As none other than the CEO of Sony explained 11 months ago, with regards Abe's strategy to weaken the JPY to encourage growth, "we are actually at a disadvantage [with a weaker JPY].. the preconception that a weaker JPY is good for all is, unfortunately for us, not true against the USD." And so 11 months on and Sony's profits and revenues are collapsing as the 'giant' electronics firm cuts its earnings outlook for the third time in a year. How bad is it? Sony posted a net loss of 130 billion yen ($1.3 billion) in the 12 months ended March... compared with a February loss projection of 110 billion yen, which was itself a reduction from a revised October forecast for profit of 30 billion yen. As one analyst noted, "There is no stop to their downward revision of earnings." So much for Abenomics?
As we noted previously, for the past year Abenomics has had the "get out of a jail free" card because while the plunging yen was crushing Japanese purchasing power, and sending nominal regular wages ever lower, at least the stock market was higher - so (some of the) locals could delude themselves they are getting richer, if only on paper. However, following the most recent 15% correction in the Nikkei which may soon become an all out rout if the 102 level in the USDJPY is ever "allowed" to break, all Japan suddenly has left, is the shock of soaring food and energy prices, and the hangover of declining wages that refuse to stop dropping. Case in point, tonight the Japan labor ministry reported that monthly wages excluding overtime and bonus payments fell 0.4 percent in March from a year earlier (the biggest drop in 2014), a series of declines which has now stretched to 22 consecutive months.
If one needed a flurry of "worse than expected" macro data to "explain" why European bourses and US futures are up, one got them: first with UK Q1 GDP printing at 0.8%, below the expected 0.9%, then German consumer prices falling 0.1% in April, and finally with Spanish unemployment actually rising from a revised 25.73% to 25.93%, above the 25.85% expected. All of this was "good enough" to allow Italy to price its latest batch of 10 Year paper at a yield of 3.22%, the lowest yield on record! Either way, something else had to catalyze what is shaping up as another 0.5% move higher in US stocks and that something is the old standby, the USDJPY, which ramped higher just before the European open and then ramped some more when European stocks opened for trading. Look for at least one or two more USDJPY momentum ignition moments at specific intervals before US stocks open for trading. But all of that is moot. Remember - the biggest catalyst of what promises to be the latest buying panic rampathon is simple: it's Tuesday (oh, and the $2-$2.5 billion POMO won't hurt).
For most of us, our priorities are going to have to change as we all adjust to a standard of living that is less than that of the prior generation. Still, there is reason for hope if we approach the coming decade with the proper mindset.
More stimulus is coming and when combined with rising wages, it should push inflation higher. But this risks a bond market rout.
It is not true that there has been a secret protocol, reintroducing fixed exchange rates, though the lackluster price action in the foreign exchange market and the continued erosion of volatility make it feel almost like it.
Well that escalated quickly...
Japan is where the Keynesian economic model rubber hit the road. And it's proven that QE is ultimately an economic dead end.
UPDATE: Goldman folds on "J-Curve" - the pace of that improvement will be far more modest than in past periods of yen weakness.
Another month, another colossal miss for the "waiting-for-the-j-curve" Japanese trade balance. At 1.7tn, this month's adjusted trade balance is the 2nd largest on record, and is the 36th month in a row - the worst March deficit ever. Exports missed dramatically (+1.8% vs 6.5% expected) so, so much for devaluation driving competitiveness in a globally interdependent product development cycle - nearly the lowest YoY gain in exports since Abenomics began. Imports rose more than expected (+18.1% vs 16.2%) as the devalued JPY makes living standards more difficult to maintain. The result of this dismal data - JPY weakness which can mean only one thing - a 120 point rally in the Nikkei.
Prak central bank balance sheets are still ahead. Interest rate increases are still several quarters out. Austerity has peaked. The output gap has peaked. What does this mean in the week ahead ?
Keep interest rates at zero, whilst printing trillions of dollars, pounds and yen out of thin air, and you can make investors do some pretty extraordinary things. "Central bankers control the price of money and therefore indirectly influence every market in the world. Given this immense power, the ideal central banker would be humble, cautious and deferential to market signals. Instead, modern central bankers are both bold and arrogant in their efforts to bend markets to their will. Top-down central planning, dictating resource allocation and industrial output based on supposedly superior knowledge of needs and wants, is an impulse that has infected political players throughout history." The result was always a conspicuous and dismal failure. Today’s central planners, especially the Federal Reserve, will encounter the same failure in time. The open issues are, when and at what cost to society?
Outlook for the major currencies in the week ahead.
Here’s something you don’t see very often: For a day and a half this week, the Japanese government’s benchmark 10-year bonds attracted not a single successful private sector bid. At today’s artificially-depressed yields, no one wants this paper — except of course the Bank of Japan, which is buying up the bonds with newly-created yen. In a world of markets rather than manipulations, this kind of imbalance would be an automatic short candidate. Actually, this kind of imbalance would never occur and as one trader noted "I know this could end badly."
- Putin Doesn't Rule Out Sending Troops (WSJ)
- Japan Cuts Economic View on Tax Rise (WSJ)
- No "harsh weather" in Chipotle restaurants where comp store sales rose 13.4% (PR)
- No sanctions for you: EU sanctions push on Russia falters amid big business lobbying (FT)
- Consumer Spending on Health Care Jumps as Obamacare Takes Hold (BBG)
- China Seen Cracking on Property Controls (BBG)
- Google, IBM results raise questions about other tech-sector companies (Reuters)
- California city evacuation lifted after military ordnance found (Reuters)
- For Obama, Standoff With Moscow Jumbles Plans at Home and Abroad (WSJ)
On the 'growth' side, Commercial and Industrial loans are rising at a double digit annual rate of change (although it is unclear whether this is an indication of business optimism or stress - after all, we did see a big jump in these loans leading into the last recession). On the flip side, the bond market and the US dollar index seem to be flashing some warning signs about future growth. Simply put, the outlook for the economy is decidedly uncertain right now and we think so is the confidence in Janet Yellen. We think the more dire outcome for stocks would be if Toto fully pulled back the curtain on monetary policy and revealed it to be nothing more than a bunch clueless economists sitting in a conference room with no ability to control the economy or the markets. If US growth disappoints after all the Fed has done, how could anyone continue to view the Fed wizards as omnipotent? That would send the stock market back over the rainbow to the reality of an economy with big structural problems that can only be solved through political negotiation, something that has been notable only by its absence over – at least – the last 6 years. Are we headed back to Kansas?