It was interesting this week to watch the media explode in a frenzy of reporting over the "stronger than expected" auto sales. The increase in auto sales to 16.9 million units was certainly a welcome number. However, was it really the "long awaited" sign of economic recovery that it was portrayed to be?
Surely humor like this (if not so much its accompanying forecasts on copper, China, the S&P, bonds, or anything else for that matter) is worth the $29.95 monthly subscription price alone. From today's "world-renowned" Gartman newsletter: "We’ve far too many ways to embarrass ourselves to put forth a forecast on today’s ADP report, so we shall simply await its release, but if we have to argue even slightly with the consensus we shall argue that the consensus is low and that there shall be more jobs created than the 210K guess-timate that is the consensus at the moment."
It seems that if the monthly payment is right, then no matter how "Sarcophagus-like" GM's cars are, Americans will lever up and buy 'em. Many were shocked to hear that GM reported the highest sales this month since August 2008 - especially in light of the record-breaking recalls and now Reuters reporting that up to 74 people have died from faulty ignition switches - but one glance at Experian's auto loan data and it's clear why... The average loan term and average amount financed for a new light-vehicle hit record highs in the first quarter, signaling U.S. consumers continue to extend themselves to afford pricier cars. GM cars may be "grenade-like" but US consumers - with stagnant wages - are extending maturities (loans with terms 73-84 months grew by 27.6%) to manage that monthly nut... This will not end well.
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.
Gold is trading at the lowest level relative to palladium since 2004 as Bloomberg notes that prospects for a record shortage has lured investors to the metal used in pollution-control devices for cars amid concern that supply will be disrupted. As the chart below shows an oz of gold buys only 1.54 oz of palladium (less than a 3rd of the 5oz gold could buy in 2009) as supply problems (mining strikes and Russian sanctions) collide with demand expectations (the 'recovery' of the global car market). Despite GM's problems, record levels of channel-stuffed inventories, and a still stagnant consumer (showing no interest in big purchases), IHS expects a record level of auto sales this year at 85 million. Seems like this ratio is an interesting derivative play on the excessive exuberance in the world's car market expectations.
When it comes to the Goldman team of crack freaconopenguins the fun never ends.
Dispassionate discussion of the near-term forces at work in the foreign exchange market.
Goldman, it would appear, are desperate to not be forced to admit they are wrong once again. On the heels of their dramatic and humiliating swing from expectations of a +3.0% Q1 GDP growth rate at the start of the year to a current -0.6% expectation, the hockey-stick-believers are out with their latest piece of guesswork explaining how growth will explode to 3.9% in Q2 (a full percentage point higher than their previous estimate).The platform for this v-shaped recovery - "consumer spending will probably grow strongly, while the housing market should gradually improve." So 'probably' and 'should' it is then.
- Ukraine attacks rebel city, helicopter shot down (Reuters)
- Euro Unemployment Holds Near Record Amid Factory Gains (BBG)
- Yellen’s Fed Resigned to Diminished Growth Expectations (BBG)
- Junket Figure's Disappearance Shakes Macau's Gambling Industry (WSJ)
- China tried to undermine economic report showing its ascendancy (WSJ)
- Liquidity Trap Hitting AAA Bonds Has ATP CEO Sounding Alarm (BBG)
- AstraZeneca Snubs Pfizer Approach That U.K. Won’t Block (BBG)
- Missing Jet Recordings May Have Been 'Edited' (NBC)
- RBS turns corner as first-quarter profit trebles (Reuters)
- Japan household spending hits four-decade high, wages key to outlook (RTRS) while Real Incomes Drop 3.3% in March, 6th straight decline
In one of his most voracious tomes, The Wall Street Journal's Fed-see-er Jon Hilsenrath prepared 726 words and published them in 5 minutes to explain that the Fed's forecasts for Q1 were dismally wrong, that the future will all be rosy, and their forecasts spot on, and that the Taper is steady..."Fed officials acknowledged the first-quarter slowdown was worse than expected by saying activity "slowed sharply." Previously, they had just said activity merely slowed...Still, officials nodded to signs of a pickup in economic activity in March and April, suggesting they aren't too worried about the winter slowdown."
Not entirely surprising given the data from the automakers in recent weeks, but the 3.4% jump in auto dealer sales provided enough juice to push overall retail sales in the US up 1.1% MoM (beating expectations of 0.8% and with last month's data revised higher). This is the biggest month-over-month jump in retail sales since Sept 2012. The question, of course, is whether this auto spike is sustainable to support the overall sales environment or will the ever lowering credit standards of the subprime auto loan market lead to the inevitable collapse in a few months?
Futures are treading water once more now that Ukraine has stormed to center stage from the backburner after everyone was convinced Putin would let the situation cool off after annexing Crimea. Guess not. Adding the renewed geopolitical jitters to what has already been a beta stock bloodbath into a holiday shortened week assures some high volatility fireworks. Cautious sentiment was observed over in Asia (Nikkei 225 -0.36%) amid renewed fears that geopolitical tensions in Ukraine will flare up again following reports of exchange gunfire with pro-Russian militants. This sentiment carried over into the European session with stocks lower across the board (Eurostoxx50 -0.71%). EUR is lower after ECB’s Draghi said any further strengthening of the EUR would warrant further action by the ECB, including non-standard measures such as quantitative easing - it is amazing how frequently and often the Virtu algos still fall for Draghi's jawboning trick which has now become all too clear will never be implemented and certainly not if he keeps talking about it daily, as he does.
Dispassionate big picture overview.
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.
- Why did Yellen use criminals in her employment case studies? Hilsenrath explainz (Hilsenrath)
- GM avoided defective switch redesign in 2005 to save a dollar each (Reuters)
- Xuzhou Zhongsen Said to Avert Bond Default on Guarantor Aid (BBG)
- France's New Finance Minister Faces Fiscal Challenge (WSJ)
- The magic is gone: Draghi’s Attempt to Talk Down Euro Lost on Traders (BBG)
- Another John Kerry smashing success: U.S. Gambit on Mideast Peace Talks Falters (WSJ)
- Combat-Ready China Military Seen as Xi’s Goal in Graft Battle (BBG)
- Huge earthquake off Chile's north coast triggers tsunami (Reuters)
- Pressure rises on Gross as investors pull $3.1 billion from Pimco's flagship fund (Reuters)