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.
With the Abenomics honeymoon over, and the market starts to turn against your extreme policies, you have to bring out the big guns. Girl bands, Teenagers in short skirts, Sumo champions, and now social media is the platform of choice for Shinzo Abe's latest propaganda-fest on how he is saving the world one printed Yen at a time. Unfortunately for him, of the 8,627 people that viewed his note on LinkedIn, a mere 66 gave it a thumbs up (how many ministers are there in his party?) and only 107 'liked' it on Facebook. It seems he is 'lucky' that there is no Dislike button...
China has certainly been busy since it won observer status at the May Arctic Council summit in Kiruna, Sweden. China is clearly after more than simply investment and trade opportunities as it continues to display its obsession with securing energy and other supplies where the U.S. Navy cannot or will not go. Unfortunately for Moscow, not only China but also the other new Asian members will seek to maximize their influence in the Council for many of the same reasons. The Arctic may be Russia’s home, but it can no longer be its castle.
The global liquidation wave started with Bernanke's statement yesterday, which was interpreted far more hawkishly than any of his previous public appearances, even though the Fed had been warning for months about the taper. Still, markets were shocked, shocked. Then it moved to Japan, where for the first time in months, the USDJPY and the Nikkei diverged, and despite the strong dollar, the Nikkei slumped 1.74%. Then, China was swept under, following the weakest HSBC flash manufacturing PMI print even as the PBOC continued to not help a liquidity-starved banking sector, leading to the overnight repo rate briefly touching on an unprecedented 25%, and locking up the entire interbank market, sending the Shanghai Composite down nearly 3% as China is on its way to going red for the year. Then, India got hit, with the rupee plunging to a record low against the dollar and the bond market briefly being halted limit down. Then moving to Europe, market after market opened and promptly slid deep into the red, despite a services and mfg PMI which both beat expectations modestly (48.6 vs 47.5 exp., 48.9 vs 48.1 exp) while German manufacturing weakened. This didn't matter to either stocks or bond markets, as peripheral bond yields promptly soared as the unwind of the carry trade is facing complacent bond fund managers in the face. And of course, the selling has now shifted to the US-premarket session where equity futures have seen better days. In short: a bloodbath.
For the past several years, a firmly entrenched psyche of ‘win-win’ for risk-taking behavior has dominated. The thinking has been that the Fed would either help achieve a sustained recovery (allowing distorted prices to be validated by economic fundamentals), or the FOMC would provide more price-boosting liquidity. Now, faith in this proposition is slowly being eroded. Global central banks have collectively provided $11 trillion in liquidity over the past several years. The initial moves were taken to spark domestic demand, but some recent external actions have been retaliatory in nature, implemented as a means to influence currency levels. These new forms of hostilities are indications that the external ramifications of QE policies may no longer be passively tolerated.
Tryingto make sense of the price action in the foreign exchange market. The dollar was heavier than we anticipated and there is no compelling sign of a turnaround, but the key is the FOMC meeting.
Following on from our annual update on the wealth (re)distribution of nations, we thought it important to look at the other side of the household balance sheet - that of 'debt' to see just how much 'progress' has been made in the world. In the aftermath of the credit crisis (and the ongoing crisis in Europe), government debt levels continue to rise but combining trends in household debt highlights countries that have sustainable (and unsustainable) overall debt levels - and thus the greatest sovereign debt problems. Whether the 'number' is from Reinhart & Rogoff or not, the reality is that moar debt is not better and the nations with the highest debt-per-capita may surprise many. Critically, despite the rise in 'wealth' from 2000-2008, the ratio of debt-to-net-worth rose on average by about 50% (and in many nations continues to rise). The bottom line - in almost all countries, government liabilities exceeded government financial assets in 2011, leaving the government a net debtor.
