Today’s AM fix was USD 1,232.75, EUR 957.40 and GBP 822.55 per ounce.
Yesterday’s AM fix was USD 1,249.50, EUR 961.15 and GBP 819.67 per ounce.
The Portuguese government is on the rocks. The junior coalition partner the People’s Party (CDS-PP) will hold a meeting this afternoon to determine whether to support the government, if it withdraws support in parliament, elections seem inevitable, although they could be delayed for some months. Such a move would seriously hamper Portugal’s economic reform program, which is already off track. Portugal has only met its deficit targets due to one-off measures while competitiveness adjustments have slowed and contingent liabilities remain a hidden risk. With the country on the cusp of an unsustainable debt burden any delays would likely be the final straw which pushes Portugal into needing some form of further assistance. Things must be getting serious in Portugal, they just announced a short-selling ban on select banking stocks - how long before capital controls?
And just like that things are going bump in the night once more. First, as previously reported, the $100+ WTI surge continues on fears over how the Egyptian coup will unfold, now that Mursi has a few short hours left until his army-given ultimatum runs out. But it is Europe where things are crashing fast and furious, with the EURUSD tumbling to under 1.2925 overnight and stocks sliding on renewed political risk, with particular underperformance observed over in Portugal, closely followed by its Iberian neighbor Spain, amid concerns that developments in Portugal, where according to some media reports all CDS-PP ministers will resign forcing early elections, will undermine country's ability to continue implementing the agreed bailout measures. As a result, Portuguese bond yields have spiked higher and the 10y bond yield spread are wider by over a whopping 100bps as austerity's "poster child" has rapidly become Europe's forgotten "dunce." The portu-litical crisis has finally arrived.
"What just occurred [in the mortgage-backed-securities (MBS) market] is indicative of just how important QE is," as government backed US mortgage bonds suffer their largest quarterly decline in almost two decades. As Bloomberg reports, the $5 trillion market lost 2% in Q2, the most since the 'bond market massacre' in 1994 (when the Fed unexpectedly raised rates) as wholesale mortgage rates spiked by the most on record in the last two months. The reason these bonds have been hardest hit - simple - fear that the Fed's buying program is moving closer to an end. "The Fed, at times during this period, was the only outlet in terms of demand for securities," explains one head-trader, as the Fed’s current buying provided demand as other investors retreated and has grown as a percentage of forward sales by originators tied to new issuance, which is set to fall as higher rates reduce refinancing. With Fed heads talking back what Bernanke hinted at, there was a modest recovery in the last 2 days in MBS but the potential vicious cycle remains a fear especially now that “what was once deemed QE Infinity is no longer viewed that way."
- Fashionable 'Risk Parity' Funds Hit Hard (WSJ)
- No 1997 Asian Crisis Return as China Trembles (BBG)
- Greece Faces Collapse of Second Key Privatization (FT)
- China Bad-Loan Alarm Sounded by Record Bank Spread Jump (BBG)
- Iranian official signals no scaling back in nuclear activity (Reuters)
- Asmussen Says Any QE Discussions at ECB Not Policy Relevant (BBG)
- Flat Japanese consumer prices aid Kuroda (FT)
- Vietnam Devalues Dong for First Time Since ’11 to Boost Reserves (BBG)
- World Bank Sees ‘Vulnerable’ Food System on Climate Change (BBG)
- Fed big-hitters seek to quash QE fears (FT)
- EU Leaders Set to Slow Support for Ailing Banks (BBG)
In the aftermath of the record cash crunch in the Chinese interbank market, many financial institutions in China and abroad have been hoping that the PBOC would either end its stance of aloof detachment or at least break its vow of silence and if not act then at a minimum promise good times ahead. Alas, despite repeated confusion in various press reports that it has done that, it hasn't aside from the occasional "behind the scenes" bank bailout. And at today's Lujiazui Financial Forum, PBOC governor Zhou Xiaochuan kept the status quo saying the central bank will adjust liquidity "at the proper time to ensure market stability." That time, however, is not now.
