While the world is terrified about what China - where corporate bond defaults are now permitted - may be about to unleash on the world, most are all too happy to remain in a state of delightful ignorance. We decided to take a peek behind the scenes.
Just before the European close, copper prices on the LME (and US futures) began to crack on rumors that another China corporate had defaulted. This plunge was accompanied by a collapsed in AUD and rumors across desks were a levered fund unwind (which appears some China-commodity play) was responsible. While many would like to believe that fundamentals matter, today made it clear they don't as AUDJPY weakness dragged stocks lower tick-for-tick. A brief moment of hope in the early-afternoon - where VIX was slammed lower as momentum away from carry was sparked failed and stocks continued to slide, retracing a considerable amount of post-Putin gains. Bonds and gold were bid (after the latter suffered early) as WTI crude slipped back under $100 and copper was crushed.
It's all about the fun-durr-mentals... but, just in case you don't believe that, this morning's angst over copper financing and China credit concerns has sparked notable carry unwinds (USDJPY below 103 and AUDJPY 93) and therefore US equities are tumbling (tick for tick). This morning's volatility in stocks was considerable around the open suggesting a lot of uncertainty and nervousness.
Copper futures prices are plunging once again, back under $3.00 back at the lowest levels since July 2010. The last 3 days have seen prices drop over 7.5% as China credit contagion concerns surge and letters-of-credit from last summer's cash-for-copper financing deals roll-off and businesses need the cash. The vicious circle of tumbling collateral values (copper and Iron ore) is exacerbating the tightening financial conditions in China as banks hoard liquidity, unwilling to lend to the over-capacity industries that the government has deemed unworthy. Rumors today of further defaults triggered this latest drop, and as we noted previously, there are a lot more to come.
- Malaysia Says Stolen Passport User Had No Links to Terror Groups (BBG)
- Malaysia military tracked missing plane to west coast (Reuters)
- Freescale loss in Malaysia tragedy leads to travel policy questions (Reuters)
- Top German body calls for QE blitz to avert deflation trap in Europe (Telegraph)
- Firms Suffer 23% Drop in Asia Fees Amid Search for Cash (BBG)
- Putin Dismisses U.S. Proposal on Ukraine (WSJ)
- Lenovo says China strike an IBM matter, but it won't cut wages (Reuters)
- Congress to Investigate GM Recall (WSJ)
- New hedge funds face life or death battle for funding (FT)
- Muni Bond Costs Hit Investors in Wallet (WSJ)
- BOJ keeps stimulus in place, cuts view on exports in warning sign (Reuters)
- ECB Homes In on Risky Assets as Inspectors Fan Out Across Europe (BBG)
- Snowden: "The Constitution was violated" (Reuters)
Stocks in Europe failed to hold onto early gains and gradually moved into negative territory, albeit minor, as concerns over money markets in China gathered attention yet again after benchmark rates fell to lowest since May 2012. Nevertheless, basic materials outperformed on the sector breakdown, as energy and metal prices rebounded following yesterday’s weaker than expected Chinese data inspired sell off. At the same time, Bunds remained supported by the cautious sentiment, while EUR/USD came under pressure following comments by ECB's Constancio who said that financial markets misinterpreted us a little, can still cut rates and implement QE or buy assets. Going forward, market participants will get to digest the release of the weekly API report after the closing bell on Wall Street and the US Treasury will kick off this week’s issuance with a sale of USD 30bln in 3y notes.
A curious story, and one which should be taken with a mine of salt, has surfaced out of the pro-Russian newspaper Iskra, which reports - so far on an entirely unsubstantiated basis - that last Friday, in a mysterious operation under the cover of night, Ukraine's gold reserves were promptly loaded onboard an unmarked plane, which subsequently took the gold to the US.
While the mystery builds over the still officially unexplained disappearance of Malaysian flight MH370, or just who the two passengers with "stolen" passports may have been although we expect a revelation on this issue shortly, the FT has added yet another twist to what is sure to be a conspiracy thriller for weeks to come: the paper reports that the Thai travel agent who booked the tickets for the men in question said that she had been asked to arrange the travel by an Iranian contact. Adding to the confusion is the revelation that originally the mysterious Iranian, known only as Mr. Ali, tried to reserve seats for the two men on separate flights not to China, but to Europe, one on a Qatar Airways flight, and the other on Etihad. And the punchline: a "friend" of Mr. Ali's paid for the tickets in cash.
While central bankers and politicians alike celebrate the great recorvery in the UK, the nation is increasingly divided between the haves and have-nots (or Londoners and non-Londoners). In no way is that more clearly evident that a dreadful new trend that, as The Sunday Post reports, desperate Brits are turning to Facebook to advertise their organs for sale at up to $50,000 despite the medical and legal risks involved.
Early weakness and volatility was entirely suppressed once European markets closed and stocks traded in a shockingly low range amid dreadfully low volume. All the major indices closed red with the Russell underperforming (and Nasdaq outperforming) as stocks tracked (more loosely than normal) with AUDJPY once again. Treasuries ended the day very modestly lower in yield (30Y unch, rest -1bps). The USD traded modestly higher all day led by weakness in GBP and AUD (as JPY ended unch). Gold closed unchanged as copper (China), oil, and silver slipped. Credit markets remain skeptical and VIX closed higher on the day, despite the late-day ramp efforts to get the S&P 500 green - which failed.
One month ago, when we last looked at the incredible amount of Chinese new loan issuance, a topic which even the mainstream media is slowly starting to circle in on as the primary source of hot money flow creation in the world, we found the highest loan notional issued by the country's semi-sovereign banks since 2009, and the largest one-month ever monthly total in the largest aggregated, Total Social Financial, series, which rose by an unprecedented CNY2.6 trillion, or over $400 billion in one month! That was just before the tremors surrounding first the potential defaults of several Chinese shadow-banking Trusts, and certainly before the first official corporate bond default which took place last week. Overnight, the PBOC released its latest, February, loan data. As expected, it reveals something else entirely.
One of the two men who used stolen passports to board the missing Malaysia Airlines jet has been identified according to the nation’s inspector general of police. Authorities are not releasing details of his nationality but confirmed he is neither Malaysian nor from Xinjiang, China (the home of the Uighur separatists who have come under suspicion following Taiwanese authorities tip last week warning that terrorists were targeting Beijing’s international airport).
Iron Ore prices have dropped 25% since the end of last year, sending the key steel-making component into a bear market after slumping by over 9% overnight - its biggest daily drop on record. We warned last week this was likely to happen on the heels of Copper prices fell on monetary financing fears as we explained here how Iron Ore replaced copper as the collateral pool for new loans (following China's clampdown on cash-for-copper deals last year) and stockpiles hit record highs. What is further hurting the Iron ore prices are concerns over China's new anti-pollution reforms which are set to close thousands of furnaces.
The disgusting images of face-mask-wearing Chinese going about their daily business in minimal visibility and lung-busting conditions are strewen across the interwebs. However, even fake sun-rises pale into significance when the full dismal reality of China's pollution problem is put in context. Perhaps the following chart is why China's latest round of reforms appear to 'declare war on pollution'.