some ways, the Obama administration is actually even more aggressive on secrecy than the Bush administration."
The concept of the Great Rotation continues to garner significant investor attention. From a flow perspective, UBS' analysis across various asset classes infers there is scant evidence of a large rotation out of corporate credit or fixed income in general. They make a few simple observations. First, that the thesis of a great rotation out of Treasury securities into corporate equities is a fallacy - the Federal Reserve and global central banks are the dominant holders of Treasuries; if they decide to sell, the money will not directly flow into equities. Second, the thesis of a great rotation out of corporate credit into equities is complicated by three main cross-currents which suggests, correctly, to them that the Great Rotation debate is much ado about nothing.
Though infamous for his doom and gloom more than boom, Marc Faber explains in this brief CNBC clip how the herd-like behavior in stocks and real estate is actually not totally irrational as it is merely a reaction to the central banks forcing people not to hold cash and instead but "gold watches and Ferraris." His point is that if (and when) interest rates are ever normalized, everything changes (and not in a good way) as valuations become severely stretched on all these inflated assets. While the world tells us that bonds are unattractive and stocks are attractive, Faber rhetorically asks, "who knows, maybe the bonds are telling us something about the future return on equities." He warns of paying too much attention to government headline statistics, "what is published does not necessarily reflect the reality," But, just as we have warned, China is his biggest fear for knocking the world' exuberance: "Whether they [Chinese government] can ensure continuous growth will depend on reforms and how to deflate the colossal credit bubble we have in China. This is going to be a huge problem because we have so much underground credit, questionable loans outstanding and questionable investments."
Democratic governments in low-growth economies sometimes rely on their central banks to support fiscal policy so as to avoid asking voters to share more of the burden. BNP Paribas' Ryutaro Kono notes that it is the pathology of modern democracies to foist our bills onto future generations and one could argue that the prolongation of our zero-rate regimes and quantitative easing are facilitating this. When this societal weakness is combined with today’s financialized economies, we get a pronounced inclination toward monetization, which could lead to very serious problems. While Governor Shirakawa has described the BoJ as the “frontrunner” in venturing into unknown territory with policies like zero rates and quantitative easing, Kono warns that Japan could also become the frontrunner of outright monetization. This could intensify the dilemma of having to choose between price stability or financial-system stability when inflation actually starts to pick up.
While JPMorgan's arrogance and complete ignorance (intentional or not) of both risk limits and regulatory expectations is now grossly obvious, the fact remains that a lie is a lie and given the following, how can anyone ever trust anything that anyone from this 'fortress-like' balance sheet ever says again? To wit, again and again and again, the public and the regulators were told this was a long-term 'hedge' for a bank that is a natural net 'lender' and therefore exposed to deterioration in credit markets over the long-term. However, as JPMorgan's own data and words show, the SCP 'hedge' in fact lost money in all spread-widening scenarios - exactly when it should be making money to cover 'offsetting' losses in the bank's lending book. In fact, it appears, that this was simply another low 'risk-weighted' way to get around regulatory capital rules and be 'long' the market - in the first three months of 2012, the CIO tripled the size of the SCP book, taking it from $51 billion to $157 billion, in a buying spree that was not motivated by decision-making on a “very long-term basis.”
Curious what according to Jamie Dimon is just a "tempest in a teapot", or, alternatively, why Mr. Dimon is richer than pretty much all of you, here is the full 307 page report that explains everything, including all the events that transpired at the JPM CIO office, all the trades that led up to the "monstrous" Whale portfolio, leading to an epic prop trade failure, coupled with countless lies and misrepresentations to regulators, to investors, to the public, and to politicians, many of which under oath. Oh yes, free Jamie Dimon!
On the day of the unexpected JPM conference call in May of 2012, during which the initial extent of the London Whale fiasco was revealed, Zero Hedge presented a full, visual breakdown of everything that, we thought, had happened at the CIO, without any corroborating evidence. In hindsight, our assumptions and conclusions were 100% correct. But for anyone still confused and curious how less than a year ago the most powerful bank in the world put itself at the mercy of a few hedge funds, here is the simple one page summary.