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RETAIL - Subprime ABS Sales Accelerate

Auto Loans In "Untested" Territory Blackstone Warns As Subprime ABS Sales Accelerate 06-24-15 ZH

Earlier this month, we24-15 gave readers a snapshot of the US auto market on the way to explaining why it was that car sales hit a 10-year high in May. To recap: 

  • Average loan term for new cars is now 67 months — a record.
  • Average loan term for used cars is now 62 months — a record.
  • Loans with terms from 74 to 84 months made up 30%  of all new vehicle financing — a record.
  • Loans with terms from 74 to 84 months made up 16% of all used vehicle financing — a record.
  • The average amount financed for a new vehicle was $28,711 — a record.
  • The average payment for new vehicles was $488 — a record.
  • The percentage of all new vehicles financed accounted for by leases was 31.46% — a record.

We went on to note that despite the worrying statistics shown above, optimists (like Experian) will likely point to the fact that the average FICO score for borrowers financing new cars fell only slighty from 714 to 713 Y/Y while the same Y/Y scores for those financing used vehicles actually rose from 641 in Q1 2014 to 643 in Q1 2015. While that's all well and good, there's every indication that those figures are likely to deteriorate significantly going forward. Why? Because Wall Street's securitization machine is involved. in the consumer ABS space (which encompasses paper backed by student loans, credit cards, equipment, auto loans, and other, more esoteric types of consumer credit), auto loan-backed issuance accounts for half of the market and a quarter of auto ABS is backed by loans to subprime borrowers. Put simply, those subprime borrowers are getting subprimey-er. 

In other words, the same dynamic that prevailed in the US housing market prior to the collapse is at play in the auto loan market. Lenders are competing for borrowers as lucrative securitization fees beckon, and this competition is directly responsible for loose underwriting standards. Bloomberg has more on the interplay between auto ABS issuance and “stretched” auto loan terms:

Demand for automobile debt in the U.S. is enabling lenders to make longer loans to people with spotty credit, stoking concern that car shoppers are being lulled into debt loads they won’t be able to sustain.

Of the subprime vehicle loans bundled into securities, 73 percent now exceed five years, up from 64 percent during the first three months of 2014, according to data from Citigroup Inc. 

Loans as long as seven years are increasingly being put into more bonds as auto-finance companies and Wall Street banks sell the securities at the fastest pace since 2007.

The longer loans make it easier for consumers to afford rising new and used car prices by spreading out and lowering payments. While the securities are attracting plenty of buyers with high loss buffers and AAA ratings, some investors are beginning to question the wisdom of lending at terms that have never before extended beyond five years.

“Everyone has used the argument that borrowers pay car loans because they have to get to work,” said Anup Agarwal, a money manager who oversees $65 billion at Western Asset Management Co. and hasn’t bought a subprime auto bond in a year and a half. “But borrowers only pay loans if the car is working. We have not seen this cycle come through yet.”

A debt offering recently marketed by American Credit Acceptance LLC demonstrates some of the risks. About one-third of the 14,628 loans in the deal are tied to borrowers with credit ratings under 500 according to the Fair Issac Corp. grading system known as FICO -- or with no score at all, according to a prospectus obtained by Bloomberg. The company is charging interest rates of between 27 and 28 percent for almost one-third of the borrowers, and more than half of its loans exceed five years.

While cars are lasting longer than in the past, regulators are concerned that the value of the vehicles will fall faster than borrowers can pay off the debt.

“Because cars depreciate quickly, a borrower is typically upside down or underwater toward the end of a long loan term,” Date said. “If times are tough you might have to sell your car, but you’re still going to owe more than you can get through the sale.”

The riskiest auto bonds offer compensation of up to four times the coupon of comparably dated Treasuries, Bloomberg data show.

History is also on the side of investors. Since 2004, S&P has upgraded 371 classes of subprime auto deals and downgraded none, data from the company show.

Even with the built-in protections, some market participants are starting to caution that buyers may be letting down their guard for the sake of higher yields.

Auto securities sold in 2014 have registered the highest loss rate of any period since 2008, according to data from JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Some finance companies are avoiding the longer terms. Exeter Finance Corp., a Blackstone Group-backed subprime lending firm based in Irving, Texas, isn’t offering them because the risk is too high, said the firm’s treasurer, Andrew Kang.

“At this time we have no intention of going longer than 72 months,” he said. “The risk is that you extend a loan that a borrower cannot afford over its term schedule. Inching out to 75 and 84 months, I don’t think that has been tested yet.”

Here's a visual overview of the auto loan-backed ABS market (note the resurrgence of subprime as a percentage of total issuance post-2009 and the rising net loss rates):

*  *  *

The takeaway here is simple: under pressure to keep the US auto sales miracle alive and feed Wall Street's securitization machine (which is itself driven by demand from yield-starved investors) along the way, lenders are lowering their underwriting standards and extending loans to underqualified borrowers.

Particularly alarming is the fact that even as average loan terms hit record highs, average monthly payments are not only not falling, but are in fact also sitting at all-time highs.

This cannot and will not end well. 







RETAIL - Gap To Fire Thousands

Gap To Fire Thousands, Close A Quarter Of All Specialty Locations 06-15-15 ZH

Either the winter that is coming will knock the socks right out of the pre-quadruple seasonally adjusted GDP and the Gap knows all about this, or the much-hyped economic recovery, of which the US is supposedly in the 6th year now, has been nothing but a myth and a lie.

Moments ago, one of the biggest clothing retailers in the US confirmed the worst nightmares about the state of US consumer spending, when it reported that it would shut down over 25% of all of its specialty stores in the US, or about 175 (of which 140 will be shut in the current year), leaving the firm just 500 specialty locations and 300 outlet stores. And, in addition to the thousands of job terminations these closures would entail, the company will further fire another 250 in its headquarters.

Why? As the company admits: "To Increase Productivity and Profitability", to "deliver more consistent and compelling product collections and engage customers across all channels", because “Our customers and employees want Gap to win."

