Let me say first off: I agree with President Obama about putting massive boots on the ground in response to the ISIS threat. I felt the same about Afghanistan in that the U.S. ought to have fully utilized the special forces in a tactical manner to determine when and the place of our choosing to do battle with a non-conventional adversary. The U.S. special ops are a potent disruptive force and when supported with the cavalry and other forms of airpower can inflict great harm. The recent acknowledgement that A-10 Warthogs have been dispatched to INCIRLIK Airbase in Turkey signifies the U.S. has the ability to severely damage the mobile capabilities of ISIS and thus limit the scope of the battlefield and enhance the effective use of U.S. Special Forces. The success that this type of operation had in the early part of the battle against the Taliban when the Special Ops allied with the indigenous Northern Alliance.
It is appalling that even political leaders are in such a hurry to gain recognition that they rush to put out tweets like any movie star or music artist in an effort to gain followers. The British prime minister rushed out this superficial bout of pabulum: “I am shocked by events in Paris tonight. Our thoughts and prayers are with the French people. We will do whatever we can to help.” This is what the leader of a nation with armed forces at his disposal rushes to send out to the world. It is so vacuous that mere words cannot measure the low esteem in which I hold the reigning British leader.What next? Selfies with tears pouring down his cheeks in order to show the French people how truly saddened are the Brits and how those across the channel feel the pain caused by the millenarian nihilists.
Is it the first Friday of a new month already? If so, then it must be time for the release of the U.S. employment data and preparing for a day of market volatility driven by the machines of madness and their algorithmic masters. In preparation for the trading madness, it seems that the consensus is for a nonfarm payrolls increase of 192,000 jobs, a work week of 34.5 hours, and, most important for Chairman Yellen, an increase in average hourly earnings of 0.2%. It appears that a strong number will result in a higher probability of the FED raising rates at the December 15-16 FOMC meeting. It is the problem of dissecting what a STRONG EMPLOYMENT is that makes trading and investing so difficult for the next six weeks. Is it the number of jobs created and the impact on the unemployment rate that renders the most powerful argument for the Fed hawks? Or is it the level of wages relative to GDP and corporate profits that is the most significant indicator of job strength and possible inflation?
Let’s clear the air. The lead story in today’s Financial Times was “ECB Officials Met Bankers Before Big Policy Moves.” This is why the battle cry of Notes From Underground for the next two months is PEPPER SPRAY DAVOS. The financial markets have been rendered meaningless. Not by the mere massive QE programs of global central banks but by the sheer possibility policy makers were providing fore-warnings to large private institutions before public releases. This is the epitome of what Adam Smith warned about 250 years ago. It is difficult enough to trade and invest in a zero interest rate world but when the investment is “rigged” by the ability of the large institutions to be privy to information prior to public release, well, the math must be 2+2=5 for nothing is balanced.
One of the great movies of the 1960s asks who is more insane: Those in the asylum or those who create wars? The present state of central banking can lead one to ask the same question about the overseers of FIAT CURRENCY and those who make investment decisions based on the policies of those academics so in love with their economic models. As the Bernanke victory tour rolls on, the fallback position of the recent anointed savior of the global financial system poses the counter-factual of, “What if we hadn’t acted by embarking on a massive liquidity injection? Aren’t you all satisfied that the unemployment rate is hovering around the defined level of full-employment?”
In the realm of physics, absolute zero is the temperature at which every element freezes and molecules are no longer in motion. The FED and other global central banks seem to be mimicking their scientific betters by keeping rates at a low enough level to prevent the movement of capital from their balance sheets and into the real economy. Yes, the ECB, Riksbank, Swiss National Bank are at negative interest rates but it is the velocity that measures absolute zero rather than the relative level of interest rates. This brief analysis is based on the CONTINUED FRUSTRATION of trying to understand the basis of FED communication and signalling to the markets.
It was ECB President Mario Draghi who declared war on the German economic model of GROWTH THROUGH AUSTERITY, but it was the Chinese central bank that fired the first real shot in response to the “intervention” by Super Mario. As usual, Draghi proposed an increase in the ECB QE program (possibly in December) and also mentioned taking deposit interest rate even more negative. The EURO, of course, depreciated by as much as 3 percent while Draghi stoked the fires of a possible liquidity increase.
In the ECB press conference held today in Malta, the market heard what they wanted to hear and settled in on the idea that Draghi was all set to increase the QE program and/or use the tool of negative interest rates to bring inflation up to its mandated level of 2 percent. The EURO dropped more than two percent after the Draghi press conference began as investors believed that the ECB was intent on increasing its asset purchases by the December meeting. I listened to the entire press conference but was reticent to draw that conclusion. The markets’ response to the possibility of any enhanced ECB actions poses more questions than the pricing action resolved:
In yesterday’s Financial Times, one of the giants of the economics profession, Luigi Zingales, wrote an op-ed, “A Strong Free Press Is Our Best Defence Against Crony Capitalism.” Zingales takes the financial media to task for failing to be a watchdog against the corruption that exists in global capital markets.He poignantly states:”While nowadays almost all the world professes itself to be capitalist,not everybody experiences the same type of capitalism.In fact,the form of capitalism prevailing in most of the world is very distant from the ideal competitive and meritocratic system we economists theorise in our analyses and most of us aspire to. It is a corrupt form, in which incumbents and special-interest groups shape the rules of the game to their advantage, at the expense of everybody else: it is crony capitalism.”
One of the great contemporary financiers warned on September 29 that the stock market was “extremely overheated ” and was being “supported by an “unsustainable earnings mirage.” Well, since that video release from Carl Icahn, the SPOOS have rallied more than 7 percent, defying the wisdom of Ichan, as well as many other highly regarded investors. Today’s equity rally was in the face of what has been a continuing onslaught of negative economic releases. The market has rallied off the August 21-24 lows but has paused when confronted with weak data, such as September’s unemployment report. But today the weak economic releases failed to dent the powerful rally: a weak Empire State, a weaker-than-expected Philly Fed Manufacturing report.