Heading into the North American open, stocks in Europe are seen broadly higher, with peripheral EU stock indices outperforming after Ireland successfully returned to capital markets with its 10y syndication that attracted over EUR 10bln. Financials benefited the most from the consequent credit and bond yield spreads tightening, with smaller Italian and Spanish banks gaining around 4%. Following the successful placement, IR/GE 10y bond yield spread was seen at its tightest level since April 2010, while PO/GE 10y spread also tightened in reaction to premarket reports by Diario Economico citing sources that Portuguese govt and debt agency IGCP consider that the current level of yields already allows Portugal to go ahead with a bond sale. Looking elsewhere, the release of better than expected macroeconomic data from Germany, together with an in line Eurozone CPI, supported EUR which gradually moved into positive territory. In addition to that, smaller MRO allotment by the ECB resulted in bear steepening of the Euribor curve and also buoyed EONIA 1y1y rates. The Spanish and Italian markets are the best-performing larger bourses, Swedish the worst. The euro is stronger against the dollar. Japanese 10yr bond yields fall; Spanish yields decline. Commodities gain, with wheat, silver underperforming and Brent crude outperforming. U.S. trade balance data released later.
Below is a recent correspondence from our friend Lars Schall, an independent financial journalist, and the German Central Bank, the Deutsche Bundesbank, regarding the exact whereabouts and specifications of Germany’s national gold reserve.
Most economic observers are predicting that 2014 will be the year in which the United States finally shrugs off the persistent malaise of the Great Recession. In contrast, we believe that the episode has, for the moment, established supreme confidence in the powers of monetary policy to keep the economy afloat and to keep a floor under asset prices, even in the worst of circumstances. The shift in sentiment can only be explained by the growing acceptance of monetary policy as the magic elixir that Keynesians have always claimed it to be. This blind faith has prevented investors from seeing the obvious economic crises that may lay ahead. Based on nothing but pure optimism, the market believes that the Fed can somehow contract its $4 trillion balance sheet without pushing up rates to the point where asset prices are threatened, or where debt service costs become too big a burden for debtors to bear. The more likely truth is that this widespread mistake will allow us to drift into the next crisis.
"Paper and digital markets levitate, central banks pull out all the stops of their magical reality-tweaking machine to manipulate everything, accounting fraud pervades public and private enterprise, everything is mis-priced, all official statistics are lies of one kind or another, the regulating authorities sit on their hands, lost in raptures of online pornography (or dreams of future employment at Goldman Sachs), the news media sprinkles wishful-thinking propaganda about a mythical “recovery” and the “shale gas miracle” on a credulous public desperate to believe, the routine swindles of medicine get more cruel and blatant each month, a tiny cohort of financial vampire squids suck in all the nominal wealth of society, and everybody else is left whirling down the drain of posterity in a vortex of diminishing returns and scuttled expectations."
With the critical 50th Yes vote just being cast, Janet Yellen has officially become the first woman to head the central bank in its 100 years of existence. The vote continues, and the only question now is whether the current tally of 27 No votes will surpass the Bernanke record of 30 objections to the central bank head.
It’s ironic that in a day and age where Keynesian economics is the “accepted view” we still don’t pay enough attention to what Keynes said about inflation: "By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens. By this method they not only confiscate, but they confiscate arbitrarily; and, while the process impoverishes many, it actually enriches some..." The problem today is that some people believe inflation is lower than it actually is. The Consumer Price Index CPI is used to measure the cost of maintaining a certain standard of living. Now it measures the cost of maintaining a certain level of satisfaction. You can argue the magnitude of the inflation understatement but you can’t argue that the official numbers are accurate. Under reporting inflation has led to many predictable outcomes.
2013 was the year that the mainstream financial media went aggressively anti-gold. So, why do we continue to keep the faith with gold (and silver)? We can encapsulate the argument in one statistic.
Make no mistake, gold is not dead. Not by any means. The day is coming when its price will soar again.
A look at the technical condition of the fx market, interest rate differentials, central bank developments and the data due out in the week ahead.
From this point on I start demonstrating to those who can't see the benefits of smart digital money over dumb fiat currencies. Now, you can short bitcoin and hedge against volaitlity using same tools the big boys use for USD/EUR/CNY, etc.
Fed's action or inaction remains an under-appreciated risk to the global economy.
Forget the last two day's decline. The consensus opinion for 2014 is pretty uniform: stocks will go up modestly, bond will decline in similar fashion. Job growth will grind higher, as will inflation. The Fed will taper its bond-buying program, slowly. And so it may all come to pass... But ConvergEx's Nick Colas ponders what could go wrong, or at least different. Top of his list: fixed income volatility, in conjunction with stock market valuations that are, at best, average. Colas reflects ominously on 1914, where if you read the papers of the day you would have seen much of the same "Yeah, we got this" tone that prevails today. As the great market sage Yogi Berra once opined, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” Either way, a cautious outlook is the better part of valor so early in the year.
Some may have forgotten, or not be aware, that the Federal Reserve system has its own police force. Well, it does: "The U.S. Federal Reserve Police is the law enforcement arm of the Federal Reserve System, the central banking system of the United States.... Officers are certified to carry a variety of weapons systems (depending on assignment) including semi-automatic pistols, assault rifles, submachine guns, shotguns, less-lethal weapons, pepper spray, batons and other standard police equipment. Officers also wear bullet resistant vests/body armor. " At last check, there were over 1000 sworn members of the Fed police force. And judging by the recent spike in appearances of such "help wanted" ads as those shown below, that number is too low. We expect many more job postings such as these to appear in the coming weeks and months: in fact, we are willing to predict that the closer we get to a "renormalization" of the Fed's balance sheet, the faster the hiring of Fed cops...
2013 Was A Year Of Calm In The World Of Finance ... 2014 May Not Be So Calm ... Highlights Of Year - German Gold Repatriation, Record Highs In Yen, Huge Chinese Demand - Lowlights Of Year - Massive Paper Sell Offs in April/June and First Deposit Confiscation and Capital Controls ...
The start of 2014 was less than exuberant as the markets turned in the steepest loss for the first trading day of a new year since 2008. What does this mean for the rest of 2014? Likely not much. The old Wall Street axioms of "the first 5 trading days" and "so goes January, so goes the year" tend to be statistically more important. However, it did get me thinking about the new year from a more macro perspective. This weekend's "Things To Ponder" is a collection of ideas to get you to do the same.