30Y Treasury Yield Jumps Near 3.00% Despite Dismal GDP Growth


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Nothing says sell bonds like the worst quarterly growth for a Fed rate hike since 1980

 

but that’s what is happening…

Here’s why – Treasuries under pressure after 1Q employment cost index rose 0.8%, largest gain since Q1 2007, a sign of inflationary wage pressures as both pay and benefits accelerated

US GDP Collapses To 0.7%, Lowest In Three Years; Worst Personal Spending Since 2009


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The Atlanta Fed was right once again, and slashing its forecast over the past 3 months today the BEA confirmed that in the first quarter US economic growth tumbled to just 0.7%, down from 2.1% in the last quarter and below the 1.0% expected, and the lowest print in three years going back all the way to Q1 2014.

Broken down by components, the disappoing number reflected increases in business investment, exports, housing investment, offset by a big slowdown in consumer spending. The increase in business investment reflected increases in both structures and equipment, notably a significant increase in mining exploration, shafts, and wells.

These positive contributions were offset by decreases in private inventory investment, state and local government spending, and federal government spending.

The increase in exports reflected an increase in nondurable industrial supplies and materials, notably petroleum. Also on trade, imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, increased in the first quarter of 2017. As the chart below shows, the dramatic drawdown in trade as a result of the soybean export surge giveback is now over, and net trade contributed a modest 0.1% to Q1 GDP.

But the biggest culprit for the atrocious GDP print was the collapse in consumer spending, which rose at just 0.23% annualized, the lowest increase since 2009, and reflected an increase in services offset by a decrease in motor vehicles and parts. In short: for whatever reason, spending in the first quarter imploded.

Elsewhere, looking at PCE, prices rose 2.6% Q/Q, above the 2.3% expected, and higher than last month’s 2.0%. Core PCE rose 2.0%, in line with expectations.

Once again, the bulk of the PCE growth came from rising healthcare service prices, with the rest barely registering.

Food prices increased in the first quarter following a decrease in the fourth quarter of 2016. Energy prices increased in the first quarter of 2017 following a larger increase in the fourth quarter of 2016. Excluding food and energy, prices increased 2.3 percent in the first quarter of 2017, compared with an increase of 1.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2016.

The Confidence Game – The Next Crisis


Confidence-wide

QUESTION: Martin, I started following your models shortly after college in 2000 when I entered the financial advisor world. I soon realized how clueless this industry was and formed a hedge fund in Tampa in March 2007 to short retail and housing, largely based on your models & my understanding of cycles. I reached the top 1% in Morningstar through Sept of 2008 right up until the government banned shorting. I could not receive quotes from my Goldman Sachs trading platform and I lost a lot of money in a few short hours. I eventually had to shut down the fund and my investors took losses. It was this period where I learned the error in my thought process, I underestimated the length to which the Government & politicians would go to kick the can further down the road and underestimated the big banks inside influence on the “free markets”.

Your recent post regarding inflation and the end of Quantitative Easing had me thinking, wouldn’t the moment the politicians realize there is a recession on the horizon and inflation begins to cripple the housing followed by retail, etc, wouldn’t they re-institute QE and expand the balance sheet further regardless of the future implications? It seems politicians will do whatever it takes to avoid the worst and continue to kick the can down the road to save their own careers.

Thank you for your provoking thought and mindful awareness while everyone else buries their heads in the sand.

R

credit-anstalt

ANSWER: The outcome always depends upon confidence. It is what you believe that counts rather than the facts. When Credit Anstalt went belly-up in 1931, why did an obscure bank in Austria set in motion the 1931 Panic and Sovereign Debt Defaults that made a recession into a Great Depression? The answer was found in the name. One of the owners was the Rothschilds. When people heard the Rothschilds went bust, they began selling all the banks because if they went down, everyone else surely would. They were the Goldman Sachs of the day.

Hoover - Loose Cannon

I suggest reading Herbet Hoover’s Memiors from 1931. This is a confidence game. Just because QE appeared to work before does not mean it will work a second time. The middle-class lost money and their living standards were sharply reduced. Retail investment in equities has not yet returned to even 50% of 2007 levels. Most people who lost their homes were those who could never have bought one before. Yes, the middle-class who borrowed more against their house were put under stress. Home equity loans dried up so industries like selling pianos dropped by more than 50% since people borrowed using home equity to fund expensive things like a piano.

