Three unlucky attempts in a row to retake the S&P 500 all time high may have been all we get, at least for now, because the fourth one is shaping up to be rather problematic following events out of the Crimean in the past three hours where the Ukraine situation has gone from bad to worse, and have dragged the all important risk indicator, the USDJPY, below 102.000 once again. As a result, global stock futures have fallen from the European open this morning, with the DAX future well below 9600 to mark levels not seen since last Thursday. Escalated tensions in the Ukraine have raised concerns of the spillover effects to Western Europe and Russia, as a Russian flag is lifted by occupying gunmen in the Crimean (Southern Ukrainian peninsula) parliament, prompting an emergency session of Crimean lawmakers to discuss the fate of the region. This, allied with reports of the mobilisation of Russian jets on the Western border has weighed on risk sentiment, sending the German 10yr yield to July 2013 lows.
For the second night in a row, China, and specifically its currency rate which saw the Yuan weaken once more, preoccupied investors - and certainly those who had bet on endless strenghtening of the Chinese currency - however this time it appeared more "priced in, and after trading as low as 2000, the SHCOMP managed to close modestly green, which however is more than can be said about the Nikkei which ended the session down 0.5%. Still, the USDJPY was firmly supported by the 102.00 "fundamental" fair value barrier and as a result equity futures, which had to reallign from tracking the AUDUSD to the old faithful Yen carry, have been propped up once more and are set to open at all time highs. If equities fail to breach the record barrier for the third time in a row and a selloff ensues after the open in deja vu trading, it will be time to watch out below if only purely for technical reasons.
"If you like your bailout, you can keep your bailout," is the message from the latest Troika mission to Greece; but there is one (or two) big 'but's... As ekathimerini reports, Greece is "very close" to a deal with the Troika for the next EUR8.8 billion with negotiations hanging on a few final things including... the troika wants Greece to extend the shelf life of fresh milk! Maybe they should just rename it 'greek yoghurt'.
Asian equities are trading lower across the board on the back of some negative credit stories from China. Shanghai Securities News noted that ICBC and some other banks have curbed loans to developers in sectors such as steel and cement. Slower gains in home property prices in China’s tier 1 cities are also not helping sentiment. Beijing and Shenzhen prices rose 0.4% in January, which looks to be the slowest monthly gain since October 2012 according to Bloomberg. Elsewhere there are reports that a property developer in Hangzhou (Tier 2 city in China) is reducing its unit prices by 19%. Our property analysts noted that given the strong gains seen in Tier-1 and some bigger Tier-2 cities in 2013, a slowdown or negative trends in price growth should not be a surprise. Nevertheless, it has been a very weak day for Chinese and HK markets with the Shanghai Composite and the Hang Seng indices down -2.0% and -1.2% lower as we type. Across the region, bourses in Japan and Korea are down -1.0% and -0.6%, respectively.
After learning that it snowed in China this winter following the release of the abysmal February Flash HSBC PMI numbers, we found out that there had also been snow in Europe, following misses across virtually all key French, German and composite PMIs with the exception of the German Services PMI which was the sole "beater" out of 6. To wit:
- Eurozone PMI Manufacturing (Feb A) M/M 53.0 vs Exp. 54.0 (Prev. 54.0); Eurozone PMI Services (Feb A) M/M 51.7 vs Exp. 51.9 (Prev. 51.6)
- German Manufacturing PMI (Feb A) M/M 54.7 vs. Exp. 56.3 (Prev. 56.5); German PMI Services (Feb A) M/M 55.4 vs Exp. 53.4 (Prev. 53.1)
- French PMI Manufacturing (Feb P) M/M 48.5 vs. Exp. 49.6 (Prev. 49.3); French PMI Services (Feb P) M/M 46.9 vs. Exp. 49.4 (Prev. 48.9)
Of course, economic data is the last thing that matters in a manipulated market. Instead, all that does matter is what the USDJPY does overnight, and as we forecast yesterday, the USDJPY 102 tractor beam is alive and well and managed to pull equity futures from a -10 drop overnight to nearly unchanged, despite the now traditional pattern of USDJPY selling during the overnight session and buying during the US session.
You know what’s it like, the driver stands there in front of the car that has just hit you up the back while looking at something happening down the street rather than checking on you hitting your breaks…and yet, he says “sorry, but you stopped too quickly, it wasn’t my bad driving”.
Keynes will be remembered as "a man with a great many ideas that knew very little economics," Friedrich Hayek notes in this brief interview and when challenged on his 'parochial' knowledge of economic history he was "not sheepish in the least... he was much too self-assured." Hayek's perspective casts Keynes in a very different light than his fan's apostolic adoration might suggest, "he was utterly contemptuous of anything that had been done before." While Hayek describes Keynes as one of the most intelligent people he had known, he perhaps sums up the man's work in this brief phrase - "economics was just a side-line for him." As we note below, many describe Keynesian policy as 'dumb', however a more appropriate word would be 'foolish'.
