For credit to be productive, there must first be productive uses for the capital. In an economy with over-capacity in virtually every sector, a massive surplus of labor, a predatory financial sector and a grossly inefficient government in thrall to crony-capitalist cartels, truly productive investments are few and far between. Instead we borrow trillions of dollars to squander on wasteful consumption and claim it's an "investment." Consumption is not investment, but this simple truth is taboo in our financialized, centrally planned Empire of Mis-Allocated Capital.
In January, we discussed the stunning fact that Spain's social security pension fund was 90% allocated to Spanish sovereign debt. The latest data shows that this farcical epic reach-around has become even more ridiculous as, according to Bloomberg BusinessWeek, the fund's holdings are now 97% weighted to sovereign bonds. The fund purchased about EUR20bn of Spanish debt last year, while it sold EUR4.6bn of French, Dutch and German bonds. More than 70 percent of the purchases took place in the second half of the year, after Draghi's 'promise' to "do whatever it takes" moment. It appears, since the Spanish government does not explicitly have its own Fed to monetize debt, that it has merely plundered another quasi-governmental entity to do the bond-buying reach-around. The fund, which was profitable last year on this bond-buying in its self-sustaining way, still contributes 1% to Spain's deficit as contributions to the fund are outweighed by the benefits paid. Rules have been changed to enable this drastic concentration but at 97%, it is perhaps no wonder that Spanish bonds have been more volatile in recent weeks - as the implicit government buyer is now almost all-in. The potential for a vicious circle here is immense - but perhaps that is the point, more TBTF sovereigns for Draghi to deal with.
The earlier ECB rate announcement came and went just as expected, and without granularity. Much more interesting will be the latest press conference. And if the last one was any indication, sparks will fly: recall that it was in March that "The ECB's Press Corps Realize They Have No Idea What OMT Is: "The Rules Are What They Are" Explains Draghi" - we look forward to FT's Michael Steen posting the same question to the former Goldmanite as it has been a month and... no term sheet, no details, nothing. Other expected questions: the "non-recurring yet blueprint template" nature of Cyprus, what the slowdown in LTRO repayments means, how the ECB will deal with the decelerating economy, and perhaps most importantly: what happens to deposits in other European banks? While we don't expect an actual answer to any of these, if indeed it is the globalist prerogative to accelerate the velocity of money by "spooking" it out of deposits and into circulation by spending or buying stocks, Draghi may have a stunner or two up his sleeve.
After leaving rates unchanged and following Kuroda's efforts overnight, it appears Draghi had to do something in his press conference. Despite Barroso's assurances that the worst of the crisis is over, ECB's Draghi admits:
*DRAGHI SAYS ECONOMIC WEAKNESS EXTENDED INTO BEGINNING OF YEAR
*DRAGHI SAYS RISKS TO ECONOMIC OUTLOOK ARE ON DOWNSIDE
*DRAGHI SAYS RECOVERY IN 2H IS SUBJECT TO 'DOWNSIDE RISKS'
*DRAGHI: WEAKNESS IS EXTENDING TO COUNTRIES W/OUT FRAGMENTATION
*DRAGHI SAYS ECB WILL ASSESS DATA AND STANDS READY TO ACT
This 'negativity' jawboning, which is really nothing new to anyone who looks at real data, has battered EURUSD 80 pips lower and implicitly smacked S&P 500 futures down 5-6 points as the verbal currency wars continue.
And the economic (downside) hits keep on coming: PMI, ISM, Non-Mfg ISM, ADP and now Initial claims - five out of five misses as the US economy slowly but surely joins the rest of the world in resuming its downward trajectory. Moments ago initial claims printed a whopping 385K, far above expectations of 353K, and far above the upwardly revised 357K (was 353K before). This was the biggest miss to expectations since November. Also, excluding the Sandy abberations, this was the biggest two week surge in claims since April 2011. Continuing claims also missed, printing at 3063K, above expectations of 3050K. Sure enough, the excuses begin: sequester, Easter (two states estimated which means actual number is likely even worse), weather (unclear if warm or hot), Cyprus, and generally, stuff... Just not the economy. Never the actual economy. Because it is unpossible that with $85 billion inject per month into the market economy, that things would be just getting worse and worse.
With the departure of Goldman's Mark Carney from the Bank of Canada, some were concerned, actually concerned may not be the right word here: delighted may be better, that the northern country is finally free of the tentacles emanating from 200 West. Not so fast. As it turns out Goldman's ambitions vis-a-vis the resource-rich northern country are strong to quite strong, and as the Globe and Mail reports, Bruce Heyman, a Chicago-based Goldman Sachs executive and one of Barack Obama’s top fundraisers, is in final talks to become the next U.S. ambassador to Canada, according to sources. "Mr. Heyman would be the second ambassador to Canada to hail from Chicago, replacing David Jacobson. A person familiar with the selection process confirmed Mr. Heyman was “in the mix,” adding that he has long been an ardent supporter of the U.S. President. However, the source added that the process is not over and no final decision has been made." Uhm, yes it has.
