Less than impressive PMIs from Europe, as well as China failed to depress the bullish sentiment as market participants remained hopeful that a full scale bailout of Spain will take place in the very near future. As a result, in spite of opening lower, equity markets in Europe have edged into positive territory, supported by utilities and telecommunication sectors. Banks also posted decent gains, after Spanish economy minister outlined the bad bank plan which is to be financed with senior debt and private investors to have majority stake in bad bank. The bank recap plan is expected to be running by start of December. Italian markets outperformed, largely due to the fact that today’s Italian Services PMI posted a minor improvement on the previous reading. Bond yield spreads continued to tighten, however flows remained light ahead of the ECB policy meeting tomorrow, as well as the latest round of issuance from Spain and France. Heading into the North American open, EUR/USD is trading little changed as demand from Middle Eastern, as well as EU semi-official accounts was offset by risk event (ECB, auctions) pre-positioning. Going forward, the second half of the session sees the release of the latest ADP Employment Report, ISM Non-Manufacturing and the weekly DoE inventory survey.
Tonight's session has been even more boring than yesterday's, when nothing happened. Several data points came out of Europe, some better than expected, some worse, but all massively beaten down to where any uptick is merely a dead cat bounce. Retail sales in the euro zone rose 0.1 percent in August from July, when they also gained 0.1 percent. From a year earlier, sales dropped 1.3 percent. A composite PMI of manufacturing and services industries in the euro area fell to 46.1 in September from 46.3 in August, Markit Economics said. That’s above an initial estimate of 45.9. The problem is that the PMIs of the most notable countries: Germany (at 49.7 on expectations of 50.6, lowest since March 2006), France (45.0, down from 46.1, and below consensus of an unchanged print -keep a close eye on this suddenly fast-motion trainwrecking economy), Spain, UK and Sweden all missed badly. In the U.K., where the services PMI dropped to 52.2 in September from 53.7 in August. But don't call it a stagflation: it's been here for years - U.K. retail prices rose 1 percent in September from a year earlier after a 1.1 percent gain in August, the British Retail Consortium said. Some additional data via BBG - Britons injected a net 9.8 billion pounds into their housing equity in the second quarter, the Bank of England said. Elsewhere, one central bank that refuses to join the global easefest is, not surprisingly, Iceland’s central bank kept the sevenday collateral lending rate unchanged at 5.75 percent for a second meeting. None of this has been able to move the futures which are net flat with Treasuries steady, before the US ISM Services number (est. 53.4 from 53.7), the total joke of an indicator which is the ADP Employment (est. 140k from 201k) but which wrong as it always is, is the only advance hint into Friday as traders prepare for Friday’s nonfarm payrolls report (est. 115k, unemployment rate rising to 8.2%).
Our analysis of the physical gold market shows that central banks have most likely been a massive unreported supplier of physical gold, and strongly implies that their gold reserves are negligible today. If Frank Veneroso’s conclusions were even close to accurate back in 1998 (and we believe they were), when coupled with the 2,300 tonne net change in annual demand we can easily identify above, it can only lead to the conclusion that a large portion of the Western central banks’ stated 23,000 tonnes of gold reserves are merely a paper entry on their balance sheets – completely un-backed by anything tangible other than an IOU from whatever counterparty leased it from them in years past. At this stage of the game, we don’t believe these central banks will be able to get their gold back without extreme difficulty, especially if it turns out the gold has left their countries entirely. We can also only wonder how much gold within the central bank system has been ‘rehypothecated’ in the process, since the central banks in question seem so reluctant to divulge any meaningful details on their reserves in a way that would shed light on the various “swaps” and “loans” they imply to be participating in. We might also suggest that if a proper audit of Western central bank gold reserves was ever launched, as per Ron Paul’s recent proposal to audit the US Federal Reserve, the proverbial cat would be let out of the bag – with explosive implications for the gold price.... We realize that some readers may scoff at any analysis of the gold market that hints at “conspiracy”. We’re not talking about conspiracy here however, we’re talking about stupidity. After all, Western central banks are probably under the impression that the gold they’ve swapped and/or lent out is still legally theirs, which technically it may be. But if what we are proposing turns out to be true, and those reserves are not physically theirs; not physically in their possession… then all bets are off regarding the future of our monetary system.
Here are a few interesting tidbits to chew on...
We have presented many charts over the last few weeks showing the collapse in retail sales in Spain, along with surging unemployment, bankruptcies and non-performing bank loans. But to do justice to the situation, you’ve got to put it in context of the last 150 years, and JPMorgan's Michael Cembalest provides just such context. Spain’s adventure in the Eurozone has sent it into an economic tailspin the likes of which have not been seen, with the exception of the Spanish Civil War, since the 19th century. At that time, the Spanish empire was at the tail end of its colonial decline, and was an under-regulated, agrarian, closed economy subject to frequent crises. The chart shows the details, highlighting the economic declines during revolutions, depressions and agricultural epidemics. Spain’s recent decline has now matched them.
