The week ahead is light on major market moving data releases. From a policy perspective and in light of the recent moves in treasuries, FOMC minutes are likely to be followed by markets. Retail sales in the US are likely to print below consensus both on the headline and on the core metrics. That said, this needs to be seen against the backdrop of first quarter retail consumer spending data surprising to the upside. Producer prices are also likely to come in on the soft side of market expectations. Finally, do not expect large surprises from the U of Michigan consumer confidence.
Confused by the day to day happenings in the land of the rising sun, and liquidity tsunami? Don't be, instead read the following series of papers by former SocGen strategist Dylan Grice who predicted everything that is currently happening nearly three years ago. The titles of the enclsed five pieces are self-explanatory especially in light of recent events: "A global fiasco is brewing in Japan", "More on Japan’s brewing fiasco, and some musings on recent pushback", "Fooled by anecdotes: Japan’s coming inflation, JGB toxicity and what to do", "Nikkei 63,000,000? A cheap way to buy Japanese inflation risk" and finally "Buy Japan, and prepare to buy with both hands." Oh, and spoiler alert, Grice doesn't see a Hollywood ending to what is about to happen in Japan.
Société Générale (“SocGen”) recently published a special report entitled “The end of the gold era” that garnered far more attention than we think it deserved. The majority of the report focused on SocGen’s “crash scenario” for gold wherein they suggest that gold could fall well below their 2013 target of US$1,375/oz. It also included a classic criticism that we’ve heard so many times before: that the gold price is in “bubble territory”. We have problems with both suggestions.
With all three major non-Fed central banks on the tape today, all economic data will be merely "noise" as the market digests what the central-planners' intentions are. The BOJ came and went, and following its substantial balance sheet expansion announcement, which many called "shocking and awing" the USDJPY has pushed higher by 2.5 big figures, although not reaching the 96 levels seen prior to Kuroda's actual announcement. In fact, from this point on there is likely downside as Japan's biggest export competitor, South Korea, has no choice but to join the race to debase which in turn will be JPY-positive. The Bank of England is next, which as expected did nothing moments ago, and will keep doing nothing until Carney joins officially this summer. In some 45 minutes, the ECB headlines will hit the tape where Draghi may bur more likely may not lower deposit rates, and instead will focus on recent deterioration in the economy. None of this will be surprising, and the EUR continues to trade sufficiently weak in line with sub-200DMA levels seen in the past few weeks. What we look forward to the most will be Draghi once again discussing the legal term-sheet details of the ECB's OMT program. His answer will be amusing as there still is no answer, and the OMT is for all intents and purposes the biggest straw man ever conceived by a central bank.
Earlier this morning the BoJ introduced a comprehensive change to its monetary policy framework. The asset purchasing program will be merged with the outright JGB purchase program (rinban), and JGB purchases will be expanded to include all maturities, including 40-year bonds. The pace of JGB purchases by the BoJ will be accelerated to ¥7trn per month from just under ¥4trn currently (on a gross basis), and purchases of ETFs and J-REITs will also be increased. The main operating target for money market operations was changed to a monetary base control (a quantitative index) from the uncollateralized overnight call rate.
After months of posturing, promising, prevaricating, and proclaiming; the time is rapidly upon us where the central planner of the world will have to actually make actions rather than words. As SocGen notes, Central Bank decisions at the BoJ, ECB and BoE will take centre stage tonight/tomorrow but it is the BoJ announcement that is most highly anticipated after the epic jawboning. SocGen’s Sebastien Galy: "Only the truly brave can feel confident trading into the BoJ event"; adds, "It is not completely clear what economic consensus is expecting in terms of BoJ decision apart from broad outlines." Given positioning, the risk of disappointment and short JPY covering cannot be underestimated should Kuroda underdeliver.
