Swiss FX reserves went up by 50% in Q2, about CHF127bn and are now close to 65% of Swiss GDP, a very large number. The assumption is that in the first instance almost all of the initial purchases were of EUR (to support the 1.20 peg). The question is how may of these euros were they able to get out of to limit the SNB’s exposure. As Citi's Steven Englander notes, the extent of diversification matters for EUR, CHF, GBP and small G10 currencies. The risk is that the SNB has been unable to diversify out of the euros they bought in Q2. If the EUR share runs above 55% or worse 60%, it would mean that the SNB has had to hang on to a large chunk of their euros. Investors will see greater risk of ultimate capital loss if the peg should break and greater risk of desperation selling of EUR down the road. We get the answer when the SNB publishes its first half results on July 31.
July 27, 2011: "Speculating on Greece defaulting is a certain way of losing out. Such a speculation would be a sure-fire way of losing money given the decisions taken last Thursday" Here is what happened next to Greek bond yields (and inversely, Greek bond prices).
Gold held steady above $1,620/oz on Monday, as investors wait for the central banks from Europe and the US to give definite signs on their plans for more QE. QE3 would be bullish for gold and increase the inflation outlook which would benefit gold as a hedge against the rising prices. The public is now interested in the yellow metal again, with investors adding to their physical positions. Market watchers will take their clues from the data out this week. More investors are trading euro gold than ever before and using euro gold as the barometer of internal health of the gold market right now, says analyst Edel Tully of UBS. Euro gold is up 9% this year versus US dollar gold's +3% performance. The markets await the Fed’s move. Certainly some form of QE3 is inevitable whether it is announced this week or at the next FOMC meeting scheduled in early September
We doubt Mariano Rajoy had contagious diseases in mind when a month ago he told his economy minister that Spain is not the grief stricken African country, but today Spain certainly is lucky not to be Uganda, where a freak outbreak of Ebola, which has already claimed 14 lives, has spread to the capital. From BBC: "Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni has called on people to avoid physical contact, after the deadly Ebola virus spread to the capital, Kampala. Fourteen people have died, including one in Kampala, since the outbreak began in western Uganda three weeks ago, he said in a special broadcast. Ebola is one of the most virulent diseases in the world."
- Schäuble View on Eurozone at Odds With US (FT)
- Juncker: Euro zone leaders, ECB to act on Euro (Reuters)
- German Banks Cut Back Periphery Lending (FT)
- Monetary Policy Role in EU Debt Crisis Limited: Zoellick (CNBC)
- Bond Trading Loses Some Swagger Amid Upheaval (NYT)
- As first reported on ZH, Deflation Dismissed by Bond Measure Amid QE3 Anticipation (Bloomberg)
- Record Cash Collides With Yen as Topix Valuation Nearing Low (Bloomberg) - but, but, all the cash on the sidelines...
- Greek Leaders Agree Most Cuts, Lenders Stay On – Source (Reuters)
- Chinese Investment in US 'set for record year' (China Daily)
Goldman's ex-employee Mario Draghi is in a box: he knows he has to do something, but he also knows his options are very limited politically and financially. Yet he has no choice but to escalate and must surprise markets with a forceful intervention as per his words last week or else. What does that leave him? Well, according to Goldman's Huw Pill, nothing short of pulling a BOJ and announcing on Thursday that he will proceed with monetization of private assets, an event which so far only the Bank of Japan has publicly engaged in, and one which will confirm the world's relentless Japanization. From Pill: "Given the (to us) surprisingly bold tone of Mr. Draghi’s comments last week, we nevertheless think a new initiative may well be in the offing. We have argued in the past that the next step in the escalation of the ECB response would be outright purchases of private assets. Acting in this direction on Thursday would represent a significant event. We forecast the announcement of measures to permit NCBs to purchase private-sector assets under their own risk to implement ‘credit easing’, within a general framework approved by the Governing Council. This would allow purchases of unsecured bank debt and corporate debt, enabling NCBs to ease private-sector financial conditions where such support is most needed." Why would the ECB do this: "A natural objection to outright purchases of assets issued by the private sector is that they involve the assumption of too much credit risk by the ECB. But substantial risk is already assumed via credit operations." In other words, the only thing better than a little global central banker put is a whole lot global central banker put, and when every central planner is now all in, there is no longer any downside to putting in even more taxpayer risk on the table. Or so the thinking goes.
