Something funny happened on the road to Dow Jones 13,000 - the car ran out of gas, and the driver noticed what the latest and (literally) greatest price of unleaded is...
One of the dirty little secrets of the stock market rally is that the rising corporate profits that powered it are largely phantom profits. Why are they phantom? Because they are artifacts of currency devaluation, not an increase in efficiency or production of goods and services. Though few domestic observers make mention of it, the large, global U.S.-based corporations are now dependent on non-U.S. sales for about 40% of their revenues (50% and up for many companies) and virtually all their profit growth. Overseas sales are made in the local currency: the euro, yen, renminbi, Australian dollar, Canadian dollar and so on, and the profits are stated in U.S. dollars on corporate profit and loss statements. In 2002, 1 euro of profit earned by a U.S. global corporation equaled $1 in profit when converted to U.S. dollars. That same 1 euro profit swelled to $1.60 in 2008 as the U.S. dollar depreciated against the euro. That $ .60 of profit was phantom, an artifact of the depreciating dollar; it did not result from a higher production of goods and services or greater efficiencies.
Now that the bipolar market has once again resynced general risk appetite with the EURUSD (high Euro -> high ES and vice versa), everything in the macro front aside from European developments, is noise (and the occasional reminder by data adjusting authorities in the US that the country can in fact decouple with the entity responsible for half the world's trade. This will hardly come as a surprise to anyone. In fact, the conventional wisdom as shown by Goldman's latest client poll has European sovereign crisis worries far in the lead of all macro risks. Behind it are Iran and nuclear tensions, China hard-landing, the US recovery/presidential election and the Japanese trade deficit/record debt/JGB issues. Which for all intents and purposes means that the next big "surprise" to the market will be none of the above. What are some of the factor not listed as big macro risks? According to David Kostin 'Risks that clients did not mention include late March US Supreme Court review of health care reform (implications for 12% of S&P 500); mid-year deadline to implement Dodd-Frank financial reform (14% of market); and the French Presidential election on April 22nd where polls show incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy trails opposition candidate Francois Hollande." Oddly enough, one very crucial item missing is once again surging inflation courtesy of trillions in stealthy central banks reliquification, sending crude to the highest since May 2011, and the most expensive gas price in January on record.
You're in a situation now where the rest of the world has increasingly lost confidence in the U.S. Dollar
History is replete with the carcasses of failed currencies destroyed through misguided intentional debasement by governments looking for an easy escape from piling up too much debt. James Rickards, author of the recent bestseller Currency Wars: The Making of the Next Global Crisis, sees history repeating itself today - and warns we are in the escalating stage of a global currency war of the grandest scale. Whether it ends in hyperinflation, in the return to some form of gold standard, or in chaos - history is telling us we can have confidence it will end painfully.
Make no mistake, inflation is creeping into the system in a big way. And the Fed will not raise interest rates to fight it until it’s far too late. Debt levels are simply too high for the Federal Government and US corporations, particularly the large banks which the Fed has been doing everything it can to prop up.
European Recession Deepens As German Industrial Output Slides More Than Greek, Despite Favorable ZEWSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/14/2012 08:46 -0400
Earlier today we got another indication that Europe's recession will hardly be a "technical" or "transitory" or whatever it is that local spin doctors call it, after the European December Industrial Output declined by 1.1% led by a whopping 2.7% drop by European growth dynamo Germany, which slid by 2.7% compared to November (which in turn was a 0.3% decline). This was worse than the Greek number which saw a 2.4% drop, however starting at zero somewhat limits one's downside. Yet even as the German economic decline accelerated, German ZEW investor expectations, which just like all of America's own consumer "CONfidence" metrics are driven primarily off the stock market, which in turn is a function of investor myopia to focus only on nominal numbers and not purchasing power loss - a fact well known to central bankers everywhere - do not indicate much if anything about the economy, and all about how people view the DAX stock index, which courtesy of the ECB's massive balance sheet expansion, has been going up. And if there has been any light at all in an otherwise dreary European tunnel, it has been the dropping EURUSD, which however has since resumed climbing, and with it making German industrial exports once again problematic. Which in turn brings us back to the primary these of this whole charade: that Germany needs controlled chaos to keep the EURUSD low - the last thing Merkel needs is a fixed Europe. It is surprising how few comprehend this.