The driftless overnight sessions are back. After the Nikkei soared by 3% following several days of declines, and the Shanghai Composite continued its downward ways despite Non-Manufacturing PMI prints for March which rose both per official and HSBC MarkIt data, Europe was unsure which way to go, especially with the EURUSD once more probing the 1.28 support level. The USDJPY was no help, and even with the BOJ meeting at which new governor Kuroda is finally expected to do something instead of only talking about it, imminent, has hardly seen the Yen budge and provide the expected carry-funding boost to global risk. In terms of newsflow there was little of it: European CPI in March printed at 1.7%, above expectations of 1.6%, but below February's 1.8% rise in inflation. UK continued telegraphing the inevitability of Mark Carney's imminent QE, with construction PMI the latest indicator missing, at 47.2, below expectations of 48.0 (above 46.8 last). Elsewhere, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Wednesday called for Europe to implement growth policies to balance its austerity drive and for countries with room for fiscal manoeuvre to increase public spending. "Europe is the only region in the world in recession. To overcome this situation we need three things: every country needs to do its homework, we need more (European) integration and we need growth policies," Rajoy said in a televised speech to leaders of his People's Party. "That's why countries which can afford it should spend more." Surely Europe will get right on it: after all, it's only "fair."
It appears like the New Normal is merely a phrase used to describe daily records in virtually everything: the Dow Jones, the S&P, US foodstamps, sovereign bailouts, US total debt, and, today, Euro Area unemployment, which just rose to a fresh all time high 12%. From Bloomberg brief: "Euro-area unemployment rose to a record 12 percent in February and January’s figure was revised up to the same level from 11.9 percent estimated earlier, the European Union’s statistics office said. Jobless rates in January ranged between 4.9 percent in Austria and 27 percent in Greece. While rates in the euro area have risen by 1.1 percent point in the past year, unemployment has fallen by 0.6 percentage point to 7.7 percent during the same period in the U.S." Or said otherwise, European unemployment has now been rising constantly for 22 consecutive months - the longest period for deteriorating unemployment since the early 1990s, which, however, is to be expected for a continent which as we showed yesterday, has now reverted to 19th century growth rates.
The driver of today's episode of "make the futures levitate" is not so much a rise in the EURUSD as Europe reopens - a very unhappy Europe where Italy's Monte Paschi was already halted down once on news from this weekend it was the first peripheral bank to suffer a depositor "run" - but curiously the USDJPY which after tumbling to under 93 and pushing the Nikkei 225 down by another 1% to just over 12,000 has been ramping gradually all morning to end well above the start of Japanese trading and was back to 93.25 at last check. It certainly is not the European economic news which continue to be about depressionary and getting worse: fresh unemployment record at 12%, final manufacturing PMIs well into contraction and getting worse especially for the doomed PIIGS: Italian PMI dumping even more to 44.5 vs Flash 45.4 and down from 45.8 last, Spain PMI crashing to 44.2, vs flash 46.2 and 46.8 last, UK 48.3 vs Flash 48.7, Germany 49.0 vs Flash 48.9 down from 50.3; France 44.0 vs Flash 43.9 and so on, rumors that the Cypriot Finance Minister is about to be sacked, and most disturbingly, the Slovenia central bank vice-governor Fabijan said that "Slovenia must start credible measures to avoid aid." Where was the last place we heard this.... Oh, yes, Cyprus. The same Cyprus, which paradoxically, is presented by some as the reason for the overnight "rally", with pundits attributing the Troika's "easing" of MOU terms by pushing back the fiscal target from 2016 to 2017 as reported yesterday. How that is even remotely news is shocking since none of the actual austerity measures themselves have been eased. But any goal seeked narrative is fair in the central banks' intervention in the farce formerly known as the "market."
