• Marc To Market
    11/22/2014 - 10:16
    Contrary to the death of the dollar chatter, the US currency continues to appreciate.  Here's why there is still punch left in the bowl.  
  • Tim Knight from...
    11/21/2014 - 21:06
    As you can see by this view of the NQ, this massively bullish news has not, as of yet, represented any kind of sea-change in the markets. Before the day was even out (again, in some, not all markets...

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Guest Post: Confidence And Ruin Amongst The PIIGS

For today's installment we'll take a look at the debt:gold ratio for the PIIGS countries to see who puts the IG in PIIGS (perhaps you've already guessed). the ratio represents the multiple by which the country's debt exceeds its gold holdings. To an optimist, a high ratio means that the rest of the world has great confidence in the economy of the country in question. To a pessimist, a high ratio means the country is ruined. At a quick glance, it appears that Italy is no worse off than America--assuming that both countries actually have the gold the World Gold Council claims they have. Italy may have trouble getting theirs from New York, if that is where it is. Notice the decline in the ratio over the past decade--that is a reflection of the rising price of gold, not a decline in these nations' debts. Debt has increased over the past decade. The price of gold has apparently risen more. So does this mean these countries are becoming solvent? Can a rising price of gold solve our economic woes? Historically, a decline in this ratio can been used by governments to justify monetary expansion, particularly if it happened during an episode of such expansion. Why not? The improvement of the ratio suggests that the government isn't printing enough. The destruction of the value of the currency (and the country's debt) begins to occur faster than the rate of monetary creation (thus the label in the US graph "Ben proposes, the Market disposes"). The government counters this by printing faster, but the destruction of the currency's value is faster still.



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Silver Surges 21% in January - Silver Demand Is “Diminishing A Supply Surplus”

There continues to be no coverage of silver in the non specialist financial media and little coverage of silver in the specialist financial media. However, both the Financial Times and Bloomberg cover silver today which might be a harbinger of short term weakness. The majority of articles on silver are bearish and most bank analysts remain bearish on silver again in 2012 – as they have been in recent years. Prices will average $37.50/ounce in Q4, according to a survey of 13 analysts by Bloomberg. The lack of coverage of silver and consequent “animal spirits” in the silver market is of course bullish from a contrarian perspective. Analysts look set to get the silver market wrong again as recent rocketing industrial demand for silver, from solar panels to batteries to medical applications and growing investor demand for coins, and small & large bars is “diminishing a supply surplus” according to Nicholas Larkin of Bloomberg.  This has led to silver’s best January gains in 30 years with silver up over 20% from below $28/oz to nearly $34/oz. Barclay's estimates that manufacturers will need a 2.5% increase of the metric tons used last year and investment demand continues to grow due to risks posed by both inflation and systemic risks. Silver supply shortages are something we and other analysts who are bullish on silver have been warning of for some time. This is because the silver market is small versus the gold market and tiny versus equity, bond, currency and derivative markets.  This is why we believe silver should rise to well over its nominal recent and 1980 high of $50/oz in the coming months.



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Market Sentiment And Overnight Summary

Below are some of the key events to have transpired in the overnight session. According to Bloomberg's TJ Marta, sentiment is broadly higher, with stocks, bond yields, FX higher, EU sovereign spreads tighter as markets focus on German unemployment, ebbing EU concerns, shrug off German retail sales, Greek debt.  Whereas German retail sales unexpectedly fell -1.4%M/m vs est. +0.8%, unemployment fell more than expected -34k vs est. -10k. Italy December unemployment climbed to 8.9%, highest since the data series began in Jan. 2004, from a revised 8.8% in November. Commodities mostly higher, led by WTI +1.5%, 1.0 std. devs. EU leaders agreed to accelerate rescue fund, deficit control treaty . Greek debt negotiations remain in flux with Greece reporting progress, Germany expressing frustration over Greece’s failure to carry out economic. Portugal 10-yr yields fell after earlier touching euro-era record; yields of AAA-rated Finland, Norway, Sweden and Germany higher even as Coelho Says Portugal’s Debt Is 'Perfectly Sustainable.' Treasuries decline for first time in five days; 5-yrs yields yesterday touched record-low 0.7157%. SNB Says Currency Reserves Declined to 257.5 Billion Francs. Foreign Investment in Spain Shows EU38.6 Bln Outflow in Jan-Nov. ECB’s Nowotny Says ‘Can’t Be Sure’ Greece Will Stay in Euro. Belgium Borrowing Costs Rise at 105-Day, 168-Day Bill Auction. Finally, according to KBC, Irish Consumer Confidence Up As ‘Armageddon’ Averted. So every day the world does not end consumer confidence should be higher. Brilliant.



