Much has been made of today's Reuters story how "Iran turns to barter for food as sanctions cripple imports" in which we learn that "Iran is turning to barter - offering gold bullion in overseas vaults or tankerloads of oil - in return for food", and whose purpose no doubt is to demonstrate just how crippled the Iranian economy is as a result of the ongoing US embargo. Incidentally this story is 100% the opposite of the Debka-spun groundless disinformation from a few weeks ago that India was preparing to pay for Iran's oil in gold (they got the asset right, but the flow of funds direction hopelessly wrong). While there is certainly truth to the fact that the US is actively seeking to destabilize the local government, we wonder why? After all as the opportunity cost for the existing regime to do something drastic gets ever lower as the popular resentment rises, leaving the local administration with few options but to engage either the US or Israel. Unless of course, this is the ultimate goal. Yet going back to the Reuters story, it would be quite dramatic, if only it was not the case that Iran has been laying the groundwork for a barter economy for many months now, something which various other analysts perceive as the basis for the destruction of the petrodollar system. Perhaps regular readers will recall that back in July, we wrote an article titled "China And Iran To Bypass Dollar, Plan Oil Barter System." Specifically, we wrote that "according to the FT, China has decided to commence a barter system in which Iranian oil is exchanged directly for Chinese exports. The net result: not only a slap for the US Dollar, but implicitly for all fiat intermediaries, as Iran and China are about to prove that when it comes to exchanging hard resources for critical Chinese goods and services, the world's so called reserve currency is completely irrelevant." Seen in this light the fact that Iran is actually proceeding with a barter system, something that had been in the works for quite a while, actually puts the Reuters story in a totally different light: instead of one predicting the imminent demise of the Iranian economy, the conclusion is inverted, and underscores the culmination of what may have been an extended barter preparation period, has finally gone from beta to (pardon the pun) gold, and Iran is now successfully engaging in global trade without the use of the historical reserve currency.
It’s clear that the BRICS cannot be the engine room of global economic growth. Meanwhile, Europe is a complete basket case, and the euro is looking increasingly as though it will be consigned to the dustbin of history. Across the pond, the US is trying to put a brave face on its jobless recovery whilst kicking a $15 trillion debt bomb down the road. Anyone who steps back and looks at the big picture has -got- to recognize the absurdity of this situation. Now… here’s the good news: you and I have a huge advantage. Citi, Deutsche Bank, Unicredit, etc. are sitting on incalculable losses, unrealistic obligations, and worthless paper that will destroy their organizations. They’ve been accumulating these for years and have no way of avoiding the endgame. We do. We, on the other hand, are little guys. If you and I want to cut our exposure to these silly pieces of paper that governments pass off as currency, we can do that easily. We can easily do that by buying gold or productive land overseas. Bank of America, on the other hand, has to hold Tim Geithner’s dirty laundry.
What is happening at the moment reminds me of 2008 in every way. We have seen tremendous inflationary pressures in the emerging world, which has now finally resulted in serious slowdowns in many nations. The China credit bubble, mal-investment house of cards that I first warned about in mid 2009 has started to unravel in earnest and this can be seen in industrial commodity prices such as copper. Europe is…well we all know about Europe. So in this type of environment the optimists will always invent a story that finds a silver lining. That’s fine, everyone is entitled to an opinion and clearly I have my own biases but I think the similarity to 2008 is what is important. Back then the spin was decoupling. Despite the blowup of the U.S. housing markets and it’s financial institutions, the spin back then was that the BRICs would keep growing and support the global economy. Of course, this is not the way it turned out and those economies plunged as well, just with a lag. Well here in late 2011 we find ourselves in a similar situation; however, this time we are led to believe that the U.S. economy is the Atlas that will hold up the world with its strong corporate balance sheets and moderate growth. A bigger bunch of nonsense hasn’t been heard since 2008.
The overnight agreement by 17 European countries to tighten euro-area budget controls and expand bailout funds fails to address key aspects of the crisis and may fall at the first hurdle, analysts and investors say. The summary of various Wall Street expert opinions is compiled and presented below from Bloomberg. It is not pretty.
Just in time for the Chinese 50 bps RRR cut, we get a note from Albert Edwards reminding us just why this desperate and sudden move from China comes: "We have identified a China hard landing as one of the biggest investment shocks next year." Not only that, but the SocGen strategist takes a long overdue swipe at the world's most ridiculous concept, Jim O'Neill's BRIC debacle: "Despite recent poor performance investors still seem to favour EM and the BRICs. My good friend and former colleague Peter Tasker came up with an alternative for the widely (over) used BRIC acronym - Bloody Ridiculous Investment Concept." It appears that the PBOC was well aware of this re-definition when it decided to announce to the world that it has started easning once again last night.
