Against the backdrop of a tepid US recovery, Eurozone recession and stuttering growth across emerging markets, investors are beginning to focus on how the 'status quo' outcome impacts the odds of cliff-avoidance; which after all, if there is one thing economists agree on, it is that a US and global recession will ensue if the legislated tax increases and spending cuts worth roughly 3.5% of US GDP take effect next year. UBS believes that if the US economy dips into recession, operating earnings -which are near peak levels - could easily plunge by a fifth. Risk premia would climb, particularly because the US and the world have run out of policies that could lift their economies out of recession. Those factors point to significant downside risk (at least 30%) for global equity markets if the US falls off the 'cliff'. Yet the S&P500 remains within a few percentage points of its cyclical highs. Accordingly, as we have previously concluded, investors assign a very low probability to the ‘cliff’ and a 2013 US recession, which UBS finds 'darn surprising' that this much faith in common sense prevailing in Washington amidst such divisive politics. But for all the attention the ‘cliff’ deserves, UBS notes the fundamental challenge for the US (and many other countries) is to address fiscal stability as a long-term necessity, not a short-term fix.
Do not expect any changes to the trends of polarization and party non-conformists is the message from JPMorgan's CIO Michael Cembalest. As he explains moderates like Blue Dog Democrats and Rockefeller Republicans are now artifacts in the Natural History Museum, having given way to their more ideological offspring (through retirement or after having been beaten in primaries). If anything, Cembalest believes the House may become even more partisan after apparent losses by moderates in both parties. After a better than expected night for Democrats given Senate results, the fiscal cliff looms; With the status quo maintained, a divided government goes back to work to solve the Mutually Assured Fiscal Destruction problem. However, electoral results suggest the country is in no mood to address entitlement issues right now, will defer them to another day, and continue to shift towards a high-Federal debt economic model that bears some resemblance to Europe and Japan. In the 1950’s, the solution to 80% Federal debt was not taxation, austerity or inflation, but growth.
Once upon a time there was a myth that the equity market can only go up, year after year, with the average annual return according to such esteemed counting institutions as Ibbotson, at 10% or more. Then, we got the November 7, 2000 presidential election, which took place when the S&P was 1432. Fast forward to today, skipping the second and third elections in the interim, and going straight to today's fourth presidential election. The closing S&P today? 1428. We have now had four presidential elections... and a funeral - that of the "stock market always rises" myth. But wait, it gets worse. The numbers above are nominal. When adjusting for the real purchasing power lost in the past 12 years, whose best indicator in a regime in which CPI data is constantly fudged and manipulated, is the price of gold, one can see that 3 presidential elections later, the S&P 500, when priced in gold terms, is now 83% lower. In other words, how is that wealth effect working out for you? And where will the stock market be in another 3 presidential elections in either nominal or real terms? One can only hope that Japan is not prologue...
Markets have found a good excuse to be on hold. Elections. No real US figures and a tendency to ignore European ones. No shoe dropping means upside, a little. Core EGBs rather firm nevertheless, for choice. Periphery, in absence of news, trading back and forth, so better today. EZ Q4 growth looks like stalling with a catch-up of a more lenient summer. More to come.
"Elected " (Bunds 1,43% +1; Spain 5,64% -9; Stoxx 2513 +0.5%; EUR 1,281)
The yakuza scandal didn’t help.
Today doesn't matter. Tomorrow won't matter either.
Over the last few weeks we have looked at where the two candidates stand, the implications of a Romney win on the economy, how investors are positioning in equity and bond portfolios for each candidate's potential victory, what gold will do, what stocks will do, and the fact that either way; the easy-money days are over. The last market to look at is the largest - the foreign exchange market - and Citi's Steve Englander provides a succinct explanation of how the various asset-class shifts post-election will impact flows in the FX market. Most specifically, how sensitive various safe-haven and risk-sensitive FX crosses will be to House composition. He also notes the potential for knee-jerk reactions as timing issues across various state poll closings offers exit poll information - especially as a Romney win is very much not priced in.
Canadian household debt as a percentage of income by now vastly exceeds the peak that was seen at the height of the US real estate bubble. CIBC thinks the huge amount of household debt in Canada and the beginning cracks in the housing bubble are nothing to worry about. The main reason for this benign assessment seems to be that there have been a few other credit and real estate bubbles in the world that have grown even bigger than the US one before it burst. What a relief. It is generally held that Canada's banking system is in ruddy health and not in danger from the extended credit and real estate bubble, mainly because a government-owned organization, Canadian Mortgage Housing Corp. This kind of thinking has things exactly the wrong way around. It is precisely because such a state-owned guarantor of mortgages exists that the vaunted lending standards of Canada's banks have increasingly gone out of the window as the bubble has grown.
