Budget Deficit

Guest Post: "All Transactions To Be Conducted In The Presence Of A Tax Collector"

In the terminal collapse of the Roman Empire, there was perhaps no greater burden to the average citizen than the extreme taxes they were forced to pay.  The tax 'reforms' of Emperor Diocletian in the 3rd century were so rigid and unwavering that many people were driven to starvation and bankruptcy. The state went so far as to chase around widows and children to collect taxes owed.  By the 4th century, the Roman economy and tax structure were so dismal that many farmers abandoned their lands in order to receive public entitlements.  At this point, the imperial government was spending the majority of the funds it collected on either the military or public entitlements. For a time, according to historian Joseph Tainter, "those who lived off the treasury were more numerous than those paying into it." Sound familiar?

The Delays Begin: Italy Pushes Back Balanced Budget Target By One Year

As reported last week, and as shown brilliantly by Artemis Capital, the end of every reliquification phase by the Fed, such as the imminent end of Operation Twist with nothing firmly set to replace it, is always accompanied by a surge in vol, which in turn leads to market days like the past week, when market summaries are simple: either it is all Risk On, or Risk Off. Expect many more of these until Twist finally ends in just over two months at which point much more liquidity will be needed to achieve the same "flow" results. It just so happens that today is a risk On day, driven by previously noted "catalyst." Yet what is great about such days is that they allow all the bad news to be packed into a tidy little package and disseminated without anyone noticing, or pretending to notice. Such as the just announced headline from Reuters, which on any other day would have crippled the mood, that "Italy will delay by a year its current plan to balance its budget in 2013, according to a draft forecasting document to be approved by the cabinet on Wednesday." And while we have seen this over and over in the past 2 years, first with Greece, then with all the other PIIGS, it merely exposes the fact that exuberant optimism never pans out in a world in which the real average debt/GDP is what Reinhart and Rogoff would simply call "unsustainable." And while this news will matter once Germany realizes that its precious fiscal pact is already been soundly rejected, first by Spain and now Italy, for now it is but a footnote in the otherwise lacking newsflow: after all Spain managed to issue €2 billion in Bills, which contrary to yesterday, provides that all is again well in Europe. Until Thursday at least when Spain has to issue 10 year bonds, which just happen to mature outside of the LTRO. The narrative then may be somewhat different.

Daily US Opening News And Market Re-Cap: April 13

Risk-aversion is noted in the European markets with all major European bourses trading lower heading into the US open. Participants remain particularly sensitive to Spain following a release from the ECB showing that Spanish bank’s net borrowing from the ECB hit a new record high at EUR 227.6bln in March against EUR 152.4bln in February. Further pressure on the equity markets was observed following the overnight release of a below-expected Chinese GDP reading, coming in at 8.1% against a consensus estimate of 8.4%. As such, markets have witnessed a flight to safety, with Bund futures up over 40 ticks on the day. In the energy complex, WTI and Brent futures are also trading lower, as the disappointing Chinese GDP data dampens future oil demand, however a failed rocket launch from North Korea may have capped the losses.

Pick Your Poison With Barton Biggs

A Monetary Cliff or a Fiscal Cliff: these are the two poisons that Barton Biggs sees rushing straight toward America, with little hope of an uneventful collision. While we have not been shy of our opinions on Barton Biggs' flip-flopping positions, his note on the US "as a nation of totally self-centered special interest groups that terrorize our politicians" struck a chord and deserves praise in its clarity. Noting that Europe seems stuck again, he points to the US market being data and Europe-dependent for the next month and believes the correction is little less than half way over (in terms of size not time). In Biggs opinion "although the Monetary Cliff is more long-term dangerous, the proximity of the Fiscal Cliff, if not dealt with, will trigger the dreaded double-dip recession we are all terrified of and bring on another financial crisis."

US Posts Biggest March Budget Deficit In History, Or How The ???? Chart Became The ????+? Chart

Following the all time record high February budget deficit of $232 billion, the US March budget deficit number is in, and in addition to being bigger than expected, coming at $198.2 billion on expectations of "only" $196 billion, the government outlay in the past month also is the largest March deficit on record. This brings the total deficit in fiscal 2012 to $779 billion, which is to be expected for a country gripped in total political chaos and which is unable to either raise revenues or lower spending. What is more disturbing is that over the same period (Oct 1 2011 - March 31, 2012), the US government issued $792 billion in debt, a trend that will continue. What is most disturbing is that the comparable tax revenues net of refunds, "matching" this increase in deficit and spending, are only $693 billion, in other words the US government is funding well more than half of its cash needs with debt rather than with tax revenue. Just like Japan.

Rosenberg Ruminates On Six Roadblocks For Stocks

There is no free-lunch - especially if that lunch is liquidity-fueled - is how Gluskin-Sheff's David Rosenberg reminds us of the reality facing US markets this year and next. As (former Fed governor) Kevin Warsh noted in the WSJ "The 'fiscal cliff' in early 2013 - when government stimulus spending and tax relief are set to fall - is not misfortune. It is the inevitable result of policies that kick the can down the road." Between the jobs data and three months in a row of declining ISM orders/inventories it seems the key manufacturing sector of support for the economy may be quaking and add to that the deleveraging that is now recurring (consumer credit) and Rosenberg sees six rather sizable stumbling-blocks facing markets as we move forward. On this basis, the market as a whole is overpriced by more than 20%.