This is Jim O'Neill in about the most pessimistic light that his genetic makeup, not to mention GSAM employment contract, will allow him: "For a couple of days this week, it actually felt as though Europe’s post-war project was nearing the end of the road and, as a result, emotions have been running high. For those that never believed it was a good idea, some have been expressing a mood of jubilance. For many involved in its creation, this has not been a good week. I got more caught up in the middle of this than usual as a result of a newspaper interview, where the headline distorted what I had actually said, claiming that we were predicting a break up. While this was not a fair reflection, I did say that some major issues were now on the table and needed to be recognized. The EMU, as created, has not really worked and needs to change. It is quite clear that many countries should not have been allowed to join. It is also clear that the Growth and Stability Pact has not worked. Policymakers need to be more open in at least acknowledging this, and then doing something about it. If all of this wasn’t enough of a challenge, Italy’s issues have become front and centre. Italy is no Greece. Indeed, although the BRICs can create another Italy in 2012, Italy is close to 4 times the combined size of Greece, Ireland and Portugal. Its total debt is close to 25 pct of the Euro Area GDP. Quite simply, Italy cannot be allowed to stay in the position it found itself this week....while I can see the case for an EMU without some others, and despite all of Italy’s complications, I can’t see an EMU without Italy. At the same time, I can’t see Italy sustaining life with 6-7 pct 10-year bond yields. So something has to give. Let’s see what Italy brings over the weekend, and how Frankfurt, Berlin, Brussels and the rest of us all react."
Three of the smartest strategists at Goldman, Huw Pill, Francesco Garzarelli, and Peter Oppenheimer, have released what one could tentatively call a white paper on the "next steps" for Europe. Far from being the traditional permabullish sellside drivel, this is a must read note, as it cleanly lays out the risks for the Eurozone from this point. The note focuses on three key aces: 1) fiscal consolidation and the ongoing role of the ECB in the future of a Eurozone which still has no fiscal cohesion (which makes sense: just like in the US, the Fed is aggressively putting the ball in Congress' court, as neither the monetary nor fiscal apparatus has any interest in being blamed for ongoing economic deterioration, so in Europe the ECB wants a federal union, complete with Eurobond issuance powers, so it is not in the cross hairs: alas, European politicians realize this is career suicide and the question remains: when push comes to shove, and saving the Euro requires career harakiri from politicians, will they step up to the plate?); 2) Italy, of course, as the country under the spotlight now and going forward; and 3) what the above two mean for BTPs and thus the European (and Global) equity markets. The sense we get from the Goldman trio is that while the company which has just spawned Europe's latest central banking head, while cautiously neutral is pushing for a downside case: after all what better way to unlock the Heidelberger Druckmaschinen true potential, than with a full blown crisis...
Today marks the beginning of a new era for the ECB, with Mario Draghi taking over the helm from Jean-Claude Trichet as the President of the central bank. Unfortunately for Draghi, the changeover is to take place at a very critical juncture and at a time when market participants are demanding that the central bank takes more pro-active measures to stimulate the stagnating economy which stands on the brink of a double dip recession. However, such action may prove difficult for Draghi to push through the governing council since doing so only few months after Trichet announced that the central bank is to resume covered bond buying and 12-month LTROs risks undermining the central banks’ credibility. Another reason why a rate cut may prove futile is that the meeting coincides with the G-20 summit where leaders of the Eurozone are expected to endorse use of the leveraged EFSF fund as an investment opportunity for countries with a large budget surplus such as China and other BRICS. In turn this indicates that comments stemming from the summit may have a more profound impact on investors’ appetite for the EU related financial instruments and therefore determine whether the EUR/USD pair consolidates above the 1.4000 level.
One of the premier Euroskeptic think tanks chimes in with, as expected, a rather bleak outlook on what to expect from today's Summit which is just now starting: "The hope for a “comprehensive plan” to save the eurozone, as originally touted by the eurozone leaders, looks to be a lost cause. The best outcome we can hope for today looks to be a broad political agreement, with technical details left to be sorted at a later date. Given previous experiences with technical changes (notably the second Greek bailout package and the Finnish collateral deal) it is definitely possible that the deal could be watered down, for example with investors being offered greater guarantees over their involvement in the second Greek bailout or with the bank recapitalisation actually turning out to be less stringent than expected....No matter what the details look like, the insurance plan is fundamentally flawed, given that guarantees may not be viable when they are most needed and 20% wouldn’t be enough to calm markets any way... there’s massive irony here, as Europe is now falling back on massively complex ‘Anglo-Saxon’ financial instruments to help save the eurozone. Putting these at the heart of an already complex, diverse and flawed monetary union is far from desirable.
