After being solidly ignored for weeks, suddenly the Scottish independence referendum is all anyone can talk about, manifesting itself in a plunge in the GBPUSD which ha slide over 100 pips in the past 24 hours, adding to the slide over the past week, and is now just above 1.61, the lowest since November 2013. In fact, the collapse of the unionist momentum has managed to push back overnight news from Ukraine, major Russian sanction escalations, Japan GDP as well as global trade data on the back burner. Speaking of global trade, with both China and Germany reporting a record trade surplus overnight, with the US trade deficit declining recently, and with not a single country in the past several month reporting of an increase in imports, one wonders just which planet in the solar system (or beyond) the world, which once again finds itself in a magical global trade surplus position, is exporting to?
Volatility is the academic's choice for defining and measuring risk; but Oaktree Capital's Howard Marks warns Bloomberg TV's Stephanie Ruhle that "while volatility is quantifiable and machinable... it falls far short as 'the' definition of investment risk." In fact, he berates, "I don't think most investors fear volatility. In fact, I've never heard anyone say, 'The prospective return isn't high enough to warrant bearing all that volatility.' What they fear is the possibility of permanent loss." With $91 billion under management, perhaps it's worth listening to (and reading) his perspective: "In brief, if riskier investments could be counted on to produce higher returns, they wouldn’t be riskier. Misplaced reliance on the benefits of risk bearing has led investors to some very unpleasant surprises."
It has been an odd session: after yesterday's unexpected late day swoon despite the ECB launch of "Private QE", late night trading saw a major reversal in USDJPY trading which soared relentlessly until it rose to fresh 6 year highs, briefly printing at 105.70, a level not seen since October 2008, before giving back all gains in overnight trading. It is unclear if it was this drop, or some capital reallocation from the US into Europe, but for whatever reason while Europe has seen a stable - if fading in recent hours - risk bid, and European bonds once again rising and Irish and Italian yields both dropping to record low yield, US equity futures have slumped and are now trading at the lows of the session ahead of a US nonfarm payroll print which is expected to rise and print for the 7th consecutive time above 200K, at 230K to be precise, up from 209K in July (down from 288K in June). It is unclear if the market is in a good news is bad news mood today, but for now the algos are not taking any chances and have exited risky positions, with the ES at the low end of the range the market has been trading in for the past week centered aroun S&P 2000.
A recent Fed paper reports that the Fed's wild money printing orgy has failed to produce much CPI inflation because “consumers are hoarding money”. It is said that this explains why so-called "money velocity" is low. Sadly, they are misinformed: In short, “hoarding” cannot possibly harm the economy. The same, alas and alack, cannot be said of money printing.
Even as the NATO summit began hours ago in Wales, conveniently enough (for Obama) at the venue of the 2010 Ryder Cup, so far today geopolitics has taken a backseat to the biggest event of the day - the ECB's much hyped and anticipated announcement. So anticipated in fact that even as it has been priced in for the past month, especially by BlackRock which is already calculating the Christmas bonus on its "consultancy" in implementing the ECB's ABS purchasing program and manifesting itself in record low yields across Europe's bond market, Reuters decided to milk it some more moments ago with the following blast: "Plans to launch an asset-backed securities (ABS) and covered bond purchase programme worth up to 500 billion euros are on the table at Thursday's European Central Bank policy meeting..." The notable being the size of the program, which at €500 billion, is precisely what Deutsche Bank said a week ago the size of the ABS program would be. Almost as if the bank with the world's biggest derivative exposure is helping coordinate the "Private QE"...
Icahn, Soros, Druckenmiller, And Now Zell: The Billionaires Are All Quietly Preparing For The PlungeSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 09/03/2014 23:03 -0400
"The stock market is at an all-time, but economic activity is not at an all-time," explains billionaire investor Sam Zell adding that "I don't remember any time in my career where there have been as many wildcards floating out there that have the potential to be very significant and alter people's thinking." Zell concludes that "this is the first time I ever remember where having cash isn't such a terrible thing." Zell's calls should not be shocking following Soros. Druckenmiller, and Icahn's warnings that there is trouble ahead.
How many times in the last few years have you (or any of Europe's less-than-core leaders) said to yourselves- "EU, what's the point?" All this ceding of sovereignty, centralization of power, relinquishment of decision-making; and for what? The answer - of course - free-er trade, a customs union enabling cross-border trade to flourish and in the great economics textbooks of the world for each member state to do what they do best (German VWs and Greek yogurt?) and maximally profit from that. That all sounds wunderbar in practice... except this rather uncomfortable truth-seeking chart shows that the last decade has seen an accelerating decline in intra-European-Union trade, especially in the last 4 years - to levels that are now below those pre-EU. So, once again, "what's the point?"
