European Central Bank
The conventional wisdom of the moment is that a weakening global economy will push the cost of commodities such as oil down as demand stagnates. This makes perfect sense in terms of physical supply and demand, but this ignores the consequences of financial demand and capital flows. The total financial wealth sloshing around the world is approximately $160 trillion. If some relatively modest percentage of this money enters the commodity sector (and more specifically, oil) as a low-risk opportunity, this flow would drive the price of oil higher on its own, regardless of end-user demand and deflationary forces. If we grasp that financial demand is equivalent to end-user demand, we understand why oil could climb to $125/barrel or even higher despite a physical surplus.
All in all, the Eurozone has made two steps forward and one step back.
While the market's eyes were fixed on the near record slide in Japanese Industrial Production (even as its ears glazed over the latest commentary rerun from Aso) which did however lead to a 1.53% jump in the PenNikkeiStock market on hope of more stimulus to get floundering Abenomics back on track, the most important news from the overnight session is that the PBOC's love affair with its own tapering may have come and gone after the central bank came, looked at the surge in 7 day market repo rates, and unwilling to risk another mid-June episode where SHIBOR exploded to the mid-25% range, for the first first time since February injected RMB17 billion through a 7-day reverse repo. The PBOC also announced it would cut the RRR in the earthquake-hit Lushan area. And with that the illusion of a firm and resolute PBOC is shattered, however it did result in a tiny 0.7% bounce in the SHCOMP.
A brief discussion of the technical condition of the major currencies going to what is a week packed with fundamental developments.
Over the past several decades, people around the world have become so brainwashed that few people really give much thought anymore to the safety of their currency. It’s not something people really understand... there’s apparently some Wizard of Oz type figure at the top of the hill pulling all the levers of the monetary system. And we just trust them to be good guys. This power rests primarily in the hands of four men who control roughly 75% of the entire world money supply. So, how are they doing?
With capital controls like these who needs bank runs.
“All warfare is based on deception.” – Sun Tzu
Europe has denigrated into a strange place where fantasy replaces reality as necessitated by their governments and the Union that governs them. It is a world where anything but direct liabilities are not counted, where securitizations worth 50 cents on the Dollar are held at par and where both data and numbers are manipulated for the preservation of the State. Dreams are born of imagination, fed upon illusions, and put to death by reality. The guillotine returns after September 22, 2013.
As Welt reported overnight, the ECB just announced a change to its collateral framework, changing the haircuts and acceptability rules for ABS and covered bonds in an attempt to boost moribund and stalled European lending. As part of its announcement, the ECB reduced haircuts applicable to ABS rated A- or higher to 10% from 16% and to 22% from 26%. The bank also cut the minimum rating for ABS subject to loan level reporting requirements to 2 "A" ratings from 2 "AAA" ratings as more and more credit in Europe sinks into the quicksand of NPL-ness. Draghi also announced he would tighten risk control measures for covered bonds and that all the announced changes would have an overall neutral effect on amount of collateral available. Will this latest Hail Mary attempt work to boost lending in Europe? Of course not: Europe's issue is not credit supply constraints but a deterioration in asset quality and an explosion in NPLs, which has lead to an acceleration in overall deleveraging at both the bank and consumer level, and which is unlikely to end any time soon and certainly not before more widespread liability liquidations a la Cyprus.
Prompted by their FrAAAnce downgrade to AA+, French-owned Fitch has downgraded Europe's last best promise/hope - the EFSF - from AAA to AA+... but the crisis is still behind us - we are assure by such truth-sayers as Juncker, Barroso, and Merkel (pre-elections). The key sentence is "Following the downgrade of France's IDR, the EFSF's long-term debt issues are not fully covered by 'AAA' guarantees and over-guarantees and, for debt issued before October 2011, by the cash reserve." So that's good then... Don't worry though since "Fitch assumes there will be progress in deepening fiscal and financial integration at the eurozone level in line with commitments by euro area policy makers"
It wouldn't be the new normal if the collapse in Q2 US GDP to sub-1% wasn't met by a new record high in the Dow Jones. And it certainly wouldn't be the new abnormal if a day of resplendent green in European bourses didn't have some "matching" economic news out of that perpetual reminder that Keynesianism in the end always fails: Greece. Luckily, validating that all is unwell and stocks can proceed to soar to record highs unbothered, on one hand the Greek Statistics Office reported that Greek unemployment in April just rose to a new all time high of 26.9%, up from 26.8% in March, and up from 23.1% a year ago, while Kathimerini reports that Non-performing loans: those perpetual thorns of insolvency in bank balance sheets, just surged to €66 billion, amounting to a whopping 29% at the end of March from a "manageable" 24.2% at end-December. That's a ridiculous 20% increase in total NPLs in three months that was only exposed due to the Troika's stress testing! Just how atrocious is the reality on European bank books anyway?
It has all gone belly up if we look at the EU and we are honest. Yes, they might be trying to paper of the cracks and yes they might be shoving some super strong glue in their to stop everyone pulling in different directions, but if they are really truthful about it, the EU28 (now that Croatia has become a member since July 1st 2013)
As the EU agrees to fund another bailout deal to help Greece rise from the ashes, providing them with another $8.7 billion in financial aid, the question that begs an answer is: will this have any effect on the austerity that is being imposed on the country. Throwing good money after bad?
On occasion of an address to economists at a conference in France, Bundesbank president Jens Weidmann reminded the audience that 'the ECB cannot solve the crisis', because it is due to structural reasons and therefore requires structural reform. Weidmann rightly fears that governments will begin to postpone or even stop their reform efforts now that the ECB has managed to calm markets down. In a Reuters article on the topic, a number of people are quoted remarking on ECB policy. What is so interesting about this is how far removed from reality general perceptions are when it comes to judging current central bank policies. In short, Weidmann wants to end the three card Monte, whereby commercial banks buy the bonds issued by governments because they don't have to put any capital aside for the purpose, which bonds they then can in turn pawn off to the central bank for refinancing purposes. Weidmann wants to see the connection between banks and sovereigns severed, a connection that has been fostered by governments over many centuries in order to enable them to spend more than they take in through tax revenues.
Increasing concerns over deflation will limit any QE tapering in the second-half and set the stage for bonds to outperform stocks once again.