When one thinks US Treasurys, and demand thereof, two entities pop into mind: the Federal Reserve, which over the past 3 years has been the biggest institutional buyer of US paper, and China, which is the largest foreign holder of US TSYs. Yet over the past year something curious happened: when it comes to setting marginal demand for US Treasurys, it was neither the Fed, whose sterilized Operation Twist has kept its holdings of US Tsys relatively flat, nor China, which has actually been a major seller of US paper, that has been the dominant source of marginal demand for Uncle Sam's never to be repaid obligations. Japan.
It is important to consider how beneficial a debt reset — so long as society comes out of it in one piece — will be in the long run. As both Friedrich Hayek and Hyman Minsky saw it, with the weight of excessive debt and the costs of deleveraging either reduced or removed, long-depressed-economies would be able to grow organically again. This is obviously not ideal, but it is surely better than remaining in a Japanese-style deleveraging trap. Yet while most of the economic establishment remain convinced that the real problem is one of aggregate demand, and not excessive total debt, such a prospect still remains distant. The most likely pathway continues to be one of stagnation, with central banks printing just enough money to keep the debt serviceable (and handing it to the financial sector, which will surely continue to enrich itself at the expense of everyone else). This is a painful and unsustainable status quo and the debt reset — and without an economic miracle, it will eventually arrive — will in the long run likely prove a welcome development for the vast majority of people and businesses.
It is just getting stupid. Europe officially enters recession, Japan GDP declines nominally, China admits to food inflation which locks the PBOC out of easing for months, UK inflation is again rising faster than expected which will soon force the BOE to reevaluate its latest easing episode, Brent is once again rising on supply fears and middle east war fears to a 3 month high, corporate revenues have never been worse in this recession cycle and what happens? Futures spike following a very visible invisible finger pushing ES higher by 0.5% at 9 pm Eastern and setting the scene for trading throughout the night. And since the market has reverted back to full retard mode full of hope of an absolution from the Fed, this time at the August 31 Jackson Hole meeting, which will be very disappointing as Ben will say absolutely nothing yet again, why not take the S&P to new 2012 highs? After all well over 100% of QE3 is now priced in. Finally, expect the ES to surge by 10 points should advance retail sales miss wildly the consensus of a +0.3% print. After all, inverted is the NKI.
Can anyone seriously claim the European Union, the European Central Bank and its alphabet-soup programs still retain a shred of credibility? Every EU/ECB "save" is fictitious, every "fix" expedient, every promise empty, every face-saving summit a living lie. Ultimately, all the posturing, promises and saves come down to an impossibility: "rescuing" phantom assets purchased with astounding levels of debt by issuing even more astounding levels of debt. Does anyone truly believe this absurdity is anything more than a transparent fraud designed to extend the life of a failed, corrupt system constructed on fantasies and lies? Those with assets are fleeing for less fantastic and dangerous climes. The handful of French millionaires who are supposed to magically bail out a failed-state that absorbs 55% of GDP are busy transferring their assets out of France, a mass exodus of capital that is also playing out in China, where those who embraced the slogan "to get rich is glorious" are transferring their wealth, ill-gotten or well-earned, overseas. So vast is this outflow of wealth that for the first time the outflow of capital from China exceeds the inflow of investment capital. The smart money is exiting, and the last batch of credulous "China story" rubes are dumping their capital down a rathole.
Two years in and they are only starting now? What took them so long. Also, absolutely nothing new here, but merely the latest attempt to shift public opinion and EUR viability perceptions ever so slightly by one of Germany's most respect magazines. Those whose agenda it is to spook Germany with images of fire, brimstone, and 3-page mutual assured destruction termsheets if the Euro implodes, are now free to take the podium. One wonders: if it wasn't for the inevitable collapse of the EUR.... the inevitable collapse of the EUR.... the inevitable collapse of the EUR.... the inevitable collapse of the EUR, and of course Paul Ryan, would there be absolutely no news today?
It is important to note that markets were also unusually calm during the two weeks of the Chinese Olympics in 2008. The 2008 Summer Olympic Games took place slightly later in August than the London Olympics – starting August 8 and ending August 24. Only days after the ending of the Chinese Olympics came massive market volatility in September and then seven months of market turmoil. Similarly to this Olympic year, in Olympic year 2008, gold traded sideways to down in a period of consolidation prior to further gains. Gold bottomed in September 2008 in euro and sterling terms. Another brief bout of dollar strength saw gold bottom in November 2008 in dollar terms. Besides the eurozone crisis (and the significant risk of the German Constitutional Court deciding on September 12th to reject the recently cobbled together alphabet soup response to the crisis (ESM etc etc) and significant instability in the Middle East, there is also the not inconsequential risk from the US Presidential campaign and the upcoming ‘fiscal cliff’.
Last week was a scratch in terms of events, if not in terms of multiple expansion, as 2012 forward EPS continued contraction even as the market continued rising and is on the verge of taking out 2012 highs - surely an immediate catalyst for the New QE it is pricing in. This week promises to be just as boring with few events on the global docket as Europe continues to bask in mid-August vacation, and prepare for the September event crunch. Via DB, In Europe, apart from GDP tomorrow we will also get inflation data from the UK, Spain and France as well as the German ZEW survey. Greece will also auction EU3.125bn in 12-week T-bills to help repay a EU3.2bn bond due 20 August held by the ECB. Elsewhere will get Spanish trade balance and euroland inflation data on Thursday, German PPI and the Euroland trade balance on Friday. In the US we will get PPI, retail sales and business inventories tomorrow. On Wednesday we get US CPI, industrial production, NY Fed manufacturing, and the NAHB housing index. Building permits/Housing starts and Philly Fed survey are the highlights for Thursday before the preliminary UofM consumer sentiment survey on Friday.
