If we see the economy as a system, we understand why removing or suppressing feedback inevitably leads to financial crashes. The essential feature of stable, robust systems (for example, healthy ecosystems) is their wealth of feedback loops and the low-intensity background volatility that complex feedback generates. The essential feature of unstable, crash-prone systems is monoculture, an artificial structure imposed by a central authority that eliminates or suppresses feedback in service of a simplistic goal--for example, increasing the yield on a single crop, or pushing everyone with cash into risk assets. Resistance seems futile, but the very act of suppressing feedback dooms the system to collapse.
There is energy independence, and then there are crude oil imports, which according to just released and revised Census data, amounted to 233,215 thousand barrels in April, and 914,456 thousand barrels year to date (just under 3 billion annualized). For those unaware who the most important US crude oil trading partners are, here is the updated list of the main countries that serve to fuel America's industrial infrastructure and its engines, in the off chance that the Tesla electric revolution fails to deliver.
Following April's surprising drop in crude imports which led to a multi-year low in the March trade balance (revised to -$37.1 billion), the just released April data showed an 8.5% jump in the deficit to $40.3 billion, if modestly better than the expected $41.1 billion. This was driven by a $2.2 billion increase in exports to $185.2 billion offset by a more than double sequential jump in imports by $5.4 billion, to $222.3 billion. More than all of the change was driven by a $3.2 billion increase in the goods deficit, offset by a $0.1 billion surplus in services.The Census Bureau also revised the entire historical data series, the result of which was a drop in the March deficit from $38.8 billion to $37.1 billion. In April 233,215K barrels of oil were imported, well above the 215,734K in March, and the highest since January. Furthermore, since the Q1 cumulative trade deficit has been revised from $126.9 billion to $123.7 billion, expect higher Q1 GDP revisions, offset by even more tapering of Q2 GDP tracking forecasts. And since the data is hardly as horrible as yesterday's ISM, we don't think it will be enough on its own to guarantee the 21 out of 21 Tuesday track record, so we eagerly look forward to today's POMO as the catalyst that seals the deal.
While the market itself has exhibited the exuberance we have all seen before (and never seem capable of learning from), BNP has quantified this love-panic relationship (and the news is not great for the bulls). When in 'love' mode, the average drop in stocks has been 12% in the next six months. The biggest drivers of this "love" have been investor confidence, CoT positioning, short-interest, relative trading volumes, and sectoral outperformance with fund-flows shifting away from "love" suggesting the short-term top is in. The index itself peaked a week or two back at levels of "love' not seen since pre-Lehman; not a good sign.
- Whale of a Trade Revealed at Biggest U.S. Bank With Best Control (BBG)
- ECB backs away from use of ‘big bazooka’ to boost credit (FT)
- Turkish unions join fierce protests in which two have died (Reuters)
- Europe Floods Wreak Havoc (WSJ)
- Beheadings by Syrian Rebels Add to Atrocities, UN Says (BBG)
- RBA Sees Further Rate-Cut Scope as Aussie Remains High (BBG)
- China’s ‘great power’ call to the US could stir friction (FT)
- J.C. Penney Continuing Ron Johnson’s Vision on the Cheap (BBG)
This is no time to be complacent. Massive economic problems are erupting all over the globe, but most people seem to believe that everything is going to be just fine. In fact, a whole bunch of recent polls and surveys show that the American people are starting to feel much better about how the U.S. economy is performing. Unfortunately, the false prosperity that we are currently enjoying is not going to last much longer. Unfortunately, the majority appear to be purposely ignoring the economic horror that is breaking out all over the globe.
Now that the BOJ's "interventionalism" in the capital markets is increasingly losing steam, as the soaring realized volatility in equity and bond markets squarely puts into question its credibility and its ability to enforce its core mandate (which, according to the Bank of Japan Act "states that the Bank's monetary policy should be aimed at achieving price stability, thereby contributing to the sound development of the national economy) Japan is left with one wildcard: the Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF), which as of December 31 held some ¥111.9 trillion in assets, of which ¥67.3 trillion, or 60.1% in Japanese Government Bonds. Perhaps more importantly, the GPIF also held "just" ¥14.5 trillion in domestic stocks, or 12.9% of total, far less than the minimum allocation to bonds (current floor of 59%). It is this massive potential buying dry powder that has led to numerous hints in the press (first in Bloomberg in February, then in Reuters last week, and then in the Japanese Nikkei this morning all of which have been intended to serve as a - brief - risk-on catalyst) that a capital reallocation in the GPIF is imminent to allow for much more domestic equity buying, now that the threat of the BOJ's open-ended QE is barely sufficient to avoid a bear market crash in the Nikkei in under two weeks.
There are some problems, however.