Fed v Congress

Energizer-BunnyThe difference this time is the fiscal budget. Back in 2007, the Fed only had to worry about its policy and the contracting economy. The problem they created is that government just keeps going like the Energizer Pink Bunny – it never stops spending regardless of the level of interest rates.

The Fed cannot neutralize the Fiscal spending of government. This is deeply entrenched. Just look at the table below on the annual deficits since 2007. This has increased about 364% since the 2007 crisis began.

Government has become addicted to cheap interest rates. If rates go back just to 5%, we are looking at a fiscal deficit explosion the Fed cannot overcome.

US Deficits 2007-2016

The crisis has to hit before a politician would ever act. Once the crisis begins, you cannot restore confidence. The whole thing will have to play out. Moreover, the crisis in Europe helped to send capital to the USA easing the economic pressure here. This is why the USA is holding up the entire world economy right now and a stiff wind will blow over the European banking system. I seriously doubt that anyone can stop the next crisis and whatever they do will then be seen as a failure.

glassDuring the late 1970s, the IMF held gold auctions trying to stop its advance. The first auctions in 1975-1976 caused gold to drop by 50%. However, then continued auctions had no effect and they were seen as a validation of the bull market they could not prevent. We are looking at the same type of collapse in confidence this time around. The same fundamental act can have different interpretations. It is the glass half full or half empty.

The Euro for Month-End April 2017


IBEUUS-M 4-24-2017

The Euro turning point on our Weekly Models still points to the week of May 8th. As we can see technically, the Euro is well below the Monthly Downtrend Line which stands significantly above the market at 12622. There is no real chance of a reversal in the protracted long-term decline. We really need a Monthly Close above 11060 to signal a sustainable rally ahead and a closing for month-end beneath 10822 will warn that the Euro is still bearish in the broader term. Any rally into the week of May 8th should be sold whereas a decline into the week of May 8th will be followed by a minor relief bounce.

IBEUUS-W 4-26-2017

Turning to the weekly level, we can see the the Energy within this market has peak once again and is in danger of moving back into negative territory in the weeks ahead. We need a weekly closing on Friday above 10855 to raise hop of a rally into the week of May 8th. Therefore, this is becoming very narrowly focuses 10855 and 10822.

The Weekly Bearish lies at the 10715 level. Clearly, we do see a choppy trading people starting the week of May 8th. The computer has selected this weekly target months ago which is interesting how this falls into place with the May 7th French election.

Italy to Raise Taxes to Satisfy Brussels – Why the Euro Will Fail


Gentiloni Paolo

 

ItalyThe European Union (EU) has been pushing Italy for a very long time to reduce its deficit. Of course, governments are never capable of reducing their own expenditure. This results going in only one direction – raising taxes. Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni had to agree on the concrete measures. The bill is now being discussed in Parliament, which has 60 days to pass. Italy has the second highest debt in the Eurozone after Greece.

This is why the EU is doomed. There will never be any reform that addresses the people. It is always about raising taxes to maintain government power and to hell with the people. The upcoming Germany vote still appears to be fragmented and as a result, Merkel may remain as Chancellor at the end of the day. We will have to run our models soon on the German election.

This is why I have warned that the Euro will fail. Had Brussels consolidated all the debts from the outset, then the Euro would have competed against the dollar. Leaving everyone to hold their own debts only created a single currency and then the fear that if one member expended their debt, it would impact everyone else.

This system is tearing Europe apart and unemployment in each country will turn to civil unrest and point the finger at Brussels. The debts should have been consolidated and the central bank would have then had a single bond issue for reserves. Now, the entire banking system has to be politically correct, owning a piece of everyone. Even the ECB has 40% of all government debt throughout the Eurozone.

It is beyond brain-dead to maintain this system demanding individual countries sacrifice their own domestic policy objectives for Brussels’ demands. In the USA, each state has its own agenda, but their debt is not acceptable as reserves for the banks. The Euro system is simply like being somehow half-pregnant.

