When all else fails, pre-emptively blame the weather...
Now we can see the real tragedy of negative interest rates: they not only have the perverse effect of reversing the flow of time, but they demonstrate that borrowers are not acting with the good faith incentives normally associated with someone who needs money. Rather than paying forward, borrowers are paying backwards because they are effectively trying to return something they don’t want. Such an arrangement renders it impossible for an economy to grow. By destroying the temporal and moral structure of money, negative interest rates destroy the economy. When tomorrow cannot be paid, the current regime must fail. The only question to be determined is the form that failure will assume. This may sound like philosophy but it is cold, hard reality.
It has been another whiplash, rollercoaster, illiquid session which saw US equity futures tumble early overnight driven by a bout of USDJPY and Nikkei selling, only to regain all losses as European, and BIS, traders walked in, and promptly BTFD. In fact at last check, it was as if all the fireworks that took place just a few short hours ago and sent the ES as low as 2037, and below what has become the key support level, the 50-DMA never happened.
Despite the hockey-stick-like expectations of all the clever economists, Chicago PMI failed to bounce back from its total carnage in February. Printing 46.3 against expectations of 51.4, the index remains at near six-year lows. Must be the weather... oh apart from the massive surge in Midwest pending home sales...?
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- How DIY Bond Traders Displaced Wall Street’s Hot Shots (BBG)
- MillerCoors Caught in a Downdraft (WSJ)
- Saudi-led strikes again hit Yemen overnight (Reuters)
- Even With Free Money, Merkel Still Reluctant to Spend (BBG)
- Britain Uses Tax Breaks to Lure Digital-Game Developers (WSJ)
- China to Insure Deposits in Move Toward Scrapping Rate Curbs (BBG)
- As China Expands Its Navy, the U.S. Grows Wary (WSJ)
Did stocks window dressing come one day early in this volatile, bipolar, stop-hunting, HFT-infested market? Looking at futures this morning, which are down about 12 points already on yet another surge in the USD which has sent the EURUSD just above 1.07, the lowest since March 20 , and the USDJPY back under 120 now that the "strong dollar is bad for stocks after all" algo seems to be back from vacation, all those hedge funds who chased risk higher yesterday because their peers did the same, may find they are all selling on the way down. It will be oddly ironic if all of yesterday's widely touted gains evaporate comparably in the first 10 minutes of trading today, and lead to an end in the longest streak of quarterly increases in two decades.
With the rest of the developed world's central banks waiting for the Fed to admit defeat for one more year and delay its proposed rate hike (or launch NIRP/QE4 outright) it was all about China (the same China which a month ago we said would launch QE sooner or later) and hope that its central bank would boost asset prices, when over the weekend the PBoC governor hinted that more easing is imminent to offset the accelerating drag after he admitted that the nation’s growth rate has tumbled "a bit" too much and that policy makers have scope to respond. How much scope it really has now that its bad debt is rising exponentially is a different question. It got so bad, Shanghai Securities News leaked a false rumor earlier forcing many to believe China would announce an unexpected rate cut as soon as today, in the process sending the Shanghai Composite soaring by 2.6%.
The negative divergence of the markets from economic strength and momentum are simply warning signs and do not currently suggest becoming grossly underweight equity exposure. However, warning signs exist for a reason, and much like Wyle E. Coyote chasing the Roadrunner, not paying attention to the signs has tended to have rather severe consequences. When the market eventually cracks, the "disposition" effect will trump all the good intentions of "buying and holding" for the long-term. The eventual "panic to sell" will lead to a significant destruction in investment capital and a reversion in investor psychology to extreme negativity. While the basic premise of investing is to "buy low" and "sell high," repeated studies show that there are precious few who do.
"Competitive devaluation” doesn’t actually work, as it is not a zero sum game (one country gaining at the expense of another) but rather currency “wars” subtract from the whole altogether (both countries lose). The entire point of currency destabilization is exactly that, and business transpires less and less under more extreme versions of instability – intentional or not. And to top it all off - No matter how you want to view all this, January was perhaps the worst month for US trade since the Great Recession.
With little newsflow out of Europe, and just as little on deck out of the US (just NY ISM and auto sales later today), the main overnight events were out of Asia where first the RBA decided to leave rates unchanged but not before the announcement was leaked up to a minute early. In China, the rate-cut euphoria lasted just one day, and after a feeble 0.8% bounce on Monday, the SHCOMP was down 2.2% this morning over fears the PBOC is doing too little, too late to halt what is now perceived by many as a massive "tightening" capital flight out of China. Finally, Japan made the newsflow, after it JGBs continued to slide following a weak auction, fears that the BOJ is done easing after Abe advisor Etsuro Honda warned against overheating, and after the biggest jump in base pay in over a decade led some to think the BOJ may soon have to halt easing altogether, especially if real wages proceed to rise
With key economic data either behind us (with the downward revised GDP), or ahead of us (the February payrolls on deck), and the Greek situation currently shelved if only for a few days/weeks until the IMF payment comes due and the farce begins anew, stocks are focuing on the widely telegraphed 25 bps Chinese rate cut over the weekend, which however has so far failed to inspire a broad based rally either in Asia (where the SHCOMP closed up 0.8% after first dipping in the red) or across developed markets. In fact, as of this moment futures are hugging the unchanged line as the USDJPY attempted another breakout of 120.000 but with numerous option barrier expiration stop at that level, it has since retracted all the overnight gains and is back to the Sundey lows, even as the EURUSD has seen a powerful breakout from overnight lows and is currently at the highest level since the US GDP print, following the release of the final European February PMI data, as a result of USD weakness since the European open.
As Søren Skou, Maerk's CEO, admitted when he warned that global trade growth could slow this year from recent 4% growth ratnes, as Chinese, Brazilian and Russian economies disappoint, the Baltic Dry is still not only relevant and accurate but telling the real story of global growth, or lack thereof. “The economies in Europe are still very sluggish. Brazil, Russia and China: those three economies used to drive a lot of growth, and right now we are not really seeing that to the same extent. The only real bright spot is the US, and even the US is good but not great.” He added that: "To my mind volumes were sluggish. There is nothing in container volume numbers that suggest that the global economy is just on the verge of starting a new growth trend.”
- Greece warns may default on IMF loan next week - Greek bank runs continue and deposits flee - The truth can be a scary thing sometimes … especially for those who put their head in the sand and ignore it ...