As markets replay the same identical reaction to the same identical Greek news that we saw back on July 21, 2011 (and we all know where that went), something else entirely and more troubling is going on behind the scenes. Because as the world was transfixed on regurgitated news out of Greece, which will without a shadow of a doubt end up with a far worse 2020 debt/GDP scenario than the IMF's downside case per the sustainability report (first posted in its entirety here on Zero Hedge last night, and which assumes just a 1% decline in Greek 2013 GDP), China just escalated currency wars into outright trade wars. Because as China Daily reports, "Chinese exports are set to get a tax boost." Translated: even as China pushes the CNY higher in infinitesimal and irrelevant increments to appease US Congress, it has just taken out the trade stimulus bazooka. Why? "Export tax rebates will be increased this year in response to an export decline triggered by the European debt crisis. The move, which Commerce Ministry officials said will be implemented when the time is appropriate, will be the first increase since 2009." Still think Europe is fixed? China's answer: nope.
History is replete with the carcasses of failed currencies destroyed through misguided intentional debasement by governments looking for an easy escape from piling up too much debt. James Rickards, author of the recent bestseller Currency Wars: The Making of the Next Global Crisis, sees history repeating itself today - and warns we are in the escalating stage of a global currency war of the grandest scale. Whether it ends in hyperinflation, in the return to some form of gold standard, or in chaos - history is telling us we can have confidence it will end painfully.
Labor Unions Demand Escalation Of Trade War With China, Ask Obama To Restrict Chinese Auto Part ImportsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/31/2012 15:52 -0400
Because the last time the administration got involved in the car space the results were so positive (for the unions if not so much for creditors), it appears we may be approaching another episode where central planning will make the decisions in the US auto space. Only this time instead of creditors, the impaired party will be China. Reuters reports: "Midwestern U.S. lawmakers and union groups on Tuesday urged President Barack Obama to restrict imports of auto parts from China that they said benefited from massive illegal subsidies and threatened hundreds of thousands of American jobs. "We need to stand up to the bully on the block," U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat, said, referring to Beijing. "The bully on the block continues to take our lunch money and we need to stop that," she said." Odd - China was not complaining when the Obama administration was providing massive subsidies (whether or not illegal remains to be seen - surely Holder is all over it) to the solar and other "green" industries. In other words, just like Solyndra and Ener1, who are merely the first of many artificially subsidized entities, provided such great if highly transitory results for US employment, let's recreate the experiment at the wholesale level, by implicit subsidies and while also angering America's biggest creditor. Something tells us this proposal has a definite probability of passing. In the meantime, central planning for everyone.
Overall, there are both internal structural factors and external global factors, which contribute to the making of an epic hard landing in China. China will be really vulnerable when the US and Europe both unleash the quantitative easing. These are things China has no control of. Nevertheless, the best China can do to avoid the worst is to continue the painful structural adjustment: marketize the “big four”-dominated banking industry to allow for more efficient monetary allocation; Transform the labor intensive low value-added economy to the high value-added knowledge economy; reform the wealth redistribution system to empower the broad consumer base and honor its promise of a consumption-led economy.
While the US enjoys the luxury provided by the dollar’s world currency status and diplomatic alliance with many major trade partners to export its liquidity and inflation, China enjoys none of that. They should look at the dollars in their hands with fear and doubt. So called Beijing consensus makes little sense, because the world is fast changing, pegging a country’s growth to a certain set of policy tools or a certain reserve currency (the US dollar) is equally dangerous. The battle between Keynes and Friedman has long proven the only consensus is to adapt and change. Right now China needs to adapt and change fast. Or this will be the best time in history to short China.
Those attempting to pressure Iran by increasing "tensions" and thus the price of oil have it precisely backwards. The one sure way to fatally destabilize the Iranian theocracy is to adjust the demand and supply of oil so the price plummets (as it did in December 2008) to $25/barrel, and stays there for at least six months. It has been estimated that the Iranian theocracy cannot fund its bloated bureaucracies, military and its welfare state if oil falls below around $40-$45/barrel. Drop oil to $25/barrel and keep it there, and the Iranian regime will implode, along with the Chavez regime in Venezuela. Saber-rattling actually aids the Iranian regime by artificially injecting a "disruptive war" premium into the price of oil: they can make the same profits from fewer barrels of oil. The way to put them out of business is drop the price of oil and restrict their sales by whatever means are available. They will be selling fewer barrels and getting less than production costs for those barrels. With no income, the regime will face the wrath of a people who have become dependent on the State for their sustenance and subsidized fuel. How do you drop oil to $25/barrel? Easy: stop saber-rattling in the mideast and engineer a massive global recession with a side order of low-level trade war. Though you wouldn't know it from the high price of oil, the world is awash in oil; storage facilities are full, and production has actually increased a bit in North America.
