After Obama's "fairness doctrine" was roundly rejected by the Senate last night as the doomed from the beginning Buffett Rule was voted down, Obama needs to find some more evil villains for society to demonize, and whom to blame for the failure of central planning, or rather its success in pushing gas prices to all time highs. Today - it is that mysterious, amorphous blob of vile, conspiratorial henchmen known as "oil speculators." Forget that these "speculators" are merely conduits for the Fed to conduct its open market operations, forget that the same free liquidity that drives stocks up relentlessly in nominal terms (what? no demonization of evil stock pumping speculators?), even as it produces ever increasing inflation in all those items not tracked by the Fed, forget that Obama's speech is about to be replica of Jimmy Carter's Crisis of Confidence platitude in 1979. Finally forget that the biggest speculator is none other than the White House with its periodic release of SPR release rumors any time WTI approaches $110. Forget all that, and merely focus on the hypnotic, undulating intonation of the engrossing, populist sermon: that is all that is demanded of you. Everything else is to be ignored. And now since the time of "fairness" is over, it is time to do a shot every time "speculator" is uttered. And get ready for many, many CL margin hikes.
Aiming to Get Votes, Hitting Germany, and Threatening the Euro....
Before there was seamless connectivity, before there was one global electronic currency and instantaneous global debt creation, before there was the internet, supply-chain "logistics", World Bank, IMF, and economic hitmen, there were... ships. Because in order to allow modern Ricardian economics to flourish (we would be curious to read some/any scholarly papers probing the failure of Ricardo's theories in a ZIRP regime, unfortunately there are none, as never before has the cost of money been zero essentially until regime end), and before money could be printed with impunity, backed solely by full lack of faith and eroding credit, nations had to actually trade with each other, and money was simply a means to facilitate said trade, which in turn allowed the formation of wealth and subsequent asymmetric power relationships. Needless to say, any nation that imported itself to death would be promptly wiped out by its heretofore friendly neighbors who would simply invade it when the money to buy stuff and to fund armies ran out: sadly TARGET2 was not available during Victorian times. So where are we going with this? Ben Schmidt, a Princeton graduate student, using ship logs has conceived of this tremendous time lapse of every single major known ship route taken by Dutch, Spanish and English vessels during the "age of transition", the period between 1750 and 1850, which set the stage for today's "global economy." The result is a fantastic insight into the early stages of globalization.
Back in October, there were those who were confused how it was possible that European sovereign bond yields could be exploding to their highest in a decade, even as the EURUSD keep grinding higher. We explained it, and said to prepare for much worse down the road. Sure enough, much worse came, and was promptly forestalled as both the Fed expanded its swap lines and lower the OIS swap rate, and the ECB "begrudgingly" ceded to LTRO 1+2 (that this resulted in nominal price gains was to be expected - after all humans enjoy being fooled when price levels rise when in reality just the underlying monetary base has expanded). But how did the EURUSD spike fit into all this? Simple - FX repatriation. This was explained as follows: "the sole reason for the EUR (and hence S&P and global 100% correlated equity risk) surge in the past 9 days is not driven by any latent "optimism" that Europe will fix itself, but simply due to the previously discussed wholesale asset liquidations (as none other than the FT already noted), which on the margin are explicitly EUR positive due to FX repatriation, courtesy of the post-sale conversion of USDs to EURs. Which means that the ever so gullible equity market has just experienced one of the biggest headfakes in history, and has misinterpreted a pervasive European, though mostly French, scramble to procure liquidity at any cost by dumping various USD-denominated assets, as a risk on signal!" It appears we are now back into liquidation mode, and the higher Euro spread surge, the faster EURUSD will rise as more and more FX is "repatriated." In other words, as back in the fall of 2011, the faster the EURUSD rises, the worstr the true liquidity situation in Europe becomes: a critical regime change, which will naturally fool the algos who assume every spike up in EURUSD is indicative of Risk On, and send ES higher when in reality, the underlying situation is diametrically opposite.
This one is actually quite funny, although we feel that the MMTers, the Neo-Keynesians, the Econ 101 textbook fanatics, and the government apparatchiks out there will fail to appreciate the humor. However, we are a little concerned how many of those in charge read into this a little too much, and decide to make this official policy...
From Morgan Stanley: "In our mind, many of the approaches to algorithmic execution were developed in an environment that is substantially, structurally different from today’s environment. In particular, the early part of the last decade saw households as significant natural liquidity providers as they sold their single stock positions over time to exchange them for institutionally managed products... While the time horizon over which liquidity is provided can range from microseconds to months, it is particularly shorter-term liquidity provisioning that has become more common." Translation: as retail investors retrench more and more, which they will due to previously discussed secular themes as well as demographics, and HFT becomes and ever more dominant force, which it has no choice but to, liquidity and investment horizons will get ever shorter and shorter and shorter, until eventually by simple limit expansion, they hit zero, or some investing singularity, for those who are thought experiment inclined. That is when the currently unsustainable course of market de-evolution will, to use a symbolic 100 year anniversary allegory, finally hit the iceberg head one one final time.
