NEW$ & VIEW$ (29 JULY 2013)

EARNINGS WATCH

We are past the mid-point in the Q2 earnings season. Here’s the run down:

  • From S&P:

With 58% of S&P 500 companies having reported, the beat rate is 66% and the miss rate  24%, roughly unchanged from the earlier report. The miss rate is particularly high (33-35%) in Energy, Materials and Consumer Discretionary, the most cyclical sectors. Even though actual earnings are coming in 1.9% higher than the estimates, estimates from Q2 to Q4 continue to be reduced although only marginally.

At just past the mid-point of the Q2 2013 earnings season, the percentage of companies reporting actual earnings above estimates is 73%. This percentage is equal to the 4-year average of 73%. However, the earnings growth rate for the second quarter has only increased by one percentage point since the beginning of the earnings season. On June 30, the earnings growth rate was 0.8%. Today, the earnings growth rate is 1.8%. Over the past four years, the median increase in the earnings growth rate from the end of the quarter through the end of the earnings season has been five percentage points.S&P 500 Surprise %: Q109 – Q213

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The answer can be found in the surprise percentage reported to date for the second quarter. At this point in time, the surprise percentage for Q2 2013 is 3.2% (i.e. companies in the S&P 500 are beating EPS estimates in aggregate by 3.2%). This percentage is below the 4-year average of surprise percentage of 7.0%. In fact, if 3.2% is the final surprise percentage for the quarter, it would reflect the second-lowest surprise percentage for the index since Q1 2009. The lowest surprise percentage recorded to date since 2009 was in the third quarter of 2012 (3.1%).

Unless there is an improvement in the surprise percentage during the second-half of the earnings season, there is a good chance that the Q2 2013 quarter will finish with the third lowest earnings growth rate recorded by the index in the past four years, trailing only the Q3 2009 (-15.3%) quarter and the Q3 2012 quarter (-1.5%).

Pointing up Most interesting however:

S&P aggregate Q2 EPS is tracking $0.38 above the season start levels (around 0.8% beat) and financials account for an astounding $0.63 of that!

 

This goes along Moody’s findings reported here last Friday: Financials are saving the earnings season so far as earnings ex-Fins are flat YoY.

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Earnings for companies in the S&P 500 are projected to climb 3.3 percent, led by a 27 percent increase in bank profits, based on more than 11,000 analyst projections compiled by Bloomberg. Without the financial industry, S&P 500 income would contract 1.2 percent.

Of the 815 companies that have reported earnings so far this season, 65.2% of them have beaten earnings estimates.

Bespoke tallies all NYSE companies. The beat rate has declined sharply last week from 71% to 65%.

This a.m.: Corporate Profits Lose Steam

Revenue at the companies that make up the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index—excluding banks, whose profits have soared—is expected to creep up by just 1.1% in the second quarter from a year earlier, according to Thomson Reuters, which melds Wall Street analysts’ projections with company reports.

Earnings, meanwhile, are expected to decline 0.6%. That would be the first profit decline for nonfinancial companies since last autumn and the first time in a year that earnings grew more slowly than revenue, a sign that margin widening is petering out. (…)

Analysts are divided on whether margin expansion will remain a reliable source of earnings growth. Tony Dwyer, U.S. portfolio strategist for Canaccord Genuity, says profit margins will continue to widen unless revenue drops, because companies are keeping expenses in check. “Margins should do pretty well,” he said.

But Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst for Standard & Poor’s, questions whether margins will continue to increase.

“I don’t know how many more people you can get rid of,” he said. “You cannot continuously cut to get your way out.”

On margins: Margins Calls Can Be Ruinous In Many Ways

 

European Earnings: Bad And Getting Worse, As Majority Of Companies Miss EPS

Not surprisingly, we find that of the 120 DJStoxx600 companies reporting so far, the revenue picture is about the same as in the US, with 58% of companies beating the topline and 42% missing, a carbon copy of the US’ 58%/43%. But it is the EPS where the difference truly shines: while in the US some 73% of firms have “beat”, in Europe this number is only 48%. The flipside, or misses? In the US it is 26%. In Europe: a majority of companies, or 51%. In brief, anyone expecting a quick and easy turnaround in Europe’s corporate earnings picture will have to wait some more.

Source: Deutsche Bank

3 Signs the Market Is Near a Top

BY MARK HULBERT

One study of bull market peaks over the past 80 years finds eerie similarities with current conditions.

We may be closer to a major market top than most investors think.

That at least is the conclusion that emerged when I compared the current market environment to what prevailed at major market tops of the past century. (…)

Market rises steeply before bull dies

The typical bull market comes to an end following a period of extraordinary performance. (…) 

Since the 1920s, the average bull market has gained more than 21% over the 12 months prior to a top — more than double the long-term average.

Interestingly, the stock market recently has produced a return that is quite similar to this average 12-month gain prior to market tops: The S&P 500 over this period is up nearly 23%.

Riskiest stocks shine before market tops

(…)  the historical record suggests the stock market is a particularly risky affair over the 12 months prior to market tops. The margin between the average value and average growth stock over those 12 months is nearly double that historical average; the same is true for the margin of the average small-cap over the typical large-cap.

Ominously, recent experience adheres to this pattern. The value-over-growth margin over the past 12 months has actually been nearly triple the historical average (Fama and French define value as riskier than growth). Though the small-cap sector hasn’t outperformed the large-caps by as big a margin, it still is well ahead over the past 12 months.

P/Es at market tops

I had fully anticipated, when focusing on price/earnings ratios, to find that they are at extreme levels at market tops. But that is not what I found.

On the contrary, the average P/E for the S&P 500 has been 18.7 at bull market tops since the 1920s. That’s only modestly higher than the 16.8 average over the entire eight-decade sample. (…)

This provides both good and bad news for the current market. On the one hand, the S&P 500′s current P/E, at 17.9 when calculated on the basis of trailing earnings, is hardly at an extreme level. On the other hand, however, the market’s current P/E is only marginally less than where it stood on average at past bull market tops — 18.7.

The bottom line?

Needless to say, not all historical parallels to the current market are worrisome. The index of leading economic indicators, for example, shows no signs of an imminent recession. And even though interest rates have begun to rise, the yield curve — which has an impressive forecasting record — has not only remained quite steep, but even become slightly steeper in recent weeks. That’s good news, because that means it’s moving in just the opposite direction of its becoming inverted, and only when it’s inverted would it signal a heightened risk of a downturn. (…)

All we can say right now is that, when we compare the current stock market to past market tops, there are some worrisome parallels.

This doesn’t automatically mean that the current bull market will soon end. But it also means we shouldn’t be too confident that it won’t.

Mark Hulbert always does interesting statistical work. This piece is no exception even though it is leading investors just about nowhere. When an analysis begins with

We may be closer to a major market top than most investors think.

And ends with

This doesn’t automatically mean that the current bull market will soon end. But it also means we shouldn’t be too confident that it won’t.

The reader is justified to ask: what’s the point?

There are nonetheless several worthy points in Hulbert’s analysis:

  • Market rises steeply before bull dies: do not buy equities just because they are rising. Beware when the crowd moves in. Keep your cool at al times, using objective analytics to gauge risk vs reward.
  • Riskiest stocks shine before market tops: Keep your cool at al times, using objective analytics to gauge risk vs reward.
  • P/Es at market tops: A long term analysis of absolute P/Es is bound to produce faulty results since inflation significantly impacts P/E ratios. Using averages of absolute P/Es during 80 years of fluctuating inflation rates is meaningless. Look at the charts below (click to enlarge) if you doubt that.

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  • The bottom line? Hulbert confuses market corrections and recessions. Always sell stocks if you believe a recession is coming, whatever the P/E, because profits will collapse. The LEI and the yield curve are useful tools for that. Equities can also decline meaningfully to correct excessive valuations. This is when the Rule of 20 is most useful because it has a proven record and it uses objective facts.

Related read: S&P 500 P/E Ratio at Troughs: A Detailed Analysis of the Past 80 Years

Thumbs up Thumbs down The Employment Road To Tightening

Table 1 shows the average monthly increase in payrolls that is needed to achieve the Fed’s unemployment rate forecast, based on two assumptions about labor force growth. First, the working-age population picks up slightly, as per the Census Bureau’s projections. And second, the labor force participation rate (or part rate) holds steady near 34-year lows, as the upward push from cyclical forces (in particular, a tightening labor market) offsets the downward structural pull from an aging population.

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Until now, the cyclical and structural forces have worked in concert to reduce the part rate by almost 3 percentage points since 2006 (one recent study suggests it was nearly an even split in terms of influence).

Under these assumptions, the jobless rate will hold steady if job growth averages 110,000 per month. However, the Fed has set a much higher bar than 7.6% unemployment before it slows stimulus, let alone tightens policy. With inflation in check, policy is squarely aimed at reducing the jobless rate to a sustainable range of 5.2% to 6.0%. The Fed expects to reach the upper bound of this range in late 2015. This will require employment gains averaging 189,000 per month in the next 2½ years.

Of note, the minimum unemployment-rate threshold (6.5%) that the Fed  has established before it considers raising rates is not expected to be reached, at the earliest, until late 2014. This will require job gains averaging 200,000 in the next 1½ years.

In the event that the part rate turns up, more job growth would be required to keep the Fed’s unemployment rate forecast on track. For every 0.1% increase in the part rate, an additional 7,000 jobs (over and above 189,000) would be needed to achieve a 6.0% jobless rate in late 2015. So, the higher the part rate, the more likely the Fed will delay tightening unless economic growth exceeds expectations. (BMO Capital)

 

IMF: Manufacturing Could Lift Long-Term U.S. Growth

(…) “The contribution of manufacturing exports to growth could exceed those of the recent past,” the IMF said in a new report on the U.S. economy that identifies important structural changes that could boost growth over the long term.

The IMF noted that U.S. production of durable goods like computers, motor vehicles and machinery returned to prerecession levels towards the end of 2011, before the overall economy did, and that the recovery of this sector has been more robust than in other advanced economies.

Pointing up  This dynamic is the result, the IMF said, of a decrease in labor costs relative to those of emerging markets, cheaper energy produced by the shale gas and oil boom, and a depreciation of the U.S. dollar. Thanks to these gains in competitiveness, if U.S. manufacturers were to shift the focus of their exporting activities to fast-growing Asian markets, the sector could add between 0.4 and 0.6 percentage point to growth through 2020, compared to a 0.2 percentage point contribution in the first decade of this century. (…)

CHINA STIMULUS WATCH

China Aims to Help Small Businesses

China has rolled out temporary tax cuts and promises of fresh credit for small businesses that have been hit hard as economic growth slows, but the move will have only a limited impact on the economy, analysts said. (…)

On Friday, the central bank said it would encourage banks to lend more to smaller firms and it would encourage these companies to tap the bond market for financing. That followed an announcement by the State Council, or China’s cabinet, on Wednesday that it would temporarily suspend business and value-added taxes for companies with monthly revenue under 20,000 yuan ($3,260) starting Aug. 1.

That’s not small, that’s very tiny!

Small and medium-size enterprises account for 80% of China’s urban jobs, according to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.  (…)

Jobless rate to be ‘last straw’ for policy

Analysts believe that a sharp deterioration in the employment situation could be the ‘last straw’that forces changes in economic policy, although it’s not yet clear what the government’sbottom line for growth is this year. (…)

Zhu Baoliang, an economist at the State Information Center, a think tank under the NationalDevelopment and Reform Commission, said that the “safe zone” for unemployment is 4 to 5 percent. (…)

Don’t you worry about unemployment in China. It is clearly under control at 4.1%: Winking smile

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Pointing up  Shale Threatens Saudi Economy, Warns Prince Alwaleed

Saudi Arabian billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal has warned that the kingdom’s petroleum-dependent economy is increasingly vulnerable as rising production of U.S. shale oil and gas reduces global demand for crude from members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.

