Back in 2013 it was Syria where the world was gearing for imminent military action after a relentless series of false flag provocations by the United States (intent on securing a Qatar gas pipeline to Europe) which in the last minute was deftly diffused by Vladimir Putin. In 2014, it was the Ukraine's turn, and after a prolonged campaign orchestrated by Victoria Nuland and the US State Department (again) which succeeded in the now traditional violent coup (see Egypt and Libya), once again saw Putin victorious, after yesterday's annexation of the all important Crimean peninsula, achieved without the firing of one shot. So now that Putin has succeeded in trouncing the US twice in a row, it is time to poke some old, well-known geopolitical wounds, such as Iran. And who better to do it than Israel, where as Haaretz reports, "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon have ordered the army to continue preparing for a possible military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities at a cost of at least 10 billion shekels ($2.89 billion) this year, despite the talks between Iran and the West, according to recent statements by senior military officers."
Another Escalation: US Freezes Diplomatic Relations With Syria, Orders Non-US Personnel To Leave CountrySubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/18/2014 11:28 -0400
BREAKING: US freezes diplomatic, consular relations with Syria; Orders non-US personnel to leave country.
— The Associated Press (@AP) March 18, 2014
Just last week Goldman noted that February was "the busiest month in the buyback desk's history," so one has to wonder just what management is thinking when the Wall Street Journal reports that corporate insiders are more bearish than they have been at least since 1990. According to this adjusted measure, there have been two prior occasions when the insider ratio got almost as bearish as it is today - early 2007 and early 2011 - and the first came a half a year before the beginning of the worst bear market since the 1930s. Simply put, it seems management teams are using their company's balance sheet as their own personal piggybank.
It has been a relatively quiet overnight session, aside from the already noted news surrounding China's halt on virtual credit card payments sending Chinese online commerce stocks sliding, where despite an ongoing decline in the USDJPY which has sent the Nikkei plunging by 3.3% (and which is starting to impact Abe whose approval rating dropped in March by a whopping 5.6 points to 48.1% according to a Jiji poll), US equity futures have managed to stay surprisingly strong following yesterday's market tumble. We can only assume this has to do with short covering of positions, because we fail to see how anyone can be so foolhardy to enter risk on ahead of a weekend where the worst case scenario can be an overture to World War III following a Crimean referendum which is assured to result in the formal annexation of the peninsula by Russia.
This week brings a slew of central bank meetings: At the forefront will be the BOJ meeting on Tuesday where no changes to monetary policy are expected. However, we will be watching the commentary closely for hints to further monetary easing in the coming months. Goldman, and others, still expect the BOJ to provide additional stimulus in the second quarter of this year as the impact of the consumption tax hike on the economy becomes visible - it is that expectation that sent the USDJPY above 100 in late 2013 and any disappointment by the BOJ will certainly have an adverse impact on the all important Yen carry pair. In terms of the key data to watch this week, the themes of recent weeks remain the same: US activity data, with retail sales and the U. Michigan Consumer sentiment survey the main releases, European inflation trends (French and German HCPI data on Thursday and Friday, respectively), and finally external balances in EM. Within that group, the latest data points for trade and current account balances in India, Turkey and South Africa will receive the most attention.
- Spot the inaccuracies: Stocks rise on Ukraine diplomacy, ECB easing speculation (Reuters)
- Bank of England Extends Record-Low Rates Into a Sixth Year (BBG)
- China's Chaori Solar poised for landmark bond default (Reuters), explained here previously
- EU leaders meet in Brussels to address Ukraine crisis (FT)
- Nine-month-old baby may have been cured of HIV, U.S. scientists say (Reuters)
- China Raises Defense Spending 12.2% for 2014 (WSJ)
- China Stock Index Rises as Developers Jump on Policy Speculation (BBG)
- VTB Cancels New York Forum as U.S. Relations Sour (BBG)
- IBM workers strike in China over terms of Lenovo takeover (FT)
- College Board Redesigns SAT Exam Making Essay Portion Optional (BBG)
- Yuan suffers biggest weekly loss as PBOC punishes speculators (Reuters)
- Euro Gains as Bonds Decline With Stocks on Inflation Data (BBG)
- Biggest Sovereign Fund Forced to Sell Stocks as Mandate Breached (BBG)
- Because we don't already have enough fried foods.. (Reuters)
- Putin: Russia to Consider Aid to Ukraine (AP)
- Wall Street Hates JPMorgan Fee for $1 Trillion Junk Loans (BBG)
- Yellen Sticks to Plan Amid Weather Doubts (WSJ)
- U.S. Retail Chains See First Profit Decline Since Recession (BBG)
"When the market is in the depressive phase of what President Lockhart referred to as a bipolar disorder, crafting policy to satisfy it is like feeding Jabba the Hutt—doing so is fruitless, if not dangerous, because it simply will insist upon more." - Fed's Dick Fisher
While US organized labor has been in a state of steady decline for several generations, never had it suffered as crushing a blow as it did last night, when in a 712 to 626 vote, Volkswagen's hourly workers in Chattanooga, TN, rejected joining the United Auto Workers labor union. What makes the defeat even more bitter is that a win would have marked the first time the union has been able to organize a foreign-owned auto plant in a Southern U.S. state, and would have been particularly meaningful, because the vote was set in a right-to-work state in the South, where anti-union sentiment is strong and all past UAW organizing drives at automobile plants have failed. What is most shocking, however, is that the defeat came even though the UAW had the cooperation of Volkswagen management and the aid of Germany's powerful IG Metall union, and yet it still failed to win a majority among the plants 1,550 hourly workers. As the WSJ notes, "the defeat raises questions about the future of a union that for years has suffered from declining membership and influence, and almost certainly leaves its president, Bob King, who had vowed to organize at least one foreign auto maker by the time he retires in June, with a tarnished legacy."
