When a tin-foil-hat-wearing blog full of digital dickweeds suggest the dollar's reserve currency status is at best diminishing, it is fobbed off as yet another conspiracy theory (yet to be proved conspiracy fact) too horrible to imagine for the status quo huggers. But when the VP of Research at the New York Fed asks "Could the dollar lose its status as the key international currency for international trade and international financial transactions," and further is unable to say why not, it is perhaps worth considering the principal contributing factors she warns of.
Since there is nothing on today's data docket, it will be all about, you guessed it, geopolitical risks, where "consensus" is best summarized by these two Bloomberg headlines:
- Stay USD Long as Geopolitical Risks Loom
- USD is mixed and world stock markets rise as concerns over geopolitical risks ease
That pretty much covers it, although in addition to the Ukraine civil war one can now add an Iraq coup to the list of geopolitical fiascoes instigated by US foreign policy.
If you are getting a strong sense of déjà vu from current news flow, well, join the club. Everything feels so… familiar. And not necessarily in a good way. When we hear phrases like “Bubble markets”, “M&A cycle”, “historically low yields”, and “retail investor buying”, our minds automatically flash back to prior periods of history when those phrases last dominated the headlines. It isn’t hard to come up with a “Top 10” list of phrases with strong historical - and emotional - antecedents. So, today we did just that. Fair warning, however: just because a tune sounds familiar doesn’t mean you actually know the song. It could just be what the kids today call a “Sample” – a snippet of a song put in another song. Yep, what we’ve got here is something out of hip hop, not rock. Don’t especially like rap? Too bad, homey.
In Which We Read That The "Proper Role Of A Central Bank Is To Counteract Market Turbulence Before It Happens"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 08/08/2014 14:03 -0400
Want to read a really terrifying article? Take a look at this August 6th Op-Ed piece in the FT by Draghi’s former colleague, Lorenzo Bini Smaghi: “The ECB Must Move to Counteract Market Turbulence”. Are you kidding me? This is what we have come to … that the proper role of a central bank is to counteract “market turbulence” before it happens? I’d laugh, but then I remember that Yellen means exactly the same thing when she refers to “macroprudential policy”, and I want to cry.
There were some minor fireworks in the overnight session following the worst Australian unemployment data in 12 years reported previously (and which sent the AUD crashing), most notably news that the Japanese Pension Fund would throw more pensioner money away by boosting the allocation to domestic stocks from 12% to 20%, while reducing holdings of JGBs from 60% to 40%. This in turn sent the USDJPY soaring (ironically, following yesterday's mini flash crash) if only briefly before it retraced much of the gains, even as the Pension asset reallocation news now appears to be entirely priced in. It may be all downhill from here for Japanese stocks. It was certainly downhill for Europe where after ugly German factory orders yesterday, it was the turn of Europe's growth dynamo to report just as ugly Industrial Production which missed expectations of a 1.2% print rising only 0.3%. Nonetheless, asset classes have not seen major moves yet, as today's main event is the ECB announcement due out in less than an hour. Consensus expects Draghi to do nothing, however with fresh cyclical lows in European inflation prints, and an economy which is clearly rolling over from Germany to the periphery, the ex-Goldmanite just may surprise watchers.
The conflict in Ukraine and the related imposition of sanctions against Russia signal an escalation of geopolitical tensions that is already being felt in the Russian (and increasingly world) financial markets. As The IMF describes in this chartapalooza, a deterioration in the conflict, with or even without a further escalation of sanctions and counter-sanctions, could have a substantial adverse impact on the Russian economy through direct and indirect (confidence) channels. But, perhaps more importantly to the West-sponsored IMF, what would be the repercussions for the rest of Europe if there were to be disruptions in trade or financial flows with Russia, or if economic growth in Russia were to take a sharp downturn?
There are grounds for optimism about Europe’s single currency area. Yet beneath the surface of favorable sentiment towards the euro zone, the seeds of the next financial crisis are being sown. If markets connected all these dots - a weak and fragile economic recovery, the failure to break the “doom loop” between banks and sovereigns and, most importantly, scant prospect of a more secure political and economic union - the glaring disconnect between asset prices and underlying fundamentals in the euro zone would be a source of much greater concern.
