The S&P 500 has made little headway for two years running and as Gluskin Sheff's David Rosenberg points out, it first crossed 1380 on July 1, 1999 and since then has run around like a headless chicken (while other asset classes have not). Meanwhile, Europe's bottomless pit of debt deleveraging (which is as much a problem for the US and China but less ion focus for now) makes the entire discourse of some new and aggressive intervention by the ECB even more ridiculous (and all so deja vu); and the US is facing up to an entirely topless earnings season as revenues are coming in at only 1.2% above last year as it appears Q2 EPS is on track for a 0.2% YoY dip - with guidance falling fast. But apart from all that, Rosie sees the only source of real buying support for the stock market is the stranded short-seller forced to cover in the face of CB-jawboning as there is little sign of long-term believers stepping into the void.
This is looking more and more like a modem-day depression. After all, last month alone, 85,000 Americans signed on for Social Security disability cheques, which exceeded the 80,000 net new jobs that were created: and a record 46 million Americans or 14.8% of the population (also a record) are in the Food Stamp program (participation averaged 7.9% from 1970 to 2000, by way of contrast) — enrollment has risen an average of over 400,000 per month over the past four years. A record share of 41% pay zero national incomes tax as well (58 million), a share that has doubled over the past two decades. Increasingly, the U.S. is following in the footsteps of Europe of becoming a nation of dependants. Meanwhile, policy stimulus, whether traditional or non-conventional, are still falling well short of generating self-sustaining economic growth.
For many months, if not years, we have been beating the drum on what we believe is the most hushed, but significant story in the metamorphosis of the US labor pool under the New Normal, one which has nothing to with quantity considerations, which can easily be fudged using seasonal and birth death adjustments, and other statistical "smoothing" but with quality of jobs: namely America's transformation to a part-time worker society. Today, one of the very few economists we respect, David Rosenberg, pick up on this theme when he says in his daily letter that "the use of temps is outpacing outright new hirings by a 10-to-1 ratio." And unlike in the old normal, or even as recently as 2011, temp hires are no longer a full-time gateway position: "Moreover, according to a Manpower survey, 30% of temporary staffing this year has led to permanent jobs, down from 45% in 2011.... In today's world, the reliance on temp agencies is akin to "just in time" employment strategies." Everyone's skillset is now a la carte in the form of self-employed mini S-Corps, for reason that Charles Hugh Smith explained perfectly well in "Dear Person Seeking a Job: Why I Can't Hire You." Sadly, that statistic summarizes about everything there is to know about the three years of "recovery" since the recession "ended" some time in 2009.
Tomorrow's NFP may or may not beat expectations, following some modestly better than expected employment-related data points (then again last month NFP was again supposed to come in solidly above 100K only to cross below the critical threshold), but keep one thing in mind: with the average June seasonal adjustment being a deduction of over 1 million jobs, several tens of thousands in marginal absolute job numbers + or - will be nothing but statistical noise. Furthermore, with seasonality playing such a huge role tomorrow, it is quite likely that merely the ongoing seasonal giveback will result in June being yet another subpar month. And that does not even take into account the quality assessment of the job number, which if recent trends are any indication, will be another record in part-time jobs at the expense of full-time jobs. Yet no matter where the NFP data ends up, the following chart from David Rosenberg puts a few thousand job into perspective, showing that regardless of how many part-time jobs the US service industry has added, there is a far greater problem currently developing in the world: "We now have 80% of the world posting a contraction in industrial activity." This is the second worst since the great financial crisis and only matched by last fall, when in response Europe launched a $1.3 trillion LTRO and the Fed commenced Operation Twist. Now except the occasional rate drop out of the PBOC or modest QE expansion out of the BOE (not to mention the Bank of Kenya's rate cut earlier), there is no real, unsterilized flow of money coming from central bank CTRL-P macros to stabilize the global economy. Which leaves open the question: just where will the latest spark to rekindle global growth come from? And no, 10 hours a week waitressing jobs in Topeka just won't cut it.
