There are deepening concerns in Switzerland about the debasement of the Swiss franc. The SNB has pegged the franc to the euro and is engaged in the same ultra loose monetary policies as the Federal Reserve, BOE and the ECB. The SNB won't allow the franc to rise above an arbitrary “ceiling” against the euro Walter Meier himself said on April 5 that the SNB is ready to buy foreign currencies in "unlimited quantities." Meier’s comments regarding the vastly depleted Swiss gold reserves came after Bayram Dincer, an analyst at LGT Capital Management in Pfaeffikon, Switzerland, called on the SNB to disclose where its gold is stored, in a letter published in the respected Swiss publication Finanz und Wirtschaft. Meier said that the SNB holds its physical gold reserves “domestically and internationally, with provisions for a crisis scenario being a main factor in the decision for this decentralized storage”. “The criteria for the storage countries are: appropriate regional diversification, exceptionally stable economic and political environments, immunity for central bank investments, access to a gold market where stocks could be liquidated if necessary,” he continued. He concluded by saying that “such a decentralized storage is still preferable to an exclusive storage in Switzerland. The listed factors can change over time and that’s why the central bank is reviewing and adapting the storage locations periodically.” The SNB’s monetary policies have been imprudent in recent years and their gold sales have lost the Swiss people a lot of money.
There are two forthcoming dates which will set the direction and strength of the tide and certainly have a marked affect upon the ventures. They are this Sunday, May 6, when both the French and Greek populace will decide on who is running their government and then on May 31 when the Irish have their refrendum. At the least one must be thankful that there are Democracies that are working and that no group of Generals or some thug is making the decisions. Forthcoming we visualize many Socialist demands such as Eurobonds being made and Germany standing alone in the corner and refusing to fund which will make for all kinds of volatile markets. The bigger crisis though, we fear, will be when Germany says no to funding some grand Socialist idea. The problem is the size of the economy. The German economy is 25% of the American economy and it is going to get down to a matter of capital and what Germany can afford without being downgraded and a European Union without a AAA rated Germany is a very different affair both for the EU’s debt structure and for the Euro. In June the Fed’s Operation Twist comes to an end. There is no new stimulus plan on the table in either America or in Europe now. This means that the last four years of monetary easing and living off of that which has been printed is coming to an end. The consequences of this, historically, have been declines in the equity markets.
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.
- Chinese dissident seeks exile, strains U.S.-China ties (Reuters)
- Sarkozy and Hollande lock horns on TV (FT)
- UK in furious rejection of EU bank plan (FT)
- EU Fails to Reach Deal on Capital (WSJ)
- China energy use may be capped for 2015 (China Daily)
- Buffett Trails S&P 500 for Third Straight Year (Bloomberg)
- King admits failing to ‘shout’ about risk (FT)
- Obama promises 110,000 new summer jobs for youth (Reuters)
- China sturdy enough for reforms: Geithner (Reuters)
- Geithner repeats call for stronger yuan (Reuters)
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.
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.
In the early hours of the European session, continental markets opened higher, reacting to yesterday’s positive performance in the US. Sentiment quickly turned as continental Europe released its respective Manufacturing PMI figures, with even the core European nations recording declines in the sector and lower-than-expected readings. Despite the poor data, some major cash markets are clinging on to positive territory, as the CAC and DAX indices both trade higher. The Spanish and Italian markets, however, tell a different story. With both their respective PMIs recording significant declines, both now trade lower by around 2% apiece. Against the flow of bad Eurozone news, the UK has released an expectation-beating Construction PMI figure, going somewhat against last week’s breakdown of the official GDP statistics. Markit research cites strength in commercial work and new orders as the main driver for the growth. The downbeat data from Europe has taken its toll on EUR/USD, currently trading lower by over 90 pips, but the pair has come off the lows in recent trade. GBP/USD has mirrored the moves in the EUR and trades lower by over 40 pips, however some support has been gained from the strong Construction PMI.
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."
When we talk about Europe today in an economic context, we really mean the Eurozone, whose seventeen members are the core of Europe and share a common currency, the euro. The euro first came into existence thirteen years ago, on January 1, 1999, replacing national currencies for eleven states; Greece joined two years later. In theory, the idea of a common currency for European nations with common borders is logical, and it was Canadian economist Robert Mundell's work on optimum currency areas that provided much of the theoretical cover. However, the concept was flawed from the start.
