While everyone was focusing on the threat of tumbling debt dominoes in China's shadow banking sector, a new threat has re-emerged: regular, plain vanilla corporate bankruptcies, in the country with the $12 trillion corporate bond market (these are official numbers - the unofficial, and accurate, one is certainly far higher). And while anywhere else in the world this would be a non-event, in China, where corporate - as well as shadow banking - bankruptcies are taboo, a default would immediately reprice the entire bond market lower and have adverse follow through consequences to all other financial products. This explains is why in the past two months, China was forced to bail out not one but two Trusts with exposure to the coal industry as we reported previously in great detail. However, the Chinese Default Protection Team will have its hands full as soon as Friday, March 7, which is when the interest on a bond issued by Shanghai Chaori Solar Energy Science & Technology a Chinese maker of solar cells, falls due. That payment, as of this moment, will not be made, following an announcement made late on Tuesday that it will not be able to repay the CNY89.8 million interest on a CNY1 billion bond issued on March 7th 2012.
Jefferies, Deutsche Bank, and now Citi and JPMorgan are all facing a collapse in trading volumes as Bloomberg reports the two banks brace for a fourth straight drop in first-quarter trading revenues - a period of the year when the largest investment banks typically earn the most from that business. “It sounds like more bloodletting on Wall Street,” warns one analyst, as Citi expects trading revenue to drop by a “high mid-teens” percentage.
Scrape away the media sensationalism and geopolitical posturing and it boils down to a simple dynamic: follow the energy.
Earlier today we were surprised when none other than uber central-planning skeptic, not to mention bond fund manager, Bill Gross threw in the towel and in his latest letter advocated the purchase of risk assets - and Bill Gross is the last person needing reminding that in a day and age when the 10 Year yields just barely over 2.5%, this means not bonds but stocks. The surprise, however, promptly disappeared when we realized that PIMCO is merely the latest entrant in the scramble for yield game following, with a substantial delay to all of its other "alternative" asset management peers, right into ground zero: European toxic debt.
Dispassionate analysis of Russia/Crimea and the threat of Russia dumping its dollar holdings. Much posturing. Many point to US bluster have tough time identifying Russia's bluster. Let me help.
Because BTFWWIII is so yesterday, we present BTFICBMD:
RUSSIA TEST FIRES INTERCONTINENTAL BALLISTIC MISSILE: INTERFAX
RUSSIA TEST FIRED MISSILE FROM RANGE IN ASTRAKHAN REGION: IFX
RUSSIA MISSILE LAUNCHED AT 10:10PM IN SOUTHERN RUSSIA: INTERFAX
INTERFAX CITES RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY ON MISSILE TEST
But, the talking heads said Ukraine was fixed and Putin had folded?
Having "condemned Russia's incredible act of aggression" which markets now appear to have forgotten about, we wonder just what Secretary of State John Kerry will have to say in this speech. Markets appear to think it's all over and east and west Ukraine can all sing Kumbayah with Putin leading the melody but other leaders continue to call for "crushing" sanctions against Europe's largest gas supplier. We are sure Kerry will clear it all up and explain where the line that was not crossed is... and for goodness' sake don't mention the Russian boots on the ground in Crimea...
What? Us worry? Thanks to the magic of the 102.00 USDJPY tractor beam, the S&P 500 has decided that Ukraine is fixed, the worst macro data in 6 years, and a rapidly tumbling expectation of US GDP is just enough "news" to warrant BTFATH. Thanks to an epic squeeze of the shorts, once again, stocks are at all-time highs... rinse, repeat...
Of course, US equities are large and in charge in the flight-from-safety as marginal money pushes S&P futures back up within a smidge of record highs (hey, why not, Ukraine is 'fixed' right?) but away from stocks, even USDJPY (that pillar of equity confidence inspiration) is not rising as fast. Treasuries and gold are being sold but again not back to levels pre-Ukraine-esclation from Friday. European stocks are surging but not as ebulient as US stocks. Russia's MICEX has bounced, recovering aroung half its losses and Ukraine bonds are rallying (as is the Hyrvnia).
