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Pinpoints: 'The Money Tsunami Has Arrived'

Tuesday, 8 Jan 2013 | 11:29 AM ET
John Corwin | Photo Researchers | Getty Images

November: Europe's bleakest month?

--Unemployment rose to a fresh euro-era high of 11.8 percent; Spain hit 26.6 percent, which puts it ahead of Greece for the time being (whose latest, as of September, stood at 26 percent). Youth unemployment for the euro zone as a whole hit a record 24.4 percent, including a new record 37.1 percent in Italy – the highest since its records began in 1992.

--German unemployment held steady but exports and imports "nosedived," notes Barclays; down 3.5 percent and 4.2 percent in real terms, pointing to a drag of four (!) percentage-points on annualized fourth-quarter growth. Poses clear downside risk to the firm's forecast which already calls for a 1 percent contraction in Europe's biggest economy. (Read more: How to Play the European Earnings Season)

--Euro area retail sales also disappoint, up just 0.1 percent in real terms in November from the prior month, for a three-month annualized decline of 4.8 percent, per J.P. Morgan. Sales strongest in Finland, Austria and Germany; weakest in Ireland, Portugal and France.

Markets:over it.

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--Major bourses edge higher, buoyed instead by the uptick in Euro Zone business confidence in December which, along with the uptick in ISM (the composite rose to 47.2 in December from 45.8 in November) and Germany's IFO survey last month, adds to the sense that activity may at least have stabilized since that mensis horribilis. (Read more: Is This the Year That the Euro Crisis Ends?)

--Indeed, Goldman's "current activity index" – a GDP proxy – rose to -1 percent in December for the Euro area from -1.3 percent in November.

--Hence it's still unclear whether the European Central Bank (whose next policy meeting is Thursday) will cut rates outright. (Read more: Why This May Be the Week the ECB Finally Cuts Rates)

Goldman's take: "Bringing lending rates in Italy and Spain closer to the German level would therefore be a much more effective way to spur growth in the periphery. To be sure, this is not necessarily an argument against a rate cut, and a cut may still be marginally beneficial. But if we assume consistency in the interest-rate setting behaviour of the Governing Council, it remains difficult to see why another cut would be warranted now but not, for example, in October last year, when the economy was clearly decelerating."

--All told, the euro was down about 0.3 percent against the dollar to 1.3078 as of 16:30 CET.

City Stakes:

--France's CAC40 leading major bourses higher, though it pared gains amid (yet more) rumors of a sovereign downgrade, which a senior French official promptly denied. Periphery performing well despite the ugly job figures, with Italy's MIB up better than 1 percent around midday with Spain's IBEX not far behind. Germany's DAX again the laggard.

--Britain's FTSE 100 largely trading higher today despite headlines warning of a lackluster bonus season and blaring a report out yesterday from financial services industry consultant IMAS noting City (read: finance and related) jobs have fallen to their lowest level since 2004. Meanwhile the Evening Standard cites recruitment firm Astbury Marsden in reporting that the number of City jobs added last year fell by 35 percent from 2011. No wonder the pols are heavily recruiting France's fleeing millionaires.

Theme du jour:

"What's happened? Dead simple. The money Tsunami has arrived." Or so proclaims Bill Blain of Mint Partners, as equities book a record start to the year, fixed-income rallies through key levels like 6 percent for average high-yield securities, and safe-haven Treasurys suffer. "The wall of money overhanging the market for months took the 'resolution' of the first part of the US fiscal cliff 'resolution' as the buy signal, and all the cash longs find themselves desperately trying to buy returns in bonds," says Mr. Blain, adding: "No one, absolutely no one, is a seller."

And so Pinpoints can't help but wonder which now merits more concern: a looming sell-off in risk assets, or a continued rally.

—By CNBC's Kelly Evans; Follow her on Twitter: @Kelly_Evans

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