The precipitous decline in the price of oil is perhaps one of the most bearish macro developments this year. We believe we are entering a “new oil normal,” where oil prices stay lower for longer. While we highlighted the risk of a near-term decline in the oil price in our July newsletter, we failed to adjust our portfolio sufficiently to reflect such a scenario. This month we identify the major implications of our revised energy thesis. The reason oil prices started sliding in June can be explained by record growth in US production, sputtering demand from Europe and China, and an unwind of the Middle East geopolitical risk premium. The world oil market, which consumes 92 million barrels a day, currently has one million barrels more than it needs.... Large energy companies are sitting on a great deal of cash which cushions the blow from a weak pricing environment in the short-term. It is still important to keep in mind, however, that most big oil projects have been planned around the notion that oil would stay above $100, which no longer seems likely.
You can’t force people to spend, not if you’re a government, not if you’re a central bank. And if you try regardless, chances are you wind up scaring people into even less spending. That’s the perfect picture of Japan right there. There’s no such thing as central bank omnipotence, and this is where that shows maybe more than anywhere else. And if you can’t force people to spend, you can’t create growth either, so that myth is thrown out with the same bathwater in one fell swoop. Some may say and think deflation is a good thing, but I say deflation kills economies and societies. Deflation is not about lower prices, it’s about lower spending. Which will down the line lead to lower prices, but then the damage has already been done, it’s just that nobody noticed, because everyone thinks inflation and deflation are about prices, and therefore looks exclusively at prices.
If you ever needed proof that the financial press has been completely indoctrinated in the cult of Keynesian central banking consider the following...
It is no secret that one of the primary drivers of relentless S&P 500 levitation over the past two years, ever since the start of Japan's mammoth QE, has been the use of the Yen as the carry currency of choice (once again as during the credit bubble of the early-2000s), whose shorting has directly resulted in E-mini levitation. One look at the intraday chart of any JPY pair and the S&P500 is largely sufficient to confirm this. Those days, however, may be coming to an end, at least according to Goldman which overnight released a note saying that the Yen is "Almost at breakeven: Further yen depreciation could be a net burden."
We should be glad the price of oil has fallen the way it has (losing another 6% today as we write this). Not because it makes the gas in our cars a bit cheaper, that’s nothing compared to the other service the price slump provides. That is, it allows us to see how the economy is really doing, without the multilayered veil of propaganda, spin, fixed data and bailouts and handouts for the banking system.
The biggest, and most market-moving, event overnight continues to be yesterday's shocking OPEC announcement, which is still reverberating across the energy space as markets largely ignore European and Japanese inflation data which is once again sliding back dangerously fast, or Italian unemployment which rose more than expected, and joined France in hitting a new record high. As a result European shares remain lower, close to intraday lows, with the oil & gas and industrials sectors underperforming and telco and travel outperforming as oil continues its decline. EU inflation slowed in Nov. to 0.3%. Italian and Swedish markets are the worst-performing larger bourses, Spanish the best. The euro is weaker against the dollar. And while US equity futures are largely unchanged even as, or perhaps because, the world is screaming economic slowdown, bonds are finally getting the message with U.S. 10yr bond yields falling to only 2.20% as Japanese yields also decline.
But, but, but... all the clever talking heads said they wil have to cut...
*OPEC KEEPS OIL PRODUCTION TARGET UNCHANGED AT 30M B/D: DELEGATE
WTI ($70 handle) and Brent Crude (under $75 for first time sicne Sept 2010) are collapsing... as will US Shale oil company stocks and bonds (and thus all of high yield credit) tomorrow. The Saudis are "very happy" with the decision, Venzuela 'stormed out, red faced, furious.' Commentary from various OPEC members appears focused on the need for non-OPEC (cough US Shale cough) nations to "share the burden" and cut production (just as the Saudis warned yesterday).
It's not a bubble. Until it is...
"The time to liquidate a given position is now seven times as long as in 2008, reflecting much smaller trade sizes in fixed income markets. In part the current liquidity illusion is a product of the risk asymmetries implied by the zero lower bound on interest rates, excess reserves in the system, and perceived central bank reaction functions. However, interest rates in advanced economies won’t remain this low forever. Once the process of normalization begins, or perhaps if market perceptions shift, and it is expected to begin, a re-pricing can be expected. The orderliness of that transition is an open question."
Fed’s wealth effect kicks in: “Mind-blowing” how the luxury market has been “completely on fire.” The rest, well….
It has something to do with a Catch-22...
While there has been no global economic outlook cut today, or no further pre-revision hints of "decoupling" by the appartchiks at the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, both European and US equities are pointing at a higher open, because - you guessed it - there were more "suggestions" of "imminent" QE by a central bank, in this case it was again ECB's Constancio dropping further hints over a potential ECB QE programme, something the ECB has become the undisputed world champion in. The constant ECB jawboning, and relentless central bank interventions over the past 6 years, led to this:
- GERMANY SELLS 10-YEAR BUNDS AT RECORD-LOW YIELD OF 0.74%
The punchline: this was another technically "failed" auction as it was uncovered, the 10th of the year, as there was not enough investor demand at this low yield, and so the Buba had to retain a whopping 18.8% - the most since May - with just €3.250Bn of the €4Bn target sold, after receiving €3.67Bn in bids.
Just as the OECD cut US GDP further, here comes the BEA with an impressive first revision to the Q3 GDP, which succeeded in fixing all those things that were lacking in the first report which said GDP had grown 3.5% in the quarter. Moments ago, the revised number slammed expectations of a modest decling to 3.3%, rising by3.9%, above the highest Wall Street estimate (range was 2.8% to 3.8%), with the boost coming from all those components that disappointed in the first go around, namely Personal Consumption (which rose from 1.8% to 2.2%), contributing 1.51% of the final GDP print, inventories subtracting far less, or just -0.12% compared to -0.57%, and fixed investment revised to 0.97% from 0.74%. Finally, while exports were revised modestly lower, a small decline in imports also offset the net decline in trade contribution.
Just two months after the OECD cut its global growth outlook, overnight the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development cut it again, taking down its US, Chinese, Japanese but mostly, Eurozone forecasts. In the report it said: "The Economic Outlook draws attention to a global economy stuck in low gear, with growth in trade and investment under-performing historic averages and diverging demand patterns across countries and regions, both in advanced and emerging economies. “We are far from being on the road to a healthy recovery. There is a growing risk of stagnation in the euro zone that could have impacts worldwide, while Japan has fallen into a technical recession,” OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria said. “Furthermore, diverging monetary policies could lead to greater financial volatility for emerging economies, many of which have accumulated high levels of debt.” And sure enough, the OECD's prescription: more Eurozone QE. As a result, futures in the US are in fresh all time high territory ignoring any potential spillover from last night's Ferguson protests, just 30 points from Goldman's latest 2015 S&P target, Stoxx is up 0.5%, while bond yields are lower as frontrunning of central bank bond purchases resumes. Oil is a fraction higher due to a note suggesting the Saudi's are preparing for a bigger supply cut than expected, although as the note says "it is unclear if the cut sticks."
Another day, another case of central banks, not one but two this time, dictating "price" action.