We started off the overnight session with various pseudo-pundits doing the count-up to a 100 in the USDJPY. It was only logical then that moments before the 4 year old threshold was breached, the Yen resumed strengthening following comments from various Japanese politicians who made it appear that the recent weakening in the currency may suffice for now. This culminated moments ago when Koichi Hamada, a former Yale professor and adviser to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, told Reuters that level of 100 yen to dollar is suitable level from the perspective of competitiveness. The result has been a nearly 100 pip move lower in the USDJPY which puts into question the sustainability of the recent equity rally now that the primary carry funding pair has resumed its downward trajectory. Another result is that the rally in the Nikkei225 was finally halted, closing trading unchanged, and bringing cumulative gains since the morning before the BoJ’s announcement last Thursday to 8.9%. Over that the same time period, the TOPIX Real Estate Index is up an incredible 24%, no doubt reflecting the prospect of renewed buying of REIT stocks from the BoJ’s asset purchasing program.
In more than a dozen states, legislators are pushing for a movement back to a world where gold is considered money. As Bloomberg reports, lawmakers in Arizona are poised to follow Utah, which authorized bullion for currency in 2011. Similar bills are advancing in Kansas, South Carolina and other states to recognize gold and silver coins as legal tender. "The legislation is about signaling discontent with monetary policy and about what Ben Bernanke is doing," which seems confirmed by the recent shift in Texas to bring its gold back from the New York bank warehouse. The new measures would give "people the option of using money that won’t lose any purchasing power to inflation," one supporter of the bill explained, with another adding, "there is a fear that the government, or Bernanke in particular and the Federal Reserve, is pursuing a policy that will lead to the collapse of the dollar." The U.S. Constitution bars states from coining money and also forbids them from making anything except gold and silver coin tender for paying debts. Advocates say that opens the door for the states to allow bullion as legal tender.
A big picture look at the drivers of the global capital markets.
Jobs; it is all about jobs; and yesterday's dismal payrolls print suggests that despite the orgasmic flourish of monetary policy (and fiscal deficits), things are not going so well. However, the clarion call for a pending manufacturing renaissance continues; the hope remains high that with just a little more time and little more money, we will revert to some pre-crisis utopia and the re-industrialization of America will begin. Be careful what you hope for is the message from Morgan Stanley's Gerard Minack who warns that this 'reindustrialization' is bearish for stocks. The biggest medium-term issue for equity investors is whether current high profits can be sustained. One factor boosting margins was the Asian-led surge in global labour supply, which squeezed returns to labor and boosted returns to capital. This was particularly pronounced in America. Reindustrialisation implies that this process has run its course, suggesting that returns to capital will revert to normal over the medium term. Most see the prospect of America reindustrialising as bullish, but reindustrialisation may reverse the current mix: Economic growth may improve, but margins worsen.
One really wonders why people have lately sold gold. It seems to make little sense in light of the widespread mainstream views on what the 'correct' monetary policy should consist of. Monetary cranks abound wherever one looks. The ultimate outcome of all this inflationary experimentation is preordained, so people have every reason to be very concerned about preserving the value their assets. Of course we are well aware that markets can often behave in an irrational manner for extended time periods. In fact, this is what allows astute speculators and investors to make profitable trades, as there are frequently opportunities created by the markets getting it wrong. In this particular case it is still astonishing, considering how blindingly obvious it is in which direction things are currently moving. Mr. Woodford wants to 'scare the horses'. We are wondering why they are not scared yet – but we suspect they will be soon enough.
- George Soros: 'What Japan is doing is actually quite dangerous because" (BBG)
- North Korea lacks means for nuclear strike on U.S., experts say (Reuters)
- Yellen latest to hint about slowing of QE3 (FT)
- Hollande approval rating hits new low (FT)
- Hollande Dismisses Reshuffle as Crisis Hits Popularity (BBG)
- Japan Upper house approves full 5 year term for BOJ gov. Kuroda (BBG)
- US: Plan to Cap Tax Breaks Is Gaining Steam (WSJ)
- BOE Says Investors May Be Taking ‘Too Rosy’ a View of Stress (BBG)
- Kiwis Say ‘Ni Hao’ as China Ties Trump Australia Sales (BBG)
- Obama Avoids Trading Threats With North Korea’s Kim (BBG)
Thoughts on the BOJ, ECB and US jobs.
QE "is not a Buzz Lightyear policy," Dallas Fed's Fisher explains to Bloomberg TV's Stephanie Ruhle, "this will not go on forever." He admits there are limits to their (and implicitly the ECB or BoJ) policies - "we just have to figure out what they are." The always outspoken fed head goes on to explain why he believes the Fed's policy should be "dialed back... Not go from wild turkey, the liquor by the way, to cold turkey; but certainly slowing it down now." The too-big-to-fail banks are absolutely gaining from a substantial cost-of-funding advantage (over smaller banks) with their implicit government guarantee and Fisher expresses disappointment in the reams of pages that constitute new regulation adding that he would prefer "a simple statement saying they understand there is no government guarantee... It could be written by a sixth grader," as Dodd-Frank "needs repair." His fears are exacerbated by Cyprus as he notes, "[in Cyprus] you have an economy that is held hostage by bank failure and institutions that are too big to fail. We cannot let that happen in the U.S. ever again and the American people will not tolerate it."
