The concept of the "Fed Put" is about to be tested.
China’s GDP will almost certainly soon surpass America’s in absolute terms. The end of the unipolar era will create new dangers that the world mustn’t overlook. China’s relative rise and the United States’ relative decline carries significant risks, for the rest of the world probably more so than for Americans. Odds are, the world will be worse off if China and especially others reach parity with the U.S. in the coming years. This isn’t to say America is necessarily as benign a hegemon as some in the U.S. claim it to be. Regardless of your opinion on U.S. global leadership over the last two decades, however, there is good reason to fear its relative decline compared with China and other emerging nations. To begin with, hegemonic transition periods have historically been the most destabilizing eras in history.
In the last year Bitcoin has gone 'viral'. As ConvergEx's Nick Colas notes, a lot has happened in 2013: Price appreciation, yes, from $20 to +$800 – the result of this online “Currency” going from science project to mainstream topic. Volatility too – disruptive technologies seldom travel a level path. The story, Colas notes, is about to change, and there are three critical gates which bitcoin must navigate in the New Year. First is regulation, and we will get a good dose of that next Tuesday and Wednesday when the New York State Department of Financial Services holds hearings on bitcoin and potentially issuing a ‘Bitlicense’ to help regulate business which transact in the currency. Second is adoption – how will existing businesses incorporate bitcoin into their sales, marketing and payment channels. Lastly will be volatility, which will have to come down in 2014 to encourage broader use.
Have you been paying attention to what has been happening in Argentina, Venezuela, Brazil, Ukraine, Turkey and China? If you are like most Americans, you have not been. Most Americans don't seem to really care too much about what is happening in the rest of the world, but they should. In major cities all over the globe right now, there is looting, violence, shortages of basic supplies, and runs on the banks. We are not at a "global crisis" stage yet, but things are getting worse with each passing day. Many have felt that 2014 could turn out to be a major "turning point" for the global economy, and so far that is exactly what it is turning out to be. The following are 20 early warning signs that we are rapidly approaching a global economic meltdown...
Once upon a time, the only CME margin hike releases the investing population cared about were those for gold (because no matter how high the E-Mini went, the CME never seemed too bothered). Now, the CME has more "important" things to worry about - such as preventing the "heating bill shock" that will come in February when the majority of the population opens their electricity and heating statements for January (sorry, there goes the discretionary retail spending cash). And of course, the ongoing deterioration of the emerging markets, in this case led by Turkey and the absolute collapse in the Turkish Lira. Which is why about an hour ago, the CME decided to hike both TRY (to the USD and EUR) and Nat Gas margins, by 14 and 20% respectively. Will this normalize some of the vol seen around these products on Monday remains to be seen. Oh well, if not - the CME can just hike some more the same day, until it gets the desired outcome.
Following yesterday's early morning surge when gold jumped $30 from the low $1230, on news that India may relax its gold capital controls, today's sharp spike follow through is more a function of ongoing emerging market currency devaluation and overall risk-offness hitting equities around the globe. And with Bitcoin going nowhere even as both Turkey and Argentina continue to turmoil, it means there is only one good old faithful fiat-alternative - the barbarous relic. Sure enough, at last check, gold was trading north of $1270, back to levels last seen in November, and one sovereign default away from soaring a few hundred fiat equivalents higher. And since all hopes now rest on more BOJ easing (or else watch out below), and more of the same pent up inflation, we may have seen recent lows in gold for quite some time, especially with Gartman once again openly "hating" gold.
It's Risk Off time.
Things got really out of control, and the USDJPY plunged by some 150 pips in the matter of hours, plunging as low as 102, when EM revulsion once again hit participants, in particular TRY and ARS which also supported bid tone in USTs. This also saw spot TRY rate print fresh record high, while 5y Turkish CDS rate advanced to its highest level since June 2012, while at the same time Argentina announced it would life currency controls and dollar purchases in the aftermath of the ARS devaluation by 13%. And since everything tracks the JPY carry pair as we have been showing for the past year, futures once again plunged overnight, for now held by 1810 support, Treasurys are bid throughout, with the same treasury yields that have "no where to go but up" sliding to 2.71% from 2.87% at the beginning of the week, while gold is finally spiking as the realization that absolutely nothing has been fixed, that apparently nobody got the taper is priced in memo, and that soon the Fed will have to untaper, begins to spread. Are the central planners finally starting to lose control?
With chatter that over $3 billion has been thrown into the FX market to buy Turkish Lira, it appears the central bank is losing control quickly and Turkish stocks are tumbling. The Turkish Lira collapse almost 400 pips this morning to around 2.30 to the USD - an all-time record low as the combination of corruption, social unrest, and Fed taper are seeing hot money outflows faster than the Turkish Central bank can keep control.
*TURKISH LIRA WEAKENS PAST 3.15 AGAINST EURO; WEAKENS TO NEW RECORD 2.3029 PER DOLLAR
This is the biggest tumble in the Lira in almost 5 months as the Istanbul 100 (stocks) drops 2.9% - its biggest drop in a month; and Turkish bond yields are backing up to 2-year highs.
