India

Emerging Markets Still Face The "Same Ugly Arithmetic"

While Emerging Market debt has recovered somewhat from the January turmoil, EM FX remains under significant pressure, and as Michael Pettis notes in a recent note, any rebound will face the same ugly arithmetic. Ordinary households in too many countries have seen their share of total GDP plunge. Until it rebounds, the global imbalances will only remain in place, and without a global New Deal, the only alternative to weak demand will be soaring debt. Add to this continued political uncertainty, not just in the developing world but also in peripheral Europe, and it is clear that we should expect developing country woes only to get worse over the next two to three years.

Frontrunning: March 4

  • No need to use military force in Ukraine for now: Putin (Reuters)
  • Russia Orders Drill Troops Back to Bases (WSJ)
  • Ukraine premier agrees to reforms for aid package (FT)
  • Japan Base Wages Rise for First Time in Nearly Two Years (WSJ)
  • Only the algos are trading: Citigroup Joins JPMorgan in Seeing Trading-Revenue Drop  (BBG)
  • Vietnam sends blogger to prison for critical posts (AP)
  • At White House, Israel's Netanyahu pushes back against Obama diplomacy (Reuters)
  • Obama to offer new tax breaks for workers in election year budget pitch (Reuters)
  • China Banks Show Too-Connected-to-Fail Link to Shadow Loans (BBG)
  • Ex-BOK Deputy Lee Named to Head South Korea Central Bank (BBG)
  • No mortgage origination problem in the UK: Mortgage approvals climb to six year high (Telegraph)

Meanwhile, China Quietly Takes Over Zimbabwe

While the developed world is focusing on the rapidly deteriorating developments in the Crimean, China, which has kept a very low profile on the Ukraine situation aside from the token diplomatic statement, is taking advantage of this latest distraction to do what it does best: quietly take over the global periphery while nobody is looking. We learn that China has just achieved what every ascendent superpower in preparation for "gunboat diplomacy" mode needs: a key strategic airforce base, located in one time economic zombie, Zimbabwe, which incidentally just adopted the Chinese Yuan as a legal currency, and whose president just happens to be on China's payroll.

Why The Periphery Is Crumbling: The Spoils System Is Cracking

Why is the periphery crumbling? It's simple: the conditions that enabled rising national surpluses and the distribution of spoils is breaking down for three reasons:

  1. Energy is no longer cheap (compared to past prices)
  2. The low-hanging fruit of higher productivity has all been plucked
  3. The free-money flood of cheap, limitless credit is drying up

As regimes find surplus and credit are both contracting, their ability to placate every key group with spoils is also declining, and the conflicts between them can no longer be patched over with bribery or brutality. Instability starts on the periphery and moves into the core.

Futures Tread Record Territory Water Following Overnight China, Ukraine Fireworks

In addition to the already noted fireworks out of China, where the Yuan saw the biggest daily plunge since 2008 and the ongoing and very rapid newsflow out of the Ukraine, focus this morning was very much of the latest Eurozone CPI data, which despite matching previous low levels, came in above expectations and in turn resulted in an aggressive unwind of short-EUR bets as market participants were forced to re-asses the likelihood of more easing by the ECB. Still, even though the Euribor curve bear steepened and Bunds came under significant selling pressure, the EONIA forward curve remained inverted, signifying that there is still a degree of apprehension over what is unarguably very low inflation data.

President Of China's Marine Institute For Security: "Glory Drenched In Blood Will Pave China’s Road To Revitalization"

"In 2013, China embarks on a new road after the conclusion of the Third Plenum of the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party. On December 26, China solemnly commemorated the 120th anniversary of the birth of Mao Zedong. On this same day, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe provoked China by visiting the Yaksukuni Shrine in Tokyo. In response, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman quoted Mao Zedong’s “On Protracted War,” and implied that the final victory will belong to China. The new China is born in blood and fire, and is not only unafraid of war, but also courageous in welcoming reasonable and lawful conflict, because defending the country from aggression serves to further boost the development of the state’s power. The Chinese nation loves peace, but there is little doubt that glory drenched in blood will pave China’s road to revitalization. This is the glory that generations to come will treasure.  Sound the alarms for war preparation, remold our firm convictions, wake up the fearless people, and revive our strategic industries—our country is moving forward and our future is bright!" - President Of China's Marine Institute For Security And Cooperation

Eric Sprott On The "Golden Opportunity"

Gold declined from $1,900 in September 2011 to $1,188 on December, 19, 2013. Silver declined from $48.50 to $18.50 over approximately the same time frame. Precious metal equities declined by approximately 70% over this period. This move down played out exactly as was scripted. However, let us review the causes of this decline. We start out with the most important words ever written by a regulator: BaFin, the German equivalent of the SEC, said that precious metals prices were manipulated worse than LIBOR. What are we to read into this, particularly the word “worse”? Obviously, worse than LIBOR could not mean that more money was fraudulently earned since the LIBOR markets are many orders of magnitude larger than the precious metals markets. Then it must mean that the egregiousness of the pricing dysfunction was materially larger in precious metals.

Chinese Housing Weakness Unable To Keep USDJPY-Driven Futures Lower

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.

The Tyranny Of Models (Or Don't Fear The Reaper)

The tyranny of models is rampant in almost every aspect of our investment lives, from every central bank in the world to every giant asset manager in the world to the largest hedge funds in the world. There are very good reasons why we live in a model-driven world, and there are very good reasons why model-driven institutions tend to dominate their non-modeling competitors. The use of models is wonderfully comforting to the human animal because it’s what we do in our own minds and our own groups and tribes all the time. We can’t help ourselves from applying simplifying models in our lives because we are evolved and trained to do just that. But models are most useful in normal times, where the inherent informational trade-off between modeling power and modeling comprehensiveness isn’t a big concern and where historical patterns don’t break. Unfortunately we are living in decidedly abnormal times, a time where simplifications can blind us to structural change and where models create a risk that cannot be resolved by more or better modeling! It’s not a matter of using a different model or improving the model that we have. It’s the risk that ALL economic models pose when a bedrock assumption about politics or society shifts.

China Is Not 1914 Germany

Current events are frequently viewed through the prism of analogies. Words become shorthand for a particular type of situation. “Munich” equals the danger of appeasing bloodthirsty dictators, “Vietnam,” and now “Iraq/Afghanistan” means the folly of getting involved in (or, in the case of Iraq, starting) civil wars in countries whose societies the outsiders neither understand nor can effectively influence. In some cases, acting on these parallels turns out to be wise. The analogy that is currently in vogue in Asia is “1914.”

Here's What Happened The Last Time "Unemployment", "Taxes", & "Inequality" Were So Correlated

While social unrest has been a thing that occurs "over there", the increasing visualization of people taking to the streets in the face of desperate economic situations amid an elite class of politicians, dictators, and tyrants is becoming clearer by the day. As the following chart shows, across 500 billion words in over 5.2 million books, the words "unemployment, "taxes", and "inequality" tend to correlate highly with "war". The 18th century saw these terms the most correlated and as the following chronology suggests, that is not a time to reflect gladly upon...