House prices - with respect to both levels and changes - differ widely across OECD countries. As a simple measure of relative rich or cheapness, the OECD calculates if the price-to-rent ratio (a measure of the profitability of owning a house) and the price-to-income ratio (a measure of affordability) are above their long-term averages, house prices are said to be overvalued, and vice-versa. There are clearly some nations that are extremely over-valued and others that are cheap but as SocGen's Albert Edwards notes, it is the UK that stands out as authorities have gone out of their way to prop up house prices - still extremely over-valued (20-30%) - despite being at the epicenter of the global credit bust. Summing up the central bankers anthem, Edwards exclaims: "what makes me genuinely really angry is that burdening our children with more debt to buy ridiculously expensive houses is seen as a solution to the problem of excessively expensive housing." It's not different this time.
Here is what is shaping the global capital markets.
Back in 2010 we started an annual series looking at the (re)distribution in the wealth of nations and social classes. What we found then (and what the media keeps rediscovering year after year to its great surprise) is that as a result of global central bank policy, the rich got richer, and the poor kept on getting poorer, even though as we predicted the global political powers would, at least superficially, seek to enforce policies that aimed to reverse this wealth redistribution from the poor to the rich (a doomed policy as the world's legislative powers are largely in the lobby pocket of the world's wealthiest who needless to say are less then willing to enact laws that reduce their wealth and leverage). Now that the topic of wealth distribution (or rather concentration) is once again in vogue, below we present the latest such update looking at a global portrait of household wealth. The bottom line: 29 million, or 0.6% of those with any actual assets under their name, own $87.4 trillion, or 39.3% of all global assets.
While the U.S. student loan debt “crisis” might be the primary concern associated with the youth population here, this morning's dreadful European data confirms that 15-24 year olds around the world are struggling with a more widespread and pressing issue: high unemployment. In 2012, the youth unemployment rate was 12.4%, projected to grow to 12.6% in 2013 – nearly 3 times the rate of adult unemployment, which stood at 4.5% in 2012. Developed economies, along with the Middle East and North Africa, have some of the worst youth unemployment rates in the world: the US’s unemployment rate for 15-24 year olds in 2012 was 15.4%, according to the Current Population Survey, more than 3 percentage points above the world average. ConvergEx's Nick Colas notes there is one exception to the U.S.’s high rates, though: for all the talk about how student loan debt has crippled young adults in the U.S., we actually have one of the lower unemployment rates for young adults with a tertiary (college) education – better, even, than many countries with free or low-cost universities (though the 'type' of jobs may be questionable).
Anytime a free market guy rails against central planning and socialism, there is always someone who stands up and says “what about Sweden?” Ah, Sweden... a socialist’s paradise... a place where taxes are among the highest in the world, few people are wealthy, and the government is involved in people’s lives from cradle to grave. And in all of these government surveys on ‘happiness’, places like Sweden, Norway, and Denmark consistently rank among the happiest countries in the world. Well… the veneer is cracking. The riots we first noted here continue and these foru charts may offer some of in the incendiary material for why. As we noted recently, the benefits that have kept Europe relatively 'social-unrest-free' so far are starting to run dry. People in North America who are rapidly being dragged into a welfare state should pay very close attention... because this is the future that awaits.
One of the problems with QE is that the Fed is forcing people to buy riskier investments than they otherwise would have. The immorality of their actions aside, they create a significant psychological mismatch between assets and their holders. Stocks are in weak hands, insuring one great stampede for the chairs when the music stops.
Moments ago, the British foreign secretary William Hague tweeted that the arms embargo to the Syrian rebels has officially ended. The irony is that as has been known for a long time, and as the FT itself reported ten days ago, the Syrian "rebels" who actually have been Qatari mercenaries, have been receiving weapons shipments for years from the wealthy Persian Gulf country, with the implicit knowledge of both Europe and the US. So why the rush by France and Britain to allow weapons armaments to resume by official channels, even if it means even more weaponization of the Assad regime by Russia and China, more bloodshed, and more death?
Simple: natural gas.