Europe’s Crisis Spreads as Spain, Belgium, France, the Euro and EU-17 get Questioned – How Does It End?

November 16, 2011
By
Europe’s Crisis Spreads as Spain, Belgium, France, the Euro and EU-17 get Questioned – How Does It End?

For a number of months, the financial crisis in Europe has been explained under the guise of sound versus unsound policy. If this were indeed the case, the fix would be simple; eliminate unsound and unsustainable policy and voila, the problems would just go away. European leaders have shifted blame continuously from one problem to the next. First the issue was speculators, then Greece, then Ireland, then Portugal, then Spain, then Belgium, then Italy, then the need for austerity, then the macro economy, and now the problem has erupted to everywhere. The current set of events will hopefully amount to a positive development as it becomes clear that the problem is the construct of the Eurozone itself. Europe’s misguided attempts to reform its way out of a crisis are...

Read more »

China’s Trade Balance is Adjusting – the Largest Imbalance in the World is no Longer Growing

November 14, 2011
By
China’s Trade Balance is Adjusting – the Largest Imbalance in the World is no Longer Growing

Markets in China rallied to start the week. Part of the rally resulted from “catch up” to US markets which closed strongly. But part of the rally was based on positive economic comments coming from Chinese officials. China’s President Hu Jintao pledged to focus on building imports which would boost global economic growth. IMF Deputy Managing Director Zhu Min, and National Economic Research Director Fan Gang, told the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Honolulu that a “soft landing” for the economy was expected for China. The officials noted slowing inflation and lower bad debt at Chinese banks. To complete the string of positively toned news, there was also speculation that China was relaxing lending curbs which amounts to incremental monetary policy easing. Both the H-Shares (up 2.8%) and...

Read more »

CJF Read of the Week – Rogue Economist: “Similarity of China’s USD Peg with the EMU”

November 13, 2011
By
CJF Read of the Week – Rogue Economist: “Similarity of China’s USD Peg with the EMU”

The Rogue Economist, located in Canada, wrote a provocative piece discussing the similarities between the USD/Yuan peg and the EMU construct. I agree with Rogue that currency pegs and distortions lead to predictable real world economic outcomes that become evident in the balance of trade. Many financial market participants confuse cause and effect when identifying the cause of an imbalance and debating the proper solution. Click for the full piece at Rouge Economist:

Read more »

Walt Disney (DIS) Results Strong – Outside of Europe the Global Economy is Solid

November 11, 2011
By
Walt Disney (DIS) Results Strong – Outside of Europe the Global Economy is Solid

Long live Mickey Mouse! Walt Disney reported strong results last night which reflected broad strength across the economy. Disney has diversified exposure to discretionary spending with its parks, media properties, and international businesses. A consistent theme through earnings season has been broadly solid corporate earnings and DIS is another example of this from a large capitalization blue-chip multinational. Walt Disney produced the enviable combination of results demonstrating solid top line sales growth, margin expansion, and tremendous EPS growth as cash flow was used to repurchase shares. Disney’s revenues grew 7% this quarter with strength from the parks division, media properties, and product royalties. Developing markets such as Russia, China, and India were called out as strong on the earnings conference call. Disney’s cable and media properties are expanding globally...

Read more »

Europe Must Decide Its Future – Self Induced Financial Crisis Has Led Europe to the Brink

November 10, 2011
By
Europe Must Decide Its Future – Self Induced Financial Crisis Has Led Europe to the Brink

After Wednesday’s market action around the world, it’s a good time for a big picture assessment on the state of the financial markets. The attitude out of Europe has pendulated between nonchalance and vitriolic attacks among the EU-17. Italian sovereign rates spiraling above 7% have brought the eleventh hour upon the region. Escalation of the crisis has caused all types of forward looking investment to become somewhat of a farce. The environment of complete and utter policy uncertainty will no longer be withstood by markets as the full scale part of the European financial crisis enters its fifth month. After bungling the first few opportunities to implement a fix, it has become clear that dramatic action will be required to keep the Eurozone intact. The problems of the Eurozone’s...

Read more »

Chinese Inflation Turning Down – More Confirmation on Inflection Point

November 9, 2011
By
Chinese Inflation Turning Down – More Confirmation on Inflection Point

Overnight, China released inflation data for October, which came down as expected and declined meaningfully from the previous month. Chinese consumer inflation, which includes food and energy prices, rose 6.1% in September, and 5.5% in October. This data shouldn’t be a complete surprise because China is on a tightening campaign with higher interest rates, lower credit growth, and an exchange rate that has slowly appreciated this year. The actualization of lower Chinese inflation is  important because it provides the political cover for China to start easing monetary policy. In addition, many global commodities such as; copper, oil, cotton, wheat, corn, sugar, etc. have declined which will eventually help ease pressure on Chinese inflation. The Chinese Producer Price Index also declined meaningfully based on the same factors. PPI inflation fell...

