Equity and credit markets in Europe followed the same-old-same-old path of a successful short-dated auction means buy-buy-buy and ended the day in the green today. A few things of note however stand out to us. First, the ramp in stocks/credit this time around is much less than last week's post-auction bliss which was also less than the prior week's post-auction squeeze higher. Second, there was a very notable dispersion between senior financials and subordinated financials credit today - with the spread between the two at almost 3 month wides. Third, Italy notably underperformed Spain today - by the largest in six weeks as the spread between these two is now back at 18bps, six-week tights and dramatically lower than the almost 50bps just a week ago. So while all may look rosy at the surface, we remain wider in spreads on the week and lower in stocks with all the real event risk ahead of us still.
It's easy to expand the money supply and difficult to expand the actual production of real goods in the real world. Expanding the money supply and issuing debt that lacks collateral is just like printing quatloos on the desert island: you can print a million quatloos but that doesn't create a single additional coconut. If you print enough quatloos, then people will no longer accept them in exchange for coconuts. You will actually need a real coconut to exchange for fish. This is why Greek towns are reportedly reverting to barter, the exchange of real goods for other real goods. We can anticipate that silver and gold will soon enter the barter as means of exchange that can't be counterfeited or printed by wise-guys (central bankers).This is what happens when abstract representations, i.e. "money," vanish into thin air. Alternative systems of exchanging goods and services arise: actual goods are exchanged via barter, tangible concentrations of value that cannot be counterfeited such as gold and silver are used as a means of exchange, letters of credit or equivalent are traded and settled with tangible goods or gold/silver, and eventually, a means of exchange ("money") that is backed by tangible goods in the real world that can be trusted to actually represent the value being traded might enter the market. That which is phantom will vanish into thin air, while the real goods and services remain to be traded in the real world.
The EFSF 'firewall' issued EUR3 billion 7-year bonds this morning. It seems any time any European entity actually manages to issue debt, it is proclaimed as miraculous evidence of investor demand and comfort with these risks. In this case, we are told, via Bloomberg, that:
- *EFSF SAYS BOND ISSUE MET WITH STRONG DEMAND
- *EFSF SAYS SUPPORT FROM ASIA, CENTRAL BANKS, SOVEREIGN WEALTH
So the self-dealing continues to grow the ponzi ever bigger. However, what few will mention is that 10Y EFSF spreads (the risk premium over Bunds to hold these government-guaranteed exposed-to-Europe's-entrails) broke above 150bps today for the first time in over four months and are now over 35% higher than at the start of April. Success Indeed.
Remember when Lehman or Bear Stearns was 'too small' to matter and 'subprime was contained', we we are getting same ignorant first-order analysis now with regard Spain (or more broadly-speaking Southern Europe). The whole of Southern Europe is only 6% of global GDP - how can that matter? (especially when we can eat iPads?) Michael Cembalest, of JPMorgan, provides some much needed sense on why these small countries pack a large disruption risk punch for global markets and economies. By breaking down the world into a few categories of disruption risk, the JPM CIO notes that the southern strain of Eurovirus has a much larger non-proportional impact thanks to transmission risk via its significantly greater share of sovereign and bank debt relative to the world and how these debts are financed. The transmission risk to the much-larger Northern Europe is material. We are already seeing Germany's new orders from within the Euro-zone slumping and this week's business sector surveys were very weak. As Cembalest concludes, from an alien's perspective, Earth may be able to outrun the collapse in Europe’s periphery if the ECB keeps printing money and the IMF increases its firewall, but it’s not going to be easy.
Yesterday as we all watched the Holland and Hollande Show; Greece was scarcely on the radar. That act was behind us now we think and we are off to different adventures. Not so fast my friends, a moment’s respite; nothing more. The Greek Statistical Office released new data yesterday and the results were anything but positive. The official debt to GDP ratio now stands at 165.3%, a fourteen percent increase from last year’s numbers. Quite frankly, this is a disaster and hardly in-line with all of the fantasy projections that Greece will now be heading towards the mythical 120% number bandied about by both the EU and the IMF. To make matters worse; the banks in Greece are losing $344 million a day and have capital outflows of about $500 million per month. Even with the $32.2 billion in recapitalization funds it does not take a fiscal genius to see where this is all leading which is right down the Spartan rabbit hole.
