November 24th, 2011
It is in French but it is really a body language kinda gig. They promise to do everything they have to save the euro. In other words they are as clueless as always. The important thing is that Sarkozy just said they have agreed to abstain from making demand on the ECB. So...no more pressure to monetize?
Just a step behind the Chinese as usual, and just in time to kill a modest EURUSD rally. Also on the same day as the first mass strike in Portugal which reminds us that everyone will want a piece of the debt reduction pie.
Arguably the least biased (or perhaps least cognitively dissonant) of the major ratings agencies, China's Dagong has just moved Portugal's rating to junk (BB+) from comfortably investment grade (BBB+) - a 3 notch drop. The rating agency also left the peripheral nation on negative watch. This action follows Monday's Greek downgrade from C to CCC. Is this a ploy for better entry levels when they save the world with their EFSF-buying bazooka? Or more likely a more honest reflection of a debt-laden, slow-growing, austerity-facing nation burdened with inadequate leadership and an inability to control its own fate?
Russia Retaliates Against US: Puts Radar Station On Combat Alert, Prepares To Take Out European Missile Defense SystemsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 11/23/2011 23:50 -0400
Earlier today, we presented the latest developments in the escalating possibility of an imminent air (and potentially land) campaign targeting Syria by the "western world", a move that would infuriate not only Iran, but also Russia and China, both of which have made it clear they would not sit idly by and let such an "aggression" stand. Now it is Russia's turn to retaliate. Cutting straight to the chase - in a nationally televized appearance by Russian president Dmitry Medvedev: in response to what the Russian believes is an active incursion and a potential act of eventual aggression on behalf of NATO countries in Eastern Europe (and hence the US), he he said the following (7 minutes in): "First, I am instructing the Defense Ministry to immediately put the missile attack early warning radar station in Kaliningrad on combat alert. Second, protective cover of Russia's strategic nuclear weapons, will be reinforced as a priority measure under the programme to develop out air and space defenses. Third, the new strategic ballistic missiles commissioned by the Strategic Missile Forces and the Navy will be equipped with advanced missile defense penetration systems and new highly-effective warheads. Fourth, I have instructed the Armed Forces to draw up measures for disabling missile defense system data and guidance systems if need be... Fifth, if the above measures prove insufficient, the Russian Federation will deploy modern offensive weapon systems in the west and south of the country, ensuring our ability to take out any part of the US missile defense system, in Europe. One step in this process will be to deploy Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad Region"
As America prepares to spend its meager savings (which today were reported to have increased modestly from 4 year lows of 3.3% to 3.5%) and dip even more in debt on yet another epic shopping exodus which begins in just over 24 hours and continues through the end of the year, whereby people are somehow once again fooled into believing they "save money" by "spending money", those with a more pragmatic eye may wonder if this will be the weakest holiday shopping season in a decade, if the economy indeed mimics the stock market (the opposite, not so much), and whether it is now time to finally short consumer discretionary stocks with impunity. Goldman's Zach Pandl answers this question and more with his "Q&A on Holiday Shopping." To wit: "The US consumer looks mixed heading into the holiday season. On the one hand, growth in consumer activity slowed significantly this year. On the other hand, the most recent spending numbers have shown an incremental improvement. In addition, job growth has been holding up, which should underpin spending. Retail industry groups expect year-over-year growth in holiday sales of 2-3%, down from a 4-5% increase last year. The GS/ICSC 2011 Holiday Spending Intentions Survey also seems consistent with slightly slower growth than last year." Naturally, this being Goldman, if there is a way to take the other side of the bet (or do what GS is doing and not its clients) that is probably not such a bad idea.
Amplifies on three aspects of this issue: (1) a war against Syria was planned 10 years ago (2) the American people don't want a new war and (3) Russia and China may strongly react against such a war ...
