Broadly speaking, risk markets seemed stuck in tryptophan-mode today but as always it was stocks that used a mediocre volume day to squeeze the odd name here or there. Facebook and Apple were the wunder-kind once again (with the latter now up almost 17% from its swing lows at its 30DMA and a 38.2% retrace of the high-to-low move). The Apple gain moved the Nasdaq into the green (for the sixth day in a row) but the S&P 500 (despite its best efforts into the close) was unable to reach green after overnight weakness. S&P 500 futures did managed to cross into the green (fill the gap) as the day-session closed but Treasury yields were lower all day and signaled considerably less exuberance. FX markets oscillated in ever-decreasing ranges as everyone waits for the next eurogroup bullgasm. Commodities wondered aimlessly with Oil down and Copper up and gold/silver either here nor there. VIX rose modestly to 15.5% by the close as credit markets overall underperformed stocks.
- Goldman Turns Down Southern Europe Banks as Crisis Lingers (Bloomberg)
- Euro Ministers Take Third Swing at Clearing Greek Payment (Bloomberg)
- Chamber Sidestepped in Obama’s Talks on Avoiding Fiscal Cliff (Bloomberg)
- Republicans and Democrats Differ on Taxes as Fiscal Cliff Looms (Bloomberg)
- Republicans bargain hard over fiscal cliff (FT)
- Catalan Pro-Independence Parties Win Regional Vote (BBG)
- Shirakawa defends BoJ from attack (FT)
- Run-off looms in Italy’s centre-left vote (FT)
- BOJ rift surfaces over easing as political debate heats up (Reuters)
- Barnier seeks ‘political will’ on bank union (FT)
- New BOJ Members Sought More-Expansionary Wording (Bloomberg)
- Osborne May Extend U.K. Austerity to 2018, IFS Says (Bloomberg)
With all bad news on the tape now having a suitable "explanation", be it a prior president, a tropical storm, the weather being too hot, the weather being too cold, the weather being just right, but never, ever someone actually taking blame for the fact that life is what happens when corporate CEOs (and sovereign presidents) are busy making "priced to perfection" plans. So it is with what is now a confirmed flop of a Black Friday, which according to ShopperTrak saw sales drop by nearly 2% to $11.2 from 2011, which in turn was a 6.6% gain over 2010 (and would be revised to far lower once all the refunds and exchanges to cash took place in the two weeks later). This occurred despite a 3.5% increase in retail foot traffic to 307.7 million store visits. The nominal drop in retail sales also occurred despite a nearly 1% increase in the total US population over last Thanksgiving, and a 2% Y/Y inflation. But fear not: the ad hoc excuse for this "surprising" loss in purchasing power is already handy: it is all Black Thursday's fault, or the latest idiotic attempt by retailers to cannibalize their own future sales by diluting the exclusivity of Black Friday, and which will force all retailers to follow the sovereigns in a race to the bottom, as soon every day will be the equivalent of Black Friday. But at least retailers have another 364 years worth of excuses for the conceivable future to excuse any and all store weakness. Next year: it's all Black Wednesday's fault.
Uh… Very uncomfortable French downgrade. Not surprising per se, but uncomfortable. Ask the EFSF… Brings back the question of “Who’s Next”? European Risk (Equities & Credit), however, oblivious and taking rising yields as a sure sign for Risk On. I’d see the risk of France (and everyone else) starting to count contingent costs.
"A Tout Le Monde" (Bunds 1,41% +6; Spain 5,79% -9; Stoxx 2509 +0,6%; EUR 1,281 unch)
Another day, another melt up overnight wiping out all the post-Moody's weakness, this time coming courtesy of Europe, where following the French downgrade, the EURUSD filled its entire gap down and then some in the span of minutes following the European open, when it moved from 1.2775 to 1.2820 as if on command. And with the ES inextricably linked to the most active and levered pair in the world, it is is no surprise to see futures unchanged. It appears that the primary catalyst in the centrally planned market has become the opening of said "market" itself, as all other news flow is now largely irrelevant: after all the central planners have it all under control.
