European bourses are down at the North American crossover, all ten sectors in the red, on thin volumes and a distinct lack of data and news flow from the EU and the UK. The risk-off tone in part attributed to the much wider than expected Japanese trade deficit for July, whose exports also fell the most in six months, raising investor concern once again that Asian economy as a whole is stalling. Elsewhere, investor caution over the Greek debt crisis is once again mounting, as EU’s Juncker visits Athens today to meet with the Greek PM Samaras. Overnight it was reported that Greece would present EUR 13.5bln in budget cuts today, higher than the previous EUR 11.5bln, and whilst the country is not asking for more money, Samaras might request more time to implement them. Lawmakers in Netherlands remain critical of providing more aid for the country and continue to push for more reforms, such as spending cuts and privatization, with the Dutch Finance Minister de Jaeger commenting earlier that it is not a good idea for Greece to get more time.
- Merkel's Dilemma: Risk Euro Zone or Her Government (WSJ)... as first suggest by ZH 2 months ago, with only one resolution: referendum
- Russia warns West over Syria after Obama threats (Reuters)
- Consider keeping Bernanke, Romney adviser Glenn Hubbard says (Reuters)... Glenn Hubbard is the star of the movie Inside Job
- Spain Deficit Goals at Risk as Cuts Consensus Fades (Bloomberg)
- Czech Austerity Revolt Threatens Cabinet as Slump Bites (Bloomberg)
- Greek cuts to be deeper than trailed (FT)
- Akin rebuffs Romney, Republican calls to quit Senate race (Reuters)
- Obama Leads Romney in Poll Showing Disdain for Congress (Bloomberg)
- Greece needs more time to reform, PM Samaras tells paper (Reuters)
- UK banks face scandal over toxic insurance products (Reuters)
- Iceland Shelves Monetary Tightening as Krona Seen Appreciating (Bloomberg)
- India Considers $35 Billion Debt Revamp After Biggest Blackout (Bloomberg)
Hopes that today may finally see an increase in trading volatility and volume following yesterday's reversal session will likely be dashed as the event wasteland on the horizon continues for the third day in a row. As DB explains, the FOMC meeting minutes and Juncker’s visit to Athens are likely the two main sources for key headlines today. While backward looking and certainly predating Lockhart's hawkish comments from yesterday, the FOMC minutes today are expected to shed further light on the kind of policy currently under consideration and the economic conditions required before easing is warranted. One thing that will not be discussed is the circularity of launching more QE even as gas prices have never been higher on this day in history, soy and corn are back at all time highs, and the market trading at multi-year highs. As repeatedly explained before, the option for the FOMC include pushing out the targeted exit date for fed funds, providing “exit guidance” on balance sheet measures (i.e. asset sales), various mixes of additional balance sheet expansion (including the possibility of an open-ended QE program) and cutting interest on reserves. It is virtually certain that none of these will be enacted at the Jackson Hole meeting in one week, 2 months ahead of the presidential election, but hope springs eternal.
The chart below, which is a time series showing the total "Gold Held by the US Treasury and the Federal Reserve" (which for all intents and purposes are interchangeable), demonstrates vividly the moment when the US government enacted Executive Order 6102, aka the "forbidding the Hoarding of Gold Coin, Gold Bullion, and Gold Certificates within the continental United States" order which criminalized the possession of monetary gold "by any individual, partnership, association or corporation." But not the government of course. Spot the moment after which gold confiscation by the US government (also known as a 40% USD devaluation) from its citizens was legalized.
The sit-back-and-relax 'buy and hold' strategy that unqualified portfolio managers banked on for so many years has perished in this highly leveraged, central-banking-dominated environment. There is something, though, that is more troubling for the US economy, and specifically middle-class laborers: Robotics. The reality is that this atypical Great Recession has forced business owners to become savvy: businesses have learned how to operate--and even thrive--in this dry economic environment, and the main tool that has allowed them to do so is cost-cutting. Unfortunately for the labor market, these cost-reduction techniques are sticking, and for the time being business owners (particularly manufacturers) see no reason to add more human employees when they can purchase robots at a cheaper rate.
