Two of the saving features that allowed Japan to internalize 30-some years of failed fiscal and monetary policy (and yes, not one, not two, but now 8 failed iterations of quantitative easing) and to offset one relentless deflationary vortex was i) its demographics coupled with an investing culture that favors deposits and bonds over equities, which incentivized its aging population to invest its savings into government bonds, and ii) its trade surplus which led to foreign capital flows to enter the country. Well, as far as i) is concerned, Japan may have reached its demographic limit, since as reported several months ago, Japan's pension funds are now not only selling JGBs to meet redemption and cash needs, but forced to do truly stupid things like investing in the riskiest of assets to generate a return at any cost. In other words, demographics will no longer be a natural source of demand for deficit funds. As for ii), well... here is what has happened with Japan's trade surplus status in recent weeks following the collapse in the country's foreign relationship with China.
The most important alliance within the EU, the one that has ultimately defined the union's course over the past few decades, is the French-German axis. It appears that this is no longer the case. The once so strong friendship is in danger of fraying ever since the socialist Francois Hollande has become president of France. Not only was he elected on an 'anti austerity' platform (disguised as a 'pro growth' agenda, which is of course one of the most laughable misrepresentations ever), it has turned out that his big-brother, anti-free market socialist agenda wasn't merely an electoral ploy to differentiate himself from Sarkozy. He actually means it. One thing is certain: the markets have not yet fully assimilated what is going on here.
In recent months there has been a lot of incorrect speculation that because Iran has been shut off from the petrodollar, SWIFT-mediated regime, its economy will implode as the country has no access to the all important greenback and can thus not conduct international trade - the driving factor behind the international sanctions that seek to topple the local government as Iran dies an economic death. And while there have been bouts of substantial inflation, which so far the local government appears to have managed to put a lid on by curbing gray market speculation, Iran continues to more or less operate on its merry ways with international trade most certainly taking place, especially with China, Russia and India as main trading partners. "How is this possible" those who support the Western-led embargo of all Iranian trade will ask? Simple - gold. Because while Iran may have no access to dollars, it has ample access to gold. This in itself is not new - we have reported in the past that Iran has imported substantial amounts of gold from Turkey, despite the Turkish government's stern denials. Today, courtesy of Reuters, we learn precisely what the 21st century equivalent of the Great Silk Road looks like, and just how effective Iran has been as a lab rat in escaping the great petrodollar experiment, from which conventional wisdom tells us there is no escape. Presenting: petrogold.
The recent trade report does not provide much support for the economic and stock market bulls. As we have stated many times - the current fundamental and economic backdrops are not supportive of higher asset prices at current levels. However, while the market may advance due to the injections of liquidity into the financial system - it doesn't make it a "healthy" market. The outlook, and ultimately actions taken, by businesses are driven by demand for their products, goods and services. Unfortunately the Fed's bond buying program does not impact these core issues.
Data Massaging Continues: Initial Claims Tumble To 339K Lowest Since 2008, Far Below Lowest ExpectationSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 10/11/2012 07:42 -0500
This is just getting stupid. After expectations of a rebound in initial claims from 367K last week (naturally revised higher to 369K), to 370K (with the lowest of all sellside expectations at 355K), the past week mysteriously, yet so very unsurprisingly in the aftermath of the fudged BLS unemployment number, saw claims tumble to a number that is so ridiculous not even CNBC's Steve Liesman bothered defending it, or 339K. Ironically, not even the Labor Department is defending it: it said that "one large state didn't report some quarterly figures." Great, but what was reported was a headline grabbing number that is just stunning for reelection purposes. This was the lowest number since 2008. The only point to have this print? For 2-3 bulletin talking points at the Vice Presidential debate tonight. Everything else is now noise. It is also sad that the US "economy" has devolved to such trivial data fudging on a week by week basis, which makes even the Chinese Department of Truth appear amateurish by comparison. Needless to say, Not Seasonally Adjusted initial claims jumped by 26K to 327K in the past week but who's counting. Finally, what is the reason for ongoing QEternity if the employment situation is now back to normal. Finally, in completely ignored news, because who needs global trade when you have toner cartridge, and generally ink, the US trade deficit in August rose by 4.1% to $44.2 billion, on expectations of a deterioration to $44.0 billion. Then again nobody talks about the US trade deficit during presidential debates so all good here.
It seems our recent re-introduction of the world to Robert Triffin has struck a note among a number of market participants. The gold-convertible U.S. dollar became the global reserve currency under the Bretton Woods monetary system, which lasted from 1944-1971. This arrangement ended because foreign central banks accumulated unsustainably large reserves of U.S. Treasuries, threatening price stability and the purchasing power of the dollar. Today, central banks are once again stockpiling massive Treasury reserves in an attempt to manage their currency values and gain advantages in export markets. We have, effectively, returned to Bretton Woods. The trouble is, as Guggenheim's Scott Minerd notes, that the arrangement is as unsustainable today as it was during the middle of the last century. None of this should come as a surprise given the unorthodox growth of central bank balance sheets around the world. The collapse of Bretton Woods in 1971 caused a decade of economic malaise and negative real returns for financial assets. Can anyone afford to wait to find out whether this time will be different?
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.
We have mentioned the little-known Belgian economist's works a couple of times previously (here and here) with regard his exposing the serious flaws in the Bretton Woods monetary system and perfectly predicting it's inevitable demise. Triffin's 'Dilemma' was that when one nation's currency also becomes the world's reserve asset, eventually domestic and international monetary objectives diverge. Have you ever wondered how it's possible that the USA has run a trade deficit for 37 consecutive years? Have you ever considered the consequences on the value of your Dollar denominated assets if it eventually becomes an unacceptable form of payment to our trading partners? Thankfully for those of us trying to navigate the current financial morass, Robert Triffin did. Triffin's endgame is simple. A rapid diversification of reserves out of the dollar by foreign central banks. The blueprint for this alternative has been in plain sight since the late 1990's, and if you watch what central banks do – not what they say – you can benefit.
