The United States’ current fiscal and monetary policies are unsustainable. The US government’s net debt as a share of GDP has doubled in the past five years, and the ratio is projected to be higher a decade from now, even if the economy has fully recovered and interest rates are in a normal range. An aging US population will cause social benefits to rise rapidly, pushing the debt to more than 100% of GDP and accelerating its rate of increase. While the future evolution of these imbalances remains unclear, the result could eventually be a sharp rise in long-term interest rates and a substantial fall in the dollar’s value, driven mainly by foreign investors’ reluctance to continue expanding their holdings of US debt. Investors frequently rely on two key arguments to dismiss the fear of a run on the dollar: the dollar is a reserve currency, and it carries fewer risks than other currencies. Neither argument is persuasive.
If the past three months have been any indication of what Japan has to look forward to from Abenomics, we have a feeling his tenure will be as short, if not shorter, than all of his recent (and numerous, among which he, himself) predecessors. Because while the stock market may have risen in lock step with the plunge in the Yen, what has also soared are costs. And while a very select few benefit from the transitory surge in the Nikkei, the rising costs, i.e., inflation, hit everyone equally. But while the "no free lunch" reality has until now mostly been felt by those who need energy, as shown in "You Wanted Inflation, You Got It: Japanese Gasoline Price Rises To Eight Month High" the inflationary impact on Chinese imports is about to hit everyone like a sledgehammer right where it hurts the most: in the stomach, as the inevitable has finally happened, and the agriculture ministry announced that wholesale wheat prices are set to rise by a near-record 9.7% in April, which will shortly thereafter send regular food prices soaring.
A dispassionate discussion of the impact of the sequester and implications for investors. I look also look at how the dollar has performed since QE3+ was announced and it is not what many might have expected.
It has been yet another quiet overnight session, devoid of the usual EURUSD ramp, and thus ES, at the Europe open (although it is never too late), which has seen the Shangai Composite finally post a meaningful rise up 2.26%, followed by some unremarkable European macro data as Eurozone CPI came as expected at 2.0%, and German unemployment just a tad better, at -3K, with consensus looking for 0K. Italy continues to be the wildcard, with little clarity on just who the now expected grand coalition will consist of. According to Newedge's Jamal Meliani, a base case scenario of Bersani/Berlusconi coalition may see a relief rally, tightening 10Y BTP/bund spread toward 300bps. A coalition would maintain current fiscal agenda and won’t implement any major reforms with fresh elections being called within a year. A Bersani/Grillo coalition is least likely, may slow reforms which would see 10Y BTP/bund spreads widening to 375bps. Of course, everything is speculation now, with Grillo saying no to any coalition, and moments ago a PD official saying against a broad coalition. But at least the market has it all priced in already - for more see Italy gridlock deepens as Europe watches nervously.
Abe's honeymoon is over. Read why.
While the market will do everything in its power to forget yesterday's Hung Parliament outcome ever happened, and merrily look forward to today's Bernanke testimony (first of two) before the Senate, Europe is not quite so forgiving. Because moments after today's Italian Bill auction in which the now government-less country sold €8.75 billion in 6 month bills at a yield of 1.237% nearly double the 0.731% yield for the same issue previously, things went bump in the night, leading Italian 2Y yields to surge +38bps to 2.086%, vs 2.063% earlier, while the benchmark Italian 10Y yields soared +28bps to 4.766%, vs 4.739% earlier, and just shy of JPM's 5% target. Spain is not immune from the Italian developments, and while it will take the market some time to realize that the next political scandal may be dropping this time in Spain (as reported yesterday), the Spanish 10 Year is already up 7% to 5.23%. Suddenly talk of parity between Italy and Spain may be on the table all over again. And while unlike yesterday there is US macro data, in the form of US consumer confidence, new homes sales and house price data, all the market will care about is soothing Wall Street sellside spin that Italy is not really as bad as everyone said it would be if precisely what happened, happened. With the EURUSD on the verge of breaking down the 1.3000 support, it is very unclear if they will succeed.
Italy is driving the markets. Japanese developments means the market is closer to give Abenomics its first test. Bernanke to set the record straight after many gave the regional non-voting Fed presidents too much weight in understanding trajectory of Fed policy.
When a note by a Citi FX strategist begins with the following proclamation endorsing outright fascist despotism, you know it's going to be good: "This is the first European election in which voters didn't do the right thing." Perhaps if Citi would be so kind to overrule the democratic vote, in which 55% or the majority of the people voted against the "right thing", and impose its own unelected Italian dictator, just like Goldman did in November 2011, that long EURUSD call would be happier? Then it only gets better: "Elections are more problematic than market scares or sentiment shifts as they can't be undone by printing monry" (sic). True: some things outright money debasement by central banks can't buy - for everything else there are Siberian Gulags. And the absolute punchline: "Still the outcome does not seem so dire that a bit of growth and ECB flexibility could not turn it around." Why yes, all Europe needs is a "little growth" obviously in lieu of lots of growth, but frankly it will settle for any growth - something it has been unable to do under the wise tutelage of the banker-dominated oligarchy for the past four years, as for that little "ECB flexibility" - wink wink: just where would you like those Euro Stoxx Steve?
