Every hour of every day, we are persuaded that the benefits of being extraordinary in some way are equally extraordinary. This has two propaganda components: 1. If you buy this product or service (touted by An Extraordinary Person), you will feel the vicarious thrill of acting/looking like you're extraordinary. 2. Our society is a meritocracy, blah blah blah; if you are naturally talented/bright and if you make extraordinary efforts, you might rise above mere ordinary and start accruing all those fabulous benefits reserved for the extraordinary. What if these benefits aren't as wonderful as advertised? That would hurt sales and the drive of those who bought into the meritocracy claim. Being extraordinary is a terrific bother, truth be told, so please appreciate the benefits of ordinariness if you are so blessed.
It was only appropriate that on a day in which our chart of the day confirmed that the US consumer is getting increasingly more broke, we got an update of Personal Income and Personal Spending, both of which missed expectations and declined substantially. October income printed at 0.0%, down from 0.4% in September, and below expectations of 0.2%, while spending plunged from 0.8% all the way into negative territory at -0.2%, missing expectations of an unchanged print. Counterintuitively, the spin is that this miss was due to Sandy, when this makes absolutely zero sense: as a reminder Sandy only hit in the last 4 days of October, which means it had no time to impact income, and if anything it prompted an increase in spending as consumers stockpiled ahead of the landfall. But that's why they call it spin. Of course, none of this should come as a surprise: the implied savings rate in September hit a multi-year low of 3.3%, which means going forward the blend of spending and savings will be unpleasant for stocks as consumers have no choice but to rebuild savings once more. And finally, the most disturbing metric, and one which is a red flashing light for all those predicting yet another economic renaissance in 2013, is that real Disposable Income declined by 0.1%: the third decrease in 3 months, confirming that on an inflation adjusted basis the consumer peaked in the summer, and it is all downhill from here.
There was some confusion as to why yesterday various Eurozone consumer confidence indices posted a surprising jump and beat expectations virtually across the board: turns out Europeans had an advance warning of today's horrendous economic data among which we learned that Eurozone October unemployment just hit a record 11.7%, up 0.1% from September (we are trying to get data if the Eurozone is gaming its unemployment number the way the US does by collapsing its labor participation rate), with Italy unemployment surging to 11.1% from 10.8%, on expectations of a 10.9% print, French consumer spending in October was down 0.2%, compared to an unchanged reading in September, but far more troubling was that German retail sales imploded at a rate of 2.8%, the biggest monthly collapse in 4 years, and worse than even the most bearish forecast. Do we hear "Sandy's fault."
Doug Casey often gets letters from angry readers who accuse him of hating America, disloyalty, and perhaps even treason. The truth is that he loves the idea that was America. It's the United State it has become for which he has nothing but contempt. Where to begin? ...the US Constitution was essentially a coup; the delegates to what we now call the Constitutional Convention were not empowered to replace the existing government – only to improve upon the Articles of Confederation between the then-independent states. The framers of the Constitution drafted it with the notion of a national government already in place, but calmed fears of loss of state sovereignty by calling the new government the "United States of America" – a verbal sleight of hand that worked for over half a century. Then the southern states decided to exercise what these words imply, their right to leave the union... and as the government becomes more powerful, it's completely predictable that everything – including the justice system – will become ever more politicized... As great as a US citizen's risk is in the marketplace these days, the greatest single risk to their wealth and health is the government.
