It was another day of ugly overnight macro data, all of it ouf of China, with industrial production (8.6%, Exp. 9.5%, Last 9.7%), retail sales (11.8%, Exp. 13.5%, Last 13.1%) and fixed asset investment (17.9% YTD vs 19.4% expected) all missing badly and confirming that in a world of deleveraging, the Chinese economy will continue to sputter. Which is precisely what the "bad news is good news" algos needs and why futures levitated overnight: only this time instead of latching on to the USDJPY correlation pair, it was the AUDJPY which surged after Australia - that Chinese economic derivative - posted its third best monthly full-time jobs surge in history! One can be certain that won't last. But for now it has served its purpose and futures are once again green. How much longer will the disconnect between deteriorating global macro conditions and rising global markets continue, nobody knows, but sooner rather than later the central planner punch bowl will be pulled and the moment of price discovery truth will come. It will be a doozy.
Moments ago, the Senate was supposed to vote through Debo Adegbile, Obama's nominee for the civil rights division at the Department of Justice and who represented cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal. It failed, when the Democrats in the Senate couldn't get enough votes to pass a simple majority with 8 Democrats voted against Adegbile: Casey, Coons, Donnelly, Manchin, Walsh, Heitkamp, Pryor. Reid voted no in order to reconsider nom later.
For the second night in a row, China, and specifically its currency rate which saw the Yuan weaken once more, preoccupied investors - and certainly those who had bet on endless strenghtening of the Chinese currency - however this time it appeared more "priced in, and after trading as low as 2000, the SHCOMP managed to close modestly green, which however is more than can be said about the Nikkei which ended the session down 0.5%. Still, the USDJPY was firmly supported by the 102.00 "fundamental" fair value barrier and as a result equity futures, which had to reallign from tracking the AUDUSD to the old faithful Yen carry, have been propped up once more and are set to open at all time highs. If equities fail to breach the record barrier for the third time in a row and a selloff ensues after the open in deja vu trading, it will be time to watch out below if only purely for technical reasons.
- Carl Icahn wins again: Actavis to Buy Forest Labs for $25 Billion (WSJ)
- ECB governing council member attacks German court ruling on OMT (FT)
- China Tackles $1 Trillion Data Gap as Xi Changes Metrics (BBG)
- FX Traders Facing Extinction as Computers Replace Humans (BBG)
- BOJ Boost to Loan Programs Signals Room for More Easing (BBG) - actually no it doesn't as it was "factored in"
- Four killed in Thai clashes; PM to face charges over rice scheme (Reuters)
- Goodbye unsterilized SMP: Bundesbank Backs Measure to Boost Funds in Banking System (WSJ)
- Iranian Hacking to Test NSA Nominee Michael Rogers (WSJ)
- Ukraine Clashes Leave Dozens Wounded as Putin Resumes Bailout (BBG)
XKCD published this cartoon in reference to ESPN and the like, but it’s even more applicable to CNBC and its ilk. Just to be clear, I’m not slamming these hosts and traders. I’m sure that they are overwhelmingly smart, honest people who believe that what they say are useful truths from their own perspectives. They are not hypocrites. But they are performers. And like any performer, there is a larger game being played with their words. The larger meaning of the statements made on CNBC has absolutely nothing to do with specific investment advice or news. CNBC really could not care less about the actual content of what is being said. The purpose of CNBC’s game is not to tell you WHAT to think, but HOW to think, that thinking about investing in terms of some sell-side analyst’s anodyne story about fundamentals or some trader’s breathless story about open option interest is smart or wise or what all the cool kids are doing. Why? Because CNBC can create inexpensive content essentially at will to fill this demand, allowing them to sell advertisements and take cable carriage fees.
Confirming the floating rumor from last week that yet another Wall Streeter from a bailed out company is going to set US economic policy, moments ago the Treasury announced that indeed the Citigroup economist Nathan Sheets - the bank's global head of international economics - will start working next week as a counsellor to U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew. This is the same Sheets, who ten days ago wrote that "our empirical work presents evidence that over the next few years, 10-year U.S. Treasury yields are likely to move toward 5 percent (slightly above our projections for nominal GDP growth) and to stabilize near that level. Our work suggests that Japanese rates may be on a sharply rising trajectory as well, if policymakers there get traction in taming the deflationary demons that have plagued the economy." We already know why the Treasury likes him so much.
There is no point in trying to avert or prevent bubbles caused by monetary pumping by regulatory means. If one avenue for bubble formation is cut off, the newly created money will simply flow into another area. In fact, new bubbles almost always become concentrated in new sectors. If there were a genuine desire to keep the formation of bubbles in check, adopting sound money would be a sine qua non precondition. However, no-one who has any say in today's system has a desire to adopt sound money and give up on the failed centrally planned monetary system in favor of a genuine free market system. Our guess is that the booms and busts the current system inevitably produces will simply continue to grow larger and larger until there comes a denouement that can no longer be 'fixed'.
Just five years after President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace prize (to much global amazement), Norwegian politicians have nominated none other than Edward Snowden for this year's award for contributing to transparency and global stability by exposing a U.S. surveillance program. As Reuters reports, Snowden’s "actions have in effect led to the reintroduction of trust and transparency as a leading principle in global security policies." Is this the Nobel's last best effort to regain some credibility?
