Chinese Manufacturing PMI Slumps To 8-Month Low, Services PMI To 3-Month High; Goldman Admits Growth DeceleratingSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/02/2014 21:09 -0400
UPDATE:*CHINA HSBC MANUFACTURING PMI AT 48.5 FOR FEB. (as expected and marginally above the Flash print)
Chinese manufacturing PMI fell to an 8-month low holding barely above the crucial 50 level yesterday forcing Goldman to admit that "this signals further deceleration" in Chinese growth. All sub-indices showed signs of cyclical slowdown from January to February with perhaps the two most-critical ones - production and new orders - showing considerably larger falls than the headline index itself as we await this evening's HSBC print to confirm an average 'contraction'. China's Services PMI just printed at 55, up from 53.4, to a 3-month high led by a surge in the "expectations" sub-index.
The Bitcoin phenomenon has now reached the mainstream media where it met with a reception that ranged from sceptical to outright hostile. The recent volatility in the price of bitcoins and the issues surrounding Bitcoin-exchange Mt. Gox have led to additional negative publicity. It is clear that on a conceptual level, Bitcoin has much more in common with a gold and silver as monetary assets than with state fiat money. The supply of gold, silver and Bitcoin, is not under the control of any issuing authority. It is money of no authority – and this is precisely why such assets were chosen as money for thousands of years. Gold, silver and Bitcoin do not require trust and faith in a powerful and privileged institution, such as a central bank bureaucracy. Under a gold standard you have to trust Mother Nature and the spontaneous market order that employs gold as money. Under Bitcoin you have to trust the algorithm and the spontaneous market order that employs bitcoins as money (if the public so chooses). Under the fiat money system you have to trust Ben Bernanke, Janet Yellen, and their hordes of economics PhDs and statisticians.
"If I ask you what’s the risk in investing, you would answer the risk of losing money. But there actually are two risks in investing: One is to lose money and the other is to miss opportunity. You can eliminate either one, but you can’t eliminate both at the same time. So the question is how you’re going to position yourself versus these two risks: straight down the middle, more aggressive or more defensive. I think of it like a comedy movie where a guy is considering some activity. On his right shoulder is sitting an angel in a white robe. He says: «No, don’t do it! It’s not prudent, it’s not a good idea, it’s not proper and you’ll get in trouble». On the other shoulder is the devil in a red robe with his pitchfork. He whispers: «Do it, you’ll get rich». In the end, the devil usually wins. Caution, maturity and doing the right thing are old-fashioned ideas. And when they do battle against the desire to get rich, other than in panic times the desire to get rich usually wins. That’s why bubbles are created and frauds like Bernie Madoff get money." - Howard Marks
Missed today's follow up Janet Yellen testimony before the Senate Banking Committee? Don't worry: you didn't miss much, all the bases were covered including winter weather during the winter, the Fed's complete cluelessness about what "full employment" means (because the definition changed thoroughly from December 2012 when it was 6.5%), what the "quantitative" definition of quantitive easing is (Yellen has no idea), why the Fed isn't subject to a haircut on its MBS holdings while all the other banks have to suffer under the intolerable Basel III 15% haircut (something to do with illiquidity of MBS, and specifically - something to do with the fact that the Fed has soaked up more than all net issuance of MBS in the past year, but don't worry - the Fed is on top of it), and, of course, Bitcoin. For everything else, here is Goldman's post-mortem of Yellen's Day Two testimony.
Credit is a wonderful tool that can help advance the division of labor, thereby increasing productivity and prosperity. The granting of credit enables savers to spread their income over time, as they prefer. By taking out loans, investors can implement productive spending plans that they would be unable to afford using their own resources. The economically beneficial effects of credit can only come about, however, if the underlying credit and monetary system is solidly based on free-market principles. And here is a major problem for today’s economies: the prevailing credit and monetary regime is irreconcilable with the free market system.
"There is a big flight to quality," warns one trader as the spread between interest rate swaps (implicitly bank risk) and government bonds soared to a record high. This "crisis gauge" flashing red is also followed by 3 month SHIBOR (short-dated interbank lending rates) surging to an 8-month high. China's CDS have jumped 30bps since the Fed taper and as Bloomberg reports that billionaire investors like George Soros and Bill Gross have drawn uncomfortable parallels between the situation in China now and the US before 2008 (when this crisis gauge was key in spotting the carnage to come). Simply put, the banks don't trust each other...
The last 7 days have seen the unstoppable 'sure-thing' one-way bet of the decade appreciation trend of the Chinese Yuan reverse. In fact, the 0.95% sell-off is the largest since 1994 (bigger than the post-Lehman move) suggesting there is clear evidence that the PBOC is intervening. The fact that this is occurring with relatively stable liquidity rates (short-term repo remains low) further strengthens the case that China just entered the currency wars per se as SocGen notes, intending to discourage arbitrage inflows. For the Chinese authorities, who do not care about the level of their stock market (since ownership is so low), and specifically want to tame a real-estate bubble, this intentional weakening is clearly aimed at trade - exports (and maintaining growth) as they transition through their reforms. The question is, what happens when the sure-thing carry-trade goes away?