In an open letter dated May 13 addressed to Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi and several other ministers, which was published Sunday on Prince Alwaleed’s Twitter account, he said the kingdom won’t be able to fulfill its plan to increase its crude production capacity to 15 million barrels because of the shale threat.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, is now pumping at less than its production capacity because consumers are limiting their oil imports, Prince Alwaleed said. This means the kingdom is, “facing a threat with the continuation of its near-complete reliance on oil, especially as 92% of the budget for this year depends on oil,” said the prince. (…)

In a report last month, OPEC’s own analysts predicted that demand for the group’s crude would fall next year to 29.6 million barrels a day, more than 600,000 barrels a day below its level last year. The International Energy Agency expects demand for OPEC crude to decline again in 2015 to 29.2 million barrels a day, before starting to rise gradually in the following years. (…)

European oil demand on the rise
Hopes for sign of increased economic activity

(…) The year-on-year increase in European oil demand in April and May – the first consecutive increases since the start of 2011 – means the continent is now set for its first quarter of oil demand growth since 2010.

Diesel demand has increased for three consecutive months, a sign of increased economic activity because it means trucks are making more journeys, according to David Wech, an analyst at JBC Energy in Vienna.

The International Energy Agency has raised its estimate for second-quarter oil demand in Europe by 2 per cent since the start of the year, and some analysts say European consumption could continue to exceed expectations.

High five  Some of the increase may have been due to a  cold spring encouraging consumption of fuel and heating oil.

And this:  Euro Area Credit Contraction a Stiff Headwind

However, while activity may at last be stabilizing, the economy
faces a significant headwind in the sharp contraction in bank lending. Lending to the private sector fell in July, as it has in 18 of the past 21 months, leaving total loans outstanding down a record 2.6% y/y. (BMO Capital)image

DRIVING BLIND (continued)

Fed ‘Doves’ Beat ‘Hawks’ in Economic Prognosticating

The WSJ examined more than 700 predictions in speeches and testimony by 14 Fed policy makers—and scored the predictions on growth, jobs and inflation.

(…) To evaluate the performance of individual Fed officials, the Journal looked at texts of speeches and congressional testimony. Forward-looking comments about the economy were rated for accuracy.

The Journal gave a mark ranging from -1.0—far off the mark—to 1.0—nearly perfectly correct—for each comment and averaged the total. A final score of zero showed someone was wrong as often as correct. (…)

Ms. Yellen and Mr. Dudley—both in Mr. Bernanke’s inner circle—ranked first and second in the Journal analysis. Both predicted slow growth and low inflation over the past four years. Ms. Yellen had the highest overall score in the Journal’s ranking, 0.52. Mr. Dudley scored 0.45.

The lowest scores were tallied by Mr. Plosser, -0.01; St. Louis Fed President James Bullard, 0.00; Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker, 0.05, and Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota, 0.07.

Investors who closely follow every comment by Fed officials don’t appear to distinguish policy makers by the accuracy of their economic forecasts.

Macroeconomic Advisers LLC, a research firm, determined Mr. Plosser, Mr. Bullard and Mr. Lacker consistently moved markets more than Ms. Yellen. (…)

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Well, the “overall scores” look strange to me when considering the “growth scores”.

OBAMA’S HEALTH CARE (!)

John Mauldin in his latest Thoughts from the Front Line:

This week President Obama gave a speech on the economy that sounded like a campaign speech except that he should not be running any longer. He blamed the rise of technology for the loss of jobs, the decimation of the power of unions for flat incomes, and the policies of his predecessor for the current malaise. The speech was a wish list of new programs and promises, yet nothing is getting done. He fails to engage with the most pressing problems of our time and doubles down on a healthcare plan that is a train wreck even his most ardent supporters are walking away from. Did you see the recent letter from multiple union leaders asking for a course correction on healthcare?

The Congressional Budget Office now estimates that 7 million people will lose their employer-provided health insurance at the end of the year. One would assume that those are almost all full-time workers. So instead of getting health insurance in some form as a benefit, they will likely soon be paying $1400 a year (minimum) in mandated taxes (the level set by the Supreme Court), and those costs will rise dramatically over the next few years, according to the current schedule. That is a HUGE tax increase for those people.

Young people who have no insurance and are making more than $10 an hour will be paying about $1300 a year, or close to 10% of their after-tax income. That blows a monster hole in their disposable income at those levels. There is no other way to look at this: it’s a huge lower-middle-class tax increase. Yes, they get a benefit (health insurance) that someone somewhere in society was already paying for, but they personally did not have these costs before.

The unintended consequences of the healthcare bill are going to be vicious. Not only is there a tax increase on the rich and on small employers, there is a tax increase on young people and the middle class. And it’s a tax increase that comes in the middle of the slowest recovery on record. It is possible that we grew at less than 1% this last quarter. And the burden piles on top of a secular shift in employment practices that is making life more difficult for the younger generations.

OBAMA’S FINANCIAL CARE (!)

Mauldin again on the next Fed chief:

Oh, dear gods. (…) This is most distressing. On the one hand we have the most uber-dovish candidate ever in the form of Janet Yellen, with no real-world experience and likely to continue QE at the sight of her own shadow, which as I noted yesterday in the letter is a real problem, OR
We get a man from whose vocabulary the terms collegiality and consensus are somehow missing.

He is possibly less dovish (maybe a good thing, but who knows what he would really do, as he is not going to tell us until after he is confirmed), and he will continue to be Larry Summers, which is to say divisive. I have talked to some of his colleagues at Harvard. You get mostly nuanced statements with a lot of clear body language that says “I am glad he’s gone.”

GOOD READ China’s Bad Earth

Industrialization has turned much of the Chinese countryside into an environmental disaster zone, threatening not only the food supply but the legitimacy of the regime itself.

(…) Estimates from state-affiliated researchers say that anywhere between 8% and 20% of China’s arable land, some 25 to 60 million acres, may now be contaminated with heavy metals. A loss of even 5% could be disastrous, taking China below the “red line” of 296 million acres of arable land that are currently needed, according to the government, to feed the country’s 1.35 billion people.

Rural China’s toxic turn is largely a consequence of two trends, say environmental researchers: the expansion of polluting industries into remote areas a safe distance from population centers, and heavy use of chemical fertilizers to meet the country’s mounting food needs. Both changes have been driven by the rapid pace of urbanization in a country that in 2012, for the first time in its long history, had more people living in cities than outside of them. (…)

The consequences of this shift catapulted to national attention in February, after China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection refused to release the results of a multiyear nationwide soil-pollution survey, calling the data a “state secret.” The decision—brought to a head when an activist lawyer pressed the ministry to reveal the numbers—sparked an outcry online and in the traditional media. (…)

Crying face Burgundy vineyards devastated by storm
Crop damage ranges from 10% to 100% after hail deluge

(…) France’s agriculture ministry said on Friday that up to 40 per cent of vineyards were hit in the Côte de Beaune, which accounts for about 10 per cent of the Burgundy region’s annual 200m bottle production. Crop damage in the stricken vineyards ranged from 10 per cent to 100 per cent, the ministry said.

Among the best known wine-growing districts hardest hit were Pommard, Volnay, Monthélie, Beaune and Meursault, according to BIVB, the Burgundy wine board, which estimates losses of more than 4m bottles. “In 40 years, we have never seen a whole area hit like this,” a BIVB spokeswoman said. “In 20 minutes, everything was ruined.” (…)

 
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NEW$ & VIEW$ (16 MAY 2013)

Storm cloud  U.S. Industrial Production Moves Lower

Activity in the factory sector is weakening. Industrial production fell 0.6% during April following a 0.3% March increase, earlier reported as 0.4%. Declines in activity were broad-based amongst industries last month. Factory sector production fell 0.4% (+1.4% y/y) following its unrevised 0.2% March slip. Utility output reversed course and fell 3.7% (+3.4% y/y) following a 6.4% March owing to warmer-than-normal temperatures.

The drop in factory sector output reflected across-the-board industry weakness. Consumer goods production fell 0.6% (+2.3% y/y) as motor vehicle output dropped 1.2% (+5.2% y/y). Elsewhere, appliance, furniture & related goods production fell 0.8% and was unchanged y/y. In the nondurables area, apparel output fell 1.6% (-2.9% y/y) while paper production dropped 0.6% (-1.9% y/y). For business equipment, output fell 0.5% (+3.5% y/y). Output of information processing and related equipment fell 0.5% (+3.2% y/y) and transit equipment production fell 0.5% (+5.9% y/y). Excluding the output of high tech products & motor vehicles, production fell 0.5% (+1.8% y/y) during April.

The capacity utilization rate fell to 77.8% from a downwardly revised 78.3% in March.

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Pointing up  Everything is slowing! Might it be because of the following?

Currencies react to Bank of Japan’s recent monetary moves

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These are big, big moves!

The Wall Street Journal Dollar Index, which tracks the dollar against a basket of currencies, has advanced 6% since the start of the year. The rise again the yen is even stronger.

EMPIRE STATE MANUFACTURING TURNS SOUTH

The general business conditions index fell four points to -1.4, its first negative reading since January. The new orders index also edged into negative territory, and the shipments index fell to zero. Employment
indexes were mixed, showing both a modest increase in the number of
employees and a slight decline in the length of the average workweek.

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New orders have been weakening for 3 months before crossing below the zero line (-1.17)in May.image

Interesting:

After Prices Paid, the next largest decline came in the Average Workweek, which fell from 5.7 in April to negative 1.1 in May.  The decline in the average workweek comes on the heels of the Non-Farm Payrolls report two weeks ago, where the average workweek also showed a sizable decline.  It is still early, but this could be an early indication that employers are cutting hours in an effort to stay below the thresholds that would require providing health coverage under the Affordable Care Act. (Bespoke Investment)

Home-Sales Expectations Hit 5-Year High

The National Association of Home Builders said Wednesday that its housing-market index was 44 in May, up three points from April. All three components of the index rose, with builders’ expectations of sales for the next few months hitting the highest level since February 2007.

High five  Curb your enthusiasm:

A reading above 50 in the NAHB index means that more builders view conditions as good rather than poor. The overall gauge hasn’t been in positive territory since April 2006. At the height of the building bubble, readings were in the high 60s and low 70s.

 

(Charts from Haver Analytics)

Look at this next chart from BMO Capital remembering that Canada is the U.S. main trading partner.image

JAPAN, the only growth game in town:

 

Japan Reports Growth Surge

The country’s gross domestic product, the broadest measure of goods and services produced across the economy, grew at an annualized pace of 3.5% in the first three months of the year, as consumers loosened their purse strings and exports to the U.S. picked up, lifted by a weaker yen.

The figures reported by the government early Thursday marked a sharp improvement from the tepid 1% growth rate at the end of last year, which followed six months of contraction.

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A government official said the GDP data showed consumers spent more overall, particularly on recreation, cars and dining out, and exports were lifted by stronger car exports to the U.S.

The price of imported goods from Japan fell 0.6% during April, the largest monthly decline since September 2008. The fall in import prices from Japan over the past three months parallels a drop in the Japanese yen relative to the U.S. dollar, the Labor Department said. Japan, the fourth largest trading partner with the U.S., is an important supplier of consumer goods and vehicles.

Baring teeth smile  It will not take much more before U.S. manufacturers start complaining about the weak Yen.

Of course, quite a lot happened after the end of Q1 as well.

