Following on from our earlier discussion of how a Chinese hard landing would evolve, SocGen now examines how a Chinese hard landing would impact the global economy. They see the contagion in several ways: mechanically (since China is part of the global economy) and through trade, financial and market channels. Mechanically, a slump in Chinese GDP growth to just 3% would cut our global GDP growth forecast by 0.6pp. Add to that the channels of transmission to the global economy, and our expectation is that a Chinese hard landing would result in 1.5pp being slashed from global GDP growth in the first year.
In Europe the political leaders are now not only proclaiming that the “worst” is over but that in fact the crisis as a whole is over. To say this is political grandstanding would be understatement of the year so far: EU unemployment just hit a new record of 11.8%. Also, both Greece and Spain have issued reports revealing that their banks are massively undercapitalized and in fact have negative values.
It should come as no surprise that the relationship between the balance sheets of the world's major central banks and risk assets in general are relatively closely correlated (that is not to say dependent to avoid the causation/correlation 'out'). A great example is the tight coupling between the EURUSD exchange rate and the ECB and Fed balance sheets over the past few years - and just what the EURUSD (market) is implying about forward central bank action. As Mark Faber has noted in the past though, the flood of liquidity from central bankers has the unintended consequence that they 'don't know' where that money will sloosh next. 2012 saw European stocks dramatically outperform US stocks, despite the 'unresolved issues', and the chart below of lagged performance of US over European stocks relative to the Fed and ECB balance sheets, suggests that this 'catch-up' of Europe has considerably more legs going forward even as the Fed's balance sheet is set to expand by $1trillion this year. A strange chart indeed...
Perhaps it is time for the punditry and the chatterbox media to start considering what happens not when the much anticipated rotation out of bonds and into stocks, which has not happened for 4 years now, and won't, at least not until the government bond bubble finally pops which will only happen when the central banks finally lose control, but what happens if even a tiny amount of the global pension capital allocated to bonds and/or equities, is rotated into gold.
“Pension money invested in bullion is ‘peanuts’ at the moment,” Toshima said. “If 1 percent of their total assets shift to the metal, the gold market would explode.”
Could not have said it better ourselves.
The groupthink in the world of finance is some of the worst on the planet. It’s incredible how such an educated, experienced group can willfully ignore reality, stick their heads in the sand, and repeat the same mantras over and over again until they become axiomatic. The desire to be accepted by one’s peers is part of human nature. And when it’s one’s peers who are rigging the financial system, the pressure to adopt industrial groupthink is enormous. The dawning of a new year is invariably a time for forecasts. But we have some reservations about the seemingly ubiquitous binary decision to ditch bonds and put the proceeds into the stock market. To put it more plainly, ditching bonds to buy stocks may be jumping from the frying pan into another frying pan. To put it more plainly still, stock markets are only cheap by reference to grotesquely expensive government bonds, and the risk of significant price falls is ever present, especially at what is likely the tail-end of a multi-decade expansion in credit. A falling tide might sink more than one type of boat.
If you ever wondered how just a few thousand bankers could impose their Ponzi global banking scheme upon 7 billion people, here is "The 9 Step Process Bankers Use to Force Global Slavery Upon Humanity."
Beginning with Malthus' warning to the world and the Great Irish famine, David McWilliams (of Punk Economics) provides his typically succinct, profoundly fascinating, and graphically pleasing insights on the state of the global food economy. "What happens when hungry people panic?" is the question McWilliams poses; "they move to other parts of the world," he rhetorically answers, adding that this could well be the story of the next 50 years on Earth as the rock of the insatiable demand of seven billion (soon-to-be-ten-billion) people smashes into the hard place of the planet's limited resources to produce that one thing that keeps us all alive - food. The food dilemma is more complex though as it is really an energy dilemma - one that is not going away (on the downside). On the bright side, Malthus' nightmare has yet to occur thanks to the ingenuity of humans. However, if all the world's seven billion people consumer as much as the average American, it would require the resources of over five planet Earths to sustainably support all of us. So either the rest-of-the-world eats less to allow Americans to eat more or we are stuck! McWilliams takes us on a path from changing global diets to water and energy demands, through central banks' "frothy response" to the global financial crisis and on to the impacts such as class divisions, rising healthcare costs, and social unrest - all in 11 minutes... Truly must watch!
The epic farce that is the opaque balance sheets of European banks, sovereigns, NCBs, and the ECB, continues to occur under our very eyes. Only when one sniffs below the headlines is the truth exposed with no apology or recognition of 'cheating' anywhere. To wit, following November's farcical over-payment on collateral by the ECB to Spanish banks (that was quietly brushed under the carpet by Draghi et al.), Germany's Die Welt am Sonntag has found that the Bank of France overpaid up to EUR550mm ($720mm) on its short-term paper financing to six French and Italian banks. The reason - incorrect evaluation of the crappy collateral (i.e. the NCB not taking a big enough haircut for risk purposes) on 113 separate occasions. The problem lies in the increasingly poor quality of collateral the CBs are willing to accept (and the illiquidity of the underlying markets) - as higher quality collateral disappears; which leaves the central bankers clearly out of depth when it comes to 'risk management', no matter how many times Draghi tells us this week.
Having moved to the sidelines due to the uncertainty of the US Presidential election and the Fiscal Cliff negotiations (as well as the holidays), investors are beginning to creep back in the marketplace. And they’re in for a surprise.
