Reuters

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March Starts Off With A Whimper As Global Economic Data Slump





If the new year started off with a bang, March is setting up to be quite a whimper. In the first news overnight, we got the "other" official Chinese PMI, which as we had predicted (recall from our first China PMI analysis that "it is quite likely that the official February print will be just as weak if not more") dropped: while the HSBC PMI dropped to 50.4, the official number declined even more to just barely expansionary or 50.1, below expectations of a 50.5 print, and the lowest print in five months. This was to be expected: Chinese real-estate inflation is still as persistent as ever, and the government is telegraphing to the world's central banks to back off on the hot money. One country, however, that did not have much hot money issues was Japan, where CPI declined -0.3% in January compared to -0.1% in December, while headline Tokyo February data showed an even bigger -0.9% drop down from a revised -0.5% in January. Considering the ongoing surge in energy prices and the imminent surge on wheat-related food prices, this data is highly suspect. Then out of Europe, we got another bunch of PMIs and while French and Germany posted tiny beats (43.9 vs Exp. 43.6, and 50.3 vs 50.1), with Germany retail sales also beating solidly to cement the impression that Germany is doing ok once more, it was Italy's turn to disappoint, with its PMI missing expectations of a 47.5 print, instead sliding from 47.8 to 45.8. But even worse was the Italian January unemployment rate which rose from 11.3% to 11.7%, the highest on record, while youth unemployment soared from 37.1% to 38.7%: also the highest on record, and proof that in Europe nothing at all is fixed, which will be further confirmed once today's LTRO repayment shows that banks have no desire to part with the ECB's cash contrary to optimistic expectations.

 
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Frontrunning: February 28





  • Grillo kills move to break Italy deadlock (FT)
  • Abe nominates Kuroda to run BoJ (FT)
  • More WMT bad news: Wal-Mart Chief Administrative Officer Mars to Leave: WSJ (BBG)
  • Japan's Abe: Islands Are Indisputably Ours (WSJ) - Except for China of course
  • Low-key departure as pope steps down, to enter the final phase of his life "hidden from the world" (Reuters)
  • Cuts unlikely to deliver promised budget savings (Reuters)
  • European Union caps bankers’ bonuses (FT)
  • White House, Republicans dig in ahead of budget talks (Reuters)
  • Jockeying Stalls Deal on Cuts (WSJ)
  • Argentina Says It Won’t Voluntarily Comply With Bond Ruling (BBG)
  • Italian president says forming new government cannot be rushed (Reuters) - or happen at all
  • Central Banks Spewing Cash Must Plan Exit Timing, Rohde Says (BBG)
  • China Regional Targets Cut in Sign Debt Concerns Heeded (BBG)
  • RBA Says Up to 34 Central Banks Holding Australian Dollars (BBG)
 
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German FinMin Warns "I Never Said The Euro Crisis Was Over"





Following on the heels of Merkel's adviser Lars Feld's comments, German finance minister Schaeuble has raised concerns over the results of the Italian elections. His comment that,"I never said the euro crisis was over," stands in contrast to the claims of Monti, Draghi, Lagarde, Barroso, and Sarkozy who all have. along with the market's "doubts that a stable government can be formed," raises the risk of turmoil spreading to other euro countries. Schaeuble commented further that, "now it is up to those who were elected in Italy on Sunday to form a stable government. The faster they do this, the quicker the uncertainty will be overcome." The problem, as Reuters reports, appears to be not just Italy's public dissension over Germany's demands for austerity but his French counterpart's comments that "austerity has gone far enough," to which the German rebuked, "France must also do more here, Hollande knows this and so does Pierre Moscovici." Tension is certainly rising in the depression-addled union, even as Draghi explains - it's all ok, he promises.

 
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Fed To Prompt Currency Crash and Return to Gold Standard





 

Gold is trading flat today near a one and a half week high hit yesterday as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke defended the U.S.  ultra loose monetary policy.

The selloff in gold ETFs in February underscores the weakness in gold sentiment among retail investors that has been prominent recently. 

 
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Frontrunning: February 27





  • Wal-Mart's Sales Problem—And America's (WSJ)
  • Investors fret that Italy may undermine ECB backstop (Reuters)
  • Monti Government Mulls Delaying Monte Paschi Bailout (BBG)
  • Norway Faces Liquidity Shock in Record Redemption (BBG)
  • ECB's Praet Says Accommodative Policy Could Lose Effectiveness (BBG)
  • EU Chiefs Tell Italy There’s No Alternative to Austerity (BBG)
  • New Spate of Acrimony in congress As Cuts Loom (WSJ)
  • BOE's Tucker hints at radical growth moves (FT)
  • Kuroda Seen Getting DPJ Vote for BOJ, Iwata May Be Opposed (BBG)
  • Russian Banks Look to Yuan Bond Market (WSJ)
  • Dagong warns about rising debt (China Daily)
  • Italy Election Impasse Negative for Credit Rating, Moody’s Says (BBG)
 
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Overnight Tensions Eased As Italy Sells 5, 10 Year Bonds





