European Central Bank
Today the ECB is expected to do absolutely nothing, although many have their hopes up that at the post announcement press conference Mario Draghi may possibly hint at some more easing (with what collateral we wonder, and with what Germany) to bring some spring into the step of a continent that has milked $1.3 trillion in 3 year repo/discount window borrowings for all their worth and then some. And instead if the ECB cuts its rate below the psychological barrier of 1% today, or at any time over the next several months, it will make Hugh Hendry once again that much richer. Recall as of November: "He’s made bets that he says will deliver a 40-to-1 return if the ECB cuts rates below 1% next year." Below is a full rundown of what to expect, and not to expected, from the former Goldmanite, now head of the central bank for the world's biggest economic region.
European equities are trading higher at the midway point, with modest risk appetite observed ahead of the ECB rate decision and subsequent press conference. A large volume of corporate earnings has helped European stocks from the open, with the large cap names such as SocGen and BMW posting a strong set of results. A smooth set of auctions from both Spain and France have helped tighten the European government 10-yr bond yield spreads against Germany. The French results saw a reduction in borrowing costs and solid demand across all lines, with the Spanish auction selling to the top of the indicative range, albeit with an increase in yields. Elsewhere, Services PMI data from the UK has disappointed to the downside, however the figure still indicates growth in the services sector with the figure coming in at 53.3. A breakdown in the data has shown that clients do remain cautious, but optimism is on an upward trend. Looking ahead in the session, market focus will be on Barcelona as ECB’s Draghi prepares for his press conference at 1330BST/0730CDT.
Welcome to another morning which saw weak news out of Asia (Chinese Services PMI declining to lowest level since January), weak news out of the UK (Services PMI down to 53.3 from 55.3 previously), and weak news out of Europe where a Spanish auction once again paid well into the unsustainable levels to give the market the illusion that it is well funded. Completing the picture is the ECB which announced that yesterday banks deposited for the first time since early March a total over €800 billion (primarily as Northern European banks see their holdings of Southern paper mature and not get rolled over), or €803 billion to be precise, a €14 billion increase overnight, as one can make the argument that liquidity is once again starting to freeze up. However, despite all the ugly news, US futures are of course up, with the only question the headline scanning algos care about is whether initial claims will once again miss the consensus of 380K solidly (thus making sure tomorrow's NFP print is QE enabling). Our guess it that last week's print of 388K is revised as usual upward, into the low 390K region, with the number missing Wall Street forecast but posting a "decline" from last week's revised number. After all this scheme has worked for so long, why end now?
Bernanke’s legacy is still to be made. But he has put the US economy in a position from which it can succeed. If Europe falls apart, it will be more difficult. If we fall of the fiscal cliff we will have our own Thelma and Louise moment. The Fed Chairman has already said he can’t save us from that shock. It’s really time for fiscal policy makers to step up. As long as they refuse it makes Bernanke’s job all the harder. And the pressure on him is intense.
Bernanke is under a lot of pressure and is given little credit for what have been remarkable achievements. Do risks remain? They sure do. But that result is yet to be decided. Meanwhile risks elsewhere are at least as pressing. Look at his successes...
Spain, which is now at the forefront of the Great Western Debt Default Collapse, has opted to seek funding from the mega-bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) rather than going directly to the ECB or the IMF.
There is really no argument whether there will be a recession in our future — the only question is the timing and cause of it. The latter point is the most important. Recessions do not just happen — they need a push. In 2011 the economy was just a breath away from a recession due to the dual impact of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami and the European debt crisis. Had it not been for the combined efforts of the Fed through "Operation Twist" and the Long Term Refinancing Operations via the ECB, a drop in oil prices and a plunge in utility costs due to the warmest winter in 65 years, it is entirely likely that that we may have already been discussing a "recession." The ECRI launched a debate that was literally heard around the world with their recessionary call in 2011. The weight of evidence as shown by our composite economic output indicator index shows that the ECRI call was most likely correct. However, the restart of manufacturing, primarily automotive, after the crisis in Japan combined with an effective $90 billion tax credit due to lower oil and utility costs, turned the previously slowing growth rate of the economy around over the last couple of quarters. Sustainability is becoming the question now as weather patterns return to a more normal cycle and the effects of the lower energy costs began to dissipate. In a more normal post recessionary recovery the third year should be closer to a 6-8% economic growth rate versus 2%. While 2% growth is much better than zero — the current sub-par pace of growth leaves the economy standing on the edge of the pool with very little stability to offset any unexpected "push" into the cold waters of recession. The problem is identifying what that "push" could likely be.
