Hugh Hendry Latest Investments And Outlook

"We continue to maintain a long equity risk exposure through companies least exposed to the business cycle, whilst favouring receiving rates in developed countries most prone to a loss of economic momentum as other countries, notably Japan, weaken their currencies through the pursuit of QE. We also retain a structural long position in the US dollar and remain long yen assets [currency hedged] via the Japanese stock market.... One of our core investment themes remains the fight against deflation launched by Japanese authorities through QE of historic proportions. We believe that such radical QE creates the perfect recipe for a weaker yen and booming Japanese equities. The Nikkei rallied by 11.8% in yen terms in April 2013, the best monthly return since December 2009, and has now gained 61% from the November 2012 low. Against this background, the Fund recorded a gain of 30 bps from Japanese equities."

Why Nonsensical Spanish Data Is About To Make Even Less Sense

Spanish economic data does not always pass the sniff test. A simple example that JPMorgan's Michael Cembalest explains is that as unemployment rose from 10% to 25% from 2008 to Q2 2012, Spanish banks reported stable non-performing loans of 3%. The latest Mad-riddle, as he calls it, has to do with corporate profits but recent headlines from PM Rajoy, explaining his approach to solving the country's devastating youth unemployment problem just beggars belief. Simply put, as Bloomberg reports, he proposes to create a mechanism to temporarily exclude tax rebates granted to companies for hiring young people from the calculation of the government budget deficit - which, his twisted logic prompts, "would enable immediate action because we’d lower contributions to the Social Security system and this would facilitate and encourage hiring. So in summary, his suggestion to boost youth employment is... to further misreport the deficit and to underfund social security even more. With Spanish data already questionable (as we discuss below), this simply exaggerates an already farcical situation.

Schaeuble Warns Of "Revolution" If Welfare Model Threatened

Over the weekend, when discussing the latest casualty of Bernanke's disastrous monetary policy, the US corporate pension plan, we touched on a topic that has been a recurring theme on these pages: "the start of the unwind of the welfare myth, if only in the private sector for now, made worse by Ben Bernanke's endless tinkering in what was formerly a free market, should be making the guardians of the status quo very, very nervous... and certainly has the disciples of the Bismarckian welfare state delusion on their toes, because they can see very well what is coming down the road." Moments ago none other than Germany's finance minister, Schrodinger Schauble, explained just why this observation is at the core of all modern problem, going so far as using the R-word in the context of Europe (first, and then everywhere else).

Traders Taunted By "20 Out Of 20" Turbo Tuesday (With POMO)

First, the important news: in a few hours the Fed will inject between $1.25-$1.75 billion into the stock market. More importantly, it is a Tuesday, which means that in order to not disturb a very technical pattern that will have held for 20 out of 20 Tuesdays in a row, the Dow Jones will close higher. Judging by the futures, this has been telegraphed far and wide: it is a Ben Bernanke risk-managed market, and everyone is a momentum monkey in it. In less relevant news, the underlying catalyst for the overnight rip higher in risk was the surge in the USDJPY, which left the gate at precisely Japan open time, and after languishing at the round number 101 support for several days, did not look back facilitated by what rumors said was a direct BOJ intervention via a Price Keeping Operation in which banks bought ETFs directly. This was catalyzed by the usual barrage of BOJ and FinMin individuals engaging in post-crash damage control and chattering from the usual script.

Quiet Overnight Action On America's Day Off

With US markets taking a day off today for Memorial Day, liquidity will be even more sporadic than usual, and any sharp moves will be that much more accentuated, although such a likelihood is minimal with all US traders still in the Hamptons. In an otherwise very quiet overnight session, perhaps the most notable move was that of the USDJPY, which continues to be "strangely attracted" to the 101 line although selling pressure is certainly to the downside, with a downside breakout quite possible, however that would lead to an early and very unpleasant end to Abe's latest 'experiment' (to quote Weidmann). The Nikkei225 already closed down 470 points, or 3.22%, as Mrs. Watanabe's faith in the market, seems to be fading with every passing day.

Guest Post: Asset Valuation And Fed Policy: We've Seen This Movie Before

Everyone seems to have an opinion on asset valuation these days, even commentators who are normally quiet about such matters.  Some are seeing asset price bubbles, others are just on the lookout for bubbles, and still others wonder what all the fuss is about. Simply put, our financial markets weren’t (and still aren’t) structured to be efficient, and consistently rational behavior is a pipe dream, history shows over and over that the idea of a stable equilibrium is deeply flawed. Policies focused on the short-term tend to exacerbate that cycle, as we saw when decades of stabilization policies and moral hazard exploded in the Global Financial Crisis. Maybe if macroeconomics were rooted in the reality of a perpetual cycle - where expansions eventually lead to recessions (stability breeds instability) and then back to expansions - we would see more economists and policymakers balancing near-term benefits against long-term costs. Or, another way of saying the same thing is that mainstream economists should pay more attention to Austrians and others who’ve long rejected core assumptions that are consistently proven wrong.

