The global economy is like a jetliner that needs all of its engines operational to take off and steer clear of clouds and storms. Unfortunately, as Nouriel Roubini tells The Guardian, only one of its four engines is functioning properly: the Anglosphere (the United States and its close cousin, the United Kingdom). As Roubini continues, the question is whether and for how long the global economy can remain aloft on a single engine. Weakness in the rest of the world implies a stronger dollar, which will invariably weaken US growth. The deeper the slowdown in other countries and the higher the dollar rises, the less the US will be able to decouple from the funk everywhere else, even if domestic demand seems robust. But it's not just the rest of the world that is decoupling from US growth... as the following uncomfortable chart shows, so is a crucial pillar of monetary policy transmission, consumer wealth perception, and economic stability - the US housing market itself.
Globalization continually creates imbalances that fuel a perpetual instability that gradually impoverishes every sector other than global capital.
According to an ECB-leaked spreadsheet (now confirmed), the impotent omnipotent central bank bought a mere EUR1.7 billion of covered bonds last week (which was largely expected) according to Bloomberg. This somewhat inglorious start to the ECB's efforts to engorge its balance by another trillion or so is supported by precedent as it has been the sovereign purchase programs that made the big difference in the past. Under pressure to "front-load the purchases" as one analyst notes, the results from last week suggest, as we have warned, there simply is not enough quality unencumbered assets lying around in Europe to make a dent in the ECB's efforts to greatly rotate taxpayer-backed free money on to bank balance sheets.
Having grown weary of reality in America (after becoming the biggest landlord in the land of the free to borrow cheaply), Wall Street moved into the distressed property purchase ponzi in Spain (as we noted here) and, surprise, the Spanish are not happy with their new slumlords. After Madrid's local government sold 5,000 rent-controlled apartments to Goldman and Blackstone, having told tenants their rental conditions would remain the same, dozens of people have received demands for higher rent, been told their rents will increase dramatically, been threatened with eviction or moved out to escape the insecurity as old contracts expire.
Instead of a global recovery, a sudden, broad consumer slowdown – with a plunge in China.
Those who actually create value as opposed to chasing yield with nearly-free money will actually have some traction once the swamp of excess liquidity drains.
Remember when the Fed (and their Liesman-esque lackies) tried to convince the world that it was all about the 'stock' - and not the 'flow' - of Federal Reserve Assets that kept the world afloat on easy monetary policy (despite even Bullard admitting that was not the case after Goldman exposed the ugly truth). Having first explained to the world that it's all about the flow over 2 years ago, it appears that, as every equity asset manager knows deep down (but is loathed to admit for fear of losing AUM), of course "tapering is tightening" - as the following chart shows, equity markets are waking up abruptly to that reality. So no wonder Bullard is now calling for moar QE - he knows it's all there is to fill the gap between economic reality and market fiction.
"I see deflation flirting with America." Retail sales equals consumer spending equals velocity of money. And unless the money supply is rising, hardly likely in the taper, less spending is deflation by definition. Forget about PMI and all that kind of data, it’s much simpler than that. Central banks can do all kinds of stuff, but they can’t make us spend our money on things we don’t want or need. Let alone make us borrow to do so. And if we don’t, deflation is an inevitable fact. That doesn’t mean prices for some items won’t go up, but that’s not what counts. It’s about how fast we either spend the money we have – if we have any left – or how much we borrow. And if time is money, then borrowed money is borrowed time. So we really shouldn’t.
With no mention of the current turmoil in markets - or suggestion of QE99 - Janet Yellen's speech this morning on "Inequality and Opportunity" in America explains how the poor can get rich. After admitting that widening inequality resumed in the recovery (and "greatly concerns" her), as the stock market rebounded (driven by Fed's free money) and cost-conscious share buying-back companies defer wage growth as the healing of the labor market has been slow; she turns her attention to how the poor can beat the vicious cycle. Rather stunningly, she notes the 4 sources of income opportunity in America: The first two are widely recognized as important sources of opportunity: resources available for children and affordable higher education (so more student debt and servitude). The second two may come as more of a surprise: business ownership and inheritances. As she concludes, "this is how individuals and their families can improve their economic circumstances."
The Fed’s public relations firm of Hilsenrath & Blackstone was out this morning with the official line on the market’s tremors of recent days. It seems that $10 trillion in freshly minted digital money at the world’s major central banks over the last eight years—-that is, a tripling of their balance sheets to $16 trillion—- is not enough. Not only is 2% inflation still MIA, but it now threatening to enter the dark side: Behind the spate of market turmoil lurks a worry that top policy makers thought they had beaten back a few years ago: the specter of deflation. Never mind that there is nothing close to a sustained run of negative consumer price indices anywhere in the world.
It would appear The Fed is in panic mode. According to two "people familiar with her comments" - who asked not to be named because the meeting was private last weekend:
- *YELLEN SAID TO VOICE CONFIDENCE IN EXPANSION AMID FOREIGN RISKS
Of course, this is now the last thing that markets want to hear since it means she is less likely to unleash QE4.
Central banks have reached a fork in the road.
Nearly two decades of central bank financial repression have created huge distortions and imbalances in the world economy. Now they are coming home to roost as the impossibility of ZIRP forever dawns on even our mad money printers. Having created yet another round of ebullient financial bubbles, they are now getting palpably nervous.
The job market is tightening, and by any normal measure interest rates should be following suit and rising as well regardless of whether the US Dollar also strengthens.
It’s not supposed to be like this. We’ve all been told earnings are great, corporate profits are great, analysts estimates have been rising. As a matter of fact, if one dared to question any of these metrics we were referred to as “idiots.” (And that is an actual quote.) Today as we enter this earnings cycle we have a new phrase that I’m sure will enter the lexicon of the lay person in reference to stocks, but will send shivers down actual Wall Street’ers as they have to defend, argue, or give a smoke and mirrors story that will have a chance of being believed. That phrase will be “a trap door event.”