For the last year or two, European banks have engaged in the ultimate of self-referential M.A.D. trades - buying the sovereign debt of their own nation in inordinate size to maintain the ECB's illusion of control (even as their economies collapse and stagnate) while referentially obtaining the funding for said purchase from the ECB by repoing the purchase back to the central bank, usually with no haircut to mention. Today though, as The FT reports, a top official at the European Central Bank has signalled it will try to force eurozone banks to hold capital against sovereign bonds, in an attempt to stop weak lenders using its cash to hoover up the debts of crisis-hit countries.
S&P futures dumped their most in almost 4 months on marginal volume today as a budget deal (moar fiscal means less moar monetary policy) and a potentially hawkish Stan Fischer on the Fed spread taper fears across all assets with gold lower, Treasury yields higher, and USD rising. New 52-week-lows spiked to 4 month highs as higher beta muppetry took Trannies down most in almost 4 months. The S&P tested back below the payrolls-data and FOMC Minutes launchpad levels from last week as rather notably, while most sectors are still up 5-10% from the debt-ceiling lows, Utilities are now unch. Treasuries weakened back to unchanged from the payrolls print for 5Y (though 7s-130s are -3 to 4bps still). This is the biggest jump in VIX in 2 months as the term structure is the most inverted since US downgrade levels in Aug 2011. Dow <16,000; S&P <1,800; NASDAQ ~4,000 - Retirement Off!
- Wall Street Exhales as Volcker Rule Seen Sparing Market-Making (Bloomberg)
- GM to End Manufacturing Down Under, Citing Costs (WSJ)
- U.S. budget deal could usher in new era of cooperation (Reuters)
- Ukraine Police Back Off After Failing to Stop Protest (WSJ)
- First Walmart, now Costco misses (AP)
- Dan Fuss Joins Bill Gross Shunning Long-Term Debt Before Taper (BBG)
- China New Yuan Loans Higher Than Expected (WSJ)
- China bitcoin arbitrage ends as traders work around capital controls (Reuters)
- Blackstone’s Hilton Joins Ranks of Biggest Deal Paydays (BBG)
BlackRock said there is a 20% risk that world events could go badly wrong, either because the eurozone acts too late to head off deflation or because of a chain reaction as the Fed starts to wind down stimulus in earnest. As The Telegraph notes, BlackRock’s risk indicator is almost as high as it was just before the dotcom bust. "The ratio of the two is the key. High valuations combined with low volatility can make for a lethal mix. This market gauge sounded the alarm well before the Great Financial Crisis." Furthermore, the largest asset manager in the world warns, "troubling trends of growing inequality and weak wage growth, bring into question the sustainability of profit margins." What is good for investors is corrosive for societies, hardly tenable equilibrium.
In “Why the Fed Won’t Taper in December,” we pretended to write the first paragraph of the Federal Open Market Committee’s (FOMC) statement for next week’s meeting. By thinking about the likely mix of upgrades and downgrades to its assessment of the economy, which is the crux of that paragraph, we argued that we can find clues to policy decisions. Our results tell us to expect a deferral of the committee’s tentative plans to taper its securities purchase program. You may suggest, though, that economic data doesn’t always tell you what the FOMC will do. Because we agree, we’ve also taken a different approach: listening to Fedspeak and working through the math on the committee’s consensus view. This, too, leads us to think there won’t be a taper this month. Here’s our math, starting with the biggest QE supporters and ending with Chairman Bernanke...
