Despite the authorities' best efforts to keep everything orderly, we know how this global Game of Geopolitical Tetris ends: "Players lose a typical game of Tetris when they can no longer keep up with the increasing speed, and the Tetriminos stack up to the top of the playing field. This is commonly referred to as topping out."
"I’m tired of being outraged!"
Every year, David Collum writes a detailed "Year in Review" synopsis full of keen perspective and plenty of wit. This year's is no exception. "I have not seen a year in which so many risks - some truly existential - piled up so quickly. Each risk has its own, often unknown, probability of morphing into a destructive force. It feels like we’re in the final throes of a geopolitical Game of Tetris as financial and political authorities race to place the pieces correctly. But the acceleration is palpable. The proximate trigger for pain and ultimately a collapse can be small, as anyone who’s ever stepped barefoot on a Lego knows..."
Yesterday's epic market surge, the biggest Dow surge since December 2011 on the back of the most violent short squeeze in three years, highlighted just why being caught wrong side in an illiquid market can be terminal to one's asset management career (especially if on margin), and thus why hedge funds are so leery of dipping more than their toe in especially on the short side, resulting in a 6th consecutive year of underperformance relative to the confidence-boosting policy tool that is the S&P. And with today's session the last Friday before Christmas week, compounded by a quadruple witching option expiration, expect even less liquidity and even more violent moves as a few E-mini oddlots take out the entire stack on either the bid or ask side. Keep an eye on the USDJPY which, now that equities have decided to ignore both HY and energy prices, is the only driver for risk left: this means the usual pre-US open upward momentum ignition rigging will be rife to set a positive tone ahead of today's session.
For those wondering if the CBR's intervention in the Russian FX market with its shocking emergency rate hike to 17% overnight calmed things, the answer is yes... for about two minutes. The USDRUB indeed tumbled nearly 10% to 59 and then promptly blew right back out, the Ruble crashing in panic selling and seemingly without any CBR market interventions, and at last check was freefalling through 72 74 76, and sending the Russian stock market plummeting by over 15%.
Having predicted oil prices below $80 in 2014 at the beginning of the year, Saxobank's Steen Jakobsen has a leg or two to stand on when he warns of a "massive correction" in energy stocks andthe drop in prices will rapidly become a headwind for the US economy, adding that "it will subtract 0.5% from GDP, bare minimum." He further notes that due to the strategic importance of the oil industry to America, he suspects the government will attempt (a likely highly unpopular) bailout of the Shale sector. However, as Raul Ilargi Meijer notes, there is a problem for any bailout (aside from public angst), in that bailing out US oil also means bailing out Russian, Libyan, Venezuelan oil...And that would be hard to defend in today’s American political climate, helping Putin and Maduro get back on their feet.
Uncertain times call for unconventional thinking...
The big selloff in 2015 will come from housing and housing-related investments as the marginal cost of capital rises through regulation and through “margin calls” on banks as their profit-to-GDP ratios grow too high for the economy to function properly. The dividend society is here and the true manifestation of Japanisation is not a future event but a thing we are living in right now…
Saxo Bank's Chief Economist Steen Jakobsen is predicting another 'shock drop' in the markets within a few weeks. With debt and low inflation continuing to create a nervous atmosphere behind most markets, Steen argues that we will hit fresh lows in mid-November. Steen takes the view that central bank policy is creating a 'fantasy land' for investors and he points out that the recent 'day dive' in markets was a closer reflection of reality. Steen outlines his suggestions for trading ahead of another dip in mid November with targets for the S&P 500 around 1810 and the Dax at 8000 - 7800. Be long fixed income as it is "a free put on the equity market.. and the economic cycle is not yet ready to adapt to a rising interest rate."
Anyone confused why futures are doing their best to surge in the overnight session, the answer is simple: first it was Japan reporting the latest batch of atrocious economic data, which an hour ago was followed by Europe own abysmal econofreakshow, where Eurostat just reported that in September Eurozone inflation rose a meager 0.3% from a year ago, the lowest annual increase since October 2009.This marks the 12th straight month that Euro inflation has been below 1%, and far below the ECB's goal of 2% inflation.
We actually to believe that the Federal Reserve can lift the entire front-end of the curve from 0-1% (current rates out to three years) to 2-4% over the next two years without adding massive further stress onto the deficit, and only adding to the debt? Servicing 2% interest when growth is 2% means you are doing worse than standing in place if you also have a budget deficit. Whatever the timing, the US, China and Europe are all headed for another Minsky moment: the point in debt inflation where the cash generated by assets is insufficient to service the debt taken on to acquire the asset. Productivity growth in the US last year was +0.36%. The real growth per capita was about 1.5%.
The most commonly used introduction in any Forex business for the past 3 years: "US or Non-US"
The chance of EURCHF breaking the peg at 1.2000 have increased from 10% to 25-30% based on European Central Bank monetary policy, geopolitical risk and a lack of policy choices for the Swiss National Bank. This means that being long EURCHF no longer is a safe bet and although the 70% chance of the floor being both defended and protected is still high, the tail-risk involved is becoming too concerning.
"Germany will flirt with recession by Q4 of this year," warns Saxo Bank's Chief Economist Steen Jakobsen, adding that "the US is in worse shape than most people believe." It's important to underline, he notes, that major US investment houses, and certainly every single sales person we talk to, believe US is about to accelerate in growth not slow down. Jakobsen warns though that Q3 could be ok but the real damage will come in Q4 as the lead-lag factor of geopolitical risk, lack of reforms and excess global supply leads to low inflation. His conclusion, "it’s time to be defensive... very defensive."
From Ukraine to Gaza, geopolitical risks are weighing heavily on investors’ minds. But there are plenty more out there that may not be getting headlines.