The Gold Reports & the Building of Volatility the Precursor to Chaos


Volatility Historical

Our first report will be released on Gold, Guns & War which illustrates how gold has historically reacted to different types of war events, both internationally as well as domestically, as in civil unrest and revolution.  Illustrated here, we can see the historical volatility in gold over decades of interacting with the global economy and war. This chart shows how volatile the instrument is now in relation to a historical all time correlation.

We are witnessing the gradual rise in volatility since the 1999 lows. We are still nowhere near the sharp rise in volatility sparked by the collapse of Bretton Woods. Nevertheless, the timing is setting up on our volatility models for the future. Everything is lining up and we will be reviewing this at the Hong Kong WEC at the end of the month.

Trump Keeps His Pledge on Tax Reform


trump-cohen

TAX-REF (3)A lot of emails are coming in asking if I have been advising Trump on the taxes since this is similar to the plan I proposed when I testified before Congress. The answer is no. If they took the tax proposals we had worked on with members of Congress back in the Nineties, who knows. They are on file and have been endorsed by many different tax reform advocates.

I have not spoken with anyone in the White House regarding taxes. I testified why the corporate tax rate must be cut to 15% before the House Ways & Means Committee. The answer is very simple. Corporations will be taxed in their home country unless they pay some tax where they are domiciled overseas. Our headquarters back then was in Hong Kong. Everyone was there because of a 15% corporate tax rate. I testified if the USA lowered the corporate tax rate to 15%, then the USA would become the tax-haven and corporations would move to the States. This is a no brainer and was based on the fact that we did in fact advise multinational corporations – not just theory. I knew what they would do and would have advised them to move accordingly.

tax-cycThe biggest problem we face is this has to be made into a Constitutional Amendment. This is my ADVICE to Trump right now! Why, as soon as the cycle changes and the Democrats gain control, the taxes will rise again. This is why corporations level. We LACK TAX STABILITY. Taxes become a yo-yo  and business cannot plan long-term when the political atmosphere keeps changing between Marxism and a Free Market. This eternal battle destroys economic growth and has ruined jobs only to reduce the standard of living for the long run. A chart of the top tax brackets look like the brainwave of a schizophrenic.

Trump’s tax plan reduces seven tax brackets down to three. So it’s not the Flat Tax that Democrats will slam because the rich will keep more than they average person based solely on Marxism that discriminates freely against someone based upon their income. The first tax cut was JFK, the second was Reagan. This will be the biggest tax reform in US history. It does not go far enough, but it is the best we can do until there is a collapse in the monetary system that ends Marxism once and for all.

White House chief economic advisor Gary Cohn and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin effectively summarized the plan to reporters. It reflects the proposal Trump outlined as a candidate keeping his word to his supporters. That in itself is really unusual for any candidate to do what they said during the election.

The tax rate on repatriation of trillions of dollars offshore is still being argued with Democrats, who never saw a $1 they did not want at least 50% of. The Death Tax has been devastating to small business and farmers. The next generation have been compelled to sell land, the farm or close the business to pay the estate taxes. This has wiped out small farms and resulted in big corporate America producing food as small farmers were forced to sell because of taxes. Likewise, if a small business sees its owner die, the family has been forced to shut it down. This was one primary reason I have been saying we will go public or else if I died, the taxes owed for my death would result in job losses for staff. Going public was the only way to get around this to ensure the company continues. So these changes will be beneficial for the economy and this may be one of the reasons why the stock market still looks like it will double in value into the years ahead after we get past 2017 this year from Political Hell.

  • Trump’s plan will cut the number of income tax brackets from seven to three, with a top rate of 35 percent and lower rates of 25 percent and 10 percent. It is not clear what income ranges will fall under those brackets. It would also double the standard deduction.
  • The proposal will chop the corporate tax rate to 15 percent from 35 percent.
  • It would eliminate tax deductions with only a few exceptions, including the mortgage interest and charitable contribution deductions.
  • The White House said there will be a “one-time tax” on the trillions of dollars held by corporations overseas. However, Mnuchin said the rate for that tax has yet to be determined. Mnuchin said the White House is “working with the House and Senate” on a repatriation rate, saying it would be “very competitive.”
  • The plan would get rid of the estate tax, otherwise known as the “death tax.” Cohn said that the move will help privately-held businesses and American farmers. Analysis of the estate tax reveals that it affects only a very small portion of Americans.
  • Mnuchin also said the U.S. would go to a “territorial” tax system. Though further details were not forthcoming, such systems typically exclude most or all of the income that businesses earn overseas.
  • Trump’s plan would also repeal the alternative minimum tax and 3.8 percent Obamacare taxes.

