With the US presidential election looming in just two months, there is hardly a state that is as critical to the outcome of who America’s next president will be, as Florida. As Bloomberg vividly summarizes, Florida - and specifically its five swing counties: Hillsborough, Orange, Pinellas, Seminole and Volusia - was the state that determined the president in all of the last 3 elections: set between the Republican-dominated North Florida and the more Democratic southern counties, these suburban communities of middle-class voters are known for their shifting allegiances. In 2008, Obama took four of the five counties to capture Florida. George W. Bush won three of the counties, and the state, in 2004. In 2000, Volusia’s vote count was disputed by Vice President Al Gore. Gore won the county yet lost Florida by 537 votes, giving Bush his first term as president. It is quite fitting then that these five counties are very much indicative of the primary malaise that has plagued the country for the past 4 years: the inability of the housing market to rebound no matter how many trillions in printed dollars are thrown at it. Which brings us to the key number that probably should (but most likely won’t in this age of ultra short-term attention spans and constant redirection and focus shifts): 11% - this is the foreclosure rate in these 5 critical counties, double what it was 4 years ago, and three times higher than the national foreclosure average rate of 3.4%. In other words, if there ever was a time and place when economics, through its sheer failure to restore “household wealth” in this most decisive region, was a key issue, now is the time.
Corporates are in relatively good financial shape and theory says should respond to high profits and cheap debt by investing more. However, while high 'profits' and low cost of debt are reasons for capex and opex to be rising more quickly than they are, these two critical drives of recovery show no signs of responding to these profit/debt incentives - and so as Citigroup notes "recovering is not booming". Top-down, compared to history, capex is low, following P/E's sentiment - especially in Europe (indicating a lack of confidence in the future). However, at the sector level this reverses: high capex has been given a low PE, while low capex has a high PE. The market is effectively encouraging companies to invest less and return more money. Longer term the consequences for economic growth, inflation and earnings growth are negative - as we trade (once again) short-term equity gain for long-term sustainable economic gain.
Many Don't Understand The Google/Apple/Microsoft Business Model Dynamic Nor How Dangerous This Apple Legal Win Can Be For ConsumSubmitted by Reggie Middleton on 08/31/2012 09:27 -0500
In continuing my rant on the Apple v. Samsung verdict, I wish to make clear once again that the vast majority of consumers of Google's and Apple's products are absolutely oblivious to the business model of Google, the business practices of Apple and the shadowy aggressive survival tactics of the behemoth that is Microsoft. If I am correct in this assertion then the potential ramifications of Apple actually defeating Samsung in the patent case decided last week is also lost on most.
Yesterday, when the market was plunging (by less than a whopping 1%, yet magically defending the 13K "retirement off" threshold in the DJIA), we wondered: where is the Fed's favorite messageboard: WSJ "journalist" Jon Hilsenrath. We found out at 3 am, when instead of releasing another soon to be refuted rumor of more easing, we discovered that the scribe was busy doing something very different: discussing the pros and cons of the Chairsatan's legacy.
In November 2008, President Barack Obama won the popular election for President by 9.5 million votes. A burgeoning financial crisis and weakening economy helped his candidacy at the time, but four years on the sluggish pace of economic recovery is a headwind to his re-election. Consider, for example, that there are currently 12.8 million people unemployed in the U.S., or that an estimated 8 million adults entered the SNAP (Food Stamp) program since November 2008 (total increase in enrollment: 15.6 million). Presidential elections are won in the Electoral College, of course, so in today’s note ConvergEx's Nick Colas parses out this employment/food security economic stress for the key “Battleground” states.
Seven of the 8 swing states this election year are more economically stressed than the national average in terms of unemployment and/or food stamps, while 2 of the 3 states “leaning” toward Obama are worse off than the national average. Romney, behind in the electoral vote count by most analysts’ figures, theoretically stands to gain from a weak national economy, but he’ll have to earn the vote of an estimated 4 million Americans in 14 key battleground states to have a shot at the White House.
Several recent releases of data bring the problem into focus; a sharp focus. In Germany, once thought to be almost invincible and somehow outside the recession that is raging in Europe, the crisis is just beginning - but it is clearly indicated by the newest data which shows that Germany has begun the descent down the rabbit hole with the rest of its brethren. Germany is now trapped; having lost control of the situation - first by the way the game has been played; and second by the limitations of her capital. We suspect you will soon find a politician in Germany who is opposed to the policies of Ms. Merkel and who will rise to power based upon "Germany for the Germans". All of this is also defined by a very warped time-line. The problems are now, the recession is now, the economic difficulties are now and the solutions that have been proposed are one to three years out. Germany is in the box and we are afraid that it is now Frau Pandora and not Frau Merkel who owns the key.
Feel like every day Europe is juggling hot potatoes? You are not alone. As the following graphic summary from Citi's Matt King (whose insight into Europe, liquidity conduits, shadow banking and a comprehensive picture of modern financial "innovation" has rapidly become second to none) shows, the hot potatoes are getting hotter by the minute, and are flying ever faster and higher. But the kicker: King has the best punchline on Europe we have yet encountered: "Losses are unquantifiable" Q.E.D.