It was just in early April that the BoJ announced open-ended QE and promised to double the monetary base, while prime minister Shinzo Abe pledged to boost competition in the quasi-monopolistic power sector. Since then the yen broke 100, the stock market continued soaring, and in recent days Japanese government bond yields have sold off. Even activist investors from the US are taking notice.

But it is early days yet. The unexpectedly strong first quarter growth numbers were driven mainly by exports — to be expected given the yen’s continued decline. (FT Alphaville)

How long will the ROW allow Japan to poach?

CHINA

 

Foreign Investment in China Lags

Foreign direct investment in China sputtered in the first four months of the year, despite renewed signs of strength from the U.S. and the European Union, showing only a modest 1.21% rise from a year ago.

Foreign direct investment in China was $38.3 billion in the January to April period, including $8.4 billion in April, for a feeble 0.4% rise from April 2012. (…)

Investment from the U.S. was up 33.2% over last year in the four-month period, inflows from the EU rose 29.7%, while Japanese investment climbed 9.2%. But investment from the rest of Asia was very weak, rising just 0.21% from a year earlier.

More signs of weakness: China’s freight traffic was unchanged MoM in April, +7.8% YoY, same as in March. YTD to April: +8.7% YoY, down from +12% in 2012. Looks slower to me. April coastal container throughput was up 8.6% YoY, +8.4% YTD.

Annoyed  China Signals Concern at Yen Weakness as Japan Growth Quickens

Japan’s policy of monetary easing “makes it hard for China to increase exports to Japan,” Shen Danyang, a ministry spokesman, said at a briefing in Beijing today. The rising yuan is eroding profit margins of Chinese exporters, he said. (…)

A survey by the ministry found that the profit margins of 78 percent of exporters are narrowing, and 73 percent will report flat or lower profits for 2013, Shen said. Exporters at the Canton Trade Fair in April and May didn’t want to accept long-term orders because of concerns that the yuan will gain, he said.

Pointing up  Beijing signals concern at rising jobless
Li warns on challenge of finding work for graduates

(…) In a nationwide teleconference on Monday that was widely reported in state media on Wednesday, Mr Li said that nearly 7m tertiary students would enter the job market in July in China, the largest number in the country’s history.

He said it was an “important task” to find jobs for all these graduates, who make up a demographic considered potentially threatening to Communist Party rule if they become disaffected in large numbers.

“In the first few months of the year, as economic growth has slowed the employment trend has remained stable but employment pressures remain and the problem of employment for tertiary students is particularly prominent,” Mr Li said, according to a transcript of his speech.

But Mr Li also disappointed many investors by ruling out a large government-directed stimulus or investment boom this year.

“To achieve this year’s development targets the room to rely on stimulatory policies and direct government investment is not big and we will need to rely on market mechanisms,” Mr Li said. Relying on government efforts to boost growth “is not only difficult to sustain but also creates new problems and risks”. (…)

Disgruntled students have played a powerful destabilising role throughout modern Chinese history, leading enormous social movements in 1919, in the 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution and in the Tiananmen Square movement in 1989. (…)

Of the nearly 7m students who graduate in July most of them have not yet found jobs and the employment rate for these people is lower than in the past, according to state media reports.

By late last month, just 28 per cent of graduating students in Beijing had been hired while the rate was 29 per cent in Shanghai and 47 per cent in southern Guangdong Province.

The official urban unemployment rate in China was just 4.1 per cent by the end of March but the figure is regarded as deeply unreliable because it does not capture many demographic groups such as fresh graduates.

EUROPE

 

Lightning  European Recession Is Longest Since War

The euro-zone debt crisis has mutated into Europe’s longest slump of the postwar era, with no recovery in sight for a broad swath of the continent.

(…) Depression-like conditions in Southern Europe, combined with slowing global growth, are dragging down the core economies: Germany is barely growing and France is steadily contracting.

The 17-nation euro zone, which accounts for 17% of world GDP, remains the weakest link in the global economy, mired well below its level of economic activity before the 2008 financial crisis. Social strains, political paralysis and rising debt burdens are reigniting doubts about its economic future. (…)

Business surveys for April suggest the euro-zone economy could well shrink again in the second quarter. (…)

Sustained Pain

Italy airs pessimistic view on recovery
Government has little room for stimulating growth

(…) “I don’t see any signs of recovery at the moment,” commented Emma Marcegaglia, president-elect of Business Europe.

Italy - the wilderness years“The credit crunch is strong, internal demand and the construction sector are very bad, exports are slowing and investments have stopped. The recession is very severe,” she told the Financial Times.

At best, she said, the eurozone’s third-largest economy might see a bottoming out of its longest postwar recession in the final quarter of 2013. On the bright side, analysts noted the pace of contraction was declining more slowly than in the final quarter of 2012 when GDP shrank 0.9 per cent. (…)

By July the government needs to find a further €2bn to avoid a scheduled increase in sales tax although declining tax revenues put that goal in doubt, with Rome promising Brussels that it will stick to its budget targets in order to escape from the European Commission’s excessive deficit procedure. (…)

Fingers crossed  Bankers are starting to sound rather more upbeat however. Reporting quarterly results in recent days, the heads of Italy’s largest banks share the view that the recession is bottoming out.

The strongest indicator came from loan loss provisions which fell in the first three months of the year from the end of 2012 at UniCredit, Italy’s largest bank by assets. Intesa Sanpaolo, its largest retail bank, said inflows of bad loans were down by a third, quarter on quarter.

Euro Zone Runs Record Trade Surplus

Adjusting for seasonal effects, exports grew 2.8% from February, while imports fell 1.0%, to give a surplus of €18.7 billion, up from €12.7 billion in February.

March is really the first solid month in a while. Let’s see a couple more months, given that the EZ export markets all seem to be slowing now, perhaps because their own exports to the EZ are collapsing.

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Slovenia Premier Bratusek Defies Markets With No-Aid Vow

(…) Bratusek says time is what she needs to fix the banks — by deploying a rescue package she opposed before she came to office — and that her nation won’t need an international rescue. By next month, she promises, her coalition government will begin swapping as much as 4 billion euros ($5.2 billion) in bad bank loans for government-guaranteed debt. After eight weeks in office, investors are questioning whether she can deliver.

“Talk is cheap,” Egon Zakrajsek, a Slovenian-born Federal Reserve economist in Washington, said in an e-mail. Slovenia needs “fundamental economic and social reforms” to restore market confidence and “neither the current government nor any of its predecessors has been able to deliver.” Zakrajsek said he was commenting in a private capacity. (…)

Slovenia’s overhaul drive has “failed to deliver on transparency and thus credibility, consistent with our concerns about implementation risks,” Mai Doan, an emerging-markets economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in London said in a note to clients today. The program could “disappoint the European Commission, which would probably prefer more rigorous measures and transparency.”

Opening the door to a bailout would expose Bratusek to the risk of having to impose Greece-like austerity measures in return for aid.

EARNINGS WATCH

Wal-Mart Second-Quarter Forecast Trails Estimates

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer, forecast second-quarter profit that was less than analysts estimated as shoppers struggle amid the slow U.S. economy and higher taxes.

Earnings per share will be $1.22 to $1.27, the Bentonville, Arkansas-based company said today in a statement. Analysts had projected $1.29, the average of 24 estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Sales at U.S. Wal-Mart stores open at least 12 months excluding fuel fell 1.4 percent, the first decline after six straight gains. Analysts estimated a 0.1 percent decline.

Look at the rare long flattening in earnings. The tail wind to equities from rising profits has disappeared. Hmmm….

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NEW$ & VIEW$ (9 APRIL 2013)

U.S. employment growth slows along with small biz mood. Participation rate influenced by social security issues. Fed’s impact on economy, markets. Gas prices decline some more. Beware Slovania. Car loans. Chinese inflation eases. Inflation warning. China wages. U.K. economy. German, Chinese exports. arnings watch.

 

Employment Index Signals Modest Gains Ahead

The Conference Board said its March employment trends index fell 0.2% to 111.20 from 111.43 in February, first reported as 111.14. The latest index is up 3.7% from a year ago.

Small Business Optimism Down in March

After three months of sustained growth, the March NFIB Index of Small
Business Optimism ended its slow climb, declining 1.3 points and landing
at 89.5. (…) Of the ten Index components, two increased, two were unchanged and six declined. Among the greatest declines were labor market indicators, inventory investment plans and sales expectations.

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Workers Stuck in Disability Stunt Economic Recovery

(…) Michael Feroli, chief U.S. economist for J.P. Morgan, estimates that since the recession, the worker flight to the Social Security Disability Insurance program accounts for as much as a quarter of the puzzling drop in participation rates, a labor exodus with far-reaching economic consequences. (…)

[image]Payments, tied to a worker’s wage history, average $1,130 a month, which totals $13,560 a year. That is about $2,000 a year more than the federal poverty level for a single person and about $2,000 less than full-time wages at the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour. After two years, people on disability are eligible for Medicare health insurance—another government benefit that encourages recipients to stay put.

Between December 2007, when the recession started, and June 2009, when it ended, the number of Americans receiving federal disability benefits grew to 7.6 million from 7.1 million. Then the rolls swelled, reaching 8.9 million in March, about 5.4% of the civilian workforce ages 25 to 64, according to J.P. Morgan estimates. That compares with 1.7% of the U.S. workforce in 1970.

Economic growth is driven by the number of workers in an economy and by their productivity. Put simply, fewer workers usually means less growth.

Since the recession, more people have gone on disability, on net, than new workers have joined the labor force. Mr. Feroli estimated the exodus to disability costs 0.6% of national output, equal to about $95 billion a year. (…)

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Easy Money: Fed Policies Spur Corporate Spending

CFOs at 202 firms, about 45% of the survey respondents, said low interest rates had led them to increase borrowing.

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BlackRock urges Fed to rein in QE3
Money manager says ‘dull hammer’ tactics distort market

(…) “Fed policy has had a distorting effect on capital allocation decisions of all kinds at virtually every level of the economy,” he told the Financial Times. “It is a very large and dull hammer for markets.” (…)

BlackRock estimates that interest rates on 10-year Treasuries are about 100 basis points below where they would be normally. Mr Rieder said that as such interest rates normalise, “losses that occur to fixed-income portfolios will be more and more acute”.

Gasoline at U.S. Pumps Drops to Lowest for Season in Three Years

 

Regular, unleaded gasoline at the pump declined 3.7 cents, or 1 percent, to $3.608 a gallon, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said on its website yesterday.

Retail gasoline prices have retreated for six straight weeks and are 33.1 cents a gallon below year-earlier levels.

Gasoline “probably has another 6 or 7 cents a gallon to fall in the short-term as the decline in crude prices last week flows through from refining operations,” James Williams, president of energy consulting firm WTRG Economics in London, Arkansas, said by telephone yesterday. “The drops should continue for several days to a week.”

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Pointing up  OECD Warns on Slovenia Banks

Slovenia’s government may exceed its estimate of the €1 billion ($1.3 billion) needed to boost the capital of the country’s ailing banks because it has based its cost estimates on a “most likely already outdated” analysis, the OECD said.

“The authorities evaluate recapitalization needs at up to 3% of GDP (€1 billion),” the OECD said in its latest report on Slovenia. “Yet, capital needs are uncertain and could in fact be significantly higher.” (…)

Three state-owned Slovenian banks, which together account for about two-thirds of the country’s banking sector, are saddled with large amounts of nonperforming loans. This has added pressure to Slovenia’s economy, which shrank 2.3% last year.

Another template coming?