Austerity is coming our way, it's just a matter in what manner and by how much, and whether it becomes an orderly or disorderly process. The fiscal cliff is really a bit of a ruse in that respect, but the key here is that years of fiscal profligacy is coming to an end and the Fed at this point, having used its bazookas, is now down to firecrackers. The economic outlook as such is completely muddled and along with that the prospect for any turnaround in corporate earnings... Once we get past the Fiscal Cliff we will confront the inherent inability of the Democrats and the GOP to embark on any grand bargain to blaze the trail for true fiscal reforms. The U.S. has not had a rewrite of its tax code since 1986, which was the year Microsoft went public and a decade prior to Al Gore's invention of the Internet. The tax system is massively inefficient and leads to a gross misallocation of resources that impedes economic progress — rewarding conspicuous consumption at the expense of savings and investment. It is the lingering uncertainty over the road to meaningful fiscal reform that is really the mot cause of the angst — the fiscal cliff is really a side show because who doesn't know that we are going to have a Khrushchev moment?
- Israel Ready to Invade Gaza If Cease-Fire Efforts Fail (Bloomberg)
- Petraeus: A Phony Hero for a Phony War (NYT)
- IMF'S Lagarde says Greek deal should be "rooted in reality" (Reuters) "rooted" or "roofied"? And where was it until now?
- ECB's Asmussen says Greece to need aid beyond 2014 (AP)
- EU makes budget plans without (FT)
- Japanese Poll Shows LDP Advantage Ahead of Election (WSJ)
- Shanghai Composite Dips Below, Regains 2,000 Level (Bloomberg)
- Bond investor takes big punt on Ireland (FT)
- Noda defends BoJ’s independence (FT) Indewhatnow?
- Inaba Says BOJ Could Ease More If Government Reins in Debt (Bloomberg) Actually it's the other way around
- Miles Says Bank of England Can Do More If U.K. Slump Persists (Bloomberg) So much for the end of QE
- US tax breaks worth $150bn face axe (FT)
The dollar rises for the same reason gold and grain rise: scarcity and demand. Which is easier to export: manufactured goods that require shipping ore and oil halfway around the world, smelting the ore into steel and turning the oil into plastics, laboriously fabricating real products and then shipping the finished manufactured goods to the U.S. where fierce pricing competition strips away much of the premium/profit? Or electronically printing money and exchanging it for real products, steel, oil, etc.? I think we can safely say that creating money out of thin air and "exporting" that is much easier than actually mining, extracting or manufacturing real goods. This astonishing exchange of conjured money for real goods is the heart of the "exorbitant privilege" that accrues to the issuer of the global reserve currency (U.S. dollar). To understand the reserve currency, we must understand Triffin's Paradox.
The good news is that we can't foretell the future; if we could, it wouldn't be interesting at all.
- Israel Mobilizes Troops as Hostilities Escalate (WSJ)
- FHA Sets Stage for Taxpayer Subsidy With 2012 Deficit (Bloomberg)
- On eve of fiscal cliff talks, positions harden (Reuters)
- Japan PM Noda contradicts challenger Abe on BOJ (Reuters)
- Regulators cut JPMorgan's ability to trade power (Reuters)
- EU Should Reach Agreement on Greek Aid Next Week, Grilli Says (BBG)
- Moscovici rejects talk of French crisis (FT)
- Egypt Urges Push for Gaza Peace as Rockets Hit Israel (BBG)
- Leading Japan politicians draw election battle lines (Reuters)
- Fed Push to Tie Zero-Rate to Economic Goals Faces Doubts (BBG)
- China’s commerce minister voted out in rare congress snub (Reuters)
- China’s new leaders could have reform thrust upon them (Reuters)
- Both Sides of Gaza Border Brace for Further Conflict (WSJ)
- Fed Sees Hurdles in Housing Rebound (Hilsenrath)
- The Complete 2012 Business Schools Ranking (Bloomberg)
The key to understanding higher education in the U.S. is to grasp that it is at heart just another debt-dependent neofeudal cartel. In other words, it is just like sickcare and the national defense complex. The most implacable enemy of innovation is monopoly. If you're protected from real competition, then you have no incentive or need to innovate. That is the essence of cartel-capitalism and the neofeudal model. In the case of the higher education cartel, the Federal funding is both cash grants and loans issued to newly minted debt-serfs. Student loans cannot be discharged in bankruptcy like other debt; these loans have ballooned to about $1 trillion. This is the essence of the neofeudal model: a protected Elite parasitically extracts wealth from the debt-serfs below. Should the debt-serfs resist, the State steps in to coerce compliance. The problem with protected cartels (neofeudal fiefdoms) is that they are unsustainable.
