Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Economy Isn't Doing too Well... The Business Cycle Hints We're Due for a Recession and Family-Supporting Jobs Haven't Recouped Their Year 2000 Levels.

I have a small collection of article snips harvested from The Automatic Earth, for December 5th, December 6th, December 7th and December 8th, 2015. There are more collected from Mainstream and other Reputable Sources by Ilargi Meijer over there -- just click on the above links if you wish to pursue them.

Okay, first off the bat, Peter Schiff claims that the economy has "imploded" and according to his analysis, we are at the point now in our economy where we were in 2007 when home mortgages were starting their meltdown which eventually resulted in the Global Financial Crisis of 2008. So it looks like 2016 may be a doozy!

Peter Schiff: ‘The Whole Economy Has Imploded’

Peter Schiff continues to argue that the economy is on a downhill trajectory and this time there’ll be no stopping it. All of the emergency measures implemented by the government following the Crash of 2008 were merely temporary stop-gaps. The light at the end of the tunnel being touted by officials as recovery, Schiff has famously said, is actually an oncoming train. And if the forecast he laid out in his latest interview is as accurate as those he shared in 2007, then the train is about to derail.
We’re broke. We’re basically living off of debt. We’ve had a huge transformation of the American economy. Look at all the Americans now on food stamps, on disability, on unemployment. The whole economy has imploded… the bottom hasn’t dropped out yet because we’re able to go deeper into debt. But the collapse is coming."
Fundamentally, America is worse off now than it was pre-crash. With the national debt rising unabated and money being printed out of thin air without reprieve, it is only a matter of time. Schiff notes that while government statistics claim Americans are saving again and consumers seem to be spending, the average Joe Sixpack actually has a negative net worth. But most people don’t even realize what’s happening:
I read a statistic… The average American has less than a $5000 net worth… it’s pathetic… we’re basically broke… but in fact it’s much less… If you actually took the national debt and broke it down per capita, the average American has a negative net worth because the government has borrowed in his name more than the average American is able to save.

What’s happening is pretty much what we would anticipate. I don’t see from the data any real economic recovery, certainly not in the United States. We’re spending more money, but it’s not because we’re generating more wealth. We’re generating more debt. We’re using that borrowed money to consume and so temporarily it feels that we’re wealthier because we get to spend all that money… but we have to come to terms with paying the bill. The bills are going to come due. Right now interest rates are being kept at zero which makes it possible to service the debt even though it’s impossible to repay it… at least we can service it. But once interest rates go up then we can’t even service it let alone repay it. And then the party is going to come to an end.

Last Gasps of a Dying Bull Market – And Economy

(Fred Hickey via Tyler Durden)
Deteriorating market breadth and herding into an ever-narrower number of stocks is classic market top behavior. Currently, there are many other warning signs that are also being ignored. The merger mania (prior tops occurred in 2000 and 2007), the stock buyback frenzy (after the record amount of buybacks in 2007 buybacks were less than one-sixth of that level at the bottom in 2009), the year-over-year declines in corporate sales (-4% in Q3 and down every quarter this year) and falling earnings for the entire S&P 500 index, the plunges this year in the high-yield (junk bond) and leveraged loan markets, the topping and rolling over (the unwind) of the massive (record) level of stock margin debt… and I could go on.

It was very lonely as a bear at the tops in 2000 and 2007. I was just a teenager in 1972 so I was not an active investor, but just a few days prior to the early 1973 January top, Barron ‘s featured a story titled: “Not a Bear Among Them.” By “them” Barron ‘s meant institutional investors. I do vividly remember my Dad listening to the stock market wrap-ups on the kitchen radio nearly every night in 1973-74. It seemed to me back then that the stock market only went in one direction — and that was DOWN. The global economy is in disarray. It’s the legacy of the central planners at the central banks. China’s economy has been rapidly slowing despite all sorts of attempts by the government to prop it up (including extreme actions to hold up stocks). China’s economic slowdown has cratered commodity prices to multi-year lows and helped drive oil down to around $40 a barrel.

All the “commodity country” economies (and others) that relied on exports to China are suffering. Brazil is now in a deep recession. Last month Taiwan officially entered recession driven by double-digit declines (for five consecutive months) in exports. Also last month Japan officially reentered recession. Canada and South Korea’s governments recently cut forecasts for economic growth. Despite the lift from an extremely weak euro, Germany’s Federal Statistical Office reported last month that the economy slowed in Q3 due to weak exports and slack corporate investment. The German slowdown led a slide in the overall eurozone economy in Q3 per data from the European Union’s statistics agency. The recent immigration and terrorist problems make matters worse. Tourism will suffer.

Here in the U.S., the economy appears relatively healthier only because the rest of the world is so awful. That has driven the U.S. dollar skyward (DXY index over 100), hurting tourism and multinational companies exporting goods and services overseas. Last month the U.S. Agriculture Department forecast that U.S. farm incomes will plummet 38% this year to $56 billion – the lowest level since 2002.