Read more »

New York City Taxi Medallion Bubble – Prices Appreciate to $1M

November 8, 2011
By
New York City Taxi Medallion Bubble – Prices Appreciate to $1M

Bloomberg recently reported that New York taxi medallions changed hands this October for a record $1 million. There have been a number of reports over the years demonstrating that investment in taxi medallions outperformed stocks, bonds, real estate, and other financial assets. While this may be true, the yield has clearly come way down making investments at the new elevated prices much riskier. Reportedly, a $1M taxi medallion returns $2,500 in profit per month ($30k per year) which amounts to a 3% annual yield. The argument for medallion investment revolves around the regulated supply and recession-proof taxi fare industry dynamics. There is a public company called Medallion Financial Corp (TAXI) which has participated in the bull market. The company offers financing for the purchase of the medallions, has purchased...

Read more »

Market Confidence in Italy Hits New Lows – Berlusconi to Face New Rounds of Confidence Votes

November 7, 2011
By
Market Confidence in Italy Hits New Lows – Berlusconi to Face New Rounds of Confidence Votes

Italian 10-YR bond yields hit 6.62% this morning, which marks a new high since concerns over the sustainability of European sovereign debt began to unfold. This wasn’t supposed to work this way after the Eurozone leaders announced a new structured investment vehicle to be put in place to leverage up the EFSF. It remains unclear who is going to fund the SIV which raises doubts around how much firepower the EFSF will really have and whether Italian interest rates can be maintained at sustainable levels? All of this uncertainty takes place while Italian bonds yields escalate towards unsustainable levels, government approval ratings hit new lows, Berlusconi’s trial for soliciting an underage prostitute moves forward, and the real economy in Italy remains under intense pressure. The above issues are scary...

Read more »

Magnifico! – Getting to Know Mario Draghi & Analysis of the ECB Monetary Policy Press Conference

November 4, 2011
By
Magnifico! – Getting to Know Mario Draghi & Analysis of the ECB Monetary Policy Press Conference

The global equity markets have been held hostage by fears of a crisis since the summer. Taking another step back; crisis fears, macro, and policy responses have really been driving all financial markets since the summer of 2008. To be clear, the economy always has a meaningful impact on the investing environment, but the recent four years have been remarkable. Sound and prudent public policy has been of paramount importance, and a necessary condition, towards stabilizing the economic and business environment. The importance of the change at the helm of the ECB this week cannot be overstated. Now there are hardened and unrelenting cynics in the investment community, often quite vocal, who will say that nothing matters and the global financial system is inevitably doomed. Those who have read...

Read more »

ECB Cuts Rates 25 basis points – Dovish Comments From Draghi

November 3, 2011
By
ECB Cuts Rates 25 basis points – Dovish Comments From Draghi

The ECB cut interest rates by 25 bps down to 1.25%. This was somewhat of a surprise cut as many expected Draghi to start his tenor by demonstrating some hawkish resolve – consistent with the views of departing ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet. Draghi presents a viewpoint that inflation is expected to fall further while highlighting that monetary growth is only moderate. He appropriately downgrades the forecast for Eurozone GDP growth and points out the “intensified downside” risks to the Eurozone economy. He goes on to point out that inflation is likely to fall below 2% in 2012. These are important comments because they immediately reveal that Draghi has a more dovish inclination relative to his predecessor. The ECB has more room to cut rates and the comments regarding the...

Read more »

When Will the Market Start to be Forward Looking – Early Signals from Asia?

November 2, 2011
By
When Will the Market Start to be Forward Looking – Early Signals from Asia?

The markets have been through a period of wicked volatility with a significant pullback almost to the point of entering a new bear market. Intraday the S&P 500 was down 20% from its high but closed above those levels and went up from there. From the market’s closing bottom of 1,099 the S&P had a tremendous move higher up about 17% in 4-weeks. During this period, the market maintained an obsession with day-to-day and even hour-to-hour news. The situation becomes impossible for investors because the news flow is utterly unpredictable and investors can get whipsawed and hacked up quite easily. Often the market is described as a voting mechanism for 6-9 months out. Understanding that this is the normal state of things will be important at some point in...

Read more »

Welcome to the ECB Mario Draghi!

November 1, 2011
By
Welcome to the ECB Mario Draghi!