London Property Sales Crashed 40% Thanks to Tax Increase


62 Cornall Gardens

Where I use to live back in 1985

George Osborne budgetThe London housing market sales has crashed to its lowest level now since 2013. We reported in November 2015 with the turn in the ECM on 2015.75 that the London property market peaked. Valued crashed by 11.5% in the first month after the turn of the ECM. Landlords are joining together to challenge the Conservative’s (i.e. Tory’s) tax hike by filing a suit in the high court against their tax increase on “buy-to-let” investment properties.  In July 2015, we warned that the Conservatives were going after the non-domiciled residents in London and that would stop the real estate boom.

The figures are now out and they show that the number of homes bought over the last year crashed by 40% between March 2017 and March 2016, from 173,860 to 102,810. “That was thanks to new stamp duty rules introduced at the beginning of last April, which hiked stamp duty on second homes and led to a buying frenzy just before the rules were introduced,” reported Emma Haslett.

Keep in mind that we are only human. Consequently, if you see municipal taxes rising in the USA, expect property values to also decline. It is the same worldwide.

The IMF Is Not Done Destroying Greece Yet


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Authored by Raul Ilargi Meijer via The Automatic Earth blog,

Austerity is over, proclaimed the IMF this week. And no doubt attributed that to the ‘successful’ period of ‘five years of belt tightening’ a.k.a. ‘gradual fiscal consolidation’ it has, along with its econo-religious ilk, imposed on many of the world’s people. Only, it’s not true of course. Austerity is not over. You can ask many of those same people about that. It’s certainly not true in Greece.

IMF Says Austerity Is Over

Austerity is over as governments across the rich world increased spending last year and plan to keep their wallets open for the foreseeable future. After five years of belt tightening, the IMF says the era of spending cuts that followed the financial crisis is now at an end. “Advanced economies eased their fiscal stance by one-fifth of 1pc of GDP in 2016, breaking a five-year trend of gradual fiscal consolidation,” said the IMF in its fiscal monitor.

In Greece, the government did not increase spending in 2016. Nor is the country’s era of spending cuts at an end. So did the IMF ‘forget’ about Greece? Or does it not count it as part of the rich world? Greece is a member of the EU, and the EU is absolutely part of the rich world, so that can’t be it. Something Freudian, wishful thinking perhaps?

However this may be, it’s obvious the IMF are not done with Greece yet. And neither are the rest of the Troika. They are still demanding measures that are dead certain to plunge the Greeks much further into their abyss in the future. As my friend Steve Keen put it to me recently: “Dreadful. It will become Europe’s Somalia.”

An excellent example of this is the Greek primary budget surplus. The Troika has been demanding that it reach 3.5% of GDP for the next number of years (the number changes all the time, 3, 5, 10?). Which is the worst thing it could do, at least for the Greek people and the Greek economy. Not for those who seek to buy Greek assets on the cheap.

But sure enough, the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) jubilantly announced on Friday that the 2016 primary surplus was 4.19% (8 times more than the 0.5% expected). This is bad news for Greeks, though they don’t know it. It is also a condition for receiving the next phase of the current bailout. Here’s what that comes down to: in order to save itself from default/bankruptcy, the country is required to destroy its economy.

And that’s not all: the surplus is a requirement to get a next bailout tranche, and debt relief, but as a reward for achieving that surplus, Greece can now expect to get less … debt relief. Because obviously they’re doing great, right?! They managed to squeeze another €7.3 billion out of their poor. So they should always be able to do that in every subsequent year.

