Japan is likely to launch even more QE in early 2014 and a much lower yen may result. That'll have dramatic consequences, perhaps greater than US tapering.
With just a tad more than three weeks left in the year it is time to start focusing on what 2014 will likely bring. Of course, what really happens over the next twelve months is likely to be far different than what is currently expected but issuing prognostications, making conjectures and telling fortunes has always kept business brisk on Wall Street.
"What keeps us up at night? Well I can’t speak for the others, having spoken too much already to please PIMCO’s marketing specialists, but I will give you some thoughts about what keeps Mohamed and me up at night. Mohamed, the creator of the “New Normal” characterization of our post-Lehman global economy, now focuses on the possibility of a” T junction” investment future where markets approach a time-uncertain inflection point, and then head either bubbly right or bubble-popping left due to the negative aspects of fiscal and monetary policies in a highly levered world. ... investors are all playing the same dangerous game that depends on a near perpetual policy of cheap financing and artificially low interest rates in a desperate gamble to promote growth. The Fed, the BOJ (certainly), the ECB and the BOE are setting the example for global markets, basically telling investors that they have no alternative than to invest in riskier assets or to lever high quality assets. “You have no other choice,” their policies insinuate.... Deep in the bowels of central banks research staffs must lay the unmodelable fear that zero-bound interest rates supporting Dow 16,000 stock prices will slowly lose momentum after the real economy fails to reach orbit, even with zero-bound yields and QE." - Bill Gross
Gross: We should call this “Green Friday” – Be careful, though, of red numbers in 2014. All markets are bubbly.
— PIMCO (@PIMCO) November 29, 2013
— PIMCO (@PIMCO) November 28, 2013
Here’s the crucial part of what Summers and Krugman are saying: this is not a temporary gig. This isn’t going to just “get better” on its own over time. This really is, as Mohamed El-Erian of PIMCO would call it, the New Normal. And if you’re Jeremy Grantham or anyone for whom a stock has meaning as a fractional ownership stake in a real-world company rather than as a casino chip that gives you “market exposure” … well, that’s really bad news... Just don’t kid yourself into thinking that your deep dive into the value fundamentals of some large-cap bank has any predictive value whatsoever for the bank’s stock price, or that a return to the happy days of yesteryear is just around the corner. It doesn’t and it’s not, and even if you’re making money you’re going to be miserable and ornery while you wait nostalgically for what you do and what you’re good at to matter again. Spoiler Alert: Godot never shows up.
In short: from January to September (we exclude the October 204K print as there is no matching JOLTS number yet) the average monthly jobs gain per the Non-farm Payrolls report is 184K. However, when looking at the implied job gains per the JOLTS Net Turnover, this number is a far more disturbing 150K, some 20% lower.
A new opportunity to play "What's wrong with this picture" arose recently, with Larry Summers’ recent speech at the IMF and Paul Krugman’s follow-up blog. The two economists’ messages are slightly different, but combining them into one fictional character we shall call SK, their comments can be summed up "...essentially, we need to manufacture bubbles to achieve full employment equilibrium." With this new line of reasoning, SK have completely outdone themselves, but not in a good way. Think Jamie Dimon’s infamous “that’s why I’m richer than you” quip. Or, Bill Dudley’s memorable “but the price of iPads is falling” excuse for increases in basic living costs. Dimon and Dudley managed to encapsulate in single sentences much of what’s wrong with their institutions. Yet, they showed baffling ignorance of faults that are clear to the rest of us.
Economics is all about making rational decisions given some set of likes and dislikes. It doesn’t presume to tell you what you should like or dislike, and it assumes that you do in fact know what you like or dislike. Or at least that’s what economic theory used to proclaim. Today economic theory is used as the intellectual foundation for a political stratagem that goes something like this: you do not know what you truly like, and in particular you do not know your economic self-interest, but luckily for you we are here to fix that. This is the common strand between QE and Obamacare. The former says that you are wrong to prefer safety to risk in your investments, and so we will fix that misconception of yours by making it extremely painful for you not to take greater investment risks than you would otherwise prefer. The latter says that you are wrong to prefer no health insurance or a certain type of health insurance to another type of health insurance, and so we will make it illegal for you to do anything but purchase a policy that we are certain you would prefer if only you were thinking more clearly about all this.
