- Obama Says Bernanke Fed Term Lasting ‘Longer Than He Wanted’ (Bloomberg)
- Merkel Critical Of Japan's Credit Policy In Meeting With Abe (Nikkei)
- China Wrestles With Banks' Pleas for Cash (WSJ)
- Biggest protests in 20 years sweep Brazil (Brazil)
- Pena Nieto Confident 75-Year Pemex Oil Monopoly to End This Year (Bloomberg)
- G8 leaders seek common ground on tax (FT)
- Putin faces isolation over Syria as G8 ratchets up pressure (Reuters)
- Former Trader Is Charged in U.K. Libor Probe (WSJ) - yup: it was all one 33 year old trader's fault
- Draghi Says ECB Has ‘Open Mind’ on Non-Standard Measures (BBG)
- Loeb Raises His Sony Stake, Drive for Entertainment IPO (WSJ)
There was non-Fed news in the overnight market. Such as Nikkei reporting that Germany's Angela Merkel was the first G-8 member to be openly critical of Japan's credit-easing policy "that has led to the yen's weakening against major currencies" in what was the first shot across the bow between the two export-heavy countries. Not helping risk in Asia was also news that China May new home prices rose in 69 cities over the past year, compared to 68 the prior month, thus keeping the PBOC's hands tied even as the liquidity shortage in traditional liquidity conduits continues to cripple the banking system and forcing the Agricultural Development Bank of China to scale back the size of two bond offerings today by 31% "as the worst cash crunch in at least seven years curbs demand for the securities." Rounding up Asia were the latest RBA meeting minutes which noted the possibility of further weakness in AUD over time, adding downside pressure on the currency and pressuring all AUD linked equity pairs lower. Still, the USDJPY caught a late bid pushing it above 95 on some comments by the economy minister Amari who said that the government would not be swayed by day-to-day market moves and the BOJ "should continue making efforts to convey its thinking to markets" adding the government was not making policy to pander to markets, confirming that Japan is making policy solely to pander to markets.
Eventually the money runs out. Much of America was shocked when the city of Detroit defaulted on a $39.7 million debt payment and announced that it was suspending payments on $2.5 billion of unsecured deb. Anyone with half a brain and a calculator could see this coming from a mile away. But people kept foolishly lending money to the city of Detroit, and now many of them are going to get hit really hard. But what Detroit is facing is not really that unique. In fact, Detroit is a perfect example of what the future of America is going to look like. We live in a nation that is rotting, decaying, drowning in debt and racing toward insolvency. Just like Detroit, a day is rapidly approaching when America will not be able to kick the can down the road anymore. Sadly, our politicians don't seem inclined to do anything about it and most of the population seems to think that our exploding national debt is not a significant problem. By the time it becomes clear how wrong they were, it will be far too late to do anything about it.
President Obama announced late last week that the US intelligence community had just determined that the Syrian government had used poison gas on a small scale, killing some 100 people in a civil conflict that has claimed an estimated 100,000 lives. Because of this use of gas, the president claimed, Syria had crossed his “red line” and the US must begin to arm the rebels fighting to overthrow the Syrian government. The process was identical to the massive deception campaign that led us into the Iraq war. That is exactly what the Obama Administration is doing with Syria: fixing the intelligence and facts around the already determined policy. And Congress just goes along, just as they did the last time. The president has opened a can of worms that will destroy his presidency and possibly destroy this country. Another multi-billion dollar war has begun.
Nike recently published a series of ads declaring “winning takes care of everything,” in reference to Tiger Woods’ recapture of the world #1 golfer ranking. The slogan went over with certain critics like an illegal ball drop. Many economists insist that “economic growth takes care of everything,” and the related debate is no less contentious than the Nike ad kerfuffle. Listening to some pundits, you would think there’s one group that appreciates economic growth while everyone else wants to see the economy crumble. It seems to me, though, that growth is just like winning – there’s no such thing as an anti-winning camp, nor is there an anti-growth camp. More fairly, much of the growth debate boils down to those who think mostly about long-run sustainable growth and those who advocate damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead growth. I’ll break off one piece of this and consider: How much of everything does growth take care of?
