A recent article at the BBC discusses the findings of a report by EU Home Affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem on corruption in the EU. According to the report, the cost of corruption in the EU amounts to €120 billion annually. We would submit that it is likely far more than that (in fact, even Ms. Malmstroem herself concurs with this assessment). This is of course what one gets when one installs vast, byzantine bureaucracies and issues a veritable flood of rules and regulations every year. More and more people are needed to administer this unwieldy nightmare of red tape, and naturally the quality of the hires declines over time due to the sheer numbers required. And that is merely what they actually know about...One gets an inkling of how big the problem may really be when considering the case of Greece.
While infamous ruler-user Laszlo Birinyi does note that "this market is not going to be like last year," he remains full bulltard as to where stocks are headed. As Bloomberg notes, Birinyi says stocks have too much momentum to make betting against them a winning strategy and the S&P will hit 1,900 by the end of the second quarter. "Short sellers have probably learned their lesson," he squeaks adding thatthe current pullback signals "healthy skepticism that sets the stage for more gains." One question - how was momentum in 1929? 1987? 1999? or 2007?
How quickly emerging markets’ fortunes have turned. Not long ago, they were touted as the salvation of the world economy – the dynamic engines of growth that would take over as the economies of the United States and Europe sputtered. Economists at Citigroup, McKinsey, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and elsewhere were predicting an era of broad and sustained growth from Asia to Africa. But now the emerging-market blues are back. This is not the first time that developing countries have been hit hard by abrupt mood swings in global financial markets. The surprise is that we are surprised. Economists, in particular, should have learned a few fundamental lessons long ago...
The most notable event in this traditionally quiet post-payrolls week is Janet Yellen's Humphrey Hawkins testimony before Congress set for mid-week. In terms of economic data releases, the US retail sales (Exp. 0.05%) is on Thursday and consumer sentiment survey is on Friday (consensus 80.5). We also have IP numbers from Euro Area countries and the US. Most recent external account statistics are released from Japan, China, India and Turkey. It is also interesting to track CPI data in Germany, Spain and India, given the ECB and RBI currently face diverging inflation challenges and may be forced into further action. Finally, we have Q4 GDP data from the Euro Area economies (Friday).
UBS' George Magnus believes the next global economic "crisis"' lightning rod will be the emerging markets and as Jim Rogers tells BoomBust's Erin Ade in this brief interview, "the emerging market crisis has only just begun." While Rogers is careful to add that there are lots of emerging markets - "some better than others;" he warns that "there are some serious problems out there and they are going to get worse." Who is to blame? The Fed, of course - "by driving rates so low and providing as much liquidity as anyone in the world could want, the EMs have borrowed to cover up their real problems... be worried."
No-one knows for sure how big a problem China's economy will eventually face due to the massive credit and money supply growth that has occurred in recent years and no-one know when exactly it will happen either. There have been many dire predictions over the years, but so far none have come true. And yet, it is clear that there is a looming problem of considerable magnitude that won't simply go away painlessly. The greatest credit excesses have been built up after 2008, which suggests that there can be no comfort in the knowledge that 'nothing has happened yet'. Given China's importance to the global economy, it seems impossible for this not to have grave consequences for the rest of the world, in spite of China's peculiar attributes in terms of government control over the economy and the closed capital account.
Turkey scrambled an F-16 fighter jet following a bomb-threat aboard a Ukraine-outbound plane. A passenger, among 110 on the plane, made a bomb threat and demanded the plane be diverted to Sochi. The plane eventually landed in Istanbul - after crew calmed down the man who had reportedly been drinking. This threat follows the US' warning of "toothpaste" bombs.
Having benefited from the earlier QE-un-taper hope, the Turkish Lira is dropping rapidly following the move by S&P to put Turky on negative outlook:
- *TURKEY'S OUTLOOK TO NEGATIVE FROM STABLE BY S&P
- *S&P SEES RISKS OF HARD ECONOMIC LANDING IN TURKEY
Furthermore, the ratings agency raising questions over the Central Bank:
- *TURKEY SUFFERING EROSION OF GOVERNANCE STANDARDS, S&P SAYS
- *TURKEY SUFFERING EROSION OF CHECKS AND BALANCES, S&P SAYS
- *CONSTRAINTS ON TURKEY CENBANK INDEPENDENCE: S&P.
