Are fish from the Pacific safe to eat? What about the elevated background radiation readings detected in Japan, and recently in California? Are these harmful levels? Should we be worried? And if so, what should be done about these potential health threats? What steps should we take to protect ourselves? Fukushima-related fears have been both overblown as well as heavily downplayed by parties on each side of the discussion. Much of this stems from ignorance of the underlying science. But some of it, sadly, seems to be purposefully misleading. Again, on both sides. To assess the true risks accurately, you need to know about the difference between radiation and contamination. The distinction is vital and, unfortunately, one of the most glossed-over and misused facets of the reporting on nuclear energy.
No-one knows for sure how big a problem China's economy will eventually face due to the massive credit and money supply growth that has occurred in recent years and no-one know when exactly it will happen either. There have been many dire predictions over the years, but so far none have come true. And yet, it is clear that there is a looming problem of considerable magnitude that won't simply go away painlessly. The greatest credit excesses have been built up after 2008, which suggests that there can be no comfort in the knowledge that 'nothing has happened yet'. Given China's importance to the global economy, it seems impossible for this not to have grave consequences for the rest of the world, in spite of China's peculiar attributes in terms of government control over the economy and the closed capital account.
The point isn't that "the Fed can't do that;" the point is that the Fed cannot create a bid in bidless markets that lasts beyond its own buying. The Fed can buy half the U.S. stock market, all the student loans, all the subprime auto loans, all the defaulted CRE and residential mortgages, and every other worthless asset in America. But that won't create a real bid for any of those assets, once they are revealed as worthless. The nuclear option won't fix anything, because it is fundamentally the wrong tool for the wrong job. Holders of disintegrating assets will be delighted to sell the assets to the Fed, of course, but that won't fix what's fundamentally broken in the American and global economies; it will simply allow the transfer of impaired assets from the financial sector and speculators to the Fed.
Who says the only thing bankers are good at is relying on (then blaming) S&P and Moody's research reports to justify their investments in worthless toxic subprime, then levering up beyond all known limits and putting on unbelievably risky trades in hopes of striking it rich or blowing up and getting bailed out by taxpayers. According to Bloomberg "these young bankers are trying to save the world."
But at the end of the day, if your creditors lost faith in your ability to repay it… it’s GAME OVER. This is hitting the emerging market space today.
Over the past week we took our fair share of jabs at SocGen EM FX analyst Benoit Anne (the one who said "Governor Basci, You Have Avoided A Domino Crisis In EM"... er, oops?) . They were all in good humor - after all when it comes to sheer contrarian cluelessness nobody, and we mean nobody in the known world, can even reach Tom Stolper's toe nail, whose fades have resulted in over +12,000 pips on these pages alone over the past 5 years. Which is why we follow up the comedy with something more serious: now that the honeymoon is over, Anne has put together a solid compendium on how to trade the EM meltdown, with an emphasis on defensive strategies. Considering the tapering will continue for a long time, and as GaveKal explained yesterday, someone will have to lose (big) before EM normalcy returns, we urge anyone with EM exposure to read this.
The problem is twofold. First, current accounts are a zero sum game, so future improvements in emerging market trade balances have to come at someone else’s expense. Second, we have had, over the past year, only modest growth in global trade; so if EM balances are to improve markedly, somebody’s will have to deteriorate. When the 1994-95 “tequila crisis” struck, the US current account deficit widened to allow for Mexico to adjust. The same thing happened in 1997 with the Asian crisis, in 2001 when Argentina blew, and in 2003 when SARS crippled Asia. In 1998, oil prices took the brunt of the adjustment as Russia hit the skids. In 2009-10, it was China’s turn to step up to the plate, with a stimulus-spurred import binge that meaningfully reduced its current account surplus. Which brings us to today and the question of who will adjust their growth lower (through a deterioration in their trade balances) to make some room for Argentina, Brazil, Turkey, South Africa, Indonesia...? There are really five candidates...