Between Fairholme's back-up-the-truck in GSE Preferreds (demanding his fair share of the dividend), the crazy oscillations in the common stock of FNMA, and the ongoing debacle of what to with the government's implicit ownership of the US mortgage business, tonight's news from Bloomberg - that a bipartisan group of U.S. senators is putting the final touches on a plan to liquidate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (FMCC) and replace them with a government reinsurer of mortgage securities behind private capital - is hardly surprising. Details are few and far between except to note that the proposed legislation, which could be introduced this month, would require private financiers to take a first-loss position. The new entity, to be named the Federal Mortgage Insurance Corp (or FEDMAGIC), would seek private financing to continue existing efforts to help small lenders issue securities. The 'old entity' - where existing equity and debtholders would seemingly reside would contain the existing MBS portfolio and be put in run-down mode. The following from BofAML provides a possible primer and pitfalls (we think the endgame is very unlikely to be positive for holders of the capital structure below subordinated debt) of this approach.
The Bank of Japan has embarked on one of the most inflationary policies ever undertaken. Pledging to inject $1.4 trillion dollars into the economy over the next two years, the policy is aimed at generating price inflation of 2% and further depreciating the Yen. The idea is to fight “deflation” and increase exports. Mises’ key insight was in looking at the long-term effects of such a policy, and in the process he examined the logic behind the short-term results as well. The ineffectiveness of the policy in the long run is apparent when one understands how prices – both domestic and foreign – interact to determine exchange rates. Exports will be promoted in the short run, though the effect will be cancelled in the long run once prices adjust. If the policy is ineffective in the long run, Mises demonstrated that the short-run gains are illusory. The same monetary policy aimed at depreciating the currency to promote international trade will reap domestic chaos.
May was Iraq’s deadliest month in nearly five years, with more than 1,000 dead – both civilians and security personnel -- in a rash of bombings, shootings and other violence. As we read each day of new horrors in Iraq, it becomes more obvious that the US invasion delivered none of the promised peace or stability that proponents of the attack promised. We must learn the appropriate lessons from the disaster of Iraq. We cannot continue to invade countries, install puppet governments, build new nations, create centrally-planned economies, engage in social engineering, and force democracy at the barrel of a gun. The rest of the world is tired of US interventionism and the US taxpayer is tired of footing the bill for US interventionism.
Following the State's takeover of Detroit's finances in March, it seems the end is growing 'nigh'er for the troubled city. According to the WSJ, Kevyn Orr, Detroit's emergency manager, plans to call unions and creditors to a meeting in mid-June to lay the groundwork for a bankruptcy within a matter of months. The meeting is designed to restructure the long-struggling city's liabilities of over $17bn and is an attempt to "have a mature and sober discussion" of repayment terms following its delayed payment in April of $226 million on pensions and other obligations. Several unions said they are willing to come to the table, but believe "it's a scare tactic." Up to now, Gov. Snyder and Detroit elected officials have said they want to avoid using bankruptcy (Detroit would be the biggest muni filing ever) to clean up the city's mess. But in recent days, their positions have softened, adding that, "I don't want to go to bankruptcy, but I do know that it is a strong possibility." Mr. Orr's office confirmed it was evaluating the potential sale of prized assets such as the artwork at the Detroit Institute of Art, a collection potentially worth billions.
Whether the Japanese government guessed that the 150% annualized surge in the nominal price of their stocks, or 30% devaluation was unsustainable is questionable, but it seems that 'Plan B' is being created. As The Diplomat notes, finding itself in an increasingly complex and hostile security environment, Japan has taken the first steps towards developing a pre-emptive first-strike capability. This is a controversial move in a region that remains wary of a potential return to Japanese militarism.
With the story du jour of electric car wunderkind Tesla so far only just that, a story (inasmuch as the gorgeous Fisker Karma was also just that at least until the day it transformed into a bankruptcy filing), if one that has cost shorts dearly including their shirts, slowly the company's fundamentals are coming into view. And just as importantly, the question of how it all clicks together. To assist with that, Reuters Breakingviews has compiled an interactive forecast that models how many cars luxury (for now) car maker would needs to sell (hopefully not all at the EBT-ineligible $100K price point) in order to grow into Elon Musk's target market cap of $43 billion, or roughly where GM is right now. The answer: a base-case assuming a 15x P/E multiple in 2022, a 12% pretax margin, and a 25%/25%/50% split between the Model S ($100K), Model X ($75K) and the still to be disclosed "Bluestar" lower-priced car ($40K) , results in a mindblowing 537,815 cars that will have to be sold in 2022, implying a 35.5% annualized sales growth from the 35,000 cars projected to be sold in 2013 (even if today's numbers did not quite validate this runrate), a cumulative total over the next decade of just under 2,000,000 Teslas.