A look back at the headlines and market movements of the last month provides some useful color for why markets are weak and why now... As Scotiabank's Guy Haselmann warned early last month, there is a threshold point during the Fed’s attempt to normalize policy where the tide reverses and investors join in a sell-off in a race to avoid being left behind. This is why it's called the greater fool theory.
Begging, borrowing or other means. Whatever it takes the US is prepared to get what it wants. Unable to get it any other way because of real clout, the US has resorted to begging these days.
Analysis of the detail discovered in historic information in the context of China's gold strategy has allowed us to make reasonable estimates of vaulted gold, comprised of gold accounts at commercial banks, mine output and scrap. There is also compelling evidence mine output and scrap are being accumulated by the government in its own vaults, and not being delivered to satisfy public demand. We believe that China is well on the way to having gained control of the international gold market, thanks to western central banks suppression of the gold price, which accelerated last year. For its geopolitical strategy to work China must accumulate large quantities of bullion... it appears well on its way to dominance of the physical gold markets.
The most common pushback from any China bull, industrial commodity bull, US equity market bull, or in fact any risk market in general "bull" is "won't the authorities just pull the trigger? Won't they just stimulate?" As UBS Commodities group notes, the debate is most advanced for China and for industrial commodities, where the weakness in the economy, and the sharp commodity price falls of recent weeks, has consensus looking for a stimulus driven bounce. UBS does not think so - the authorities in China and the US have become increasingly focused on structural issues - which, simply put, means they are less willing to act than before. It appears last night's mini (railway-focused) stimulus supports the expectations of no "bazooka".
Though the mainstream financial media and the blogosphere differ radically on their forecasts - the MFM sees near-zero systemic risk while the alternative media sees a critical confluence of it - they agree on one thing: the Federal Reserve and the “too big to fail” (TBTF) Wall Street banks have their hands on the political and financial tiller of the nation, and nothing will dislodge their dominance. In addition, the U.S. dollar’s status as a reserve currency is a key component of U.S. global dominance. Were the dollar to be devalued by Fed/Wall Street policies to the point that it lost its reserve status, the damage to American influence and wealth would be irreversible. What if there is another possibility to the consensus view that the Fed/Wall Street will continue to issue credit and currency with abandon until the inevitable consequence occurs, i.e. the dollar is devalued and loses its reserve status. What if Wall Street’s power has peaked and is about to be challenged by forces that it has never faced before. Put another way, the power of Wall Street has reached a systemic extreme where a decline or reversal is inevitable.
One way to understand why the global financial meltdown occurred in 2008 and not in 2012 is all the oxygen in the room had been consumed. In the U.S. housing market, there was nobody left to buy an overpriced house with a no-document liar loan because everyone who was qualified to buy a McMansion in the middle of nowhere had already bought three and everyone who wasn't qualified had purchased a McMansion to flip with a liar loan. Once the pool of credulous buyers evaporated, the dominoes fell, eventually circling the globe. Right now China is at the top of the S-Curve, and the problems of stagnation are still ahead.
There’s nothing like a nice cup of reality 'tea' first thing on Monday morning. Periodically, we like to scan headlines for phrases like “record high” or “all time high”... in today's case, the results can often given an interesting big picture perspective of what’s happening in the world.
Lots of moves appear to be afoot on the macro front at the moment. Today's deal between the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) and Germany’s Bundesbank seems quite significant given the importance of Germany within the global economy generally and the E.U. specifically. And with that in mind, let’s not forget that Obama is currently in Saudi Arabia trying to restore ties with the Medieival Kingdom, i.e., he is trying to figure out a way to arm al-Qaeda in Syria without the American public finding out about it. It appears that becoming entrenched in a Syrian civil war is still very much on the table... The months ahead should be very interesting to say the least.
This week, markets have been driven by position squaring and P&L management. There have been extraordinary price movements in various commodities and currencies due to extreme weather, the decline in the Chinese Renminbi, capital flight, Fed taper, and geo-politics. Such P&L volatility is causing decisions to be made in other, seemingly uncorrelated markets, due to the need to manage P&L risk. These movements are of elevated concern because the investment climate of recent years has created a herd mentality. Now that global stimulus is being withdrawn, those trades are under attack and a mini-contagion is unfolding. "The apt analogy is a playground see-saw where investors (and Fed) have a seat firmly on the ground and risk assets dangling in the air... The Fed would like to balance the see-saw, but history suggests the chances are infinitesimal.”
