Despite the eagerness of Abenomics and the new BOJ head Kuroda to have their cake and eat it too, in this case manifesting in soaring stock prices, plunging Yen, rising GDP and exports, and most importantly, flat or declining bond yields, so far they have succeeded in carrying out three of the four, as it is physically impossible for any central planner to completely overrule the laws of math, economics and physics indefinitely. Volatility aside the recent surge in yields higher is finally starting to take its tool on domestic bond issuers. As Bloomberg reports, already two names have pulled deals from the jittery bond market due to "soaring" borrowing costs. The first is Toyota Industries which as NHK reported, canceled the sale of JPY20 billion debt. Toyota is among Japanese firms that put off selling debt as long-term yields on government debt have risen, increasing borrowing costs, public broadcaster NHK says without citing anyone. Last week JFE Holdings announced it would delay plans to sell bonds due to market volatility. So two names down... and the 10 Year is not even north of 1%... But perhaps, more importantly, what happens to JGB holdings as the benchmark Japanese government bond continues trading with the volatility of a 1999 pennystock, and as more and more VaR stops are hit, forcing even more holders to dump the paper out of purely technical considerations: a topic we touched upon most recently last week, and which courtesy of JPM, which looks back at exactly the same event just 10 years delayed, now has a name: VaR shocks. For those who wish to skip the punchline here it is: A 100bp interest rate shock in the JGB yield curve, would cause a loss of ¥10tr for Japan's banks.
- As scandals mount, White House springs into damage control (Reuters)
- Glencore Xstrata chairman ousted in surprise coup (Reuters), former BP CEO Tony Hayward appointed as interim chairman (WSJ)
- JPMorgan Chase asks Bloomberg for data records (Telegraph)
- Platts Retains Energy Trader Confidence Amid Price-Fix Probe (BBG)
- Syrian Internet service comes back online (PCWorld)
- Japan Q1 growth hits 3.5% on Abe impact although fall in business investment clouds optimism for recovery (FT)
- Soros Joins Gold-Stake Cuts Before Bear Market Drop (BBG)
- Factory Ceiling Collapses in Cambodia (WSJ)
- Sony’s $100 Billion Lost Decade Supports Loeb Breakup (BBG)
- Snags await favourite for Federal Reserve job (FT)
- James Bond’s Pinewood Turned Down on $300 Million Plan (BBG)
When the Fed extended its guidance for extremely low rates to 2014 and later, none of the Chinese government's measures to deter property speculation could deter 'homebuyers' from bidding up prices. However, as the chart below shows, the disconnect between home prices (extreme highs) and home sales (near lows) has never been greater and with the Chinese looking to further control speculation at the same time as a Fed that is increasingly jawboning a slowing to its easy money policy, the prices of Hong Kong property has begun to drop in recent weeks. As Bloomberg notes, prices have fallen 4.2% from a record reached in mid-March, compared with a 77% contraction in sales from their post-global financial crisis peak in 2010. The prices of property is explicitly deterring the 'urban dream' that we explained here, but any sustained drop in property prices (given the shadow lending and collateralization this bubble represents) leaves China once again between a bubble-pricking rock and an inflationary (social unrest harboring) hard place.
Major central bank activism and some sporadically good economic data in the U.S. have lifted equity markets and also helped the credit markets continue their rally. Central bank policy has been focused on an emergency bailout footing to stave off sudden panic and is also is aimed at stimulating economic activity. This has involved incentivizing households and businesses to expand and take some more risk. But no new policy initiative is perfect – not in implementation nor is it precise in its impact. Some in the markets and even in the Fed itself worry that the massive and unprecedented easing could be causing its own distortions and perverse side effects. It has clearly triggered a chancy search for yield that may yet lead to new asset bubbles and financial instability. There are numerous examples as Abraham Gulkowitz's PunchLine (chart extravaganza) shows. While the liquidity provided by key central banks -- including the move by the Bank of Japan to initiate massive monetary easing -- will likely continue suppressing yields, there is a serious argument to be made that the rallies have moved beyond fundamentals... This increases the likelihood of more surprises, not less...
Israel's 25bp cut in its policy rate earlier in the week was the 514th reduction worldwide since June 2007 (and Serbia this morning the 515th). As Bloomberg's Niraj Shah notes, Eastern European countries have made the biggest cuts this year as their economies struggle to grow. With the ECB's cut taking its 'real' rate to -0.7%, Belarus has cut borrowing costs by an impressive 500bps in 2013 (more than any other central bank) followed by Poland and Hungary. As we noted last week, it seems the Einsteinian repetition of failed actions is not a fool's errand, instead it appears the domain of the smartest people in the room - or simply fighting the hot money flow drivers with their own weapon (but as Bernanke told us - its not competitive devaluation if we all do it).
While the stance of monetary policy around the world has, on any conceivable measure, been extreme, the question of whether such a policy is indeed sensible and rational has not been asked much of late. By rational we simply mean the following: Is this policy likely to deliver what it is supposed to deliver? And if it does fall short of its official aim, then can we at least state with some certainty that whatever it delivers in benefits is not outweighed by its costs? We think that these are straightforward questions and that any policy that is advertised as being in ‘the interest of the general public’ should pass this test. As we will argue in the following, the present stance of monetary policy only has a negligible chance, at best, of ever fulfilling its stated aim. Furthermore, its benefits are almost certainly outweighed by its costs if we list all negative effects of this policy and do not confine ourselves, as the present mainstream does, to just one obvious cost: official consumer price inflation, which thus far remains contained. Thus, in our view, there is no escaping the fact that this policy is not rational. It should be abandoned as soon as possible. This will end badly...