Since Ukraine is the only wildcard variable in the news these past few days, it was to be expected that following i) the end of the large Russian military drill begun two weeks ago and ii) a press conference by Putin in which he toned down the war rhetoric, even if he did not actually say anything indicating Russia will difuse the tension, futures have soared and have retraced all their losses from yesterday. And not only in the US - European equity indices gapped higher at the open this morning in reaction to reports that Russian President Putin has ordered troops engaged in military exercises to return to their bases. Consequent broad based reduction in risk premia built up over the past few sessions meant that in spite of looming risk events (ECB, BoE policy meetings and NFP release this Friday), Bund also failed to close the opening gap lower. At the same time, USD/JPY and EUR/CHF benefited as the recent flight to quality sentiment was reversed, with energy and precious metal prices also coming off overnight highs.
The Bitcoin phenomenon has now reached the mainstream media where it met with a reception that ranged from sceptical to outright hostile. The recent volatility in the price of bitcoins and the issues surrounding Bitcoin-exchange Mt. Gox have led to additional negative publicity. It is clear that on a conceptual level, Bitcoin has much more in common with a gold and silver as monetary assets than with state fiat money. The supply of gold, silver and Bitcoin, is not under the control of any issuing authority. It is money of no authority – and this is precisely why such assets were chosen as money for thousands of years. Gold, silver and Bitcoin do not require trust and faith in a powerful and privileged institution, such as a central bank bureaucracy. Under a gold standard you have to trust Mother Nature and the spontaneous market order that employs gold as money. Under Bitcoin you have to trust the algorithm and the spontaneous market order that employs bitcoins as money (if the public so chooses). Under the fiat money system you have to trust Ben Bernanke, Janet Yellen, and their hordes of economics PhDs and statisticians.
With all eyes dismally fixed on Eastern Europe and the esclating tensions between the world's most powerful nations, we thought perhaps a little levity was appropriate. "Way To Blue" trawls the social media stratosphere of intellect and calculates a "desire to win" index that summarizes who we, the lowly members of the public, would most like to win the celebrated Academy Awards. It appears, in an odd coincidence to real-life, the debt-serfs of the world would most like to see "12 Years A Slave" win for Best Film.
So much for that blow out initial estimate of Q4 GDP that had annualized GDP at 3.2%. One month later and the number has been cut by 25% to 2.4% following a substantial downward revision to Personal Consumption, which dropped from 3.3% to 2.6%, well below the 2.9% expected. As a percentage of the acual annualized GDP number, it dropped from 2.26% to 1.73%. The other components in the calculation that had material revisions were inventories which added just 0.14% to GDP vs 0.42% in the last revision and 1.67% in Q3, as the destocking from record high inventory build up levels continues to take a bite out of growth; offsetting this was an increase in the Fixed investment estimate from 0.14% to 0.58%. Which in turn means that even more CapEx growth was pulled back into last year than previously expected, suggesting further downward cuts to Q1 2014 GDP are coming. Finally, the government deducted -1.05% from Q4 GDP as opposed to the 0.93% estimated previously.
And just like that the Chinese yuan devaluation has shifted away from the merely "orderly." In the past few hours of trading, China, which as we reported two days ago has started intervening aggressively in the Yuan market, has seen its currency crash by nearly 0.9%, which may not seem like much, but is in fact the largest drop since December of 2008, and at last check was trading at around 6.18, even as the PBOC fixed the CNY reference rate 0.02% higher from the last official close to 6.1214, erasing pivot support point at 6.1346 and 6.1408. Naturally this means that the obverse, the CNYUSD, has crashed to as low as 0.1620. Should this move sustain without reverting, this will be the biggest weekly loss ever! The dramatic move is shown on the chart below.
Three unlucky attempts in a row to retake the S&P 500 all time high may have been all we get, at least for now, because the fourth one is shaping up to be rather problematic following events out of the Crimean in the past three hours where the Ukraine situation has gone from bad to worse, and have dragged the all important risk indicator, the USDJPY, below 102.000 once again. As a result, global stock futures have fallen from the European open this morning, with the DAX future well below 9600 to mark levels not seen since last Thursday. Escalated tensions in the Ukraine have raised concerns of the spillover effects to Western Europe and Russia, as a Russian flag is lifted by occupying gunmen in the Crimean (Southern Ukrainian peninsula) parliament, prompting an emergency session of Crimean lawmakers to discuss the fate of the region. This, allied with reports of the mobilisation of Russian jets on the Western border has weighed on risk sentiment, sending the German 10yr yield to July 2013 lows.