China, Japan and the US are the three largest economies in the world. Each country is currently in the midst of highly-significant policy maneuvers. The Fed is bringing QE to an end. China is dealing with the credit bubble issues outlined above. Japan is lifting its consumption tax from 5% to 8%. Japan’s hike in 1997 from 3% to 5% pushed the economy into a recession. In addition, Russian sanctions could magnify and potentially take a large bite out of global economic growth. Portfolios will need to adapt to this changing environment. Just about everyone is anticipating higher Treasury yields. Most PM’s are short duration. However, the term premium is falling quickly. The technical chart looks outstanding on the long end. Macro factors are also beginning to align. I believe the next 50bps in the 30year (yield) is shaping up to be a move toward lower (not higher) yields. Portfolios are ill-prepared.
Following China's unwillingness to vote against Russia at the UN and yesterday's news that China will sue Ukraine for $3bn loan repayment, it seems Russia is returning the favor. Speaking at the Chinese Economic Development Forum, ITAR-TASS reports, the Chief Economist of Russia's largest bank stated that "China's Yuan may become the third reserve currency in the in the future."
In the 16 months since Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe launched his bold plan to reflate Japan’s shrinking economy the yen has depreciated by 22% against the dollar, 28% against the euro and 24% against the renminbi. The hope was to stimulate trade and push the current account decisively into the black. Yet the reverse has occurred. Japan’s external position has worsened due to anemic export growth and a spiraling energy import bill: in January it recorded a record monthly trade deficit of ¥2.8trn ($27.4bn). Having eked out a 0.7% current account surplus in 2013, Japan may this year swing into deficit for the first time since 1980. So why is the medicine not working?
Veteran Investor Jim Sinclair Says That If Russia Accepts Payment For Oil And Gas In Any Currency Other Than The Dollar – Whether It’s Gold, The Euro, The Ruble, The Rupee, Or Anything Else – Then The U.S. Petrodollar System Will Collapse
While Europe is furiously scrambling to find alternative sources of energy should Gazprom pull the plug on natgas exports to Germany and Europe (the imminent surge in Ukraine gas prices by 40% is probably the best indication of what the outcome would be), Russia is preparing the announcement of the "Holy Grail" energy deal with none other than China, a move which would send geopolitical shockwaves around the world and bind the two nations in a commodity-backed axis. One which, as some especially on these pages, have suggested would lay the groundwork for a new joint, commodity-backed reserve currency that bypasses the dollar, something which Russia implied moments ago when its finance minister Siluanov said that Russia may refrain from foreign borrowing this year. Translated: bypass western purchases of Russian debt, funded by Chinese purchases of US Treasurys, and go straight to the source.
In the aftermath of yesterday's key market event, the FOMC's $10 billion tapering and elimination of QE with "QualG", not to mention the "dots" and the "6 month" comment, the USD has been on fire against all key pairs, with the EURUSD sliding below 1.38, a 150 pip move in one day which should at least give Mario Draghi some comfort, but more importantly sending the USDJPY soaring to 102.500 even as US equity futures continue to slide, and not to mention the Nikkei which tumbled -1.7% to just above 14,000 overnight. Perhaps the biggest take home message for traders from yesterday is that the Yen carry trade correlation to the Emini is now dead if only for the time being until DE Shaw and Virtu recalibrate their all-important correlation signal algos. The other big news overnight was the plunge in the Yuan, tumbling 0.5%, 6.2286, up 343 pips and crushing countless speculators now that the "max vega" point has been passed. Expect under the radar news about insolvent trading desks over the next few days, as numerous mega levered FX traders, who had bet on continued CNY appreciation are quietly carted out the back door. Elsewhere, gold and other commodities continue to be hit on rising fear the plunging CNY will accelerate the unwind of Chinese Commodity Funding Deals.