Those who were transfixed by whether Cypriots would rumble and unleash their anger at the €300/day dispensing ATMs formerly known as bank branches this morning, may have missed what probably was the most important monthly chart coming out of Europe - that showing aggregate money (M3) growth and, far more importantly, loan creation. Those who did pay attention will know that in February M3 grew quite obediently in a Eurozone flush with cash, this time by a respectable €15 billion, or 3.1% y/y, after €37 billion in January (of which, however a whopping €47 billion was M1 so the balance actually declined). Of course, this was the easy part: creating money via various central bank conduits has never been the issue: the concern has always been getting that money into private consumer hands through loan creation. And it is here that things just keep on getting worse by the day. Because in a continent in which there is no confidence whatsoever: no confidence in the banks, no confidence in the financial system, no confidence in end demand, no confidence in any reported data, no confidence that one's deposits won't be confiscated tomorrow, and last but not least no confidence that a sovereign nation won't just hand over its sovereignty to the Troika tomorrow, nobody is willing to take on additional loans and obligations. This can be seen in the dramatic divergence between European money creation (blue line), and the bank lending to the private sector (brown), which is at or near an all time record year over year low. So much for restoring confidence in Europe.
The BTFD mantra is alive and well in a market, where futures overnight briefly dipped to a low of -0.5% only to be set to open at record high, following the biggest one day drubbing in China in months, where the Shanghai Composite closed -2.82% after new rules were issued by the Chinese banking regulator to limit the expansion and improve the transparency of so-called “wealth management products”. The products, which are marketed as higher yielding alternatives to bank deposits, are often used to fund risky projects including property developments, short-term corporate lines of credit or for speculative purchases of commodities and have been identified as contributing to the rise of shadow-banking in China’s financial system. As Deutsche reports, Fitch estimates the total amount of outstanding wealth-management products was around 13 trillion yuan at the end of last year—equal to about 15% of total banking-system deposits. Japanese equities were also weaker overnight (Nikkei –1.3%) and the yen is 0.3% firmer against the dollar after BoJ Governor Kuroda told parliament that he has no intention of buying foreign bonds because doing so could be seen as currency intervention. Finally, South Korea informally entered the currency wars after it slashed its GDP forecast from 3% to mid-2%, announcing it would use "interest rates" to boost growth, which naturally means use of monetary means and directly challenging the BOJ.
Recall the fate of the East German MZ motorcycle company (see picture below). Prior to the 1990 reunification of Germany these motorcycles were an extremely common sight (eyesore?) on the streets of London. But in what many saw as a cynical vote catching measure, Chancellor Kohl allowed the East German savings in Ostmark deposits to be converted into the Deutschmark at a one-for-one exchange rate (the black market rate was nearer to 10-1). The immediate euphoria of East Germans being able to spend their savings at a favourable exchange rate was replaced by gloom as East German industry was bankrupted at this wholly incorrect exchange rate.
After one of the most fabulous verbal faux pas in recent history was committed yesterday, in which the truth briefly escaped the lips of the new Eurogroup head who still has to learn from his masterful "when it becomes serious you have to lie" predecessor and ever since both he and all of uber-incompetent Europe have been desperate to put the genie back into the bottle to no avail, everyone has been caught in a great debate: to template, or not to template? Below is a summary of Wall Street's thinking on this key for so many European (and soon global) depositors.
Another session in which the market continues to be "cautiously optimistic" about Europe, but is confused about Cyprus which keeps sending the wrong signals: in the aftermath of the Diesel-Boom fiasco, the announcement that the preciously announced reopening of banks was also subsequently "retracted" and pushed back to at least Thursday, did little to soothe fears that anyone in Europe has any idea what they are doing. Additional confusion comes from the fact that the Chairman of the Bank of Cyprus moments ago submitted his resignation: recall that this is the bank that is supposed to survive, unlike its unluckier Laiki competitor which was made into a sacrificial lamb. This confusion has so far prevented the arrival of the traditional post-Europe open ramp, as the EURUSD is locked in a range below its 200 DMA and it is unclear what if anything can push it higher, despite the Yen increasingly becoming the funding currency of choice.
Depression for Cyprus: Our Cypriot GDP forecast entails a drop of just over 20% in real GDP by 2017. This forecast had already factored in much what was agreed, but did not account for the additional uncertainty shock generated by the past week’s appalling political mess. Risks are clearly on the downside and Cyprus will in all likelihood require additional financial assistance further down the road. Accounting for less than 0.3% of euro area GDP, any downward revision to Cyprus will be barely visible on the euro area aggregate.