Stability is a myth yet it’s what we humans strive for...
First the Japanese central bank proceeds to monetize all new debt issuance and is on route to holding 50% of all 10 Year bond equivalents within 2 years, sending the Yen year plummeting to 7 years lows daily, and then - just like Europe - Japan gets cold feet and realizes that the next steps are USDJPY 145+, meaning a complete collapse of the Japanese economy and a full on FX, if not shooting, war in Asia. So what does Japan's finance minister Aso do? Why he talks the Yen higher, in the process completely confounding the FX algos, and risking a full blown collapse in the Nikkei just 3 weeks ahead of the Japanese snap elections.
In the second of three interviews (part 1 here), Hugh Hendry tells MoneyWeek's Merryn Somerset Webb why central banks will go even further than anyone expects to keep the global economy afloat. Hendry notes, "there’s so much debt that if you reprice debt, the economy slows down. We saw that I think in 2012, after the taper tantrum and ten-year bond use went over 3%. What happened next? The economy slowed down. If anything I would be a buyer of U.S. Treasuries."
Following the October swoon, stocks have vaulted to all-time highs. As we discussed previously in "Sentiment Is Off The Charts Bullish," there have only been few occasions where investors have felt so "giddy" about the financial markets. Such periods of exuberance have never ended well for investors as they were deluded by near-term "greed" which blinded them to the building risks. One of the things that we pay attention to is the ratio of the S&P 500 compared to longer duration bonds.
The topic of ‘currency war’ has been bantered about in financial circles since at least the term was first used by Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega in September 2010. Recently, the currency war has escalated, and a ‘sanctions war’ against Russia has broken out. History suggests that financial assets are highly unlikely to preserve investors’ real purchasing power in this inhospitable international environment, due in part to the associated currency crises, which will catalyse at least a partial international remonetisation of gold. Vladimir Putin, under pressure from economic sanctions, may calculate that now is the time to play his ‘gold card’.
Despite record low bond yields and all the promises one can bear from politicians and central bankers, the people of Europe are the least confident since February. At -11.6, missing expectations of a slight improvement from -11.1 to -10.7, this is the biggest miss since August 2011. It's perhaps not surprising given the near-record highs in unemployment but oddly, confidence seems highly correlated to EUR strength (or weakness)... the opposite of what the market hopes for.
"QE is a necessary condition for recovery in Europe, but is not sufficient in itself. The question is where does this bridge take us? The eurozone can survive a couple more years of miserable growth, but it can’t go on forever like this before people lose hope. There is political risk almost everywhere."
Having noted rather pointedly that "there's a subsidy in the marketplace that's worked out definitely to those that are holding equities," Santelli warns, when The Fed removes it, "it creates a problem for equities." However, when he is asked about the disconnect between the bond market (rates) and what The Fed is telling us, Santelli rightly explodes, lambasting the 'Hatzius' of the world, "if The Fed hasn't made up its mind" about when and how rates will rise, "how can markets 'price it in'?" ... and the rant ignites from there...
The BTFDippier of the fast money is already rotating into a long-Europe mode: their entire thesis is that sooner or later the whales will have no choice but to follow the momentum chasers right back into Europe, because where else are they going to go: in the "safety" of the S&P's 19x GAAP P/E? In theory this would be a great strategy, if only in a world in which nobody actually does any fundamental homework and the only thing that matters is frontrunning the next great sucker. In practice, it is fatally wrong. As the following observation from hedge fund Lyxor shows, while CTA and momentum strats have indeed bailed on Europe in recent months, the so-called smart money, the "global macro" funds never left.
The financial system is lurching towards the next round of the Great Crisis that began in 2007.
With growth rates for steel products at or near record lows and prices for end-product having plunged to record lows, it is little surprise that the Steel industry would provide the largest Chinese bankruptcy yet in this cycle. As Bloomberg reports, unlisted Haixin Iron & Steel - which halted production and defaulted on CNY3 bn in March - has started bankruptcy proceedings. Having spent 8 months hoping for the government bailout that every Western onlooker believes is every firm's god-given right, a reorganization application for the Wenxi, Shanxi province-based company (with $1.7 billion of total debt) was accepted by the Yuncheng City Intermediate People’s Court. This is just the start as "Haixin Group’s bankruptcy will be followed by others," warns one analyst, adding that the major flaw of producers of iron ore, the most traded commodity after oil, is they tend to be “over-bullish.”
- Yellen Inherits Greenspan’s Conundrum as Long Rates Sink (BBG)
- West African Mining Projects Take Hit From Ebola Crisis (WSJ)
- Saudi oil policy uncertainty unleashes the conspiracy theorists (Reuters)
- Senate Rejection of Keystone XL Measure Sets Up 2015 Showdown (BBG)
- Ferguson, Missouri, remains on edge ahead of grand jury report (Reuters)
- Putin Said to Stun Advisers by Backing Corruption Crackdown (BBG)
- Italian ‘Invasion’ Has Swiss Fuming as Immigration Vote Looms (BBG)
- Apple and Others Encrypt Phones, Fueling Government Standoff (WSJ)
Despite the apparent economic and profit news improvements recently, JPMorgan CIO Michael Cembalest notes there are a few instances where people are still flipping out. It’s worth reviewing them, he suggests, as they're indicative of risks and opportunities in financial markets heading into 2015, and of the continued presence of central banks affecting asset prices.
To put the events of October 15 in context, here is a 1-minute clip courtesy of Nanex showing the daily history bond market liquidity starting with 2008 and going through November 2014.