It is only fitting that on the morning in which Europe levied the largest cartel fine in history against the criminal syndicate known as "banks", that Goldman Sachs would issue its #6 "Top Trade Recommendation" for 2014 which just happens to be, wait for it, a "long position in large-cap bank indices in the US, Europe and Japan." Supposedly, in a reflexive back and forth that should make one's head spin, this also includes Goldman Sachs (unless they specifically excluded FDIC-insured hedge funds, which we don't think was the case). So is Goldman recommending... itself? Joking aside, this means Goldman is now dumping its bank exposure to muppets.
As we explained over two months ago, and as the Fed is no doubt contemplating currently, the primary topic on the agenda of central bankers everywhere and certainly in the Marriner Eccles building, is how to boost inflation expectations as much as possible, preferably without doing a thing and merely jawboning "forward expectations" (or more explicitly through the much discussed nominal GDP targeting) in order to slowly but surely or very rapidly and even more surely, get to the core problem facing the developed world: an untenable mountain of debt, and specifically, inflating it away. Of course, higher rates without a concurrent pick up in economic activity means a stock market tumble, both in developed and emerging countries, as the Taper experiment over the summer showed so vividly, which in turn would crush what many agree is the Fed's only achievement over the past 5 years - creating and nurturing the "wealth effect" resulting from record high asset prices, which provides lubrication for financial conditions and permits the proper functioning of capital markets. Perhaps this is the main concern voiced by JPM's chief US economist Michael Feroli who today has issued an interesting piece titled simply enough: "Raising inflation expectations: a bad idea." Is this the first shot across the bow of a Fed which may announce its first taper as soon as two weeks from today, in order to gradually start pushing inflation expectations higher?
First the ECB, then the Fed, and now the Dutch central bank have come out and explicitly warned of the dangers of virtual currencies like Bitcoin and Litecoin. Their explicit statement this morning, raising questions about deposit guarantees, central issuer responsibility, and volatility do their best to inform potential users (or traders) of the alternative currency that it is the devil incarnate. It seems, despite the mainstream media's guffawing at the swings and outrageous fortune in the market's early days, that the powers that be see these crypto-currencies as anything but benign.
"What keeps us up at night? Well I can’t speak for the others, having spoken too much already to please PIMCO’s marketing specialists, but I will give you some thoughts about what keeps Mohamed and me up at night. Mohamed, the creator of the “New Normal” characterization of our post-Lehman global economy, now focuses on the possibility of a” T junction” investment future where markets approach a time-uncertain inflection point, and then head either bubbly right or bubble-popping left due to the negative aspects of fiscal and monetary policies in a highly levered world. ... investors are all playing the same dangerous game that depends on a near perpetual policy of cheap financing and artificially low interest rates in a desperate gamble to promote growth. The Fed, the BOJ (certainly), the ECB and the BOE are setting the example for global markets, basically telling investors that they have no alternative than to invest in riskier assets or to lever high quality assets. “You have no other choice,” their policies insinuate.... Deep in the bowels of central banks research staffs must lay the unmodelable fear that zero-bound interest rates supporting Dow 16,000 stock prices will slowly lose momentum after the real economy fails to reach orbit, even with zero-bound yields and QE." - Bill Gross
Goldman Reveals "Top Trade" Reco #5 For 2014: Sell Protection On 7-Year CDX IG21 Junior Mezzanine TrancheSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 12/03/2013 08:22 -0400
If the London Whale trade was JPM selling CDS in tranches and in whole on IG9 and then more, and then even more in an attempt to corner the entire illiquid IG9 market and then crashing and burning spectacularly due to virtually unlimited downside, Goldman's top trade #5 for 2014 is somewhat the opposite (if only for Goldman): the firm is inviting clients to sell CDS on the junior Mezz tranche (3%-7%) of IG21 at 464 bps currently, where Goldman "would apply an initial spread target and stop loss of 395bp and 585bp, respectively. Assuming a one-year investment horizon, the breakeven spread on this trade is roughly 554bp (that is, 90bp wider than where it currently trades)." In other words, Goldman is going long said tranche which in an environment of record credit bubble conditions and all time tights across credit land is once again, the right trade. Do what Goldman does and all that...
