Even as the NATO summit began hours ago in Wales, conveniently enough (for Obama) at the venue of the 2010 Ryder Cup, so far today geopolitics has taken a backseat to the biggest event of the day - the ECB's much hyped and anticipated announcement. So anticipated in fact that even as it has been priced in for the past month, especially by BlackRock which is already calculating the Christmas bonus on its "consultancy" in implementing the ECB's ABS purchasing program and manifesting itself in record low yields across Europe's bond market, Reuters decided to milk it some more moments ago with the following blast: "Plans to launch an asset-backed securities (ABS) and covered bond purchase programme worth up to 500 billion euros are on the table at Thursday's European Central Bank policy meeting..." The notable being the size of the program, which at €500 billion, is precisely what Deutsche Bank said a week ago the size of the ABS program would be. Almost as if the bank with the world's biggest derivative exposure is helping coordinate the "Private QE"...
The US may be closed on Monday, but after a summer lull that has seen trading volumes plunge to CYNKian lows, activity is set to come back with a bang (if only for the sake of banks' flow desk revenue) with both a key ECB decision due later this week, as well as the August Nonfarm Payrolls print set for Friday. Among the other events, in the US we have the ISM manufacturing on Tuesday, with markets expecting a broadly unchanged reading of 57.0 for August although prices paid are expecting to decline modestly. Then it is ADP on Thursday (a day later than usual) ahead of Payrolls Friday. The Payrolls print is again one of those "most important ever" number since it comes ahead of the the September 16-17 FOMC meeting and on the heels of the moderation of several key data series (retail sales, personal consumption, inflation). Consensus expects a +225K number and this time it is unclear if a big miss will be great news for stocks or finally bad, as 5 years into ZIRP the US economy should be roaring on all cylinders and not sputtering every other month invoking "hopes" of even more central bank intervention.
The Federal Reserve’s prevailing view of the world seems to be that a) QE lowers interest rates, b) lower interest rates stimulate jobs and economic activity, c) the only risk from QE will be at the point when unemployment is low enough to trigger inflation, and d) the Fed can safely encourage years of yield-seeking speculation – of the same sort that produced the worst economic collapse since the Depression – on the belief that this time is different. From the foregoing discussion, it should be clear that this chain of cause and effect is a very mixed bag of fact and fiction.
The failure to understand money is shared by all nations and transcends politics and parties. The destructive monetary expansion undertaken during the Democratic administration of Barack Obama by then Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke began in a Republican administration under Bernanke’s predecessor, Alan Greenspan. Republican Richard Nixon’s historic ending of the gold standard was a response to forces set in motion by the weak dollar policy of Democrat Lyndon Johnson. For more than 40 years, one policy mistake has followed the next. Each one has made things worse. What they don’t understand is that money does not “create” economic activity.
Unlike last week's economic report deluge, this week has virtually no A-grade updates of note, with the key events being Factory Orders (exp. 0.6%), ISM non-mfg (exp. 56.5), Trade balance (Exp. -$44.9 bn), Unit Labor Costs (1.2%) and Wholesale Inventories (0.7%).
Shortly after we exposed the real liquidity crisis facing Chinese banks recently (when no repo occurred and money market rates surged), China (very quietly) announced CNY 1 trillion of 'Pledged Supplementary Lending' (PSL) by the PBOC to China Development Bank. This first use of the facility "smacks of quantitative easing" according to StanChart's Stephen Green, noting it is "deliberate and significant expansion of the PBOC's balance sheet via creating bank reserves/cash" and likens the exercise to the UK's Funding For Lending scheme. BofA is less convinced of the PBOC's quantitative loosening, suggesting it is more like a targeted line of credit (focused on lowering the costs of funding) and arguing with a record "asset" creation by Chinese banks in Q1 does China really need standalone QE?
You have to love how the Federal Reserve downplays inflation when they are the primary source of it with other central bankers for this monetary phenomenon. They continue to play inflation down because it gives them the power to continue to use policies that seem to only aid their banking allies while making working Americans poorer by the day. When you hear that inflation does not exist, simply look at the price of goods and services over the last decade and look at your paycheck. You might care to differ.