- Romney dominates presidential debate (FT)
- What Romney’s Debate Victory Means (Bloomberg)
- Obama Lead Shrinks in Two Battlegrounds (WSJ)
- "Everything will fall apart unless the Spanish conditions are extremely tough" German policy-maker (Telegraph)
- Draghi Stares at Spain as Brinkmanship Keeps ECB Waiting (Bloomberg)
- RBS facing loss after Spanish property firm collapse (Telegraph)
- Burdened by Old Mortgages, Banks Are Slow to Lend Now (WSJ)
- The Woman Who Took the Fall for JPMorgan Chase (NYT)
- European Banks Told to Hold On to $258 Billion of Fresh Capital (Bloomberg)
- Europe Weighs More Sanctions as Iran’s Currency Plummets (Bloomberg)
For the third day in a row, there is little to write home about from the overnight action. The EURUSD has been choppy following an MNI report about comments from EU officials that suggested Germany wants to delay the Troika decision on a €31.5 billion payment to Greece until after the November 12 Eurozone finmin meeting, no doubt predicated by the already discussed willingness by Europe to not rock the boat before Obama is reelected, still leaving the question hanging: just why is an entire insolvent continent so hung up on a US presidential decision. The main FX market focus is on the European Central Bank rate decision, due at 1145GMT. The ECB is widely expected to leave rates on hold just as the BOE did moments ago (it needs to hurry up if it wants to win the race to debase) although in the New Normal one can't be sure of anything. In other news Spain auctioned off a much needed €3.99 billion in various short-term bonds, the bulk of which fell under the LTRO maturity umbrella, but which was successful nonetheless if with modestly weaker short-end results, and an overall bitter aftertaste as seen by the resumption in Spanish 10 year widening, as the entire market, not to mention Draghi, is starting to get very impatient with Rajoy, who is now even getting urged by Catalonia's Arturo Mas to finally bite the bullet and demand a bailout (and resign shortly thereafter): "A bailout is inevitable; therefore the best thing to do is to make the decision without delay,” Mas said. “Spain has the potential to overcome the situation, but it will need assistance for some time." Recall that Spain's cash needs in October surge so every single successful euro raised is more than critical.
Even now, after the Chinese economy has consistently disappointed everyone, we still get the impression from market participants that it will all be fine in the end, because the Chinese government know what they are doing, and all they need is to let the floodgate of money open. Whenever a bad data point comes out, the market interprets that as more easing ahead, and it will most certainly save the economy. If only running the Chinese economy is that easy. Every growth engine of the Chinese economy is failing, and there is only one thing which can sustain these failing engines for longer, which is government stimulus, and whether the government is actually willing to deploy massive stimulus that is questionable.
Today's ZH articles in audio summary! "I remember 9/11 quite clearly. I was only a small tower at the time..." 8pm Everyday @ New York Time.
America's July trade deficit came in slightly better than expected, printing at $42 billion, compared to expectations of $44.4 billion, on exports of $183.3 billion and imports of $225.3 billion, which was to be expected in light of the ongoing drop in Chinese net trade surplus. After all global trade is a zero sum game. The better than expected number was an increase from the revised July deficit of -$41.9 billion, revised lower from $42.9 billion in June. And while GDP beancounter calculations will generate slightly higher Q3 GDP forecasts as a result of the number and revision, the reason for the "improvement" is an ongoing contraction in global trade, which is anything but favorable for the world's economies for which any diversion from a status quo M.O. means longer-term pain.
Equities traded lower in Europe today as market participants continued to book profits after a rally to 13-month highs on growing concerns that even though the Constitutional Court in Germany will dismiss the injunction, it may enforce certain conditions. In addition to that, yesterday’s comments from Spain’s Rajoy who said that the new ECB backstop makes a bailout for his country less urgent. As a result, there is a risk that markets may scale back their expectations of an imminent full-scale bailout and in turn lead to another speculative attack on Spanish bonds. This, together with touted profit taking, saw the short-end in Spain and Italy come under pressure (2y Spanish yield up 8bps and 2y Italian yield up 7bps). In turn, this supported duration assets throughout the session. Looking elsewhere, the looming elections failed to deter investors from the latest DSL tap, which drew a record low yield. Going forward, the second half of the session will see the release of the latest Trade Balance data from the US, as well as the weekly API report. In addition to that, the US Treasury will sell USD 32bln in 3y notes.
A world of ongoing global integration leads to rising global trade and to rising competition between companies from different countries and to some degree also between the countries themselves. Some countries have benefited from rising global trade and strengthened their positions, expressed by rising trade surplus; other countries have come under pressure, expressed by rising trade deficit. These global trade imbalances are a consequence of competitive differences. Deutsche Bank note that investors invest in companies and the countries are the platform of the companies. Therefore, an understanding of global competiveness of countries is key for investors. It is most helpful to look at the combination of competiveness and hourly wages. The more competitive a country is, the higher its wages can be justified. There is a clear relation between the two variables. Countries below the regression curve have a strong competiveness rank relative to their labour costs while countries above the curve have a lower competiveness rank relative to their labour costs. Greece is one of the most extreme outliers, but Italy, Spain, and Argentina are also above the curve. They have a long way to go to get close to competitive - but then again - why would they care?