The pattern is obvious. The dollar is going up. The question is why. In one word, the answer is arbitrage.
Inflation slowed in 24 (of 27) EU nations in April to leave the average EU rate at 1.4% (versus 1.9% in March). Greece entered deflation in March for the first time in 45 years and Latvia consumer prices fell 0.4% in April (versus +2.8% a year ago). This notable plunge, while 'helpful' for the average spender in the short-term, is a problem, as Bloomberg's Niraj Shah notes, sustained falling prices will increase the nation's debt burden. At the other end of the spectrum, Romania and Estonia both have inflation running above 4% and 3% respectively. Of course, none of this serial 'depression' matters, since Draghi has your back and Hollande says "the crisis is over."
With the shadow (or blue) market for Argentina Pesos already devalued by an incredible 50%, it is little surprise that the population is bidding for any store of value. Demand for luxury cars is soaring (BMW sales up 30% in the last 20 months) and Bitcoin activity is often discussed as the population transfer increasingly worthless Pesos into a fungible "currency" or domestic CPI protection; but it is USD that are the most-cherished item (despite a ban on buying USD) as hyperinflation hedges. But as Bloomberg Businessweek reports, a lot of US Dollar bills are tucked away somewhere in Argentina (in stacks of $100 bills since the number in circulation has risen from 58% of the total to 62% since 2008). One table is a 2012 Fed paper on demand abroad for US currency shows net inflows to Russia and Argentina has increased by 500% since 2006 (compared to US demand up around 10%). In fact, demand for large dollar transfers to Argentina since 2006 has outstripped demand for dollar cash overall in the world. It is safe to surmise from the data (that is relatively well guarded by the government) that over $50bn is being hoarded in Argentina (or well over one in every fifteen dollars). It is little wonder that the government is furiously digging at the country's undeclared (stashed under the mattress) wealth.
Despite efforts by the government to quell the black-market (or blue-dollar) for Argentina's foreign exchange, the unofficial rate surged yesterday to 10.45 Pesos per USD. This is now double the official rate of 5.22 Pesos per USD. This implicit 50% devaluation comes amid the growing realization that there is no savings option to maintain the purchasing power of the peso in the context of sustained high inflation (no matter what the officials say) and negative real interest rates. The government is not amused, suggesting the devaluation won't happen (just as Mexico did right up until the day before they devalued), "those who seek to make money at the expense of devaluations must wait for another government." Perhaps the government should be careful with their threats? And of course, this could never happen in the US or Japan, right?
India's economic boogeyman, the monthly trade deficit, continues to rear its ugly head, this and every time, driven be the country's insatiable desire for gold which is so powerful, the country took full advantage of the plunge in gold prices, and saw business imports of gold soar by 138% y/y in April, forcing the trade deficit to hit a 3 month high of $17.8 billion as more fiat left the country in return for bringing in more of the "barbarous relic." Gold imports more than doubled on both a Y/Y and sequential basis, with gold accounting for $7.5 billion, or 18% of total imports, compared to $3.1 billion in March.
Overnight risk continues to ignore all newsflow (today the economic reporting finally picks up with advance retail sales due at 8:30 am as expectations for a second modest decline in a row of -0.3%) and is focused entirely on what the consensus decides to make of the Hilsenrath piece, even as the difficulty level was raised a notch following another late Sunday Hilsenrath piece, which puts more variable into the "tapering" equation, and whose focus is whether Bernanke will be replaced by Janet Yellen, Geithner or Summers, or anyone. With all three classified as permadoves, one does scratch their head how the market can be confused: worst case Fed tapers by $10/20 billion per month, market tumbles, then Bernanke's replacement or Ben himself ploughs on even more aggressively with QE. QED.
With another listless macro day in the offing, the main event was the previously mentioned Bank of Korea 25 bps rate cut, which coming at a time when everyone else in the world is easing was not too surprising, but was somewhat unexpected in light of persistent inflationary pressures. Either way, the gauntlet at Abenomics has been thrown and any temporary Japanese Yen-driven export gains will likely not persist as it is the quality of products perception (sorry 20th century Toshiba and Sony), that is the primary determinant of end demand, not transitory, FX-driven prices. And now that Korea is set on once again matching Japan in competitiveness, the final piece of the Abenomics unwind puzzle has finally clicked into place. Elsewhere overnight, China reported consumer price inflation increasing by 2.4%, on expectations of a 2.3% rise, driven by a 4% jump in food costs: hardly the thing of Politburo dreams. Or perhaps the PBOC can just print more pigs, soy and birdflu-free chickens? On the other hand, PPI dropped 2.6% in April, on estimates of a 2.3% decline, as China telegraphs it has the capacity, if needed, to stimulate the economy. This is ironic considering its inflation pressures are externally-driven, and come from the Fed and the BOJ, and soon the BOE and ECB. And thus its economy stagnates while prices are driven higher by hot money flows. What to do?
The overnight economic data dump started in China, where both exports and imports rose more than expected, at 14.7% and 16.8% respectively, on expectations of a 9.2% and 13% rise. The result was a trade surplus of $18.16 billion versus expectations of $16.15 billion. The only problem with the data is that as always, but especially in the past few months, it continued to be completely made up as SocGen analysts, and others, pointed out. The good data continued into the European trading session, where moments ago German Industrial Production rose 1.2% despite expectations of a -0.1% drop, up from 0.6% and the best print since March 2012. The followed yesterday's better than expected factory orders data, which also came at the best level since October. Whether this data too was made up, remains unknown, but it is clear that Germany will do everything it can to telegraph its economic contraction is not accelerating. It also means that any concerns of an imminent ECB rate cut, or a negative deposit rate, are likely overblown for the time being, as reflected in the kneejerk jump in the EURUSD higher.
If you're trading gold, you're really trading the dollar (euro, etc.). There is something fundamental you should know.
Two days ago we first posted a Youtube clip in which a Greek reporter asked Argentina's Economy Minister Hernan Lorenzino a simple question: "what is inflation in Argentina" - a sensitive topic to a country with price and capital controls, and where inflation ranges between 0 and 20% depending on whether one uses official, or unofficial but based on reality, data. The result was a why we dubbed the clip "Thursday humor" as after several minutes of meandering gibberish, Lorenzino concluded by telling his aided that "he wants to leave", which in turn promptly became a twitter hashtag meme #mequieroir, in which the minister's response to a simple request for the truth was promptly lampooned around the world. However, that may have been just the beginning of Hernan's problems. As Bloomberg reports, citing Clarin, Argentina's president CFK, was also quite taken aback by the bumbling economist that she met with him subsequent to the interview going viral, and told him he has lost credibility and the most likely next step is his resignation.
We recently showed 220 years of US Treasury bond yield history but all too often, the average investor is unfortunately unaware of the relationship between bond yields (interesting on a relative-value perspective) and bond prices (the thing that matters for your portfolio's returns). The two measures are inextricably linked obviously (a higher yield implies a lower price and vice versa) but the relationship is not a straight line - it has 'convexity'. The following charts may help understand the upside-downside changes from 'yield' movements, what the Fed is doing to the relationship, and how inflation expectations impact these changes.
Nearly every one is talking about an ECB rate cut next week and talk of Fed tapering off QE purchases also is rife. See why neither is a done deal.
How does it really work under irredeemable paper? It's more complicated than under gold.
There have been several recent developments that have flown in the face of both neo-liberalism and ordo-liberalism and thrown investors off balance. Discuss.
Synthetic securities based on putrid shipping loans