Sometimes, with the stock market doing its best imitation of the Energizer bunny, we forget just how extraordinary are the times in which we live. We’ve been lulled to sleep by the relentless and mesmerizing march higher of stocks and all manner of risky assets. Maybe it’s just that having lived through two booms and busts already that people have come to believe that another boom in risky behavior is not just the new normal but the old one as well. And having survived the last two busts, none the wiser apparently, everyone figures we’ll survive the next one too. Maybe. Or maybe people just don’t realize how truly weird things are right now. Some suggest there is no reason prices can’t continue to go higher; however, the supply of greater fools however is not unlimited and at some point reality and rationality will return, likely with a vengeance.
The Great Depression did not represent the failure of capitalism or some inherent suicidal tendency of the free market to plunge into cyclical depression - absent the constant ministrations of the state through monetary, fiscal, tax and regulatory interventions. Instead, the Great Depression was a unique historical occurrence - the delayed consequence of the monumental folly of the Great War, abetted by the financial deformations spawned by modern central banking. But ironically, the “failure of capitalism” explanation of the Great Depression is exactly what enabled the Warfare State to thrive and dominate the rest of the 20th century because it gave birth to what have become its twin handmaidens - Keynesian economics and monetary central planning. Together, these two doctrines eroded and eventually destroyed the great policy barrier - that is, the old-time religion of balanced budgets - that had kept America a relatively peaceful Republic until 1914. The good Ben (Franklin that is) said,” Sir you have a Republic if you can keep it”. We apparently haven’t.
The economic releases of the past few days are putting the lie to the Keynesian escape velocity myth. The latter is not just around the corner—-and 2014 is now virtually certain to mark the fifth year running when the boom predicted by Wall Street economist at the beginning of the year fizzled as actual results unfolded.
Abe's honeymoon is over. Following nearly two years of having free reign to crush the Japanese economy with his idiotic monetary and fiscal policies - but, but the Nikkei is up - the market may have finally pulled its head out of its, well, sand, and after last night's abysmal economic data from Japan which saw not only the highest (cost-push) inflation rate since 1982, in everything but wages (hence, zero demand-pull) - after wages dropped for 23 consecutive months, disposable income imploded - but a total collapse in household spending, the USDJPY appears to have finally been dislodged from its rigged resting place just around 102. As a result the 50 pip overnight drop to 101.4 was the biggest drop in over a month. And since the Nikkei is nothing but the USDJPY (same for the S&P), Japan stocks tumbled 1.4%, their biggest drop in weeks, as suddenly the days of the grand Keynesian ninja out of Tokyo appear numbered. Unless Nomura manages to stabilize USDJPY and push it higher, look for the USDJPY to slide back to double digits in the coming weeks.
When "justifying" the abysmal Q1 GDP print, one after another economist has scrambled to explain that this number is irrelevant, due to a spending halt during the "harsh winter", following which the US consumer has been spending like mad in Q2, and the PCE, which in Q1 was an abysmal 1.0%, and the worst since 2009, is set for a major rebound. Well, guess what: after last month's huge miss (originally -0.1% now revised to 0.0%, on expectations of a 0.2% rise), the month of May - the second month of Q2 - just showed that US consumer still refuses to spend. In fact, while personal income came in line with expectations in the month of May, rising 0.4%, same as expected, and disposable income in current dollars rising by $56 billion to $12,877 billion, it was spending which missed for the second month in a row and the 4th miss in the past 6 months rising only 0.2%, half the expected 0.4%! This was the fourth spending miss in the past six months.
Financially speaking, Japan is fast becoming a Keynesian dystopia. Its entire economy is now hostage to a fiscal time bomb. Namely, government debt which already exceeds 240% of GDP and which is growing rapidly because even the recent traumatic increase in the sales tax from 5% to 8% does not come close to filling the fiscal gap. Moreover, even at today’s absurdly low and BOJ rigged bond rate of 0.6% nearly 25% of government revenue is absorbed by interest payments. Now comes the coup de grace, as Kyle Bass predicted, Japan’s savings rate has collapsed and its vaunted current account surplus is about ready to disappear.
