Perhaps surprisingly, Germany's DAX index was the weakest in Europe today as the Russia-Ukraine debacle escalates, underperforming high-beta "safe-havens" like Spain and Italy (which also fell rather notably). Despite the 2.5% to 3% declines across all major European equity markets, sovereign bond spreads barely budged! Seriously, Italian and Spanish bond spread rose a mere 5bps on the day. European banks collapsed 3.6%, its biggest drop in 6 months. EURCHF continues to collapse, now at 14 month lows (-200 pips today) as 2Y Swiss rates close at -11.4bps (the lows of 2014).
Despite near record low bond yields, a surging stock market and a leadership proclaiming victory, the people of Spain appear upset at the IMF's appearance in their nation. Around 2,000 people protested in Bilbao today as the IMF (member of the infamous Troika) overturning cars and windows, graffiti-ing "IMF Out!" and held banners saying "Troika Go Home", denouncing economic policies that welcome austerity measures and the introduction of cuts. While Christine Lagarde, who attended, lauds the progress (and demands more); perhaps it is the record unemployment, record suicides, record homelessness, and record loan delinquencies that tarnish the rose-colored glasses that 'the powers that be' would prefer the general public to see the world through.
The Bitcoin phenomenon has now reached the mainstream media where it met with a reception that ranged from sceptical to outright hostile. The recent volatility in the price of bitcoins and the issues surrounding Bitcoin-exchange Mt. Gox have led to additional negative publicity. It is clear that on a conceptual level, Bitcoin has much more in common with a gold and silver as monetary assets than with state fiat money. The supply of gold, silver and Bitcoin, is not under the control of any issuing authority. It is money of no authority – and this is precisely why such assets were chosen as money for thousands of years. Gold, silver and Bitcoin do not require trust and faith in a powerful and privileged institution, such as a central bank bureaucracy. Under a gold standard you have to trust Mother Nature and the spontaneous market order that employs gold as money. Under Bitcoin you have to trust the algorithm and the spontaneous market order that employs bitcoins as money (if the public so chooses). Under the fiat money system you have to trust Ben Bernanke, Janet Yellen, and their hordes of economics PhDs and statisticians.
Yuan volatility is part of a major rebalancing of global trade. The next phase of EM turmoil will involve banking crises in several countries including China.
Dispassionate look at next week's calendar.
"If I ask you what’s the risk in investing, you would answer the risk of losing money. But there actually are two risks in investing: One is to lose money and the other is to miss opportunity. You can eliminate either one, but you can’t eliminate both at the same time. So the question is how you’re going to position yourself versus these two risks: straight down the middle, more aggressive or more defensive. I think of it like a comedy movie where a guy is considering some activity. On his right shoulder is sitting an angel in a white robe. He says: «No, don’t do it! It’s not prudent, it’s not a good idea, it’s not proper and you’ll get in trouble». On the other shoulder is the devil in a red robe with his pitchfork. He whispers: «Do it, you’ll get rich». In the end, the devil usually wins. Caution, maturity and doing the right thing are old-fashioned ideas. And when they do battle against the desire to get rich, other than in panic times the desire to get rich usually wins. That’s why bubbles are created and frauds like Bernie Madoff get money." - Howard Marks
While it is unclear why it happened, in the most recent week of Fed data, February 19, Primary Dealer holdings of Coupon securities tumbled by $21 billion, to just $2.3 billion. As the chart below show this is curious because the last time PD holdings of coupon securities was this low was in September of 2011, suggesting that in the middle of the month dealers were dumping coupon paper aggressively even though this did not impact the prevailing price of the various maturity buckets, considering the bond complex continues to grind higher in 2014 despite panicked warnings by the punditry that all Treasury holdings must be sold.