Yesterday, the fine folks of Tradition Analytics were kind enough to explain (once again) just how it is that the Fed has boxed itself into a corner, where in order to maintain the already outlierish growth rate of monetary supply, the Fed will have no choice but to print (same with the ECB), or else risk a massive economic collapse (thank you Austrian theory). Today, the same group provides an update on what everyone knows has been the status quo's only way of dealing with the deleveraging tsunami since March 18, 2009: currency warfare. In the note below, they provide a recap of the recent history of FX warfare, as well as an update of where we stand currently. Keep in mind, currency warfare only works to a point. Then it escalates into other, more violent forms, first trade wars, then real ones.
- Merkel Mired by Woes That May Deter Crisis Effort (Bloomberg)
- Trade wars accelerate: China set to tax US-made car imports (FT)
- Bernanke Tells Senators Federal Reserve Has No Plan to Aid European Banks (Bloomberg)
- Cameron rules out putting extra €30bn into IMF (FT)
- Inside Wukan: the Chinese village that fought back (Telegraph)
- Dems Moving From Insistence on Millionaire Tax (Bloomberg)
- Republicans face voting shake-up (FT)
- Nicolas Sarkozy: David Cameron's like a child (Metro)
- China FDI flows stumble in November as U.S. drags (Reuters)
- Putin Ally Resigns Russian Parliament Post (WSJ)
Since the derivatives and housing market implosion of 2008, America and the rest of the world has been spiraling down a chasm some in this country still refuse to take note of. The question has never been whether there “will be” a full scale financial disaster. The end to that chapter of this story was already written years ago. Rather, the real question has been “when” will this inevitable event culminate? Sadly, speculation on the matter has met an irreconcilable road block. The fact is, all the necessary elements are in place to bring down our fiscal shelter not in five years, not in one year, not in six months, but today. That’s right…..the economy as we know it has the potential to derail completely before you wake up for your morning poptart. Some skeptics might shrug off this statement as mere sensationalism for effect. I wish that were the case. Frankly, I would enjoy writing a little fiction for once. The truth is far too bizarre and disturbing lately. In the case of economics, traditional views and standards have gone completely out the window in a way that I and probably every other analyst in the field have never heard of or encountered. All expectations are now null and void. Manipulation of the marketplace is no longer a subversive and secretive process, but open government and central banking policy! Who could have guessed five years ago, for instance, that U.S. taxpayers would be saddled with bailouts of the EU? Who could have predicted that global stock market psychology would be dominated for over a year by the debt drama of a country as economically insignificant as Greece? And, who could have foreseen that destructive fiat stimulus policies would soon be common knowledge events amongst the citizens of various faltering nations?
The People's Bank of China set the yuan's central parity rate against the U.S. dollar at 6.3737 on Thursday, a second sequential major drop and down from Wednesday's 6.3598. This follows a weakened fixing of 6.3598 on Wednesday, down from the record high fixing of 6.3483 on Tuesday, just before the Senate decided to launch the first salvo in the Sino-US trade wars. Surely news of the collapse in Chinese exports will merely reinforce the theme that the USDCNY is in sudden need of devaluation and be a loud slap in the face of the Senate which will now come face to face with its utter worthlessness. In Hong Kong, the offshore yuan spot rate was fixed at 6.4407 against the greenback on Thursday, compared with Wednesday's 6.4923. The fixing is based on an average of bids from 15 participating banks and is calculated by the Treasury Markets Association, a Hong Kong-based industry group. We are hardly the only ones who noticed the escalation in spot USDCNY wars by the PBOC, which now appears hell bent on showing the US its peg can go lower in addition to higher (inflationary consequences be damned) - from the WSJ: "The yuan fell sharply against the U.S. dollar in early Thursday trade, after the Chinese central bank surprised the market by guiding its currency weaker for the second consecutive day despite the dollar's global weakness." So even as the USD is plunging against the hope-driven Euro, which has soared 600 pips in the past week on nothing, the USD is now jumping against the CNY for no other reason than mere demagogic policy. And this environment in which central bank decisions are all that matter is the one in which traders hope to make a living based on rational market decisions (as otherwise one can flip a coin in Vegas)? Good luck.
We have written extensively over the course of the last few weeks on the increasing rhetoric from Asia over currency fluctuations and furthermore how China was playing the US and Europe off against one another in a quasi-trade-war gambit. A flurry of headlines today/tonight via Bloomberg reminded us to revisit what is also a very worrying trend in Chinese CDS (and more broadly Asian sovereigns), as perhaps sophisticated investors look for the cheapest low cost long vol trades on a non-decoupled world devolving to its lowest common denominator. Between Carney's 'substantially undervalued Yuan' comments, record slides in Dim Sum Bonds, growing concerns over growth longevity, Japanese retail sales, Aussie home prices, Sony's troubles in currency-land, and Barclay's warning of a restart to the Yuan peg in the case of global recession - contagion and transmission channels appear alive and well in global trade.