As South Africa hiked rates this morning (whose effect on the Rand was promptly overwhelmed by the Lira collapsing back to weaker than pre-rate-hike) stock markets around the world are rapidly deteriorating and the safety of bonds and bullion is being sought aggressively. S&P futures are -10 from pre-Turkey; Dow -100; Nikkei -30; and EEM swung from up over 2% to down almost 1% in the pre-open. Treasuries are 6bps tighter than post-Turkey and gold (and silver) are rallying smartly back up to $1268 (+$20 from post-Turkey lows). It would seem EM turmoil is un-fixed. Turkish stocks are collapsing and the Hungarian Forint is collapsing. We can't help but see the irony of this tumult and the possibility of a global financial meltdown occurring on the day of Bernanke's last FOMC meeting...
Yesterday, the moment when the Turkish Central Bank intervention was jinxed was clearly marked by SocGen's fawning Benoit Anne, who said "In any case, I definitely feel much better about the TRY, at least on a tactical basis. Hence we just entered a long TRY/ZAR targeting a tactical move to 5.10. The TRY crisis is over." To which we responded: "As for the "TRY crisis being over" let's wait to see what the "popular" response is to this epic rate hike first thing tomorrow when Turkey awakes, shall we, and let's revisit the TRY crisis in 2-3 weeks when the country's housing market crumbles, when the economy grinds to a halt and the political crisis goes from worse to worse-est." We didn't have to wait more than 12 hours. As of this moment, the entire Central Bank move has been faded.
There are two major factors that have emerged in the last five years that have sparked a surge in LNG investments. First is the shale gas “revolution” in the United States, which allowed the U.S. to vault to the top spot in the world for natural gas production. This caused prices to crater to below $2 per million Btu (MMBTu) in 2012, down from their 2008 highs above $10/MMBtu. Natural gas became significantly cheaper in the U.S. than nearly everywhere else in the world. The second major event that opened the floodgates for investment in new LNG capacity is the Fukushima nuclear crisis in Japan. Already the largest importer of LNG in the world before the triple meltdown in March 2011, Japan had to ratchet up LNG imports to make up for the power shortfall when it shut nearly all of its 49 gigawatts of nuclear capacity. In 2012, Japan accounted for 37% of total global LNG demand. The future of LNG may indeed be bright, especially when considering that global energy demand has nowhere to go but up. But, investors should be aware of the very large threat that Japanese nuclear reactors present to upstart LNG projects.
Overview of forces impacting stocks, bonds and currencies.
Have you been paying attention to what has been happening in Argentina, Venezuela, Brazil, Ukraine, Turkey and China? If you are like most Americans, you have not been. Most Americans don't seem to really care too much about what is happening in the rest of the world, but they should. In major cities all over the globe right now, there is looting, violence, shortages of basic supplies, and runs on the banks. We are not at a "global crisis" stage yet, but things are getting worse with each passing day. Many have felt that 2014 could turn out to be a major "turning point" for the global economy, and so far that is exactly what it is turning out to be. The following are 20 early warning signs that we are rapidly approaching a global economic meltdown...
A paper currency system contains the seeds of its own destruction. The temptation for the monopolist money producer to increase the money supply is almost irresistible. In such a system with a constantly increasing money supply and, as a consequence, constantly increasing prices, it does not make much sense to save in cash to purchase assets later. A better strategy, given this scenario, is to go into debt to purchase assets and pay back the debts later with a devalued currency. Moreover, it makes sense to purchase assets that can later be pledged as collateral to obtain further bank loans. A paper money system leads to excessive debt. This is especially true of players that can expect that they will be bailed out with newly produced money such as big businesses, banks, and the government. We are now in a situation that looks like a dead end for the paper money system.
As the saying goes, ‘desperate times call for desperate measures.’ The phrase is bandied about so frequently, it’s generally accepted truth. But I have to tell you that I fundamentally disagree with the premise. Desperate times, in fact, call for a complete reset in the way people think. Desperate times call for the most intelligent, effective, least destructive measures. But these sayings aren’t as catchy. This old adage has become a crutch – a way for policymakers to rationalize the idiotic measures they’ve put in place...
If you want to get an idea of where the rest of America is heading, just take a trip through the western half of West Virginia and the eastern half of Kentucky some time. Once you leave the main highways, you will rapidly encounter poverty on a level that is absolutely staggering. Overall, about 15 percent of the entire nation is under the poverty line, but in some areas of eastern Kentucky, more than 40 percent of the population is living in poverty. After decades of decline, vast stretches of impoverished Appalachia look like they have been through a war. Those living in the area know that things are not good, but they just try to do the best that they can with what they have.