Nine Event Risks for the week ahead: identified, discussed and assessed.
In order to understand what solutions to our energy predicament will or won’t work, it is necessary to understand the true nature of our energy predicament. Most solutions fail because analysts assume that the nature of our energy problem is quite different from what it really is. Analysts assume that our problem is a slowly developing long-term problem, when in fact, it is a problem that is at our door step right now.
In the past we have discussed at length the inevitable demise of the USD as the world's reserve currency noting that nothing lasts forever. However, when former World Bank chief economist Justin Yifu Lin warns that "the dominance of the greenback is the root cause of global financial and economic crises," we suspect the world will begin to listen (especially the Chinese. Lin, now - notably - an adviser to the Chinese government, concludes that internationalizing the Chinese currency is not the answer (preferring a basket approach) but ominously concludes, "the solution to this is to replace the national currency with a global currency," as it will create more stable global financial system.
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.
But fear not, dear poor people of the world, for Lloyd Blankfein, Mark J. Carney, Mario Draghi, Haruhiko Kuroda, Christine Lagarde, Jacob Lew, Shimon Peres, Larry Fink, David Cameron, Shinzo Abe, Marissa Meyer, and many others are there fighting for you. Fighting all the way...
Frontier markets offer some of the best investment opportunities over the next decade. We like Vietnam which is recovering after a massive credit bust.
Day two of the bounce from the biggest market drop in months is here, driven once again by weak carry currencies, with the USDJPY creeping up as high as 104.50 overnight before retracing some of the gains, and of course, the virtually non-existant volume. Whatever the reason don't look now but market all time highs are just around the corner, and the Nasdaq is back to 14 year highs. Stocks traded higher since the get-go in Europe, with financials leading the move higher following reports that European banks will not be required in upcoming stress tests to adjust their sovereign debt holdings to maturity to reflect current values. As a result, peripheral bond yield spreads tightened, also benefiting from good demand for 5y EFSF syndication, where price guidance tightened to MS+7bps from initial MS+9bps. Also of note, Burberry shares in London gained over 6% and advanced to its highest level since July, after the company posted better than expected sales data. Nevertheless, the FTSE-100 index underperformed its peers, with several large cap stocks trading ex-dividend today. Going forward, market participants will get to digest the release of the latest Empire Manufacturing report, PPI and DoE data, as well as earnings by Bank of America.
President Obama has just nominated Lael Brainard as a Fed Governor, Jerome Powell to his second term and most notably, Stanley Fischer (ex Head of the Bank of Israel) as Vice-Chairman of the Fed. "These three distinguished individuals have the proven experience, judgment and deep knowledge of the financial system to serve at the Federal Reserve during this important time for our economy,” Obama said in statement. Bear in mind that Fischer is skeptical of forward-guidance (as we note below) which is soon to become the Fed's main weapon to jawbone markets.
Stanley Fischer's term as governor runs through 2020 (vice chair through 2018), Brainard's term through 2026 and Powell's through 2028!
Tenure anyone? We are sure they will still do a great job...
Simplistic, subjective and unbalanced anti-gold opinions tend to get media coverage. However, it is important to always focus on the empirical evidence as seen in the academic research, price performance over the long term and the historical record.
At this point, the problem of hitting limits in a finite world has morphed into primarily a financial problem. Governments are particularly affected. They find that they need to borrow increasing amounts of money to provide promised services to their citizens. Debt is a huge problem, both for governments and for individual citizens. Interest rates need to stay very low, in order for the current system to “stick together.” Governments are either unaware of the true nature of their problems, or are doing everything they can to hide the true situation from their constituents. The public has been placated by all kinds of misleading stories about how oil from shale will be the solution. Quantitative Easing (used by governments to lower interest rates) has temporarily allowed stock markets to soar, and allowed interest rates to stay quite low. So superficially, everything looks great. The question is how long all of this will last?
Yields for many staple crops (like wheat) essentially hit a wall about ten years ago. After decades of miraculous gains in the amount of tons, bushels, and kilograms per acre we have been able to extract from the Earth, productive capacity has largely plateaued. In other words, we have maxed out what we can pull out of the soil for now. And the amount of soil per person that’s in production is in serious decline. This spells out an obvious case for investing in agriculture… and even more specifically, to own farmland.
During 2013, America continued to steadily march down a self-destructive path toward oblivion. As a society, our debt levels are completely and totally out of control. Our financial system has been transformed into the largest casino on the entire planet and our big banks are behaving even more recklessly than they did just before the last financial crisis. We continue to see thousands of businesses and millions of jobs get shipped out of the United States, and the middle class is being absolutely eviscerated. Due to the lack of decent jobs, poverty is absolutely exploding. Government dependence is at an all-time high and crime is rising. Evidence of social and moral decay is seemingly everywhere, and our government appears to be going insane. If we are going to have any hope of solving these problems, the American people need to take a long, hard look in the mirror and finally admit how bad things have actually become.
Since the bank that decides what happens at the NY Fed, and by implication, at the broader Federal Reserve system, is none other than Goldman Sachs, it would be informative to read what none other than Goldman thinks of Ben Bernanke's thesis advisor Stanley Fischer, formerly head of the Bank of Israel, as the next vice chairman - as he is now actively rumored to become shortly. Conveniently, here is just such a Q&A from Goldman's Jan Hatzius - the man who feeds Bill Dudley all his economic and monetary insights over lobster sandwiches at the Pound and Pence.
The FSB's first chairman was Mario Draghi, current President of the European Central Bank, while its current chairman is Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England. The inclusion of Financial Market Infrastructures means that large parts of the global financial system is susceptible to bail-in and could potentially be bailed-in including exchange traded funds.
While some may think trading these manipulated capital markets has become a leading cause of premature death over the past year, that is not the case. At least not yet. Instead, the leading causes of early death are shown on the chart below compiled by Wired. It maps "the global cost of early mortality - some 1.7 billion years of potential human life forefited annually - sorted by cause of death."