After being solidly ignored for weeks, suddenly the Scottish independence referendum is all anyone can talk about, manifesting itself in a plunge in the GBPUSD which ha slide over 100 pips in the past 24 hours, adding to the slide over the past week, and is now just above 1.61, the lowest since November 2013. In fact, the collapse of the unionist momentum has managed to push back overnight news from Ukraine, major Russian sanction escalations, Japan GDP as well as global trade data on the back burner. Speaking of global trade, with both China and Germany reporting a record trade surplus overnight, with the US trade deficit declining recently, and with not a single country in the past several month reporting of an increase in imports, one wonders just which planet in the solar system (or beyond) the world, which once again finds itself in a magical global trade surplus position, is exporting to?
If the US equity market's reaction to the worst jobs data of 2014 is anything to go on; Japanese stocks should be a double overnight given the catastrophe that just printed. While the initial prints for the post-tax-hike period were bad enough (record worst levels in most cases), the revsions are even worse. Drum roll please: 1) Trade balance miss, worst in 4 months; 2) GDP -7.1% miss, revised down, worst since Q1 2009; 3) Business Spending/Capex -5.1% miss, revised down, worst since Q2 2009; and 4) Consumer Spending -5.3% miss, revised down, worst on record. But apart from that, as the Japanese leaders noted last week, "the recovery is heading in the right direction."
After several months of disappointing trade data which dragged on GDP for the past two quarters, the July trade balance finally was a welcome beat of already low expectations, printing at a deficit of $40.5, better than the $42.4 billion expected, and an improvement from the downward revised deficit of $40.8 billion in July. The deficit declined as exports increased more than imports. The goods deficit decreased $0.2 billion from June to $60.2 billion in July; the services surplus was nearly unchanged from June at $19.6 billion. And yet, even as the deficit contracted, the trade balance excluding the shale revolution, has almost never been worse.
Well into the second year of Abenomics, doubts have risen about the effectiveness of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s approach of boosting economic growth and overcoming deflation via “three arrows” of monetary, fiscal, and structural policy. Yet another set of disappointing data recently released for July has reinforced these doubts. As several key turning points approach before year-end, whether Abenomics will succeed or stumble is at the forefront of most traders' minds (whether they understand that or not). In the interest of some context for just how far Japan has fallen, we present 145 years of growth and XX-flation for the Japanese economy... one might argue that 'lost decade' or two is generous...
There is much hope pinned on continuing economic recovery in the United States despite a deterioration of the global economy virtually everywhere else. While it was not surprising to see a bounce back in activity after a contractionary first quarter, there are several economic data points that suggest that sustainability of the bounce is unlikely. Expectations are very likely well ahead of reality at the current time. This increases the risk of disappointment in the months and quarters ahead which could be a negative for the markets.
Any day, week, month, year now... Japan's adjusted trade balance missed expectations by the most since October 2013 (back over a JPY1 trillion deficit) as the QQE-ing, j-curve-any-minute-now nation awaits the arrival of the competitive pickup for the 40th month in a row. Exports beat expectations (which we are sure will be the headline crowed about by all) but imports surged by 2.3% (against expectations of a 1.5% drop). It appears you single-handedly devalue yourself to prosperity in an interconnected world after all - whocouldanode? As we said before, "Monetary debasement does NOT result in an economic recovery, because no nation can force another to pay for its recovery."
Non-ideologically laden overview of the key issues shaping the investment climate in the week ahead.
Back in the early 1990s, the North American Free Trade Agreement was one of the hottest political issues in the country. When he was running for president in 1992, Bill Clinton promised that NAFTA would result in an increase in the number of high quality jobs for Americans that it would reduce illegal immigration. Ross Perot warned that just the opposite would happen. He warned that if NAFTA was implemented there would be a "giant sucking sound" as thousands of businesses and millions of jobs left this country. Most Americans chose to believe Bill Clinton. Well, it is 20 years later and it turns out that Perot was right and Clinton was dead wrong. But now history is repeating itself, and most Americans don't even realize that it is happening. As you will read about at the end of this article, Barack Obama has been negotiating a secret trade treaty that is being called "NAFTA on steroids", and if Congress adopts it we could lose millions more good paying jobs.
