On the first workday of a new month, global PMI manufacturing surveys are released around the world. That gives us an early read on the state of manufacturing. As the nearby table from BofAML shows, out of the 22 countries that have reported so far, the message is not good. A reading above 50 reflects expansion while below 50 indicates contraction. In this regard, there were 12 countries in negative territory and 10 in positive. Europe remains a disaster with the divide between core and periphery now starting to be matched by the divide (which we recently discussed) between France and Germany. The UK's plunge from expansion to contraction (just beating Italy's weakness) was its largest drop in 8 months (seemingly once again confirming that you can't print real economic growth) as Holland and Norway also fell notably. While still theoretically in expansion, China also slid raising concerns over the global growth meme that we see highlighted in stock prices this morning.
When the US income and spending figures for December came out, the punditry couldn't contain their exuberance following the massive surge in income which as we explained was merely a function of the pulled forward wages and bonuses in December due to fears of what the Fiscal Cliff and the expiration of the payroll tax cut would do to incomes in 2013 (nothing good), as well as a surge in stock dividends to avoid a dividend tax hike resulting in yet another boost in income. The spike in personal income without an offset in spending sent the savings rate to the highest in three years. Today it's payback time as moments ago we learned that the US consumer gave back all the December gains and then much following news that while spending did nothing, and came in as expected at 0.2%, personal income imploded by 3.6% on estimates of a modest 2.4% drop. This was the biggest drop in personal income in 20 years just as the US consumer's confidence was soaring at least according to such manipulated aggregators as UMich. What this also led to was that not only is the stock market back to 2007 levels, but so is the personal saving rate, which crashed from 6.4% to 2.4%, the lowest since November 2007, and leaving Americans with the least purchasing power just as the full impact of a government that is flirting with austerity is starting to be felt. And just as bad was the material 4% pullback in real disposable personal income or adjusted for inflation. "Consumers can’t spend what they don’t have, and they don’t much much,” summarized Bloomberg economist Rich Yamarone.
It's an ugly start to the day wherever we look. Europe is a bloodbath as the dead-cat-bounce hopes fade with Swiss 2Y rates notably negative once again and Italian bond spreads 55bps wider on the week (near the wides of the week) as Italy's equity market plunges back to the lows (-4%) on the week. US equity futures are fading rapidly and after tracking gold for most of the last 12 hours, we are now seeing gold (and silver) resurge as stocks continues to slide back towards bonds un-exuberance. Treasury yields are at the lows of the week (-11bps). From weak macro data overnight to the whocouldanode sequestration, there's plenty to worry about, but then again we have POMO in a few hours...
- US braced as cuts deadline passes (FT)
- U.S. stares down start of steep "automatic" budget cuts (Reuters)
- Yeltsin-Era Tycoons Sell Resources for Distance From Kremlin (BBG)
- Italy's center-left leader rules out coalition with Berlusconi (Reuters)
- Apple Required Executives to Hold Triple Their Salary in Stock (WSJ)
- BOJ Seen Spiking Punchbowl in April Under New Chief Kuroda (BBG)
- Diplomatic fallout from EU bonus cap (FT)
- Italy’s Stalemate Jeopardizes Resolution of Crisis, Finland Says (BBG)
- Chinese trader accused of busting Iran missile embargo (Reuters)
- JPMorgan No. 1 Investment Bank Amid a Flurry of New Deals (BBG)
- Eurotunnel’s Ferry Strategy at Risk as Rivals Cry Foul (BBG)
- Telepathic rats team up across continents (FT)
The "great rotation" illusion may have ended just as rapidly as it arrived. Bank of America reports that in the past week, "commodity funds reported their largest historical weekly outflow, in dollar terms, of -$3.2bn this week and US equity funds reported an outflow of -$4.1bn this week, which is their largest weekly outflow this year." So much for anyone rotating anywhere. And while we await for the delayed ICI to confirm this data, we can only remind readers that this is precisely the same inflow followed by outflow that was seen in early 2011, which was then followed by nearly two straight years of relentless and persistent outflows. Oh well - better luck in 2014.
If the new year started off with a bang, March is setting up to be quite a whimper. In the first news overnight, we got the "other" official Chinese PMI, which as we had predicted (recall from our first China PMI analysis that "it is quite likely that the official February print will be just as weak if not more") dropped: while the HSBC PMI dropped to 50.4, the official number declined even more to just barely expansionary or 50.1, below expectations of a 50.5 print, and the lowest print in five months. This was to be expected: Chinese real-estate inflation is still as persistent as ever, and the government is telegraphing to the world's central banks to back off on the hot money. One country, however, that did not have much hot money issues was Japan, where CPI declined -0.3% in January compared to -0.1% in December, while headline Tokyo February data showed an even bigger -0.9% drop down from a revised -0.5% in January. Considering the ongoing surge in energy prices and the imminent surge on wheat-related food prices, this data is highly suspect. Then out of Europe, we got another bunch of PMIs and while French and Germany posted tiny beats (43.9 vs Exp. 43.6, and 50.3 vs 50.1), with Germany retail sales also beating solidly to cement the impression that Germany is doing ok once more, it was Italy's turn to disappoint, with its PMI missing expectations of a 47.5 print, instead sliding from 47.8 to 45.8. But even worse was the Italian January unemployment rate which rose from 11.3% to 11.7%, the highest on record, while youth unemployment soared from 37.1% to 38.7%: also the highest on record, and proof that in Europe nothing at all is fixed, which will be further confirmed once today's LTRO repayment shows that banks have no desire to part with the ECB's cash contrary to optimistic expectations.
