House Financial Services Committee
"Boy, was I wrong," exclaimed Federal Reserve Vice-Chairman Stanley Fischer, "I thought that when Dodd-Frank started, that the banks would not succeed in influencing it, having lost all the prestige they lost." Just like the Fed's economic and rate forecasts, Fischer's political perspective could not have been more incorrect. Rather stunningly confirming Fischer's admission, The Hill reports JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon made calls to lawmakers on Thursday urging them to support the "cromnibus" spending bill, according to no lesser brain-trust than Rep. Maxine Waters. Perhaps Fischer inadvertently summed up the state of reality as WSJ reports, when he opined, "we are two bad decisions away from not being an independent central bank." We might suggest the "two" decisions went by a long time ago.
When we commented on Mel Watt's Einsteinianly-insane plans to reform FHFA, allowing bad creditors to buy houses (again) with only 3% down-payments (again), we expected nothing but echoes as the "it's everyone's 'right' to own a home"-meme gets played out for all to see in this goldfish-like societal memory that has entirely lobotomized the actions (and impact) of when this idiocy was trued before. However, a funny thing happened this week... called an 'election'. And The Republicans have been quick to take note of Obama-appointee Mel Watt's (replacing acting director Ed Demarco - who had some less-politik plans for real reform) plans with House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling exclaiming he was "extremely concerned," about Watt's "efforts to force taxpayers to back high-risk mortgages with ultra-low down payments," concluding this plan "must be rejected."
"Obama should just resign. He is outrageous. He supported the NSA and has claimed the CIA does not spy on Congress. Well, the Inspector General has released his report and oops – yes the CIA spies on Congress. Obama has used the NSA, IRS, and the CIA to attack everyone. These people behind the curtain are the unelected. Obama is either a stooge or part of the real danger to the survivability of our nation long-term."
- Fighting erupts in Ukraine as crash investigators arrive (Reuters)
- Russian Billionaires in ‘Horror’ as Putin Risks Isolation (BBG)
- Israel kills militants entering from Gaza, death toll tops 500 (Reuters)
- The other Gaza: In violent weekend, at least 40 people shot in Chicago (Reuters)
- Barclays Dark Pool Drew Early Alarms (WSJ)
- Finance Industry Bonus Hit in Poll as Revenue Disappoints (BBG)
- Severstal to Sell North American Units (WSJ)
- Yum, McDonald's apologize as new China food scandal brews (Reuters)
- Yellen Wage Gauges Blurred by Boomer-Millennial Workforce Shift (BBG)
- Ukraine Offers to Hand Over Malaysia Airlines Probe to Dutch (WSJ)
Now that the World Cup is over, and following last week's global macro reporting slumber (aside for the Portuguese risk flaring episode of course), things pick up quite a bit in the coming week. Here are the key events.
Another round of overnight risk on exuberance helped Europe forget all about last week's Banco Espirito Santo worries, which earlier today announced a new CEO and executive team, concurrently with the announcement by the Espirito Santo family of a sale of 4.99% of the company to an unknown party, withe the proceeds used to repay a margin loan, issued during the bank's capital increase in May. This initially sent the stock of BES surging only to see it tumble promptly thereafter even despite the continuation of a short selling bank in BES shares this morning. Far more impotantly to macro risk, it was that 2013 staple, the European open surge in the USDJPY that has reset risk levels higher, while pushing gold lower by over 1% following the usual dump through the entire bid stack in overnight low volume trading. Clearly nothing has been fixed in Portugal, although at least for now, the investing community appears to have convinced itself that the slow motion wreck of Portugal's largest bank even after on Sunday, Portugal’s prime minister said taxpayers would not be called on to bail out failing banks, making clear there would be no state support for BES.
Having already warned that looming political uncertainty is not at all priced-in to US equities, Goldman's Alec Phillips points out that legislation was introduced earlier this week (July 7) in the US House that would attempt to revamp the FOMC's monetary policy process. The bill would require the FOMC to justify to Congress each policy decision relative to a Taylor rule specified in the legislation. While Goldman, do not expect the bill to get very far, but the issue does appear to be a growing focus for some lawmakers and we expect further action on it in the near term.
Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im), the federally-backed bank which has been around since 1934, faces a very serious threat to its survival. The most important aspect of this entire fight is the fact that on opposite sides of the debate are not Democrats versus Republicans, but once again Republicans vs. Republicans. We again see tea party Republicans facing off against establishment RINOs. On one side we hear claims by the tea party wing that the Ex-Im merely serves as a conduit for crony capitalism and favoritism to large corporations, or those willing to bribe officials. On the other side, we see establishment Republicans, who are extremely cozy with mega-corporations, maintaing that the institution plays a crucial role in financing American exports to make them competitive. The battle against the Ex-Im bank, a 80 year old institution, is just another example of the sort of changes that happen in Fourth-Turnings. So what does Barack Obama think of the Export-Import bank? As usual, it depends on who you ask, Presidential-candidate Obama, or President-elect Obama.
While Eric Cantor may have been nothing but a Wall Street pawn, eager to appease whoever the highest lobbying bidder du jour was, the biggest loser from his dramatic fall from grace at the hand of the tea party is not a Wall Street company at all, but Boeing. The reason, as Bloomberg explains is that Cantor's defeat threatens congressional reauthorization of low-cost lending that benefits the world’s largest planemaker. The name of the entity whose fate is at stake: the US Export-Import, or Ex-Im bank.
During her testimomy to the House Financial Services Committee, SEC's Mary Jo White confidently proclaimed (despite her questioner doubting her beliefs):
US SEC CHAIR MARY JO WHITE RESPONDS TO MICHAEL LEWIS BOOK IN TESTIMONY, TELLS CONGRESS "THE MARKETS ARE NOT RIGGED"
"Investors should be protected from shisters," blasted the committee member, as he took White to task..
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.
BOTTOM LINE: Fed Chair Yellen's prepared remarks for her semiannual monetary policy testimony before the House Financial Services Committee were brief and did not contain any major surprises. The testimony itself will begin at 10:00am.
A sneaky overnight levitation pushed the Spoos above 1800 thanks to a modest USDJPY run (as we had forecast) despite, or maybe due to, the lack of any newsflow, although today's first official Humphrey Hawkins conference by the new Fed chairman, Janet Yellen, before the House and followed by the first post-mortem to her testimony where several prominent hawks will speak and comprising of John B. Taylor, Mark A. Calabria, Abby M. McCloskey, and Donald Kohn, could promptly put an end to this modest euphoria. Also, keep in mind both today, and Thursday, when Yellens' testimoeny before the Senate takes place, are POMO-free days. So things may get exciting quick, especially since as Goldman's Jan Hatzius opined overnight, the third tapering - down to $55 billion per month - is on deck.
After Friday's surge fest on weaker than expected news - perhaps expecting a tapering of the taper despite everyone screaming from the rooftops the Fed will never adjust monetary policy based on snowfall levels - overnight the carry trade drifted lower and pulled the correlated US equity markets down with it. Why? Who knows - after Friday's choreographed performance it is once again clear there is no connection between newsflow, fundamentals and what various algos decide to do. So (lack of) reasons aside, following a mainly positive close in Asia which was simply catching up to the US exuberance from Friday, European equities have followed suit and traded higher from the get-go with the consumer goods sector leading the way after being boosted by Nestle and L'Oreal shares who were seen higher after reports that Nestle is looking at ways to reduce its USD 30bln stake in L'Oreal. The tech sector is also seeing outperformance following reports that Nokia and HTC have signed a patent and technology pact; all patent litigation between companies is dismissed. Elsewhere, the utilities sector is being put under pressure after reports that UK Energy Secretary Ed Davey urged industry watchdog Ofgem to examine the profits being made by the big six energy companies through supplying gas, saying that Centrica's British Gas arm is too profitable.
It's snowing in New York so the market must be down. Just kidding - everyone know the only thing that matters for the state of global risk is the level of USDJPY and it is this that nearly caused a bump in the night after pushing the Nikkei as low as 13,995, before the Japanese PPT intervened and rammed the carry trade higher, and thus the Japanese index higher by 1.23% before the close of Japan trading. However, since then the USDJPY has failed to levitate as it usually does overnight and at last check was fluctuating within dangerous territory of 101.000, below which there be tigers. The earlier report of European retail sales tumbling by 1.6% on expectations of a modest 0.6% drop from a downward revised 0.9% only confirmed that the last traces of last year's illusionary European recovery have long gone. Then again, it's all the cold weather's fault. In Europe, not in the US that is.