One of the main reasons the entire debt-fueled house of cards propping the western financial system, hasn't collapsed in a smouldering heap so far - a development that has stumped all those who think of the Reinhart-Rogoff sovereign debt matrix as one dimensinal with only debt/GDP as the key variable and completely ignoring the interest rate (manipulated or not) - is that the cash interest payment on the global mountain of debt has been rather tame, courtesy of all developed world central banks going all in with serial, or increasingly more, parallel monetization of debt. However, while the US Treasury has the benefit of the Federal Reserve (and its Primary Dealer tentacles) as a backstopped buyer of all the debt that's fit to print, individual Americans are not as lucky. And as America's massively overindebted student body may be about to find out, there is no surer way to burst a debt bubble than to send its rates soaring. Because unless Congress pulls off a miracle in the next 24 hours and passes legislation that delays an inevitable doubling of rates on the most popular Federal (subsidized) Stafford loans, the interest is set to double from 3.4% to 6.8%.
It's almost as if the manic-depressive market has gotten exhausted with the script of surging overnight volatility, and following a week of breathless global "taper tantrumed" trading, tonight's gentle ramp seems modest by comparison to recent violent swings. With no incremental news out of China, the Shanghai composite ended just modestly lower, the Nikkei rushed higher to catch up to the USDJPY implied value, Europe has been largely muted despite better than expected news out of Germany on the unemployment front. This however was offset by a decline in Europe's May M3 (from 3.2% to 2.9%) while bank lending to NFCs and households simply imploded, confirming that there is no hope for a Keynesian, insolvent Europe in which there isn't any credit creation either by commercial banks or by the central bank (and in fact there is ongoing deleveraging across the board). US futures are rangebound with ES just shy of 1,500. We will need some truly ugly data in today's economic docket which includes claims, personal income/spending and pending home sales to push stocks that next leg higher. To think the S&P could have been higher by triple digits yesterday if the final Q1 GDP has just printed red. Failing that, the Fed's doves jawboning may be sufficient for a 100+ DJIA points today with Dudley, Lockhart and Powell all set to speak later today.
Once again it is all about central banks, with early negative sentiment heading into Asian trading - following the disappointing announcement from the PBOC about "ample liquidity" leading to the 6th consecutive drop in the Shanghai Composite while the PenNikkeiStock index tumbled yet again - completely erased and flipped as Mario Draghi spoke, although not to explain his involvement with the latest European derivative window-dressing scandal, but to announce that he is, once again, "ready to act" (supposedly through the OMT, which despite the best hopes to the contrary, still DOES NOT OFFICIALLY EXIST) and that while it is up to government to raise growth potentials, growth would "partly come from accommodative policy." In other words, ignore all BIS warnings, for Europe's unaccountable Goldmanite overlord Mario Draghi continues to promise more morphined Koolaid (read record Goldman bonuses) to any banker that comes knocking.
With the spigot about to be turned down there will be a marked effect on earnings and profits in American corporations as borrowing costs rise and as all of the gains that could be taken were utilized from our very low interest rate environment. Much of the corporate earnings gains during the last two years did not result from growth but from financial management which was to be anticipated and expected. Those schemes, however, have been brought to an end by the rise in interest rates. In the meantime the Fed, in every manner possible, will try to downplay what Mr. Bernanke has done. The Governors will make speeches. Tidbit swill be handed to the Press. Calming remarks will come from every corner of the great machine and every stock guru on the planet will focus on the Bernanke's remark that the overall economy is improving. Fortunately I have seen this game before exorcised by every Fed during the last forty years. The correct response is, "Bah Humbug" and the correct viewpoint is to watch what they do and not what they say. They will say what suits them. What they do will be a different story.
