Berlusconi's bye-bye (and hope from Draghi) seems to have trumped all else as European macro data continues to slide but stocks and sovereign bonds surge higher amid the US turbulence. EUR jumped 0.65% on the week as it seems anxiety sent hot money into the highest beta muppetry in Europe. Greek stocks +3.6% on the week, Italian stocks +3.7%, Spain +2%... Germany -0.6%. Bunds bid - outperforming Treasuries by 4bps on the week but the "safe havens" of Portugal (-50bps - the 3rd best week of the year), Spain (-21bps), and Italy (-20bps) saw heavy bids. Amid all this exuberance, Europe's VIX rose 16% to 19.6%.
With the government shutdown stretching into an improbable 4th day (and with every additional day added on, the likelihood that the impasse continues even longer and hit the debt ceiling X-Date of October 17 becomes greater), today's monthly Non-Farm Payroll data has quickly become No-Farm Payroll. However, just like on day when Europe is closed we still get a ramp into the European close, expect at least several vacuum tube algos to jump the gun at 8:29:59:999 and try to generate some upward momentum ignition in stocks and downward momentum in gold. In addition to no economic data released in the US, President Obama announced last night he has cancelled his trip to Bali, Indonesia, to attend the APEC conference and instead to focus on budget negotiations back at home - which is ironic because his latest story is that he will not negotiate, so why not just not negotiate from Asia? Ah, the optics of shutdown.
Youth unemployment around the world is dreadfully high and rising. An entire generation is now coming of age without being able to leave the nest or have any prospect of earning a decent wage in their home country. Young people in particular get the sharp end of the stick - they’re the last to be hired, the first to be fired, the first to be sent off to fight and die in foreign lands, and the first to have their benefits cut; and if they’re ever lucky enough to find meaningful employment, they can count on working their entire lives to pay down the debts of previous generations through higher and higher taxes. But when it comes time to collect... finally... those benefits won’t be there for them. Case in point: the British government has just announced a new push to eliminate benefits for young people. And this is just step 1.
Reader's Digest wanted to know how honest world cities are, so it “lost” 192 wallets in 16 cities - that’s 12 wallets in each city - to see how many would be returned. Each wallet contained $50 equivalent of local currency, as well as a name, phone number, family photo, coupons, and business cards. The results, as IBTimes' Lisa Mahapatra illustrates are perhaps surprising. The US ranked well (with 8/12 wallets returned) but the troubled regions of Europe (Spain and Portugal) came a dismal last with only 2 and 1 wallets returned respectively.
Following the FOMC surprise, no less than twelve Fed speeches will provide some "clarifications" on where the Fed now stands. It is very likely that this subject will continue to dominate the discussions of market participants. At the same time, US data will get scrutinized after the recent weakening and to see how warranted the Fed's concerns were. Two US consumer sentiment surveys, durable goods orders, and the third reading of Q2 GDP are important. In addition, monthly consumption and income data for August provide more information on the third quarter and of course there will be interest in the latest weekly claims numbers after some distortions in recent readings.
Since the global economic crisis began in 2008, Italy’s GDP has declined by about 8%, nearly a million workers have lost their jobs, and real wages have come under increasing pressure. The most striking aspect of Italy’s recent turmoil is what has not happened: citizens have not poured into the streets demanding reform. Indeed, throughout the crisis, Italian society has remained uncharacteristically stable. Japan’s experience – characterized by more than 20 years of economic stagnation – offers important lessons for crisis-stricken democratic countries with aging populations. During Japan’s “lost decades,” successive Japanese governments allowed public debt to skyrocket and refused to confront the economy’s deep-rooted problems, allowing sclerosis to take hold. In fact, Japan’s leaders had little incentive to pursue bold reform, because voters consistently failed to demand it. The question now is what kind of shock would be required to motivate Italians to demand similar action.
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).