Guest Post: Japan's Self-Defeating Mercantilism

In the 16 months since Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe launched his bold plan to reflate Japan’s shrinking economy the yen has depreciated by 22% against the dollar, 28% against the euro and 24% against the renminbi. The hope was to stimulate trade and push the current account decisively into the black. Yet the reverse has occurred. Japan’s external position has worsened due to anemic export growth and a spiraling energy import bill: in January it recorded a record monthly trade deficit of ¥2.8trn ($27.4bn). Having eked out a 0.7% current account surplus in 2013, Japan may this year swing into deficit for the first time since 1980. So why is the medicine not working?

The Taming Of Deluded 'Conspiracy Theorists'

Look who is warning us again about the great harm conspiracy theories are doing to the minds of impressionable citizens everywhere: Cass Sunstein has emerged at Bloomberg, to once again plead for 'correction' of the many conspiracy theories that are disseminated on that pesky new medium, the intertubes, seemingly without inhibition. Contrary to the infamous paper in which he described how to precisely combat the spreading of false information that lacks the government's seal of approval, he doesn't list his favored censorship and disinformation techniques outright this time, but it is certainly implied that 'something must be done'. Mr. Sunstein's concern with 'conspiracy theories' is all about preserving the State's perceived right to rule by letting nothing intrude on the notion that politicians and bureaucrats are 'disembodied spirits solely devoted to the public good' rather than people who pursue their own personal interests.

James Montier: "The Market Is Overvalued By 50%-70%" And "Nothing At All" Is Attractively Valued

A month ago we presented a must read interview by Swiss Finanz und Wirtschaft with respected value investor Howard Marks, in which, when explaining the motives driving rational investing he summarized simply, "in the end, the devil always wins." Today, we are happy to bring our readers the following interview with one of our favorite strategists, GMO's James Montier, in which true to form, Montier packs no punches, and says that the market is now overvalued by 50% to 70%, adding that there is "nothing at all" that has an attractive valuation, and that he sees a "hideous opportunity set."

Citi Warns Bond Bulls "QE Is Dead... Long Live Normalization"

Despite the total collapse (flattening) in the Treasury yield curve in the last 2 days, Citi's FX Technicals group is convinced that we have seen a turn in fixed income that will see significantly higher yields in the years ahead and notably higher yields by this yearend also. Furthermore, they believe this will initially come from the belief in a continued taper, and the curve will initially steepen (2’s versus 5’s and 2’s versus 10’s). This normalization, they add, will be a good thing - QE encourages misallocation of capital and poor business decisions which has a negative feedback loop into the economy - but add (as long as yields do not go too far too fast like last year).

British Tax Authorities Just Out-Mafia'd The IRS

In its 2013 annual report to Congress, the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate wrote that the IRS shows “disrespect for the law and a disregard for taxpayer rights.” Further, the report says that the current system “disproportionately burdens those who [make] honest mistakes." We all know the stories. The IRS has nearly infinite power to do whatever it wants, including freezing you out of your own bank account without so much as a phone call, let alone due process. This is an incredible amount of authority to wield. But the British government has just gone even further...

Goldman Doubles Down Its Hate On The Best Performing Asset Of 2014: Gold

As gold completes its golden cross today and remains by far the best-performing asset of 2014, we thought it intriguing that Goldman Sachs' commodity group would issue a strong "sell your gold" recommendation... of course, when Goldman's clients are selling, who is buying? As a reminder, the last time the bank was extremely bearish on gold (about a year ago), our skepticism at the time was well warranted as Goldman was in fact the largest buyer of gold in the following quarter.

5 Things To Ponder: Yellin' About Yellen

The biggest news this past week was Janet Yellen's first post-FOMC meeting speech and press conference as the Federal Reserve Chairwoman.  While some have the utmost respect for her accomplishments, every time we hear her speak all we can think of is a white haired, 75-year old grandmother baking cookies in her kitchen.  This week's "Things To Ponder" covers several disparate takes on what she said, didn't say and the direction of the Federal Reserve from here.

Bursting Biotech Bubbles And Calendar Concerns Club Stocks/Bonds

Quad-witching only added to an extremely volatile week as the entire bond, stock, FX complex pumped and dumped on the basis of whether a "considerable period" was really six months and whether "quite some time" was more or less than six months. The S&P hit record highs early on this morning thanks to a ramp in AUDJPY (but once again bonds didn't blink). All that ended when Europe closed and the Biotech sector's weakness spread, leaving the Nasdaq -1.4% post-FOMC (and all other indices in the red post-FOMC). The range of moves in bonds, FX, commodities, and vol this week were impressive as we noted below... 4 words sum up stocks - "not off the lows"

 

Fed "Fails" Stress Test, Releases Revised Results

First the Fed screws up the "dots" - on one hand telling HFT algos not to worry about rate hikes, on the other saying the FF rate in 2016 will be a scroching 2.25%, then Yellen flubs the "6 month" statement sending stock into a tailspin and Hilsenrath and Liesman explaining in overdrive that she didn't mean what she said, and now, we learn with the traditional Friday afternoon "shove under the carpet" bomb, that the Fed also flubbed its stress test results. Sounds about par for the world's most powerful, and clueless, monetary institution.