About a year ago, we speculated that as part of the ongoing currency warfare between Brazil and the "developed" world, its finance minister Guido Mantega would keep his trade surplus trump card until the moment of biggest impact. That moment has come, after the financial head (with the Playboy-posing daughter) just told Europe to take a hike. "I believe that European countries do not need funds from Brazil to buy bonds. Brazil is not considering it," Mantega told reporters in Brasilia. "They have to find solutions to the European problems within Europe." And with Brazil out, it is certain that China will not step up over fears of appearing weak and needing to provide vendor financing to its biggest export partner. Unfortunately for Europe this means that at least one component of the revised SPIV: that which foresees public investment from third parties into the EFSF (a new twist proposed only last week), can now be safely forgotten, bringing us back to page one and the entire 5x levered CDO structure which as has been explained numerous times, is Dead on Arrival. There is, however, one loophole. "Mantega said Brazil would be willing to provide financial help via the International Monetary Fund." Which is rather laughable considering that by IMF, one typically refers to, at least in polite society, Uncle Sam. Then again, with a French woman (and one who until recently was solely reponsible for the grave French financial condition) in charge, it is easy to lose sight and to be, there is that phrase again, baffled by irrelevant bullshit even as following the bailout money always lead to the same old source.
The most comprehensive summary of the main bullish and bearish events in the past week.
It is probably not too surprising that the negative news of the day, namely that the US has decided against expanding the IMF and thus leaving the European bailout to the Europeans (at least for now), was released quietly long after happy hour started on Friday. Yet that is precisely what happened after Reuters dropped a Friday night bomb that with hours before a communique is issued by the G20 in Paris, contrary to previous rumors and representation "U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and his Canadian and Australian counterparts poured cold water on the idea" of injecting $350 billion into the International Monetary Fund. As a reminder, the IMF expansion myth was one of the latest rumors floated today by none other than the tag team of Geithner and Liesman. It lasted less than24 hours but it served its purpose. The full on media onslaught of never ending lies has never been more acute, more relentless, and more blatant: with every central bank and trade surplussed nation all in, the very nature of the global ponzi is at risk.
Countries and regions most likely to have armed riots based on the Conflict Intensity Index
Foreigners Dump $74 Billion In Treasurys In 6 Consecutive Weeks: Biggest Sequential Outflow In HistorySubmitted by Tyler Durden on 10/13/2011 17:06 -0500
Over the weekend, we observed the perplexing sell off of $56 billion in US Treasurys courtesy of weekly disclosure in the Fed's custodial account (source: H.4.1) and speculated if this may be due to an asset rotation, under duress or otherwise, out of bonds and into stocks, to prevent the collapse of the global ponzi (because when the BRICs tell the IMF to boost its bailout capacity you know it is global). We also proposed a far simpler theory: "the dreaded D-day in which foreign official and private investors finally start offloading their $2.7 trillion in Treasurys with impunity (although not with the element of surprise - China has made it abundantly clear it will sell its Treasury holdings, the only question is when), has finally arrived." In hindsight the Occam's Razor should have been applied. Little did we know 5 short days ago just how violent the reaction by China would be (both post and pre-facto) to the Senate decision to propose a law for all out trade warfare with China. Now we know - in the week ended October 12, a further $17.7 billion was "removed" from the Fed's custodial Treasury account, meaning that someone, somewhere is very displeased with US paper, and, far more importantly, what it represents, and wants to make their displeasure heard loud and clear. Whether it is China - we do not know: we may have a better view in two months when the September/October TIC data hits, but even then it will be full of errors, as Direct Bidder purchases by the UK usually end up being assigned to China at the yearly TIC audit. And the sellers know this all too well. What they also know is that over the next few days (or weeks - ZH tends to be a little "aggressive" in its estimates for popular uptake), as soon as the broader population understands what has transpired, concerns about the reserve status of the greenback will start to resurface, precisely as many have been warning. And what has happened is that in six consecutive weeks, foreigners have sold $74 billion, or more government bonds in a sequential period of time than ever before.
In yet another ironic twist, traditional market cheerleader Goldman Sachs, which discusses the factors for the "strong start to the week for equity markets" in the form of the 100 S&P point surge on nothing but hope and more rumor speculation, concludes with rather ominous: "beyond the headlines, it is only the process of grappling with the details and concrete plans that will force the political leadership in these countries to face the difficult tradeoffs involved. And as such, as long as there is not more clarity around concrete proposals – the distribution of legacy losses and the mechanisms for mutual support in the Euro-area going forward – and the details on implementation, we doubt that the current market optimism can be sustained over the medium term, and beyond the upcoming G20 meetings." In other words, precisely what we have been saying: rumors and "plans of plans of plans" are great for short term squeeze induced, bear market bounces, but in the long, or even medium-term, do nothing to address the fundamental math fail which states, quite factually, that going from point A (where we are now) to point B (where Merkozy wants Europe to be), will be virtually impossible absent massive equity losses. Yet, as also pointed out before, Wall Street career risk is always in the "here and now" never in what may happen a day or even an hour from now, now that markets are no longer a discounting mechanism, but a purely headline reactionary one.