Who is Mario Draghi? Today is day #1 of a new job for Mr. Draghi, the President of the ECB, which right now is the world’s most powerful position in finance. Under normal circumstances, that position would be the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board but at the present moment, the ECB President will have more of an impact on the direction of the global economy in 2012. I wish I could outline a viewpoint on whether Mario Draghi tends to be more of a hawk or a dove. Based on a read of the few writings and speeches that are archived it is difficult to have a strong impression. Here is what I came across which I believe to be concrete: Mr. Draghi’s CV: Undergraduate Degree from La...

Read more »

Yen Intervention Take Three – Reminder That There Are No Safe Haven Currencies

October 31, 2011
By
Yen Intervention Take Three – Reminder That There Are No Safe Haven Currencies

Japanese leaders intervened for the third time this year as JPY strength below 77 yen/usd is clearly constraining a recovery in the world’s third largest economy. Japanese Finance Minister, Jun Azumi, announced a unilateral move with an additional pledge to keep selling in the future. The action took place because Japan believes the yen strength broke from normal economic fundamentals and linkages. Japan’s leaders are right. In the recent couple of months, the US economy has been the most resilient of the developed market major economic zones. Normally when the US economic growth rate picks up relative to other nations, the dollar strengthens. The FX flows related to the fear of a financial crisis in Europe have thrown a lot of normal relationships out of whack. The Yen has...

Read more »

Personal Savings Rate – Lowest Since 2007!

October 28, 2011
By
Personal Savings Rate – Lowest Since 2007!

The personal savings rate is an item of contention and debate as the profligacy of the US Consumer has been in focus throughout the 2000s decade. During the height of the housing market boom, the savings rate got down to zero and at times was even negative. US Consumers in the aggregate were thought to be dis-saving – spending through total income. Many years later, the data were subsequently revised and the savings rate was altered to slightly positive rates during the mid-2000s time period. The data have some volatility on a month-to-month basis but I note that the data released this morning from the Bureau of Economic Analysis print a savings rate of 3.6%. For 2008, 2009, 2010, the rate has been over 5%. For the first and...

Read more »

Europe’s Eleventh Hour Fix

October 27, 2011
By
Europe’s Eleventh Hour Fix

After keeping the world on edge and pushing up against the brink of a European recession, details of the European fix are trickling out. It is sure to be a headline filled Thursday, Friday, and weekend. I won’t focus on the specific details because many of them still aren’t known and the ones that have been announced are likely to evolve regardless. Europe has recognized the enormity of its financial crisis. The European financial system couldn’t fund itself, sovereign interest rates started to spiral out of control, and the Euro experienced a rapid and unhealthy correction. It seems absurd to highlight that Europe recognized that this was collectively a very big problem but at times, even right up until the end, European leaders at any moment could seem either...

Read more »

Eurozone PMI – Continues to Slow as Europe Bickers

October 25, 2011
By
Eurozone PMI – Continues to Slow as Europe Bickers

Economies don’t function well in a “crisis steady state”. In Europe, the business environment has been surprisingly good during the third quarter despite what seems like a concerted effort to induce a collapse. A number of consumer and industrial companies pointed out that growth hasn’t fallen off a cliff and if Europe can simply instill some confidence business could pick up. Unfortunately, Europe seems intent on going at its own pace, and not treating the current financial crisis, well, like a crisis. The longer the “fix” gets dragged out, the greater the odds that the Eurozone leaders talk the region into a recession. A recession is massively counterproductive to solving Europe’s fiscal woes because it creates the need for more austerity and more spending cuts. It is not difficult...

Read more »

US Industrials See No Evidence of Global Recession – Results from Caterpillar (CAT) and Parker Hannifin (PH) Hammer Home the Point!

October 24, 2011
By
US Industrials See No Evidence of Global Recession – Results from Caterpillar (CAT) and Parker Hannifin (PH) Hammer Home the Point!

Caterpillar (CAT) reported very strong earnings this morning, beating estimates quite handily. EPS of $1.71 compared to consensus of $1.57 (a 9% beat). As important, the company outlined an environment consistent with global growth persisting and a strong outlook for 2012. Caterpillar’s organic sales grew by 34% this quarter excluding the recent acquisition of Bucyrus. Caterpillar is a cyclical company, and overly sensitive to changes in the global economy. For perspective, in 2009, Caterpillar saw sales decline by 37%. Each of CAT’s business segments has what are called “trough plans” which are fire drills that prepare CAT in advance for sudden slowdowns in the global economy. This is a company and management team used to handling volatility in the global economy so they are well worth listening to during...

Read more »