Earlier today we casually wondered whether the US stands to lose more by supporting China or Japan in their escalating diplomatic spat, considering the threat of a US Treasury sell off is certainly not negligible, a dilemma complicated by the fact that as today's TIC data indicated both nations own almost the same amount of US paper, just over $1.1 trillion. In a stunning turn of events, it appears that China has taken our thought experiment a step further and as the Telegraph's Ambrose Evans-Pritchard reports, based on a recommendation by Jin Baisong from the Chinese Academy of International Trade (a branch of the commerce ministry) China is actively considering "using its power as Japan’s biggest creditor with $230bn (£141bn) of bonds to "impose sanctions on Japan in the most effective manner" and bring Tokyo’s festering fiscal crisis to a head." I.e., dump Japan's bonds en masse.
All day long we read how today, on the 81st anniversary of Japan's invasion of Manchuria, anti-Japan protests flared up in 125 Chinese cities, for the most part peaceful, protesting what China believes is an illegal Japanese attempt at annexation of the Senkaku Islands as a proximal catalyst, but likely also an outlet for years of pent up anti-Japanese sentiment (of which there is plenty on both sides). For a good example of this see recent events in Muslim countries, US embassies and a certain film about Mohammed. Things got so heated, that late in the day there was some speculation that China may consider retaliating for what it considers an unprovoked territorial grab by the not so beloved eastern neighbor by selling its holdings of Japanese bonds. And while that may or may not occur, the probability of some serious escalation only gets largely greater as we read news of such development, this time out of Japan
- Fire Spotted At Gate Of Chinese School in Kobe, Japan: Kyodo
Well, if Japan wants this confrontation to get trulye ugly, then by all means re-retaliate, and certainly bring the school children in it. One thing is certain: China will not step down, and neither will Japan. What happens next is thus anyone's guess.
Presented with little comment - since the charts speak for themselves. From Buffett to a Burger-flipper, everyone has a view - driven in large part by their anchoring bias of who they choose to listen to. The graphics below will help, we hope, to clarify that thinking - whether you are the 1%, 47%, or 99%...
Equity markets traded in an extremely narrow range once again today with NYSE volumes dreadfully low. The USD, Treasury yields, and the S&P 500 in general tracked each other well all day. Gold swung from underperformance to outperformance and stocks lifted into the close to try and catch-up - as well as manage a green close - they failed (except the Dow - with CAT and MCD accounting for 14 of the 11.5 point gain on the day). AAPL closed above $702 (of course it did, silly) but NASDAQ was unable to make hay off of that. VIX remained under pressure and stocks reverted to catch down to it. The USD strength (+0.5% on the week) was ignored by Gold ($1770 - unch on the week) and Silver ($34.75) which had solid days but Oil ($95.50) kept sliding - below yesterday's spike lows. JPY's risk-on sell-off on BoJ news was also shrugged off by the equity market. With Staples and Healthcare outperforming and Energy and Financials laggards, as we noted earlier, the sectors post-Fed have converged rather dramatically - as TSYs have retraced much of the post-Fed move. There was also a small plague of epic Flash Smashes into the close... on massive volume shifts... perfectly normal.
One of the more curious conspiracy theories that has appeared in the past 24 hours, or since yesterday's so far unexplained crude oil flash crash without a subsequent corresponding jump (those only happen in equities it appears), is that Saudi Arabia has decided to come to the aid of the Obama administration two months ahead of the election, and to pump enough crude into the system to offset the pricing in of the inevitable liquidity tsunami from the now global QEternity, or at least until such time as the election passes. Partially confirming this speculation was the FT's report that Saudi Arabia has offered its main customers in the US, Europe and Asia extra oil supplies through the end of the year, a sign the world’s largest exporter is worried about the impact of rising prices on the global economy. Reuters adds, citing a Gulf source that "We would like to see the price coming down and we are working to bring it down... The price now, we believe is high, and it's not supported by fundamentals at all. It's just speculation and geopolitics." "The majority of OPEC countries prefer around $100, including Saudi Arabia," he said, adding that $100 per barrel was "right now the ideal price for the majority of OPEC countries ... the majority is all except one or two." "We think the oil market is well balanced," the Gulf source added. This comes a day after fellow OPEC member Iran, whose output has been substantially curtailed in recent months as a result of a global embargo (with notable exemptions for key Iran clients India and China) made it clear that it would be happy with crude rising to $150 for obvious reasons. Obviously Iran is in the "minority" according to the Gulf source. And while the reasoning for Saudi Arabia to do all in its power to promote amicable relations with America's leadership is easily explainable, it is far less clear if Saudi Arabia can actually do much if anything to really prop up crude production, prop down the price of crude and gas at the pump, and support Obama's reelection chances.
