For the right answer, we look to the past....
With everyone focused on the 5th anniversary of the Lehman failure, we are taking a quick look at how the world's developed (G7) nations have fared since 2008, and just what the cost to restore "stability" has been. In a nutshell: the G7 have added around $18tn of consolidated debt to a record $140 trillion, relative to only $1tn of nominal GDP activity and nearly $5tn of G7 central bank balance sheet expansion (Fed+BoJ+BoE+ECB). In other words, over the past five years in the developed world, it took $18 dollars of debt (of which 28% was provided by central banks) to generate $1 of growth. For all talk of "deleveraging" G7 consolidated debt has been at a record high 440% for the past four years. So in the G7, which is a good proxy for the developed world, debt continues to increase whilst nominal growth remains extremely low thus ensuring that the deleveraging process has yet to start. As Deutsche Bank states, "at best we’re stabilising the ratio at or around record highs."
- Syrian Rebels Hurt by Delay (WSJ), U.S. seeks quick proof Syria ready to abandon chemical weapons (Reuters)
- Lavrov Brings Acerbic Pragmatism to Syria Meet With Kerry (BBG)
- Five years after Lehman, risk moves into the shadows (Reuters)
- U.S. shares raw intelligence data with Israel, leaked document shows (LA Times)
- Japan to raise sales tax, launch $50 bln stimulus (AFP) - so 1) lower debt by sales tax, then 2) raise debt through stimulus.
- Blackstone’s Hilton Files for $1.25 Billion U.S. Initial Offer (BBG)
- Second Life Bankers Thrive in Dubai as Boutiques Boost Fees (BBG)
- Brussels probes multinationals’ tax deals (FT)
- Wall Street's Top Cop: SEC Tries to Rebuild Its Reputation (WSJ) ... and fails
- Tablet sales set to overtake PCs (FT)
- The end of angst? Prosperous Germans in no mood for change (Reuters)
Jitters from Syria still abound, as confirmed by reports from the Israeli army that two shells had hit the Southern Golan region. Despite the reports that the shelling appeared to be errant, WTI remains near session highs as markets remain sensitive ahead of the meeting between US Secretary of State Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov in Geneva over the next two days. Buying of the 10Y is also prevalent and the yield on the benchmark bond was has dropped below 2.90%, or at 2.88% at last check. Today's key economic news in the US session will be the weekly claims report, the Fed buying 10 Year bonds at 11 am followed by the Treasury selling 30 Year bonds at 1 pm (this follows the Fed buying 30 Year bond yesterday: yes ironic).
Despite PIMCO, DoubleLine, and pretty much every other major mortgage bondholder in the world litigating the actions, Richmond, California's leaders approved this morning a plan for the city to become the first in the nation to acquire mortgages with negative equity in a bid to keep local residents in their homes. Richmond's city council voted 4 to 3 to use the power of 'eminent domain' (as we discussed here most recently) to seize underwater mortgages and refinance them. City council members opposed to the plan countered that using eminent domain would put Richmond at risk of expensive lawsuits that could destroy the city's finances; and sure enough, Richmond had no takers last month when the successor to its redevelopment agency put $34 million of bonds up for sale to refinance previous debt. As Reuters reports, investors holding the mortgages targeted by Richmond dispute altruism motivates the plan and are set to meet in court for the first time tomorrow.
- Obama Holds Fire on Syria, Waits on Russia Plan (WSJ)
- China Shadow Banking Returns as Growth Rebound Adds Risk (Reuters)
- Not one but two: Greece May Need Two More Aid Packages Says ECB’s Coene (WSJ)
- BoJ insider warns of need for wage rises (FT) ... as we have been warning since November, and as has not been happening
- California city backs plan to seize negative equity mortgages (Reuters)
- Home Depot Is Accused of Shaking Down Suspected Shoplifters (BBG)
- Most-Connected Man at Deutsche Bank Favors Lightest Touch (BBG)
- Norway Pledges to Limit Oil Spending (BBG)
- China Shadow Banking Returns as Growth Rebound Adds Risk (BBG)
- Gundlach Says Fed Is Mistaken in How It's Ending Easing (BBG)
Despite earlier comments from Obama on Tuesday night, who called for a pause in authorizing military strikes on Syria, which led to another drop in crude prices overnight, the drop has since reversed and both WTI and Brent Crude contracts are trading in the green. Whether this is the result of a note by Goldman analysts who noted that the Brent crude sell-off was overdone and that they see no improvement regarding the conflict in Libya which is constraining oil production, or because Russia is once again throwing hurdles in the international process to force Syrian disarmament, is unknown. The lack of any key catalysts and no USDJPY levitation, led to most global markets unchanged, and futures currently trading sideways. What is not trading sideways is Apple which is down over 2% to just over $480 as all hopes of a China Mobile deal fall apart, coupled with pervasive critical panning of the new iPhones which, aside for the commodity version, is just the old iPhone with an extension that allows the NSA's new fingerprint database to be filled in record time.
