One word explains the overnight action: confusion. After opening down 10 points just shy of unchanged for the year following fearful Asian trade, futures have rebounded and are now almost unchanged courtesy of a UK-market which is offline for the next two days, letting Europe take advantage of another day of impotent rumor-mongering and wolf-crying, this time focusing on a 7pm press conference in which Merkel will say more of the same vis-a-vis Europe's non-existence Banking Union, but at least Europe will have closed at the highs. Not much on today's docket so expect more kneejerk reactions to rumors, which have a positive half-life measured in the minutes.
- Spain Seeks Joint Bank Effort as Pressure Rises on Merkel (Bloomberg)
- Banks Cut Cross-Border Lending Most Since Lehman: BIS (Bloomberg)
- Shirakawa Bows to Yen Bulls as Intervention Fails (Bloomberg)
- Merrill Losses Were Withheld Before Bank of America Deal (NYT)
- Investors Brace for Slowdown (WSJ)
- China's lenders ordered to check bad loans (China Daily)
- Obama Seeks Way Out of Jobs Gloom (WSJ)
- Noda Reshuffles Japan Cabinet in Bid for Support on Sales Tax (Bloomberg)
- China to open the market further (China Daily)
- Australian Industry Must Adapt to High Currency, Hockey Says (Bloomberg)
- Tax-funded projects to be more transparent (China Daily)
The past two weeks it was Spain, now it is back to Portugal, which overnight announced it is bailing out three banks to the tune of €6.65 billion. If at this point who is bailing out whom is becoming a confusing blur - fear not: that is the whole point. From AAP: "Portugal will inject more than 6.65 billion euros ($A8.49 billion) into private banks BCP and BPI, and the state-owned CGD to meet criteria established by the European Banking Authority. "In all, the state will inject more than 6.65 billion euros in these banks," though five billion euros is to come from an envelope worth 12 billion included in a financial rescue plan drawn up in May 2011, the finance ministry said. Portugal last year became the third eurozone country after Greece and Ireland to be bailed out, receiving an EU-IMF package worth up to 78 billion euros in return for a commitment to reform its economy and impose austerity measures." And surely that will be it, and Portugal will be fixed. Just like Spain was fixed, until someone actually did some math and found a hole up to €350 billion out of left field. Funny how those big undercapitalization holes just sublimate into existence, usually moments before client money is vaporized.
Contrary to what some may have been expecting, there was no coordinated grand central-bank bailout announcement over the weekend (and likely won't be one for a while). Instead we got promises of plans for a master plan, even as Soros gave Europe 3 months (or 2 months and 29 days as of today). Still, that has not prevented European stocks from rising to intraday highs driven by the EUR, and fears of a major snap-back rally in the record oversold currency as explained here yesterday. It also means that, as warned repeatedly, even the faintest hint of German capitulation will trigger buy programs. Such as this one just hitting the tape:
- MERKEL, BARROSO TO MAKE STATEMENTS AT 7 P.M. IN BERLIN
- EU SAYS BANKING UNION ON AGENDA FOR BARROSO-MERKEL MEETING
No clarification, nothing of substance: the mere suspense now is enough to make traders ignore that nothing is getting better. But at least for the time being nothing is (much) worse.
If the U.S. Federal Reserve were a hedge fund, its phones would be ringing off the hook with prospective investors wanting fresh allocations and Ben Bernanke would be zipping around the French Riviera in a gold-plated helicopter. The Fed’s multibillion-dollar position in Treasuries is nicely in the money with the recent moves to record lows risk-free yields, after all. But it’s policy outcomes, not returns, that the Fed is after. By that measure, the current record low payouts in “Safe Haven” bonds (U.S., Germany, U.K, for example) are troublesome. There is, of course, the worry that they portend a global recession. This concern cannot be waved away with the notion that a worldwide flight to quality totally upends the bond market’s historical function as a weather-vane of economic expansion and contraction. Beyond this concern, however, Nic Colas of ConvergEx sees two further worries. The first is that the Fed has needlessly compromised its independence by pursuing bond purchases that, in hindsight, were unnecessary in the face of the current economic outlook and investment environment. The second is that interest rates have been demoted to a supporting role in kick starting any global economic recovery. As with unfriendly aliens unpacking their bags at a landing site, the move to record low rates around the world is a truly menacing development. Historically, low interest rates have generally sparked economic recovery. In the current environment, this gas-down-the-carb approach seems to have simply flooded the engine of growth. Other factors are at play, as I have outlined here. The real answer is simply more time.
In a perfectly succinct follow-up to Last Friday's Santelli-Kaminsky CNBC-aberration discussion of the now status quo financial repression (low interest rate / QE environment), this two-and-a-half minute clip asks and answers the seemingly simple question of whether low interest rates are good. Borrowing and saving are really about whether to consume more now or later (or more later and less now) and we agree with Professor Antony Davies that these decisions are best left to individuals - and not the nanny-state/Fed. Each person's judgment of what is best for them is replaced by the Federal reserve's judgment and the free market interest has become a thing of the past (for now). Lower rates don't mean more spending; they mean more spending now and less in the future.
While the Dow Jones Industrial Average crossed into negative territory for the year on Friday, E-Mini and the S&P are still "off the lows" of the year (low print was 1259.75 on January 5th). However, if the rapid sell off in the premarket session accelerates, it is possible that we will wipe out all of the 2012 gains in hours if not minutes: December 30, 2011 close was 1252.50. We are now 10 just points higher and closing fast.
Two weeks of utter confusion by most market participants out there, when the complete deja vu scenario is so very clear. To help out those banging their heads over what is happening, here, once again, is the full playbook as it was laid out here for eveyone to read and prepare, because it explained to the dot precisely what will happen, and has been happening since May 19. And yes, that 1000 bps on XO is still about 25% away... Do the math.
Deflation has effectively been abolished by central banking. But is it sustainable? The endless post-Keynesian outgrowth of debt suggests not. In fact, what is ultimately suggested is that the abolition of small-scale deflationary liquidations has just primed the system for a much, much larger liquidation later on. Central bankers have shirked the historical growth cycle consisting both of periods of growth and expansion, as well as periods of contraction and liquidation. They have certainly had a good run. Those warning of impending hyperinflation following 2008 were proven wrong; deflationary forces offset the inflationary impact of bailouts and monetary expansion, even as food prices hit records, and revolutions spread throughout emerging markets. And Japan — the prototypical unliquidated zombie economy — has been stuck in a depressive rut for most of the last twenty years. These interventions, it seems, have pernicious negative side-effects. Those twin delusions central bankers have sought to cater to — for creditors, that debt is wealth and should never be liquidated, and for debtors that debt is an easy or free lunch — have been smashed by the juggernaut of history many times before. While we cannot know exactly when, or exactly how — and in spite of the best efforts of central bankers — we think they will soon be smashed again.
Confused by the latest developments, headlines, stories, counterstories, denials, counterdenials and rumors, but mostly prayers out of Europe? Here is your one stop shop of everything that has transpired in the Eurocrisis most recently.
In the aftermath of the recent spike in Zombie Apocalypse outlier (soon to be inlier) events, which correlate nearly perfectly with the soaring expiration of unemployment extended benefits (recall: "Your EBT Card Has Been Denied": 700,000 Are About To Lose Their Extended Jobless Claims Benefits" - after all people's got to eat), it was only a matter of time before we went from a real-time zombie incidence tracker, to the "ZOMBIE ATTACK: Disaster Preparedness Simulation Exercise #5 (DR5)" Courtesy of the University of Florda.