On the surface, today's Housing Data was good. Yes, there was a miss in the housing permits number, which declined from a downward revised 939K to 902K, on expectations of a strong 942K print, but let's ignore that: after all bad news is good news (although as the chart below shows even this number was highly skewed due to seasonal adjustments and the NSA number hasn't really budged in the past year). But look at the housing starts: what a whopper: at 1036K, this was the highest print since June 2008 - great news, right? Not really, because the one key indicator here, single-family units, actually posted a sizable drop from 650K in February to 619K in March. The offset: construction starts of multi-family, aka rental units, which in March was a whopping 392K, a 83K seasonally adjusted surge from February, which brings the total multifamily starts to the highest since January 2006 at 423K. Of course, in January 2006, single-family units hit a record 1823K, or about three times as much as the March 2013 number. Thank you Fed and QE for making yet another capital allocation mockery as America is increasingly shifting into a nation of renters. At this pace expect multi-family starts to surpass single unit starts in 4-6 months for the first time ever.
Yes, there was economic news overnight, such as a Eurozone and UK CPI, both of which came in line with expectations (1.7% and 0.4% respectively), and a German ZEW which confirmed Europe's accelerating deterioration, tumbling from 48.5 to 36.3, far below expectations of a 41.0 print (somehow the huge miss has managed to push the EURUSD up by 60 pips to an overnight high of 1.31 but this is merely the pre-US open manipulation to ramp US equities higher), just as there was news that Angela Merkel's support for a Cyprus bailout is growing (was there an alternative?), and that as part of their ongoing investigation into Italy's repeatedly insolvent Monte Paschi, investigators had seized €1.8 billion worth of assets from Nomura Holdings, and that Spain as usual sold more Bills than expected, driven by oversize Japanese and Pension Fund purchases, but what everyone has been looking for is whether the relentless and record rout in gold is over. For now, it appears that is the case, with gold printing an overnight low of just over $1320 and ramping higher ever since, up 3% so far and rising.
While China's trifecta miss of GDP, Retail Sales and Industrial Production all coming lower than expected was likely a factor in the overnight rout of gold, the initial burst of selling started well before the Chinese data hit the tape, or as soon as Japan opened for trading with forced financial institution selling to prefund cash for any and all future JGB VaR-driven margin calls. It was all downhill from there, literally, with overnight selling of gold punctured by brief burst of targeted stop hunting, sending the metal down $116 per ounce, as spot touches $1385 after trading nearly at $1500 yesterday and down $200 in 4 days. End result, whether due to a re-collapsing global economy, margin calls, fears forced Cyprus gold selling will be imposed on all other insolvent European countries, coordinated central bank slams, hedge fund positioning, long unwinds, liquidations, fears about future demand, or whatever the usual selling suspects are, is that gold tumbles an unprecedented 7.8% on 230,000 contracts in one day, and well over 10% in two days, pushing the yellow metal 14 day RSI band to 18, meaning it is now most oversold since 1999. In brief, it is an all out panic, with Goldman still telling clients to sell, i.e., buying every shiny ounce all the way down (not to mention India, where accordingto UBS Friday demand was double the average).
The week ahead is light on major market moving data releases. From a policy perspective and in light of the recent moves in treasuries, FOMC minutes are likely to be followed by markets. Retail sales in the US are likely to print below consensus both on the headline and on the core metrics. That said, this needs to be seen against the backdrop of first quarter retail consumer spending data surprising to the upside. Producer prices are also likely to come in on the soft side of market expectations. Finally, do not expect large surprises from the U of Michigan consumer confidence.
It is clear now that we must have been wrong about the economy. No more proof is needed than the fact the Dow has gone up 1,500 points. Everyone knows the stock market reflects the true health of the nation – multi-millionaire Jim Cramer and his millionaire CNBC talking head cohorts tell us so. Ignore the fact that the bottom 80% only own 5% of the financial assets in this country and are not benefitted by the stock market in any way. It is time to open your eyes and arise from your stupor. Observe what is happening around you. Look closely. Does the storyline match what you see in your ever day reality? It is them versus us. Whether you call them the invisible government, ruling class, financial overlords, oligarchs, the powers that be, ruling elite, or owners; there are powerful wealthy men who call the shots in this global criminal enterprise. No amount of propaganda can cover up the physical, economic, social, and psychological descent afflicting our world. There’s a bad moon rising and trouble is on the way.
