Following the unexpected surge in Q2 GDP, which beat most analyst estimates, there was widespread expectation that based on real-time data, the revised Q2 print would be worse. So perhaps it is appropriate that the Bureau of Economic Analysis punked everyone once again, when moments ago it released the first revision to the Q2 GDP print, which instead of dropping to the consensus expected 3.9%, it instead rose to 4.2%, up from the 4.0% initial report.
If you like your de-escalation, you can keep your de-escalation. To think that heading into, and following the Russia-Ukraine "summit" earlier this week there was so much hope that the tense Ukraine civil war "situation" would somehow fix itself. Oh how wrong that thinking was considering overnight, following rebel separatists gains in the southeast of Ukraine which included the strategic port of Novoazvosk and which is "threatening to open up a new front in the war" including setting up a land corridor to Russia controlled-Crimea, Ukraine's president Poroshenko for the first time came out and directly accused Russia of an "Invasion", or at least a first time in recent weeks, saying he has convened the security council on the recent Russian actions.
While weather may affect the economy, the recent contraction has little to do with winter’s bitter cold; the US economy is far too diverse and complex. Instead, we are witnessing the ongoing effects of failed monetary and fiscal policies. As the Wickersham Commission noted years ago, “These laws [of economics] cannot be destroyed by governments, but often in the course of human history governments have been destroyed by them.”
"Germany will flirt with recession by Q4 of this year," warns Saxo Bank's Chief Economist Steen Jakobsen, adding that "the US is in worse shape than most people believe." It's important to underline, he notes, that major US investment houses, and certainly every single sales person we talk to, believe US is about to accelerate in growth not slow down. Jakobsen warns though that Q3 could be ok but the real damage will come in Q4 as the lead-lag factor of geopolitical risk, lack of reforms and excess global supply leads to low inflation. His conclusion, "it’s time to be defensive... very defensive."
Just in case futures buying algos forgot what the regurgitated "catalyst" that activated the overnight ramp was, the ECB was kind enough to remind everyone that the main event over the past 12 hours was the Deutsche Bank leak that while the ECB will not announce outright QE any time soon, thus denying the rumor spread in the past weak by the likes of Citi and JPM, the formerly preannounced and thus already priced-in (by the EURUSD which was about to take out 1.40 a few months ago) ABS purchase program, or as DB called it "private QE" is about to be unleashed. The ECB confirmed this earlier this morning when it announced that it had appointed BlackRock, the world’s biggest money manager, to advise on developing a program to buy asset-backed securities. In other words, Europe's largest public-sector hedge fund has just hired the world's largest private-sector hedge fund to "fix things."
There's only one small problem with relying on artifice: we haven't actually fixed what's broken in the real world.
If the big hope propelling both ES and S&P cash over 2,000 was the Ukraine-Russian talks, leading to some de-escalation and a thawing of Russian-German conditions, then it was clearly a dud. As the WSJ reports, "face-to-face talks between the Russian and Ukrainian presidents failed to produce a breakthrough for ending the conflict over eastern Ukraine, as Kiev released videos of captured Russian soldiers and rebels pushed toward a government-held city. The one-on-one session, which Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko described as "tough and complex," ended early Wednesday after a day of talks on the crisis in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Mr. Poroshenko said afterward that he would prepare a "road map" toward a possible cease-fire with the pro-Russia separatists." In other words, absolutely no progress. There was however escalation, when overnight the September Bund future rose as much as 36 ticks to 151.18, after Poland PM Tusk said “regular” Russian troops are operating in eastern Ukraine. And so we are back to square one, with concerns over Russia pushing European bonds to new record highs, in turn leading to more US Treasury buying, while a brand new rumor of more easing from the ECB, this time by Deutsche Bank, has propped up European equities, which like US futures are trading water around the critical 2000 level.
"Rather than trying to spur private-sector spending through asset purchases or interest-rate changes, central banks, such as the Fed, should hand consumers cash directly.... Central banks, including the U.S. Federal Reserve, have taken aggressive action, consistently lowering interest rates such that today they hover near zero. They have also pumped trillions of dollars’ worth of new money into the financial system. Yet such policies have only fed a damaging cycle of booms and busts, warping incentives and distorting asset prices, and now economic growth is stagnating while inequality gets worse. It’s well past time, then, for U.S. policymakers -- as well as their counterparts in other developed countries -- to consider a version of Friedman’s helicopter drops. In the short term, such cash transfers could jump-start the economy... The transfers wouldn’t cause damaging inflation, and few doubt that they would work. The only real question is why no government has tried them"...
