After dropping to its 200 DMA, and threatening to breach its recent support level of 1.2800, the EURUSD has seen the usual powerlift over the past 4 hours, on two key events out of Europe: Eurozone unemployment, which came at a record 11.4%, up from 11.3% (which just happened to be revised to 11.4%) but because it was in line with expectations of the ongoing recession, all was forgiven. The other event was Eurozone manfucaturing PMI, which rose by the smallest amount possible from the 46.0 in August to 46.1, on expectations of an unchanged print. That 0.1% "beat" is what has so far set off a near 100 pip rush higher in the EURUSD, which has ignored the Chinese weakness overnight (the SHCOMP is closed for the Chinese Golden Week), as well as the UK PMI which did not share in the European "improvement" and tumbled from 49.5 to 48.4 on expectations of a 49.0 print (so much for that latest BOE easing), and instead is transfixed by headlines proclaiming the strongest PMI in 6 months. What also is being ignored is the components in the Eurozone PMI, with the leading New Order index falling to 43.5 from 43.7. But the data being ignored the hardest is the French PMI which tumbled to 42.7, the lowest print in 41 months, of which as MarkIt's chief economist Chris Williamson said "France is perhaps the new worry, with its PMI slumping to the lowest for three-and-a-half years." Coming at a 3+ year low when France desperately needs its new wealth redistribution budget to be credible, is not the best possible outcome. Bottom line: Europe is in a recession, but maybe not outright depression just yet, so the thinking is - buy the EUR, strengthen the currency, make German exports weaker, and make sure the recession becomes a full on depression. Or something like that.
For all the obvious reasons, China's ruling elites will do their best in the next few months to project an image of unity and self-confidence, and to convince the rest of the world that the next generation of leaders is capable of maintaining the party's political monopoly. That is, unfortunately, a tough sell. Confidence in the party's internal cohesion and leadership has already been shaken by the Bo affair, endemic corruption, stagnation of reform in the last decade, a slowing economy, deteriorating relations with neighbors and the United States, and growing social unrest. The questions on many people's minds these days are how long the party can hold on to its power and whether the party can manage a democratic transition to save itself. China is in a socioeconomic environment in which autocratic governance becomes increasingly illegitimate and untenable as its rapid economic development has thrust the country past what is commonly known as the 'democratic transition zone' where autocratic regimes face increasing odds of regime change as income rises.
As we discussed earlier, the French budget can be summed up as state spending will be frozen (not cut), tax and social contribution increases for households, and companies will see approximately 8% of their current after-tax profits vacuumed up by the government. But it is high-income earners that face a sharp adjustment. On the household side, SocGen notes the flagship measures will be: a new 75% income tax on incomes of €1 mln or more, the Wealth tax (ISF) band to return to the status quo ante (before Mr Sarkozy), the taxation of capital income in line with labor income, and new limits on tax breaks or the freezing of the income tax schedule (except for low income earners). The government expects income tax receipts to increase from €59bn in 2012 to €72.6bn in 2013 (+23%). Income taxes are expected to decline for the 8 lowest deciles (80% lowest incomes) and that the bulk of the income tax increases will affect the top 5% of incomes. A simple rule of thumb suggests that those latter households could experience a 40-50% increase in their income tax bills.
A month ago, when we first presented the dwindling Spanish treasury cash position, we wrote: "once the next Spanish State Liability update is posted, we wouldn't be surprised to see this number plunge to a new post-Lehman low. Yet what is scariest is that all else equal (and it never is), at the current run rate Spain may well run out of cash by the end of the year even assuming it manages to conclude all its remaining auctions through year's end without a glitch." The August cash balance update was just released by the Banco de Espana, and there's good news, unsurprising news and bad news.
Following HSBC's PMI data, China's official Manufacturing PMI just printed well below economists' expectations and is now signaling contraction for the second month in a row. Critically the expectation was for a return to expansion at 50.1 but the data came at 49.8 - still marginally higher MoM. Most sub-indices improved modestly from August but of most interest was the fifth month-in-a-row that the employment index dropped. For all the iron-ore-recovery believers, the Inventories of Raw Materials index also jumped by its most in three months as Input Prices also surged for the second month in a row. So contraction confirmed, a CCP in 'leadership' turmoil, and a PBOC stymied by inflationary concerns and the need to push through structural reform.
Following closely on the heels of Spain's budget and banking audit debacle, France prepares to unveil its budget (taxing business, bankers, and beer). The positive spin will be deafening as politicians are already proclaiming 'realistic and ambitious' growth targets as getting the country 'back on the rails'. UnMondeLibre's Emmanuel Martin comments "How ironic? The French Presidential candidate who once campaigned with the slogan of 'growth vs. austerity' is now, as President, preparing to give the French the biggest taxation shock ever – a growth killer that is." What matters is the type of path to fiscal responsibility, and, unfortunately, Mr Hollande chose 'austerity with more taxes and no reform'. With France being a crucial player in the Euro-game, one wonders whether this might actually not mean the end of the Euro sooner.