As expected, no changes in any of the three key rates from the ECB.
4 April 2013 - Monetary policy decisions
At today’s meeting the Governing Council of the ECB decided that the interest rate on the main refinancing operations and the interest rates on the marginal lending facility and the deposit facility will remain unchanged at 0.75%, 1.50% and 0.00% respectively.
The President of the ECB will comment on the considerations underlying these decisions at a press conference starting at 2.30 p.m. CET today.
More important will be the press conference starting at 8:30 am Eastern, where Draghi will field questions on the ECB's non-intervention in light of the conditions it imposed most recently in Cyprus, the legal term-sheet status of the OMT, the latest relapse into recession by Europe, and more. Note: we said questions, not answers.
- Helicopter QE will never be reversed (Evans-Pritchard)
- Bank of Japan Launches Easing Campaign under new leadership (WSJ)
- Draghi Considers Plan B as Sentiment Dims After Cyprus Fumble (BBG)
- Spain threatened by resurgent credit crunch (FT)
- U.S. Dials Back on Korean Show of Force (WSJ)
- Gillard Urges Aussie Firms to Emulate German Deutschmark Success (BBG)
- Bank watchdog warns on retail branches (FT)
- Xi's Russia visit confirms continuity of ties (China Daily)
- Portuguese Government Survives No-Confidence Vote (WSJ)
- Mortgage rates set for fall, Bank of England survey shows (Telegraph)
- Russia’s bank chief warns on economy (FT)
- Fed member hints at summer slowing of QE3 (FT)
With all three major non-Fed central banks on the tape today, all economic data will be merely "noise" as the market digests what the central-planners' intentions are. The BOJ came and went, and following its substantial balance sheet expansion announcement, which many called "shocking and awing" the USDJPY has pushed higher by 2.5 big figures, although not reaching the 96 levels seen prior to Kuroda's actual announcement. In fact, from this point on there is likely downside as Japan's biggest export competitor, South Korea, has no choice but to join the race to debase which in turn will be JPY-positive. The Bank of England is next, which as expected did nothing moments ago, and will keep doing nothing until Carney joins officially this summer. In some 45 minutes, the ECB headlines will hit the tape where Draghi may bur more likely may not lower deposit rates, and instead will focus on recent deterioration in the economy. None of this will be surprising, and the EUR continues to trade sufficiently weak in line with sub-200DMA levels seen in the past few weeks. What we look forward to the most will be Draghi once again discussing the legal term-sheet details of the ECB's OMT program. His answer will be amusing as there still is no answer, and the OMT is for all intents and purposes the biggest straw man ever conceived by a central bank.
Earlier this morning the BoJ introduced a comprehensive change to its monetary policy framework. The asset purchasing program will be merged with the outright JGB purchase program (rinban), and JGB purchases will be expanded to include all maturities, including 40-year bonds. The pace of JGB purchases by the BoJ will be accelerated to ¥7trn per month from just under ¥4trn currently (on a gross basis), and purchases of ETFs and J-REITs will also be increased. The main operating target for money market operations was changed to a monetary base control (a quantitative index) from the uncollateralized overnight call rate.
As Citi's Todd Elmer notes, today's BoJ outcome looks far closer to 'shock and awe' than disappointment. It appears the BoJ's actions may speak as loud as their words for now - JPY is weakening and the Nikkei is rallying after Kuroda's last shot at a first impression appeared to beat expectations (covering for disappointing macro data - despite six months of jawboning and a 20% devaluation). Expectations, though tough to extract given the range of possible actions, appeared centered on extending maturities of bond purchases, increasing the size (median expectations of around JPY5.2tn per month or 50% higher than in Q1), bringing forward the open-ended nature of the program, and increasing scope to foreign bonds and REITs. In his effort to do "whatever it takes", the BoJ is upping asset purchases, extending the maturity of purchases and merging its asset purchase program; increasing the size to JPY7tn and buy securities out to 40 years. Though no mention of foreign bond-buying was made, and increase in ETFs and REITs is included. They have given themselves a two-year window to achieve the 2% inflation goal - paging Kyle Bass - and ironically, as the news broke Tokyo was hit by a significant earthquake.
#BREAKING: N. Korea army says it has final approval for nuclear attack on US
— Agence France-Presse (@AFP) April 3, 2013
Why has the Euro-zone fallen back into recession, and why can't it shake of its seemingly never-ending crisis? Is there light at the end of the tunnel - or is that an approaching train? A walk through the Euro-zone with charts of macro-economic data reveals the crisis is far from over. Instead, most trends are pointing towards further deterioration - facts as opposed to the hope and anecdote that we are bombarded with on a daily basis. While perusing these charts, consider EU President Barroso's comments just today that, "the worst of the crisis is over." You decide.