In all the hoopla over Japan's stock market crash and China's PMI miss last night, the biggest news of the day was largely ignored: copper, and the fact that copper's ubiquitous arbitrage and rehypothecation role in China's economy through the use of Chinese Copper Financing Deals (CCFD) is coming to an end.
Over a year ago, we first explained what one of the key terminal problems affecting the modern financial system is: namely the increasing scarcity and disappearance of money-good assets ("safe" or otherwise) which due to the way "modern" finance is structured, where a set universe of assets forms what is known as "high-quality collateral" backstopping trillions of rehypothecated shadow liabilities all of which have negligible margin requirements (and thus provide virtually unlimited leverage) until times turn rough and there is a scramble for collateral, has become perhaps the most critical, and missing, lynchpin of financial stability. Not surprisingly, recent attempts to replenish assets (read collateral) backing shadow money, most recently via attempted Basel III regulations, failed miserably as it became clear it would be impossible to procure the just $1-$2.5 trillion in collateral needed according to regulatory requirements. The reason why this is a big problem is that as the Matt Zames-headed Treasury Borrowing Advisory Committee (TBAC) showed today as part of the appendix to the quarterly refunding presentation, total demand for "High Qualty Collateral" (HQC) would and could be as high as $11.2 trillion under stressed market conditions.
In what may be a first in at least 3-4 months, instead of the usual levitating grind higher on no news and merely ongoing USD carry, tonight for the first time in a long time, futures have drifted downward, pushed partially by declining funding carry pairs EURUSD and USDJPY without a clear catalyst. There was no explicit macro news to prompt the overnight weakness, although a German 10 year auction pricing at a record low yield of 1.28% about an hour ago did not help. Perhaps the catalyst was a statement by the Chinese sovereign wealth fund's Jin who said that the "CIC is worried about US, EU and Japan quantitative easing" - although despite this and despite the reported default of yet another corporate bond by LDK Solar, the second such default after Suntech Power which means the Chinese corporate bond bubble is set to burst, the SHCOMP was down only 1 point. The Nikkei rebounded after strong losses on Monday but that was only in sympathy with the US price action even as the USDJPY declined throughout the session.
- Finally the MSM catches up to reality: Workers Stuck in Disability Stunt Economic Recovery (WSJ)
- China opens Aussie dollar direct trading (FT)
- National Bank and Eurobank Fall as Merger Halted (BBG)
- Why Making Europe German Won’t Fix the Crisis - The Bulgarian case study (BBG)
- Nikkei hits new highs as yen slides (FT)
- Housing Prices Are on a Tear, Thanks to the Fed (WSJ)
- Why is Moody's exempt from justice, or the "Big Question in U.S. vs. S&P" (WSJ)
- Central banks move into riskier assets (FT)
- N. Korea May Conduct Joint Missile-Nuclear Tests, South Says (BBG)
- North Korea Pulls Workers From Factories It Runs With South (NYT)
- Illinois pension fix faces political, legal hurdles (Reuters)
- IPO Bankers Become Frogs in Hot Water Amid China Market Halt (BBG)
- Portugal Seeks New Cuts to Stay on Course (WSJ)
The BTFD mantra is alive and well in a market, where futures overnight briefly dipped to a low of -0.5% only to be set to open at record high, following the biggest one day drubbing in China in months, where the Shanghai Composite closed -2.82% after new rules were issued by the Chinese banking regulator to limit the expansion and improve the transparency of so-called “wealth management products”. The products, which are marketed as higher yielding alternatives to bank deposits, are often used to fund risky projects including property developments, short-term corporate lines of credit or for speculative purchases of commodities and have been identified as contributing to the rise of shadow-banking in China’s financial system. As Deutsche reports, Fitch estimates the total amount of outstanding wealth-management products was around 13 trillion yuan at the end of last year—equal to about 15% of total banking-system deposits. Japanese equities were also weaker overnight (Nikkei –1.3%) and the yen is 0.3% firmer against the dollar after BoJ Governor Kuroda told parliament that he has no intention of buying foreign bonds because doing so could be seen as currency intervention. Finally, South Korea informally entered the currency wars after it slashed its GDP forecast from 3% to mid-2%, announcing it would use "interest rates" to boost growth, which naturally means use of monetary means and directly challenging the BOJ.
Before last Saturday, few even knew where Cyprus was located. Then, courtesy of the most epically bungled up "bail-out in" attempt in the history of the Troika, Cyprus became the only thing everyone talked about: the definition of a black swan. How did this transformation from an ugly island duckling to a glorious black swan look like from the perspective of the media? The following chart courtesy of Bloomberg's Michael McDonough, which shows the instances of mentions of the words "Apple", "Germany" and "Cyprus" across newswires, shows the answer which not surprisingly even looks like a swan.
