Remember when several months ago Wal-Mart leaked just how weak the economy was and that sales had been a "total disaster" (a piece of truthiness that promptly led to the termination of the leak source)? Guess what: they were not lying. Moments ago WMT reported Q1 results, which at the easily fudged bottom line were just in line with expectations, ot $1.14 driven by $2.2 billion in stock repurchases (30 million shares). However, it was sales, as warned, that came in well weaker than expected, posting at $114.2 billion on expectations of $116.1 - just as the guy warned. It gets worse:
- Q2 EPS expected in the range $1.22-$1.27, on expectations of $1.29
- Q1 comps ex-fuel -1.2% vs Exp. 0.4%
- Sam's Club implements first fee increase since 2006: raises membership fee to $45 nationwide
- During the 13-week period, the Walmart U.S. comp was negatively impacted by a delay in tax refund checks, challenging weather conditions, less grocery inflation than expected and the payroll tax increase. Comp traffic was down 1.8 percent, while average ticket increased 0.4 percent.
From the CFO, Charles Holley: "Although we believe our company will leverage expenses for the year, the second quarter will be challenging, given expense pressures in International and our corporate area.
In a world in which fundamentals no longer drive risk prices (that task is left to central banks, and HFT stop hunts and momentum ignition patterns) or anything for that matter, it only makes sense that the day on which Japan posted a better than expected annualized, adjusted Q1 GDP of 3.5% compared to the expected 2.7% that the Nikkei would be down, following days of relentless surges higher. Of course, Japan's GDP wasn't really the stellar result many portrayed it to be, with the sequential rise coming in at 0.9%, just modestly higher than the 0.7% expected, although when reporting actual, nominal figures, it was up by just 0.4%, or below the 0.5% expected, meaning the entire annualized beat came from the gratuitous fudging of the deflator which was far lower than the -0.9% expected at -1.2%: so higher than expected deflation leading to an adjustment which implies more inflation - a perfect Keynesian mess. In other words, yet another largely made up number designed exclusively to stimulate "confidence" in the economy and to get the Japanese population to spend, even with wages stagnant and hardly rising in line with the "adjusted" growth. And since none of the above matters with risk levels set entirely by FX rates, in this case the USDJPY, the early strength in the Yen is what caused the Japanese stock market to close red.
Is the runup in the Nikkei the result of effective central bank intervention or the spasms before the collapse?
Major central bank activism and some sporadically good economic data in the U.S. have lifted equity markets and also helped the credit markets continue their rally. Central bank policy has been focused on an emergency bailout footing to stave off sudden panic and is also is aimed at stimulating economic activity. This has involved incentivizing households and businesses to expand and take some more risk. But no new policy initiative is perfect – not in implementation nor is it precise in its impact. Some in the markets and even in the Fed itself worry that the massive and unprecedented easing could be causing its own distortions and perverse side effects. It has clearly triggered a chancy search for yield that may yet lead to new asset bubbles and financial instability. There are numerous examples as Abraham Gulkowitz's PunchLine (chart extravaganza) shows. While the liquidity provided by key central banks -- including the move by the Bank of Japan to initiate massive monetary easing -- will likely continue suppressing yields, there is a serious argument to be made that the rallies have moved beyond fundamentals... This increases the likelihood of more surprises, not less...
|The United Nations is a corrupt, bureaucratic nightmare and should be abolished. Free market capitalism already does more of the UN mandate than the UN ever has or will.|
The promises made to the 76 million baby Boomers cannot be met. It's really very simple: promises made when the economy was growing by 4% a year and the next generation was roughly double the size of the generation entering retirement cannot be fulfilled in an economy growing 1.5% a year (and only growing at all as the result of massive expansions of public and private debt) in which the generation after the cohort entering retirement is significantly smaller. We desperately need an adult discussion focused on reality rather than resentment. The solution will require dismantling open-ended, everyone-deserves-everything Medicare, which will bankrupt the nation itself. The solution is currently "impossible". What nobody dares say is that if the 76 million Boomers press their claims to the point the nation is bankrupted, then the next generations (X and Y) will have to wrest political power from the retirees, not for their own sake but for the sake of the nation and for the generations behind them.
The great American manufacturing renaissance? Maybe not. But China is losing the low-wage edge.
