Well, my hat is off to the global central planners for averting the next stage of the unfolding financial crisis for as long as they have. I guess there’s some solace in having had a nice break between the events of 2008/09 and today, which afforded us all the opportunity to attend to our various preparations and enjoy our lives.
Alas, all good things come to an end, and a crisis rooted in ‘too much debt’ with a nice undercurrent of ‘persistently high and rising energy costs’ was never going to be solved by providing cheap liquidity to the largest and most reckless financial institutions. And it has not.
Canary In The Gold Mine: In Historic Move, Japanese Pension Fund Switches To Gold For First Time EverSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 05/16/2012 11:36 -0500
As US weak hands keep piling out of gold whether to make space for the Facebook IPO tomorrow, or just to load up on paper currencies in advance of central banks printing much more, two things have happened: China is now on its way to becoming the biggest source of gold demand, surpassing India, but more importantly as of hours ago, in a truly historic move, "Okayama Metal & Machinery has become the first Japanese pension fund to make public purchases of gold, in a sign of dwindling faith in paper currencies." Not our words: the FT's.
Just as we predicted moments ago, and as Dutch Dagblad warned overnight:
- ECB STOPS MONETARY POLICY OPERATIONS TO SOME GREEK BANKS AS RECAPITALISATION NOT IN PLACE -CENBANK SOURCES
The beginning of the end? Or just more political posturing? In the meantime, EURUSD tumbles.
In one of the most fascinating psychological shifts, there has been a massive shift in the perspective of the Greek electorate since the election two weeks ago. Almost as if the size of the actual votes for Syriza, the far-left anti-bailout party, gave citizens 'permission' to be angry and vote angry. The latest opinion polls, as per Credit Suisse, show the center-right New Democracy party crashing from 108 seats to only 57 as Tsipras and his Syriza colleagues soar from 52 seats to a hugely dominant 128 seats. Is it any wonder the market is pricing GGBs at record lows and 'expecting' a Greek exit from the Euro as imminent given the rhetoric this party has vociferously discussed. On the bright side, the extreme right Golden Dawn party is seen losing some of its share. As UBS notes, "expressions of frustration in debtor countries have their analogue in creditor countries as well. No one is happy with the status quo." Still, how Europe's political leaders address voters' grievances will go a long way to determining the fate of the Eurozone and, quite possibly, the course of European history in the 21st century. Europe's politicians will undoubtedly prevaricate and deny. The troika will, with minor modifications, probably insist on 'staying the course'. Yet it seems to us that ignoring clear voter demands for change might well be Europe's worst choice.
European equities are seen lower across the board with the exception of the CAC-40 index as markets remain nervous towards the prospect of a second wave of Greek general elections. The outperformance of the CAC-40 follows the news from oil major Total, who have stemmed the gas leak from their Elgin well successfully after conducting intervention. As such, Total are seen higher by over 2%, strongly above the Oil & Gas sector. The Bank of England have released their latest projections for the UK economy, revising lower their growth forecasts and higher their near-term inflation expectations, alongside analyst forecasts. The BoE have stuck to their long-term predictions that there will be a slow but steady return to recovery, but reiterated that major downside risks exist from Europe. Governor King’s subsequent press conference has shown him to remain somewhat dovish, commenting that an increase in downside risks would prompt the bank to commit to further actions, leaving the door to a boost in asset purchases open. The forecast revisions prompted a sharp move lower in GBP/USD, falling around 75 pips and Gilt futures moving 55 ticks to the upside after the opening comments. At the midpoint of the session, GBP/USD remains in negative territory despite seeing support before the inflation report after better than expected UK jobless claims data.
Billionaire investor George Soros significantly increased his shares in the SPDR Gold Trust in the first quarter. Soros Fund Management nearly quadrupled its investment in the largest exchange-traded gold fund (GLD) to 319,550 shares - compared with 85,450 shares at the end of the fourth quarter. John Paulson maintained his large stake, the ETF’s largest stake and other large and respected institutional buyers were PIMCO and the Teacher Retirement System of Texas. Paulson, 56, who became a billionaire in 2007 by betting against the U.S. subprime mortgage market, told clients in February that gold is a good long term investment, serving as protection against currency debasement, rising inflation and a possible breakup of the euro. Eric Mindich’s Eton Park Capital also bought 739,117 shares in the SPDR Gold Trust during the first quarter. The New York-based fund held no shares of the exchange-traded product as of December 31. Overall holdings in the SPDR Trust rose just over 8% in the first quarter, after a 2% gain in Q4 2011.
