November 9, 2018

Here are all the ways inflation is happening today

Something strange happened in the markets last month that signals trouble ahead…

When stocks fell from their September highs, you would have expected investors to run for cover in the world’s safe-haven asset – US Treasurys.

But that’s not what happened.

While stocks were plunging, Treasurys also fell. Yields on 30-year Treasurys increased to 3.4% from 3.22% (and yields have already more than doubled from their 2016 lows).

It’s a sign that the market is worried about the US government’s ability to pay its exploding debts and that inflation is creeping back into the market. That makes me a bit nervous because we haven’t seen inflation in a decade.

We’ve seen an increase in oil prices, food prices, rent and many other things that eat into people’s savings. Unemployment is low and US wages increased 3.1% in September (the highest in nine years). And core inflation is already running above the Fed’s target of 2%.

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November 8, 2018

Wall Street Seems To Believe That Endless Gridlock And Political Turmoil Will Be Good For America

It is difficult not to admire the relentless optimism on Wall Street.  A divided Congress is going to guarantee two years of gridlock and political turmoil in Washington, but many in the financial community are choosing to interpret the election results as a positive sign.  They remember the “gridlock” during the Obama years, and they are hopeful that the next couple of years will be at least somewhat similar.  The Dow Jones Industrial Average shot up 545 points on Wednesday, and that was the largest post-midterm rally that we have seen in 36 years.  Stock prices normally go up the day after midterm elections, but Wednesday’s rally was definitely unusual

Wednesday’s post-midterms rally was larger than the average gain that follows the contests. Goldman Sachs noted the S&P 500 has averaged a gain of 0.7 percent from the day before the elections to the day after midterms. Wednesday marked the biggest post-midterms gain for both the Dow and S&P 500 since the day after the 1982 contests, when the indexes surged 4.3 percent and 3.9 percent, respectively.

To a certain extent, it is likely that investors were greatly relieved that the worst case scenario did not play out.  As I noted on Monday, a blue wave that would have resulted in Democrats taking control of both houses of Congress would have meant big trouble for Wall Street, and many are very thankful that we were able to avoid that outcome

Investors also avoided the most-feared Wall Street outcome, a so-called “blue wave,” or Democratic sweep of both chambers of Congress. That could have put the president’s economic policies under assault and boosted the odds of a Democratic House pushing for Trump’s impeachment.

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November 7, 2018

Why Oil Prices Will Fall In 2019 And Beyond

The decision by the U.S. to grant waivers to eight countries, allowing them to continue to import oil from Iran, has helped ease the tension in the oil market. No longer are oil traders talking about $100 oil.

Iran’s oil exports stood at 1.7 million barrels per day in October and won’t fall to zero anytime soon. But that may not be the end of the story. “While consistent with our expectations, the granting of waivers does not imply that Iran exports will stabilize near current levels,” Goldman Sachs said in a research note on November 1. As more Iranian supply goes offline, the market will continue to tighten. Iran could lose nearly 600,000 bpd of exports by the end of the year, relative to October levels, the bank predicts.

“As a result, we still expect that the global oil market will be in deficit in 4Q18, leading to a strengthening in Brent time spreads,” Goldman said.

In fact, while everyone focuses on the short-term movements in oil prices, Goldman says it’s important to look at the futures curve.

“In our view, the most interesting takeaway from today’s oil price sell-off is the parallel shift in the crude forward curve. This is consistent with a move down on the oil cost curve as recent supply news (less Iran losses, more US and Saudi production) point to fewer high-cost marginal barrels needed in 2019,” the bank said.

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November 6, 2018

The One Election Scenario That Would Be A “Disaster” For The Financial Markets

On Tuesday night all of the speculation about the midterm elections will mercifully be over, and there is one potential outcome that is being called a “disaster” for the financial markets.  Over the past couple of years, stock prices have soared to unprecedented levels, and Wall Street has seemed to greatly appreciate the pro-business environment that President Trump has attempted to cultivate.  Regulations have been rolled back, corporate taxes have been reduced significantly, and many corporate executives no longer fear that the federal government is out to get them.  But after Tuesday, everything could be different.

The most likely outcome appears to be that the Democrats will take control of the House of Representatives and the Republicans will remain in control of the Senate.  For what it is worth, Nate Silver is currently projecting that the Democrats have an 88 percent chance of winning the House and only a 19 percent chance of winning the Senate.

But of course he was also projecting a huge landslide victory for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

In any event, a divided Congress would create gridlock in Washington, and according to Wedbush Securities managing director Steve Massocca that would produce “some negative fallout” for the financial markets…

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November 5, 2018

Mortgage Bonds Suffer Worst Month In 2 Years As 'Marginal Buyer' Fed Pulls Out

Mortgage bond investors are about to become reacquainted with 'moral hazard' and its inevitable consequences.