To be happy is to be confident. And at least until the recent past, in America to be confident, meant to have purchasing power, which pretty much always, at least for the bulk of the population, meant to lever up, i.e., to take on debt and to spend it on worthless crap. Well, as we reported earlier this week, in December the US population literally jumped head first right back into the credit frenzy, experiencing the largest jump in unadjusted consumer credit since the peak of the credit bubble. however, very much contrary to naive interpretations that this would reignite the economy, as Lance Roberts explained, and as Charles Hugh Smith confirmed showing plunging gasoline usage, it merely indicated that with savings again at record lows, US consumer have no choice but to dig deep into their credit card stash merely to pay for staples, and non-discretionary spending. And one hardly is happy when one purchases a roll of toiler paper (not to be confused with US Treasurys - there is far less than 15.4 trillion pieces of toiler paper in the world) on credit. Sure enough, as the following chart from John Lohman demonstrates, the recent (mini) reincarnation (because it will last at most a month or two) of the consumer credit bubble has done absolutely nothing for consumer confidence. In fact, today's UMichigan data showed a decline in confidence. Which shows all one needs to know about just what the true state of the US consumer is...
For the last thirty years economic policy makers have been in the business of promoting asset prices higher through easy credit. Global policy makers are meddling in markets so that the economies they feel responsible for can achieve what seems to be a consensus objective of muddling through. A policy of meddling to muddle, if you will. QBAMCO's critical 'inflation' insights, and Tourette's-ridden ranting, reflect the simple realities of what real-world consequences occur when policy makers succumb to the perceived political imperatives of perverting economic data. In this combined note, Brodsky and Quaintance scrub away at the misconceptions related to inflation, raise doubts as to the incentives of central banks to share the true loss of their currencies' purchasing power with the public, and extend this to try and get a truer sense of money, inflation, and real value today - all of which seem grossly misunderstood, despite our best efforts, in the marketplace. Simply put, they point out that, "It should not be considered acceptable to be in a profession – as a political economist, policy maker or investor – in which self-delusion has become a necessary requirement for success and perpetuating that delusion is harmful to the broad economy over time. Yes, but the “public good” you say? Ah, but for how long?"
As I reminded you the other day, Ben Bernanke isn't worried about inflation. That's good to know, but what are some other facts that we can look at to determine where prices and / or purchasing power are headed. Two indicators that are relevant to this topic are core inflation (everyone's favorite to point to, since it excludes those pesky inflationary items food & energy), and income.
Rising consumer credit means more consumption which leads to stronger economic growth. Let me explain. Individuals go to work to produce a good or service for which they are paid a finite amount of money for. With that income they pay taxes which leaves them with discretionary income from which to live on. Pay the rent, utilities, insurance and healthcare, food, clothes and put gas in the car and that pretty much consumes the majority of the paycheck. Today, the situation is quite different and a harbinger of potentially bigger problems ahead. The consumer is no longer turning to credit to leverage UP consumption - they are turning to credit to maintain their current living needs. Take a look at the chart of personal consumption expenditures (PCE) versus total consumer credit. Notice in the past year as consumer credit rose you saw an increase in PCE. In the last two months consumer credit has exploded higher but there has been virtually NO increase in PCE levels on a month over month basis. Retail sales during the Christmas shopping season we disappointing and this was even with a large decrease in gasoline prices. This situation becomes even more apparent when we begin to look at the longer term trends of real disposable incomes, consumer credit and personal saving rates.
