Markets appear to be tentatively recovering some of yesterday’s heavy losses, recording modest gains so far this morning. Comments made overnight by the German finance minister as well as senior officials from the Greek finance ministry may have mercifully given market participants some hope as they are confident the Greek PSI deal will be completed by the deadline tomorrow evening. The DAX index has underperformed the other European equity indices in recent trade following the release of some disappointing factory orders data for January, with markets expecting an expansion of 0.6%, however the reading came in at -2.7%, moving DAX stock futures into negative territory. WTI crude and Brent have also retraced some of their losses made earlier in the week following a drawdown in US gasoline inventories reported last night as well as a generally weak USD index in the FX markets today. Markets are awaiting US ADP employment change later in the session, as well as the weekly DOE oil inventories casting further light on the US energy stocks.
Something funny happened in January as the EURUSD rose from its period low in the 1.26 level: German Industrial Orders imploded as the joint currency strengthened. But not so much for domestic orders within the Eurozone, which actually increased by 0.9% in January (as a reminder, the sole reason mercantilism still works efficiently within the Eurozone is that the Bundesbank, via TARGET2 and the ECB, subsidizes the import economies of the periphery via recycled Current Account proceeds, as shown here). Where the demand collapse came from was non-Eurozone (read China and America) orders which fell a whopping 8.6% in January, after posting a 12.1% rise in December as the EUR was plumbing 2011 lows. As a result, the blended orders rate was down 2.7% on expectations of a 0.6% increase. Does it become clear now why resolving the Greek crisis is not in Germany's interest, as all that would do is send the EUR even higher, and impair German industry - the lifeblood of Europe - even more? Alternatively, does it become clear why Bernanke is just itching to shift the weak currency regime from Europe and back to the US again, with the only thing holding him back being the fear of crude exploding, especially if some Made in Israel bunker busters explode somewhere deep in the Zagros mountains?
Following yesterday's broad risk off day, some positive sentiment has returned to markets despite ugly economic data from Germany, and an odd indefinite halt of trading of Greek bonds on the Milan Borse. As BAC notes, for the third straight day, Asian equity markets sold off, as investors are concerned about a Greece debt-swap deal. The regional MSCI Asia Pacific Index slid 0.9%, to finish at its lowest close in a month. The worst-performing market was the cyclical-sensitive Korean Kospi. Its economy, along with many other emerging Asia economies, is highly dependent on exports, so yesterday's data that showed that the Euro area's economy contracted in the fourth quarter added to the bad news. The Hang Seng also lost 0.9%, while the Shanghai Composite fell 0.7%. Japan's Nikkei lost 0.6% and the Indian Sensex fell 0.2%. In Europe, equities are rebounding from their biggest drop since November. Part of the rebound is investors returning to equities to buy the dip, while investors are also expecting a strong ADP employment report later in the day - at 8:15 am. In the aggregate, European equities are up 0.4%. At home, futures are pointing to a solid opening later today. The S&P 500 is set to open 0.5% higher. Elsewhere, German factory orders plunged -2.7% M/M on expectations, from a +1.6% December print, driven by a total collapse in orders from outside the Eurozone which imploded by 8.6% down from +12.1% in December (more shortly). And Europe is now bracing for a Greek default as the Milan Bourse earlier announced it has suspended Greek bonds from trading indefinitely - perhaps related to this is the fact that after trading in the triple digits yesterday, the Greek 1 Year just slid to an all time record 1114% - looks like there is not much value in that post-reorg Greek package offered to PSI volunteers. Finally, the deposit money held at the ECB barely budges, as it prints at €817 billion, down just modestly from yesterday's record print as Europe's banks brace for Thursday's PSI announcement with a big cash buffer.