Here are ten things that out to be on your radar screens this week and a view on their importance.
The publication, earlier this week, of the FOMC minutes seemed to have a similar effect on equity markets as a call from room service to a Las Vegas hotel suite, informing the partying high-rollers that the hotel might be running out of Cristal Champagne. Around the world, stocks sold off, and so did gold. The whole idea that a bunch of bureaucrats in Washington scans lots of data plus some anecdotal ‘evidence’ every month (with the help of 200 or so economists) and then ‘sets’ interest rates, astutely manipulates bank refunding rates and cleverly guides various market prices so that the overall economy comes out creating more new jobs while the debasement of money unfolds at the officially sanctioned but allegedly harmless pace of 2 percent, must appear entirely preposterous to any student of capitalism. There should be no monetary policy in a free market just as there should be no policy of setting food prices, or wage rates, or of centrally adjusting the number of hours in a day. But the question here is not what we would like to happen but what is most likely to happen. There is no doubt that we should see an end to ‘quantitative easing’ but will we see it anytime soon? Has the Fed finally – after creating $1.9 trillion in new ‘reserves’ since Lehman went bust – seen the light? Do they finally get some sense? Maybe, but we still doubt it. In financial markets the press, the degrees of freedom that central bank officials enjoy are vastly overestimated. In the meantime, the debasement of paper money continues.
In our prediction two weeks ago of who the next Bank of Japan governor was likely to be, we said that "the tussle lies between a slightly less dovish bureaucrat in Toshiro Muto (favored by the opposition) and a banker, Haruhiko Kuroda, who is a front-runner in Abe's camp.... we suspect Abe will err on the side of uber-dovish to fight the currency wars alongside him." Sure enough, the uber-dove Kuroda, not to be confused with the Yankees pitcher, is now set to become BOJ governor. From Reuters, "Japan's government is likely to nominate Asian Development Bank President Haruhiko Kuroda, who has called for pumping more money into the economy, as its next central bank governor, the Nikkei newspaper reported on Monday. Kuroda, formerly Japan's top currency diplomat, has already been offered the post unofficially by the government, which plans to submit its nominees for three BOJ leadership posts to parliament this week, the paper said. Kikuo Iwata, an academic known as one of the most vocal advocates of aggressive monetary expansion, is likely to be nominated as deputy BOJ governor, the Nikkei said without citing sources."
For several long months now, the market has been treated to an unadulterated diet of such gross monetary irresponsibility, both concrete and conceptual, from what seems like the four corners of the globe and it has reacted accordingly by putting Other People's Money where the relevant central banker's mouth is. Sadly, it seems we are not only past the point where what was formerly viewed as a slightly risqué "unorthodoxy" has become almost trite in its application, but that like the nerdy kid who happens to have done something cool for once in his life, your average central banker has begun to revel in what he supposes to be his new-found daring – a behaviour in whose prosecution he is largely free from any vestige outside control or accountability. Indeed, this attitude has become so widespread that he and his speck-eyed peers now appear to be engaged in some kind of juvenile, mine's-bigger-than-yours contest to push the boundaries of what both historical record and theoretical understanding tell us to be advisable.
See why Moody's downgrade of the UK credit rating is unlikely to impact the financial markets or UK policy. One of the sub-arguments is that the divergence between the US and UK monetary policy in recent months cannot explain sterling's slide in the foreign exchange market. Moreover, the UK's exports seem more inelastic to UK exports that the currency warriors would suggest.
While Abenomics has failed in spurring exports, while the rise in the Nikkei has benefited some 1-2% of the population, the most direct consequence of crushing the yen some 20% is that energy costs, virtually all of them imported, are if not surging, then about to soar to all time highs. In other words, our sincerest condolences to Japan, for whom this winter will be a very cold one (and a very hot summer follows), unless of course in Japan, like in the US, energy costs don't matter when calculating CPI and inflation and the consumer can spend any amount to keep themelves warm, or cold as the case may be.
Instead of looking at the daily bar charts for the major currencies that we provide every week, given the large moves, we thought it might be helpful to look at the longer term charts. It is one thing for pundits and other observers to argue that QE drives currencies down, it quite another to operationalize and use that as a decision-making rule for investing or trading the foreign currencies. The way people make money in the markets is not being right more often, but disciplined risk management. Technicals allow one to quantify risk and admit where one can be wrong.