Another Dead Cat Bounce – And They’ve Already Buried The Cat

That didn’t take long. We’ve just had another short-covering rip from the 1870 Bullard Bottom on the S&P 500 and it’s already petered out. Not even another one of the St. Louis Fed President’s bouncing billiard balls could keep the machines slamming the buy key.

And that’s why there is a monumental market storm brewing dead ahead. Yes, James Bullard is a complete joke who gives zig-zagging a whole new meaning. After yesterday’s about face from rate increase hawk to dove, I’d even be inclined to designate him as a “monetary whirling dervish”. His policy pronouncements fit the urban dictionary’s definition perfectly:

(n.) A person whose behavior resembles a rapid, spinning object. These actions are often spastic fidgeting and incessant babbling. The actions of the whirling dervish are irritating and annoying, often exhausting other people in the immediate vicinity.

You can’t disagree with that, but the issue isn’t Bullard; its the entire central bank policy regime that is now racing towards a fiery dead-end. Bullard is just idiomatic—–the least reluctant of what will soon be a desperately flailing gaggle of Fed heads trying to explain that recession has returned, but that they are out of dry powder without a clue on what to do next.

So it won’t be long before we get the big breakout to the downside. The stock market has been churning and cycling in no-man’s land between 1870 and 2130 on the S&P 500 for 700 days now. There have been upwards of 35 rally attempts and all of them have failed, including this most recent machine driven three-day spasm.
^SPX Chart

^SPX data by YCharts

It is a sheer understatement to say that the market’s generals are in full retreat and that the internals are looking ever more precarious. As to the latter, fully 60% of the S&P 500 members are down 20% or more and are thereby already wrestling hard with the bear. Continue reading

Why Keynesian Market Wreckers Are Now Coming For Even Your Ben Franklins

Larry Summers is a pretentious Keynesian fool, but I refer to him as the Great Thinker’s Vicar on Earth for a reason. To wit, every time the latest experiment in Keynesian intervention fails——as 84 months of ZIRP and massive QE clearly have—–he can be counted on to trot out a new angle on why still another interventionist experiment or state sponsored financial fraud is just the ticket.

Right now he is leading the charge for the greatest stroke of foolishness yet conceived. Namely, negative interest rates based on the rubbish theory that the “natural” money market rate of interest is at an extraordinarily low point. Accordingly, the central bank should drive the “policy rate” to sub-zero levels in order to achieve the appropriate level of “accommodation” in an economy that refuses to attain “escape velocity”.

ENLARGE
 As can’t be pointed out often enough, however, there is no such economic ether as “accommodation”. It’s just a blanket cover story for what Keynesian central bankers believe they are accomplishing by pegging interest rates below market clearing levels and by bending and mangling the yield curve to cause more investment.

But after 86 months it is evident that all of this putative monetary “accommodation” has failed. Falsifying the cost of money and capital can only work if it causes households and businesses to borrow more than they would otherwise; and to then lay credit based spending for consumption and investment goods on top of what can be funded out of current production and income. Another name for that is leveraging private balance sheets and thereby stealing production and income from the future.

With $62 trillion of public and private debt outstanding the US economy has hit a economic barrier called Peak Debt. For all practical purposes, it can be measured as the macroeconomy’s aggregate leverage ratio at 3.5X national income. That represents fully two turns of extra debt on the economy relative to the stable 1.50X ratio that prevailed during periods of war and peace and boom and bust during the century before 1970. Continue reading

Simple Janet – The Monetary Android With A Broken Flash Drive

This is getting just plain nuts. Here is what Janet Yellen said today about the possibility of negative interest rates:

In light of the experience of European countries and others that have gone to negative rates, we’re taking a look at them again because we would want to be prepared in the event that we needed to add accommodation.

The operative words here are “European countries” and “add accommodation”. Yet even a brief reflection on those items demonstrates that Janet is a delusional Simpleton. To adapt Jim Kunstler’s felicitous phrase about Senator Rubio’s 4-Peat incantation during the last GOP debate, our financial system is being led by a monetary android with a broken flash drive.

