The recent slide in the gold price has generated substantial demand for bullion that will likely bring forward a financial and systemic disaster for both central and bullion banks that has been brewing for a long time. To understand why, we must examine their role and motivations in precious metals markets and assess current ownership of physical gold, while putting investor emotion into its proper context. The time when central banks will be unable to continue to manage bullion markets by intervention has probably been brought closer. They will face having to rescue the bullion banks from the crisis of rising gold and silver prices by other means, if only to maintain confidence in paper currencies. This will likely develop into another financial crisis at the worst possible moment, when central banks are already being forced to flood markets with paper currency to keep interest rates down, banks solvent, and to finance governments’ day-to-day spending. History might judge April 2013 as the month when through precipitate action in bullion markets Western central banks and the banking community finally began to lose control over all financial markets.
Now that we have the first estimate of Q1 GDP growth in both rate of change and absolute current dollar terms ($16,010 billion), we can finally assign the appropriate debt number, which we know on a daily basis and which was $16,771.4 billion as of March 31, to the growth number. The end result: as of March 31, 2013, the US debt/GDP was 104.8%, up from 103% as of December 31, 2012 or a debt growth rate that would make the most insolvent Eurozone nation blush. There was a time when people were concerned about this unsustainable trajectory, but then there was an infamous excel error, and now nobody cares anymore.
While the main, if completely irrelevant, macroeconomic news of the day will be the first estimate of US Q1 GDP due out later today, perhaps the best testament of just how meaningless fundamental data has become was the scheduled BOJ announcement overnight in which Kuroda's merry men simply stated what was expected by everyone: the Japanese central bank merely repeated its pledge to double the monetary base in two years. The lack of any incremental easing, is what pushed both the USDJPY as low as 98.20 overnight (98.60 at last check), over 100 pips from the highs, and has pressured the Nikkei into its first red close in days, and shows just how habituated with the constant cranking up of the liqudity spigot the G-7 market has truly become.
Yesterday’s quarterly bank lending survey capped off a series of indicators with a bleak message for the Eurozone economy. Almost all signs suggest that Europe continues to spiral downwards. The lending survey, compiled by the European Central Bank (ECB), is one of the best leading indicators of all because it tells us about the critical credit link in the economy. In the Eurozone today, tight credit is part of a vicious circle that includes business retrenchment, weakening demand, job cuts and falling incomes. And the scariest thing about the circle is that it feeds on itself – each part reinforces the other parts. It won’t go on forever, but we need to see some improvement in the leading edge of the economy before we can expect it to end. As far as the most telling leading indicators, those that can be directly manipulated through monetary policy are the only ones pointing to a possible end to the vicious circle. In other words: interest rates and equity markets. Until we signs of strength in at least one or two of the leading indicators discussed below, bet on the recession to continue.
A peculiar trading session, in which the usual overnight futures levitation has not been led by the BOJ-inspired USDJPY rise (even as the Nikkei225 rose another 0.6% more than offset by the Shanghai Composite drop of 0.86%), which actually has slid all session briefly dipping under 99 moments ago, but by the EURUSD, which saw a bout of buying around 5 am Eastern, just after news hit that the UK would avoid a triple dip recession with Q1 GDP rising 0.3% versus expectations of a 0.1% rise, up from a -0.3% in Q4 (more in Goldman note below). Since the news that the BOE will likely delay engaging in more QE (just in time for the arrival of Carney) is hardly EUR positive we look at the other news hitting around that time, such as Finland saying that the euro can survive in Cyprus exits the Eurozone, and that Merkel has rejected standardized bank guarantees for the foreseeable future, and we are left scratching our heads what is the reason for the brief burst in the Euro.