I think Bernanke is telling the greatest lie ever told.
Today, we got more great news on the housing front as housing starts rose from an upward revised 910K (was 890K) to 917K, modestly beating expectations of a 915K print. This was a blistering number, and as the mainstream media will have you know, was the second highest since early 2008, lower only compared to the very amusing 982K starts recorded in the dead of winter in December of 2012. All of this would be great if it didn't have one rather profound two-word caveat: "seasonally-adjusted." What happens when one strips away the Arima-X-12 seasonal adjustments? We have the answer! As the chart below shows, when one maps the seasonal pattern in the winter, the November-February three month period, one gets the following chart. What one doesn't get, is how a 0.2K increase in not-seasonally adjusted housing starts (from 62.2K to 62.4) manifests itself in a 76K surge in seasonally adjusted house starts.
Not even the usual monthly futures panacea (which in fact manages to fool the entire centrally-planned market twice every month, all the time), the always rising German ZEW Economic Sentiment survey, which mysteriously did not come at an all time high, but still rose from February's 48.2 to 48.5, despite expectations of a decline to 48.1, has managed to push the EUR higher in overnight trading, as a result keeping a lid on any of the generic no-volume futures levitation we have all grown to love. The reason is not that concurrently with the German data we got abysmal Eurozone Construction Output data, which plunged -7.3% Y/Y, the most in four months, following a slump in French and Spanish activity offsetting the German "confidence-boosting economic miracle" but simply because there continues to be no clarity whatsoever on events in Cyprus, where as noted earlier, the parliament may vote as soon as 6 hours from now to veto the proposed deposit confiscation "bailout/in" plan, which could lead to the first Eurozone banking system collapse, and the first expulsion of a member Eurozone nation, setting the wheels in motion for the unthinkable.
Most investors are nervous now and need to hold things together to include the Fed meeting announcement Wednesday. If bulls are lucky they’ll get their Turnaround Tuesday.
As expected, it is all about Cyprus this morning, and overnight, and just as naturally it wouldn't be a centrally-planned market without the generic BTFD overnight ramp attempt, which we got from the EURUSD, as the pair rose from sub 1.29 to 1.2973, which also pushed the US futures up to nearly fill half the overnight gap lower. Citi explained this, observing the "EUR/USD squeezed higher on reports Cyprus bailout terms may be eased, CitiFX Wire says", but it did add that "selling was likely to materialize; flow has 60% bias in favor of downside, Seeing heavy net selling, mainly from leveraged funds." Naturally, the market does what it does best - clutches at straws, although not even this centrally-planned market could ignore news that today's Cyprus parliament vote has been cancelled, that banks will likely remain closed tomorrow, and that a vote may not happen until Friday, which likely means the bank holiday is about to stretch to one week, and possibly much longer as Cyprus is terrified to open its banks to the fury of scrambling "bank-runners." Things started to get interesting following another RIA report citing finance minister Siluanov, that Russia may reconsider its role in the Cyprus rescue following the bank tax. Siluanov added that bank tax breaks the plan for joint steps on Cyprus and that the decision was made without Russia.
