With Russia's MICEX down another 2% today back at May 2010 lows (and Russian govt bond yields up to 9.41%), it appears investors are anything but confident that the worst is behind us in Ukraine. Russian stocks are -18% in the last 3 weeks. Perhaps the biggest tell is the German stock market which is now the worst-performing European stock market this year and back to lows seen in mid-December. Even the glorious safety of Portuguese stocks is fading in the last few days. Europe's VIX broke 22% - its highest in 5 weeks; and Europe's high-yield credit markets (which are rumored to be heavily biased long) are squeezing wider playing catch-up to stocks. Peripheral sovereigns don't give a crap in their manipulated illiquid way but Bund yields have sluped to 1.54% (lowest since July) - its tightest to US TSYs since 2006!
"Sanctions could lead to retaliatory action, and that would trigger a spiral with unforeseeable consequences," warns China's envoy to Germany adding that "we don't see any point in sanctions." On the heels of Merkel's warning that Russia risked "massive" political and economic damage if it did not change course, Reuters reports ambassador Shi Mingde urged patience saying "the door is still open" for diplomacy (though we suspect it is not) ahead of this weekend's referendum. Russia's Deputy Economy Minister Alexei Likhachev responded by promising "symmetrical" sanctions by Moscow. So now we have China joining the fray more aggressively.
We would suffer too many subdural hematomas if we were to comment on this most recent outbreak of the "idiot meteorologist" syndrome by Bank of America below.
On the heels of President Obama's approval rating plummeting to 41% - a record low - it is perhaps ironic that the supposedly despotic (amid shrouded in Hitler-comparisons and homosexual hatred) Vladimir Putin has seen his approval rating soar to 71.6% - a 3 year high - as Interfax notes "we now have a complex society that supports the president, primarily because of his stance on Ukraine." Interestingly 64% saw Ukraine as a key current event while 32% said that success at the Olympics was most important.
Last night's volatility in AUD (thanks to its aberration of an employment print) followed by more China data weakness has seen carry-traders shift attention back to EURJPY and USDJPY. This morning saw overnight weakness ramped into the US open to ensure media coverage proclaimed everything fixed but once the day-session opened, the selling began and stocks are down notably - tracking JPY tick for tick once again... Still believe in fundamentals and efficient markets - don't look at the chart below.
"Excessive credit growth eventually leads to a crisis," Marc Faber tells CNBC Asia, warning that "it has always happened and will again." The Gloom, Boom, & Doom editor briefly explains how the facts are that China is growing at no more than 4% per annum (if one looks beneath the government's manufactured data) and in the case of China "we have a gigantic credit bubble." Reflecting on recent price action (and the potential for social unrest), Faber exclaims, to deny the problems is to believe "the market is wrong and the government is right."
The latest foreclosure news out of RealtyTrac is out, and provides the latest proof that if there is a housing recovery somewhere, it sure isn't in the US, where the dislocations in the supply/demand for real estate are so profound that one in five homes in the foreclosure process has been vacated by the distressed homeowner. To wit: "As of the first quarter of 2014, a total of 152,033 U.S. properties in the foreclosure process (excluding bank-owned properties) had been vacated by the distressed homeowner, representing 21 percent of all properties in the foreclosure process." This means that neither the distressed homeowner or the foreclosing lender taking responsibility for maintenance and upkeep of the home, leading to a veritable army of Vacant Dead housing units that are spreading like zombies across the nation in the most improbable housing "recovery" of all time.
The 'field-of-dreams' recovery is dismally missing in action. This morning's inventory-to-sales data shows the US total at 1.32x - its highest since the financial crisis and highest in a decade aside from that. The worst sector - or more over-produced or mal-invested - drum roll please... Autos. As the following stunning chart shows, over the last 22 years, the auto-industry has only had a higher inventory-to-sales in the midst of the crisis. If we build it, they might not come... (and aparently they didn't).
Merkel Warns Putin Of "Massive Damage", Russia Continues Piling Troops, Pro-Russia Oligarch Arrested, Gazprom SpeaksSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/13/2014 - 10:05
It's crunch time for Ukraine.
While the Fed's interventions have certainly bolstered asset prices by driving a "carry trade," these programs do not address the central issue necessary in a consumer driven economy which is "employment." In an economy that is nearly 70% driven by consumption, production comes first in the economic order. Without a job, through which an individual produces a good or service in exchange for payment, there is no income to consume with. With the Federal Reserve now effectively removing the "patient" from life support, we will see if the economy can sustain itself. If this recent Bloomberg poll is correct, then we are likely to get an answer very shortly, and it may very well be disappointment.
Goldman Cuts Q1 GDP Forecast To 1.5% On Weaker Retail Sales; Half Of Goldman's Original Q1 GDP ForecastSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/13/2014 - 09:29
As we predicted when we highlighted the cumulative decline in the control retail sales group, it was only a matter of time before the banks started cutting their Q1 GDP forecasts. Sure enough, first it was Barclays trimming its Q1 GDP tracking forecast from 2.3% to 2.2%, and now it is Goldman's turn which just cut its latest Q1 GDP forecast from 1.7% to 1.5%.
While the sight of Russian flags, pro-Russian troops, and Russian navy ships in Crimea is now a day-to-day thing; this morning brings a new normal for the eastern Ukraine region - long lines at bank ATMs as the bank runs have begun. We noted last night the dreaded inversion of Ukraine's yield curve, the greater-than-50% yields on 3-month Ukraine government debt, and the pressures on local bank debt maturities as the ability to garner dollars cost-effectively was becoming a problem but on the heels of concerns by the head of the central bank that moving cash in Crimea was difficult, ATM withdrawal limits have been cut. People in long ATM lines are reported to be concerned because "banks are closing" but it is Deutsche Bank's comments this morning that raised many an eyebrow as they suggest that Ukraine's debt is pricing in a "burden-sharing" haircut for bondholders (which as we have seen in the past - in Cyprus - can quickly ripple up the capital structure and become a depositor haircut).
We wonder just what hedonic adjustments the BLS will use to explain away the implied inflation from this 25% increase in Amazon Prime membership fees. Prefunding the cost of friendly drone deliveries (which Tesla may soon desperately need if it wants to sell its cars direct)? We also wonder, just what the impact on Prime membership will be considering the disastrous results that Netflix suffered when it did a comparable price hike a little over two years ago, which it promptly reversed when people started abandoning the service in droves. Just how elastic is Amazon pricing? We are about to find out.
When retail sales last month came in far weaker than expected, it was the weather's fault. A month later, we find that the January retail sales were even weaker than expected, with the headline number revised from a -0.4% drop to -0.6%, the ex autos number revised from unchanged to -0.3%, and the ex autos and gas whose drop more than doubled from -0.2% to -0.5%. Oh well: one can't go back in time and force the algos to soar even more (since everyone knows bad news is great news). So how about February? Well, apparently it warmed up because despite expectations of a 0.2% increase in headline and ex auto and gas retail sales, the actual prints were 0.3% for both, beating by the tiniest of margins, yet net lower when adding the January revision. Of course, what happens in April, when the March data too is revised lower, is irrelevant - all that will matter is the current month numbers all of which recently seem to get an odd "optimism" boost that promptly fades away in no time.
On the heels of last week's surprise beat in jobless claims (amid all the weather turmoil), this week's initial claims beat by the most since November. Down 9,000 to 315,000, this is the best (lowest) claims data in over three-and-a-half months providing the Fed cover to continue Tapering as the number of people of benefits rolls overall dropped 48,000 to 2.86 million (lowest since December). In the big picture the trend of decreasing layoffs has stalled but shows no sign of improvement in the last 6 months.