The relative calm of the last two weeks as US talking-heads proclaim Ukraine 'fixed', Russia 'under control', and Europe 'recovering' is being obliterated this morning. The storming of various non-Crimean Ukrainian city government buildings suggest round two of the push is beginning and Russia is wasting no time explaining how this will go down. Russian Senator Viktor Ozerov stated that "Russia has no right to [send peacekeepers] unilaterally" to Eastern and Southern Ukraine (unless the UN agrees)... but... "Russia is interested in stability in Ukraine. At the same time, the will of the people must be documented. A referendum is the most democratic way of expressing one's will." In other words, "we can't help you unless you hold a referendum to annex." Stage 2 is beginning... and it seems Ukraine is getting it as they are preparing to issue a state of emergency.
With senior German officials expecting discussions among leaders at the EU Summit to solely focused on a second round of sanctions against Russia (and warnings that they "must avoid a spiral of sanctions"), we thought it worth drilling down on just how mutually-dependent the two regions are. As Acting-Man's Pater Tenebrarum notes, the following infographics suggest tit-for-tat sanctions could be a really big problem for Europe and why the EU's leaders are probably quietly praying for the crisis to simply go away.
In the aftermath of yesterday's key market event, the FOMC's $10 billion tapering and elimination of QE with "QualG", not to mention the "dots" and the "6 month" comment, the USD has been on fire against all key pairs, with the EURUSD sliding below 1.38, a 150 pip move in one day which should at least give Mario Draghi some comfort, but more importantly sending the USDJPY soaring to 102.500 even as US equity futures continue to slide, and not to mention the Nikkei which tumbled -1.7% to just above 14,000 overnight. Perhaps the biggest take home message for traders from yesterday is that the Yen carry trade correlation to the Emini is now dead if only for the time being until DE Shaw and Virtu recalibrate their all-important correlation signal algos. The other big news overnight was the plunge in the Yuan, tumbling 0.5%, 6.2286, up 343 pips and crushing countless speculators now that the "max vega" point has been passed. Expect under the radar news about insolvent trading desks over the next few days, as numerous mega levered FX traders, who had bet on continued CNY appreciation are quietly carted out the back door. Elsewhere, gold and other commodities continue to be hit on rising fear the plunging CNY will accelerate the unwind of Chinese Commodity Funding Deals.
Much has been said about Yellen's Freudian slip involving the "6 month" considerable period language, which as we pointed out earlier, is said to have been the catalyst that sent stocks sharply lower just after 3 pm when it was uttered. However, in reality all this statement suggests is a rate hike some time in mid-2015, half a year after when QE is said to have ended, which if one listens to the market experts, is what is supposed to be priced in (of course, what the experts won't tell you is that the market wants its cake and endless liquidity injections by the Fed too). However, one thing that was far more unexpected and certainly remained unexplained by Yellen, is the curious case of the Fed dots, or the estimations by the individual committee members, of where they see rates at the end of 2016. What was surprising here was the sharp upward jump from 1.75% as of December to 2.25% currently.What is even more inexplicable, is that the Fed hiked its rate forecast even as it lowered its GDP projections for the next two years. Why? Not even Janet Yellen could answer that.
The FOMC is now meeting for the first time with Janet Yellen as Chair. Goldman's US team expects the FOMC to deliver an accommodative message...alongside a continued tapering of asset purchases. However, they note, their market views here are likely to shift little in response, as much of that dovishness is arguably already priced, particularly in US rates. SocGen notes that "qualitative guidance" will probably consist of two components: the FOMC’s forecast for the fed funds rate (aka “the dots”) providing a baseline scenario, and a descriptive component signalling the elasticity of this rate path to the underlying economic outlook. SocGen also warns that this transition is worrisome for inflation in 2015. But BofA suggests this is not problem as The Fed will indicate the US economy "lift-off" in late-2015 will save us all.
The last time the FT penned an article on the topic of gold manipulation, titled "Gold price rigging fears put investors on alert" it was promptly taken down without much (any) of an explanation. Luckily, we recorded the article for posterity here. Earlier today, another article on the topic appears to have slipped through the cracks of the distinguished editors of the financial journal that enjoys the ad spend of the status quo, when it reported that "Gold pricing scrutiny widens", hardly an update that will take the world by storm, however it is notable that "even" the FT, where for years goldbugs claiming gold manipulation had been ridiculed, is finally start to admit the glaringly obvious.
Putin Is No Mad Man to Russians as Power Play Trumps Economy (BBG)
Alibaba picks U.S. for IPO; in talks with six banks for lead roles (Reuters)
Russia hearts selling German energy: Billionaire Fridman’s L1 Buys RWE Unit for $7.1 Billion (Bloomberg)
Malaysia plane search straddles continent as police focus on crew (Reuters)
Saudi Crown Prince’s visit to China set to bolster investment (Al-Awsat)
Bugatti-Driving 26-Year-Old Tied to Penny-Stock Website (BBG)
Vodafone agrees $10 billion deal to buy Spain's Ono (Reuters)
The Hidden Rot in the Jobs Numbers (WSJ)
SocGen Ex-Trader Kerviel Walks to Forget Loss as Judgment Looms (BBG)
U.S. Banks’ $75 Billion Payout at Stake in Fed Tests (BBG)
A month ago we reported that according to much delayed TIC data, China had just dumped the second-largest amount of US Treasurys in history. The problem, of course, with this data is that it is stale and delayed. For a much better, and up to date, indicator of what foreigners are doing with US Treasurys in near real time, the bond watchers keep track of a far less known data series, called "Treasury Securities Held in Custody for Foreign Official and International Accounts" because it shows what foreigners are doing with their Treasury securities held, as the name suggest, in custody by the Fed. So here it goes: in the just reported latest data, for the week ended March 12, Treasurys held in custody by the Fed dropped to $2.855 trillion: a drop of $104.5 billion. This was the biggest drop of Treasurys held by the Fed on record, i.e., foreigners were really busy selling.
