From Albert Edwards: "In 2005 when Alan Greenspan was being hailed as a “maestro” I wrote that his policies would ruin the world and history would judge him to be “an economic war criminal”. I now think Ben Bernanke’s policies will prove even more ruinous than Sir Alan’s (yes unbelievably he still retains his honorary knighthood). Hence we are lowering our equity weighting to 30%, the minimum possible. The last time I did this was 8 May 2008.... I'm reading some insanely stupid stuff at the moment. Okay, I know some of my writing is pretty insane, but when I read direct quotes and commentary about Bernanke's policy of driving up asset prices in general and equity prices in particular, I almost want to cry over the ludicrousness of this position. The Fed is pursuing the same road to ruin as it did between 2003-2007. I'm becoming more and more convinced that, Gloom, Boom, & Doom's Marc Faber is right when he says that "the Fed will destroy the world."
The key event overnight was the German constitutional court's announcement shortly after 8 am CET in which the Krimson Kardinals announced that, as largely expected by everyone except the EURUSD trading algos, there would be no delay in the September 12, 10 am CET injunction decision, as a result of the last minute bid by Peter Gauweiler. As Bloomberg reported, “It’s no surprise the court won’t change its plan,” said Christoph Ohler, a professor of European law at Jena University. “You cannot directly sue over the acts of European institutions in a German court, so it’s difficult to introduce these arguments in this case." The decision to press ahead with the ruling will probably bolster the German government’s faith that the bailout facility will get the court’s backing. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told students last week he was confident the ESM would be approved. “Europe won’t collapse on Sept. 12,” Franz Mayer, a law professor at Bielefeld University, said in an interview last week. “In the end, the court will allow Germany to ratify the ESM, but there will probably be some strings attached. The bigger issue than the actual ruling is what extra language the court will add to the reasoning on where the limits are in the future,” said Mayer. “The markets seem to be quite afraid the judges may spoil certain options for the future, like collectivization of debt within the euro zone." Which leads us to the quote of the morning when even Schauble it appears is channeling Clinton after he said that interpretations on the word "unlimited" can vary. No they can't, and this is precisely the issue that the judges will take offense with, if anything.
There is only one event on pundits and traders minds today: the ECB's press conference, during which Draghi will announce nothing material, as the substance of the bank's message has been leaked, telegraphed and distributed extensively over the past three weeks before just to gauge and test the market's response as every part of this latest "plan", which is nothing but SMP-meets-Operation "Tsiwt" was being made up on the fly. And not even a weaker than expected Spanish short-term auction in which €3.5 billion in 2014-2016 bonds were sold at plunging Bids to Cover, sending yields paradoxically spiking just ahead of what the ECB should otherwise announce will be the buying sweet spot, can dent the market's hope that Draghi will pull some final detail out of his hat. Or any detail for that matter, because while the leaks have been rich in broad strokes, there has been no information on the Spanish bailout conditions, on how one can use "unlimited" and "sterilized" in the same sentence, and how the ECB can strip its seniority with impairing its current holdings of tens of billions in Greek bonds without suddenly finding itself with negative capital. Elsewhere, the Swedish central bank cut rates by 25 bps unexpectedly: after all nobody wants to be last in the global currency devaluation race. Ironically, just before this happened, the BOJ's Shirakawa said that he won't buy bonds to finance sovereign debt: but why? Everyone is doing it. Finally, in news that really matters, and not in the "how to extend a ponzi by simply diluting the purchasing power of money" category, Greek unemployment soared to 24.4% on expectations of a rise to "just" 23.5%. This means there was an increase of 1.3% in Greek unemployment in one month.
Europe took August off. Today, it is America's turn, as the country celebrates Labor day, although judging by recent trends in the new 'Part-time" normal, a phenomenon we have been writing about for years, and which even the NYT has finally latched on to, it would appear the holiday should really be Labor Half-Day. After today the time for doing nothing is over, and with less than one month left in the quarter, and trading volumes running 30% below normal which would guarantee bank earnings in Q3 are absolutely abysmal, the financial system is in dire need of volume, i.e. volatility. Luckily, things are finally heating up as the newsflow (sorry but rumors, insinuations, innuendo, and empty promises will no longer cut it) out of various central banks soars, coupled with key elections first in the Netherlands and then of course, in the US, not to mention the whole debt-ceiling/ fiscal cliff 'thing' to follow before 2012 is over. So for those who still care about events and news, here is the most comprehensive summary of the key catalysts over the next week and month, which are merely an appetizer for even more volatile newsflow in October and into the end of the year.