When over four years ago we put together our "How To [Read/Tip Off] Zero Hedge Without Attracting The Interest Of [Human Resources/The Treasury/Black Helicopters]" Guide", many thought we were being paranoid. We weren't, as last week's revelations by Edward Snowden demonstrated to the entire world. And yet, besides those from the intelligence community, few realized just how deep the reach of the Turnkey Totalitarian Tyranny ("TTT" or the Orwellian Banana Republic) truly goes. So as the Snowden enthusiasm spreads and more and more insiders with intimate knowledge of the broken system step up to expose the unconstitutional actions and illegal deeds that occur each and every day in the dark corner of US society well on its route to inevitable dissolution (ref USSR and WB Yeats), the question arises: how to do it - How to leak information to the press and other distribution agents without tipping off the very espionage agency at the nexus of it all? Luckily while information may be intercepted at every electronic turn, it still is largely free (at least until the advent of the Internet kill switch). So for all you wannabe Snowdens out there, here from Wired's Nicholas Weaver, is the perfectly timed "The Whistleblower’s Guide to the Orwellian Galaxy: How to Leak to the Press", which should answer all the 30,000 foot-level questions...
Few others are better equipped to comprehend both the insider's and outsider's perspective on what the government, the Fed, and the banks are doing in this so-called 'recovery' we are experiencing than David Stockman. Nowhere does he detail this better than Chapter 31 of his new book 'The Great Deformation'. In this first part (of a four-part series), he explains just what happened after the US economy liquidated excess inventory and labor and hit its natural bottom in June 2009. Embarking upon a halting but wholly unnatural "recovery," doing nothing but igniting yet another round of rampant speculation in the risk asset classes. The precarious foundation of the Bernanke Bubble is starkly evident in the internal composition of the jobs numbers.
In remarks given late last week to the curiously named United States Institute for Peace, the head of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) vociferously denied any attempts at regulating digital currency... specifically Bitcoin. But that doesn’t mean they can’t spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Bitcoin, being completely decentralized, is nearly impossible to regulate. And the government at least seems to understand this point. Which is why the director so emphatically denies attempting to regulate the digital currency. But in this short 4-page speech, the Director twice made a connection between Bitcoin and (you guessed it) terrorism. Twice more connected Bitcoin to those who would exploit children. And four times linked digital currency to ‘criminals’ in general. It’s certainly enough to scare most people away.
"The power of the press (and the nouveau press)! Following a very solid open, stocks maintain their early gains until FT Harding hits the tape with an article suggesting a signal from Bernanke this Wednesday that the taper was drawing near – in contrast to the more dovish Hilsenrath last week. Stocks drop nearly a percent. Then via Twitter Harding casts doubt on his own predictions and more than half of those losses are reversed. The price action just reinforces how important the FOMC Wednesday will be."
"Recent bouts of positive correlation between equities, bonds and commodities suggest that the Fed’s stimulus inflated prices of financial assets, and removal of the stimulus could create a tail event in which prices of most of assets could go down. To reduce this risk, investors could diversify ‘safe haven’ assets away from treasuries and into other assets that are at lower risk in case of tapering. For instance, investors could increase allocations to equity index put options.... we think that the quick increase of net margin debt, and high ratio of margin debt to S&P 500 do point to an increased probability of a market correction and volatility increase in the second half of the year." - JPMorgan
Whatever the deteriorating economy could not achieve (courtesy of Ben Bernanke's relentless bubble blowing and pumping of the S&P 500-driven "wealth effect" distraction) for the past four years, one NSA whistleblower succeeded in a few short days, when earlier today, CNN - hardly a media known for its criticism of the administration - released a new poll according to which not only did Obama's approval rating drop by 8% in the past month, "one of the sharpest, fastest plunges in his presidency" to 45% from 53% (the first time the majority had a negative opinion of the president), not only did the majority find Obama to not be honest and trustworthy for the first time ever in his presidency, but Obama's support with one of his core constituencies - young Americans under 30 - imploded, plunging by 17 points. CNN adds: "That's particularly discouraging heading into 2014 because Democrats have felt they have a lock on the youth vote after the 2012 elections. "The drop in Obama's support is fueled by a dramatic 17-point decline over the past month among people under 30, who, along with black Americans, had been the most loyal part of the Obama coalition," CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said."
