It seems like an eternity ago when futures tumbled last Friday on reports of Ukraine shelling, and "destroying", Russian military vehicles that had entered Ukraine (only to rebound to an unchanged print). It didn't take long for the world to forget all about this latest unsubstantiated incident and move on to "de-escalation" hopes, which this morning have catalyzed yet another rise in futures on expectations that upcoming talks between Putin and Poroshenko in Minsk next week will lead to further easing of tensions. In the meantime, the world media appears to have piled up at the border checkpoint and there is even a live feed of the Russian trucks entering Ukraine. Which is why expect this to be as exciting as watching the S&P levitate on no volume.
- FTW: Europe Stocks Rise as Data Signals Need for Stimulus (BBG)
- More de-escalation: Dozens die in Ukraine in street battles, Donetsk shelling (Reuters)
- Calm largely holds in Missouri after grand jury opens shooting investigation (Reuters)
- Attorney General Eric Holder Vows Thorough Probe of Ferguson Shooting (WSJ)
- World’s Biggest Wealth Fund Slows Emerging Market Investment (BBG)
- Market Chilly to Argentine Debt Proposal (WSJ)
- Israeli air strike kills three Hamas commanders in Gaza (Reuters)
- Retooled Hamas Bloodies Israel With Help From Hezbollah (BBG)
- Investors Pour Into Vanguard, Eschewing Stock Pickers (WSJ)
- Fed Debates Early Rate Increases (WSJ)
With the FOMC Minutes in the books, the only remaining major event for the week is the Jackson Hole conference, where Yellen is now expected to talk back any Hawkish aftertaste left from the Minutes, and which starts today but no speeches are due until tomorrow. And while the Minutes were generally seen as hawkish, stocks continue to levitate, blissfully oblivious what tighter monetary conditions would mean to an asset bubble, which according to many, is now the biggest in history. And speaking of equities, US futures climbed to a fresh record high overnight on just the right mix of bad news.
The Wall Street Journal's Jon Hilsenrath unleashed an instantaneous reaction to today's FOMC minutes and the message is clear - markets are much less uncertain than the Fed about the timing (sooner rather than later) of the first rate-hike. The minutes of the meeting, Hilsy notes, provide fresh evidence of an intensifying debate inside the central bank about when to respond to a surprisingly swift descent in the unemployment rate and rising consumer prices. The minutes appeared to reflect a slightly more aggressive stance than Ms. Yellen's testimony.
Reports are coming in that, following Russian ministry urging this morning that the humanitarian mission start as soon as possible (following ongoing Ukrainian attacks on Donetsk and Eastern Ukraine), that the white humanitarian trucks of the Russian convoy are crossing the border into Ukraine customs.
- Ferguson at Turning Point After Night of Relative Calm (BBG)
- Gaza war rages on, Hamas says Israel tried to kill its military chief (Reuters)
- Surge in Putin Patriotism Masks Pain of Sanctions (BBG)
- Bank of England splits over rate hike for first time in 3 years (Reuters)
- Putin Meeting Leaves Kiev With Tough Choices (WSJ)
- European Gas Reverses Biggest Drop Since 2009 on Ukraine (BBG)
- "Isolation" Mongolia Seeks Economic Lifeline With Pivot to China, Russia (BBG)
- Uber Picks David Plouffe to Wage Regulatory Fight (NYT)
- China Levies Record Antitrust Fine on Japanese Firms (BBG)
While everyone's (algorithmic) attention will be focused on today's minutes from the July 29-30 FOMC meeting for views on remaining slack in U.S. economy following recent changes in the labor market (especially a particularly solid JOLTS report which indicates that at least on the openings front, there is no more) and any signal of policy change by the Fed ahead of Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s speech in Jackson Hole on Aug. 22, a curious thing happened overnight when a few hours ago the BoE's own minutes show the first vote split since 2011, as Weale and McCafferty argue for a 0.75% bank rate. Then again, if the Russians are finally bailing on London real estate, the inflationary pressures at the top of UK housing may finally be easing. In any event, every FOMC "minute" will be overanalyzed for hints of what Yellen's speech on Friday morning will say, even if stocks just shy of all time highs know quite well she won't dare say anything to tip the boat despite her warnings of a biotech and social network bubble.
This time really is different, jokes Grant Williams, as it appears the New Cold War is, suggested by the chart below, apparently not even remotely troubling. In fact, gold is trading below where it was when the Russians first dipped their toes in Ukraine to test the water. Curious, opines Williams, but when it comes to gold, there are the thinkers; there are the traders, like the millions day-trading GLD for a penny here and there; and then there are the holders. The question for all of them is the same: why? The last time the world faced a meaningful threat of a large-scale conflict between East and West, the gold price soared. This time it hasn’t moved. Why?
Ukraine’s next crisis will be a devastatingly economic one, as violent conflict destroys critical infrastructure in the east and brings key industry to a halt, furthering weakening the energy sector by crippling coal-based electricity production.
As many have observed since Obama launched his own personal Iraq war, there is something rather farcical about the latest US intervention in the middile east, namely that US weapons are being used to destroy US weapons, captured by and in possession of ISIS jihadists. As Reuters summarizes the situation, rather poetically, "Islamic State’s captured an enormous amount of U.S. weaponry, originally intended for the rebuilt Iraqi Army. You know — the one that collapsed in terror in front of the Islamic State, back when they were just ISIL?" In other words US taxpayers are now paying for military missions, in which US taxpayer paid-for warplans and missiles are used to blow up other US taxpayer paid-for tanks, artillery, MRAPs, and various other weapons of death. How much? Here is the answer...
- Just how many rats are there? Steven Cohen's Firm Loses Another Top Executive (WSJ)
- Iceland Sees a Potential Volcanic Eruption, and Airlines Cower (Bloomberg)
- Iraqi forces battle to drive jihadists from Saddam's home town (Reuters)
- Israel, Palestinians Agree to Extend Gaza Truce for 24 Hours (BBG)
- Pimco now buying junk (BusinessWeek)
- Pakistan arrests 147 in Punjab towns as protests in capital continue (Reuters)
- Ex-Rabobank Employee Pleads Guilty in Libor-Rigging Probe (BBG)
- Ebola Orphans Targeted by Aid Groups as Newest Victims (BBG)
- Two California youths accused of plotting high school shooting spree (Reuters)
- Only Rich Know Wage Gains With No Raises for U.S Workers (BBG)
A quick reminder of how geopolitics governs markets: on Friday, the market plunged 0.005% over fears Ukraine and Russia may be about to go at it all out after a fake report Ukraine shelled a Russian military convoy. On Monday, the same "market" soared just under 1% as the news that had caused the "crash" was refuted. That has been the dominant rinse, repeat theme for the past month and will continue to be well after Yellen's Friday speech at Jackson Hole (although one does wonder why she is not speaking on Wednesday when the symposium begins). Not surprisingly, with only modest re-escalation news overnight (that Russia is preparing further retaliatory sanctions against the West), which is simply "pent up de-escalation" in the eyes of Keynesian algos, futures are again up a solid 0.2% and rising, and the way the rampy USDJPY is being manipulated before its pre-market blast off, we may well see the S&P hit 1980, if not a new all time high before 9:30am, let alone during today's cash session. In any event, whatever you do, don't you dare suggest that algos should care one bit about Ferguson and its implications for US society.
As we detailed previously, Bulgaria had been an enthusiastic supporter of the Russian-backed South Stream gas pipeline project, whose construction has stoked tensions between the West and Moscow as it enabled gas supply to bypass troubled Ukraine (thus squeezing the desparate economy back into Russia's hands). In early June, Bulgaria's Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski ordered an initial halt (after Europe offered the nation's suddenly collapsing banking system a lifeline). This time, Energy Minister Vasil Shtonov has ordered Bulgaria’s Energy Holding to halt any actions in regards of the project as it does not meet the requirements of the European Commission. Of course, we assume this decision (to halt a 2nd time) is entirely independent of NATO's deployment of 12 F-15s and 180 troops to Bulgaria's Graf Ignatievo Air Base.
Now that the US is exhibiting all the tact of a neocon bull in a china world, and has resumed airborne assaults in Iraq (with US marines on the ground merely for decorative purposes) it is hardly surprising that the rest of the world - at least those who are supposedly allied ideologically with Washington (if only for the time being) - suddenly feels entitled to US assistance. Not surprisingly, the first one to knock on the door of US military handouts is none other than the Kiev, whose parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Turchynov, said in an interview with BNS, that the country needs "modern weapons, aviation, air-defense equipment from U.S., European partners."