While the 'Misery' Index in Iran reaches exceptional levels, and the US aggregate of inflation and unemployment peaked last October, Europe's misery has continued to rise in the face of an ever-easing ECB and political jawboning. As SocGen notes today, the UK's misery has turned back higher and the Euro-zone's Misery Index has never been higher. These misery indices clearly reflect deteriorating economic performances in the main G10 countries, with some unsurprisingly weaker performances in Spain and Greece, leading the eurozone index higher. Given recessionary situations expected in some eurozone countries next year, the misery index is unfortunately quite unlikely to edge south significantly.
Factory output has shrunk for 14 consecutive months and businesses must continue to trim the fat of their organizations during these recessionary times. The report showed that 18.2 million people were jobless in September; this is an increase of 34,000 people versus the previous month. As living standards fall and livelihoods are being wretched voter anger is becoming increasingly palpable, especially in countries such as Spain and France. History provides countless lessons as to the political consequences of detached economic policies and their real effects. Northern Europe’s gamesmanship in rewriting previously agreed banking debt support may set a dangerous precedent and tear apart the tenuous ties of trust between governments - who after all must act together if they are ever to forge a solution to their current economic plight.
- Trade Slows Around World (WSJ)
- Debt limit lurks in fiscal cliff talks (FT)
- Welcome back to the eurozone crisis (FT, Wolfgang Munchau)
- Euro Leaders Face October of Unrest After September Rally (Bloomberg)
- Dad, you were right (FT)
- 25% unemployment, 25% bad loans, 5% drop in Industrial Production, and IMF finally lowers its 2013 Greek GDP forecast (WSJ)
- Global IPOs Slump to Second-Lowest Level Since Financial Crisis (Bloomberg)
- France's Hollande faces street protest over EU fiscal pact (Reuters)
- EU Working to Resolve Difference on Bank Plan, Rehn Says (Bloomberg)
- China manufacturing remains sluggish (FT)
- Samaras vows to fight Greek corruption (FT) ... and one of these days he just may do it
- Leap of Faith (Hssman)
- Germany told to 'come clean’ over Greece (AEP)
After dropping to its 200 DMA, and threatening to breach its recent support level of 1.2800, the EURUSD has seen the usual powerlift over the past 4 hours, on two key events out of Europe: Eurozone unemployment, which came at a record 11.4%, up from 11.3% (which just happened to be revised to 11.4%) but because it was in line with expectations of the ongoing recession, all was forgiven. The other event was Eurozone manfucaturing PMI, which rose by the smallest amount possible from the 46.0 in August to 46.1, on expectations of an unchanged print. That 0.1% "beat" is what has so far set off a near 100 pip rush higher in the EURUSD, which has ignored the Chinese weakness overnight (the SHCOMP is closed for the Chinese Golden Week), as well as the UK PMI which did not share in the European "improvement" and tumbled from 49.5 to 48.4 on expectations of a 49.0 print (so much for that latest BOE easing), and instead is transfixed by headlines proclaiming the strongest PMI in 6 months. What also is being ignored is the components in the Eurozone PMI, with the leading New Order index falling to 43.5 from 43.7. But the data being ignored the hardest is the French PMI which tumbled to 42.7, the lowest print in 41 months, of which as MarkIt's chief economist Chris Williamson said "France is perhaps the new worry, with its PMI slumping to the lowest for three-and-a-half years." Coming at a 3+ year low when France desperately needs its new wealth redistribution budget to be credible, is not the best possible outcome. Bottom line: Europe is in a recession, but maybe not outright depression just yet, so the thinking is - buy the EUR, strengthen the currency, make German exports weaker, and make sure the recession becomes a full on depression. Or something like that.
It appears that in the past few weeks, the number 25% is strange attractor of bad luck for Greece. First, a month ago we learned that Greek unemployment has for the first time ever reached 25%. Now we get to see the income statement and balance sheet manifestation of a society in socioeconomic collapse - Kathimerini reports that Greek bad loans, or those which haven't seen a payment made in over 3 months, have hit a record €57 billion, or 25% of all bank debt. "With one in every four loans not being repaid for more than three months, the bank system is feeling the pressure, leading to additional capital requirements that are expected to aggravate the state debt further." That was Kathimerini's spin. The reality is that just like in Spain, where between bad loans and deposit outflows, the country has become a protectorate of the ECB, which is now fully in control of its banking system, so too in Greece Mario Draghi's tentacles are now in every bank office. Should Greece repeat the festivities of this summer and threaten to pull out of the Eurozone, the ECB will merely in turn threaten to push the red button and cut off all cash to terminally insolvent Greek banks, which of course would also mean a total halt of all deposit outflow activity. So instead what will happen is the ongoing rise in unemployment, and the increase in bad loans as percent of total, until one day the economy, even with all the money in the world pumped into it from Frankfurt, will no longer move. That day is getting very close.
