“By a continuing process of inflation, government can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens.”
-John Maynard Keynes
You’d think with all the Keynesian government people running the world today that they might from time to time consider some of Keynes thoughts about inflation. What you’d think a politician should do and what they actually do are often two different things. It’s sad; it’s unfortunate; and it’s all part of the Bubble in Politics.
If you combine a Big Bailout Keynesian spender with local inflation of the borrowing cost of money, you get a politician who has a serious problem. After all, politics are local. Finally, that’s what the Prime Minister of Greece is admitting in front of YouTube cameras worldwide this morning. He is tapping the EU and IMF for immediate help. In the Kubler-Ross Model of Five Stages of Grief, they call this the “Acceptance” stage.
My friend Todd Harrison, who runs Minyanville, has been using The Five Stages of Grief as a metaphor for the storytelling your local politicians and investment bankers alike gave you in May of 2008. It’s two years later and it’s almost May again. Like the Bear Stearns credit default swaps that were blowing out to the upside back then, politicians and levered long only managers alike want you to believe that Greece is just a “one-off event.”
This morning, Greece’s PM George Papandreou will remind the world of a long standing saying that we Hedgeyes have here in New Haven, CT: markets don’t lie; politicians do. Yesterday we saw credit default swaps in Greece rocket higher by 158 basis points to 644, and this morning you are seeing yields on 10-year Greek bonds spike to over 9%, which is a massive spread of 575 basis points relative to German bunds of the same duration.
No matter what European and Western politicians tell you about short term resolve, we want to remind you that these are the very early innings of a long and protracted sovereign debt default cycle. Borrowing an old Goldman 2007 saying, “it’s going to be global this time”, indeed.
In the face of attempting to fund long term debt obligations with marked-to-model short term government paper, we are also seeing global spikes in inflation. Yes, I realize that every portfolio manager in America who bought the 2007 top, crashed, then sold the 2009 low, wants to tell you that your 401k is still 30-40% underwater because we are going to “double dip.” I guess all I have to say about that is swim in these incompetent Street macro forecasting waters at your own risk. As Quint said in Jaws, “The cage goes into the water... you go into the water... the shark is in the water...”
My favorite central banker in the world sees these waters for what they are – dangerous. This morning, this is what Glenn Stevens at the Reserve Bank of Australia had to say about monetary policy: “Our task is now to manage a new economic upswing… this will be just as challenging, in its own way, as managing the downturn.”
Interestingly, this global macro man made this comment at the University of Southern Queensland, in Toowoomba, Australia. Maybe that’s how far away you need to be from the Greenspan Groupthink ideologies of Washington, DC to have read South Korea’s announcement for a +25% price hike for hot rolled coil (steel prices) by May 3rd for what it is – inflationary.
South Korea’s Posco is Asia’s 3rd largest steelmaker and they, like most manufacturers, must mark its prices to market so that they can earn a spread. In the good ole USA, Ben Bernanke has a different ideology on that. He price fixes the rate of return on my savings account at ZERO percent and makes that the marked-to-model borrowing cost of his cronies in the US banking system. Nice!
Bernanke continues to miss the inflation that he missed in 2008 that absolutely crushed the US Consumer. He is a good natured historian, so we can’t get upset about this anymore. When it comes to being a proactive risk manager of global interconnectedness, he is simply incompetent.
It’s actually quite amusing to watch some of the sell-side analysts who work for the banks that get paid the Piggy Banker Spread tag along with Bernanke’s compromised and conflicted message that he sees no inflation.
Yesterday’s Producer Price Index (PPI) report gives us one more chance to reiterate one of our three Q2 Macro themes - Inflation’s V-Bottom. In an intraday note to our macro subscribers yesterday, this is what Howard Penney wrote about the report:
“Stagnating consumer confidence figures suggest that most consumers don’t trust the direction the country is going in. We are in agreement with that sentiment and think that most politicians lie and Washington’s free money man, Ben Bernanke, can’t see inflation. Or, at least, he doesn’t want to -- until he has to.
The PPI rose 6% year-over-year in March and was up 0.7% sequentially - more that the 0.5% consensus estimate on Bloomberg. The PPI report recorded its largest annual gain since September 2008 and was up on the back of a 2.4% rise in food prices, its sixth straight monthly increase. The increase can be attributed to a 49.3% increase in prices for fresh and dry vegetables (meats and eggs also contributed to the increase in prices for finished consumer foods.)”
Now, we understand that Captain Sell-Sider doesn’t get paid as fat a margin on that Piggy Banker Spread if Ben Bernanke raise interest rates. That’s the joke about this entire inflation story. The stock market inflates every other day and “by a continuing process of inflation, government can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens.”
If you are waking up in America this morning, and standing in the food stamp line like 11% of your countrymen, just look on the bright side. At least this isn’t Greece, yet… “come on into the water” and buy yourself some government paper.
My immediate term lines of support and resistance for the SP500 are now 1203 and 1214, respectively.
Best of luck out there today.