As reported earlier, several hours ago Saudi Arabia announced that its 91-year-old King Abdullah had passed away, in the process setting off what may be a fascinating, and problematic, Saudi succession fight which impacts everything from oil, to markets to geopolitics, especially in the aftermath of the dramatic political coup in neighboring Yemen. As a reminder, it is Saudi Arabia whose insistence on not cutting oil production with the intent of hobbling the US shale industry has led to the splinter of OPEC, and to a Brent price south of $50. Which is why today's event and its implications will be analyzed under a microscope by everyone: from politicians to energy traders. Here, courtesy of Ecstrat's Emad Mostaque, is an initial take at succession, the likely impact on oil, then the Saudi market & currency and finally regional politics.
The ongoing 'isolation' of Russia took another turn for the un-isolated-er today when, as Bloomberg reports, China will build a 7,000-kilometer (4,350-mile) high-speed rail link from Beijing to Moscow, at a cost of 1.5 trillion yuan ($242 billion), Beijing’s city government said. The rail-link - which will bring travel time between Beijing and Moscow down from 5 days to 30 hours - signals a 10-year partnership between the two nations and follows the dropping of the French company, Alstom, from the project.
History proves a government can’t be fiscally responsible and the policeman of the world. All great empires were befallen by the inability of resources to keep up with ambition. From Alexander the Great to Rome to the great British Empire, hegemony doesn’t last forever. The U.S. government guarantees security to over 35 countries and has troops stationed in over 146 countries. Does such an astounding presence – completely unmatched by previous empires – really sound all that sensible?
Chinese Stocks Recover From Biggest Plunge In Years As 'Still-Contracting' Manufacturing Industry ImprovesSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/22/2015 21:12 -0500
Following the biggest crash in Chinese stocks in 8 years on Monday (following regulator's crackdown on margin trading), The Shanghai Composite has now retraced all those losses as China's Manufacturing PMI rises and beats modestly (though remains technically in contraction at 49.8 for the 2nd month). HSBC notes marginal domestic demand improvements but employment and prices continued to deteriorate hinting at a continued manufacturing slowdown (which stocks love - bad news is good news). The problem for the reflexive equity market gamblers is that the higher stocks go, the less likely a broad-based RRR cut is to happen. Along those lines, the CNY Fix was weakened by the most in 10 months today and yesterday the first reverse repo liquidity injection in a year as Chinese year-end liquidity concerns once again move front-and-center...
There is virtually nothing which is on the level in today’s financial markets. According to the Fed’s PR firm, Hilsenramp & Blackstone, one quarter of the $7 trillion in bonds issued by euro zone government are trading at negative yields. And this drastic financial repression prevails across the yield curve, not just on the short end. Yes, the juxtaposition is entirely reasonable that a state drifting toward insolvency and/or ruinous taxation should be able to borrow 10-year money at 0.70%. That is, when the fix is in, the central bank printing press is open to buy, the apparatchiks are terrified and one of history’s greatest monetary charlatans is in charge - the speculators have nothing to do but harvest their haul. So now begins the greatest heist since Bernanke bailed out Wall Street in September 2008.
While the rest of the developed world, flooded with re-exported deflation as a result of now ubiquitous money printing, scrambles to print even more money in hopes of stimulating the economy when all it is doing is accelerating a closed deflationary loop (at least until the infamous monetary helicopter drop), China - which still has the most centrally-planned economy in the world even if the US is rapidly catching up - has a more novel way of dealing with the threat of deflation: a massive wage hike across the board for all public workers. Two days ago, at a press conference, the Chinese vice minister of human resources and social security Hu Xiaoyi said that China’s 39 million civil servants and public workers will get a pay raise of at least 60% of their base salaries as part of pension plan overhaul.
It’s already ‘later’. We're living through the period of time when that dawning recognition of limits will finally burst over the horizon, shining a very bright spotlight on a frightening number of our global society's unsustainable practices. The most urgent of them all, as far as everyone reading this is concerned, is the very uncomfortable fact that it is our system of money that is most likely to break first and hardest because its very design demands endless growth, without which collapse ensues. Central bank credibility (as fictitious as that may be) is essential to maintaining the current narrative, BUT central banks are rapidly losing their credibility (which should have happened simply via deductive reasoning a long time ago) and the strains are showing. When credibility in central bank omnipotence snaps, buckle up. Risk will get re-priced, markets will fall apart, losses will mount, and politicians will seek someone (anyone, dear God, but them) to blame.