Introducing the 97-Month Car Loan

Rising new-car prices and competition among lenders to attract borrowers is pushing loans to lengthier terms. In part, banks see the longer terms as a way to attract buyers, by keeping monthly payments under $500 a month.

The average price of a new car is now $31,000, up $3,000 in the past four years. But at the same time, the average monthly car payment edged down, to $460 from $465—the result of longer loan terms and lower interest rates.

In the final quarter of 2012, the average term of a new car note stretched out to 65 months, the longest ever, according to Experian Information Solutions Inc. Experian said that 17% of all new car loans in the past quarter were between 73 and 84 months and there were even a few as long as 97 months. Four years ago, only 11% of loans fell into this category. (…)

Experts say there is an appetite for more risk because banks see limited downside in auto lending. The delinquency rates on car loans are near record lows, and used car values are at record highs. And if a buyer defaults, the bank can repossess and sell cars with limited losses.

Chinese Consumer Inflation Eases

China’s year-to-year consumer inflation fell to 2.1% in March, a lower-than-expected result that suggests the threat of inflation in the world’s No. 2 economy is ebbing.

Rises in food prices have been moderating, up 2.7% year to year in March after a 6% year-to-year rise in February.

The producer-price index, which measures wholesale prices, remains in negative territory, falling to 1.9% in March, against expectations of a drop of 2%.

The average increase in consumer prices in the first quarter was 2.4 per cent, up only a little from the final quarter of 2012.

The CPI fell 0.9 percent from February, the biggest drop in seven years.

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image(Charts from China Daily)

ADB Issues Inflation Warning

[image]Asian policy makers should carefully monitor inflation and beware of asset bubbles as money flows into the region and local economies grow strongly, the Asian Development Bank said. (…)

The Manila-based lender noted that production in most Asian economies is already near capacity, which raises the risk of inflation taking off. The ADB also said fuel-subsidy cuts—while beneficial from a fiscal perspective—would push up prices.

“Currently inflation remains in check, but we are concerned that pressures are building up,” ADB Chief Economist Changyong Rhee told The Wall Street Journal. “If these trends continue unchecked, then asset bubbles with rising capital inflows can be an issue in the near future.” (…)

Inflation in developing Asia should pick up to 4.0% in 2013 and 4.2% in 2014 from 3.7% last year, the ADB said, with growth also accelerating to 6.6% in 2013 and 6.7% in 2014, from 6.1% in 2012. But the ADB warned central banks they should be ready to act.

China Surging Wages Threaten Economy’s Competitiveness, ADB Says

Average inflation-adjusted wages have more than tripled in a decade and non-wage costs for procedures such as hiring and firing have risen since the introduction of a 2008 labor law, the ADB said in a report published today.

The labor market is being squeezed across the nation as the pool of working-age people shrank last year.(…)

China’s labor productivity has grown quickly even as it remains less than 10 percent of the level in Singapore and the U.S., and about 20 percent of South Korea’s rate, Niny Khor, a Beijing-based economist for the ADB, said at the briefing.

Rising wages and other costs are being exacerbated by restrictions on workers’ mobility through the household registration system known as hukou, the ADB said.(…)

China’s pool of 15- to 39-year-olds, which supplies the bulk of workers for industry, construction and services, fell to 525 million last year from 557 million five years earlier, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News from the U.S. Census Bureau’s international population database. The number employed in industry rose to 147 million from 117 million in the five years through September.

U.K. Housing Market, Retail Sales Pick Up

Activity in the U.K.’s housing market and on the high street picked up in March despite unseasonably cold weather, giving the economic outlook a boost for the first quarter and suggesting the U.K. may avoid a triple-dip recession.

German Exports Fell in February Amid Euro-Area Recession

Exports, adjusted for working days and seasonal changes, dropped 1.5 percent from January, when they gained 1.3 percent, the Federal Statistics Office in Wiesbaden said today.

Shipments from Germany to the euro area dropped 4.1 percent in February from a year ago, while those to the European Union decreased 3.4 percent. Exports to non-EU members fell 1.9 percent, today’s report showed.

China Export-Data Skepticism Deepens From Goldman to Nomura

China’s unprecedented run of better- than-forecast export growth has spurred deeper skepticism of the data at banks including Goldman Sachs Group Inc., casting doubt on the strength of the recovery.

 

EARNINGS WATCH

Alcoa Net Rises 59%

Excluding special items, earnings per share came to 11 cents, up from 10 cents a year before. The result for the latest quarter exceeded the Wall Street forecast of eight cents per share, according to FactSet.

What’s the big deal? Here’s how the WSJ’s Market Beat column treats AA’s results this morning:

Studies have shown that how the aluminum maker performs relative to analysts’ expectations over the past decade has been a good gauge of the market’s short-term performance.

Consider these stats, courtesy of John Butters, senior earnings analyst at FactSet: Over the past 10 years prior to Monday’s results, Alcoa’s quarterly figures have exceeded analysts’ expectations 50% of the time (20 out of 40 quarters). When Alcoa beats, the S&P 500 has averaged a 4.4% gain over the ensuing three months and has been positive 80% of the time. When it misses, the S&P 500 has averaged a 0.9% decline and has been positive only 44% of the time.

But Factset also says:

Since 2009, Alcoa has reported earnings above the mean EPS estimate 56% of the time (9 out of 16 quarters). In the nine quarters that Alcoa reported actual EPS above the mean EPS estimate, 73.6% of companies in the S&P 500 reported earnings above EPS estimates for the quarter on average.

In the seven quarters that Alcoa reported actual EPS below the mean EPS estimate, 72.6% of companies in the S&P 500 reported actual EPS above the mean EPS estimate for the quarter on average.

While there is a slight difference in the numbers, it appears that Alcoa’s earnings performance relative to estimates has little predictive value in determining the earnings performance of the remaining companies in the index.

 
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NEW$ & VIEW$ (21 FEBRUARY 2013)

Eurozone woes continue. U.S. housing and construction. China housing, employment. Currency wars. Sentiment watch. Earnings watch.

Bloc’s Downturn Set to Continue  Euro-zone business activity shrank further in February, suggesting an economic downturn that started last April will continue in the first quarter of 2013 at least

Big market-depressing headline this morning as market hopes of a “stabilizing” Eurozone are significantly shaken by Markit’s flash PMI report for February. As I have repeatedly shown in recent weeks, market hopes on Europe were not based on facts. The auto market is a good case in point. These charts from ZeroHedge summarize the recent bad news on this important industry. No green shoots there!

U.S. HOUSING

New Single-Family Homes Buoy Market

Construction of single-family homes rose to the highest level since the financial crisis last month as the housing market improved, though the overall results for all types of housing starts were pulled down by a drop in apartment and condominium construction.

Housing starts fell 8.5% last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 890,000, the Commerce Department said Wednesday, driven by a 26.1% decline in multifamily home construction. December’s figures were revised upward to a rate of 973,000 new homes started. Compared with a year ago, new home construction was up 23.6%.

Construction of single-family homes, which made up about two-thirds of housing starts last month, rose 0.8% in January to a rate of 613,000 units and was up 20% from a year earlier. That figure is the highest since July 2008. (…)

Meanwhile, the number of new building permits, an indication of future construction, rose 1.8% to an annualized level of 925,000 in January, the highest level since June 2008.

 

 

(Charts from Have Analytics)

(Bespoke Investment)

Pointing up  Note: ISI Homebuilders Survey In Mid-Feb Surges to 65.7

Gauge of Planned US Construction Activity Hits Five-Year High

The American Institute of Architects said Wednesday that its Architecture Billings Index rose to 54.2 in January from 51.2 in December. The index of new project inquiries rose to 63.2 in the three months to end-January from its previous reading of 57.9.

The indices are viewed by analysts as a leading indicator of building activity, with a typical lag of nine to 12 months between clients billing architects and starting construction.(…)

The mixed-practice segment – buildings that combine retail and residential space – remains the most buoyant, according to the institute, followed by multi-family homes and commercial and industrial construction, all of which are seeing expanded activity.

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(CalculatedRisk)

CHINA

China drains cash to curb liquidity
Record $146bn withdrawn from the economy since Monday

The move was partly a technical reversal of liquidity injections made before last week’s Chinese New Year holiday, but analysts said it also heralded a cautious shift to tighter monetary policy as the world’s second-largest economy heated up.

Property price controls to stay  Property price controls will be maintained, Premier Wen Jiabao vowed on Wednesday, in response to a rebound in the real estate market in some cities.

Pointing up  There was a massive surge in the amount of residential floor space sold during the Spring Festival holiday week.

Tracking by the China Index Academy, a real estate research body, saw 21 of 27 cities monitored register sales of floor space more than five times the area of the corresponding holiday week last year and at higher prices.

TIGHT MARKET: Major Cities May Face Partial Shortage of Property Supply

According to the CEBM Property Survey, developers’ potential property supply will be at a limited level in major cities in 2013 as developers decelerated their land purchases and starts of new property projects. Thus, we expect the inventory to sales ratio to be on a continuous downward trend in 2013 and to decrease further and faster in 1H13. Some major cities may face a partial shortage of new property supply. (CEBM Group)

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Companies struggle to find, keep workers  A labor shortage is sweeping through both the Pearl River Delta and Yangtze River Delta regions, the country’s two major economic powerhouses.

A labor shortage is sweeping through both the Pearl River Delta and Yangtze River Delta regions, the country’s two major economic powerhouses.

(…) “We’ve got about 2,000 vacancies available at the moment, but few contracts were signed in the past week as some of the migrant workers haven’t returned from their hometowns, and some demanded higher-income jobs,” Li said.

A majority of the listed vacancies in Li’s company offer jobs with a monthly salary of over 2,000 yuan, while most of the applicants require a minimum income of 3,000 yuan.

“It has been difficult for a company to hire an ordinary worker without any specific skills with a monthly salary of 2,000 yuan, a salary that was unacceptable for migrant workers in Shanghai,” Li said.

Li added that migrant workers now pay more attention to working conditions, social welfare and leisure time.

(…)  Guangzhou will still face a shortage of 110,000 workers, according to the city’s human resources and social security bureau.

A survey of 326 enterprises involving 219,300 migrant workers found that more than 80 percent of the enterprises expressed an urgent hiring demand, mainly for general workers.

Enterprises are offering 9 percent to 12.5 percent pay rises to newly hired workers, the survey found. (…)

CURRENCY WARS

Brazil’s Growth Slows in December

Brazil’s economy expanded at a slightly slower pace in December, rounding out a full year of meager economic growth, a central bank advance indicator shows.

The IBC-Br index rose 0.26% from the previous month on a seasonally adjusted basis and 1.35% for all 2012.

 

Incoming South Korea President Signals Won Stability

Incoming South Korean President Park Geun-hye on Wednesday gave a clear indication that she will stick with the currency management policy of the outgoing administration, saying she would try to ensure the stability of the Korean won to help the nation’s companies.

“I understand that securing stability in foreign exchange rates is very important. I will take pre-emptive action to help Korean companies avoid making losses,” Ms. Park said in a meeting with local business leaders, according to a spokesman.

South Korean exporters have been vocal recently in complaining about the ascent of the Korean won, which makes their products more expensive in overseas markets and diminishes overseas earnings when they are repatriated.

SENTIMENT WATCH

 

 

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EARNINGS WATCH

 

Wal-Mart Profit Forecast Trails Estimates on Tax Increase

 

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. projected first-quarter profit that trailed analysts’ estimates as an increase in the payroll tax curtails spending among its lower-income shoppers.

Earnings per share in the current quarter will be $1.11 to $1.16, the Bentonville, Arkansas-based company said today in a statement. Analysts projected $1.19, the average of 18 estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Profit in the year ending January 2014 will be $5.20 to $5.40 a share, Wal-Mart said. The average of 25 analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg was $5.39 a share.