- Yuan suffers biggest weekly loss as PBOC punishes speculators (Reuters)
- Euro Gains as Bonds Decline With Stocks on Inflation Data (BBG)
- Biggest Sovereign Fund Forced to Sell Stocks as Mandate Breached (BBG)
- Because we don't already have enough fried foods.. (Reuters)
- Putin: Russia to Consider Aid to Ukraine (AP)
- Wall Street Hates JPMorgan Fee for $1 Trillion Junk Loans (BBG)
- Yellen Sticks to Plan Amid Weather Doubts (WSJ)
- U.S. Retail Chains See First Profit Decline Since Recession (BBG)
In addition to the already noted fireworks out of China, where the Yuan saw the biggest daily plunge since 2008 and the ongoing and very rapid newsflow out of the Ukraine, focus this morning was very much of the latest Eurozone CPI data, which despite matching previous low levels, came in above expectations and in turn resulted in an aggressive unwind of short-EUR bets as market participants were forced to re-asses the likelihood of more easing by the ECB. Still, even though the Euribor curve bear steepened and Bunds came under significant selling pressure, the EONIA forward curve remained inverted, signifying that there is still a degree of apprehension over what is unarguably very low inflation data.
Just like the rental bubble whose bursting we chronicled here just last week, so the institutional bubble has just popped, which we know courtesy of RealtyTrac data reporting that institutional investors — defined as entities purchasing at least 10 properties in a calendar year — accounted for 5.2 percent of all U.S. residential property sales in January, down from 7.9 percent in December and down from 8.2 percent in January 2013. This was the biggest one month plunge in history. It gets worse: the January share of institutional investor purchases represented the lowest monthly level since March 2012 — a 22-month low.
With European peripheral bond yields collapsing every single day to new all time lows (primarily driven by Europe's near-certainty that a US-style QE is imminent as we first showed here in November, despite Mario Draghi's own words from November 2011 that a QE intervention is virtually impossible), increasingly more of Europe is trading just as safe, if not more, as the United States. And in keeping with the analogies, considering a major US metropolitan center, Detroit, recently went bankrupt, it is only fair that Europe should sacrifice one of its own historic cities to the gods of negative cash flows. The city in question, Rome, which as the WSJ reports, is "teetering on the brink of a Detroit-style bankruptcy."
Just like in yesterday's scorching 5 Year auction, demand for today's $29 billion in 7 Year paper was blistering, with a yield of 2.105% stopped through the When Issued 2.108%, and the lowest since November as appetite for the belly of the curve is the highest in months. The Bid to Cover was also very strong at 2.723, the highest since November 2012, and like in other shorter-maturity auctions, has reverse the recent declining trend in BTCs. But the most notable features in the conclude auction, the bulk of which will naturally be quickly flipped back to the Fed, is that while Indirects took down 41.12% or spot on with the 12 Month average, and Dealers were left with 34.28%, below the 40.0% TTM average, it left Directs with 24.6% - this was the highest Direct take down in the history of the bond. The Primary Dealers, who have been openly complaining about Direct Bidder participation in bond auctions in recent weeks, will certainly not be happy about this particular development as increasingly more paper goes straight into the hands of Direct bidders.
Three unlucky attempts in a row to retake the S&P 500 all time high may have been all we get, at least for now, because the fourth one is shaping up to be rather problematic following events out of the Crimean in the past three hours where the Ukraine situation has gone from bad to worse, and have dragged the all important risk indicator, the USDJPY, below 102.000 once again. As a result, global stock futures have fallen from the European open this morning, with the DAX future well below 9600 to mark levels not seen since last Thursday. Escalated tensions in the Ukraine have raised concerns of the spillover effects to Western Europe and Russia, as a Russian flag is lifted by occupying gunmen in the Crimean (Southern Ukrainian peninsula) parliament, prompting an emergency session of Crimean lawmakers to discuss the fate of the region. This, allied with reports of the mobilisation of Russian jets on the Western border has weighed on risk sentiment, sending the German 10yr yield to July 2013 lows.
Government spending is out of control. But even if voters and politicians wanted to stop, they couldn't. The root of the problem is a flaw in the nature of the dollar.
The [growing deficits of the past 50 years] suggest that we’ve never been in a predicament comparable to today. Essentially, the world’s developed countries are following the same path that’s failed, time and again, in chronically insolvent nations of the developing world. Look at it this way: the chart shows that we’ve turned the economic development process inside out. Ideally, advanced economies would stick to the disciplined financial practices that helped make them strong between the early-19th and mid-20th centuries, while emerging economies would “catch up” by building similar track records. Instead, advanced economies are catching down and threatening to throw the entire world into the kind of recurring crisis mode to which you’re accustomed if you live in, say, Buenos Aires.