Extemporaneous Random Brain Seepage

I worry about shit.

Domestic Macro

I keep hearing that the US economy is on a solid growth trajectory but, frankly, I see a mixed picture at best. Yes, unemployment claims are down and (shitty) job creation looks good. Industrial capacity utilization is up and so is sentiment. So we have that.

On the other hand, CapEx is still not doing much except in commercial RE and, so far, the oil patch. But with pressure on oil prices the latter might fade off quite a bit. That needs to be watched pretty closely since YTD it has been about $200B and 1/3 of total domestic CapEx.

Wage growth still is crap and I don’t see reason to think it’s going up in any meaningful way. We seem to have become an economy selling each other burgers. I don’t think this is a permanent condition, yet I don’t see the corner we need to turn on in the immediate horizon.

Still, good economic news tends to come out of the penumbra (edge of shadows for the unfamiliar) of the economy so I might be surprised to the upside. For now I give the domestic outlook a big “meh”.

Global Macro

I’ve been saying since its inception that the Euro has a fatal design flaw. Nothing has changed my mind on that.  The lack of political unity of the EZ will continue to cause member nations to be at odds with each other. The clown candidate Grillo is pushing for the reinstatement of the Lira (let’s hope they divide the old currency by 10,000 if it ever comes back). Not that the joker pol has any real clout but it certainly speaks to the social mood that A) this guy is taken seriously and B) Italy’s re-adoption of a sovereign currency actually makes sense on some level.

And then there’s the Germans with the constant teutonic refrain of “No” to the ECB.

I can’t predict the outcome of if/when the whole EU experiment fails but I’m inclined to think it comes with a shit storm if it does. Just something to keep an eye on.

In the mean time almost the entire EU economy could be headed into a triple-dip recession. I can’t image that there’s not some significant spill-over into the US economy.

While all this is going on the Abe economy continues to suck. Sure, like everywhere else in the world, it’s a mixed picture. But putting up a big tax increase while trying to QE your way into lift-off velocity seems deeply conflicted. And the BOJ’s Kuroda is starting to worry about the hammering of the Yen even though he has more than a large hand in making it. Once a bolder starts rolling downhill it can be hard to stop.

China has been telling us that they have a handle on defusing the trigger on their shadow banking debt bomb. Reminds me a lot of “the sub-prime crises is largely contained” kind of talk. The good thing is that the Chinese don’t need Congress to approve any bail-out.  The Chinese government is the greatest Keynesian machine in the history of the world (if you know me you’ll understand that’s not a complement) insofar as they figure out ways to build unproductive assets on a magnificent scale. Off the top of my head I can’t remember the hedgie who said (Chanos?) that China is the only country in the world that knows their annual GDP on January 1st. At some point, though, it shows up as a dead weight loss and kills productivity. I think Chinese debt is a bigger issue than the market has discounted for. Time will tell.

Please Shut the Fuck Up!

I spent the better part of Thursday and Friday scraping my brains off the wall as the various central bankers were shooting their mouths off and confusing the market. I wasn’t alone and it’s good to see some actual smart person confirm my outrage. Kevin Ferry at The Contrarian Corner went ape shit on douche-bag Fed backtracking. Read the whole thing but here’s a bit that sums up the mood.

Remarkably, we are to believe that a sudden 100 BP shift in the color coded Eurodollars over a month and a 450k drop in open interest -IN A DAY ! – resulted in no P/L damage to anyone. We are going out on a limb here..Somebody got hurt…BAD. We’ll find out who and how bad over the next few months.

Dysfunctional markets are driven by liquidation and It’s always about the positions. I’d love to see a damaged speculator sue the Fed for following their guidance. Now lets see who wants to come back and play again.

I’d love to see it too but it’s little more than the fanciful thoughts of the angry.

By now the market is starting to learn that the term “Forward guidance” means part “we have no fucking idea what we’re going to do” and part “we think we can jawbone our way out the the structural imbalances we’ve created.”

The problem with the those people talking at all is that their thinking out loud isn’t guidance it’s bullshit and little more than speculation sauced up with a large serving of unearned credibility.  What we’re left with is a market that is confused and makes far too many fucking decisions on the moves of monetary policy instead of plain old supply/demand business modeling.

I’m not smart enough to know what the outcome of this big money experiment will be (and anyone who says they do is quite full of shit.) But I do know that sending conflicting signals to the market is probably the opposite of what they (only?) imagine to be the benefits of “forward guidance.”

As polemics go I’m probably only getting started on this screed. I’ll save you all and stop here. Understand, though, I’m a long-time seasoned Fed watcher and I’ve never seen this type of communication incompetence in my life.

Markets

The question remains whether the markets will go up or down from here. The answer is “yes.” I’ve made my bets to the downside but if I had a nickle for every time I’ve been wrong I’d be rich.

All I can do is what I do best and outline the risks, buy cheap assets and sell expensive ones.

My TA pals are doing yeoman’s work these days trying to find an edge in a market structure we haven’t seen for a couple of years. There are enough on both sides of the trade that I’m forced to pay less attention to technicals here since I get conflicting opinions from people for which I have major respect.   As my friend Andrew Kassen points out, sometimes TA causes apophenia. Too many ink blots does little more than confuse my feeble mind so I’m going back to my (often wrong) big picture stuff.

To sum it all up I have just to quote Hill Street Blues; Be careful out there.

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