Those who think back to November 2011 will recall that it wasn't Jon Corzine's wrong way bet on Italian bonds that ultimately led to the bankruptcy of MF Global, well it did in part, but the real Chapter 11 cause was the sudden liquidity shortage due to the way the trades were structured as a Repo To Maturity, where the bank had hoped to collect the carry from the bond coupons, thereby offsetting the nominal repo cost of funding. The kind of deal which is the very definition of collecting pennies in front of a steamroller, as while the funding cost may be tiny and the capital allocated negligible (due to the nearly infinite implied leverage involved when using repo), when the underlying instrument crashes, and the originating counterparty has to fund a massive variation margin shortfall, that is when the shadow transformation cascade triggers an immediate liquidity crisis, which can result in liquidation cascade in a few brief hours. It happened with MF Global, it happened with Lehman too. And, we now learn, it also happened with Italy's most troubled and oldest bank, Monte Paschi (BMPS), whose endless bailouts, political intrigue, depoit runs, and cooked books have all been covered extensively here previously.
Insider offered an alternative, a heresy for Germans, an exit strategy if you will, a Plan B.... And he predicted that the euro might not last another five years!
"While I think this policy is fundamentally right, I think [austerity] has reached its limits," was EU President Barroso's firestarter comment yesterday. As the WSJ reports, the IMF also said last week that the bloc should ease back on austerity, while a number of governments outside the EU have made the same call, arguing that its belt-tightening is holding back the global economic recovery and could end up being self-defeating. Of course, the beggars are once again trying to be choosers as Spain's de Guindos pushes his agenda along this 'growth vs austerity' path, "What we are going to do now is strike a better balance between deficit reduction and economic growth," but it is the bagholders (or money-men) of Europe that has the last word. As we noted yesterday, Merkel's expectations are no more money without ceding sovereignty, this morning it is German MPs who are up in arms as Nobert Barthle condemns Barroso's statements on austerity and Hans Michelbach flatly rejects this path of no resistance as it "undermines fiscal consolidation efforts." Perhaps the most clear message was from Volker Wissing who added, "demanding more money or time would send a 'fatal' signal to financial markets on reforms." With German PMIs so bad this morning, we are reminded of Bill Blain's comment, that ultimately growth is about confidence - and right now, Europe is a very unhappy place.
Yet another round of less than impressive macroeconomic data from China and Eurozone failed to deter equity bulls and heading into the North American crossover, stocks in Europe are seen higher, with tech and financials as best performers. The disappointing PMI data from Germany, where the Services component fell below the expansionary 50, underpins the view that the ECB will likely cut the benchmark interest rates next month and may even indicate that it is prepared to provide additional support via LTROs. As a result, the EONIA curve bull flattened and the 2/10s German spread flattened by almost 3bps to levels not seen since June 2012. In turn, Bund future hit YTD peak at 146.77 and the next technical level to note is 146.89, 1st June 2012 high. However it is worth noting that the upside traction is also being supported by large coupon payments and redemptions from France, the second highest net market inflow for 2013.
- China’s Recovery Falters as Manufacturing Growth Cools (BBG)
- Gloomy eurozone output points to rate cut (FT)
- Limit Austerity, EU appartchik Barroso Says (WSJ)
- Regulators Get Banks to Rein In Bonus Pay (WSJ)
- SEC looks to ease rules for launching ETFs (Reuters)
- Easy come, easy go: U.S. Seizes $21 Million From Electric Car Maker Fisker (WSJ)
- Japan nationalists near disputed isles (Reuters)
- OECD in fresh warning on Japan debt (FT)
- S&P says more than one-third chance of Japan downgrade, cites risks to Abenomics (Reuters)
If there was any debate about the global economic contraction, driven largely due to pundits confusing manipulated stock market levitation with this anachronistic thing called the "economy" and fundamentals for the fourth year in a row, all doubts were removed after this morning's manufacturing PMI data out of China, which as reported previously was a big disappointment (sending the Composite firmly into the red for the year down 2.57% to 2184.5) only to be followed by just as disappointing manufacturing and services PMI data out of Germany, which tumbled from 49 and 50.9 to 47.9 and 49.2, respectively, missing estimates of 49.and 51. The composite German PMI tumbled to a 6-month low of 48.8 as a result, meaning the European economic deterioration is just getting started, and at the worst possible time for Merkel several months ahead of her reelection campaign. The end result was a miss in the blended Eurozone Mfg PMI, which dropped from 46.8 to 46.5, even as the less relevant Services component eaked out a small gain from 46.4 to 46.6, on the back of a dead cat bounce in French economic indicators. Bottom line: a contraction in both European manufacturing and services for the 15th consecutive month. Some "recovery."
