What lies beyond the current failing, unsustainable versions of Capitalism and Socialism? The basic answer is coming into focus: since the current iterations of Capitalism and Socialism are both systems of increasing centralization (and thus of systemic fragility), the future belongs to the Web-enabled, localized but globally networked models of decentralized capital, currencies, ownership, production and distribution.
Rothschild has identified four different scenarios that, in their view, are the most likely to occur. The series of scenarios for GDP growth and inflation in the main western economies, Japan and China may guide investor thinking but their somewhat ominous conclusion is worth bearing in mind: "Further monetary 'experiments' are becoming less probable. However, significant imbalances and risks persist. This is the reason why we have left the size (probability) of our depression scenario unchanged," and while they remain exposed to equities they warn "valuation support is limited, exposing equities to a potentially sharp correction."
While joking about potential terrorist plots is below us, the fact that New Jersey police are investigating the appearance of suspicious white powder at several hotels near the site of the Superbowl was too close to an "Onion" headline for us to ignore. As AP reports, the FBI is investigating the substance (found in envelopes - which we suspect were not marked with player's names). No injuries or overnight bouts of unexplained euphoria have been reported.
What Will AAPL's Profit Margins Be? Just Ask Foxconn... And Discover A Stunning Development In China-US Wage ParitySubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/27/2014 16:23 -0400
In just over an hour Apple will report earnings which are expected to be a sole silver lining among the otherwise dreary retail landscape of the fourth quarter. However, those curious for an advance glimpse of what AAPL's margins may be are advised to look no further than its chief supplier - Taiwanese mega contract manufacturer FoxConn, with over 1.2 million employees on the mainland. The reason Foxconn may be of interest is that as Reuters reports, as a result of soaring wages on the mainland, and in its ongoing strategy to keep worker compensation as razor thin as possible, the fabricator is now actively looking to expand outside of China. Among the places considered? Indonesia of course. And, drumroll, the United States! In other words, from the perspective of Foxconn, US labor now has greater wage competitiveness than China.
Like being sworn at? Then these are the jobs for you. As the myth of a manufacturing renaissance in America remains just that, the Services industries bear the brunt of an ever-increasingly entitle public's needs. As IB Times' Lisa Mahapatra notes, according to a study by Marchex that examined rates of crusing across 20 service industries, Satellite TV providers's customer service agents get the most abuse.
Let's see: do massive sinkholes next to the headquarters of other massive sinkholes, located in a bankrupt city that may soon become a massive sinkhole, qualify for Federal bailouts?
It would appear that the meteoric 300% rise of Best Buy's shares last year was promoted to the general investing public as the renaissance of the on-the-verge-of-bankruptcy warehouse store and sure enough, the world and his mom piled in to chase the momo higher and higher... until today. With a 30% tumble this morning, those momo-chasing moms and pops may be less enamored to buy-the-dip but there was one 'smart-money' insider who was selling as fast as retail was buying. Co-Founder Richard Schulze (who indicated in August he would be selling to 'diversify' his holdings) piled out of the stock through most of the fourth quarter (at a level well above this morning's opening print).
As long as we ignore that data last week, the jobless recovery is mediocre at best... let's see how great it really is as President Obama explains how exceptional America still is...
We noted Friday that the much-heralded Baltic Dry Index has seen the worst start to the year in over 30 years. Today it got worse. At 1,395, the the Baltic Dry index, which reflects the daily charter rate for vessels carrying cargoes such as iron ore, coal and grain, is now down 18% in the last 2 days alone (biggest drop in 6 years), back at 4-month lows. The shipping index has utterly collapsed over 40% in the last 2 weeks. We are sure this is just a storm in a teacup and that all the hopes and prayers of a global manufacturing renaissance will come true. Cue, "this is not a demand issue, it's an over-capacity issue" excuses in 3...2...1... now where would the container ships get their idea to increase capacity? (hint: central planner-based mal-investment)
There has been much speculation recently about some immaculately conceived Spanish economic recovery. And while it has certainly sent the local Ibex stock market soaring, we fail to see any indication of such a recovery, at least in official economic data. The latest example being, of course, today's European unemployment for November, which at the Euroarea level remained flat at 12.1%, which also is the all time record high following a prior revision. However, what is more troubling is that according to the official European statistics keeper, Spanish unemployment in November was 26.7%: tied for the all time high seen in October and hardly an indicator of some imminent economic renaissance. There is, of course, always December - that month in the New Normal when hiring really picks up. But where things get really bad is when one looks at Spain's youth unemployment. At 57.7% in November, nearly two in three Spaniards under 25 had no job, and the nail in the coffin for the "recovery" is that this rate is now well above the latest update from Greece, where the youth unemployment was "only" 54.8% as of September.
"Paper and digital markets levitate, central banks pull out all the stops of their magical reality-tweaking machine to manipulate everything, accounting fraud pervades public and private enterprise, everything is mis-priced, all official statistics are lies of one kind or another, the regulating authorities sit on their hands, lost in raptures of online pornography (or dreams of future employment at Goldman Sachs), the news media sprinkles wishful-thinking propaganda about a mythical “recovery” and the “shale gas miracle” on a credulous public desperate to believe, the routine swindles of medicine get more cruel and blatant each month, a tiny cohort of financial vampire squids suck in all the nominal wealth of society, and everybody else is left whirling down the drain of posterity in a vortex of diminishing returns and scuttled expectations."
If being wealthy was the same as pretending to be wealthy then people who care about reality would have a little less to complain about. But pretending is a poor way for a society to negotiate its way through history. It makes for accumulating distortions which eventually undermine the society’s ability to function, especially when the pretending is about money, which is society’s operating system. The dislocations of 2008 when the banking system nearly imploded were Nature’s way of telling us that dishonesty has consequences. In the meantime, we amuse ourselves with fairy tales about “the shale oil revolution” and “the manufacturing renaissance.” 2014 could be the year that the forces of Nature compel our attention and give us a reason to stop all this pretending.
If past history is any indication, consumers usually get taxed with higher prices in the end.
Now that the CapEx drought has become a mainstream topic, it bears reminding that this phenomenon will continue indefinitely, and certainly as long as CapEx hurdle rates are far greater than issuing a low-yielding bond and using the proceeds to reward shareholders: indeed, this shareholders friendly topic has been perhaps the dominant theme of 2013 when activist investors stormed to the forefront once again, most prominently in the face of Carl Icahn, and have managed to force even lower revenue growth prospects by levering companies with debt loads that are now greater than during the prior credit bubble peak. Naturally, one after another bank has come out once again, as they did, and is predicting that the great deferred CapEx renaissance is upon us... any day now. Unfortunately, it isn't. And just to confirm this, here is Archer Daniels Midland summarizing the company's plans for its 2014 free cash flows. In short: they don't involve any US growth CapEx spending at all.
It will be a long night in Kiev, where as warned previously, once things start rolling downhill, they will deteriorate rapidly. Via Bloomberg:
RIOT POLICE ARMED WITH CHAINSAWS APPROACH KIEV BARRICADES
UKRAINIAN POLICE MASS NEAR BARRICADES AT KIEV SQUARE
POLICE STORM PROTEST CAMP IN CENTER OF KIEV, AP REPORTS
UKRAINIAN POLICE INSIDE KIEV PROTEST CAMP