The biggest fear the market currently has is not the ongoing crisis in the Emerging Markets, not the suddenly slowing economy, not even China's credit bubble popping: it is that Bernanke's successor may have suddenly reverted to the "Old Normal" - a regime in which the Fed is not there to provide the training wheels should the S&P suffer a 5%, 10% or 20% (or more) drop. Whether such fears are warranted will be tested as soon as there is indeed a bear market plunge in stocks - the first in nearly three years (incidentally the topic of the Fed's lack of vacalty was covered in a recent Reuters article). So, assuming that indeed the most dramatic change in market dynamics in the past five years has taken place, how does one trade this new world which is so unfamiliar to so many of today's "younger" (and forgotten by many of the older) traders? And, more importantly, how does one look for the signs of a bottom: an Old Normal bottom that is. Courtesy of Convergex' Nicholas Colas, here is a reminder of what to look forward to, for those who are so inclined, to time the next market inflection point.
Because the ultimate outcome of this monetary cycle hinges on how, when, or if the Fed can unwind its unwieldy balance sheet, without further damage to the economy; most likely continuing stagnation or a return to stagflation, or less likely, but possible hyper-inflation or even a deflationary depression, the Bernanke legacy will ultimately depend on a Bernanke-Yellen legacy. But what should be the main lesson of a Greenspan-Bernanke legacy? Clearly, if there was no pre-crisis credit boom, there would have been no large financial crisis and thus no need for Bernanke or other human to have done better during and after. While Austrian analysis has often been criticized, incorrectly, for not having policy recommendations on what to do during the crisis and recovery, it should be noted that if Austrian recommendations for eliminating central banks and allowing banking freedom had been followed, no such devastating crisis would have occurred and no heroic policy response would have been necessary in the resulting free and prosperous commonwealth.
"Many will remember Ben Bernanke for classic central bank stabilizing actions taken during the fall 2008 panic, including emergency loans to banks and swap lines to foreign central banks. But historians might also consider actions the Fed took before and after that panic...
Many argue that QE has not reduced unemployment, but has diminished the Fed’s independence and credibility, offsetting the effects of adopting a numerical inflation target. Now, only a year after the latest round of QE began, the Fed is struggling with how to unwind it, just as many had warned."
We find it truly extraordinary that anyone is surprised the financial system is under duress again.
How many times in the last few days have we been told that Turkey - or Ukraine or Venezuela or Argentina - are too small to matter? How many comparisons of Emerging Market GDP to world GDP to instill confidence that a little crisis there can't possible mean problems here. Putting aside this entirely disingenuous perspective, historical examples such as LTCM, and ignoring the massive leverage in the system, there is a simple reason why Emerging Markets matter. As Reuters reports, European banks have loaned in excess of $3 trillion to emerging markets, more than four times US lenders - especially when average NPLs for historical EM shocks is over 40%.
In this part, we look at the question: Is gold a currency? Professor Tom Fischer answers, “Yes, gold is a currency with the symbol XAU”.
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.
Confirming the floating rumor from last week that yet another Wall Streeter from a bailed out company is going to set US economic policy, moments ago the Treasury announced that indeed the Citigroup economist Nathan Sheets - the bank's global head of international economics - will start working next week as a counsellor to U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew. This is the same Sheets, who ten days ago wrote that "our empirical work presents evidence that over the next few years, 10-year U.S. Treasury yields are likely to move toward 5 percent (slightly above our projections for nominal GDP growth) and to stabilize near that level. Our work suggests that Japanese rates may be on a sharply rising trajectory as well, if policymakers there get traction in taming the deflationary demons that have plagued the economy." We already know why the Treasury likes him so much.
In essence, you need to be selling strength.
The event horizon of bad faith is the exact point where the credulous folk of this modern age, from high to low, discover that their central banks only pretend to be regulating agencies, that they ride a juggernaut of which nobody is really in control. The illusion of control has been the governing myth since the Lehman moment in 2008. We needed desperately to believe that the authorities had our backs. They don’t even have their own fronts. Is the money world at that threshold right now?
