Numbers, Numbers Everywhere...are any true?
That Housing Starts and Permits both missed expectations modestly is not a surprise: after all, NAHB hopium confidence aside, the builders have realized which way the interest-rate wind blows and grasp very well that in a rising rate environment demand for housing will go the inverse of up. Sure enough, housing starts rose from an upwardly revised 846K to 896K, missing expectations of a 900K print, while Permits rose from 918K to 943K, also missing the expected 945K print. Both misses were neglibile and largely covered by seasonal adjustments. However what really captures the dynamic behind the housing situation is the read-through into single (family) and multi-unit (investment rental properties). It is here that the divergence was most profound and tells a tale of one housing bubble which has popped, and another which is still going strong, if tapering.
Starting with the Asian markets this morning, it appear the roller coaster ride for markets continued overnight. Asian equities started the day trading weaker but shortly after the open though, all of Asia bounced off the lows following the previously noted surge in Chinese A-shares soaring more than 5% in a matter of minutes in what was initially described as a potential “fat finger” incident. As DB notes, alternative explanations ranged from a potential restructuring of the government’s holdings in some listed companies, to market buying ahead of a rate cut this coming weekend. All indications point toward a fat finger. The A-share spike has managed to drag other indices along with it though some gains have been pared. Yet for all the drama the Shanghai Composite soared... and then closed red. The region’s underperformer is the Nikkei (-0.75%). Elsewhere, the NZDUSD dropped 0.5% after a magnitude 6.8 earthquake struck the city of Wellington this morning. Looking at the US S&P500 futures are trading modestly higher at 1660. Looking ahead to today there is very little in the way of Tier 1 data to be expected. Housing starts/permits from the US and the preliminary UofM Consumer Sentiment reading for August are the main reports. The moves in rates and perhaps oil will probably offer some markets some directional cues.
Wonder why the Fed and the banks are so desperate to reflate the second housing bubble, to the delight of flippers and taxpayer consequences (deja vu) be damned? Simple: as Goldman points out in a note released last night, "without the boost from housing, real GDP growth would fall below 1% this year." That's the revised GDP by the way, the one that now includes iTunes song sales and underfunded pension plans in the sumtotal. Which in reality means that ex housing, GDP would almost certainly be negative. So the bigger question is what happens to housing which has already seen a shock to the system following the surge in interest rates in the past month and which hobbled both homebuilders and mortgage applications? This is what Goldman sees there: "On house prices, we have started to see the first signs of deceleration and expect a slowdown from the 10%+ pace observed over the past year. Our bottom-up house price model projects 4-5% annual growth rate in the next two years." Alas, since prices moves from top and bottom inflection point never happen in a straight line as everyone rushes to buy, or sell as the case may be, resulting in a skewed and pronounced move, once the reality seeps in that the artificial housing 'recovery' is over, watch what happens when everyone rushes for the door. That goes for GDP as well.
- Solyndra Cola: California aims to 'bottle sunlight' in energy storage push (Reuters)
- Ackman may sues himself after all - Penney Board Assails Director William Ackman, Considered 'Rogue' After Releasing Deliberations (WSJ)
- CFTC subpoenas metals warehousing firm as inquiry heats up (Reuters)
- Obama Plan to Revamp NSA Faces Obstacles (WSJ)
- Japan growth slows in second quarter, adds to sales tax uncertainty (Reuters)
- China Urbanization to Hit Roadblocks Amid Local Opposition (BBG)
- Parents Losing Jobs a Hidden Cost to U.S. Head Start Budget Cuts (BBG)
- US seeks better access to Africa as part of trade pact review (FT)
- Singapore Cuts Trade Outlook as China Slowdown Caps Recovery (BBG)
- White House Sifts Fiscal Ideas With Band of Senators (WSJ)
- Spain may ask United Nations for support over Gibraltar (Reuters)
- Michigan Safety Net for Boomers Frays on Bankrupt Detroit (BBG)
The middle of the month brings a mixture of second-tier macro numbers punctuated by the market-moving (and Taper-cementing) retail sales report. We get IP, CPI and PPI from the US this coming week. In terms of hard activity numbers, US retail sales on Tuesday will be the highlight which as a reminder is, in addition to Jackson Hole, seen as one of two key pre-Taper catalysts to keep an eye on. Outside the US, the key data will be the quarterly publication of German, French and Eurozone GDP, as well as Japanese GDP, which has already been released (weaker real growth, higher inflation). The second week of the month also tends to show the first survey results with the Phily Fed and Empire surveys on Thursday. In Germany the ZEW will come on Tuesday. Finally, from an FX point of view, we will be focused on balance of payments related data, with the trade balance in India and TIC data in the US. After a few very weak TIC releases in recent months we would expect more evidence of weak capital inflows into the US.
Despite an overnight surge in the Chinese markets, with the Shanghai Composite closing up 2.4% following reports that China will not only continue with its "liquidity tightening" operation by, paradoxically, cutting RRR for smaller banks, but launch a stimulus for several Chinese provinces and city governments "on the quiet" in the form of jumbo-sized bank loans, and GDP news in Japan that were so bad they were almost good (although not bad enough to close the Nikkei in the green) US futures continue to take on water following the second worst week of 2013 as the market now appears resigned to a Taper announcement in just over 5 weeks (as we have claimed since May). News in Europe continues to be bipolar, with the big picture confirming that only dark skies lie ahead following yesterday's news that a new Greek bailout is just around the corner, or rather just after the Merkel reelection (even though Kotthaus perpetuated the lies and said a second cut in Greek debt is not on the agenda - although maybe he is not lying: maybe only Greek deposits will be cut this time), offset by on the margin improvements in the economic headlines, even as credit creation remains not only non-existent but as the FT reports (one year after Zero Hedge), some €3.2 trillion in financial deleveraging is still on deck meaning an unprecedented contraction in all credit-driven aggregates (one of which of course is GDP).
