Some better than expected economic news out of Europe, Greek 10 Year yields dropping to 7.65% or the lowest since May 2010, and futures are... red? Alas, such is life in a world in which the S&P500, aka the E-mini, is simply a derivative of the Yen funding currency pairs, where the USDJPY touched on 105 after a straight line diagonal move only to sell off in recent trading. Heading into the North American open, stocks in Europe are seen mixed, with peripheral stock indices outperforming, buoyed by the prospect of Portugal echoing yesterday’s Irish NTMA return to capital markets with its 10y bond syndication. As such, despite the cautious sentiment, financials led the move higher, with Italian banks gaining for 4th session as IT/GE 10y spread narrowed to its tightest level since early July 2011. Of note, FTSE-100 index underperformed its peers since the get-go, with retailers and tobacco names under pressure. In spite of opening higher by over 3%, Sainsbury's shares have since reversed and are seen lower by almost 2% after co. CFO said that he expects FY LFL sales to be just below 1% and expects Q4 to be similar to Q3. Elsewhere, tobacco names came under selling pressure following reports that China is planning a ban on smoking in public by year's end.
It's Winter, so it's cold; but even relative to the worst year in recent records, this is extreme. Demand for heat is seemingly surging as the price for delivery of Natural Gas in New York City and New Jersey has soared to a record high. Uber would be proud of the surge as prices for Northeast Transco Zone 6 gas reached almost 9 times its seasonal average and other East Coast hubs reached 10-year highs.
"Paper and digital markets levitate, central banks pull out all the stops of their magical reality-tweaking machine to manipulate everything, accounting fraud pervades public and private enterprise, everything is mis-priced, all official statistics are lies of one kind or another, the regulating authorities sit on their hands, lost in raptures of online pornography (or dreams of future employment at Goldman Sachs), the news media sprinkles wishful-thinking propaganda about a mythical “recovery” and the “shale gas miracle” on a credulous public desperate to believe, the routine swindles of medicine get more cruel and blatant each month, a tiny cohort of financial vampire squids suck in all the nominal wealth of society, and everybody else is left whirling down the drain of posterity in a vortex of diminishing returns and scuttled expectations."
At this point, the problem of hitting limits in a finite world has morphed into primarily a financial problem. Governments are particularly affected. They find that they need to borrow increasing amounts of money to provide promised services to their citizens. Debt is a huge problem, both for governments and for individual citizens. Interest rates need to stay very low, in order for the current system to “stick together.” Governments are either unaware of the true nature of their problems, or are doing everything they can to hide the true situation from their constituents. The public has been placated by all kinds of misleading stories about how oil from shale will be the solution. Quantitative Easing (used by governments to lower interest rates) has temporarily allowed stock markets to soar, and allowed interest rates to stay quite low. So superficially, everything looks great. The question is how long all of this will last?
- Heavy snowstorm hammers northeastern U.S. (Reuters)
- Coins Remain a Bright Spot for Gold (WSJ)
- Gross’s Mistake on Fed Taper Echoes Across Pimco Funds (BBG)
- China December services PMI falls to four-month low (Reuters)
- General Mills Starts Making Some Cheerios Without GMOs (WSJ)
- U.S. considers flammability risk of Bakken crude after accidents (Reuters)
- China Mobile’s Costly iPhone Deal with Apple (WSJ)
- Hezbollah Upgrades Missile Threat to Israel (WSJ)
- UK House Prices Cap Best Year Since 2006 as Mortgages Surge (BBG)
- China tells police to be loyal to party amid graft crackdown (Reuters)
In a day that will be remembered for the first major snowstorm to hit New York in 2014 and test the clean up capabilities and resolve of the city's new populist mayor (not starting on a good note following reports that JFK airport will be closed at least until 8:30 am Eastern), it was only fitting that there was virtually no overnight news aside for the Chinese non-manufacturing PMI which dropped from 56.0 to 54.6, a new 4 month low. Still, following yesterday's ugly start to the new year, stocks in Europe traded higher this morning, in part driven by value related flows following the sell-off yesterday. Retailers led the move higher, with Next shares in London up as much as 11% which is the most since January 2009 and to its highest level since 1988 after the company lifted profit forecast after strong Christmas trading performance. Other UK based retailers with likes of AB Foods and M&S also advanced around 2%.
With tensions remaining high, the brouhaha over the 'probe' of government corruption daring to find actual corruption rolls on and now the military is complaining of bent judges in their own 'coup' trial:
*TURKISH ARMY SAYS EVIDENCE FABRICATED IN COUP TRIAL: HURRIYET
*TURKEY ARMED FORCES FILES CASE CITING PLOT AGAINST IT: HURRIYET
Add to this the hike in consumption taxes and fears over inflationary surges and the Lira has re-collapsed back to record lows against the USD and Istanbul stocks are re-tumbling.