She says the same damn stupid thing over and over, endlessly.

Someone should tell Janet and her posse of Keynesian money printers that there is no such economic ether as “accommodation”. That’s Fed groupspeak for their utterly erroneous conceit that the US economy is everywhere and always sinking towards collapse unless it is countermanded, stimulated, supported and propped up by central bank policy intervention.

No it isn’t. Janet may prefer a dutch boy hair cut, but she’s not got her finger in the dike, nor is she warding off any other catastrophe. The deluge that is coming is actually the handiwork of the Fed and its bubble ridden Wall Street casino, not the capitalist hinterlands of main street.

There are only two tangible transmission channels through which the Fed can impact our $18 trillion main street economy, as opposed to merely subsidizing Wall Street speculators to artificially bid up the price of existing financial assets.

It can inject central bank credit conjured from thin air into the bond market in order to raise prices and lower yields. And it can falsify money market interest rates and the yield curve. Both of these effects are aimed at inducing businesses and households to borrow more than they would otherwise, and to then spend more than they produce.

That’s the old Keynesian parlor trick and, yes, it worked 50 years ago when Janet’s Keynesian professors first had their way with America’s virgin balance sheets. But now those household and business balance sheets are all used up because we are at Peak Debt, along with most of the rest of the world.

Indeed, in the case of the US household sector the massive leveraging up of wage and salary income between  the late 1960s and 2008 has now begun to slowly reverse.  The credit string that the Fed is pushing on is evident in the chart below. But apparently Janet is still in a time warp obeying the injunctions of James Tobin’s ghost wafting up from the earlier side of the red vertical.

Household Leverage Ratio - Click to enlarge

Household Leverage Ratio – Click to enlarge

Continue reading

Take Cover – Now Comes The Gong Show

It was a bad hair night for the Beltway. Among the roughly 515,000 votes cast in the New Hampshire primaries, about 55% or 280,000 went to Bernie, the Donald and Senator Cruz. That is, the preponderance of Republican, Democrat and independent votes alike went for the anti-establishment candidates.

Since the latter are basically campaigning against the Imperial City and all of its careerists, cronies and corruptions, the first impulse is to cheer them on. After all, nothing could be worse than the self-perpetuating gang of war mongers, welfare statists, K-Street lobbyists and pork-barreling politicians who rule the nation today from their permanent berths in Washington DC.

Unfortunately, there is something worse. When you combine the mindless raw populism of Bernie and the Donald with the rapidly advancing lunacy and desperation of Janet and her baleful band of money printers you have a combustible recipe for abrupt system failure. American capitalism and democracy as we have known it could blow sky high by the time this election cycle is complete and a new President settles into office.

Before elaborating on that dismal note, however, let me first dispatch with Senator Ted Cruz. He unfortunately has the Ronald Reagan mutation when it comes to his political genome. I admire his resolute opposition to Big Government at home and his demonstration in Iowa that you can stand-up to a big, thieving special interest group like the Ethanol Lobby, and still win elections.

On that score, I recall my third election to Congress in 1980 from a small town district in Michigan. Even though it was a hotbed of Chrysler supplier plants and evangelical right-to-lifers, I helped lead the charge against the Chrysler bailout on the House floor and voted against the Hyde anti-abortion amendment dozens of times, thereby earning the wrath of Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca in Detroit and the so-called pro-life lobby in Washington. Continue reading

The Spook In the Casino – Recession Just Ahead, Part 1

The wise guys keep buying the dips owing to the simple proposition that there is never a lasting bear market without a recession. So after today’s blow-out we are likely to get another call to scoop up the “bargains” because the correction has run its course and the US economy is still chugging along notwithstanding the contretemps in China and other places of purportedly limited moment.

Indeed, on the basis of Wall Street’s muscle memory alone there is surely another dead cat bounce on its way any day. But here’s the memo. BTFDs is not working any more and, more crucially, there is a recession coming and soon. And then the bear will maul, not simply paw as today.