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Frontrunning: January 31

  • Victory for Merkel Over Fiscal Treaty (FT)
  • Everyone wants a mediterranean colony: China's NDRC Delegation Visit Greece to Boost Economic Ties (Xinhua)
  • As Florida votes, Romney seems in driver's seat (Reuters)
  • Greece’s Papademos Seek On Debt Deal by End of Week (Reuters)
  • Banks Set to Double Crisis Loans From ECB (FT) - as Zero Hedge predicted two weeks ago
  • S&P: Doubling Sales Tax Won’t Help Japan Enough (Bloomberg)
  • Toshiba cuts outlook after Q3 profit tumbles (Reuters)
  • Blackrock’s Doll says Fed’s QE3 is Unlikely, In Contrast to Pimco’s Gross (Bloomberg)


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Super Bowl Sentiment - Inflation And The High-End Consumer

ConvergEx's annual analysis of Super Bowl economics shows that, when the time and place is right, prices can soar like a Hail Mary pass to clinch the playoffs.  Yes, the face value for tickets is unchanged in the last year - $800 to $1,200.  But the street price for a ticket to the big game will set you back at least $2,000, and the average ticket is running closer to $4,000.  The good news, sort of, is that there has been no inflation for the “Cheapest” seats since last year, when they were also two grand.  And that is despite a smaller stadium this time around (68,000 versus +80,000).  A signal about the stagnating confidence of the high end consumer?  Perhaps. Nic Colas goes to note that to get into Super Bowl #1 would have cost you all of $12.  That was in Los Angeles in 1967.  And the best seat in the house.  From there stated ticket prices went to $50 in 1984, $100 in 1988 and $500 in 2003.  Now, the prices printed on the ticket for the Indianapolis game this Sunday are between $800 and $1,200.  As the accompanying chart shows, this is an inflation rate of around 8,900% for the period, versus 687% for the Consumer Price Index. One thing we know – next year it won’t be a problem to set a new street price for the Super Bowl, regardless of whatever the economy may bring.  It is in New Orleans.



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European Bailout Infographic: Presenting The Truckloads Of Cash Needed To Rescue The Insolvent PIIGS

...No, literally truckloads. Our friends at demonocracy.info have been kind enough to put together an infographic that explains the European bailout in simple, visual terms, that even the most innocent of FTL truckers can grasp without much exertion, for the simple reason that it shows all the bailouts amounts in terms of trucks of cash. And here is the kicker: one would need a 13 lane highway, filled with trucks bumper to bumper, stretching for about 3 kilometers to represent the €2.91 trillion in total amounts owed by the PIIGS and their citizens (whether voluntarily or not... actually make that involuntarily) to  Europe's largest banks. What is most frightening is what is not shown: just how it is that the world's central banks are keeping all of these banks propped up. Because sooner or later all this money will be discovered to have been fatally misallocated. Then the real bailout cost will become all too evident, and just like in the US, it will be in the double digit trillions. Which means the metaphorical highway of trucks full of cash will stretch on for kilometers and kilometers and so on (or miles, for the naive US-based truckers). But since that day is in the future, there is no reason to worry about it.



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Guest Post: The Price of Growth

Growth. It's what every economist and politician wants. If we get 'back to growth', servicing debts both private and sovereign become much easier. And life will return to normal (for a few more years). There is growing evidence that a major US policy shift is underway to boost growth. Growth that will create millions of new jobs and raise real GDP. While that's welcome news to just about everyone, the story is much less appealing when one understands the cost at which such growth comes. Are we better off if a near-term recovery comes at the expense of our future security? The prudent among us would disagree.



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Diebold Leaks Election Results Early... Again

Yes, it has happened before, but since truth is timeless, we were not surprised to find that it has been "leaked" again, in this timeless clip from TheOnion which explains everything one needs to know about the upcoming "elections"



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Long-Dated VIX Still Priced For Depression Risk