As the Federal Reserve continues to pull out of US Treasury's and mortgage bonds (the Fed entered its "peak" monthly unwind phase in Q4, where it will allow up to $30 billion and $20 billion in MBS to roll off and on Oct. 31 its balance sheet declined by more than $33 billion, the largest one-week drop since the start of QE), holders of housing bonds who had grown accustomed to steady returns in a rigged market endured their biggest shellacking in 2 years, as Bloomberg pointed out in a story published Friday.

And while at least one prominent bond investor pointed out that Bloomberg's warnings about a "bloodbath" in MBS may have been exaggerated...

...the story's central premise that the retreat of the bond market's 'marginal buyer' is creating headaches for complacent bond bulls is certainly valid, as we've said before. It only takes a quick glance at the 10-year-yield vs. the Fed's balance sheet expansion/unwind to spot the dangers that could lie ahead.

Now, as the Fed-generated tidal wave of liquidity slows to a trickle and the central bank looks to unwind some $1.7 trillion in MBS holdings, "savvy" bond bulls are stuck asking themselves: who the hell is going to step in and stop the bleeding once liquidity dries up further and mortgage bonds continue to fall?

The answer isn't immediately clear.

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November 2, 2018

Trump Asks Cabinet To Draw Up Trade Deal After Conversation With China's Xi: BBG

Is a harmonious conclusion to the six-month-long US-China trade battle finally within reach? Or this just a ploy to push US stocks higher ahead of an election that will decide which party controls Congress for the balance of Trump's term?

That's the question that traders will be asking themselves as they try to suss out the implications of a Bloomberg report claiming that President Trump has asked his cabinet to begin drawing up the terms of a deal following a "long and very good" conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday - the first phone call between the leaders of the world's two largest economies in months. According to Bloomberg, Trump has asked key cabinet secretaries to have their staff draw up a draft deal that he hopes will signal an end to the trade conflict, BBG's anonymous sources said. What remains unclear is whether Trump will drop the list of demands that have reportedly been a sticking point in negotiations since the spring. Among those demands are that China scale back state support for its 'Made in China 2025' initiative, drop policies that support the siphoning of intellectual property from foreign companies and reduce the country's trade surplus with the US.

Predictably, the news ignited a torrid rally in Asian shares, with the Hang Seng Index rising 4.2%, the biggest gain since 2011, while the Shanghai Composite Index climbed 2.7% to cement its first four-day winning streak since February. The Chinese yuan, meanwhile, traded back below 6.9 to the dollar, while US stock futures moved higher, signaling that shares could be on their way to a fourth straight day of gains.

Analysts were split on their interpretation of the news. Some believed that the rash of downbeat forward guidance that helped trigger the 'Shocktober' market rout had finally inspired the president to try and quash the trade beef.

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November 1, 2018

The $80 Trillion World Economy In One Chart

The latest estimate from the World Bank puts global GDP at roughly $80 trillion in nominal terms for 2017.

As Visual Capitalist's Jeff Desjardins notes, today’s chart from HowMuch.net uses this data to show all major economies in a visualization called a Voronoi diagram – let’s dive into the stats to learn more.

In nominal terms, the U.S. still has the largest GDP at $19.4 trillion, making up 24.4% of the world economy.

While China’s economy is far behind in nominal terms at $12.2 trillion, you may recall that the Chinese economy has been the world’s largest when adjusted for purchasing power parity (PPP) since 2016.

The next two largest economies are Japan ($4.9 trillion) and Germany ($4.6 trillion) – and when added to the U.S. and China, the top four economies combined account for over 50% of the world economy.

MOVERS AND SHAKERS

Over recent years, the list of top economies hasn’t changed much – and in a similar visualization we posted 18 months ago, the four aforementioned top economies all fell in the exact same order.

However, look outside of these incumbents, and you’ll see that the major forces shaping the future of the global economy are in full swing, especially when it comes to emerging markets.

Here are some of the most important movements:

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October 31, 2018

China's Debt Bomb Is Ready To Explode

The great Chinese growth slowdown has been proceeding in stages for the past two years. The reason is simple. Much of China’s “growth” (about 25% of the total) has consisted of wasted infrastructure investment in ghost cities and white elephant transportation infrastructure.

That investment was financed with debt that now cannot be repaid. This was fine for creating short-term jobs and providing business to cement, glass and steel vendors, but it was not a sustainable model since the infrastructure either was not used at all or did not generate sufficient revenue.

China’s future success depends on high-value-added technology and increased consumption. But shifting to intellectual property and the consumer means slowing down on infrastructure, which will slow the economy.

