In a world in which when the numbers don't comply with the propaganda, the only recourse is to change the rules, and if that fails, change the numbers themselves (see Fukushima radiation count, US GDP, Employment numbers, anything out of Europe, etc.) it was only a matter of time before that last sticking point of the grand made up narrative, the lack of economic improvement in the European despite evil, evil austerity (which somehow has resulted in record debt which is rising faster than expected virtually everywhere in Europe) resulting in unpalatable deficits, was magically "fixed." This was resolved moments ago when as the AP reports, "European Union finance officials have reached a preliminary agreement to change the way the bloc determines some deficit figures, which might lessen the pressure for austerity measures in crisis-hit economies." In other words, Europe's "recovery" will now be based on even more made up numbers. One wonders: since Europe is finally admitting that the numbers are fake, i.e., lying, are things finally getting truly serious again?
A very soon tomorrow will bring the decision of the Fed concerning tapering into focus. Ok, a kind of fuzzy, hard to see and wispy focus. The one thing that we can assure you of is that whatever is to come our way it will not be a singular event. You will hear from the imbibers of Cool Aid and other mischievous reality altering drinks that it could be a one-off event. Tomorrow a process will be started, it will probably go in fits and starts but do not blind yourself; it will be the beginning of the journey to cut back on the propping up of the markets by the Fed.
It had become clear that the President's own political base in the Senate were not going to support Mr. Summer's ascendancy. The eye of the Press will now turn to Mr. Kohn, Ms. Yellen, who does not seem to have the support of Mr. Obama, and the long, though interesting shot, of Stanley Fischer. Mr. Obama appears to be easing into a lame duck presidency far earlier than once thought and the reality of Obamacare will hit Main Street on October 1 which may tip the scales further out of his control. It may not be either the best of times or the worst of times but very volatile times that mark this week.
US Fed's exit plan poses a critical dilemma and underscores important contradictions. The calendar says Europe should be talking about exits too--as aid packages for Spanish banks, and Ireland and Portugal are to wind down in the coming year--yet more rather than less assistance may be neeed.
Portuguese and Italian sovereign bond spreads have risen for four weeks in a row now (with Portugal +29bps this week alone and near 2013 wides) but the close today was unusual in its agression. Portugal had been blowing wider since yesterday, but minutes before the close today, Spain and Italy were slammed higher in yield/spread and lower in price (BMPS unwinding?) Of course European stocks didn't care - Greece up 5.6% on the week, Spain +3.3%, Italy +3%... "fixed"
An increasing cacophony of prognosticators are of the status-quo sustaining belief that stock and bond prices will rally next week when the Fed announces the taper. As Scotiabank's Guy Haselmann notes, the thinking goes that alleviation of the uncertainty will cause a "relief rally." However, as Haselmann notes, since the Fed has provided 5 years’ worth of massive stimulus that has launched asset prices to record highs, the commencement of the withdrawal process is significant... and any relief rally that ensues next Wednesday should be sold. His thoughts extend from Indonesian central bank's dilemma to European political instability, and the next stage of the Syrian crisis...
Ex-ECB insider Lorenzo Bini-Smaghi has once again proved that conspiracy 'theory' in the new normal is the same a conspiracy 'fact'. As The Telegraph's Ambrose Evans-Pritchard notes, Bini-Smaghi's new book details Silvio Berlusconi seriously floated plans to pull Italy out of the euro in October/November 2011, precipitating his immediate removal from office and decapitation by EMU policy gendarmes. Specifically, he discussed (threatened?) Italian withdrawal from the euro in private meetings with other EMU governments, presumably with Chancellor Angela Merkel and France's Nicolas Sarkozy. Bini-0Smaghi's tell-all goes further, noting that Merkel continued to think that Greece could be thrown out of the euro safely as late as the early autumn of 2012. It appears - just as we have always believed - that all is not well under the surface in Europe and that Dragji is in charge.
