Thursday, February 14, 2013

St. Valentine's Day Mascara

No, that's not a misprint in the headline. The word is "mascara" - the stuff women apply to darken, thicken, lengthen, and/or define their eyelashes. It's a cosmetic, as in rouge, or lipstick, as in lipstick on a pig, which is exactly what the algos and buy-siders did to today's undeniably weak, directionless market.

Face it, Europe is a bona-fide basket case, Japan is devaluing its currency so fast that George Soros made nearly a billion dollars on the trade in just over three months.

The news coming out of Euro-fantasy-land was less than encouraging. Eurozone fourth quarter 2012 GDP fell by 0.6%.

Making matters a little more interesting - and more frightening - were the figures for the zone's three largest economies - Germany, France and Italy - whose own GDP fell by 0.6%, 0.3% and 0.9%, respectively.

The Eurozone, even after all the bank and sovereign bailouts, pledges of doing everything possible to promote growth by the likes of Germany's Angela Merkel and EU President Mario Draghi, has resulted in three consecutive quarters of negative GDP. Europe is already in the throes of an economic collapse, thanks largely to protectionism for banks and excessive liquidity from European central bankers (most of whom are Goldman Sachs alum, BTW).

While the GDP numbers may be bad enough, consider youth unemployment (ages 15-25) in the Eurozone to be spreading like the bubonic plague. Greece reported youth unemployment over 60%; Spain over 50% and Portugal just topped 40%. Thirteen of the 27 EU member states are reporting youth unemployment over 25%. Austerity: it's what's for dinner.

Europe is solid proof that the elite class is making up the rules as they go along, and the general public is viewed as collateral damage only. Here in the good old USA, we have our own concerns with the sequestration schedule to commence March 1, which will result in massive federal budget cuts. The president and congress haven't even begun to discuss how they'll handle that, though they uniformly say that sequestration (it doesn't rhyme with castration for no reason) is something they'd prefer to avoid.

Have they acted? No. Will they? Probably, but, like the fiscal cliff deal this past December, it will be a stop-gap measure and cost taxpayers more. Nobody ever cuts anything in Washington, only the rate of growth of programs, because what's important to them is keeping lobbyists and voters (government employees and beneficiaries of government largesse) dumb and happy.

So, on what does this algo-concocted market focus? Berkshire Hathaway's buyout of Heinz. Poor suckers that Americans are, they put ketchup on their chicken and pork hot dogs on day old buns while Uncle Warren reaps the profits. If ever there was a crony capitalist, Warren Buffet's picture belongs next to the definition.

Sure, unemployment claims were down - from 368K to 341K - but aren't those figures still too high? The new normal means just doing better than expectations, even if those expectations are sub-par. It's akin to taking your kid out for ice cream because he got a C in math instead of a D. As a nation, we've lowered our standards in everything from our political leaders to what passes for entertainment.

Along with everything else, we've lowered our standards for rational markets. Today's split decision is just another shining example of the truth hiding in plain sight. Sooner or later, even the talking heads on CNBC are going to come to the realization that making new all-time highs with a -0.1% GDP and unemployment at eight percent doesn't really pass the smell test. Someday. Maybe. Note the video below with Rick Santelli, everyone's favorite financial ranter, extrapolating out on what we've been saying nearly every day on this blog: that being a trader is nearly impossible under current conditions.

And, just as a side note, New York Mayor Bloomberg, who first banned drink containers larger than 16 ounces, has proposed a ban on styrofoam containers, and... it's likely to pass his rubber stamp city council.

Let's see, smokes are $10-12 a pack in NY, you can't smoke in any of the bars, night clubs or public buildings; you must drink from small containers and those soon cannot be made of styrofoam. All this makes one pine for the good old days of the seventies. Ed Koch was mayor. Son of Sam was shooting kids in parking lots. Reggie Jackson was blasting balls out of the original Yankee Stadium and you could buy just about any kind of drug - from weed to cocaine - on just about any street corner. Bloomberg. He's just not a fun guy.

Dow 13,973.39, -9.52 (0.07%)
NASDAQ 3,198.66, +1.78 (0.06%)
S&P 500 1,521.38, +1.05 (0.07%)
NYSE Composite 8,951.33, -4.27 (0.05%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,884,832,750
NYSE Volume 3,867,864,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 3259-3130
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 505-39
WTI crude oil: 97.31, +0.30
Gold: 1,635.50, -9.60
Silver: 30.35, -0.516

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