In an apparent effort to "facilitate peace talks," Al Jazeera reports that the Taliban - the armed Islamic fundamentalist group - will open a political office Doha, Qatar tomorrow.
- *AFGHANISTAN'S TALIBAN TO OPEN OFFICE IN QATAR TOMORROW: JAZEERA
- *JAZEERA CITES UNIDENTIFIED SOURCES ON TALIBAN POLITICAL OFFICE
Until earlier this year, Afghan President Karzai was strongly opposed to the Taliban having a meeting venue outside Afghanistan, but the US has pushed for the Taliban to be present at the negotiating table as Washington prepares to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan in the next two years. This opening comes on the heels of accusations (here and as we discussed here) that Qatar (and Saudi Arabia) is reviving al-Qaeda in Iraq and now Syria.
We have discussed the idea of a VaR shock (driven by Abe/Kuroda's loss of control) a number of times recently but as Saxo's Steen Jakobsen fears, reality is about to hit as the marginal cost of capital normalizes. The world, so far, has been kept in artificial equilibrium by the way quantitative easing (QE) and fiscal policies bring support and endless liquidity to the 20 percent of the economy that mostly comprises large and already profitable companies and banks with good credit and good political access. The premise for supporting these companies is based on the non-existent wealth effect which unfairly culminates in supporting the haves to the detriment of the have-nots. However, as Jakobsen notes below, things are rapidly changing; the recent increase in yields has happened despite no real improvement in the underlying data. The the next few days are potential major game changers – the bloated VaRs will make people hedge and over hedge, and the normalization process of rising risk premiums and higher real rates (higher yield plus lower inflation) will lead to more selling off of those trades that have "worked so far"... and increase volatility in their own right.
Equity markets were very much in a land of their own relative to broad risk asset classes all day until the FT's Harding "mo' Taper" memo hit and slammed reality back into the herding masses. Still convinced that the Fed will 'only' taper if the data confirms it, we suspect the broad market is missing the signals from broken markets and frothy levels that mean the Fed will use the modest improvements as a crutch upon which to jawbone tapering into our minds. Today's price action was - in the words of the great Bob Pisani, "just silly." A ramp out of the gate following Japan's lead which followed a Hilsenrath-inspired ramp-job from Friday combined with a beat for NAHB (and Empire Fed) sent all the high-beta into overdrive (builders +2.2%) - but nothing else was really moving (FX was relatively flat, bonds went sideways, commodities wriggled in a small range). The Harding hit and we gave back all the post-Hilsenrath gains, 330-ramped to VWAP and held it magically into the close (though the USD ended at its lows of the day, bond yields at their highs, and credit markets at their lows).
The impact of substantially higher interest rates are not good for the economy or the financial markets going forward. In the short term consumers, and the financial markets, can withstand small incremental shifts higher in interest rates. There is clear evidence historically to suggest the same. However, sustained higher, and rising, interest rates are another matter entirely. Before we get too excited, it is important to keep in perspective the recent "surge" in interest rates that has gotten the market's attention as of late. In reality, this is nothing more than a bounce in a very sustained downtrend. While there is not a tremendous amount of downside left for interest rates to go currently - it also doesn't mean that they are going to substantially rise anytime soon. Weak economic growth, an aging demographic, rising governmental debt burdens and continued deflationary pressures can keep interest rates suppressed for a very long time. Just ask Japan.