A few minutes ago headlines hit that as a result of a strong earthquake, buildings shook in Delhi, India. Moments later, the USGS confirmed that a major 7.8 magnitude earthquake with an epicenter 9 miles below the Awaran/Balochistan region in Pakistan had struck, some 43 miles NNE of Awaran, and close to the India border. It is unclear yet if the two quakes were the same although it seems likely. Reuters had this preliminary report: "An strong earthquake struck remote western Pakistan on Tuesday and was felt in the Indian capital of New Delhi where buildings shook. The United States Geological Survey said that a 7.8 magnitude quake struck 145 miles southeast of Dalbandin, in Pakistan's western province of Balochistan."
- Iran Icebreaker Set at U.N. (WSJ)
- Chrysler Feud Triggers IPO Filing (WSJ)
- JPMorgan Chase, 12 More Banks Said to Be Sued Over Libor (BBG)
- Regulator sues Morgan Stanley, eight others over faulty securities (Reuters)
- Monte Paschi Seen Boosting Cost Goals to Meet EU Demands (BBG)
- Here we go again - "not enough funds": CFTC chair Gary Gensler warns on fund cuts to police derivatives (FT)
- Congress Fuels Private Jails Detaining 34,000 Immigrants (BBG)
- KKR, Sycamore looking to buy Jones Group this week (NYPost) - take with lots of salt
- Fiat rethinks alliance with Chrysler after IPO filing (Reuters)
- Young Invincibles Caught in Crossfire Over Obamacare Cost (BBG)
- Mayfair Office Squeeze Spawns New London Real Estate Hubs (BBG)
Everything was proceeding according to central-plan with a gradual rise in risk and a decline in the USD until 4 am Eastern, when the German IFO Business Climate data was released and missed across the board (107.7 vs Exp. 108.0; Current assessment 111.4 vs Exp. 112.5; Expectations 104.2 Exp.104.0), reminding everyone now that Merkel is cemented for the near future, the immediate prerogative for Europe is to get the EUR lower, one way or another. A returning bid to the dollar also has pushed 10 Year yields under 2.70%, while once again sending various EM currencies sliding, and bringing back cross asset volatility to a world whose Sharpe ratio over the past several months has plummeted into negative territory. Increasing concerns about a government shutdown (misplaced) will likely prevent a solid bid from developing under markets.
Och-Ziff were perhaps a little early but used the last 10 months to unwind their real estate and exit the landlord business as the hedge-fund sponsored echo-bubble in housing rolled over into the mainstream. "American-Homes-4-Rent"'s IPO suggested a scramble to exit. With 60% of home purchases now being cash-only (explains the ongoing and massive layoffs in the mortgage business not just due to rate-driven weakening of demand), it is therefore a concern when one of the biggest funds playing in this space - OakTree Capital - announces plan to exit the buy-to-rent trade - selling roughly 500 fully-leased homes. As Reuters notes, it is yet another indication that early investors are looking to cash-out on the "recovery" in U.S. housing prices. Who will be left holding the bag this time?
If the Fed was worried about 'froth' in the markets earlier in the year, then this chart should have them panicking. Of course, as Jim Bullard noted Friday, there is no bubble because everyone knows there is no bubble but judging by the massive surge in covenant-lite loan issuance, there is a bubble in forced demand for leveraged loans. At $188.7 billion, the 2013 issuance of these highly unsafe loans (which have seen huge inflows since the Fed started talking taper back in May) is almost double that of the peak of the last credit bubble in 2007 and is five times the size of 2012 YTD issuance at this time. As Reuters notes, Covenant-lite loans used to be reserved for stronger companies and credits, but are now so common in the U.S. leveraged loan market that investors are becoming wary of some credits with a full covenant package. With corporate leverage at all-time highs, what could go wrong?
