- Ukraine Seeks $35 Billion as Yanukovych Warrant Is Issued (BBG)
- Ukraine's fugitive president wanted for mass murder (Reuters)
- Polar Vortex to Bring More Snow on Return to U.S. This Week (BBG)
- China property prices continue to rise (FT)
- Microsoft Said to Cut Windows Price 70% to Counter Rivals (BBG)
- Pentagon to propose shrinking Army, scrapping some jets (Reuters)
- Hedge Funds Turn Bearish on S&P 500 as VIX Advances (BBG)
- Draghi’s Data Jigsaw Takes Shape as ECB Readies Showdown (BBG)
- China, eyeing Japan, seeks WW2 focus for Xi during Germany visit (Reuters)
Asian equities are trading lower across the board on the back of some negative credit stories from China. Shanghai Securities News noted that ICBC and some other banks have curbed loans to developers in sectors such as steel and cement. Slower gains in home property prices in China’s tier 1 cities are also not helping sentiment. Beijing and Shenzhen prices rose 0.4% in January, which looks to be the slowest monthly gain since October 2012 according to Bloomberg. Elsewhere there are reports that a property developer in Hangzhou (Tier 2 city in China) is reducing its unit prices by 19%. Our property analysts noted that given the strong gains seen in Tier-1 and some bigger Tier-2 cities in 2013, a slowdown or negative trends in price growth should not be a surprise. Nevertheless, it has been a very weak day for Chinese and HK markets with the Shanghai Composite and the Hang Seng indices down -2.0% and -1.2% lower as we type. Across the region, bourses in Japan and Korea are down -1.0% and -0.6%, respectively.
As happens at the end of every year, sellside analysts and economists, all predicted that this year would be different, and the long overdue capex spending would finally be unleashed. Apparently they had far greater visibility on this matter, than on the topic of snowfall in the winter, and its disastrous impact on a $17 trillion economy, whose Q1 GDP growth forecast has cratered from 3% at the start of the year, to barely half that number currently. One of the firms that preached that the CapEx recovery is imminent is none other than Goldman Sachs, the same firm that also year after year predicts a new golden age for the US, only to see its forecast crash and burn some 4-6 months later, couched in the tried (or is that now trite) and true scapegoatings: snow, unrest in Europe, inflation or deflation in Japan, the usual. However, this time may indeed be different, and the same Goldman has just released a piece wondering "Why no capex recovery?" (despite the firm's own forecasts to the contrary -just recall David Mericle's "Capex: The Fundamentals Remain Strong" which now in retrospect is completely wrong).
The divergence between the NAHB index and other housing indicators has continued to suggest that sentiment was “getting ahead of itself" and as Citi's Tom Fitzpatrick warns would suggest that the qualitative nature of the overall housing recovery is less robust than one would like. Housing should pause/consolidate possibly even for most of this year as the weather argument that is trotted out by so many commentators does not seem to hold up to even a basic examination with the worst data coming from the West Coast. Simply put, Citi warns, we think housing sentiment got carried away as it did into 1994 and 1998 post the housing/savings and loan crisis of 1989-1991.
"For 50 years or so the federal government has deliberately and to an increasing extent misstated probable future budget deficits. Democrats and Republicans are guilty. The White House is guilty. And so is Congress. Private firms that deliberately misrepresent their financial statements in this fashion would be guilty of a crime… The magnitude of the misrepresentation is breathtaking."
- Former St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank President William Poole.
A dispassionate and analytic of the macro developments for the week ahead.
Sometimes you just have to sit back, look at some charts, and say WTF...
A look at the price action among the major currencies for the week ahead.
Despite stockpiles imploding and prices exploding in the short-term, The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) has predicted that natural gas production in the US will continue to grow at an impressive pace. Right now output is close to 70 billion cubic feet a day and is expected to reach over 100 billion cubic feet per day by 2040. The trend is likely to continue without hitting a geologic “peak”, and along with this trend will come new marketing opportunities for America. The following exclusive interview with OilPrice.com answsers some of the bigger questions...
The "common knowledge" meme among the uber-paid economists and talking-heads os Wall Street remains that if data is bad, it's the weather's fault; but if data is good, that's the recovery. However, as Lance Roberts explains in this brief clip, the deterioration in US fundamental macro data is not a one-month blip and in fact "the trend of economic growth has clearly been on the decline rather than gaining strength as has been hoped by the majority of economists". Furthermore, he notes (and shows in simple chart form) that the trend of consumer weakness, which makes up 70% of economic growth, has declined to levels that are more normally associated with very slow growth economies. Simply put, it's not the weather stupid, it's the economy.
The world may have been crashing and burning, and as Bernanke admitted in March 2008, "At some point, of course, either things will stabilize or there will be some kind of massive governmental intervention, but I just don’t have much confidence about the timing of that" (guess which one it was), but at least the Fed ended the catastrophic 2008 yeat on a high note. The chart below shows the number of the time the FOMC committee had an moment of levity as captured by [Laughter] in the FOMC transcripts. Perhaps not surprisingly, the December 2008 meeting, when the market was in free fall, saw the biggest number of laugh lines in the entire year.
While it's useful to keep the dream alive (and blame the weather for any weakness that ruins the "sustainable recovery" meme) the data (once again) does not support that "common knowledge" whatsoever...
Existing home sales plunged 5.1% (considerably worse than the 4.1% drop expected) to its lowest level in 18 months. This extends the string of missed expectations to 5 months as even the ever-credible NAR chief economist said it was not the weather but "we can’t ignore the ongoing headwinds of tight credit, limited inventory, higher prices and higher mortgage interest rates." First-time homebuyers plunged to a mere 26% of the total - the lowest share on record as all-cash (and spec) investors rose to a record 53% share of sales.
The Chinese Gold & Silver Exchange Society is prepared to spend at least HK$ 1 billion to set up a gold vaulting warehouse in mainland China that will be able to store a massive 1,500 tonnes of gold. Owning gold directly and in a fully allocated, fully segregated account and with an ability to take delivery remains vital.
This was one of the all too real Bloomberg headlines posted overnight: "Asian Shares Rally as U.S. Manufacturing Data Beats Estimates." Odd: are they refering to the crashing Philly Fed, or the just as crashing Empire Fed data? Wait, it was the C-grade MarkIt PMI that nobody ever looks at, except to confirm that where everyone else sees snow, the PMI saw sunshine and growth. Remember: if the data is weak, it's the snow; if it's strong, it's the recovery. Odder still: one would think Asian shares care about manufacturing data of, say, China. Which happens to be in Asia, and which two nights ago crashed to the lowest in months. Or maybe that only impact the SHCOMP which dropped 1.2% while all other regional markets simply do what the US and Japan do - follow the USDJPY, which at one point overnight rose as high as 102.600, and brought futures to within inches of their all time closing high. Sadly, it is this that passes for "fundamental" analysis in this broken market new normal...