As tensions between all parties in Eastern Europe boil over, Chris Martenson provides a brief tour through just some of the antics surrounding the US' involvement in bringing about change (you can believe in!) in Ukraine. We raise these items to counter the usual clutter and complete lack of context being provided in the US press and to illustrate that the US is already in pretty deep and therefore unlikely to back down now. Before we move on, do you not find it at all strange that the US media, usually extremely sensitive to anti-semitism, has given the McCain and Nuland support of the Svoboda party a complete pass? I find it to be like the case of "the dog that did not bark", meaning the silence reveals a very fickle moral compass at the heart of the western press. The demonization of Putin as the bad guy here is near complete in western media. But there’s plenty of mischief all around and, as usual, the US finds itself with some pretty strange bedfellows as it seeks an outcome it likes.
The coming week will be busy in terms of data releases in the US; highlights include an improvement in consumer confidence, anemic 1Q GDP growth, and solid non-farm payrolls (consensus expects 215K). Wednesday brings advanced 1Q GDP - consensus expected a pathetic 1.1% qoq, on the back of what Goldman scapegoats as "weather distortions and an inventory investment drag", personal consumption (consensus 1.9%), and FOMC (the meeting is not associated with economic projections or a press conference). Thursday brings PCE Core (consensus 0.20%). Friday brings non-farm payrolls (consensus of 215K) and unemployment (6.6%). Other indicators for the week include pending home sales, S&P/Case Shiller home price index, Chicago PMI, ADP employment, personal income/spending, and hourly earnings.
- Russia's Gazprom says Ukraine did not pay for gas on time (Reuters)
- Ukraine Moves to Keep Control in East (BBG)
- Banks Set to Report Lower Earnings as Debt Trading Slumps (BBG)
- More DeGeners and Obama selfies needed: Samsung's lower first-quarter estimate highlights smartphone challenges (Reuters)
- Citi Is Bracing to Miss a Profit Target (WSJ)
- Another slam from GM? Safety group calls for U.S. probe of Chevy Impala air bags (Reuters)
- Japan drugmaker Takeda to fight $6 billion damages imposed by U.S. jury (Reuters)
- EU court rules against requirement to keep data of telecom users (Reuters)
- White House may ban selfies with president after Ortiz-Obama photo promotes Samsung (Syracuse)
There is a reasonably quiet start to the week before we head into the highlights of the week including the start of US reporting season tomorrow, FOMC minutes on Wednesday and IMF meetings in Washington on Friday. On the schedule for today central bank officials from the ECB including Mersch, Weidmann and Constancio will be speaking. The Fed’s Bullard speaks today, and no doubt there will be interest in his comments from last week suggesting that the Fed will hike rates in early 2015.
Over the past month, there has been a lot of "Hilsenrathing", or the biased media urgently "explaining" to the Western world, just what Russia's actions mean both tactically in response to Ukraine developments, and strategically as part of Putin's global perspective. So instead of relying on the broken media narrative which serves merely to perpetuate US corporate interests and rally the public behind this or that company's geopolitical interests, here, straight from the horse's mouth, in this case Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, how Russia sees itself in a world in which it is allegedly "isolated", and "threatening Ukraine" with further invasion but more importantly, how the Russians view the rapidly changing global balance of power, in which post-USSR Russia has emerged from the backwood of slighted nations and stormed to the stage of nations who dare defy the former global hegemon, the US.
While Naftogaz (Ukraine's gas pipeline operator) states that all gas transportation from Russia to Europe is running normally, Bloomberg reports that Russian natgas exports to Europe are declining. Shipments are down over 4% from the prior week and also lower to Ukraine. This 'adjustment' follows increased sanctions by the West as Medvedev's notable statement this morning that Ukraine owes Russia $16bn. Furthermore, Gazprom has cut its Diesel output by the most in 7 months... and just to rub some Black Sea salt into the wound, NY Times reports that Russia's asking price for natgas to Europe is soaring.
If there was one thing that the market was demanding after last night's disappointing March HSBC manufacturing PMI, which has now fallen so low, local market participants are convinced a stimulus is imminent (despite China's own warnings not to expect this), and sent both the SHCOMP and the CNY surging, it would have been further weak data out of Europe, where the other possible, if not probable, "QE-stimulus" bank is located now that the Fed is in full taper mode. It didn't get precisely that however there was a step in the right direction when overnight the Euro area Composite Flash PMI eased marginally from 53.3 to 53.2 in March, largely as expected. The country breakdown showed a narrowing of the Germany/France Composite PMI gap owing to a notable (3.7pt) increase in the French PMI while the German PMI eased somewhat (1.4pt). On the basis of past correlations, a Euro area Composite PMI of 53.2 is consistent with GDP growth of around +0.4%qoq, slightly stronger than our Current Activity Indicator (+0.35%qoq).