In May 22 testimony to the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke issued another of many similar positive interpretations of central bank policy. Yet again, he continued to argue that quantitative easing has decreased long-term interest rates and produced other benefits. The Fed's polices have not produced the much-promised re-acceleration in economic growth. The standard of living - defined as median household income - has fallen back to the level of 1995. The best approach would be for the Fed to recognize the failure of QE and end the program immediately, thereby allowing price distortions in the markets to correct themselves. By ending the illusion that the Fed can take constructive actions, this might even serve to force federal government leaders to deal with the growing fiscal policy imbalances. Otherwise, debt levels will continue to build and serve to further limit the potential for economic growth.
Despite rising gas prices, rising mortgage rates, slowing income growth and the rise of 'low-quality' part-time jobs, 'con'sumer 'con'fidence 'con'tinues to rise to post-recession highs. However, as Citi's FX Technicals group notes, for the 3rd time in the last 17 year period we may be looking at a 4-year-4-month rise in consumer confidence before a turn lower again; and in spite of the Fed's rosy forecasts (and the market's expectations), we should be careful being too quick to believe that the sluggish economic dynamic that has 'dogged us' for the last 6 years is yet fully behind us.
The optimism over the housing recovery has gotten well ahead of the underlying fundamentals. While the belief was that the Government, and Fed's, interventions would ignite the housing market creating an self-perpetuating recovery in the economy - it did not turn out that way. Instead it led to a speculative rush into buying rental properties creating a temporary, and artificial, inventory suppression. The risks to the housing story remains high due to the impact of higher taxes, stagnant wage growth, re-defaults of the 6-million modifications and workouts and a slowdown of speculative investment due to reduced profit margins. While there are many hopes pinned on the housing recovery as a "driver" of economic growth in 2013 and beyond - the data suggests that it might be quite a bit of wishful thinking.
Everything is going to be just great. Haven't you heard? The stock market is at an all-time high, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says that inflation is incredibly low, and the official unemployment rate has been steadily declining since early in Barack Obama's first term. Of course we are being facetious, but this is the kind of talk about the economy that you will hear if you tune in to the mainstream media. They would have us believe that those running things know exactly what they are doing and that very bright days are ahead for America. And it would be wonderful if that was actually true. Unfortunately, as I made exceedingly clear yesterday, the U.S. economy has already been in continual decline for the past decade.
Stocks in Europe recovered from a cautious start to the trading session and gradually edged back into positive territory, though the DAX index in Germany under performed following less than impressive earnings by SAP. Company’s shares fell around 3% after the company trimmed its outlook for 2013 software revenue, blaming slowing economic growth in China. Elsewhere, Akzo Nobel shares fell 5% in early trade after the company said that its Q2 net profit almost doubled from the same period last year thanks to the sale of its North American paints division and a tax gain. Going forward, market participants will get to digest the release of the weekly jobs report, Philadelphia Fed survey for the month of July and earnings report releases from Morgan Stanley, Verizon, BlackRock and Google. Finally, today is the second day of Bernanke's semi-annual testimony.
Farewell "Housing Recovery" - Housing Starts Miss Most Since January 2007, Permits Have Biggest Miss In HistorySubmitted by Tyler Durden on 07/17/2013 08:16 -0500
In all the noise surrounding Bernanke's rehash of statements made countless times before, today's only relevant data point - June housing starts and permits - was largely ignored. And one can see why: printing at 836K, the starts number was the lowest since August 2012, the second largest sequential drop (down from 928K in May) since 2011 and the biggest miss to expectations of 957K since January 2007! And worse, permits which printed down from 985K to only 911K on expectations of a 1 million headline number, just posted their largest miss... in history.
Bernanke today testifies on monetary policy before the House Financial Services Committee (formerly the Humphrey-Hawkins). The testimony will be released at 8:30 am NY with Q&A after his testimony. Tomorrow he testifies before the Senate Banking Committee but the prepared remarks are the same for both days. Indeed it’s likely that the Q&A will be where all the fun starts. As DB says, he will likely try to pull off the trick of continuing to prepare the groundwork for tapering but try to give bond markets something to help them fight off the pressure of higher yields. With no post-meeting press conference planned for the July 30th/31st FOMC, and Bernanke not scheduled to speak publicly until he appears at the Global Education Forum event on August 7th, this week’s testimony may well be the only remarks we hear directly from the chairman for some weeks.
"In this respect the Gini coefficient had apparently reached in 2006 the previous high seen in 1929, prior to the Great Depression. This is a reminder that capitalism’s natural way of dealing with excesses is via business failure and liquidation; which is why wealth distribution would have become much less extreme as a consequence of the 2008 crisis if losses had been imposed on creditors to bust financial institutions, for example owners of bank bonds, in line with capitalist principles; as opposed to the favoured ‘bailout’ approach pursued for the most part by Washington. This means, unfortunately, not that the problem has been avoided but that the ‘great reckoning’ has been deferred to another day as the speculative classes have continued to game the system by resort to carry trades actively encouraged by the Fed and other central bankers, which is why fixed income markets freak out when they see signs of an exit."