Much has been spun in recent weeks to indicate that as a result of collapsing trade, Iran's economy is in shambles and that the financial embargo hoisted upon the country by the insolvent, pardon, developed world is working. We had a totally different perspective on things "A Very Different Take On The "Iran Barters Gold For Food" Story" in which we essentially said that Iran, with the complicity of major trading partners like China, India and Russia is preparing to phase out the petrodollar: a move which would be impossible if key bilateral trade partners would not agree to it. Gradually it appears this is increasingly the case following a just released Reuters report that "Iran will take payment from its trading partners in gold instead of dollars, the Iranian state news agency IRNA quoted the central bank governor as saying on Tuesday."
It had been a quiet week in terms of geopolitical developments out of Middle East. Too quiet, well aside for that whole US escalating once again bit, and forcing Iran to eventually go over the edge. And while the role of the US and Iran has been extensively digested in the past few weeks, it is Iran that has remained in the shadows recently. No longer: as Al Arabiya reports, "Israeli officials say they won’t warn the U.S. if they decide to launch a pre-emptive strike against Iranian nuclear facilities, according to one U.S. intelligence official familiar with the discussions. The pronouncement, delivered in a series of private, top-level conversations, sets a tense tone ahead of meetings in the coming days at the White House and Capitol Hill. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak delivered the message to a series of top-level U.S. visitors to the country, including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the White House national security adviser and the director of national intelligence, and top U.S. lawmakers, all trying to close the trust gap between Israel and the U.S. over how to deal with Iran's nuclear ambitions, according to The Associated Press." Needless to say, the thoroughly effete and comical US foreign policy has no response to follow up queries: "The White House did not respond to requests for comment, and the Pentagon and Office of Director of National Intelligence declined to comment, as did the Israeli Embassy." And while there may be no comments here, look for more warnings about Israeli citizens being targetted by deranged Iranian around the world. Because when all else fails, fearmonger. Next up: the Status Quo will be telling the world how not attacking Iran would be tantamount to global destruction. The only trade off - will the spike in crude to $150 outdo the surge in Obama's popularity rating as the Nobel Peace Prize winner puts his name in the hat for a nomination in the Nobel War Prize category as well.
There no longer are any words left to explain what is going on in this centrally planned market (technically "enantiomeric" may be a word, but nobody would get it). It is sheer and utter bipolar insanity, when the S&P can hit multi-year highs even as the 10 year drops below 1.90%, something which in the pre-New Normal would be completely impossible. We wish luck to anyone "trading" a market (read trading alongside Central Bank X, with momentum escalated courtesy of Algo Y, regulated by the SEC no less) which is now pricing in extreme deflation and inflation at the same time, or, simply said, much more QE from the Chairman, record EUR Brent be damned. Oh, and with crude (in USD) back on track to surpass $110, we can't wait for the Department of Truth to tell us how February consumer confidence is literally off the charts.
The economic data keeps coming fast and furious, with Consumer Confidence just printing at a blistering 70.3 on expectations of 63.0, up from 61.5? Why? Because crude is approaching records and gas is $5? No - because the market is up of course on trillions in liquidity. So confidence is up because the market is higher, and the second the higher than expected confidence number prints, the market is higher on that alone. Catch 22 FTW, and it is not alone - every other confidence-based indicator in the past 3 months has beat! Because human beings, indoctrinated to only care about nominal gains, really are that dumb - something well known and appreciated by the central bankers. In other news, we joked before it printed that the Richmond Fed would come several standard deviations above the consensus. Sure enough, the actual print came at 20, naturally far higher than the average estimate of 14, and in fact above the highest estimate of 17. The good news: silver has just hit a 30% YTD return.
Stocks advanced as market participants looked forward to tomorrow’s 3yr LTRO by the ECB where the street expects EU banks to borrow around EUR 400-500bln. All ten sectors traded in positive territory for much of the session, however less than impressive demand for the latest Italian government paper saw equity indices lose some of the upside traction. Of note, the ECB allotted EUR 29.469bln in 7-day operation, as well as EUR 134bln for 1-day in bridge to 3yr loans. In other new, although Portugal's finance minister announced the country has passed its 3rd bailout review by the EU/IMF, this did not stop S&P's Kraemer saying that if there is a probability of default, it is higher in Portugal than in any other Euro-Zone country.
Chatham House: Gold Standard Impractical But Gold Hedge Against Declining Values of Key Fiat CurrenciesSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/28/2012 08:35 -0400
While the gold standard may no longer exist, nations and international organizations still have 30,877 metric tons of bullion reserves, valued at about $1.77 trillion. The dollar has been the world’s reserve currency since the U.S. and allies agreed at the 1944 Bretton Woods conference to peg it to a rate of $35 per ounce of gold. It remained the most- traded legal tender after global currencies began freely floating in the early 1970s. The greenback dropped 12 percent against a basket of six major currencies since March 2009. The U.K. suspended the gold standard in 1931, Chatham House said. “Greater discipline on financial markets might have been helpful in inhibiting the reckless banking and excessive debt accumulation of the past decade,” the task force said. “However, with the onset of the global crisis, had gold had a more formal role to play, the rigidity it imposes might also have been a handicap when a more flexible policy response was required.” “For gold to play a more formal role in the international monetary system, it would be imperative for it neither to hamper the system’s performance nor to create unacceptable constraints on national economic policies,” the task force said. Gold may “continue playing a significant role in the international monetary system, serving as a valuable hedge and safe haven, particularly in times when tail risks predominate.”
