November 18: Daily Contrarian Reads

What “Strong” Retail Sales?  Consumer Debt At Pre-Recession Peaks, 80% of Wages Up Less Than Inflation

What this suggests is that consumers are struggling just to maintain their current living standard and have resorted to credit to make ends meet. Since the amount of credit extended to any one individual is finite, it should not surprise anyone that such a surge in credit as retail sales decline has been a precursor to previous recessions. Further, the weakness of consumption can be seen in the levels of retailers inventory relative to their actual sales.

Trade Shock: Singapore Y/Y Exports Down 12% in October; Shipments to EU Down 28.6% 

Singapore’s exports in October shrank more than expected as sales to major markets fell, with those to Europe contracting sharply and raising risks of a recession in the trade-dependent economy. Non-oil domestic exports (NODX) skidded 12 percent last month from a year earlier, the trade agency International Enterprise Singapore said in a statement on Thursday, far worse than the median forecast of a 3.5 percent decline in a Reuters poll.

What Happens Overseas Doesn’t Necessarily Stay Overseas

In another case of government meeting reality, Saudi Arabia sacked its long-serving Finance Minister at the end of October. In a move reminiscent of the recent shakeup in Beijing’s Finance Ministry, with longstanding technocrat Lou Jiwei being ousted, Saudi Arabia has had to face up to more than just oil prices. Ibrahim al-Assaf had been in that position since 1996, guiding the previous Saudi King successfully through several crises. But as Lou in China, 2016 proved to be too much. The Saudi government in the middle of 2015, the start of “global turmoil”, faced a potentially disruptive choice – they could scale back government spending as revenues declined, or they could borrow to fill in part of the gap. They chose the latter option, with al-Assaf instrumental in convincing the rest of the Saudi authorities to go along with the plan. The result was an ongoing banking crisis.

Trump Was Right—NATO Is Obsolete And Dreaming Up Reasons For Relevance

….. a deal was made between the Soviet Union of the time and the U.S. – and that, in return for the withdrawal of 260,000 Soviet troops from East Germany and the reunification of Germany, NATO would not move one inch further east than the German border.Well, today we can see the result of these negotiations – another 12 countries, most in Eastern Europe and right up to the Russian border, have been assimilated into NATO. Recently within most of these border countries large-scale military exercises have been provocatively and publicly staged, plus missile “defense ” systems have been planted in the fertile paranoiac soil of an increasingly aggressive and nationalistic Poland.

The New King Of Debt: Trump Versus Reagan

While books have been written about the cultural and political legacy of Reagan’s presidency, harder facts can be found in his budgetary record. Despite the economic revival that his tax-cutting and deregulation tendencies delivered, the national debt ballooned as it never had for any other peacetime President. Although the fiscal imbalances have gotten significantly worse since Reagan left office, the Gipper gave plenty of cover for future Republican presidents to run up red ink. President Donald Trump, the self-proclaimed “King of Debt”, now appears to be perfectly positioned to test the limit of how much debt the world’s largest economy can issue.

More Bondmageddon: Saudis, China Dump Treasuries; Foreign Central Banks Liquidate A Record $375 Billion In US Paper

One month ago, when we last looked at the Fed’s update of Treasuries held in custody, we noted something troubling: the number had dropped sharply, declining by over $22 billion in one week, one of the the biggest weekly declines since January 2015, pushing the total amount of custodial paper to $2.805 trillion, the lowest since 2012. One month later, we refresh this chart and find that in last week’s update, foreign central banks continued their relentless liquidation of US paper held in the Fed’s custody account, which tumbled by another $14 billion over the course of a week, pushing the total amount of custodial paper to $2.788 trillion, a new post-2012 low.

11 Very Depressing Economic Realities That Donald Trump Will Inherit From Barack Obama

It would be a grave mistake to understate the amount of damage that has been done to the U.S. economy over the past eight years…. Anyone that takes a cold, hard, honest look at the numbers should be able to see that our economy is in terrible shape..

The Welfare/Warfare State And How to Beat It

The welfare-warfare state has been held together politically by the fact that the two major parties were engaged in a tradeoff. The Democrats, who bought off entire constituencies with tax dollars, were allowed to expand the welfare part of the equation in exchange for giving the Republicans a free hand to bloat the other half of the equation beyond all rational definitions of “national defense.” The political term for this is “logrolling,” or, in layman’s terms, you-scratch-my-back-and-I’ll-scratch-yours.

Memo To The Donald: Pardon Edward Snowden—-Whistleblowers Elected You

As a man who won the presidency by resonating with the anti-establishment and populist sentiment spreading throughout the country, it would be a foolish move for President Trump to turn his back on the very people who elected him into office. For many Trump supporters — as well as the rest of the country — the surveillance state is one of the largest abominations to individual liberty seen in our lifetime……Without a firm anti-establishment stance against “big brother,” draining the swamp is not only unlikely, it is simply impossible Trump has also praised Assange, which seems appropriate since it is clear he benefited from Hillary’s decreasing poll numbers. In fact, it is not entirely unreasonable to attribute at least a portion of Trump’s election night victory to the dozens of “Podesta Email” leaks that were released over the last several weeks. Now that Trump has publicly called Assange a hero for essentially doing the same thing Snowden did — and won the presidency as a result of the leaks — is it possible that President Trump would consider pardoning Edward Snowden?

The War On Cash Spreads: Citibank to Stop Accepting Cash at Some Australian Branches

Less than a week after India’s surprise move to scrap its highest denomination cash notes, another front in the War on Cash has intensified down under in Australia. Yesterday, banking giant UBS proposed that eliminating Australia’s $100 and $50 bills would be “good for the economy and good for the banks.” Most notably, two days ago, Citibank (yes, THAT Citibank) announced that it was going cashless at some of its Australian branches.