With Richmond, CA's plans to use eminent domain to "help" underwater homeowners still ongoing (as suits from mortgage-backed securities owners such as PIMCO, Blackrock, and DoubleLine having been initially dismissed), it appears the "wealth transfer" scheme is gaining traction around the nation. As we warned it would, the appeal of this "bailout" - with no thought to the unintended consequence of crushing an entire investing class out of the market (and its implicit rate-increasing result) - is just too strong for local government and sure nough New Jersey town Irvington is moving in that direction. As AP reports, Irvington's plan would focus on using eminent domain to purchase so-called "private label" security mortgages, or ones that are not backed by the U.S. government.
It is time for the centrally-planned markets to "try" for the round number trifecta of 16000, 1800 and 4000 again, although it may be a tad more difficult on a day in which there is no double POMO and just $2.75-$3.50 billion will be injected by the NY Fed into the S&P - perhaps it is Bitcoin that will hit the nice round number of $1000 first? Overnight, the Chinese Plenum news rerun finally was priced in and the SHComp closed red, as did the Nikkei 225 as the Asian euphoria based on communist promises about what may happen by 2020 fades. What's worse, the Chinese 7-day repo rate is up 140bp this morning to 6.63% amid talk of tightening domestic liquidity conditions, and back to levels seen during the June liquidity squeeze. All this is happening as China continues leaking more details and hope of what reform the mercantilist country can achieve, and how much internal consumption the export-driven country can attain: overnight there were also additional reports of interest rate liberalization and that the PBOC are to set up a floating CNY rate. Good luck with that.
"I can only say: I'm sorry, America. As a former Federal Reserve official, I was responsible for executing the centerpiece program of the Fed's first plunge into the bond-buying experiment known as quantitative easing.... We were working feverishly to preserve the impression that the Fed knew what it was doing... The central bank continues to spin QE as a tool for helping Main Street. But I've come to recognize the program for what it really is: the greatest backdoor Wall Street bailout of all time.... Having racked up hundreds of billions of dollars in opaque Fed subsidies, U.S. banks have seen their collective stock price triple since March 2009. The biggest ones have only become more of a cartel: 0.2% of them now control more than 70% of the U.S. bank assets. As for the rest of America, good luck..... The implication is that the Fed is dutifully compensating for the rest of Washington's dysfunction. But the Fed is at the center of that dysfunction. Case in point: It has allowed QE to become Wall Street's new "too big to fail" policy."
In what is the biggest black eye for Bill Gross and the largest bond manager in the world, moments ago Bloomberg reported that the title of the world's largest mutual fund has just changed hands:
- PIMCO TOTAL RETURN LOSES LARGEST MUTUAL FUND TITLE TO VANGUARD
- GROSS'S PIMCO TOTAL RETURN BECAME LARGEST MUTUAL FUND IN 2008
- PIMCO TOTAL RETURN HAD $247.9 BILLION IN ASSETS AS OF OCT. 31
This comes on the heels of what Reuters reports is the sixth consecutive month of outflows for the TRF, with $4.4 billion withdrawn in October, while on the other side Vanguard, now at $251 billion, has more than tripled in size since the end of 2008 as the scramble for equities in Bernanke's new normal has become the only game in town.
The Fed will have to increase QE (not taper it) because systemic debt is compounding faster than production and interest rates are already zero-bound. Lee Quaintance noted many years ago that the Fed was holding a burning match. This remains true today (only it is a bomb with a short fuse). Thirteen years after the over-levered US equity market collapsed, eleven years following Bernanke’s speech, five years after the over-levered housing bubble burst, and four years into the necessary onset of global Zero Interest Rate Policies and Long-Term Refinancing Operations, global monetary authorities seem to have run out of new outlets for credit. In real economic terms, central bank policies have become ineffective. In other words, the US is now producing as much new debt as goods and services.
There was a time when the Fed's QE was, at least on paper, supposed to generate jobs (the broad inflation will come on its own, in due course). After all, the prospect of injecting $85 billion in liquidity into a market with the sole goal of pushing the stock markets that benefit the purchasing power of about 10% of the population would hardly have received broad approval even by the co-opted Congress. So, to all those who still naively claim Fed is not the sole reason for the market's relentless march higher, those billions in liquidity must go into the economy, and specifically into job creation, right? As a result, we decided to back into what the average private sector job has ended up costing the US population in pure dollar terms (which in turn ultimately manifests itself in terms of unsustainable government debt and pent up inflation) via the Fed's monetary pathway. Well, according to the ADP data released earlier, in which a paltry 130K private sector jobs were created in a month in which the Fed, as always, injected $85 billion, the bottom line came to a whopping $654K per job! And taking the average job growth throughout 2013, this number, as can be seen on the chart below, is a laughter-inducing $553K!