The ECB's Press Corps Realize They Have No Idea What OMT Is: "The Rules Are What They Are" Explains DraghiSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/07/2013 13:06 -0400
It took six months of humiliatingly empty rhetoric and bluster, before Europe's press corps, or rather just the FT's Michael Steen, finally asked perhaps the one most important question regarding the OMT, which does not stand for On Merkel's Tab, but rather "Outright Monetary Transactions" (full Draghi definition here) and is the magic "open-ended" bond-buying bullet and SMP replacement that has stabilized Europe: namely "what is it?" That it took so long for reporters, and by implication, the markets to actually point out that the emperor is indeed naked and inquire into the legal working of the ECB's deus ex machina is a testament to just what lengths the broader public has been zombified into believing that "the less you know, the better" historically, one of the KGB's better known slogans.
Futures Ignore 13 Year High In French Unemployment, Tumble In German Factor Orders; Rise On Spanish AuctionSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/07/2013 07:55 -0400
In today's overnight trading, it was all about Europe (and will be with today's BOE and ECB announcements), where things continue as they have for the past six months: when it is a problem that can be "solved" by throwing bucketloads of money, and/or guaranteeing all risk, things appear to be better, such as today's EUR5.03 billion Spanish bond auction (the 0.03 billion part being quite critical as otherwise how will the authorities indicate the pent up demand by the Spanish retirement fund and various other insolvent ECB-backstopped Spanish banks for Spanish debt). And while events that can be "fixed" with massive liquidity injections are doing better, those other events which rely on reality, and the transfer of liquidity into the real economy, are just getting worse and worse. Sure enough, today we also learned that French unemployment rate just hit a 13 year high. But it wasn't only the French economy that continued to slide into recession: Germany wasn't immune either following "surprising" news that German January Factory Orders tumbled -1.9% M/M on expectations of a 0.6% rise, down from a revised 1.1% in December. The great equalization in Europe continues, as the PIIGS, kept still on artificial life support do everything in their power to drag down the core.
A small note on the frankly hilarious news that the Dow Jones Industrial Average smashed through to all-time-highs. First of all, while stock prices are soaring household income and household confidence are slumping to all-time lows. Employment remains depressed, energy remains expensive, housing remains depressed, wages and salaries as a percentage of GDP keep falling, and the economy remains in a deleveraging cycle. Essentially, these are not the conditions for strong organic business growth, for a sustainable boom. We’re going through a structural economic adjustment, and suffering the consequences of a huge 40-year debt-fuelled boom. While the fundamentals remain weak, it can only be expected that equity markets should remain weak. But that is patently not what has happened. With every day that the DJIA climbs to new all-time highs, more suckers will be drawn into the market. But it won’t last. Insiders have already gone aggressively bearish. This time isn’t different.
Unlike the session before, there has been little actionable news overnight, with the euphoria from the record high DJIA still translating into a buying panic, and forcing algos to buy futures because other algos are buying futures, and so on, simply because nothing says cheap like all time high prices (and forward multiples that are higher than 2007 levels). The one event so far was the Europe's second Q4 GDP estimate which came in as expected at -0.6%, the fifth consecutive decline in a row. More notable was that Q4 exports tumbled by 0.9% which was the biggest fall since Q1 2009. And while the news has served to keep the EURUSD in line and subdued ahead of tomorrow's ECB conference, the stock market buying panic has moved to European stocks which continue to ignore fundamentals, and are soaring, taking peripheral bond yields lower with them, despite ongoing lack of any clarity what happens in Italy as Bersani is ready to propose a government to parliament which is certain not to pass. But in a world in which fundamentals and reality have lost all significance, and in which only momentum and hope matter, we expect that risk will continue being bid in line with central bank balance sheet expansion until this tired 4 year old last recourse plan no longer works.
When you get this close to a record it’s just a matter of time before it gets taken out generally. Why today? Well, China reversed course psychologically by now stating it would expand “deficit spending by 50%” after just Monday putting the clamps theoretically on their housing bubble. That provided a big lift to Asian and European shares. With the latter more ECB talk about defending the eurozone and euro was fed bulls. Global markets also feasted on Fed Vice-Chair (the woman who would be king?) Janet Yellen that QEternity is not gonna change.