It was only a few short weeks ago when we noted the interesting analogs between AAPL's rise and the exponential exuberance of MSFT in the late 90s and NFLX this year. Sadly, for the long-suffering momentum-chasers, things have gone a little pear-shaped for Apple as it has followed, far too accurately, the same path from exuberance to realization. Where to next? MSFT says 'a bounce to be faded'; NFLX says 'dump it all'...either way $400 is in play for AAPL - back to the start of the year... cue fundamental defense of what is quite clearly a behavioral exuberance having played out.
This is what the most brand name US hedge funds bought and sold in the third quarter.
- Wal-Mart misses topline expectations: Revenue $113.93bn, Exp $114.89bn, Sees full year EPS $4.88-$4.93, Exp. $4.94, Unveils new FCPA allegations; Stock down nearly 4%
- China chooses conservative new leaders (FT)
- Eurozone falls back into recession (FT)
- Moody’s to Assess U.K.’s Aaa Rating in 2013 Amid Slowing Economy (Bloomberg)
- Another bailout is imminent: FHA Nears Need for Taxpayer Funds (WSJ)
- Hamas chief vows to keep up "resistance" after Jaabari killed (Reuters)
- Obama calls for rich to pay more, keep middle-class cuts (Reuters)
- Obama Undecided on FBI's Petraeus Probe (WSJ)
- Battle lines drawn over “growth revenue” in fiscal cliff talks (Reuters)
- Rajoy’s Path to Bailout Clears as EU Endorses Austerity (Bloomberg)
- Zhou Seen Leaving PBOC as China Picks New Economic Chiefs (Bloomberg)
- Russia warns of tough response to U.S. human rights bill (Reuters)
- Japan Opposition Leader Ups Pressure on Central Bank (WSJ)
- Zhou Seen Leaving PBOC as China Picks New Economic Chiefs (Bloomberg)
With the star (and legend) of John Paulson long dead and buried, and his Disadvantage Minus fund an embarrassment, wrapped in a monkeyhammering, inside a humiliation, there are few "groupied" HF managers left. One of them is Dan Loeb, who still manages to generate positive Alpha regardless of how Beta does, another one used to be William Ackman (not so much anymore, especially not with the whole JCP fiasco), some others are David Tepper, Seth Klarman, and a few others, but nobody has quite the persistent clout and following of young master, and poker maestro, David Einhorn, and his fund Greenlight. Below we breakdown his latest just released 13F, which as a reminder shows, his holdings as of September 30. Key changes: Einhorn cut his holdings in Best Buy, Carefusion, Compuware, Expedia, Hess and UnitedHealth, and started new, small, positions in Yahoo, Babcock and Wilcox, Aecon and Knight Capital. More importantly, he cut his top position, Apple, by nearly 30% from 1.45 million to 1.09 million shares, cut modestly his second biggest position Seagate, added materially to GM, making it his third position, added to Cigna at #4 and added modestly to the GDX Gold Miners ETF. Sad to say, unless he has changed his portfolio dramatically since September 30, Einhorn is likely not doing too hot, especially in the last week or two.