Chain store sales rose 2.7% during the week ended Feb. 16 but the 4-wk m.a. Y/Y growth rate keeps falling.

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Federal Furloughs Likely to Hit by April

Federal workers are expected to begin taking unpaid leave by late March or early April if the government absorbs $85 billion in spending cuts set to start March 1, according to estimates from different agencies.

Even though the process begins March 1, many federal agencies must notify employees 30 days before beginning furloughs.(…)

In addition to roughly 700,000 Department of Defense workers, the reductions, if they take effect, would affect employees in many other agencies, according to government officials. More than one million workers could be affected. They include food inspectors, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture; Transportation Security Administration security personnel, according to the Department of Homeland Security; and White House and congressional staff.

In many cases, workers would be forced to take one unpaid day off each week or every two weeks through September, agencies said. (…)

Red heart Broken heart Obama Rated at 3-Year High in Poll, Republicans at Bottom

 
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NEW$ & VIEW$ (25 OCTOBER 2012)

Storm cloud  U.S. Firings Highest Since 2010 as Ford to Dow Face Sales Slump

North American companies have announced plans to eliminate 62,600 positions at home and abroad since Sept. 1, the biggest two-month drop since the start of 2010, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Firings total 158,100 so far this year, more than the 129,000 job cuts in the same period in 2011. (…)

Among western European companies, there have been 47 job- cut announcements so far this year involving at least 1,000 workers, compared with 32 in the same period of 2011, according to the data compiled by Bloomberg. The peak month was July, with 39,800 firings. That brings the year-to-date total for the region’s companies to 165,700, up from 162,420 in the same period a year earlier, the data show.

Reuter’s Analysis: Americans to face tougher 2013 on rising prices, taxes

(…) But an expiration of payroll tax cuts in early January and a spike in food prices could wipe 0.8 percentage points off U.S. economic growth next year, according to some economists.

Economists at JPMorgan say expiration in January of a temporary 2 percentage-point cut in the payroll tax would reduce household spending by $125 billion and lower gross domestic product by about 0.6 percentage point next year.

Another area of concern for consumers is food prices. Rises in the prices of corn and soybeans and other field crops as a result of drought this year in the U.S. Midwest are expected to feed through into food prices late this year and in early 2013.

“We are starting to see evidence of food prices moving up so that’s definitely going to be a drag on disposable incomes,” said Hoyt of Moody’s Analytics.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture sees food price increases of 3.5 percent to 4.0 percent next year, greater than this year.

Hoyt says that could cut 0.2 percentage point from economic growth over the winter, when food prices could peak.

Another big extra outlay will be in healthcare premiums, which on average are costing employees more than $2,200 in 2012, according to Aon Hewitt, a human resource consulting firm.

Average health care premiums are forecast to jump by 6.3 percent in 2013, according to Aon Hewitt

Over the last five years, employees’ share of healthcare costs will have increased more than 50 percent, it said.

Rainbow  Outsourcing Turns Inside-Out as Indians Open U.S. Centers

(…) These companies and others, including software developer GalaxE.Solutions Inc., say some complex functions, such as human-resources and software development, are better to have closer to their own operations and to respond to customers. Indian outsourcing companies are finding it tougher to get visas for workers brought from India, and some U.S. businesses want to outsource — yet keep jobs in the country. State tax breaks also provide incentives to hire locally.

“It used to be just about getting the job done at the lowest cost,” said Madhusudan Menon, who heads Infosys’s Atlanta center and delivery of U.S. business-process outsourcing. “Now companies are saying some jobs are best done closer to where they are, not cheap as possible somewhere else. They’re rebalancing their onshore and offshore outsourcing.”

U.S. companies with more than $1 billion of revenue sent 1.1 million technology and back-office jobs offshore during the past decade, according to the Hackett Group , a Miami-based consulting company. While it forecasts a slowing outflow beginning in 2013, it calculates another 400,000 positions will be lost offshore through 2016.

Pointing up  A survey of 617 outsourcing industry executives by Boston- based HfS Research in July and August found the U.S. is seen as the most desirable region in the world to expand IT and business-services delivery centers in the next two years. India was second.

Fingers crossed  Gasoline Losing Streak Hits Longest in 26 Years on Supply

Gasoline for November delivery dropped 0.2 cent to settle at $2.603 a gallon on the New York Mercantile Exchange, a four- month low. This is the longest down streak since futures began trading in May 1986.

Demand for the motor fuel sank 2.7 percent to 8.49 million barrels a day, the lowest level since March 16, department data show. Over the past four weeks, consumption was down 1.8 percent from a year ago. (…)

The average nationwide price for regular gasoline at the pump declined 2.3 cents to $3.625 a gallon yesterday, AAA, the largest U.S. motoring organization, said today on its website. That’s the lowest level since Aug. 5. The pump price reached a 2012 high of $3.936 on April 4.

By election day, the national average will slide to about $3.40 to $3.50, Heathrow, Florida-based AAA said on Oct. 22.

Gas prices have thus dropped 7% from their mid-September peak and are set to decline another 4-5% during the next 2 weeks. Big relief just in time for Christmas!

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MORE ON MARKIT’S FLASH PMIs

  • China: hope?

Having suffered the largest decline for three-and-a-half years in September, manufacturers saw a marked easing in the rate of loss of export orders in October, reporting the smallest fall since May. However,
companies reported that the dispute between Japan and China continued to act as a drag on trade, while weak demand from North America and Europe also hit export sales.

Further encouraging news that production growth may improve in coming months was provided by an increase in the forward-looking orders-to-inventory ratio to a one-year high. The ratio rose due to the
easing in the rate of decline of orders while inventories of finished goods fell for the first time in six months, dropping at the fastest rate since September of last year. The drop in inventories was in part due to
warehouse stock being depleted by stronger than expected sales, as well as better stock control by producers.

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High five  Employment continued to fall, however, dropping at a similar rate to September, as firms sought to reduce costs. Furthermore, backlogs of work fell at the steepest rate since January 2009, suggesting further job losses could be seen in coming months unless inflows of new orders pick up to keep workers sufficiently occupied.

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  • Europe: despair!

imageThe flash German PMI numbers for manufacturing and services both came in below expectations, suggesting the country is sinking into a mild downturn again. The downbeat message from the PMI was corroborated by the near-simultaneous publication of the IFO survey, for which the Business Climate Index also disappointed relative to expectations, dropping from 101.4 in September to 100.0. its lowest for two-and-a-half years.

imageWhile Germany’s downturn still looks mild, French business surveys are pointing to a steep contraction of the economy. The INSEE survey’s business climate index, which fell on Tuesday to its weakest since September 2009, was followed on Wednesday by the flash PMI, which rose only slightly from September’s three-and-a-half year low. The two surveys send a consistent message that the French economy contracted at a worrying pace in the third quarter and that the severe downturn persisted at the start of the fourth quarter. (chart below from Reuters)

France business climate and GDP

That said, the Goldman Sachs Global Leading Indicator has turned up lately, mainly because of better than expected September data, many of which seem to be weaker in October.

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China Aluminum Stockpiles Seen at Two-Year High Amid Glut

“There is no improvement in demand this October,” SMM’s Zhang said in a phone interview on Oct. 23 in Shanghai. “As new capacities continue to be installed in the west, we expect inventories to climb further.”

China accounted for 42 percent of global aluminum demand last year, according to Bloomberg Industries research.

U.K. Posts Surprise 1% Growth

ChartThe U.K. emerged from its longest double-dip recession since World War II, data showed, but one-off factors such as the London Olympics may mask deep-rooted problems and economists expect growth to be weak for some time to come.

Bank deposits rise in Spain and Greece  Flow of cash into banks ends months of decline

Private sector deposits at Spanish banks rose to €1.505tn at end-September from €1.492tn a month earlier, reversing the August fall.

Greek bank deposits rose to €160.1bn from €158.7bn. They have been relatively stable since June elections eased fears the country might drop out of the currency bloc, but are still about a third below their December 2009 peak.

EARNINGS WATCH

Quarterly results are compiled by many organizations. Their findings do not always match perfectly. S&P is the “official” source and, as of last Friday, based on 115 reports, they were estimating that Q3 earnings would decline 1.7% YoY.

  • Thomson Reuters’ calculations on 186 reports are pointing to a more difficult season: U.S. Earnings Fall Victim to Europe’s Woes  Europe’s economic woes are washing over U.S. multinational companies, contributing to a season of weak corporate earnings.

(…) Third-quarter earnings have fallen 3.9% at the 186 members of the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index that have reported results, according to Thomson Reuters. An unusually high share of companies—62%—have reported lower revenue than predicted by analysts.

Greg Harrison, a Thomson Reuters analyst, says firms have offset sluggish sales by cutting costs, keeping average profit margins steady around 9% to 10%.

“We are seeing companies talk about weakness in Europe and finally slower growth in emerging markets and China,” said John Butters, an analyst at FactSet.

On average, Europe accounts for about 20% to 25% of sales for big U.S. companies.

U.S. firms face another hurdle: the dollar has gained 7.4% in value against the euro in the past three months. That makes American goods more expensive and reduces the dollar value of European sales. (…)

Pointing up “Europe’s still sliding,” Mark Rohr, chief executive of Celanese Corp., a Dallas chemical maker. (…)

  • Bloomberg adds a few more companies

So far, out of 204 S&P 500 companies that have released third-quarter earnings, 120 (59%) have reported sales that trailed analysts’ estimates, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

WPP Cuts Growth Forecast Again

WPP, the world’s largest advertising company, cut its full-year outlook for a second time in three months, warning of further slowdown in ad markets in the final quarter, in particular in the U.S., Europe and Latin America.

Like-for-like sales rose 1.9% at WPP in the third quarter, slowing from the 3.6% growth posted in the first half and missing market expectations for a 3.5% rise. Revenue in North America fell 0.4% in the quarter on a like-for-like basis. Continental Europe dropped 2.1%.

September was a particularly poor month, WPP said. “Clients seem to be increasingly cautious and this has impacted most geographies and functions,” it noted.

Europe’s Car Makers Act to Stem Losses

The maker of Mercedes-Benz autos said a weakening economy would reduce its full-year earnings before interest and taxes to about €8 billion ($10.37 billion), down from last year’s and its prior 2012 forecast of about €9 billion. It also said it assumes 2013 financial targets “will not be met.” (…)

But amid a “significant worsening of the market environment in major markets in recent months,” it was forced to lower its forecast for the entire group, it said. (…)

Ford said the deteriorating outlook for the European car industry, with new vehicle sales at a near 20-year low and unlikely to recover next year, explained its decision to close the factory in Genk, Belgium. (…)

Pointing up  Ford said it would shift production of the next generation of its autos built in Belgium to an existing Ford factory in Valencia, Spain, where production costs are lower.

 
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NEW$ & VIEW$ (11 SEPTEMBER 2012)

Fingers crossed  FAT TAIL RISK STUFF: One day to go 

German newspapers are outlining the options of the court; there seems to be a consensus that the court cannot simply strengthen the role of the parliament any further, as it did in previous rulings; one option would be to demand opt-out rights, but this would weaken Germany’s overall position; a majority of commentators believe the court will approve the ESM and fiscal pact

If you think the German court will simply bow to the pressure to save the euro, read Only the German people can renounce their sovereignty

Snail  Employment Index Points to Slow Improvement Overall

The board said its August employment trends index increased 0.51% to 108.59, from a revised 108.04, first reported as 108.11. The latest index is up 6.2% from a year earlier.