Natural resource speculators know that past uranium bull markets offered some ’explosive’ (pun intended) upside. I have been fortunate enough to experience two uranium bull markets: the 1970s bull market, which saw a tenfold increase in the uranium price and a hundredfold increase in some uranium equities, and the bull market of the last decade, which saw a repeat of the earlier performance. If past is prologue, the stage may be set for a third uranium bull run.
The greatest disconnect in the world today is the underlying economies of the world and the markets; all of the markets. This river is wide and getting wider given the money that the central banks are pushing downstream. The flood has reached all of the markets, Real Estate, the banks, many corporations, any and all borrowers with our incredibly low interest rates, but it has had little impact on the Main Streets of the planet. There is, in fact, a bubble of epic proportion.
Take a good look at the chart of the Nikkei below. Supposedly this is the same chart that the new BOJ head, Haruhiko Kuroda, was looking at when he was responding to Japanese lawmakers during a session of the upper-house budget committee, where he flatly rejected an opposition-party member's argument that the recent rapid rise in the Tokyo stock market is out of line with Japan's real economy. "At this moment I do not think they are in a bubble," Kuroda said. And everyone believes him, just Because central bankers are so good at objectively observing how contained subrpime is big the asset bubbles their ruinous policies create.
- Once a beacon, Obama under fire over civil liberties (Reuters)
- Eurozone in longest recession since birth of currency bloc (FT)
- EU Oil Manipulation Probe Shines Light on Platts Pricing Window (BBG)
- BMWs Cheaper Than Hyundais in Korea as Tariffs Crumble (BBG)
- Stock Boom Isn't a Bubble, Says BOJ's Kuroda (WSJ)
- Struggling France strives to shake off economic gloom (FT)
- JPMorgan investors take heat off Dimon (FT)
- Private-Equity Firms Build Instead of Buy (WSJ)
- Bloomberg Saga Highlights Clash Between Two Worlds (WSJ)
- Bank documents portray Cyprus as Russia's favorite haven (Reuters)
- HSBC Signals 14,000 Jobs Cuts in $3 Billion Savings Plan (BBG)
- Argentines Hold More Than $50 Billion in U.S. Currency (BBG)
I think it's indicative of a problem when, half-jokingly, the vernacular increasingly being used in the popular media includes: being "Corzined" and "Cyprus'd". The former meaning having your money stolen from or via the equities market, and the latter being theft directly via the banking system.
When is the economic collapse going to happen? Just open up your eyes and take a look around the globe. The next wave of the economic collapse may not have reached Wall Street yet, but it is already deeply affecting billions of lives all over the planet. Much of Europe has already descended into a deep economic depression, very disturbing economic data is coming out of the second and third largest economies on the globe (China and Japan), and in most of the world economic inequality is growing even though 80 percent of the global population already lives on less than $10 a day. Just because the Dow has been setting brand new all-time records lately does not mean that everything is okay. Remember, a bubble is always the biggest right before it bursts. The next major wave of the economic collapse is already sweeping across Europe and Asia and it is going to devastate the United States as well.
Despite efforts by the government to quell the black-market (or blue-dollar) for Argentina's foreign exchange, the unofficial rate surged yesterday to 10.45 Pesos per USD. This is now double the official rate of 5.22 Pesos per USD. This implicit 50% devaluation comes amid the growing realization that there is no savings option to maintain the purchasing power of the peso in the context of sustained high inflation (no matter what the officials say) and negative real interest rates. The government is not amused, suggesting the devaluation won't happen (just as Mexico did right up until the day before they devalued), "those who seek to make money at the expense of devaluations must wait for another government." Perhaps the government should be careful with their threats? And of course, this could never happen in the US or Japan, right?
Yesterday was another less than convincing session. Indices off recent tops and Europe weaker. Treasuries tumbled then rallied part way back on less than stellar retail sales report. It rather feels like we are going through the motions with little conviction one way or another (even with today's mini-melt-up). Markets crave direction. What I'd like to see is the JGB curve bull-flatten to restore faith in Global easing and the asset grabathon. Don’t fight Kuroda – it will happen.. but when? That's the macro-trade. But the short-term trade may be to hedge some risk, like the Nikkei's recent gains, and think about how to hedge bursting bubble risks in the credit markets. Or is there something bigger going-on just behind the horizon? A "No-See-Em" that is about to confirm a particular market direction? After all... the global economy is either growing, is set for growth, or this recession is becoming a long-term depression. So let’s take a look at what's going on for signs of the hidden menace...