The commodity market is saying global growth is slowing. But, there is hope, as BofAML's David Woo notes, the US equity market is saying US consumers are still going strong; and the FX and European sovereign markets seem to believe Mrs. Watanabe is about to embark on a global shopping spree. However, like us, Woo thinks it is unlikely that these markets will all turn out to be right. At the same time, we agree completely with Woo's assessment that markets may be under pricing three macro risks: the ability of Beijing to ease policy aggressively in the face of strong home price appreciation may be limited; the positive wealth effect of US housing recovery may not be enough to offset the contractionary impact of fiscal tightening; Japanese money may stay at home longer than expected. As he concludes, "something will have to give and a major re-alignment of the markets, the odds of which are rising, will probably not be either smooth or benign."
- Turn to Religion Split Bomb Suspects' Home (WSJ)
- The propaganda is back for the 4th year in a row: Spring Swoon Sequel No Reason for Economic Growth Scare in U.S. (BBG)
- Bernanke Jackson Hole Absence Contrasts With Greenspan Adulation (BBG)
- Large economies promise to boost growth (FT)
- Tata Faces Crisis as $20 Billion Spent on Water (BBG)
- U.S. Eyes Pushback On China Hacking (WSJ)
- Fed's Bernanke sees no U.S. inflation risks: Nowotny (Reuters)
- Austerity on Trial With U.S. Versus Europe Amid New Evidence (BBG)
- Eurozone anti-austerity camp on the rise (FT)
- Spain Aims to Soften Budget Cuts (WSJ)
- Japan's Aso Calls Recovery 'Few Years' Away (WSJ)
- BOJ Said to Consider Price Forecast Upgrade (WSJ)
Caterpillar just can't catch a break. First, in January the firm was punk'd by a Chinese acquisition fraud, forcing the company to write off half of its Q4 earnings. This, of course, in the aftermath of the miss in both Q3 and Q4 earnings. And now we get the latest disappointing news from the firm as Q1 numbers are reported lower across the board.
- Q1 EPS $1.31, Exp $1.38; this includes a tax benefit of $87 million
- Q1 revenue: $13.2 billion, Exp. $13.8 billion
- Guides much lower, with revenue now seen at $57-61 billion, compared to $60-68 billion previously
- CAT forecasts profit per share of $7.00, compared to $7.00-9.00 previously.
- Operating cash flow of $900MM, but all of it generated from net working capital, i.e., inventory liquidation
- And when you can't spend on capex, you spend on buybacks: CAT to extend buyback through 2015
So much for that.
With no macro data on the docket (the NAR's self promotional "existing home sales" advertising brochure is anything but data), the market will be chasing the usual carry currency pair suspects for hints how to trade. Alas, with even more ominous economics news out of Europe, and an apparently inability of Mrs Watanabe to breach 100 on the USDJPY (hitting 99.98 for the second time in two weeks before rolling over once more), we may be rangebound, or downward boung if CAT shocks everyone with just how bad the Chinese (and global) heavy construction (and thus growth) reality truly is. One asset, however, that has outperformed and is up by well over 2% is gold, trading at $1435 at last check, over $100 from the lows posted a week ago, and rising rapidly on no particular news as the sell off appears to be over and now the snapback comes and the realization that Goldman was happily buying everything its clients were selling all along.