House Financial Services Committee
- 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.
Today 3:00 pm nomination by Obama of Janet Yellen as the next Fed chair was hardly news (certainly wasn't news to stocks which briefly dipped below their 200 DMA) in the aftermath of Larry Summers' self-elimination, but nonetheless the sellside brigade was quick to praise her now official nomination for one simple reason: it means more of the same Bernanke policies that have done nothing to benefit broad America, but more importantly have resulted in year after year of near-record Wall Street bonuses, and unprecedented asset bubbles. Why shouldn't the banks then be giddy with excitement that the status quo will not only continue, but the monthly $85 billion in liquidity may in fact increase in time? Below is a selection, courtesy of Bloomberg, of the most vocal praises sung on behalf of the former San Fran Fed president byt the numerous banks that currently exist only thanks to the Fed's actions in 2008.
Political activity related to reforming Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac has picked up over the last few months and additional legislative activity is expected this fall. As Goldman notes, while there is still substantial political disagreement, a loose consensus has begun to emerge on some issues. However, despite somewhat greater agreement on certain aspects of GSE reform, lawmakers still face a basic dilemma. Housing finance reform has languished in large part because of the disagreement over the appropriate federal role, as well as a concern that reform would ultimately lead to an increase in borrowing costs. Recent GSE reform proposals such as Corker-Warner appear to have attracted support by calling for high levels of private capital. However, such high levels of capital would require a return to investors, increasing borrowing costs. Overall, Goldman's expectation continues to be that GSE reform is unlikely to be enacted this year or next.
Bernanke's prepared remarks, which said nothing the market did not already know, have already been disseminated, and now it is time for the House Financial Services Committee to open their mouths and confirm to everyone they have no idea they are now irrelevant (everyone already knew they have zero understanding of monetary policy and that in fact, Bernanke is begging Congress to raise spending so he has more QE purchasing power as all Ben does to the Hill is monetize their deficit) and the sole person who calls the shots is an unelected Princeton historian, with his finger on the print button. So, without further ado, here is Ben Bernanke at the "Delivering Beta" conference, live from room 2128 in the Rayburn House Office Building.