On Thursday morning, President Hu Jintao of China, President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia , President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, President Jacob Zuma of South Africa and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India shook hands at the start of the one day meeting in New Delhi. Top of the agenda was the creation of the grouping's first institution, a so-called "BRICS Bank" that would fund development projects and infrastructure in developing nations. Less noticed and commented upon is the aspirations of the BRIC nations to become less dependent on the global reserve currency, the dollar and to position their own currencies as internationally traded currencies. The leaders of BRIC nations and other emerging market nations have adopted the idea of conducting trade between the five nations in their own currencies. Two agreements, signed among the development banks of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, say that local currency loans will be made available for trade between these countries. The five fast growing nations participating in local currency trade will allow participants to diversify their foreign exchange reserves, hedging against the growing risk of a euro or dollar crisis. The BRICS want to have easy convertibility of currency to make it easier to use the real, ruble, rupee, renminbi and rand amongst themselves without having to always use the US dollar. Higher intra-Brics trade, conducted in their own currencies would shield their economies from economic dislocations in the west. Left unsaid so far is the possibility that one of the BRICs or the BRICs in unison might peg the value of their respective currencies to the ultimate store of value and money - gold.
- Mixed signals from China's factories in March (Reuters)
- EU wants G20 to boost IMF funds after Eurogroup move (Reuters)
- Euro Leaders Seek Global Help After Firewall Boosted (Bloomberg)
- Euro-Region Unemployment Surges to Highest in More Than 14 Years (Bloomberg)
- Big banks prepare to pay back LTRO loans (FT) ... don't hold your breath
- Coty Inc. Proposes to Acquire Avon Products, Inc. for $23.25 Per Share in Cash (PRnewswire)
- Spain Record Home Price Drop Seen With Bank Pressure (Bloomberg)
- Firm dropped by Visa says under 1.5 million card numbers stolen (Reuters)
- Japan Tankan Stagnates With Yen Seen as Threat (Bloomberg)
- Fed to buy $44 billion Treasuries in April, sell $43 billion (Reuters)
Europe's nightmare charts
It appears the miracle of unionization has not penetrated Chinese labor markets. Contrary to expectations that suicidal workers would be elated at news that the world's second biggest employer in the world (after Wal Mart) with 1.2 million workers, FoxConn, has given employees "landmark concessions" the reality is actually different. Very, very different. "At the Foxconn factory gates, many workers seemed unconvinced that their pay wouldn't be cut along with their hours. For some Chinese factory workers - who make much of their income from long hours of overtime - the idea of less work for the same pay could take getting used to. "We are worried we will have less money to spend. Of course, if we work less overtime, it would mean less money," said Wu, a 23-year-old employee from Hunan province in south China. Foxconn said it will reduce working hours to 49 per week, including overtime. "We are here to work and not to play, so our income is very important," said Chen Yamei, 25, a Foxconn worker from Hunan who said she had worked at the factory for four years." Hold on, Hold on... You mean to say that whatever values are cherished in the good old US of lazy A, such as bathroom, coffee and cigarette breaks, not to mention "democracy", "American Idol", "high cholesterol", $0.99 apps" and "liberated oil" just may not be appropriate to the 95% of other people around the world? But... But... how will America spread its deeply unique "humanitarian" values of globalized freedom and trade interchange (funded by cheap credit of course - those global debt slaves won't enslave themselves on their own - for more see here), and occasionally using kinetic intervention (never war: one needs Congressional approval for that) when said people dare to express a different outlook, and set of values on life? Preposterous. Nay, Inconceivable!
Following Greek Bond Humiliation, Europe's Biggest Equity Investor Is Slashing Its European ExposureSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/30/2012 09:20 -0400
Remember this from September 2010? "Norway, which has amassed the world’s second-biggest sovereign wealth fund, says Greece won’t default on its debts. “The point is, do you expect these guys to default?” said Harvinder Sian, senior fixed-income strategist at Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, in an interview. “Norway has taken the view that they will not. The Greek holdings are particularly interesting because the consensus in the market is that they will at some point restructure or default.” Norway says its long-term perspective will protect it from losses. “One could say we are investing for infinity."... Uhm, Big Oops. Needless to say, this stupidity was roundly mocked by Zero Hedge at the time. Yet we can only applaud the fact that unlike other European investors (read primarily Italian banks) which are merely sinking ever deeper into the quicksand by dodecatupling down on pyramid scheme assets, the Norwegian SWF finally "plans to sharply reduce its European exposure while raising investments in emerging markets and Asia-Pacific, the finance ministry said on Friday." While we ridiculed their stupidity in 2010, we applaud Norway's prudence in this case, as unlike other insolvent European entities, the crude-rich country is not falling for the latest round of central planning bullshit, and is finally acting as a fiduciary agent. "We're reducing our European exposure because we see that economic development in the global economy is changing and this should also be reflected in our investment strategy," Johnsen said. "Most likely we'll have to sell some assets in Europe." Remember: in game theory he who defects first, defects best. We expect to see many more funds openly declaring they will commence dumping European assets, all of which are buoyed 100% artificially by the ECB, and US taxpayers, shortly.