The government in Athens sees the surplus as a ‘weapon’ that can be used in the never-ending bailout negotiations, but the Troika will simply move the goalposts again; that’s its MO.

A country in a shape as bad as Greece’s needs stimulus, not a budget surplus; a deficit would be much more helpful. You could perhaps demand that the country goes for a 0% deficit, though even that is far from ideal. But never a surplus. Every penny of the surplus should have been spent to make sure the economy doesn’t get even worse.

Greek news outlet Kathimerini gets it sort of right, though its headline should have read “Greek Primary Surplus Chokes Economy“.

Greek Primary Surplus Chokes Market

The state’s fiscal performance last year has exceeded even the most ambitious targets, as the primary budget surplus as defined by the Greek bailout program, came to 4.19% of GDP, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos announced on Friday. It came to €7.369 billion against a target for €879 million, or just 0.5% of GDP. A little earlier, the president of the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT), Thanos Thanopoulos, announced the primary surplus according to Eurostat rules, saying that it came to 3.9% of GDP or €6.937 billion.

The two calculations differ in methodology, but it is the surplus attained according to the bailout rules that matters for assessing the course of the program. This was also the first time since 1995 that Greece achieved a general government surplus – equal to 0.7% of GDP – which includes the cost of paying interest to the country’s creditors. There is a downside to the news, however, as the figures point to overtaxation imposed last year combined with excessive containment of expenditure.

The amount of €6-6.5 billion collected in excess of the budgeted surplus has put a chokehold on the economy, contributing to a great extent to the stagnation recorded on the GDP level in 2016. On the one hand, the impressive result could be a valuable weapon for the government in its negotiations with creditors to argue that it is on the right track to fiscal streamlining and can achieve or even exceed the agreed targets. On the other hand, however, the overperformance of the budget may weaken the argument in favor of lightening the country’s debt load.

Eurogroup head Dijsselbloem sees no shame in admitting this last point :

Dijsselbloem Sees ‘Tough’ Greek Debt Relief Talks With IMF

“That will be a tough discussion with the IMF,” said Dijsselbloem, who is also the Dutch Finance Minister in a caretaker cabinet, “There are some political constraints where we can go and where we can’t go.” The level of Greece’s primary budget surplus is key in determining the kind of debt relief it will need. The more such surplus it has, the less debt relief will be needed.

That’s just plain insane, malicious even. Greek PM Tsipras should never have accepted any such thing, neither the surplus demands nor the fact that they affect debt relief, since both assure a further demise of the economy.

Because: where does the surplus come from? Easy: from Troika-mandated pension cuts and rising tax levels. That means the Greek government is taking money OUT of the economy. And not a little bit, but a full 4% of GDP, over €7 billion. An economy from which so much has already vanished.

The €7.369 billion primary surplus, in a country of somewhere between 10 and 11 million people, means some €700 per capita has been taken out of the economy in 2016. Money that could have been used to spend inside that economy, saving jobs, and keeping people fed and sheltered. For a family of 3.5 people that means €200 per month less to spend on necessities (the only thing most Greeks can spend any money on).

I’ve listed some of the things a number of times before that have happened to Greece since the EU and IMF declared de facto financial war on the country. Here are a few (there are many more where these came from):

25-30% of working age Greeks are unemployed (and that’s just official numbers), well over 1 million people; over 50% of young people are unemployed. Only one in ten unemployed Greeks receive an unemployment benefit (€360 per month), and only for one year. 9 out of 10 get nothing.

Which means 52% of Greek households are forced to live off the pension of an elderly family member. 60% of Greek pensioners receive pensions below €700. 45% of pensioners live below the poverty line with pensions below €665. Pensions have been cut some 12 times already. More cuts are in the pipeline.

40% of -small- businesses have said they expect to close in 2017. Even if it’s just half that, imagine the number of additional jobs that will disappear.

But the Troika demands don’t stop there; they are manifold. On top of the pension cuts and the primary surplus requirement, there are the tax hikes. So the vast majority of Greeks have ever less money to spend, the government takes money out of the economy to achieve a surplus, and on top of that everything gets more expensive because of rising taxes. Did I ever mention businesses must pay their taxes up front for a full year?

