Today we observed how as the US is considering releasing crude from its Political, pardon Strategic Petroleum Reserve, China was doing just the opposite. Now, in a further step confirming that China is acting as a much more rational capitalist power, and is rapidly encroaching on the "reserve" status of the sacrosanct USD, the FT writes that China intends to extend renminbi loans to other BRIC nations in "another step toward the internationalisation of its currency." To those following the stealthy Chinese incursion into currency markets as a dollar alternative, this is not news: already we know that China and Japan have bypassed the dollar entirely and now engage in direct bilateral trade using JPY and CNY (even as most other nations in Asia have developed bilateral agreements to transact in a non dollar basis). This is merely the latest incremental step which will see China become the dominant player in the currency arena, and further puts to doubt the fate of the US Dollar as the default currency. Of course, the market will not acknowledge any of this until the developing (i.e., non-insolvent world) is transacting entirely with US intermediation. And at that point, the US will be merely another Zimbabwe case study, where it can print all the money it wants to fund its deficit, and the only ones who care will be wheelbarrow manufacturers.
- Cotton prices jump as India bans exports (FT)
- Goldman’s Asia Unit Lost Money First Time Since 2008 on Soured Stock Bets (Bloomberg)
- Meet Mark Spitznagel, Ron Paul's L.A. hedge-fund guy (SPCR)
- U.S., Israel Pull Closer on Iran (WSJ)
- IBM’s Watson Gets Wall Street Job After ‘Jeopardy’ Win (Bloomberg)
- US Senate OKs Bill Aimed at China Subsidies (Reuters)
- Czech Banks May Need More Funds in Crisis (Bloomberg)
- Banker Bonus Limits Sought by EU Lawmakers (Bloomberg)
- Volcker Rule Needs Extensive Revisions Amid Feedback, SEC’s Gallagher Says (Bloomberg)
Central banks are printing money all over the world. New names have been given to what is really an age old phenomenon. Desperate governments have traditionally debased their currencies when they have no other way of financing their deficits. So far the world’s central banks have been “lucky”. Thanks to the prior global bubble ending in 2008 and the realization that the so-called advanced countries are reaching the end of their borrowing capacity, the world is in a massive deleveraging mode which tends to be deflationary. For the moment the central banks can get away with printing all the money they want without massive increases in consumer price indexes. The public doesn’t connect increases in prices of commodities like gold or oil with the current bout of money printing. But if history is any guide, this money printing will matter and the age of deflation and deleveraging will be followed by an age of inflation.The coming battles over solving the problems of the bankrupt American government will not be pretty. It will be a bit more difficult for an American president to preach patriotism to the affluent in these circumstances. Although, if there is a war with Iran, he might try.
While everyone was busy ruminating on how little impact a Greek default would have on the global economy, the IIF - the syndicate of banks dedicated to the perpetuation of the status quo - was busy doing precisely the opposite. In a Confidential Staff Note that was making the rounds in the past 2 weeks titled "Implications of a Disorderly Greek Default and Euro Exit" the IIF was doing its best Hank Paulson imitation in an attempt to scare the Bejeezus out of potential hold outs everywhere, by "quantifying" the impact form a Greek failure. The end result: "It is difficult to add all these contingent liabilities up with any degree of precision, although it is hard to see how they would not exceed €1 trillion." In other words, hold out at your own peril. Of course, what the IIF does not understand, is that for hedge funds it is precisely this kind of systemic nuisance value that makes holding out that much more valuable, as they understand all too well that they have all the cards on the table. And while a Greek default could be delayed even if full PSI was not attained by Thursday, it would simply make paying off the holdouts the cheapest cost strategy for the IIF, for Europe and for the world's banks. Unless of course, the IIF is bluffing, in which case the memorandum is not worth its weight in 2020 US Treasurys.
Citigroup have said that they believe that gold will rise to $2,400/oz in 2012 and by $3,400/oz in “the coming years”. However, Citi’s Tom Fitzpatrick warned of price weakness in the short term and said there is a “real danger” that there may be a correction to $1,600/oz which would provide an even better buying opportunity. Citi are also cautious near term on oil and silver. Production of gold in Australia slid again last year, despite gold fetching higher nominal prices than ever before. According to gold experts, Surbiton Associates, 264 tonnes of gold were produced last year, two tonnes less than in 2010. The 264 tonnes equated to about 8.5 million ounces and ensures that Australia remains a major player in gold, with only China producing more last year. The United States was the world's third-biggest producer with 240 tonnes. Australia's gold production was well below the nation's production peak in the late 1990s. This further suggests the possibility of peak gold production. Of the world’s four biggest gold producers (China, Australia, the U.S. and South Africa), only China has managed to increase gold production in recent years and this Chinese gold is used in China to meet the rapidly growing demand for gold jewellery and coins and bars as stores of value in China.