"We've created a global debt monster that's now so big and so crucial to the workings of the financial system and economy that defaults have been increasingly minimised by uber aggressive policy responses. It’s arguably too late to change course now without huge consequences. This cycle perhaps started with very easy policy after the 97/98 EM crises thus kick starting the exponential rise in leverage across the globe. Since then we saw big corporates saved in the early 00s, financials towards the end of the decade and most recently Sovereigns bailed out. It’s been many, many years since free markets decided the fate of debt markets and bail-outs have generally had to get bigger and bigger."
The key events this week are have non-farm payrolls (consensus 181K) and unemployment rate (consensus 6.7%). There is also going to be a number of speeches given by Fed policymakers. Production surveys from the US (ISM) and other parts of the world are due Monday. We also get trade balance updates from the English-speaking economies - US, UK, Australia and Canada. Finally, keep track on inflation data from Italy and Turkey: the latter is important to track given current high correlation among 'fragile' EM currencies.
- Emerging-Market Rout Seen Enduring on Low Real Rates (BBG)
- After rocky January, markets eye data and central banks (Reuters)
- Europe will feel the pain of emerging markets (FT)
- Lloyds delays dividend prospect after mis-selling charge (Reuters)
- Snow Set to Snarl New York Commute as U.S. Flights Halted (BBG)
- Rate Decision to Drive Yellen's Early Agenda (Hilsenrath)
- Thai protesters move to downtown Bangkok in bid to topple PM (Reuters)
- China says Japan's 'hype' on air defence zone spreads tension (Reuters)
- Hedge funds seek 1.8 billion euros damages from members of Porsche's owning family (Reuters)
Alarms are going off in assorted plunge protecting offices, now that the USDJPY has breached the 102.000 "fundamental" support level, below which the Yen can comfortably soar to sub 100.000 in perfectly even 100 pip increments. The first trading day of February has brought another weaker session across Asia though some equity indices such as the KOSPI (-1.1%) are in catch-up mode given they were shut towards the back-end of last week. Over the weekend, the Chinese government published its latest official manufacturing PMI which showed a 0.5pt drop to 50.5, a six-month low, and consistent with consensus estimates. DB’s Jun Ma believes there was some element of seasonality affecting this month’s result including the fact that Chinese New Year started at the end of January (vs February last year), anti-pollution measures in the lead up to CNY and efforts to control government consumption around the holiday period. The official service PMI was released overnight (53.4) which printed at the lowest level since at least 2011. The uninspiring Chinese data has not helped market sentiment this morning, with the Nikkei plunging -2% and ASX200 once again under pressure. S&P500 futures have fluctuated around the unchanged line this morning although if support below the USDJPY fail solidly, then watch out below. Markets in Mainland China and Hong Kong remain closed for Lunar New Year.
Yes, it is true that, just as had happened six months ago when the Fed first started its public ruminations about whether and when to start to reduce its stimulus, emerging markets have suffered a further bout of turbulence and it is also true that some of these are facing increasingly fraught social and political tensions, to boot. The cynic would say that such periods of upheaval are almost intrinsic to their designation as "emerging" but he would also be quick to point out that such susceptibilities are supposed to be rewarded with either a yield premium or its converse, a price discount. The ironists among market punters will even attempt to construe all this as a reason to buy more developed world stocks on the premise that the money flooding out of such places as Thailand, the Ukraine, Turkey, and Argentina will be parked in the S&P and the DAX (perhaps overlooking the fact that the purchase price of these now-unwanted positions was most likely borrowed, meaning that their liquidation will also extinguish the associated credit, not re-allocate it). The Goldilocks lovers will also tend to assume that any such disruption will serve to delay the onset of genuine tightening and may even induce further ill-advised stimulus measures on the part of the major central banks.