In turn, that means exposing the bad debt for what it is, which risks a financial and liquidity crisis. China started to do this last year but quickly turned tail when the economy slowed. Now the economy has slowed so much that markets are collapsing.

But doesn’t China have over $1 trillion of reserves to prop up its financial system?

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October 30, 2018

China's Economic Slump Accelerated In October, Early Indicators Show

As corporate defaults surge, forcing a desperate PBOC to reverse its deleveraging efforts and threaten more interventions to stave off a more serious retrenchment in growth in the world's second largest economy, it seems like not a day goes by without another warning sign that China's economic precarious situation is even worse than we thought.

The impact this has had on the mainland investors' psyche has been obvious to all. Repeated interventions by China's 'National Team' have done little to arrest the inexorable decline in mainland stocks in October, leaving the Shanghai Composite, the country's main benchmark index, on track for one of its worst months since the financial crisis, and its worst year since 2011. Meanwhile, a flood of FX outflows has pushed the Chinese yuan dangerously close to the 7 yuan-to-the dollar threshold which, if breached, could unleash another wave of chaos across global markets.

And as Chinese policy makers are probably already scrambling to pad the official stats, Bloomberg has released its own proprietary preliminary gauge of Chinese GDP in October which showed that the slowdown unleashed by the US-China trade war worsened in October.

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October 29, 2018

In Desperation Move, IBM Buys Red Hat For $34 Billion In Largest Ever Acquisition

In what can only be described as a desperation move, IBM announced that it would acquire Linux distributor Red Hat for a whopping $34 billion, its biggest purchase ever, as the company scrambles to catch up to the competition and boost its flagging cloud sales. Still hurting from its Q3 earnings, which sent its stock tumbling to the lowest level since 2010 after Wall Street was disappointed by yet another quarter of declining revenue...

... IBM will pay $190 for the Raleigh, NC-based Red Hat, a 63% premium to the company's stock price, which closed at $116.68 on Friday, and down 3% on the year.

In the statement, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty said that "the acquisition of Red Hat is a game-changer. It changes everything about the cloud market," but what the acquisition really means is that the company has thrown in the towel on organic growth (or lack thereof) and years of accounting gimmicks and attempts to paint lipstick on a pig with the help of ever lower tax rates and pro forma addbacks, and instead will now "kitchen sink" its endless income statement troubles and non-GAAP adjustments in the form of massive purchase accounting tricks for the next several years.

While Rometty has been pushing hard to transition the 107-year-old company into modern business such as the cloud, AI and security software, the company's recent improvements had been largely from IBM’s legacy mainframe business, rather than its so-called strategic imperatives. Meanwhile, revenues have continued the shrink and after a brief rebound, sales dipped once again this quarter, after an unprecedented period of 22 consecutive declines starting in 2012, when Rometty took over as CEO.

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October 26, 2018

Fed's Mester Says Stocks "Far From" Level That Could Hurt US Economy

Earlier today we noted that a pressing question that has emerged among Wall Street traders following the recent market drop is at what level in the S&P would the "Powell put" be triggered and when could the Fed end its tightening cycle in support of equities  (with Goldman recently calculating that the drop in the S&P from its recent September highs is the equivalent of a little over one Fed rate hike).

Well, if Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester is speaking for the broader FOMC - and the Fed Chair - don't hold your breath.

In a prepared speech delivered on Thursday evening in New York titled "The Economic Outlook, Monetary Policy, and Normal Policymaking Now and in the Future" she said that while she acknowledged that "longer-term interest rates moved up, and over the past couple of weeks, volatility in equity markets has increased", financial markets are "far from a scenario" in which falling equity prices would "dash confidence and lead to a significant pullback in risk-taking and spending" that could hurt the U.S. economy, and added that "the S&P 500 index remains higher than it was a year ago. Similar to the swings in the market we saw earlier this year, the movements of late do not seem to be signaling that investors are becoming overly pessimistic."

"While the market volatility poses a risk to the forecast and bears monitoring, it has not led me to change my modal medium- run outlook" she said, suggesting that the market has a long way to fall before at least this hawk pays attention.

Despite market gyrations, Mester said that she expects "growth to come in a tad above 3 percent this year and to be in the 2-3/4 to 3 percent range next year, well above my 2 percent estimate of the economy’s trend growth rate."

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October 25, 2018

Stock Market Crash! The Dow Has Now Plunged 2,368 Points From The Peak Of The Market Share

The level of panic that we witnessed on Wall Street on Wednesday was breathtaking.  After a promising start to the day, the Dow Jones Industrial Average started plunging, and at the close it was down another 608 points.  Since peaking at 26,951.81 on October 3rd, the Dow has now fallen 2,368 points, and all of the gains for 2018 have been completely wiped out.  But things are even worse when we look at the Nasdaq.  The percentage decline for the Nasdaq almost doubled the Dow’s stunning plunge on Wednesday, and it has now officially entered correction territory.  To say that it was a “bloodbath” for tech stocks on Wednesday would be a major understatement.  Several big name tech stocks were in free fall mode as panic swept through the marketplace like wildfire.  As I noted the other day, October 2018 looks a whole lot like October 2008, and many believe that the worst is yet to come.

