Posts filed under “Think Tank”

S&P/CaseShiller home price index

The May S&P/CaseShiller 20 city home price index fell 17.06% y/o/y, better than the forecasted drop of 17.9% and its the smallest fall since Aug ’08. The overall index had its first uptick since July ’06 (the month of its record high) m/o/m but is still down 32% from that record high. Y/o/Y declines continue but 14 of the 20 cities had m/o/m gains with Cleveland leading the way. In last week’s June Existing Home Sales # (where contracts were likely signed in the April-May timeframe), the NAR said distressed sales made up 31% of sales, down from the recent trend of 45-50%, thus a slower rate of foreclosures likely had an influence on the better than expected home price index. Mortgage rates in June rose 50 bps from May, so next month we’ll see what influence, if any, it had on pricing. The economic stress all comes down to household debt and home prices and thus CaseShiller data grows in importance. This data is not seasonally adjusted and is thus too early to declare a home price bottom.

Category: MacroNotes

Breakfast with Dave

This week I offer something unusual for outside the Box, in that I agree on almost all points with my friend David Rosenberg, except he tells it so much better than your humble analyst. David was the former Chief Economist at the former Merrill Lynch (ah, Mother Merrill, we barely knew ye.) and is now Chief Economist at Gluskin Sheff + Associates Inc., which is one of Canada’s pre-eminent wealth management firms. Founded in 1984, they manage $4.4 billion. (For those who wonder, David left NYS to return home to Toronto. Much shorter commute time.) David looks at the recent stock market run-up, why he likes corporate bonds better than stocks, what is lagging with the consumer and a lot more. It is a very pithy read.

Have a good week, I am off to a beach in a few days, but there will be an e-letter this Friday. You are in good hands.

Your looking forward to reading with drinks with little umbrellas analyst,

John Mauldin, Editor
Outside the Box


Breakfast with Dave

by David A. Rosenberg

MARKET THOUGHTS

The Dow is coming off its best weekly performance since March 2000, and if memory serves us correctly, that month was marking the beginning of the end of the great bull market at that time. While the bear market rally has been of 1930 proportions, from our lens, that is what it remains and what is lacking in this extremely flashy runup in equity prices are: (i) leadership, (ii) quality, and (iii) volume. There were some very useful statistics in Barron’s (despite the fact that the headline in the ‘The Trader’ column is Why the Rally Should Keep Rolling … for Now):

  • The 50 smallest stocks have rebounded 17.2% from their nearby July 10th lows, outperforming the largest 50 stocks by 750 basis points.
  • The 50 most shorted stocks have rallied 17.6%, outperforming the 50 least shorted stocks by 880 basis points (over the same time frame).
  • The 50 stocks with the lowest analyst ratings have outperformed the 50 with the highest ratings by 380 basis points.
  • 85% of the market has already broken above their 50-day moving averages, which in some sense highlights an overbought market, but the other three factoids still attest to a low-quality rally, which is best left for traders and speculators. As tempting as it is to jump in, history is replete with examples of these sorts of short-covering rallies ending very quickly and with no advance notice from analysts, strategists or economists for that matter.

Let’s put aside the conventional wisdom that the stock market puts in its fundamental bottom 3-6 months ahead of the recession ending; it actually bottoms ahead of the economic recovery. That was the lesson of 2002 — recessions can end, but without a recovery there can be no sustainable bull market, though hopes can certainly bring on bouts of euphoric behaviour as we saw in the opening months of 2002 when the Nasdaq surged 45% and as we are seeing currently in the major averages. Japan is another great example. Its economy was out of recession 80% of the time in the 1990s and yet the lack of any sustainable recovery was largely behind its secular bear market. For a great reality check on the situation, have a read of Henry Kaufman’s piece on page 37 of Barron’s (A Long Road to Recovery). To wit:

“Some experts also expect the economy to get a boost from business inventory restocking. Maybe so, but most likely as a one-time event. Firms take on inventory if demand rises, if they expect higher prices and if they expect bottlenecks in the supply chain. But excess capacity is high, and there are no bottlenecks.”

We also believe that the current edition of BusinessWeek is a must-read — there were lots of good stuff in there this weekend, some of it following in Mr. Kaufman’s footsteps (page 14 — A Second Half Recovery Could be Fleeting). To wit:

“Will the upturn last? The question arises because the early stage of the recovery is going to be production-led, not demand-led … to keep the production rebound — and the recovery — going into 2010, overall spending will have to pick up, and that’s the big uncertainty given the headwinds facing consumers.”