Confused by all the amusing arguments of a housing "recovery" (because if you believe in it, it just may come true.... maybe) in the sad context of a reality in which the economy is once again turning from bad to worse missing expectations left and right (for every report surprising to the upside, two do the opposite), corporate earnings and margins have rolled over, US states and cities and European countries are filing for default or demanding bailouts at an ever faster pace, and only headlines such as "stocks rise on hopes of more central bank easing" appear in the good news columns of mainstream media? Don't be: David Rosenberg explains it all.
For the past six months we have extensively discussed the topics of asset depletion, aging and encumbrance in Europe - a theme that has become quite poignant in recent days, culminating with the ECB once again been "forced" to expand the universe of eligible collateral confirming that credible, money-good European assets have all but run out. We have also argued that a key culprit for this asset quality deterioration has been none other than central banks, whose ruinous ZIRP policies have forced companies to hoard cash, but not to reinvest in their businesses and renew their asset bases, in the form of CapEx spending, but merely to have dry powder to hand out as dividends in order to retain shareholders who now demand substantial dividend sweeteners in a time when stocks are the new "fixed income." Yet while historically we have focused on Europe whose plight is more than anything a result of dwindling cash inflows from declining assets even as cash outflow producing liabilities stay the same or increase, the "asset" problem is starting to shift to the US. And as everyone who has taken finance knows, when CapEx goes, revenues promptly follow. Needless to say, at a time when still near record corporate revenues and profit margins are all that is supporting the US stock market from joining its global brethren in tumbling, this will soon be a very popular point of discussion in the mainstream media... in about 3-6 months.
In a detailed discussion with Bloomberg TV's Tom Keene, Gluskin Sheff's David Rosenberg addresses everything from Europe's "inability to grow its way out of the problem" amid its 'existential moment', Asian 'trade shock' and commodity contagion, and US housing, saving, and fiscal uncertainty. He believes we are far from a bottom in housing, despite all the rapacious calls for it from everyone, as the over-supply overhang remains far too high. "The last six quarters of US GDP growth are running below two percent" he notes that given the past sixty years of experience this is stall speed, and inevitably you slip into recession". He is back to his new normal of 'frugality' and bearishness on the possibilities of any solution for Europe but, most disconcertingly he advises Keene that "when you model fiscal uncertainty into any sort of economic scenario in the U.S., what it means is that businesses raise their liquidity ratios and households build up their savings rates. This comes out of spending growth. And that's the problem - you've got the fiscal uncertainty coupled with a US export 'trade shock'."
The middle class has a gut feeling they are being screwed by somebody, they just can’t figure out who to blame. The ultra-wealthy elite keep up an endless cacophony of propaganda and misinformation designed to confuse an increasingly uneducated and willfully ignorant public while blurring the facts for those educated few capable of understanding the truth. They have been able to keep the masses dumbed down through government run education; distracted by sports, reality TV, Facebook, internet porn, and igadgets; lured by mass media messages of materialism; and shackled with the chains of debt used to acquire the goods sold by mega-corporations. We’ve become a society oppressed by a small faction of ultra-wealthy masters served by millions of impoverished, uneducated, sedated slaves. But the slaves are getting restless and angry. The illegally generated wealth disparity chasm is growing so large that even the ideologue talking head representatives of the elite are having difficulty spinning it. Even uneducated rubes understand when they are getting pissed on.
"We are witnessing the biggest financial-market manipulation of all time. The authorities have intervened more and more, and thereby created this monster. They might change the rules when the game goes against their own interests. We are in a severe credit crunch. It starts when the weakest links in the system can't finance their activities. Then you have a flight to safety into Treasuries and German bunds, compounded by a quasi-shortage of good collateral. That's why bond yields have fallen so low. This isn't an inflationary environment but a deflationary one."