Despite the gain, the index is barely above its February level, leading the board to be cautious about future hiring.

The Conference Board’s index is an aggregate of eight labor-market indicators, including jobless claims, job openings data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and industrial production figures from the Federal Reserve. It seeks to facilitate forecasts for employment, unemployment and wages by filtering out the noise and volatility of monthly labor market indicators and showing underlying trends more clearly.

Sad smile  U.S. SMALL BIZ OWNERS IN BAD MOOD (NFIB)

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Confused smile  UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES?  Lowered Borrowing Costs Give Spain Hope

(…) “[The ECB] has sent a message that the euro is here to stay and that no country will be allowed to fall,” Mr. Rajoy said in a televised interview with state-owned broadcaster TVE. “This message alone has sent borrowing costs for many European Union countries, including ours, much lower,” he said.

“Now we will see if it’s a good idea” to ask for a bailout, “if it’s necessary to do so now,” Mr. Rajoy added. (…)

There is already disagreement among euro-zone countries about what kind of spending cuts and economic reforms Spain would have to carry out in return for bond-market support from the rescue funds. At their June summit—in an effort to reduce the stigma attached to asking for help—euro-zone leaders said conditions should be based on recommendations already made by the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm. For Spain, that would include pushing back Spain’s retirement age, establishing an independent agency to oversee fiscal policy and a revamp of public job-placement services, among other things.

But an EU official said Madrid is already balking at even those conditions, while some states are asking for more. “Even the reference to the country-specific recommendations is currently not acceptable for Spain,” the official said. “What Spain wants is a copy-paste of what they already have done.” He declined to say which countries are lobbying for even tougher conditions.

ZeroHedge adds

Rajoy added that he “will not accept that they tell us which are the concrete policies which we have to cut or not cut”, although Rahoy did express confidence that should his country request aid, it would indeed receive it. There were some more upbeat comments from German Finance Minister Schauble who was reported as saying to German coalition members in a closed-door meeting that Spain doesn’t need a full sovereign bailout. Schauble praised Spanish and Italian reform efforts and said that Spain doesn’t need to apply for a full program because economic and fiscal progress made since implementing reforms mean that a full bailout isn’t necessary.

Lightning  Italian downturn steeper than previously thought

imageItalian GDP was revised down, showing a 0.8% decline in the second quarter rather than the previously-thought 0.7% fall. The decline was broadly in line with the weakness signalled by PMI data, which also suggest the rate of economic contraction has remained severe in the third quarter. The average composite PMI reading is so far only marginally above on the average seen in the second quarter. (Markit)

Philips Set to Cut Another 2,200 Jobs

Dutch electronics company Royal Philips Electronics announced a further $382.7 million of cost savings and said another 2,200 jobs will be lost globally.

Kodak CFO Steps Down; 1,000 More Jobs to Cut

Kodak replaced its CFO and moved to cut another 1,000 jobs in an effort to slow its consumption of cash and better position the company to emerge from bankruptcy court.

Gift with a bow  Burberry Profit Warning Rocks Luxury Sector

Burberry gave the strongest indication yet that the luxury goods industry could be facing long-term problems as it warned of slowing sales.

Burberry’s share prices tumbled 18% in London after the announcement, leading to a slew of downgrades from equities analysts. The company said same-store sales in the 10 weeks to Sept. 8 were flat compared with a year earlier. It said the slowdown in sales happened mainly in the last few weeks and was a result of the broader macro environment.

“Burberry is saying there are problems with the entire luxury industry and not just the company.”

Lightning  European crisis darkens Asian growth outlook further

“The growth side (of Europe’s crisis) has a profound impact on the global economy,” Zhu said, adding that IMF models predicted as much as 1.5-2.0 percent being cut from economic activity in the U.S. and Japan and 1 percent from activity in China if there was a further deterioration in Europe.

The impact on Asian trade could be dramatic as Europe buys about a third of the region’s valued added exports.

“When the growth in the euro area drops to zero, you will see export growth from this region drop to zero too. This is very important,” Zhu said. (…)

Latest economic data for August gave ammunition to critics who say more Beijing-backed spending is needed to repair damage done to the domestic economy by firms cutting production, inventories and imports in the face of anemic global demand.

Exports generate 25 percent of gross domestic product in China and support an estimated 200 million jobs.(…)

Storm cloud  U.S. EXPORTS DECLINED 1% IN JULY (Goods -1.5%)

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Storm cloud  China: Official data add to survey evidence of third quarter economic slowdown

imageOfficial data from China’s National Bureau of Statistics confirm early signs from business surveys that the rate of economic growth in the world’s second-largest economy continued to weaken in the third quarter.

The data showed that industrial production grew at the slowest rate for over three years, held down by disappointing export growth in the first imagetwo months of the third quarter. Imports meanwhile fell at the fastest
pace for three years, reflecting the weakening of industrial growth as well as signs of slowing domestic consumer demand. Retail sales grew at the slowest rate since early 2006.

A key cause of the slowdown in industrial production has been the deteriorating export environment, and notably the downturn in demand from the euro zone. Official data showed exports rising just 2.7% on a year ago in August. With exports having shown annual growth of just 1.0% in July, exports have collapsed in the third quarter compared to the strong increases seen in the second quarter and earlier in the recovery. By comparison, exports rose 15.3% on a year ago in May and annual growth averaged 21% throughout 2011.

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Pointing up  Economic slowdown cools labor market  China’s economic slowdown is starting to have an impact on the labor market, a human resources official said on Monday.

Charting the China slowdown… 

 

 

 

Rainbow  China New Loans Rise, Pointing to Stimulus

China’s new yuan loans surged in August, pointing to a pickup in lending as the government tries to spend its way to faster growth for the world’s second-largest economy.

New loans rose to 703.9 billion yuan ($110.9 billion) in August, from 540.1 billion yuan in July. Corporate-bond issuance and loans from trust companies also rose.

Bloomberg adds:

Aggregate financing, which includes bank lending, off- balance sheet loans and bond and stock sales, increased 16 percent in August from a year earlier to 1.24 trillion yuan, central bank data showed today. The figure was 1.04 trillion yuan in July. The PBOC introduced the measure, also known as total social financing, last year to have a clearer picture of credit creation in the economy. (Chart below from Reuters)

China money supply, new loans and GDP

Surprised smile  CHINA’S FISCAL CLIFF: China’s fiscal revenues rise 4.2% in Aug  China’s fiscal revenues grew 4.2 percent year-on-year to 786.3 billion yuan ($124 billion ) in August, the Ministry of Finance said Tuesday.

The country’s central fiscal revenue dropped 6.7 percent year-on-year to 376.5 billion yuan last month, while that of local governments was up 16.8 percent to 409.8 billion yuan, according to a statement of the ministry.

Pointing up  FYI, China’s fiscal revenues were +8.2% in July and +12.2% in the first half.

Ninja  Rumours swirl as China’s Xi vanishes
Disappearance of leader-in-waiting sparks speculation over leadership

Where is Xi Jinping? The man anointed to run the world’s most populous nation and second-largest economy has disappeared from public view just weeks before his expected elevation to lead the Chinese Communist Party.

Over the past week Mr Xi has cancelled at least four scheduled meetings with visiting dignitaries including a Russian delegation, Singapore’s prime minister and US secretary of state Hillary Clinton last Wednesday and the prime minister of Denmark on Monday. (…)

Mr Xi’s mysterious disappearance has sparked speculation about his whereabouts and renewed political infighting just months after the purge of senior Chinese leader Bo Xilai shook the ruling party. It also underscores the opacity and lack of a strong institutionalised mechanism for transferring power in China’s authoritarian one-party political system.

Consumer Debt Declines, Even as Student Loans Grow

Consumer credit declined from June by a seasonally adjusted $3.28 billion to $2.705 trillion, a Federal Reserve report showed Monday. Consumer credit declined at a 1.45% annualized rate during July, its first contraction since a 3.95% decline in August 2011.

The decline was primarily due to a 6.8% decrease in revolving credit, which includes credit-card debt. That fell by $4.82 billion in July to $850.73 billion.

Nonrevolving credit, which includes student loans and auto financing, rose by a seasonally adjusted $1.55 billion to $1.854 trillion in July. That is 1.0% higher than the previous month.

In June, consumer credit grew a revised $11.82 billion, up from an initial estimate of a $6.46 billion gain.  (Charts from Haver Analytics)

THE BIG CONSUMER SQUEEZE

Japan Cost-Cutting Leaves Pay Near Crisis Low as BOJ Eyes Easing: Economy  Cost-cutting by Japanese companies is dragging on wages, resulting in weaker consumer demand and a stronger case for monetary easing to counter deflation.

Nationwide compensation fell to 243.5 trillion yen ($3.1 trillion) in the second quarter, according to a government report in Tokyo yesterday. The number, which is seasonally adjusted, was only 0.7 percent above the level in the final quarter of 2009, which was the lowest since 1991. (…)

Unit labor costs, measured by the difference between growth in compensation for workers and real gross domestic product, fell 3.6 percent in the three months through June from a year earlier, the largest decline since the July-September period in 2010, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Stagnant Incomes Signal Curbs on U.S. Consumer Spending: Economy

Wages are stagnating as the job market cools, restraining the consumer spending that is needed to sustain the U.S. economic recovery.

Average hourly earnings were little changed in August from the prior month and up 1.7 percent from a year earlier, matching the smallest gain since records began in 2007, the Labor Department reported last week.

DON’T COUNT ON CHEAP OIL

Saudi Arabia may have increased its oil output but most of the increase is for its own consumption needs as Ambrose Evans-Pritchard (UK Telegraph) explains:

(…) The basic point – common to other Gulf oil producers – is that Saudi local consumption is rocketing. Residential use makes up 50pc of demand, and over two thirds of that is air-conditioning.

The Saudis also consume 250 litres per head per day of water – the world’s third highest (which blows the mind), growing at 9pc a year – and most of this is provided from energy-guzzling desalination plants.

From Heidy Rehman at Citi:

• Saudi Arabia Could be an Oil Importer by ~2030 — Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest oil producer (11.1mbpd) & exporter (7.7mbpd). It also consumes 25% of its production. Energy consumption per capita exceeds that of most industrial nations. Oil & its derivatives account for ~50% of Saudi’s electricity production, used mostly (>50%) for residential use. Peak power demand is growing by ~8%/yr. Our analysis shows that if nothing changes Saudi may have no available oil for export by 2030.

• It Already Consumes All Its Gas Production — Saudi Arabia produces 9.6bn ft3/day of natural gas. This is entirely consumed domestically. It is looking to raise gas production to 15.5bn ft3/day by 2015E, implying a 2011-15E CAGR of 12.7%. However, peak power demand is growing at almost 8% pa. We believe Saudi Arabia will need to find new sources to meet residential & industrial demand.

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Winking smile  CHINA’S INFRA PROGRAM:

Workers build a plank road on the side of Shifou Mountain, Hunan Province, China

Workers build a plank road on the side of Shifou Mountain, Hunan Province, China Photo: Rex Features via The UK Telegraph

Punk  Big Banks Hide Market Risk Transforming Collateral for Derivatives Traders  JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Bank of America Corp. are helping clients find an extra $2.6 trillion to back derivatives trades amid signs that a shortage of quality collateral will erode efforts to safeguard the financial system.