You know its bad when...the net flow of Mexicans into the US has fallen so much that there is a high probability that it is now in reverse ending around forty years of inward migration. The Pew Hispanic Center notes that the standstill - after more than 12 million current immigrants have entered the US - more than half of whom are illegal - appears to be the result of many factors including a weakened US job and construction market, tougher border enforcement, a rise in deportations, growing dangers associated with border crossing, a long-term decline in Mexico's birth rate, and changing (read perhaps more opportunistic) economic conditions in Mexico (especially if you work at WalMex). This sharp downward trend in net migration has led to the first significant decrease in at least two decades in the number of unauthorized Mexican immigrants living in the U.S. - to 6.1 million in 2011, down from a peak of nearly 7 million in 2007. In the five years from 2005 to 2010, about 1.4m Mexicans immigrated to the US – exactly the same number of Mexican immigrants and their US-born children who quit the US and moved back or were deported to Mexico. By contrast, in the previous five years to 2000 some 3m Mexicans came to the US and fewer than 700,000 left it. It will be interesting to see the spin that the Obama and Romney camps put on this hot-button topic as the 'Dream Act' turns into a nightmare and hardline anti-illegal immigration stances become, well, less relevant as Mexicans become Mexican'ts.
Two weeks ago we were the first to explain that the mysterious Euro levitation observed, as newsflow out of Europe had just turned very ugly, was due solely to another iteration of a very disturbing phenomenon: EUR repatriation, as domestic banks were forced to shore up capital ahead of what they perceived as major liquidity needs such as bond auctions, and the other usual fare - insolvent banks, deposit outflow replacement, etc. As a reminder, the last time such aggressive repatriation was observed was back in October, just before the Fed was forced to ease the terms of its FX swaps, the ECB was forced to announced the LTROs and China was forced to announce an interest rate hike - in other words, the central planner were in bailout mode. Today, the first to address directly our "explanation" is Citi and specifically Stephen Englander, who notes the repatriation is likely a key driver to such inexplicable moves in the EURUSD. Of course, since Englander understands all too well the true implication of such a move (very, very negative as it means liquidity is once again becoming non-existent), he tries to mitigate it: "we find that in the recent past the repatriation theory has some support but that foreign portfolio flows are probably the dominant EUR driver": alas, that is what he said last time too. And it ended up being the other way around, in the process almost resulting in Europe's getting destroyed. Hopefully this time it is different.
The February Case Shiller number is out and represents the latest high frequency economic miss, with the 20 City Seasonally Adjusted number printing up 0.15% on expectations of 0.20%. The good news, of course, is that this is the first improvement in the Seasonally Adjusted Top 20 MSA Series since April 2011. The bad news is that this was all warm weather driven, and courtesy of seasonal adjustments: unadjusted the February data declined once again, this time by 0.8%, the 6th consecutive decline in a row, and the lowest number in a decade. Furthermore, the data would be uglier if it were not for prior period downward revisions in what seems to be a page right out of the BLS propaganda playbook. Needless to say, since this data is two months delayed, as many will recall in February the market was soaring on hopes that this time, just once, the "recovery" will be self-sustaining. Then the LTRO aftereffects fizzled, and everything went to hell again. Finally putting it all into perspective, the February data puts the Top 20 City data back on par with price levels last seen in early 2003. But hey - at least we have a very brief and transitory seasonally adjusted upswing.