Net Worthless: People As Corporations

US Households haven't shaken their 'junk bond' credit rating, given their poor income statement and balance sheet. Reversing Mitt Romney's famous quote "corporations are people", Bank Of America remains skeptical of this self-sustaining recovery - expecting second half growth to slow significantly as businesses and households react to the risk of a major fiscal shock (and in the short-term, momentum looks unsustainable). From an income statement perspective, 'a paycheck just ain't what it used to be' with food and energy prices rising and payroll growth (typically a good proxy for income growth) is disappointingly timid leaving real disposable income diverging weakly from a supposed job recovery. The balance sheet perspective has been helped by the rise of the equity market but the recovery in net worth in the last three years has barely outstripped income growth, leaving the ratio deeply depressed. The upshot is that the recent pick-up in consumption is not being fueled by income or wealth gains, but mainly by drawing down savings. Many households remain deeply distressed and react to higher costs of living by drawing down savings further. In sum, a true virtuous cycle still seems a long way off. As weather effects fade and gas pain builds the data should soften. BofA expects businesses to recognize the risks of the fiscal cliff first and pull back on hiring. Then with weaker job growth and with the growing awareness of the cliff, consumers will likely start delaying some discretionary spending.

Egan Jones Downgrades USA From AA+ To AA, Outlook Negative

A few weeks ago when discussing the imminent debt ceiling breach, and the progression of US debt/GDP into the 100%+ ballpark, we reminded readers that in February S&P said it could downgrade the US again in as soon as 6 months if there was no budget plan. Not only is there no budget plan, but the US is about to have its debt ceiling fiasco repeat all over as soon in as September. Which means another downgrade from S&P is imminent, and continuing the theme of deja vu 2011, the late summer is shaping up for a major market sell off. Minutes ago, Egan Jones just reminded us of all of this, after the only rating agency that matters, just downgraded the US from AA+ to AA, with a negative outlook.

Daily US Opening News And Market Re-Cap: April 4

More pain in Spain has been the theme so far in the European morning as poor auction results across three lines has resulted in significant widening in the 10-yr government bond yield spreads over benchmark bunds with the Spanish 10yr yield up some 24bps on the day. In combination with this the latest Germany Factory orders also fell short of analysts’ expectations and as such the lower open in bund futures following yesterday’s less than dovish FOMC minutes has been completed retracted and we now sit above last Friday’s high at 138.58.

Daily US Opening News And Market Re-Cap: April 3

European cash equities are trading in the red heading towards the US session, with particular underperformance in the periphery as financials continue to remain the biggest laggard. The EU session so far has consisted of downbeat commentary in regards to both Ireland and Portugal. An EU/ECB report noted that, Portuguese debt is now predicted to peak at 115% of GDP in 2013 and that contraction in 2012 is likely more pronounced than thought. Elsewhere, the Irish Fiscal panel said Ireland may need extra budget cuts to reach its 2012 target and 2012 growth has weakened. In terms of economic releases the UK observed a stronger than expected reading on its Construction PMI hitting a 21-month high, which saw some brief strength in GBP.

10 'Facts' That Should Worry Europe's Equity 'Fiction'

As the first day of the quarter brings new money and new hope for global asset allocators, Credit Suisse has shifted to a more negative 'underweight' stance to European equities. Laying out 10 reasons for their displeasure, they dig into the details a little with a positive view on domestic German equities and the broad DAX index (and USD earners) while notably negative on France and Spain in general (with Spain expected to underperform Italy). Varying from too much complacency on the resolution to the crisis, to political flash points, valuations, and relative economic momentum. This smorgasbord of anxiety-inducing 'facts' may well prove enough to topple the 'fiction' of a liquidity-levitated equity market - that credit seems to have already realized. Most notably the five factors that need to be 'fixed' before the Euro crisis is resolved, and the under-estimation of the de-leveraging required in the periphery, leaves mutualization of debt as the game-changer that still seems a long-way off. The complacency angle seems the most relevant to us - and we see equities once again pull away from any sense of reason indicated by the sovereign, financial, and corporate credit market, this complacency becomes more and more dangerous.

Daily US Opening News And Market Re-Cap: April 2

European cash equities are seen mixed as the market heads into the US session, with the DAX index the only bourse to trade higher at the midpoint of the European session. European markets were seeing some gains following the open after the weekend release of better than expected Chinese manufacturing data, however the main price action of the day occurred after some European press reports that the Bundesbank had stopped accepting sovereign bonds as collateral from Portugal, Ireland and Greece garnered attention, however the Bundesbank were quick to deny reports and state that it continues to accept all Eurozone sovereign bonds. Following the denial, participants witnessed a slight bounceback, but failed to push most markets into the green.  Data releases from Europe so far have been varied, with outperformance seen in the UK Manufacturing PMI, beating expectations and recording its highest reading since May of 2011. However, the French manufacturing PMI came in below expectations, weighing on the CAC index as the session progresses. A further release from the Eurozone has shown February unemployment coming in alongside expectations recording a slight increase from January to 10.8%.