One economic myth is that paper money is wealth. The proponents of big government oppose honest money for a very specific reason. Inflation, the creation of new money, is used to finance government programs not generally endorsed by the producing members of society. It is a deceptive tool whereby a “tax” is levied without the people as a whole being aware of it. Since the recipients of the newly created money, as well as the politicians, whose only concern is the next election, benefit from this practice, it’s in their interest to perpetuate it. For this reason, misconceptions are promulgated about the “merits” of paper money and the “demerits” of gold. Simply put, “Easy” money causes hard times.
Slowly but surely the Chinese currency is catching up to the world's reserve and moments ago, according to SWIFT, the Yuan just surpassed the Euro in trade (remember trade: that's how countries once upon a time would generate capital flows in a time when central banks weren't there to literally print domestic funding needs) finance usage leaving just the USD in front.
YUAN OVERTAKES EURO IN TRADE FINANCE USAGE: SWIFT
YUAN IS SECOND MOST-USED CURRENCY IN TRADE FINANCE: SWIFT
As we showed back in April, the marginal cost of production of gold (90% percentile) in 2013 was estimated at between $1250 and $1300 including capex. Which means that as of a few days ago, gold is now trading well below not only the cash cost, but is rapidly approaching the marginal cash cost of $1125... Of course, should the central banks of the world succeed in driving the price of gold to or below its costs of production (repressing yet another asset class into stocks) then we fear the repercussions will backfire from a combination of bankruptcies, unemployment, and as we have already seen in Africa - severe social unrest (especially notable as China piles FDI into that region).
People internationally are opting to store gold in allocated accounts in Switzerland due to their tradition of respecting private property and the fact that their economy is very sound. Therefore it is a good place to diversify assets in order to protect wealth.
Previewing the rest of this week’s events, we have a bumper week of US data over the next five days, in part making up for two days of blackout last week for Thanksgiving. Aside from Friday’s nonfarm payroll report, the key releases to look for are manufacturing ISM and construction spending (today), unit motor vehicle sales (tomorrow), non-manufacturing ISM (Wednesday), preliminary Q3 real GDP and initial jobless claims (Thursday), as well as personal income/consumption and consumer sentiment (Friday). Wednesday’s ADP employment report will, as usual, provide a preamble for Friday’s payrolls.
In addition to its three previously announced so far "Top Trades" for 2014 (see here, here and here), just over an hour ago Goldman revealed its fourth top recommendation to clients. To wit: Goldman is selling China equities (via the HSCWI Index), while buying copper (via Dec 2014 futs), or at least advising its flow clients to do the opposite while admitting that "for the long China equity/short commodity pair trade to “work” best, these two assets, which are usually positively correlated, will have to move in opposite directions." For that and many other reasons why betting on a divergence of two very closely correlating assets will lead to suffering, read on. Finally - do as Goldman says, or as it does? That is the eternal question, one whose answer is a tad more problematic since the author in this case is not Tom Stolper but Noah Weisberger.
Just as in the 1930s the Fed fueled deflation by not making credit available, today the opposite seems to be the case – low rates are fueling deflation and preventing markets from clearing.
While the idea of the interventionist suppression of short-term 'normal' volatility leading to extreme volatility scenarios is not new, hearing it explained so transparently by a current (and practicing) central banker is still somewhat shocking. As Buba's Jens Weidmann recent speech at Harvard attests, "The idea of monetary policy safeguarding stability on multiple fronts is alluring. But by giving in to that allure, we would likely end up in a world even less stable than before."
The implicit, and ever more explicit, institutional acceptance of the dominant cryptocurrency Bitcoin (we say dominant because as we pointed out last week, there has been an unprecedented spike of digital currencies one can pick and choose from) continues when following the surge in vendors willing to transact in BTC over Thanksgiving, the latest news comes from the birthplace of the modern central bank, the UK, where we learn that none other than the UK Royal Mint has been working on plans since this summer to issue physical Bitcoins in collaboration with the Channel Island of Alderney. But where the story gets downright surreal is that as the FT reports, the same symbolic Bitcoin token issued by the Royal Mint "would have a gold content – a figure of £500-worth has been proposed – so that holders could conceivably melt and sell the metal if the exchange value of the currency were to collapse." In brief: a perfect, and utterly incomprehensible, fusion of (opposing) hard, soft and digital currencies all rolled into one...
Overview of the week's economic and poltiical calendar in the context of the investment climate.