Well, maybe not the employees, and certainly not those that are not only about to get a modest severance package, but will make the BLS's role of painting the mass terminations "recovery" that much harder.

Oh well, that's what double, triple, quadruple and so on seasonal adjustments are for.

From the press release:

Gap Inc. Announces Strategic Initiatives to Increase Productivity and Profitability of Namesake Brand

Gap today announced a series of strategic actions to position Gap brand for improved business performance and build for the future. Following a thorough evaluation of its business and operations, Gap plans to right-size its specialty store fleet and streamline its headquarter workforce, primarily in North America, as part of the comprehensive effort to deliver more consistent and compelling product collections and engage customers across all channels.

“Returning Gap brand to growth has been the top priority since my appointment four months ago – and Jeff and his team bring a sense of urgency to this work,” said Art Peck, Gap Inc. chief executive officer. “Customers are rapidly changing how they shop today, and these moves will help get Gap back to where we know it deserves to be in the eyes of consumers.”

In order to drive productivity improvements and showcase the brand in the most successful locations, Gap will close about 175 specialty stores in North America over the next few years, with about 140 closures occurring this fiscal year. These changes will not impact Gap Outlet and Gap Factory Stores. In parallel with these moves, the brand will close a limited number of European stores during this period.

Following the fleet optimization effort, the brand will continue to serve North American customers through about 800 Gap stores – comprised of 500 Gap specialty locations and 300 Gap outlet stores – as well as its dynamic online channels, better reflecting the way today’s customers shop across specialty, outlet and online. The brand will continue to have a robust global presence in more than 50 countries and with about 1,600 company-operated and franchise locations globally.

Our customers and employees want Gap to win,” said Jeff Kirwan, global president for Gap. “We’re focused on offering consistent, on-brand product collections and enhancing the customer experience across all of our channels, including a smaller, more vibrant fleet of stores."

Since Kirwan was appointed to lead Gap in December 2014, he’s rebuilt the leadership team and implemented an aggressive agenda designed to strengthen the brand and successfully compete on the global stage. The team is driving towards a clear, on-brand product aesthetic framework focused on optimistic and elevated American style, while also rebuilding the brand’s product operating model to increase speed, predictability and responsiveness, and enable greater competitiveness.

To speed decision making and responsiveness, Kirwan also announced decisions meant to align Gap’s organization in support of its new product operating model. This will result in the reduction of the brand’s headquarter workforce, primarily in North America, by approximately 250 roles during fiscal year 2015.

 Kirwan added, “These decisions are very difficult, knowing they will affect a number of our valued employees, but we are confident they are necessary to help create a winning future for our employees, our customers and our shareholders.”

The company estimates an annualized sales loss of approximately $300 million associated with the store closures. Additionally, the company estimates one-time costs primarily associated with these actions to be in the range of approximately $140 million to $160 million, of which about $55 million to $75 million is non-cash. These costs are expected to be recognized primarily in the second quarter of fiscal year 2015 and include lease buyouts, asset impairments primarily related to the Gap fleet, inventory and fabric write-offs, and employee related costs associated with organizational changes.

The company estimates annualized savings from these actions to be approximately $25 million, beginning in 2016.

Excluding the estimated pre-tax costs of $140 million to $160 million referenced above, or approximately $0.21 to $0.24 per diluted share, the company is reaffirming its guidance for fiscal year 2015 to be in the range of $2.75 to $2.80. This guidance is provided to enhance visibility into the company’s expectations regarding its ongoing business excluding the Gap brand optimization effort.






RETAIL - Consumers Are Not Following Orders

Consumers Are Not Following Orders 06-15-15 Submitted by Jim Quinn via The Burning Platform blog,

Last week the government reported personal income and spending for April. After months of blaming non-existent consumer spending on cold weather, shockingly occurring during the Winter, the captured mainstream media pundits, Ivy League educated Wall Street economist lackeys, and Keynesian loving money printers at the Fed have run out of propaganda to explain why Americans are not spending money they don’t have. The corporate mainstream media is now visibly angry with the American people for not doing what the Ivy League propagated Keynesian academic models say they should be doing.

The ultimate mouthpiece for the banking cabal, Jon Hilsenrath, who does the bidding of the Federal Reserve at the Rupert Murdoch owned Wall Street Journal, wrote an arrogant, condescending, putrid diatribe, directed at the middle class victims of Wall Street banker criminality and Federal Reserve acquiescence to the vested corporate interests that run this country. Here are the more disgusting portions of his denunciation of the formerly middle class working people of America.

We know you experienced a terrible shock when Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008 and your employer responded by firing you.

We also know you shouldn’t have taken out that large second mortgage during the housing boom to fix up your kitchen with granite counter-tops. 

You should feel lucky you’re not a Greek consumer.

Fed officials want to start raising the cost of your borrowing because they worry they’ve been giving you a free ride for too long with zero interest rates.

We listen to Fed officials all of the time here at The Wall Street Journal, and they just can’t figure you out.

Please let us know the problem.

The Wall Street Journal was swamped with thousands of angry responses from irate real people living in the real world, not the elite, QE enriched, oligarchs living in Manhattan penthouses, mansions on the Hamptons, or luxury condos in Washington, D.C. Hilsenrath presumes to know how the average American has been impacted by the criminal actions of sycophantic Ivy League educated central bankers and their avaricious Wall Street owners.

He thinks millions of Americans losing their jobs and their homes due to the largest control fraud in financial history is fodder for a tongue in cheek harangue, blaming the victims for the crime. Hilsenrath reveals he is nothing but a Fed flunky who is fed whatever message they want the plebs to hear. His job is to obscure, obfuscate, spread disinformation, and launch Fed trial balloons to see whether the ignorant masses are still asleep. The Fed and their owners can’t understand why their propaganda hasn’t convinced the peasantry to follow orders.