Something interesting happened when the ECB announced last week that its balance sheet was about to rise by €1 trillion gross, and hit a record €3 trillion net earlier today: the EURUSD barely budged. Why? Because as a reminder, the key driving relationship for relative risk performance of 2012 as we forecast back in December is the correlation of the Fed and the ECB's balance sheets, and the EURUSD, respectively, because while we may pretend that there is still alpha in this joke of a market, the truth is that in this new normal only beta matters (the more lever the better), and the only beta that matters is that generated by relative USD strength/weakness. In this context, we bring back readers to the chart that may be the only one that matters: the cross-correlation of the Fed/ECB total assets, and the EURUSD spot, where the first thing that stands out is that the pair should be 1000 pips lower at least. And yet it isn't. The reason for that is that the FX market is actively expecting, despite all rhetoric otherwise, an injection from the Fed. What is convenient is that the chart allows us to calculate how much the expected QE3 will be: since the absolute value of the Fed/ECB size (currency invariant) is now 0.9685m or the lowest in history, the ratio would have to raise to 1.18 for EURUSD asset implied parity. Which means the Fed's balance sheet would have to increase by about $650-700 billion promptly.
Wonder why risk is sliding, and taking crude with it? Here's why:
- DEFENSE SECRETARY PANETTA SAYS THE US WILL TAKE MILITARY ACTION TO PREVENT IRAN FROM ACQUIRING NUCLEAR WEAPON IF ALL ELSE FAILS - RTRS
Guess what - all else will fail, as there is no "all else" - this whole charade has been set up precisely to leave Iran with no options. Then again, even the Pentagon knows that starting with a lower baseline in Crude, supposedly in the double digits, is preferable to a $110 jumping board when Operating Enduring Iran Oil Liberation is a go.
A few days ago when discussing the "stability" of Europe's biggest and most undercapitalized hedge fund, we said that "The adjusted balance sheet is pro forma for today's LTRO 2, which we noted earlier will add at least €311 billion in net assets to the ECB's balance sheet, and potentially much more. Assuming the minimum, it means the ECB's balance sheet will now hit €3 trillion." Sure enough - as of minutes ago, the total ECB balance sheet just passed €3 trillion, or €3.023 trillion to be precise (which is just why of $4 trillion based on today's exchange rate), as our estimate of net LTRO contribution was on the low side, with total assets increasing by €331 billion in the past week. Needless to say, capital and reserves has been unchanged, which means that our analysis from a week ago factoring in the ECB balance sheet expansion of the "well-capitalized" ECB was correct. Incidentally, the spike in the chart below was factored in long ago (about 20% lower in the market ago). And as we have been saying all along, the next bank on the docket to ease is the Fed, as everyone else has already done so. However before that happens stocks and more importantly crude, have to plunge by at least 15-20%, much to Dick Fisher's shock. It seems that the market is finally getting the hint today.
The latest in a series of reports evaluating the future of the energy markets, especially in the context of the increasingly inevitable Iranian conflict, may just be the best and most comprehensive one (not just because it looks at the commodity from an "Austrian" angle). In 82 pages, Austrian Erste Group has extracted the key aspects and variables for the world oil market and come up with a simple conclusion: "nothing to spare." To wit: "We see the risks for the oil price heavily skewed to the upside. At the moment, the market is well supplied, but the smouldering crisis in the Persian Gulf could easily push oil prices to new all-time-highs should it escalate. We believe that new all-time-highs can be reached in H1, at which point we could see demand destruction setting in. We forecast an average oil price (Brent) of USD 123 per barrel between now and March 2013...The latently smouldering Iran crisis seems to be close to escalation. The most recent manoeuvres, ostentatious threats, sanctions, embargoes and the shadow war currently ongoing, have heated up the situation further. It seems we may soon see the last straw that breaks the camel's back. Even though Iran could probably only maintain a blockade of the Straits of Hormuz only for a very limited period of time, the consequences would still be dramatic. The oil price would definitely set new all-time-highs and could reach levels of up to USD 200." Enjoy those price dips while you can.
Markets are exhibiting very risk-averse behaviour ahead of the US open, with European equity markets making heavy losses across the board with flows into the safer assets. This follows Greece dominating the headlines once again, with a report from the IIF warning of dangerous ramifications for Europe should Greece default. These reports got the European session off to a bad start, with losses made throughout the morning. Market talk of a delay in the Greek debt swap deal deadline has also been circulating, however this was swiftly denied by the Greek Debt Agency chief as well as the Greek Finance Ministry, although this failed to reassure markets and they continue on a downward trend into the US open. Eurozone GDP data released earlier in the session showed a contraction in the last quarter of 2011, although expected, this has reignited concerns of a recession in Europe. The ECB have recorded yet another record level of deposits from European banks in its overnight lending facility, with institutions depositing EUR 827.5bln on Monday night.