Gold dropped $8.20 or 0.49% in New York on Friday and closed at $1,656.30/oz. Silver slipped to as low as $29.22 in London, but it then rallied to as high as $30.25 in New York and finished with a gain of 0.2%. Gold finished down 0.05% for the week, while silver was up 0.53%.
Friday’s U.S. nonfarm payrolls for December were 155K, 150K was expected and this was down from the previous data of 161K. The unemployment rate was still an elevated 7.8% suggesting a frail U.S. jobs market.
Forecasting the future with any accuracy is a difficult affair. Being right about the facts, often obscured by various governments, and then correct in your deductions is never enough as macro impacts such as Draghi’s “Save the World” plan can often change the face of market outcomes in a New York minute. This is why so few people can predict the future of the markets with much accuracy. The central banks of the world have accumulated balance sheets of about 15 trillion dollars. There will be consequences of this including inflation, valuation of currencies and ultimately defaults as motivated by political and economic decisions. In the spring keep your eye on Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy as nationalism returns to protect the various nations. In the United States rancor will resurface. Like in Europe, the “have-nots” control the votes but the push-backs will come and the intensity of them may startle many as the House refuses to accede to the demands and cries for the sharing of wealth. Polarization will continue and a shift in the population base will bring intense rivalry from one State to the next.
D-day - the real D-Day: the day after which the US government will have to start shutting down - is now 52 days away, but with the Pyrrhic victory on the Fiscal Cliff, which once more, did nothing to resolve the Fiscal Cliff issue but merely hiked payroll taxes for some, general income taxes for others, even as drunken sailor spending has persisted, it is virtually a guarantee that nothing will happen in D.C. for at least 3-4 more weeks until the posturing and jawboning soars in earnest. Only this time the can kicking won't be nearly as easy. In other news, for the first time in maybe 2 months, the algos are neither gripped by headlines about Washington, or macro events, but micro, as the fourth quarter earnings season kicks off, with Alcoa reporting on Tuesday, Wells on Friday and a true launch of Q4 earnings season next week. And since revenues are set to continue deteriorating despite estimates of a Y/Y increase in top lines following a disastrous Q3, and let's not even mention cash flow, operating earnings and capital reinvestment, once again it will all be about EPS rejiggering and accounting games.
Fairness Doctrine Backfires: After Depardieu Backlash, French FinMin Says Superrich Tax "Plan B" Would Be TemporarySubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/06/2013 15:20 -0400
Back in July, when news of what we dubbed the French "Fairness Doctrine" first emerged, i.e., the new socialist government's intent to tax the evil millionaires at a 75% tax rate, we had two observations: i) that "we are rotating our secular long thesis away from Belgian caterers and into tax offshoring advisors, now that nobody in the 1% will pay any taxes ever again" and, somewhat contradicting the above, ii) that "The good news is that with the entire world set to adopt 100%+ taxes on "wealthy" individuals as defined arbitrarily by Ph.Ds, there will be no place to hide." Well, the US promptly followed France into a lite-version of the Fairness Doctrine, which proved us half right, yet one place that has refused to increase its tax rate for the poor or rich, keeping it at the flat 13% for individuals is Russia, which explains why following last week's news that Russia had granted famous French expat millionaire Gerard Depardieu citizenship, the actor best known as Obelix and Rasputin, eagerly rushed to accept his new red passport in Sochi following a bearhug from none other than Vladimir Putin.
The ascent of the Democratic Party of Japan marked the end of Japan's one-party state, dominated by the Liberal Democratic Party since the 1955. However, the DPJ was unable to address the challenges Japan faced, was internally unstable, as illustrated by the revolving door in the prime minister's office, and spent scarce political clout to support a controversial retail sales tax increase.
The LDP has returned to power. Its ascent is a victory for the old elite. Reports suggest that half of the cabinet positions were given to members of parliament who had inherited their Diet seats from their families. The LDP's program, or Abenomics as it has been dubbed, seeks to strengthen the domestic economy and enhance Japan's ability to project its power internationally.
2012 is a year most asset managers would like to forget. With the S&P returning 16% and Russell 2000 up 16.3%, on nothing but multiple expansion in a world where risk has been eliminated despite persistently declining revenues and cash flows, a whopping 88% of hedge funds, as well as some 65% of large-cap core, 80% of large cap value, and 67% of small-cap mutual funds underperformed the market, according to Goldman's David Kostin. The ongoing absolute outperformance of mutual funds over their 2 and 20 fee sucking hedge fund peers is notable, as this is the second or perhaps even third year in a row it has happened. And while the usual excuse that hedge funds are not supposed to beat the market but a benchmark, and generally protect capital from downside risk is valid, it is irrelevant if any downside risk (see ongoing rout in VIX and net position in the VIX futures COT update) is now actively managed by central banks both directly and indirectly, their HF LPs no longer see the world in that way. In fact as Bloomberg Market's February issue summarizes, some 635 hedge funds closed in 2012, 8.5% than a year earlier, despite a far stronger year for the general indices. The reason: LPs and MPs have simply had enough of holding on to underperformers and get swept up in the momentum of performance chasing, and the result is redemption requests into funds who may have had a positive benchmark year, but underperform relative to the S&P for two or more years, which nowadays is the vast majority of funds.