New Home Sales
More exiting than Christmas!
Just as we saw with UMich, it appears the hope for change is wearing thin among the people. Today's Consumer Confidence data missed by its biggest margin in 7 months, dropped below the year's average, and saw the largest 2-month drop in over 15 months. All age cohorts lost confidence with the eldest most and it appears those earning over $35k are also beginning to worry (as those between $35k and $15k seem more confident). Over 40% expect stock prices to decline and it is expectations that have plummeted from a hope-filled 80.9 to a 13-month low of 66.5. In other news, we got the November New Homes Sales report from the Census Bureau. On the surface the number was good, but like the initial claims dats, below the surface its not as pretty - on an unadjusted, unannualized basis, November saw a tiny 27K houses sold - lowest since Feb 2012. In fact, the only thing that really did soar was the number of homes for sale at the end of the period which rose to 151K: the highest since November of 2011.
While the market will look with some last trace of hope to Obama's return from Hawaii to D.C. today, the reality is that even the mainstream media, which had so far gotten everything about the cliff spectacularly wrong (proving that sample polling and actual "predicting" are two very different things), is waking up and smelling the coffee. As Politico reports, "nearly all the major players in the fiscal cliff negotiations are starting to agree on one thing: A deal is virtually impossible before the New Year. Unlike the bank bailout in 2008, the tax deal in 2010 and the debt ceiling in 2011, the Senate almost certainly won’t swoop in and help sidestep a potential economic calamity, senior officials in both parties predicted on Wednesday. Hopes of a grand-bargain — to shave trillions of dollars off the deficit by cutting entitlement programs and raising revenue — are shattered. House Republicans already failed to pass their “Plan B” proposal. And now aides and senators say the White House’s smaller, fall-back plan floated last week is a non-starter among Republicans in Senate — much less the House. On top of that, the Treasury Department announced Wednesday that the nation would hit the debt limit on Dec. 31, and would then have to take “extraordinary measures” to avoid exhausting the government’s borrowing limit in the New Year."
As DB's Jim Reid summarizes, "it is fair to say that newsflow over the next 72 hours will be fairly thin before we head into a tense final few business days of the year." It is also fair to say, that the usual tricks of the new normal trade, such as the EUR and risk ramp as Europe walks in around 3 am, precisely what happened once again overnight to lift futures "off the lows", will continue working until it doesn't. In the meantime, the market is still convinced that some compromise will appear miraculously in the 2 trading sessions remaining until the end of the year, and a recession will be avoided even as talks now appear set to continue as far down as late March when the debt ceiling expiration, not cliff, will become the primary driving power for a resolution. That said, expect to start hearing rumors of a US downgrade by a major rating agency as soon as today: because the agenda is known all too well.
As I mentioned before, without a doubt 2013 will be a disastrous year for the global economy and for the financial markets. Things could get ugly before then due to any number of issues that are boiling just beneath the surface… but barring any sudden developments, most of the key players will try to hold things together into year end.
This objective one-stop-shop report concisely summarizes the important macro events over the past week.
Senator Reid’s frustration that progress had stalled as he blamed the Republicans for not bargaining fairly in trying to iron out a compromise signaled to Speaker Boehner that the Democrats will play hardball as well. However, yesterday’s Wall Street Journal article, via quotes from Erskine Bowles, claimed the White House will be flexible when proposing a raise to the top marginal tax rate. This perceived increase in the probability of a near term accord appropriately rallied stocks aggressively. We question why Mr. Obama would leak his best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA) so early in the process, for classic bargaining strategy suggests keeping that information close to the vest as long as possible. Complicating matters, Mr. Obama declared a preference to strike a deal by Christmas which approximates the Friday, December 21 “zero barrier”. Ironically, if the Republicans acquiesce to yesterday’s posturing by Mr. Bowles, then the likelihood of a Moody’s and/or Fitch downgrade rises, for the ratings agencies would almost assuredly be disappointed by a lower than anticipated level of incremental revenues.
Once more, not much own stuff to chew on Europe’s own. Drifting. EGBs very strong on (relative) equity weakness. Periphery starting to glow like the ZZ Top Eliminator. In absence of any strong lead, need to start thanking everyone for input and support (Mario, Ben, Angie, Chrissie… Anyone working on the Fiscal Cliff. Mariano & Mario. Wolfie...). New paradigm put into practice: nothing will ever be weak again, nothing. And watch out for FC Ping-Pong! And I Thank You!