While AAPL keeps levitating (no matter how high complacency in its options stands), it seems the rest of the equity markets are less enamored (for now) with this strange new normal of the Fed/ECB's own making. Below we present four charts indicating regime shifts in average trade size, index dispersion, high-beta sector convergence, and high-beta financials convergence. Whether these are bullish consolidations, short-coverings, or total capitulations - who knows? But with the S&P 500 reverting lower to catch-down to VIX's less sanguine view and the total lack of a move on the BoJ news today - we suspect (at least for now) that all the good news is out.
Just over a week ago, we wrote of the challenge to Obama's NDAA totalitarian bill. Hope remained that Chris Hedges' view of the indefinite detention as "unforgivable, unconstitutional, and exceedingly dangerous" would bolster judgment. However, as Russia Today reports, a lone appeals judge bowed down to the Obama administration late Monday and reauthorized the White House's ability to indefinitely detain American citizens without charge or due process. On Monday, the US Justice Department asked for an emergency stay on the previous Chris Hedges'-driven order, and hours later US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit Judge Raymond Lohier agreed to intervene and place a hold on the injunction. The stay will remain in effect until at least September 28, when a three-judge appeals court panel is expected to begin addressing the issue. It would appear the total fascist takeover of Amerika is drawing nearer by the day.
Once upon a time, the Federal Reserve decided to adopt the Taylor rule, named after Stanford economist John Taylor, as its key determinant in setting the Fed Funds rate. Then, after it realized that the original formulation of the Taylor rule was too constricting and not as permissive to pro-inflationary policy as the Fed's financial sector superiors demanded, it decided to adjust the Taylor rule formulation to its own parameters so that it was always in sync with whatever policy, monetary or as of QEterenity, pseudo-fiscal, it decided to pursue. In the meantime, John Taylor has become one of the more vocal critics of Ben Bernanke's printing ways if for no other reason then because the original Taylor rule says that instead of ZIRP at least until 2015, the Fed should be tightening right now.
We discussed the inflationary costs and deflationary benefits of government action or inaction earlier - specifically with regard to the middle class. Bloomberg TV provided a succinct clip this morning that showed the one chart that Obama (and also Romney just as likely) would really not like to see. Loosely defined as lying between the ruling class and the proletariat, it would seem that George Washington himself would be distraught as the median net worth of the middle class has plunged 28% since 2000 back to early 90s levels (while the ruling class is up around 1%) and the lower tier down around 45%. Forget the lost decade, watch these 90 seconds to get a clue and see that Japan is not the only nation suffering under 20 years of subjugation.
Last week it was the Fed crossing the Rubicon with infinite easing. We explained very clearly that the next steps would be everyone else joining the infinite easing party. Sure enough, here comes the first one:
- BOJ TO CONSIDER ADDITIONAL EASING: NIKKEI
Keep in mind that the BOJ already monetizes ETFs and REITs, the very instruments which the Fed will soon be forced to buy. And so it begins - because when it comes to pushing CTRL and P, over and over, it really doesn't take much skill.
