European Central Bank
Several days ago we were confused why, out of the blue, a €1 billion loan BWIC appeared that was dumping German non-performing loans. After all, the whole point of the European "recovery" fable to date has been to deflect all the attention from the "pristine" German banks, up to an including world-record derivatives juggernaut Deutsche Bank, and to focus on Greece and other insolvent peripheral European nation. Earlier today, German Handelsblatt provided an answer, when it reported that "four German banks are on the brink", i.e., four banks of which three are known, HSH Nordbank, IKB and MunchenerHyp, will likely fail the ECB's stress test whose results are due to be announced next Friday.
Equity markets live and die on several well-established conventions, according to ConvergEx's Nick Colas, noting that these are the rules that investors use as the bedrock of their fundamental analysis. The volatility of the last few weeks shows that some of these paradigms are now under attack. Chief among the question marks: “Do central banks always have the power to tip the balance between growth and recession?” Another rising concern: “Can stocks constantly shrug off recessionary signals from commodity and fixed income markets?” Lastly, “How many exogenous, if largely unpredictable, global events can equities ignore before their collective weight halts a bull market?” Bottom line: the debate on these topics isn’t over for October or the balance of the year.
While Greek leaders are proclaiming victory, intending to exit the bailout plan early and fund themselves in the public marketplace - just as they did in April (despite record poverty, unemployment, and suicides); it appears investors are a little less sanguine about the prospect. Greek bond yields have topped 7% for the first time since March and any gains from the 5Y bonds sold to hedge funds in April have now gone (and Greek stocks are at 13-month lows). The driver of recent weakness appears to be fears over whether Draghi's OMT will ever be real enough to monetize Greek debt and a re-rating based on more standalone risk if Greece were to exit the bailout program early.
As oil prices continue to fall, analysts and producers are trying to wrap their heads around the reasons and identify a floor price. Even though crude benchmarks like Brent and WTI keep dropping, the cost of finding oil continues to rise. What are some of the key drivers that have created this paradox?
If central banks have learned anything since 2008, it's that waiting around for the panic to deepen is not a winning strategy. Put yourself in their shoes. Isn't this what you would do, given the dearth of alternatives and the very real risks of implosion? Anyone in their position with the tools at hand would not have any other real option other than to buy stocks in whatever quantity is needed to reverse the selling and blow the shorts out of the water. If $1 trillion doesn't do the job, make it $3 trillion, or $5 trillion. At this point, it doesn't really matter, does it?
The war of words between Europe's unelected monetary-policy dictator Mario Draghi and Germany's "but it's us that pays for all this" Bundesbank has been gaining momentum since Jens Weidmann penned his Op-Ed slamming Draghi's OMT 'whatever it takes' as "too close to state financing" in 2012. A week ago, Weidmann stepped up the rhetoric by claiming ECB policy is "hostage to politics" and has lost its indepdendence - warning Draghi's dictatorial policies were leading Europe down a "dangerous path." But now, as pressure grows from the Spanish (record unemployment, record bad debt, record low yields), Italian (record unemployment, record debt-to-GDP, record low yields) and French (record unemployment, treaty-busting-deficits, record low yields) for Draghi to monetize more assets, he has struck back in Focus magazine, blasting Weidmann is "impossible" to work with because the Germans "say no to everything." Dis-union...
We have been discussing the widespread belief in "the narrative of central bank omnipotence" for a number of months (here and here most recently) as we noted "there are no more skeptics. To update Milton Friedman’s famous quote, we are all Bernankians now." So when Saxobank's CIO and Chief Economist Steen Jakobsen warns that "the mood has changed," and feedback from conference calls and speaking engagements tells him, there is a growing belief that the 'narrative of the central banks' is failing, we sit up and listen.
Physical gold is being accumulated and used in exchanges but very discretely as of now. The geopolitical and economic environment in the last few months was in my view the calm before the storm. Both the economic and political environments are uncertain and will surprise the complacent markets.
Whether this trend will hold or reverse is unknown, but it does suggest that there are advantages to being the cleanest shirt in the dirty laundry.
For the US, it’s now shooting fish in a barrel – but just for now. The three-pronged plan the Fed has started to execute is plain for everyone to see... And it will have the rest of the world begging for mercy.
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The wobble in world markets continues, with stock indices across all time zones down steeply in recent sessions. Investors are not only realigning their exposure in anticipation of tighter liquidity conditions as the US Federal Reserve finally brings its asset purchases to a close later this month (see More Fools Than Money?). After today’s European Central Bank (ECB) meeting they are also looking nervously at the magnitude of the task facing eurozone policymakers. And they appear to be coming to the conclusion that generating a rebound in growth may be too tough a job for Europe’s leaders to accomplish in the near term.
What one can not exclude is that Blackrock, having worked with the ECB for an indefinite period of time, is intimately familiar with the long-term strategy of the biggest jawboning back in the world: Mario Draghi's ECB. Because while Draghi will say anything, as he started two years ago with his infamous "Whatever it takes" speech, his actual policy options are painfully limited. It is in this context that all those betting that public, US-style, QE will inevitably follow the private QE which is set to last at least two years, may want to sit down and read the following note from Reuters, which warns "investors loading up on some of the euro zone's riskiest government bonds on expectations that the European Central Bank will buy them are making a mistake" according to none other than BlackRock's head of European and global bonds said on Wednesday.
- Programmes will last at least two years
- Will enhance transmission of monetary policy, support provision of credit to the euro area economy and, as a result, provide further monetary policy accommodation
- Eurosystem collateral framework is guiding principle for eligibility of assets for purchase
- Asset purchases to start in fourth quarter 2014, starting with covered bonds in second-half of October