Now that the BOJ's "interventionalism" in the capital markets is increasingly losing steam, as the soaring realized volatility in equity and bond markets squarely puts into question its credibility and its ability to enforce its core mandate (which, according to the Bank of Japan Act "states that the Bank's monetary policy should be aimed at achieving price stability, thereby contributing to the sound development of the national economy) Japan is left with one wildcard: the Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF), which as of December 31 held some ¥111.9 trillion in assets, of which ¥67.3 trillion, or 60.1% in Japanese Government Bonds. Perhaps more importantly, the GPIF also held "just" ¥14.5 trillion in domestic stocks, or 12.9% of total, far less than the minimum allocation to bonds (current floor of 59%). It is this massive potential buying dry powder that has led to numerous hints in the press (first in Bloomberg in February, then in Reuters last week, and then in the Japanese Nikkei this morning all of which have been intended to serve as a - brief - risk-on catalyst) that a capital reallocation in the GPIF is imminent to allow for much more domestic equity buying, now that the threat of the BOJ's open-ended QE is barely sufficient to avoid a bear market crash in the Nikkei in under two weeks.
There are some problems, however.
|The United Nations is a corrupt, bureaucratic nightmare and should be abolished. Free market capitalism already does more of the UN mandate than the UN ever has or will.|
Confirming that while Central Banks may have halted economic logic and reason indefinitely, supply and demand still have some relevance in the real world was today's earlier news that in the aftermath of McDonalds' 20% price hike of basic burgers in Japan three weeks ago, that the company's Japanese same store sales tumbled by a whopping 3.7% in April, a major contributor for the miss in the expected global same store sales for April which came at -0.6%, below Wall Street expectations. One can only guess what the SSS drop would have been had MCD implemented the price hike at the start of the month. One can also guess if the increase in average price offset the drop in sales volume - we will know soon, but just to make doubly sure if what MCD loses in volume it makes up for in price, McDonalds announced that one month after the 20% price hike in Japan, its Indian franchise operator said it too would proceed with a price hike - the second one this year - amounting to 5-6%.
Lamborghini sales hit the highest level in 14 years, Ferrari sales jumped 40% for the first quarter, luxury retailers forecast fat profits....
With the entire world's attention focused on Boston, the FX carry pair traders knew they had a wide berth to push futures, courtesy of some EURUSD and USDJPY levitation overnight, which started following news out of Japan that the G-20 would have no objection to its big monetary stimulus - of course they don't: they encourage it: just look at the levitation in the global wealth effect stock markets since it started. The Friday humor started early: "Japan explained that its monetary policy is aimed at achieving price stability and economic recovery, and therefore is in line with the G20 agreement in February," Aso told reporters. "There was no objection to that at the meeting." "We explained (at the G20 meeting) that we're convinced that the measures we're taking will be good for the global economy as they will help revive Japanese growth," Aso said. And by global economy he of course means stocks. Shortly thereafter, when Europe opened, the real levitation started as someone, somewhere had to offset what would otherwise be a 100 point plunge in the DJIA just on IBM's miserable results alone. Sure enough what better way to do that than with a wholesale market "tide" offsetting one or two founder boats.
As we have been warning for a while now, Japan wanted inflation and is certainly getting it, just in all the wrong places. While Abe has been desperate to transfer the collapse in the yen and the (transitory) surge in the Nikkei to the all important increase in wages, and the much sought-after wealth effect, the reality is that corporate input costs are rising far faster than revenues, and wages will be the last thing profit and earnings-conscious companies raise. As for the Japanese consumer, trained by 30 years of deflation, any profits in the stock market will be promptly converted to cold hard cash and bank deposits which represents that vast majority of Japanese financial assets, which means a double whammy for companies who will also see a drop in sales volumes, crushing margins even more as a result. One company which could no longer tolerate soaring energy and food costs (both of which we described previously here and here), is McDonalds, and as the FT reports, the fast-food chain announced today that the price of its entry-level hamburger would increase by 20% from ¥100 to ¥120, while a cheeseburger would now cost ¥150 instead of ¥120.