"Money Launderer Until Proven Innocent" - Italy Imposes 20% Tax Withholding On All Inbound Money TransfersSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/16/2014 12:40 -0400
While the propaganda surrounding Europe's "recovery" has reached deafening levels, what is going on behind the scenes is quite the opposite, and in the latest example that Europe is increasingly formalizing a regime of implicit capital controls, we learn that Italy has just ordered banks to withhold a 20% tax on all inbound wire transfers: a decree which on to of everything will apply retroactively to February 1. As Il Sole reports, "the deductions will be automatic (unless prior request for exclusion), and then it will be up to the taxpayer to prove that the money is not in the nature of compensation "income." In other words, as of this moment, but really starting two weeks ago, all Italians are money launderers unless proven innocent.
Everyone knows that without the German export-driven growth dynamo, the European economy would quickly wither and disappear into nothingness. Which is why today's report that the German economy grew by just 0.4% last year, its worst performance since the global financial crisis in 2009, with strong domestic demand only partially offsetting the continued negative impact of the euro crisis, should be reason for significant concern to all especially since all the artificial, goalseeked GDP readings from the periphery are just that, and are completely meaningless in the grand scheme of things - should Germany's growth falter, as it clearly has been over the past two years, may as well put the lights out.
With so much of the recent bad news roundly ignored or simply "priced in" and blamed on the snow, it is unknown just what it is that catalyzed the overnight round of risk-offness, but whatever the ultimate factor, it first dragged the Nikkei lower by 1.8%, as we noted previously, then sent the SHCOMP down by 0.55%, then ultimately dragged the USDJPY below the key 102 support area which in turn pulled US equity futures to set the scene for a red open (with no POMO and no Yellen testimony today which also was canceled due to snow), and, putting it all together, suddenly Europe too is back on the scene, with a blow out in Italian yields driven by the realization that the Letta government is on the edge of collapse, in a deja vu moment to those hot summers of 2011 and 2012.
At first we thought Reuters had been punk'd in its article titled "EU executive sees personal savings used to plug long-term financing gap" which disclosed the latest leaked proposal by the European Commission, but after several hours without a retraction, we realized that the story is sadly true. Sadly, because everything that we warned about in "There May Be Only Painful Ways Out Of The Crisis" back in September of 2011, and everything that the depositors and citizens of Cyprus had to live through, seems on the verge of going continental. In a nutshell, and in Reuters' own words, "the savings of the European Union's 500 million citizens could be used to fund long-term investments to boost the economy and help plug the gap left by banks since the financial crisis, an EU document says." What is left unsaid is that the "usage" will be on a purely involuntary basis, at the discretion of the "union", and can thus best be described as confiscation.
For the first time ever, the majority of Americans are scared of their own federal government. A Pew Research poll found that 53% of Americans think the government threatens their personal rights and freedoms. Americans aren't wild about the government's currency either. Instead of holding dollars and other financial assets, investors are storing wealth in art, wine, and antique cars. The Economist reported in November, "This buying binge… is growing distrust of financial assets." Every central banker on earth has sworn an oath to Keynesian money creation, yet the yellow metal has retraced nearly $700 from its $1,895 high. The only limits to fiat money creation are the imagination of central bankers and the willingness of commercial bankers to lend. That being the case, the main culprit for gold's lackluster performance over the past two years is something else... It won't be inflation that drives up the gold price but the unwinding of massive amounts of leverage.
As Deutsche Bank revealed in a note overnight, the GCC may have, quite deliberately, opened a Pandora's Box with its decision which according to Europe's largest bank, and the one whose derivatives exposure makes that of JPM pale by comparison, (i) made it clear it regards OMT as exceeding the competences granted to the ECB by the European Treaty and that (ii) would not consider itself bound by a positive ruling of the European Court of Justice. And while in DB's opinion this action does not have any immediate market consequences, the report's authors think that it "alters substantially the level of insurance we could expect from the ECB against any return of sovereign turmoil."
The growing tensions between Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta (and his fragile coalition) and Matteo Renzi - the head of parliament's largest (center-left Democratic) party are intensifying this morning. Calls for Letta's resignation, sparked by a junior coalition party head "hoping he was ready to step down," have escalated into more open speculation that the Italian government could collapse within days. Following the failure today of a 'strategy meeting' with center-right coalition partners, Renzi's pro-job-creation and electoral law reforms agenda is gaining consensus. While Letta has stated he will move ahead with his government (and address the public later today), Renzi warned, via Twitter, that he will talk tomorrow afternoon on the way forward.
Unfortunately many investors, with central banks having slashed deposit rates to de minimis levels, have gone ‘all-in’ with regard to risk assets in the desperate pursuit of yield. Be careful what you wish for. It is quite clear that central banks will do literally anything within their power to attempt to avert deflation – to ensure that “it cannot happen here”. That does not mean they will succeed – but they may end up destroying fiat currencies in the process (one of the reasons we have consistently held gold). It is “quite obvious” what the Fed will ultimately do... Six years into this crisis, and in the words of Lily Tomlin, things are going to get a lot worse before they get worse.