The Russian occupation of Crimea has raised concerns about the European Union’s dependence on its eastern neighbor for natural gas. The EU gets about 34% of its natural gas imports from Russia, a large portion of which transits Ukraine through a web of pipelines. For Eastern Europe, that dependence is much greater. In the brutally cold winter of 2009 Russia cut off gas supplies to Europe allegedly over a pricing dispute with Ukraine. However, it was also a lesson to Western Europe on its dependence on Russia for energy. The economic damage of energy supply disruptions cuts both ways. Putin likes to play the role of bully, but Russia is not exactly in a strong position in terms of using energy as a political weapon. Whether or not the Ukraine crisis deepens, it is unlikely that Moscow would intentionally turn off the taps for any prolonged period of time.
It’s history in the making, sitting on the sidelines, watching the scuffle happen and roll before your very eyes. But, it’s not worth a great deal when you know what the end of the match is going to be.
- European Bonds Surge on Slowing German Inflation, Ukraine Tumult (BBG)
- Ukraine tensions hit shares (Reuters)
- Debating Geithner’s Appearances in 2008 Transcripts (Hilsenrath)
- Tensions in Asia Stoke Rising Nationalism in Japan (WSJ)
- GM Investigated Over Ignition Recall Linked to 13 Deaths (BBG)
- Smartphone wars shift from gadgetry to price (Reuters)
- Some Companies Alter the Bonus Playbook (WSJ)
- London’s Subterranean Luxury Manors Lure New Breed of Lenders (BBG)
- Japan No Country for Old Farmers as 7-Eleven Takes Plow (BBG)
- Dream of U.S. Oil Independence Slams Against Shale Costs (BBG)
- Facebook CEO Raises Dealmaker Profile With $19 Billion Takeover (BBG)
- WhatsApp’s Founder Goes From Food Stamps to Billionaire (BBG)
- U.S. Feels Putin's Sharp Elbows in Ukraine (WSJ)
- PBOC Drains Cash as Overnight Rate Slides to Lowest in 10 Months (BBG)
- Fed Puts Rate Increase on the Radar (Hilsenrath)
- Banks Flouting Bonus Rules in Denmark Set to Be Named by FSA (BBG)
- Work Set to Resume on Upgrading Panama Canal (WSJ)
- Euro-Area Recovery Loses Pace as Manufacturing Weakens (BBG) - uh, what recovery?
- Ukraine Exposes EU Policy Disarray (WSJ)
A recent article at the BBC discusses the findings of a report by EU Home Affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem on corruption in the EU. According to the report, the cost of corruption in the EU amounts to €120 billion annually. We would submit that it is likely far more than that (in fact, even Ms. Malmstroem herself concurs with this assessment). This is of course what one gets when one installs vast, byzantine bureaucracies and issues a veritable flood of rules and regulations every year. More and more people are needed to administer this unwieldy nightmare of red tape, and naturally the quality of the hires declines over time due to the sheer numbers required. And that is merely what they actually know about...One gets an inkling of how big the problem may really be when considering the case of Greece.
The most notable event in this traditionally quiet post-payrolls week is Janet Yellen's Humphrey Hawkins testimony before Congress set for mid-week. In terms of economic data releases, the US retail sales (Exp. 0.05%) is on Thursday and consumer sentiment survey is on Friday (consensus 80.5). We also have IP numbers from Euro Area countries and the US. Most recent external account statistics are released from Japan, China, India and Turkey. It is also interesting to track CPI data in Germany, Spain and India, given the ECB and RBI currently face diverging inflation challenges and may be forced into further action. Finally, we have Q4 GDP data from the Euro Area economies (Friday).
- Yellen's first test (Reuters)
- Let weak banks die, says eurozone super-regulator (FT)
- Yellen, Carney Face Explaining Policy as Benchmarks Near (BBG)
- Commerzbank Said Seeking Debt Buyers in $6.8 Billion Spain Exit (BBG)
- Junk Yield Premiums Soar on China’s Looming First Default (BBG)
- Millions Trapped in Health-Law Coverage Gap (WSJ)
- Mandel Tops Best-Earning Hedge Funds for Clients in 2013 (BBG)
- Swiss Brace for Sour EU Relations After Immigration Vote (BBG)
- Detroit Bankruptcy Talks to Resume (WSJ)
As if we didn’t know it already! The Western world is the ultimate destination for corruption, pulling a swift one and swiping the valuables from the inside pocket of the guy’s pants standing in front of you as he keeps his beady eye on the economy.