Volatility is back. The S&P moved more than 1% on 4 of the 5 days, had the biggest down day of the year, and even the least volatile day was a 0.7% move.
Assymmetric Secret Servicing Initiative: Obama's Colombia Visit Found To Subsidize Local Alternative Monogamy MarketSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 04/13/2012 23:35 -0400
Obama may not be the most successful president when it comes to creating jobs at home, but when success is measured by the number of blowjobs outsourced abroad, he may be truly second to none, as his visit to Colombia proves before it has officially begun. According to the AP, "A dozen Secret Service agents sent to Colombia to provide security for President Barack Obama at an international summit have been relieved of duty because of allegations of misconduct." Relieved here being a perfectly randomly selected verb. Because according to a tip received by The Associated Press "the misconduct involved prostitutes in Cartagena, Colombia, the site of the Summit of the Americas. A Secret Service spokesman did not dispute that allegation." Or, as Goldman would call it, an "Asymmetric (Secret) Servicing Initiative" where much more than just inside information is leasked. Unfortunately, while he may be far more successful in generating jobs in Latin America than domestically, even those jobs have proven to be quite transitory, just like virtually all quickie temp jobs "created or saved" in the US in the past several years. Furthermore, just like in the US, we doubt that the incremental wealth benefits will trickle down to the local population. After all, unlike in the US, endogenous Colombian liquidity may be abundant everywhere but certainly not at the central bank, which is far, far tighter at a rate of 5.25% (and rising), compared to extra loose central planners the "developed" world over.
But they forgot to check with the Germans.
Get those rotten tomatos ready
"In the last three plus years, central banks have had little choice but to do the unsustainable in order to sustain the unsustainable until others do the sustainable to restore sustainability!" is how PIMCO's El-Erian introduces the game-theoretic catastrophe that is potentially occurring around us. In a lecture to the St.Louis Fed, the moustachioed maestro of monetary munificence states "let me say right here that the analysis will suggest that central banks can no longer – indeed, should no longer – carry the bulk of the policy burden" and "it is a recognition of the declining effectiveness of central banks’ tools in countering deleveraging forces amid impediments to growth that dominate the outlook. It is also about the growing risk of collateral damage and unintended circumstances." It appears that we have reached the legitimate point of – and the need for – much greater debate on whether the benefits of such unusual central bank activism sufficiently justify the costs and risks. This is not an issue of central banks’ desire to do good in a world facing an “unusually uncertain” outlook. Rather, it relates to questions about diminishing returns and the eroding potency of the current policy stances. The question is will investors remain "numb and sedated…. by the money sloshing around the system?" or will "the welfare of millions in the United States, if not billions of people around the world, will have suffered greatly if central banks end up in the unpleasant position of having to clean up after a parade of advanced nations that headed straight into a global recession and a disorderly debt deflation." Of course, it is a rhetorical question.
This is the mother of all bombshells in Europe and no one is talking about it. Germany basically announced that it will allow German banks to DUMP euro-zone government bonds off their balance sheets. It also announced it will provide up to 400 billion euros in backstops and 80 billion euros for bank recapitalization.
Last week we had the Fed's hawks line up one after another telling us how no more QE would ever happen. We ignored them because they are simply the bad cops to the Fed's good cop doves. Sure enough, here comes Bernanke's right hand man, or in this case woman, hinting that one can forget everything the hawkish stance, and that ZIRP may last not until 2014 but 2015! Which, by the way, is to be expected: since ZIRP can never expire, it will always be rolled to T+3 years, as the short end will never be allowed to rise, until the Fed has enough FRNs in circulation to absorb the surge in rates without crushing the principal, as explained yesterday.
What makes this time different? Several items:
- The Crisis coming from Europe will be far, far larger in scope than anything the Fed has dealt with before.
- The Fed is now politically toxic and cannot engage in aggressive monetary policy without experiencing severe political backlash (this is an election year).
- The Fed’s resources are spent to the point that the only thing the Fed could do would be to announce an ENORMOUS monetary program which would cause a Crisis in of itself.
Back in June 2011, Zero Hedge first pointed out something very troubling: the labor share of national income had dropped to an all time low, just shy of 58%. This is quite an important number as none other than the Fed noted few years previously that "The allocation of national income between workers and the owners of capital is considered one of the more remarkably stable relationships in the U.S. economy. As a general rule of thumb, economists often cite labor’s share of income to be about two-thirds of national income—although the exact figure is sensitive to the specific data used to calculate the ratio. Over time, this ratio has shown no clear tendency to rise or fall." Yet like pretty much every other relationship in the new normal, this rule of thumb got yanked out of the socket, and the 66% rapidly became 58%. This troubling shift away from the mean prompted David Rosenberg to say that "extremes like this, unfortunately, never seem to lead us to a very stable place." Which is why we are happy to note that as of last quarter, the labor share of income has finally seen an uptick, and while certainly not back at its old normal, has finally started to tick up, which leads us to ask: have we passed the moment of peak Marxism of this particular period in US history?