All eyes were on China overnight, where first the PBOC drained a quite substantial CNY 100 billion in liquidity via 14 day repos in the month following the biggest credit injection on record, pushing those worried about China's credit schizophrenia to the edge, and then things got even more bizarre when in an act of clear PBOC intervention, the CNY dropped to the lowest since August 2013 as concerns about the global carry trade's impact on China (as noted here previously) start to reverberate. We will have more to say about China's Yuan intervention, but what should be noted is that the Shanghai Composite has tumbled nearly 10% in the past week, and was down another 2% overnight and is once again just barely above 2000, a level it can't seem to get away from for years (which is fine: recall that the real bubble in China is not the stock but the housing market). Chinese property stocks dropped to 8-month lows as concern continues about bank's withdrawing some liquidity for the asset class.The USDJPY drifted along and after rising to a resistance level of about 102.600 has since slide just shy of its 102.20 support area which means US equity futures are now in the red, and concerns that the S&P 500 may not close at a new record high are start to worry the technicians.
Asian equities are trading lower across the board on the back of some negative credit stories from China. Shanghai Securities News noted that ICBC and some other banks have curbed loans to developers in sectors such as steel and cement. Slower gains in home property prices in China’s tier 1 cities are also not helping sentiment. Beijing and Shenzhen prices rose 0.4% in January, which looks to be the slowest monthly gain since October 2012 according to Bloomberg. Elsewhere there are reports that a property developer in Hangzhou (Tier 2 city in China) is reducing its unit prices by 19%. Our property analysts noted that given the strong gains seen in Tier-1 and some bigger Tier-2 cities in 2013, a slowdown or negative trends in price growth should not be a surprise. Nevertheless, it has been a very weak day for Chinese and HK markets with the Shanghai Composite and the Hang Seng indices down -2.0% and -1.2% lower as we type. Across the region, bourses in Japan and Korea are down -1.0% and -0.6%, respectively.
The tyranny of models is rampant in almost every aspect of our investment lives, from every central bank in the world to every giant asset manager in the world to the largest hedge funds in the world. There are very good reasons why we live in a model-driven world, and there are very good reasons why model-driven institutions tend to dominate their non-modeling competitors. The use of models is wonderfully comforting to the human animal because it’s what we do in our own minds and our own groups and tribes all the time. We can’t help ourselves from applying simplifying models in our lives because we are evolved and trained to do just that. But models are most useful in normal times, where the inherent informational trade-off between modeling power and modeling comprehensiveness isn’t a big concern and where historical patterns don’t break. Unfortunately we are living in decidedly abnormal times, a time where simplifications can blind us to structural change and where models create a risk that cannot be resolved by more or better modeling! It’s not a matter of using a different model or improving the model that we have. It’s the risk that ALL economic models pose when a bedrock assumption about politics or society shifts.
A dispassionate and analytic of the macro developments for the week ahead.
Apparently all it takes to kick the world out of a secular recession and back into growth mode, is for several dozen finance ministers and central bankers to sit down and sign on the dotted line, agreeing it has to be done. That is the take home message from the just concluded latest G-20 meeting in Syndey, where said leaders agreed that it is time to finally grow the world economy by 2% over the next 5 years. "We are putting a number to it for the first time -- putting a real number to what we are trying to achieve," Hockey told a news conference. "We want to add over $2 trillion more in economic activity and tens of millions of new jobs." There is only one problem: the G-20 has absolutely no idea how to actually achieve its goal of boosting global output by more than the world's eighth largest economy Russia produces in a year. Nor does it have any measures to prod and punish any laggards from this most grand of central planning schemes.
While social unrest has been a thing that occurs "over there", the increasing visualization of people taking to the streets in the face of desperate economic situations amid an elite class of politicians, dictators, and tyrants is becoming clearer by the day. As the following chart shows, across 500 billion words in over 5.2 million books, the words "unemployment, "taxes", and "inequality" tend to correlate highly with "war". The 18th century saw these terms the most correlated and as the following chronology suggests, that is not a time to reflect gladly upon...
A look at the price action among the major currencies for the week ahead.
Having thrown in his bearish towel in December, the self-proclaimed "last bear standing" has had a tough January. His plan, to "just be long pretty much anything" appears to have back-fired (for now) as Eclectica reports a 3.6% loss in January - the worst month since the Fund's inception. His largest loss was on a long Japan theme (leveraged) and that was somewhat offset by gains in his short emerging markets and short China themes. It appears nothing hs changed from Hendry's December perspective of the inexorable melt-up in developed markets thanks to central bank largesse (247% of NAV exposed to stocks) though he does note "renewed turmoil" which, we suppose, merely supports his thesis longer term.