The taper program distances the bankers from responsibility for crisis in our financial framework, at least in the eyes of the general public. If a market calamity takes place while stimulus measures are still at full speed, this makes the banks look rather guilty, or at least incompetent. People would begin to question the validity of central bank methods, and they might even question the validity of the central bank’s existence. The Fed is creating space between itself and the economy because they know that a trigger event is coming. They want to ensure that they are not blamed and that stimulus itself is not seen as ineffective, or seen as the cause. We all know that the claims of recovery are utter nonsense. The taper is not in response to an improving economic environment. Rather, the taper is a signal for the next stage of collapse. The real reason stocks and other indicators are stumbling is because the effectiveness of stimulus manipulation has a shelf life, and that shelf life is over for the Federal Reserve.
"Remember that Adolf Hitler used the same methods when he rose to power," opposition leader Hasan Oren blasts as Turkish PM Erdogan as the Turkish parliament has approved a bill that would tighten government controls over the internet. As The BBC reports, the new law allows the government to block websites without first seeking a court ruling. "Now you are implementing fascism," Oren goes on, despite promises of "enhancing democracy in Turkey" when Erdogan was elected. The Erdogan government had already restricted access to "the scourge of Twitter" and Facebook's "menace to society," but this latest step dismisses any legal limits or restrictions.
It would seem, in the case of momo-chasing levered fast-money flows, that Propertius was correct - "fickleness has always befriended the beautiful..." and Japanese stocks are no longer the once beautiful trend that Abe had promised them to be. A tapering of the US flow; a ripple across the bow of emerging markets; and suddenly Kyle Bass' sarcastically-named "macro tourists" are running for exits as Shakespeare himself once wrote, "was ever feather so lightly blown to and fro as this multitude." Historical quotations aside, the last time flow swung so violently negative, the Nikkei ended up losing 55% in the next 18 months. We love the smell of nay-sayers in the morning...
Triffin’s Dilemma is that the country that issues the world’s reserve currency will have to choose between:
1 ) running a trade deficit in perpetuity - risking of a loss of confidence in its currency and solvency while the rest of the world enjoys an adequate supply of USDs.
2) running a trade surplus and enjoying an appreciation in the value of the dollar while the rest of the world suffers from a lack of liquidity and collateral.
Either way, there are negative implications for world growth. In the first example – in which the US runs a trade deficit in perpetuity – the US continues to add to its debt and risks undermining its ability to pay off that debt. In the second example – in which the US runs a trade surplus – emerging market currencies are put under pressure by the USD potentially leading to capital outflows, a higher cost of debt, and global financial instability.
Today's modest bounce in stocks - considerably removed after-hours - does not provide much hope for those looking to buy the dip with the Dow still down over 1000 points year-to-date. In fact, as we discuss below, troubling news just continues to pour in from all over the world... For those that are not interested in the technical details, what all of this means is that global financial markets are starting to become extremely unstable. Consider the following...
"Financial systems are unstable with excessive risk-taking," warns PIMCO's now solo guru Bill Gross, telling Bloomberg TV's Stephanie Ruhle that in a "Soros reflexivity... Once you get the levered system going, it hardly knows when and where to stop." Credit, as we have noted, has been relatively more stable (though less positive on the the way up) Gross notes and "the way to get rich in the past was to borrow money and to lever [up]," but Gross explains that now, "assets are artificially priced... from this point forward, double-digit returns, getting rich on leverage, no. You better look elsewhere for – for your profits," and not Asia. China is "the mystery meat" of emerging market countries, Gross cautions, "nobody knows what’s there and there’s a little bit of baloney."
How many times in the last few days have we been told that Turkey - or Ukraine or Venezuela or Argentina - are too small to matter? How many comparisons of Emerging Market GDP to world GDP to instill confidence that a little crisis there can't possible mean problems here. Putting aside this entirely disingenuous perspective, historical examples such as LTCM, and ignoring the massive leverage in the system, there is a simple reason why Emerging Markets matter. As Reuters reports, European banks have loaned in excess of $3 trillion to emerging markets, more than four times US lenders - especially when average NPLs for historical EM shocks is over 40%.