Argentina's president Kirchner, a keen observer of recent events in Cyprus, has figured out a way to kill two birds with one stone, namely attempt to put an end to tax evasion, and fund the capex of the recently nationalized state oil company YPF (now that its former owner, Spainish Repsol, is less than keen to keep investing in its former Argentine subsidiary). To do that she will present the local tax-evading population (pretty much anyone with any disposable income and savings) with a simple choice: buy a 4% bond to fund YPF "growth" or go to prison.
With another listless macro day in the offing, the main event was the previously mentioned Bank of Korea 25 bps rate cut, which coming at a time when everyone else in the world is easing was not too surprising, but was somewhat unexpected in light of persistent inflationary pressures. Either way, the gauntlet at Abenomics has been thrown and any temporary Japanese Yen-driven export gains will likely not persist as it is the quality of products perception (sorry 20th century Toshiba and Sony), that is the primary determinant of end demand, not transitory, FX-driven prices. And now that Korea is set on once again matching Japan in competitiveness, the final piece of the Abenomics unwind puzzle has finally clicked into place. Elsewhere overnight, China reported consumer price inflation increasing by 2.4%, on expectations of a 2.3% rise, driven by a 4% jump in food costs: hardly the thing of Politburo dreams. Or perhaps the PBOC can just print more pigs, soy and birdflu-free chickens? On the other hand, PPI dropped 2.6% in April, on estimates of a 2.3% decline, as China telegraphs it has the capacity, if needed, to stimulate the economy. This is ironic considering its inflation pressures are externally-driven, and come from the Fed and the BOJ, and soon the BOE and ECB. And thus its economy stagnates while prices are driven higher by hot money flows. What to do?
Kenya, Australia, Poland and now South Korea. The country, whose net exports represent nearly 60% of GDP, and which have been deeply impacted by the recent collapse in the Yen, finally threw in the towel overnight and cut the benchmark seven-day repurchase rate from 2.75% to 2.50%, as only 6 of 20 economists predicted. The reason the move was surprising is that just like China, which overnight reported CPI of 2.4% on expectations of 2.3%, the country still has pent up inflation concerns, however it appears that preserving economic growth and its export potential is more important to the country bordered by North Korea, than price stability. The result of this largely unexpected move is a strengthening in the Yen overnight, if only by some 30 pips in the USDJPY.
The Fed may or may not be able to afford schizophrenia regarding the future of its monetary decisions (for now), but the ECB, in charge of a continent mired deep in depression, does not have that luxury. While consensus overwhelmingly expects a 25 bps cut in the main refinancing rate, some have warned that should the ECB not engage in such a cut, the EUR will tumble as the short covering squeeze ends with a thud. What exactly are the individual banks expecting? The following bulletin from Bloomberg summarizes it all.
Italy's new government may have the briefest of honeymoons. Here is a dispassionate analysis of the key political and economic issues.
With China and Japan markets closed overnight, activity has been just above zero especially in the critical USDJPY carry, so it was up to Europe to provide this morning's opening salvo. Which naturally meant to ignore the traditionally ugly European economic news such as the April Eurozone Economic Confidence which tumbled from a revised 90.1 to 88.6, missing expectations of 89.3, coupled with a miss in the Business Climate Indicator (-0.93, vs Exp. -0.91), Industrial Confidence (-13.8, Exp. -13.5), and Services Confidence (-11.1, Exp. -7.1), or that the Euroarea household savings rates dropped to a record low 12.2%, as Europeans and Americans race who can be completely savings free first, and focus on what has already been largely priced in such as the new pseudo-technocrat coalition government led by Letta. The result of the latter was a €6 billion 5 and 10 year bond auction in Italy, pricing at 2.84% and 3.94% respectively, both coming in the lowest since October 2010. More frightening is that the Italian 10 year is now just 60 bps away from its all time lows as the ongoing central bank liquidity tsunami lifts all yielding pieces of paper, and the global carry trade goes more ballistic than ever.
The last few minutes have seen markets taking a decidedly negative stance. Led by FX carry, risk-assets in general are rolling over. Some attributed it to Bernanke waking the devil from his slumber:
- *BERNANKE SAYS VULNERABILITIES REMAIN IN FINANCIAL SYSTEM
but it appears that the decision of Germany's Top court is the market-moving event:
- *BUNDESBANK REJECTS OMT IN OPINION FOR TOP COURT: HANDELSBLATT
Instantaneously EUR is tumbling, financials are dropping, and the 'promise' of Draghi's tail-risk killer is perhaps being removed. Remember, the high court is due to vote in June on whether the ESM is constitutional under German law and this rejection of 'OMT' leaves that decision much more in limbo than the market was expecting.
A month ago we discussed the rising anti-Euro sentiment in the core of Europe and the "Alternative for Germany" party appears to be growing in strength. As the NYTimes reports, this is a party driven a collection of elites (not a groundswell from the streets) tired of Merkel's "flagrant breach of democratic, legal, and economic principles." While we warned that the forthcoming 'wealth tax' will raise the ire of the southern-European elites (and thus increase the likelihood of a euro breakup), it appears this small-but-growing party in Germany is pushing in the same direction, as one member noted, "we keep giving out more and more money when we have so many problems at home." Polls show as many as 1-in-4 would consider voting for the new party, and "they don't need more than 5% to make things very tight for [Merkel]." The increasing tension in Europe (and rising anti-Germany sentiment) is helping raise membership as "every swastika on the streets of Athens" reduces Merkel's support, and, as members note, "if the euro fails, Europe will not fail," amid nostalgia for the former German Mark.
Shareholders Join Bankers, Economists, Financial Experts, Regulators and the American People In Calling for a Break Up of the Giant Banks