European Central Bank
The Forex market is dead and dying, in parallel with the US economy; which is fitting, considering the US is still the world reserve currency.
Significant harbingers that have changed the Forex market forever:
Overview of the major forces shaping the investment climate.
On the heels of his less-than-optimistic presentation, DoubleLine's Jeff Gundlach tells Europe's Finanz und Wirtschaft "he's concerned about the growing amount of speculation" and draws a parallel between today’s markets and the dot-com boom of the late Nineties. This excellent interview takes the themes of his recent conference call and extends them as he warns "In the over thirty years I’ve been in the financial investment industry, I don’t recall a single year where I saw the year begin with the consensus being so solidified in its thinking across virtually every asset class." His biggest worry (for investors, as opposed to his funds), "the most unthinkable things happen this year and that is a basic pain trade that forces people into treasury bonds."
The positive momentum in equities slowed in Asian trading with losses seen on the Nikkei (-0.4%), and HSCEI , the SCHOMP unchanged and EM indices such as the Nifty (-
0.1%). In Australia, a disappointing December employment report saw a 23k fall in jobs for the month against consensus expectations of rise of 10k. The 10yr Australian government bond has rallied 5bp and the front end is outperforming as a number of investors expect the RBA to continue its easing bias over 2014. AUDUSD has sold off -1.1% to a three year low of 0.881. The ASX200 closed up 1.2% however, boosted by mining-giant Rio Tinto (+2%) who reported better than anticipated Q4 production. Amid recent fears of a Chinese growth deceleration, Rio Tinto reported record levels of production of iron-ore, coal and bauxite. In FX, USDJPY is finding further support in Asia, adding 0.1% to yesterday’s 0.38% gain to trade not too far from the 105 level. Which is also why the S&P futures are trading modestly lower: without a major breakout in the Yen carry, there can't be a sustained ramp in the US stock market which is driven entirely by the value of the Yen, which in turn is a reflection of the expectations of future BOJ easing.
First the Volcker Rule was defanged when last night the requirement to offload TruPS CDOs was eliminated, and now here comes Europe where the ECB just lowered the capital requirement for its "stringent" bank stress test (the one where Bankia and Dexia won't pass with flying colors we assume) by 25%. From the wires:
- ECB SAID TO FAVOR 6% CAPITAL REQUIREMENT IN BANK STRESS TEST
- ECB SAYS DECISION ON CAPITAL REQUIREMENT NOT YET FORMALLY MADE
Why is this notable? Recall from three short months ago: "the ECB confirmed that it will require lenders to have a capital ratio of 8 percent."
Day two of the bounce from the biggest market drop in months is here, driven once again by weak carry currencies, with the USDJPY creeping up as high as 104.50 overnight before retracing some of the gains, and of course, the virtually non-existant volume. Whatever the reason don't look now but market all time highs are just around the corner, and the Nasdaq is back to 14 year highs. Stocks traded higher since the get-go in Europe, with financials leading the move higher following reports that European banks will not be required in upcoming stress tests to adjust their sovereign debt holdings to maturity to reflect current values. As a result, peripheral bond yield spreads tightened, also benefiting from good demand for 5y EFSF syndication, where price guidance tightened to MS+7bps from initial MS+9bps. Also of note, Burberry shares in London gained over 6% and advanced to its highest level since July, after the company posted better than expected sales data. Nevertheless, the FTSE-100 index underperformed its peers, with several large cap stocks trading ex-dividend today. Going forward, market participants will get to digest the release of the latest Empire Manufacturing report, PPI and DoE data, as well as earnings by Bank of America.
"...in these artificial markets the percentages are skewed towards the bulls for now." - Deutsche Bank
- House Unveils $1.01 Trillion Measure to Fund Government (BBG)
- Credit Suisse Tells Junior Bankers to Take Saturdays Off (BBG)
- Spot the odd word out: ECB Sees Bad-Debt Rules as Threat to Credible Bank Review (BBG)
- Insert laugh track here: Spain GDP grows at fastest pace in almost six years (FT)
- Scandinavian Debt Crisis Waiting to Happen Puzzles Krugman (BBG)
- Fed Said to Release Plan to Limit Banks’ Commodities Activities (BBG)
- Thai Protesters Extend Blockade After Rejecting Poll Talks (BBG)
- China provinces set lower growth goals for 2014 (BBG)
Following yesterday's major market drubbing, in which the sliding market was propped up by the skin of Nomura's (and BOJ, and Fed's) teeth at 103.00 on the USDJPY, it was inevitable that with Japan returning from holiday there would be a dead cat bounce in the Yen carry pair, and sure enough there was, as the USDJPY rose all the way back up to 103.70, and nearly closed the Friday gap, before starting to let off some air. However, now that US traders are coming back online, Japan's attempts to keep markets in the green may falter, especially since it only has a couple of ES ticks to show for its efforts, as for the Nikkei which dropped 3% overnight, it has now lost all US "Taper" gains.
In a country in which the lack of economic "growth" and prosperity are attributed to the occasional sequester, and a stingy congress that refuses to unleash the spending floodgates, the money is perfectly sufficient - the problem is that quite often it ends up in the hands of people who one may call criminals, if one were so inclined. Take the case of public school PS 106, located in Far Rockaway, Queens - the school is allocated $2.9 million to serve a low-income population with 98 percent of its students eligible for free lunches. As a Title 1 school, it gets extra federal funds. There is one problem: none of that state money actually makes its way to the students, and with no class, or books, and a rat infestation, PS 106 has officially earned the title of New York's worst school.
SHLD is making the cut for one of my top 3 picks of 2014.
- Full onslaught 1: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's Aides Pressed Hard for Endorsements (WSJ)
- Full onslaught 2: Feds investigating Christie's use of Sandy relief funds (CNN)
- Iran nuclear deal to take effect on January 20 (Reuters), Iran to get first $550 million of blocked $4.2 billion on February 1 (Reuters)
- Sen. McCaskill didn’t want to be in same elevator with Hillary Clinton (Hill)
- The banks win again: Basel Regulators Ease Leverage-Ratio Rule for Banks (BBG)
- Ireland's Rebound Is European Blarney (NYT)
- Democrats prove barrier for Obama in quest for trade deals (FT)
- Federal Reserve Said to Probe Banks Over Forex Fixing (BBG)
Is it all about expectations about tapering, again?
It has been commonplace to speak of central bank independence - as if it were both a reality and a necessity. Discussions of the Fed invariably refer to legislated independence and often to the famous 1951 Accord that apparently settled the matter.  While everyone recognizes the Congressionally-imposed dual mandate, the Fed has substantial discretion in its interpretation of the vague call for high employment and low inflation. It is, then, perhaps a good time to reexamine the thinking behind central bank independence. There are several related issues.
- First, can a central bank really be independent? In what sense? Political? Operational? Policy formation?
- Second, should a central bank be independent? In a democracy should monetary policy—purportedly as important as or even more important than fiscal policy—be unaccountable? Why?
- Finally, what are the potential problems faced if a central bank is not independent? Inflation? Insolvency?
Simplistic, subjective and unbalanced anti-gold opinions tend to get media coverage. However, it is important to always focus on the empirical evidence as seen in the academic research, price performance over the long term and the historical record.