Zero inflation is like death penalty to debt-laden countries. It has been estimated that Italy would need a primary surplus of ~8% if it wanted to stabilize its debt/GDP at zero inflation, which means just stopping it from moving even higher. Spain would need a primary surplus of 2%+, instead of current negative 1.44%. Which means more austerity and more contractionary policies, to cause more internal devaluation than it is currently the case, more declines in unit labor costs, more salary cuts, more unemployment, less consumer spending, less corporate investments.... Incidentally, we have for European assets and the ECB the same feeling we have for Japan and the BoJ. Abenomics has a high chance of failure, in the long term. Nevertheless, on the road to perdition, chances are that efforts will be stepped up and more bullets shot in an attempt to avert the end game. As stakes are raised, financial assets will be supported and melt-up in bubble territory, doing so at the expenses of a more turbulent end-game in the years ahead.
The dismaying reality: the only purpose of central bank monetary policy is to keep the bloated, corrupt, inefficient and self-liquidating vested interests of the state-cartel crony capitalism from having to suffer the consequences of real reforms. Japan ably serves as Exhibit #1 of this core dynamic.
Heading into the North American open, the bulk of the morning’s price action has been provided by news that Ukrainian President Poroshenko said that he reached an agreement with Russia's Putin on a "permanent cease fire" in Eastern Ukraine's Donbass region. This saw an immediate spike higher in European equities with the DAX future rallying and breaking above its 100DMA seen at 9644.50, thus extending earlier gains that stemmed from the strong performance in Asia-Pacific equities, while the e-mini S&P once again printed a fresh record high. However, these moves staged a partial reversal amid comments from Russia’s Putin that he denied that such an agreement had been reached as Russia is not a party to the Ukraine conflict. In stock specific news, Russian exposed Raiffeisen Bank outperforms Europe (+7%) in reaction to the geopolitical developments, while Hugo Boss have underperformed throughout the session following a share placement which came in at the lower end (-5.3%).
“Everyone in the country was in shock. People’s net worth had devalued more than 53% overnight.”
Looking back, it was so obvious. But most people ignored the warning signs following the government's reassurances that all would be well... It’s human nature to want to believe that everything is going to be OK. Are we so different today?
Moments ago, in an example of "very serious phrasing", none other than the bank that does god's work on earth (especially when it means providing off balance sheet financing for the bank of the Holy Spirit), just reported that the reason why China will hit its growth target is because of, drumroll, its fudged GDP. Only Goldman is far more serious when it says all of this, with the result being just too hilarious for words: to wit: "In the coming months, China’s National Bureau of Statistics is to make adjustments to the methodology used to calculate GDP. These adjustments are likely to boost real GDP growth by 0.1-0.2pp, thereby making it easier for the government to reach its goal of “around 7.5%” GDP growth in 2014."
When it comes to keeping track of China's economy, one can listen, and ignore, the official goalseeked and made-up-on-the-fly data released by the government, or one can simply observe the price dynamics of the all-important Chinese commodities sector (because with fixed investment accounting for well over 50% of GDP, the marginal price of the commodities that are used in capital investment tell us all we need to know about the true state of the Chinese economy). It is here where we find that contrary to the recent performance of the Shanghai Composite, which has been trading exclusively on the coattails of the most recent unofficial QE by the PBOC, commodity prices in China are actually crashing across the board, which in turn suggest that the real GDP is most likely anywhere between 20% and 60%, if not more, below the "official" 7.5% GDP print.
"Herein lies our dilemma with bonds. We've been a member of the lower yields for longer camp for a number of years now due to our near-term growth and inflation outlook and our belief that financial repression is rife. However we also think that debt restructuring or inflation will eventually be the only way of successfully reducing debt burdens for many countries with the latter route the most likely. As such whilst bonds are a near-term safe haven they are also likely to be very poor real investments longer term. Timing the big switch in view on this will be one of the defining investment moments of the next few years. Let's hope we're lucky."
"We the undersigned are longtime veterans of U.S. intelligence. We take the unusual step of writing this open letter to you to ensure that you have an opportunity to be briefed on our views prior to the NATO summit on September 4-5. You need to know, for example, that accusations of a major Russian "invasion" of Ukraine appear not to be supported by reliable intelligence. Rather, the "intelligence" seems to be of the same dubious, politically "fixed" kind used 12 years ago to "justify" the U.S.-led attack on Iraq. We saw no credible evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq then; we see no credible evidence of a Russian invasion now. Twelve years ago, former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, mindful of the flimsiness of the evidence on Iraqi WMD, refused to join in the attack on Iraq. In our view, you should be appropriately suspicions of charges made by the US State Department and NATO officials alleging a Russian invasion of Ukraine."