Felix Zulauf, James Montier and David Iben: Three legendary investors share their views on financial markets. Everything is pricey ("we will continue to swim in a sea of liquidity; but there might be other events and developments that may not be camouflaged by liquidity which could cause a change of investor expectations.") the European periphery is a bubble ("The Euro crisis is not over...the European economies are not going to change for the better for years to come despite all the cheating and breaking of laws"), Value investors need to venture to Russia ("when you look at today’s opportunity set, you’re left with a set of assets where nothing looks attractive from a valuation point of view") or buy gold mining stocks (" The down cycle could be much bigger than anybody believes if the market realizes that all the actions taken in recent years do not work.") Summing it all up, "there is no question that [sovereigns] lack the fundamental economic base to finally service their debts," trade accordingly.
Ever since 2012, when we first revealed that the biggest problem plaguing Europe's financial sector is the $2 trillion+ in bad debt on the books of European banks (not our numbers, the IMF's), it became clear that the only way Europe can avoid a complete financial meltdown coupled with currency disintegration, is if it can constantly keep rolling over said bad debt (obviously the only way to do that would be to create an epic debt bubble leading managers of other people's money to do idiotic things like buy Spanish debt at 2.75%). This is why not only the BOJ launched its mega QE in 2013, but why Draghi also kicked in with NIRP a month ago: the logic - do anything and everything to reflate the biggest credit bubble possible as otherwise European banks will have no choice but to face up to their trillions in bad loans.
In his recent note “Treacherous Market Conditions,” Scotiabank's Guy Haselmann attempted to outline the precarious position the FOMC has put itself in. The Fed’s depleted ammunition applies greater pressure on its attempts to ensure a strong recovery; yet, as Haselmann hinted, the Fed is in a race against time, because risks to financial stability aggregate with each passing day, while economic benefits approach zero. Despite differences as to the extent and degree of financial risks, FOMC members have (finally) become aware that they have arisen. Draghi seems to share concerns about bubble conditions... and now the BIS fears that a "persistently aggressive monetary policy risks exacerbating collateral damage."
Topics discussed in the interview were - China and Russia’s gold hoarding - - Do not trust government ‘headline inflation’ - Importance of owning physical gold internationally - Likelihood of bank bail-ins in G20 countries - Cyprus bail-in did not hurt Russians; Hurt Cypriot savers - You have to be prepared ... Better to be a year early than a day late
As we noted previously, it is likely that whatever Draghi does this week "will not deliver a significant impulse to the real economy" in Europe but while negative rates are almost guaranteed (based on the consensus), reviving the ABS market (via focused QE) is being heralded by many as a positive swing factor. Unfortunately, as SocGen explains, even if the ECB began purchasing ABS in H2 2014, the size and reach of the market is not enough to move the scale as Europe acts desperately to avoid a Japanese-style lost decade.
They say that gold is a geopolitical metal. Gold is real money with no counterparty risk and, furthermore, an excellent wealth preserver in time and space. Like fiat currencies (dollar, euro, yen, Yuan etc.), gold’s price is also influenced by political events, especially those having an international impact. Alan Greenspan, ex-chairman of the Federal Reserve, said that gold is money “in extremis”. This is why gold is part of most central banks’ reserves. It is the only reserve that is not debt and that cannot be devalued by inflation, contrary to fiat currencies.
It has been a very quiet session so far, and despite the slow-mo levitation in the USDJPY, its impact on US equity futures has been minimal if not negative. In fact, following yesterday's latest late day tumble, which Goldman summarized as follows, "Equities tried and failed again to break 1885, it continues to be the level that we can’t escape"... it would appear we are increasingly changing the trading regime, and as Guy Haselmann explained simply, markets are slowly but surely coming to the realization that the Fed's crutches are being taken away (that they may well return following a 20%, 30%, or more drop in the S&P is a different matter entirely) and that the economy will not grow fast enough to make up for this. Perhaps the most notable "event" is the sheer avalanche of banks pushing up their forecasts for an ECB rate cut (and or QE start) to June following Draghi's yesterday comments. And so the 1 month countdown begins until the end of forward guidance, or until the ECB "shatters" its credibility as expained yesteday.
With everyone and their mom confused at how bonds can rally when stocks (the ultimate arbiter of truthiness) are also positive, we have seen Deutsche confused (temporary technicals), Bloomberg confirm the shortage, and BofA blame the weather (for a lack of bond selling). Today, we have two more thoughtful and comprehensive perspectives from Gavekal's Louis-Vincent Gave (on why yields are so low) and Scotiabank's Guy Haselmann (on why they' stay that way).
Perhaps the most important "news" of the day is that it is non-Tuesday. Yes, there was actual news news, like German factory orders dropping -2.8% on expectations of a 0.3% increase, French industrial production down -0.7% on expectations of a 0.3% increase (both misses driven by a soaring Euro which is now spitting distance away from the 1.40 ECB "redline"), the Nikkei tumbling 2.9% to just above 14000, the Shanghai Composite down 0.9%, SocGen Q1 profit plunging 13% and conveniently blaming it on Russia, speaking of Russia things continue to deteriorate even though Interfax reported that the country has received the first part, some $3.2 billion, of the promised IMF bailout - money which will be used to promptly pay Gazprom... and buy gold, a sudden conflict between China and Vietnam escalating over the placement of an offshore oil rig and so forth, but in the new normal, none of this matters.
Economist John Maynard Keynes described the effects of inflation citing Vladimir Ilyich Lenin this way: “Lenin is said to have declared that the best way to destroy the capitalist system was to debauch the currency. By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens. As the inflation proceeds and the real value of the currency fluctuates wildly from month to month, all permanent relations between debtors and creditors, which form the ultimate foundation of capitalism, become so utterly disordered as to be almost meaningless; and the process of wealth-getting degenerates into a gamble and a lottery. Lenin was certainly right. There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose.” This is why governments love inflation so much and hate gold.
Of the economic reports and events in the week ahead, we identify four potential drivers and emphasize one--the ECB meeting.
The early session risk on trade, which materialized after the Pfizer confirmation it was seeking to buy AstraZeneca, and which sent the GBPUSD to its highest level since 2009, and also sent the EURUSD and EURJPY soaring in the process lifting US equity futures, has started to fizzle on the most recent news out of Ukraine, where the pro-Russian mayor of Ukraine's second largest city of Kharkiv was shot in the back in an apparent assassination attempt, which happened hours before the US is set to announce more sanctions against the Kremlin and its closest financial oligarchs. As a result, futures have pared gaisn modestly, especially since AstraZeneca made it clear with its initial reponse it has no interest in Pfizer's offer in its current format.