Since the spike in VIX in October of last year, short-dated volatility (and correlation) has dropped significantly, but the vol term-structure has steepened, and long-dated volatility remains stubbornly high. Goldman Sachs updates their volatility debt cycle thesis today and so far we are following the typical cycle post-volatility-spike - realized vols drop, short-term implied vols drop, term structure steepens, long-term vols drop - leaving them focused on both the implications of the current low levels of short-term vol and the high-levels of long-term vol. In brief, short-term volatility reflects very closely the current macro environment (GDP growth, ISM, high-yield, and Goldman's models) but longer-dated volatility trades significantly worse. The volatility (variance swaps) market is expecting realized volatility to be very high over the next 5-10 years - the only time this has happened was during The Great Depression. Professionals remain anxiously aware that the global debt super-cycle has ended and that we face deleveraging and deflationary pressures for years to come, short-dated vol will continue to ebb and flow with each band-aid and risk flare but investors deep-down know that the 'big one' remains around the corner. Although markets are in a healthy state at the moment it would only take a relatively mild cross-wind to expose the problems again and vol markets reflect this despite what the mainstream media's view of the fear index tells us.



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Credit And Financials Underperform As S&P Holds 1300

US equity markets went sideways to higher after the European close on low volumes and minimal support from broad risk drivers in general (with SPX bouncing off 1300). HYG tracked ES (the e-mini S&P 500 futures contract) higher as it tried to get back to unchanged (during an afternoon of notably smaller average trade size until the close which suggests covering by bigger players). HY and IG credit markets were not as ebullient as stocks and into the close HYG sold off relatively well to catch back down with HY's weakness on the day. Treasuries, credit, FX, and commodities all closed near the middle of the day's range while ES managed to get back near its highs (with volumes down 15% from Friday and near the lowest of the year so far). Financials underperformed once again (as Tech was the only sector in the green by the close). Treasury yields helped support some of the rally in the afternoon in US equities as 30Y shifted from -11bps to -5bps by the close but overall Treasuries outperformed (stocks should be down more on a beta basis given bonds move). JPY was the outlier today, stronger vs USD by 0.46% from Friday while elsewhere in FX, the USD (+0.4% from Friday) lost some of its gains against the majors after the European close with EURUSD back above 1.31 by the close. Gold (with its pending death cross to match SPX's golden cross) just outperformed its commodity peers (with oil close behind) though they all lost ground as USD strengthened with Copper and Silver underperforming. VIX gained about 1 vol from Friday but leaked lower by around 1 vol from its opening peak above 20.



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Van Rompuy Barroso Sarkozy Live Press Conference - Webcast

Can't get enough of gravitationally-challenged presidents and Gollum wannabes? Then this webcast is for you. Oops, looks like no Sarko, just that D-grade actor Barroso. Oh well - both are completely irrelevant.



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Good Gendarme: Recently Downgraded France Opposes German Demands For Greek "Tutelage"

Whowouldathunk it - beggars can be choosers. The country which just slashed its economic outlook, and which depends on GermAAAn capital and goodwill to preserve its well-being in the Eurozone, has just decided to pull a good gendarme to Germany's bad [insert the blank] and has voiced its opposition to German demands stripping Greece of its fiscal sovereignty.

  • SARKOZY REJECTS GREECE CEDING BUDGET MANAGEMENT TO EU
  • SARKOZY SAYS NO QUESTION OF PUTTING GREECE `UNDER TUTELAGE'
  • SARKOZY SAYS EU TAKEOVER OF GREECE WOULD NOT BE REASONABLE, "DEMOCRATIC"

Nice try Sarko: somehow we fail to see how FraAAnce's opinion is even remotely relevant in future European decision making at this point. But an admirable attempt by the future ex-president to go for the solidarity bonus points.



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Commerzbank CEO Says Greece Should Exit Eurozone

As if Merkel did not make it all too clear over the weekend that Germany no longer wishes Greece to be part of the Eurozone, and that the ball is now in Athens' court to accept what is a glaringly unfeasible demand, i.e., to hand over fiscal sovereignty over to "Europe" with Merkel having the cover of saying it did everything in its power to keep Greece in the union, here comes Commerzbank's CEO Mueller to pick up where Merkel left off:

  • COMMERZBANK'S MUELLER SAYS GREECE SHOULD EXIT EURO ZONE
  • COMMERZBANK'S MUELLER SPOKE TO DEUTSCHES ANLEGER FERNSEHEN

Presumably this means that German banks have sold off all their Greek bond exposure, and believe that the Eurozone would be better off without Greece in it. However, that Commerzbank, or one of the most insolvent banks in Europe, and only in line with Dexia, is confident that it can withstand the contagtion that would follow, only makes us even more skeptical that a Greek default and Eurozone departure will be contained, and in all likelihood will have scary implications for all European banks, not only German ones. Just ask DB's Ackermann...



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