With little on the event calendar in the overnight session, the main news many were looking forward to was Italy's auction of €2.5 billion in 5 and €4 billion in 10 year paper, to see just how big the fallout from the Hung Parliament election was in the primary market. As SocGen explained ahead of the auction: "The target of Italy's 2017 and 2023 BTP auction today is a maximum EUR6.5bn, but in order to get to that tidy amount the Tesoro may be forced to offer a hefty mark-up in yield to compensate investors for the extra risk. Note that Italian 6-month bills were marked up at yesterday's sale from 0.731% to 1.237%. Who knows what premium investors will be asking for today for paper with the kind of duration that is not covered by the ECB OMT (should that be activated)? Will Italian institutions, already long BTPs relative to overall asset size, be forced to hoover up most of the supply?" The outcome was a successful auction which, however, as expected saw yields spike with the 4 year paper pricing at 3.59% compared to 2.95% before, while the 10 Year paper priced some 60 bps wider to the 4.17% in January, yielding 4.83%. The result was a brief dip in Italian OTR BTP yield, which have since retraced all gains and are once again trading in the 4.90% range on their way to 5%+ as JPM forecast yesterday. And as expected, talk promptly emerged that the auction was carried by "two large domestic buyers" in other words, the two big local banks merely levered up on Italian paper hoping furiously that they are not the next MF Global.

 
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February's Strange Divergence In Precious Metals





February has been an odd month for precious metals to say the least. On-again, off-again fears of Bernanke removing the punchbowl (and endless sell-side strategists discussing Great Rotations and the end of the gold cycle) have led to prices for gold and silver sliding notably. However, while all this price deterioration has been going on, demand for physical gold and silver has surged - entirely disconnecting from January's apparent demand-to-price correlation - and Silver set to break all-time record demand highs for a February. We know who was buying in January, as Reuters reports Russia and Turkey were significantly adding to their bullion reserves; and while the divergence between demand and price coincided with Chinese New Year - leaving a large marginal buying nation on the sidelines - we suspect the drop is more to do with hedge fund reflexive selling - now caught offside. It seems at least one smart player was using lower prices to build their stack; manipulation or no manipulation.

 
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Renewed Contagion Concern After Italian Election - Stocks Fall, FX Volatility And Gold Rises





Italy’s politics were turned upside down yesterday after the election resulted in the dissident, 5-Star Movement of comic Beppe Grillo creating the strongest party in the country, but left no group with a clear majority in parliament. This political uncertainty weighed on the euro as Italy is the Eurozone’s 3rd largest economy. Bullion’s gains were limited as investors await the Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke’s semi-annual testimony to U.S. Congress before the Senate Banking Committee today, and tomorrow he visits the U.S. Housing Financial Services Committee. A dovish statement from Bernanke will support gold.  European stocks declined as Italy’s inconclusive parliamentary election renewed concern that the region’s sovereign-debt crisis will deepen. This follows falls on Wall Street yesterday and Asian falling overnight. Huge complacency and even denial about the debt crisis and suggestions that it had been resolved have contributed to investors selling physical gold in recent days. 

 
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Frontrunning: February 26





  • Italy Political Vacuum to Extend for Weeks as Bargaining Begins (BBG)
  • Italian impasse rekindles eurozone jitters (FT)
  • On Spending Cuts, the Focus Shifts to How, Not If (WSJ)
  • Obama spending cuts strategy focused on waiting game (Reuters)
  • BOE’s Tucker Says He’s Open to Expanding Asset-Purchase Program (BBG)
  • Fed Faces Explaining Billion-Dollar Losses in Stress of QE3 Exit (BBG)
  • Carney warns over lack of trust in banks (FT) - here's a solution: moar bank bailouts!
  • Bundesbank tells France to stick to budget (FT)
  • China to tighten shadow banking rules (FT)
  • Saudis Step Up Help for Rebels in Syria With Croatian Arms (NYT)
  • After election win, Anastasiades faces Cyprus bailout quagmire (Reuters)
  • Just for the headline: Singapore’s Darwinian Budget Sparks Employer Ire (BBG)
 
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Guest Post: Waking Dreams End Unpleasantly





Whenever I endeavor to explain America’s current economic situation to a person who likely receives most of his information from skewed mainstream news sources, I try to use two comparisons; the Great Depression, and Weimar Germany, because what we are experiencing is actually a combination of elements from both events. In the end, the madness of debt spending is going to annihilate this country anyway.  Fiat printing and infinite QE will eventually result in the dumping of our currency as the world reserve, causing devaluation and hyperstagflation.  Stimulus and the monetization of government liabilities are crippling us.  The problem is, this nation is irrevocably dependent on such measures.  Cuts will result in almost similar catastrophe, but on a faster time frame and perhaps a slightly shorter duration (depending on who runs the show in the aftermath).  I’ve been saying it since 2008 – there is no easy way out of this situation.  There is no silver bullet solution.  There will be struggle, and there will be consequence.  It is unavoidable.  All we have to decide now is how we will respond when the inevitable disaster comes.