Until this weekend's Cyprus black swan, the biggest red flag facing the market was the threat of persistent Chinese inflation, manifesting itself in very sticky and upward rising home (and many other) prices. In fact, quite recently the new Chinese leadership encouraged "bold" and aggressive steps to tame real estate inflation and instituting fresh curbs on house appreciation "speculation", which is a natural byproduct in a nation that has an underdeveloped and untrusted capital market - unlike in the US where the S&P absorbs all the Fed's reserves (with no money multiplier impact) keeping inflation elsewhere largely tame. It is this inflation that has kept the PBOC not only on the global "reflation" sidelines, but forced it to withdraw liquidity with several record repos in the days following the Chinese new year. It is also the downstream effects of this inflation that has pushed the Chinese stock market red for the year. So just how much of an issue is the soaring Chinese real estate market as global liquidity makes its way to triplexes in Shanghai? The chart below explains it all.
In a testament to just how euphoric stock markets are right now, James K. Glassman the co-author of the fabled Dow 36,000 — a book published in 1999 that claimed that stock prices could hit 36,000 by as soon as 2002 (and which quite understandably is now available for just 1 cent per copy) — has written a new column for Bloomberg View claiming that he might have been right all along... The uber-optimistic atmosphere permeating much of the financial press is frightening to me. The resurrection of the Dow 36,000 zombie is a symbolically significant event that likely signals much the same thing as it did first time around: a correction.
With the heavy central-planning boot of repression on the neck of any and all realized risky asset volatility, it is perhaps no surprise that investors, professional and amateur alike, have been dragged into the latest yield-enhancing 'scheme' of being short front-month vol and earning the premium. Bernanke has created a world of insurance providers - who are fundamentally under-capitalized when the big one hits - as record high levels of net short positions, record volumes, and extreme beta to stocks leave the bevy of option premium sellers still consistently picking up nickels in front of that steam-roller. Of course, as Taleb reminds, suppressing volatility actually makes the world a less predictable and more dangerous place - though for now, it seems, everyone and their eTrade baby is willing to follow Kevin Henry down the vol-premium selling route until of course that steam-roller tears more than just an arm off (given the massive and levered exposure to this market now). Instead of equity 'Buy-and-Hold'; the new normal is 'Sell Vol-and-Roll.
European economies straight from script of Les Miserables. The dispensing of horsemeat on the Continent in food and otherwise. The oncoming of some sort of Asian Flu. Class warfare in America and the entire construct supported by a House of Cards relying solely on the printing presses housed in Washington, Frankfurt, London, Tokyo and Beijing. The beginnings of a small game of “Currency Wars” and the markets sit and ask the famous question; “What, me worry?” Getting it right is NOT as important as not getting it wrong. Besides an event then, the next Black Swan that may appear on the horizon, there is a fundamental mis-match now caused by the actions of the central banks. The money pours out like honey and must be used somewhere and so it is but the economic fundamentals are horribly out of tune with the next high notes that are being played in the markets.
The forecast for me is 12-18 inches. I'm hoping it pushes three feet.... Some odds and ends:
Down over a point in the long bond. Up almost a point in the long bond. Equities down more than 100 points. Equities up almost 100 points. All of this in the span of two days. Nothing was particularly new; no event popped up on the radar screen, no black swan swopped in from the horizon to startle the markets and anyone observing the markets may well ask, reasonably ask, just what the heck is going on. First, in my mind, we are getting a pretty good signal that the markets are running out of steam and that the collective vision of the way forward is murky. We are in a fragile state; near a tipping point. Please remember, however, that there are two components to additional debt and the markets have only focused on one side of the equation which is the interest rate variable.
Royal Bank of Scotland Says We're In Deep DooDoo ... Worst Economy Since Before Queen Victoria Was Crowned
Nassim Taleb sits down for a quite extensive interview based around his new book Anti-Fragile. Whether the Black Swan best-seller is philosopher or trader is up to you but the discussion is worth the time as Taleb wonders rigorously from the basic tenets of capitalism - "being more about disincentives that incentives" as failure (he believes) is critical to its success (and is clearly not allowed in our current environment) - to his intellectual influences (and total disdain for the likes of Krugman, Stiglitz, and Friedman - who all espouse grandiose and verbose work with no accountability whatsoever). His fears of large centralized states (such as the US is becoming and Europe is become) being prone to fail along with his libertarianism make for good viewing. However, his fundamental premise that TBTF banks should be nationalized and the critical importance of 'skin in the game' for a functioning financial system are all so crucial for the current 'do no harm' regime in which we live. Grab a beer (or glass of wine, it is Taleb) and watch...
The present is a time when things are in great confusion. We are creating money from nothing and yet enjoying the fruits of their labors. The economies in Europe and in Japan and America are worsening and yet yields for their sovereign debt are barely off all-time lows. The stock markets of the world, following the 2008/2009 financial crisis, are back at new highs. All of this has taken place because the world’s central banks, acting in concert, have pumped enough small pieces of paper into the fire to keep it burning long into the night and so all of the markets on the planet have been stoked with fuel. When the fundamentals of the markets are out of line with their performance then history teaches us that at some point rational behavior will cause a correction. It was just five years ago when the world learned a rather harsh lesson. It was a lesson that cost Americans 36% of their wealth.