Never waste a good crisis. While we already knew a major reason for The West chasing into Africa was to leverage its relatively low credit levels as the last bastion of Keynesian-stimulus-hope in the world (estimated at between $5 and $10 trillion in secured debt, using its extensive untapped resources as first-lien collateral). And so it is little surprise that, as The WSJ reports, The International Monetary Fund on Thursday warned the West African Ebola epidemic requires a "large scale" global intervention to control a crisis that is ravaging economies in the region. All three major Ebola-suffering countries were already in bailout programs ($200mm loan in 2012 for Guinea, $100mm loan for Sierra Leone, and $80mm credit facility for Liberia) but with the "world community taking forever to respond," The IMF is happy to step in and secure some assets / lend over $100mm more to each nation to fill financing gaps.
"The receptivity of the great masses is very limited, their intelligence is small, but their power of forgetting is enormous. In consequence of these facts, all effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these in slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand by your slogan. As soon as you sacrifice this slogan and try to be many-sided, the effect will piddle away, for the crowd can neither digest nor retain the material offered. In this way the result is weakened and in the end entirely cancelled out."
The rise of Islamic State has upended geopolitics in the Middle East and, as The Economist notes, drawn America's military back to the region. Though ISIS is popular among militants, the group has no allies on the political stage, making it even more isolated than the official al-Qaeda affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra. As The Economist's "relationship mosaic" above visualizes the rapports among countries, political groups and militant organizations in the Middle East.
In January we noted 'Smart Restaurant' - the burger-flipping robot - and just last month we reported on China's robotification of the fast-food business; but, as The Washington Post reports, the greatest enemy to the minimum-wage-demanding fast-food worker has arrived: you can now order your own quarter-pound bacon cheeseburger from a welcoming, non-judging machine. With McDonalds sales the worst in almost a decade, it appears their need to maintain profits has stoked a move towards dehumanization. One wonder how long before tabltes are also declared 'unpatriotic'.
Two academic studies of the health dangers of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, have produced different conclusions. One, conducted by Yale University, said people living near fracking sites report increased health problems. The other, by Penn State University, says fracking water stays underground, far below the groundwater supplies that people use for drinking, and poses no threat.
Venezuelan women are revolting complaining. While the citizens of the socialist utopia can withstand shortages of food, toilet paper, and now even news paper, in a nation thought to have one of the world's highest plastic surgery rates, AP reports beauty-obsessed Venezuelans face a scarcity of brand-name breast implants, and women are so desperate that they and their doctors are turning to devices that are the wrong size or made in China, with less rigorous quality standards. No one is giving the frustrated women much sympathy, especially not the government where late President Hugo Chavez called the country's plastic surgery fixation "monstrous," and railed against the practice of giving implants to girls on their 15th birthdays. However, many have taken to Twitter under the hashtag "Without Boobs, There's No Paradise."
Just like the US and the EU, Switzerland at the federal level is ruled by a group of elites who are more concerned with their own status, well-being, and international reputation than with the good of the country. The gold referendum, if it is successful, will be a slap in the face to those elites. The Swiss people appreciate the work their forefathers put into building up large gold reserves, a respected currency, and a strong, independent banking system. They do not want to see centuries of struggle squandered by a central bank. The results of the November referendum may be a bellwether, indicating just how strong popular movements can be in establishing central bank accountability and returning gold to a monetary role.
It appears today's weakness in stocks (most notably high-beta momo) and bonds (HY credit weakness) was triggered by two "ma"s - grandma Yellen and grand-poohbah BABA's Ma. Hawkish FOMC concerns took the shine off HY credit (and stocks) but Treasury bonds rallied modestly (5Y -3bps, 10Y -2bps). However, high-beta momo stocks dragged Nasdaq and Russell lower as 'smart money' proclaimed this was making room for the Alibaba IPO (which raises the question - if there is so much pent-up demand money on the sidelines just dying to be lost in the stock market, then why were so many high-beta, high-growth, momo names being sold today, theoretically in order to make room for the BABA IPO?) The USDollar ended marginally higher (GBP weakness, EUR strength) but most commodities gained on the day (Copper down on China) with WTI back to $93. Stocks did have a mini-melt-up on absolutely no news whatsoever into the last hour but gave most back. The Russell 2000 is -0.5% in 2014.
While Janet Yellen and her band of money printers work themselves into a tizzy over whether two buzz words - “considerable time” - should be dropped from their post-meeting word cloud, they might be better advised to just read the newspapers. This morning’s WSJ brings word that the lending boom which our monetary central planners are eager to stimulate is apparently off-to-the-races. Well, sort of. The item in question is a $122 billion globally syndicated loan to facilitate an M&A deal between the world’s two largest beer companies - AB InBev with a 20% global market share and SABMiller with 10%.
"So much for the ‘mini-stimulus’. The data on China’s economic performance in August released over the weekend were dismal, showing a significant and unexpected decline in growth. The boost from the government’s suite of supportive policies was always going to be temporary, but renewed weakness is appearing much sooner than expected. We had previously thought that policy could keep growth stable for a couple of quarters (see Fears For China’s Growth Postponed), but it only really worked for two months (May and June). So it looks as if the government has already lost its bet that it could keep GDP growth near its 7.5% target with only minimal intervention. With China transitioning out of its high investment phase, growth is on a downward trajectory. To alter that trajectory would require large scale monetary easing, but the government does not yet look inclined to support such a big shift in strategy. All of which points to more of the same: modest policy support and weaker growth."
Today is a rather peculiar public holiday in Japan: “Respect Old People Day”. And judging by the official demographics, an increasing proportion of the population should be revered today. One in eight Japanese is aged 75 or older. People over 65 will reach 33 million, the largest ever, roughly 25.9% of the population. The thing about demographic trends is that they’re like a huge oil tanker - once they’re on their course it’s very hard to steer them around in another direction. These are monumental, generational changes that are very hard and slow to reverse.
"There's nothing to be optimistic about," warns the professor who developed the Global Epidemic and Mobility Model to assess outbreaks, "if the number of cases increases and we are not able to start taming the epidemic, then it will be too late. And then it requires an effort that will be impossible to bring on the ground." As FredHutch reports, the deadly Ebola epidemic raging across West Africa will likely get far worse before it gets better, more than doubling the number of known cases by the end of this month, predicting as many as 10,000 cases of Ebola virus disease could be detected by Sept. 24 – and thousands more after that. “The cat’s already out of the box – way, way out," as the analysis of global mobility and epidemic patterns shows a rougly 25% chance of Ebola detection in the UK by the end of September and 18% it will turn up in the USA. "I hope to be wrong, he concludes, but "the data points are still aligned with the worst-case scenario."
Sometimes you just have to laugh... S&P green, check; catch up with AUDJPY, check; squeeze "most shorted", check... It appears the algos got the 330RAMP timing a little off. FX markets - no change; TSY markets - very small reaction, credit reacted but roundtripped.
"...we anticipate that the start of US rate hikes will do damage to markets in the short term, but that there will be greater differentiation over a more medium term between liquid and less liquid assets. In the short term, investors sell what they can, making liquid assets more vulnerable." - JPMorgan