A system built upon an exponential increase in debt, cannot be sustained if the masses stop buying Range Rovers, McMansions, stainless steel appliances, 72 inch HDTVs, iGadgets, bling, and boob jobs on credit. His letter to America reeks of desperation. The Fed and their minions have used every play in their Keynesian monetary playbook, and are losing the game in a blowout. With a deflationary depression beginning to accelerate, they have no game.

Despairing mothers, unemployed fathers, impoverished grandmothers, and indebted young people are supposed to feel lucky because they aren’t starving to death like the wretched Greeks. We do have one thing in common with the Greeks. We’ve both been screwed over by bankers and corrupt politicians. Did you know you’ve been given a free ride by your friends at the Federal Reserve? Did you know that zero interest rates and $3.5 trillion of Quantitative Easing (aka money printing) were implemented to benefit you? According to Hilsenrath, the Fed lending money at 0.25% to their Wall Street bank owners, who then allow you to borrow from them at 15% on your credit card, represents a free ride for you. Are the subprime auto loan borrowers, who account for 30% of all auto sales, paying 13% interest getting a free ride?

Hilsenrath is purposefully lying. Bernanke and Yellen have been saying they want to start raising interest rates for the last four years. Remember the 6.5% unemployment rate bogey set by Bernanke in January 2013? Unemployment dropped below 6.5% in early 2014 on its way to 5.5% today. Did they raise rates? In 2013 we had two consecutive quarters of 4% GDP growth, with no Fed rate increase. In 2014 we had two consecutive quarters of 4.8% GDP growth, with no Fed rate increase. We have added ten million jobs and the stock market has tripled since 2009, with no Fed rate increase.

We are supposedly in the sixth year of an economic recovery and the Fed is still keeping the discount rate at a Lehman “world is ending” emergency level of .25%. Six years after the last recession the discount rate was 5.25%. The last time the unemployment rate was this low the discount rate was 4%. The only ones getting a free ride from the Fed’s zero interest rate policy and QE to infinity have been Wall Street banks, the .1% who live off the carcasses of the dying middle class, zombie corporations who should have gone bankrupt, and politicians who keep running up the national debt with no consequences – YET. The Federal Reserve is a blood sucking leech on the ass of America. Their cure has been far worse than the original illness – Wall Street criminality. In fact, their cure has been to reward the Wall Street criminals while spreading cancer to the working class and euthanizing senior citizens.

Hisenrath and his puppet masters at the Fed can’t figure you out. For decades you have followed their orders and bought Chinese produced shit with one of your 13 credit cards. The Bernays’ propaganda playbook has produced wins for the ruling class since the early 1980’s. Their record is 864 – 0 versus the working class. Our entire warped economic system since the 1980’s has been dependent upon an exponential increase in debt peddled by Wall Street to citizens, government and corporations to give the appearance of a growing, healthy economy.

An economy built upon the consumption of iGadgets, Cheetos, meat lovers stuffed crust pizza, and slave labor produced Chinese baubles, along with the production of enough arms to blow up the world ten times over, and the doling out of trillions to the non-productive class, is doomed to fail. Maybe I can explain the situation in such a way that even an Ivy League educated central banker or a Wall Street Journal faux journalist will understand.

Maybe Jon and his Fed cronies could be enlightened by a look at the American consumer before the bubble boys (Greenspan, Bernanke) and gals (Yellen) at the Fed, along with the corporate fascist takeover of our political system, and the propaganda spewing corporate media monopolies, combined to deform our financial and economic system for their sole enrichment. The lack of spending by consumers might just be due to some of the following factors:

  • Back in 1980 income meant money earned through working, investing, and saving. The amount of personal income made up of wages totaled 60% in 1980. Today it totals 51%. Interest earned on savings accounted for 14% in 1980. Today it accounts for 8%, as the Fed has punished seniors and savers with negative real interest rates. Since 2009 the Fed has robbed over $1 trillion in interest income from seniors and savers with their zero interest rate policy and handed it to the Wall Street banking cabal. Bernanke didn’t just throw seniors under the bus, he ran them over, backed up over them, and ran them over again.
  • In a shocking development, government welfare transfers accounted for 11% of total personal income in 1980 and have risen to 17% today. Only the government could classify money which has been absconded at gunpoint from working Americans in the form of taxes and redistributed back to other Americans as welfare payments, as personal income. If you take money from your left pocket and put it in your right pocket, is that income? The replacement of wages and interest by welfare redistribution payments has not benefited society whatsoever.
  • In 1980 consumer credit outstanding as a percentage of personal income totaled 15%. Today it totals 22%, an all-time high. It is higher than the bubble peak in 2007-2008. Real per capita disposable income has only risen by 88% over the last 35 years. Meanwhile, real per capita consumer debt has risen by 288%. Wages and earnings from saving have been replaced by debt. The propagandists for consumerism have convinced the ignorant masses to spend money they don’t have, while pretending to be wealthier and successful. Consumer debt currently stands at a towering all-time high of $3.4 trillion, almost ten times the $350 billion level in 1980. Hilsenrath and the Fed are upset with you because credit card debt still lingers $122 billion, or 12% below 2008 levels. It has forced them to dole out $900 billion of government controlled subprime debt to University of Phoenix wannabes and any deadbeat that can scratch an X on an auto loan application. The U.S. economic system is like a Great White Shark that must keep swimming or it will die. The Federal Reserve run U.S. economic system must keep generating debt or it will die. They are growing desperate and you are not following orders.
  • Before the grand debt delusion overtook the populace, they were saving 11% of their disposable personal income. In 1980, Depression era adults still believed in saving for large purchases such as a house, car, appliance or home improvement. The young adult Boomers didn’t have the same experiential deterrent. They were convinced by the Wall Street debt peddlers, Madison Avenue maggots, and corrupt politicians that saving was for suckers. Live for today, for tomorrow may never come. Well tomorrow did come. Boomers are entering their retirement years with $12,000 in retirement savings, while still in debt up to their eyeballs. There have been 10,000 Boomers turning 65 every day since 2010. This will continue unabated through 2029. This demographic certainty was already depressing consumer spending, as this age demographic spends far less than 25 to 54 year olds. Factor in the pitiful amount of savings and you have an ongoing spending implosion.