If there was one analogy we had not heard so far to the deplorable European situation, it was that to P.T. Barnum's infamous "Egress." Following this morning's Art Cashin note, that is no longer the case. Granted, since it references a museum exhibit, such as what the EUR, not to mention European socialism which recently ran out of other people's money, will soon be, it is about time...
Germany's Bundesbank confirmed yesterday that the German gold reserves are held overseas by the Federal Reserve, the Bank of England and the Banque de France. The German parliament, the Bundestag, has been examining the accounting of German gold reserves at the Bundesbank. The parliament's Budget Committee, one of the most powerful committees in the German parliament, had requested a critical report by the Federal Audit Office. "The decision has been unanimous," the paper quoted the Christian Social Union budget expert Herbert Frankenhauser. The newspaper report alleged "account cheating" regarding the German gold reserves. According to a Bild report, the federal auditing office complained of "inadequate diligence of the accounting of the gold reserves, which are stored in some foreign countries. Repatriation of the gold reserves is encouraged.” The Bundesbank confirmed that it, like many central banks, keeps part of its reserves in vaults at foreign central banks and said some of its gold is held at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the Banque de France and the Bank of England. It declined to say how much gold in total is held overseas or how much gold is stored with the Federal Reserve, Bank of England and Banque de France. The Bundesbank statement said it had complete confidence in the integrity of the central banks where the gold is held. "From these central banks, the German Bundesbank annually gets confirmation of the gold holdings in troy ounces as a basis for its accounting," the Bundesbank’s statement said.
European bourses are trading in modest positive territory ahead of the US open with early trade seeing moves higher across equities as Germany printed an expectation-beating 0.5% growth in their flash Q1 GDP. Elsewhere, Eurozone growth surprised to the upside somewhat, coming in flat against the expected contraction of 0.2%. However, as time passed, Greece garnered the focus of markets once more as they face a EUR 435mln foreign-law bond redemption today. Government source comments have somewhat reassured markets that the payment will be made, but participants await official confirmation. Further assisting the moves off the highs was a lower-than expected ZEW survey from Germany, with economists noting that the French and German elections have knocked confidence in the country over the past month.
- JPMorgan Said to Weigh Bonus Clawbacks After Loss (Bloomberg)
- Obama Says JPMorgan Loss Shows Need for Tighter Rules (Bloomberg)
- Greeks Try New Tack, Seeking Technocrat Slate (WSJ)
- Euro zone finance ministers dismiss Greek exit "propaganda" (Reuters)
- Romney’s business record under fire (FT)
- Tide Turning in Japan Deflation Fight, BOJ’s Top Economist Says (BBG)
- Euro Chiefs May Offer Leniency to Greece (Bloomberg)
- Portugal's Progress Won't Guarantee Funding (WSJ)
- EU Bank-Liquidity Bill Proceeds; U.K. May Protest (WSJ)
- Cameron pressed to boost enterprise (FT)
As already noted, one piece of good news out of Europe - German GDP (ignore the huge ZEW miss) - was enough to make everyone forget the Italian bank downgrade, and that Greece is one election away from unwinding the EMU. Yet perhaps it is good to have a modest bounce from a market, which however not even Goldman says is oversold: after all the central planners need a day or two to regroup, and consider what currency to crush next to buy the global nominal stock market a few months of breathing room.
There was little good news out of Europe overnight, when several key countries (Germany, France, Greece and Portugal) reported their Q1 GDP, but what good news did come, namely that Germany avoided a double dip, with Q1 GDP printing at 0.5% on expectations of a 0.1% move, has for now saved the EURUSD and the futures. Why the growth: according to the German statistics office, net trade drove 1Q growth (thank you weaker EUR); domestic consumption rose in 1Q while investment declined in 1Q. The sellside community was quick: "Germany’s 1Q numbers show how EMU’s biggest economy is weathering debt crisis", Newedge said in a note. Then there was everyone else: Italian GDP contracted by 0.8%, more than consensus of 0.7%, the most in 3 years. Broadly, the Eurozone GDP avoided a technical recession with GDP printing at 0.0% on estimates of -0.2%. But as the PMI vs GDP chart below shows, this razor thin escape will hardly be repeated in Q2. Greek GDP declined by 6.2%, Portugal down by 0.1%, Holland down -0.2%, and so on. The well known split in Europe between Germany and everyone else continues, and just as we pointed out yesterday for the US: any "decoupling" is always temporary, and eventually catches up with the decouplee. Finally, proving that not all is well even in Germany, the ZEW Investor Confidence for May printed at nearly half expectations of 19, or 10.8, and down from 23.4.
Out of money and in the red, but with revenue projections out the wazoo