There exists a super-Bernanke who proved also a super-Hollande, a gentleman who Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe cannot compete with: his name is Robert Mugabe, the president of Zimbabwe. When he took power, he seized the farmlands of one social group to give them to another social group. Afterwards, in part because the new social group did not manage the farms that well, the economy took a turn for the worse. Therefore, the state issued some bonds to finance its spending and asked the central bank to issue some money to buy this government debt. But they printed big time and turned the printing press into something of a cosmic proportion. According to Professor Steve Hanke from John Hopkins, monthly inflation was 80 billion percent, so per year it is a 65 followed by 107 zeros. This is what we call Mugabenomics, the conjunction of (i) state-forced wealth transfer between two social groups along with (ii) the monetisation of the debt. As we shall see below, Mugabenomics, or at least its mild version implemented now in the Western hemisphere, has drastic consequences on the final episode of the global financial crisis.
With the Cypriot government still 'undecided' about what to 'take' and the European leaders very much 'decided' about what to 'give', the fact of the matter is, as JPMorgan explains in this excellent summary of the state of affairs in Europe, that because ELA funding facility is limited by the availability of collateral (and the haircuts applied to those by the central bank), and cutting the Cypriot banking system completely from ELA access is equivalent to cutting it from the Eurosystem making an exit from the euro a matter of time. This makes it inevitable that capital controls and a capital freeze will be imposed, in their view, but it is not only bank deposits that are at risk. A broader retrenchment in funding markets is possible given the confusion and inconsistency last weekend's decision created for investors relative to previous policy decisions. Add to this the move by Spain, which announced this week a tax or bank levy (probably 0.2%) to be imposed on bank deposits, without details on which deposits will be affected or timing, and the chance of sparking much broader deposit outflows across the union are rising quickly.
Cyprus is preparing for total financial collapse as the European Central Bank turns its back on the island after its parliament rejected a scheme to make Cypriot citizens pay a levy on savings deposits in return for a share in potential gas futures to fund a bailout. In the meantime, cashing in on the island’s major gas potential is more urgent than ever—but these are still very early days. In the end, it’s all about gas and the race to the finish line to develop massive Mediterranean discoveries. Cyprus has found itself right in the middle of this geopolitical game in which its gas potential is a tool in a showdown between Russia and the European Union. The EU favored the Cypriot bank deposit levy but it would have hit at the massive accounts of Russian oligarchs. Without the promise of Levant Basin gas, the EU wouldn’t have had the bravado for such a move because Russia holds too much power over Europe’s gas supply. The Greek Cypriot government believes it is sitting on an amazing 60 trillion cubic feet of gas, but these are early days - these aren’t proven reserves and commercial viability could be years away. In the best-case scenario, production could feasibly begin in five years. Exports are even further afield, with some analysts suggesting 2020 as a start date.
For those still with capital in the paper markets, Peak Prosperity's Chris Martenson believes there are dangerous risks re-building. In particular, he sees an unacceptably high and growing risk of a cascading series of corrections in the bond markets (corporate and sovereign), which would have a much greater impact on destroying wealth worldwide than any stock market crash could. The return of reckless practices like CDOs and overuse of derivatives indicates that we are far along the timeline in repeating a 2008-like contraction -- but worse. Despite today's heady elevated prices, it's time to get to the sidelines, and use your paper - while it still has the purchasing power it does - to park your wealth in hard assets.
Markets are remarkably schizophrenic about where risk is flowing... and where it isn’t. For example, ConvergEx's Nick Colas notes, the CBOE VIX Index is up from 12.3 a month ago to a close of 14.0 yesterday. And other risk assets such as Emerging Markets, U.S. Small Caps, Energy names, and developed economy international stocks all show higher 'VIXs' over the same 30 day period. But... and it’s a big 'But'... just as many sectors/asset classes in our tracking universe show declines in their 'VIXs'. The most pronounced are domestic Consumer Discretionary, Utilities, and Tech names as well as precious metals and High Yield Corporate bonds, where Implied Vols are 6-17% lower this month and in most cases are at/near 52 week lows. If you are looking for spots where volatility might make a comeback, these are good places to start. This market reminds us of an old joke: Question: What do you call a person who is both ignorant and apathetic? Answer: I don’t know and I don’t care.
While it is unknown if the Cypriot parliament will agree to, and enact into law, the Troika-demanded deposit haircuts, after the shocking vote of mutiny against Merkel earlier this week that saw not one politician vote for the Europe suggested deposit tax levy (and even the ruling party abstained), a vote which will once more take place tomorrow, moments ago Cyprus became the first Eurozone country to officially implement governmental capital controls into legislation. At this point it had no choice: whatever happens with the deposit haircut, or with everything else, it is now inevitable that the local Cypriots will do all they can to pull as much money from domestic banking system as possible following the complete loss of faith and trust in banks, which is why the government had no choice but to intervene with its own "controls." Sadly, this marks a milestone in the development of the Eurozone - it's all downhill, and accelerating, from here.
Preparation for disaster, whether natural or man-made, should be as vital as any ideal found in the various practices of religion and spiritualism. Preparedness should be treated with reverence, discipline and duty. The drive for preparation should be seated in the very heart of humanity. As individuals and as a society, we should hold preparedness dear, for it is an expression of the desire for survival and the key to maintaining our inherent freedoms. Without self-sufficiency, we set ourselves up for endless failure and enslavement. The primary issue has always been one of “distraction.” Even those who are fully informed of the very real and immediate dangers to our economy and our Nation as a whole find it difficult not to get wrapped up in the concerns of the old America. Mind-numbing job environments, superficial family dramas, television hypnosis, Facebook narcissism, consumer addictions, improving one’s perceived social status: all of these things waste precious time in our daily lives, making us weak and sapping our resiliency. They encourage us toward apathy. Always, we are telling ourselves: “I did nothing today, but tomorrow will be different.”