In the aftermath of today's so-called failed 10 Year Bund auction, the number of explanations seeking to goal seek some preconceived theory as to what happened has soared with justifications ranging from the amusing to the bizarre to the outright ridiculous. Here is the bottom line: "failed" Bund auctions, in which the Buba (Bundesbank or the German monetary authority) steps in to "retain" an unbid for amount and hit a maximum issuance happen all the time. In fact literally all the time as the inset chart shows. Such is the Buba charter - some European countries fail to issue the maximum amount (such as Spain and Italy in the past week), others see the central banks filling the demand. This has nothing to do with implicit or explicit monetization (because if it did then every Primary Dealer takedown in a US Treasury auction would also constitute monetization), or with some opaque negative repo prevention scheme (incidentally negative repo rate in the US bond market happen all the time - see here for instances in just the last week). It has everything to do with lack of demand at a given price. Nothing more, nothing less. And while it is intriguing to fabricate complex theories about broken secondary conduits or what have you, the explanation is far simpler. As SocGen puts it: "The fact that the Buba was forced to retain the biggest share of the sale in recent memory (see chart) is clearly a sign that some investors are no longer showing up or have started to buy considerably less, preferring other fixed income or alternative safe havens." No need to conceive an explanation where simply supply and demand will suffice. And in this case there was not enough demand at prevailing yields. And that in itself is the most ominous explanation because as SocGen concludes, "certain investors are starting to overlook the eurozone altogether". Lastly, for those who look at things only from a theoretical standpoint and forget there is an actual market, the direct implication is that Euro Country X spreads to Bunds just collapsed. And presto - with one "failed auction, European periphery, and that now includes France, Balgium and Austria, all suddenly look much better. Never waste a crisis...
Disaster? Or first sign of rational thought....
The last 5 minutes of today's somewhat tempestuous day saw a rather dramatic plunge in ES on very heavy volume which could easily be flash-crash-worthy in its description. Having tested VWAP a number of times during the day and been unable to make any progress above it (suggesting program selling was active), the final desperate straw broke the camel's back into the close as ES dropped 1% in less than 5 minutes as volume dwarfed the rest of the day with machines fighting each other to exit at a reasonable price. Furthermore, the drop in ES was very much standalone as other risk assets did not correlate instantly and only started to drop after a delay led by equities plunge. ES is holding these losses after-hours at a steady 1160. Where's Waddell & Reed when we need them?
When we commented on the October 26 European "EFSF Bailout" which has since been long forgotten, the one take home message from the embedded 50% cut in Greece debt is that "this means that Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Italy will promptly commence sabotaging their economies (just like Greece) simply to get the same debt Blue Light special as Greece." This was followed up by a post that half confirmed or thesis: "Bloomberg notes that Ireland has not even waited for the ink to be dry before sending out feelers on just what the possible "rewards" may be: "Greece’s failure to cut spending and boost revenue by enough to meet targets set by the European Union and International Monetary Fund prompted bondholders to accept a 50 percent loss on its debt. While Ireland won’t seek debt discounts, the government might pursue other relief given to Greece, including cheaper interest payments on aid and longer to repay it, according to a person familiar with the matter who declined to be identified as no final decision has been taken." There is one very important addition here: "While Ireland won't seek debt discounts" yet." A month later, the "yet" is "now."
To some, only "Lunatics and Hacks" believe in gold and a system based on real money. To others, one look at the chart below showing the relative performance of gold and the S&P YTD is enough to determine who the lunatic and hack truly is.
The message of the market has been very clear the last week or two and we have been actively discussing it - the hope that was priced into equity markets is being discounted back to the reality that was always priced into credit markets. HYG, increasingly liquid, accessible, and actively traded has become the weapon of choice for hedgers and shorts and once again today it dramatically underperformed. IG credit also underperformed as we suspect the relatively low cost of carry made it an attractive macro-overlay into a long weekend of possibilities. Commodities in general converged back on the inverse of the USD performance of the week, down around 1.5% (with the exception of Copper which is -4% on the week as China hopes fade). Equity weakness was generally supported to the downside by CONTEXT's broad basket of risk assets - especially as TSYs rallied aggressively in the afternoon following the record 7Y auction. AUD remained the ugly duckling of the week in FX land (as carry was unwound) but EUR's slide was the biggest driver of DXY's strength as it gained around 1.3%. Evidently very few wanted to go home long into this weekend and ES dumped into the close ending the week -4.5% or so with a major volume surge at the very end.