It has now been two years since the self-immolation of the Tunisian street vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, provided the spark that set the Arab world aflame. A wave of protests spread throughout the region in quick succession and led to the overthrow of long ruling autocrats in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Libya, and possibly Syria. The collapse of regimes like Hosni Mubarak’s in Egypt, which many considered "an exemplar of... durable authoritarianism" was a salient reminder to many that such revolutions are "inherently unpredictable." Before long some began to speculate that the protest movements might spread to authoritarian states outside the Arab world, including China. Although sharing many of the same problems as Arab societies, the Arab Spring never arrived in Beijing. Why?
While the world's attention has been focused on a precious metals' slide and a 'dire' 2% correction in stocks, another metal has been sending some ominous signals. So-called Dr. Copper is down 5.5% this week dragging it to negative for the year and highly suggestive (see 2011 and 2012 charts below) of a pending slide in US equities. The reason for stocks to extend their losses, we believe, comes back to the little known fact that China is the marginal inflation center of the world. When global inflation gets too hot, it will tend to hit China first/hardest given its high food-weighting and energy demand; China then, subtley mind you, complains to the Big-5 Central Banks and an implicit tightening occurs - which then fades global stocks as the liquidity pump dries up. As we noted recently, the Chinese never had a strong equity tradition and instead the trillions in deposits ($14 trillion last) is mostly going to fund loans used to buy homes (and marginally away from gold). However, the PBoC is clearly nervous and took matters into their own hands - with the largest liquidity withdrawal (tightening) on record in the last week (net repo redemptions). Perhaps, as we have seen again and again, with liquidity all there is left to create 'growth', Dr. Copper's credentials are worth paying attention to.
As we speculated from the very beginning, and as was reaffirmed in "Is Nigeria, And Its Light Sweet Crude, About To Be Drawn Into The Mali "Liberation" Campaign?", the "French" (with complete and fully-comped US support) Mali campaign is slowly but surely migrating to its intended target: Nigeria, and rather its holdings of light sweet crude. And while the US presence in this latest resource land grab, this time in Africa, was so far rather stealthy, it appears the time for foreplay is over and moments ago Obama told congress has has dispatched 40 more American troops to Niger this week, bringing the total U.S. military presence in the west African country to 100. Let's hear it for the full retroactive transparency demanded by the War Powers Resolution.
- Spain’s Deficit Widened to 10.2% on Bank-Rescue Cost (BBG) - or as Rajoy would say, when one excludes all negatives, it was a surplus
- Monti Austerity Pushes Italians Toward Parliament Upheaval (BBG)
- Russia accuses U.S. of double standards over Syria (Reuters)
- Euro Area to Shrink in 2013 as Unemployment Rises (BBG)
- UK, China central banks to discuss currency swap line (Reuters)
- Italy Court Rejects Challenge to Bailout of Monte Paschi (BBG)
- Japan's Abe to showcase alliance, get Obama to back Abenomics (Reuters)
- Russia’s missing billions revealed (FT)
- China Home-Price Gains May Presage Policy Tightening (BBG)
- Fed unlikely to curtail stimulus despite rising doubts (Reuters)
- Banks face fines up to 30 per cent of revenues (FT) - just as soon as Basel III is passed (i.e., never)
- J.C. Penney Can Raise Billions Under Revised Credit Line (BBG)
- Cost of Dropping Citizenship Keeps U.S. Earners From Exit (BBG)
A listless overnight session with just the previously noted first disappointing LTRO-2 repayment and the now traditional big beat out of the "other" German confidence indicator, IFO, which beat expectations of 104.9, rising to a 10 month high of 107.4 to attempt to push the economy out of the recessionary slump (just don't mention yesterday's PMI), and nothing on today's US calendar is a fitting way to end the week, and further shows that markets are once more completely oblivious to the risks of the Hung Parliament outcome that this weekend may bring in Italy should the Berlusconi juggernaut maintain its momentum. The EURUSD and the US futures have disconnected once more, with almost all of yesterday's market weakness filled in the overnight session as the good old low-volume levitation returns. Here are the few news items worth reporting.