  • The propaganda machine was so well oiled, the savings rate actually reached 1.9% in 2005, as the masses all believed they would live luxurious retirements off their home equity windfall. How’d that delusion work out? The current level of 5.6% is seen as troublesome by the powers that be. They cannot accept the crazy concept of saving and investment when their entire warped paradigm is built upon borrowing and consumption. Banks don’t make money when you save and they despise when you use cash. They can’t sustain their opulent lifestyles without their 3% VIG on every electronic transaction, 15% compounded interest on the $5,000 average credit card balance, billions in late fees for being one day late with your payment, $4 on every ATM transaction, and the myriad of other fees and surcharges designed to bilk you and keep you from saving. The saving rate will continue to climb as people have no choice to make up for years of living beyond their means.
  • Hilsenrath is willfully ignorant as he pretends to not understand why the American people will not or cannot accelerate their spending. It is really quite simple. Even a PhD should be able to understand. Real median household income was $52,300 in 1989. Real median household income today is $51,939. The median household has made no economic advancement in the last quarter of a century. And this is using the manipulated lower CPI figure. Using a true inflation rate would show a dramatic decline over the last 25 years. There has been virtually no wage growth during this supposed six year recovery. The industrial base of the country has been gutted, except for the production of arms to blow up brown people in the Middle East. Young people have $1.3 trillion of student loan debt weighing them like an anchor, and those Ruby Tuesday waitress jobs and Home Depot cashier jobs aren’t going to cut it.

  • So we have the demographic dilemma of aging, under-saved, over-indebted Boomers who are being forced to spend less. We have an over-indebted, under-employed youth who don’t have anything to spend. And lastly we have the 25 to 54 year old age bracket who should be in their prime earning and spending years who are still 4 million jobs short of where they were in 2007 before the Fed induced financial collapse. The only age bracket to gain jobs since the crisis has been 55 to 69, as they have been forced to work to make up for their lost interest income. The only people making job gains are those least likely to spend.

  • The spending crescendo in 2004 through 2007 was fueled by the Greenspan housing bubble and the $3 trillion of mortgage equity withdrawal used to buy BMWs, in-ground Olympic size pools, Jacuzzis, vacations to Tahiti, home theaters, granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, and boob jobs, by delusional, apparently brain dead Americans who fell for the Bernaysian propaganda spewed by the Wall Street criminal class, hook line and sinker. The majority of shell shocked underwater home owners have been unable to sell since the housing crash. A 35% price decline will do that. The Fed has created $3.5 trillion out of thin air, more than quadrupled their balance sheet with toxic mortgages from Wall Street, artificially suppressed interest rates to bring mortgage rates to record lows, and was a co-conspirator along with Fannie, Freddie, FHA, and Wall Street hedge funds (Blackrock) to delay foreclosure sales and pump home prices with their buy and rent scheme. The result has been unaffordably high prices, mortgage applications at 1997 levels (60% below 2005 levels), first time buyers at a record low, and a non-existent housing recovery – despite the MSM propaganda saying otherwise.

  • The last data point which might help the math challenged Hilsenrath understand why you aren’t spending is total U.S. vehicle miles driven. The chart below shows a relentless climb from 1982 through to the 2008 collapse. It coincides with the debt fueled consumption orgy over this same time frame. The unrelenting expansion of retail outlets and importing of cheap Chinese crap required a lot of trucks to haul the crap. It required a lot of trips to the mall in the minivans and SUVs by soccer moms living in our suburban sprawl paradise. In case you hadn’t noticed, the fastest growing retailer in the U.S. since 2008 has been Space Available. The well run retailers like Home Depot and Wal-Mart saw the writing on the wall and stopped expanding. The badly run retailers like Sears and JC Penney have been closing hundreds of stores. And the really badly run retailers like Radio Shack have gone bankrupt. Vehicle miles have essentially flat-lined for the last six years as retailers are closing more stores than they are opening, job growth has been non-existent and commerce within the U.S. is stagnant. If we were experiencing a real economic recovery, vehicle miles would be surging.

So this concludes my little tutorial for the Ivy League educated central bankers at the Fed and the Wall Street Journal Fed mouthpiece – Jon “I don’t understand” Hilsenrath. I know it is difficult for people to understand something when their paycheck depends upon them not understanding it, but this is pretty simple stuff. Pompous, arrogant, egocentric assholes who write for the Wall Street Journal, run JP Morgan, or control monetary policy for the world, know exactly what they have done, what they are doing, and who is benefiting. We all know the benefits of ZIRP and QE have gone only to the .1% who run the show. We know income inequality is at all-time highs. We know TPP will be passed, because the corporate fascists control the purse strings of our political class. We know the status quo will be maintained at all costs by the Deep State.

We know mega-corporations continue to ship jobs overseas and replace us with cheap foreign labor. We know the current administration actively encourages illegals to pour over our borders, swamp our social safety net, increase crime, and take jobs from Americans. We know the government has us under mass surveillance and will not hesitate to use all of that military equipment in the hands of local police against us. The will of the people is nothing but an irritant to those in power. They might not have us figured out, but a growing number of critical thinking, increasingly pissed off people, have them figured out. The debt expansion days are numbered. A deflationary depression is in the offing. The coming civil strife, financial panic, war, and overthrow of the existing social order will rival the three previous tumultuous upheavals in U.S. history – American Revolution, Civil War, Great Depression/World War II. Fourth Turnings are a bitch.

