European Central Bank
There was a time three months ago, when "beating" German confidence served as an upward stock and EURUSD catalyst not once but twice in the same week. One would therefore assume a German confidence miss, such as with today's German ZEW, which barely budged from 36.3 to 36.4 on expectations of a rise to 40.0, with the current situtation dropping from 9.2 to 8.9, on expectations of a rise to 9.8, should be risk negative. Well, it wasn't: it is the new normal after all, and in fact the EURUSD jumped in a kneejerk reaction at 5 am, rising over 1.3000, albeit briefly, assisted by ZEW members saying that respondents do not see a further ECB rate cut - well, of course not - they are Germans, and Draghi isn't. Perhaps the news of a better than expected Eurozone Industrial Production print, which rose from 0.3% to 1.0%, on expectations of a more modest increase to 0.5%, is what catalyzed the subsequent drop in both the EUR, and US stock futures. The IP strength was driven by Germany, Spain and Netherlands offset be decline in France and Italy.
We have recently explained (here and here) just how dismal the outlook for France is. The gaping divide between French and German perspectives on austerity, growth, and policy is widening by the day. And yet French credit spreads (and yields) have been collapsing ever tighter at the behest of a world gone mad on monetary munificence. We know who the greater fool is in Spain and Italy (the domestic banks and pension funds); and so now, thanks to SocGen, we know who the greater fool is in French debt (OATs). The BoP data also show that Japanese institutions have been sellers of USTs every month from January to March; and France has been by far the largest recipient of Japanese debt purchases. In March alone flows into OATs rose to JPY232bn, a 3-month high. Institutions have been buying OATs for 16 months in a row for a cumulative JPY5.7trn (E43.8bn) since December 2011. A marked 31bp decline in 10y OAT yields in April indicates that Japanese investors stepped up their purchases last month. This will not end well... and there is a limiting factor...
... the Bank of Israel!
There is no plan, no scheme that the Fed can concoct for exiting their support for the U.S. economy that will not negatively affect both the bond and equity markets and have a positive effect on the Dollar. The markets have relied upon the manna from Heaven to rise and virtually nothing else. The American economy cannot justify either the absolute levels of yield or the compression that has taken place or the lofty levels of our stock markets. All of this has had a single driver which is the Fed. The Fed has spent four years providing gifts for those that borrow and for the banks while penalizing those who save and invest. What one group gained the other lost. Now the Fed faces the dilemma of its own making; how to gradually exit their current strategy without setting the financial markets on their rear ends.
There a couple of good reasons to be more than moderately concerned about what’s happening in the fixed income space. Once more my gallant crew, we are sailing into choppy waters... which may mean trouble ahead, but it also spells opportunity! Two things concern us: Firstly, despite global easing, global bond yields have backed up last few days. Immediately the Fed gets the blame with rumours they may scale back QE – which is reactive nonsense. The Fed has made clear we need to see clear evidence of growth, not just hints, before they change course. But the Treasury market is off across the curve. JGBs, Gilts and Europe are all higher last few days. Is this a buying window after some mild panic, or has something really changed? The second issue with the market currently is that global rates are so low the market is losing the will to live/play. When highly speculative CCC names yield less than 7% what's the point in investing? The risk-reward is just too skewed toward higher risk over lowering returns that it simply makes little sense to take.
In the US, retail sales are expected to continue to slow in the headline, while retail sales ex autos, building materials, and gas should turn positive in April according to Wall Street analysts. Goldman remains below consensus for Thursday's Philadelphia Fed survey, forecasting a slight improvement on the previous month. The firm also expects the flash reading for Euro area Q1 GDP to come in slightly below consensus, consistent with a shallow contraction. We forecast German GDP will turn positive in Q1 after Q4 2012's negative reading. In Japan, GS sees Q1 GDP at 2.8% qoq ann., slightly above consensus, with stronger consumer spending the main driver. Among the central bank meetings this week, Russia, Chile, and Indonesia are expected to remain on hold, in line with consensus.
Overnight risk continues to ignore all newsflow (today the economic reporting finally picks up with advance retail sales due at 8:30 am as expectations for a second modest decline in a row of -0.3%) and is focused entirely on what the consensus decides to make of the Hilsenrath piece, even as the difficulty level was raised a notch following another late Sunday Hilsenrath piece, which puts more variable into the "tapering" equation, and whose focus is whether Bernanke will be replaced by Janet Yellen, Geithner or Summers, or anyone. With all three classified as permadoves, one does scratch their head how the market can be confused: worst case Fed tapers by $10/20 billion per month, market tumbles, then Bernanke's replacement or Ben himself ploughs on even more aggressively with QE. QED.