But in the short-term we should see some sort of bounce once the current wave of panic selling is exhausted.  During every major stock market crash in our history there have been days when the stock market has absolutely soared, and this crash will not be any exception.

If we do see a bounce on either Thursday or Friday, please don’t assume that the crash is over.  Most key technical levels have already been breached, and even a small piece of bad news can send stocks plunging once again.

On Wednesday there really wasn’t anything too unusual that happened, but stocks cratered anyway.  Here is a summary of the carnage…

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October 24, 2018

Deutsche Bank Shares Tumble After Net Income Plunges 65% On Lowest Revenue In 8 Years

There was some good, but mostly bad news in Deutsche Bank's Q3 earnings report.

The good news is that after years of turmoil, the biggest German bank is showing signs of stabilization under new CEO Christian Sewing after a bitter boardroom battle. The bad news is that the bank missed across all key revenue metrics as Sewing scrambles with a looming problem: how to boost revenue after firing thousands of banks in a multi-year long cost-cutting campaign.

The German bank reported net income of €229 million on Wednesday, above the €160 million expected but 65% below the €649 million reported a year ago. Profit before tax also tumbled by nearly half, dropping from €933 million to €506 million.

Investors were closely watching the bank's costs: the new management team, which was appointed last April, promised to deliver further cost-cutting to revamp the balance sheet. In the third quarter of 2018, the bank said that adjusted costs dropped 1% from a year ago to 5.5 billion euros, with the aim for the full year to bring adjusted costs down to €23 billion and €22 billion in 2019. A core part of the new "restructuring" effort have been mass layoffs as the number of workers is set to come down to 93,000 by the end of 2018, and 90,000 one year later.

But while costs and the bottom line beat were a modest positive surprise, the same could not be said for the bank's revenue which disappointed across the board: total revenue of €6.17BN missed expectations of €6.34BN and guided lower, now predicting a slight decline for full year revenue after earlier guiding for a flat result; trading income in the key FICC division tumbled 15% from a year earlier, while equities trading, a sector where Wall Street banks generally posted gains, also dropped at the same pace as these two key businesses have been hardest-hit by executives departures recently.

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October 23, 2018

Global Banking Stocks Are Crashing Hard – Just Like They Did In 2008 Share

Global stocks are falling precipitously once again, and banking stocks are leading the way.  If this reminds you of 2008, it should, because that is precisely what we witnessed back then.  Banking stocks collapsed as fear gripped the marketplace, and ultimately many large global banks had to be bailed out either directly or indirectly by their national governments as they failed one after another.  The health of the banking system is absolutely paramount, because the flow of money is our economic lifeblood.  When the flow of money tightens up during a credit crunch, the consequences can be rapid and dramatic just like we witnessed in 2008.

So let’s keep a very close eye on banking stocks.  Global systemically important bank stocks surged in the aftermath of Trump’s victory in 2016, but now they are absolutely plunging.  They are now down a whopping 27 percent from the peak, and that puts them solidly in bear market territory.

U.S. banking stocks are not officially in bear market territory yet, but they are getting close.  At this point, they are now down 17 percent from the peak…

Of course European banking stocks are doing much worse.  Right now they are down 27 percent from the peak and 23 percent from a year ago.  The following comes from Wolf Richter

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October 22, 2018

Middle Class Destroyed: 50 Percent Of All American Workers Make Less Than $30,533 A Year

The middle class in America has been declining for decades, and we continue to get even more evidence of the catastrophic damage that has already been done.  According to the Social Security Administration, the median yearly wage in the United States is just $30,533 at this point.  That means 50 percent of all American workers make at least that much per year, but that also means that 50 percent of all American workers make that much or less per year.  When you divide $30,533 by 12, you get a median monthly wage of just over $2,500.  But of course nobody can provide a middle class standard of living for a family of four for just $2,500 a month, and we will discuss this further below.  So in most households at least two people are working, and in many cases multiple jobs are being taken on by a single individual in a desperate attempt to make ends meet.  The American people are working harder than ever, and yet the middle class just continues to erode.

The deeper we dig into the numbers provided by the Social Security Administration, the more depressing they become.  Here are just a few examples from their official website

-34 percent of all American workers made less than $20,000 last year.

-48 percent of all American workers made less than $30,000 last year.

-59 percent of all American workers made less than $40,000 last year.

-68 percent of all American workers made less than $50,000 last year.

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