With Greece and Spain (and arguably Portugal and a few others) stuck in dramatic debt-deflation spirals, the political need for maintaining these nations in the euro far outweigh the economic 'benefits'. As UBS notes, looking at the euro area today, one cannot help but notice the parallels to Japan of the early 1990s. Europe today, as with Japan a generation ago, is an aging society with structural rigidities, pockets of corporate excellence, but wide swathes of inefficiency; but the two most striking similarities (and not in a good way) lie in the banking system (bloated from over-leveraging, under-capitalization, and bad loans); and fiscal policy (which is inherently pro-cyclical - as the politics of monetary union preclude national level stimulus - leaving ineffective monetary transmission channels unable to help fiscal failure). As UBS concludes, the current euro's similarities to Japan are key impediments to growth - and as such we should expect sclerotic economic activity for a five-year period.
You cannot "reform" away the dysfunction of the Greek Status Quo without dismantling the vested interests and the ruling Elites that benefit from the Status Quo. The same can be said of the Status Quo everywhere from the U.S. to China.
- Scope of Sandy's devastation widens, death toll spirals (Reuters)
- On Staten Island, cries for help replaced by a loss for words (Reuters)
- China responds to Japan’s provocation (FT)
- Japan governments open to compromise to avoid “fiscal cliff” (Reuters)
- It's Global Warming, Stupid (Businessweek)
- Sharps says there is "Material Doubt" about its ability to survive (Bloomberg)
- Thomson Reuters operating profit slips, trading faces pressure (Reuters)
- Germany's Schaeuble says debt reduction is global task (Reuters)
- The Luxury Repo Men (Businessweek)
- Deutsche Bank Faces Top Surcharge as FSB Shuffles Tiers (Bloomberg)
- Storm over ‘Lagarde list’ intensifies (FT)
- Greek, European Officials Dispute Budget Reprieve (WSJ)
- Rivals part ways over economy (FT)
Judging by complete lack of move in the futures since the last time we looked at them at close of US market (if not so much the EURUSD which moments ago touched its lowest level since October 10 below 1.2865), absolutely nothing has happened in the intervening 14 hours. Which wouldn't be too far from the truth. Europe reported its manufacturing PMIs, which while largely unchanged at the consolidated (Eurozone 45.4 on Exp. of 45.3, last 45.3) and core level (Germany 46.0 vs Exp. 45.7, Last 45.7; France 43.7 vs Exp. 43.5, last 43.5) showed some weakness for the one fulcrum country that everyone looks at: Spain, whose Mfg PMI dropped from 44.6 to 43.5 on Exp of 44.1. But at least the threat the ECB will buy its bonds is there. And Speaking of Spain (whose car registrations tumbled 21.7% in October), the first external condition appeared today, when EU competition commission Joaquin Almunia said seized Spanish banks must fire half their workforce, according to ABC. Finally back in the US, the Fed's Rosengren said the Fed will not stop monetizing until the jobless rate falls below 7.25%. Luckily, with the NFP report due in 90 minutes, and the labor participation rate set to tumble once more, we may just get that in today's key data highlight which everyone is waiting for.
When it comes to international bondholder process, work out and restructuring (and litigation), on the one hand there is Europe, and specifically the ongoing Greek reorganization into an ever tinier balance sheet by way of cramming down weak-covenant, local-law bondholders (who are "encouraged" to participate in ever more coercive principal recovery events, as defection would result in wipeouts of recoveries in other cross-held bonds of the impaired class should a Grexit-type event occur, which then would lead to massive losses on all European bond holdings for the same creditors: a true Mutually-Assured Destruction scenario, as the IIF's Jacques Dallara understood quite well), and on the other hand there is Argentina. But whereas the European fiasco is still (relatively) structured (at least until Spain et al join the cram down fray, something none other than Lee Buchheit predicted would happen courtesy of the prevalence of local-law bonds in PIIGS outstanding inventory), if getting more complicated with incremental subordination of various junior classes of sovereign debt either due to legal reasons - i.e., local-law vs international-law bonds, structural reasons: the presence of Collective Action Clauses in consent solicitations and "indenture-stripping" thresholds for a holdout class (think perpetual fly-in-the-ointment Elliott), or due to the far more abstract "unimpairability" and primacy of the bondholder - i.e. the IMF, the ECB, or another Official Sector entity (all of which was previously explained here), in Argentina it is a totally chaotic free-for-all, where a distressed creditor holdout is now unilaterally pursuing "incremental recovery" of par in local and international courts of law.
It didn't take long for mainstream economists to provide us with some inane commentary regarding the latest natural catastrophe. Allegedly, the massive destruction of wealth hurricane 'Sandy' will leave behind has a 'silver lining'. We believe the main reason behind this stance is the unquestioned acceptance of one of Keynes' great fallacies: namely the idea that all economic activity – even unproductive activity – is somehow 'good'. Naturally, if it were really true that we could create economic progress by breaking windows or digging ditches (we will admit that pyramids at least render what one might term 'monument services', even if the expense seems hardly justified by this), then the government should pay half the population for digging ditches and hire the other half to wreak wanton destruction. The loss of wealth the hurricane has inflicted is very real; the wealth destroyed by it is most definitely gone.
Indeed, when you think about it, 2008 happened at a time when paper money was still perceived as a safehaven. That is no longer the case as the Central Banks now have the printers running both day and night. Small wonder that Gold and Silver are at or near all time highs in every major currency.