An overview of the fundamental determinants of the foreign exchange market in the week ahead. I look beyond the official rhetoric at what is pushing the yen lower. I also discuss the tightening of European monetary condition. In addition, there is a brief discussion of the key US events this week: the FOMC, Q4 GDP estimate, and US jobs report.
Since Alan Greenspan became the Fed chairman in 1987, there has been a policy consensus on the primary role and effectiveness of monetary policy in cushioning an economic downturn and kicking it back to growth. Fiscal policy, due to the political difficulties in making meaningful changes, was relegated to a minor role in economic management. Staving off crisis and reviving growth still dominate today's conversation. The prima facie evidence is that the experiment has failed. The dominant voice in policy discussions is advocating more of the same. When a medicine isn't working, it could be the wrong one or the dosage isn't sufficient. The world is trying the latter. But, if the medicine is really wrong, more and more of the same will kill the patient one day. The global economy was a debt bubble, functioning on China over-borrowing and investing and the West over-borrowing and consuming. The dynamic came to an end when the debt crises exposed debt levels in the West as too high. The last source of debt growth, the U.S. government, is coming to an end, too, as politics forces it to reduce the deficit. Trying to bring back yesterday through monetary growth will eventually bring inflation, not growth.
Gold edged up and Tokyo gold hit a record multiyear high after the Bank of Japan announced a bold, some would say reckless, $117 billion ‘stimulus’ program as expected. The BOJ’ package included doubling its inflation target to 2% and making an open-ended commitment to asset purchases from next year.
This open ended policy surprised some that expected a small rise in the BOJ's $1.1 trillion asset-buying and lending program.
On Wednesday, there is a scheduled vote in the U.S. Congress proposed by Republicans on the U.S. borrowing limit.
Three weeks ago it became clear that in its fight to curb consumer thirst for gold products, India, whose population is the largest single source of gold consumer demand (at least for now, soon to be replaced with China) is losing said fight, after its finance minister made it very clear that "demand for gold must be moderated" leading to a hike in import taxes to 4%. Needless to say, there is no more certain way to increase demand for a given commodity (or gun, ahem US government) than to hint that the government will make its procurement problematic. Sure enough India blamed its record current account deficit on precisely this: the soaring imports of gold as locals revert to a currency far more appreciated and respected than paper, a topic further explained when we showed the exponential surge in gold-backed loans outstanding in India. Indeed, at least in this country, there is one safe and abundant collateral product which, contrary to the US, is as good as money - gold - whose consumer demand in just India and China is shown in the chart below. Combined India and China consumer amount to some 35% of total gold demand, and 55% for just jewelry. And while we have tracked the relentless gold gross import surge into China, we have not done the same with India, because we assumed these were implied. It is precisely the importing of gold that India is once again doing its best to curb, this time by boosting import duties on gold dore bars by a 150% from 2% to 5%, a day after it once again hiked gold import taxes, this time by 50% from 4% to 6%.
Japan's Chain Of Events: Stagnation -> Monetization -> Devaluation -> Stabilization -> Retaliation -> HyperinflationSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/21/2013 17:31 -0400
As the world's equity markets prepare to rally on the back of yet more central bank printing as Japan's Shinzo Abe takes the helm with a 2% inflation target and a central bank entirely in his pocket, The Telegraph's Ambrose Evans-Pritchard suggests a rather concerning analog for the last time a Japanese prime-minister attempted to salvage his deflation/depression strewn nation. The 1930s 'brilliant rescue' by Korekiyo Takahashi, who removed Japan from the Gold Standard, ran huge 'Keynesian' budget deficits intentionally, and compelled the Bank of Japan to monetize his debt until the economy was back on its feet managed to devalue the JPY by 60% (40% on a trade-weighted basis). Initially this led to exports rising dramatically and brief optical stability, but the repercussion is the unintended consequence (retaliation) that the world missed then and is missing now. Though the economy appeared to stabilize, the responses of other major exporting nations, implicitly losing in the game of world trade, caused Japan's policies to backfire, slowed growth and left a nation needing to chase its currency still lower - eventually leading to hyperinflation in Japan (and Takahashi's assassination). With no Martians to export to, why should we expect any difference this time? and how much easier (and quicker) are trade flows altered in the current world?
Well, my fellow Slope-a-Dopes, your selfless Idiotic Savant servant, whom is securely chained to his desk, has spent a significant part of the long weekend, perusing nearly every finance blog on the world wide web for you. Therefore, I can reliably report to the SOH, that the overwhelming consensus out there in the financial blogosphere, which has now reached a nearly universal feverish pitch, is boldly & proudly heralding that a most encouraging new economic dawn is finally upon us. It seems, a pristine permanent plateau of prosperity has been patently perfected.