Another round of overnight risk on exuberance helped Europe forget all about last week's Banco Espirito Santo worries, which earlier today announced a new CEO and executive team, concurrently with the announcement by the Espirito Santo family of a sale of 4.99% of the company to an unknown party, withe the proceeds used to repay a margin loan, issued during the bank's capital increase in May. This initially sent the stock of BES surging only to see it tumble promptly thereafter even despite the continuation of a short selling bank in BES shares this morning. Far more impotantly to macro risk, it was that 2013 staple, the European open surge in the USDJPY that has reset risk levels higher, while pushing gold lower by over 1% following the usual dump through the entire bid stack in overnight low volume trading. Clearly nothing has been fixed in Portugal, although at least for now, the investing community appears to have convinced itself that the slow motion wreck of Portugal's largest bank even after on Sunday, Portugal’s prime minister said taxpayers would not be called on to bail out failing banks, making clear there would be no state support for BES.
"First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win." Mahatma Gandhi
"It is no crime to be ignorant of economics... but it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance." - Murray Rothbard
With another day of little otherwise completely irrelevant macro news (because following last night's abysmal Australian jobs data one would think the AUD would be weaker; one would be wrong), market participants - all 3 of them - and algos (which have finally uncovered where Iraq is on google maps) are finally turning their attention to the latest conflict in Iraq (because they obviously no longer care about the martial law in Thailand or the civil war in Ukraine), where the Al Qaeda spin off ISIS overnight seized at least 310K B/D in refinery capacity in northern Iraq according to the Police, and what is more concerning, is now less than a 100 kilometers away from Baghdad. Will ISIS dare to venture further south? Keep an eye on crude for the answer.
If it looks like insanity, smells like insanity, tastes like insanity, feels like insanity and struts about barking, “This is insanity”, then perhaps it might just be insanity.
While we have warned about the problem with near-infinitely rehypothecated physical/funding commodities/metals, be they gold or copper, many times in the past, and most recently here, it was only this week that China finally admitted it has a major problem involving not just the commodities participating in funding deals - in this case copper and aluminum - but specifically their infinite rehypothecation, which usually results in the actual underlying metal mysteriously "disappearing", as in it never was there to begin with. It would appear our fears of global contagion (through various transmission channels) are now coming true as WSJ reports that as many as a half-dozen banks are trying to determine whether the collateral for loans they made to commodities traders was used fraudulently by a third party to obtain other loans. As we detailed previously, it appears the day when the Commodity Funding Deals finally end is fast approaching... and as we note below, why that will certainly be a watershed event.
This week's busy calendar starts off with today’s global PMIs and ISMs. On Tuesday, President Obama begins a four day European trip ahead of the G7 meeting which starts on Wednesday. This G7 meeting is replacing the G8 meeting that was originally scheduled in Sochi but was cancelled after Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Tuesday’s data docket is important with Euroarea data releases including inflation and unemployment expected to further cement the ECB’s resolve in easing policy come Thursday. Wednesday features the global services ISMs and PMIs. Other data releases scheduled for that day includes the ADP employment report, which will provide an important preview to Friday’s NFP, and US trade. The Fed releases its Beige Book on Wednesday too and the second estimates of Euroarea GDP will be published on Wednesday as well. Apart from the ECB on Thursday, we also have the BoE policy meeting.
It was all over the news last week, both mainstream and gold sites. Barclays was caught manipulating the gold price. This story is a big deal to the gold community.
With the Fed tapering and both China “I don't think the markets are discounting what’s really happening in China,” and Japan’s currencies likely to weaken, the net impact on the U.S. will be deflationary, Kyle Bass warned in a recent presentation. That trend will be accelerated by the improvement in the balance of trade for the U.S., which had its current account deficit shrink due to increased hydrocarbon production. Bass warns, the crucial moment will come when the U.S. reports a sub-6% unemployment rate, meeting the target it has set for normalizing its monetary policy by ending QE and raising rates. He predicted that will come in July. That will be the Fed’s “worst nightmare,” he said. Raising rates would stifle growth and recreate unemployment problems, which would be disastrous politically, according to Bass.