Gold Increased In Value In Both Extreme Inflationary And Deflationary Scenarios - Credit Suisse & LBS ResearchSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/08/2012 10:42 -0400
Mohamed El-Erian, CEO and co-chief investment officer of bond fund giant PIMCO, said investors should be underweight equities while favoring "selected commodities" such as gold and oil, given the fragile global economy and geopolitical risks. Over the long term gold will reward investors who own gold as part of a diversified portfolio. Trying to time purchases and market movements is not recommended – especially for inexperienced investors. New research from Credit Suisse and London Business School entitled ‘The Credit Suisse Global Investment Returns Yearbook 2012’ continues to be analysed by market participants. The 2012 Yearbook investigates data from 1900 to 2011 and looks at how best to protect against inflation and deflation, and how currency exposure should be steered. The chief findings are that bonds do well in deflation and benefit from currency hedging, and equities are not a perfect inflation hedge, but benefit from international diversification. The report shows that gold offers a timely inflation hedge and long term holders of gold should expect a positive correlation to inflation – gold is one of only two assets since 1900 to have positive sensitivity to inflation (of 0.26). Only inflation-linked bonds had more - 1.00, as expected. By contrast, when inflation rises 10%, bond returns have fallen an average 7.4%; Treasuries fell 6.2%, and equities lost 5.2%. Property fell by between 3.3% and 2%. Importantly, gold managed to increase its value across both extreme inflationary and deflationary scenarios. The academics from LBS analysed 2,128 individual years in 19 major countries (1900-2011), finding gold rose 12.2% in the most deflationary years - when average deflation was 26%.
The problem with printing money and promising to do so for years ahead of time is that the negative consequences of inflation only happen after a delay. As a result, it's difficult to know if a policy has gone too far until years down the road at times. Unfortunately, if confidence in the dollar is lost, the consequences cannot be easily reversed. One problem for the Fed itself is that it holds long-term securities that will lose value if rates rise. The federal government faces an even more serious problem when interest rates rise, as higher rates on its debt mean greater interest payments to service. Due to this federal-government debt burden, the Fed has an incentive to keep rates low, even if the long-term result is higher inflation. However, for now the Fed's statement suggests it sees inflation as "subdued," so it's putting those concerns aside for now.
The last week has offered an amusing display of the difference between the cheerleading corporate mainstream media, lying Wall Street shills and the critical thinking analysts. What passes for journalism at CNBC and the rest of the mainstream print and TV media is beyond laughable. Their America is all about feelings. Are we confident? Are we bullish? Are we optimistic about the future? America has turned into a giant confidence game. The governing elite spend their time spinning stories about recovery and manipulating public opinion so people will feel good and spend money. Facts are inconvenient to their storyline. The truth is for suckers. They know what is best for us and will tell us what to do and when to do it.... The drones at this government propaganda agency relentlessly massage the data until they achieve a happy ending. They use a birth/death model to create jobs out of thin air, later adjusting those phantom jobs away in a press release on a Friday night. They create new categories of Americans to pretend they aren’t really unemployed. They use more models to make adjustments for seasonality. Then they make massive one-time adjustments for the Census. Essentially, you can conclude that anything the BLS reports on a monthly basis is a wild ass guess, massaged to present the most optimistic view of the world. The government preferred unemployment rate of 8.3% is a terrible joke and the MSM dutifully spouts this drivel to a zombie-like public. If the governing elite were to report the truth, the public would realize we are in the midst of a 2nd Great Depression.
A week ago, we asked (rhetorically), whether "Bernanke Has Become A Gold Bug's Best Friend?" While we knew the answer, today's reponse by the market confirms it. Beginning just before 10 am, or the moment Ben's prepared remarks went off embargo, gold and silver have been on a relentless tear (chart 1), with Gold passing $1760/ounce and now just $150 from its all time nominal highs. And while risk is on elsewhere, stocks priced in gold are down 0.9% since their highs yesterday and at their lows in real terms (chart 2), even as they hit new nominal highs, confirming that fear of the coming monetary tsunami will benefit precious metals. So while the lemmings focus on meaningless nominal gains, their real purchasing power just lost another 1%. Thank you Chairsatan - you are a good man.