And so following yet another Fed taper, coupled with another disappointing manufacturing data point out of China, emerging markets did their thing first thing this morning and all the most unstable EM currency pairs - the TRY, the RUB, the ZAR and the HUF - all plunged promptly in the process pushing down the USDJPY which as become a natural carry offset to EM troubles, only to rebound promptly. Specifically, USDTRY blew out 400 pips to 2.3010 highs after which it bounced, and has now stabilized around 2.27, well above the Turkish central bank intervention level, USDZAR is back down to 11.2120 after hitting five-year highs of 11.3850, the Ruble also plunged after which it jumped on speculation of Russian central bank intervention, while futures are tracking even the tiniest moves by USDJPY and pushing the Emini which is trading in a liquidity vaccum by a quarter point for ever 2 or pips. And with all news overnight shifting from bad to worse (keep an eye on declining German inflation now) it goes without saying, that EM central banks around the world now are desperately trying to keep their currencies under control: which is why the market's jitteryness is only set to increase from here on out.
A story that won't go away: The German central bank 'proposing' an emergency "capital levy" in "conditions of extraordinary national crisis."
In what is sure to be met with cries of derision across the European Union, in line with what the IMF had previously recommended (and we had previously warned as inevitable), the Bundesbank said on Monday that countries about to go bankrupt should draw on the private wealth of their citizens through a one-off capital levy before asking other states for help. As Reuters reports, the Bundesbank states, "(A capital levy) corresponds to the principle of national responsibility, according to which tax payers are responsible for their government's obligations before solidarity of other states is required." However, they note that they will not support an implementation of a recurrent wealth tax in Germany, saying it would harm growth. We await the refutation (or Draghi's jawbone solution to this line in the sand.)
- Emerging sell-off hits European shares, lifts yen (Reuters) - but not really if you hit refresh since the latest central bank bailout announcement
- Apple’s Holiday Results to Show Whether Growth Is Back (BBG)
- Israel attacked Syrian base in Latakia, Lebanese media reports (Haaretz)
- Abenomics FTW: Japan Posts Record Annual Trade Deficit as Import Bill Soars (BBG)
- When all else fails, Spain's hope lie in a 16th century saint: Saint “might help Spain out of crisis,” says interior minister (El Pais)
- Global Woes Fail to Send Cash Into U.S. Stocks (WSJ)
- IMF's Lagarde sees eurozone inflation "way below target" (Reuters)
- Minimum wage bills pushed in at least 30 states (AP)
- AT&T Gives Up Right to Offer to Buy Vodafone Within 6 Months (BBG)
Given that Chinese GDP numbers are manufactured top-down and don't add-up; and that the US - in its wisdom - added "intangibles" to its GDP measure of economic progress and create $500 billion worth of growthiness out of thin air; it should not come as a huge surprise to learn that Greece is picking up bad habits. Following the realization that all their promises (and IMF forecasts are total bullshit), Eurostat will adopt a "new methodology" that will boost Greek GDP by 3 percentage points and historically reducing the depression in the Greek economy to a 0.3% shrinkage to be proud of. But where it gets downright idiotic, is that as a result of the methodology change, Greek GDP in 2014 will "grow" 3.6%, orders of magnitude above the previous forecast expansion of 0.6%, and also well above how much the US economy is expected to grow in 2014. Yup - good stuff.
While 2014 has not quite panned out (so far) as the traveling-strategist-roadshow would have hoped, the last few days have been outright perilous for the record high numbers with bullish sentiment sucked into a world of central-bank-suppressed volatility and jawboned utopia. The following charts show where the pain has been (e.g. Greece, Spain, Argentina, European banks) and where it has not been (e.g. gold miners, China, Philipinnes, and Egypt) with the US indices sitting squarely in the middle with some of their biggest losses in months. For now, the BTFATH'ers are absent - even though the drooling mouths of asset-gatherers are demanding the 'cash on the sidelines' use this 2-3-4% drop from the all-time highs to load the boat for retirement heaven... However, some have increasing concerns...
Having spent weeks talking amongst themselves about the chronic and dangerous rise of youth unemployment in Europe (as we warned here), the Center of planning and Economic Research in Greece has proposed a controversial measure. As GreekReporter reports, the measure includes unpaid work for the young and unemployed up to 24 years old, so that companies would have a strong motive to hire young employees. "Unpaid" work sounds a lot like slavery to us... but it gets better; the report also suggested "exporting young unemployed persons." No comment...