Hopefully I’ve explained the situation to the satisfaction of Jon and Janet. The mood in this country is darkening by the day. There is no going back to the good old days of yesteryear. They are long gone. No amount of debt issuance and propaganda is going to work. The system is overloaded. The people are angry. The politicians are captured. The banking elite are ransacking the nation for every last dime they can get their grubby little hands on. The military industrial complex is itching for war with Russia and China. The world hates us. If you can’t see it coming, you are either blind, dumb, or an Ivy League educated economist. So go out and spend to make your slave owners happy.







RETAIL - "Double" Seasonal Adjustments

The Curious Case Of "Strong" Retail Sales: Is The US Already Applying "Double" Seasonal Adjustments 06-12-15 ZH

There was some confusion why following yesterday's stronger than expected retail sales, which broke a 4-month series of disappointing data and which according to most economists were good enough to bring forward the Fed's first rate hike in a trader generation, bond yields tumbled.

Well, in the aftermath of the whole "double seasonal-adjustment" travesty, in which even the BEA admitted any bad economic data (read Q1 GDP) will be "massaged" enough until it becomes good under the "scientific" pretext of "residual seasonality", and following the suggestion of Dynamika Capital's Alexander Giryavets, we decided to take a look at not seasonally adjusted retail sales.

We found something interesting.

The thing about retail sales is that while they are supposed to smooth out month-to-month changes in any given data series, they should be virtually identical on a annual, year-over-year basis. After all the same "seasonal" adjustment that was applicable this May, was applicable last May, the May before it, and so on, unless of course, there was some massive, climatic or otherwise shift to the underlying reality.

To the best of our knowledge there wasn't.

And indeed, when looking at the annual change in headline retail sales data we find that, as expected, the seasonally-adjusted (blue) and unadjusted (red)retail sales series are almost identical...

... but not quite.

If one zooms in on the most recent data, one finds something surprising: a substantial rebound in SA retail sales, which according to the Dept. of Commerce rose 2.7% while unadjusted retail sales rose by just 1.0%,the worst montly print in over two years and hardly inspiring confidence that the economy is strong enough for the Fed to engage in a rate hike.

To isolate the problem we decided to look at only the annual (YoY) change in May data. The chart below shows the surprising finding: while every year for the past 4 years the Unadjusted May data was equal to or stronger than the Adjusted retail sales print, in May of 2015 this was reversed, and quite substantially.

To show just how much of an outlier May 2015 was compared to May in prior years, here is the seasonal "adjustment ratio" for the month of May for every year from 2008 to 2015, by which we define the ratio of "seasonally adjusted" to "unadjusted" retail sales. Spotting the outlier should be easy enough.

So, our question: while we know that the US Department of Truth, err. Commerce, will soon adjust GDP data for all weak quarters higher just so the narrative of a rebounding economy isn't lost when one looks at the actual fact, has this "residual seasonality" adjustment already been applied to retail sales? Because we fail to understand just why the seasonal adjustment to May retail data should be as profound as shown above.

Source: (Double?) Seasonally-Adjusted and Unadjusted retail sales






RETAIL - Why McDonalds Is Ending Monthly Sales Reports

Why McDonalds Is Ending Monthly Sales Reports: Global Sales Drop For 12 Consecutive Months 06-08-15 ZH

Ten days ago we reported with much amusement that the "turnaround story" that is McDonalds has decided to pull the oldest trick in the collapsing business book, and would stop reporting its monthly comparable sales starting with the month of June.

Moments ago MCD reported its May comp store sales which confirmed what we cynically noted is the reason for the data halt, namely that no matter what it does, MCD simply can not "turnaround" its foundering business, and after a drop of -0.6% in April, May global comp sales dropped once again, this time by -0.3%. This was the 12th consecutive month of global comparable store declines. Next month will be the 13th. There won't be a 14th.

The good news for Europe is that with a jump of 2.3% in May comp store sales, the European recovery is clearly taking hold and the tens of millions of unemployed youths can finally afford a 99 cent meal.

But perhaps the biggest irony is that the drop was driven not by Europe or Asia, where one would expect the strong dollar to be wreaking havoc on US-denominated sales, but in the US, where same store sales dropped -2.2%, more than the -1.7% expected.

We wonder if the decline in USD-denominated US sales will also gain be blamed on the strength of the US currency?

Finally, as we have said all along, it really is time for MCD's new boss Steve Easterbrook to start wearing many more pieces of flair or he will join his predecessor Don Thompson in "retiring" prematurely any month now.







RETAIL - May Consumer Spending Has Biggest Annual Drop Since Great Financial Crisis

May Consumer Spending Has Biggest Annual Drop Since Great Financial Crisis, Gallup Survey Finds 06-01-15 ZH

It may not have the clout of the official monthly Dept of Commerce Retail Sales report not due out for two more weeks, but in retrospect considering how many credibility issues with seasonal adjustments government data has had in recent months, the Gallup Consumer Spending report may have become far more realistic than official government data.

In which case all hope of a Q2 GDP rebound abandon, ye who read this: after a strong April, in which the average consumer reported a daily spend of $91, $3 higher than a year prior, and the highest spending month since before the great financial crisis...

... in May things quickly deteriorated, with average daily spending in April and May unchanged at $91, despite a consistent jump the just concluded month of May in recent years, and despite the substantial jump in gas prices, which in May 2008 led to a $28 jump in average spending, and $10 in 2014.

Worse, on an apples to apples, year-over-year basis, average spending in May of 2015 was $7 less than 2014, and nearly identical to 2013, when the US unemployment rate was nearly 3% higher, and the economy was supposedly sputtering badly enough for the Fed to launch QE3.

Finally, as the chart below shows, this was the biggest month of May consumer spending drop in nominal dollar terms since the 2008 financial crisis.

This is what Gallup does to calculate average spending:

Gallup's daily spending measure asks Americans to estimate
the total amount they spent "yesterday" in restaurants, gas stations,
stores or online -- not counting home, vehicle or other major purchases,
or normal monthly bills -- to provide an indication of Americans'
discretionary spending. The May 2015 average is based on Gallup Daily
tracking interviews with more than 15,000 U.S. adults.

