Today is probably the first day in a while in which minute-by-minute rumors on the Fiscal Cliff will not be on the frontburner (with yet another late day rumor yesterday of an imminent deal turning out to be a dud, when it was reported that Obama's latest grand compromise was to lower his initial tax hike demand from $1.6 to $1.4 trillion, or still $600 billion more than last summer's negotiated number), with Ben Bernanke and QE4 taking center stage instead. By now it is a foregone conclusion that Ben will proceed with extending Twist as first predicted here, into an unsterilized bond buying operation, in effect confirming that there has been zero improvement in the economy, as another $1 trillion is about to be injected until the end of 2013, and more trillions after that. The good thing is that all pretense that the Fed cares about anything but the market is now gone. The bad thing is that the Fed will continue to take over the capital markets until it and the other central banks are the only traders remaining. The only question is whether the market, now well into massively overbought territory, will fizzle and snap back after Bernanke's news announcement, and will QE4EVA (as we believe QE3+1, aka QEternity-er, should be called) have been fully priced in by the time it was announced?
Some indication of progress on US fiscal talks, anticipation that the Fed extends QE3+ tomorrow, speculation of a cut in China’s required reserve, healthy Spanish T-bill auctions and a much stronger than expected German ZEW survey is encouraging risk-on plays, with the dollar and yen laggards, peripheral bonds firmer, and emerging equity markets extending recent gains. European shares are advancing for the seventh consecutive session.
News of greater political uncertainty in Italy and poor European data is spurring risk-off moves, with the dollar and yen firmer, emerging market currencies mostly softer, global equity markets lower and core bonds a bit firmer.
Following much weaker than expected German industrial production figures last week has been followed in kind by disappointing French and Italian output figures today. Italy reported a 1.1% decline. The consensus was for a 0.2% decline and the Sept series was revised lower. French output fell 0.7%. The consensus was for a 0.3% increase. Yet it is really the Italian political scene that is the key driver today with the benchmark 10-year yield up more than 30 bp, dragging up peripheral yields generally. Italian shares have been particularly hard hit and a couple of banks were limit down and stopped trading.
This week is the last before the holiday mood sets in. We identify ten considerations that will drive the capital markets.
We have been tracking the deterioration of the US dollar's technical tone over the past three weeks. That ended abruptly. Weak euro area data, a more dovish than expected ECB, and heightened political uncertainty in Italy, saw the euro reverse lower after briefly moving above an eighteen month-old downtrend.
The UK also cut its growth outlook, and poor data increases the likelihood that the BOE may have to resume its gilt purchases in the new year, though consumer inflation expectations have ticked up recently.
At the same time, there appears to be little progress on the US fiscal talks. Whenever a top official signals this, the dollar seems to tick up on risk-off considerations, though with diminishing impact. The stronger than expected November employment data is not sufficient to stay the Fed's hand and the FOMC will most likely expand the long-term assets purchased under QE3+ at its meeting that concludes on December 12.
UBS and Nomura have suggested that gold could rise next week as the Federal Reserve may announce further easing at the FOMC meeting – on Tuesday (11/12/12) and Wednesday (12/12/12). Nomura said it is worth considering whether the FOMC will announce further easing to replace so called ‘Operation Twist’. The research house noted that gold remains at the same level as during the October meeting, which suggests gold has not yet priced in any move by the FOMC – creating an opportunity for gold bullion buyers. Regardless of whether the FOMC actually eases at this point – Nomura thinks there is a non-negligible probability – gold is likely to rise. Therefore, Nomura expects gold to rise and prices in this probability as the December meeting approaches, just as gold rose when the September meeting was approaching.
A consolidative tone threatening to emerging in the foreign exchange market, as prices churn awaiting not only today's press conference following the ECB meeting, but also tomorrow's US employment data and prospects for an expansion of QE3+ at next week's FOMC meeting.
Five major central banks were to meet this week, with only the Reserve Bank of Australia poised to act. They did cut rates, but the accompanying statement did not tip the hand of the next move. The market took advantage of the jobs data's favorable optics to reduce the likelihood of a follow up cut in February to about 50/50.