Despite a green showing in European equity indices this morning (aside from Spain that is) - as they shrug off the dismal China/Aussie data overnight in the incessant belief that bad is good and worse is better - there is a bid in a number of the major AAA safe-haven assets in Europe. Swiss 2Y rates are dropping notably this morning, German and Danish 2Y rates are stable to dropping, and Dutch and Finnish rates remain extremely low. It seems that between Merkel's comments this morning and the following big three unanswered questions - it's not all risk-on in Europe, and expectations for a squeeze in EURUSD - with net shorts at 2012 lows and USD longs basically neutral - seem exaggerated for now. Summing up on the euro area debt crisis, SocGen notes the issues remain the same; the periphery faces an uphill battle to meet targets that few private forecasters (including ourselves) expect can be reached, the EFSF/ESM is still too small with Spain and Italy combined facing around €800bn of funding needs over the coming three years and while the ECB can be helpful, it alone is not enough.
China’s credit risk is rising, probably much more rapidly than the official non-performing loan (NPL) statistics indicate. SocGen is concerned as they think we are only seeing the beginning of the end of this NPL cycle. While they do not anticipate an outright banking crisis, as the government will certainly keep intervening at each turn on the way to avoid such an outcome, this is no reason to feel relieved. The reason being a major structural element in China's NPL cycle as many industries have massive excess capacity - after years of aggressive expansion that ran way ahead of demand growth - which eventually has to be eliminated. This process will take some time, during which faster depreciation in the form of deleveraging and consolidation will be unavoidable; and while expectations of an imminent hard landing may be overdone, the landing will nevertheless be multi-year and bumpy in their view.
By now everyone is well aware that the payback for the absolute zero that was August in terms of newsflow and events, the first quiet August in three years, will be September, which as we and others dubbed, will be "Crunchtime" for Europe. And with September now just days away, and with the transitionary Jackson Hole forum virtually assured to be the latest dud, with Draghi surprisingly bowing out at the last minute (even as Buba's Jens Weidmann is still set to attend), and with Bernanke guaranteed to do nothing more than just jawbone some more without real action, the time to refresh on what to expect over the next 30 days has come, courtesy of this annotated calendar from SocGen.
As the European double, and in some cases triple, dip, continues to take its toll on the periphery (in some cases retroactively, with Spain realizing that 2010 and 2011 GDPs were mysteriously lower than expected, previously printing at -0.1% and 0.7%, revised to -0.3% and 0.4%), the core continues to be dragged ever more into the quicksand of insolvency. The latest confirmation came from Germany, where for the fourth month in a row the IFO survey showed that firms have grown more pessimistic for the 4th month in a row in August, declining from 103.3 to 102.3, on expectations of a 102.7 print, with the Current Assessment dropping from 111.6 to 111.2, while Expectations declining from 95.6 to 94.2. What is disturbing is that this is happening even as the EURUSD continues to be at multi-year lows, which is certainly beneficial to German exporters. The obvious implication is that the higher the EUR rises, the less confident German businesses will be, which also explains why to Germany the best Nash (dis)equilibrium in Europe is to keep the periphery on the edge as long as possible, and the EURUSD as low as possible.
The last few months have seen a rapid deterioration in economic newsflow. SocGen's newsflow indicators, which capture sentiment regarding trends in the underlying economy (based on the balance of economic strength and weakness in newswire and newspaper articles) typically leads the economy by around three months. Currently, this intriguing indicator suggests a notable drop off in global industrial production - and furthermore, while Fed/ECB anticipation has dragged market-implied inflation expectations up, newsflow has biased towards deflation rather notably in the last few months. It seems that rather than being the chess pieces of global central planners, we really do have minds of our own and act in our own best interest.
For whatever reason, yesterday's unsourced Spiegel report that the ECB is actually contemplating open-ended monetization with arbitrary yield targets on various European nations is the talk of the town, if only for a few more hours until, just like last year, the proposal is summarily dismissed, only to be reincarnated once Spanish yields pass north of 8% again. In the meantime, it has allowed those very well paid sell-side strategists to present their erudite opinions, which naturally do not matter in the grand (and not so grand) scheme of things as long as Germany sticks to the 9-9-9 plan.
As Goldman observed last night, the "metaboring" meme continues, as things go from boringer to boringest. Nothing notable has happened overnight. Some things that did happen was news that Spain is about to receive an emergency disbursement from its €100 billion euro bank bailout because of restriction imposed by the ECB on bank borrowings; Italian banks announced plans to dispose of more bad loans to avoid "potentially bigger losses" (to whom? the ECB?), non-voting Fed member Kocherlakota saying that cutting IOER would have a minimal impact (are you paying attention former visiting Fed advisor David "the Fed will bail everyone out always and forever" Zervos), UK retail sales coming in stronger on bigger gas and food purchases (so aside from being ignored for inflation purposes these are useful when extrapolating economic "growth"), July Eurozone inflation coming in just as expected unchanged at 2.4% Y/Y, China FDI collapsing 8.7% as data revealed the longest run of declining inward investment growth in China since the 2008-09 financial crisis sending local markets to 2 week lows as the MOFCOM said the country's 2H export outlook will be even more grim and Premier Wen said easing inflation (not in food) allows for more room to adjust monetary policy, a statement that had zero impact on domestic stocks. As a result we have seen minimal flattening in Spanish and Italian 2s10s, and a continued gradual drift lower in the EURUSD. And this, aside from another week of initial claims that will have the prior week's data revised higher, and a Philly Fed, may be as good as it gets, as volume is set to plumb another multi-year low, and with the 2s10s flattening again, guarantees that bank profits in Q3 will be atrocious, forcing banks to fire even more (or cause various unnamed market makers to accidentally activate 1000x buy algos).