Unlike the QE-lite-driven exuberance in Chinese stocks of the last few weeks (which faded dramatically overnight), China's industrial commodities (with near-record inventories) and seeing prices collapse. This may shock some who espy PMIs and government-created trade data and proclaim, China is fixed. In fact, as JPMorgan's China Sentiment Index (JSI) shows, things are anything but bright as it fell to the lowest since June last year (at 48.3 in August). Sales and margins are tumbling - despite supposedly lower input costs. Lastly, those focused on spot Yuan movements (strength in recent weeks) have suggested this also confirms China strength - inflows - but looking out 12-months shows the market is expecting a dramatic devaluation from current levels in the Chinese currency is coming.
"Utility disconnection is always considered a last resort, obviously because of consequences for households," but as Detroit News reports, but water-providers can expect more controversy, as a month-long moratorium against shutting off water for those behind on their bills expired last night. Halting service to people that don't pay generate outrage among not just Detroit residents but a wider audience who proclaim 'water should be a right'. However, as one utility director noted, "We've seen a lot more payments...They need that little kick in the pants to get in here and do it." Water industry experts say cities with high delinquency rates sometimes have few other effective options for getting customers to catch up on their bills. Roughly half of Detroit’s 170,000 customers were delinquent as of last spring.
There rarely seems to be a “reason” for why market crashes happen. Market observers are e.g. debating to this day what actually “caused” the crash of 1987. It is in the nature of the beast that once liquidity evaporates sufficiently that not all bubble activities can be sustained at once any longer, bids begin to become scarce in one market segment after another. Eventually, they can disappear altogether – and sellers suddenly find they are selling into a vacuum. Once this happens, the usual sequence of margin calls and forced selling does the rest. Risk premiums normalize abruptly, and there doesn't need to be an obvious reason for this to happen. Compressed risk premiums can never be sustained “forever”.
It is unclear exactly why stock futures, bonds - with European peripheral yields hitting new record lows for the second day in a row - gold, oil and pretty much everything else is up this morning but it is safe to say the central banks are behind it, as is the "de-escalation" algo as a meeting between Russia and Ukraine begins today in Belarus' capital Minsk. Belarusian and Kazakhstani leaders will also be at the summit. Hopes of a significant progress on the peace talks were dampened following Merkel’s visit to Kiev over the weekend. The German Chancellor said that a big breakthrough is unlikely at today’s meeting. Russian FM Lavrov said that the discussion will focus on economic ties, the humanitarian crisis and prospects for a political resolution. On that note Lavrov also told reporters yesterday that Russia hopes to send a second humanitarian aid convoy to Ukraine this week. What he didn't say is that he would also send a cohort of Russian troops which supposedly were captured by overnight by the Ukraine army (more shortly).
UPDATE: Every dip is to be bought... USD now higher and gold, silver lower
After a week of punishment, precious metals are kneejerking higher this morning on the heels of a Citi FX note explaining they are cutting all USD longs - "This is an opportunistic exit as we feel we may be due for a squeeze of USD long positions similar to what happened at this point in the cycle last year." The USD Index is sliding quickly and Treasury yields inched higher (but remain -1.5bps despite equity strength).
It's been one of those days. First, the CME broke for 4 hours due to what some suggested were HFT connectivity issues, then Russia announced it would send a second humanitarian convoy into Ukraine (a big risk off move the first time it was announced, now not even an algo stirred), then Germany reported that the IFO Business Confidence/Climate dropped for the fourth consecutive month to 106.3 from 108.0, below the 107.0 expected, with the IFO chief economist stating that German GDP expectations are likely to be cut to 1.5% from 2.0% later in the year, and finally the French government collapsed due to disagreement over policy between finance minister Valls and economy minister Montebourg. All in all, a typical day in Europe's slow-motion implosion. So why are Spanish and Italian bank stocks soaring and European bond yields reaching new record highs? Simple: following Draghi's speech on Friday at Jackson Hole, which at initial read was hardly as dovish as many had expected, the FT and various other media outlets promptly changed the narrative and made it seem as if the ECB head was about to unleash QE.
This essay is not intended to address a crisis that may be occurring on the border at this time. We make no comment on that. Nor does it discuss the issues around war, such as how to deal with citizens of enemy nations. This essay is not a policy proposal, it does not set out, for example, when an immigrant can become a citizen and attain the vote or what to do to immigrants who commit crimes. It has but one purpose: to enumerate and respond to the common arguments used in favor of an impenetrable and guarded border fence to shut down immigration.