The only story this morning remains Bernanke's after hours speech, which solidly trumped the FOMC minutes in market impact, and which, in addition to ramping US equity futures to just about new all time highs, sent the EURUSD soaring by almost the same amount (+300 pips) as the actual QE1 announcement on March 18, 2009. Such is the power of verbal currency warfare, when Bernanke hasn't acutally done anything and merely hinted the Fed is as confused as ever about what to do. Of course, as Commerzbank notes this morning, the U.S. economy would have to lose a lot of momentum for the Fed to cancel tapering, and the central bank would only expand the purchase program if the economy collapses, but none of that matters to the "wealth effect" for the 1% where economic destruction simply means more wealth.
- Egypt Girds for Muslim Brotherhood Protests (WSJ)
- SAC Capital's Steven Cohen Expected to Avoid Criminal Charges (WSJ)
- SAC insider-trading probe could last years (Reuters)
- RBI seen selling dollars around 60.59 levels: dealers (Reuters)
- China signals will cut off credit to rebalance economy (Reuters)
- Egypt army arrests key Muslim Brotherhood figures (BBC)
- Rise in Steel Prices Alarms Buyers (WSJ)
- Draghi-Carney Seek Independence Day Break From Bernanke (BBG)
- Samsung Warns Results Will Miss Forecasts (WSJ)
- Russia Prosecutor Seeks 6 Years in Jail for Putin Critic Navalny (BBG)
A smorgasbord of secondary Japanese data missed expectations this evening and while all appears relatively calm if you just look at USDJPY, it is anything but in the stock and bond markets which have both lost significant ground already. Nomura launched the largest IPO of the year (Nomura REIT) and it is down 4.8% out of the gate (at least they didn't pull the 'market conditions' trick so many US companies fall back on) but the broad TOPIX index is down 2.4% and unable to find any dip-buyers to encourage. Financials (-3.4%) and Consumer stocks (-2.5%) are the worst with Utilities modestly bid (+0.3%) for now. JGBs were following the 'open down, rally gently higher for the rest of the day' pattern of the last three days but soon after the BoJ announced its buying program at 9ET, the selling escalated. All-in-all, it is more of the same from the US day-session but with JPY oddly quiet for now as the JGB market remains mildly out of control...
China continues to be stuck between an external hot money flows rock and a contracting economy and unstable banking sector hard place... Thanks to the G-0 central planners, the PBOC's hands are now tied: if it injects more hot money or lowers the interest rate the inflation on the margins, which it has so far been able to mask will spill over into the streets in a repeat of 2011, and force an even more epic scramble for inflation protection than the one seen two years ago, and which led to gold rising to just shy of $2000. Naturally, at a time when the central planners have gone all in on precipitating the Great Rotation out of bonds and into stocks at all costs, a re-exodus into gold might just end the Keynesian experiment. So the China central bank has that to contend with as well.Which means one thing: in reality Chinese credit and liquidity is in far worse shape than reported. And sure enough, over the past 24 hours we got news courtesy of Bloomberg that the "China Liquidity Squeeze Risks Companies’ Debt Rollover" leading to what may be the first harbinger of a Chinese bank failure which may subsequently lead to a whole lot of dominoes falling.
The spin-doctors are hard at work talking up America’s subpar economic recovery. All eyes are on households. Thanks to falling unemployment, rising home values, and record stock prices, an emerging consensus of forecasters, market participants, and policymakers has now concluded that the American consumer is finally back. Don’t believe it. In short, the American consumer’s nightmare is far from over. Spin and frothy markets aside, the healing has only just begun.
It doesn't take an Econ Ph.D to realize that what Japan is trying to do: which is to recreate the US monetary experiment of the past four years, which has had rising stocks and bonds at the same time, the first due to the Fed's endless monetary injections (and pent up inflation expectations) and the second due to quality collateral mismatch and scarcity and shadow bank system funding via reserve currency "deposit-like" instruments such as TSYs, is a problem. After all, those who understand that the BOJ is merely taking hints from the Fed all along the way, have been warning about just that, and also warning that once the dam breaks, and if (or when) there is a massive rotation out of bonds into stocks, it is the Japanese banks - levered to the gills with trillions of JGBs - that will crack first. Apparently, this elementary finance 101 logic has finally trickled down to the BOJ, whose minutes over the weekend revealed that members are pointing out "contradictions" in the Kuroda-stated intent of doubling the monetary base in two years, unleashing inflation, sending the stock market soaring, all the while pressuring bondholders to not sell their bonds. As the FT reports, "According to the minutes of the April 26 policy meeting, released on Monday, a “few” board members said the BoJ’s original stance “might initially have been perceived by market participants as contradictory”, causing “fluctuations in financial markets”.
