January 16: Daily Contrarian Reads

Government Sachs Again, But Does The Deep State Have It In For Trump?

First, you gotta hand it to Wall Street. During the campaign, not only were they loading Hillary up with millions of dollars in funding, but they also regularly predicted doom if “The Donald” were to win. Then, apparently within seconds, in the middle of the night, they saw a great dollar sign in the sky…Not since the conversion of Constantine has a turnaround been so abrupt and so complete.Now the Goldman boys are in practically every important office – Mnuchin in the Treasury, Cohn at the National Economic Council, Clayton (a lawyer who has represented Goldman for years) at the SEC, and Bannon and Scaramucci, also from the Goldman litter, ready to do what is asked…

China Posts Worst Export Drop Since 2009 as Fears of U.S. Trade War Loom

China’s massive export engine sputtered for the second year in a row in 2016, with shipments falling in the face of persistently weak global demand and officials voicing fears of a trade war with the United States that is clouding the outlook for 2017….The world’s largest trading nation posted gloomy data on Friday, with 2016 exports falling 7.7 percent and imports down 5.5 percent. The export drop was the second annual decline in a row and the worst since the depths of the global crisis in 2009.

From Bricks to Clicks—–Retail Redistribution, Not Recovery

Again, the macro pattern is obvious even within the overlying baseline decline due to the shift toward the virtual. When the economy is rough, consumers seek either alternatives or just don’t spend at all. In 2016, online sales picked up some of the distress, but only some. Nonstore sales have seen their best run since 2006, just prior to the collapse of the housing bubble. Because of that, attributing anguish to brick and mortar is easy….But if we combine sales from traditional channels (General Merchandise stores, a broader category for brick and mortar which includes Department Stores) with those from Nonstore Retailers, the so-called Bricks and Clicks, we see that overall retail sales are nothing like what they were a decade ago.

From London to Langley to Kiev—-The Foreign Plot To Oust Trump

News accounts also report that it was Fusion GPS, a Democratic “research” firm, that got the initial contract, and was paid  by the Republican wing of the “Never Trump” movement. After Trump won the Republican nomination, the ball was passed to the Democrats, who picked up the bill. Oh, but it didn’t end with Trump’s victory at the polls: Steele and Fusion GPS head honcho Glenn Simpson soldiered on: “By then,” the New York Times reports, “the election was over, and neither Mr. Steele nor Mr. Simpson was being paid by a client, but they did not stop what they believed to be very important work.”…..Yes, out of the goodness of their hearts – patriotic duty, dedication to the victory of the West over the Evil Putinite Threat, and good old-fashioned stick-to-it-tiveness – the Dauntless Duo pursued their quarry through thick and thin, and they did it all for free, casting aside any thought of reward and abjuring the huge sums they are usually paid for such work. We interrupt this fantasy to bring you an important announcement: it didn’t happen that way.

Sell The Inauguration—-No Baton Hand0ff, No Giant Trump Fiscal Stimulus, Big Global Headwinds

They are not alone, because as TCW’s Ted Rivelle writes in his latest letter “No Stagnation Without Representation, while there will be long-term consequences of Trump’s policies…….the costs will arise long before the expected benefits. In our estimation, the investment climate for risk assets after the election looks a lot like the environment before the election: risky. And while there are many valid reasons to cheer a change in tax policy, saving the U.S. and global economy from its past excesses is not one of them. Stay cautious, my friend.”

How Wall Street And The Fed Have Stacked the Deck Against Main Street Capitalism

Not convinced of this thesis? After the 2008 financial crisis, large corporations were flush with cash. Their balance sheets were as healthy as ever. That’s because, in the years after the crisis under the Federal Reserve’s medicine of near zero percent interest rates, the U.S. corpo­rate sector alone sold several trillion dollars’ worth of bonds and used more than half of the incoming funding to repurchase their own shares. While corporate debt across the board soared, champagne corks popped in corporate board rooms. This absolute obsession with the big, the established, and the corpo­rate over the small, the new, and the entrepreneurial permeates Wash­ington, DC. But this bias has come at the expense of economic growth. So has the preoccupation with short-term financial gain over long-term prosperity for all.

The Intelligence Agencies Report On Russian Hacking Is Missing A Crucial Ingredient—The Evidence!

Three intelligence agencies – the CIA, the FBI, and the NSA – have issued their much-touted report on alleged Russian intervention in the presidential election, and after reading it one question remains: Where’s the evidence?One interesting note is that the key conclusion – that Vladimir Putin personally ordered a Russian campaign to “denigrate” poor little Hillary Clinton and elect Trump – is endorsed with “high confidence” by the CIA and the FBI, but only with “moderate confidence” by the National Security Agency. The NSA dissent is significant because if there is any hard evidence behind these assertions, it is surely the NSA – with its ability to intercept communications of Russian officials – that would secure it.

Christmas Fizzles: Retail Sales Except Autos, Gas, Fall Flat

So much for that expected strong Christmas. Economists were giddy across the board, but other than autos and gas, retail sales were flat in December. Christmas hype did not live up to its billing.

You’re Ignorant!  So Says Harvard Professor Rogoff If You Are A Naysayer On Sub-Zero Rates

“I find a lot of what is written by representatives of the financial sector, they’re very hostile to negative rates, to be kind of ignorant,” he said ahead of a tour of Scandinavia, where sub-zero rates first saw the light of day. “They’re talking about their short-term profits, and their short-term interest, but it’s a long-run policy if you do the homework, if you lay the groundwork, it would certainly work very well…….Of course, if you do not agree with this ‘elite’ Davos-Man, then you probably don’t deserve to vote either.

Why Are Wal-Mart And Boeing Laying Off Workers If The U.S. Economy Is In Good Shape?

Major retail chains such as Sears and Macy’s are closing stores and laying off workers, but I didn’t think that Wal-Mart would be feeling the pain as well.  Unfortunately, that is precisely what is happening.  USA Today is reporting that approximately 1,000 jobs will be cut at Wal-Mart’s corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas by the end of this month…