The US is tapering, with the Fed knowing any further monetization of private sector bonds will lead to a crash in the already illiquid bond market; Japan is stuck with its massive QE, jawboning every day a rumor that first appeared in November of 2013 (and which sent the USDJPY 500 pips higher and has so far been nothing but a lie) that it may do more, but has unleashed such a firestorm of imported inflation, plunging real wages and collapsing exports that there is nothing Abe or Kuroda can do to boost the Nikkei "wealth effect" or halt what now appears an almost certain 2014 recession. Europe, too, saw a rumor emerge in November 2013 that it would also launch QE, however it won't: instead the ECB just went NIRP and is threatening to do ABS purchases, which just like the OMT pipedream will never happen simply because there aren't enough unencumbered assets to monetize (most of which are already have liens with local banks) while an outright QE would require redrafting Article 123. So what is a world starved for "outside money" to do? Why make up another rumor, this time focusing on the last possible source of QE: China.
Is there any doubt that we are living in a bubble economy? At this moment in the United States we are simultaneously experiencing a stock market bubble, a government debt bubble, a corporate bond bubble, a bubble in San Francisco real estate, a farmland bubble, a derivatives bubble and a student loan debt bubble. And of course similar things could be said about most of the rest of the planet as well. And when these current financial bubbles in America burst, the pain is going to be absolutely enormous.
"Following the release yesterday afternoon of the latest minutes from the FOMC which make it very clear that the Fed’s propensity to tighten monetary policy in the near future is near zero. We may have thought that the market was over-bought and due for a correction, but we are going back to being “pleasantly” long rather than market neutral for the Fed’s wind is at our back." - Dennis Gartman
Gold has meaning to China in the same way that gold has meaning (or should have meaning) to Western investors. Not as an inherent store of value or some timeless monetary standard... but as a symbol of failed confidence in Western central bank control over market outcomes. To both investors and China, gold is an insurance policy against Western central bankers losing control of their massive monetary policy experiment. The difference is that China has the power to do something about it.
A nervous peace prevails in the financial markets as central banks sit on their throne, fingers at the ready on the liquidity switch. As UBS' Bhanu Baweja notes, most volatility buyers have been 'rolled' into their graves. As they have explicitly targeted risk premia in addition to rates, a lot more hangs on the monarchs of monetary policy today than it has in previous cycles. While growth and inflation are both low, they are not necessarily uncertain; and although every crisis is different, certain patterns tend to repeat and certain events have reliably driven volatility higher.
Having continued to taper, expressed no fear of inflation, and been nothing but confident that Q1 was nothing-but-weather at the press conference, the FOMC Minutes shows:
*SOME FED OFFICIALS SAW INVESTORS AS TOO COMPLACENT ON RISKS
*FED SAW INSUFFICIENT INVESTOR UNCERTAINTY ON ECONOMY, RATES
*FOMC SEES QE ENDING WITH $15 BLN CUT IN OCT. IF OUTLOOK HOLDS
Strange not a mention of the surge in Treasury fails but this appears as close to a "sell" as the Fed will give...
Pre-FOMC Minutes: S&P Futs 1964, Gold $1323.50, 10Y 2.59%, Oil $102.22, JPY 101.75
Stocks at record highs... Unemployment rates at multi-year lows... magical job creation 'impressive'... President Obama has a lot to proclaim "mission accomplished" over - except its all fallacious (as Wal-Mart's CEO recently explained). Of course, this will all be solved if everyone was paid 'fairly' at least $15/hour despite the greatest irony of Obama's inequality fight is that "his policies are squeezing the middle class and causing the Fed – with the President’s encouragement – to engage in the radical monetary policy, which is exacerbating inequality. This simple truth cannot be repeated often enough."
The record bank lending binge “not evidence of an economic recovery.” Instead, they’re fretting about the greatest credit bubble in history.
Many seem to believe that if we worked our way out of debt problems in the past, we can do the same thing again. The same assets may have new owners, but everything will work together in the long run. Businesses will continue operating, and people will continue to have jobs. We may have to adjust monetary policy, or perhaps regulation of financial institutions, but that is about all. I think this is where the story goes wrong. The situation we have now is very different, and far worse, than what happened in the past. We live in a much more tightly networked economy. This time, our problems are tied to the need for cheap, high quality energy products. The comfort we get from everything eventually working out in the past is false comfort.
This is not "different times", the system's low volatility will be replaced by higher volatility, the zero bound leads to bubbles by definition unless you of course believe in eternity and most importantly, mean-reversion and compounding remains the two most powerful tools in finance. It feels like an eternity since the market last traded like a real market, but make no mistake, exactly when you think more of the same is destined to be your strategy, things do change despite the feeling of infinity.
Poor algos: after they got no love on Monday from the overnight USDJPY selling team which took the all important pair back to the 200 DMA, today, inexplicably (it is a Tuesday after all, and if one can't frontrun a rigged market surging higher on Turbo Tuesday may as well throw in the towel on free money and learn about fundamental analysis) the same overnight USDJPY selling team has pushed the key carry pair to below the 200 DMA, and has dragged US equity futures lower with it for the second day in a row.
Felix Zulauf, James Montier and David Iben: Three legendary investors share their views on financial markets. Everything is pricey ("we will continue to swim in a sea of liquidity; but there might be other events and developments that may not be camouflaged by liquidity which could cause a change of investor expectations.") the European periphery is a bubble ("The Euro crisis is not over...the European economies are not going to change for the better for years to come despite all the cheating and breaking of laws"), Value investors need to venture to Russia ("when you look at today’s opportunity set, you’re left with a set of assets where nothing looks attractive from a valuation point of view") or buy gold mining stocks (" The down cycle could be much bigger than anybody believes if the market realizes that all the actions taken in recent years do not work.") Summing it all up, "there is no question that [sovereigns] lack the fundamental economic base to finally service their debts," trade accordingly.
Lord Overstone said it best. “No warning can save people determined to grow suddenly rich.” Case in point - CYNK Technology Corp, a listed company that as of this morning has a market capitalization in excess of $1 BILLION. According to official filings, the social media development company had one employee, no website, no revenue, no product, and no assets. What has effectively united this company with prudent investors is today’s central banker. Hyper-aggressive monetary policy has side effects. Getting out of this mess is not going to be easy, and it’s going to be messy.
To complete the French triple whammy offensive against the US Dollar this weekend (first, French central banker Noyer suggesting de-dollarisation; second, French oil major Total's CEO "seeing no reason for the Petrodollar"), French finance minister Michel Sapin says "now is the right time to bolster the use of the euro" adding, more ominously for the dollar, "we sell ourselves aircraft in dollars. Is that really necessary? I don’t think so." Careful to avoid upsetting his 'allies' across the pond, Sapin followed up with the slam-dunk diplomacy, "This is not a fight against dollar imperialism," except, of course - that's exactly what it is... just as it was over 40 years ago when the French challenged Nixon.
The selloff last year was a desperate warning about the lack of resilience in credit and funding. That repo markets persist in that is, again, the opposite of the picture Janet Yellen is trying to clumsily fashion. Central banks cannot create that because their intrusion axiomatically alters the state of financial affairs, and they know this. It has always been the idea (“extend and pretend” among others) to do so with the expectation that economic growth would allow enough margin for error to go back and clean up these central bank alterations. That has never happened, and the modifications persist. Resilience is the last word we would use to describe markets right now, with very recent history declaring as much.