There is no doubt that inventories have been pared back over the past four quarters at a record rate, and that the ISM customer inventory index is running at extremely tight levels. That said, the NFIB inventory plan index remains very weak, so what we have contributing to GDP in the third quarter is a mathematical boost to the economy from a lower rate of destocking; much of this in the auto sector. To actually move towards a sustainable inventory cycle, businesses will have to see final sales revive. What businesses have done is essentially recognize that the secular credit expansion has moved into reverse and the process of deleveraging in the consumer and financial sectors is ongoing. So, what companies have done in their re-assessments is to re-align their output schedules, order books and staffing requirements in the context that there will be a whole lot less credit to support any given level of production in the future.

What is very likely going to be missing going forward is the consumer because while it is the “back end” of the economy that helps bring recessions to an end as inventory withdrawal subsides, it is the “front end” that causes the expansion to endure — in normal cycles, that is. Historically, consumers end up adding 3.5 percentage points to real GDP growth in the first year of an economic renewal. As the economic editorial in BusinessWeek puts it, “this time, that’s most likely impossible.”

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Category: Think Tank

Woo time with the Chinese again

It is again no coincidence that US administration officials are wooing the Chinese during a week when the Treasury needs to sell more than $200b of debt. Any sell side Wall Street firm would love to have these sales people. Making their thoughts heard, a Chinese official said “we are concerned about the security of…Read More

Category: MacroNotes

Blue Chip Bull, or Thoughtful Contrarian?

Good Evening: As they have so many times in recent weeks, U.S. stocks were able to overcome some early bumpiness to finish higher on the day. Some earnings disappointments were responsible for this morning’s profit taking, but stronger sales of new homes powered the home building and financial sectors enough to lift the averages into…Read More

Category: Markets, Think Tank

Here’s the PDF of the letter, with text below. Signers are Alan Grayson, Ron Paul, Walter Jones, Brad Miller, Dan Lipinski, Elijah Cummings, Tom Perriello, Maxine Waters, Jackie Speier, and Maurice Hinchey. Federal Reserve letter on GS is here. >

Category: Federal Reserve, Think Tank

20 year TIPS auction

The 20 year TIPS auction was mixed as the yield was almost 2 bps above where it was trading just prior but the bid to cover at 2.27 was the highest since this product was introduced in July ’04. The average has been around 1.80. The level of indirect bidders totaled 47.8% vs the average…Read More

Category: MacroNotes

Earlier this year, I had the privilege of participating in a discussion at American Institute for Economic Research on CDS with Martin Mayer, Walker Todd, David Michaels, Chief Financial Officer, AIER; Arthur Kimball-Stanley, a student at Boston College School of Law known for his research on CDS and insurance; Patricia McCoy of the University of Connecticut School of Law, and a number of other colleagues.

Below are Martin’s notes for the event where he makes some telling points about CDS, the nature of markets and life in general, which we published today with his permission.   You may read our comment on CDS, “White Swans and Credit Default Swaps,” in today’s issue of The Institutional Risk Analyst by clicking here.

On Credit Default Swaps: Comments at AIER, June 25, 2009

By Martin Mayer

Let me open with a large thought you can carry with you when you leave. Note how we are no longer being told that the chairman of the Federal Reserve is the second most powerful man in America. Why do you think that is true?

One of the truly awful moments of my time in this business was the early evening of December 9, 1982, an incident not in any of the histories but highly revelatory. What happened that evening was that Banco do Brasil failed at CHIPS (the Clearing House Interbank Payments System). Neither National City Bank nor Chemical, which represented Banco d Brasil in New York, was willing to pony up the $300-plus million the Brazilians couldn’t find. So they kept the window open until midnight, while the Fed worked its necromancy on its member banks and the money was found.