What it found is that last May's spending level has largely gone unmatched since, except in
December 2014, when spending also averaged $98. However, Americans
typically spend more in December because of holiday shopping. Still, the
latest monthly figure is higher than what Americans spent each May from
2009 through 2013. By contrast, Americans spent an average of $114 in
May 2008 -- prior to the global financial meltdown later that year that
both deepened and prolonged the U.S. recession that started in late

But the punchline is that while the long awaited, and now long forgotten "gas savings" from the drop in crude, which in california is rapidly approaching an unchanged Y/Y print, never materialized in a jump in actual spending as today's latest disappointing consumer spending data confirms, now that gas prices are rising consumer are retrenching even more!

Quote Gallup:

The stagnation in Americans' spending may be related to gas prices, which continued to rise last month -- though they are expected to plateau and eventually dip as the year progresses. Confidence in the economy also dipped, with lower weekly measures in May than in April. Gallup has found that Americans' perceptions of the economy are related to gas prices, and what they pay at the pump certainly influences how much they spend overall and how much they have left for discretionary purchases after they take care of the basics. If gas prices do stabilize, this may enable Americans to spend more on other things.

While Gallup's historical spending averages have generally been higher in the spring and summer months than in the winter, spending usually dips or stays flat in June compared with May. With consumer spending the major driver of U.S. economic growth, healthier spending in June could help keep the economy on a strong track toward recovery after a disappointing first quarter that saw the economy shrink.

Or, should May's weaker than expected trend persist into June, then one can forget all about a second quarter GDP rebound. In fact, while Q1 GDP was saved to the tune of 2% from a surge of inventory accumulation, in Q2 this won't repeat, and in the meantime, personal spending is starting off quite poorly and on the wrong foot. Should there be a comparable Y/Y decline in spending in June as well, it is virtually assured that Q2 GDP will also be negative.

Which would mean that the US has officially entered recession just as the Fed is timing its first rate hike in one trading generation.






RETAIL - Factory Orders Contract







RETAIL - McDonalds


What do you do when month after month you have nothing but bad data to report, such as in this case McDonalds with its weekly comparable store sales shown on the ugly charts below?

Simple: you have two choice - you either seasonally adjust the data (or in the case of US GDP, double-seasonally adjust it), or if that is not possible since unlike US GDP, your numbers are at least somewhat indicative of underlying reality, you stop reporting them altogether.

That's what McDonalds just did.


From Bloomberg:

McDonald’s Corp. plans to stop reporting monthly same-store sales results. The company will provide same-store sales for June with its second-quarter earnings report, then cease providing the data, Heidi Barker, a spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.

And to think the new boss - who we hope did not promise the board anything about "transparency and accountability" - could have avoided all of this if, as we suggested, he had worn at least 37 piece of flair.






RETAIL - Gaming

"What is the worst that could happen? [Gaming] stocks go down before they go up. But they will go up. We are preparing for a 100 percent increase in shares within the next three years."






RETAIL - WalMart

Walmart Sales, Comps Miss; Operating Income Tumbles; Runs Out Of Scapegoats 05-19-15 Zero Hedge






RETAIL - Consumer Recession

The Recovery Itself Unravels; Consumer Recession 05-13-15 Alhambra







Death of the American middle class and its insatiable consumption levels.

Is a 70% Consumption Economy the Peak?

Households are borrowing in attempt to maintain consumption

Insufficent as 6K store closing announced @LanceRoberts

I want to hone in on the category of consumer spending that is first to go away so that we may capture the first signals of a consumer spending pull back.  A good proxy for this is the Johnson Redbook Chain Store yoy sales.  This captures the consumer spending taking place at large department stores (Macy’s, Kohls, Walmart, Kmart, etc).  This is going to be where the real discretionary retail spending takes place, as in do I have enough space on my credit card for that sassy blue dress and groceries or just groceries?  And don’t think that is just a theatrical example.  I remember the days of asking myself those very same questions (ok maybe not the blue dress but you get the idea).  That is just real life here in the US (and Canada for that matter).

So this category does well to target the true discretionary spending.  Now if the chart trend appears strong or even flat then we can be confident consumers have not yet pulled back on even the most discretionary of items and so any variations in the overall spending patterns are likely not worrisome.  However, if we see a sharp pull back here it is indicative that a downturn in the overall spending trend is likely substantive rather than nuance.  Let’s have a look.

What we find is that over the past 6 months we had a tremendous drop in true discretionary consumer spending.  Within the overall downtrend we do see a bit of a rally in February but quite ominously that rally failed and the bottom absolutely fell out.   Again the importance is it confirms the fundamental theory that consumer spending is showing the initial signs of a severe pull back.  A worrying signal to be certain as we would expect this pull back to begin impacting other areas of consumer spending.  The reason is that American consumers typically do not voluntarily pull back like that on spending but do so because they have run out of credit.  And if credit is running thin it will surely be felt in all spending.

But one chart doesn’t a story tell, and so we must continue in our quest to determine whether or not we are on the precipice of another crisis.  Another early indicator I like to look at is wholesale trade.  If any sector has its finger on the pulse of the consumer it’s the wholesale/distribution sector.  These guys are constantly talking to retailers to gauge where the consumer is at any given time.  So let’s have a look to see if wholesale trade is giving out any clues.

Currently we find ourselves on the bottom of the latest peak to trough draw down which has given up more than $100B in wholesale trade.  Interestingly we should note that the last time we saw a $100B peak to trough draw down was between June 2008 and January 2009.  However, while it took 7 months to give up $100B in wholesale trade during the Credit Crisis, we’ve just done it in only 4 months.  What this means is that the wholesale trade sector has recognized what the chain store yoy sales chart above depicts, namely that the US consumer has begun to max out.  This is further supported by the inventory levels as per the latest GDP print, which made up 1.24% of the .2% print (wait doesn’t that mean then…. yes you get it).