The situation in Europe goes from bad to worse. Gluskin Sheff's David Rosenberg is back to his bearish roots as he remind us that 'throwing more debt after bad debts ends up meaning more debt'. As he notes, the definition of insanity is (via Bloomberg TV):
When you realize that of the potential $100 billion to spend, 22% of that has to be provided by Italy and their lending to Spain is at 3% but Italy has to borrow at 6%. They have to lend to Spain $22bn at 3% - it is just madness. Everybody is getting worried again. The solution that they seem to have come up with seems to be worse than the problem in the first place.
Gluskin Sheff's David Rosenberg may be cautious on the outlook for risk assets and cyclical securities over the near- and intermediate-term, but, he notes, change is always at the margin, and it usually starts in the political sphere. Austerity is not some dirty nine-letter word as the socialists in Europe would have you believe. It is all about living within your means and living up to your commitments. There is some good news in the United States with respect to this topic, but the uncertainty over the extent of next year's tax bite is likely to cause households and businesses to pull spending back and raise cash, at the margin, which means the economy won't turn around in time for Mr. Obama. As was the case with Ronald Reagan, just having a clear and coherent fiscal plan will part the clouds of uncertainty and encourage capital to be put at risk rather than sit as idle unproductive cash on corporate balance sheets. In a somewhat stunning sentence from the no-longer-a-permabear, he notes that "The future is brighter than you think", but just in case you are backing up the truck, he adds "this does not mean we will not have another recession, by the way — as we suffer through a deflationary debt deleveraging. I'm noticing a certain degree of despair these days, just as I am getting enthusiastic about the future. Much depends on what happens on November 6th and between now and then we still have the European mess, China hard landing risks and the U.S. debt ceiling issue to confront. Be that as it may, those with some dry powder on hand will be in a solid position to take advantage of whatever forced "panic" selling takes place."
Now that stocks are back to reflecting nothing more than expectations of how many times the Chairsatan dilutes the existing monetary base in a carbon copy replica of not only 2011 but also 2010... and 2009 (because contrary to what purists may believe, the only way to inflate away unsustainable debt in a growth-free economy is by destroying the currency), and manic pattern chasers have crawled out of their holes proclaiming the death of the bear market after a two day bounce, what is happening in the actual economy, no longer reflected by the market, has once again been pulled back to the backburner. Which is sad, because while ever fewer people reap the benefits of artificial, centrally-planned S&P rallies, the rest of the population suffers, and what is worse: hope for a quiet, middle-class life is now an endangered species. Nowhere is this more evident than in the following list from David Rosenberg which summarizes how, quietly, the US labor force slipped back into a full-blown depression.
Just when one thought it was safe to come out of hiding from under the school desk after the latest nuclear bomb drill (because Europe once again plans on recycling the Euro bond gambit - just like it did in 2011 - so all shall be well), here comes David Rosenberg carrying the launch codes, and setting off the mushroom cloud.
A rare moment of optimism from David Rosenberg: "I've said it once and I'll say it again. And believe me, this is no intent to wrap myself up in stars and stripes. But there is a strong possibility that I see a flicker of light come November. The U.S. has great demographics with over 80 million millennials that will power the next bull market in housing, likely three years from now. After an unprecedented two straight years of a decline in the stock of vehicles on the road, we do have pent-up demand for autos. I coined the term "manufacturing renaissance" back when I toiled for Mother Merrill and this is happening on the back of sharply improved cost competitiveness. Oil production and mining services are booming. Cheap natural gas is a boon to many industries. A boom in Chinese travel to the U.S. has triggered a secular growth phase in the tourism and leisure industry. The trend towards frugality has opened up doors for do-it-yourselfers, private labels and discounting stores.... Few folks saw it at the time. But it's worth remembering, especially now as we face this latest round of economic weakness and market turbulence. It is exactly in periods of distress that the best buying opportunities are borne...and believe it or not, when new disruptive technologies are formed to power the next sustainable bull market and economic expansion. Something tells me that we are just one recession and one last leg down in the market away from crossing over the other side of the mountain. And believe me, nobody is in a bigger hurry to get there, than yours truly. At the risk of perhaps getting too far ahead of myself, but you may end up calling me a perma-bull (at that stage, I must warn you, folks like Jim Paulsen will have thrown in the towel)."