When you get into too much debt, eventually really bad things start to happen. This is a very painful lesson that southern Europe is learning right now, and it is a lesson that the United States will soon learn as well. It simply is not possible to live way beyond your means forever. You can do it for a while though, and politicians in the U.S. and in Europe keep trying to kick the can down the road and extend the party, but the truth is that debt is a very cruel master and at some point it inevitably catches up with you. And when it catches up with you, the results can be absolutely devastating. Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal all tried to just slow down the rate at which their government debts were increasing, and look at what happened to their economies. I have always said that the next wave of the economic collapse would start in Europe and that is exactly what is happening. So keep watching Europe. What is happening to them will eventually happen to us.
Tempest In A Towering Inferno: JPM's Head CIO Trader: "Things Like This, It's Like The Twin Towers Falling Down"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 03/15/2013 13:14 -0400
On April 13, 2012 Jamie Dimon described the situation at the CIO as massively overblown and said it was just "a tempest in a teapot." A few days later, the head CIO trader, Javier Martin-Artajo, when speaking to the former JPM Chief Investment Officer, Ina Drew, had a less sanguine description: "and, and, you know, things like this, it's like the twin towers falling down." Let's agree to disagree and just compromise on "tempest in a towering inferno." But that's not the point of this post. The point is in the same transcript we learn that it was none other than Ina Drew who told Artejo that "it would be helpful, if appropriate, to get, to start getting a little bit of that mark back" and instructed the Spaniard to go ahead and "tweak" the daily P&L on the CIO portfolio by "an extra basis point." Nothing like your supervisor telling you to fudge marks just to demonstrate that the "curve is starting to trend."
Retail investors are piling into the stock market again in the false belief that the worst of the economic crisis is over. Alas, those who are not properly diversified may again be in for a rude awakening.
The long-awaited tell-all is coming soon to an ebook near you soon - well in 2014. AP reports that none other than 'Turbo' Tim Geithner has an agreement with Crown Publishers (Random House) to publish his 'behind-the-scenes' account of the financial crisis. From his tenure at the NYFRB to his stint under Obama's wing, we can't wait for all the gossip - ...and then I said, "yes sir, whatever you want sir..." As Crown adds in its PR, "Secretary Geithner will chronicle how decisions were made during the most harrowing moments of the crisis, when policy makers faced a fog of uncertainty, risked catastrophic outcomes, and had no institutional memory or recent precedent to guide them." Should be a thriller... as he answers the all-important question of why (or not) but rest comfortably as he intends to "provide a 'playbook' that future policy makers can draw on." Given the success of Obama's odyssey, we humbly suggest Tim title the as-yet-untitled book, 'The Oddacity Of Hype'.
If it appears that there has been a period of perplexing quiet in the financial comedy TV's hammering on the topic of the great rotation, it is because that is indeed the case. The reason? As per ICI, following the start of year inflow surge into domestic equity mutual funds, we have experienced a steady trickle lower in inflows, and then, as noted last week, have had not one but two consecutive outflows, confirming that the pattern from 2011 is fully set. Finally, for those curious where the surge in early 2013 inflows came from, we suggest rereading our post from December on "A Record $220 Billion "Deposit" Injection To Kick Start To The 2013 Market." In summary: there has been zero, zilch, none "great rotation" out of bonds into stocks, especially since bond funds have seen far greater inflows in 2013 compared to stocks, and the only money "rotating" has been the parked deposits in year end 2012 ahead of the Fiscal Cliff, being reallocated back into equities (of which there is now no more), and some modest money market fund moves, which also have now tapered out.
Bhutan's guiding national policy is Gross Domestic Happiness, as a reference point for Net Value. Here in the U.S., we give lip-service to all these values, but ask yourself: where do we spend most of our time? Serving our masters in the State/market economy, creating Net Worth for ourselves or someone else. Yes, we all still need to earn a livelihood, but imagine a society constructed around generating Net Value and Gross Domestic Happiness instead of Net Worth. The power structure would collapse because none of these activities or accomplishments generate enough profits or taxes to keep the Machine operational. A brush with mortality has a way of stripping away the superficial and the false. How many ghosts are we living with while our real lives have been abandoned as insufficiently ambitious and net-worthy?
Given China’s rapid rise in all aspects of national power, as well as its reluctance to release specific details about many important aspects of its military spending, its annual budget announcement rightly attracts worldwide attention. Last week, China revealed its projected 2013 official defense budget: 720.2 billion yuan (roughly $US114 billion), a figure that continues a trend of nominal double-digit spending since 1989 (the lone exception: 2010). Although China’s limited transparency about specific defense budget line items matters, it shouldn’t distract observers from seeing the bigger picture concerning China’s military development: The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) increasingly has the resources, capabilities, and confidence to attempt to assert China’s interests on its contested periphery, particularly in the Near Seas (Yellow, East, and South China Seas). This development has the potential to seriously challenge the interests of the U.S., its allies, and other partners in the region, as well as access to and security of a vital portion of the global commons—waters and airspace that all nations rely on for prosperity, yet which none own. That’s why the PLA’s development matters so much to a Washington located halfway around the world.
With their crackpot monetary ideas, central banks have been robbing Peter to pay Paul without knowing which one was which. And a problem here is this thing behavioral psychologists call self-attribution bias. It describes how when good things happen to people they think it’s because of something they did, but when bad things happen to them they think it’s because of something someone else did.... When we look around we can’t help feeling something similar is happening. The 99% blame the 1%; the 1% blame the 47%. In the aftermath of the Eurozone’s own credit bubbles, the Germans blame the Greeks. The Greeks round on the foreigners. The Catalans blame the Castilians. And as 25% of the Italian electorate vote for a professional comedian whose party slogan “vaff a” means roughly “f**k off ”, the Germans are repatriating their gold from New York and Paris. Meanwhile in China, that centrally planned mother of all credit inflations, popular anger is being directed at Japan, and this is before its own credit bubble chapter has fully played out. (The rising risk of war is something we are increasingly worried about…) Of course, everyone blames the bankers (“those to whom the system brings windfalls… become ‘profiteers’ who are the object of the hatred”).
