A dispassionate discussion of the weekend events and a look at the week ahead.
WWhile there may have been a verbal attempt by the Obama administration to diffuse Syrian tensions in the aftermath of Thursday's shocker out of the House of Commons, the action on the ground so far is hardly conciliatory. Or rather water, because a sixth US warship has now anchored in proximity to Syria, joining the recently arrived fifth destroyer USS Stout, which joined the warships already "breathing down Assad's neck." From AP: "Five U.S. Navy destroyers - the USS Gravely, USS Mahan, USS Barry, the USS Stout and USS Ramage - are in the eastern Mediterranean Sea waiting for the order to launch. And the USS San Antonio, an amphibious assault ship has now joined them. The USS San Antonio, which is carrying helicopters and can carry up to 800 Marines, has no cruise missiles, so it is not expected to participate in the attack. Instead, the ship's long-planned transit across the Mediterranean was interrupted so that it could remain in the area to help if needed." So in addition to a cruise missile based force, the US is now bringing in the marines? The justification that they are there "just in case" seems a little shallow in context.
Europe may be a union, but when it comes to the distribution of unemployment rates across its 27 member nations (and as of July 1 with the addition of Croatia, 28), it is anything but.
Between fast-food staff demanding higher wages, weather-related excuses, central-bank-impacted energy/feed costs, and protectionist policies, consumers (rich and poor) of beef in the US could soon face dramatically higher prices. As Bloomberg reports, US beef production is expected to plunge to 21-year lows (falling for the fourth year in a row) and the 'herd' on July 1st was the smallest for that date since at least 1973. Wholesale beef buyers from McDonalds (facing their own wage-cost demand pressures) to Ruth Chris are facing input prices rising at the fastest rate in almost 2 years even as agricultural commodities have dropped 18% this year. While the situation is not about to get better anytime soon, scientists in Holland are about to grill the world's first laboratory-grown in-vitro burger - forget Sirloin; Soylent Orange anyone?
When French President François Hollande (aka Mr. Flabby in the French press) announced just a few months ago while on a state visit to Japan that the EU recession was well and truly over
The recent decline in gold prices and the drain from physical ETFs have been interpreted by the media as signaling the end of the gold bull market. However, our analysis of the supply and demand dynamics underlying the gold market does not support this thesis. In our view, the bullion banks’ fractional gold deposit system is testing its limits. Too much paper gold exists for the amount of physical gold available. Demand from emerging markets, who do not settle for paper gold, has perturbed the status quo. Thus, our recommendation to investors is the following: empty unallocated gold accounts and redeem your gold in physical form (while you still can).
Prompted by their FrAAAnce downgrade to AA+, French-owned Fitch has downgraded Europe's last best promise/hope - the EFSF - from AAA to AA+... but the crisis is still behind us - we are assure by such truth-sayers as Juncker, Barroso, and Merkel (pre-elections). The key sentence is "Following the downgrade of France's IDR, the EFSF's long-term debt issues are not fully covered by 'AAA' guarantees and over-guarantees and, for debt issued before October 2011, by the cash reserve." So that's good then... Don't worry though since "Fitch assumes there will be progress in deepening fiscal and financial integration at the eurozone level in line with commitments by euro area policy makers"
It has all gone belly up if we look at the EU and we are honest. Yes, they might be trying to paper of the cracks and yes they might be shoving some super strong glue in their to stop everyone pulling in different directions, but if they are really truthful about it, the EU28 (now that Croatia has become a member since July 1st 2013)
Japanese investors are not simply selling foreign assets. They are selling US assets.
And now for something completely different. Citi's Willem Buiter is best known for his exhaustive, often times fatalistic outlook on Europe (he will ultimately be right about the Grexit, and Spexit, and ultimately Dexit, the only problem is so will Meredith Whitney about the state of the US municipals - eventually). It appears there may have been a reason for his dour outlook on life: a sexy stalker as it turns out. A sexy, but very demented stalker.
Things are turning from bad to worse for the real-life version of The Terminal's Edward Snowden, who a day after applying to 21 countries for political asylum has been flooded with rejection letters near and far, even as he was forced to cancel his application to his current host nation, Russia, after being told he would have to stop leaking secrets as a condition to stay. More from the FT: "The 30-year-old fugitive’s options narrowed further on Tuesday when China reacted coolly to the idea of him moving there, Poland rejected an application and other European nations said asylum requests had to be made in the country."
Are these the only truly free countries left in the world - those that are not joined at the hip with the United States and ready and willing to do Obama's bidding at the drop of a hat? The NSA's most infamous whistleblower certainly thinks so.
Following the Friday plunge in the ISM-advance reading Chicago PMI, it was a night of more global manufacturing data, which started off modestly better than expected with Japanese Tankan data, offset by a continuing decline in Chinese PMIs (which in a good old tradition expanded and contracted at the same time depending on whom one asked). Then off to Europe where we got the final print of the June PMI which continued the trend recent from both the flash and recent historical readings of improvement in the periphery, and deterioration in the core. At the individual level, Italy PMI rose to 49.1, on expectations of 47.8, up from 47.3; while Spain hit 50 for the first time in years, up from 48.1, with both highest since July and April 2011 respectively. In the core French PMI rose to a 16-month high of 48.4 from 48.3, however German PMI continued to disappoint slowing from 48.7, where it was expected to print, to 48.6. To the market all of the above spelled one thing: Risk On... at least until some Fed governor opens their mouth, or some US data comes in better than expected, thus making the taper probability higher.
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)