- Global makets plunge (Reuters)
- Goodbye Mrs. Watanabe - Japan Sees Worst Developed-Stock Rout as Nikkei 225 Drops (BBG)
- Who could have possibly predicted this - Firms Pinched by Pressure to Hold Down Their Prices (WSJ)
- RBA Shifts to Neutral as It Signals Comfort With Aussie’s Level (BBG)
- Fractures Emerge Between Obama, Congressional Democrats (WSJ)
- Brazil suffers record trade deficit (FT)
- El Salvador fisherman washes up in Marshall Islands after year adrift (Reuters)
- Apple Quietly Builds New Networks (WSJ)
- One-year prison sentence for 21-year-old Twitter user who glorified terrorists (El Pais)
It is still all about the Yen carry which overnight tumbled to the lowest level since November, dragging the Nikkei down by 4.8% which halted its plunge at just overf 14,000, only to stage a modest rebound and carry US equity futures with it, even if it hasn't helped the Dax much which moments ago dropped to session lows and broke its 100 DMA, where carmakers are being especially punished following a downgrade by HSBC of the entire sector. Also overnight the Hang Seng entered an official correction phase (following on from the Nikkei 225 doing the same yesterday) amid global growth concerns and has filtered through to European trade with equities mostly red across the board. Markets have shrugged off news that ECB's Draghi is seeking German support in the bond sterilization debate, something which we forecast would happen a few weeks ago when we pointed out the relentless pace of SMP sterilization failures, with analysts playing down the news as the move would only add a nominal amount of almost EUR 180bln to the Euro-Area financial system. Elsewhere, disappointing earnings from KPN (-4.3%) and ARM holdings (-2.5%) are assisting the downward momentum for their respective sectors.
In the years since the Financial Crisis, major Central Banks have been engaged in incredible easing programs that included the injection of massive amounts of liquidity into the financial system. That liquidity, Citi notes, had to go somewhere, and in a search for yield, much of it went indiscriminately into Local Markets. So far, the exodus of money from Local Markets has been “tame” compared to previous EM crises and it has also been selective since countries with weaker economies and foreign reserves have been the ones taking the largest hits. However, as Citi warns, our bias is that this is just the beginning.
Back in December 2013, as we do after every periodic bout of irrational exuberance by Goldman's chief economist Jan Hatzius et al (who can forget our post from December 2010 "Goldman Jumps Shark, Goes Bullish, Hikes Outlook" in which Hatzius hiked his 2011 GDP forecast from 1.9% to 2.7% only to end the year at 1.8%, and we won't even comment on the longer-term forecasts) designed merely to provide a context for Goldman's equity flow and prop-trading axes, we said it was only a matter of time before Goldman (and the rest of the Goldman-following sellside econo-penguins) is forced to once again trim its economic forecasts. Overnight, two months after our prediction, the FDIC-backed hedge fund did just that, after Goldman's Hatzius announced that "we have taken down our GDP estimates to 2½% in Q1 and 3% in Q2, from 2.7% [ZH: actually 3.0% as of Thursday] and 3½% previously."
Another volatile day ended with the Dow is down around 5% in January - the worst start to a year since 2009 (and 2nd worst since 1990) and the worst month since May 2012 (a 3-sigma miss of the average +1.5% per month gain since 2009's lows). Japan, Brazil, and Russia suffered greatly on the month as gold miners, Egypt?, and US Biotech did well. There is a huge 380bps spread between the performance of the Industrials and the Transports YTD. Gold had its best month in the last 5; Treasuries rallied with 10Y yields dropping their most since May 2012; USD rallied the most in 8 months with JPY's biggest rally (and Nikkei's biggest loss) since April 2012.
Over the past week we took our fair share of jabs at SocGen EM FX analyst Benoit Anne (the one who said "Governor Basci, You Have Avoided A Domino Crisis In EM"... er, oops?) . They were all in good humor - after all when it comes to sheer contrarian cluelessness nobody, and we mean nobody in the known world, can even reach Tom Stolper's toe nail, whose fades have resulted in over +12,000 pips on these pages alone over the past 5 years. Which is why we follow up the comedy with something more serious: now that the honeymoon is over, Anne has put together a solid compendium on how to trade the EM meltdown, with an emphasis on defensive strategies. Considering the tapering will continue for a long time, and as GaveKal explained yesterday, someone will have to lose (big) before EM normalcy returns, we urge anyone with EM exposure to read this.
That didn't take long. Moments ago the world's largest retailer (sorry AMZN) WoeMart (sic) just confirmed what everyone who is not an economist knows - the US consumer is barely alive. The reasons: cut in foodstamps, and of course, the weather: "“Despite a holiday season that delivered positive comps, two factors contributed to lower comp sales performance for the 14-week period for Walmart U.S. First, the sales impact from the reduction in SNAP (the U.S. government Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits that went into effect Nov. 1 is greater than we expected. And, second, eight named winter storms resulted in store closures that impacted traffic throughout the quarter."
