You know the world has gone truly mad when... For what we believe is the first time, a Euro-denominated corporate bond yield has gone negative. Aa2-rated Swiss chocolate-maker Nestle saw its 2016 bonds close at -0.2bps yield follows the swing to negative yields among covered bonds (bank debt backed by loans) that started in September. As Deutsche Bank opines, maybe chocolate is the new Gold!!
The following chart from Deutsche Bank illustrates the difference between life under the Classical Gold Standard and today’s “modern” forms of money. For the first four hundred years depicted here, money was gold and silver - the quantity of which rose at roughly the same rate as the human population. Prices during that time fluctuated, but only modestly by today’s standards, and they always returned to more-or-less the same level. In other words, money held its value for not just years but centuries. It was a fixed aspect of the financial environment and was therefore not a tool of economic policy. Governments and individuals had to adapt to unchanging money rather than forcing money to adapt to political circumstances. A phase change occurs in the 20th century when the US created the Federal Reserve and World Wars I and II placed survival above monetary stability for most of Europe and Asia.
For anyone who has traded RadioShack's bonds or stocks over the last decade or so, the constant threat of an LBO has been the bane of any fundamental analysis as one Credit Suisse memorably described it as "a company in a virtual state of constant collapse." It appears, with multiple default notices this week and the news that NYSE will suspend/delist trading in the ever-on-the-block company, that the 'LBO rumor' threat is over. With several firms (Sprint, Sanpower, and Amazon) mulling post-bankruptcy purchases, the concept of a pre-petition savior appears dead in the water...
Just hours after apparently settling its suit with the USA (not at all retaliation for downgrading them), S&P has taken the big red marker out on a slew of European banks:
- Downgrades: Credit Suisse, Barclays, Lloyds, Bank of Scotland, RBS, HSBC, and Ulster Bank
- On Watch Negative: Raiffeisen Zentralbank, MBank, Unicredit, Commerzbank, and Deutsche Bank
The driver of the shift in perspective is the apparent removal of the 'bailout put', as the prospect of "extraordinary government support" appeared less likely under recently passed bail-in legislation.
Much was said about the outperformance of the Nikkei relative to other asset classes in various months in 2014. Outperformance in Yen terms that is: for 2014 the Nikkei was actually down in USD terms. However, somehow we doubt if as much will be said about January's best performing asset - again, in local currency terms - which was the Russian stock market. Actually, come to think of it, we doubt anything will be said in the mainstream media about January's two best performing assets in USD terms either: silver and gold.
- RBA cuts interest rates to record low of 2.25% (SMH)
- RBI keeps rates on hold (Reuters), India allows banks flexibility on big projects to reboot growth (Reuters)
- BP slashes capital spending by 20% (FT)
- Greek Retreat on Writedown May Move Fight to Spending (BBG)
- Rosneft accounting move helps BP beat profit forecast (Reuters)
- Amazon in Talks to Buy Some of RadioShack's Stores (BBG)
- Behind Obama's budget proposals, a gloomy view of the future (Reuters)
- How the Justice Department, S&P Came to Terms (WSJ)
- Staples, Office Depot in Advanced Talks to Merge (WSJ)
In 1923 Hitler said, “Believe me, our misery will increase. The scoundrel will get by. But the decent, solid businessman who doesn’t speculate will be utterly crushed; first the little fellow on the bottom, but in the end the big fellow on top too. But the scoundrel and the swindler will remain, top and bottom. The reason: because the state itself has become the biggest swindler and crook. A robbers’ state!” Hitler wasn’t talking about hard money, he was talking about excessive money printing by a robber state. Krugman himself echoes these words, "It’s basically about revenue: when governments can’t either raise taxes or borrow to pay for their spending, they sometimes turn to the printing press." Out of control government that can’t borrow or tax enough to pay its bills? Zimbabwe, Iran, Venezuela... what country is next?
The Tide Is Turning: Obama "Expresses Sympathy" For Greece; Lazard Says 50% Greek Haircut "Reasonable"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 02/02/2015 00:13 -0400
The newsflow over the past several days was progressing much as expected: any time Greece demanded a bailout renegotiation (or termination), and an end to the Troika, Germany just said "Nein." And then something unexpected happened: the socialists came to the rescue when they voiced their support to their ideological peers in Greece. First, it was France whose finance minister said that France is "more than prepared to support Greece." And now it is Obama's turn who as the WSJ reported, has "expressed sympathy for the new Greek government as it seeks to rollback its strict bailout regime, saying there are limits to how far its European creditors can press Athens to repay its debts while restructuring the economy."
