With Switzerland long dead as an offshore tax haven for US savers unwilling to fund Uncle Sam's central-planning machine (and who can blame them - isn't monetizing the deficit precisely what the Fed is for?) and with Cyprus banks, shall we say, compromised, many have been forced to look for greener tax-evading pastures, as far away as the Pacific Rim, especially that oasis of mega wealth creation, Hong Kong. Only this time the US is paying attention as SCMP reports that Hong Kong tax officials will soon be able to pass information about the finances of Americans working in Hong Kong to their US counterparts under an agreement signed yesterday as part of Washington's global crackdown on tax evasion. In other words, for tax purposes, Hong Kong is now effecitvely under IRS control.
Russia has increased its gold holdings by 7.247 tonnes to 1,042 tonnes in February. Turkey and Kazakhstan also raised their bullion reserves, data from the International Monetary Fund showed today. Turkey's gold holdings rose 9.292 tonnes to 497.869 tonnes, the data showed. Many analysts are ignoring the important context of today's new geopolitical backdrop. Russia alone has some $400 billion in foreign exchange reserves - mostly in U.S. dollars. If they were to diversify just 5%, worth some $20 billion, of those reserves into gold - it would be equal to nearly 500 tonnes of gold or nearly 25% of global annual production. It will be interesting to see what Russian demand is in March and indeed in the coming months. Sanctions could lead to materially higher demand from the Russian central bank, Bank Rossii.
- One-Ship Ukraine Navy Defies Russia to the End (WSJ)
- Crimea-Induced Trading Surge Stokes Moscow Exchange Rally (BBG)
- Moscow says Ukraine stops Russian crews disembarking in Kiev (Reuters)
- New images show more than 100 objects that could be plane debris (Reuters)
- Anger of Flight 370 Families Explodes in Beijing (BBG)
- Murdoch Promotes Son Lachlan in Succession Plan for Empire (BBG)
- Facebook to buy virtual reality goggles maker for $2 billion (Reuters)
- Syrian Regime Exploits Rebel Despair (WSJ)
- King Digital IPO price may not bode well for stock (Reuters)
- Rothschild in Twitter Spat as Bakries Cut Ties With Miner (BBG)
Another morning melt up after a less than impressive session in China which saw the SHCOMP drop again reversing the furious gains in the past few days driven by hopes of more PBOC easing (despite China's repeated warning not to expect much). A flurry of market topping activity overnight once again, with Candy Crush maker King Digital pricing at $22.50 or the projected midpoint of its price range, and with FaceBook using more of its epically overvalued stock as currency to purchase yet another company, this time virtual reality firm Oculus VR for $2 billion. Perhaps an appropriate purchase considering the entire economy is pushed higher on pro-forma, "virtual" output, and the Fed's capital markets are something straight out of the matrix. Despite today's pre-open ramp, which will be the 4th in a row, one wonders if biotechs will finally break the downward tractor beam they have been latched on to as the bubble has shown signs of cracking, or will the mad momo crowd come back with a vengeance - this too will be answered shortly.
When we left China last night, it was all shits and giggles that bad news is great news and a Chinese stimulus plan will be here any minute to save the day. Having realized the sad fact that is not going to happen (as we explained here most recently) and the specter of banks runs looming, this evening's session has seen property developer stocks tumble - retracing all of last night's losses - the Yuan plunges by the most in a week back above 6.2150. Copper is holding in for now at the magic $300 level but corporate bond prices are falling once again (worst run in 4 months).
The Diplomat‘s Justin McDonnell spoke with Larisa Smirnova, an expert on Sino-Russian relations and professor at Xiamen University, about the crisis in Ukraine, Russian foreign policy, and more.
A funny thing happened during Michelle Obama's public relations tour of China (where taxpayers are privileged to pay $8,400 for each night of her lodgings): T-shirts, coin purses and posters that show President Barack Obama portrayed as Chairman Mao are normally available for sale at the Great Wall. But on Sunday, when First Lady Michelle Obama visited the Chinese tourist spot with her daughters, the so-called “Obamao” souvenirs were no where to be found. "We don’t have them anymore," said one peddler, a woman who declined to give her name. "But if you come back next time, you might find them. You could come tomorrow," the woman said.
Words matter, and the Fed’s words matter more than anyone’s. But this is the classic mistake that academic economists always make – the quasireligious belief in theory over practice, in the triumph of bloodless ideas over the market’s fang and claw. Woodford’s ideas are sweet music to the enormous egos of the academics who control the Fed: you can save the world just by stating your brilliant policy intentions. Your words will become self-fulfilling prophecies as the markets shape themselves in expectation of your mighty deeds. And so what do we get? Horror shows like Bernanke’s press conferences last summer or Yellen’s press conference last week. If the Fed was surprised by the rotten tomatoes thrown up on the stage last year, they ain’t seen nothing yet.
