Despite tactical, rhetorical opposition to further expansion of the entitlement state by many voices in Washington, and firm resistance by an honorable and principled few, collusive bipartisan support for an ever-larger welfare state is the central fact of politics in our nation’s capital today, as it has been for decades. Until and unless America undergoes some sort of awakening that turns the public against its blandishments, or some sort of forcing financial crisis that suddenly restricts the resources available to it, continued growth of the entitlement state looks very likely in the years immediately ahead. And in at least that respect, America today does not look exceptional at all.
Wealth inequality isn't just a political issue - it's a survival issue. When a society hits a certain level of economic disparity, it is set on a path towards destruction. It happened to the Roman Empire, and it will happen to the United States.
Say what you want about the gold price languishing below $1200 (or not, as the case may be, after this week), and say what you want about the technical picture or the “6,000-year bubble,” as Citi’s Willem Buiter recently termed it; but know this: gold is an insurance policy — not a trading vehicle — and the time to assess gold is when people have a sudden need for insurance. When that day comes - and believe me, it’s coming - the price will be the very last thing that matters. It will be purely and simply a matter of securing possession - bubble or not - and at any price. That price will NOT be $1200. A “run” on the gold “bank” would undoubtedly lead to one of those Warren Buffett moments when a bunch of people are left standing naked on the shore. It is also a phenomenon which will begin quietly before suddenly exploding into life. If you listen very carefully, you can hear something happening...
- JP Morgan 200K
- Goldman Sachs 220K
- Citigroup 225K
- HSBC 230K
- UBS 230K
- Credit Suisse 235K
- Morgan Stanley 235K
- Deutsche Bank 250K
It appears the concept of no consequences is now deeply embedded in the American society. As Student loan debtloads surge ever higher - and opportunities grow ever lower - NBC News reports a rather stunning 24% of Millennials said they expect their loans will ultimately be forgiven, according to study released Wednesday by Junior Achievement and PwC US. That helps to explain why delinquency rates are at record highs - aside from the massive debtloads and no high-paying jobs - as students see bankers rigging every market in the world with little to no consequence, one can only imagine the lessons being learned.
Most defenders of the state assume that government services help the poor. And, sometimes, some poor people do benefit financially from government programs. But there’s a hidden cost: taxation and mandatory programs (Social Security, for instance) that hurt the needy by restricting their choices. Government taxes away income that low-income households could invest in improving their lives. At the same time, state-sponsored benefits create incentives that keep the poor trapped in poverty.
Facing up to the pressures of responsibility as a member of the European Union - having been told their treaty-busting budget plan was unacceptable - it seems France is resorting to the worst case scenario - cut spending! As Bloomberg reports, the glory days of France’s welfare model may be behind it, as France, which hasn't had a balanced budget since 1974, admits "for 40 years we have lived beyond our means," but French PM Valls is "convinced [France] can make up for lost time." His plan - streamlining unemployment benefits, cutting bonuses for newborns, and pegging family allowances to household income (all of which amount to a de facto re-writing of France’s welfare rules), are being spun positively: "It's not the end of a generous system,” government spokesman Stephane Le Foll said yesterday. "It's the end of spending that wasn't useful - and that's in order to preserve a system that is a costly one." We wonder how much those 'slightly used' guillotines are going for on eBay now?
The student loan debt bubble in America is spiraling out of control, and it is financially crippling an entire generation of young Americans. At this point, the grand total of student loan debt in the United States has reached a staggering 1.2 trillion dollars, and an all-time record high 40 million Americans are currently paying off student loan debts. Just when our young people should be planning on buying homes and starting families, they find themselves financially paralyzed by oppressive levels of debt. What makes all of this even worse is that only some of our college graduates are able to get the “good jobs” that we promised them.
With all eyes and ears firmly focused Janet Yellen's opening oratory this morning (due at 10ET), the contents of the rest of the conference appear to have been forgotten (and yet in the past have been among the most crucial to comprehend central banks' actions after the fact - forward guidance and QE for 2). As Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports, robots don’t steal jobs, the U.S. labor market is less flexible than it was, and workers haven’t suffered unprecedented periods out of work (and rehiring odds are the same as always), are among the conclusions of key papers being presented at the symposium, along with (unsurprisingly) findings that policymakers would benefit from a better understanding of labor market dynamics. The following is a brief review of their contents...