The problem is twofold. First, current accounts are a zero sum game, so future improvements in emerging market trade balances have to come at someone else’s expense. Second, we have had, over the past year, only modest growth in global trade; so if EM balances are to improve markedly, somebody’s will have to deteriorate. When the 1994-95 “tequila crisis” struck, the US current account deficit widened to allow for Mexico to adjust. The same thing happened in 1997 with the Asian crisis, in 2001 when Argentina blew, and in 2003 when SARS crippled Asia. In 1998, oil prices took the brunt of the adjustment as Russia hit the skids. In 2009-10, it was China’s turn to step up to the plate, with a stimulus-spurred import binge that meaningfully reduced its current account surplus. Which brings us to today and the question of who will adjust their growth lower (through a deterioration in their trade balances) to make some room for Argentina, Brazil, Turkey, South Africa, Indonesia...? There are really five candidates...
The IMF's woeful forecasting record, chronicled extensively before, has just taken yet another hit, following the latest flip flop on emerging markets. Try to spot the common theme of these assessments by the IMF.
The problem, though, is that once you embrace the Narrative of Central Bank Omnipotence to "explain" recent events, you can't compartmentalize it there. If the pattern of post-crisis Emerging Market growth rates is largely explained by US monetary accommodation or lack thereof ... well, the same must be true for pre-crisis Emerging Market growth rates. The inexorable conclusion is that Emerging Market growth rates are a function of Developed Market central bank liquidity measures and monetary policy, and that all Emerging Markets are, to one degree or another, Greece-like in their creation of unsustainable growth rates on the back of 20 years of The Great Moderation (as Bernanke referred to the decline in macroeconomic volatility from accommodative monetary policy) and the last 4 years of ZIRP. It was Barzini all along!
"On the one hand and in a stable state, tapering should lead to a gradual ‘normalization’ of yield levels – which mean that the 10 year should (assuming no crisis) ‘gradually’ trades toward nominal GDP minus some liquidity premium. However, ... should concerns build that global growth and inflationary expectations begin to drop too much (either due to Fed Taper or Geo-events), then Treasury values will recalibrate and yields could drop precipitously to 2.5%. If things got really bad, yields could fall quite a bit further."
- Obama warns divided Congress that he will act alone (Reuters)
- Fed Decision Day Guide From Emerging Markets to FOMC Voter Shift (BBG)
- Fed poised for $10 billion taper as Bernanke bids adieu (Reuters)
- Bernanke’s Unprecedented Rescue Unlikely to Be Repeated (BBG)
- Argentina Spends $115 Million to Steady Peso (WSJ)
- Billionaires Fuming Over Market Selloff That Sinks Magnit (BBG)
- SAC’s Counsel Testifies at Insider Trading Trial in Unexpected Move by the Defense (NYT)
- Automakers Fuel Japan’s Longest Profit Growth Streak Since 2007 (BBG)
- Turkey Crisis Puts Jailed Millionaire at Heart of Gold Trail (BBG)
- Ukraine expects $2 billion tranche of Russian aid soon (Reuters)
Below is a chart which flags the highest external risk among the 10 most prominent EMs broken down by liquidity (reserves over near-term maturities) on the X-axis and capital flows (current account as % of GDP) on the Y-axis. It should come as no surprise, that Turkey is worst, followed by South Africa, India and Indonesia. China, Korea and Russia have current account surpluses and strong coverage of short-term debt by reserves. Brazil also has high reserve coverage of short-term debt. Mexico and Poland have small current account deficits and healthy reserve coverage, in addition to their IMF Flexible Credit Lines. As for Argentina, forgetabout it.
With emerging markets in panic mode, investors are bound to be reminded of the enduring observation, first made by a 19th century British businessman named John Mills, that: “Panics do not destroy capital; they merely reveal the extent to which it has been previously destroyed by its betrayal in hopelessly unproductive works.” With that in mind, investors seem happy to link the ongoing emerging market sell-off to either a) China’s large capital misallocation triggered by the 2008-11 credit boom or b) the Federal Reserve’s promise to start tapering last May, followed up now by the real thing. But could there perhaps be another explanation?
As we noted earlier, the "surprise" factor of the Turkish Central Bank's (CBT) emergency meeting is seeming to have the desired effect as the Lira has rallied over 1000 pips since the announcement. Officially there has been no intervention and, despite Erdogan's political pressure on the CBT not to raise rates (because of the "interest rates lobby"), Barclays (as we noted here) and most other banks are expecting more conventional dramatic interest rate hikes (since everyone knows the FX reserves are running dry):
*TURKEY NEEDS TO RAISE O/N RATE 300BPS FOR MKT EFFECT: JPMORGAN
However, JPMorgan adds that it "strongly doubts this will regain investors confidence" and Finansbank warns it has "significant doubts" that the CBT will deliver. And this is what the rest of the market thinks...