There are only three words that send a chill down the spine of Ben Bernanke - Ron, Paul, and Deflation. His life's work is devoted to the avoidance-at-all-costs of the latter (and probably the former in reality). As we discussed here two weeks ago, his actions in extreme monetary policy have all occurred at periods when the market's expectations of future rapid de- or dis-inflation have increased rapidly. As we noted then: without inflation break-evens dropping, the Bernanke put will not arrive; but the market in its infinitely efficient wisdom has created a self-defeating spiral of BTFD reflexive front-running on any rapid spike down in future inflation expectations - which implicitly sparks a non-dis-inflationary reaction and removes Bernanke's punchbowl for another day. This has occurred 4 times this year - with this week's early plunge being caught by Draghi and Hilsenrath - and with inflation break-evens almost at their highest in 10 months, it would appear the 'desperate-not-to-miss-the-life-giving-rally' market just removed its own blood supply.
The secular bear market that the US has been caught in for a better part of the last decade will end. Eventually. The only question is when. Last week we reported that the bulk of market gains year to date, has been driven exclusively by PE multiple expansion, which is to be expected: EPS forecasts for the end of 2012 are now the lowest they have been since the beginning of the year. Yet while such sharp, sudden and short and bear-market rallies, exclusively on the back of the global central banks, are to be expected, the bigger question is how much more of a secular decline in PE multiples is to be expected before the bear market ends and a new bull market can begin. As the following chart from Crestmont Research shows there is quite a bit more to go, even with Fed assistance (or rather, because of it, and its forced rejection of reaching a fair clearing price sooner rather than later), before the bear market is officially over. Just over 50% more. To the downside.
The insolvent banana continent is back. Recall back in May 2011:
“When it becomes serious, you have to lie." -Jean Claude Juncker
Ergo, things in Europe are very serious again because the Eurogroup's head, who until recently promised he was quitting his post because "he had gotten tired of the Franco-German interference in managing the region's debt crisis", only to spoil the fun and say he was lying about that too, is back to doing what he does best - lying. To wit: "the euro countries are preparing together with the bailout fund EFSF and the European Central Bank to buy government bonds if necessary clip euro countries." And now cue Schauble: "Federal Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has rejected speculation about impending purchases of government bonds by Spanish EFSF and ECB."
Yes, we know it doesn't matter because Ben & Mario have got our backs at whatever multiple is required to levitate the economy market, but as Citi's credit desk points out; despite the constant chatter about EPS beats (despite top-line misses), the trick is that analysts have been dragging down expectations since the earnings-cycle began and so judging 'misses' must be done against a 'frozen' pre-earnings number. If we do this 'fair' approach to considering expectations, the percentage miss in the S&P 500's EPS for Q2 2012 is as bad as the Q2/Q3 2011 Tsunami-driven miss - and the worst we have seen since Lehman Brothers shuffled off this mortal coil. So as usual, be careful what truth you believe and consider just how much more 'hope' is now in this market given this reality.
So we have two weeks of sport to take our minds off the global financial malaise. The EU commissars have all gone on holiday, but not before Mario Draghi (ECB Chairman) announced that he will do whatever it takes to save the euro. Really? His statement did knock the Spanish 10 year bond yield back below 7%, but this had become a one way and illiquid trade that was due for break. We have seen it all before with Greece. Denial, denial, denial all the way until days before default restructuring. Talking of which, the Greeks think they are in line for a further handout. Those whirring sounds you can hear in the distance are printing presses knocking out “new” drachma.
"September will undoubtedly be the crunch time," one senior euro zone policymaker said. "In nearly 20 years of dealing with EU issues, I've never known a state of affairs like we are in now," one euro zone diplomat said this week. "It really is a very, very difficult fix and it's far from certain that we'll be able to find the right way out of it."