A cache of 2.5 million files of cash transfers, incorporation dates, and links between companies and individuals has cracked open the secrets of more than 120,000 offshore companies and trusts. The secret records obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) lay bare the names behind covert companies used by people from American doctors to Russian executives and international arms dealers in more than 170 countries (as shown in the map below). One wonders how and why this sudden (and timely) leak of documents occurred. If we were a tinfoil-hat-wearing conspiracy theorist we might suspect that this is a staged coup to create a witch-hunt against all offshore capital (legitimate or illegitimate) - and an attempt, as with Cyprus, to push money out of banks and into circulation (pushing the velocity up) as all other monetary policy 'tricks' have failed. While 'offshore' is synonymous with 'tax cheat', there is nothing illegal in moving assets offshore. In fact, as Simon Black notes, given that there is going to come a time, likely soon, that retirement savings will be targeted; diversifying abroad is one of the sanest things you can do to protect yourself against the real criminals.
The overtly inflationary policy stance of the FOMC is especially significant when you consider that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is no longer in control of monetary policy.
After leaving rates unchanged and following Kuroda's efforts overnight, it appears Draghi had to do something in his press conference. Despite Barroso's assurances that the worst of the crisis is over, ECB's Draghi admits:
*DRAGHI SAYS ECONOMIC WEAKNESS EXTENDED INTO BEGINNING OF YEAR
*DRAGHI SAYS RISKS TO ECONOMIC OUTLOOK ARE ON DOWNSIDE
*DRAGHI SAYS RECOVERY IN 2H IS SUBJECT TO 'DOWNSIDE RISKS'
*DRAGHI: WEAKNESS IS EXTENDING TO COUNTRIES W/OUT FRAGMENTATION
*DRAGHI SAYS ECB WILL ASSESS DATA AND STANDS READY TO ACT
This 'negativity' jawboning, which is really nothing new to anyone who looks at real data, has battered EURUSD 80 pips lower and implicitly smacked S&P 500 futures down 5-6 points as the verbal currency wars continue.
As expected, no changes in any of the three key rates from the ECB.
4 April 2013 - Monetary policy decisions
At today’s meeting the Governing Council of the ECB decided that the interest rate on the main refinancing operations and the interest rates on the marginal lending facility and the deposit facility will remain unchanged at 0.75%, 1.50% and 0.00% respectively.
The President of the ECB will comment on the considerations underlying these decisions at a press conference starting at 2.30 p.m. CET today.
More important will be the press conference starting at 8:30 am Eastern, where Draghi will field questions on the ECB's non-intervention in light of the conditions it imposed most recently in Cyprus, the legal term-sheet status of the OMT, the latest relapse into recession by Europe, and more. Note: we said questions, not answers.
Earlier this morning the BoJ introduced a comprehensive change to its monetary policy framework. The asset purchasing program will be merged with the outright JGB purchase program (rinban), and JGB purchases will be expanded to include all maturities, including 40-year bonds. The pace of JGB purchases by the BoJ will be accelerated to ¥7trn per month from just under ¥4trn currently (on a gross basis), and purchases of ETFs and J-REITs will also be increased. The main operating target for money market operations was changed to a monetary base control (a quantitative index) from the uncollateralized overnight call rate.
The breakdown of sound money has now finally generated a cruel endgame. The fiscal and central banking branches of the state have endlessly bludgeoned the free market, eviscerating its capacity to generate wealth and growth. This growing economic failure, in turn, generates political demands for state action to stimulate recovery and jobs. But the machinery of the state has been hijacked by the various Keynesian doctrines of demand stimulus, tax cutting, and money printing. These are all variations of buy now and pay later - a dangerous maneuver when the state has run out of balance sheet runway in both its fiscal and monetary branches. Nevertheless, these futile stimulus actions are demanded and promoted by the crony capitalist lobbies which slipstream on whatever dispensations as can be mustered. At the end of the day, the state labors mightily, yet only produces recovery for the 1 percent.
The term “Story stock” used to mean a company with little more than a sheaf of press releases and a glitzy narrative about its future prospects. Now, ConvergEx's Nick Colas notes that pretty much any stock with a fighting chance of outperforming needs to have a “Story” to cut through the clutter of a noisy macro-driven market. Story-less equities where the valuation is cheap simply dawdle, while theoretically expensive story stocks sizzle loudly. So what makes a good story? The answer is not only “Blowin’ in the wind,” it is as old as the hills. CEOs matter intensely – they tell the story, and in the best cases they are the “Hero” at the center of it. Other types of narratives: “New Blood”, “Resurrection”, and “Conan the Barbarian.” And even with all these categories, Colas reminds us that we can’t forget that the U.S. equity market is essentially one large story stock, driven by a “Hero” figure – even if you don’t consider Chairman Bernanke is the same league as Moses or Ironman. Of course, we don’t know how this particular “Story” will end. We don’t call someone a “Hero” until they finish the cycle and return with their gifts and teachings. After all, if creating +$2 trillion out of thin air isn’t some powerful magic to fight off the forces of evil, we don’t know what is.