Snow may have "crushed" the world's biggest economy by 1% in Q1, but in the last 6 years, the Fed has goosed its 20% higher than it otherwise would be.
This week markets are likely to focus on a few important data prints in DMs, including Philly Fed in the US (expect solid expansionary territory) and 1Q GDP releases in the Euro area (with upside risks). In DMs, the highlights of the week include [on Monday] Japan’s trade balance data and Australia business conditions; [on Tuesday] US retail sales, CPI in Italy and Sweden; [on Wednesday] US PPI, Euro area IP, CPI in France, Germany and Spain; [on Thursday] US Philly Fed, CPI, capacity utilization, Euro area and Japan GDP; and [on Friday] US Univ. of Michigan Confidence. In the US, we expect Philly Fed to print in solidly expansionary territory (at 14, similar to consensus) and to inaugurate what we call the active data period of the month. We also expect CPI inflation to print at 0.3% mom (similar to consensus), and core CPI inflation at 0.18% mom (slightly above consensus).
There should be no 'flexible currency' and no central planning of money. They are at the root of the boom-bust cycle, the very reason for the various crises that have beset Western economies in recent decades. Switzerland would be far better off if no-one had the power to meddle with its money supply. As it is, there has been plenty of meddling already, and quite a bit of suspension of disbelief would be necessary to conclude that there will be no price to pay. As always in monetary matters, the bill will be presented at an unknown future date, but it could be a very big bill in this case... but Switzerland's Keynesian dunderhesds are well on their way to that coming due as they blast any gold repatriation plans as "reducing the credibility of the SNB’s policy."
Last week, USDNCY began to accelerate lower and break across the "real pain" threshold that we have been discussing for many of the world's so-called "hedgers" who have been riding the one-way strengthening trend of the CNY for years and piled in with leveraged trades on what had been a one-way bet. The collapse this week, to levels not seen since pre-BoJ QQE and pre-Fed QE3 appeared to trigger an avalanche of unwinds or hedges of the exposures we have been worrying about. As the chart below shows, billions of dollars of upside calls on USDCNY were purchased on Friday with serious size out to 6.65 strikes (levels not seen since 2009) by the end of 2014.
The PBOC's willingness to a) enter the global currency war (beggar thy neighbor), and b) 'allow' the Yuan to weaken and thus crush carry traders and leveraged 'hedgers' is about to get serious. The total size of the carry trades and hedges is hard to estimate but Deutsche believes it is around $500bn and as Morgan Stanley notes the ongoing weakness means things can get ugly fast as USDCNY crosses the crucial 6.25 level where losses from hedge products begin to surge. This is a critical level as it pre-dates Fed QE3 and BoJ QQE levels and these are pure levered derivative MtM losses - not a "well they will just rotate to US equities" loss - which means major tightening on credit conditions...
As we noted earlier, The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) has continuously been overly optimistic regarding its expectations for economic growth in the United States. A major reason for the FOMC’s overly optimistic forecast for economic growth and its incorrect view of the effectiveness of quantitative easing is the reliance on the so-called 'wealth effect'. However, "There may not be a wealth effect at all. If there is a wealth effect, it is very difficult to pin down..." Since the FOMC began quantitative easing in 2009, its balance sheet has increased more than $3 trillion. This increase may have boosted wealth, but the U.S. economy received no meaningful benefit. Furthermore, the FOMC has no idea what the ultimate outcome of such an increase will be or what a return to a ‘normal’ balance sheet might entail. Given all of this, we do not see any evidence for economic growth as robust at the FOMC predicts. Without a wealth effect, the stock market is not the “key player” in the economy, and no “virtuous circle” runs through the stock market.
Tax time, but not pay-up time.