Who Just Dumped $220 Million Nasdaq Futures In 1 Second?

At 10:27:21 ET, the Nasdaq 100 e-mini futures contract suddenly dropped on extreme activity as someone decided it was an opportune time to dump 3000 contracts or around $220 million notional. As Nanex notes, the ETF - QQQ - also collapsed (with over 1200 trades in 1 second) as bids and offers were crossed and markets went flash-crashy for a few tenths of a second. The questions is - who was it? Waddell & Reed?

Stocks Slump As Bullard Doubles Down On Yellen's "Six Month" Fedian Slip

While mainstream media was awash with status quo huggers proclaiming Yellen's "6-month is a considerable period" comment as a slip - and assuming several Fed heads would come to the rescue to focus investors on lower-for-longer - it appears they are wrong:

*BULLARD SAYS YELLEN'S '6-MONTHS' COMMENT IN LINE WITH SURVEYS
*BULLARD SAYS FED WATCHFUL FOR 'ANY KIND OF REPLAY' OF BUBBLES

This came on the heels on Fed Fisher's comments on the end of efficacy of Fed QE and that asset-buying would end in October and short-dated bonds and stocks are fading (as JPY crosses are tumbling).

The Turkish People React To The Twitter Block...

In the hopes of maintainijng his status quo amidst a plethora of corruption probes and allegations, Turkey's Erdogan has blocked Twitter after pledging to "destroy" the social media platform after troubling leaks occurred appearing to confirm his corruption. As one can imagine, the Turkish people (among others) are not happy...

S&P Tumbles, Gives Up All Post-Yellen Gains

Once European markets closed, US equity markets gave up any correlation with JPY crosses and began to fade. After bouncing off early Nasdaq-Biotech-driven lows, a ramp of AUDJPY saved the European close but that was it. There does not appear to be any news catalyst to drive this dump as Quad-witching pumps are unwound. The S&P 500 and Russell 2000 jooin the Trannies and Nasdaq in the red from the FOMC statement.

 

The Stunning History Of "All Cash" Home Purchases In The US

Yesterday's news from the NAR that in February all cash transactions accounted for 35% of all existing home purchases, up from 33% in January, not to mention that 73% of speculators paid "all cash", caught some by surprise. But what this data ignores are new home purchases, where while single-family sales have been muted as expected considering the plunge in mortgage applications, multi-family unit growth - where investors hope to play the tail end of the popping rental bubble - has been stunning, and where multi-fam permits have soared to the highest since 2008. So how does the history of "all cash" home purchases in the US look before and after the arrival of the 2008 post-Lehman "New Normal." The answer is shown in the chart below.

Gold Completes Golden Cross

For the first time in 13 months, gold's 50-day moving-average is above its 200-day moving-average. This so-called "golden cross" occurred in Feb 09 before gold surged over 100% in the following years (but also occurred 'falsely' in September 2012.

Gas Talks Between Ukraine And Gazprom Cancelled, Naftogaz Chairman Detained On Corruption Probe

Yesterday we warned that the honeymoon is over as Ukraine expects gas prices to rise 40% as Russian discounts fade. Today it appears the situation is even worse:

  • *NAFTOGAZ, GAZPROM TALKS FOR MARCH 20-21 CANCELLED: INTERFAX
  • *UKRAINE POLICE DETAINS NAFTOGAZ CHAIRMAN BAKULIN: AVAKOV
  • *UKRAINE NAFTOGAZ RAID PART OF CORRUPTION PROBE, AVAKOV SAYS

The issues up for debate, of course, are supply and pricing of gas from Russia and the payment for over $2bn of existing debt owed. While Interfax reports that this was because the Ukraine gas company executive was unable to leave the country, which now appears due to corruption allegations ("there's corruption going on here?") but merely exacerbates any Russian gas retaliation concerns.

When Even Goldman Complains About HFT

For the past five years we have been complaining about the two-tiered, and broken, market resulting from the near-ubiquitous presence of HFT trading strategies, where fundamentals have been tossed into the trash, and where quote churning, packet stuffing and not to mention, momentum ignition, put on candid display just before market open today when the Emini was ramped in a vertical line straight up taking the S&P to new all time highs, have become the only trading strategies that matter. Why? Because algos were in a panic buying mode as other algos were in a panic buying mode, and so reflexively on. The SEC long ignored our complaints, even after the HFT-precipitated flash crash, which we had warned apriori would happen, in a market as broken and manipulated as the one the Fed and the algos have unleashed. This changed recently when NY AG Schneiderman finally decided to "look into things" following the release of Virtu's ridiculous prop trading profits when the firm, in its IPO prospectus, announced it had made money on 1327 of 1328 trading days. However, when even Goldman Sachs begins complaining about HFT, it may be time to fire all those 20-some year old math PhDs who devies your trading algorithms.