The political balance has changed substantially over the last year, from the cosy days when Merkel met Sarkozy and Monti kept the Italians in order. Germany faces full elections in September this year, and it will be difficult for Chancellor Merkel to win, given that her party, the Christian Democrats, did badly in the local German elections in January. The German voter has generally been more concerned with Germany’s relative economic success, bringing low unemployment, than the intractable problem of supporting other Eurozone nations. Given Merkel’s political difficulties, she is likely to be slow to subscribe Germany’s full commitment and can use the excuse that she can only be expected to match the other large contributors – who are by the way, France, Italy, and Spain. It is likely to be a political virtue for her to take a tougher line. It would therefore be a mistake to think that Germany is going to continue to fund profligate governments. Since the ECB has already created the precedent (quote from Mr Draghi: “Whatever it takes”), the ECB will have to end up creating the money required.
What really strikes us is the universal belief by the majority of analysts, economists and commentators, that there is currently "no evidence" of an asset bubble. This idea was further confirmed by Bernanke's testimony last week he explicitly stated: "I don't see much evidence of an equity bubble" In the long term it will ultimately be the fundamentals that drive the markets. Currently, the deterioration in the growth rate of earnings, and economic strength, are not supportive of the speculative rise in asset prices or leverage. The idea of whether, or not, the Federal Reserve, along with virtually every other central bank in the world, are inflating the next asset bubble is of significant importance to investors who can ill afford to once again lose a large chunk of their net worth. It is all reminiscent of the market peak of 1929 when Dr. Irving Fisher uttered his now famous words: "Stocks have now reached a permanently high plateau." The clamoring of voices that the bull market is just beginning is telling much the same story. History is repleat with market crashes that occurred just as the mainstream belief made heretics out of anyone who dared to contradict the bullish bias.
If Friday and yesterday it was Europe's reporting of ugly and below expectation economic data that pushed US stock futures ultimately higher, today it will be Europe's modest economic data beats that will send futures, where else, higher, and result in the Dow Jones breaking its nominal all time highs at the open or shortly thereafter. Following the Chinese economic update in its State of the Union address, which as we reported earlier, saw China set more moderate growth targets for itself resulting in the SHCOMP nearly wiping out Monday's losses, it was Europe's turn to shine which it did following the report of various Service PMI, which unlike last week's horrible manufacturing PMI data, were better than expected with the natural exception of Spain which printed at 44.7, well below the January 47.0, the first drop since September driven by the sharpest job losses since March of 2009, and Italy which dropped from 43.9 to 43.6, same as expected. The core countries' Services PMI beat: France coming at 43.7, on expectation of an unchanged print from last month's 42.7, and Germany printing at 54.7 vs also an expectation of an unchanged 54.1. Not very surprisingly, however, it was not the EURUSD which benefited the most from this data, which has lost nearly 50 pips from its overnight highs following the better economic news, but the various equity futures which have one centrally-planned goal: to take out all time DJIA highs or else, and unless something changes in the next three hours, precisely this will happen.
“For many young Greeks, the election in Italy now provides a model. If the population of the third-largest economy in the euro zone so openly opposes the austerity measures, then the exit of individual countries from the euro zone is no longer taboo.” Der Spiegel
Italy will be holding another election, which puts the country in a dead calm until there is a functioning government. The key in Italy is the outsider and comedian Beppe Grillo whose party has put the government in dysfunction and in parallel has created a monster of an uprising against corruption within both political parties. The movement itself is larger than Grillo and may be the well-springs of copycat movements throughout southern Europe that threatens the euro and the establishment. It’s a disruptive a movement and would be like a Ron Paul to U.S. political parties. No matter the outcome, the bottom line is Italy will remain a drag on eurozone equity prices until there is a resolution.
When the Eurozone crisis first broke some four years ago, most analysts quickly and correctly concluded that the Eurozone was an incomplete monetary union; but, as UBS Larry Hatheway notes, neither rapid integration nor breakup were or are politically feasible options for Europe’s political classes. The 'Merkel-Draghi wager' then began with the determination that capital markets would not dictate Europe’s future: with growth-supporting fiscal transfers or debt mutualisation ruled out by national politics, the remainder of the story is about an ‘Austrian’ solution to cleanse Europe of excessive fiscal deficits, narrow gaps in competitiveness, and shrink external imbalances. The ‘Merkel-Draghi wager’, then, is a political gamble of historic proportions. It is a calculated bet that a policy prescription of robust liquidity buffers coupled with internal devaluation and fiscal consolidation will work. Equally, it is a view that the historical, cultural, economic, financial and political forces that have brought Europe together in the post-war era will prove stronger than those unleashed by the wrenching social dislocations associated with ‘Austrian’ economics that could one day threaten to rip apart the Eurozone. So far, the ‘wager’ is working in economic terms, or at least that's the hope.
