- America’s Role as Consumer of Last Resort Goes Missing (BBG)
- Holiday sales sag despite blitz of deals (WSJ)
- Abe Support Falls Below 50% for First Time Amid Secrecy Drive (BBG)
- U.S. airlines give China flight plans for defense zone (Reuters), while Japan: no change to airlines' notification policy when flying in East China Sea zone (Reuters)
- Thai protesters seek to topple PM after clashes (Reuters)
- Hilton Seeks as Much as $2.4 Billion in Biggest Hotel IPO (BBG)
- Biden on delicate mission to defuse tensions in East Asia (Reuters)
- Fed eyes financial system weak link (WSJ)
- Pentagon in line of fire in US budget war (FT)
- China’s monetary squeeze collides with housing bubble (FT)
The implicit, and ever more explicit, institutional acceptance of the dominant cryptocurrency Bitcoin (we say dominant because as we pointed out last week, there has been an unprecedented spike of digital currencies one can pick and choose from) continues when following the surge in vendors willing to transact in BTC over Thanksgiving, the latest news comes from the birthplace of the modern central bank, the UK, where we learn that none other than the UK Royal Mint has been working on plans since this summer to issue physical Bitcoins in collaboration with the Channel Island of Alderney. But where the story gets downright surreal is that as the FT reports, the same symbolic Bitcoin token issued by the Royal Mint "would have a gold content – a figure of £500-worth has been proposed – so that holders could conceivably melt and sell the metal if the exchange value of the currency were to collapse." In brief: a perfect, and utterly incomprehensible, fusion of (opposing) hard, soft and digital currencies all rolled into one...
In addition to its three previously announced so far "Top Trades" for 2014 (see here, here and here), just over an hour ago Goldman revealed its fourth top recommendation to clients. To wit: Goldman is selling China equities (via the HSCWI Index), while buying copper (via Dec 2014 futs), or at least advising its flow clients to do the opposite while admitting that "for the long China equity/short commodity pair trade to “work” best, these two assets, which are usually positively correlated, will have to move in opposite directions." For that and many other reasons why betting on a divergence of two very closely correlating assets will lead to suffering, read on. Finally - do as Goldman says, or as it does? That is the eternal question, one whose answer is a tad more problematic since the author in this case is not Tom Stolper but Noah Weisberger.
Asian equities have gotten off to a rocky start to the week despite some initial optimism around the twin-Chinese PMI beats at the start of the session. That optimism has been replaced by selling in Chinese equities, particularly small-cap Chinese stocks and A-shares after the Chinese security regulator issued a reform plan for domestic IPOs over the weekend. The market is expecting the reforms to lead to a higher number of IPOs in the coming quarters, and the fear is that this will bring a wave of new supply of stock to an already-underperforming market. Indeed, the Chinese securities regulator expects about 50 firms to complete IPOs by January 2014 – and another 763 firms have already submitted their IPO applications and are currently awaiting approval. A large number of small cap stocks listed on Hong Kong’s Growth Enterprise Market were down by more than 5% this morning, while the Shanghai Composite is down by 0.9%. The Hang Seng (+0.4%), Hang Seng China Enterprises Index (+0.8%) are performing better on a relative basis, and other China-growth assets including the AUDUSD is up 0.5%. The Nikkei (-0.1%) is also a touch weaker after Japan’s Q3 capital expenditure numbers came in well below estimates (1.5% YoY vs 3.6% forecast). Elsewhere Sterling continues to forge new multi-year highs against the USD (+0.3% overnight).
While the idea of the interventionist suppression of short-term 'normal' volatility leading to extreme volatility scenarios is not new, hearing it explained so transparently by a current (and practicing) central banker is still somewhat shocking. As Buba's Jens Weidmann recent speech at Harvard attests, "The idea of monetary policy safeguarding stability on multiple fronts is alluring. But by giving in to that allure, we would likely end up in a world even less stable than before."
While the fundamentals continue to deteriorate, we are sure the idea of drone-based delivery (which fits with the 7500 drones the FAA expects within the next few years) will add a few multiple points to Amazon's share price valuation. On a side note, with increasing awareness of the government's surveillance, what better way for the NSA to keep an eye on everyone up close and personal (and to get an occasional invoice by the company that has made burning cash from operations into an art form).
The following seven minutes of mayhem look eerily reminiscent of the violent pre-ambles to the middle-east's recent coups or non-coups. As anti-government protesters demonstrated against the shunning of a European trade agreement (President Yanukovych - "I will not allow any serious economic losses and decline of living standards"); the clashes became ever more violent as the police cracked down. Following heavyweight boxing champion (and opposition leader) Vitali Klitschko's call for a new government - "our main task is Yanukovych’s resignation. But the first step is the resignation of Azarov’s government" - the clashes left at least 265 people injured. The crackdown followed Interior Minister comments that they "won’t allow Ukraine to become another Libya or Tunisia, where uprisings toppled governments in recent years." Of course, the main difference is the Ukraine is now squarely under Putin's sphere of influence.
UPDATE: BTC has rallied 26% off its lows in the last 55 minutes
From it's gold-matching highs at $1242 on Thursday night, the price of Bitcoin has collapsed over $400 (32%) to $840 on heavy volume. Of course, this is only a one-week low for the exuberant digital currency but still a significant plunge (as its smaller brethren Litecoin has collapsed 51% from its highs). Interestingly, this drops the price of Bitcoin in USD below the 'arb'-based price of Bitcoin in China ($965). It seems, all coincidence aside, that the BIS infamous plunge-protection-team has been re-trained...
If CNN was doing its best this morning to prove that the second coming of healthcare.gov is fixed, it... failed.
As Mike Maloney forecast in the mid-2000s, the roller-coaster ride continues in world markets and economies. His - so far - spot on projection that "first the threat of deflation (1), followed by a helicopter drop (2), followed by big reflation (3), followed by a real deflation (4), and then followed by hyperinflation (5)," appears to be rotating from stage 3 to stage 4 (as we noted here). However, as Maloney explains in this brief clip, while we have seen great deflations before, in the '30s one-third of the monetary base was backed by gold, now we virtually nothing as "people do not understand the scale of the emergency that's going on right now."
Only one-third of Americans say their fellow countrymen can be trusted according to a recent AP-GfK poll, down from over half 40 years ago. Americans are suspicious of each other in everyday encounters and who can blame them with the government appearing to bless any and all surveillance and intervention in the interests of the status quo. "I'm leery of everybody," warns one respondent, and as AP reports, this is a potential problem for economic growth as "social trust" brings good things. A society where it's easier to compromise or make a deal; where people are willing to work with those who are different from them for the common good, appears to promote economic growth. Distrust, on the other hand, seems to encourage corruption and there's no easy fix.
"We are on the eve of a deflationary shock which will likely reduce equity valuations from very high to very low levels.... Each investor must decide for themselves just how close to midnight they want to leave this particular party. The advice of Solid Ground is leave now as it is increasingly likely that one event will be the catalyst to very rapidly change inflationary into deflationary expectations... So perhaps it is global deflationary forces creating a bankruptcy event, somewhere in the world, that is the catalyst for a sudden change in inflationary expectations in the developed world. It can all happen very quickly; and it is dangerous to stay at an equity party driven by disinflation when it can spill so rapidly into deflation... When there is plenty of leverage in the system and any key price starts to decline then a credit event and a sudden change in inflationary expectations are much more possible than the consensus believes. So watch the TIPS, BAA bond spreads and copper if you must, but this analyst prefers to observe the party from outside.... Each investor must decide for themselves just how close to midnight they want to leave this particular party."
- Russell Napier, CLSA