Why Can’t Oil Be Oil?

Submitted by Jeffrey Snider  –  Alhambra Investment Partners

For most commentary on the recent and sharp decline in oil prices, there is a seriousceteris paribus to it especially from those that don’t recognize that there are much deeper financial forces. The following is excerpted as an example of the closed system approach, as if there is a world of difference that can allow “decoupling.”

What matters is what’s causing prices to decline: an increase in productivity or a decline in economic activity. Only in the second case is there a serious danger that the Federal Reserve should try to respond to. Similarly, rising prices can be a sign that monetary policy is too loose, but can also reflect declines in productivity.

This is a tangential explanation to the second stage of oil price excusing. Some will “predict” that though demand has fallen, “unexpectedly” of course, it will not remain so weak for so long. This alternate but associated justification is that foreign demand, and only in discrete locales that are unrelated, is to blame as the US surges forward unobstructed (5% GDP and all that).

There are, however, two wrinkles worth noting. One is that although the fall in the price of oil doesn’t appear to reflect any weakness in the U.S. economy, weakness abroad may be a factor. But that’s a reason to loosen money elsewhere, not in the U.S. A second is that there is a reasonable argument that monetary policy in the U.S. has been a little too tight even leaving aside this price decline. If that’s correct, then some added pressure for loosening, even if that pressure is based on a mistaken worry, might not be such a bad thing.

And thus the utter craziness of monetarism is on full display, in that after arguing that declining oil prices are good for American consumers, they are also suggesting that monetary policy is “too tight”, and thus oil prices are contradictorily “too low.” That betrays the central aspect of this orthodox embracing of lower energy prices as nothing more than a shaky rationalization – they still are not comfortable with low prices but accept them lest anyone get worried about what they really suggest. Orthodox monetary theory is, when stripped of its academic trappings, dedicated to high oil prices and low wages.

Ultimately, oil prices do not operate in a vacuum, nor even a financial one. If oil prices were on their own declining as they have, this argument might have more merit (stress and overstress “might”). However, these closed-system masters, as they fancy, never address financial reality. Oil prices signal economic weakness and bond markets second that. The US bond market is not purely dedicated to Russian economic foundering or Brazilian inflation, but rather growing quite concerned in historical context of US economic cycles.

ABOOK Dec 2014 UST 5s10s IR Targeting

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The Fracturing Bubble Down South: Brazil Is Another Victim Of Global Money Printing

Did Bloomberg recently acquire The Onion and fail to announce it? Well, you have to read its lead paragraph about Brazil’s latest outlook twice to be sure:

Analysts reduced to 0.55 percent  their GDP estimate for 2015 from 0.69 percent the previous week, according to the Dec. 19 central bank survey of about 100 analysts published today.

Apparently that’s a tradable data bite for some algo, somewhere. But its also a cogent demonstration that central bank driven financialization has generated mind-blowing pockets of wasteful stupidity everywhere. Could there really be 100 economists updating there GDP forecast every week to the second decimal point for Brazil alone?

In the real world, Brazil is a financially unstable, debt-bloated, politically corrupt, speculation-riven satellite of the China house of cards. Accordingly, the 14 bps of GDP forecast change highlighted above is about as pure an expression of content-free noise as can be found in the financial media. It cannot possibly be of any use except to robo-traders with holding periods of a few seconds—or even hours or days for that matter.

If someone were to actually “invest” in Brazilian securities, by contrast, it might be better to know that nearly every single macro indicator is heading  south at an accelerating pace; that over the last 10 years the Brazilian economy has been bloated and distorted by the double whammy of unsustainable demand for raw materials from China and rampant internal malinvestment and speculative bubbles funded by its socialist government and the latter’s central bank hand-maiden; and that the Brazilian household sector went on a borrowing spree that made the US mortgage bubble look tame.

So the relevant investor question is not 14 basis points of economists’ forecast noise, but whether the Brazilian economy is fixing to make another one of its historically patented nose-dives into traumatic bubble liquidation.

Historical Data Chart

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The Daily Debt Rattle

Submitted by Raúl Ilargi Meijer  –  The Automatic Earth

US Retailers May Only Just Meet Holiday Sales Forecasts (Reuters)
Oil Tanks On Surge In US Supply And Imports (CNBC)
Oil Slide ‘Turbocharging’ Airline Profits (CNBC)
Make No Mistake, the Oil Slump Is Going to Hurt the US Too (Katusa)
France Has Never Had This Many Unemployed People Before (Reuters)
Why Everyone Is About To Rush Into Subprime Mortgage Debt – Again (Zero Hedge)
UK Growth Revised Down As Current Account Deficit Soars (Guardian)
Italian Government Steps In To Save Giant Steel Plant (BBC)
Russia Claims To Have New Proof Ukraine Involved In Downing Of MH17 (AFP)
Putin Calls For Cap On Vodka Prices Amid Economic Crisis (BBC)
5 Reasons Not To Retire In The US (MarketWatch)
Are Americans Prepared For A Soviet Style Collapse? (Dmitry Orlov)
Supertrawlers To Be Banned Permanently From Australian Waters (Guardian)
Germans Balk At Plan For Wind Power Lines (NY Times)
How France Has Forgotten The Christmas Truce Soldiers (BBC)

Continue Reading: Debt Rattle Christmas Day 2014 – The Automatic Earth