- Triumph Confirms 'Era of Merkelism' (Spiegel)
- Merkel must reach out to leftist rivals after poll triumph (Reuters)
- Norwegian Air says both its Dreamliners hit by technical issues (Reuters)
- Chinese court gives Bo Xilai life sentence (CBS)
- Social Dems Deflect Talk of Merkel Alliance (Spiegel)
- Blasts shake Nairobi mall, smoke pours from building (Reuters)
- Open-Government Laws Fuel Hedge-Fund Profits (WSJ)
- Forbes Calls Goldman CEO Holier Than Mother Teresa (Matt Taibbi)
- BlackBerry move away from consumers unlikely to stem decline (Reuters)
- And another Greek strike: Greek teachers, civil servants to strike against layoffs (Reuters)
The German elections came and went, with Merkel initially said to have an absolute majority, but in the end being forced to design a Grand Coalition. Still, the punditry has been tripping over each other desperate to make that result (or any other result) positive for Europe , which despite now paving the way for policy continuity, together with the latest round of less than impressive Eurozone PMIs (following the strongest China HSBC PMI in 6 months) failed to inspire appetite for risk in Europe this morning where stocks have traded mixed. What is amusing is that everyone expected, the second Merkel gets reelected things in Europe would start going pump in the night - sure enough, the Italian FTSE-MIB is underperforming in early trade amid reports that Italy's economy minister Saccomanni threatened to step down if the country does not stick to its pledges it made to the European Commission. However to a certain degree, the negative sentiment towards Italy was offset by €4.8bln of coupon payments and €24.1bln of redemptions from Italy which is eligible for reinvestment this week. With a second Greek 2-day strike in one week scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, look for Europe's catalytic event to unclog, now that the German political picture is set, culminating with the 3rd (and 4th) Greek bailouts and probably more: after all Europe now needs a lower EURUSD (recall Adidas' warning), and that usually means a localized crisis.
UDPATE: Death toll rises to 68
UPDATE: Massive explosion reported at Kenya's Westgate Mall
Kenyan President Kenyatta this morning confirmed his nation's unrelenting "war on terror" reflecting that they have dealt with terrorists before and will again. Urging nations not to issue travel warnings, he reassured a nation that the attackers (believed to be the Somali militant group Al-Shabaab) in the upscale (frequented by ex-pats) Mall "are cornered." The slaying of at least 59 people makes this one of the worst attacks in Kenya's history and as the dreadful images below show, the terrorists appeared to have no limits. As news breaks of the army readying a rescue mission and confirmation that "many" civilians are still trapped, the situation is fluid to say the least.
There was a time, long ago, when some still believed the myth that the Federal Reserve, and the selection of its Chairman, were supposed to be apolitical and impartial. Luckily, that was a long time ago, because otherwise some may question not only the logic, but the motives, behind what the media reports is an aggressive push by White House officials to "muster support among Democrats on the Senate Banking Committee to back Federal Reserve Vice Chair Janet Yellen," according to Reuters which cited three sources said on Friday, laying the groundwork for her expected nomination to the Fed's top job. If the White House is suddenly intent on picking Mrs. Yellen (or is that Mister?), one wonders just how diluted her "runner up" credibility at the Fed would be, since it has been made quite clear she was continuously Obama's B (or lower) grade choice to head the Fed, with Summers at the very top. And of course, a just as important question is how even more diluted is Obama's credibility and political brand if a few ultra-liberal Senators can impose their choice for next Fed head over that of both Larry Summers, of the "Committee to save the world" and the president himself.
As we wrap up a most interesting, and volatile, week there are some things that we have discussed previously that are now brewing, interesting points to consider and risks to be aware of. In this regard we thought we would share a few things that caught our attention:
1) Angela Merkel Election No So Assured
2) The Debt Ceiling Debate
3) The "Taper" Indecision Is Back
4) In The "Economy Is Improving" Camp
5) Syria Already Set To Miss A Deadline
6) Everything Else...