Since 2007 our analysis has suggested the likelihood of economic outcomes that most have considered unlikely: significant and ongoing monetary inflation, policy-administered currency devaluation, substantial global price inflation, and an eventual change in how the forty year old global monetary system is structured. Most observers have viewed such outlooks as tail events – highly unlikely, unworthy of serious consideration or a long way off. We remain resolute, and believe last week’s movements in Frankfurt and Washington towards perpetual quantitative easing confirmed and accelerated the validity of our outlook. With QBAMCO's view that $15,000 - $19,000 Gold is possible, timing of the catch-up phase is impossible - though they suspect last week's events may be the catalyst that begins to raise public awareness of the link between monetary inflation and price inflation.
Some Shocking Perspectives On Inflation And Currency Destruction By None Other Than The Federal ReserveSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 09/18/2012 11:46 -0400
Going back to the FOMC's own archives reveals some truly stunning disclosures arising from none other than the Federal Reserve on the topics of inflation, currency "debauching", money creation, and what it would take for the Communists and Stalin to win. "I agree with you entirely that the Soviet dictators would like to bring about our economic collapse and, as you know, inflation is perhaps the greatest force for arraying the various sectors of a capitalistic economy against each other. John Maynard Keynes stated in his 'Economic Consequences of the Peace' (1919): 'Lenin is said to have declared that the best way to destroy the Capitalist System was to debauch the currency...Lenin was certainly right. There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of Society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose.'"
Several weeks ago we learned that 2011's vaporizer extraordinaire Jon Corzine is contemplating starting his own hedge fund: presumably one that invests all its capital in Italian 2 year bonds, charges 2 and 20, and then disappears when all LP capital blows up in an AUM supernova. Today, we learn that the stigma freeze associated with all other former MF Global trading whizkids has officially melted, as the former head of equity derivatives of MF Global has just launched a new hedge fund. From Bloomberg: "Daniel Bystrom, former head of equity derivatives trading at MF Global Inc., and Neil Boyarsky plan to start Hawksfield Capital LLC, a New York-based equity volatility hedge fund, by the end of this month. Hawksfield Capital will start with $10 million to $20 million of Bystrom and Boyarsky’s own money, as well as capital from friends and family, Bystrom said in a telephone interview. “The fund will deliver returns that are uncorrelated and often negatively correlated to the returns of the typical hedge- fund strategy,” Bystrom said. “The opportunity set expands dramatically in times of higher volatility, when most other asset classes are not performing well.” Such as the stock of MF Global perhaps?
It appears that the strike that had crippled South Africa's precious metals industry is coming to an end. Reuters reports that striking miners at Lonmin's Marikana mine in South Africa said on Tuesday they accepted a management pay rise offer and would return to work on Thursday after six weeks of mining sector unrest that shook Africa's largest economy. The cost to get back to work? A 22% hike in wages, and a corresponding crunch in corporate margins (which we hope finally clears up to all those who have been so confused for years why a surge in the underlying PMs usually tends to backfire on the miners extracting it, as labor costs surge as much if not more). "The gathered strikers cheered near the mine, 100 km (60 miles) northwest of Johannesburg, when they were informed of the 22 percent wage increase offer, a Reuters witness said." Lonmin is not alone: "In another sign that weeks of labour unrest in South Africa's platinum belt could be ending, world No. 1 platinum producer Anglo American Platinum said it had resumed its operations in the strike-hit Rustenburg area. On the news of the Marikana agreement, the spot platinum price fell 2 percent to a session low at $1,627.49/oz and the rand firmed against the dollar."
Between the anti-Japanese tensions and the converging dominance of the Japanese with the Chinese to our fiscal status quo, it seems the Chinese are increasingly pushing the US hand to supporting the Japanese. Via Ai Weiwei, contemporary Chinese artist, the US Embassy in Beijing is under protest by the Chinese marchers demanding (Google Translated) "Pay Back The Money" and "Down with US Imperialism". Some embassy cars were attacked - apparently on the back of the US role in the China-Japan tensions. The question now is what happens to China's Treasury holdings? They already threatened Japan with economic sanctions and now the populist view is turning anti-American at a time of new leadership. We assume they will continue to sell down their USD-based Treasury holdings and convert to Gold as they have been for the past year. With 2 months until the election, this will be an interesting distraction of global importance as the US is forced to support Japan or throw them under the bus.