Somewhat disastrous trade balance data from Japan - with exports dramatically worse-than-expected (EU exports -25.1% YoY) and imports worse-than-expected (which will come as no surprise to any ZH reader given Europe's depression and our discussion of world trade here) - has crushed JPY crosses overnight (especially AUDJPY) which is exactly what we said at the close today was required to extend today's equity weakness. Sure enough, S&P 500 futures are down over 6 points from the close now - and trading below day-session lows.
The fact that labour mobility is low in Europe is indicative of a fundamental problem. In any currency union or integrated economy it is necessary that there is enough mobility that people can emigrate from places where there is excess labour (the periphery) to places where labour is in short supply. Now, there is free movement in Europe, which is an essential prerequisite to a currency union. But the people themselves don’t seem to care for utilising it. Why? I can theorise a few potential reasons people wouldn’t want to move — displacement from friends and family, moving costs, local attachment. Yet none of those reasons are inapplicable to the United States. However there are two reasons which do not apply in the United States — language barriers and national loyalty. It is those reasons, I would suggest, that are preventing Europe from really functioning as a single economy with a higher rate of labour mobility. The people who built the Euro realised that such problems existed, but decided to adopt a cross-that-bridge-when-we-come-to-it approach. But long-term and deep-seated issues like language barriers and nationalistic sentiment cannot simply be eroded away in a day with an economic policy instrument. No bond-buying bazooka can smooth the underlying reality that Europe — unlike the United States — is not a single country.
In the aftermath of its recent epic hacking, Reuters decided to take down its in house blogs. Few people noticed, and from what we hear they are still down. However, when Reuters' 3000 - the firm's FX trading platform: "one of the two key systems used by currency traders around the world, experienced an outage Tuesday, according to several market participants" goes down, and has yet to come up, we can only hope that someone has paid attention unless FX trading is also now thoroughly dominated by algos as well) to a market which transacts to the tune of several trillions in notional every day. But perhaps most interesting is that the "break" occurred at precisely 3:13 pm, at just the moment when the accelerating selloff in the EURUSD, and thus the broad market, could have caused quite a headache for those whose reelection chances are dependent on the S&P being as high as possible heading into November.
Every now and again the coincidences (or some might call them conspiracies) become too much to bear. We have noted the incessant deep-pocketed use of volatility as a levered way to manage equities up (or down we suppose should the need arise from a centrally-planned banking institution that does not feel the incumbent is in his court). Today was a great example of the desperate interaction of the world's most over-owned (and biggest) company and selling pressure over-whelming the VWAP algos. As the chart below shows, the early selling pressure in AAPL smashed prices down to yesterday's close and closing VWAP; volumes surged as algos piled institutions out but they soon got overhwhelmed as the price fell through their VWAP level (which means the costs start to pile up to the market-maker's algo which promised VWAP execution). Immediately Plan B comes into play - Sell Vol Hard!
It may come as a surprise to some of our younger readers, that the Eurozone, and its associated currency, is merely the latest in a long series of failed attempts to create a European currency union and a common currency. Three of the most notable predecessors to the EUR include the Hapsburg Empire, the Soviet Union, and Yugoslavia. Obviously, these no longer exist. Just as obvious, all of these unions, having spent time, energy, money, and effort to change the culture and traditions of member countries and to perpetuate said unions, had no desire, just like Brussels nowadays, to see these unions implode. The question then is: what happened after these multi-nation currency unions fails. VOX kindly answers: "they all ended with disastrous hyperinflation."
After touching four-year highs this morning, the S&P abruptly turned tail and sold back down. AAPL slumped hard off its all-time record high open just shy of $675 - reverting NASDAQ to its peer indices and broadly equities had the worst day in 3 weeks (and only its 4th down day of the month of August). S&P 500 e-mini futures (ES) volume surged to its highest in three weeks - and average trade size was its highest since the lows in early June - along with its largest daily range in three weeks. Volatility jumped (amid some extreme gappiness as AAPL started to lose it) back above 15% (up over 1 vol) - leaking modestly lower into the close as ES saw some intraday covering to lift it 'off-the-lows'.