Earlier today, in what can only be summarized as an epic meltdown, NJ governor Chris Christie proceeded with an even more epic rant against House speaker John Boehner, in narrow terms, and House Republicans in broader, for killing the $60 billion Sandy Assistance bill, whose funding would have offset one full year of the just legislated tax hikes on the rich which would add $62 billion annually to the Treasury (or alternatively would have been unfundable for the next 2 months while the US struggles to pay its mandatory bills courtesy of having breached the debt ceiling). Alternatively, all Americans could just agree to accept less welfare and entitlement benefits to show their solidarity for New Jersey and fund the recovery of the Tristate area by a "shared sacrifice" instead of going the default route and demanding even more deficit spending - something that would naturally saddle the next generation with even more pain, not the current, far more entitled one - but in this country that is an absolutely ludicrous proposition. Below is a clip of the entire Christie performance which is a must see for sheer indignation entertainment value alone.
The fiscal cliff deal appears to be a done deal and markets have reacted accordingly (although President Obama is apparently awaiting a photo-op later today to sign it). However, the deal leaves a large number of loose ends that ensure high drama for the next two months on the US fiscal front. The immediate impact of all the loose ends and deadlines may be smaller than the Dec 31 fiscal cliff, but all of these loose ends are important and could lead to short-term price action. Several of them are very important for the long run USD outlook as well.
We already knew that the US crossed the debt ceiling on New Year's day. It is, however, one thing to read a Geithner press release, it is another to see America's ridiculous debt it in action. So here it is, courtesy of TreasuryDirect, in all its debt ceiling glory: $16,432,730,050,569.12, with the debt subject to the ceiling at the limit of $16.394 trillion.
And with that we can close the books on the first quarter of Fiscal 2013, in which US public debt grew by $366 billion, some $122 billion per month on average.
Wondering why rail traffic has been somewhat surprisingly consistent despite uncertainty? Concerned at government's tenticular reach into each and every aspect of our lives? This somewhat stunning anecdotal report from OilPrice.com might shed some light:
A cargo train filled with biofuels crossed the border between the US and Canada 24 times between the 15th of June and the 28th of June 2010; not once did it unload its cargo, yet it still earned millions of dollars... The companies “made several million dollars importing and exporting the fuel to exploit a loophole in a U.S. green energy program.” Each time the loaded train crossed the border the cargo earned its owner a certain amount of Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs), which were awarded by the US EPA to “promote and track production and importation of renewable fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel.”
We suggest this is merely yet another unintended consequence (just as we noted here) and perverted incentive of central planning and an all encroaching government.
Update 2: MLNX down 22%. Earnings, and cash flows, matter. And now, time to ramp some other stock only to see it implode when it announces earnings or guides down.
Update: MLNX, a $2.6 billion market cap company, was up 3% today before being halted after hours and crushing guidance by preannouncing horrible revenues. Expect many other S&P 500 companies to be forced to do the same now that their market value, driven almost exclusively by "someone's" ceaseless selling of VIX futures and by correlation engines which assume every company has to rise (and sometimes even fall) by the same amount as the biggest synthetic indicator, the E-Mini, is so disconnected from any cash-flow reality, that only the Fed can possibly assume there is fair value for the stock market at current levels.
The drop in VIX in the last two days is the biggest percentage drop on record (based on Bloomberg's data) as the S&P 500 futures (ES) have managed a 70-point rally. The exuberance at today's open ebbed through the middle of the day but then resurged into the close as the day-session range was actually quite narrow (sub-10pts). High-yield credit surged (leading the way) coupled with VXX (huge odd volume spike) as pain trades were everywhere. FX markets were decidedly unimpressed even as Treasuries tracked along with stocks for most of the day (though lagged the late-day surge as 10Y yields stalled out at the 12/187 highs). Commodities held on to gains even as the USD turned positive on the week. On the bright side, all those who have been invested in the S&P since March 2000 can exit at (nominal) breakeven and all it took was a 400% increase in the size of the Fed's balance sheet. This feels very delicate and all anchored on a massive protection unwind (as volumes and blocks were dumped into the late-day ripfest).
While the predictions of Blackstone's Byron Wien (born in 1933), who may not be in the senate or "sleep-deprived", but this year will become an octogenarian, may have been all over the place in the past 10 years, some correct, but most miserably wrong (with a recent hit rate of about 25%), he always does provide entertainment value. Which is the only value in the latest release of his 10 forecasts for 2013. Naturally, take all of these with a salt mine.
