Equity markets kick started the week on a negative footing, with the troubled Iberian giant back in focus after it was reported that the ECB is checking whether it may have contravened its own strict rules by lending to Spanish banks on overly generous terms, an ECB spokesman said on Sunday. According to press reports, Spanish banks had borrowed funds from the ECB at a preferential interest rate of 0.5% even though the creditworthiness of the T-bills they provide as collateral should have required them to pay 5.5%. The never-ending Greek drama is another factor for the risk-averse sentiment, with only weeks before the country runs out of cash and still no evidence that lawmakers will find a solution to diffuse the situation, there is a risk of another speculative attack on weaker EU states. As a result, credit and bond yield spreads widened, led by Italian and Spanish bonds, both wider by around 9bps in 10s. Despite the evident distress in credit markets, EUR/GBP is essentially flat, with GBP underperforming following the lacklustre PMI report from the UK.
As we enter the North American session, equity markets are seen marginally higher, as concerns over the never-ending Greek debt drama are offset by the release of an encouraging data from China. Chinese HSBC Manufacturing PMI printed a fresh 8-month high, while the official Chinese Manufacturing PMI came in line with expectations. In addition to that, a state researcher has said that the countries economy has bottomed and is stabilizing. Meanwhile in Greece, the fact that debt is now seen climbing to 192% in 2014 and an agreement on how to defuse the situation has yet to be found may lead to another speculative attack not only on Greek paper, but also other southern states. As a result, GR/GE 10s spread is seen wider by 30bps, however other peripheral bond yield spreads with respect to the German Bund are tighter. The second half of the session sees the release of the latest weekly jobs report, consumer confidence and the weekly DoE from the US.
Equity markets in Europe traded higher today, supported by solid corporate earnings, further monetary policy easing from Japan, as well as what can only be described as “less bad” GDP report from Spain. Also, commodity complex benefited from upward revision to China’s GDP estimate by analysts at Bank of America (Q4 GDP estimate now stands at 7.8% vs. Prev. view of 7.5%). Decent demand for the latest debt issuance saw IT/GE 10s tighten by c.5bps, with SP/GE 10s also seen tighter by 3bps.
Yesterday we posted the official statement of Bundesbank executive board member Carl-Ludwig Thiele, which in turn was a response to a recent surge in concerns about the safety and sanctity of German sovereign gold, held mostly abroad (if a major part of it held in London had been secretly repatriated), and demands by the general public - i.e., those who actually own the gold - for either an audit, or full repatriation, or both. There are, however, some problems with the official Bundesbank statement: the statistics cited in it, as well as the various explanations, are wrong, incorrect or misleading. Below we present some of the "facts" stated by Herr Thiele, and what the truth is.
"We do not have the slightest doubt that our holdings in New York and Paris are also made up of the purest fine gold. We have at our disposal fully documented lists of the bars, and our partner central banks send us every year confirmation not only of the bars’ existence but also of their quality.... We had nothing but the best of experiences with our partners in New York, London and Paris. There was never any doubt about the security of Germany’s gold. In future, we wish to continue to keep gold at international gold trading centres so that, when push comes to shove, we can have it available as a reserve asset as soon as possible. Gold stored in your home safe is not immediately available as collateral in case you need foreign currency....for years, our gold has been stored by the highly esteemed central banks of the United States, Great Britain and France without provoking any complaints whatsoever – not by just any fly-by-night operators. Part of the debate in Germany has veered somewhat towards the absurd."
Bloomberg reports that Chinese silver demand is set to climb nearly 10% next year as investors look to preserve their wealth. Although China as the 2nd largest world economy may be in an economic slump, investors are seeking out silver as a value alternative investment. Silver climbed 15% this year and ETF’s holding silver have gained 6.5%. Research from Beijing Antaike said that 33% of the country’s demand comes from jewellery and coins, the rest for use in photography, solar panels electrical appliances. “Many producers and investors have hoarded the precious metal in the form of ingots or unwrought silver.” After the US Fed’s QE1, (December 2008-March 2010) silver rocketed 53%, almost twice the jump as gold, and for QE2, (ending June 2011) silver rose 24%. Morgan Stanley predicts that silver will again return more than gold after QE3 was announced this September. Chinese national statistics show that jewellery sales rose 19.3% for the first eight months compared to last year. “I’m bullish on silver, so I personally have stockpiled 3 tons of it at home,” Yang Guohui, president at Hunan Yishui Rare & Precious Metals Recycling Co., said in Xiamen on Oct. 17. Yishui is based in Yongxing County, Hunan province, where about 20 percent of China’s silver is from, according to Huang Xiaoming, head of the local precious metals management bureau.