Nine months after the very same quartet of republicans, headed by John Boehner, sent a letter to Bernanke protesting the launch of QE2, this time the GOP has waited until a mere 24 hours before the actual announcement with an identical, if preemptive, message, namely: don't print, or stated differently, "we submit that the board should resist further extraordinary intervention in the U.S. economy, particularly without a clear articulation of the goals of such a policy, direction for success, ample data proving a case for economic action and quantifiable benefits to the American people." And while the political undertone of the letter is all too obvious: i.e. prevent any additional Obama-benefiting stimulus in the economy through the only conduit Obama has left, courtesy of Fiscal stimulus being snarled for good due to the republican majority in the House, Boehner et al bring up a valid point, which is that the Fed policy now accentuates market uncertainty and promotes trade wars: precisely the topics discussed in an earlier article today. As stated by Boehner: "Our long-term growth depends on restoring confidence and certainty in our fiscal, regulatory, and trade policies -- and not on government’s willingness to engage in additional stimulative measures. When asset prices increase due to anticipated Federal Reserve policy rather than economic fundamentals, it increases the potential for speculative action and erodes confidence in the economic outlook, making it more difficult to generate sustainable growth." Regardless of its actual merit, one thing is without doubt: QE3, and the Fed, just become once again critically politicized, and as such, even more market uncertainty is imminent. All that said, the theatrical optics of this action are quite glaring.
Shrugging off Italy's rating downgrade (somewhat expected but continued negative outlook), funding stress in Europe (Libor levitating and Swiss/French banks divergent), cuts in global growth expectations (IMF and World Bank), concerns over systemic risk contagion (ESRB and World Bank), and escalating rhetoric in Sino-US trade wars, US equities have managed to reach up to Friday's highs as rumors of AAPL being added to the Dow seemed enough for hapless traders. But, like a broken record, we note that the new highs in ES are being accompanied by new lows in 2s10s30s, near day's low yields in TSYs, day's highs in gold and silver, and multi-day lows in copper - all seems to make perfect sense...
Uncertainty. That has become the key word of the day, the month, and of 2011 in general. And while broad uncertainty has manifested itself most notably in the capital markets, it has a far more practical representation in labor markets, where the main reason why employers are not hiring more people, arguably the primary scourge of the Obama administration's record low approval rating, is due to corporate uncertainty about the future: about taxes, about government demanding its pound of flesh when the time comes, and about the economy in general. Ironically, as PIMCO speculates in its daily note authored by Tony Crescenzi, probably the primary driver of global uncertainty is the increasingly uncoordinated response by monetary policy authorities (read Central Banks) in which where before all had cooperated in the global game theory, now increasingly it is every printer for himself, as the default response turns to one of defection. And as everyone who has studied Game Theory knows, it is only the first defection that provides the biggest return, with each subsequent act generating far less benefits to the uncooperative actor, forcing even more uncooperative irrationality, and so on in a toxic spiral until outright belligerent action develops. For now said belligerence has begun to manifest itself in plain vanilla trade wars, such as that pointed out last night with the Chinese response to Europe's lack of response to its "bailout" overtures, and following up with the just announced complaint filed by the US against China on chicken prices. Naturally this is just the beginning. The real concern is that where trade wars end (which in turn begin when FX wars end), real ones start. When a year ago we first branded the Chairsatan as "genocidal" we were mostly joking. Perhaps it is time to reevaluate our definition, as it is far less comical under the current environment. Here is what Pimco has to say on the issue.
While last night's quid-pro-quo from Chinese officials will likely be remembered as the start of escalating trade wars, Wikileaks has uncovered a declassified cable from John Huntsman indicating China's clear understanding of the growing tension and comprehension of the ability of the US to entirely destroy it economically with one swipe of the Presidential pen via a massive devaluation of the USD or repegging to gold. Choice quotes include: "The U.S. has almost used all deterring means, besides military means, against China. ", "United States is determined to beggar thy neighbor", "Chinese must be very clear what the key to victory is. It is by no means to use new foreign exchange reserves to buy U.S. Treasury bonds.", and "[when] the new U.S. dollar is pegged to the gold - we will be dumbfounded."
When in doubt, recycle... In this case the rumor that China would bail out Europe is about to get second billing. From Bloomberg, quoting Wen Jiabao at the Dalian World Economic Forum:
- WEN SAYS CHINA WILL CONTINUE TO INCREASE INVESTMENT IN EUROPE
- WEN SAYS CHINA IS WILLING TO EXTEND HELP TO EUROPE
Granted, nothing new here, and it simply means that China will be happy to buy European assets at firesale prices and invest in 20%+ IRR projects, but the algos, which have not yet seen this news, are expected to kneejerk higher, regardless of how short the latest intervention halflife will be (recall that China already has sizable investment in Greece, Portugal, the EFSF and the EUR). Call it what it is - doubling down, all over again. That said, the bailout for Europe will not come free, and once that realization hits the market, this may have a completely opposite reaction that the one intended...