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Friday February 6, 2009 - 19:31:45 GMT
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forex Blog - Hope I am Dreaming

One thing about a recurring nightmare is that when sleep ends all the tossing and turning was for naught…the shark did not eat me after all.  Phew.


But this is no dream.  The global economy is melting faster than the washed up witch in the Wizard of Oz.  And everywhere.   This tide change has seen the ebb leave everyone without swimming trunks…it looks like a nudist colony. 


The labor market is bleeding jobs from every corner except government and with massive budget deficits at the state and local level pending this too will be a source of blood flow shortly.  Something very bad happened to the global economy last fall…US employment has fallen 1.75mln in the last three months.  And this is the start of the freefall.  What started as housing and banking problems has turned into a tech, retail, small business, advertizing, publishing, media, insurance, pharmaceuticals, and education disaster. 


What is equally disturbing is that asset prices have become increasingly unhinged from reason (fundamentals) and are being driven by unstable market psychology.  I understand markets positioning in front of data like BLS jobs report, but please in the face of the worst employment numbers to date and bonds sell off and stocks rally?  Maybe I am irrational…labor lags the business cycle right?  Indeed.  This is why I think the downturn is far from bottoming and pace of decline far from slowing…in other words monthly payrolls should reach 800,000 a month by March.  And the unemployment rate at the currency pace will be pressing 10% by the fall (and if you think the national numbers look bad look at the nation state called California). 


I simply don’t think there is much reason in pricing in reflation today when we are in a vortex of unprecedented decline.  Pricing in hyperinflation as the global economy slides into a deflationary spiral (okay not there yet but ever closer every day) is not rational.  If global deflation takes hold there will not be an easy exit for years.  Why price in a Zimbabwe policy outcome today when the risks are heavily favoring the Greatest Depression?    


Traders say the worse the US economic data the greater the chance Washington will do the right thing – deliver the shock n’ awe response on spending (and tax cuts – I think latter impact in this economy is < 1) and credit.  Is anyone reading the papers about the theater in the Congress over the fiscal stimulus?  And this is the most popular president since Reagan and with a near bullet proof majority in Congress.  My bet on Washington getting something done soon is high, but getting something good enough to meet shock n’ awe standard is nearly unattainable.  Where is Rahmbo?  And as I outlined this week in another email, the scope for a truly shock n’ awe bank rescue plan is quite small as Paulson poisoned the well and makes going back to Congress for real money to restore a functioning banking system nearly impossible.  Shock n’ awe on the cheap is schlock n’ awe.  The only shock n’ awe for markets next week will likely be what happens to asset prices…and not talking higher for risk assets which is the goal of policymakers at the end of the day.


Unhinged asset markets are not a good environment for coping with a global depression.  We have debated to death the role of government in the banking system and aggregate demand.  My sense is that the 2009 debate will be about the role of government in asset markets.  BOJ is already there buying shares from Japanese banks (not clear at what price, but I would bet at levels Paulson was willing to subsidize banks for preferred shares at the very least).  Fed is buying assets – MBS mainly.  Look for Treasuries to be added to the list in due course.  Currency intervention I believe is soon to emerge on the scene – SNB, BOJ and BOE may be drawn out first. 


As long as policymakers have a working assumption that capital markets are working or will work soon with a little nudging, and asset prices are some undistorted picture of PDV of future earnings, interest rate or price level, then we will see a deflation cycle shortly.  Capital markets need to be rebuilt before confidence has a chance of returning and private capital flowing.  Until they are rebuilt, for better or worse, it is all government…get over it. 


Ding ding ding ding ding…my alarm clock?  I did not see 598,000 jobs lost in January and a jump in the unemployment rate to 7.6% from 7.2% in December.  Nope, it happened. 


Baltic dry goods index and copper have gone asymptotic on the upside…oh there is hope after all.  Capital markets are working and prices are clean signal of future outcomes.  Like the Monkey’s song…I’m a daydream believer.


David Gilmore


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