“Don’t look back - something might be gaining on you,” Satchel Paige famously warned. For connoisseurs of civilizational collapse, 2014 was merely annoying, a continued pile-up of over-investments in complexity with mounting diminishing returns, metastasizing fragility, and no satisfying resolution. So we enter 2015 with greater tensions than ever before and therefore the likelihood that the inevitable breakdown will release more destructive energy and be that much harder to recover from.
Russia Busts "Gold-Selling" Rumors, Reports It Bought Another 600,000 Ounces Taking Gold Holdings To New Record HighSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 12/19/2014 10:40 -0400
Moments ago, as if to sway further speculation that Russia is indeed converting hard money earned from real resources for fiat paper, the Russian monetary authority made it quite clear, that at least in November, Russia not only did not sell any gold, but in fact bought another 600K ounces in the month of November.
"It appears possible that the Central Bank of Russia has started to sell off some of its gold reserves in December, with some sources reporting that official gold reserves dropped by $4.3 billion in the first week of the month."
We recently noted the rise of counterparty risks in the financial system due to oil prices dropping (and leveraged derivative exposures) but as the Russia situation has deteriorated so dramatically this week, a renewed focus on bank exposures has sent stocks reeling (and credit risk soaring) among many European (and US) banks. As Bloomberg reports, Raiffeisen Bank International and Societe Generale, the European banks with most at stake in Russia, led European lenders lower. Raiffeisen fell as much as 10.3% to 11.40 euros in Vienna, the lowest level since it went public in 2005. Societe Generale dropped as much as 7.3% to 31.85 euros, hitting the lowest intraday level since August 2013. CDS markets for both also exploded with Raffeisen risk at 27 month highs. As one analyst noted, "There remains a huge amount of uncertainty at this juncture, but the key point is that there are no benign scenarios." While not on the same scale, US bank risk has also widened signicantly in recent weeks (despite equity strength).
It wasn't just China's long overdue crash last night. In addition to the Shanghai Composite suffering its biggest plunge since August 2009, there has been a sharp slide in the USDJPY which has broken its uptrend to +∞ (and hyperinflation), and around the time Chinese gamblers were panicking, the FX pair tumbled under 120, although since then the 120 tractor beam has been activated. Elsewhere, the Athens stock exchange is also crashing by over 10% this morning on the heels of news that the Greek government has accelerated the process to elect the next president and possibly, a rerun of the drama from the summer of 2012 when the Eurozone was hanging by a thread when Tsipras almost won the presidential vote and killed the world's most artificial and insolvent monetary union. And finally, the crude plunge appears to have finally caught up with ground zero, with ADX General Index in Abu Dhabi plunging 3.5%, also poised for the biggest drop since 2009. In fact the only thing that isn't crashing (at least not this moment), is Brent, which did drop to new 5 year lows earlier under $66, but has since staged a feeble rebound.
Confused why in the lack of any horrible economic news (unless of course someone leaked a worse than expected November payrolls print which would put QE4 right back on the table) futures are higher, especially in the aftermath of yesterday's disappointing ECB conference? Then look no further than the Yen which has now lost pretty much all control and is in freeplunge mode, rising some 25 pips moments ago on no news, but merely as wave after wave of momentum ignition algos now make a joke of the Japanese currency, whose redline of 123 (as defined by SocGen)is now just 240 pips away. At this pace, Japan's economy, which as reported yesterday has just seen a record number of corporate bankruptcies due to the plummeting yen, may well be dead some time next week. Which, with Paul Krugman as its new and improved economic advisor, is precisely as expected. RIP Japan.
If all it took to push stocks to ever recorder(est) highs, granted on no volume, but recorder(est) highs nonetheless, was for correlation algos to pick a carry FX pair trade du jour which to push the Nikkei, or the Dax, or - most frequently - the S&P higher, then all equity indices would already been in scientific digit territory. And since they aren't, it is only logical that prosperity through currency debasement can only "work" for so long.
But how long? Well, when it comes to the primary carry pair du jour, the Dollar-Yen, the answer may be just a few hundred pips more, before it all comes unglued for Japan's Prime Minister whose first stint in the role ended in a prophetic bout of epic diarrhea, Shinzo Abe.
The oil industry is no longer what it once was, it’s not even a normal industry anymore. Oil companies sell assets and borrow heavily, then buy back their own stock and pay out big dividends. What kind of business model is that? Well, not the kind that can survive a 40% cut in revenue for long. Cheap oil a boon for the economy? You might want to give that some thought.
While the biggest news of the day will certainly be China's rate cut (and the Dutch secret gold repatriation but more on the shortly), here is a list of all the other central-banking/planning events which have moved markets overnight, because in the new normal it no longer is about any news or fundamentals, it is all about the destruction of the value of money and the matched increase in nominal asset values.
"The multiple expansion phase of the current bull market ended in 2013. The strong S&P 500 YTD price gain of 10% roughly matches the realized year/year EPS growth of the index. The index has climbed by 17% annually during the past three years as the consensus forward P/E multiple surged by nearly 60% from 10x to 16x. ... We forecast US stocks will deliver a modest total return of 5% in 2015, in line with profit growth. The US economy will expand at a brisk pace. Corporations will boost sales and keep margins elevated allowing managements to both invest for growth and return cash to shareholders via buybacks and dividends. Investors will cheer these positive fundamental developments."
"We are still amazed by the chart [below], but it summarises the problem for those seeking to short stocks with fundamental weaknesses. In the last three years, the MSCI World Index has risen by 38% (11% per annum) whilst reported profits have risen by just 3% (that’s just 1% per annum!). As the events of last month attest, central bank actions–not profits–are driving equities forward." - SocGen
As US QE has come to an end, depriving the world of US$1 trillion printed dollars a year, SocGen's Andrew Lapthorne warns, there are still plenty of things for investors to be concerned about. Indeed with asset prices where they are, investment returns look paltry from here on, as not only is there a long list of macroeconomic issues to worry about, but bottom-up firm level indicators are also flashing red. Valuations, as measured by median price to cash flow ratios, are near historical highs, and the spread of company valuations within the market is near historical lows. The implication is that downside risks are mispriced.
After a brief hiatus the previous week, speculators have piled back into the most-over-crowded trade in the world - Long The US Dollar. As Goldman Sachs notes, overall USD speculative net long positioning increased $2.0bn to $45.7bn - a new record high.
Every day for the past several years, sometime after 3pm, bullish market participants exhale a sigh of relief when as if out of nowhere, an "unexpected" surge of buying lifts stocks into the 4 pm close. There are several explanations for what some have dubbed if not Divine, then certainly centrally-planned intervention. This is the time when ETF creation and (far less frequently) redemption takes place. As a result, in a world in which the bulk of liquidity has shifted away from single name stocks and even futures toward ETFs, trends in the creation and redemption of ETFs are key to watch to determine how the market may move purely for to technical reasons (since fundamentals died some time in 2009). Which is why we note, with little surprise, that according to SocGen, Equity ETFs posted a record level of monthly creations in October, driven by US, regional eurozone and UK indexations, perhaps explaining the relentless levitation of the market on ever lower volume especially in the latter part of the day.
"Japan is no Zimbabwe. Neither was Israel, yet from 1972 to 1987 its inflation averaged nearly 85%. As its CPI rose nearly 10,000 times, its stock market rose by a factor of 6,500 … Regular readers know that I don’t generally make forecasts, but that every now and then I do go out on a limb. This is one of those occasions. Mapping Israel’s experience onto Japan would take the Nikkei from its current 9,600 [as of October 2010] to 63,000,000. This is our 15-year price target." - Dylan Grice