Subsequent examination revealed that after the Mexican collapse the previous summer, Banco do Brasil had found it increasingly difficult to roll over its loans, and had steadily switched a higher and higher share of its borrowings out of the conventional lending and borrowing market and into the overnight infrastructure market. For more than six months, the Brazilians had increased the size of its overnight position, until somebody at National City noticed and said, No more. Read More

Category: Markets, Think Tank

New home sales

June New Home sales, a measure of contract signings, totaled 384k annualized, 32k more than expected and up from a revised 346k in May. The federal $8,000 tax credit for 1st time buyers and the $10,000 California tax credit for new homes are certainly helping (sales in the West rose 23% m/o/m). Months supply fell…Read More

Category: MacroNotes

Welsh Investment letter – July 22, 2009

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ECONOMY

As discussed since March, GDP will likely be positive in the fourth quarter and maybe in the third quarter, if inventory restocking kicks into gear. If both the third and fourth quarters are positive, the National Bureau of Economic Research could determine sometime in the first half of 2010 that the recession ended in July or August 2009. Before anyone breaks out the champagne in celebration, it must be noted that in declaring an end to a recession, NBER is only identifying the trough in business activity. In determining the beginning and end of a recession, NBER looks at employment, real personal income minus government transfers, industrial production, retail sales, in addition to GDP. In the last two recessions, NBER decided the trough in activity coincided with an increase in industrial production in April 1991 and December 2001. As a result, NBER determined the 1991 recession ended in March, and in November 2001. If the past is any guide, NBER could determine that the current recession ended, in the month preceding a turn around in industrial production. The next few months could prove interesting in this regard. In June, industrial production fell -.4%, after posting a deep drop of -1.2% in May. For the second quarter as a whole, industrial production fell at an annual rate of -11.6%, after plunging -19.1% in the first quarter.

In my December 2007 letter, I stated that the Federal Reserve was going to have a more difficult time containing the coming credit crisis, since so much credit creation was taking place outside the banking system. Twenty-five years ago, banks provided almost 75% of the credit to the economy. In recent years, it had fallen to 35%, while the securitization of mortgages, home equity loans, auto loans, credit card debt, student debt and company receivables provided more than 40% of the credit. “Since the market place is supplying a greater proportion of credit creation to finance economic growth, the Federal Reserve’s capability to manage the credit creation engine has diminished. This is why this crisis is quite different than the other crisis faced by the Fed in the last 20 years. Most investors really don’t understand the credit creation process, and as a result, don’t comprehend the scope of this crisis, or the Fed’s limited ability to deal with it. It really is different this time.”

As much as the phrase “It really is different this time” applied to the credit crisis we were facing in December 2007, it also is appropriate in assessing the sustainability of the coming recovery. As noted last month, the decline from a growth rate of 2.8% in the second quarter of 2008 to a negative -6.1% in the fourth quarter, and rebound into a positive GDP print by the fourth quarter of 2009 is going to look every bit like a V-shaped recovery.

In tracking the end of a recession, NBER is merely identifying when the economy in aggregate reached its lowest point. It tells us virtually nothing about the quality and strength of the recovery that follows the trough. In the three worst recessions since World War II (1957-1958, 1973-1975, 1981-1982), real GDP (nominal GDP less inflation) averaged 5.6% in the first full calendar year after the recession ended. If measured from the trough of those recessions, real GDP growth averaged 7.8%. The coming recovery will be far weaker than prior recoveries. Those recessions were precipitated by the Federal Reserve increasing rates enough to significantly slow economic growth, causing a buildup of inventories, a reduction in production to pare inventory levels, and an increase in unemployment. Since the higher cost of money negatively impacted demand for homes and cars, pent up demand was unleashed as soon as the Federal Reserve lowered interest rates, which launched a strong self sustaining recovery.

The current recession was precipitated by the largest global financial crisis in history, not by a large increase in interest rates. The collapse in credit creation has resulted in the deepest synchronized contraction in global trade and economic growth since the 1930’s. The depth of this recession, and commensurate increase in unemployment, and declines in business investment and trade, has made this financial crisis worse and more protracted. The magic elixir of lower rates, which spurred the strong recoveries after the 1957-1958, 1973-1975, and 1981-1982 recessions, has proven a placebo. Lower rates have helped, but the demand for housing and cars has collapsed, so there is no pent up demand for the recovery to draw upon. The banking system remains crippled. Lending standards are very high for most forms of credit, credit availability remains restrained, and the volume of securitized credit is still off by more than 80%.

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Category: Economy, Investing, Think Tank

If you sell it, they will come

‘If you sell it, they will come,’ is the US Treasury’s Field of Dreams mantra this week as they attempt to sell $205b of US debt most of which should be easy to sell as most have maturities of 5 years and less. If the stock market is right and the economy in the 2nd…Read More

Category: MacroNotes