Swiss money manager and long term bear Marc Faber, aka "Dr Doom", says political risk in the Middle East has increased significantly with war between Iran and Israel “almost inevitable”, and precious metals and equities investments offer some safety. "Political risk was high six months ago and is higher now. I think sooner or later, the U.S. or Israel will strike Iran - it's almost inevitable," Faber, who publishes the widely read Gloom Boom and Doom Report, told Reuters on the sidelines of an investment conference. Brent crude traded near $123 per barrel in volatile trade on Tuesday on fears of a disruption in Iranian supplies. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu showed no signs of backing away from possible military action against Iran following a Monday meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama. "Say war breaks out in the Middle East or anywhere else, (U.S. Federal Reserve chairman) Mr Bernanke will just print even more money -- they have no option...they haven't got the money to finance a war," said Faber. "You have to be in precious metals and equities ... most wars and most social unrest haven't destroyed corporations - they usually survive," he said. He said that Middle East markets had largely bottomed out, though regime changes from the Arab Spring revolutions were unlikely to be investor-friendly.
Asian equities too a hit, posting their biggest two-day loss this year. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index dropped 1.2%. The losses were situated in the Hang Seng, which fell 2.2% and China’s Shanghai Composite, which declined 1.4%. Meanwhile, Europe is off 1.6% in the aggregate after the second take on Q4 GDP confirmed the 0.3% drop from the initial estimate. And, after yesterday’s sell-off, equity futures are pointing to a weaker open at home across the major indices driven in part by concerns that the Greek PSI will not get the required 75% participation as reported here yesterday. In the US, government bonds are in rally mode with the 10-year Treasury note yield down 4bps, to 1.97%; the long bond is rallying 5bps, to 3.10%. Across the pond, government bonds are performing as one would expect. Benchmark German bunds are rallying 4bps, to 1.78% while France, Italy, and Spain are selling off anywhere from 5 to 9bps. In the FX market, the US dollar is enjoying a flight to safety bid against major currencies. The DXY index is up 0.5%. Not surprisingly, with risk being taken off the table, commodities are taking a hit. WTI crude oil is down 60 cents, to $106.10 per barrel. Industrial metals are taking a hit too; copper is off 1.6% to its lowest level since mid February. In Europe, the LTRO continues to not work at all as the ECB deposit facility rose to a new all time record of €827 billion as cash parked with the ECB is not being used for any other purpose, and the net money from LTRO 1 and 2 is now less than the cash added to the ECB from Europe's banks.
Just a headline from AP for now:
- Sen. McCain calls for US to lead 'international effort' to begin air strikes on Syria.
Looks like operation "Enduring Brent Crude Freedom" is about to commence.
European equity indices are exhibiting signs of risk averse behaviour, with financials and basic materials performing particularly poorly. This follows weekend reports from ECB sources that the central bank does not believe voluntary participation in the Greek debt swap deal will be sufficient, and the CACs will have to be invoked. Markets are also reacting to the weekend press from Germany, claiming the Troika believe Greece will require a third bailout of around EUR 50bln by 2020, however these reports were denied by a German spokesman earlier in the session. European Services PMI data released earlier in the session fell below expectations, compounding the already cautious market behaviour. European Banks have parked a fresh record EUR 820bln with the ECB overnight, showing further evidence that the LTRO has loosened liquidity constrictions in the continent. Commodities are making losses ahead of the North American open following overnight news that China have made a downward revision to their GDP target for 2012. Spot gold is trading down around 0.9% and WTI and Brent crude futures have been making a loss for most of the session so far, however oil has made positive movements in recent trade. These negative movements in commodities are also weighing down upon the commodity-linked currencies, with AUD particularly making losses on the session.