- Firms to Face new Rules Over Pay, Taxes (WSJ)
- US to test commercial drones at six sites (CNN)
- China’s Local Debt Swells to 17.9 Trillion Yuan in Audit (BBG) - which is about 2 trillion less than where it actually is (Reuters)
- Fears after key China debt level soars 70% (FT) and in reality the debt level is saoring far more
- Pot Shops in Denver Open Door to $578 Million in Sales (BBG)
- China Says It Will Shun Abe After Shrine Visit (WSJ)
- De Blasio Taking Office Citing Wealth Gap as Crime Falls (BBG)
- China Approves $353 Million of Share Sales as IPOs Resume (BBG)
- Obama Seeks Way to Right His Ship (WSJ)
- Netflix Tests Subscription Fees Based on Number of Account Users (BBG)
- Three big macro questions for 2014 (FT)
Heading into the North American open, stocks in Europe are seen broadly lower, with consumer services seen as the worst performing sector, where the UK based retailers have underperformed amid fears that a combination of heavy discounting, along with bad weather, impacted heavily on overall performance. Of note, the SMI index in Switzerland underperformed throughout the session, with Swatch shares under pressure after officials were unable to say what caused the fire at the weekend at the co.'s ETA unit factory in Grenchen, which destroyed one workshop and damaged another. As expected, traded volume is far below the daily avg and this trend is expected to continue this week. The euro is stronger against the dollar. Japanese 10yr bond yields rise; Italian yields decline. Commodities little changed, with silver, gold underperforming and natural gas outperforming. U.S. pending home sales, Dallas Fed manufacturing data due later.
Sir Halford Mackinder’s 1904 speach in which he outlined his “Heartland Theory” was a founding moment for geo-politics. He argued that control of the Eurasian landmass (Europe, Asia and the Middle East), which contained the bulk of the world’s population and natural resources, was the major geo-political prize. As time passed, energy (first crude oil then natural gas), became increasingly integral to this concept and its strategic significance cannot be overstated. Remarkably, Mackinder’s theory has remained equally valid, if not more so, in the modern era - although key “pivot areas” for exercising control have evolved. In addition to Central Asia and Trans-Caucasus in Mackinder’s day, the oil producing nations of the Middle East took on increasing importance in the “New Great Game”. We see a “New New Great Game” emerging.
It was in October 2012 when we explained how Iran evades the Western blockade (ostensibly with the implicit nod of none other than the US), and when we first defined the concept of PetroGold in the context of the Turkey-Dubai-Iran crude-for-gold triangle. One year later, following Iran's unperturbed ability to exist in a world without US dollars, the blockade of Iran is a thing of the past, and the west has engaged in a full-blown detente with the country, much to the fury of both Israel and Saudi Arabia, lowering and in many cases outright eliminating Iran sanctions, which proved futile. So a happy ending for Iran (if only briefly). However, one country that has seen better days, whose government may be on the edge of collapse due to an unprecedented corruption scandal precisely for enabling said PetroGold scheme, and which has been in the news on a daily basis recently, is Turkey. As Turkey's Today's Zaman explains in "Iran's Turkish Gold Rush", the political crisis Turkey finds itself in may be nothing but a consequence of the PetroGold scheme conceived over a year ago, and in which Turkey played a crucial role. Here is how the Turkey-Dubai-Iran PetroGold triangle, or as the Zaman calls it, "gas for gold", may soon result in the toppling of yet another government, simply because it showed that existence outside of the clutches of the 'Petrodollar' is perfectly possible...
If past history is any indication, consumers usually get taxed with higher prices in the end.
Predictions are that the oil boom is temporary and is expected to level off around 2020, but by then there should be a lot more fuel efficient cars on the roads that the drop in production will not be felt. While this new development will no doubt be welcomed by most Americans, it will bring additional joy to those who are fed up with the stagnation and violence that is perpetuated in the Middle East and will welcome this news amid hopes that the US will be less dependent on that turbulent part of the world for its fuel, thus less prone to the region’s unstable politics. But here there is the need for a word of caution. Being less dependent on Middle Eastern oil does not mean the United States should become a political recluse, retrench inside fortress America and damn the rest of the world and their problems...
If yesterday's price action in the moments following (and preceding) the FOMC announcement was just a little suspicious, with a seemingly endless supply of VIX selling originating as if from nowhere (or perhaps the 9th floor of Liberty 33) the morning after has so far been a snoozer. Perhaps this is to be expected following the third biggest one-day surge in the stock market in the year (1st = Jan 2nd, 2nd = October 10th), or perhaps the market is finally focusing on Bernanke's tongue in cheek suggestion that the taper may be lowered by $10 billion per month (we disagree as described previously). Or perhaps the creep higher in 10 Year yields, at 2.915% at last check and just shy of the 3.00% psychological level, is finally being noticed. Or perhaps the fact that China, very surprisingly, is also tapering concurrently is finally being appreciated as is the fact that despite all talk of preparedness, developing economies were hardly left unscathed following yesterday's development. Whatever the reason, the euphoria this morning has "tapered."
There are those who would blame the people who have chosen to live far beyond their means. They have a point. The financialization of America; where Wall Street con artists,shysters and swindlers rake in billions for shuffling paper and making risky casino bets; mega-corporations ship blue collar middle class jobs to Asia in an all out effort to increase quarterly profits; politicians spend future generations into the poor house in order to get re-elected; and the Federal Reserve purposefully creates monetary inflation to prop up the corrupt system; has systematically destroyed the working middle class and created generations of debt slaves. The American people have been foolish, infantile, and easily duped. But it is clear to me who the real culprits in our long downward spiral have been. Lord Acton stated the obvious, many years ago:
“The issue which has swept down the centuries and which will have to be fought sooner or later is the people versus the banks.”
? John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton