While the economy is showing some signs of impact from falling oil prices, a port strike in California, weak global demand for exports and an exceptionally cold winter; the markets are pushing all-time highs. There is much hype being placed on the ECB's plans for launching QE in March, however, much remains to be seen as to just how effective it will be in a negative interest rate/deflationary enviroment. But then again...there is always "hope."
Janet Yellen is very alarmed that some members of Congress want to conduct a comprehensive audit of the Federal Reserve for the first time since it was created. During testimony this week, she made “central bank independence” sound like it was the holy grail. Even though every other government function is debated politically in this country, Janet Yellen insists that what the Federal Reserve does is “too important” to be influenced by the American people. Does any other government agency ever dare to make that claim? If the Fed is doing everything correctly, why should Yellen be alarmed? What does she have to hide?
With record heat (and drought) in the west and record cold (wet and snow) in the east, the global warming game-playing continues every day but the climate-gate rhetoric has increased vociferously since we first noted three weeks ago, the data that has been so relied upon to 'prove' global warming's trend was in fact manipulated. What The Telegraph called "the most extraordinary scandal of our times" - that of the "seasonally-adjusted" seasonal raw global temperature data - is about to be investigated by Congress. As Daily Caller reports, California Republican Rep. Dana Rohrbacher exclaimed "expect there to be congressional hearings into NASA altering weather station data to falsely indicate warming & sea rise."
We would do well to consider the possibility of war strategies when it comes to the global stockpiling of petroleum reserves. In the years leading up to the German invasion of Poland, the world witnessed dramatic decreases in the price of oil as well as massive increases in petroleum inventories, especially as the Texas fields began to produce. These shifts in the global oil markets ran parallel to the deflation which had begun in October, 1929, and as such, we can see the same pattern repeating today as oil prices collapse, inventories are growing, and world wide deflation is deepening.
"...Large areas of the United States that used to experience few or no earthquakes have, in recent years, experienced a remarkable increase in earthquake activity.. This rise in seismic activity, especially in the central United States, is not the result of natural processes... Instead, the increased seismicity is due to fluid injection associated with new technologies that enable the extraction of oil and gas from previously unproductive reservoirs."
The recent rally in crude prices looks more like a head-fake than a sustainable turning point, suggests Citi's Ed Morse, noting that short-term market factors are more bearish, pointing to more price pressure for the next couple of months and beyond. While the shape of the oil price recovery is unlikely to be 'L'-shaped in their view (more likely 'U', 'V', or 'W'-shaped recovery), Citi warns the oil market should bottom sometime between the end of Q1 and beginning of Q2 at a significantly lower price level in the $40 range (perhaps as low as the $20 range for a while) - after which markets should start to balance, first with an end to inventory builds and later on with a period of sustained inventory draws.
"This is going to hurt, no question," fears a landowner in Santa Barbara with a dozen oil wells. Layoffs are "kind of like a death in the family," exclaims a geophysicist in the Permian Basin. Houstonians were hoping for a hiccup, says one restauranteir, but now "they're getting more cautious." As WSJ reports, rumor is becoming reality across America as "unambiguously good" news of low oil prices turns from a trickle to a deluge of job losses and insecurity. Cutbacks aren’t yet reflected in broad data on employment, home sales or tax collections. But fallout is beginning to affect people, starting with the legions working as suppliers to the energy industry.
The gravy train is over for oil workers. All over North America, people that felt very secure about their jobs just a few weeks ago are now getting pink slips. Since 2003, drilling and extraction jobs in the United States have doubled. And these jobs typically pay very well. It is not uncommon for oil patch workers to make well over $100,000 a year, and these are precisely the types of jobs that we cannot afford to be losing. The middle class is struggling mightily as it is. And just like we witnessed in 2008, oil industry layoffs usually come before a downturn in employment for the overall economy.
“If the government and the Kansas Corporation Commission care about the people of Kansas and the damages, they will order a moratorium,” exclaims Joe Spease, chairman of the Kansas Sierra Club's fracking committee following a report from Kansas officials, who have been reluctant to link the mysterious earthquakes in south central Kansas to fracking, admitted last week that "we can say there is a strong correlation between the disposal of saltwater and the earthquakes." As LJWorld reports, it's the first time state officials have so clearly stated the likely cause of the earthquakes, which are afflicting a region where fracking is widely used.
"This is why Putin is Public Enemy Number 1. It’s because he’s blocking the US pivot to Asia, strengthening anti-Washington coalitions, sabotaging US foreign policy objectives in the Middle East, creating institutions that rival the IMF and World Bank, transacting massive energy deals with critical US allies, increasing membership in an integrated, single-market Eurasian Economic Union, and attacking the structural foundation upon which the entire US empire rests, the dollar." Up to now, of course, Russia, Iran and Venezuela have taken the biggest hit from low oil prices; but what the Obama administration should be worried about is the second-order effects that will eventually show up...
The short answer is in parts of Seattle, Charlotte, Phoenix, Atlanta, Tampa, Cincinnati, Raleigh, N.C., Houston, Denver, Columbus, Ohio, Sarasota-Bradenton, Fla., Raleigh, N.C., Chicago, and Winston-Salem, N.C. Among the 2,490 zip codes nationwide with at least one single family purchase by the top four institutional investors between January 2012 and October 2014, the top 50 zip codes with the highest percentage of purchases by the four largest institutional investors were in those metro areas. “The institutional investors kick-started the housing recovery by buying homes in bulk at the lowest point and holding them as rentals,” said Chris Pollinger, senior vice president of sales at First Team Real Estate, covering the Southern California market. Los Angeles County was among the top 10 for most purchases by institutional investors over the past three years, with 6,152. “As the market continues to climb, we expect these investors to start to sell off their inventory to capture the gains made in the past couple of years.”
Just a few short hours after a series of deep, if not very strong, eartquakes shook north-central Oklahoma, moments ago the ground zero of the US energy industry, the city of Dallas, TX, felt the ground shaking. According to the USGS, this was due to a 3.5 magnitude quake, which stuck at a depth of some 3.2 miles below the Texas city.
Hope springs eternal that 2015 is the year that the US economy stretches its escape velocity growth as consensus growth expectations at 2.9% are still at their highest since 2005 (although world GDP expectations are falling rapidly). However, as Bloomberg's Rich Yamarone explains, with 5 of the Top 10 economies in the world in or near recession, the wall of worry can be constructed as follows...
But the oil-price crash was supposed to goose consumer spending.