For the third day in a row, the USD was bid from the Europe open to its close and drifted lower in the US afternoon. Today's limp lower in the USD this afternoon (with AUD and CAD strength while JPY was flat) provided, along with some leaking higher in Treasury yields, support for a modest risk-on levitation in stocks as the S&P 500 tried and failed to get back to unch after falling below yesterday's lows (well below the pre-ISM levels) early in the day. Credit, equity, and Treasury markets were remarkably in sync today - which is unusual given recent dislocations and correlation across asset classes in general picked up. Gold (and the rest of the commodity complex) traded pretty much in sync with the USD all day, leaving Silver down 2% on the week and WTI back under $106 but still +0.4% on the week - but Gold -0.5% (in sync with USD's 0.5% gain this week) was the best performer of a bad bunch today. VIX generally traded in sync with stocks aside from an odd gap lower right at the close. Treasuries ended the day 2-3bps lower in yield (a few bps off their best levels though) leaving the entire complex modestly lower in yield for week (aside from 2Y which is +0.4bps). Broad risk assets ebbed a little into the close even as stocks bounced off VWAP for one last push but volume leaked away as we rallied (as normal).
These sturdy ECB LTRO launch vessels are designed to save the European economy...
The dispersion across European nations in terms of growth and unemployment (as we noted earlier) are just two indications of the dramatic amount of economic hubris, as JP Morgan's Michael Cembalest describes it, associated with the belief in a sustainable European monetary union. Using the World Economic Forum's multitude of competitive factors (across economic, social, and political characteristics), the JPM CIO notes that compared to hypothetical and actual monetary unions in the world that the EMU exhibits the largest differences between member nations of any (current or historical), and still Europe soldiers on. "Countries in the European Monetary Union are more different than just about any other monetary union you could imagine" so it’s hard to know how it will turn out. It’s a tough road, and this data helps explain why. Europe’s problem is not just one of public sector deficit spending differences, but also of deeper, more fundamental differences across its various private sector economies. Whether it’s equities, credit or real estate, EMU valuations need to be considerably more attractive than US counterparts to justify investment given the challenges of the European project.
We have said, for months now, that Europe and the United States were heading in two different directions. That became quite clear today as the manufacturing numbers for Europe were dismal while unemployment for the entire Eurozone reached 10.9% which is up 9.1% from last year. The entire Continent is in a recession, with the exception of Germany, and we think their next release, in mid May, will show that they have joined the rest of their brethern. Austerity has its costs and two of them are increased unemployment and a decline in demand for goods and services which is then exacerbated by the drop in the number of people that are working. In the months ahead, for both political and economic reasons, we will see a flight back to American assets as the picture in Europe becomes both clearer and obviously worse. All of this, however, will affect American corporations and our banks so that expectations should be lowered in coming quarters for American earnings and profits. As “no man is an island,” no region of the world will be exempt from the European recession just as Europe was not exempt from our financial crisis.
The question for investors is how likely Draghi unleashes some new money and gives the market another brief relief rally? I’m not sure he is able to do anything meaningful and right now I believe the market will fade over the course of the day as realization sets in that not much can be done. I’m not quite ready to put this trade on, but am looking closely at going long Spanish stocks versus short German stocks. The belief that Germany will be fine while Spain is a disaster seems too common and priced in. I’m not quite there on that trade, but it is only that am looking at very closely.
Yesterday we poked fun of Goldman for suggesting that the reason for the late-day sell off was "Prudent profit-taking as folks remember Europe isn’t closed tomorrow." Turns out Goldman could not have been more right: around 4 am Eastern this morning Europe reported a series of economic updates which showed that the European economy continues to be nothing but a slow motion trainwreck and is getting far worse. Starting with final April Eurozone Manufacturing PMI which printed at 45.9 vs an initial print of 46.0, a 9 month low with a core breakdown is as follows: Italian manufacturing PMI 43.8 at a 6 month low, est 47.1 (prior 47.9), German manufacturing PMI at a 33 month low 46.2 vs initial 46.3 (prior 48.4), France manufacturing PMI 46.9 vs initial 47.3 (prior 46.7), which also followed Italy by recording sharpest drop in manufacturing new orders in 3 yrs in April, and so on as can be seen in the chart below. As every sellsider who has opined so far this morning, these numbers are all "hugely disappointing."
Gold’s London AM fix this morning was USD 1,661.25, EUR 1,253.02, and GBP 1,024.70 per ounce. Yesterday's AM fix was USD 1,662.50, EUR 1,256.61 and GBP 1,021.44 per ounce.
Silver is trading at $30.85/oz, €23.37/oz and £19.10/oz. Platinum is trading at $1,570.00/oz, palladium at $677.60/oz and rhodium at $1,350/oz.
This Is the First Time In History that All Central Banks Have Printed Money at the Same Time … And They’re Failing MiserablySubmitted by George Washington on 05/01/2012 18:44 -0400
Simultaneous Global Printing Is Failing Miserably