President Obama has just nominated Lael Brainard as a Fed Governor, Jerome Powell to his second term and most notably, Stanley Fischer (ex Head of the Bank of Israel) as Vice-Chairman of the Fed. "These three distinguished individuals have the proven experience, judgment and deep knowledge of the financial system to serve at the Federal Reserve during this important time for our economy,” Obama said in statement. Bear in mind that Fischer is skeptical of forward-guidance (as we note below) which is soon to become the Fed's main weapon to jawbone markets.
Stanley Fischer's term as governor runs through 2020 (vice chair through 2018), Brainard's term through 2026 and Powell's through 2028!
Tenure anyone? We are sure they will still do a great job...
If one listens to Goldman's chief economist Jan Hatzius these days, it is all roses for the global economy in 2014... much like it was for Goldman at the end of 2010, a case of optimism which went stupendously wrong. Goldman's Dominic Wilson admits as much in a brand new note in which he says, "Our economic and market views for 2014 are quite upbeat." However, unlike the blind faith Goldman had in a recovery that was promptly dashed, this time it is hedging, and as a result has just released the following not titled "Where we worry: Risks to our outlook", where Wilson notes: "After significant equity gains in 2013 and with more of a consensus that US growth will improve, it is important to think about the risks to that view. There are two main ways in which our market outlook could be wrong. The first is that our economic forecasts could be wrong. The second is that our economic forecasts could be right but our view of the market implications of those forecasts could be wrong. We highlight five key risks on each front here." In short: these are the ten things that keep Goldman up at night: the following five economic risks, and five market view risks.
- Yellen’s Record-Low Senate Support Reflects Fed’s Politicization (BBG)
- Euro-Zone Inflation Rate Falls in December, even further below ECB's target (WSJ)
- Zambia politician charged for calling president a potato (AFP)
- Blame gold: India Savings Deposit Scam Collapse Leaves Thousands Penniless (BBG)
- Hedge Funds Raise Gold Wagers as Yamada Sees $1,000 (BBG)
- George Osborne limits cuts options with pensions promise (FT)
- Vietnam Raises Foreign Bank Ownership Caps to Aid System (BBG)
- But they said buy a year ago... Goldman to JPMorgan Say Sell Emerging Markets After Slide (BBG)
- SAC Trial Seen by Probe Convict as Latest Abusive Tactic (BBG)
The predictions of Blackstone's octogenarian Byron Wien (born in 1933) have been all over the place in the past 10 years, some correct, most wrong (with a recent hit rate of about 25%) - his 2013 year end S&P forecast was for 1300 - yet always entertaining. Which is the only value in the latest release of his 10 forecasts for 2014. Naturally, take all of these with a salt mine.
The "polar vortex" (no, really) which is about to unleash even record-er cold temperatures upon the US may be the greatest thing to happen to the economy: after all once Q1 GDP estimates miss once again, what better scapegoat to blame it on than cold winter weather during... the winter. However, for the overnight markets, the weather seems to have had an less than desired effect following both much weaker Services PMI data out of China, and after the entire USDJPY ramp achieved during Bernanke's late Friday speech evaporated in the span of two hours in Japanese Monday morning trading, sending the Nikkei reeling lower by 2.35%. One reason for this may be that like in the early summer when both the Yen and the Nikkei froze in a rangebound formation, South Korea has vocally started t0 complain about the weak Yen, which as readers may recall was one of the catalysts to put an end to the surge in the USDJPY and EURJPY. This time may not be different, furthermore as Goldman forecast overnight, it now expects a BOK rate cut of 25 bps as soon as this Thursday. Should that happen expect the JPY coiled-short spring to pounce.
The past can offer clues to the future but it doesn’t give us a blueprint. The bigger message is that today’s valuations don’t bode well for long-term returns, where long-term means beyond the next market peak. Prices could surely bubble upwards from here, but bubbles are invariably followed by severe bear markets. More importantly, we shouldn’t be fooled by traditional valuation measures. P/Es, in particular, have several flaws. We’ve shown in past articles that we get completely different results when we adjust earnings to account for mean reversion. Either way, our conclusions are a far cry from the “nothing to see here” that we keep hearing from the Fed.
While one may criticize now-ex CFTC commissioner Bart Chilton for years and years of sound and fury signifying nothing, countless promises of regulatory enforcement (all of which fell short of the target) and finally putting an end to precious metals manipulation only for the world to discover that while every other asset class is manipulated (involving such individuals as JPM's chief currency dealer), gold and silver are exempt, one must admit the former regulator does have a way wtih words (and of course haircuts). Sure enough, Chilton's most memorable parting gift will not be something he did, but rather what he said. William Cohan memorializes his parting message: "As we long suspected, Wall Street continues to use every trick in its playbook to do whatever it can to eviscerate numerous post-financial-crisis rules. The arsenal includes high-powered lobbyists who outnumber lawmakers 10-to-1; $1,000-an-hour letter-writing lawyers who gain strength from negotiating over arcana; and the occasional hoodwinking of a president whose knowledge of the ways of finance are close to nil." Chilton's take home message: “The lesson for me is: The financial sector is so powerful that they will roll things back over time,” Chilton says. “The Wall Street firms have tremendous influence, and they can impact policy to a greater degree than any one regulator or a small group of regulators can.”