And just like that Grexit is back.
It appears that with a few short days left in the year, the Santa rally is finally over, if only in Greece where both bonds and stock are tumbling after the third vote for PM Samaras' appointed presidential appointee Stavros Dimas concluded as many had expected: in failure, with 168 Greek lawmakers voting in favor of Dimas, well short of the 180-vote threshold needed. 132 voted against Mr. Dimas. This means that the "worst case" scenario - at least as described by Goldman - is now on deck: a snap general election that could bring the anti-bailout Syriza party to power. And speaking of Syriza, and its triumphant leader Samaras, moments ago he announced that the now inevitable Greek elections will take place on January 25: pencil that date in for even more turmoil.
"Current equity valuations provide no margin of safety for long-term investors. One might as well be investing on a dare..."
The US dollar closed higher against all the major currencies during the holiday shortened week. The lack of liquidity may have exaggerated the weakness of Swedish krona and Norwegian krone, the poorest performing major currencies. Both lost about 1.5% against the greenback.
The least weak currencies were in the dollar-bloc. The Canadian and New Zealand dollars were practically flat, and the Australian dollar slipped 0.2%. The euro and sterling slipped about 0.5%, while the yen shed 0.7% of its recent gains.
- Japan inflation slows to 14 month low, output slips (Reuters)
- Russia says ruble crisis over as reserves dive, inflation climbs (Reuters)
- Ruble rebounds sharply from lows as exporters sell dollars (Reuters)
- Xbox, PlayStation Networks Attacked, Hackers Claim Credit (BBG)
- Sony’s ‘The Interview’ Packs Theaters Without Violence (BBG)
- Oil edges above $60 as Libyan output slumps (Reuters)
- Shoppers’ Late Rush Gives Hope to Retailers (WSJ)
- Japan says close to deal with South Korea and U.S. on North Korea defense (Reuters)
- NYPD Arrests Seven for Threats After Slayings of Officers (BBG)
It appears that the Q4 earnings season "bloodbath" predicted by harbinger Jefferies is right on track. According to Citigroup, Q4 is shaping up to be nothing short of a disaster for bank earnings. To wit: "Primary revenues decreased 17% yoy over Oct-Nov, notably impacted by weaker lending trends, per Dealogic industry data. Issuance revenues also declined while advisory revenues increased slightly. Loans revenues fell 61% yoy over Oct-Nov with leveraged finance particularly lower, given weaker market conditions [ZH: uhm, market hit all time highs in both October and Novemer?!]. By contrast, DCM revenues increased 11% over the same period, primarily driven by higher IG issuance (+27% yoy), partially offset by lower HY, down 12%." Which is odd: remember how everyone said banks are being punished for low volatility? Apparently the only thing worse for banks than zero/low vol was... high vol.
Despite the authorities' best efforts to keep everything orderly, we know how this global Game of Geopolitical Tetris ends: "Players lose a typical game of Tetris when they can no longer keep up with the increasing speed, and the Tetriminos stack up to the top of the playing field. This is commonly referred to as topping out."
"I’m tired of being outraged!"
A specter is haunting the world, the specter of two percent inflationism. Whether pronounced by the U.S. Federal Reserve or the European Central Bank, or from the Bank of Japan, many monetary central planners have declared their determination to impose a certain minimum of rising prices on their societies and economies. One of the oldest of economic fallacies continues to dominate and guide the thinking of monetary policy makers: that printing money is the magic elixir for the creating of sustainable prosperity. Once the inflationary monetary expansion ends or is slowed down, it is discovered that the artificially created supply and demand patterns and relative price and wage structure are inconsistent with non-inflationary market conditions. Governments and their monetary central planners, therefore, are the cause and not the solution to the instabilities and hardships of inflations and recessions.
Blind faith in policymakers remains a bad trade that’s still widely held. Pressure builds everywhere we look. Not as a consequence of the Fed’s ineptitude (which is a constant in the equation, not a variable), but through the blind faith markets continuing to place bets on the very low probability outcome – that everything will turn out well this time around. And so the pressure keeps rising. Managers are under pressure to perform and missing more targets, levering up on hope. Without further delay we present our slightly unconventional annual list. Instead of the usual what you should do, we prefer the more helpful (for us at least) what we probably wouldn’t do. Five fresh new contenders for what could become some very bad trades in the coming year.
While the current episode of Russian geopolitical and economic turmoil may seem significant, the following chart from Goldman Sachs shows the tempestuous time the nation has had over the past 150 years...
"It’s hard to say what the right price is for a commodity like oil . . . and thus when the price is too high or too low. Was it too high at $100-plus, an unsustainable blip? History says no: it was there for 43 consecutive months through this past August. And if it wasn’t too high then, isn’t it laughably low today? The answer is that you just can’t say. Ditto for whether the response of the price of oil to the changes in fundamentals has been appropriate, excessive or insufficient. And if you can’t be confident about what the right price is, then you can’t be definite about financial decisions regarding oil." - Howard Marks
Through the overly-complex verbiage riddled with a copious number of contingencies, a simple message was actually able to surface. The net result is modestly hawkish and one consistent with our "Sooner but Slower" rate cycle perspective. Markets are being driven more by fear of missing the upside, and fear of under-performing peers and benchmarks, than by any other factor. This Pavlovian response has worked well in recent years and encouraged by the Fed. However, this pattern is in the 9th inning. Moreover, such herd-like behavior will run into great difficult due to dreadful market liquidity that is the result of regulatory over-reach; indications that were evident in markets over the past few weeks.
"As humans struggled to understand what nuance, if any, existed between the two catch phrases, the automated computer programs that do so much of the trading these days immediately reacted and so stocks and Treasuries shot higher in tandem. Did the machines start a buying binge after a simple, successful search for “considerable time?” It’s possible, according to Paul Tetlock, an associate professor at Columbia Business School, who has researched how stocks react to news stories."
After drifting unchanged for much of the overnight session, US futures exploded higher shortly after the previously noted SNB's NIRP announcement, which took place at 2 am eastern, which made it explicit that yet another banks will herd the bouncing dead cats right into new all time stock market highs, and following the European open, were carried even higher as the global "risk-on" momentum ignition algos woke up, spiking all recently depressed assets higher, including energy as Brent rose almost 3% despite Saudi Arabia’s oil minister Ali al-Naimi once again saying "it is difficult if not impossible" for OPEC and his kingdom to reduce output.
- Ruble Sinks to 80 a Dollar Defying Surprise Russia Rate Increase (BBG)
- Oil slumps near $59 for first time since 2009 on oversupply (Reuters)
- Oil sinks, Russian moves fail to quell nerves (Reuters)
- Fed Seen Looking Past Low Inflation to Drop ‘Considerable Time (BBG)
- Students Among Dead as Pakistan Gunmen Kill 126 at Army School (BBG)
- Repsol to buy Talisman Energy for $13 billion (Reuters)
- Indonesia’s Rupiah Erases Decline After Central Bank Intervenes (BBG)
- Anti-Islam Rally Grows as Immigrant Backlash Hits Europe (BBG)
- Saudi Arabia is playing chicken with its oil (Reuters)
The biggest event of the coming week is surely the FOMC announcement on Wednesday, when as most expect, will see the Fed's language shifting from "considerable time" to "patient." But while "most" also expect this to be the preamble toward Fed hiking rates in mid-2015, some disagree.