It appears the pain that Europe is already suffering post-Russian sanctions, is too much to bear (as we explained here). While NATO admits it saw Russian military forces cross the Ukraine border, European leaders, after discussions on widespread 'aid' for nations suffering from Russia's food ban, have said they are 'ready to review Russia sanctions' if the situation stabilizes. Furthermore, snubbing Washington, European leaders said they do not want to impose more sanctions on Russia. Obama alone again?
Empires are not the result of conscious thought; they happen when a group is large enough and powerful enough to impose itself on others. But empires are expensive. They are typically financed by theft and forced tribute. The imperial power conquers... steals... and then requires that its subjects pay “taxes” so that it can protect them. The US never got the hang of it. It conquers. But it loses money on each conquest. How does it sustain itself? With debt.
The West's leaders are full of lawyers, Putin is ex-KGB. If ever there was an example of him playing chess while the West plays checkers, the following chart is it. Despite Western protestations that its sanctions will hurt Russia more than Europe this morning, one look at Europe's huge net trade balance with Russia for food and it's clear who is really going to feel the pain. As Martin Armstrong noted previously, "Putin has responded to [Western] sanctions as any really smart chess-player would - you get the supporters of your adversary to jump-ship." What better way to crack the 'stop-Putin' alliance than to force Europe into trade deficits and squeeze their economies (especially Germany)?
Moments ago the BEA reported that the June trade deficit (which is the last month of Q2 GDP) came in $3 billion better than expected, declining from $44.7 billion to $41.5 billion, beating consensus $44.8 billion, as exports increased and imports decreased. The previously published May deficit was $44.4 billion. The goods deficit decreased $3.0 billion from May to $60.3 billion in June; the services surplus increased $0.1 billion from May to $18.7 billion in June. But perhaps most importantly, the trade deficit excluding the shale boom, i.e., America's reduced petroleum import needs which may last for a few more years before shale oil too is exhausted - just printed close to record highs. In other words, US trade ex oil is about as bad as it has ever been!
Ever since going public, it appears that Markit's giddyness about life has spilled over into its manufacturing surveys: after a surge in recent Markit mfg exuberance in recent months in the US, it was first China's turn overnight to hit an 18 month high, slamming expectations and fixing the bitter taste in the mouth left by another month of atrocious Japan trade data (where even Goldman has thrown in the towel on Abenomics now) following which the euphoria spilled over to Europe just as the triple-dip recession warnings had started to grow ever louder and most economists have been making a strong case for ECB QE. Instead, German July mfg PMI printed at 52.9, above the 52.0 in June and above the 51.9 expected while the Composite blasted higher to 55.9, from 54.0, and above the 53.8 expected thanks to the strongest Service PMI in 37 months! End result: a blended Eurozone manufacturing PMI rising from 51.8 to 51.9, despite expectations of a modest decline while the Composite rose from 52.8 to 54.0, on expectations of an unchanged print. Curiously the soft survey data took place as Retail Sales declined both in Italy (-0.7%, Exp. +0.2%), and the UK (-0.1%, Exp. 0.3%), which incidentally was blamed on "hot weather." Perhaps Markit, now that it has IPOed successfully, can step off the gas or at least lobby to have surveys become part of GDP.
While we have again and again explained why Abenomics is ultimately doomed as you simply cannot print your way to prosperity (a message The Fed appears to be discovering rapidly), when Goldman Sachs unleashes an Abenomics-bashing piece, one has to wonder just what options Abe has left as economic data starts to collapse (and approval ratings drop just as fast). Simply put, as we concluded before, "Monetary debasement does NOT result in an economic recovery, because no nation can force another to pay for its recovery... Eventually the monetary debasement raises all costs and this initial benefit to exporters vanishes. Then the country is left with a depleted capital base and a higher price level. What a great policy!"
- Carl Icahn says 'time to be cautious' on U.S. stocks (Reuters)
- Banco Espirito Santo Lifts Lid on Exposure to Group (BBG)
- Slowing Customer Traffic Worries U.S. Retailers (WSJ)
- Insurgents enter military base northeast of Baghdad (Reuters)
- Obama tells Israel U.S. ready to help end hostilities (Reuters)
- Japan economics minister warns of premature QE exit, sees room for more easing (Reuters)
- Greek Banks See Quadrupling of Housing Loans by Next Year (BBG) ... to fund buybacks like in the US?
- Piggy Banks Being Raided Signal Swedish Housing Dilemma (BBG)
- London Seeks New Spenders as Russians Skip $719 Champagne (BBG)