ECB Threatens Athens With Bank Funding Cutoff If No Deal In One Month: February 28 Is Now D-Day For GreeceSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/31/2015 18:40 -0400
Earlier today the ECB's Erikki Liikanen, tired of pleasantries and dealing with what to Europe is a completely incomprehensible and illogical stance, one which is essentially a massive defection by Greece in the European "prisoner's dilemma", and which while leading to a Greek financial collapse and Grexit - both prerequisites to a subsequent Greek economic recovery unburdened by the shackles of the Euro - would also unleash a European depression, came out and directly threatened Greece that it now has 1 month until the end of February to reach a deal with the Troika, or else the ECB would cut off lending to Greek banks, in the process destroying the otherwise insolvent Greek banking sector.
Rather than be a problem, Syriza may well be a solution, if it plays its cards right, but that still leaves politicians and investors denominating Tsipras et al as a problem, if not a menace. The world’s major banks got rich off the back of the Greek population at large, and when their wagers got so absurd they collapsed, the banks saw to it that their losses were transferred to European -and American – taxpayers. And those taxpayers are now told to vent their anger at 'those cheating, lazy Greeks'. The Troika, the EU, the IMF, and the banks whose sock puppets they have chosen to be, are a predatory force that has come a long way towards wiping Greece off the map. And that’s what Syriza has set out to remediate. And for that, they deserve, and probably will need, our unmitigated support.
- Falling Prices Spread Pain Far Across The Oil Patch (WSJ)
- ISIS Group Claims Responsibility for Attacks That Killed 27 in Egypt (NBC)
- Russia Unexpectedly Cuts Key Rate as Economy Eclipses Ruble (BBG)
- Greece’s Feisty Finance Minister Tries a More Moderate Message (NYT)
- U.S. homeownership hits 20-year low, but new households growing (Reuters)
- Indian Banks’ Shares Plunge as Bad-Loan Provisions Surge (BBG)
- Underground Terror Network Said to Benefit Would-Be Jihadists in Europe (WSJ)
- Russia warns West support for Kiev could lead to 'catastrophe' (Reuters)
Two days ago, Zero Hedge first, and shortly thereafter everyone else, pointed out something stunning: the biggest surprise to emerge so far out of the new anti-Troika/austerity Greek government was not so much its intention to proceed with the first test of "Odious Debt" - this was largely known in advance - but its dramatic pivot away from Germany and Europe, and toward Russia: The most important message that Tsipras is sending to Europe is that (after meeting the Russian ambassador first upon his election) Greece is now effectively a veto power when it comes to future Russian sanctions!
- Who Doubts Yellen's Policies? Summers for One (BBG)
- Samsung, Apple Back in Dead Heat for Global Smartphone Dominance (WSJ)
- Islamic State purportedly sets new deadline for hostage swap (Reuters)
- Turkey's $7.9 Billion Mystery Money That's Simply Vanished (BBG)
- How a Two-Tier Economy Is Reshaping the U.S. Marketplace (WSJ)
- U.S. Prisons Grapple With Aging Population (WSJ)
- Hasenstab Sees $3 Billion Vanish in Ukraine as One Big Bet Sours (BBG) - maybe he should BTFD, pardon, "invest" in Belarus next?
- Belarus May Seek Debt Restructuring in 2015, President Says (BBG)
The bottom line is that unfortunately for the BTFDers, with the Fed no longer giving explicit buy signals with the "considerable time" language struck, and with an implicit economic upgrade suggesting a rate hike is still on the table, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to frontrun the Fed's "wealth creation" intentions.
If the Fed stick to their script then the market could be in for a small shock. Market-based measures of the first Fed hike place it at around the October meeting. This is already one meeting later than was being priced in at the start of the year. After this the second hike is priced in for around March 2016, whilst we entered the year pricing in the second hike for December 2015. So there is room here for volatility as we approach the summer FOMC meetings if the Fed’s message remains unchanged. It has long been our view that the Fed will struggle to hike as soon as it wants to given global growth and inflation issues, however there's no doubt they are keen to pull the trigger so something will have to give at some point. So any evidence either way today will be interesting.