While China's trifecta miss of GDP, Retail Sales and Industrial Production all coming lower than expected was likely a factor in the overnight rout of gold, the initial burst of selling started well before the Chinese data hit the tape, or as soon as Japan opened for trading with forced financial institution selling to prefund cash for any and all future JGB VaR-driven margin calls. It was all downhill from there, literally, with overnight selling of gold punctured by brief burst of targeted stop hunting, sending the metal down $116 per ounce, as spot touches $1385 after trading nearly at $1500 yesterday and down $200 in 4 days. End result, whether due to a re-collapsing global economy, margin calls, fears forced Cyprus gold selling will be imposed on all other insolvent European countries, coordinated central bank slams, hedge fund positioning, long unwinds, liquidations, fears about future demand, or whatever the usual selling suspects are, is that gold tumbles an unprecedented 7.8% on 230,000 contracts in one day, and well over 10% in two days, pushing the yellow metal 14 day RSI band to 18, meaning it is now most oversold since 1999. In brief, it is an all out panic, with Goldman still telling clients to sell, i.e., buying every shiny ounce all the way down (not to mention India, where accordingto UBS Friday demand was double the average).
How do you know when the people "just say no" to chicken over rampant bird flu concerns? When even McDonalds is forced to slash chicken-related prices, in this case the 20 piece McNuggets, from CNY 36 to CNY 20. Pretty soon not even giving away the McMystery meat will clear out the shelves of all chicken-related fast food first in Shanghai and soon elsewhere in China. Finally, we dread to imagine the horrors that will befall Yum (read China KFC sales), now that after so much pain, the fast-food chain had finally reported a modest bounce in Chinese sales. So much for that.
It is clear now that we must have been wrong about the economy. No more proof is needed than the fact the Dow has gone up 1,500 points. Everyone knows the stock market reflects the true health of the nation – multi-millionaire Jim Cramer and his millionaire CNBC talking head cohorts tell us so. Ignore the fact that the bottom 80% only own 5% of the financial assets in this country and are not benefitted by the stock market in any way. It is time to open your eyes and arise from your stupor. Observe what is happening around you. Look closely. Does the storyline match what you see in your ever day reality? It is them versus us. Whether you call them the invisible government, ruling class, financial overlords, oligarchs, the powers that be, ruling elite, or owners; there are powerful wealthy men who call the shots in this global criminal enterprise. No amount of propaganda can cover up the physical, economic, social, and psychological descent afflicting our world. There’s a bad moon rising and trouble is on the way.
Even as the gargantuan $1+ trillion student debt load has been the bubbly elephant in the room that few are still willing to talk about, there have been until now zero opportunities for a the proverbial highly convex "ABX" short in the student debt space. This of course is the trade that was put on by those who sensed the subprime bubble is about to pop in early/mid 2007 and made billions as the yield chasers were summarily punished one by one as first New Century blew up, and then everyone else. Yet while one was able to buy synthetic "hedge" exposure with limited downside and unlimited upside (by shorting synthetic index spreads) in subprime, so far the only way to be bearish on student debt has been to short the equity of various private sector lenders - a trade with very limited upside and unlimited downside, and which in the current idiotic New Normal is more likely to leave one insolvent and crushed in a smoldering heap of margin calls following yet another epic short squeeze as GETCO's stop hunting algo run amok. This may be about to change. As WSJ reports, SecondMarket Holdings, the private-market securities trading firm best known for allowing numerous overzealous fans to buy FaceBook at moronic valuations, on Monday "will roll out a platform allowing lenders to issue securities backed by student loans directly to investors."
It started overnight in Japan, where Q4 GDP posted a surprising and disappointing 3rd quarter of declines, then quickly spread to France, whose Q4 GDP declined -0.3% Q/Q missing expectations of a -0.2% drop, down from a +0.1% increase, then Germany, whose GDP also missed expectations of a -0.5% drop, declining from a +0.2% increase to a -0.6% drop, then on to Italy (-0.9% vs Exp. -0.6%, last -0.2%), Portugal (-1.8%, Exp. -1.0%, last -0.9%), Greece (down -6.0%, previously -6.7%), Hungary (-0.9%, Exp. -0.3%), Austria (-0.2%, down from 0.1%), Cyprus (-3.1%, last -2.0%), and so on. To summarize: Eurozone GDP dropped far more than expected, or posting a -0.6% decline in Q4, worse than the -0.4% expected, which was the largest drop since Q1 2009, and down from the -0.1% posted in Q3. And since this was a second consecutive negative quarter of GDP decline for the Eurozone, the technical recession (double dip? triple dip? is anyone even counting anymore?) in Europe too is now official.
