Today, for the first time, the ECB released minutes from its historic January 21-22 meeting during which the ECB unleashed QE. While hardly containing anything earthshattering, here are the main highlights.
After yesterday's FOMC Minutes, despite a huge dovish reversal by the Fed - one which increasingly puts its "credibility" and reputation at risk - stocks were unable to close green, or even above 2100, for one simple reason: uncertainty with the fate of Greece. Overnight there has not been much more clarity, when as previously reported Greece submitted a 6 month extension request to its master loan agreement but not to its bailout extension, a nuance lost in the annals of diplomacy. But is this the much-awaited Greek capitulation? Or will the Eurogroup reject this too? The answer may be available in a few hours after an emergency Eurogroup meeting due later today. However, as usual stocks are ready to "price in" yet another Greek conflict resolution, and after futures were lower by 7 points overnight, were up 4 points at last check: a rebound which will not correct if the latest Greek "compromise" fails to deliver.
With historically low long-term interest rates, the opportunity cost of holding gold and silver are close to zero or even negative, in other words you would “lose” money if you buy bonds (the benchmark) instead of gold and silver. When people realize that their money is not “safe” with the banks they will start withdrawing cash from their accounts and buy physical gold and silver instead. Depending on circumstances this could possibly bring down the (fractional) banking system. Why keep money in an account that gives you a negative return? Swiss banks are already witnessing stronger than normal interest for physical gold.
I assume that the overall costs (and risks) of Greece saying "Goodbye To All That" are considered too high by both the Eurogroup and the new Greek government. (In practice: a 5- day bank holiday, issuance of Drachmas, the conversion of euro assets into Drachmas and the announcement that 90% of outstanding debt will no longer be honoured.) Eventually, there will be a compromise aimed primarily at gaining time. The Eurogroup will continue to allow the minimum financing of the Greek state ("extension") and say that they will need time to think how a "debt restructuring" could like like. Mr Tsipras and Mr Varoufakis will be content having secured "bridge funds" for another 6-9 months while still in possession of the trump card "Grexit".
The initial kneejerk higher in stocks has been removed (for now) as bubble warnings and truthiness about low oil prices as well as the general weariness of The Fed spoils the meme that everything is awesome. Bond yields plunged out of the gate (and remained lower) and The US Dollar is being sold hard. Gold and silver are rising as WTI Crude slides.
"The staff report noted valuation pressures in some asset markets. Such pressures were most notable in corporate debt markets, despite some easing in recent months. In addition, valuation pressures appear to be building in the CRE sector, as indicated by rising prices and the easing in lending standards on CRE loans. Finally, the increased role of bond and loan mutual funds, in conjunction with other factors, may have increased the risk that liquidity pressures could emerge in related markets if investor appetite for such assets wanes. The effects on the largest banking firms of the sharp decline in oil prices and developments in foreign exchange markets appeared limited, although other institutions with more concentrated exposures could face strains if oil prices remain at current levels for a prolonged period."
There was much confusion yesterday when algos went into a buying frenzy on news that Greece would submit a request for a 6 month loan extension, believing this means Greece has caved and will agree to a bailout programme extension as well. Nothing could have been further from the truth as we explained first moments after the headline struck, and also as Reuters validated moments ago when it said that "Greece will submit a request to the euro zone on Wednesday to extend a "loan agreement" for up to six months but EU paymaster Germany says no such deal is on offer and Athens must stick to the terms of its existing international bailout." But since the political nuances of diplomacy are lost on the math Ph.Ds who program the market-moving algos, the S&P did manage to roar above 2100 on what was another headfake and then forgot to sell off on the reality.
Like spirits, debt and risk make for a great party but a terrible hangover...
Our clueless President observed, "You cannot keep on squeezing countries that are in the midst of depression. At some point there has to be a growth strategy in order for them to pay off their debts..." No, paying off their debts is exactly the wrong medicine. You do not kick the can and extend and pretend that Greece can service its crushing debt. Instead, you permit it to default, and then to rebuild it’s economy and credit the old fashioned way. In any event, its a problem for the Europeans and the Greeks to resolve. Obama should stop sending Keynesian witch doctors to spread more policy poison around Europe.
The final and ultimate round of the Crisis that begin in 2008 will occur when faith is lost in the Central Banks.
From a Citi global credit survey: "...over 65% of respondents said they believed action from central banks in Europe and the US would be the principal force driving credit index spreads [and] surprisingly, in a year with major political catalysts in Europe, and ongoing regional tensions in the Middle East and Russia, only 4% of respondents felt that geopolitical risk would be the major factor driving spreads.”
At the start of Q4 2014, Appaloosa's David Tepper made a series of statements - dismissing Bill Gross as irrelevant (nope - turmoil caused by PIMCO unwinds roiled credit markets), calling the end of the bond bull market (nope - yields went on make lower and lower lows), and finally proclaiming that stocks were inexpensive and multiples not high. So, one wonders, if stocks were inexpensive and multiples not high, why did Appaloosa dump 40% of its US equity exposure in that quarter (only to end the quarter with even more exuberance proclaiming that stocks could rise another 10% in 2015)? It appears that when David Tepper says "buy", he means "buy... from me."
The chances of Greece being forced out of the euro zone have risen but a compromise agreement between Athens and its European partners is still possible, Greek media and investment banks said on Tuesday.
- Markets From Stocks to Debt to Euro Show Little No Panic (BBG)
- Greek Euro Exit Risk Increases as EU Delivers Ultimatum (BBG)
- Oil rises to $62, near 2015 high as Mideast risks support (Reuters)
- Texas judge blocks Obama plan to protect undocumented immigrants (Reuters)
- Oil Train Derails and Ignites Forcing West Virginia Evacuations (BBG)
- Battle rages for town where Ukraine rebels reject ceasefire (BBG)
- Chinese Firms Tiptoe Back Into Europe’s Battered Financial Sector (WSJ)
- Putin’s Paradise Becomes Economic No-Go Zone Where Cash Is King (BBG)
- Emerging fund managers stuck in buy-and-hold as trading shrivels (Reuters)