The first of three Fed speeches is out, and as expected, it contains nothing new save for the ongoing barage of stock market battering for daring to sell on last week's Bernanke warnings that the Fed's monthly flow is set to begin tapering in September. It continues to be as if the Fed is shocked to learn that nothing else matters in this "economy" and, of course, "market" than what the Fed will do and say.
Overnight newsflow (which nowadays has zero impact on markets which only care what Ben Bernanke had for dinner) started in Japan where factory orders were reported to have risen the most since December 2011, retail sales climbed, the unemployment rate rose modestly, consumer prices stayed flat compared to a year ago, however real spending plunged -1.6% significantly below the market consensus forecast for +1.3% yoy, marking the first yoy decline in five months. This suggests that households are cutting utility costs more so than the level of increase in prices. By contrast, real spending on clothing and footwear grew sharply by 6.9% yoy (+0.6% in April) marking positive growth for a fourth consecutive month. Simply said, the Japanese reflation continues to be limited by the lack of wage growth even as utility and energy prices are exploding and limiting the potential for core inflation across the board.
"Even though the consensus is convinced that the gold bull market has ended, we remain firmly of the opinion that the fundamental argument in favor of gold remains intact. There exists no back-test for the current financial era. Never before have such enormous monetary policy experiments taken place on a global basis.
If there ever was a need for monetary insurance, it is today."
The Japanese stereotype of excessive courtesy is being confirmed by the actions of prime minster Shinzo Abe who is giving the world a free and timely lesson on the dangers of overly accommodative monetary policy. Whether or not we benefit from the tutorial (Japan will surely not) depends on our ability to understand what is currently happening there. This time around investors in the Japanese market were similarly deluded by fairy tales. Leading economists told them that Japan could cheapen its currency to improve trade, use inflation to create real growth, increase prices to encourage spending, and drastically increase inflation without raising interest rates. In short, monetary policy was seen as substitute for an actual economy.
"This year we have pursued five macro themes: long the US dollar, short China, long Japanese equities, long low variance equities and long interest rate contracts at the short end of G10 fixed income markets... The invisible regime of low volatility and low correlations that had been so supportive of risk markets for at least the last year started to become unhinged."
It is easy to get the impression that the naysayers are wrong on Europe. After all the predictions of Armageddon, ten-year government bond yields for Spain and Italy fell to the 4% level, France which is retreating into old-fashioned socialism was able to borrow at about 2%, and one of the best performing bond investments has been until recently – wait for it – Greek government bonds! Admittedly, bond yields have risen from those lows, but so have they everywhere. It is clear when one stands back from all the usual euro-rhetoric that as a threat to the global financial system it is a case of panic over. Well, no. Europe has not recapitalized its banking system the way the US has (at great taxpayer expense, of course). Therefore, it is much more vulnerable. Where European governments and regulators have failed to make their banks more secure it is because they tied their strategy to growth arising from an economic recovery that has failed to materialize. The reality is that the Eurozone GDP levels are only being supported at the moment by the consumption of savings; in orther words, the consumption of personal wealth. Wealth that is not infinite; and held by those not likely to tolerate footing the bill for much longer.
- Scalpel in Hand, Chinese Premier Li Stirs Reform Hopes (Reuters)
- Obama Sets Conditions for Keystone Pipeline Go-Ahead (FT)
- World’s Most Indebted Households Face Rate Pain (BBG)
- SAC Probers Weighing 'Willful Blindness' Tack (WSJ)
- Draghi Says ECB Ready to Act, Calls for Investment Over Tax (BBG)
- U.S. Tops China for Foreign Investment (WSJ)
- Basel Presses Ahead With Plans to Limit Bank Borrowing (FT)
- Gillard Ousted as Australia PM by Rival Rudd (FT)
- Japan Economic Strength Will Show in Stocks, Nishimura Says (BBG)
Once again it is all about central banks, with early negative sentiment heading into Asian trading - following the disappointing announcement from the PBOC about "ample liquidity" leading to the 6th consecutive drop in the Shanghai Composite while the PenNikkeiStock index tumbled yet again - completely erased and flipped as Mario Draghi spoke, although not to explain his involvement with the latest European derivative window-dressing scandal, but to announce that he is, once again, "ready to act" (supposedly through the OMT, which despite the best hopes to the contrary, still DOES NOT OFFICIALLY EXIST) and that while it is up to government to raise growth potentials, growth would "partly come from accommodative policy." In other words, ignore all BIS warnings, for Europe's unaccountable Goldmanite overlord Mario Draghi continues to promise more morphined Koolaid (read record Goldman bonuses) to any banker that comes knocking.