- ‘Cov-lite’ loans soar in dash for yield (FT)
- Cambodian police clash with thousands of garment workers, 23 hurt (Reuters)
- Obama Accepting Sequestration as Deficit Shrinks (BBG)
- Having done nothing to restore confidence in a fragmented market, the SEC turns back to main street fraud (WSJ)
- Europe's austerity-to-growth shift largely semantic (Reuters)
- Germany thwarts EU in China solar fight (FT)
- In EU-China dispute, Beijing warns of trade (FT)
- U.S. Oil Boom Divides OPEC (WSJ)
- Record Cash Sent to Balanced Funds (BBG)
- Hilsenrath: Fed Wrestles With Market Expectations About Pace of QE (WSJ)
- Worse-Than-Cyprus Debt Load Means Caribbean Defaults to Moody’s (BBG)
- States Raise College Budgets After Years of Deep Cuts (WSJ)
- U.K. Banks Cut 189,000 With Employment at Nine-Year Low (BBG)
With US markets taking a day off today for Memorial Day, liquidity will be even more sporadic than usual, and any sharp moves will be that much more accentuated, although such a likelihood is minimal with all US traders still in the Hamptons. In an otherwise very quiet overnight session, perhaps the most notable move was that of the USDJPY, which continues to be "strangely attracted" to the 101 line although selling pressure is certainly to the downside, with a downside breakout quite possible, however that would lead to an early and very unpleasant end to Abe's latest 'experiment' (to quote Weidmann). The Nikkei225 already closed down 470 points, or 3.22%, as Mrs. Watanabe's faith in the market, seems to be fading with every passing day.
The surge in Japanese long-term interest rates is likely causing some lost sleep among bond market participants and policymakers (despite their ignorance of the moves in the BoJ minutes) as Nomura's Richard Koo notes, if this trend continues (now added to by the collapse in stock prices) it could well mark the “beginning of the end” for the Japanese economy. Although the stock market has (until now) welcomed the yen’s continued slide against the dollar, Koo warns that this trend needs to be carefully monitored, as simultaneous declines in JGBs and the yen can be interpreted as a loss of faith in the Japanese government and the Bank of Japan. The biggest concerns are that the extreme volatility in Japanese stocks and bonds is occurring at a time when the BOJ was buying large quantities of government bonds. It is now clear that even large-scale BOJ purchases of JGBs cannot stop yields from rising. Simply put, Koo notes, the BoJ needs to rein itself in and state it will not stand for overshooting inflation expectations or the 'bad' rise in rates could crush both the nascent recovery and the nation's banking system.
- Once a beacon, Obama under fire over civil liberties (Reuters)
- Eurozone in longest recession since birth of currency bloc (FT)
- EU Oil Manipulation Probe Shines Light on Platts Pricing Window (BBG)
- BMWs Cheaper Than Hyundais in Korea as Tariffs Crumble (BBG)
- Stock Boom Isn't a Bubble, Says BOJ's Kuroda (WSJ)
- Struggling France strives to shake off economic gloom (FT)
- JPMorgan investors take heat off Dimon (FT)
- Private-Equity Firms Build Instead of Buy (WSJ)
- Bloomberg Saga Highlights Clash Between Two Worlds (WSJ)
- Bank documents portray Cyprus as Russia's favorite haven (Reuters)
- HSBC Signals 14,000 Jobs Cuts in $3 Billion Savings Plan (BBG)
- Argentines Hold More Than $50 Billion in U.S. Currency (BBG)
The main story overnight is without doubt the dramatic plunge in the Yen, which following the breach and trigger of USDJPY 100 stops has been a straight diagonal line to the upper right (or lower for the Yen across all currency crosses) and at last check was approaching 101.50, in turn sending the USD higher in virtually all jurisdictions. However it is not so much the Yen weakness that was surprising - a nation hell bent on doubling its monetary base in two years will do that - but the accelerating response in neighboring countries all of which are seeing Japan as the biggest economic threat suddenly and all are scrambling to respond. Sure enough, midway through the evening session, Sri Lanka cut its reverse repo and repurchase rate to 9% and 7% respectively, promptly followed by Vietnam cutting its own refinancing rate from 8% to 7%, then moving to Thailand where the finance chief Kittiratt called for a rate cut exceeding 25 bps, and more jawboning from South Korea suggesting even more rate cuts from the export-driven country are set to come as it loses trade competitiveness to Japan. Asian financial crisis 2.0 any minute now?