Econflict Deepens: Reinhart, Rogoff Strike Back At "Hyperbolic" Krugman

Just when you thought the R&R debate was finished, it seems Paul Krugman's latest "spectacularly uncivil behavior" pushed Reinhart and Rogoff too far. In what can only be described as the most eruditely worded of "fuck you"s, the pair go on the offensive at Krugman's ongoing tete-a-tete. "You have attacked us in very personal terms, virtually non-stop...  Your characterization of our work and of our policy impact is selective and shallow.  It is deeply misleading about where we stand on the issues.  And we would respectfully submit, your logic and evidence on the policy substance is not nearly as compelling as you imply... That you disagree with our interpretation of the results is your prerogative.  Your thoroughly ignoring the subsequent literature... is troubling.   Perhaps, acknowledging the updated literature on drawbacks to high debt-would inconveniently undermine your attempt to make us a scapegoat for austerity."

Guest Post: The Microeconomics Of Inflation (Or How We Know This Ends In Tears)

A week later and everyone is a bit more nervous, with the speculation that US sovereign debt purchases by the Federal Reserve will wind down and with the Bank of Japan completely cornered. In anticipation to the debate on the Fed’s bond purchase tapering, on April 28th (see here) we wrote why the Federal Reserve cannot exit Quantitative Easing: Any tightening must be preceded by a change in policy that addresses fiscal deficits. It has absolutely nothing to do with unemployment or activity levels. Furthermore, it will require international coordination. This is also not possible. In light of this, we are now beginning to see research that incorporates the problem of future higher inflation to the valuation of different asset classes. Why is this relevant? The gap between current valuations in the capital markets (both debt and credit) and the weak activity data releases could mistakenly be interpreted as a reflection of the collective expectation of an imminent recovery. The question therefore is: Can inflation bring a recovery? Can inflation positively affect valuations? The answer, as explained below, is that the inflationary policies carried out globally today, if successful will have a considerably negative impact on economic growth.

Guest Post: The Fed's Real Worry - A Pick Up In Deflation

The biggest fear of the Federal Reserve has been the deflationary pressures that have continued to depress the domestic economy.  Despite the trillions of dollars of interventions by the Federal Reserve the only real accomplishment has been keeping the economy from slipping back into an outright recession.  However, when looking at many of the economic and confidence indicators, there are many that are still at levels normally associated with previous recessionary lows.  Despite many claims to the contrary the global economy is far from healed which explains the need for ongoing global central bank interventions.  However, even these interventions seem to be having a diminished rate of return in spurring real economic activity despite the inflation of asset prices. The risk, as discussed recently with relation to Japan, is that the Fed is now caught within a "liquidity trap."  The Fed cannot effectively withdraw from monetary interventions and raise interest rates to more productive levels without pushing the economy back into a recession.  The overriding deflationary drag on the economy is forcing the Federal Reserve to remain ultra-accommodative to support the current level of economic activity.  What is interesting is that mainstream economists and analysts keep predicting stronger levels of economic growth while all economic indications are indicating just the opposite.

The Two Charts That Keep Draghi Up At Night

While many would argue that youth unemployment (the real scariest chart here), in fact we suspect it is the following two charts that are really keeping Mario Draghi up at night. The lip service paid by the French and the Germans to growth strategies and youth unemployment pale in relation to the desperation of the European collateralizer-of-last-resort to de-fragment his transmission channels and unleash his own QE to the starving banking systems of Spain and Italy. As BNP notes, recent data on Italian and Spanish banks’ bad and non-performing loans (NPLs) have reignited the debate on the health of the banking sector in the eurozone’s peripheral economies and its implications for the bloc’s credit supply and, ultimately, economic growth. But what is worse is that interest rates on new loans for a company in Italy or Spain are almost double those in Germany and France. It is against this backdrop that Draghi expressed plans to revive the ABS market - but implementation will prove significantly more challenging than market hopers believe (as is clear in credit markets) and direct purchases will probably face vetoes by a number of influential members of the board. To add further salt to these fresh wounds, the FT reports that Spanish banks will need to set aside more than EUR10 billion more reserves to cover the rolling over of EUR 200 billion of 'extend-and-pretend' loans.

Bizarro Time As Better Data Sends Stocks Lower

"The last 36 hours have perhaps been evidence as to what might happen if stimulus is withdrawn before the global recovery has been cemented and what might happen if Japan makes mistakes along the way to their attempted new dawn. With the Chinese data still ambiguous, Europe still in recession, Japan in the very  early stages of a growth experiment and with the US recovery still historically very weak one has to say that liquidity has been the main market fuel in recent months. So central banks have to tread carefully and the Fed tapering talk and the BoJ's seemingly benign neglect policy towards JGBs has had the market fretting." - Deutsche Bank

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Political Polling Popularity?

Popularity is something that can be determined by two things. Firstly, it doesn’t last! When too many people start liking you anyway, there is always someone that is there ready to knife you in the back. ‘Heil Caesar!’ soon turns into ‘Et tu, Brute’!