For Japan, the post "Shanghai Summit" world is turning ugly, fast, because as a result of the sliding dollar, a key demand of China which has been delighted by the recent dovish words and actions of Janet Yellen, both Japan's and Europe's stock markets have been sacrificed at the whims of their suddenly soaring currencies. Which is why when Japanese stocks tumbled the most in 7 weeks, sinking 3.5%, to a one month low of 16,164 (after the Yen continued strengthening and the Tankan confidence index plunged to a 3 year low) it was anything but an April fool's joke to both local traders.
Core inflation is breaking out. Sticky inflation is rising. And the Fed is not hiking anymore. Buckle Up.
On the last day of an extremely volatile first quarter, following the latest torrid push higher in risk assets over the past two days following Yellen's dovish Tuesday comments, today has seen a modest pull back in risk, whether because the market is massively overbought, because someone finally looked at what record multiple expansion that has taken place in Q1 as earnings are set to collapse by nearly 10%, or simply due to fears that tomorrow's payrolls number will show an abnormal amount of minimum wage waiters and bartenders added.
Ripley's believe it or not world continues. Earlier today, Hong Kong's Hang Seng market entered a bull market, rising 20% from its February lows, just as Hong Kong retail sales plunged 20.6%, the bigest drop since 1999 and then moments ago, in a move that pushed the Chinese Yuan stronger at least initially, S&P revised its Chinese outlook to negative, saying the economic rebalancing is likely to proceed more slowly than had expected over next 5 years and warning about China's debt load.
At the end of the day, it was all about the dollar and the reason for this morning's stock surge around the globe, as we noted last night, is absurdly delightful: Yellen signaled "weakening world growth" and "less confidence in the renormalization process." In other words, the "bad news is good news" mantra is back front and center.
- The US sees the release of the monthly nonfarm payrolls report this week after last month’s stellar job numbers but downbeat average hourly earnings
- After a long weekend, European data is relatively light with highlights including CPI readings from Germany and the Eurozone, as well as German unemployment
While the February personal consumption expenditures (aka personal spending) - that all important data about the well-being of the US consumer - was in line with expectations rising 0.1%, it was the January revision that was striking. From a 0.5% increase reported a month ago, it was now revised to a paltry 0.1%. In nominal dollar terms, this means that instead of US consumer spending a whopping $67.5 billion more in January, the increase was a paltry $14.7 billion, a delta of $52.8 billion!
If the dollar’s purchasing power falls much further, the market will expect higher interest rates, so this then becomes the likely outcome. The question will then arise as to whether or not the Fed will dare to raise interest rates sufficiently to stabilise the dollar's purchasing power. If the Fed delays, it could find itself facing a difficult choice. The level of interest rates required to stabilise the dollar’s purchasing power would not be consistent with maintaining the record levels of debt in both government and private sectors. Thirty-six years on it could be another Volcker moment.
The last thing the Fed can bear is for a recession that may be bubbling just under the surface to boil over into full view in the months heading into the election. If that occurs, we all may be seeing a great many press conferences from Mar-a-Lago. That is a development that I’m sure Janet Yellen wants to avoid at all costs.
Simple Janet should have the decency to resign. The Fed’s craven decision last week to punt on interest rate normalization is not merely a reminder that she is clueless and gutless; we already knew that much. Given the overwhelming facts on the ground - 4.9% unemployment, 2.3% core CPI and a 23.7X PE multiple on the S&P 500 - her decision to “pause” after 87 months of ZIRP actually proves she is a blindfolded monetary arsonist - armed, dangerous and lost.
After a quiet start to the week, data flow picks up into the Easter weekend.
At the same time as the PBOC was cautioning about the dangers of excess debt (just as it injected a record amount of loans into the financial system), China's central bank warned about dangers from a stock market bubble, and perhaps just to assure the bubble gets even bigger, at the same time China eased on margin debt limits, in the process sending Chinese stocks soaring higher by 2.2%, and pushing the Shanghai Composite over 3000 for the first time in months as China now appears set to attempt another housing bubble "soft landing" while at the same time restarting its housing bubble.
Over the past decade, we've been told that inflation has been tame -- actually below the target the Federal Reserve would like to see. But if that's true, then why does the average household find it harder and harder to get by? The ugly reality is that the true annual cost of living is far outpacing the government's reported inflation rate. By nearly 10x in many parts of the country.
It may be option expiration day (always leading to abnormal market activity) but it remains all about the weak dollar, which after crashing in the two days after the Fed's surprisingly dovish statement has put both the ECB and the BOJ in the very awkward position that shortly after both banks have drastically eased, the Euro and the Yen are now trading stronger relative to the dollar versus prior. As DB puts it, "the US Dollar has tumbled in a fairly impressive fashion since the FOMC on Wednesday with the Dollar spot index now down the most over a two-day period since 2009" which naturally hurts those countries who have been rushing to debase their own currencies against the USD.