Curious what the real, and not pre-spun for public consumption, sentiment on the ground is in a China (where the housing bubble has already popped and the severe contraction in credit is forcing the ultra wealthy to luxury real estate in places like Hong Kong) from the perspective of the common man? The photo below, which shows hundreds of people rushing today to withdraw money from branches of two small Chinese banks after rumors spread about solvency at one of them, are sufficiently informative about just how jittery ordinary Chinese have become in recent days, and reflect the growing anxiety among investors as regulators signal greater tolerance for credit defaults.
The structural incompetence of centralized, wrong-unit-size agencies and central banks is global: the centralized strategies of China, Japan, the European Union and yes, Russia, too, will all fail for the same reasons: organizations with a few limited controls are intrinsically incapable of managing complex systems.
Last week we reported that while the West was busy alienating Russia in every diplomatic way possible, without of course exposing its crushing overreliance on Russian energy exports to keep European industries alive, Russia was just as busy cementing its ties with China, in this case courtesy of Europe's most important company, Gazprom, which is preparing to announce the completion of a "holy grail" natural gas supply deal to Beijing. We also noted the following: "And as if pushing Russia into the warm embrace of the world's most populous nation was not enough, there is also the second most populated country in the world, India." Today we learn just how prescient this particular comment also was, when Reuters reported that Rosneft, the world's top listed oil producer by output, may join forces with Indian state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corp to supply oil to India over the long term, the Russian state-controlled company said on Tuesday.
A surprise (to some) drop in China's PMI was just enough bad news to prompt the good-news-seeking BTFD'ers into expectations of additional stimulus from China. Despite 'PBOC advisors' (implictly the mouthpiece of official policy strawmen) stating openly not to expect stimulus and confirming that China will see a "crisis" in local-government financing "but not as expolosive as the 2008 crisis", and that "China must face the moral hazrd issue", investors are buying CNY, copper, Chinese stocks, and practically everything else on the back of hopes for moar money. However, as Bloomberg's Tom Orlik explains, with the government facing conflicting pressures an abrupt about-face in policy is unlikely.
February 2013 saw Russian visitors spend 16% more than in 2012 as "investor" visas flowed, property soared, and hot money slooshed into the UK recovery. However, as AFP reports, Russian spending in British shops fell by 17 percent last month compared to February 2013 as the "unstable situation in Russia has shown its effect on tourism spend this year," already. Shoppers from the Middle East (up 31%) and China (up 23%) continue to represent the highest proportion of international sales in Britain, but it is clear, as The Economist points out, Russian wealth has permeated the upper reaches of society in Britain more completely than in any other Western country, with the health of "Londongrad" now at stake if sanctions are extended.
Most of the market tends to focus on profits on a pro-forma basis. We have never been big fans of this. These are the earnings numbers companies like to publish that steer attention away from the ?bad stuff?. James Montier used to be highly scathing, describing them as “undefined, unregulated and untrue”. But because of their ready availability most in the market tend to quote pro-forma earnings numbers from the likes of Bloomberg and I/B/E/S and many base their equity valuations on this dodgy earnings metric. Yet even on this artificially inflated measure, trailing EPS grew only a paltry 5½% yoy in 2013, and 3% on a non-financial basis Andrew Lapthorne published an update on the US profits situation in the wake of the Q4 reporting season. He writes "?At first look, growth in US net income last year looks remarkably good. With nearly all S&P 500 names having reported year-end figures, net income grew 14% last year, or 12.8% on an ex-financial basis. This is fairly impressive growth given the lacklustre economic backdrop. So should we be celebrating? Well we?re not so sure, as the source of this growth is not a robust improvement in operating cash flow, but is to be found in the large goodwill write-downs of 2012?." Andrew then shows that the vast majority of this 14% growth in profits was driven by company-specific write-downs made back in 2012 ? with Hewlett Packard, AT&T and Verizon Communications leading the way.
- Putin Threatened With More Sanctions as Russia Out of G-8 (BBG)
- China Faces ‘Mini Crisis’ on Debt Defaults, Ex-PBOC Adviser Says (BBG)
- Don't laugh too hard: Obama to propose ending NSA bulk collection of phone records (Reuters)
- SEC Is Probing Dealings by Banks and Companies in Loan Securities (WSJ)
- Japan GPIF asset review not aimed at supporting domestic stocks (Reuters)
- Chinese families clash with police, slam Malaysia over lost plane (Reuters)
- Russian Capital Flight Surges in First Quarter, Fueled by Ukraine Crisis (WSJ)
- Democrats ditch Nate Silver after data whiz predicts dismal midterm outcome (DN)
- China’s Urbanization Loses Momentum as Growth Slows (BBG)