The market deals extremely poorly with paradigm shifts or cycle changes. One reason for this is that there has been no need for any strategy except for the just-buy-the-dip mantra. This may have ended and that could be the best signal to the markets since the global financial crisis started. Sorry to be the messenger, but the only way for investors to understand risk and leverage is by having them lose money. Essentially then, the balance of this year could be an exercise in re-educating the market to long-lost concepts such as loss, risk, inter-market correlations and price discovery. We even predict that high-frequency trading systems will suffer, as will momentum-based trading and, most interestingly, long-only funds. Why? Because, at the end of the day, they are all built on the same premise: predictable policy actions, financial oppression and no true price discovery. We could be in for a summer of discontent as policy measures and markets return to try to search out a new paradigm. This will be good news for all us.
- Here come the rolling blackouts: Obama takes on power plant emissions as part of climate plan (Reuters)
- Walking Back Bernanke Wished on Too Much Information (BBG)
- As previewed last week: Bridgewater "All Weather" is Mostly Cloudy, down 8% YTD (Reuters)
- U.S. Said to Explore Possible China Role in Snowden Leaks (BBG)
- Coeure Says No Doubt ECB Loose Monetary Policy Exit Distant (Bloomberg)... so a "recovery", but not at all
- U.S. steps up pressure on Russia as Snowden stays free (Reuters)
- Texas' Next Big Oil Rush: New Pipelines Ferrying Landlocked Crude Expected to Boost Gulf Coast Refiners (WSJ)
- Singapore Offsets Bankers as Vacancies Fall (BBG)
- Asian Stocks Fall as China Sinks Deeper Into Bear Market (BBG), European Stocks Rally With Bonds as Metals Advance (BBG)
- Qatar emir hands power to son, no word on prime minister (Reuters)
Overview of the great unwind, which I suggest has three components--tapering talk in the US, Japanese selling foreign assets and the liquidity squeeze in China (squeezing another carry carry trade).
"Can central banks now really do “whatever it takes”? As each day goes by, it seems less and less likely... Six years have passed since the eruption of the global financial crisis, yet robust, self-sustaining, well balanced growth still eludes the global economy. If there were an easy path to that goal, we would have found it by now. Monetary stimulus alone cannot provide the answer because the roots of the problem are not monetary. Many large corporations are using cheap bond funding to lengthen the duration of their liabilities instead of investing in new production capacity...Continued low interest rates and unconventional policies have made it easy for the government to finance deficits, and easy for the authorities to delay needed reforms in the real economy and in the financial system... Overindebtedness is one of the major barriers on the path to growth after a financial crisis. Borrowing more year after year is not the cure...in some places it may be difficult to avoid an overall reduction in accommodation because some policies have clearly hit their limits." - Bank of International Settlements
Extreme Developed Market (DM) monetary policy (read The Fed) has floated more than just US equity boats in the last few years. Foreign non-bank investors poured $1.1 trillion into Emerging Market (EM) debt between 2010 and 2012 as free money enabled massive carry trades and rehypothecation (with emerging Europe and Latam receiving the most flows and thus most vulnerable). Supply of cheap USD beget demand of EM (yieldy) debt which created a supply pull for EM corporate debt which is now causing major indigestion as the demand has almost instantly dried up due to Bernanke's promise to take the punchbowl away. From massive dislocations in USD- versus Peso-denominated Chilean bonds to spiking money-market rates in EM funds, the impact (and abruptness) of these colossal outflows has already hit ETFs and now there are signs that the carnage is leaking back into money-market funds (and implicitly that EM credit creation will crunch hurting growth) as their reaching for yield as European stress 'abated' brings back memories of breaking-the-buck and Lehman and as Goldman notes below, potentially "poses systemic risk to the financial system."
What are we supposed to do with all the “Dow 15,000” hats now? Keep them handy for another trip on the “Index Round Numbers Express” or just put them up on eBay in the “curios and collectibles” section? ConvergEx's Nick Colas suggests one way to think about the question is to deconstruct the Dow into its 30 components and see which stocks got us to these still-respectable YTD levels in the first place. For example, Colas notes that just seven stocks – MMM, BA, JNJ, AXP, DIS, HD, and HPQ – make up more than half the gains for the Dow in 2013. Most of these names have a distinctly cyclical flavor, of course. And while the Dow has its share of “Defensive” names, it pays to remember that the top 10 companies by weighting take up 54% of the Average. And they need a decent economy to grow earnings...
After Thursday night's global liquidation fireworks, the overnight trading session was positively tame by comparison. After opening lower, the Nikkei ended up 1.7% driven by a modest jump in the USDJPY. China too noted a drop in its ultra-short term repo and SHIBOR rate, however not due to a broad liquidity injection but because as we reported previously the PBOC did a targeted bail out of one or more banks with a CNY 50 billion injection. Overnight, the PBOC added some more color telling banks to not expect the liquidity will always be plentiful as the well-known transition to a slower growth frame continues. The PBOC also reaffirmed that monetary policy will remain prudential, ordered commercial banks to enhance liquidity management, told big banks that they should play a role in keeping markets stable, and most importantly that banks can't rely on an expansionary policy to solve economic problems. Had the Fed uttered the last statement, the ES would be halted limit down right about now. For now, however, communist China continues to act as the most capitalist country, even if it means the Shanghai Composite is now down 11% for the month of June.