Think it's bad in the US (which it is), the high-beta momo-chasers are running for the hills from Europe's best-performers. European stocks are down 3.4% this week broadly - the worst week since June 2013 and 2nd worst week since May 2012. Spain and Greece are the worst on the week (-5.8% and 6.7% respectively) with Spain's drop the largest since September 2012. Bonds were not unscathed as Italy's sovereign bond spreads have jumped in the last 2 days by the most in 4 months and are now wider on the year. Europe's VIX has exploded 30% higher in the last 3 days (the biggest jump in 10 months) to its highest since October.
With record debt issuance funding record share buybacks and record wage disparity for executives, the "fruits of the rebound" in global asset markets (read - central-bank-inspired liquidity douche) have passed over a whole generation. As Bloomberg's Niraj Shah notes, the risk of young people facing long-term unemployment is rising as firms increase payouts to shareholders and executives rather than invest in new workers, the ILO has warned. Structurally high unemployment is the second-biggest concern this year, according to the World Economic Forum’s global risks 2014 report.
Despite Erdogan's paranoia over "an interest rate" lobby or blaming the Lira's collapse on the Fed, as Gavekal's Nick Andrews notes, Turkey is showing no signs of stabilization. As the sell-side scrambles to explain how this is all priced in and "contained," it is very apparent from the following chart just how vulnerable to contagion the world is if Turkey defaults. The country's liabilities have multipled dramatically in recent years with over $350 billion of foreign bank exposure to Turkey on an ultimate risk basis.
The Syrian peace talks - much heralded by investors and politicians worldwide as a brave step towards a better future - are on the ropes this morning. Following the UN acquiescence to the US demand that they rescind Iran's invite to the so-called Geneva II conference,and yet another suicide bombing in Lebanon, this morning's incredible SNAFU is thanks to the Greeks:
- GREECE REFUSES TO REFUEL SYRIAN GENEVA TEAM AIRCRAFT: SYRIA TV
- SYRIAN AIRCRAFT DELAY CANCELS MEETING WITH UN’S BAN: STATE TV
The peace accord set to begin tomorrow will be delayed and are in further jeopardy as CNN reports further evidence of Syrian President al-Assad systematically killing and torturng around 11,000 people.
One of the bigger stories overnight is Hilsenrath's latest communication from the Fed which once again simply paraphrases the status quo opinion, namely which is that the Fed will taper by another $10 billion on January 29, reducing the total monthly flow to $65 billion. "The Federal Reserve is on track to trim its bond-buying program for the second time in six weeks as a lackluster December jobs report failed to diminish the central bank's expectations for solid U.S. economic growth this year, according to interviews with officials and their public comments." Of course, should the Fed not do that, as the Hilsenrath turned to Hilsen-wrath after all those Taper rumors in September ended up being one giant dud, one can once and for all completely ignore the WSJ reporter, who will have lost all his Fed sources and is now merely an echo chamber of consensus. What is notable is that the result of the latest mouthpiece effort, the USD is stronger, which means USDJPY is higher, which means US equity futures are flying.... on less QE to be announced. We eagerly await for this particular correlation pair to finally flip. The other big story, of course, is the already noted well-telegraphed in advance PBOC liquidity injection ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year, and ahead of a potential January 31 Trust default which will certainly shake the foundations of the Chinese shadow banking system to the core. Not helping nerves was last night's announcement by Zhang Ming, a researcher and director of the international investment department at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, that "trusts and shadow banking will see defaults this year, and this is a good thing." Let's circle back in 6 months to see just how good it is.
Next time you cry over your paycheck or you scrimp and scrape to find the extra few dollars to finish the month, remember that admittedly money doesn’t grow on trees…
Judging by the collapsing Greek yields, which at this rate may drop below US bonds soon enough, the Greek economy has never been stronger. Sadly, manipulated bond levels driven by yet another bout of pre-QE euphoria (suddenly the conventional wisdom is that the ECB will conduct QE in a few months as first explained here in November) no longer reflect anything besides a massive liquidity glut and momentum chasing lemmings. Alas, as usual the reality on the European ground is much worse. The latest example comes from the Greek Public Power Corporation which has reported that Greek households and corporations are finding it increasingly difficult to pay their electricity bills. In total, debts to the power utility from unpaid bills currently amount to some €1.3 billion and growing at an average rate of €4 million per day. Also known as the Grecovery.