"We all know what to do, we just don't know how to get re-elected after we have done it." - Jean-Claude Juncker
We have again reached a point where attempting to explain away an utterly irrational market, in which sentiment and momentum shifts on a dime overriding any fundamental newsflow, and summarizing overnight catalysts has become a moot point. With stocks acting and reacting like petulant, schizophrenic children with ADHD, fundamentals are totally meaningless: yesterday and the overnight trading session have become perfect examples as prepared bulletins by two politicians, which said absolutely nothing of significance or constructive - have been enough to override 72 hours worth of actual fundamental deteriorating data, and also offset each other. Will Congress resolve the Fiscal cliff in its 10 remaining days in session without a major impetus to move such as a market plunge? Of course not, but once again the question has become one of who sells first, and the momentum piles on - and if there is no downside momentum, there are no volume ramps. In the meantime all the sellside firms have gone uber bullish on 2013, setting up the Fiscal Cliff as a perfect strawman. Of course the "Cliff" will be surmounted eventually, and after some near-term pain, but the reality is that the resulting rising taxes across the world in 2013 will be a major economic headwind, just the opposite of what the sellside crew is saying as one after another strategists push out optimistic outlooks on the next year to sucker in what little remaining retail interest in the farce formerly known as the market may be left.
First Greek Bailout Snag - Local Bankers Refuse To "Voluntarily" Participate In Critical Bond BuybackSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 11/29/2012 05:25 -0500
Those who have been following the recent developments over the Greek distressed debt buyback, which in any normal universe would have been considered an event of default but certainly not in "special cases" such as Greece where the country's official default would start the Lehman-like domino collapse as apparently getting a 70 cent haircut in 8 months is a "voluntary" event, have been quite confused by the internal dynamics. On one hand the sole beneficiary of the transaction are those hedge funds who bought the GGB2 bonds when they tanked to lows just barely in the double digits as a % of par; on the other, there is absolutely no benefit to the Greek people as a result of this sub-par prepayment, as the only fund flow benefits hit the bondholders (and it is up to Greece to figure out how to grow its GDP by over 4% per year over the next 8 years). Then let's not forget that nobody has any clue yet where the funding for said buyback will come from. And finally, as Kathimerini just reported, we learn that one group that has just vocally declared against the buy back are the very people who are supposed to be benefiting from the Greek bailout: i.e., the country's bankers.
Have you ever wondered what the typical Chinese gold investor thinks about our Western ideas of gold? We read month after month about demand hitting record after record in their country – how do they view our buying habits? Since 2007, China's demand for gold has risen 27% per year. Its share of global demand doubled in the same time frame, from 10% to 21%. And this occurred while prices were rising. Americans are buying precious metals, no doubt. But let's put the differences into perspective.
In what is the first formal speech of Simon "Harry" Potter since taking over the magic ALL-LIFTvander wand from one Brian Sack, and who is best known for launching the Levitatus spell just when the market is about to plunge and end the insolvent S&P500-supported status quo as we know it, as well as hiring such sturdy understudies as Kevin Henry, the former UCLA economist in charge of the S&P discuss the "role of central bank interactions with financial markets." He describes the fed "Desk" of which he is in charge of as follows: "The Markets Group interacts with financial markets in several important capacities... As most of you probably know, in an OMO the central bank purchases or sells securities in the market in order to influence the level of central bank reserves available to the banking system... The Markets Group also provides important payment, custody and investment services for the dollar holdings of foreign central banks and international institutions." In other words: if the SPX plunging, send trade ticket to Citadel to buy tons of SPOOSs, levered ETFs and ES outright. That the Fed manipulates all markets: equities most certainly included, is well-known, and largely priced in by most, especially by the shorts, who have been all but annihilated by the Fed. But where it gets hilarious, is the section titled "Lessons Learned on Market Interactions through Prism of an Economist" and in which he explains why the Efficient Market Hypothesis is applicable to the market. If anyone wanted to know why the US equity, and overall capital markets, are doomed, now that they have a central planning economist in charge of trading, read only that and weep...
Germany now has a formal working group assessing the cost of a Grexit. Even large US-based multinationals are implementing contingency plans for a Grexit. The list includes JP Morgan, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Visa, PricewaterhoursCoopers, Boston Consulting Group, Juniper Networks, and others.