Starting next year, new rules designed to prevent another meltdown will force traders to post U.S. Treasury bonds or other top-rated holdings to guarantee more of their bets. The change takes effect as the $10.8 trillion market for Treasuries is already stretched thin by banks rebuilding balance sheets and investors seeking safety, leaving fewer bonds available to backstop the $648 trillion derivatives market. (…)

The solution: At least seven banks plan to let customers swap lower-rated securities that don’t meet standards in return for a loan of Treasuries or similar holdings that do qualify, a process dubbed “collateral transformation.” That’s raising concerns among investors, bank executives and academics that measures intended to avert risk are hiding it instead.(…)

Adding to the concern is the reaction of central clearinghouses, which collect from losers on derivatives trades and pay off winners. Some have responded to the collateral shortage by lowering standards, with the Chicago Mercantile Exchange accepting bonds rated four levels above junk. (…)

The banks’ new lending business “smells like trouble,” said Anat Admati, a finance and economics professor at Stanford who studies markets and trading and advises bank regulators on systemically important firms.

“The point of the initiatives on derivatives was that derivatives can hide a lot of risk,” Admati said. “Now they’re going to just shuffle the risk around.”

U.S. ELECTIONS (Chart from IBD)

Obama's Lead Slips As Support Stalls And Romney Gains

 
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NEW$ & VIEW$ (27 July 2012)

        Note DAYDREAM BELIEVER Note 

You once thought of me
As a white knight on a steed.
Now you know how happy I can be.
Oh, and our good times starts and end
Without dollar one to spend.
But how much, baby, do we really need.

(The Monkeys)

Central banks are trying to keep market hopes high…The now traditional August “Shock and Awe”! Liquidity flooding is their only tool here. Can it really work this time?

 

Rainbow  ECB Chief Vows to Do ‘Whatever It Takes’

“Within our mandate, the ECB is willing to do whatever it takes to preserve the euro and, believe me, it will be enough,” Mr. Draghi said in a speech in London, one week ahead of the ECB’s next policy meeting.

Mr. Draghi’s willingness to reverse course after showing reluctance to push the bank further into a crisis-fighting role reflects how serious the situation in European markets has become. It also suggests that government efforts to stem the crisis through austerity and greater integration of their economic policies have fallen short, as have the ECB’s own policies so far.

Unlike politicians who must navigate parliaments and other euro-zone member nations to get things done, the ECB’s ability to print unlimited euros means it can match words with actions almost immediately, if it chooses.

One option is for the ECB to start buying bonds again, but on a much larger scale. A more extreme step would be to set a ceiling on interest-rate spreads between weak and strong countries, though that would require an unlimited commitment that officials so far have been unwilling to make. It could also buy bonds of strong and fragile countries alike to jump-start the bloc’s economy.

“To the extent that the size of these sovereign premia hamper the functioning of the monetary-policy transmission channel, they come within our mandate,” Mr. Draghi said. His remark suggests a broad interpretation of the ECB’s sole responsibility to keep inflation just below 2%. Annual euro-zone inflation is 2.4%.

High five  Still, questions linger over how much a divided ECB will be able to do. The ECB bought around €45 billion in Greek bonds, a sizable share of the country’s outstanding debt, but was unable to keep Athens from careening into default. Purchases of Italian and Spanish bonds during the second half of last year failed to keep borrowing costs down for long. These countries have deep-seated economic problems the ECB can’t solve. Germany’s central bank fiercely opposes buying bonds and anything else that uses ECB money to support governments. Mr. Draghi would likely have enough support within the ECB’s 23-member governing council to outvote Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann. But opposition from the bloc’s largest economy could weaken the tonic effect on markets.

Confused smile  ‘Whatever It Takes’ Is Familiar Refrain From Europe

“We have to ensure whatever it takes that we don’t have a recession coming from the funding pressure,” Draghi said last December, hoping to prevent a recession generated by a credit crunch as banks cut lending. Banks are facing a capital shortage because “the situation has changed profoundly,” he said at the time.

This January, after warning of a “very grave state of affairs,” Mr. Draghi again pledged to do “whatever it takes to ensure financial stability” as long as its actions fit with its mandate of price stability.

“Whatever it takes” appears to have been the phrase of choice across Europe around prior bouts of market turmoil. European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Mr. Draghi himself — along with numerous other euro-zone officials — have repeatedly pledged to do “whatever it takes” during a debt crisis that’s now well into its third year.

      Note Whatever It Takes Note 

And if you give me a chance

Believe it, I can change

I’ll keep us together

Whatever it takes

(Lifehouse)

Just kidding  Bundesbank Stays Opposed to Bond Buys

Germany’s influential central bank poured cold water on hopes the European Central Bank will take a more aggressive approach to the euro-zone debt crisis.

For Markets, Draghi’s Talk Isn’t Cheap

While the ECB has raised expectations that it will muscle in to ease the sovereign debt crisis, there are still big hurdles to action.

Reactivation of bond purchases might provide some short-term relief, but the SMP is flawed in practice. Most important, the ECB’s decision not to take losses on Greek bonds meant that investors now see SMP purchases as subordinating their existing holdings. That means even deeper losses if there is ever a default as happened in Greece.

The ESM has been held up by the German Constitutional Court until at least mid-September. The ECB previously has said the ESM can’t be a counterparty because it would breach the European Union treaty ban on central-bank financing for governments. And a banking license alone doesn’t lift the ESM’s lending cap of €500 billion ($610 billion), raising questions about the real firepower unlocked.

On the banking license, the FT adds:

This would also break EU treaty rules, the Bundesbank said. The German government on Friday also stressed its opposition to granting a banking licence to the bailout fund, while saying that it “will do all that is politically required to maintain the euro”.

Now, here’s a variation on the “whatever it takes” theme.

Reuters’ Exclusive: ECB may take losses in second Greek debt restructuring

 

Draghi Boxes Himself Into a Corner With Bond Signal

Now he has to deliver, or face deep disappointment on financial markets, analysts said.

MEANWHILE IN THE REAL WORLD, cloudy at best most everywhere

 

Lightning  The Conference Board Leading Economic Index® for the Euro Area Declines

 

The Conference Board Leading Economic Index® (LEI) for the Euro Area decreased 0.3 percent in June, falling to 104.8 (2004=100), following decreases of 0.3 percent in May and 1.0 percent in April.

The leading indicators are consistent with a picture of very slow growth or even economic contraction for the remainder of the year, with risks tilted to the downside given the high level of uncertainty about the resolution to the current financial crisis.”

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Lightning  Euro-Zone Gloom Deepens

The CEPR and the Bank of Italy Friday said their Eurocoin indicator —which is intended to estimate quarter-on-quarter growth in gross domestic product, excluding erratic components, such as seasonal variations and short-run volatility—fell to -0.24% in July from -0.17% in June, its lowest level since July 2009.

Lightning  Spanish Unemployment Advances to Highest Rate in Post-Franco Era

The number of homes with all breadwinners unemployed has reached 1.7 million, up 27 percent from a year ago.

“The prospect of further employment losses and the end of the tourism season is likely to push the unemployment rate above 25 percent,” Raj Badiani, an economist at IHS Global Insight in London, said in an e-mailed note. “This presents a significant obstacle to any recovery impetus as Spain is set for a deep and prolonged recession.”

Storm cloud  KC FED INDEX UP BUT NEW EXPORT ORDERS COLLAPSE

The month-over-month composite index was 5 in July, up from 3 in June but down from 9 in May. Manufacturing growth increased at most nondurable goods-producing plants, while growth was flat to slightly negative for durable goods production. Other month-over-month indexes were mixed in July. The production index fell further from 12 to 2, and the shipments index dipped into negative territory.

The new orders for export index dropped from -7 to -13, almost matching the all-time low of -14 in early 2009. However, the new orders index edged up from -7 to -4, and the employment and order backlog indexes also improved over last month. Both inventory indexes rose considerably.

Sad smile  U.S. Pending Home Sales Decline

Pending sales of single-family homes fell 1.4% last month after a little revised 5.4% May rise, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Sales have risen nearly one-third versus the 2010 low. Nevertheless, the sales index of 99.3 was down 21.8% versus the April 2005 peak.

Sad smile  U.S. Durable Goods Orders Buoyed by Aircraft

New orders for durable goods jumped another 1.6% last month following a similar May increase (initially reported as 1.1%). The Consensus forecast was for a 0.5% June rise. Resurgent orders for aircraft & parts accounted for much of last month’s gain with a 17.2% jump (21.8% y/y). Less the transportation sector altogether, durable goods orders fell 1.1% last month. The y/y gain slowed to 3.1% from its 8.6% rise last year and 2010′s increase of 18.0%.

In most industry categories orders were weak. Computers & electronic products orders dropped 4.9% (-2.3% y/y). Machinery orders fell 1.1% (-2.9% y/y) and electrical equipment orders were off 0.7% (+1.4% y/y). Primary metals bookings rose 0.9% (16.8% y/y).

Non-def. cap. goods ex-aircrafts declined 1.4% in June. They have declined 0.2% in the last 3 months.

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Storm cloud  CHINA JULY MNI FALLS FROM 53.2 TO 49.7  That’s 3 consecutive monthly declines from  56.0 in April.

Storm cloud  China’s Industrial Profit Slows

Profit at China’s major industrial enterprises in June fell 1.7% from a year ago to 468.2 billion yuan ($73.97 billion), slowing from a 5.3% drop in May, the National Bureau of Statistics said Friday.

Industrial profit fell by 2.2% in the first half of 2012 from a year earlier to 2.31 trillion yuan, slowing from a decline of 2.4% in the January-May period, according to data from the bureau.

Profits of state-owned enterprises fell 10.9% on year to 690.5 billion yuan in the January-June period.

Foreign companies posted the largest decline, with profits down 13.4% from a year earlier to 522.1 billion yuan in the January-June period.

Storm cloud  Zhejiang enterprises scale down output 

Weak demand, rising labor costs and strained liquidity are ravaging enterprises in East China’s Zhejiang province, a traditional stronghold of China’s entrepreneurship, and forcing them to scale down or even halt production, a Zhejiang government report said.

The report, based on a month-long investigation and interviews with local government officials and businessmen, said the falling earnings, rising production costs and dwindling orders are now plaguing most of Zhejiang companies.

In Wenzhou alone, 60.43 percent of the industrial enterprises have scaled down or halted production.

In the first five months of the year, the net profit of large companies dropped 23.8 percent, for medium companies decreased 18.3 percent and for small and micro enterprises declined 14.3 percent.

The report warned that the bleak situation for Zhejiang’s enterprises could snap their capital chains and threatens to cripple the credit system.

Storm cloud  China Shipyards Falter as Glut Triggers 49% Slump in Orders

Storm cloud  China Job Market for Graduates Shows Stress on Slowdown

“Graduate unemployment matters to the government because of the concern about the risk of social unrest,” said Willy Wo- Lap Lam, an adjunct professor of history at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. “Graduates are the ones who are well educated and know how to mobilize the public to protest.”

China will have 6.8 million new graduates in 2012, compared with 6.6 million in 2011 and 6.3 million in 2010, Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security data show. Students finish their studies each summer.

China Moves to Contain Cooking-Oil Prices

Singapore-based producer Wilmar International Ltd. said on Friday that the Chinese government has advised edible-oil producers in China to avoid raising prices “unless absolutely necessary.” Wilmar and another company, state-owned China National Cereals, Oils & Foodstuffs Corp., known as Cofco, control about 70% of China’s retail cooking oil market.

The move falls short of an outright price cap like the one officials put in place two years ago, when inflation was surging.

Still, the government’s move signals it is again wary of resurgent food prices—of which cooking oil is a bellwether—after a sharp rally in U.S. grain prices late last week drove up Chinese soybeans.

