Eurozone periphery concerns continue to loom as Italian and Spanish spreads against the German 10yr remain elevated, but have come off their widest levels in recent trade amid some unconfirmed market talk of real money accounts buying Spanish paper. Despite the concerns in Europe, the major European bourses are trading higher with individual stocks news from over the weekend propping up indices with reports of intra-European M&A and a string of good news for mining stocks pushing up markets today. Some stock stories of note include the agreement of an offer between France’s GDF Suez and UK’s International Power for GBP 4.18 per share, and a speculated merger of BHP Billiton’s and Rio Tinto’s diamond units by private equity firm KKR. The financials sector, however, is showing the strain, as the 3m EUR basis swap moves sharply lower to -53.87 from approximately -50 on Friday, with particular underperformance noted in the French banking sector. The session so far has been very data-light, with Eurozone trade balance coming in slightly lower than expectations but markets remained unreactive to the release.
The question most asked by clients is why, with all that is going on in Europe, is the currency not much lower as nearly every analysts has a target of between parity and 1.2000? It is a very good question but way back at the start of 2011 I suggested that I felt some accord had been reached by the G20 to hold the EUR stable and this I still believe. The issue is that the EU leadership and indeed all those that trade with the zone, realize that equity markets would be held up by QE and that bond yields could be kept down (wrong) using the same method but the whole house of cards could be brought down if there was a run on the currency and a general loss of confidence in the currency. It would simply be a disaster and to me it is central bank manipulation that is keeping the EUR so ridiculously strong so selling breaks to the downside has seen many karted out on a stretcher and sent to the asylum.
- Downgrades Loom for Banks (WSJ)
- China Loosens Grip on Yuan (WSJ)
- Sarkozy Embraces Growth Role for ECB (WSJ)
- A Top Euro Banker Calls for Boost to IMF (WSJ)
- Wolfgang Münchau - Spain has accepted mission impossible (FT)
- Hong Kong Takeovers Loom Large With Banks Lending Yuan: Real M&A (Bloomberg)
- Banks urge Fed retreat on credit exposure (FT)
- Drought in U.K. Adds to Inflation Fears (WSJ)
- France faces revival of radical left (FT)
- Euro Area Seeks Bigger IMF War Chest as Spanish Concerns Mount (Bloomberg)
What a difference a month makes. About 4 weeks ago the European crisis was "over" - French President Sarkozy exclaimed that: “Today, the problem is solved!” Christine Lagarde, former French finance minister, and current IMF head following the framing of DSK, added that “Economic spring is in the air!”... Fast forward to today when following the inevitable end of the transitory favorable effects of the LTRO (remember: flow not stock, a/k/a the shark can not stop moving forward), the collapse of the Spanish stock market, the now daily halting of Italian financial stocks, the inevitable announcement that shorting of financials in Europe is again forbidden, and finally the record spike in Spanish CDS, Europe is broken all over again. Which brings us again the Sarkozy and Lagarde. The Frenchman who is about to lose the presidential race to socialist competitor Hollande (an event which will have major ramifications for Europe as UBS' George Magnus patiently explained two months ago), no longer sees anything as solved, and instead is openly begging for the ECB to inject more, more, more money into the system to pretend that "problems are solved" for a few more months. Incidentally, so is Lagarde, for whom in an odd change of seasons, economic spring is about to be followed by a depressionary winter. The problem is both will end up empty handed, as the well may just have run dry.
Better stock up on the Depends now.
Two months ago we explained very diligently, why courtesy of the strategic Russian Naval base in Tartus, Syria, the Russian regime will never, repeat never, let the Syrian government be replaced by various insurgent forces (very much like in other parts of MENA, which now are suffering from an absolute political vacuum and even greater corruption in the aftermath of the Arabian Spring). Subsequently there were various reports of Russian troops arriving in Tartus, both confirmed and denied by Russia, which were promptly forgotten: after all distractions from other, far greater problems can not become too repetitive or else the general audience will habituate. But all that was a month ago, and attention spans these days are short, so it is time to once again escalate, and sure enough yesterday the AP reported that Obama has approved an aid package to the Syrian rebels. Naturally, since this whole theater is all about severing strategic Russian national interests in the Mediterranean, and thus, into the Suez, Arabian Gulf, and ultimately Persian Gulf, German Spiegel reports of the immediate tat to America's tit (not to be confused with the Colombian legal prostitution tit, where it now appears whoregate is about to become a national pastime courtesy of upcoming congressional hearings involving the 12 men from Obama's staff who were Secretly Serviced on taxpayer dimes), as apparently yet another Russian-chartered, German ship has been intercepted carrying military equipment and munitions into Syria.
A peaceful and stable Pakistan is integral to western efforts to pacify Afghanistan, but Islamabad’s obsessions with its giant eastern neighbor may render such issues moot.
Since partition in 1947, Pakistan and India have fought four armed conflicts, in 1947, 1965, 1971 (which led to the establishment of Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan) and the 1999 Kargil clash. With the exception of the 1971 conflict, which involved rising tensions in East Pakistan, the others have all involved issues arising from control of Kashmir. But now a rising new element of discord threatens to precipitate a new armed clash between southern Asia’s two nuclear powers – water.
Volatility is back. The S&P moved more than 1% on 4 of the 5 days, had the biggest down day of the year, and even the least volatile day was a 0.7% move.
