While precious little space has been dedicated in the US media to what remains an uncontained epidemic of the H7N9 bird flu in China, cases continue to spread even as the number of deaths mount, taking at least 22 reported lives at last check. Things just got from bad to worse, as the bird flu is now following in the footsteps of the 2003 SARS breakout, with the first reported case outside of China hitting newswires overnight.
A lot has changed in 30 years - from Miami Vice and Flashdance to Hunger Games and Taylor Swift; but away from the end of legwarmers (and rolled-up jacket sleeves), GDP has more than tripled from $3.5 trillion as household incomes, home prices, and employment have shifted dramatically but not equally...
- China’s Recovery Falters as Manufacturing Growth Cools (BBG)
- Gloomy eurozone output points to rate cut (FT)
- Limit Austerity, EU appartchik Barroso Says (WSJ)
- Regulators Get Banks to Rein In Bonus Pay (WSJ)
- SEC looks to ease rules for launching ETFs (Reuters)
- Easy come, easy go: U.S. Seizes $21 Million From Electric Car Maker Fisker (WSJ)
- Japan nationalists near disputed isles (Reuters)
- OECD in fresh warning on Japan debt (FT)
- S&P says more than one-third chance of Japan downgrade, cites risks to Abenomics (Reuters)
Yesterday it was headlines from Bini-Smaghi and Weidmann punching the lights out for the Euro (which as we have been saying all along, needs to be lower not higher to promote some glimmer of hope for Europe). Moments ago it was two new headlines, which if not market crushing on their own, show how increasingly precarious Europe is.
- ITALY PARLIAMENT FAILS TO ELECT PRESIDENT IN FIRST BALLOT
- MERKEL FALLS SHORT OF COALITION MAJORITY ON CYPRUS VOTE
In other words, despite hopes that the Italian political chaos would stabilize following a compromise presidential candidate (which we noted earlier today we would believe when we saw), Italy continues to be an ungovernable chaos. As for Germany, Merkel was forced to rely on opposition votes to pass the critical Cyprus rescue package on which she has literally bet the future of Germany and her political career. While not unexpected, this portends poorly for the Chancellor's September reelection chances, especially if the German anti-Euro party continues its recent surge in popularity in the past few weeks.
After leaving rates unchanged and following Kuroda's efforts overnight, it appears Draghi had to do something in his press conference. Despite Barroso's assurances that the worst of the crisis is over, ECB's Draghi admits:
*DRAGHI SAYS ECONOMIC WEAKNESS EXTENDED INTO BEGINNING OF YEAR
*DRAGHI SAYS RISKS TO ECONOMIC OUTLOOK ARE ON DOWNSIDE
*DRAGHI SAYS RECOVERY IN 2H IS SUBJECT TO 'DOWNSIDE RISKS'
*DRAGHI: WEAKNESS IS EXTENDING TO COUNTRIES W/OUT FRAGMENTATION
*DRAGHI SAYS ECB WILL ASSESS DATA AND STANDS READY TO ACT
This 'negativity' jawboning, which is really nothing new to anyone who looks at real data, has battered EURUSD 80 pips lower and implicitly smacked S&P 500 futures down 5-6 points as the verbal currency wars continue.
While the world twiddles it thumbs, buys stocks, and ignores any and every risk, tensions continue to mount on Korea. Bloomberg is reporting that:
*N. KOREA BANS S. KOREANS FROM ENTERING GAESEONG, S. KOREA SAYS
*N. KOREA ENTRY BAN HINDERS 'STABLE OPERATION' OF GAESEONG: KIM
*S.KOREA SAYS N. KOREA GAESEONG ENTRY BAN IS 'EXTREMELY SERIOUS'
The city of Gaeseong, due to its situation on the border, hosts cross-border economic exchanges ($2bn per year in trade for the impoverished North) between the two countries and is seen as "the last symbol of inter-Korean cooperation." In light of this, perhaps it is no surprise that the WSJ reports, the U.S. positioned a ship capable of shooting down ballistic missiles near the Korean peninsula amid South Korea demands that the military should "make a strong and swift response in initial combat without any political considerations."
It's 2:30am, do you know where your deposits are? Tune in to see the Eurogroup explain how this is in the best interest of the Cypriot people, how the 'deal' illustrates the solidarity of the European people, and how the worst of the crisis is now behind us.
*EU COMMISSION SAYS NO CYPRUS PARLIAMENT VOTE NEEDED: SCHAEUBLE
*SCHAEUBLE SAYS TROIKA TO CONTACT RUSSIAN GOVT ON DEAL :BOCY CY
In 1729, that Jonathan Swift (of Gulliver's Travels fame) penned a famous satirical essay from England entitled "A Modest Proposal." It's still famous to this day as mandatory reading in many a high school literature class. As you may recall, Swift addresses the problem of the ultra-depressed Irish economy and mockingly advocates that the Irish should sell their children for rich Englishmen to eat. Lovely thought. I thought about the essay this morning when one of our Liberty Alert Service researchers alerted me to a new bill just introduced in the Land of the Free, HR 1160. The bill aims "to set the retirement benefits age for today's six-year-olds at age 70." Maybe Swift wasn't so far-fetched. Screw the kids. No doubt, governments are adroit at finding ways to steal from people.