Natural gas prices are depressed and expected to remain so for the short to medium term, so investing in natural gas options or a natural gas exchange-traded fund is not likely to bring home the big bucks anytime soon. Domestic natural gas equities are an even riskier idea - most producers are scaling back production and selling assets as they hunker down in preparation for a tough few years. In this case, the way to profit is by understanding how natural gas' changing role is impacting North America's energy machine as a whole. Cheap natural gas is prompting utilities to switch from coal to gas where possible. The confluence of cheap natural gas and a risky global economy has droves of investors turning their backs on green energy, the sector that was such a market darling only a few years ago. Farther down the road, North Americans are debating - and in places implementing - a range of strategies to take advantage of the continent's newfound abundance of natural gas, from natural-gas-powered transport trucks to exportation of liquefied natural gas (LNG). Isaac Newton showed us that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. That is why every downside force in the energy sector creates upside opportunities elsewhere. The challenge is finding them. It takes an understanding of the entire global energy machine to figure out what areas are benefitting from the changing landscape.
Wednesday’s sell off is being attributed to one massive sell trade of 31 tonnes on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange during Bernanke’s speech. There are rumours of a large US fund selling and also that the selling may have been by JP Morgan – rumoured to be acting on behalf of an Asian fund. Who sold off and why is less important than the fundamentals of the gold market. Absolutely nothing has changed regarding the fundamentals of gold which remain as sound as ever with broad based demand from store of wealth buyers, institutions and central banks internationally and especially in Asia. Good volumes have been seen on the Shanghai Gold Exchange in recent days. In India, lowest gold prices in a month saw strong physical bullion demand and physical buyers hunting for gold bargains to meet the wedding season demand. India remains the world’s largest buyer of the yellow metal (900 tonnes/year) but China is expected to outpace them this year according the World Gold Council. ETF holdings gained 238,674 ounces to a record high of 70.76 million ounces, showing that institutions and investors remain keen on gold. Also, options data has not changed since Wednesday’s price falls.
European indices are trading in minor positive territory ahead of the North American open with tentative risk appetite. This follows news that the EU leaders have signed off on the EU fiscal pact, with German Chancellor Merkel commenting that 25 out of 27 countries have signed the agreement. The effects of the ECB’s LTRO continue to trickle through as the ECB announce they received record overnight deposits of EUR 777bln from European Banks. Little in the way of data today, however UK construction PMI released earlier in the session recorded the highest rate of increase in new orders for 21 months. In the energy complex, Brent futures have come down below USD 125.00 from yesterday’s highs with WTI echoing the movements, following market reaction to the confirmation that there were no acts of sabotage on Saudi pipelines yesterday, according to Saudi officials. EUR-led currency pairs are trading down on the session, and USD/JPY continues to climb, hitting a 9 month high earlier today at 81.72.
Much has been spun in recent weeks to indicate that as a result of collapsing trade, Iran's economy is in shambles and that the financial embargo hoisted upon the country by the insolvent, pardon, developed world is working. We had a totally different perspective on things "A Very Different Take On The "Iran Barters Gold For Food" Story" in which we essentially said that Iran, with the complicity of major trading partners like China, India and Russia is preparing to phase out the petrodollar: a move which would be impossible if key bilateral trade partners would not agree to it. Gradually it appears this is increasingly the case following a just released Reuters report that "Iran will take payment from its trading partners in gold instead of dollars, the Iranian state news agency IRNA quoted the central bank governor as saying on Tuesday."
Stocks advanced as market participants looked forward to tomorrow’s 3yr LTRO by the ECB where the street expects EU banks to borrow around EUR 400-500bln. All ten sectors traded in positive territory for much of the session, however less than impressive demand for the latest Italian government paper saw equity indices lose some of the upside traction. Of note, the ECB allotted EUR 29.469bln in 7-day operation, as well as EUR 134bln for 1-day in bridge to 3yr loans. In other new, although Portugal's finance minister announced the country has passed its 3rd bailout review by the EU/IMF, this did not stop S&P's Kraemer saying that if there is a probability of default, it is higher in Portugal than in any other Euro-Zone country.
Could Sweden or Finland be the scene of the next European financial crisis? It is actually far likelier than most people realize. While the world has been laser-focused on the woes of the heavily-indebted PIIGS nations for the last couple of years, property markets in Northern and Western European countries have been bubbling up to dizzying new heights in a repeat performance of the very property bubbles that caused the global financial crisis in the first place. Nordic and Western European countries such as Norway and Switzerland have attracted strong investment inflows due to their perceived economic safe-haven statuses, serving to further inflate these countries’ preexisting property bubbles that had expanded from the mid-1990s until 2008. With their overheated economies and ballooning property bubbles, today’s safe-haven European countries may very well be tomorrow’s Greeces and Italys.