Straight-forward discussion of the international climate.
With the global economy sinking, and worries about it beginning to resound beyond just inconvenient bears, Paul Krugman has been leading the critique against what he sees is a disastrous and ignorant deformation against debt. Krugman is trying to argue that because government debt did not hinder private wealth creation we should use government debt to create private wealth. The cart is not even before the horse using this “logic”, as the cart and horse aren’t even on the same road. Paper wealth isn’t wealth, and government debt isn’t “free money.” There are consequences to both which their proponents never include in the “prospectus.”
One of the bigger asset bubbles in recent US history has nothing to do with stock, bonds or commodities, We are talking about farmland. And yet, like all other bubbles - be they the result of retail euphoria or central bank rigging - this one too must come to a close, and as the WSJ reports, the first crack in the farmland bubble are appearing, after farmland values declined in parts of the Midwest for the first time in decades last year "reflecting a cooling in the market driven by two years of bumper crops and sharply lower grain prices, according to Federal Reserve reports on Thursday." the average price of farmland in the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s district, which includes Illinois, Iowa and other big farm states, fell 3% in 2014, marking the first annual decline since 1986, which makes farmlands the only asset class that had not seen a down year in nearly three decades!
Gold and government bonds now cost about the same to own, but governments actively trying to lower the value of their bonds and bank accounts while gold is rising wherever trouble erupts. The logical conclusion is that if gold and cash both cost the same to own, then maybe gold — which has held its value over millennia while every previous fiat currency has evaporated — is the better bet.
How geo-politics continues to influence macro markets
Central bank gold buying surged another 17% last year as countries outside of the Western hemisphere continue to stockpile the only currency with no counterparty risk.
Now that Europe has demonstrated that one can go NIRP and not crash the system, will the Fed - once its silly obsession with hiking rates in the summer only to launch even more easing and/or QE as the ECB did in 2008 and 2011 - follow suit and join a rising tide of "developed" world central banks in punishing savers for hoarding cash? In a note released last night titled "Revisiting Negative Interest Rates in the US", Goldman shares its thought on the matter. It goes without saying that Goldman is important, because whatever Goldman's econ team shares with Goldman's Bill Dudley over at the NY Fed, usually tends to become official policy with a 3-6 month lag.
Who would have thought all it takes for Eurozone Q4 GDP to print above expectations, even if by the smallest of possible margins - one which even the Chinese goalseek-o-tron bows its head down to in respect - which at 0.3% Q/Q was above the 0.2% expected and above Q3's 0.2%, was for Europe to admit it has finally succumbed to deflation. Oh, and for the ECB to admit the situation has never been more serious by launching Q€. Oh, and add the "estimated contribution" to GDP from hookers and drugs. Put all that together and on an annualized basis, the European economy grew by 1.4%. Whatever the reason, Q4 GDP was the best print since Q1, even as Germany blew not only consensus of 0.3%, but the highest GDP estimate of 0.6% out of the water when it reported that courtesy of a spike in spending, its economy grew by 0.7% in the fourth quarter, up from the near-recessionary 0.1% in Q3. That, together with QE and ZIRP now raging across the continent, was enough to push the DAX above 11,000 for the first time ever.
Yet another weak Japanese bond auction (this time 5Y maturity - lowest bid-to-cover and biggest tail since 2013), on the heels of last night revelations of a growing chorus of JPY-devaluation-fears has many wondering if the faith they placed in The BoJ's grandest experiment was wrong after all. With speculators now net short for Japanese stocks for the first time since Abenomics was unleashed, a series of weak bond auctions and a spike in JGB yields since the ECB unleashed QE, and now a surging JPY (tumbling USDJPY) as carry trader around the world pull back on leverage and exposure... perhaps - the idea that a nation can devalue itself into prosperity on the backs of the rest of the world was total idiocy after all and Kyle Bass' Potemkin Village is about to fall.
This country has gone from being one of the most regulated countries in the OECD to one of the least regulated and as a result the economy has boomed. Many of the wealthiest people in the world have been quietly establishing escape hatches here.
The bond market may have gotten so fragmented in recent months that even Bloomberg was amazed at how little trading volume it necessary to make a price impact, the amount of bond traders (and certainly salesmen), and certainly their bonuses, appeared to only go up. "Appeared" being the key word, however, because as Bloomberg reports, "the average number of dealers providing prices for European corporate bonds dropped to a low of 3.2 per trade last month, down from 8.8 in 2009, according to data compiled by Morgan Stanley."
Hot on the heels of the previously discussed surge in Indirect, aka mostly foreign central bank and other official, demand for 3 and 10 Year Treasurys discussed in the past 2 days, the week's issuance was set to end with today's $13 billion in 30 Years bonds. And, as expected, Indirects could barely contain their excitement, taking down just shy of half, or 49.4%, in line with the recent prints of 48.9% and 49.8% in Janury and December, if a little shy of the record high of 53.2% hit in July, after the auction priced 0.4 bps just wide of the When Issued, at 2.56%, a fraction wider than January's 2.43% even if today's session had seen some aggressive buying into the 1pm hour.
The Russian economy continues to suffer. The absolute desolation of the oil market effectively destroyed the economy in Russia, which is incredibly dependent on the commodity. Job’s have been lost, the standard of living has collapsed and now the once proud Russian bond, is being attacked.
Standard and Poors, what some call, “the international credit watchdog” slashed Russian debt to BB+, one step below what the markets consider investment grade.
US equity markets are quietly doing what they do - go up and stay up. But in the biggest markets in the world - US Treasury, Japanese bonds, and foreign exchange - something turmoily is happening. Yields are cratering today.. The USDollar is getting hammered on the back of JPY gapping dramatically stronger and EUR surging.
Confused by the whirlwind of conflicting facts, not to mention outright lies, leaks and rumors, surrounding the negotiations of what will either be the third Greek bailout of its first, and final, Greek exit from the Eurozone? The following summary should answer most questions.