- Gold Bears Defy Rally as Goldman Closes Short Wager (BBG)
- Still stuck on central-bank life support (Reuters)
- Ebbing Inflation Means More Easy Money (BBG)
- So much for socialist wealth redistribution then? François Hollande to woo French business with tax cut (FT)
- Billionaires Flee Havens as Trillions Pursued Offshore (BBG)
- Companies Feel Pinch on Sales in Europe (WSJ)
- Brussels plan will ‘kill off’ money funds (FT)
- Danes as Most-Indebted in World Resist Credit (BBG)
- Syria says prime minister survives Damascus bomb attack (Reuters)
- Syria: Al-Qaeda's battle for control of Assad's chemical weapons plant (Telegraph)
- Nokia Betting on $20 Handset as It Loses Ground on IPhone (BBG)
- Rapid rise of chat apps slims texting cash cow for mobile groups (FT)
- Calgary bitcoin exchange fighting bank backlash in Canada (Calgary Herald)
- UK economy shows 0.3% growth (FT)
- Texas University Fund Sold $375 Million in Gold Bars (BBG)
- Spain Jobless Rate Breaches 27% on Recession Woes (BBG)
- Letta calls for easing of austerity policies (FT)
- Italy Led by Letta Brings Berlusconi Back as Winner (BBG)
- Fed Debate Moves From Tapering to Extending Bond Buying (BBG)
- South Korea wants talks with North on shuttered industrial zone (Reuters)
- Republicans advance bill to prepare for debt ceiling fight (Reuters)
- Republicans claim White House failed to warn on severity of cuts (FT)
- Xi meets former US heavyweights (China Daily)
- Next BoE chief Carney says clear framework key to policy success (Reuters)
- Chinese roll out red carpet for Hollande (FT)
Those who think back to November 2011 will recall that it wasn't Jon Corzine's wrong way bet on Italian bonds that ultimately led to the bankruptcy of MF Global, well it did in part, but the real Chapter 11 cause was the sudden liquidity shortage due to the way the trades were structured as a Repo To Maturity, where the bank had hoped to collect the carry from the bond coupons, thereby offsetting the nominal repo cost of funding. The kind of deal which is the very definition of collecting pennies in front of a steamroller, as while the funding cost may be tiny and the capital allocated negligible (due to the nearly infinite implied leverage involved when using repo), when the underlying instrument crashes, and the originating counterparty has to fund a massive variation margin shortfall, that is when the shadow transformation cascade triggers an immediate liquidity crisis, which can result in liquidation cascade in a few brief hours. It happened with MF Global, it happened with Lehman too. And, we now learn, it also happened with Italy's most troubled and oldest bank, Monte Paschi (BMPS), whose endless bailouts, political intrigue, depoit runs, and cooked books have all been covered extensively here previously.
The existing (and ongoing) massive expansion of base money into the banking systems of the US, England, and Japan is without precedent. As Nomura's Richard Koo notes, at 16x statutory reserves, the liquidity 'should' have led to unprecedented inflation rates of 1,600% in the US, 970% in the UK, and 480% in Japan. However, it has not, yet. In short, Koo explains, businesses and households in these economies have stopped borrowing money even though interest rates have fallen to zero. There is little physical or mechanical reason for the BOJ’s easing program to work. But the program could also have a psychological impact - and Japanese media is on an 'inflation' full-court press currently. The risk here is that not only borrowers but also lenders will start to believe the lies. No financial institutions anticipating inflation could ever lend money at current interest rates. No actual damage will be done as long as the easing program remains ineffective. But once it starts to affect psychology, the BOJ needs to quickly reverse the policy and bring the monetary base back to 'normal'. If the policy reversal is delayed, the Japanese economy (and inflation) could spiral out of control.