 
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Next Domino: Spain, As Main Suspect In Rajoy Graft Scandal Has Passport Confiscated





While today's attention was focused on the austerity-crushing defeat of Monti in Italy and the pre-supposition that the ECB being able to use its OMT promise against an ill-disciplined nation fades; there is another super-cell of destruction wending its way towards Berlin (and Brussels). At the perfect time for such things, Reuters reports that the man at the center of Spanish PM Rajoy's political scandal, Luis Barcenas, has been banned from leaving Spain, had his passport revoked, and ordered to report to court twice a month. The millions of dollars in Swiss bank accounts that investigators found that he had deposited and the linkages to Spain's royalty in the so-called 'graft' case are not playing well with the population as unemployment surges above 26%. Judged as a serious flight risk, the high court judge ordered the steps after finding out he was skiing in Canada two weeks ago (where they suspect funds were also transferred). One protester complained, "They are lying to us, and worse than that, scorning us... Enough is enough, we need some accountability."

 
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Goldman Managing Director Snagged In Insider Trading Probe Leaves Firm





With the entire world, and certainly GETCO's ES and EURUSD algos, focused on every single update out of the Italian Senate race, which now appears certain to not bring the necessary 158 seats to the Bersani-Monti coalition leading to a chaotic revote in the coming months, here is some tangential news of the "who could have ever seen this coming variety." Following last week's Heinz insider trading probe, which implicated a Goldman Sachs account in Zurich belonging to some private wealth client, who was so anonymous not even Goldman knows who it belonged to, we now learn that yet another Goldman employee has just left the company in a totally separate insider trading probe.

 
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Frontrunning: February 25





  • Risk of instability hangs over Italy poll (FT), Protest votes add to uncertainty in close Italy election (Reuters), and... Risk On
  • Czech inspectors find horsemeat in IKEA meatballs (Reuters)
  • China’s Slower Manufacturing Casts Shadow Over Recovery (Bloomberg)
  • So much for reform: China Prepares for Government Shuffle as Zhou Stays at PBOC (Bloomberg)
  • France to pause austerity, cut spending next year instead: Hollande (Reuters)
  • Sinopec to buy stake in Chesapeake assets for $1.02 billion (Reuters)
  • White House warns states of looming pain from March 1 budget cuts (Reuters)
  • China Quietly Invests Reserves in U.K. Properties (WSJ)
  • Osborne Keeps Austerity as Investors See Downgrade as Late (BBG)
  • South Korea's new president demands North drop nuclear ambitions (Reuters)
  • Russia accuses U.S. of double standards over Syria (Reuters)
 
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Overnight Sentiment Pricing In A Favorable Italian Election Outcome





Following last night's very disappointing China HSBC PMI numbers, one would think that the traditional EURUSD, and thus ES, overnight ramp would be missing or at least delayed, especially ahead of a very possible risk off day such as Italian election day. One would be wrong. Because some time after midnight eastern, in what can only be seen as a celebration of Argo's choice as a best picture, the EURUSD resumed its upward ramp on absolutely no news, pushing the pair higher by nearly 100 pips in a smooth diagonal line, and dragging US futures up with it as usual. The catalyst apparently is that with Italian exit polls mere hours away (due out at 2pm GMT), market talk is that Berlusconi's resurgent chances have been hobbled due to a low turnout in the pro-Berlusconi northern states (recall that Lombardia is the key state for the elections) following a quick read of a Reuters recap article. What is ignored is that the referenced Reuters article also notes the "surge in protests votes being cast" in the first day of voting, which means less votes on an absolute and relative basis for Bersani and Monti, even if Berlusconi ends up getting less of the Northern vote. Of course, nobody actually has any clue what the exit polls look like. In fact, with a hung parliament a distinct possibility even assuming a Bersani-Monti coalition, both Goldman and JPM have said a 50-100 pip widening across the Italian curve is possible should a Hung Parliament develop (for more read here). But for now hope dominates and is both squeezing the shorts and causing yet another algorithmic stop hunt in FX, and thus every other asset class. Don't be surprised all of overnight's gains, and much more to be wiped out minutes after 9 am eastern when the first Italian exit polls emerge.

 
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Yen Plunges As Uber-Dove Kuroda Set To Head Bank Of Japan





In our prediction two weeks ago of who the next Bank of Japan governor was likely to be, we said that "the tussle lies between a slightly less dovish bureaucrat in Toshiro Muto (favored by the opposition) and a banker, Haruhiko Kuroda, who is a front-runner in Abe's camp.... we suspect Abe will err on the side of uber-dovish to fight the currency wars alongside him." Sure enough, the uber-dove Kuroda, not to be confused with the Yankees pitcher, is now set to become BOJ governor. From Reuters, "Japan's government is likely to nominate Asian Development Bank President Haruhiko Kuroda, who has called for pumping more money into the economy, as its next central bank governor, the Nikkei newspaper reported on Monday. Kuroda, formerly Japan's top currency diplomat, has already been offered the post unofficially by the government, which plans to submit its nominees for three BOJ leadership posts to parliament this week, the paper said. Kikuo Iwata, an academic known as one of the most vocal advocates of aggressive monetary expansion, is likely to be nominated as deputy BOJ governor, the Nikkei said without citing sources."

 
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