Simply put, complacency is not an option; Stocks are overvalued, rates are rising, earnings are deteriorating and despite signs of short term economic improvements the data trends remain within negative downtrends. Investors, however, have disregarded fundamentals as irrelevant as long as the Federal Reserve remains committed to its accommodative policies. The problem is that no one really knows has this will turn out and the current assumptions are based upon past performance.
- JPMorgan Guilty Admission a Win for SEC’s Policy Shift (BBG)
- Pricing Glitch Afflicts Rollout of Online Health Exchanges (WSJ)
- This will end well: Japan LDP Considers Draft Bill to Put Government in Control of Fukushima Cleanup (WSJ)
- How a German tech giant trims its U.S. tax bill (Reuters)
- Despite Merkel's Popularity, Angst Creeps In (WSJ)
- Hank Paulson warns of regulatory conflict (FT)
- Rajan Surprises With India Rate Rise to Quell Inflation (BBG)
- Apple Begins Selling New iPhones (WSJ)
- Pope Says Church Should Stop Obsessing Over Gays, Abortion (BBG)
It has been a quiet start to Quadruple Witching Friday (expiration of stock index futures, stock index options, stock options and single stock futures) but expect that to change, as erratic price action is a recurring hallmark of Quad Witches, especially with persistent low volume and markets that tend to shut down for no reason. So far stocks have traded steady in Europe this morning, credit spreads widened and Bunds traded in positive territory as market participants positioned for the much-anticipated German elections which are to be held on Sunday, with exit polls to be made available after the close of polling stations at 6pm local time. Ahead of that, and as reported here previously, Germany’s AfD Eurosceptic party could win enough support in the general election on Sunday to gain seats in the German Bundestag, an opinion poll published for a leading newspaper has forecast for the first time. Basic materials and utilities underperformed in Europe, with RWE trading sharply lower in Germany after the company announced plans to cut its dividend by half (and with the Adidas fiasco yesterday, one wonders just how bad things in Europe really are).
- Bernanke Resets Policy by Doing Nothing as Markets Soar (BBG)
- Stocks Jump to Five-Year High as Metals Rally on Fed (BBG)
- Centre-left bigwig says hard to stay allied with Berlusconi (ANSA)
- J.P. Morgan 'Whale' Fine Put at Over $900 Million (WSJ)
- Banks’ $10 Billion Sweet Spot Sets Off Buying Spree for Lenders (BBG)
- Time to taper? Not if you look at bank loans (Reuters)
- Mortgage Lending Reaches 5-Year High (WSJ) ... and then plunges as Fed gives "all clear" for a few months
- Yellen Chances Grow as Obama Aides Test Senate Support (BBG)
Despite the Fed's strongest efforts at improving its 'communication', the average American is relatvely unaware of just what it is that QE does (and is). Reuters reports that a sad 73% of respondents could not define what the crucial-to-the-market's-survival program is with 12% of respondents believing QE was a computer-assisted program that the Fed uses to manipulate the dollar...
Today, the Italian Senate will vote at 8:30 PM whether to formally expel the 76-year old former prime minister, Sylvio Berlusconi. Concurrently, the winner of three of the six Italian elections in the past 20 days will launch a delayed nationwide address on his political future. The contents of said address are unclear however, as Reuters reports, "political sources and local media said he would not use the address to torpedo the fragile left-right governing coalition of centre-left Prime Minister Enrico Letta - at least for now - despite weeks of threats to do so." Furthermore, as WSJ adds, citing a column in daily newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano, Marco Travaglio noted that Mr. Berlusconi came in third in the February vote but managed to pick the head of state, the prime minister and the government program. "Given all that, it would be crazy to trigger a crisis," observed Mr. Travaglio, a longtime critic of Mr. Berlusconi. That said, and as is well-known, the media magnate is highly unpredictable and in the past has made several versions of video announcements so he can choose one only at the last minute. However, no matter the content, what is most curious is that the vote, the Berlusconi expulsion vote and nationwide address, as well as the Bernanke press conference, which is also due at 2:30pm Eastern, will all coincide.