Eurozone

Portugal Banks Warn European Leaders: "You Can't Keep Playing With Fire"

While we are told day after day that not only is Europe 'fixed' but that Cyprus was not a template, it seems the bankers in the peripheral nations are a little less confident (never mind their record amount of reach-around-based domestic bond buying). European "leaders need to moderate their language," warned one bank CEO, and as the FT reports, another feared a "Cyprus virus," adding that "you can't keep playing with fire." The comments come in the wake of the depositor haircuts in Cyprus as a rush of clients wanted to move cash from deposit accounts to vaults: "most clients in Portugal don't trust deposit guarantees... they choose vaults instead." Fixed indeed... and why would these bankers worry about the 'precedent' if it were not a 'template' for future bail-ins?

Frontrunning: May 20

  • Obama's Counsel Was Told of IRS Audit Findings Weeks Ago (WSJ)
  • North Korea fires sixth missile in three days (Reuters)
  • Enron No Lesson to Traders as EU Probes Oil-Price Manipulation (BBG)
  • Don't cry for me, Eurozone: Thinking the Unthinkable - Quitting a Currency (WSJ)
  • H-1B Models Strut Into U.S. as Programmers Pray for Help (BBG)
  • Gold Bear Bets Reach Record as Soros Cuts Holdings (BBG)
  • Yahoo has agreed to pay $1.1 billion for Tumblr (WSJ)
  • JPMorgan Holders Led by Chairmen-CEOs to Vote on Dimon (BBG)
  • Apple faces grilling over US tax rate (FT)
  • Nissan to Sell First Joint Minicar to Expand in Japan Market (BBG)
  • Fierce battle for corporate loans sparks US bank risk concerns (FT)
  • Microsoft Updates Xbox as Apple to Facebook Gain in Games (BBG)

Guest Post: Why Bonds Aren't Dead & The Dollar Will Get Weaker

There have been quite a few bold predictions, since the beginning of the year, that the dollar was set to soar and that the great "bond bull market" was dead.  The primary thesis behind these views was that the economy was set to strengthen and inflation would begin to seep its way back into the system.  Furthermore, the "Great Rotation" of bonds into stocks, on the back of said economic strength, would push interest rates substantially higher.  While we have no doubt that at some point down the road that inflation will become an issue, interest rates will rise and the dollar will strengthen - it just won't be anytime soon.  A wave of "disinflation" is currently engulfing the globe. The deflationary pressures that weigh on the consumer and the economy are likely going to keep downward pressure on rates for some time to come as the Fed comes to realize that they have been caught in the same "liquidity trap" that has plagued Japan for a generation. The real concern for investors, and individuals, is the actual economy.

Dull Overnight Session Set To Become Even Duller Day Session

Those hoping for a slew of negative news to push stocks much higher today will be disappointed in this largely catalyst-free day. So far today we have gotten only the ECB's weekly 3y LTRO announcement whereby seven banks will repay a total of €1.1 billion from both LTRO issues, as repayments slow to a trickle because the last thing the ECB, which was rumored to be inquiring banks if they can handle negative deposit rates earlier in the session, needs is even more balance sheet contraction. The biggest economic European economic data point was the EU construction output which contracted for a fifth consecutive month, dropping -1.7% compared to -0.3% previously, and tumbled 7.9% from a year before.  Elsewhere, Spain announced trade data for March, which printed at yet another surplus of €0.63 billion, prompted not so much by soaring exports which rose a tiny 2% from a year ago to €20.3 billion but due to a collapse in imports of 15% to €19.7 billion - a further sign that the Spanish economy is truly contracting even if the ultimate accounting entry will be GDP positive. More importantly for Spain, the country reported a March bad loan ratio - which has been persistently underreproted - at 10.5% up from 10.4% in February. We will have more to say on why this is the latest and greatest ticking timebomb for the Eurozone shortly.

