A month ago we presented a must read interview by Swiss Finanz und Wirtschaft with respected value investor Howard Marks, in which, when explaining the motives driving rational investing he summarized simply, "in the end, the devil always wins." Today, we are happy to bring our readers the following interview with one of our favorite strategists, GMO's James Montier, in which true to form, Montier packs no punches, and says that the market is now overvalued by 50% to 70%, adding that there is "nothing at all" that has an attractive valuation, and that he sees a "hideous opportunity set."
When we reported early yesterday that Turkey's Prime Minister Erdogan threateningly warned that since Twitter had ignored court orders to remove content related to a government corruption scandal., that he would "destroy Twitter" and that "we'll dig up Twitter - all of them - from the roots," he raged, "they'll see the power of the Republic of Turkey" it may not have been quite clear what he meant. A few hours later it was revealed, when virtually all Twitter access was blocked in Turkey ten days ahead of the general election in a move that has already enraged the nation and resulted in a powerful public outcry.
Has the market done it again? Two weeks ago, Putin's first speech of the Ukraine conflict was taken by the USDJPY algos - which seemingly need to take a remedial class in Real Politik - as a conciliatory step, and words like "blinking" at the West were used when describing Putin, leading to a market surge. Promptly thereafter Russia seized Crimea and is now on the verge of formally annexing it. Over the weekend, we had the exact same misreading of the situation, when the Crimean referendum, whose purpose is to give Russia the green light to enter the country, was actually misinterpreted as a risk on event, not realizing that all the Russian apparatus needed to get a green light for further incursions into Ukraine or other neighboring countries was just the market surge the algos orchestrated. Anyway, yesterday's risk on, zero volume euphoria has been tapered overnight, with the USDJPY sliding from nearly 102.00 to just above 101.30 dragging futures with it, in advance of Putin's speech to parliament, in which he is expected to provide clarity on the Russian response to US sanctions, as well as formulate the nation's further strategy vis-a-vis Crimea and the Ukraine.
It was almost exactly one year ago to the day that an entire nation was frozen out of its savings… overnight. Cypriots went to bed on Friday thinking everything was fine. By the next morning, they had no way to pay bills or buy food. It’s certainly a chilling reminder of how quickly things can change. And why. The government was too insolvent to bail anyone out. And as a member of the eurozone, Cyprus didn’t have the ability to print its own money. So they did the only thing they could think of– confiscate customer deposits. Now, in the Land of the Free, you now have an insolvent government and insolvent central bank underpinning a commercial banking system that is incentivized to make risky, stupid bets with their customers’ money. And if there is one thing we can learn from the Cyprus bail-in, it’s that it behooves any rational person to have a plan B, even if you think the future holds nothing but sunshine and smiley faces.
These Six Euroarea Countries Are In Outright Deflation As Eurozone Inflation Slides To Four Year LowsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/17/2014 11:47 -0400
It took only a 60 USDJPY pip overnight ramp to send US equity futures 20 points off the overnight lows in the immediate aftermath of the Crimean referendum, which from a massive risk off event has somehow metamorphosed into a "priced in", even welcome catalyst to buy stocks. The supposed reasoning, and in a world in which Virtu algos determine the price action of the USDJPY from which all else flows based solely on momentum we use the word reasoning "loosely", is that there was little to indicate that the escalation between Russia and Ukraine was set to accelerate further. As we said: an annexation is now seen as risk off, something even Goldman appears unable to comprehend (more on that shortly). In macroeconomic news, European inflation - at least for the Keynesians - turned from bad to worse after the final February inflation print dropped from the flash, and expected, reading of 0.8% to just 0.7% Y/Y, a sequential increase of 0.3% and below the 0.4% expected, confirming that deflationary forces continue to ravage the continent. The only question is how soon until Europe comes up with some brilliant scheme that will help it join Japan in exporting its deflation.