"I Thank You" (Bunds 1,37% -6; Spain 5,31% -20; Stoxx 2547 +0,4%; EUR 1,293 unch)
There are those who may be surprised that last month's number of Seasonally Adjusted New Home Sales, which was then reported at 389K, and which number hit the airwaves days before the Obama reelection, was the highest since April 2010. We are not among them, as we were fully expecting today's number to be a major revision of the September number lower - as just happened, with the whopper of a print revised far lower to 369K - but doubled down with the additional miss of expectations of Seasonally Adjusted annualized new home sales of 390K for October when in reality only 368K were sold. All these numbers are annualized. When observed on an as is basis, in October there was a grand total of 29,000 new homes sold in the entire USA, with the Northeast representing a whopping... 2,000 of this. Oh and of the 29,000 houses sold, 9,000 were not even started. And finally, for those who enjoy pointing out the rise in home prices driven only and exclusively by foreclosure inventory stuffing and removal of all such real estate from the open markets, both the median and average new home price ($237,700 and $278,900) printed at at the lowest since June. Oh wait, we know: Sandy's fault. Which explains all bad data. When the data is good, it is nobody's fault.
It seems like it was only 24 hours ago that Europe bailed out Greece for the third time and everything was "fixed", with a resultant desperate attempt to validate this by pushing the EURUSD above 1.3000. Sadly, as always happens, Europe, and especially Greece, refuses to be fixed, because as we will not tire of saying: you can't fix debt with i) more debt, ii) hockeystick projections or iii) soothing words of platitude and an outright bankruptcy, just like that which Argentina is about to undergo, will be needed. If that means the end of the EUR and the delusion that the Eurozone is a viable monument to the egos of a few technocratic career politicians, so be it. As a result, this time around the halflife of the latest bailout was precisely zero, as was that of the latest Japanese QE episode, as the entire world is now habituated to the lies emanating from Europe, and demands details, which in turn are sorely lacking, especially as relates to the question of just where will Greece get the money desperately needed to fund the Greek bond buyback. But at least Kathimerini was kind enough to advise readers that said buyback must take place by December 7 in time for the euroarea finmins to approve the payment of the next Greek loan tranche at the December 13 meeting, something which will likely not happen, especially if Germany's SPD party delays the vote on the Greek bailout until the end of December as was reported yesterday. We can't wait to learn the details of the buyback package, which will come in the "next few days" per ANA, and especially where the buyback money will come from, especially with the FT reporting that various European countries will already lose money next year on the latest Greek bailout.
Ok. It’s not that the Greek deal is nothing. But then again, third strike. Eventually expected, or at least hoped for. Hence, lack of concrete follow-through. So, now it’s there. And now what? You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet? What is there to see??? Pitch the markets some input, something concrete, something to feed off, something to see!
"You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet" (Bunds 1,43% +2; Spain 5,51% -9; Stoxx 2538 -0,2%; EUR 1,293 -30)
Reasons to be bullish.
Hard pressed to find anything remotely exciting today. Equities losing a little shine, but understandable given last week’s 5% rush (and 14% tightening in Credit). Bonds stuck in range. Fiscal Cliff hailing back (in yet rather timid manner, though). Waiting on Greek rescue revelations. Yawn!
"Sailing" (Bunds 1,41% -3; Spain 5,6% unch; Stoxx 2542 -0,4%; EUR 1,296 unch)
Gold edged down on a Monday as speculators took their profits as prices rallied on thin volumes on Friday to their highest in a month on technical buying. A strong fall in the greenback triggered rapid gains in commodities and options-related buying on Friday. Tonight US Congress will meet to attempt to devise a plan to avert the US fiscal cliff which will throw the US into a spiral of tax hikes and budgetary cuts that will lead the US economy deeper into a recession this January. Another short term ‘resolution’ will almost certainly be achieved which will allow the US to keep spending like a broke drunken sailor and which will again store up far greater fiscal and monetary problems. The scale of these deep rooted structural challenges is so great that they are likely to affect the US sooner rather than later. Global investment demand for gold remains robust with the amount in exchange-traded products backed by the metal rising 0.1% to 2,606.3 metric tons.
Another week begins which means all eyes turn to Europe which is getting increasingly problematic once more, even if the central banks have lulled all capital markets into total submission, and a state of complete decoupling with the underlying fundamentals. The primary event last night without doubt was Catalonia's definitive vote for independence. While some have spun this as a loss for firebrand Artur Mas, who lost 12 seats since the 2010 election to a total of 50, and who recently made an independence referendum as his primary election mission, the reality is that his loss has only occurred as as result of his shift from a more moderate platform. The reality is that his loss is the gain of ERC, which gained the seats Mas lost, with 21, compared to 10 previously, and is now the second biggest Catalan power. The only difference between Mas' CiU and the ERC is that the latter is not interested in a referendum, and demand outright independence for Catalonia as soon as possible, coupled with a reduction in austerity and a write off of the Catalan debt. As such while there will be some serious horse trading in the coming days and week, it is idiotic to attempt to spin last night's result as anything less than a slap in the face of European "cohesion." And Catalonia is merely the beginning. Recall: "The European Disunion: The Richest Increasingly Want To Fragment From The Poorest" - it is coming to an insolvent European country near you.