With a Labour Day market holiday across the continent, focus turns to the FTSE-100. The UK market is trading modestly higher with some strong earnings reports overnight lifting the index. Lloyds Group posted stronger than expected profits and reported confidence in the delivery of their financial guidance. The report has boosted Lloyds shares to become one of the top gainers of the day. Despite this, the financials sector is being held back from outperforming as Man Group fail to deliver on their sales figures, pushing their shares lower throughout the session. The only notable data release of the European session was UK Manufacturing PMI, coming in below expectations with a reading of 50.5 as manufacturing output was dampened across April by Eurozone weakness and contracting new orders. Following the release, GBP weakness was observed, with GBP/USD touching upon session lows. Pre-market, the RBA cut their cash target rate by 50BPS, a larger cut than expected. The board cited skittish market conditions and below trend output growth as the triggers for the rate cut. As such, AUD weakness is observed across the board and AUD/USD stops just short of breaking through 1.0300 to the downside. Looking ahead in the session, participants look toward US ISM Manufacturing for March due at 1500BST/0900CDT as the next key data release.
- Europe focus of global May Day labour protests (BBC)
- Occupy movement's May Day turnout seen as test for its future (Reuters)
- BofA to Cut From Elite Ranks, will fire 2000 (WSJ)
- Man Group Has $1 Billion Outflows; Shares Slide on Cash Concern (Bloomberg)
- Obama Fails to Stem Middle-Class Slide He Blamed on Bush (Bloomberg)
- Berlin insists on eurozone austerity (FT)
- This must be really good for AMZN's 1.5% operating profit margins: Microsoft muscles in on ebooks (FT)
- Ohio Union Fight Shakes Up Race (WSJ)
- How to Lose $7.8 Billion and Still Be Top of the Rich List (WSJ)
- Hollande Seen Bowing to Debt Crisis in Socialists’ Balancing Act (Bloomberg)
- BP profit falls as Gulf spill costs still weigh (Reuters)
We doubt many tears will be shed over the now official departure of Europe's most embarrassing political figurehead: the head of the Euro-area finance ministers, one Jean-Claude Juncker, whose presence did more documented damage to the credibility of Europe than... well, we would say virtually anyone else, but then again since everyone else in the European pantheon is a shining example of DSM IV-level sociopathology, we are kinda stuck. But anyway: Juncker is finally gone "he’s tired of Franco-German interference in managing the region’s debt crisis." And while the decision was known for a while, the ultimate catalyst is rather unexpected, and exposes just how frail the entire Eurozone is: “They act as if they are the only members of the group,” Juncker said today at a podium discussion in Hamburg." If this is coming from the man who admittedly lies for a living, we can't imagine just how bad the truth about the internal fissures within the Eurozone must be. Actually, we can.
Over the weekend, just because apparently someone really needed content at any cost (in this case zero), we got a new intellectual stillborn from none other than the man who more than anyone is responsible for the global economic collapse the world has been in for the past 4 years, and from which it is nowhere even close in escaping. The man of course is Larry Summers, who first crushed global finance, then Harvard, and finally Obama's economic platform, whom the FT saw fit to give the chance to pontificate on such concepts at growth and austerity, because apparently, growth through austerity, whereby banking sector debt is written down in parallel is not growth, but there is some subsegment of "growth", heretofore unknown, that Europe has not tried before, and will instead focus on that going forward. To paraphrase Lewis Black: don't think about that sentence too hard, or blood will shoot out of your nose.
All major European bourses are trading lower with the exception of the DAX, which holds just above the open by a modest margin. Adidas ranks among the top performers in the German index, following the report of a strong set of sales figures, contributing to the positive trade. Spanish concerns continue to build up as Standard & Poor’s took ratings action on 16 of the country’s banks, downgrading the notable names of Banco Santander and BBVA. Although the move was not a surprise as this is the usual procedure following a sovereign downgrade, both Santander and BBVA, along with the IBEX are in negative territory. The Bund is seen higher amid a generally risk-off theme to markets this morning. Volumes have been relatively light, however a slight pick-up has been observed in recent trade, grinding the security upwards in the last hour or so. EUR/USD continues to experience weakness and now trades close to a touted option expiry of 1.3200, as traders seek the safety of the USD across a number of currency crosses.