The Big Lie: Serial Retail Sales Downward Revisions Hide Ugly Truth 05-15-15 ZH

Over the last 5 years, over 20% of the initial gains in Retail Sales have been 'removed' by serial downward revisions in later months.

For over 65% of the time, a 'good' number prints, stocks rally, the everything-is-awesome meme is confirmed, and then a month later (or more) retail sales data is downwardly revised.

35 downward revisions and 19 upward (and 8 of last 9 downward) for an aggregate spread between initial data and revised of over 5 percentage points (of a 25% gain).

It is all too easy to point the finger at China's 'manufactured' data, but perhaps some reflection on the home truths in America is worthwhile.

Charts: Bloomberg






RETAIL - Vice Index Reflects Plummeting Discretionary Spending


Liquor, Cigarattes, Gambling

Discretionary Spending Nears Contraction

05-02-15 SII

RETAIL - Major U.S. Retailers Are Closing More Than 6,000 Stores


Major U.S. Retailers Are Closing More Than 6,000 Stores 05-03-15 Michael Snyder via The Economic Collapse blog,

If the U.S. economy really is improving, then why are big U.S. retailers permanently shutting down thousands of stores?  The “retail apocalypse” that I have written about so frequently appears to be accelerating.  As you will see below, major U.S. retailers have announced that they are closing more than 6,000 locations, but economic conditions in this country are still fairly stable.  So if this is happening already, what are things going to look like once the next recession strikes?  For a long time, I have been pointing to 2015 as a major “turning point” for the U.S. economy, and I still feel that way.  And since I started The Economic Collapse Blog at the end of 2009, I have never seen as many indications that we are headed into another major economic downturn as I do right now.  If retailers are closing this many stores already, what are our malls and shopping centers going to look like a few years from now?

The list below comes from information compiled by, but I have only included major retailers that have announced plans to close at least 10 stores.  Most of these closures will take place this year, but in some instances the closures are scheduled to be phased in over a number of years.  As you can see, the number of stores that are being permanently shut down is absolutely staggering…

  • 180 Abercrombie & Fitch (by 2015)
  • 75 Aeropostale (through January 2015)
  • 150 American Eagle Outfitters (through 2017)
  • 223 Barnes & Noble (through 2023)
  • 265 Body Central / Body Shop
  • 66 Bottom Dollar Food
  • 25 Build-A-Bear (through 2015)
  • 32 C. Wonder
  • 21 Cache
  • 120 Chico’s (through 2017)
  • 200 Children’s Place (through 2017)
  • 17 Christopher & Banks
  • 70 Coach (fiscal 2015)
  • 70 Coco’s /Carrows
  • 300 Deb Shops
  • 92 Delia’s
  • 340 Dollar Tree/Family Dollar
  • 39 Einstein Bros. Bagels
  • 50 Express (through 2015)
  • 31 Frederick’s of Hollywood
  • 50 Fresh & Easy Grocey Stores
  • 14 Friendly’s
  • 65 Future Shop (Best Buy Canada)
  • 54 Golf Galaxy (by 2016)
  • 50 Guess (through 2015)
  • 26 Gymboree
  • 40 JCPenney
  • 127 Jones New York Outlet
  • 10 Just Baked
  • 28 Kate Spade Saturday & Jack Spade
  • 14 Macy’s
  • 400 Office Depot/Office Max (by 2016)
  • 63 Pep Boys (“in the coming years”)
  • 100 Pier One (by 2017)
  • 20 Pick ’n Save (by 2017)
  • 1,784 Radio Shack
  • 13 Ruby Tuesday
  • 77 Sears
  • 10 SpartanNash Grocery Stores
  • 55 Staples (2015)
  • 133 Target, Canada (bankruptcy)
  • 31 Tiger Direct
  • 200 Walgreens (by 2017)
  • 10 West Marine
  • 338 Wet Seal
  • 80 Wolverine World Wide (2015 – Stride Rite & Keds)

So why is this happening?

Without a doubt, Internet retailing is taking a huge toll on brick and mortar stores, and this is a trend that is not going to end any time soon.

But as Thad Beversdorf has pointed out, we have also seen a stunning decline in true discretionary consumer spending over the past six months…

What we find is that over the past 6 months we had a tremendous drop in true discretionary consumer spending. Within the overall downtrend we do see a bit of a rally in February but quite ominously that rally failed and the bottom absolutely fell out. Again the importance is it confirms the fundamental theory that consumer spending is showing the initial signs of a severe pull back. A worrying signal to be certain as we would expect this pull back to begin impacting other areas of consumer spending. The reason is that American consumers typically do not voluntarily pull back like that on spending but do so because they have run out of credit. And if credit is running thin it will surely be felt in all spending.

The truth is that middle class U.S. consumers are tapped out.  Most families are just scraping by financially from month to month.  For most Americans, there simply is not a whole lot of extra money left over to go shopping with these days.

In fact, at this point approximately one out of every four Americans spend at least half of their incomes just on rent

More than one in four Americans are spending at least half of their family income on rent – leaving little money left to purchase groceries, buy clothing or put gas in the car, new figures have revealed.

A staggering 11.25 million households consume 50 percent or more of their income on housing and utilities, according to an analysis of Census data by nonprofit firm, Enterprise Community Partners.

And 1.8 million of these households spend at least 70 percent of their paychecks on rent.

The surging cost of rental housing has affected a rising number of families since the Great Recession hit in 2007. Officials define housing costs in excess of 30 percent of income as burdensome.

For decades, the U.S. economy was powered by a free spending middle class that had plenty of discretionary income to throw around.  But now that the middle class is being systematically destroyed, that paradigm is changing.  Americans families simply do not have the same resources that they once did, and that spells big trouble for retailers.

As you read this article, the United States still has more retail space per person than any other nation on the planet.  But as stores close by the thousands, “space available” signs are going to be popping up everywhere.  This is especially going to be true in poor and lower middle class neighborhoods.  Especially after what we just witnessed in Baltimore, many retailers are not going to hesitate to shut down underperforming locations in impoverished areas.