The two major overnight data points were European Q2 GDP which printed at -0.2%, or the expected continuation of the European double dip. As SocGen explains, these numbers continue to paint an all too predictable picture of growth in Europe, with expansion in Germany driven by exports and consumption, growth in France stagnating and deep recessions continuing in southern Europe. The European GDP pattern is now expected to be a copy of 2011. Amongst the country details, growth beat expectations in Germany (+0.3 q/q), Austria (0.2%), Slovakia (+0.7%) and the Netherlands (0.2%) but this was offset by deep declines in Finland (-1.0%) and Portugal (-1.2%). Amongst data already published we know Italy declined 0.7%, Spain declined 0.4% and Belgian GDP declined 0.6%. And while the market was clutching at the German GDP beat straw, it was the German ZEW Survey which threw a cog in the spikes of German economic perception, after the number came at a whopping -25.5, declining for the 4th consecutive month and far below expectations of -19.3, and a drop from the already negative -19.6. Finally, while there may be hopes that this is the bottom, already weak IP data confirms that the weakness in Europe has continued into Q3 and as such as the continental contraction will likely not stop contracting for the foreseeable future.
With less than three months to go, the outcome of the November election remains highly uncertain. SocGen notes that, as always, economic performance over the coming months will be a key determinant of who wins and who loses. If the elections were held today, the most likely outcome would be a Republican win in both Congressional races and a Democratic win in the race for the White House. This means that any new significant legislation will almost certainly have to be a product of compromise. In this sense, we may very well be looking at a status quo in terms of bipartisanship and gridlock which have dominated Washington politics over the past few years. This would be bad news at a time when the country faces a number of serious challenges with significant long-term implications. From the economy to long-term fiscal health, and from the debt-ceiling to Housing, Healthcare, and Energy policy differences, the following provides a succinct review.
The debt levels of advanced economies remains unsustainably high - bringing with it the considerable risk of renewed crisis - and while strong growth is the best way to deleverage, this solution appears out of reach for most (if not all) economies. Financial repression, austerity, inflation, or default are the remaining options - all of which come with considerable costs to economic growth and employment. While 'muddling-through' appears to be heralded as a positive by many market-savants currently, SocGen notes that the line between a virtuous (expansionary fiscal contraction) and vicious austerity trap comes down largely to policy confidence. Most (if not all) advanced economy politicians entirely lack the public's or market's confidence in credible policy direction (and in fact we are seeing policy uncertainty at extremes) which leads to SocGen's conclusion that the muddle-through strategy (which comes with a high price tag economically and socially) is too high a burden politically and will inevitably lead to spillover to core-Europe and the global financial system.
ECB Re-Regurgitates Draghi As Greek Unemployment Rises To New Record, China Deteriorates With No Easing In SightSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 08/09/2012 06:06 -0500
It has been a quiet session overnight (and that will continue until the Germans come back from vacation) punctuated by Mario Draghi's attempt to jawbone the market into submission again, this time following the release of the ECB monthly report in which it basically regurgitated Draghi's still misunderstood speech in it said it may buy bonds if strict conditionality is ensured, the same conditionality that Spain said it would not comply with, yet which European bond traders continue to misunderstand, because Spain will not request a bailout as long as its 10 Years are trading below 8% yield. Of course, nobody wants to sell first, until the selling actually begins. Then it will be waterfall. In other news Greek industrial production rose by a tiny amount from below sea level, rising by 0.3% in June following a 2.9% decline previously. This however must be due to the Greek workers' enhanced efficiency - Greek unemployment just rose yet again to the mindblowing 23.1%, from 22.6% - a new all time high (with youth unemployment just 45% away from 100%). And so the race between Spain and Greece over who can hit 50% unemployment first continues. Another notable economic milestone was crossed after the IFO institute euro-area economic climate indicator declined for first time this year, pushing the EURUSD to just above 1.2300. There were also more bad news from the UK whose trade deficit widened more than expected hitting GBP10.1 billion vs GBP8.7 billion estimated, with a record GBP28.3 billion good deficit, led by oil, cars and chemicals. In other news the European collapse continues unabated, yet the market which has long been nothing but a central bank policy tool and no longer discounts anything is perfectly oblivious to what is happening. There was one notable final change: the Chinese economy accelerated its own deterioration, and this time, courtesy of the specter of soaring food prices and a CPI print above estimates, it is very much powerless to even threaten with more easing.