Heading into the North American open, equities in Europe are seen higher, supported by financials and basic material stocks. With banks benefiting from improved credit spreads in Europe, while reports from the Chinese industry ministry saying that China’s industrial output may be faster in Q4 than in Q3 underpinned the strength by basic material sector. In terms of EU related commentary, the Spanish treasury chief has said that Spain is almost fully funded until year end and can start funding itself for 2013 adding that the ECB has already been very explicit about details of a potential bond-buying plan for Spain. He added that Spain's central government funding program for 2013 will also cover regions' financial needs. In turn, spreads tightened, with SP/GE below the 400bps level, with cash inflows via looming redemption/coupon payments also weighing on German Bunds. However the focus has been on the latest UK GDP print, which came in much higher than the median estimate and also above the upper est. GBP/USD continued to advance, with EUR/GBP on path to make a test on 0.8000 to the downside. Going forward, the second half of the session sees the release of the latest weekly jobs and durables reports.
After absorbing the latest PMI reports from Europe, as well as yet another disappointing German IFO survey which in turn was followed by a sharp rise in volatility, saw equity markets in Europe print lows of the day. However ever since, equities staged an impressive recovery and are now in positive territory, supported by investors looking to capitalise on oversold conditions and in part by short-positions being squeezed. The sharp and unpredictable mood swings resemble one suffering manic depression and it remains to be seen whether stocks will be able to hold onto gains. The move higher in stocks has been led by the tech sector, which has been one of the worst performing sectors over the recent weeks. Looking elsewhere, EUR underperformed its peers, largely driven by a lower EUR/GBP (by-product of deterioration in EU credit markets, as well as good sized buying by a UK bank in GBP/USD).
Unlcear if as on recent occasions, there will be 7,000 policemen protecting him: Mario Draghi travels to Berlin today to meet with key German parliament members involved in the eurozone crisis policy. This private meeting is the ECB president’s effort to defend his new bond buying plan as a legitimate instrument in its monetary policy arsenal. Germany’s legislative backing is critical for Draghi’s plan to buy up Spanish and other eurozone area government bonds. The Bundesbank president, Jens Weidmann, says the program is tantamount to financing governments by printing money, which is prohibited by the ECB’s founding treaty. ECB presidents normally give evidence to the European parliament but rarely if ever address national legislatures especially behind closed doors. This journey is highly unusual but a critical sell for Draghi. Today’s session will be followed by a press briefing at 4pm local time by Mr. Draghi and Bundestag leader Norbert Lammert.
Dow Jones down 250, and a new bearish letter from Bob Janjuah? Lucky coincidence? Or conspiracy? You decide. From Bob: "How to play it? The SPX is the obvious pure risk short because of how rich it is against other equity markets. Outright is fine, so are options. Take a look at January 1350 puts for example currently trading at 20. If doing outright we would recommend a stop just above the recent highs at 1475. We also like the USD and Treasuries because the market has seen time and time again US problems do not lead to selling of (safe) US assets and it can and we think will be the same again."
German Federal auditors handed in a report slamming the Bundesbank for not inspecting their foreign held gold reserves to verify their book value. The report says the gold bars "have never been physically checked by the Bundesbank itself or other independent auditors regarding their authenticity or weight." Instead, it relies on "written confirmations by the storage sites." The lion’s share of Germany's gold reserves (nearly 3,400 tons estimated at $190 billion) are housed in vaults of the US Federal Reserve, the Bank of England and the Bank of France since the post-war days, when they were worried about a Cold War Soviet invasion. The Bundesbank stated, “There is no doubt about the integrity of the foreign storage sites in this regard". In contrast with best industry practices Germany’s gold reserves do not seem to be independently verified by a third party. Philipp Missfelder, a politician from Merkel’s own party, has asked the Bundesbank for the right to view the gold bars in Paris and London, but the central bank has denied the request, citing the lack of visitor rooms in those facilities, German’s daily Bild reported. The Bundesbank won't let German parliament members inspect the German gold vaulted abroad because the central bank vaulting facilities supposedly lack "visiting rooms." And yet one of those vaults, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, offers the public tours that include "an exclusive visit to the gold vault".
