As reported yesterday, The SCOTUS dealt a major blow to Argentina hopes it would avoid making payments on its "holdout" bonds when it enforced a lower-court ruling that said Argentina can't make payments on its restructured debt unless it also pays holdout hedge funds headed by Elliott Management, best known for briefly seizing an Argentina ship in late 2012. The immediate result was a major rout in the country's sovereign bonds, which also sent Argentina CDS soaring. Sadly for Argentina, this would hardly be the end of it, and about an hour ago, Standard & Poor added insult to injury and lowered its long-term foreign currency rating on Argentina to CCC- from CCC+ citing a "higher risk of default on the country's foreign currency debt." As a result, yesterday's drop in bonds has continued, if at a more moderate pace, and the country's USD bond due 2024 hav continued to sink in intraday trading. So what is next for the cash-strapped Latin American country for which the road ahead is suddenly quite "challenging" and default appears increasing like the only way out? For the answer we go to Citi's Jeffrey Williams who has laid out the five most likely developments.
"In retrospect, the spark might seem as ominous as a financial crash, as ordinary as a national election, or as trivial as a Tea Party. The catalyst will unfold according to a basic Crisis dynamic that underlies all of these scenarios: An initial spark will trigger a chain reaction of unyielding responses and further emergencies. The core elements of these scenarios (debt, civic decay, global disorder) will matter more than the details, which the catalyst will juxtapose and connect in some unknowable way. At home and abroad, these events will reflect the tearing of the civic fabric at points of extreme vulnerability – problem areas where America will have neglected, denied, or delayed needed action.” - The Fourth Turning - Strauss & Howe – 1997
This week brings some key events and releases in DMs, including US FOMC (Goldman expects $10bn tapering, in line with consensus), IP, CPI, and Philly Fed (expect 13.5), EA final May CPI (expect 0.50%), and MP decisions in Norway and Switzerland (expect no change in either).
With all eyes focused on the atrocities in Iraq, unarmed civilians are rioting across the world at their status quo leadership. The World Cupo is tamping down hysteria modestly in Brazil (especially as they won) but the situation in Greece - emboldened by the recent euro-skeptic, anti-austerity wins in the European elections - is getting worse. As Keep Talking Greece reports, the striking cleaners have have 2 protesters (and a photo reporter) sent to hospital after riot police rushed the unarmed crowd.
Not quite the "crowds" everyone was expecting...
Sticker shock. Expect to pay a lot. Hellishly hot in the summer and shockingly less sexy than advertised. But the city and local people, called Cariocas, are clean and the crime is greatly exaggerated. The Marvelous City is amazing in many ways. But if you look closely, you see the same old corruption and thuggery, the same painful poverty and injustice, that plague many states. And then there's the Brazilian prostitutes, called programas, who frequent the bars and brothels of Copacabana and Ipanema as well as Central Rio... People in Rio and Brazil are the same as anywhere. They want the same things. Happiness, diversion, laughter, distraction, the so-called good things in life. A slightly larger piece of the pie. The World Cup is just a showcase and a distraction. Bread and circus on a grander scale.
The World Bank joined the hallowed ranks of the IMF and admitted it was clueless last night, slashing growth estimates for every developed and developing nation from Brazil to the US. The "bumpy start" as they called it merely exacerbated what is now becoming a dismal joke as the death cross of GDP growth expectations and world stock market valuations diverge in an ever more fragile manner.
Over 1 in 5 homes (with $674 billion of mortgages) in China stand empty... and if you think that urbanization will fix that, as WSJ reports, a 10 percentage point rise in the urbanization rate (already at 54%) would result in only a 2.6% drop in vacancy rates. China has a major over-supply issue thanks to property developers who had rushed into the market to build homes, which have been a popular investment as prices seemed bound to keep rising. But now, as Vanke recently warned, things are changing and "the golden era" of China's property market are over. The vacancy rate of sold residential homes in urban areas reached 22.4% in 2013 and as new home prices are slashed to move product, a 30% drop would leave 11.2% of Chinese homes underwater on their mortgages...
