At the onset of the derivatives collapse in 2007/2008 it would have been easy to assume that most of America was receiving a valuable education in normalcy bias. As much as we are for people waking up to the nature of the crisis, there comes a point when those who are going to figure it out will figure it out, and the rest are essentially hopeless. The cultism surrounding the U.S. economy and the U.S. dollar is truly mind boggling, and by “cultism” we mean a blind faith in the fiat currency mechanism that goes beyond all logic, reason and evidence.
While progress on the search-and-recovery efforts of the missing Malaysian Airlines jet continues to disappoint, the stolen-passport plot thickens considerably. While earlier we discovered that it was a mysterious "Mr. Ali" that purchased the tickets for the two passengers traveling on stolen passports (with cash), The Telegraph reports that BBC Persia confirms they were Iranian nationals. According to another Iranian friend (who had hosted them while in Kuala Lumpur) the two were "looking for a place to settle" in Europe (intending to complete their journey in Frankfurt and Denmark).
Iron Ore prices have dropped 25% since the end of last year, sending the key steel-making component into a bear market after slumping by over 9% overnight - its biggest daily drop on record. We warned last week this was likely to happen on the heels of Copper prices fell on monetary financing fears as we explained here how Iron Ore replaced copper as the collateral pool for new loans (following China's clampdown on cash-for-copper deals last year) and stockpiles hit record highs. What is further hurting the Iron ore prices are concerns over China's new anti-pollution reforms which are set to close thousands of furnaces.
This week brings a slew of central bank meetings: At the forefront will be the BOJ meeting on Tuesday where no changes to monetary policy are expected. However, we will be watching the commentary closely for hints to further monetary easing in the coming months. Goldman, and others, still expect the BOJ to provide additional stimulus in the second quarter of this year as the impact of the consumption tax hike on the economy becomes visible - it is that expectation that sent the USDJPY above 100 in late 2013 and any disappointment by the BOJ will certainly have an adverse impact on the all important Yen carry pair. In terms of the key data to watch this week, the themes of recent weeks remain the same: US activity data, with retail sales and the U. Michigan Consumer sentiment survey the main releases, European inflation trends (French and German HCPI data on Thursday and Friday, respectively), and finally external balances in EM. Within that group, the latest data points for trade and current account balances in India, Turkey and South Africa will receive the most attention.
Will London's current property bubble play out to be one of the most costly ever and end up costing UK and foreign investors billions?
Nothing says global 'economic recovery' like a major retailer drastically missing revenue expectations, slashing earnings projections and announcing it will shutter 225 stores nationwide. Staples, the largest US office supplies retailer, hit the triple whammy and didn't blame it all on the weather as the CEO notes "our customers are using less office supplies." Or maybe there are just less office workers? Isolating Staples is a little unfair but as the largest (and most belwhether-ish), it is perhaps time to question the constant meme of escape velocity, improving fundamentals, and cleanest-dirty-shirt growth...
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.
We were perhaps even more amused than our readers by our Friday headline "Stocks Close At New Record High On Russian Invasion, GDP Decline And Pending Home Sales Miss." It appears that today the market forgot to take its lithium, and is finally focusing on the Ukraine part of the headline, at least until 3:30 pm again when everything should once again be back to market ramp normal. As expected, the PMI data from China and Europe in February, was promptly ignored and it was all about Ukraine again, where Russia sternly refuses to yield to Western demands, forcing the shocked market to retreat lower, and sending Russian stocks lower by over 11%. This is happening even as Ukraine is sending Russian gas to European consumers as normal, gas transport monopoly Ukrtransgas said on Monday. "Ukrtransgas is carrying out all its obligations, fulfilling all agreements with Gazprom. The transit (via Ukraine to Europe) totalled 200 million cubic meters as of March 1," Ukrtransgas spokesman Maksim Belyavsky said. In other words, it can easily get worse should Russia indeed use its trump card.
Yuan volatility is part of a major rebalancing of global trade. The next phase of EM turmoil will involve banking crises in several countries including China.
Dispassionate look at next week's calendar.
While the developed world is focusing on the rapidly deteriorating developments in the Crimean, China, which has kept a very low profile on the Ukraine situation aside from the token diplomatic statement, is taking advantage of this latest distraction to do what it does best: quietly take over the global periphery while nobody is looking. We learn that China has just achieved what every ascendent superpower in preparation for "gunboat diplomacy" mode needs: a key strategic airforce base, located in one time economic zombie, Zimbabwe, which incidentally just adopted the Chinese Yuan as a legal currency, and whose president just happens to be on China's payroll.
"There was some weakness in the system, and the bitcoins have disappeared. I apologize for causing trouble" - Mt.Gox CEO Mark Karpeles
President Of China's Marine Institute For Security: "Glory Drenched In Blood Will Pave China’s Road To Revitalization"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 02/27/2014 23:02 -0400
"In 2013, China embarks on a new road after the conclusion of the Third Plenum of the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party. On December 26, China solemnly commemorated the 120th anniversary of the birth of Mao Zedong. On this same day, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe provoked China by visiting the Yaksukuni Shrine in Tokyo. In response, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman quoted Mao Zedong’s “On Protracted War,” and implied that the final victory will belong to China. The new China is born in blood and fire, and is not only unafraid of war, but also courageous in welcoming reasonable and lawful conflict, because defending the country from aggression serves to further boost the development of the state’s power. The Chinese nation loves peace, but there is little doubt that glory drenched in blood will pave China’s road to revitalization. This is the glory that generations to come will treasure. Sound the alarms for war preparation, remold our firm convictions, wake up the fearless people, and revive our strategic industries—our country is moving forward and our future is bright!" - President Of China's Marine Institute For Security And Cooperation
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.
"There is a big flight to quality," warns one trader as the spread between interest rate swaps (implicitly bank risk) and government bonds soared to a record high. This "crisis gauge" flashing red is also followed by 3 month SHIBOR (short-dated interbank lending rates) surging to an 8-month high. China's CDS have jumped 30bps since the Fed taper and as Bloomberg reports that billionaire investors like George Soros and Bill Gross have drawn uncomfortable parallels between the situation in China now and the US before 2008 (when this crisis gauge was key in spotting the carnage to come). Simply put, the banks don't trust each other...