The S&P 500 Is Now At Extremes

While there are a plethora of Wall Street analysts calling for much higher levels for the S&P 500; most of these calls are based simply on the belief that the current trajectory must continue indefinitely.  While you certainly cannot "fight the Fed" the underlying fundamentals and economics that support the markets long term are not present for the party.  What is very important to understand, and can be clearly seen in the chart below, is that despite repeated calls for "ever rising" stock markets in the past eventually left investors devastated.  Markets do not, and cannot, continue indefinitely in one direction. Unfortunately, for most individuals, by the time they realize what is happening it will likely be far too late to act. Could the catalyst be 'language' changes from the FOMC as they see bubbles and froth in high-yield credit and margined stocks?

Surging Q1 Japan GDP Leads To Red Nikkei225 And Other Amusing Overnight Tidbits

In a world in which fundamentals no longer drive risk prices (that task is left to central banks, and HFT stop hunts and momentum ignition patterns) or anything for that matter, it only makes sense that the day on which Japan posted a better than expected annualized, adjusted Q1 GDP of 3.5% compared to the expected 2.7% that the Nikkei would be down, following days of relentless surges higher. Of course, Japan's GDP wasn't really the stellar result many portrayed it to be, with the sequential rise coming in at 0.9%, just modestly higher than the 0.7% expected, although when reporting actual, nominal figures, it was up by just 0.4%, or below the 0.5% expected, meaning the entire annualized beat came from the gratuitous fudging of the deflator which was far lower than the -0.9% expected at -1.2%: so higher than expected deflation leading to an adjustment which implies more inflation - a perfect Keynesian mess. In other words, yet another largely made up number designed exclusively to stimulate "confidence" in the economy and to get the Japanese population to spend, even with wages stagnant and hardly rising in line with the "adjusted" growth. And since none of the above matters with risk levels set entirely by FX rates, in this case the USDJPY, the early strength in the Yen is what caused the Japanese stock market to close red.

Frontrunning: May 15

  • Once a beacon, Obama under fire over civil liberties (Reuters)
  • Eurozone in longest recession since birth of currency bloc (FT)
  • EU Oil Manipulation Probe Shines Light on Platts Pricing Window (BBG)
  • BMWs Cheaper Than Hyundais in Korea as Tariffs Crumble (BBG)
  • Stock Boom Isn't a Bubble, Says BOJ's Kuroda (WSJ)
  • Struggling France strives to shake off economic gloom (FT)
  • JPMorgan investors take heat off Dimon (FT)
  • Private-Equity Firms Build Instead of Buy (WSJ)
  • Bloomberg Saga Highlights Clash Between Two Worlds (WSJ)
  • Bank documents portray Cyprus as Russia's favorite haven (Reuters)
  • HSBC Signals 14,000 Jobs Cuts in $3 Billion Savings Plan (BBG)
  • Argentines Hold More Than $50 Billion in U.S. Currency (BBG)

Futures Rise As European GDP Declines At Worst Annual Pace Since 2009

So much for Europe's "recovery." In a quarter when the whisper was that some upside surprise would come out of Europe, the biggest overnight data releases, European standalone and consolidated GDPs were yet another flop, missing across the board from Germany (+0.1%, Exp. 0.3%), to France (-0.2%, Exp. 0.1%), to Italy (-0.5%, Exp. -0.4%), and to the entire Eurozone (-0.2%, Exp. 0.1%), As SocGen recapped, the first estimate of eurozone Q1 GDP comes in at -0.2% qoq, below consensus of a 0.1% drop. The economy shrank by 1.0% yoy, the worst rate since Dec-09. The decline of 0.5% qoq in Italy means that the economy has been in recession continuously since Q4-11. A 0.2% qoq drop in France means the economy has ‘double-dipped’, posting a second back-to-back drop in GDP since Q4-08. The increase of 0.1% qoq in Germany was disappointing and shows the economy is not in a position to support demand in the weaker member states (table below shows %q/q changes).