Currency wars are so pre-"QE eternity." At least that is the opinion of Indian multi-billionaire Lakshmi Mittal, and owner of the world's biggest steelmaker, who urged Europe to embrace protectionism and erect trade barriers to "protect" its manufacturers (benefiting one ArcelorMittal among others), while at the same time bashing austerity, saying "the futures of EU manufacturing depended on politicians in Brussels helping industry face what he said was unfair competition from China." In other words, it's time for Europe to escalate into full blown trade warfare with China. It is unclear if Mr. Mittal had any thoughts on how China would, in turn, escalate to this progression in trade warfare: whether with tariffs, subsidies, or outright dumping. What does appear quite clear is that the owner of ArcelorMittal, who on Friday posted a net loss of $345 million (down from a $92 million profit a year earlier) on Q1 sales plunging by 13%, whose stock is just off its 52 week lows, and who said he may close plants in Eastern Europe if the "economy continues to slump", may have some ulterior motives in asking that Europe fight his war for him.
While the stance of monetary policy around the world has, on any conceivable measure, been extreme, the question of whether such a policy is indeed sensible and rational has not been asked much of late. By rational we simply mean the following: Is this policy likely to deliver what it is supposed to deliver? And if it does fall short of its official aim, then can we at least state with some certainty that whatever it delivers in benefits is not outweighed by its costs? We think that these are straightforward questions and that any policy that is advertised as being in ‘the interest of the general public’ should pass this test. As we will argue in the following, the present stance of monetary policy only has a negligible chance, at best, of ever fulfilling its stated aim. Furthermore, its benefits are almost certainly outweighed by its costs if we list all negative effects of this policy and do not confine ourselves, as the present mainstream does, to just one obvious cost: official consumer price inflation, which thus far remains contained. Thus, in our view, there is no escaping the fact that this policy is not rational. It should be abandoned as soon as possible. This will end badly...
The main story overnight is without doubt the dramatic plunge in the Yen, which following the breach and trigger of USDJPY 100 stops has been a straight diagonal line to the upper right (or lower for the Yen across all currency crosses) and at last check was approaching 101.50, in turn sending the USD higher in virtually all jurisdictions. However it is not so much the Yen weakness that was surprising - a nation hell bent on doubling its monetary base in two years will do that - but the accelerating response in neighboring countries all of which are seeing Japan as the biggest economic threat suddenly and all are scrambling to respond. Sure enough, midway through the evening session, Sri Lanka cut its reverse repo and repurchase rate to 9% and 7% respectively, promptly followed by Vietnam cutting its own refinancing rate from 8% to 7%, then moving to Thailand where the finance chief Kittiratt called for a rate cut exceeding 25 bps, and more jawboning from South Korea suggesting even more rate cuts from the export-driven country are set to come as it loses trade competitiveness to Japan. Asian financial crisis 2.0 any minute now?
More thoughts on the ECB's balance sheet and why a negative deposit rate is unlikely.
Deutsche Bank: "We Fully Understand Why The Authorities Wouldn't Want Free Markets To Operate Today"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 05/09/2013 09:06 -0400
"Is it healthy that the default/insolvency cycle is being sedated in so many large economies? Surely the financial system and life in general has prospered through history on the basis of creative destruction. Indeed all the good looking and intelligent readers of this note are products of survival of the fittest. Economic growth over time is helped by a regular cleansing. So are low defaults helping to lock in low growth for years to come across many large economies? Clearly there are other factors at work here but we think that what's great for credit investors isn't necessarily good for the global economy. A bit of a paradox. We would stress that we fully understand why the authorities wouldn't want free markets to operate today as the risk of a huge global default and unemployment cycle would still be very high. However their intervention has a cost in our opinion."
With another listless macro day in the offing, the main event was the previously mentioned Bank of Korea 25 bps rate cut, which coming at a time when everyone else in the world is easing was not too surprising, but was somewhat unexpected in light of persistent inflationary pressures. Either way, the gauntlet at Abenomics has been thrown and any temporary Japanese Yen-driven export gains will likely not persist as it is the quality of products perception (sorry 20th century Toshiba and Sony), that is the primary determinant of end demand, not transitory, FX-driven prices. And now that Korea is set on once again matching Japan in competitiveness, the final piece of the Abenomics unwind puzzle has finally clicked into place. Elsewhere overnight, China reported consumer price inflation increasing by 2.4%, on expectations of a 2.3% rise, driven by a 4% jump in food costs: hardly the thing of Politburo dreams. Or perhaps the PBOC can just print more pigs, soy and birdflu-free chickens? On the other hand, PPI dropped 2.6% in April, on estimates of a 2.3% decline, as China telegraphs it has the capacity, if needed, to stimulate the economy. This is ironic considering its inflation pressures are externally-driven, and come from the Fed and the BOJ, and soon the BOE and ECB. And thus its economy stagnates while prices are driven higher by hot money flows. What to do?
It's Not Just Reggie Warning Irishmen Anymore As Irish Presidency of the European Council Says Capital At RiskSubmitted by Reggie Middleton on 05/08/2013 09:02 -0400
Irishmen with over 100k in euros in suspect Irish banks might as well kiss those damn euros goodbye. You can't say I didn't warn 'ya!