"What will drive this "strength"? More of the same I suspect – any weakness in earnings will be ignored (virtually all of last year's equity market gains were NOT earnings or revenue growth driven, but were rather virtually all multiple expansion driven), any bad economic data will be ignored – the weather provides a great cover, and instead markets will I think see (one last?) reason to cheer the Fed and/or the BOJ and/or the ECB and/or the PBoC.... The only real "success" of these current policies is to create significant investment distortions and misallocations of capital, at the expense of the broad real economy, leading to excessive speculation and financial engineering. If I am right about the final outcome over 2014 and into 2015, the non-systemic three-year bear market of early 2000 to early 2003 may well be a better "template". Of course the S&P lost virtually the same amount peak-to-trough in both bear markets, and in real (as opposed to nominal) terms actually lost more in the 2000/03 sell-off than in the 2007/09 crash." -Bob Janjuah
Simple: it reassigned, or fired, all the investigators and police officers.
Despite Erdogan's paranoia over "an interest rate" lobby or blaming the Lira's collapse on the Fed, as Gavekal's Nick Andrews notes, Turkey is showing no signs of stabilization. As the sell-side scrambles to explain how this is all priced in and "contained," it is very apparent from the following chart just how vulnerable to contagion the world is if Turkey defaults. The country's liabilities have multipled dramatically in recent years with over $350 billion of foreign bank exposure to Turkey on an ultimate risk basis.
"It is wrong to link [the Turkish Lira's] fall to the corruption probe," blasted Turkey's Prime Minister Erdogan, explaining that the Lira's fall "is linked to the Federal Reserve's actions." Since the taper was announced the Lira has collapsed over 12%, trading at 2.269 to the USD, a record low for the troubled nation's currency. Of course, the timing is useful for the PM to explain his nation's demise (as it is also proving a good excuse for Thailand - with massive outflows amid its riots; and Ukraine) but it seems the problems on the streets of Turkey are anything but going away. Today's drop in the Lira (the 7th in a row) follows a somewhat surprising "disastrous for their credibility" decision by the Turkish Central Bank to leave rates unchanged (and still warn of inflation).
- Hilsenrath: Next Cut in Fed Bond Buys Looms - Reduction to $65 Billion Could Be Announced on Jan. 29 (WSJ)
- China Workforce Slide Robs Xi of Growth Engine (BBG)
- Obama pulls the race card: Obama Says Race May Blunt Poll Standing in Interview (BBG)
- Chinese firm's IPO deal switches banks as chairman's daughter moves from JPMorgan to UBS (SCMP)
- China and Russia may hold joint naval drill in the Mediterranean (RT)
- Iran invite to Syria talks withdrawn after boycott threat (Reuters)
- Seven Chinese IPOs Halt Trading After 44 Percent Share (BBG)
- U.S. military says readying plans for Olympic security assistance (Reuters)
- Thank you Bernanke: Investors Most Upbeat in 5 Years With Record 59% Bullish in Poll (BBG)
- From His Refuge in the Poconos, Reclusive Imam Fethullah Gulen Roils Turkey (WSJ)
One of the bigger stories overnight is Hilsenrath's latest communication from the Fed which once again simply paraphrases the status quo opinion, namely which is that the Fed will taper by another $10 billion on January 29, reducing the total monthly flow to $65 billion. "The Federal Reserve is on track to trim its bond-buying program for the second time in six weeks as a lackluster December jobs report failed to diminish the central bank's expectations for solid U.S. economic growth this year, according to interviews with officials and their public comments." Of course, should the Fed not do that, as the Hilsenrath turned to Hilsen-wrath after all those Taper rumors in September ended up being one giant dud, one can once and for all completely ignore the WSJ reporter, who will have lost all his Fed sources and is now merely an echo chamber of consensus. What is notable is that the result of the latest mouthpiece effort, the USD is stronger, which means USDJPY is higher, which means US equity futures are flying.... on less QE to be announced. We eagerly await for this particular correlation pair to finally flip. The other big story, of course, is the already noted well-telegraphed in advance PBOC liquidity injection ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year, and ahead of a potential January 31 Trust default which will certainly shake the foundations of the Chinese shadow banking system to the core. Not helping nerves was last night's announcement by Zhang Ming, a researcher and director of the international investment department at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, that "trusts and shadow banking will see defaults this year, and this is a good thing." Let's circle back in 6 months to see just how good it is.
A common argument that has been made to explain the precipitous decline of the price of precious metals in 2013 (in spite of the significat demand for the physical bullion) is of investors’ disenchantment with gold and silver, which had been piling up in exchange traded products as a way for investors to gain exposure to the metals. However if redemptions are a symptom of investors' disenchantment with precious metals as an investment, shouldn't silver have suffered the same dramatic redemptions fate as gold? Indeed it should have, but we think the reason silver ETFs were not raided like gold was that Central Banks do not have a silver supply problem, they have a gold problem...