One of the Fed Chairman's most memorable lines in recent history is that "gold is not money... it is tradition." Perhaps he was merely listening to the Fed's computers, Ferbus, Edo and Sigma, which we now know form the backbone of US central planning and whose DSGE model output is usually spot on until it happens to be catastrophically wrong, on the issue. Or perhaps that is merely what one is taught (and teaches) in the Princeton economics department. Whatever the reason for Bernanke's belief, don't show him this chart from a just released "Report of the Working Group to Study the Issues Related to Gold Imports and Gold Loans by NBFCs" in India, part of a coordinated campaign to minimize Indian gold demand and imports whose direct substitution to "(un)sound money" in the country is one of the reason being attributed for the nation's high current account deficit (as reported earlier) and why the finance minister said "demand for gold must be moderated." The chart shows the staggering eightfold increase in India's gold loans "which monetize the idle gold in the country", in just four short years. In short it proves that in India, gold is the only real money, and is the only fallback option in a country where inflation is still rampant, and where even simple peasants prefer to keep their wealth not in the local paper currency, which has been losing its value aggressively in recent years, but in the shiny metal. Must be "tradition."
Moody's has stepped forward with the first warning shot across the bow that:
- *MOODY'S: MORE MEDIUM TERM ACTIONS MAY BE NEEDED TO SUPPORT Aaa
Has contradicted itself (from September) on the debt-ceiling breach; and warns that while the deal 'mitigates' some fiscal drag, it does not remove it. To wit: the IMF piles on:
- *IMF SAYS `MORE REMAINS TO BE DONE' ON U.S. PUBLIC FINANCES
- *IMF SAYS U.S. DEBT CEILING SHOULD BE RAISED `EXPEDITIOUSLY'
Full statements below.
In 28 seconds, Bloomberg TV's Scarlet Fu explains who really benefits from the 'deal' and Bernanke's ongoing 'wealth effect' policy. Simply put, taxes on 77% of Americans go up... and 20% benefit. "Fair-and-balanced" indeed. Blackrock's Larry Fink summed it all up nicely: "The American People are the Big Losers In The Cliff Deal"
The recent fiscal cliff negotiations were almost a textbook case of the game theory's Prisoner's Dilemma... resulting in the same sub-optimal outcome. All the posturing and political strutting were more about trying to obtain personal advantage over the other players, not actually fixing anything. The fiscal cliff, in fact, stopped being about the US economy a long, long time ago. The uncomfortable truth that nobody in officialdom wants to admit (save outgoing Congressman Ron Paul) is that the fiscal situation is unfixable. Meanwhile, the debt ceiling has already been breached, and the Obama administration is scurrying to seize federal pensions as a temporary fix. Seriously, how long will it be before they start seizing private pensions, IRAs, etc.? How long before mutual funds and banks are required to hold a percentage of their assets in the 'safety and security' of US Treasuries? How long until everyone is involuntarily financing Uncle Sam?
A Fiscal Cliff "deal" that reduces GDP and squeezes the consumers; a Fed whose policies have forced massive capital misallocation away from growth investment and are leading to an unprecedented corporate "revenue cliff"; and now, in the aftermath of the government response to the Newtown massacre which threatened to curb the second amendment, we get this via Reuters:
- BACKGROUND CHECKS FOR US GUN SALES REACHED RECORD IN DECEMBER AT 2.8 MLN CHECKS - FBI
Because when everything is an unintended consequence, nobody has to take any responsibility for anything. And so the New Normal marches on.
2013 has begun just as 2012 progressed as Granite Construction just plunged 12.6% in under one second. As Nanex shows below, it is simply ludicrous. Of course, the algos (like every entity that comes close to 'failing' in the new normal) will never learn since, as usual, NASDAQ has decided to cancel the trades... *NASDAQ TO CANCEL SOME TRADES IN 'GVA' FROM 11:45-11:46ET AT/BELOW $32.72 11:45AM-11:46AM S.S.D.Y.
We have become used to the whining of Chuck Schumer but when a House Republican blasts his own, it seems the dysfunction runs deep (or the fair did not quite meet the balanced). NY Rep. Peter King lashes out at the pork-laden 'deal' we all just witnessed (and the market cliff-gasm'd over) as the failure to vote on the relief measure for Superstorm Sandy prompted him to exclaim the GOP leadership has "turned its back on those people" who continue to suffer. As CNN reports, King said he was "chasing [Boehner] all over the House," and reminded House Republicans that they seem to "have no problem finding New York when they want money," and the frustrated Congressman added, "I would not give one penny to [The Republicans] based on what they did to us last night." Simply put, King proclaims that a number of Republicans may "kiss their seats goodbye...because if you can't provide the most basic assistance for your district, who needs you in Congress?"
The 'deal' didn't surprise CNBC's Rick Santelli as he notes the administration did the "easy thing" once again. However, he does think the coming battle in 6-8 weeks regarding the debt ceiling will be surprising to many and believes "there has to be an endgame to insanity." Rick's rightly cynical perspective on the euphoric opening gap today in stocks and bonds (and questioning the veracity of manipulated 'market' prices) appears as frustrating to him as "watching politicians all slap each other on the back while the country slips into a Grecian like formula."
It seems our premonition of Europe's year-end desperate need for Euros to prop up their ailing and illiquid books has indeed come to an end. EURUSD is heartily disagreeing with US equity exuberance and, more importantly, the all-important carry driver EURJPY is pointing to a decided risk-off aspect as Europe closes its first trading day of the year.