When Abe, Kuroda, and their merry men unveiled their latest idea - Abenomics - the world's macro tourists piled in and spent every waking second convincing the rest of the world's suckers that this time was different for Japan. We, along with Kyle Bass and a short list of other realists, warned "be careful what you wish for." It seems tonight's data is the best example yet of the print-and-grow rock and inflate-and-die hard place that Abe finds himself between. Multi-year highs in inflation (pressing on to the BoJ's target) combined with a total collapse in household spending (lowest in 27 months). Abe is cornered; and JPY and the Nikkei are confounded for now.
Oh the dashed hopes... Just as we warned earlier... the dreams that yesterday was the dip to get back in and ride the waves of central bank largesse to another double in your favorite social media or Biotech stock are fading fast. Today is an almost perecect replay of yesterday's market action so far... pre-open Gold dump, JPY pump to sustain stocks at highs, spark retail bounce buyers back in and pros sell into strength as the "high growth" momentum stocks and Biotechs all reverse earlier gains in a hurry as all major stock indices are once again red post-Yellen.
With another session in which US futures levitate into the open, despite a modest drop in the Nikkei225 (to be expected after the president of Japan’s Government Pension Investment Fund, the world’s largest pension fund, said that a review of asset allocations into stocks is not aimed at supporting domestic share prices) and an unchanged Shanghai Composite while the currency pair du jour, the USDCNY, closes higher despite tumbling in early trade (which also was to be expected after a former adviser to the People’s Bank of China said China is headed for a “mini crisis” in its local- government debt market as economic reforms lead to the first defaults) everyone is asking: will it be deja vu all over again, and after a solid ramp into 9:30 am, facilitated without doubt by the traditional Yen carry trade, will stocks roll over as first biotech and then all other bubble stocks are whacked? We will find out in just over two hours.
China, Japan and the US are the three largest economies in the world. Each country is currently in the midst of highly-significant policy maneuvers. The Fed is bringing QE to an end. China is dealing with the credit bubble issues outlined above. Japan is lifting its consumption tax from 5% to 8%. Japan’s hike in 1997 from 3% to 5% pushed the economy into a recession. In addition, Russian sanctions could magnify and potentially take a large bite out of global economic growth. Portfolios will need to adapt to this changing environment. Just about everyone is anticipating higher Treasury yields. Most PM’s are short duration. However, the term premium is falling quickly. The technical chart looks outstanding on the long end. Macro factors are also beginning to align. I believe the next 50bps in the 30year (yield) is shaping up to be a move toward lower (not higher) yields. Portfolios are ill-prepared.
A dispassionate look at the main considerations for investors in the week ahead.
Weekly outlook for the major currencies, from a technical perspective.
In the 16 months since Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe launched his bold plan to reflate Japan’s shrinking economy the yen has depreciated by 22% against the dollar, 28% against the euro and 24% against the renminbi. The hope was to stimulate trade and push the current account decisively into the black. Yet the reverse has occurred. Japan’s external position has worsened due to anemic export growth and a spiraling energy import bill: in January it recorded a record monthly trade deficit of ¥2.8trn ($27.4bn). Having eked out a 0.7% current account surplus in 2013, Japan may this year swing into deficit for the first time since 1980. So why is the medicine not working?
A month ago we presented a must read interview by Swiss Finanz und Wirtschaft with respected value investor Howard Marks, in which, when explaining the motives driving rational investing he summarized simply, "in the end, the devil always wins." Today, we are happy to bring our readers the following interview with one of our favorite strategists, GMO's James Montier, in which true to form, Montier packs no punches, and says that the market is now overvalued by 50% to 70%, adding that there is "nothing at all" that has an attractive valuation, and that he sees a "hideous opportunity set."
In the aftermath of yesterday's key market event, the FOMC's $10 billion tapering and elimination of QE with "QualG", not to mention the "dots" and the "6 month" comment, the USD has been on fire against all key pairs, with the EURUSD sliding below 1.38, a 150 pip move in one day which should at least give Mario Draghi some comfort, but more importantly sending the USDJPY soaring to 102.500 even as US equity futures continue to slide, and not to mention the Nikkei which tumbled -1.7% to just above 14,000 overnight. Perhaps the biggest take home message for traders from yesterday is that the Yen carry trade correlation to the Emini is now dead if only for the time being until DE Shaw and Virtu recalibrate their all-important correlation signal algos. The other big news overnight was the plunge in the Yuan, tumbling 0.5%, 6.2286, up 343 pips and crushing countless speculators now that the "max vega" point has been passed. Expect under the radar news about insolvent trading desks over the next few days, as numerous mega levered FX traders, who had bet on continued CNY appreciation are quietly carted out the back door. Elsewhere, gold and other commodities continue to be hit on rising fear the plunging CNY will accelerate the unwind of Chinese Commodity Funding Deals.
The FOMC is now meeting for the first time with Janet Yellen as Chair. Goldman's US team expects the FOMC to deliver an accommodative message...alongside a continued tapering of asset purchases. However, they note, their market views here are likely to shift little in response, as much of that dovishness is arguably already priced, particularly in US rates. SocGen notes that "qualitative guidance" will probably consist of two components: the FOMC’s forecast for the fed funds rate (aka “the dots”) providing a baseline scenario, and a descriptive component signalling the elasticity of this rate path to the underlying economic outlook. SocGen also warns that this transition is worrisome for inflation in 2015. But BofA suggests this is not problem as The Fed will indicate the US economy "lift-off" in late-2015 will save us all.
For five long years, we have pursued the fantasy that we could return to "growth" without having to fix or change anything. The core policy of the fantasy is the consensus of "serious economists," i.e. those accepted into the priesthood of PhD economists protected by academic tenure or state positions: what we suffered in 2009 was not the collapse of leveraged crony-state financialization but a temporary decline of "aggregate demand" and productive capacity. The five-year fantasy that free money would fix all the distortions and systemic problems is drawing to a close. Why can't the fantasy run forever? The two-word answer: diminishing returns. Handing out subprime auto loans works at first because it pulls demand forward: anyone who wants or needs a new car buys one now, rather than put the purchase off a year or two. Eventually the marginal buyers default and demand falls off, and the distortions cause an even greater collapse in demand and auto loan quality.
If the idea is to anticipate what an adversary does, it behooves us, even if we do not believe in QE on moral grounds or on efficacy grounds, to consider how the ECB can have QE, which it appears under increasing pressure to do. Here is such a course.
These Six Euroarea Countries Are In Outright Deflation As Eurozone Inflation Slides To Four Year LowsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/17/2014 11:47 -0400
Markets are showing increased signs of investor anxiety, warns BofA's Macneil Curry. The Friday breakout in the VIX Index says that this anxiety will likely persist into next week. Indeed, Curry adds, the VIX has based from its highest levels in over a year suggesting that investors are more susceptible to bad news and defensive behavior than at any time in the past 12 months. Several markets look particularly susceptible to this change in sentiment.
With the Japanese stock market fading fast and macro-economic data showing anything but the kinds of inspiring recovery that Abenomics promised, the leaders in Japan have turned to a new meme - that the economy will be fixed when companies start raising their wages. Day after day the mantra is repeated in the hopes that repetition will make it come true and every company that raises wages (by an average of 4 Big Macs per month) is heralded as heroic. But, as The Japan Times reports, the government (in all its newly socialist bravado) has threatened to take the unprecedented step of shaming big "uncooperative" companies that do not raise wages during the annual spring labor talks. Forget minimum wage adjustments, this is pay-by-mandate Maduro-style; we just wonder how Abe will cope when a nation used to 'full' employment sees joblessness surge.