- Ukraine anxiety triggers flight to safety, stocks tumble (Reuters)
- Woodrow Wilson’s Ukraine Failure Foreshadows West’s Dilemmas (BBG)
- Fortress Executives Join Peers Selling Stock After Rally (BBG)
- 303 Deaths Seen in G.M. Cars With Failed Air Bags (NYT)
- Putin Deports Executives for Speeding as Sanctions Loom (BBG)
- Russia blocks internet sites of Putin critics (Reuters)
- China Bond Risk Exceeds Ireland as Defaults Unavoidable (BBG)
- China H-Shares Post Biggest Weekly Drop Since October (BBG)
- Surge in Rail Shipments of Oil Sidetracks Other Industries (WSJ)
- Blackstone’s Home Buying Binge Ends as Prices Surge (BBG)
It has been a relatively quiet overnight session, aside from the already noted news surrounding China's halt on virtual credit card payments sending Chinese online commerce stocks sliding, where despite an ongoing decline in the USDJPY which has sent the Nikkei plunging by 3.3% (and which is starting to impact Abe whose approval rating dropped in March by a whopping 5.6 points to 48.1% according to a Jiji poll), US equity futures have managed to stay surprisingly strong following yesterday's market tumble. We can only assume this has to do with short covering of positions, because we fail to see how anyone can be so foolhardy to enter risk on ahead of a weekend where the worst case scenario can be an overture to World War III following a Crimean referendum which is assured to result in the formal annexation of the peninsula by Russia.
It would appear that 1.39 EURUSD is the line in the sand for Mario Draghi. As pressures build on European competitiveness, Draghi appears to have finally got sick of China buying EURs to diversify its FX reserves away from USDs. This time "whatever it takes" is to drag the EUR lower - on the back of suggestions that OMT 2.0 (new measures - double the effectiveness and just as non-existent) and guarding against deflation (not worried about inflation). The jawbone is working for now as EUR breaks down through 1.39.
It was another day of ugly overnight macro data, all of it ouf of China, with industrial production (8.6%, Exp. 9.5%, Last 9.7%), retail sales (11.8%, Exp. 13.5%, Last 13.1%) and fixed asset investment (17.9% YTD vs 19.4% expected) all missing badly and confirming that in a world of deleveraging, the Chinese economy will continue to sputter. Which is precisely what the "bad news is good news" algos needs and why futures levitated overnight: only this time instead of latching on to the USDJPY correlation pair, it was the AUDJPY which surged after Australia - that Chinese economic derivative - posted its third best monthly full-time jobs surge in history! One can be certain that won't last. But for now it has served its purpose and futures are once again green. How much longer will the disconnect between deteriorating global macro conditions and rising global markets continue, nobody knows, but sooner rather than later the central planner punch bowl will be pulled and the moment of price discovery truth will come. It will be a doozy.
"Europe faces 25 years of Japan-style stagnation," warns George Soros in this brief Bloomberg TV interview, adding that without deeper integration, "it’s an incomplete association of nations and it may not survive." While claiming that the financial crisis may be over they now "face a political crisis," with the voluntary association cracking due to the creditors (Germany) being in charge. However, he hopes "Ukraine is a wake-up call to Europe, because Russia has emerged as a rival to the European Union." Putin, Soros worries, "has a very different idea of what a society should be like... he has a blind spot - he believes people can be manipulated and cannot resist." That's not the case according to Soros, who exclaims "people do believe in freedom."
Just when it seemed that the ever deteriorating situation in the Crimean, the unexpected plunge in Chinese exports which has sent the Yuan reeling again, the Copper slam which is down some 10% in two days, and the outright collapse in Japan's capital flows, not to mention the worst GDP print under Abe, may not be quite "priced in" by a market that is now expecting well beyond perfection in perpetuity, further shown by Goldman over the weekend which reprorted that revenue multiples have never been greater, and futures may finally dip, here came - right on schedule - the USDJPY levitation liftathon, which boosted futures from down 10 to barely unchanged, and which should be green by the second USDJPY ramp some time just after 8 am.
With a March 16th date set for Crimea's referendum (to confirm that the region, which has an ethnic Russian majority, is a part of Russia) and a few short days after Ukraine's Prime Minister Yatsenyuk is due to meet President Obama in the White House, Reuters reports that The United States will not recognize the annexation of Crimea by Russia if residents of the region vote to leave Ukraine. Obama has said a referendum on Crimea would violate international law and the Ukrainian constitution... but this raises 3 awkward (and apparently hypocritical) questions on the right to self-determination... and pins March 16th as a crucial inflection point between Russia and US.