What Q2 GDP Surge? After March Spending Spree, Tapped Out Consumers Had Biggest Spending Drop Since 2009Submitted by Tyler Durden on 05/30/2014 09:04 -0400
Last month, when we noted the massive surge in Personal Spending which was funded entirely by the depletion of personal savings, we said that "since spending was so much higher than income for one more month, at least according to the bean counters, the savings rate tumbled and at 3.8% (down from 4.2% in February), was the second lowest since before the Lehman failure with the only exception of January 2013 after the withholding tax rule changeover. So for all those sellside economists who are praying that the March spending spree, funded mostly from savings, will continue into Q2 (because remember March is in Q1, which as we already know had an abysmal 0.1% GDP growth rate), we have one question: where will the money come from to pay for this ongoing spending spree?" Turns out the answer was... nowhere.
Bottom line: for whatever reason, in Q1 the US economy contracted not only for the first time in three years, but at the fastest pace since Q1 of 2011. It probably snowed then too.
Following the fourth consecutive decline in home prices as reported by Case Shiller (remember, it was the weather), it was inevitable that in the last month of Q1, when the weather warmed up and when Americans went on a spending spree that took their savings rate to the lowest since 2009, home prices, those tracked by the Case Shiller index, would post a rebound. Which they did: According to the just released Top 20 City Composite Index, home prices bounced by 0.88%, higher than expected, with the composite printing at 166.80, more than the 166.23 forecast, following fourth consecutive sequential declines. This represented a better than expected 12.37% annual price increase, even if the pace of annual price increases appears to be slowing: this was the lowest annual price increase since August.
The inevitable shuttering of at least 3 billion square feet of retail space is a certainty. The aging demographics of the U.S. population, dire economic situation of both young and old, and sheer lunacy of the retail expansion since 2000, guarantee a future of ghost malls, decaying weed infested empty parking lots, retailer bankruptcies, real estate developer bankruptcies, massive loan losses for the banking industry, and the loss of millions of retail jobs. Since we always look for a silver lining in a black cloud, we predict a bright future for the SPACE AVAILABLE and GOING OUT OF BUSINESS sign making companies.
Here is the spin: tapped out US consumers simply did not have money to go out and splurge after the March spending bonanza, which sadly fell in a quarter which as we already know, will have a negative GDP print and thus is a wash (due to weather, remember). However, as a result of the blamy (sic) spring weather, US consumers didn't spend online either, as they were forced to go outside and enjoy the lovely weather... where as already noted they didn't spend any money either.
There was good and bad news in today's personal spending report. First the good: US consumers saw their personal income rise by 0.5%, or $78 billion, in March to a $14.5 trillion SAAR, driven mostly by a $32 billion increase in service wages, as well as $16 billion from government transfer receipts. Now the bad (or, if one is a Keynesian, doubly good) news: personal spending more than offset the increase in income, rising by 0.9% or the most since August 2009, which rose to $12.3 trillion SAAR, driven roughly equally by an increase in spending on Goods ($53 billion) and Services ($54 billion). Curiously the increase in goods spending was the single biggest monthly increase also since August 2009. As for services, the systematic increase on spending over the past several months is unmistakable as far more money is allocated toward healthcare, that one major spending category which rescued Q1 GDP.
Meanwhile, we are still puzzling over the miracle produced by the Fed. Uri Geller could bend spoons. The Fed bends the entire economy. Hardly a single price is unaffected. Hardly a single business plan or investment strategy goes forward without an eye on the central bank. Jesus turned water into wine and multiplied loaves and fishes. But the Fed make Him seem like a two-bit shell game hustler. The loaves and the fishes couldn’t have had a market value of more than a few thousand shekels! Every year, more resources must be drawn from the future and enjoyed in the present. Every year, the claims on future earnings increase… and every year the debt becomes even more unsupportable. Somehow. Someday. Those claims on the future will be marked down.
We are now entering the fifth season of head-fakes about “escape velocity” acceleration in as many years. Yet the Wall Street stock peddlers and their financial media echo boxes are so fixated on the latest “delta”—that is, ultra short-term “high frequency” data releases—that time and again they serve up noise, not meaningful economic signal. The larger point here is that the Kool-Aid drinkers keep torturing the high frequency data because they are desperate for any sign that the Fed’s $3.5 trillion of QE has favorably impacted the Main Street economy. And that’s important not because it might mean some sorely needed income and job gains for middle America, but because its utterly necessary to validate the Fed’s financial bubble.
The world’s official economic institutions are run by people who believe in monetary fairy tales. The 70 words of wisdom below from IMF head Christine Lagarde are par for the course. She asserts that a new jabberwocky expression called “low-flation” is the main obstacle to higher economic growth in Europe and the DM areas generally and that it can be cured by more central bank money printing.