Gross Domestic Product
While Naftogaz (Ukraine's gas pipeline operator) states that all gas transportation from Russia to Europe is running normally, Bloomberg reports that Russian natgas exports to Europe are declining. Shipments are down over 4% from the prior week and also lower to Ukraine. This 'adjustment' follows increased sanctions by the West as Medvedev's notable statement this morning that Ukraine owes Russia $16bn. Furthermore, Gazprom has cut its Diesel output by the most in 7 months... and just to rub some Black Sea salt into the wound, NY Times reports that Russia's asking price for natgas to Europe is soaring.
As promised, the Johnson/Crapo bill has finally arrived. There are 442 pages of legal mumbo jumbo, guaranteed to cure all forms of insomnia and those suffering from low blood pressure. The agencies have been providing cheap financing to borrowers, courtesy of the Fed. The agencies have been providing cheap and bullet proof insurance for bond investors, courtesy of the Treasury. The Bill somehow expects some mysterious private capital will come in to insure the first loss position and the Government (including the FOMC) can gracefully exit its role in the mortgage monopoly. That is more than overly optimistic. Can anyone quantify that in dollars as well as mortgage rates? In summary, the Bill is going to increase mortgage compliance costs. It will confuse, rather than clarify, the mortgage application and approval process. It is a disaster. Fortunately, we suspect the Bill has no chance of passing in its present form.
Last month's exuberance-filled, and instantly extrapolated, Markit US PMI print at the lofty levels of 57.1 (proving that the weather-delayed pent-up-demand was truly back) has been dashed on the shores of ugly reality. March's print dropped to 55.5, missing expectations by the most since Feb 2013 as jobs grew at a slower pace and factory orders declined. This slowing in the US economy's growth adds to last night's weakness in Chinese growth. Given weather was not a majr issue in March, what excuse can we find for this?
If there was one thing that the market was demanding after last night's disappointing March HSBC manufacturing PMI, which has now fallen so low, local market participants are convinced a stimulus is imminent (despite China's own warnings not to expect this), and sent both the SHCOMP and the CNY surging, it would have been further weak data out of Europe, where the other possible, if not probable, "QE-stimulus" bank is located now that the Fed is in full taper mode. It didn't get precisely that however there was a step in the right direction when overnight the Euro area Composite Flash PMI eased marginally from 53.3 to 53.2 in March, largely as expected. The country breakdown showed a narrowing of the Germany/France Composite PMI gap owing to a notable (3.7pt) increase in the French PMI while the German PMI eased somewhat (1.4pt). On the basis of past correlations, a Euro area Composite PMI of 53.2 is consistent with GDP growth of around +0.4%qoq, slightly stronger than our Current Activity Indicator (+0.35%qoq).
People around the world were astounded by Vladimir Putin’s rapid decision to annex Crimea in response to the latter’s referendum to secede from Ukraine and join Russia, which Kiev and the West view as illegal. The decision also drew worldwide criticism and vehement condemnation by the West and Ukraine, and triggered a second wave of economic sanctions from the United States, and soon afterwards Europe. Relations between Russia and the West are at their chilliest since the end of the Cold War. So why has Putin risked Russia’s economic welfare and political space to swallow Crimea, push Ukraine out, and alienate the entire Western world? Is Putin “in another world” as German Chancellor Angela Merkel claimed he is?
Following China's unwillingness to vote against Russia at the UN and yesterday's news that China will sue Ukraine for $3bn loan repayment, it seems Russia is returning the favor. Speaking at the Chinese Economic Development Forum, ITAR-TASS reports, the Chief Economist of Russia's largest bank stated that "China's Yuan may become the third reserve currency in the in the future."
The Idiot Savant has had more than enough. BDI has unequivocally decided to prick Big Bad Ben Bernanke's Bloviated Bubble Butt. I have outlined below seven fine needles and six sharp scalpels that I shall use to slice and slay his sorry sagging ass:
A dispassionate look at the main considerations for investors in the week ahead.
One could see this one coming from a mile away.
The two big stories of our day are: (1) Our economic problems: The inability of economies to grow as rapidly as they would like, add as many jobs as they would like, and raise the standards of living of citizens as much as they would like. Associated with this slow economic growth is a continued need for ultra-low interest rates to keep economies of the developed world from slipping back into recession; and (2) Our oil related-problems: One part of the story relates to too little, so-called “peak oil,” and the need for substitutes for oil. Another part of the story relates to too much carbon released by burning fossil fuels, including oil, leading to climate change. While the press treats these issues as separate stories, they are in fact very closely connected, related to the fact that we are reaching limits in many different directions simultaneously.
Once again there has been little fundamental news or economic data this morning in Europe with price action largely driven by expiring option contracts. In terms of key events, Putin says Russia should refrain from retaliating against US sanctions for now even as Bank Rossiya discovered Visa and MasterCard have stopped servicing its cards, and as Putin further added he would have his salary sent to the sanctioned bank - the farce will go on. Continuing the amusing "rating agency" news following yesterday's policy warning by S&P and Fitch on Russian debt (was that a phone call from Geithner... or directly from Obama), Fitch affirmed United States at AAA; outlook revised to stable from negative, adding that the US has greater debt tolerance than AAA peers. Perhaps thje most notable move was in Chinese stocks which rallied overnight after major domestic banks said to have stopped selling trust products which were blamed for encouraging reckless borrowing and diluted credit standards. Speculation of further stimulus and the potential introduction of single stock futures also helped the Shanghai Comp mark its biggest gain of 2014 closing up 2.7%.
Why hide inflation? Well for one thing, understating inflation allows you to overstate GDP growth.
Each time the Fed has lowered the overnight lending rate, the next set of increases have never exceeded the previous peak. This is due to the fact, that over the last 35 years, economic growth has been on a continued decline. Increases in interest rates are not kind to the markets either. Each time the Fed has started increasing the overnight lending rates. Each time has seen either market stagnation, declines, or crashes. Furthermore, it is currently implied that the Fed funds rate will increase to 3% in the future, yet the current downtrend suggests that an increase to 2% is likely all that can be withstood. According to Jim Cramer last night, he said the idea of rising interest rates shocked the markets, however, in the long-term it's a positive sign. Rates rise as the economy does better. The assumption he makes is that as the economy "catches fire" and corporate profits increase, then it is natural for interest rates to rise also. If a growing economy is a function of expanding profitability, then what is wrong with the chart below...
S&P, still deep in the mire of a legal battle with the US government, has decided now is an opportune time to cut the ratings outlook on Russia:
- *RUSSIAN FEDERATION OUTLOOK TO NEGATIVE FROM STABLE BY S&P
- *S&P SEES EU-U.S. IMPOSING FURTHER SANCTIONS
Russia remains a BBB credit (but with the outlook shift remains open to a downgrade with 24 months). S&P has cut 2014 GDP forecast to 1.2% and 2015 to 2.2%. Of course, we are sure, this would have nothing to do with currying favors with the US government (who threatened them when they downgraded the USA). Full report below.
Why Mainstream Economists Like Krugman Are So WRONG and So DANGEROUS