While Naftogaz (Ukraine's gas pipeline operator) states that all gas transportation from Russia to Europe is running normally, Bloomberg reports that Russian natgas exports to Europe are declining. Shipments are down over 4% from the prior week and also lower to Ukraine. This 'adjustment' follows increased sanctions by the West as Medvedev's notable statement this morning that Ukraine owes Russia $16bn. Furthermore, Gazprom has cut its Diesel output by the most in 7 months... and just to rub some Black Sea salt into the wound, NY Times reports that Russia's asking price for natgas to Europe is soaring.
These Six Euroarea Countries Are In Outright Deflation As Eurozone Inflation Slides To Four Year LowsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/17/2014 11:47 -0400
It would appear that 1.39 EURUSD is the line in the sand for Mario Draghi. As pressures build on European competitiveness, Draghi appears to have finally got sick of China buying EURs to diversify its FX reserves away from USDs. This time "whatever it takes" is to drag the EUR lower - on the back of suggestions that OMT 2.0 (new measures - double the effectiveness and just as non-existent) and guarding against deflation (not worried about inflation). The jawbone is working for now as EUR breaks down through 1.39.
Unlike most trading sessions in the past month, when the overnight session saw a convenient algo assisted USDJPY/AUDJPY levitation, tonight there has been no such luck for the permabullish E-Trade babies who are conditioned that no matter what the news, the next morning the S&P 500 will open green regardless. Whether this is due to ever louder fears that what is happening in China can not be swept under the rug this time will be revealed soon, but as of this moment both the USDJPY, and its derivative, US equity futures, are looking at a sharp lower open, as gold continues to press higher, while the traditional tension points such as Russia-Ukraine, and ongoing capital flight from some of the more "fringe" emerging markets, continues. Expect more of the same today as people finally peek below the Chinese surface to realize just how profoundly bad the situation on the mainland truly is. And while we realize macro news are meaningless, especially in Europe where the ECB is now the sole supervisor of all asset classes, the fact that Cyprus, Greece, Slovakia and Portugal, are all in deflation, and many more countries lining up to join the club, probably means that absent a massive global credit impulse, we have certainly reached the upward inflection point from the most recent $1+ trillion injection of liquidity by the Fed, not to mention the ongoing QE by the BOJ.
The Russian occupation of Crimea has raised concerns about the European Union’s dependence on its eastern neighbor for natural gas. The EU gets about 34% of its natural gas imports from Russia, a large portion of which transits Ukraine through a web of pipelines. For Eastern Europe, that dependence is much greater. In the brutally cold winter of 2009 Russia cut off gas supplies to Europe allegedly over a pricing dispute with Ukraine. However, it was also a lesson to Western Europe on its dependence on Russia for energy. The economic damage of energy supply disruptions cuts both ways. Putin likes to play the role of bully, but Russia is not exactly in a strong position in terms of using energy as a political weapon. Whether or not the Ukraine crisis deepens, it is unlikely that Moscow would intentionally turn off the taps for any prolonged period of time.
We have discussed the sword of Damocles that is hanging over the heads of the Ukrainian (and European for that matter) people for some time. The dominant role that Russia plays in providing energy is becoming critical, however, as Gazprom notes:
- *GAZPROM SAYS TODAY IS DEADLINE FOR NAFTOGAZ TO PAY FOR FEB. GAS
- *NAFTOGAZ OVERDUE PAYMENTS AT $1.89B FOR GAS SUPPLIES: GAZPROM
- *GAZPROM SAYS NAFTOGAZ ISN'T OBSERVING CONTRACT
- *GAZPROM: UKRAINE DEBTS CREATE 'RISK OF RETURN TO SITUATION AT BEGINNING OF 2009' (when Gazprom cut off Ukraine gas supplies)
Of course, the US agreed to $1b bailout yesterday - but that's not supposed to be used as a direct transfer payment to the Russians.
A recent article at the BBC discusses the findings of a report by EU Home Affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem on corruption in the EU. According to the report, the cost of corruption in the EU amounts to €120 billion annually. We would submit that it is likely far more than that (in fact, even Ms. Malmstroem herself concurs with this assessment). This is of course what one gets when one installs vast, byzantine bureaucracies and issues a veritable flood of rules and regulations every year. More and more people are needed to administer this unwieldy nightmare of red tape, and naturally the quality of the hires declines over time due to the sheer numbers required. And that is merely what they actually know about...One gets an inkling of how big the problem may really be when considering the case of Greece.
If one was to believe the picture that most Western media outlets are painting, Ukraine has been lost to Russia. Though the country fought valiantly to sign an Association Agreement with the European Union in Vilnius, Lithuania last month, President Viktor Yanukovych suspended negotiations with the EU at the last possible moment, betraying Ukrainians everywhere. Two recent energy deals that Ukraine has reportedly made, one with Russia and the other with Slovakia, however, show that the reality of the situation is slightly more complex.
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Just in case one's history textbook had a few extra pages ripped out, this may be a good time to recall just how far one's government is willing to go to start a war under false pretenses.
With calls for a European renaissance and a general belief in stability through the German elections, it is perhaps worth a reminder of the structural problems that the supposedly bottoming union is facing. Nowhere is that single monetary policy-facing dilemma more evident than in the massive economic growth divergences across the EU nations and the current huge gap in unemployment rates from Greece to Austria and beyond. It seems the world is waiting for Merkel's re-election and fold on austerity (seemingly confirmed by the leaked BuBa report recently) but EU stress test transparency may remove the symbiotic safety net of bank bond buying sooner than many believe. With monetary policy somewhat euthanized across the EU, what's left for the fragmented transmission channels but more promises as pension funds and banks are stuffed to the gills with their own domestic bonds.
Surplus capital used to be the understood as the primary challenge, but this fell out of favor. This essay seeks to return it to the center of the narrative.
The recent decline in gold prices and the drain from physical ETFs have been interpreted by the media as signaling the end of the gold bull market. However, our analysis of the supply and demand dynamics underlying the gold market does not support this thesis. In our view, the bullion banks’ fractional gold deposit system is testing its limits. Too much paper gold exists for the amount of physical gold available. Demand from emerging markets, who do not settle for paper gold, has perturbed the status quo. Thus, our recommendation to investors is the following: empty unallocated gold accounts and redeem your gold in physical form (while you still can).
Some thoughts on why US auto sales are at their strongest pace since prior to the crisis, while EU auto sales are at 20 year lows.
One look at the airplane traffic map below should be enough to convey which socialist European country has a just started a 3-day air traffic controller strike. Sure enough, as a result of the French ATC union demands for 'fairness', i.e., an elimination in the "unprecedented" cost-cutting plan, the eastern air border of France now looks like the 405 Freeway during rush hour.