The fact is, BTFD hasn’t worked on a net basis hasn’t for about 730 days now. The S&P 500 closed today where it first crossed in February 2014.
^SPX Chart

^SPX data by YCharts

In light of this extended dwell time in no man’s land, it is not surprising that the market is getting spooked. After all, the real driver of the post-March 2009 rebound of the stock indices was the Fed’s massive intrusion in money and capital markets, not a sustainable recovery of main street business activity or real household incomes. Real net CapEx is still below 2007 levels, for example, as is the real median household income.

And most certainly the market’s 220% gain between the post-recession bottom of 670 and the May 2015 peak of 2130 was not owing to an explosion of corporate earnings. If you set aside Wall Street’s annually renewable ex-items hockey stick, what you actually have on the profits front is a paltry 8% cummulative gain since the pre-crisis earnings peak way back in June 2007. Continue reading

Why The Bulls Will Get Slaughtered

Well, they got that right. Detecting that “parts of the U.S. jobs report for January seem fishy”, MarketWatch offered this pictorial summary:

Needless to say, none of that stink was detected by Steve Liesman and his band of Jobs Friday half-wits who bloviate on bubblevision after each release. This time the BLS report actually showed the US economy lost 2.989 million jobs between December and January. Yet Moody’s Keynesian pitchman, Mark Zandi described it as “perfect”

Yes, the BLS always uses a big seasonal adjustment (SA) in January——so that’s how they got the positive headline number. But the point is that the seasonal adjustment factor for the month is so huge that the resulting month-over-month delta is inherently just plain noise.

To wit, the seasonal adjustment factor for the month was 2.165 million. That means the headline jobs gain of 151k reported on Friday amounted to only7% of the adjustment amount!

Any economist with a modicum of common sense would recognize that even a tiny change in the seasonal adjustment factor would mean a giant variance in the headline figure. So the January SA jobs number cannot possibly reveal any kind of trend whatsoever—-good, bad or indifferent.

But that didn’t stop Beth Ann Bovino, US chief economist at Standard & Poor’s Rating Services, from dispatching the usual all is swell hopium:

“Today’s numbers are about momentum, so while 151,000 new jobs in January is below expectations and off pace from prior months, the data shows America’s recovery is continuing. Amid all the global economic turmoil and domestic market gyrations, positive job growth, the drop in the unemployment rate to 4.9%, and the uptick in wages show the U.S. is heading in the right direction.”

Actually, it proves none of those things. For one thing, the January NSA (non-seasonally adjusted) job loss this year of just under 3 million was 173,000 bigger than last January—-suggesting that things are getting worse, not better. In fact, this was the largest January job decline since the 3.69 million job loss in January 2009 during the very bottom months of the Great Recession. Continue reading

The War On Savers And The 200 Rulers Of World Finance

There has been an economic coup d’état in America and most of the world. We are now ruled by about 200 unelected central bankers, monetary apparatchiks and their minions and megaphones on Wall Street and other financial centers.

Unlike Senator Joseph McCarthy, I actually do have a list of their names. They need to be exposed, denounced, ridiculed, rebuked and removed.

The first 30 includes Janet Yellen, William Dudley, the other governors of the Fed and its senior staff. The next 10 includes Jan Hatzius, chief economist of Goldman Sachs, and his counterparts at the other major Wall Street banking houses.

Then there is the dreadful Draghi and the 25-member governing council of the ECB and  still more senior staff. Ditto for the BOJ, BOE, Bank of Canada, Reserve Bank of Australia and even the People’s Printing Press of China. Also, throw in Christine Lagarde and the principals of the IMF and some scribblers at think tanks like Brookings. The names are all on Google!

Have you ever heard of Lael Brainard? She’s one of them at the Fed and very typical. That is, she’s never held an honest capitalist job in her life; she’s been a policy apparatchik at the Treasury, Brookings and the Fed ever since moving out of her college dorm room.

