Showing posts with label Pew Research Center. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pew Research Center. Show all posts

Monday, November 7, 2011

Euro Leads Stocks Lower, Then Higher; Income Disparity Hits Young Hardest

There are plenty of correlation trades that make plenty of sense, but perhaps the only one worth watching - from a macro perspective - is the Euro-Dollar trade because of its unique correlation to the US stock market.

Today was a prime example of how that trade controls markets, from weak hands to strong, from dead to money to risk-be-damned, full speed ahead.

As trading opened for the week, the Euro was under a great deal of stress, not only from the continuing crisis, but by way of the dual southern European national plight being waged in Greece and Italy, where both leaders - George Papandreou of Greece and Silvio Berlusconi of Italy - were rumored to be ready to step down at the drop of a falafel or calzone, so precarious their countries' dilemmas.

While Papandreou finally agreed today to step down from his post as Prime Minister in an effort for the country to form a unity government (whatever that may mean in a nation on the brink of dissolution), Berlusconi seems locked into a similar fate, given the debt issues facing his country. Bond yields have risen dramatically on Italy's benchmark 10-year bonds over recent weeks and the spread between the Italian 10-year and the 10-year German Bund hit 490 basis points today.

Also weighing on the Euro was the nearly failed auction of Euro 3 billion in bonds by the EFSF, the entity created to save European banks from catastrophe. The auction was lightly subscribed and only 2.5 billion of the bonds were sold - at a price 171 basis points over the Bund - the rest going back to the issuers at a hefty premium. The EFSF does not have enough heft to buy Italy's bonds, putting Berlusconi and his government in a very precarious position.

As the Euro sagged in the morning so did stocks in the US, as every hedge fund manager worth his or her salt is short the US dollar, a trade that provides cheap dollar liquidity to US markets but is also inherently ruinous to the long-term survivability of the world's reserve currency. As the day wore on in Europe and issues began to straighten themselves out, especially in the case of Greece, the Euro began to rise, taking the dollar down and US stocks up. Simple, Easy. A piece of cake.

The real problem with this trade - as it has been all along - is that the US is probably in better shape than Europe, which has been on the brink of a currency collapse for months, making the premise for being short the US dollar somewhat specious, or perhaps totally false, a straw man trade designed only to make the impression that all's well in the USA and keeping stocks trending higher.

Therein lies the fatal deceit of the short dollar trade. If somehow the Euro must be kept propped up - when it's true value is somewhere closer to parity with the dollar than the current 1.38:1 ratio of dollars to Euros - then the inevitability of the failure of the Euro as a currency, the EU as a common trading bloc and a massive decline in US stocks must occur. This is, without a doubt, how tightly intertwined markets now are, dangerously so, and the heads of most US banking, trading and political entities are well aware of this situation.

When the Euro blows, which it almost certainly will, US stocks will follow, and isn't that a nice, pleasant note upon which to start off your week? Of course, it gets worse. Because when stocks drop, what the middle class is going to do will make the continuing "Occupy" protests look like a kindergarten cookies and milk party. Nothing riles up a people than having their wealth pulled out from under them, and, while the bankers and politicians have thus far succeeded in keeping complete collapse a fringe argument, Europe's failings could quickly become an American nightmare.

It was revealed today just how badly broken the American system has become. Pew Research Center reported that the wealth disparity between young and old has reached its highest level ever, with "Households headed by a person 65 or older have a median net worth 47 times greater than households headed by a person under 35."

Unarguable as that fact may be, it exposes the soft underbelly of American life, wherein the elderly, otherwise known as collectors of entitlements, such as Social Security are prospering at the expense of the young, who must work hard and pay bills, debt and support their elder countrymen. It's as unfair a situation as the top 1% holding 40% of the nation's wealth, and perhaps worth fixing, with means testing, rather than turning our nation into an armed camp of elderly versus youth.

In between are the Baby Boomer generation, the first post-WWII generation to begin reaching retirement age. Some have saved, others not so much, but, as a whole, the largest segment - those born between 1950 and 1960 - are still years away from collecting a Social Security check. If one were to take a bet on just how much a person 55 to 60 years old today should expect as a monthly stipend at age 65 or 67, it would probably be wise to cut that number down by 25-45% from current expectations.

If one is inclined to believe the situation is tough right now, imagine another 50 million expecting to receive Social Security checks in coming years. The math simply does not add up unless those paying into the system are going to be taxed at 80% of their wages. It's just the truth, we're headed for even harder times ahead.

Dow 12,068.39, +85.15 (0.71%)
NASDAQ 2,695.25, +9.10 (0.34%)
S&P 500 1,261.12, +7.89 (0.63%)
NYSE Composite 7,590.43, +38.20 (0.51%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,735,945,625.00
NYSE Volume 3,629,465,250
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2773-2795
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 88-64
WTI crude oil: 95.52, +1.26
Gold: 1,791.10, +35.00
Silver: 34.83, +0.74