Beneath the positive headlines Bloomberg's Joe Brusuelas notes that there is evidence that a good portion of consumers continue to face a difficult adjustment to the $125 billion tax hike in January and the 15 percent increase in gasoline prices during the past four months. Spending among the upper quintile of income earners is masking weakness elsewhere but it is jobs headlines that are really hiding the dismal reality in America. As the following chart shows, confirming our earlier discussion, the middle-class income-earner is becoming an endangered species (with no 'conservation group' willing to stand up for them) as the government holds the lowest income earners' hand and Bernanke the highest.
While chart analogs provide optically pleasing (and often far too shockingly correct) indications of the human herd tendencies towards fear and greed, a glance through the headlines and reporting of prior periods can provide just as much of a concerning 'analog' as any chart. In this case, while a picture can paint a thousand words; a thousand words may also paint the biggest picture of all. It seems, socially and empirically, it is never different this time as these 1936 Wall Street Journal archives read only too well... from devaluations lifting stocks to inflationary side-effects of money flow and from short-covering, money-on-the-sidelines, Jobs, Europe, low-volume ramps, BTFD, and profit-taking, to brokers advising stocks for the long-run before a 40% decline.
Despite the plethora of propagandist panderings, the reality of the Business Roundtable (BRT - an association of chief executive officers of leading U.S. companies) findings are far less enthralling than the headlines might suggest. In fact, despite the protestation that their economic outlook ticked up - which as the chart below shows so evidently - is merely a reversion to the lows of 2011; the sad 'fact' is that expectations for higher Sales, CapEx, and Employment are as bad as they have been since early 2010. CapEx, the much-vaunted miracle driver of revenues this year, is below Q4 2009 levels of expectation. Even the BRT itself offers up the words 'moderate' when describing the changes and yet the mainstream media pounce on an uptick like cardinals to the new Pope. It appears that we will have to wait another quarter to see what the CEOs of the nations largest companies are really doing as their stocks soar to record highs.
The latest release of the National Federation of Independent Business Small Business Survey was a bit of dichotomy of interpretation. Is the inventory increase really a sign of optimism or is it an unwanted buildup as sales have slowed as shown by the latest wholsesale inventory report? Are capital outlays really a sign of optimism or is it simply just required maintenance and upkeep? The interpretation of the data is key to understanding the direction of the overall economy. Economic confidence still remains at levels lower than in 2011 or in 2008 during the depths of the financial crisis. Concerns for businesses remain weighted toward the consumer and the government. Weak sales, government regulations and taxes are the top 3 biggest headwinds curtailing small business currently. With the upcoming debates over the debt ceiling and the budget it is unlikely that these concerns are going to improve much anytime soon.
On March 3, we said that Bitcoin is interesting technology, and a useful currency, but it's not money. Yesterday it crashed to $37. What happened??
The only major news from overseas was from the UK where Industrial Production fell 1.5% leading many to worry the country would succumb to a triple dip recession. Naturally the pound (FXB) has been taking a beating with pundits recommending long euro short pound pair trade.
It was a boring enough day that the goings on in Rome caught my attention—a new candidate for pope and he’d be a refreshing change:
The American spirit is rooted in the belief of a better tomorrow. Its success has been due to generations of men and women who toiled, through both hardship and boom times, to make that dream a reality. But at some point over the past several decades, that hope for a better tomorrow became an expectation. Or perhaps a perceived entitlement is more accurate. It became assumed that the future would be more prosperous than today, irrespective of the actual steps being taken in the here and now. And for a prolonged time – characterized by plentiful and cheap energy, accelerating globalization, technical innovation, and the financialization of the economy – it seemed like this assumption was a certain bet. But these wonderful tailwinds that America has been enjoying for so many decades are sputtering out. The forces of resource scarcity, debt saturation, price inflation, and physical limits will impact our way of life dramatically more going forward than living generations have experienced to date. And Americans, who had the luxury of abandoning savings and sacrifice for consumerism and credit financing, are on a collision course with that reality.
Because all that matters is the Dow, as one intellectual giant noted - whether we close red or green "psychologically, we closed positive." Unfortunately, AAPL closed at its lows, Nasdaq -11 points, S&P 500 futures in the red perfectly balanced at their VWAP (which saw nothing but selling all day) for the fifth lowest volume day of the year (following yesterday's lowest volume day). The S&P stayed in its uptrend channel as the USD-Stocks correlation algos gave up today - as did the Treasury-Stocks algos. 10Y closed -3bps on the week (-6bps today). HY credit closed at its lows, VIX rose 0.75 vols today at 12.3% - leading stocks south, and while commodities pulled back off early spike highs, they are all in the green on the week (with gold just shy of $1600 intraday). While it is of little import as the sixth consecutive all-time Dow highs is all that counts for the headlines this evening, we would note that we haven't seen such weakness in AAPL and selling pressure at VWAP in S&P 500 futures for a while (and that was with a 19/30, $650 to the sell side MOC in the DJIA).