Some might be surprised by the title's positivity, but while the barbarous relic has meandered in an ever-compressing (triangle pattern) series of waves in the last few months, it has rather notably outperformed relative to global risk aversion, CFTC positioning, and central bank balance sheet dynamics - especially in the last few weeks. Whether the yellow metal's zero-yield is now 'technically' attractive to safe-haven flows relative to the NIRPs of Germany and Switzerland - or in fundamental anticipation of the next bout of central bank largesse, Citi's global macro strategy group remain bullish of the precious metal and the charts below suggest they are not alone - as the view that precious metals are a put on political stupidity remains front-and-center.
The debt levels of advanced economies remains unsustainably high - bringing with it the considerable risk of renewed crisis - and while strong growth is the best way to deleverage, this solution appears out of reach for most (if not all) economies. Financial repression, austerity, inflation, or default are the remaining options - all of which come with considerable costs to economic growth and employment. While 'muddling-through' appears to be heralded as a positive by many market-savants currently, SocGen notes that the line between a virtuous (expansionary fiscal contraction) and vicious austerity trap comes down largely to policy confidence. Most (if not all) advanced economy politicians entirely lack the public's or market's confidence in credible policy direction (and in fact we are seeing policy uncertainty at extremes) which leads to SocGen's conclusion that the muddle-through strategy (which comes with a high price tag economically and socially) is too high a burden politically and will inevitably lead to spillover to core-Europe and the global financial system.
Weekend economic indices of dubious value
Q2 earnings seasons is now (with 93% of firms reporting) over, and it is time for post mortem. The bottom line for those strapped for time is the following: In order to salvage the 2012 earnings consensus for the S&P, the sell side crew and asset managers, as wrong but hopeful as ever, are now expecting Q4 2012 earnings to grow 15% versus 4Q 2011, which is more than twice as fast as any other quarter. Indicatively, Q2 2012 earnings rose at a rate of 3% compared to Q2 2011. Elsewhere, revenues came 2% lower than consensus estimates at the start of the earnings season. In other words, the entire year is now a Hail Mary bet that in Q4, the time when the presidential election, its aftermath, as well as the debt ceiling and fiscal cliff acrimony will hit a peak, a Deus Ex Machine will arrive and lead to a 15% rise in earnings. Why? Because global central bankers will have no choice but to step in and thus lead to a surge in EPS multiples even if the underlying earnings are collapsing. With the presidential election around the corner making Fed QE before 2013 now virtually impossible, with Spain (and Italy) refusing to be bailed out and cede sovereignty thus precluding ECB intervention, and with China spooked by what may be a surge in food costs, this intervention, and any hope that the Hail Mary pass will connect, all look quite impossible.
Look around. Take a good long and hard look because the data is becoming unsettling and it is pouring in from all over the world. In China, where a hard landing was thought to have been avoided; one moment please, not so fast. The world’s growth engine is sputtering and there will be consequences. In Europe the situation is dramatically worsening with virtually every country in a recession with the notable exception of Germany though we predict they will join the club by the fourth quarter of this year or by the first quarter of next year. For those that think that the Fed will save the day, if not the planet, we suggest to you that you may be in for an unpleasant surprise. There is only so much they can do now and each Fed action is being met by a less and less reaction in the markets and of a shorter duration.
- World’s Oldest Shipping Company Closes In Industry Slide (Bloomberg)
- Japan Growth May Slow to Half Previous Pace as Exports Wane (Bloomberg)
- China Export Growth Slides As World Recovery Slows (Bloomberg)
- Weidmann tries to muffle not spike Draghi's ECB guns (Reuters)
- Draghi lays out toolkit to save eurozone (FT)
- Concerns grow over prospects for sterling (FT)
- RIM Said To Draw Interest From IBM On Enterprise Services (Bloomberg)
- UN urges US to cut ethanol production (FT)
- Goldman Sachs Leads Split With Obama, As GE Jilts Him Too (Bloomberg)
- New apartments boost US building sector (FT)
The lunatics are running the asylum. This is the only conclusion one can come to when considering the nonchalance with which what was once considered an extraordinary policy with a firm 'exit' in mind is now propagated as a perfectly normal 'tool' to be employed at the drop of a hat. We refer of course to so-called 'quantitative easing' (QE), which really is a euphemism for money printing. Apart from his sole focus on short term outcomes, an important point that seems not be considered by the FOMC's Rosengren this week is the question of what should happen if the 'open-ended' QE policy were to fail to achieve its stated goals. He seems to assume that it will succeed in lowering unemployment and creating 'economic growth' as a matter of course. It goes without saying that money printing cannot create a single molecule of real wealth. If it could, then Zimbabwe wouldn't be a basket case, but a Utopia of riches. We must infer from Rosengren's idea of implementing open-ended QE until certain benchmarks in terms of unemployment and 'growth' are achieved, that in case they remain elusive, extraordinary rates of money printing would simply continue until the underlying monetary system breaks down.