June 17th, 2013
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.
This is what our 'markets' have become...
A sense among investors that the global economy is unraveling has injected tremendous volatility into the markets. As Bloomberg's Rich Yamarone notes, if the global equity market decline is not a “Sell in May” event, but the beginning of a great unwinding, then the economy, skating on thin ice, may be even more susceptible to recession. However, most of the US equity disconnect from the reality of weak data (and other markets) can be laid at the feet of the Fed's ever-generous monetary policy. However, given all of this 'weakness' - or missing of Fed benchmarks that we discuss below - that the Fed is well aware of, we ask again, why would so many members have been out discussing 'Taper' if it were not due to their concerns of broken markets and bubble conditions.
There has been considerable throughput of gold in western capital markets, with substantial buying from all round the world following the April price crash. The supply can only have come from two sources: the general public, or one or more governments. It really is that simple. Two months later the gold price has only partially recovered, so physical supplies have continued to be made available. Physical demand cannot have been entirely satisfied by ETF liquidations, confirming governments are involved. This article looks at the dynamics of the gold market around this event and the implications.
It seems not only the entire developed world is sick and tired of Hilsenrath's "leaks" which have now become so grotesquely self-contradictory, not even Hilsenfollowers can make out the Hilsenfact from the Hilsenjoke. So it appears the Fed has now picked the FT as its interim pass through vehicle: "Ben Bernanke is likely to signal that the US Federal Reserve is close to tapering down its $85bn-a-month in asset purchases when he holds a press conference on Wednesday, but balance that by saying subsequent moves depend on what happens to the economy."
We have removed the levels to protect the innocent but which of these equity (or bond) markets would you be adding to today?
Greek Prime Minister Samaras offers to allow the immediate restart of ERT broadcasting: government source #breaking
— Reuters World (@ReutersWorld) June 17, 2013
So much for that revolution, but don't worry about the oil companies losing money, price rises are assured.
Why do the debt crisis in Cyprus and the subsequent "bail-in" confiscation of bank depositors' money matter? They matter for two reasons: 1. The banking/debt crisis in Cyprus shares many characteristics with other banking/debt crises. 2. The official Eurozone resolution of the crisis--the "bail-in" confiscation of 60% of bank depositors' cash in an involuntary exchange for shares in the bank (which are unlikely to have any future value)--may provide a template for future official resolutions of other banking/debt crises. In other words, since the banking/debt crisis in Cyprus is hardly unique, we can anticipate the resolution (confiscation of deposits) may be applied elsewhere.
China! Honestly, it comes to something when China jumps on the accusatory band-wagon asking the US administration to provide some comments about its monitoring programs and answer up to the international community.
So let’s see what happens on Wednesday. The markets will likely rally until then on hopes of more juice from Bernanke. But if he should disappoint at all (read: not announce something more or at least strongly hint at doing so) then buckle up.
The Vietnamese Central Bank sold another 25,700 taels (37.5 grams, 1.2 troy ounces) at a gold bar auction on Friday in order to try and satiate the massive public demand for gold in Vietnam.
The Central Bank hopes that the sale of gold into the market will reduce the very high premiums paid by gold buyers in Vietnam, the largest buyer of gold in Southeast Asia after Thailand and one of the largest physical buyers of gold per capita in the world.
Vietnamese people hold gold as a store of wealth for protection against war, inflation and currency depreciation. In recent months, the bursting of bubbles in the stock market (see chart) and property market and the continuing devaluation of the dong has led to record demand in Vietnam and a surging premium over the spot price of gold.
Today, the premium was close to 5.5 million dong which is the equivalent of a very high premium of $217 per ounce over spot.
Iran is a right old sorry state (of affairs). Plunged into recession, inflationary pressure that Abenomics wouldn’t mind having a bit of and Bernanke might just be getting if he carries on printing the greenbacks at the rate they are churning out of the Federal Reserve faster than a Ford-T in 1908.