A few observations about growth and policy backdrop that is shaping the investment climate. It is a large overview that may be helpful to start the week.
Many fine writers have observed that there exists a de facto Ruling Class in Washington. Once men and women get to Congress, no matter how inept, inane, or diabolical they prove to be, the power of incumbency makes dislodging them akin to prying a Reese's Cup from Michael Moore's pudgy fingers. Until the Woodrow Wilson era, incumbent reelection rates hovered between 70 and 80 percent. Since then, however, massive wealth redistribution programs at the federal level -- the New Deal, the Square Deal, the Fair Deal, Great Society, etc. -- began cementing incumbents in place. Constituents dependent upon federal largesse became permanently addicted to these programs and the incumbents who fueled them. This is why nothing ever changes...
Much virtual ink has been spilled over the decline of the mainstream media, measured by circulation, advertising revenue, or a general sense of irrelevance. Furthermore, news consumers increasingly recognize that the mainstream media outlets are basically public relations services for government agencies, large companies, and other influential organizations. Journalists do very little actual journalism — independent investigation, analysis, reporting. A news outlet that deviates from the Narrative by doing its own investigation or offering its own interpretation risks being cut off from the flow of anonymous briefings which means a loss of prestige and a lower status. In exchange for sticking to the Narrative, they get access to official sources. Give up one, you lose the other. Readers are beginning to recognize this, and they don’t want to pay. Nowhere is this situation more apparent than the mainstream reporting on budget sequestration.
It is not Keynes or Kuznets to whom should be looking, much less the ineffable Krugman, but the shining example of Sir John Cowperthwaite whose enlightened strategy of what he called ‘positive non-interventionism’ in 1960s Hong Kong— coupled with a near blanket ban on the collation of official statistics for fear their provision would tempt men into meddling (“If I let them compute those statistics, they’ll want to use them for planning.’’)—allowed the entrepôt to more than quadruple its GDP per capita (it really is a hard habit to break, isn’t it?) in comparison with its colonial masters in Britain, in the space of single generation. A man who eschewed tariffs in an era of protection; who abstained from government borrowing at a time when his peers were fast becoming ’all Keynesians now’; who capped income taxes at a modest 15% in an age when the rich were being ‘squeezed until their pips squeaked’; and who refused all acts of corporate welfare, Cowperthwaite’s assessment of his own role was characteristically modest, once declaring that, as regards his contribution to Hong Kong’s success, "I did very little. All I did was to try to prevent some of the things that might undo it."
The US dollar rose to new multi-month highs against several of the major currencies, including the euro, Swiss franc, British pound and the Japanese yen. The BOJ, BOE and ECB meet last week and none changed policy. The Swiss National Bank meets on March 14 and is also unlikely to change policy. The Federal Reserve meets the following week and is widely expected to stay its course. It is not monetary policy then providing the new trading incentives.
Nor can the dollar's gains be attributed to political uncertainty in Europe stemming from the inconclusive Italian elections, as was the case previously. The immediate shock has worn off and Italian stocks and bonds have recovered the lion's share of those initial losses.
The same pattern we have seen every day for the past week is back - slow overnight levitation as bad news piles on more bad news. What bad news? First as noted earlier, a collapse in Chinese imports and a surge in exports, which as SocGen explained is a harbinger of economic weakness in the months to follow, leading to yet another negative close for the Shanghai Composite. Then we got the UK January construction data which plunged by 7.9% according to ONS data. Then the Bank of Italy disclosed that small business lending was down 2.8% in January. We also got a negative Austrian Q4 GDP print. We also got Spanish industrial output plunging 5% in January (but "much better" than the downward revised -7.1% collapse in December). Capping the morning session was German Industrial Production which not unexpectedly missed expectations of a 0.4% increase, printing at 0.0%, although somewhat better than the horrifying Factory Orders print would have implied. Finally, the ECB announced that a total of EUR4.2 billion in LTRO 1+2 will be repaid in the coming week by 8 and 27 counterparties, about half of the expected, and throwing a monkey wrench in Draghi's narrative that banks are repaying LTRO because they feel much stronger. Yet none of this matters for two reasons: i) the Japanese Yen is back in its role as a carry funding currency, and was last trading at 95.77, the highest in four years, and with Jen shorts now used to fund USD purchases, the levitation in the stock futures was directly in line with the overnight rout in the Yen; and ii) the buying spree in Spanish bonds, with the 10 Year sliding overnight to just 4.82%, the lowest since 2010.
China's trade balance recorded the first February surplus in three years of USD 15.3bn, while forecasters looked for a deficit of -6.9bn. The trade surplus in the first two months was much higher at USD 44.4bn, compared with a deficit of USD 4bn during the same period in 2012, which points to a significant positive contribution from net exports to Q1 GDP growth. However, if these figures were indeed close enough to the actual situation, such strong exports may turn out to be more of a curse than a blessing for China. Against the backdrop of a meagre global recovery and heightened concerns over potential currency wars, China's bi-lateral trade surplus with the US, as suggested by Chinese data, reached a record high in four years; and China snatched market shares from neighbours. None of these will be the most welcomed development. Particularly, there is evidence that the People's Bank of China has been intervening to keep the yuan from appreciating.