And remember, the next major economic crisis has not even arrived yet.  Once it does, the business environment in this country is going to change dramatically, and a few years from now America is going to look far different than it does right now.

05-09-15 SII

HOUSTON - "We Have a Demand Problem Here!"


Consumers Near Collapse? Alhambra Investment Partners

Both Keynesians and monetarists are almost entirely focused on demand, aiming squarely at spending as the means to economic growth. Since 2008, and really 2007, the amount of “stimulus” recorded in that attempt to beckon “aggregate demand” is unlike anything ever seen before. Trillions and trillions of QE-drawn magic have been unleashed as well as government deficits as large as anything in our history (combined) year after year. And for it all there is a shocking lack of “demand” left in their wake.

I looked at final sales earlier today as one measure of private demand, but it really is consumers that seem to bearing the brunt of “whatever” adjustment is forcing retrenchment. While services spending (if the huge imputations could be called that) was lackluster, spending on total goods declined Q/Q for the first time since 2011, and was barely positive Y/Y at the lowest (by far) advance of the cycle.

Both durable and nondurable subcomponents were negative Q/Q, as auto spending subtracted from GDP in Q1, but Y/Y spending on durables was much the same weak level as has been the case since 2012. The much larger nondurable segment, however, simply collapsed as there is clearly something very wrong here. I’m sure there will be attempts to dismiss this as gasoline and such, but even if that were the case the “gas savings” should be offset by at least some spending elsewhere (as we have heard ad nauseam since that 5% GDP was first threatened).

To really grasp the scale here,

Q1 2015 was the second worst quarter in the entire data series dating back to the 1940’s!

Only the collapse during the height of financial panic in Q4 2008 was worse.

That means consumer spending on non-durable goods, accounting for a fifth of total PCE (and a much greater proportion ex-BEA imputations of phantom activity), was weaker in Q1 2015 than even Q1 2009. There is no way to explain that and maintain that the state of consumers in America is anything other than defeated, out of options and spending sources.

Consumers in America are defeated, out of options and spending sources.

I think we are starting to see the contours of Japan here, as I described yesterday how QE and its cousins do have “wealth effects”, namely redistribution that benefits only a narrow proportion of the population at the expense of everyone else. The spending figures here in America seem to suggest “at the expense of everyone else” may be reaching its point of full exhaustion. It certainly doesn’t argue for the “best jobs market in decades.”


The problem for future growth is obvious in that alone, but there is the inventory problem that has transferred to the GDP figures from monthly data points elsewhere. GDP inventory is tricky, not just for the total second derivative nature of it but also because of the volatile revisions that take place just between the updates for the same quarter. As it stands now, the amount of inventory added was the highest ever recorded, besting, barely, Q2 2010. The same has been said, however, of several of the past few quarters, so it is at this point wholly unclear just how bad the inventory mal-adjustment has been.

If there are similar revisions, downward, then Q1 GDP overall will not remain a positive figure. What is truly concerning regardless of the ultimate quarterly level is that inventory has been building for several years now without a major correction. I think that is the same interpretation as you get from analyzing the wholesale and retail inventory figures, especially in relation to the sharp declines in sales activity. The overhang here is enormous on its own scale, but that much worse as consumers are more and more appearing to have gone back “in the bunker.”

That has left GDP outside of inventory highly unstable, again confirming the view from Final Sales estimates.


Apart from inventories, US businesses don’t appear to be in a rush to invest anywhere else (aside from financial re-containment). Going back to Q1 of last year, capex in equipment has clearly tailed off or at least matched the overall instability of the wider economy. And that is all before US companies are reacting to the “dollar”, having announced future rollbacks to beneficial, productive investment as revenues and earnings turn negative for the first time since 2009.

The short version of this GDP report was that there was absolutely nothing good about it.

At least last year in Q1 economists could hold Obamacare’s introduction to the data series as something to suggest “aberration” or that it was all weather (or now that there is a bias against Q1 GDP), but this time negative focus is squarely upon consumers and the primary expression of “demand.”

For all the major policy initiatives, historic in their form and scope, they seem to have had no effect on demand apart from arguably depressing it.

05-02-15 SII

RETAIL - Things Getting Continuously Worse At MacDonalds!


McDonalds reported its latest MARCH sales numbers which were basically atrocious, worse than usual, and missed across the board.

From BBG:


At this point the operational challenges facing the company are clearly unfixable in its current iteration which is broken beyond merely a CEO switch, and not even a "buy 1 Big Mac, get 3 Big Macs (and Joseph A Banc suits) free" strategy will fix the ailing fastfood maker, whose secular collapse is best captured by the charts below.


So what does the stock do? The algos are "luvin' it."

Why? Because with the company clearly facing an operating dead end it will have no choice but to "grow" earnings through even more buybacks.


04-25-15 SII

BYE BUY - Retail Sales Miss For 4th Month In A Row: First Time Since Lehman


Retail Sales Miss For 4th Month In A Row: First Time Since Lehman 04-14-15 Zero Hedge

After 3 months of missed expectations and the first consecutive drop in retail sales since Lehman, retail sales rose 0.9% in March (missing expectations of +1.1%), following a revised 0.5% drop in February. While the 0.9% rise is the biggest since March last year, this is now the worst streak of missed expectations in retail sales since 2008/9. Ex-Autos, retail sales also mised expectations (rising just 0.4% vs 0.7% exp).

This is the worst March YoY growth in retail sales (control group) since 2009...

The breakdown shows what we already know: courtesy of soaring non-revolving loans, auto sales spiked in March...

... however offset by modest increases in other category, with electronics, food and online sales posting a decline. Too warm outside to spend money on

And another quick look at the control group: while rising at 0.3% in March, this was below the 0.5% expected, meaning another cut to Q1 GDP, while the annual increase of 2.4% was the lowest since last February.


04-18-15 SII



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05-10-14 SMII
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