Gold has been trading in a tight box around $1,660/oz today, as eurozone finance ministers meet in Copenhagen to discuss the scale of the permanent “bailout fund” set for July. Gold has been stuck in range of roughly $1,630/oz to $1,700/oz in recent weeks as risk appetite has returned after the latest European debt “solution” which saw the battered can kicked down the shortening road once again. Nothing has been solved with regard to the European debt crisis, and debt crises in Japan, the UK and the US now loom. The misguided panacea of heaping debt upon debt and shifting debt onto government balance sheets, debt monetisation and currency debasement is leading to continuing currency devaluations internationally. Despite this or maybe because of this - risk appetite returned with a vengeance as evidenced in equities internationally rising to multi-month and multi-year highs and the slight weakness in gold in March. So far in 2012, gold has performed well and is set to end the first quarter in 2012 with gains in all major currencies. Gold is 6.3% higher in US dollars, 3.2% higher in euros, 3.1% higher in pounds, 2.25% higher in Swiss francs and 12% higher in Japanese yen which fell sharply in the quarter.
- Greek PM does not rule out new bailout package (Reuters)
- Euro zone agrees temporary boost to rescue capacity (Reuters)
- Madrid Commits to Reforms Despite Strike (FT)
- China PBOC: To Keep Reasonable Social Financing, Prudent Monetary Policy In 2012 (WSJ)
- Germany Launches Strategy to Counter ECB Largesse (Telegraph)
- Iran Sanctions Fuel 'Junk for Oil' Barter With China, India (Bloomberg)
- BRICS Nations Threaten IMF Funding (FT)
- Bernanke Optimistic on Long-Term Economic Growth (AP)
Iran's oil exports have dropped in March as buyers prepare for sanctions, and shipments are likely to shrink further if Obama determines by Friday that markets can adjust to less Iranian oil and tightens sanctions even further. Sanctions could eventually leave half of Iran's oil output cut off from international markets, according to analysts and officials. Iran is also being excluded from global commerce and the global economy by being locked out of the international payment system – SWIFT. SWIFT, the Brussels based clearing house, announced last week it will cut services to Iranian banks on foot of European sanctions, in order to comply with the EU Council. The service denial includes Iran’s central bank, which processes Iran’s oil revenues. Some 30 Iranian banks will be blocked from doing international business. History suggests that the trade, economic and currency war with Iran may soon degenerate into an actual war. Increasingly, the regime in Iran has little to lose in engaging in a more aggressive foreign policy – including attempting to close the strategically important Straits of Hormuz.
- Obama budget defeated 414-0 (Washington Times) yes, the Democrats too...
- German Central Banker: ECB Loans Only Buy Time (AP)
- Baku grants Israel use of its air bases (Jerusalem Times)
- Japan May Understate Deflation, Hampering BOJ, Economist Says (Bloomberg)
- BRICS flay West over IMF reform, monetary policy (Reuters)
- Five Portugal Lenders Downgraded by Moody’s (Bloomberg)
- SEC Registration Captures More Hedge Fund Advisers (Bloomberg)
- EU Nears One-Year Boost in Rescue Fund to $1.3 Trillion (Bloomberg)
- Consumers plot emergency oil release as Saudi decries high prices (Reuters)
- Japan Plans to Draft Stopgap Budget for First Time in 14 Years (Bloomberg)
Sometimes, the biggest threat comes from within...
After two months of quiet from the old world, Europe is again on the radar, pushing futures in the red, and the EURUSD lower, following a miss in March European Economic and Consumer confidence, printing at 94.4 and -19.1, on expectations of 94.5 and -19.0, as well as an Italian 5 and 10 Year auction which seemingly was weaker than the market had expected, especially at the 10 Year side, confirming the Italian long-end will be a major difficulty as noted here before, and pushing Italian yields higher (more on the market reaction below). The primary driver of bearish European sentiment continues to be a negative Willem Buiter note on Spain, as well as S&P's Kramer saying Greece will need a new restructuring. Lastly, the OECD published its G-7 report and reminded markets that Italian and likely UK GDP will shrink in the short-term. This was offset by better than expected German unemployment data but this is largely being ignored by a prevailing risk off sentiment. In other words, absolutely nothing new, but merely a smokescreen narrative to justify stock declines, which further leads us to believe that next week's NFP will be worse than expected as discussed last night.
For every semi-positive data point the bulls have emphasized since the market rally began, there's a counter-point that makes us question what all the fuss is about. The bulls will cite expanding US GDP in late 2011, while the bears can cite US food stamp participation reaching an all-time record of 46,514,238 in December 2011, up 227,922 participantsfrom the month before, and up 6% year-over-year. The bulls can praise February's 15.7% year-over-year increase in US auto sales, while the bears can cite Europe's 9.7% year-over-year decrease in auto sales, led by a 20.2% slump in France. The bulls can exclaim somewhat firmer housing starts in February (as if the US needs more new houses), while the bears can cite the unexpected 100bp drop in the March consumer confidence index five consecutive months of manufacturing contraction in China, and more recently, a 0.9% drop in US February existing home sales. Give us a half-baked bullish indicator and we can provide at least two bearish indicators of equal or greater significance. It has become fairly evident over the past several months that most new jobs created in the US tend to be low-paying, while the jobs lost are generally higher-paying. This seems to be confirmed by the monthly US Treasury Tax Receipts, which are lower so far this year despite the seeming improvement in unemployment. Take February 2012, for example, where the Treasury reported $103.4 billion in tax receipts, versus $110.6 billion in February 2011. BLS had unemployment running at 9% in February 2011, versus 8.3% in February 2012. Barring some major tax break we've missed, the only way these numbers balance out is if the new jobs created produce less income to tax, because they're lower paying, OR, if the unemployment numbers are wrong. The bulls won't dwell on these details, but they cannot be ignored.