- Greek Risk Draws Global Concern on Lehman Echo Warnings (BBG)
- Merkel to urge caution in U.S. as pressure builds to arm Ukraine forces (Reuters)
- West Races to Defuse Ukraine Crisis (WSJ)
- German-French Push Yields Ukraine Summit Plan With Putin (BBG)
- Swiss Leaks lifts the veil on a secretive banking system (ICIJ)
- Italy Lenders Seen Cleansing Books Amid Bad-Bank Plans (BBG)
- G-20 Finance Chiefs Face Tough Test in Istanbul (WSJ)
- Demand for OPEC Crude Will Rise This Year, Says Group (WSJ)... or rather prays
- U.S. Banks Say Soaring Dollar Puts Them at Disadvantage (WSJ)
The overnight session had been mostly quiet until minutes ago, when unexpectedly WTI, which had traded down as low as the mid $46 range following the weakest Chinese manufacturing data in two years, saw another bout of algo-driven buying momentum which pushed it sharply, if briefly, above $50, and was last trading about 2.6% higher on the day. In today's highly correlated market, this was likely catalyzed by a brief period of dollar weakness as well as the jump of EURCHF above 1.05, within the rumored corridor implemented by the Swiss National Bank, which apparently has not learned its lesson and is a glutton for a second punishment, after its hard Swissy cap was so dramatically breached, it hopes to repeat the experience with a softer one around 1.05. Expect to see even more FX brokers blowing up once the EURCHF 1.05 floor fails to hold next.
Remember how exuberant yesterday's small gains in Crude Oil were perceived to be? Yeah - that's all over, with WTI back near a $44 handle - following a large 12.7 million barrel inventory build according to API (EIA reports the 'main event' at 1030ET today - which Saxo Bank warns "a bigger-than-expected build would likely push the mkt over the cliff edge.") Additional weakness overnight is also likely due to Goldman's shift to a 'sell' for the next 3 months.
The Greek election result was worse than expected - the anti-austerity vote is massive, but it could be an empty gesture as Greece in reality has little choice: Comply with the Troika or leave the EUR. Saxo Bank's Steen Jakobsen doubts the latter will happen with the same vote as the Greeks are tired of austerity but not of being European. However, game theory dictates that some solution will be found which is sub-optimal for all parties, but the risk it will take longer than market have nerves for. There remains a consensus that “things will be ok...” but the early comments indicate the positioning is already starting...
Major central banks claim to be independent, but they are totally under the control of politicians. Many developed countries have tried to anchor an independent central bank to offset pressure from politicians and that’s all well and good in principle until the economy spins out of control – at zero-bound growth and rates central banks and politicians becomes one in a survival mode where rules are broken and bent to fit an agenda of buying more time. What comes now is a new reality...
Hours after the IMF cut its global economic growth forecast yet again (which for the permabullish IMF is now a quarterly tradition as we will shortly show), now expecting 3.5% and 3.7% growth in 2015 and 2016, both 0.3% lower than the previous estimate (but... but... low oil is unambiguously good for the economy) and both of which will be revised lower in coming quarters, and hours after China announced that its entirely made up 2014 GDP number (which was available not 3 weeks after the end of the quarter and year) dropped below the mandatory target of 7.5% to the lowest in 24 years, it only makes sense that stock markets around the globe are solidly green if not on expectations of another year of slowing global economies, which stopped mattering some time in 2009, but on ever rising expectations that the ECB's QE will be the one that will save everyone. Well, maybe not everyone: really only the 1% which as we reported yesterday will soon own more wealth than everyone else combined and who are about to get even richer than to Draghi.
This morning's decision by the Swiss National Bank has polarized the investing community. From the 'smartest men in the room' to the 'most renowned newsletter writers in the world', the reactions could not be more different...
People are becoming more critical of our current monetary system. In the past six years, central banks have promised us growth within six months’ time. They and the whole monetary and financial system have lost credibility. The banks’ profit to GDP is the highest in history in an economic environment where we have the highest amount of unemployment since WWII. There is something very wrong with the way the system works and this is all due to the overemphasis on trying to minimize the business cycle. The real conclusion of QE can only become visible if we experience the full business cycle. In Jakobsen's view, we have never been allowed to have a down cycle since 2008. But now, there is finally going to be a down cycle because central planners can’t print more money. As Jakobsen puts it: “Now is the time for the real economy to take over”.
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.