Just like a week ago, when the futures experienced an unprecedented event when they actually slid overnight (only to recoup all the losses and then some, in the US trading session), so today sentiment appears to be driven by China which over the weekend once more posted its worst economic numbers to start the year since 2009, with purposeful economic weakness telegraphed by the politburo coupled with higher than expected inflation in what is a harbinger to the end of the global reflation, just as it was in 2011. The Shanghai Composite closed down 0.3%, while the Nikkei was in a world of its own, closing up 0.5%, tracking nothing but the USDJPY nowadays. Additionally, while the US stock market took Friday's downgrade of Italy in stride, and in fact Getco's algos used it to catalyze a late day ramp to close the DJIA just around the "psychological" 14,400 (just like Dow 36,000 is apparently psychological), Europe is less sanguine, and so far Italian bonds have been pressured compared to the rest of PIIGS, rising with yields rising to 4.65%, hitting 4.694% earlier. That's ok though: as we reported over the weekend, there is nothing for widening BTP spreads that a few hundred billion in Fed reserve reallocations to European banks can't fix. And with no macro events or news on today's calendar, perhaps the most notable event so far is the lack of the overnight ramp, which we have all grown to love and expect almost as much as the mysterious 3:30 pm intraday clockwork DJIA ramp.
This objective report concisely summarizes important macro events over the past week. It is not geared to push an agenda. Impartiality is necessary to avoid costly psychological traps, which all investors are prone to, such as confirmation, conservatism, and endowment biases.
I really need to stop being so pessimistic. I’m getting richer by the day. My home value is rising at a rate of 1% per month according to the National Association of Realtors. At that rate, my house will be worth $1 million in less than 10 years. Every mainstream media newspaper, magazine, and news channel is telling me the “strong” housing recovery is propelling the economy and creating millions of new jobs. Keynesian economists, Wall Street bankers, government apparatchiks and housing trade organizations are all in agreement that the wealth effect from rising home prices will be the jumpstart our economy needs to get back to the glory days of 2005. Who am I to argue with such honorable men with degrees from Ivy League schools and a track record of unquestioned accuracy as we can see in the chart below? These are the facts. But why trust facts when you can believe Baghdad Ben and the NAR? It’s always the best time to buy.
For a country that laments the imposition of draconian "austerity" measures, now allegedly in their third year, which have so far seen government revenues slide, while spending rises, Spain sure has a problem with figuring out how it is supposed to work. Yet while the world was shocked back in December 2011 when Spain quietly announced its budget deficit would jump from 6% to 8.5%, before finally settling on 8.9% of GDP, today's announcement that the 2012 Spanish deficit was a whopping 10.2% of 2012 GDP hardly caused any commotion. Apologists will quickly say that this budget gap was boosted by the 3.2% increase due to setting up the bad bank, and rolling bank bailouts, and of course they will be right: just as all those economists were right to say that when one excludes all the negatives, US Q4 GDP was in fact positive. Or, indeed, as Goldman said to ignore this week's negative initial claims and new housing starts data: after all they too were negative. In fact, when one excludes all the negative trading days in 2013, the stock market has not had a down day yet. As for Spain, too bad the country can't have its broke bank cake and eat the budget surplus that would result "if only" things were different.
The great unrecovery just accelerated with more great unrotation out of stocks following today's February Philly Fed which just plunged from -5.8 to -12.5 on expectations of a positive print of +1. This was the worst print in 8 months, the biggest miss in 9 months, and the biggest two month drop in the New Orders index which crashed to -7.8 in 18 months. Even the attempts at spin were weak: "The survey’s broadest measure of manufacturing conditions, the diffusion index of current activity, decreased from a reading ?5.8 in January to ?12.5 this month (see Chart). The demand for manufactured goods also showed slight declines this month: The new orders index declined from a reading of ?4.3 in January to ?7.8 in February. Despite negative readings for general activity and new orders, the shipments index showed improvement: The index remained positive and edged slightly higher to 2.4. The percentage of firms reporting increased shipments (25 percent) was slightly greater than the percentage reporting declines (22 percent)." But fear not: optimism abounds - after all, that's all there is: "The survey’s future indicators suggest that firms expect recent declines to be temporary." Oddly enough survey participants have been hoping for a brighter future for 4 years now. Expect the sellside penguins to say that this number too should be ignored, just like the initial claims earlier, and the new housing starts yesterday. After all one should ignore all data that does not fit the goalseeked script of a centrally-mandated "recovery."