The Canaries Continue To Drop Like Flies

by Mark St.Cyr

One would think as “canary” after “canary” falls silent either sickened with laryngitis, or worse – completely comatose. Those on Wall Street as well as the financial media itself would not only have seen, but heard, many of the warning calls that have been obvious for quite some time. Yet, history always shows; not only do they not see, but more often than not – they don’t want to see, nor hear the warning calls.

Even when all the warning signs are screaming danger – not only are they ignored, they’re explained away as if those which saw or heard them, should be ignored as they’ll contend not only did one not see; but couldn’t see.

What they’ll propose is: “That was not a “canary” but rather a  “dodo.”  After all, with a Fed. that’s as interactive as this one currently is. Surely what they believe they heard, or saw is impossible. For people say they’ve spotted warning signs in these ‘markets’ for years, and none have yet produced a crisis because – they’re now extinct! ” Yet, the wheezing sounds of many a Wall Street songbird has been apparent for quite a while. Again: If only one would care to look or listen.

Back in April of 2014 in an article titled “The Scarlet Absence Of A Letter of Credit” I opined a few scenarios as to why this seemingly dismissed revelation by the so-called “smart crowd” should not go unnoticed. For the implications may very well portend far greater reasons too worry in the coming future. Below is an excerpt. And let’s not forget this is some 16 months ago. When the financial media et al were still reciting in unison the wonders to which, “China will be the economy that leads us out of this current malaise.”

“Over the last few years since the financial melt down of 2008, we have seen what many have believed are precursors that may tip the hand of markets as to show just how unhealthy this levitating act fueled by free money has become.

And yes there are always false indicators, and we all know correlation doesn’t equal causation. And even more may shrug and think, “No letter of credit, so what.” However, if there were ever a canary in a coalmine worth noting this is one not to let one’s eyes to divert from.

The issue at hand is not just the foolishness of the absence contained in a one-off LOC gamble some company would take. Far from it.

It’s the desperation that could be hidden that’s a precursor one has to watch for. For the amount of desperation, or the degree that might be hidden beneath the surface to which a commodity will be sent overseas to another country, a country for all intents and purposes is using that very product as a pseudo currency to back other financial obligations without the requisite document to be paid. Is mind numbingly dangerous in its implications in my view.”

Fast forward to today and what is the current state of the commodity sector? If your answer resembled something along the lines of catastrophe, falling knife, broke or busted; you would be closer to reality than the “everything is awesome” spin you used to hear when the price of another commodity: oil, dropped again, and again signalling the cue for analysts to take to the airwaves or keyboards and herald “More money in consumers pockets via a reduction in gas prices equals more consumer spending!” Yet, you don’t hear that tune any longer do you?

Consumer spending, the metric that’s been trumpeted as “the” supposed songbird for the chorus of data points as to prove there’s an ever burgeoning economy. Not only hasn’t shown signs of growth when it comes to retail spending. It too has contracted. The most recent U.S. Dept. of Commerce release in July showed June with a decrease of 0.3% from the previous month, while April and May were also revised downward.

During this period oil (e.g., Brent) has precipitously dropped from over $100 per barrel to where it now sits and bounces under $50. However, just to give a little more context. The first fall was over a year ago where it initially free-fell cutting its price in half just when it should have had the greatest impact. e.g., The Christmas holiday shopping season. And the result? Dismal holiday sales returns. So dismal all one heard or read was the excuse of “the weather.”

So now with reports for April, May, and June in the books during another precipitous oil drop. This time albeit from a far lower bar ($65-ish.) falling once again below the $50 mark and not only remaining, but seeming to threaten falling even further to even lower lows. It’s now hard to ignore the fact, all that presumed “money in consumers pockets” made possible to spend is either lost in the sofa cushions or, never materialized in the way many on Wall Street were convinced it would. For if it did – than why would numbers be revised down?

Once again, let’s not forget this is during another of what many see as the “get out and hit the open road fun-time” officially kicked off via the Memorial Day holiday. And May of June’s number couldn’t even hold to unchanged status? What does that scream let alone “sing?”

What happened to the “pent-up demand” that must have surely been burning holes in consumers pockets with all that gas savings we were told was taking place across the nation? Surely one must construe if it didn’t take place during the holiday shopping it therefore must at least show signs when the weather broke. Unless the consumer is what many of us have argued: Broke. It would seem the “numbers” are showing that’s far more the case.

Another canary that seems to have fallen silent is the one that sang the tune “This Qtr. just you watch, earnings will need to be revised up!” And they have, only not from a level that would suggest a healthy start to begin with.

The game of “bait and switch” metric announcements or reporting is not only laughable it borders on obscene. So much so I would envision if one asked a street-hustling 3-card-Monte player what they thought of today’s earnings reporting. They would throw down their cards in disgust and ask how they missed such a money-making racket opportunity. For if you can start by saying 4, then lower it to 1, where they come in at 2 – only on Wall Street can one state with a straight face (as well as duck any jail time for outright fraud) “This earnings season not only beat expectations, but was double the consensus!”

Only a street hustler can fully appreciate, as well as be left envious to this ingenious sleight of hand.

Then there’s the “Greece is solved” and “Greece doesn’t matter” chorus that was proclaimed before, during, and after the first indications of trouble. And once again we are waking to the tune near daily, not only is Greece still not solved – it sits on a perch so precariously swinging too-and-fro between further calamity into an outright civil chaos and catastrophe. So much so the greater media at large seems exhausted as to vocalize any further developments.

And who can forget that other tune that suddenly has also fallen silent: “The economy is not only ready to take off once QE has ended, and we expect GDP to not only signal but print 4%+ in the coming Qrts. After all, we just went from our previous upward revised call which was just under 4 – where we just printed 5% for Q3!”

All sounds great except for one thing. That Q3 was Q3 2014. What happened next? Lest I remind you to look back on some of the preceding paragraphs?  For that’s where I reminded you about “weather” and the dismal revisions to a lower Q1, and Q2 spending reports, let alone where GDP prints are proposed to print next. However, if one listens carefully, what seems abundantly clear for the next print will be a tune that sounds familiar. Only this time  – 3 is now the new 5!

Even if one tries to shield their eyes and ears away from these harbingers in ways we’ve all been reminded countless times by Disney™ movies spanning generations as: “not too worry and sing a happy tune.” The problem there? Disney’s own dulcet tones were met this earnings season with a far different reception, as its shares like many others of the media space that were once considered “bank” were tarred and feathered as its stock was treated more like the paper found in the bottom of the bird’s cage.

If there’s one note that’s been ringing louder and louder it’s this…

It’s getting harder and harder for even the most vocal among Wall Street as they try to sing the “everything is awesome” song when the ground around them continues to be littered with an ever-increasing amount of sprawled out – motionless – canaries.

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