 

Storm cloud  Japan Falters as Ito Calls for Euro Buys to Rein in Yen

Consumer prices excluding fresh food fell 0.2 percent in June from a year earlier, the statistics bureau said in Tokyo today. The median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey was for no change in prices. Retail sales rose 0.2 percent, a separate report showed, the smallest gain since November and less than a median forecast for a 1.1 percent increase.

Pointing up  “We must realize that a much bigger plunge in the euro may occur,” Ito, who was deputy vice finance minister from 1999 to 2001, said in an interview in Tokyo on July 25. BOJ purchases of euro bonds would be “surprising” and also show investors that Japan is supporting Europe, he said.

 
Storm cloud  U.S. EARNINGS SHOW DECLINE YoY
 

As derived from the results of the 53% of the S&P 500 member companies that have released second-quarter results, their total income from continuing operations that excludes some extraordinary gains and losses dipped by 0.7% year-to-year. By comparison, the year-to-year increases by income from continuing operations were 6.2% in Q1-2012 and 16.2% in Q2-2011.

After posting year-to-year gains of 5.4% in Q1-2012 and 11.1% in Q2-2011, the sales growth of Q2-2012’s reporting companies slowed to a meager 2.2% thus far. Excluding the financial company members of the S&P 500, the Q2-2012-to-date results showed a limp 2.3% annual rise in sales and a 0.8% dip of operating profits. (Figure 4.) (Moody’s)

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imageFacebook shares hit as ad growth slows  Stock falls more than 10% to new low

(FT’s Lex column has this great headline:  Facebook – social notworking)  (Chart from IBD)

Amazon Profit Evaporates

The Seattle-based company reported a 96% drop in second-quarter profit, reflecting heavy investments in its business. Even as revenue swelled 29% to $12.83 billion, its bottom line was left with just $7 million.

Starbucks Outlook Short of Expectations

Starbucks reported a 19% rise in quarterly earnings but cut its outlook, sending its shares lower in after-hours trading.

Merck Affirms Full-Year Forecast as Second-Quarter Earnings Top Estimates

 
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NEW$ & VIEW$ (25 July 2012)

Fingers crossed  Fed Moves Closer to New Action

Fed officials, impatient with the economy’s sluggish growth and high unemployment, are moving closer to taking new steps to spur activity.

Central bank officials could take new steps at their meeting next week, July 31 and Aug. 1, though they might wait until their September meeting to accumulate more information on the pace of growth and job gains before deciding whether to act.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, in testimony to Congress last week, listed several options under consideration, including a new program of buying mortgage-backed or Treasury securities, new commitments to keep short-term interest rates near zero beyond 2014 or an effort to push already-low benchmark short-term interest rates even lower.

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More information? The key word is contagion.

The recent weak PMI trends in all three economies can be linked to declining exports, with July data indicating that global trade flows imagecontinued to fall in the wake of the uncertainty and caution caused by the ongoing Eurozone crisis. Although the rate of decline in Chinese new export orders eased during July, it was the fifth contraction in the past six months and June’s decline had been the largest since March 2009. Meanwhile, US new export orders fell for the second successive month, showing the first back-to-back monthly decline since mid-2009. The Eurozone registered a fall for the thirteenth consecutive month, with the rate of decline approaching the steep pace seen late last year. (Markit)

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Lightning  Confidence Drops Across Europe

Data suggest economic weakness in the euro zone is penetrating the currency bloc’s stronger countries at a time when these same states could be called upon to provide more aid to the euro-zone’s weaker states.

Germany’s Ifo index was much weaker in July than expected and fell to its lowest level in over two years. The Munich-based institute said the country’s key manufacturing sector saw its current business situation “much less favorably” than in the previous month, adding that capacity utilization was “clearly lower.” Manufacturers’ expectations also dropped sharply, Ifo said, but observed that export expectations fell “only slightly.”

imageThe retail sector, on the other hand, offered “a ray of hope,” Ifo said, as the business climate in that sector continued to rise. The institute said that the crisis in the euro zone “is having an increasingly negative impact on the German economy.”

The Ifo’s monthly indicator of business confidence fell to 103.3 in July compared with the previous month’s 105.2, which was lowered from the estimated 105.3 that was originally reported.

Both components of the survey—the current situation and expectations—fell with the former dropping to 111.6 from June’s 113.9, while the latter dipped to 95.6 from June’s 97.2. The expectations index has now fallen for four months in a row and is at its lowest level in three years.

Business confidence in other parts of the euro zone’s core also fell to historic lows. In the Netherlands, figures released by the official statistics agency Wednesday showed its measure of producer confidence fell in July to minus 5.2 from minus 4.8 in June. This was the lowest level since January 2010.

Lightning  [image]U.K.’s GDP Slumps 0.7%

U.K. economic output collapsed in the second quarter of 2012, raising questions about the wisdom of Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne’s austerity drive.

The contraction in the second quarter comes after GDP shrank 0.3% in the first quarter and fell 0.4% in the final three months of 2011—meaning the economy has contracted for nine consecutive months.

 

Auto  France Unveils Plan to Boost Car Sales

The plan centers largely on boosting French car sales by raising subsidies for electric and low-emission vehicles and penalizing gas guzzlers. The government will also encourage investment in new technologies and provide a €600 million loan package for cash-strapped small and medium companies in the industry.

The government will raise the subsidy for electric vehicles to €7,000 from €5,000, while it will raise the subsidy for hybrid cars to €4,000 from €2,000. French Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg said the car subsidies will cost the government nearly €500 million in 2013.

To help finance the incentives, larger penalties will be levied on purchases of high-emission vehicles, which will be approved in the 2013 budget later this year.

The limited scope of the auto plan underscores the challenges Mr. Hollande faces as the euro zone debt crisis intensifies. Since coming to power in May, he has already raised taxes by over €7 billion to stay on track with deficit reduction targets this year. Next year’s budget will prove an even greater challenge, as the government will need to make around €30 billion of savings to meet its deficit targets.

Pointing up  Under these constraints, the government’s plan also alluded to measures to protect French car makers from foreign competition that don’t require any government cash outlay. Mr. Montebourg said the government wants the European Commission to put a free-trade agreement recently reached with South Korea under surveillance, calling competition from Korean cars “unfair.” The pact led to a surge in imports of South Korean cars to Europe.

Soft currency
A rapid fall in the euro can save Spain, says Martin Feldstein

(…) The declining value of the euro holds the key to the eurozone’s survival. (…)

In recent weeks I have discussed the case for a declining euro with current and former eurozone officials. I expected that they would just say that I am a long-time “eurosceptic” who is always critical of the euro. But the opposite happened. These eurozone experts all agreed that a lower value of the euro is necessary for the survival of the single currency. (…)

The decline of the euro can therefore occur without specific action by the European Central Bank. But a further shift by the ECB toward a looser monetary policy would speed the euro’s decline. (…)

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France, Spain call for more ECB action
 

Clock  ECB’s Nowotny Sees Some Arguments for Giving ESM Banking License   European Central Bank council member Ewald Nowotny said there are arguments in favor of giving Europe’s rescue fund a banking license, reviving the debate on bolstering its firepower as leaders face the prospect of a full- scale Spanish bailout.

Granting a banking license to Europe’s permanent bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism, would give it access to ECB lending, easing concerns that its 500 billion-euro ($602.5 billion) cash pot won’t be enough if Spain or Italy require aid. While ECB President Mario Draghi said on May 24 that such a move amounts to the central bank financing governments, which is prohibited by European Union law, publicly-owned credit institutions such as the European Investment Bank are exempt.

Go figure! But Draghi is good at finding ways and means…

CONTAGION:
 
Surprised smile  Toronto new condo prices fall 6 per cent in June

In the same period the price of brand new low-rise homes rose 10 per cent to $603,102.

Sales of new homes and condominiums totaled 3,461 in June, down 27 per cent from 2011, which had been a record year.

Despite the drop, new condo sales so far this year are still 38-per-cent higher than the long-term average, and this year is on course to be the second-highest level, stated Bryan Tuckey, the CEO of BILD, which represents developers and builders. Meanwhile, low-rise sales are 27 per cent below the long term average and June’s sales of low-rise homes were the lowest on record for that month.

CHINA EMPLOYMENT

Urban unemployment rate reaches 4.1 pct  China’s urban registered unemployment rate stood at 4.1 percent at the end of June, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security said Wednesday.

The rate remained unchanged for the eighth consecutive quarter during the April-June period, and rested below the government’s 4.6-percent annual target set for this year. (…)

High five  However, experts have warned that job cuts may be inevitable if the external demand remains sluggish.

Yin said the country will face bigger employment pressures in the second half as the impact of the economic slowdown on job creation might appear later in the year because of a delay effect.

 

EARNINGS WATCH

 

Generally not a great day for earnings.

Apple Suffers Rare Miss as Sales Cool

Apple delivered a rare earnings disappointment Tuesday with lower-than-expected sales of its iPhone, sending its stock down 5% in after-hours trading.

It was only the second time in 39 quarters the company reported results that missed analysts’ profit and revenue expectations—the previous was for its quarter ended September 2011—and came amid signs that sales of the world’s leading smartphone have lost steam this year. Apple sold 26 million iPhones in its quarter ended June 30, a 28% increase from the same quarter a year ago but down from the 35.1 million sold in the prior quarter this year.

At the heart of Apple’s stumble is what appears to be a tricky transition from current iPhone models to a new version expected later this year. The company also said the battered European economy is weighing on results there.

Apple said revenue rose 22.6% to $35 billion from a year earlier—but that growth was down from 59% in the previous quarter.

Profit increased 20.7% to $8.8 billion, or $9.32 a share, from a year earlier—though it was down from 94% growth the quarter before.

Analysts, on average, were expecting revenue of around $37.2 billion and earnings of $10.37 a share, according to Thomson Reuters.

Apple, known for traditionally giving conservative guidance, said it expects fourth-quarter earnings of $7.65 a share on revenue of about $34 billion. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters forecast a profit of $10.23 a share on $38 billion in revenue.

Storm cloud  UPS Cuts Full-Year Outlook

 

UPS reduced its earnings outlook for the full year to $4.50 to $4.70 a share from the $4.75 to $5 a share it projected in April.

The company reported second-quarter earnings of $1.12 billion, or $1.15 a share, up 2.2% from $1.09 billion, or $1.09 a share, a year earlier. Revenue edged up 1.2% to $13.35 billion.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected a profit of $1.17 per share on revenue of $13.7 billion.

The Atlanta-based shipping giant also continued to wrestle with soft demand for exports from Asia, and its U.S. domestic volume growth was fueled primarily by relatively low-value e-commerce shipments, which crimped revenue.

“Economies around the world are showing signs of weakening” and shipping customers are increasingly nervous, Chief Executive Scott Davis said Tuesday.

The company said it is planning another 10% reduction in its air capacity out of Asia after cutting the network by a similar amount in October because of steeper-than-expected declines in exports from the region to the U.S. and Europe. Asian exports to the U.S. and Europe slumped by a double-digit percentage basis in the second quarter.

 

Ford’s Net Profit Drops 57%

Ford’s second-quarter net profit slid 57%, as its overseas operations and a higher tax rate held back strong results from North America.

Netflix Profit Shrinks 91%

Currency Headwinds Hit PepsiCo

Arcelor Sees Difficult Conditions

Canon Cuts Full-Year Outlook

Rising Costs Weigh on WellPoint

Patent Expirations Hurt Bristol-Myers

Higher Costs Hurt Daimler

Eli Lilly Lifts 2012 Earnings Forecast After Second Quarter Tops Estimate

Caterpillar quarterly profit jumps 67 percent

Boeing profit up on rising plane deliveries

This ISI chart shows the extent of the downward earnings revisions. That was last week. The “soft patch” is getting rougher.

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