Now that absolutely everyone is laser-focused more on the participation print, recently at 35 year lows, than the actual unemployment number which even the Fed has implied is meaningless in the current context, one thing to note is that while the overall number is a blended average across the US, it certainly differs on a state by state basis. 4In order to get a sense of which states are the winners and losers in the payroll to participation ratio, we go to Gallup, which conveniently has broken down this number on a far more granular basis. Gallup finds that Washington, D.C., had the highest Payroll to Population (P2P) rate in the country in 2013, at 55.7%. A cluster of states in the Northern Great Plains and Rocky Mountain regions -- North Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wyoming, Iowa, Colorado, and South Dakota -- all made the top 10. West Virginia (36.1%) had the lowest P2P rate of all the states.
So far the overnight session has been a replica of yesterday, with the all important carry trade once again fizzling overnight during Japan trading hours, and dipping as low at 101.60 before staging a modest rebound to the 101.8 level. We expect the "invisible" 102.000 USDJPY tractor beam to be again engaged shortly and provide market support and/or levitate stocks higher as the now standard selling in Japan, buying in the US trade pattern repeats. On the other hand, US equity futures appear to have decoupled from the pure carry trade, and instead latched on to USD weakness and EUR strength following European Q4 GDP data, which came at 0.3% on expectations of 0.2%, up from 0.1%. Considering the constant adjustments to the European definition of GDP, at this point Mongolia would have been able to demonstrate growth if it was in Europe (but apparently not Greece which once again missed GDP expectations with Q4 GDP of -2.6% vs Exp. -2.0%). Expect ES and USDJPY to recouple shortly, as they always do - the only question if the recoupling will take place lower or higher.
Today, more than 10,000 Baby Boomers will retire. This is going to happen day after day, month after month, year after year until 2030. It is the greatest demographic tsunami in the history of the United States, and we are woefully unprepared for it. We have made financial promises to the Baby Boomers worth tens of trillions of dollars that we simply are not going to be able to keep. Even if we didn't have all of the other massive economic problems that we are currently dealing with, this retirement crisis would be enough to destroy our economy all by itself. During the first half of this century, the number of senior citizens in the United States is being projected to more than double. As a nation, we are already drowning in debt. So where in the world are we going to get the money to take care of all of these elderly people?
The clean debt ceiling bill has just passed the House where it got the required majority in a 221 to 201 final vote, with just 28 Republicans voting Yea (and 199 voting Nay) - a vote that has made history with the fewest number of votes from a majority on a bill that passed the House since 1991. It also means means that with a Senate passage assured, the US can now spend away until March 15, 2015. The final breakdown:
- GOP: Yea - 28; Nay -199
- DEM: Yea - 193; Nay -2
- Total: Yea - 221; Nay - 201
Considering that the vast majority of Republicans voted against John Boehner's latest "plan" to do the Democrats' work for them, and pass a clean debt ceiling, perhaps it is time to look for a speaker who represents the interests of more than just a tiny fraction of the party... and the Democrats of course.
The most notable event in this traditionally quiet post-payrolls week is Janet Yellen's Humphrey Hawkins testimony before Congress set for mid-week. In terms of economic data releases, the US retail sales (Exp. 0.05%) is on Thursday and consumer sentiment survey is on Friday (consensus 80.5). We also have IP numbers from Euro Area countries and the US. Most recent external account statistics are released from Japan, China, India and Turkey. It is also interesting to track CPI data in Germany, Spain and India, given the ECB and RBI currently face diverging inflation challenges and may be forced into further action. Finally, we have Q4 GDP data from the Euro Area economies (Friday).