As the world anticipates Bernanke's speech on Friday - which most do not expect to explicitly say "NEW-QE-is-on-bitches" - we started thinking just what it is that he can suggest that would provide more jawboning potential. His speech is likely to lay out 'lessons learned' and outline the various conventional, unconventional, and unconventional unconventional policy options available (as we noted here). While open-ended QE, cutting the IOER, and 'credit-easing' are often discussed, none would be a surprise; this reminded us of an article from Morgan Stanley two years ago - after QE2 - that raised the possibility of Price-Level Targeting (PT), which is quite different from Inflation-Targeting. While its cumulative effect could be anti-debtflationary, it is however tough to communicate, reduces the Fed's inflation-credibility, and could be seen as inconsistent with the Fed's dual mandate. Our hope is that by understanding this possibility, the mistaken shock-and-awe is dampened.
Complicity reigns supreme as everyone benefiting from a scam keeps quiet about everyone else's skim lest their own share of the spoils fall under the harsh light of inquiry. Can an economy that has become dependent on lies, misrepresentation, "fudging" of numbers, fraud, embezzlement and a multitude of skimming and scamming operations escape the moral and financial black hole it has created? The self-evident answer is "no."
Speculation that the ECB might, as part of its proposed bond-buying programme, announce an interest rate target (or band) for short-dated peripheral government bonds has sparked a further rally in Spanish and Italian bonds in the past week. Such an 'unlimited' move is a complete volte face from past policy, but Daiwa's research team believes hopes that the announcement of an interest rate or spread target would spare the ECB the pain of having to intervene in the markets at all are flawed in our view. For the ECB to credibly communicate an interest rate or spread target requires it to quantify the excess risk premia. Given the inherent inaccuracy (or falsehoods) of the forecasts underlying these estimates, the ECB would risk having to review these targets regularly, leaving markets uncertain about their permanence. The success and the sustainability of any future ECB interventions will ultimately depend on the peripheral governments’ ability to meet the conditionality required - and we know how that has ended up - always and every time.
There are 3 solid rules to follow and understand when buying gold and silver bullion and or mining stocks. Here they are.
The case for ultra easy monetary policies has been well enough made to convince the central banks of most Advanced Economies to follow such polices. They have succeeded thus far in avoiding a collapse of both the global economy and the financial system that supports it. Nevertheless, it is argued in this stunningly accurate paper via none other than the Dallas Fed (and BIS economist William White), that the capacity of such policies to stimulate “strong, sustainable and balanced growth” in the global economy is limited. Moreover, ultra easy monetary policies have a wide variety of undesirable medium term effects - the unintended consequences. They create malinvestments in the real economy, threaten the health of financial institutions and the functioning of financial markets, constrain the “independent“ pursuit of price stability by central banks, encourage governments to refrain from confronting sovereign debt problems in a timely way, and redistribute income and wealth in a highly regressive fashion. While each medium term effect on its own might be questioned, considered all together they support strongly the proposition that aggressive monetary easing in economic downturns is not “a free lunch”. Absolute must read!
We tried to bite our tongue; we ignored some of the sheer hypocrisy of Cleveland Fed's Sandra' oh Sandy' Pianalto (that QE2 was a definitive success in 2010 but now LSAPs require more analysis of costs and benefits); but when she started down the road of praising the US consumer for deleveraging we had enough. In the immortal words of John Travolta: "Sandy, can't you see, we're in misery" as while she notes consumers cutting back on credit card debt (due to forced bankruptcies we note), Consumer debt has only been higher on one month in history! Soaring auto loans and student debt should just be ignored? There is no deleveraging - Total US Consumer debt is 0.23% from its all-time high in mid-2008, and will with all likelihood break the record at the next data point. Meanwhile her speech, so full of careful-not-to-over-commits can be summed up by the world-cloud that shows the six words most prominent: 'Monetary Policy', 'Financial Conditions', and most importantly 'Credit Economy'. Here's the deal: Consumer Debt is Consumer Debt.
Yesterday, Jens Weidmann called it a "drug addiction"; for the past 4 years we have called it sheer insanity (and other less polite words). Whatever one calls it, it is obvious that using monetary policy to delay the need for real (not theatrical) fiscal policy involvement that sees to restore debt credibility (i.e., deleverage) does nothing to fix the underlying problems, and merely provides an ever briefer respite from the symptoms of insolvency without ever addressing the underlying cause. Today, even Bank of America has realized this fundamental Catch 22 that is now the paradox at the heart of what remains of capital markets: more easing serves to appease politicians, who see no need to change any of their broken policies, in the process requiring even more QE in the future, and so on, until this always ending in tears game of extend and pretend comes to a sudden and violent end.
With Vacation Over, Europe Is Back To Square Minus One: Merkel Backs Weidmann, Demands Federalist StateSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 08/26/2012 12:04 -0500
Earlier today we showed for the nth time that with insanity and insolvency ravaging the old continent, at least one person has the temerity to avoid sticking his head in the sand of collectivist stupidity and denial. That person is Bundesbank head Jens Weidmann, who until now may or may not have had the backing of Germany's elected leader, Angela Merkel. Moments ago it became clear whose side Merkel, who recently came back from vacation and is set to spoil the party that the (insolvent) mice put together in her absence, is on. From Reuters, who quotes Merkel in her just released interview with German ARD: "I think it is good that Jens Weidmann warns the politicians again and again," Merkel said. "I support Jens Weidmann, and believe it is a good thing that he, as the head of the German Bundesbank, has much influence in the ECB."