Now she’s doing her bit to prosecute the war on savers. She wants to keep them lashed to the zero bound—-that is, in penury and humiliation—–because of the madness happening to the Red Ponzi in China. Its potential repercussions, apparently, don’t sit so well with her:

Brainard expressed concern that stresses in emerging markets including China and slow growth in developed economies could spill over to the U.S.

“This translates into weaker exports, business investment, and manufacturing in the United States, slower progress on hitting the inflation target, and financial tightening through the exchange rate and rising risk spreads on financial assets,” she said, according to the Journal, which said she made the comments on Monday.

In the name of a crude Keynesian economic model that is an insult to even the slow-witted, Brainard and her ilk are conducting a rogue regime of financial repression, manipulation and unspeakable injustice that will destroy both political democracy and capitalist prosperity as we have known it. They are driving the economic lot of the planet into a black hole of deflation, mal-distribution and financial entropy. Continue reading

Slouching Toward The Dark Side

Last Wednesday we noted there is something rotten in the state of Denmark, meaning that the world’s great potemkin village of Bubble Finance is unraveling. The evidence piles up by the day.

To wit, now comes still another story about the Red Paddy Wagons rolling out in China. This time they are rounding-up the proprietors of a $7.6 billion peer-to-peer (P2P) lending Ponzi called Ezubao Ltd.

Ezubo investors lined up outside a government office in Beijing last month; having shut down the online peer-to-peer investing platform in December, authorities were reported Monday to have declared Ezubo a Ponzi scheme and arrested 21 suspects linked to it and its parent. Ezubo investors lined up outside a government office in Beijing last month; having shut down the online peer-to-peer investing.

The particulars of this story are worth more than a week of bloviating by the Wall Street economists, strategists and other shills who visit bubblevision the whole day long. That’s because it exposes the rotten foundation on which the entire Red Ponzi and the related world central bank regime of Bubble Finance is based.

Needless to say, these dangerous, unstable and incendiary deformations are not even visible to the Keynesian commentariat and policy apparatchiks. They blithely assume that what makes modern economies go is the deft monetary, fiscal and regulatory interventions of the state. By their lights, not much else matters——and most certainly not the condition of household, business and public balance sheets or the level of speculation and leveraged gambling prevalent in financial markets and corporate C-suites.

As that pompous fool and #2 apparatchik at the Fed, Stanley Fischer, is wont to say—–such putative bubbles are just second order foot faults. These prosaic nuisances are not the fault of monetary policy in any event, and can be readily minimized through a risible scheme called “macro-prudential” regulation. Continue reading

Apple, FANGS And Monetary Fools

This week the great tree of Apple finally stopped growing towards the sky. During its latest quarter, in fact, i-Pad sales were down 25%, Mac volume came in 4% lower and even the i-Phone barely breached the flat line.

In all, Apple’s mighty machine of double digit growth posted a revenue gain of just 1.7% over prior year, while its net income was essentially flat. The real news, however, was that management is now projecting an actual 11% y/y decline in sales during the current quarter.

Don’t get me wrong. Apple has been the most awesome fount of product invention, global production and supply chain proficiency, logistics and marketing innovation and consumer brand value creation in modern history—-perhaps ever.

Its products—especially the smart phone—did fundamentally transform the daily life of the world. Apple’s installed base of one billion devices is a living testimonial to its fanatical focus on bringing to the consumer a truly transformative digital age experience.

Yet it all happened in well less than 10 years. Indeed, while the tech world was booming in the 1990s, APPL was struggling. Between 1990 and 2004, revenue grew at only 4% per annum and earnings did not increase by one thin dime.

That’s right. Apple’s net income stalled out at $500 million per year for a decade and one half—-or at a level equal to two days profits during the quarter just reported.

That wasn’t much to write home about under any circumstance, but was especially wimpy compared to Microsoft, where sales and net income grew at a 27% CAGR during that period; or Cisco, where sales and earnings soared by 50% annually for 15 years running.

And that brings us to the lunatic valuation of the FANGs (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google), which was also on display again this week. To wit, 100X+ PE multiples are always and everywhere a deformed artifact of central bank driven Bubble Finance, not the emission of an honest capital market.