- Foreign Hostages Die in Algeria’s Battle With Terrorists (Bloomberg)
- The latest bank to soon join the currency wars: McCafferty Says BOE Must Keep Open Mind on New Policy Tools (Bloomberg)
- US debt talks complicated by timing (FT)
- BOJ eyes open-ended asset buying, agrees new inflation goal (Reuters)
- AmEx Says U.S. Card Income Fell 42% as Loss Provisions Increased (BBG)
- Call to raise age for US’s Medicare (FT)
- Obama Promise to Raise Middle Class Living Already Seen in Peril (BBG)
- China Exits Slowdown as Quarterly Growth Tops Forecasts (BBG) - actually, as new Politburo says to make it appear that way
- Britain to drift out of European Union without reforms (Reuters)
- Republicans weigh interim debt-limit hike (FT)
- Abe's aide says Japan shouldn't fret if yen falls to 100 vs dlr (Reuters) ... and it was 90 just a few days ago
- PBOC May Seek More Liquidity Operations (Dow Jones)
How effective have the sanctions been in moderating Iran’s behavior up to now? Current indications are not much, despite the damage inflicted on the country’s economy. On 9 January Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that Iran should establish more processing industries in the oil and gas sectors to reduce dependency on exports of crude oil and that the budget plan for the next Iranian year of 1392 (to start on 21 March) envisaged less dependence on crude oil revenues as the government intends to replace crude oil exports with oil derivatives to allow the nation’s economy to participate in the oil sector’s lucrative downstream industry.... A regime that has weathered more than three decades of tumult in its efforts to construct an Islamic society seems unlikely in an energy-starved world to ameliorate its behavior solely to please the dictates of Washington, Brussels, the UN and Canberra. And oh, on 14 September 2012 the United States exempted Belgium, Britain, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, and Japan from complying with the sanctions for another 180 days, a list that was expanded on 8 December to include China, India, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Turkey, and Taiwan.
Are German industrialists getting cold feet?
New Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s pledge to spur inflation to 2 percent at the end of the yen’s appreciation means Japanese pension funds now have to hedge against rising prices and a currency decline after two decades of stagnation. Japanese pension funds are set to diversify some of their massive holdings, worth nearly $3.4 trillion into gold bullion. Corporate pension funds in Japan will diversify 72 trillion yen in assets after domestic stocks produced little return in the past two decades, according to Daiwa Institute of Research. “Bullion’s role as an inflation hedge, long ignored by Japanese fund operators, has come under the spotlight thanks to Abe’s economic policy,” Toshima, who now works as an adviser to pension-fund operators, said in an interview today in Tokyo. “Gold may be a standard asset-class in the portfolio of Japanese pension funds as Abe’s target is realized.”
Reuters report that Asia's physical market has picked up so far this year, with buyers tempted by last week's big drop in prices -- when prices retreated to as low as 1,626 per ounce -- and on demand ahead of the Lunar New Year, traders said. The trading volume on the Shanghai Gold Exchange's 99.99 gold physical contract shot through the roof on Monday, hitting a record of 19,504.8 kilograms, after double-counting transactions in both directions. "Physical demand is very strong," said a Beijing-based trader. "It's a combination of the attraction of lower prices as well as pre-holiday demand." But such appetite could waver if prices recover towards $1,700, he added.
- London Quantitative Hedge Funds Report Second Year of Losses (BBG)
- Berlusconi Forms Alliance in Comeback Bid (WSJ)
- Japan to Buy ESM Bonds Using FX Reserves to Help Weaken Yen (BBG)
- Japan Mulling BOJ Accord Linked to Employment, Mainichi Says (BBG)
- Samsung Expects Record Operating Profit (WSJ)
- Boeing 787 Dreamliner Fire Probed, Blaze Adds to Setbacks (BBG)
- BOJ's Shirai: Open to Firmer Inflation Target (WSJ)
- HSBC N.J. Client Admits Conspiracy in Offshore Tax Case (BBG)
- Lampert to Assume CEO Role at Sears (WSJ)
- Abe prepares fresh stimulus measures (FT)
- U.S. Set for Biggest State-Local Jobs Boost Since 2007 (BBG)
- Pakistan Seen Needing IMF Bailout as Rupee Drops Before Vote (BBG)
More than half a decade has passed since the recession that triggered the financial panic and the Great Recession, but the condition of the world continues to be summed up by what The Spectator's Michael Lind calls ‘turboparalysis’ - a prolonged condition of furious motion without movement in any particular direction, a situation in which the engine roars and the wheels spin but the vehicle refuses to move. By now one might have expected the emergence of innovative and taboo-breaking schools of thought seeking to account for and respond to the global crisis. But to date there is no insurgent political and intellectual left, nor a new right, for that matter. Why has a global calamity produced so little political change and, at the same time, so little rethinking? Part of the answer, has to do with the collapse of the two-way transmission belt that linked the public to the political elite. But there is a deeper, structural reason for the persistence of turboparalysis. And that has to do with the power and wealth that incumbent elites accumulated during the decades of the global bubble economy. But it is coming...
There are seven items that will be on the radar screen of global investors in the week ahead. 1. There is confusion over Fed policy. Despite the leadership (Bernanke, Yellen and Dudley) demonstrating their unwavering commitment to use heterodox monetary policy in an attempt to promote a stronger economy in the face of household de-leveraging and fiscal consolidation, many have read the FOMC minutes to imply an early end to the $85 bln a month in long-term asset (MBS and Treasuries). That December meeting was historic not because it marked the beginning of the end of QE, but the exact opposite, the nearly doubling monthly purchases and the adoption of macro-economic guidance (6.5% unemployment and 2.5% inflation) before rates are lifted.