Many seem to believe that if we worked our way out of debt problems in the past, we can do the same thing again. The same assets may have new owners, but everything will work together in the long run. Businesses will continue operating, and people will continue to have jobs. We may have to adjust monetary policy, or perhaps regulation of financial institutions, but that is about all. I think this is where the story goes wrong. The situation we have now is very different, and far worse, than what happened in the past. We live in a much more tightly networked economy. This time, our problems are tied to the need for cheap, high quality energy products. The comfort we get from everything eventually working out in the past is false comfort.
With a 9 standard deviation range between the highest and lowest excuse for a forecast from the 81 "qualified" economists on Bloomberg's survey, there is plenty of room for noise to dominate signal with tomorrow's payrolls data. Goldman forecasts a softer-than-consensus 210k increase in non-farm-payrolls as May employment data flow looks more mixed, and they expect that the unemployment rate rose two-tenths to 6.5% in May (vs. consensus 6.4%). Average hourly earnings (AHE) are likely to be in focus again following several months of heightened attention to wage growth and labor market slack; Goldman expects an increase of 0.2% in May (vs. consensus 0.2%).
It took a precisely 0.1 beat in the Chinese Manufacturing PMI over the weekend (50.8 vs Exp. 50.7) for the USDJPY and the Nikkei to forget all about last week's abysmal Japanese economic data and to send the Nikkei soaring by 2.1% to its highest print in 5 months. Subsequent overnight weakness from Europe, where the Eurozone Final May Manufacturing PMI dropped again from 52.5 to 52.2, below the 52.5 expected, served simply to push bunds higher back over 147.00, if not do much to US equities which as usual continue their low volume "the music is still playing" melt-up completely dislocated from all newsflow and fundamentals (because just like over the past 5 years, "there is hope").
The consensus for tomorrow's non-farm payrolls print is 218k (and ranges from 155k to 292k across the 94 "economists" surveyed by Bloomberg. Goldman forecasts 220k - around consensus - thanks to the long-awaited full normalization of weather conditions in April which could provide some additional boost. In addition, the employment components of all ten major business surveys released so far improved in April, in each case to a level consistent with increased employment. They expect that the unemployment rate declined to 6.6% in April and a 0.2% increase in average hourly earnings (AHE). Wages will be the object of much attention following a flat read on AHE in March, likely reflecting the unwinding of weather distortions
- Sensitive Market Data Leaked After Government Phone Call (WSJ)
- This is a actual Bloomberg headline: China Fake Data to Skew More Export Numbers (BBG)
- This is another actual BBG headline: U.S. as Global Growth Engine Putt-Putts Instead of Purring (BBG)
- Ukraine wants to buy European gas to boost energy security (Reuters)
- JPMorgan Profit Falls 19% on Trading, Mortgage Declines (BBG)
- Record Europe Dividends Keep $2.8 Trillion From Factories (BBG)
- Why is Goldman shutting down Sigma X: SEC eyes test that may lead to shift away from 'dark pools' (Reuters)
- Ebola Outbreak Empties Hotels as West Africa Borders Closed (BBG)
- Australian PM says searchers confident of position of MH370's black boxes (Reuters)
- Gross Says El-Erian Should Explain Reason for Exit (BBG)
Goldman Sachs forecasts a 200k increase in non-farm payrolls for March - in line with consensus - and believe last month's 175k print supports the ongoing positive trend (in light of the weather effect). Key employment indicators looked mixed-to-better in March, and despite the continued cold temperatures, less extreme weather conditions overall should give an additional boost to job gains this month. Citi suggests the weather could have knocked 172k off payrolls overall from Dec to Jan and are more hopeful, expecting a 240k print. Their biggest fear, a greater than 275k print (which is the high bar that Joe Lavorgna has set) could see asset markets reacting badly (on the basis of quicker Fed tightening).