As opposed to the "pixie dust tout of fairy tales forever" that is trotted out by the herd every day, the fllowing brief look at Taper realities, 'manufactured' numbers unreality, systemic Muni bonds concerns, and of course, political risk provide color for what was described this morning on CNBC as a market bereft of 'bear market theses. As Tartakower once wrote, "The winner of the game is the player who makes the next-to-last mistake;" until then ts all foreplay.
Jitters from Syria still abound, as confirmed by reports from the Israeli army that two shells had hit the Southern Golan region. Despite the reports that the shelling appeared to be errant, WTI remains near session highs as markets remain sensitive ahead of the meeting between US Secretary of State Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov in Geneva over the next two days. Buying of the 10Y is also prevalent and the yield on the benchmark bond was has dropped below 2.90%, or at 2.88% at last check. Today's key economic news in the US session will be the weekly claims report, the Fed buying 10 Year bonds at 11 am followed by the Treasury selling 30 Year bonds at 1 pm (this follows the Fed buying 30 Year bond yesterday: yes ironic).
The markets seem to sense that all of this. In the US we’re putting in what looks like a lower high. The market appears to be forming a Head and Shoulders pattern.
Despite earlier comments from Obama on Tuesday night, who called for a pause in authorizing military strikes on Syria, which led to another drop in crude prices overnight, the drop has since reversed and both WTI and Brent Crude contracts are trading in the green. Whether this is the result of a note by Goldman analysts who noted that the Brent crude sell-off was overdone and that they see no improvement regarding the conflict in Libya which is constraining oil production, or because Russia is once again throwing hurdles in the international process to force Syrian disarmament, is unknown. The lack of any key catalysts and no USDJPY levitation, led to most global markets unchanged, and futures currently trading sideways. What is not trading sideways is Apple which is down over 2% to just over $480 as all hopes of a China Mobile deal fall apart, coupled with pervasive critical panning of the new iPhones which, aside for the commodity version, is just the old iPhone with an extension that allows the NSA's new fingerprint database to be filled in record time.
In the US, retail sales on Friday will be the main data release. In addition, Congress will return from its 5-week recess on Monday and will likely keep their focus on Syria this week. Finally, San Francisco Fed President Williams (who does not vote on FOMC policy this year) will speak on Monday. Last week, Williams argued that the FOMC should maintain its focus on the unemployment rate, despite its limitations. After Friday's employment report saw the unemployment rate drop again due to falling participation, this issue is likely to resurface. The Fed's communication blackout period begins on Tuesday so Williams will be the last FOMC speaker before the September meeting ends on the 18th.
A dispassionate discussion of the weekend events and a look at the week ahead.
The Old Continent: Europe. They have always liked to pride themselves on the fact that they were quaint guys living in leafy suburbs and going to work along cobbled streets.
The highlight of today's economic releases will be the 8:30 am non-farm payroll data, expected to print at 180K jobs, up from July's 162K, and result in an unchanged 7.4% unemployment rate. The "most important jobs number ever " is neither, because even if it comes as a wild outlier to the good or bad side, the Fed is unlikely to change its tapering intentions this late in the game. Still, it will provide fireworks in a very jittery market and if the number is far stronger than expected, expect the 10 Year to finally blow out from below the 3% range which it breached briefly overnight, and never look back, at least not until there is an August 2011 wholesale risk revulsion episode and stocks tumble. Speaking of jittery, overnight the WSJ reports that if picked as Bernanke's replscament, Larry Summers' faces an uphill battle to get the votes of three key democrats on the Senate Banking Committee (Jeff Merkley, Sherrod Brown and Elizabeth Warren). It would be only fitting that the dysfunctional Democratic dominated senate now lashes out against the president, and in the process scuttles the market's only hope of maintaining its Fed-derived gains over the past five years... And there is, of course, Syria which is becoming increasingly problematic for Obama whose support in Congress is looking ever shakier. Will he go it alone in the case of a no vote?