U.S. equity markets rallied once again after opening weaker Monday repeating previous performances. There wasn’t much news domestically. The Fed continued modest POMO actions which will grow in scope throughout the week. Stocks were quiet most of the day but got a lift on rumors that Apple (AAPL) will declare a dividend of some kind. If they do this, then the SEC should be monitoring who and what groups were front-running this piece of news.
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.
There is a delicate balance between supply and demand in silver. At a recent conference, Jeff Clark concluded that there would be insufficient metal to meet a major spike in investment demand if it were to occur, leading to all kinds of negative consequences for those who don't own silver (and lots of wonderful rewards for those who do). He had plenty of compelling charts and convincing data. But here's the rub: he doesn't believe that what's ahead for the price of silver (and gold) will have anything to do with that data. After all, there are articles from researchers and analysts that use similar data to paint a bearish outlook for the metal. Instead, his reasoning is based on psychology. Here's a good example...
ECRI's Lakshman Achuthan holds firm to his belief that "a recession started around the middle of last year" and even as he notes consensus expectations for payrolls tomorrow at 160-170k, "year-over-year payroll jobs growth will go to a 16-month low." In this Bloomberg TV interview, the embattled prognosticator explains how "the entire West is in the Yo-Yo years. They have all been having growth stair-stepping down. It is very weak growth with higher cycle-volatility which will give you more frequent recessions." Critically he notes, "Economies do not hang out at 0.5% or 1%. They do not get this low growth steady state muddle through recession-free kind of growth at 1%, which everybody seems to think might be possible. It is not possible. Free markets have economic cycles. they accelerate and they decelerate. if you are doing it at a very low growth rate, the odds of a slowdown going into recession are very high." Some excess truthiness in this brief clip.
Futures Ignore 13 Year High In French Unemployment, Tumble In German Factor Orders; Rise On Spanish AuctionSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/07/2013 07:55 -0400
In today's overnight trading, it was all about Europe (and will be with today's BOE and ECB announcements), where things continue as they have for the past six months: when it is a problem that can be "solved" by throwing bucketloads of money, and/or guaranteeing all risk, things appear to be better, such as today's EUR5.03 billion Spanish bond auction (the 0.03 billion part being quite critical as otherwise how will the authorities indicate the pent up demand by the Spanish retirement fund and various other insolvent ECB-backstopped Spanish banks for Spanish debt). And while events that can be "fixed" with massive liquidity injections are doing better, those other events which rely on reality, and the transfer of liquidity into the real economy, are just getting worse and worse. Sure enough, today we also learned that French unemployment rate just hit a 13 year high. But it wasn't only the French economy that continued to slide into recession: Germany wasn't immune either following "surprising" news that German January Factory Orders tumbled -1.9% M/M on expectations of a 0.6% rise, down from a revised 1.1% in December. The great equalization in Europe continues, as the PIIGS, kept still on artificial life support do everything in their power to drag down the core.
Unlike the session before, there has been little actionable news overnight, with the euphoria from the record high DJIA still translating into a buying panic, and forcing algos to buy futures because other algos are buying futures, and so on, simply because nothing says cheap like all time high prices (and forward multiples that are higher than 2007 levels). The one event so far was the Europe's second Q4 GDP estimate which came in as expected at -0.6%, the fifth consecutive decline in a row. More notable was that Q4 exports tumbled by 0.9% which was the biggest fall since Q1 2009. And while the news has served to keep the EURUSD in line and subdued ahead of tomorrow's ECB conference, the stock market buying panic has moved to European stocks which continue to ignore fundamentals, and are soaring, taking peripheral bond yields lower with them, despite ongoing lack of any clarity what happens in Italy as Bersani is ready to propose a government to parliament which is certain not to pass. But in a world in which fundamentals and reality have lost all significance, and in which only momentum and hope matter, we expect that risk will continue being bid in line with central bank balance sheet expansion until this tired 4 year old last recourse plan no longer works.
As the world awaits the outcome of Chavez's latest 'severe infection', the Venezuelan headlines appear to have become more and more surreal...
- *VENEZUELA'S MADURO SAYS CHAVEZ ENEMIES CAUSED HIS ILLNESS
- *VENEZUELA EXPELS U.S. MILITARY ATTACHE, MADURO SAYS
- *VENEZUELA HAS INFORMATION ON SABOTAGE TO ELECTRIC GRID: MADURO
As Bloomberg notes, Maduro says U.S. official was meeting with Venezuelan military officials and was seeking to destabilize country. Or perhaps it is all about distraction?