The Troika is not “rebalancing Greece’s public finances in a growth-friendly manner”, as Dijsselbloem put it, it is strangling the economy. And then strangling it some more.

There may have been all sorts of things wrong in Greece, including financially. But that is true to some degree for every country. And there’s no doubt there was, and still is, a lot of corruption. But that would seem to mean the EU must help fight that corruption, not suffocate the poor.


Yes, that’s about a 30% decline in GDP since 2007

 

The ECB effectively closed down the Greek banking system in 2015, in a move that’s likely illegal. It asked for a legal opinion on the move but refuses to publish that opinion. As if Europeans have no right to know what the legal status is of what their central bank does.

The ECB also keeps on refusing to include Greece in its QE program. It buys bonds and securities from Germany, which doesn’t need the stimulus, and not those of Greece, which does have that need. Maybe someone should ask for a legal opinion on that too.

The surplus requirements will be the nail in the coffin that do Greece in. Our economies depend for their GDP numbers on consumer spending, to the tune of 60-70%. Since Greek ‘consumers’ can only spend on basic necessities, that number may be even higher there. And that is the number the country is required to cut even more. Where do you think GDP is headed in that scenario? And unemployment, and the economy at large?

The question must be: don’t the Troika people understand what they’re doing? It’s real basic economics. Or do they have an alternative agenda, one that is diametrically opposed to the “rebalancing Greece’s public finances in a growth-friendly manner” line? It has to be one of the two; those are all the flavors we have.

You can perhaps have an idea that a country can spend money on wrong, wasteful things. But that risk is close to zilch in Greece, where many if not most people already can’t afford the necessities. Necessities and waste are mutually exclusive. A lot more money is wasted in Dijsselbloem’s Holland than in Greece.

In a situation like the one Greece is in, deflation is a certainty, and it’s a deadly kind of deflation. What makes it worse is that this remains hidden because barely a soul knows what deflation is.

Greece’s deflation hides behind rising taxes. Which is why taxes should never be counted towards inflation; it would mean all a government has to do to raise inflation is to raise taxes; a truly dumb idea. Which is nevertheless used everywhere on a daily basis.

In reality, inflation/deflation is money/credit supply multiplied by the velocity of money. And in Greece both are falling rapidly. The primary surplus requirements make it that much worse. It really is the worst thing one could invent for the country.

For the Greek economy, for its businesses, for its people, to survive and at some point perhaps even claw back some of the 30% of GDP it lost since 2007, what is needed is a way to make sure money can flow. Not in wasteful ways, but in ways that allow for people to buy food and clothing and pay for rent and power.

If you want to do that, taking 4% of GDP out of an economy, and 3.5% annually for years to come, is the very worst thing. That can only make things worse. And if the Greek economy deteriorates further, how can the country ever repay the debts it supposedly has? Isn’t that a lesson learned from the 1919 Versailles treaty?

The economists at the IMF and the EU/ECB, and the politicians they serve, either don’t understand basic economics, or they have their eyes on some other prize.

A $20 Gold Coin that Saved a Life


confederate submaribe George Dixon gold coin

A story that a sweetheart gave a Confederate soldier George Dixon a $20 gold coin dated 1860 as a good luck charm has been validated. The story was that George kept the coin with him always, in his pocket, as good luck. During the Battle of Shiloh, George was shot point blank. The bullet struck in his pocket hitting the center of the gold coin. The impact was said to have left the gold piece bent, with the bullet embedded in it which saved his life.

Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley

George’s luck, however, did not last forever. Nearly 150 years ago, the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley, the first ever in history, failed to return to port after its successful maiden mission. The sunken submarine was discovered in 2015 off the waters of South Carolina where it sunk in 1864.

Confederate submarine

The propulsion was simply men turning a crank. A pole on the front was designed to ram explosives into enemy ships. Therefore, the sub had to actually make contact. The poll placed a powder charge into the Union warship Housatonic and sunk her, but the Hunley went down with its eight man crew and never returned on February 17th 1864.

The archaeologists also found inside the submarine one bent gold coin that was carried by the sub’s captain, Lieutenant George Dixon, for good luck. The legend was proven true. The $20 gold coin saved his life one time.