It was another day of ugly overnight macro data, all of it ouf of China, with industrial production (8.6%, Exp. 9.5%, Last 9.7%), retail sales (11.8%, Exp. 13.5%, Last 13.1%) and fixed asset investment (17.9% YTD vs 19.4% expected) all missing badly and confirming that in a world of deleveraging, the Chinese economy will continue to sputter. Which is precisely what the "bad news is good news" algos needs and why futures levitated overnight: only this time instead of latching on to the USDJPY correlation pair, it was the AUDJPY which surged after Australia - that Chinese economic derivative - posted its third best monthly full-time jobs surge in history! One can be certain that won't last. But for now it has served its purpose and futures are once again green. How much longer will the disconnect between deteriorating global macro conditions and rising global markets continue, nobody knows, but sooner rather than later the central planner punch bowl will be pulled and the moment of price discovery truth will come. It will be a doozy.
One month ago, when we last looked at the incredible amount of Chinese new loan issuance, a topic which even the mainstream media is slowly starting to circle in on as the primary source of hot money flow creation in the world, we found the highest loan notional issued by the country's semi-sovereign banks since 2009, and the largest one-month ever monthly total in the largest aggregated, Total Social Financial, series, which rose by an unprecedented CNY2.6 trillion, or over $400 billion in one month! That was just before the tremors surrounding first the potential defaults of several Chinese shadow-banking Trusts, and certainly before the first official corporate bond default which took place last week. Overnight, the PBOC released its latest, February, loan data. As expected, it reveals something else entirely.
Premier Li Keqiang delivered his first government work report at the opening of the National People’s Congress (NPC) meeting last night. The new government promises to speed up reform, manage debt risks, fight pollution, and yet maintain 7.5% economic growth all at the same time but as SocGen'sWei Yao warns, this is going to be nothing if not challenging. Maybe mindful of a potential miss, Yao points out that policymakers seem to give themselves a small degree of flexibility by using new phrases like “a reasonable range for the growth rate” and “the growth target is
flexible”. Mission intractible or mission impossible?
With the world still on edge over developments in the Ukraine, overnight newsflow was far less dramatic than yesterday, with no "bombshell" uttered at today's Putin press conferences in which he said nothing new and simply reiterated the party line and yet the market saw it as a full abdication, he did have some soundbites saying Russia should keep economic issues separate from politics, and that Russia should cooperate with all partners on Ukraine. Elsewhere Gazprom kept the heat on, or rather off, saying Ukraine recently paid $10 million of its nat gas debt, but that for February alone Ukraine owes $440 million for gas, which Ukraine has informed Gazprom it can't pay in full. Adding the overdue amounts for prior months, means Ukraine's current payable on gas is nearly $2 billion. Which is why almost concurrently Barosso announced that Europe would offer €1.6 billion in loans as part of EU package, which however is condition on striking a deal with the IMF (thank you US taxpayers), and that total aid could be as large as $15 billion, once again offloading the bulk of the obligations to the IMF. And so one more country joins the Troika bailout routine, and this one isn't even in the Eurozone, or the EU.
Since Ukraine is the only wildcard variable in the news these past few days, it was to be expected that following i) the end of the large Russian military drill begun two weeks ago and ii) a press conference by Putin in which he toned down the war rhetoric, even if he did not actually say anything indicating Russia will difuse the tension, futures have soared and have retraced all their losses from yesterday. And not only in the US - European equity indices gapped higher at the open this morning in reaction to reports that Russian President Putin has ordered troops engaged in military exercises to return to their bases. Consequent broad based reduction in risk premia built up over the past few sessions meant that in spite of looming risk events (ECB, BoE policy meetings and NFP release this Friday), Bund also failed to close the opening gap lower. At the same time, USD/JPY and EUR/CHF benefited as the recent flight to quality sentiment was reversed, with energy and precious metal prices also coming off overnight highs.
We were perhaps even more amused than our readers by our Friday headline "Stocks Close At New Record High On Russian Invasion, GDP Decline And Pending Home Sales Miss." It appears that today the market forgot to take its lithium, and is finally focusing on the Ukraine part of the headline, at least until 3:30 pm again when everything should once again be back to market ramp normal. As expected, the PMI data from China and Europe in February, was promptly ignored and it was all about Ukraine again, where Russia sternly refuses to yield to Western demands, forcing the shocked market to retreat lower, and sending Russian stocks lower by over 11%. This is happening even as Ukraine is sending Russian gas to European consumers as normal, gas transport monopoly Ukrtransgas said on Monday. "Ukrtransgas is carrying out all its obligations, fulfilling all agreements with Gazprom. The transit (via Ukraine to Europe) totalled 200 million cubic meters as of March 1," Ukrtransgas spokesman Maksim Belyavsky said. In other words, it can easily get worse should Russia indeed use its trump card.
Draghi's Monetary Nightmare Refuses To End As European Private Lending Remains Stuck At Record Low LevelsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/27/2014 08:24 -0500
With just released inflation figures out of Germany coming weaker than expected, Mario Draghi's monetary nightmare - how to spur credit creation in Europe to the private sector - just got even worse. Incidentally the topic of Draghi's "Monetary Nightmare" is well-known to regular readers and has been covered here extensively in the past, most recently here. So while we await to see how the ongoing deflation in Europe, soon hitting its core too, spreads through the system, the most recent data out of Europe is that lending to non-financial corporations declined once again in January, this time by €11.7billion, adjusted for securitizations and sales. On an annual basis, the decline in January was -2.0%, the same as December, and worse than the -1.8% in November as reported by the ECB.