UPDATE: Apple -2.4% at lows of yesterday now
Apple is down 1.5% pre-market and comfortably back below its 50DMA on a top-line (and notably activations) miss from AT&T among other anxiety-inducing sentiment this morning. Perhaps what is really providing all the performance anxiety is the extreme expectations that are piled upon this greater-than-bellwether stock that has become the market. As Bloomberg's chart-of-the-day notes, Apple needs to surpass estimates by a wider margin than most of its peers in the S&P 500 in order to satisfy investors - if history is any guide. On an adjusted per-share basis, profits have beaten estimates by about 19% on average over the past seven years - a true under-promise over-deliver strategy. As Colin Gillis of BGC Partners notes, "Apple will need to smash records to keep momentum" as surpassing the $9.98/share by 20% is an impressive feat indeed as they point out that seven of the nine times Apple's shares have fallen the day after earnings has been when earnings beat by less than 20%. Performance anxiety indeed.
While gold demand from the western investors and store of wealth buyers has fallen in recent months, central bank demand continues to be very robust and this is providing strong support to gold above the $1,600/oz level. IMF data released overnight shows that Mexico added 16.8 metric tons of gold valued at about $906.4 million to its reserves in March. Russia continued to diversify its foreign exchange reserves and increased its gold reserves by about 16.5 tons according to a statement by its central bank on April 20. Other creditor nations with large foreign exchange reserves and exposure to the dollar and the euro including Turkey and Kazakhstan also increased their holdings of gold according to the International Monetary Fund data.Mexico raised its reserves to 122.6 tons last month when gold averaged $1,676.67 an ounce.Turkey added 11.5 tons, Kazakhstan 4.3 tons, Ukraine 1.2 tons, Tajikistan 0.4 ton, and Belarus 0.1 tonnes, according to the IMF. Ukraine, Czech Republic and Belarus also had modest increases in their gold reserves. Central banks are expanding reserves due to concerns about the dollar, euro, sterling and all fiat currencies.
Austerity is dead! Long live Spending! Futures are up, Italian and Spanish bonds are up, CDS spreads on them are at least 10 bps tighter, and MAIN is 3 bps tighter on the day (though I have this feeling I better type fast as we are starting to fade off the best levels). Lots of little things seem to be contributing to the strength, TXU earnings, no economic data, auctions that raised the required money, etc., but there does also seem to be a belief that Germany finally “gets it”. That Germany is finally going to relent on their demands for austerity. So “Austerity Now” may be over, but killing something that didn’t work, isn’t the same as solving the problem. Going back to the norm that caused the problem in the first place, hardly seems like a solution either. Currency reversion and/or debt restructuring will be the ultimate end-game.
- China’s Biggest Banks Are Squeezed for Capital (NYT)
- Greeks detect hypocrisy as Dutch coalition stumbles (Reuters)
- Hollande Blames Europe’s Austerity Plan for Le Pen’s Rise (Bloomberg)
- In a Change, Mexico Reins In Its Oil Monopoly (NYT)
- China Tire Demand Slows as Economy Decelerates, Bridgestone Says (Bloomberg)
- Social Security’s financial forecast gets darker; Medicare’s outlook unchanged (WaPo)
- Fed’s 17 Rate Forecasts May Confuse More Than Clarify (Bloomberg)
- Senate to vote on array of Postal Service overhaul proposals (WaPo)
- Weidmann Says Bundesbank Is Preserving Euro Stability (Bloomberg)
Back in December, Goldman Sachs entered the fray of what has since become the most sensitive topic for Germans (courtesy of this particular exponentially rising chart), namely the German funding of Europe's current account via the TARGET2 balance. Since then much has been said, up to and including a letter that Jens Weidmann sent to Mario Draghi expressing a concern about the "net receivable" status of the German central bank vis-a-vis the periphery. Unfortunately, since then the Bundesbank added another nearly EUR100 billion in net deficit balance, which has hardly helped the German people sleep better at night. So in the meantime, one question has arisen: "how much more can the TARGET2 imbalances increase?" The scientific and, non-scientific answer, comes from Goldman Sachs: "a lot."