The details of the employment report were really weaker than it appeared. The 13.9k increase in jobs is misleading as it was driven exclusively by part-time jobs. Full time work actually fell 4.2k, the first decline in four months. The unexpected decline in the unemployment rate to 5.2% from 5.4% in Sept and Oct was a function of a decline in the participation rate. The Australian dollar has traded now (barely) on both sides of yesterday's range. Offers in the $1.05 area continue to slow the Aussie's ascent.
After extending recent losses in Asia, the US dollar stabilized in the European morning.
The US dollar continues to trade heavily, with the euro and sterling edging to new multi-week highs and the yen consolidating its recent losses. The main consideration appears to be the looming fiscal cliff, weaker data and the prospects for additional QE to be announced next week by the Federal Reserve.
At the same time, tail risks emanating from euro area have diminished, even if the i's aren't dotted and the t's not crossed on Greece's new program, or if the negotiations over bank supervision in Europe at today's EU finance minister meeting, are more protracted.
Our assessment of macro fundamentals leave us inclined to favor the dollar on a medium term basis. However, we continue (seehereandhere) to recognize that near-term technical considerations favor the major foreign currencies, but the yen.
- As this has been priced in since September 13, it should come as no surprise to anyone: Fed Stimulus Likely in 2013 (Hilsenrath)
- Bowles Says Fiscal Cliff Deal Unlikely by End of Year (Bloomberg)
- Argentina debt repayment order frozen (FT)
- Obama Is Flexible on Highest Tax Rates (WSJ)... not really
- Geithner deployed for fiscal cliff talks (FT)
- Audit firms Deloitte and KPMG sued in HP's Autonomy acquisition (Reuters)
- Euro-Zone Budget Proposal Is Unveiled (WSJ)
- EU Nations Clash on Thresholds for Direct ECB Oversight (Bloomberg)
- LDP leader Abe: BOJ must ease until inflation hits 3 percent (Reuters)
- SNB’s Jordan Says High Swiss Franc Burdens Many Companies (Bloomberg)
- EU to launch free trade negotiations with Japan: EU officials (Reuters)
Pathway to depression.
Toppling central banks is a messy business.
Many times what "should" happen does not happen. For example, global stock markets "should" decline as the global economy free-falls into recession, as global recession is not exactly an ideal scenario for rising corporate sales and profits or demand for commodities. Yet global markets are by and large rising significantly. Sometimes what "should" happen is simply being delayed. In other cases, some other dynamic is at work. Stock market bulls, for example, say the "other dynamic" is global money-printing by central banks, and this "easing" will power stocks higher even as sales and profits sag. Analysts who believe fundamentals eventually over-ride monetary manipulation believe the stock market decline has only been delayed, not banished. A similar tug-of-war is playing out between those who feel the U.S. dollar "should" decline in the years ahead and those who see the dollar strengthening significantly.
In a post entitled 'Mugabenomics: Inflation in UK Higher than in Zimbabwe,' Guido Fawkes points out how the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable once warned that Quantitative Easing (QE) was “Mugabenomics.” This was prior to coming to power and a swift u-turn which would make even the most slippery politician proud. Remember when Vince Cable warned that Quantitative Easing (QE) was “Mugabenomics”? Vince flip-flopped on that even before he joined the coalition. Guido Fawkes then reminds its readers about the time when George Osborne said “Printing money is the last resort of desperate governments when all other policies have failed.” Alas as the blog rightly warns, "In government Osborne has overseen the printing of more money than any other Chancellor in British history. A quarter of the national debt – all this government’s overspending – has been bought by the Bank of England via QE." “So it is not a shock that inflation in Zimbabwe (3.63%) is now lower than inflation in the UK (3.66%, August 2011-July 2012).” Those who have been warning about this monetary madness for some years are gradually being proved right
Gold reached highs in euros and Swiss francs yesterday, in London trading it hit EUR 1,379.60/oz compared to EUR 1,375/oz last September. In Swiss Francs gold traded at CHF 1,666/oz. Europeans have been viewing scenes of violence and riots from protestors in Madrid and Athens over the past few days. Barclays Plc. announced yesterday it was opening its own London vault to store gold and other precious metals due to demand from their clients. Investment banks have readjusted price targets upward in the past few days with some calling for gold at $2,000 and higher in the next few months. This signals that the recent rally of the euro against the dollar was largely due to the poor US monetary and fiscal situation and the greenback’s weakness and not due to any great confidence in the single currency per se.