- U.S. set to adopt Volcker rule to curb bank trading gambles (Reuters) After vote, lawsuits likely next hurdle for Volcker rule (Reuters)
- U.S. Congress budget talks could produce Tuesday deal, aides say (Reuters)
- Wealthy Go Frugal This Holiday Amid Uneven U.S. Recovery (BBG)
- Tearful Thai PM urges protesters to take part in election (Reuters)
- Fed’s Bullard Sees Higher QE Taper Odds as Labor Market Improves (BBG)
- Coeure Says ECB Would Offer More LTROs Only When Banks Can Lend (BBG)
- Inside China's Super-Sterile Chicken Farms (WSJ)
- Mandela Service Rivals JFK’s as Leaders Meet in South Africa (BBG)
- China data defy slowdown forecasts (FT), and of course the word is "data"
- Cold, ice grip U.S. as more snow to blanket East (Reuters)
We warned here (and here most recently), the most insidious way in which the Fed's ZIRP policy is now bleeding not only the middle class dry, but is forcing companies to reallocate cash in ways that benefit corporate shareholders at the present, at the expense of investing prudently for growth 2 or 3 years down the road. It seems the message is being heard loud and very clear among 'some' of the FOMC members; most notably Richard Fisher:
"Without fiscal policy that incentivizes rather than discourages U.S. capex (capital expenditure), this accommodative monetary policy aimed at reducing unemployment (especially structural unemployment) or improving the quality of jobs is rendered flaccid and less than optimally effective... I would feel more comfortable were we to remove ourselves as soon as possible from interfering with the normal price-setting functioning of financial markets."
Perhaps Yellen (and others) will listen this time?
The United States’ reputation for sound economic policymaking took a beating in 2013. Some of this was warranted; some of it was not. And now a related distorted narrative – one that in 2014 could needlessly undermine policies that are key to improving America’s economic recovery – is gaining traction... to the danger of "government failure."
Technically, "High Yield" is no longer the appropriate name for the riskiest credit issuance since the average coupon has declined to where Investment Grade used to trade in the years before the New Normal. It is therefore only appropriate that as part and parcel of this record high yield bond issuance surge levering the riskiest companies to the gills with low interest debt, that there is also a scramble between underwriters to become as competitive as possible. And, sure enough, as Bloomberg Brief reports, "the underwriting fees disclosed to Bloomberg on U.S. junk bond deals average 1.276 percent for the year to date, the lowest since our records began. The prior low was set in 2008, when fees averaged 1.4 percent." 2008... that was when the last credit bubble burst on unprecedented demand for junk bonds: we are confident the bubble apologists will find some other metric with which to convince everyone that reality, and the Fed's Stein, have it all wrong.
The US data flow is relatively light which is typical of a post-payrolls week but it’s worth noting wholesale inventories on Tuesday and retail sales on Thursday. Importantly US House and senate negotiators are supposed to come to an agreement on a budget before the December 13th deadline. A lot of optimism has been expressed thus far from members of congress, and there are reports that a budget deal will be unveiled this week.
Janet Yellen is readying herself to take over the duties of Ben Bernanke. What can we expect from her?
As the eurozone debt crisis has steadily widened the divide between Europe’s stronger northern economies and the weaker, more debt-laden economies in the south (with France a kind of no man’s land economy in between), one question is on everyone’s mind: Can Europe’s monetary union – indeed, the European Union itself – survive? Fiscal and financial measures aimed at strengthening eurozone governance have been inadequate to restore confidence in the euro. And Europe’s troubled economies have been slow to undertake structural reforms and by maintaining large trade surpluses, Germany is exporting unemployment and recession to its weaker neighbors. But how will Germany react when the north-south divide becomes large enough to threaten the euro’s survival? Two outcomes now seem possible. Europe’s north-south divide has become a time bomb lying at the foundations of the currency union.
While the perma bears may find comfort in the dollar's decline, its weakness has not been very broad, but really limited to the euro, sterling and currencies that move in their orbit. Still further dollar declines look likely near-term.
"Just be long. Pretty much anything. So here’s how I understand things now that I am no longer the last bear standing. You should buy equities if you believe many European banks and their sovereign paymasters are insolvent. You should buy shares if you put a higher probability than your peers on the odds of a European democracy rejecting the euro over the course of the next few years. You should be long risk assets if you believe China will have lowered its growth rate from 7% to nearer 5% over the course of the next two years. You should be long US equities if you are worried about the failure of Washington to address its fiscal deficits. And you should buy Japanese assets if you fear that Abenomics will fail to restore the fortunes of Japan (which it probably won’t). Hey this is easy… And then it crashed"
- Hugh Hendry