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
Ongoing anti-regime demonstrations in Ukraine are weighing on investor's risk perceptions as CDS spike to near three-year highs today (up over 100bps). At a minimum developments lower president Yanukovich's chances of remaining in power beyond the spring 2015 elections and possibly undermine his hold on power earlier, further decreasing the likelihood of sizeable financial support from Russia. With Moody's earlier comments on the nation's "precarious external liquidity" position; as Goldman warns, with even higher political uncertainty ahead, an acceleration of capital outflows might also follow and while they think the authorities will eventually turn to the IMF to avoid a disorderly sell-off of the currency, recent events arguably raise the risks to that view. However, the capital outflows are already having an impact as Reuters notes, Russian banks are considerably exposed as Ukrainian banks should deposit runs escalate.
While most of the world's elites are bathing in a sea of liquidity and propagandizing the status quo to keep the dream alive, Richemont Chairman Johann Rupert has unleashed a torrent of uncomfortable truthiness this morning:
- *REMGRO CHAIRMAN RUPERT 'VERY CONCERNED' ABOUT GLOBAL ECONOMY
- *GLOBAL ECONOMY 'VERY, VERY PRECARIOUS,' RUPERT SAYS
- *WORLD HEADING FOR 'BIG INFLATION' OR `BIG DEPRESSION': RUPERT
- *GLOBAL ECONOMY HEADED FOR 'TEARS': REMGRO, RICHEMONT CHAIRMAN
- *RUPERT SAYS HIS BIGGEST CONCERN IS JOBLESS GROWTH
And while things are good now, the owner of the Cartier brand warned if the global economy doesn’t do well, Richemont is not well positioned.
Despite the stock's renaissance (eerily reminiscent of Eastman Kodak), recent images of the crammed and disorganized racks at various JCPenney stores do little to conjure confidence that staff or management either know what they are doing - or give a shit... except for this clarifying quote...
"What one may misconstrue as clutter is merely a strategic effort to meet high customer demand," said Penney spokeswoman Daphne Avila.
Is that like saying, "one man's trash...?" It seems, for JCPenney that marketing and product placement come a weak second to a pit full of tangled clothes...
... According to the BLS, US jewerly imports in the month of October inexplicably just posted their biggest annual drop. On record.
For all purists still stuck in a world in which humans are the most efficient allocators of capital, and where, under Ben Bernanke's centrally-planned New Normal, shorting stocks has become blasphemy, the following table showing the monthly return of quant giant RenTec's chief equity fund open to the outside world, the Renaissance Institutional Equities Fund (RIEF B), whose AUM has ballooned to $8.7 billion in the past few years, will come as a shock. Because the quant strategy-driven fund, which does not look at fundamentals but purely at technical relationships and quant arbs, just posted its best month in history in October returning 8.65% nearly doubling the 4.60% return of the broader market. But the truly stunning aspect of RenTec's October performance is that it was not driven by a highly levered beta position (2x leverage on the S&P would do it easily) which is how virtually everyone else does it (a strategy that works great as long as the market is going higher), but instead thanks to that nearly forgotten aspect of a "hedge" fund's exposure - shorts.