Jobs haven't grown much since 1999 or so, when cheap-to-extract, easy-to-sell-cheap-and-make-a-profit oil production was at its peak.

These Ain’t Your Grandfather’s “Jobs”

(David Stockman's Contra Corner)

This “Jobs Friday” ritual is getting truly absurd. So it can’t be repeated often enough: These artifacts of the BLS’ seasonally maladjusted, trend-cycle modeled, heavily imputed, endlessly crafted and five times revised “jobs” numbers have precious little to do with the real health of the main street economy. Indeed, the six-year run of job gains since early 2010 primarily represents “born-again jobs” and part-time gigs. In economic terms, they do not remotely resemble your grandfather’s industrial era economy when a “job” lasted 40 to 50 hours per week all year round; and most of what the BLS survey counted as “jobs” paid a living wage. Not now. Not even close.

The Wall Street fools who bought the dip still another time on Friday do not have the slightest clue that the US jobs market is actually quite dead. The chart below is also generated by the BLS but it measures actual labor hours employed, not job slots. It self-evidently puts the lie to the establishment survey fiction upon which the robo-machines and day traders are so slavishly focussed.

The fact is, labor hour inputs utilized by the US nonfarm business economy have “grown” at the microscopic annualized rate of 0.08% since the turn of the century. That’s as close as you can get to zero even by the standards of sell-side hair splitters, and it compares to a 2.02% CAGR during the 17 years period to Q3 2000. So let’s see. Prior to the era of full frontal money printing, labor utilization grew 25X faster than it has since the turn of the century. Yet the casino gamblers bought Friday’s more of the same jobs report hand-over-fist—-apparently on the premise that this giant monetary fraud is actually working. Not a chance. The contrast between the two periods shown in the chart could not be more dramatic. Nor do these contrasting trends encompass a mere short-term aberration.

The death of the US jobs market has been underway for a decade and one-half! Even in the establishment survey itself, the evidence of a failing jobs market is there if you separate the gigs and the low-end service jobs from the categories which represent more traditional full-pay, full-time employment. The latter includes energy and mining, construction, manufacturing, the white collar professions like architects, accountants and lawyers and the finance, insurance and real estate sectors. It also includes designers and engineers, information technology, transportation and warehousing and about 11 million full-time government employees outside of the education sector.

We have labeled this as the “breadwinner economy” because the work week averages just under 40 hours in these categories and annualized pay rates average just under $50k. These kinds of family supporting jobs were what the Labor Department bureaucrats had in mind back in the 1930s and 1940s when the current employment surveys and reports were originally fashioned.

Notwithstanding all of the present era crafting, however, even the BLS establishment survey figures leave no doubt about the retreat of breadwinner jobs.

The US Corporate Debt is going into the stratosphere again, just like it did... when? Oh, yeah. before the financial crisis of '08. And it's getting to be distressed, too, especially in the commodities sector and most particularly the oil and gas patch which holds one-third of distressed debts.  That might put a hamper on oil extraction when the distressed extraction companies fall into bankruptcy and might have to shut down.

US Corporate Debt Downgrades Reach $1 Trillion

(Financial Times)
More than $1tn in US corporate debt has been downgraded this year as defaults climb to post-crisis highs, underlining investor fears that the credit cycle has entered its final innings. The figures, which will be lifted by downgrades on Wednesday evening that stripped four of the largest US banks of coveted A level ratings, have unnerved credit investors already skittish from a pop in volatility and sharp swings in bond prices. Analysts with Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and Fitch expect default rates to increase over the next 12 months, an inopportune time for Federal Reserve policymakers, who are expected to begin to tighten monetary policy in the coming weeks. S&P has cut its ratings on US bonds worth $1.04tn in the first 11 months of the year, a 72% jump from the entirety of 2014.

In contrast, upgrades have fallen to less than half a billion dollars, more than a third below last year’s total. The rating agency has more than 300 US companies on review for downgrade, twice the number of groups its analysts have identified for potential upgrade. “The credit cycle is long in the tooth by any standardised measure,” Bonnie Baha at DoubleLine Capital said. “The Fed’s quantitative easing programme helped to defer a default cycle and with the Fed poised to increase rates, that may be about to change.” Much of the decline in fundamentals has been linked to the significant slide in commodity prices, with failures in the energy and metals and mining industries making up a material part of the defaults recorded thus far, Diane Vazza, an analyst with S&P, said. “Those companies have been hit hard and will continue to be hit hard,” Ms Vazza noted. “Oil and gas is a third of distressed credits, that’s going to continue to be weak.”