Since its inception in 2008, easy monetary policy has created very few positive effects for the real economy — and has created considerable (and in some cases unforeseen) negative effects as well. The BIS warns of financial bubbles. While economic policymakers should take a closer look at Japan, China, and yes, the United States, when debating the limits of monetary stimulus and the dangerous nature of financial bubbles; sadly, the discussion is happening too late to be anything more than an intellectual exercise.
After first falling ill and being hospitalized in December, Saudi Arabia officials have announced:
*SAUDI ARABIAN KING ABDULLAH DIES, CROWN PRINCE SALMAN SUCCEEDS: STATE TV
As we noted previously when considering this possibility, "a new King can do (almost) anything he wants, including changing oil policy." 79-year-old Crown Prince Salman has been named succesor (and has his own health issues - reportedly suffering from Dementia). Oil prices popped around 80c on the news.
More than six years after the last recession, deflation remains an imminent threat. The continued hope is that the next round of interventions will be the one that finally sparks the inflationary pressures needed to jump start the engine of economic recovery. Unfortunately, that has yet to be the case, and the rate of diminishing returns from each program continue to increase. The collapse in commodity prices, interest rates and the surge in dollar are all clear signs that money is seeking "safety" over "risk." Maybe you should be asking yourself what it is that they know that you don't? The answer could be extremely important.
- ECB to decide on bond-buying plan to revive euro zone (Reuters)
- Draghi Is Pushing Boundaries of Euro Region with QE Program (BBG)
- Investors Wonder Whether ECB Will Do Enough (WSJ)
- Treasuries Drop With Bunds Before ECB; U.S. Futures Rise (BBG)
- European shares hit seven-year high (Reuters)
- At least eight civilians killed in shelling of Ukrainian trolleybus (Reuters), both sides blame each other
- OPEC Will Blink First in Battle With Shale Drillers, Poll Shows (BBG)
- China Injects $8 Billion Into Banking System (WSJ)
- New York says Barclays not cooperating in 'dark pool' probe (Reuters)
With less than two hours until the ECB unveils its first official quantitative easing program, the markets appear to be in a unchanged daze. Well, not all markets: the Japanese bond market overnight suffered its worst sell off in months on a jump in volume, although for context this means the 10Year dropping from 0.25% to 0.32%. Whether this is a hint of the "sell the news" that may follow Draghi's announcement is unclear, although Europe has seen comparable weakness across its bond space as well and the US 10 Year has sold off all the way to 1.91%, which is impressive considering it was trading under 1.80% just a few days ago. Stocks for now are largely unchanged with futures barely budging and tracking the USDJPY which after rising above 118 again overnight, has seen active selling ever since the close of the Japanese session.
Curency wars are zero-sum. Interest rate race is not.
As we detailed previously, the first USD-denominated Chinese corporate bond default last week - of developer Kaisa Group - signals considerably deeper problems in China's economy as one manager noted, "everyone is rethinking risk right now." As Bloomberg reports, Chinese companies comprised 62% of all U.S. dollar bond sales in the Asia-Pacific region ex Japan last year, issuing $244.4 billion and that huge (and illiquid) market "has been too complacent," according to one credit strategist who warned, investors would be “rational to adopt a cautious approach in view of the fact that anything can happen, anywhere, anytime. It would be irrational to continue thinking that after Kaisa none of the companies will see a similar fate."
The gravy train is over for oil workers. All over North America, people that felt very secure about their jobs just a few weeks ago are now getting pink slips. Since 2003, drilling and extraction jobs in the United States have doubled. And these jobs typically pay very well. It is not uncommon for oil patch workers to make well over $100,000 a year, and these are precisely the types of jobs that we cannot afford to be losing. The middle class is struggling mightily as it is. And just like we witnessed in 2008, oil industry layoffs usually come before a downturn in employment for the overall economy.