Exactly two years ago, some of the more politically biased progressive media outlets (who are quite adept at creating and taking down their own strawmen arguments, if not quite as adept at using an abacus, let alone a calculator) took offense at our article "In Entitlement America, The Head Of A Household Of Four Making Minimum Wage Has More Disposable Income Than A Family Making $60,000 A Year." In it we merely explained what has become the painful reality in America: for increasingly more it is now more lucrative - in the form of actual disposable income - to sit, do nothing, and collect various welfare entitlements, than to work. This is graphically, and very painfully confirmed, in the below chart from Gary Alexander, Secretary of Public Welfare, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (a state best known for its broke capital Harrisburg). As quantitied, and explained by Alexander, "the single mom is better off earnings gross income of $29,000 with $57,327 in net income & benefits than to earn gross income of $69,000 with net income and benefits of $57,045."
No funds are going to be distributed now. Perhaps some of you missed this but this is exactly what Ms. Lagarde stated. Before any distribution the Eurozone has to “fulfill its commitments” and the Private Sector bond buyback plan must be completed. Consider this; Europe is putting up all of the money currently and the IMF has declined to participate. Oh yes, it is couched in political mishmash and tucked neatly under the rug but there it is; no money from the IMF for now.
It wouldn't be Europe if the insolvent continent did not announce, to much pomp and circumstance, another final rescue for a broke country which was nothing but a short-termist can kicking exercise. It also wouldn't be Europe if the leaders did not do much if any math when coming up with said "rescue", and it certainly wouldn't be Europe if the initial EURphoria following such an announcement was not promptly faded. Sure enough, all three have now occurred with the EURUSD soaring to over 1.3000 in the moments after last night's soon to be obsolete announcement, only to see a gradual and consistent sell off over the next several hours, dropping to a week low of just under 1.2940 as details emerged that... there were not details. To wit, as Market News reported:
- EU COMMISSION: FUNDING FOR GREECE DEBT BUYBACK NOT WORKED OUT YET
In other words, the use of funds for the third Greek bailout has been more than detailed. The only tiny outstanding issue - the source of funds.
Watching Barack Obama and Mitt Romney duel in the presidential campaign should have convinced the spectators that we live in an age of illusionists. Few of the assertions and conjectures thrown around have been subjected to what the political chattering classes deem to be the indignity of factual verification. This brings us to the sharp pencil people in the Obama administration, specifically the OMB. They claim to know what the relative size of the federal government will be in 2016, at the end of President Obama’s term. According to the OMB’s plans, the federal government, as a percent of GDP should be 22.5%. That’s a 1.8 percentage point drop from the current level. Given that President Obama’s first term recorded a record growth in the relative size of the federal government, and that the President campaigned on a platform of more big government, it is doubtful that he will come close to meeting his own OMB forecasts, in his second term. Yes, the illusionists, not the President’s sharp pencil people, will probably carry the day. What will make the President’s task even more onerous is money – as in the money supply. Thanks to Basel III, the U.S. money supply isn’t the only one creating growth headwinds. Europe faces significant money supply deficiencies. Will Asia continue to be the world’s locomotive? We will have to wait and see. At present, though, one thing is certain – an age of illusionists has arrived.
Not surprisingly, in the weeks since the historical hurricane made landfall, new attention is being paid to the mounting costs that coastal world megacities may face. Intriguingly, however, this new conversation about climate, energy policy, and America’s reliance on fossil fuels comes after a five-year period in which the U.S. has dramatically lowered its consumption of oil and seen an equally dramatic upturn in the growth of renewable energy. The combination of declining oil use and a greater reliance on the global powergrid is going to shape energy and climate policy. Especially at a time when the concerns of climate change – or, rather, rising seas and the greenhouse dangers of fossil fuel dependency – are being increasingly raised. This will make for a rather muddled and complex array of diverging policy initiatives. Moreover, as new oil supplies emerge from domestic American sources, the dream of resurrecting this cheap oil era will no doubt come back around several more times. But none of these new resource plays will change the trajectory of global oil supply much, nor will they lower the price of oil. So far, new oil supply mostly offsets declines elsewhere – but at substantially higher marginal cost. This should now be clear.