One can see that while the traditional 6:00 AM USDJPY buy program is just duying to resume aggressive upward momentum ignition, futures are still leery and confused by the recent post-open high beta selloffs. Then again, things like yesterday's ridiculous no news 3:30pm ramp happen and confused them even more just as momentum is about to take a downward direction. Stocks in Asia (ex-China) advanced amid a reversal in sentiment after Citigroup (+4.15%) inspired positive close on Wall Street, however Shanghai Comp (-1.4%) underperformed as concerns over GDP data on Wednesday following weak money supply data weighed on sentiment. Stocks remained on the back foot (Eurostoxx50 -0.42%), with Bunds supported by the release of lower than expected German ZEW survey and also ongoing concerns surrounding the stand-off between Ukraine/Russia. Short-Sterling bear steepened after UK CPI fell to its lowest level since October 2009, but house prices across Britain posted its biggest rise since June 2010, reviving concerns over an overheating market.
Today's 'bounce' in US equity markets is not translating into Asian equity market strength as China, India, Indonesia, and Thai stocks are fading. Copper is crumbling and just stopped out Dennis Gartman's long. In China, the PBOC withdrew 172bn Yuan (highest since Feb 2013) and pushed the currency back towards its weakest since Feb (which is the weakest since the PBOC began its erstwhile carry-killing-policy). Lots of odd moving-parts in Chinese data tonight with M2 YoY growth tumbling to 12.1% (missing expectations) - its slowest since Jan 2001 but Total Social Financing smashed expectations at 2.07tn Yuan (vs 1.86tn expected). It seems, try as the PBOC might to control it, credit creation continues to balloon in China.
There is a reasonably quiet start to the week before we head into the highlights of the week including the start of US reporting season tomorrow, FOMC minutes on Wednesday and IMF meetings in Washington on Friday. On the schedule for today central bank officials from the ECB including Mersch, Weidmann and Constancio will be speaking. The Fed’s Bullard speaks today, and no doubt there will be interest in his comments from last week suggesting that the Fed will hike rates in early 2015.
Big Bubble Brutally Bursts ... Bringing Bankruptcies, Bond Busts
With the world still on edge over developments in the Ukraine, overnight newsflow was far less dramatic than yesterday, with no "bombshell" uttered at today's Putin press conferences in which he said nothing new and simply reiterated the party line and yet the market saw it as a full abdication, he did have some soundbites saying Russia should keep economic issues separate from politics, and that Russia should cooperate with all partners on Ukraine. Elsewhere Gazprom kept the heat on, or rather off, saying Ukraine recently paid $10 million of its nat gas debt, but that for February alone Ukraine owes $440 million for gas, which Ukraine has informed Gazprom it can't pay in full. Adding the overdue amounts for prior months, means Ukraine's current payable on gas is nearly $2 billion. Which is why almost concurrently Barosso announced that Europe would offer €1.6 billion in loans as part of EU package, which however is condition on striking a deal with the IMF (thank you US taxpayers), and that total aid could be as large as $15 billion, once again offloading the bulk of the obligations to the IMF. And so one more country joins the Troika bailout routine, and this one isn't even in the Eurozone, or the EU.
Yuan volatility is part of a major rebalancing of global trade. The next phase of EM turmoil will involve banking crises in several countries including China.
This week saw the continuation of the "bad news is good news" theme as one economic report after another came in far below expectations. The question remains whether it is actually all just a function of the weather? Of course, there is something inherently wrong with driving asset prices higher based on hopes that a weaker economy will keep the Fed's "liquidity fix" flowing to drug addicted Wall Street traders. Under that theory, we should be rooting for an outright "depression" to double our portfolio values. But, when put into that context, it suddenly doesn't make much sense. Yet that is the world in which we live in...for now. Therefore, as we wind down the week on this "options expiry" Friday, here is a list of things to think about over the weekend.
The market correction that begin in January appears to be subsiding, at least for the moment, as Yellen's recent testimony gave markets the promise of the continuation of Bernanke's legacy. With the markets back into rally mode, for the moment, this week's "Things To Ponder" focuses on some of the bigger issues concerning the effectiveness of QE, investing and "77 reasons you suck at managing money."