Last week we had the mispleasure of suffering a subdural hematoma or 7 after reading CA Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi's formal response to the gas price shock, in which it became abundantly clear that the amount of heavy metals in the California water supply is directly proportional to the insolvency of said state. Yet the only thing better than the resulting cathartic post, which had over 57,000 reads, and hundreds of comments, is JPMorgan doing the very same to what some allege is the most corrupt and incompetent legislator in the history of the US Congress. Which, to our and our readers' utmost delight, is precisely what happened today, when JPM Private Bank CIO Michael Cembalest decided to clinically deconstruct her argument into its constituent utterly insane components. Below we present the carnage.
Today was another tale of two worlds as stocks outperformed everything as broadly speaking risk assets leaked notably lower post Europe's close and accelerated post Nowotny. Financials led the exuberance (in stocks not credit) on a day when volume was certainly not terrible and credit market indices tracked stocks (ES) almost tick for tick (which along with desk chatter suggested little activity in credit today as credit dealers reracked along with futures movements). HYG dipped significantly into the close - after a decent drop in the middle of the day that was saved - only to be held up by its VWAP. For the second day in a row, VIX closed higher on a higher S&P close and implied correlation is sending those trend fade warnings once again but it was the broad-based disregard for any and every other asset class today (by stocks) - as Treasuries remained near their low yields of the day, Crude, Gold and the commodity complex all sold off, FX carry reverted back to risk-off after Europe closed, and apart from a minor leak higher in the last hour bond curves were notably flatter - that was surprising (and unusual in recent weeks/months). In the medium-term, credit remains considerably less sanguine than stocks here and the late day disappointment from Nowotny ahead of LTRO2 may have just taken the jam out of the equity market's doughnut for now.
Every time we see oil prices go up we hear that it will cause inflation and/or the economy will go into the tank. The premise is wrong because that has never happened.
But coincidentally, the ECB’s next Long Term Refinancing Operation (LTRO) is set for February 29...
"It Is completely ironic that we would be experiencing one of the most powerful cyclical upswings in the stock market since the recession ended at a time when we are clearly coming off the poorest quarter for earnings... There is this pervasive view that the U.S. economy is in better shape because a 2.2% sliver of GDP called the housing market is showing nascent signs of recovery. What about the 70% called the consumer?...Let's keep in mind that the jump in crude prices has occurred even with the Saudis producing at its fastest clip in 30 years - underscoring how tight the backdrop is... Throw in rising gasoline prices and real incomes are in a squeeze, and there is precious little room for the personal savings rate to decline from current low levels." - David Rosenberg
Sorry, you can't blame dollar and gold for the surging oil and gasoline price.
Like sands through the hour-glass, these are the fears of our lives. Just as we noted last week, the focus of risk is shifting from Greece (where while 'tail-risk' has perhaps receded for now, it is all-but certain that the insolvency predicament will resurface as a source of political, policy, and market tension in the not-too-distant future) to other foot-holds on the growing wall-of-worry. As UBS' Larry Hatheway notes this week, several candidates may replace Greece in the risk headlines, among them rising bond yields, French elections, or a Chinese hard landing. But his sense, and ours, is that oil prices will become the next risk item for market participants. Partly this is because oil prices are already approaching levels where worries have occurred in the past (and the velocity of the move is also empirically troublesome) and partly as the remedy for all global-ills (that of central bank printing) is implicitly impacting this 'risk' in a vicious circle. With global growth expectations already low, the 0.2ppt drop in Global GDP for each $10/bbl rise in oil will do nothing for Europe and US hope - and leaves Central Banks in that dangerous position of reinflating their low core inflation data while all around them is inflating rapidly. With modest schadenfreude, we remind readers of our comments from last week: "Alas, as noted previously, the central bank tsunami is only just starting. Watch for inflation, and concerns thereof, to slowly seep into everything". Given oil's potential 'real' impact, as SocGen notes: "Perhaps Greece wasn't so bad after all."
When in doubt - buy. When in doubt what - everything. As the chart below shows starting with the open of the US market, literally everything has been bought: stocks, bonds, crude, gold, and 'logically', the VIX. It took the market virtually no time to remember that when trillions in liquidity are being injected into the market courtesy of central planners, a downtick is verboten. Next up: waiting for WTI $110. Should take a few minutes at most.
Last week saw dramatic dispersion among the major FX pairs as global and local influences caused significant moves in most of the key crosses. Goldman takes a look back at the key drivers of that volatility and then focuses on the week ahead as the EU Summit at the latter end is the main event risk while ongoing macro developments will be focused on the incessant rise in Crude oil prices and whether we start seeing knock-on impacts in the real economy.