Since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad first became President of Iran, in August 2005, the country's economy has gone from bad to worse. As Steve 'hyperinflation' Hanke noted recently, the Iranian economy has been kept afloat - barely afloat - by oil revenues. Shortly after Ahmadinejad took power, Iran began to draw the ire of the United States and its allies over a number of issues related to its nuclear ambitions and this 'loose' coalition of allies has ratcheted up economic sanctions. These sanctions are starting to have very significant impacts. From the Rial's greater-than-50% plunge to estimated inflation rates over 70%, the country's 'Misery Index', as noted in Bloomberg's Chart-of-the-day, has surged massively in recent months. For context, Iran's Misery score of 106 currently compares to Egypt's pre-Arab Spring Misery score of around 40! Whether the sanctions' "bite" will cause the regime to dig their heels in more and/or force the people to openly revolt (or turn their anger on the sanction-enforcing aggressor?), it truly is no fun in Iran.
Chinese local governments are facing the prospect of major unemployment problems should the swathe of solar panel makers, that have been subsidized from birth to now-near-death, continue to suffer from US and European tariffs (as well as simple gross mis-allocation of capital amid massive over-capacity). However, as is the way of the mal-investing world today, no barrier to rational economic theory is too low for government status-quo maintenance as it would appear that local banks have been strong-armed into extending loans to keep them alive. As Reuters reports, debt-laden (NYSE-traded) SunTech Power Holdings - which is close to removal from the exchange due to its dismal equity price - has just received new 'bailout' loans. First, it was a race to debase. Now, we have the race to bailout the world's most worthless companies (especially in channel-stuffed industries) as the New Normal trade wars continue.
If we look at what's skyrocketed in price (healthcare, college tuition), we find they are government funded and supported. This is not a coincidence. Inflation is generally viewed as a monetary phenomenon (print money excessively and you get inflation), but let's use a very simple definition: any loss of purchasing power. If your income buys fewer goods and services, for whatever mix of reasons (geopolitical, weather, monetary, fiscal, etc.), that's inflation "on the ground." Government spending and intervention fuel inflation, and the Federal Reserve enables that spending and inflation by monetizing Federal deficits. Eventually, declining wages lead to demand destruction, as households consume fewer goods and services. But inflation that is being driven by government spending will not decrease, as the demand is being supported by a borrow-and-spend Central State supported by a monetize-Federal-debt-til-Doomsday Federal Reserve.
The world's largest hedge fund is not located in the top floor of some shiny, floor-to-ceiling glass clad skyscraper in New York, London, Hong Kong or Shanghai. It isn't in some sprawling mansion in Greenwich or Stamford which houses a state of the art trading desk behind a crocodile-filled moat. Instead it can be found in tiny, nondescript office in Suite 225 located on 730 Sandhill Road in Reno, Nevada.
We have in the past attempted to take on the gargantuan task of exposing the multi-trillion Chinese Shadow Banking system (not to be confused with its deposit-free, rehypothecation-full Western equivalent), most recently here. Alas, it is has consistently proven to be virtually impossible to coherently explain something as decentralized and as pervasive as an entire country's underground economy, especially when the country in question is the riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma known as China. Today, however, courtesy of AsiaFinanceNews we get a report as close as possible to the most comprehensive overview of what may soon be (especially if rumors of tumbling Chinese municipal dominoes are correct) the most talked about subject in the financial world: China's Shadow Banking empire.
While it is just as perplexing that Goldman still has clients, what is most surprising in this week's David Kostin "weekly kickstart" is that Goldman's clients have shown a surprising lack of stupidity (this time around) when it comes to the impact of QEtc. Shockingly, and quite accurately, said clients appear to be far more worried about the inflationary shock that endless easing may bring (picture that), than what level the S&P closes for the year. Incidentally with Q3 now over, and just 3 months left until the end of the year, Goldman's chief equity strategist refuses to budge on his year end S&P forecast, which has been at 1250 since the beginning of the year, and remains firmly there. From Goldman: "QE has succeeded in increasing asset prices and inflation expectations but has not convinced investors to raise their US growth expectations. Instead, equity investors have expressed concern about inflation risks while both gold prices and implied inflation rates show similar shifts."
One by one all the money-laundering loopholes in a broke world are coming to an end. First it was Swiss bank accounts, which for centuries guaranteed the depositors absolute secrecy, and as a result saw money inflows from all the wealthiest savers in the world, who felt truly safe their wealth (obtained by legal means or otherwise) would not be redistributed forcefully. In the ecosystem of finance, Switzerland was the depositor bank. Then 2008 happened, and starting with the US, shortly to be followed by every other insolvent country, demands were issued for a full list of people who had used Zurich and Geneva bank vaults to avoid the risk of asset taxation, capital controls and confiscation on their own native soil. The result was the end of the Swiss banking sector as the ultimate target of all global money laundering. In the ensuing power vacuum, others have sprung up to take its place, most notably Singapore, but its days as a tax-haven are numbered by how long it takes China to fall face first into a hard landing at which point no saving on the Pacific seaboard will be safe.
Now, it is the turn of real estate.