The International Monetary Fund’s paper, “The Chicago Plan Revisited” by Jaromir Benes and Michael Kumhof highlighted a means to wipe out debt by legislation by using state created money to replace the private banking system and was commented on in The Telegraph by journalist Ambrose Evans-Prichard. The full paper can be read here. In sum, the paper illuminates on a plan created in 1936 by professors Henry Simons and Irving Fisher during the aftermath of the US Depression. It examines how money created by credit cycles leads to a damaging creation of wealth. Authors, Benes and Kumhof argue that credit-cycle trauma - caused by private money creation – has been around forever and lies at the root of debt catastrophes as far back as ancient Mesopotia and the Middle East. They claim that not only harvest cycles lead to defaults but rather the concentration of wealth in the hands of lenders would have augmented the outcome.
Once again confusion is rife overnight, following yesterday's main European event, Spain's first "mixed" regional election, which saw Rajoy's PP party in his home state of Galicia eeking a majority by a few seats, offset by wins for nationalist parties in the Basque Country. The immediate read here is that the Galician win is an endorsement of Rajoy's "austerity poilicies" and thus EUR positive (which have yet to be actually implemented as Spanish spending continues to rise, as tax revenues continue to drop), yet it makes the likelihood that Spain requests a bailout before the Spanish regional election on November 25, which is about secession, virtually nil, and thus SPGB negative. Furthermore as Bank of America points out "some euro-area govts may remain reluctant to support Spain’s request as long as yields continue to be low, banks haven’t been recapitalized; probably reinforced by Catalonia elections" but that is a reality tale for another day - the "market" can only handle so much.
EU leaders committed to establishing a euro-area bank supervisor by year-end, leaving the door open for supplying direct aid to Spanish banks. The EU must now agree on the structure that makes the ECB (European Central Bank) the main supervisor by January 1st. This new system was created to break the link between banks and governments at the root of the zone’s financial crisis and will roll out in the next year and expect to cover all 6,000 eurozone banks by January 2014. “Our goal is banking supervision that’s worthy of the name, because we want to create something that’s better than what we currently have,” Merkel told reporters. Germany and France argued contentiously about the timing. Berlin has insisted the supervisor be effective before the ESM can begin cash injections into Spanish banks, those transactions are not foreseeable to occur until the latter half of the year, around the time of Germany’s national elections. Angela Merkel said it would take more than a few months before the supervisor was fully effective and direct bank recapitalisation could be considered. However, the agreement appeared to upset German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble's efforts to delay and limit the scope of European banking supervision. Germany has been averse to see its politically sensitive Savings and Cooperative banks come under outside supervision. It rejects any joint deposit guarantee under which wealthier countries might have to underwrite banks in poorer states.
Yet again Germany was forced to compromise and agree on what can only be viewed as a partial agreement on EU banking supervision. Under the agreed timetable, a legal framework for the new ECB-based supervisor would be finalised by the end of this year and then it would take six to 12 months to get the supervisor up and running. Still, German Chancellor Merkel insisted that direct recapitalisation of banks by the ESM will only be available once fully fledged supervision is in place and ruled out retroactive bank recapitalisation. This, together with the fact that Spain is yet to ask for monetary assistance prompted market participants to book profits. In particular, selling pressure was most evident across the financial sector, where Italian and Spanish banks underperforming for much of the session. As a result, EUR/USD traded lower, with large option expiries today and on Monday between 1.3000 and 1.3050 preventing the pair from posting large losses. Going forward, the second half of the session sees the release of the latest Existing Home Sales from the US and Canadian CPI.