Forgive the sarcasm in the title but it is indeed the Dow's 3rd worst weekly performance of 2013. The major US equity indices end the week near their highs - apart from the Trannies - but all fail to get back into the green as Cypriot concern is weighing everywhere but stocks. VIX ends the week notably higher (and near the highs of the week) as protection was very much bid into the weekend. The USD slipped on the day but ends the week up 0.35% (led by EUR weakness just outweighing GBP and JPY strength). Oil and Silver danced around each other all week to end it perfectly in line at -0.15%, Gold outperformed +1%, and Copper dropped 1.5%. Treasuries also ignored equity ebullience and ended the week near their low yields (down 7-9bps). While financials were not the worst sector on the week, the majors were ugly ending at their lows with Staples leading overall. Today's volume and average trade size were among the lowest of the year as everyone prepares for a long weekend in front of the screens...
As the Cypriots scramble for every penny, hoping for a Hail-Mary from Russia at the last minute, we suspect they are missing one potential provider of all that money. That nation appears to be Russian neighbor, The Ukraine judging from the 'wealth' exhibited by some members of the Ukrainian parliament. As EnglishRussia.com notes, a $650,000 watch is no problem if you create laws in Ukraine as we humbly suggest some that wealth (the rare watch is special order (here) with only 30 being made) trickle down to the Cypriots (of course at EUR400 per day per person) - they only need 7,000 watches to plug their bailout funding hole!
While depositors in Europe are having their money confiscated outright by their less than friendly governments and despotic, tyrannical politicians who will do everything in the name of "equality, fraternity and of course liberty" or, said otherwise, preserving their careers and the status quo while throwing their taxpayers and voters into the firepit of Keynesian and monetarist idiocy, in the US a different form of capital control may be taking shape. NBC reports from Rhode Island, where a local restaurant chain is now demanding that any clients paying with $100 bills also provide their name, phone number, and drivers' license. By doing this - supposedly in the name of avoiding counterfeiting but don't you dare mention fake bill spotting markets or UV light - it eliminates the only upside that paper money had over electronic transactions: anonymity. How soon before all other retailers and vendors decide that it is a good idea to demand their clients' personal info, for the sake of avoiding counterfeiting of course, first in all $100 bill transactions, then $50, then $20, and so on?
"The euro crisis is certainly not over yet," is how the Bundesbank's Jens Weidmann begins this intriguingly honest interview, adding that, resolution "will take some time." Perhaps his most telling statement comes early on when he explains that "believing that everything is okay now simply because the situation on the financial markets has eased is an illusion and does not help matters," as imbalances remain unresolved. From French un-competitiveness to Italy's potential about-turn on reforms, the outspoken German then goes on to address a critical point: "There are indeed some who see a solution to the crisis in the shape of higher inflation. I would regard such an approach as potentially incendiary. Once you allow inflation, it becomes very difficult to tame. In the short term, our projections show no excessive increase in prices. However, I would caution against underestimating the medium to long-term risks to stability. There must be no doubt that, when the time is right, we will tighten monetary policy."
It's one of those days. US equity markets are levitating oin extremely thin volume against the trend in every other risk-asset market. Treasury yields are pushing lower as safety is sought, VIX is bid as protection is sought ahead of the weekend, credit markets are leaking lower (at lows of day), and JPY strength is not helping the carry traders... but then again, none of that matters... we need moar...because all that matters is a green Dow close for the week.
Behold a lesson in magical "value creation":
- SPAIN'S BANK RESCUE FUND TO VALUE BANKIA SHARES AT EUR 0.01 - As a reminder, Bankia is the recently broke bank that was created when it subsumed a bunch of other formerly broke banks.
- SPAIN BANK FUND AIMS FOR NOMINAL BANKIA SHARE VALUE OF EUR 1.00
- SPAIN'S BANK RESCUE FUND TO DO REVERSE STOCK SPLIT OF BANKIA STOCK
- SPAIN BANK RESCUE FUND SAYS BANKIA SHARES WILL BE WORTH EUR 1.00 AFTER 100-TO-1 REVERSE STOCK SPLIT
To explain for those confused: you start with a broke, literally, bank. You value the "equity" at the lowest possible increment in existence. Then you apply a reverse stock split. And finally, you end up with a perfectly solvent bank whose stock trades at EUR 1.00/share.
Based on the the budget, Fitch has placed the United Kingdom's AAA taing on Watch Negative (for future downgrade): The RWN reflect the latest economic and fiscal forecasts published by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) that indicate that UK government debt will peak later and at a higher level than previously expected by Fitch. GBPUSD snapped 50 pips lower but is reverting a little now - US equities shrug (just another piece of AAA collateral nearer biting the dust).
With the Fed now fully engaged, and few if any policy tools left, the effectiveness of continued artificial stimulation is clearly waning. Lower mortgages rates, interest rates and excess liquidity served well in priming the pumps of the real estate and financial markets when valuations were extremely depressed. However, four years and four programs later, stock valuations are no longer low, earnings are no longer depressed and the majority of real estate related activity has likely been completed. It is for this reason that the returns from each subsequent program have diminished. The reality is that Fed may have finally found the limits of their effectiveness as earnings growth slows, economic data weakens and real unemployment remains high. Reminiscent of the choices of Goldilocks - it is likely the Fed's estimates for economic growth in 2013 are too hot, employment is too cold and inflation estimates may be just about right. The real unspoken concern is the continued threat of deflation and the next recession.