Some 102 companies have defaulted since the year’s start, including 63 in the US. Only three companies in the country have retained a coveted triple A rating: ExxonMobil, Johnson & Johnson and Microsoft, with the oil major on review for possible downgrade. Portfolio managers and credit desks have already begun to push back at offerings seen as too risky as they continue a flight to quality. Bankers have had to offer steep discounts on several junk bond deals to fill order books, and some were caught off guard when Vodafone, the investment grade UK telecoms group, had to pull a debt sale after investors demanded greater protections. Bond prices, in turn, have slid. The yield on the Merrill Lynch high-yield US bond index, which moves inversely to its price, has shifted back up above 8%. For the lowest rung triple-C and lower rated groups, yields have hit their highest levels in six years.

Of course, OPEC isn't helping matters by cranking out oil extraction-production just as Iran is about to reenter the petroleum market due to lifting of sanctions against it.  And what will happen when sanctions will be lifted against Russia, as they eventually will? We're in Peak Oil Times, people, enjoy the low prices while you can! Problem is, debt is destroying demand. Just ask anyone who's over their heels in debt and can barely keep up.

OPEC Knocks Down Oil Majors

(Bloomberg Business)
For months, many executives at the world’s largest oil producers have been talking about prices staying lower for longer. After OPEC’s decision to keep pumping full pelt that could become lower for even longer. Even before Friday, the prolonged slump in crude had forced analysts to cut their earnings-per-share estimates for the world’s 10 largest integrated oil companies in recent weeks. With oil dropping to the lowest in more than six years after the OPEC meeting on Friday, further downgrades are probably on the way. “A potential OPEC cut was the last source of hope for the bulls near term,” Aneek Haq with Exane BNP Paribas said Dec. 4.

“The oil majors have already started to underperform the market over the past few weeks, but this now coupled with earnings downgrades and valuations that imply $70 a barrel should put further pressure on share prices.” Mean adjusted 2016 EPS estimates for Exxon Mobil and Shell have been cut by more than 8 cents over the past month, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. EPS projections for Total, Europe’s second-biggest oil company, and Repsol are lower for 2016 than those for this year. Those estimates assume a much higher price than the $41.06 a barrel that Brent traded at as of 8:19 a.m. in London on Tuesday. Oswald Clint at Sanford C. Bernstein has based his EPS estimates for oil majors at a Brent price of $60 a barrel. Alexandre Andlauer at AlphaValue SAS has assumed a price of $63.

“The re-rating of the oil companies downwards will accelerate now,” Andlauer said Dec. 7 by phone from Paris. “Valuations will have to drop.” Shell’s B shares, the most actively traded, dropped 4.6% on Monday, the most in more than three months. BP dropped 3.4%, while the benchmark FTSE 100 Index declined 0.2%. “The lower-for-longer scenario that oil companies are predicting is going to become lower-for-even-longer,” said Philipp Chladek, a London-based oil sector analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence. “We will see some revisions in EPS forecasts in the near future because most forecasts are assuming an oil price recovery during 2016. Many will be taking that out now.”

And none of the oil-exporting countries can blink because they have public welfare support systems to support.  And the oil and gas firms can't blink either because they have debt to service.

As Oil Keeps Falling, Nobody Is Blinking

(The Wall Street Journal.)

The standoff between major global energy producers that has created an oil glut is set to continue next year in full force, as much because of the U.S. as of OPEC. American shale drillers have only trimmed their pumping a little, and rising oil flows from the Gulf of Mexico are propping up U.S. production. The overall output of U.S. crude fell just 0.2% in September, the most recent monthly federal data available, and is down less than 3%, to 9.3 million barrels a day, from the peak in April. Some analysts see the potential for U.S. oil output to rise next year, even after Saudi Arabia and OPEC on Friday again declined to reduce their near-record production of crude. With no end in sight for the glut, U.S. oil closed on Friday below $40 a barrel for the second time this month.

The situation has surprised even seasoned oil traders. “It was anticipated that U.S. shale producers, the source of the explosive growth in supply in recent years, would be the first to fold,” Andrew Hall, CEO of commodities hedge fund Astenbeck Capital wrote in a Dec. 1 letter to investors reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. “But this hasn’t happened, at least not at the rate initially expected.” For the past year, U.S. oil companies have been kept afloat by hedges—financial contracts that locked in higher prices for their crude—as well as an infusion of capital from Wall Street in the first half of the year that helped them keep pumping even as oil prices continued to fall. The companies also slashed costs and developed better techniques to produce more crude and natural gas per well.

The opportunity for further productivity gains is waning, experts say, capital markets are closing and hedging contracts for most producers expire this year. These factors have led some analysts to predict that 2016 production could decline as much as 10%. But others predict rising oil output, in part because crude production is growing in the Gulf, where companies spent billions of dollars developing megaprojects that are now starting to produce oil. Just five years after the worst offshore spill in U.S. history shut down drilling there, companies are on track to pump about 10% more crude than they did in 2014. In September, they produced almost 1.7 million barrels a day, according to the latest federal data.


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