Whether or not you believe it would have made a difference to 'know' or not, the facts are that over the course of US economic history, you rarely know you're in a recession until long after it starts. Would you still chase day after day? Could you stand to watch the greater fools buying in the belief they are not the patsy? The following six facts might put things into perspective...
With gold dropping nearly 3% on February 20, we had to look closely at the FOMC minutes, which were partially responsible for that movement. Since there are quite a few highlights, we have split this analysis into three sections: the confusion over the minutes in the market; the ambiguous language hinting at deep problems; and a few quotes to make your blood boil.
You know America is in trouble when a company that does nothing but create TV-style shows of college-age women in next-to-no clothes goes bankrupt but sure enough the company behind the "Girls Gone Wild" videos filed Chapter 11 today to protect itself from $10.3 million debt claimed by Steve Wynn’s Wynn Las Vegas LLC (after losing a slander lawsuit suggesting Wynn knowingly tricked high-end gamblers) and a $5.8 million award won by a woman who says the company used naked images of her without permission in the “Girls Gone Wild Sorority Orgy” DVD series. The bankruptcy enables the company "to restructure its frivolous and burdensome legal affairs," and just like GM and UA (the company states reassuringly) it will be business-as-usual for Girls Gone Wild. In perhaps the clearest analog for America, the company had $16.3mm in debt and $50k in assets - now that is leverage-able wealth-effect.
The dark ages were an awful time. Considering the brightest days delivered constant warfare, the burning of books, and the fear of barbarians, no one ever looked forward to the darkest days. Fast forward 1,600 years, and the darkest days of the European debt crisis are finally over - not because the bad debt has been written off or due to the consolidation of all debt, but simply because everyone has said so. Exactly who is telling lies and who is telling the truth will only be determined in due course. Without a doubt, global economic growth remains stagnate, yet stock markets are booming. Our message on financial markets remains very consistent – do not confuse strong financial markets with a strong underlying economy. While this may sound like hogwash to many investors and investment professionals, it is the extreme, unorthodox, and never-before-tried policies by the World’s central banks that is the reason for the march higher for stocks. Regardless, for those who honestly believe in the recovery, ask yourself the following questions...
If we can't even cut federal spending by 2.4 percent without much of the country throwing an absolute hissy fit, then what hope does America have? All of this whining and crying about the sequester is absolutely disgraceful. The truth is that even if the sequester goes into effect, the U.S. government will still take in more money than ever before in 2013 and it will still spend more money than ever before in 2013. So it is a bit disingenuous to call what is about to happen "a spending cut", but for the sake of argument let's concede that point. If this is how bad things are now, how bad will they be when a day of reckoning for our economy arrives? And a day of reckoning is coming. Our politicians can try to keep kicking the can down the road for as long as they can, but eventually time will run out. We can borrow our way to prosperity for a while, but in the end there is always a very bitter price to pay for doing so. I would love to tell you that there is a chance that all of this will be turned around, but the truth is that all of this whining and crying about the sequester shows that America is doomed.
Usually, when the administration needs a distraction from just how broke and insolvent in reality the country is, it sends the stock market soaring higher. As such it is beyond ironic that as the S&P is set to hit an all time high, Detroit - that shining symbol of the Obama administration's bailout of General Motors - effectively goes broke.
MICH. GOV SNYDER TO ANNOUNCE STATE TAKEOVER OF DETROIT
With Rajoy quietly gloating at his political fraud being off the front-pages thanks to Italian elections, it seems the more we dig into Italian reality, the weaker the story becomes. The meme of the last few years has been that "at least we're not as bad as Greece" and rightly so, for as Bloomberg's Niraj Shah notes today, Greece's poverty rate is a stunning 31% (against Holland's 15.7%). However, while all eyes have been focused on Spain's dismal economy, the sad reality is that Italy is worse than Spain in that its poverty rate is a breath-taking 28.2% (relative to Spain's 27%) - even though the unemployment rates in the two nations are vastly different (Spain 26% and Italy 11.2%). Given this fact it is perhaps not surprising that the 'people' voted against austerity and furthermore, that Italy's CDS has pushed above Spain's for the first time in over a year.
As if today's collapse in JCP's stock price, Bill Ackman had his nose bloodied both figuratively and numerically when his now arch-nemesis appeared on Bloomberg TV to explain his gaining two seats on the board and option to purchase 25% of Herbalife. While obviously not full of the to-and-fro fireworks of their recent encounter, Icahn had quite a few jabs at Ackman record lately, "he has made a few very big mistakes," and thanked him for his big mistake in "giving us an opportunity to buy a company at a discounted price." The interview was full of Icahn's normal bluster but he once again brought up the fact that this whole 300-page dog-and-pony show was undertaken right before year-end, "I do not understand why someone... talks about the fact that he is short," for obvious reasons, "except to say that it certainly helped his year-end numbers."