"All might be well in China, but Europe again is a cause for serious concern. Spain is the victim of the most intense violence – CDS trades to new all-time wides, and local banks sent nearly 5% lower. The hope might have been that once European markets closed, US equities would recoup losses. But there’s no place for hope on Friday the 13th, and stocks close at the low. The post-close price action in futures was even worse as ES1 drops further still. Back below the 50d again. Perhaps spillover from weakness in European financials, but problematic as tech, the other obvious leader of the year’s rally, is also flagging. SPX drops 17 to close 1370 (-1.25%). The DOW drops 137 to close 12850 (1.05%). The NASDAQ drops 44 to close 3011 (-1.45%)."
In the end having a system without rules is not the same as having a system without consequences. It may be hard to figure out the consequences in such a poorly articulated system, but in time the system will tell you.
That is what EMU is finding out and what the rest of the world is discovering as the flaws in the global financial system become more apparent. But we are much better at finding flaws that at finding solutions.
The heaviest weekly loss (down 2%) in the S&P 500 since mid-December and largest two-week drop since the rally began in November was dominated by losses in financials (and energy). The major financials most notably have been crushed from the start of April (MS -13%, Citi/BofA -11%, GS -8.5% since the European close on 4/2). Credit broadly underperformed on the day (after ripping to pre-NFP levels yesterday) but HYG (the high-yield bond ETF) outperformed surprisingly but this appears to be related to an equity-credit (SPY-HYG) convergence trade as HYG looks very rich now once again to its NAV. The dismal close in ES (S&P futures) on significantly heavier volume and block size. VIX pushed back above 19.5% and we worry that the violent swings that we saw in credit and equity markets this week are very reminiscent of the beginning of the chaos mid-Summer last year - and perhaps rightfully so given the European situation that is escalating. FX markets were much more active today with EURUSD breaking back under 1.31 and AUD leaking lower after gapping down on China GDP news last night. Interestingly the USD ended basically unchanged from last week's close while Gold managed to hold onto its gains for the week (+1.5% at $1655) despite drops in Silver and Copper also today (Silver and Gold retracing the spike highs from yesterday). Copper kept sliding -4.7% on the week. Treasuries slipped lower in yield from late last night exaggerated by China's news with the entire complex notably lower (5-9bps on the week) in yield and flatter as the long-end outperformed. Stocks pulled back towards CONTEXT with broad risk assets at the close today though it remains rich to Treasuries and credit on a medium-term basis.
Gold bullion remains supported, mostly due to a pickup in physical Indian and Chinese gold demand this week. There are expectations of sustained Indian consumption next week in the lead up to the Akshaya Tritiya festival later this month. Western physical buying remains unusually anaemic - for now. In recent years, April and May have been positive months for gold in terms of returns (see table above). April has returned 1.4% per annum in the course of the current bull market since 2000. May has returned 1.75% per annum in the course of the current bull market since 2000. Interestingly, the last month of Q1 and Q2, March and June, have been negative in terms of returns. March in particular has seen the poorest returns for any month in the last 11 years with average falls of 0.6%. Therefore the very poor performance of gold in March 2012 (-6.4%) may represent another buying opportunity as it did last year (see chart below) and in previous years.
Risk-aversion is noted in the European markets with all major European bourses trading lower heading into the US open. Participants remain particularly sensitive to Spain following a release from the ECB showing that Spanish bank’s net borrowing from the ECB hit a new record high at EUR 227.6bln in March against EUR 152.4bln in February. Further pressure on the equity markets was observed following the overnight release of a below-expected Chinese GDP reading, coming in at 8.1% against a consensus estimate of 8.4%. As such, markets have witnessed a flight to safety, with Bund futures up over 40 ticks on the day. In the energy complex, WTI and Brent futures are also trading lower, as the disappointing Chinese GDP data dampens future oil demand, however a failed rocket launch from North Korea may have capped the losses.
- ECB Seen Favoring Bond Buying Over Bank Loans (Bloomberg)
- Italians Rally Against Monti’s Pension-Overhaul Limbo (Bloomberg)
- Spain Cracks Down on Fraud as Rajoy Says Aid Impossible (Bloomberg)
- Europe’s Capital Flight Betrays Currency’s Fragility (Bloomberg)
- China’s Less-Than-Forecast 8.1% Growth May Signal Easing (Bloomberg)
- China Banks Moving to Lower Mortgage Interest Rates (China Daily)
- Fed Officials Differ on Need to Keep Rates Low to 2014 (Bloomberg)
- North Korea Confirms Rocket Failure (Reuters)
- Yuan Lending Set to Cross New Border in Pilot Plan (China Daily)
The number the market has been waiting for with bated breath arrives:
CHINA 1Q GDP GROWS 8.1% ON YEAR, EXPECTED 8.4%, and whispered at 9.0%
CHINA STATISTICS BUREAU SAYS PROBLEMS REMAIN IN THE ECONOMY
NBS: CHINA STILL FACES UPWARD PRESSURE ON INFLATION
NBS: CHINA FACES DIFFICULTY STABILIZING EXPORTS
And so the rumormill, which was expecting some ridiculous GDP print of 9.0% based on a third-rate research report released overnight, despite China posting some epic budget surpluses in the past few months, is stuck dumping risk in this late hour. Everything selling off as China's GDP posts the biggest sequential drop since March 2009 and the lowest sequential GDP rise since September 2009.