"Return = Cash + Beta + Alpha": An Inside Look At The World's Biggest And Most Successful "Beta" Hedge FundSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/23/2013 22:31 -0400
Some time ago when we looked at the the performance of the world's largest and best returning hedge fund, Ray Dalio's Bridgewater, it had some $138 billion in assets. This number subsequently rose by $4 billion to $142 billion a week ago, however one thing remained the same: on a dollar for dollar basis, it is still the best performing and largest hedge fund of the past 20 years, and one which also has a remarkably low standard deviation of returns to boast. This is known to most people. What is less known, however, is that the two funds that comprise the entity known as "Bridgewater" serve two distinct purposes: while the Pure Alpha fund is, as its name implies, a chaser of alpha, or the 'tactical', active return component of an investment, the All Weather fund has a simple "beta isolate and capture" premise, and seeks to generate a modestly better return than the market using a mixture of equity and bonds investments and leverage. Ironically, as we foretold back in 2009, in the age of ZIRP, virtually every "actively managed" hedge fund would soon become not more than a massively levered beta chaser however charging an "alpha" fund's 2 and 20 fee structure. At least Ray Dalio is honest about where the return comes from without hiding behind meaningless concepts and lugubrious econospeak drollery. Courtesy of "The All Weather Story: How Bridgewater created the All Weather investment strategy, the foundation of the "risk parity" movement" everyone else can learn that answer too.
Heading into the North American open, equities are trading in minor negative territory, led lower by banks as markets look forward to the first LTRO repayment, as well as lingering concerns that losses from derivatives contracts by Monte Paschi (entered with Nomura) may undermine the lender’s earnings. Monte Paschi shares opened 8% lower and were halted by the exchange to prevent a further slide in share price. As a result, even though EUR/USD is trading higher and peripheral bond yield spread are tighter, Bunds are trading in minor positive territory. Of note, Spain’s Iberian neighbour Portugal opened books for its 2017 bond and books are said to be around EUR 10bln, with guidance at MS+395bps (down from original MS+410bps). EUR/USD has also benefited from the decision by the Portuguese Treasury to tap capital markets only a day after a successful placement by Spain yesterday. Looking elsewhere, even though USD/JPY has bounced off earlier lows, implied vols continue to trade heavy as option decay and re-positioning post the BoJ decision weighs on prices. So much so that R/R has slipped to Sep levels, but still favours bets on further JPY depreciation.
After witnessing the fighting of undeclared never ending wars, passage of freedom destroying legislation like the Patriot Act & NDAA, approval of pork barrel spending to the tune of hundreds of billions, rule by Executive Order, using ZIRP to extract hundreds of billions from senior citizen savers and give it to criminal Wall Street banks, forcing the American people at gunpoint to replenish the Wall Street banks with $700 billion after they had committed the greatest financial fraud in history, and a continuing trampling of the U.S. Constitution, the American people continue to remain willfully ignorant of the truth. The American Dream is dead. We’ve allowed a rich, privileged, elite few to achieve hegemony over our economic and political system with their control of the media and manipulation of our financial markets. They will collapse the country because they will never be satisfied with the amount of wealth and power they’ve accumulated. Their voracious greed will be their downfall.
One of the most glaring omissions in mainstream financial-media stock market commentary is the connection between the U.S. dollar's relative value and corporate earnings. 50%-60%+ of global corporate earnings and profits are non-U.S., i.e. booked overseas in a currency other than the U.S. dollar (USD). As the dollar weakened, global corporate profits skyrocketed as earnings in euros, yen, etc. rose when stated in dollars. In other words, overseas profits expand as if by magic when stated in dollars. This explains why the Fed has been so keen to trash the dollar: it magically increases corporate profits and thus drives stocks higher. As the dollar strengthens, overseas profits will decline when stated in dollars. If we combine the FX drag of a rising USD with the cyclical top in corporate earnings described in What If Corporate Earnings Have Topped Out?, we discern a potential double-whammy on earnings and thus stock market valuations.