Brazil wins the world cup... according to Bloomberg, 171 economists, and Goldman Sachs. They beat Spain, Germany, or Argentina in the final respectively but as one survey participant noted, "It’s kind of hard to bet against Brazil -- they have home advantage, the climate, crowd and recent record." Goldman's 'model' implies a 48.5% chance that Brazil wins it all (with Argentina 2nd most likely to win at 14.1%). While all eyes will be on Ronaldo, Goldman's Dream Team is dominated by 3 Brazilians (including Neymar of course) but based on the 6-factor Poisson distribution-based regression model, Goldman predicts the scores of every game (and Bloomberg's interactive graphics allow to create your own bracket). If only the Brazilian people were so certain about their futures...
A computer program called “Eugene Goostman,” has reportedly become the first artificially created human being to fool more than 30% of judges that he is a real person (the Turing Test). It is thought to be the first computer to pass the iconic test. Though other programs have claimed successes, those included set topics or questions in advance. The computer program claims to be a 13-year-old boy from Odessa in Ukraine. This is particularly interesting in light of a recent piece from the MIT Technology Review titled, "How Advanced Socialbots Have Infiltrated Twitter," which demonstrated the ability of Twitterbots (i.e., fake computer generated Twitter accounts) to not only gain more followers than actual human users, but to also infiltrate social groups within Twitter and exercise influence within them.
With the world cup set to kick off in three days, things in the host country - which according to numerous report is largely unprepared for the grand spectacle - are going from bad to worse.
With the VIX smashing last week to levels not seen since early 2007, the S&P rising to all time highs, and European core and peripheral bond yield this morning touching historic lows, it would appear that the "market" has priced in every possible negative outcome. Which, as Goldman showed over the weekend is clearly not the case at least as investors are concerned who continued to sell stocks across the board in May even as the market broke out to record levels making many wonder who is buying stocks (for more read here)? Expect more of the same, and with some luck we will get a single digit VIX in the coming days as newsflow slows down following payrolls week and ahead of the world cup start in Brazil.
In just about any realm of activity this nation does not know how to act. We don’t know what to do about our mounting crises of economy. We don’t know what to do about our relations with other nations in a strained global economy. This is a society in deep danger that doesn’t want to know it.
This week's busy calendar starts off with today’s global PMIs and ISMs. On Tuesday, President Obama begins a four day European trip ahead of the G7 meeting which starts on Wednesday. This G7 meeting is replacing the G8 meeting that was originally scheduled in Sochi but was cancelled after Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Tuesday’s data docket is important with Euroarea data releases including inflation and unemployment expected to further cement the ECB’s resolve in easing policy come Thursday. Wednesday features the global services ISMs and PMIs. Other data releases scheduled for that day includes the ADP employment report, which will provide an important preview to Friday’s NFP, and US trade. The Fed releases its Beige Book on Wednesday too and the second estimates of Euroarea GDP will be published on Wednesday as well. Apart from the ECB on Thursday, we also have the BoE policy meeting.
The melt up is accelerating and with the momentum tailwind back, newsflow is once again irrelevant: any news that are even remotely good are trumpeted, and any bad news - such as Europe's right storm rising in the northern states, and left storm surge in the states that demand more handouts from the northern states or China sinking a Vietnamese boat, the most serious bilateral incident since 2007 - are once again (and as usual) nothing more than a catalyst for even more liquidity injections. End result: the S&P futures this morning are 5 points above Goldman's year end target of 1900 and 45 points away from its June 30, 2015 target. Can this breakneck scramble on zero volume continue until Grantham's bubble peak level of 2,200 is hit? Well of course: after all anything goes in the centrally-planned new normal. To be sure, this is an equity only phenomenon: moments ago the Bund future hit its highest level since May 19, while the 10 Year remains unchanged at 2.53% as it continues to price in the new "deflationary" (and Japanese) normal. And as has been the case during all such divergences of late, either bonds or equities are making a horrible mistake: the question remains: who? Since all equities are doing is tracking FX pairs to the pip and have completely forgotten all about fundamentals, we have a pretty good idea what the answer is.