Are we running out of time? For the last several years, we have been living in a false bubble of hope that has been fueled by massive amounts of debt and bailout money. This illusion of economic stability has convinced most people that the great economic crisis of 2008 was just an "aberration" and that now things are back to normal. Unfortunately, that is not the case at all. The truth is that the financial crash of 2008 was just the first wave of our economic troubles. We have not even come close to recovering from that wave, and the next wave of the economic collapse is rapidly approaching. Our economy is like a giant sand castle that has been built on a foundation of debt and toilet paper currency. As each wave of the crisis hits us, the solutions that our leaders will present to us will involve even more debt and even more money printing. And each time, those "solutions" will only make our problems even worse. Right now, events are unfolding in Europe and in the United States that are pushing us toward the next major crisis moment. I sincerely hope that we have some more time before the next crisis overwhelms us, but as you will see, time is rapidly running out. The following are 12 things that just happened that show the next wave of the economic collapse is almost here...
Earlier we reviewed the overnight plunge in China stocks, especially those related to the real-estate market in the aftermath of the latest move by the State Council to be far more hawkish than expected, in its effort to curb property inflation. The economic and market weakness that resulted has followed through to overnight US and European futures, even as peripheral bonds are trading roughly unchanged, surprising many who thought this weekend's Beppe Grillo statement on the future of Italian debt and presence in the Eurozone would be market moving: it wasn't as Grillo said nothing that he had not already made quite clear. In other, more recent economic news, UK construction PMI imploded to recession levels, plunging to 46.8 from 49.0, far below expectations and the lowest print since October 2009, setting the stage for much more Goldman-led reflation by the BOE. Also negative was the drop in the Eurozone Sentix Investor Confidence index which tumbled to -10.6 from -3.9 on expectations of -4.3, sending the EURUSD deep into 1.29 territory. It appears the Sentix excludes the soaring German confidence, which two weeks ago was the sole driver of all upside, not once but twice in one week. Today we get the first day of the sequester being digested by the market - this togetger with an empty macro calendar in the US means rumors and headlines will determine how far GETCO's algo push the stop hunts during the first and last 30 minutes of trading.
In the upcoming week the key focus on the data side will be on US payrolls, which are expected to be broadly unchanged and the services PMIs globally, including the non-manufacturing ISM in the US. Broadly speaking, global services PMIs are expected to remain relatively close to last month's readings. And the same is true for US payrolls and the unemployment rate. On the policy side there is long lost with policy meetings but we and consensus expect no change in any of these: RBA, BoJ, Malaysia, Indonesia, ECB, Poland, BoE, BoC, Brazil, Mexico. Notable macro issues will be the ongoing bailout of Cyprus, the reiteration of the OMT's conditionality in the aftermath of Grillo's and Berlusconi's surge from behind in Italy. China's sudden hawkishness, the BOE announcement and transition to a Goldman vassal state, and finally the now traditional daily jawboning out of the BOJ.
China Tumbles On Real-Estate Inflation Curbs: Biggest Property Index Drop Since 2008; Japan Downgraded On AbenomicsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/04/2013 04:28 -0400
As we have been warning for nearly a year, the biggest threat facing China has been the fact that contrary to solemn promises, the problem of persistent, strong and very much relentless real-estate inflation has not only not been tamed but has been first and foremost on the minds of both the PBOC and the local government. After all with the entire "developed" world flooding the market every single day with countless billions in new cheap, hot money, it was inevitable that much of it would end up in the mainland Chinese real estate market. And since both the central bank and the politburo are well aware that the path from property inflation to broad price hikes, including the all critical to social stability pork and other food, is very short, it was inevitable that the issue of inflation would have to be dealt with eventually. Tonight is that "eventually", when following news from two days ago that yet another Chinese PMI indicator missed, this time the Services data which slid from 56.2 to 54.5, the government announced its most aggressive round of property curbs yet. The immediate result was that the Shanghai Stock Exchange Property Index slumped by a whopping 9.3%, the steepest drop since June 2008, and pushing it down to -11% for the year. The weakness also spread to the broader market, with the Composite closing down 3.65% the biggest drop in months, and now just barely positive, at +0.2%, year to date. We expect all 2013 gains to be promptly wiped out when tonight's risk off session resumes in earnest.
From his perch in the United Kingdom, Alasdair Macleod provides an update on the ongoing economic crisis in Europe, which -- while largely absent from headlines in the US of late - continues to worsen. Due to bloated state-run programs and extreme malinvestment, EU governments find themselves in a box. Economic growth has stalled, and no amount of intervention seems able to get it going again. So in order to keep their economies moving forward, they are becoming increasingly rapacious in extorting tax revenues from wherever they can find them. This, of course, is strangling the private sector. And so a vicious cycle ensues.