One key, and very important, thing to note per the statement below, is that nowhere in the statement does the Eurogroup say that no levy will be taxed on those with €100,000 and less in deposits. What is said is the following: "The Eurogroup continues to be of the view that small depositors should be treated differently from large depositors and reaffirms the importance of fully guaranteeing deposits below EUR 100.000. The Cypriot authorities will introduce more progressivity in the one-off levy compared to what was agreed on 16 March, provided that it continues yielding the targeted reduction of the financing envelope and, hence, not impact the overall amount of financial assistance up to EUR 10bn."
Bottom line: it is absoutely not clear what the levy on small "insured" deposits will be, if any, and it will be up to the Cyprus government to define it: a decision which will make or break the parliamentary vote, whose passage this statement will hardly make any easier.
Prior to yesterday, if you were trying to handicap how the unelected leaders of the Eurozone were going to react to a tough situation, you only had to refer to the quote "When it becomes serious, you have to lie" from Mr. Junker to understand their mindset. But so long as someone at the ECB was willing to flood the world with free EURs (with significant backup provided the US Federal Reserve) the market closed its eyes, held its breath and took the leap of faith that all was well. However, post the Cyprus decision, the curtain has been pulled back and wizard revealed with all his faults and warts. It would be hard to over-emphasize how significant the Cyprus situation is. The damage done here is not related to the size of the haircut - currently discussed between 3 and 13% - but rather that the legal language which each and every investor on the planet must rely on in order to maintain confidence in the system has been subordinated to the needs of the powerful elite.
Europe Does It Again: Cyprus Depositor Haircut "Bailout" Turns Into Saver "Panic", Frozen Assets, Bank Runs, Broken ATMsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/16/2013 10:33 -0400
Late last night, after markets closed for the weekend, following an extended discussion the European finance ministers announced their "bailout" solution for Russian oligarch depositor-haven Cyprus: a €13 billion bailout (Europe's fifth) with a huge twist: the implementation of what has been the biggest taboo in European bailouts to date - the impairment of depositors, and a fresh, full blown escalation in the status quo's war against savers everywhere. Specifically, Cyprus will impose a levy of 6.75% on deposits of less than €100,000 - the ceiling for European Union account insurance, which is now effectively gone following this case study - and 9.9% above that. The measures will raise €5.8 billion, Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who leads the group of euro-area ministers, said. But it doesn't stop there: a partial "bail-in" of junior bondholders is also possible, as for the first time ever the entire liability structure of a European bank - even if it is a Cypriot bank - is open season for impairments. The logical question: why here, and why now? And what happens when the Cypriot bank run that has taken the country by storm this morning spreads everywhere else, now that the scab over Europe's biggest festering wound is torn throughout the periphery as all the other PIIGS realize they too are expendable on the altar of mollifying voters and investors in the other countries that make up Europe's disunion.
Excuse me for asking, but what in the name of Jesus H. Christ is wrong with us? Oh, I forgot. If you're rich, you can do anything you want. If you're poor, you have the be the apotheosis of rectitude. And talk about swift justice! This incident took place not even two weeks ago! And yet Blankfein, a man who torture is too good for, smirks and leers his way to mega-riches.
Not even the Fed pre-monetizing yesterday of today's 30 Year reopening auction could do much to improve demand for today's $13 billion sale in long-dated paper. Because if yesterday's 10 Year auction was a testament to demand from Direct and Indirect buyers, today's final auction of the week was anything but. Moments ago the Treasury sold $13 billion in 30 year paper, in a 29 year, 11 month reopening, of the infamous 912810QZ4 Cusip, and which priced at a high yield of 3.248%, the highest yield since last March's 3.381%, and more importantly 1.5 bps higher than the When Issued 3.233%. The internals explained why the demand in the primary market was just not there: Indirects got 42%, Dealer take down was 51.2%, which mean Direct bidders were allotted just 4.9% of the total. This was the lowest Direct allocation since September of 2009, and in stark contrast to yesterday's surge in 10 Year Direct bidders. Finally, the Bid to Cover came at 2.43, the lowest since August of 2012.
Following yesterday's Beige Book extravaganza of mediocrity, ConvergEx's Nick Colas decided to do what the kids today call a “Mashup” – mixing different sources to create a new experience. Instead of mixing popular songs, he compared the Beige Book with Google “Trend” analysis for a variety of search phrases. Take, for example, the message from the Fed that the housing market is recovering. Google searches for “Get a mortgage” are, in fact, very near record highs and over 100% higher than 2007. On the Fed’s claim that leisure travel is picking up, the Google data is less supportive. On auto demand – an important factor in this recovery – the Google “Buy a car” trend data does look solidly higher. Finally, the job picture is still mixed. Google says that if you are unemployed in Chicago, drive to Dallas. The Fed’s Beige Book seems to concur. The question is not whether the Fed could engineer this nascent recovery. The question is “Can it last?” For that, we’ll need some new songs. And some fresh data in the coming months.
The dark ages were an awful time. Considering the brightest days delivered constant warfare, the burning of books, and the fear of barbarians, no one ever looked forward to the darkest days. Fast forward 1,600 years, and the darkest days of the European debt crisis are finally over - not because the bad debt has been written off or due to the consolidation of all debt, but simply because everyone has said so. Exactly who is telling lies and who is telling the truth will only be determined in due course. Without a doubt, global economic growth remains stagnate, yet stock markets are booming. Our message on financial markets remains very consistent – do not confuse strong financial markets with a strong underlying economy. While this may sound like hogwash to many investors and investment professionals, it is the extreme, unorthodox, and never-before-tried policies by the World’s central banks that is the reason for the march higher for stocks. Regardless, for those who honestly believe in the recovery, ask yourself the following questions...