Everyone knows Europe is insolvent; the only question is "when" will Europe be forced to finally admit this truism. The long overdue house of cards may start toppling in as little as 6 months, as The Telegraph reports, Mediobanca's 'index of solvency risk' suggests "time is running out fast" for Italy. With the breakdown in Eurozone talks on a banking union and the Fed's shift in policy, Europe "has become a dangerous place," warns RBS. Unless Italy can count on low borrowing costs and a broad recovery, it will "inevitably end up in an EU bailout." The current situation is as bad as when the country was blown out of the ERM in 1992 as "the Italian macro situation has not improved...rather the contrary; with 160 large corporates in Italy now in special crisis administration." If the ECB doesn’t act, one analyst warns (pleads) it could see all the gains of the past nine months vanish in two weeks. Mediobanca said the trigger for a blow-up in Italy could be a bail-out crisis for Slovenia or an ugly turn of events in Argentina, which has close links to Italian business. "Argentina in particular worries us, as a new default seems likely."
After Thursday night's global liquidation fireworks, the overnight trading session was positively tame by comparison. After opening lower, the Nikkei ended up 1.7% driven by a modest jump in the USDJPY. China too noted a drop in its ultra-short term repo and SHIBOR rate, however not due to a broad liquidity injection but because as we reported previously the PBOC did a targeted bail out of one or more banks with a CNY 50 billion injection. Overnight, the PBOC added some more color telling banks to not expect the liquidity will always be plentiful as the well-known transition to a slower growth frame continues. The PBOC also reaffirmed that monetary policy will remain prudential, ordered commercial banks to enhance liquidity management, told big banks that they should play a role in keeping markets stable, and most importantly that banks can't rely on an expansionary policy to solve economic problems. Had the Fed uttered the last statement, the ES would be halted limit down right about now. For now, however, communist China continues to act as the most capitalist country, even if it means the Shanghai Composite is now down 11% for the month of June.
The impact of substantially higher interest rates are not good for the economy or the financial markets going forward. In the short term consumers, and the financial markets, can withstand small incremental shifts higher in interest rates. There is clear evidence historically to suggest the same. However, sustained higher, and rising, interest rates are another matter entirely. Before we get too excited, it is important to keep in perspective the recent "surge" in interest rates that has gotten the market's attention as of late. In reality, this is nothing more than a bounce in a very sustained downtrend. While there is not a tremendous amount of downside left for interest rates to go currently - it also doesn't mean that they are going to substantially rise anytime soon. Weak economic growth, an aging demographic, rising governmental debt burdens and continued deflationary pressures can keep interest rates suppressed for a very long time. Just ask Japan.
In UBS' view, 1994 is critical for guiding investing today. The key point about 1994 was not that US bond yields rose during a global recovery. But that the leverage and positioning built up in previous years, on the assumption that yields would remain low, then got stressed. The central issue, they note, is that a long period of lacklustre growth, low rates and easy money induces individual investors, funds, non-financial corporates and banks to reach for yield. In many cases, they gear up to do it. And as Hyman Minsky warned; in this way, stability breeds leverage, and leverage breeds instability. It is much less likely that we see the US enter a ‘high plateau’ of growth as we saw from 1995-98, where the US saw a powerful productivity & credit fuelled boom while the emerging markets deflated. And it makes it more likely that the US stays on a lower trajectory, interspersed with periodic recessionary slowdowns in the years ahead. The point at which the market realises this would likely herald a significant risk-off event.
The lack of a centralized constitutional and monetary union has led to several years of inaction in the process of unification of the Euro-zone. While it was a "grand experiement" to run the Euro-zone under a single currency the underlying structure to make it effective long term was never achieved. There are currently many promises that have been made to the financial system by the ECB. The question is whether or not they can ultimately "cash the check." While we do not have certain answers as to the where, the who or the when - we are fairly confident that it will be sooner than many currently imagine. We do believe that the ECB will be able to skirt by the ratification of the ESM this coming week and get some limited funding into place, however, we still believe the bigger problem comes at the end of summer when the German voters begin to voice their concerns - after all it is their money that is being wasted.