The biggest (non) news of the day was Oliver Wyman ("OW") conducting an "independent" audit of the Spanish banking system to validate the previously disclosed funding needs of Spain's banks which were announced back in June (just a week after Mariano Rajoy "insisted" no bank bailouts are needed). What OW really did was exercise 1 in a financial analyst's playbook: to goal seek a number in excel using a variety of input variables, especially several fudge factors that are tangential to the matter at hand, yet which provide the biggest bang for the buck. In this case the target of the goalseeking exercise was to get a final headline number for bank capital needs to be just as expected, or €60 billion. Sure enough it the number was €59.3 billion, just a little bit less than consensus. This is the total number of cash the bank system will need in order to be considered viable, and unless something has changed drastically, the cash will come from new debt issued by Spain, which in turn funds its bank bailout fund, the FROB (a process explained here). While it is a given that several months from now we will go through this whole entire exercise to find out how much more cash Spain's banks will need, for now what is curious is to understand what the fudge factor was that OW abused to allow it to get the desired result. That fudge factor is what is known as "excess capital buffer", whose usage in the model to plug a major capital shortfall gap is non-sensical and shows that the real funding needs of Spain's banks will be far greater, even absent future deterioration.
One-by-one, the highest quality collateral in the world (according to ratings that is) is disappearing. To wit, Fitch warns that a downgrade of the UK's AAA rating is increasingly likely: "weaker than expected growth and fiscal outturns in 2012 have increased pressure on the UK's 'AAA' rating, which has been on Negative Outlook since March 2012." The Negative Outlook on the UK rating reflects the very limited fiscal space, at the 'AAA' level, to absorb further adverse economic shocks in light of the UK's elevated debt levels and uncertain growth outlook. Global economic headwinds, including those emanating from the on-going eurozone crisis, have compounded the drag on UK growth from private sector deleveraging and fiscal consolidation as well as from depressed business and consumer confidence, weak investment, and constrained credit growth. But no mention of unlimited QE? Fitch expects only a weak recovery beginning in 2013 and output is not expected to surpass its 2007 pre-crisis peak until 2014.
The "mañana" approach to fiscal management, that Spain is known for, presented what is generally perceived as overly optimistic growth forecasts for 2013 and lacked details on structural reform resulted in another risk off session. As a result, Spanish stocks continued to underperform (IBEX seen lower by over 5% on the week), with 10y bond yield spread wider by around 12bps as market participants adjusted to higher risk premia. The state is due to sell 2s and 5s next week, which may also have contributed to higher yields. As a reminder, Moody’s review on Spain is set to end today, however there is a chance that the ratings agency may extend the review for another couple of months or wait until the stress test results are published to make an announcement. In other news, according to sources, Greece could return to its European partners for a Spanish-style rescue of its banking sector, as the country is looking to ease the burden via another writedown of its debts or a strong recapitalisation of its banks (no official response as yet). Going forward, the second half of the session sees the release of the latest PCE data, as well as the Chicago PMI report for the month of September.
Gold reached highs in euros and Swiss francs yesterday, in London trading it hit EUR 1,379.60/oz compared to EUR 1,375/oz last September. In Swiss Francs gold traded at CHF 1,666/oz. Europeans have been viewing scenes of violence and riots from protestors in Madrid and Athens over the past few days. Barclays Plc. announced yesterday it was opening its own London vault to store gold and other precious metals due to demand from their clients. Investment banks have readjusted price targets upward in the past few days with some calling for gold at $2,000 and higher in the next few months. This signals that the recent rally of the euro against the dollar was largely due to the poor US monetary and fiscal situation and the greenback’s weakness and not due to any great confidence in the single currency per se.
The financial crisis of 2008 shook politicians, bankers, regulators, commentators and ordinary citizens out of the complacency created by the 25-year "great moderation". Yet, for all the rhetoric around a new financial order, and all the improvements made, many of the old risks remain (and some are far larger). The following 'story' suggests a scenario based on an 'avoidable history' and while future crises are not avoidable, being a victim of the next one is.
"John Banks was woken by his phone at 3am on Sunday 26th April 2015. John worked for Garland Brothers, a formerly British bank that had relocated its headquarters to Singapore in late 2011 as a result of..."