- Obama Shrinking Second-Term Hastened by Syria Opposition (BBG)
- Obama says Russian proposal on Syria a potential 'breakthrough' (Reuters)
- Poll Finds Support Fading for Syria Attack (WSJ)
- France to Introduce Resolution Aimed at Dismantling Syria's Chemical Arsenal (WSJ)
- Apple to Unveil IPhones Seeking End to Year of Struggles (BBG)
- Verizon Plans Largest Debt Sale Ever: Proceeds From Deal, Expected to Raise $20 Billion, Would Fund Venture Buyout (WSJ)
- Shipping Rates Seen at 2010 High on Record Ore to China (BBG)
- Ads coming to Twitter: Twitter makes its largest acquisition, a mobile ad company (FT)
- Houses on fire as fighting erupts in southern Philippines (Reuters)
- Banks Seen at Risk Five Years After Lehman Collapse (BBG)
The 2013 German federal elections may bring about pretty complicated results. With Merkel's junior coalition partner's (FDP) support dropping below the mandated 5% to enter parliament (according to polls), as Deutsche Bank notes, there is no point in working through the numerous possible coalition scenarios and options. In that case, the task of governing Germany and providing joint leadership in European affairs will become much more complicated than it used to be in normal times of a clear-cut victory for one camp. All inter-camp coalitions may well have a built-in tendency towards paralysis and require special political tricks that allow the partners to show their true colors in clearly circumscribed policy issues while not rocking the boat. A few years from now, September 22, 2013, might be remembered as the day when German politics finally became normally complicated, as in other countries, too. There are two major political narratives that appear dominant currently.
Sylvio Berlusconi is no stranger to being a catalyst for European crisis: in November 2011 it was his unwillingness to leave the PM post (and be replaced with a Goldman technocrat), that precipitated a bond crisis accented by the ECB's unwillingness to interject and buy Italian bonds until the career politician had left. Tomorrow, an Italian Senate committee is due to begin hearing arguments on whether to eject ex-PM Berlusconi from Parliament and on. The special Senate Elections and Immunities Committee will have its first hearing on Berlusconi’s expulsion from the Parliament and six-year ban on 9 September. It seems now less likely that a vote will already take place on 9 September. The decision of the commission will be followed by a vote of the whole Senate. According to Deutsche Bank, the duration of the process is unclear. Indeed, it could be lengthened by several months if the commission (or the parliament) asks for a ruling of the Constitutional Court. However, a worst case scenario could see the government fail, early elections being called, and a repeat of this February's political circus all over again, only this time with even less political capital, if such a thing ever existed in Italy.
- BOE Leaves Policy Unchanged as Carney’s Guidance Assessed (BBG)
- Surprise or not, U.S. strikes can still hurt Assad (Reuters)
- Samsung Gear: A Smartwatch in Search of a Purpose (BusinessWeek)
- 'Jumbo' Mortgage Rates Fall Below Traditional Ones (WSJ)
- Capital Unease Again Bites Deutsche Bank (WSJ)
- Technical snafus confuse charges for Obamacare plans (Reuters)
- JPMorgan subject of obstruction probe in energy case (Reuters)
- U.S. Car Sales Soar to Pre-Slump Level (WSJ) - i.e., to just when the market crashed
- BoJ lifts assessment of Japan’s economic health (FT)
- Dead Dog in Reservoir Helps Drive Venezuelans to Bottled Water (BBG)
- Russia Boosts Mediterranean Force as U.S. Mulls Syria Strike (BBG)
Ahead of September, historically the worst month for stocks, Deutsche Bank notes that volatility has picked up and corporate bond issuance has slowed. There are several possible risks over the next few weeks that could trigger a further escalation in market volatility...
With interest rates rising and now clearly weighing on the housing recovery (and affordability, as we noted earlier), many look at the extreme jumps in auto sales being pumped out today and worry that higher rates will impact that credit-fueled orgasm of optimism. While house price appreciation and belief in its linear extrapolation seemed to have prompted an inordinate amount of fed-funded credit-based car sales in the last month, the fact is that rates won't 'directly' affect car-buyers, since as CNBC's Rick Santelli exclaims, auto-loan rates are massively high already with millions paying high double-digit rates and terms are now as long at 97 months!! Simply put, with incomes stagnating, should we see any marginal impact on ability-to-pay or credit-availability (which will be affected by higher rates weighing on funding abilities - see below), then as Santelli concludes, watch out for these little words... "Auto Sub-prime loans."
Today's morning summary is a carbon copy of yesterday's. Some things happened, China continues to make up data to fit its current policy outlook, things in Europe continue to go bump in the night ever louder as we approach the German election despite reflexive diffusion indices - this time Service PMIs - desperately signalling a surge in confidence, Italy has just reminded everyone it is a big political basket case as Berlusconi is said to consider withdrawing his support for the Letta government and calling for elections this year, and so on, but it is still all about Syria. Last night the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has agreed on a resolution on using military force against Syria. The resolution would limit the duration of any US military action in Syria to 60 days, with a 30-day extension possible if Obama determines it is necessary to meet the goals of the resolution. In other words, a "surgical strike" lasting a minimum of 90 days, and then with indefinite additional extensions tacked on. Yet judging by the modest drop in crude and gold, the market may need more than just fighting words at this point to push to th next level of risk aversion.
It was overall a fairly dismal month for most assets as Deutsche's Jim Reid notes sentiment was weighed down by a) ongoing tapering fears, b) a further shakeup in EM assets and currencies, and later during the month c) the escalating tension in Syria. Clearly returns in fixed income and the broader emerging market space were tapered down further by tapering concerns but DM equities were also not immune to the softer risk backdrop. The biggest loser in August were EM bonds, followed by Wheat and the S&P 500. The biggest gainer in Auguest was Silver followed by Brent crude and Chinese stocks.