This week's US data onslaught begins today, with the ADP private payroll report first on deck (Exp. 230K, down from 281K), followed by the number of the day, Q2 GDP, which after Q1's abysmal -2.9%, is expected to increase 3%. Anything less and in the first half the US economy will have contracted, something the purists could claim is equivalent to a recession. The whisper numbers are to the downside since consumption and trade never caught up and the only variable is inventory as well as Obamacare, whose impact was $40 billion "contribution" in Q1 was entirely eliminated and instead led to a deduction, something we expect will be reversed into Q2. Following the backward looking GDP (which will be ignored by the sellside penguins if it is bad and praised if good) at 2:00 pm Yellen Capital LLC comes out with a correction on her call to short social networking stocks, as well as admit once again that the "data-driven" Fed really has no idea what it is doing and how it will tighten, but that tightening is imminent and another $10 billion taper to QE will take place ahead of a full phase out in October. Joking aside, the Fed is expected not to do much if anything, which may be just the right time for Yellen to inject an aggressively hawkish note considering her inflation "noise" refuses to go away.
With hours to go until Argentina's grace period runs out and default occurs, investors are less than frantically selling Argentine bonds and pesos. They are lower but do not appear in full panic mode as we presume investors cling to hope that Argentina folds and pays off the holdouts (though there has been no sign of that so far). ARG 2033 bonds are down 3 points to 81 and the black-market peso is modestly weaker at 13.0 (near its record lows). Argentine CDS tightened modestly (as BofA warns the facts surrounding Argentina’s bond payments continue to be unique and deciding if CDS are triggered could take longer than expected) but 1Y CDS are holding at 4600bps (equivalent) - a 52% probability of default. Paul singer continues to defend himself (and the holdouts) from claims they are "dangerous fundamentalists" hell-bent on making it impossible for foreign sovereigns to restructure their debts.
Following yesterday's disappointing results by Visa, which is the largest DJIA component accounting for 8% of the index and which dropped nearly 3%, while AMZN's 10% tumble has weighed heavily on NASDAQ futures, it has been up to the USDJPY to push US equity futures from dropping further, which it has done admirably so far with the tried and true levitation pump taking place just as Europe opened. One thing to keep in mind: yesterday the CME quietly hiked ES and NQ margins by 6% and 11% respectively. A modest warning shot across the bow of what may be coming down the line?
For a centrally-planned market that has long since lost the ability to discount the future, and certainly respond appropriately to geopolitical events, yesterday was a rough wake up call with a two punch stunner of not only the MH 17 crash pushing the Ukraine escalation into overdrive, but Israel's just as shocking land invasion of Gaza officially marking the start of a ground war, finally dragging global stocks out of their hypnotized slumber and pushing risk broadly lower across the globe, even if the now traditional USDJPY and AUDJPY ramp algos have woken up in the past few minutes and will be eager to pretend as if nothing ever happened.
The problem for the ECB, of course, is that Espirito Santo and Erste are not isolated incidents, any more than Laiki and Fortis and Anglo Irish and WestLB and BMPS and... should we go on? ...were isolated incidents. "...with apologies to Lewis Carroll, here’s the choice facing our modern-day Alice (Mario Draghi) – does (s)he sing a lullaby that keeps the Red King (investors) sleeping for a few more years, albeit at the cost of drinking a terrible potion that will turn her into a hideous giant... or does she let the Red King wake up, shattering the dream and risking the existence of everything, herself included, but preserving the story of her beautiful face and form?" If we were betting men (and we are), we’d wager on Draghi drinking the potion and keeping the dream alive, no matter how complicit it makes him in preserving a very ugly and very politically-driven status quo. But there’s a non-trivial chance that it’s just too much to swallow...
A look at key events and data in the week ahead.
Long-duration Treasuries continue to look attractive; a view that Scotiabank's Guy Haselmann has unwaveringly maintained for the past six months for a variety of diverse reasons. Of all of the various reasons, private pension demand is the most interesting and compelling (and the least understood). The bottom line is that PBGC rule changes will cause persistent and incremental demand over time that overwhelms net visible secondary market supply. Concerns about funding status will trump the private defined benefit plan manager’s fiduciary desire to ‘maximize return per unit of risk’. There are other factors, but the point is that Treasuries as a relative asset class looks attractive.