Sunday, November 8, 2009

House of Cards 2.0

Did this market seem resilient this week or what? I must admit that I was surprised, but the lack of volume on Friday made me think I had forgotten about a holiday. At the risk of sounding redundant, lets go back and look at the GDP report and the FOMC statement. Is the FOMC in a corner? Was GDP really as good as was reported? If so, is it sustainable? Further, can the number be manipulated? How far can the GDP be moved by a small change in the deflator?

I submit that the GDP number was grossly overstated AND that the FOMC has painted itself into a corner. Now I am just a simple man, but didn't it sound like the FOMC said the economy is growing again, but inflation is off of the radar screen and we have no plans to raise rates in the near future? That was my interpretation. Isn't that like the weatherman who forecasts "Tomorrow will be clear to partly cloudy with a chance of rain"? If the GDP number is so improved, why would we not pull back on the debt purchased by the Fed? Wouldn't it be necessary to start moving toward neutral with money being injected into the economy? Aren't we monetizing our own debt when the Fed makes purchases now?

Don't most of us learn in Economics 101 that you can't create something out of thin air? Let me ask how, with unemployment over 10% and the worked hours still at the lows, we are expecting the consumer to rebound or even stabilize. Oh, I admit that it is great to hear earnings reports that "beat", but weren't expectations so low that beats should have been baked into the cake. And there is little correlation at this point between better than expected earnings. As a matter of fact, I would argue that more companies had better than expected earnings than had better than expected SALES. Better than expected earnings often come as a result of LABOR REDUCTIONS that outpace a decline in sales. But next could come the drop in sales as the consumer feels the heat of the extended unemployment.

The FOMC would have you believe that everything is fine, we have been through this before and have the road map to guarantee recover. We most certainly have NOT been here before! Never before have we seen our government take on this much debt---even to the point that we monetize it ourselves at an unbelievable pace. Two years ago, we lovingly had the term "Merger Monday" as things were great and deals went down on the weekend. Now we have shifted gears and have FAILURE FRIDAY, as we seem to have more financial institutions close every week.

How many of us expect the MAINSTREAM MEDIA to tell us the full story? Not this guy. Remember they make their money through advertisements. Their employees understand simple economics---consumer panic equals less advertising dollars which could mean the elimination of their jobs. So the MM will go out a find a number of so called "experts" to parade into our homes and tell us that "unemployment is a lagging indicator". That everything is fine and the natural progression from increased GDP is to a longer workweek and job creation. NOT THIS TIME I SAY. I wish it were that simple.

The FOMC says rates will remain low for an extended period of time. Do they have that much control? Anyone notice that the dollar has been falling? Can rates stay low if the dollar continues to fall? Doesn't a falling dollar mean inflation? So is the FOMC arguing that THIS TIME we will fight inflation with low interest rates? Is the Fed planning to quick injecting money into the system to combat inflation? Not according to their most recent statement. Have you heard the mainstream media analyze this predicament over the past few weeks or days? Should FOMC Chairman have had a "chat" with Speaker Pelosi before she passed nationalization of 18% of our economy equating to MORE FEDERAL DOLLARS being injected into the system. Is there anyone out there that REALLY believes that this healthcare bill will REDUCE THE DEFICIT? So if it increases the deficit and the FOMC is not worried about inflation, are we fighting inflation with higher deficits? If you could spend yourself to prosperity wouldn't everyone be rich?

How can we expect the creation of this nanny state to improve our economic situation. If we were really improving our economy, as the recent reports would have you believe, wouldn't productivity be increasing? Is there anyone out there that believes this nanny state will IMPROVE PRODUCTIVITY? IT WILL SLAM PRODUCTIVITY. The only shortage we will not have is people wanting something for nothing. When fewer make, yet more consume, doesn't the family's productivity decline. YOU BET.

We just thought the subprime mess was a house of cards. Remember when we first hear the term "subprime crisis" how many downplayed the effects. Remember all of those brokers and analysts that appeared on MM shows and ran through the drill that the company would be worth X even if you subtracted all subprime investments (then they assured you how "all would not be lost"). So are you willing to listen to that same endless parade of participants that told you it wasn't that bad===all over again? I am not. Are these not the same people that are out there trying to convince you that the housing market is rebounding. If it is rebounding why is the government extending the home buying credits? Wouldn't that be stupid in the face of inflation? Wait, are you telling me that we are combating inflation with homebuyer tax credits?

Subprime and the investment banking house of cards was JUST THE FIRST PART OF THIS CRISIS. Now we are faced with unemployment, continued real esate decline---both commercial and residential (with the major effects from the commercial downturn on the horizon). Instead of letting the free markets work like we did for the first couple hundred years of our existence, we have decided that we can't have normal corrections and must "intervene". You can't mess with free markets and when you "intervene" you only cause bubbles that WILL BURST IN THE FUTURE. The scary thing is that this time bubbles may not feel like bubbles. This time the bubbles that we are creating may feel like recession. And when they burst we may well get the longest depression in history. Believe me, the Greenspan era was dominated by bubbles and when subprime hit many months back many analyst said we had to quit living in "excesses". What will be the new definition of "excesses" Last time it was designer clothes, luxury vehicles, and other amenities. This time will it be household electricity, clean water, and routine medications? If we continue down this path it well could be.

I am interested to see how the futures traders view the bill that was passed last night. I think tomorrow could be a 5% or more down day for the markets, but we will reserve judgement until we see how the futures traders and those "across the pond" decide to open things in a few hours. For now, I am very happy that I entered the weekend net short!!!
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