Key News

The German and Italian economies contracted more than forecast in the first quarter, slumping the most on record after the global financial crisis crippled exports and investment across Europe. (Bloomberg)

Hong Kong's economy shrank by the most since at least 1990 as exports tumbled and unemployment climbed, prompting the government to forecast a full-year contraction of as much as 6.5 percent. (Bloomberg)

Quotable

“Anything in any way beautiful derives its beauty from itself and asks nothing beyond itself. Praise is no part of it, for nothing is made worse or better by praise.”

Marcus Aurelius

FX Trading – Another Jolt of Optimism!

Maybe we are just sticklers for detail. And maybe it's simply rear-view mirror stuff we are worried about. But we keep having trouble with the use of the term “optimism” when two of the world's biggest exporters—China and Germany—aren't doing what they do best--export.

Unemployment continues to rise across the globe. But not to worry say the economists; that's a lagging indicator don't you know! Hmmm…

Not being properly credentialed in the area of economic “science,” we have trouble with the logic of unemployment as a lagging indicator. Not always. But now we do. We keep thinking in a world devoid of consumer demand, and not exactly very liquid or inviting for business capital investment, that rising unemployment might morph to a coincident indicator at this stage in the cycle—coincidentally capping consumer spending as long as unemployment rises.

Stocks discount things we don't see—granted. It's why stocks tend to lead the real economy. But it's that tightly interlinked globalization thing that keeps bothering us this time. After all, in a globalized world, much of corporate earnings for the once former “blue chips” are sourced globally.

China has front-end loaded government and monetary stimulus —they seem to be capacity building in expectation of a cyclical rebound in export growth. It's like putting all your chips on red, for example. If said export growth doesn't materialize as we suspect, China's has wasted resources (i.e. the good old Austrian School malinvestment). And this increased capacity will only lead to lower final goods prices, which adds to already growing deflationary pressure, especially if Chinese unemployment continues to rise and consumer spending doesn't take up the slack.

Germany is losing incentive for the euro —Germany represents the core power of the Eurozone economy; and its economy is getting crushed. The euro was established to secure Germany's manufacturing dominance (and Eurozone banking) i.e. by making a ready and easy market across its own continent to ship manufactured goods; it is the quid pro quo for German subsidization of the fiscal basket cases running rampant inside the European Monetary System (you can see that publically by examining sovereign bond yield spreads between the member states and Germany. Well, you used to be able to see it there, but now the market is starting to price in real risk into the ERM with vastly widening spreads between Greece and German bonds, for example, which is now around 190 basis points.)

But with a major kink in the armor of export models everywhere (consumers aren't buying too much in Europe either as unemployment rises), and Germany having many other domestic avenues demanding its much needed and increasingly scarce capital, its incentive to support the system has to be dented. We think this is part and parcel to the squabbling going on among otherwise genteel members of the European Central Bank.

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Dow Jones Industrial Average:

Optimism rules! Party on dudes!

Have a great weekend and be careful out there today; a bunch of economic data will be unleashed upon us.