The fact is, the greatest technology-based businesses of modern times accomplished its dramatic growth spurt in just over 20 quarters between 2011 and 2015. That was after the i-Phone incepted and the i-Pad worked up a serious head of steam.

Now Apple is pancaking or worse, and it is hard to believe that gimmick products like Apple Watch or Oculus can fill the hole from the fast fading i-Pad and the stalling i-Phone. No harm done, of course, and its entirely possible the APPL will have another modest growth run.

But here’s the thing. Apple essentially proves you can’t capitalize anything at 100X except in extremely rare cases because of the terminal growth rate barrier. That is, after a few years of red hot growth almost every large company’s organic growth rate bends toward the single digit path of GDP.

 

Continue reading

Death Throes Of The Bull

The fast money and robo-machines keep trying to ignite stock rallies, but they all fizzle because bad karma is beginning to infect the casino. That is, apprehension is growing among whatever adults are left on Wall Street that 84 months of ZIRP and $3.5 trillion of Fed balance sheet expansion, aka money printing, didn’t do the trick.

Not only is the specter of recession growing more visible, but it is also attached to a truth that cannot be gainsaid. Namely, having stranded itself at the zero bound for an entire business cycle, the Fed is bereft of dry powder. Its only available tools are a massive new round of QE and negative interest rates.

But these are absolutely non-starters. The former would provoke riots in the financial markets because it would be an admission of total failure; and the latter would provoke a riot in the American body politic because the Fed’s seven year war on savers and retirees has already generated electoral revulsion. Bernie and The Donald are not expressions of public confidence in the economic status quo.

So the dip buying brigades have been reduced to reading the tea leaves for signs that the Fed’s four in store for 2016 are no more. Yet even if the prospect of delayed rate hikes is good for a 50-handle face ripping rally on the S&P 500 index from time to time, here’s what it can’t do. The Fed’s last card—-deferring one or more of the tiny interest rate increases scheduled for this year——cannot stop the on-coming recession.

And it is surely coming. We got one more powerful indicator on that score in this morning’s data on core capital goods orders (i.e. nondefense excluding aircraft). Not only were they down sharply from last month, but at $65.9 billion were down 11% from the September 2014 peak, and are also now below the prior cyclical peaks in early 2008 and 2001.

In fact, core CapEx orders in December were at a level first reported in April 2000, and that’s in nominal dollars. In real terms, they are down nearly 25%.

Continue reading

Why Dip Buyers Will Get Clobbered: The US Economy Isn’t Doing “Just Fine”

As of June 2008 no Wall Street banking house was predicting a recession, yet by then the Great Recession—–the worst economic downturn since the 1930s—– was already six months old, as per the NBER’s subsequent official reckoning.

Actually, it was already several years old if you concede that the phony housing boom of 2005-2007 was generating merely transient “statistical” GDP, not permanent gains in main street wealth. Even the movie houses now showing “The Big Short” have some pretty palpable reminders on that point——not the least being the strip club dancer who owned 5 residential properties, with two adjustable rate mortgages on each.

In fact, by then main street America was crawling with strippers. That is, equity strippers who were repeatedly doing “cash out” refinancings in order to generate between $20,000 and $100,000 or more of mortgage proceeds to spend on vacations, cars, man caves, aspirational leather goods, shoes and apparel, among much else.

At the peak in 2006-2007, upwards of 10% of personal consumption expenditures were accounted for by MEW (mortgage equity withdrawal). The utter unsustainability of that kind of Potemkin prosperity goes without saying, but the point here is that it was no deep dark secret buried in the economic entrails.

In fact, Chairman Greenspan went to great lengths to publicize the facts of MEW on an up-to-date basis. But he wasn’t trying to warn that the end was near. Unaccountably, he and his Wall Street acolytes concluded that the US economy had become virtually recession proof because of the extra firepower being accorded to household consumption by MEW!

MEWQ42014

In short, the economic booby trap of MEW was hiding in plain sight and so was the Great Recession. Yet there was nothing at all unusual about the 2008 recession call miss. Continue reading