Muted Sentiment Following German Confidence Miss

There was a time three months ago, when "beating" German confidence served as an upward stock and EURUSD catalyst not once but twice in the same week. One would therefore assume a German confidence miss, such as with today's German ZEW, which barely budged from 36.3 to 36.4 on expectations of a rise to 40.0, with the current situtation dropping from 9.2 to 8.9, on expectations of a rise to 9.8, should be risk negative. Well, it wasn't: it is the new normal after all, and in fact the EURUSD jumped in a kneejerk reaction at 5 am, rising over 1.3000, albeit briefly, assisted by ZEW members saying that respondents do not see a further ECB rate cut - well, of course not - they are Germans, and Draghi isn't. Perhaps the news of a better than expected Eurozone Industrial Production print, which rose from 0.3% to 1.0%, on expectations of a more modest increase to 0.5%, is what catalyzed the subsequent drop in both the EUR, and US stock futures. The IP strength was driven by Germany, Spain and Netherlands offset be decline in France and Italy. 

We Found The 'Other' Greater Fool

We have recently explained (here and here) just how dismal the outlook for France is. The gaping divide between French and German perspectives on austerity, growth, and policy is widening by the day. And yet French credit spreads (and yields) have been collapsing ever tighter at the behest of a world gone mad on monetary munificence. We know who the greater fool is in Spain and Italy (the domestic banks and pension funds); and so now, thanks to SocGen, we know who the greater fool is in French debt (OATs). The BoP data also show that Japanese institutions have been sellers of USTs every month from January to March; and France has been by far the largest recipient of Japanese debt purchases. In March alone flows into OATs rose to JPY232bn, a 3-month high. Institutions have been buying OATs for 16 months in a row for a cumulative JPY5.7trn (E43.8bn) since December 2011. A marked 31bp decline in 10y OAT yields in April indicates that Japanese investors stepped up their purchases last month. This will not end well... and there is a limiting factor...

Plan QE For The Hilsenrath Morning After

Overnight risk continues to ignore all newsflow (today the economic reporting finally picks up with advance retail sales due at 8:30 am as expectations for a second modest decline in a row of -0.3%) and is focused entirely on what the consensus decides to make of the Hilsenrath piece, even as the difficulty level was raised a notch following another late Sunday Hilsenrath piece, which puts more variable into the "tapering" equation, and whose focus is whether Bernanke will be replaced by Janet Yellen, Geithner or Summers, or anyone. With all three classified as permadoves, one does scratch their head how the market can be confused: worst case Fed tapers by $10/20 billion per month, market tumbles, then Bernanke's replacement or Ben himself ploughs on even more aggressively with QE. QED.

Saxo Bank CEO On The 'Eurozone Minefield': "This Crisis Will Not Pass"

Niall Ferguson recently remarked, "[Europe] is a politicial experiment gone wrong. The experiment was to see if Europeans could be forced into an even closer union - despite their wishes - by economic means, because the political means failed." In this brief clip, Lars Seier Christensen, co-CEO and co-founder of Saxo Bank, tells an audience at the Saxo #FXDebates in London that the eurozone will eventually break up as Brussels claims even more power from nation states. He warns investors that Cyprus was indeed a template for bail ins and that outright confiscatory wealth taxes, disguised as solidarity payments, could be used to raise funds. "The governments of Europe need money, and the private sector has it. It is as simple as that. Be very paranoid," he said, warning investors that the mattress may be a safer place to deposit money over the weekend than their bank accounts. "Frankly, it is a complete mess. And it is a mess that gets worse and worse every day," is how the outspoken truthiness begins, adding, "anyone with a rational view of the world now sees the currency collaboration as a historic failure that can lead to even further fatal consequences for Europe and the continent’s competitiveness vis-à-vis the rest of the world."

Frontrunning: May 10

  • PBOC Says China Shouldn’t Be ’Blindly Optimistic’ on Inflation (BBG)
  • Foreigners Buying Half of London New Homes Prop Up Building (BBG) - first they come for the foreign deposits, then for the real assets...
  • Investors Rediscovering Margin Debt (WSJ) - well, yes: it is at record highs
  • China issues new rules targeting wealth management fund pools (RTRS)
  • Navy $37 Billion Ships Seen Unsuitable Have 2-Year Window (BBG)
  • New York may have to drop claims against BofA over Merrill (RTRS)
  • FBI Rejects Boston Police Stance in Spat Over Terror Data (BBG)
  • In eastern Syria oil smugglers benefit from chaos (RTRS)