Despite a late-day surge on chatter from Fed's Williams, equities could not catch a bid. VIX was plundered for protection, surging to the highs of the year (above 16%) as S&P futures saw the biggest volume of the year as they held below the lowest uptrend-channel from the November lows. The Dow and the S&P bounced off unchanged for the month of Feb but the Nasdaq remains red - Materials are down over 3% as Staples are up 3% on the month (Tech/Disc/Energy unch). Gold and Silver managed solid gains on the day even as the USD pushed higher (up over 1.1% on the week even as JPY strengthens) and Oil and Copper had notable down days. Treasury yields slipped lower (-3bps) and credit markets underperformed stocks. The S&P is back at its 2011 highs in terms of Gold, and rolled over today. Cross-asset-class correlations rose all day as broad risk-off was very evident. We suspect the drop in the VIX into the close was short-term protection unwinds along with actual exposure reduction (which we saw at VWAP).
Army Chief of Staff: “The conundrum we have is that we don’t need the tanks”
It's that time of day. Commodities exchanges are opening. And yet, today has a different feel to it. For some strange indiscernible reason, the incessant offer on gold and silver that appears every morning for most of the recent weeks has yet to appear. Did the central bankers get busted? Are too many people aware of the manipulation? Did a 3% drop in China spook them back at the margin? Who knows - its early yet...
- China drains cash to curb liquidity (FT) - no longer just a New Year issue...
- Hilesnrath speaks (but nobody cares anymore) - Fed Split Over How Long To Keep Cash Spigot Open (WSJ)
- Chasm opening between weak French and strong German economies (Reuters)
- JPMorgan Said to Seek First Sale of Mortgage Bonds Since Crisis (BBG)
- China's Bo Xilai not cooperating on probe, been on hunger strike (Reuters)
- Fed minutes send warning on durability of bond buying (Reuters)
- Sony Seeks an Extra Life in New PlayStation 4 (BBG)
- Rajoy pledges fresh round of reforms (FT) - and by reforms he means kickbacks?
- Doubts loom over eurozone recovery (BBG)
- China Extending Zhou Stay Seen as Aid to Financial Overhaul (BBG)
- King Pulls Out Stops to Energize Economy in Carney Handover (BBG)
- Central Banks Discussed Nominal GDP Targets at G-20 (Businessweek)
- Grand Central Owner Opposes IPO of Empire State Building (BBG)
Please do not adjust your monitors: that strange, non-green color greeting you this morning is not a "glitch." Following yesterday's market drubbing, in which a modest 1% decline in the S&P ended up being the biggest market drop of 2013, we next got a wipe out in China, where the SHCOMP plunged by 3% the most in 15 months, down the third day out of four since the start of the year of the Snake on renewed concerns around home purchase restrictions urged by the government, but mostly driven by rampant liquidations of commodity-related stocks following yet another liquidity withdrawing repo (not reverse) by the PBOC which took out even more money out of the market. We then continued to Europe where despite the near-record surge in German optimism (because in the New Normal hope is a strategy - the only strategy), German manufacturing PMI missed expectations of a rise to 50.5 from 49.8, instead printing at 50.1, while the Services PMI outright declined from 55.7 to 54.1 (55.5 expected). We wonder how much higher this latest economic disappointment will push German investor confidence. Not too unexpectedly, Europe's suddenly weakest economy France also disappointed with its Mfg PMI missing as well, rising from 42.9 to 43.6, on expectations of a 43.8 print, while Services PMI declined from 43.6 to 42.7, on "hopes" of a rise to 44.5. The result was a miss in Europe's composite PMIs with the Manufacturing posting at 47.8 on expectations of 48.5, while the Services PMI was 47.3, with 49.0 expected, and a blended PMI missing just as much, or 47.3 with 49.0 expected, and down from 48.6. The news, which finally reasserted reality over hopium, immediately pushed the EURUSD to under 1.32, the lowest print since January 10. Therefore while Germany may or may not escape recession in Q1, depending on how aggressively they fudge their export numbers, for France it seems all hope is now lost.
Every voice in the FOMC minutes is not a voting member. Bernanke, Yellen, Dudley are the keys and they are committed to QE. That is a descriptive claim not normative. Debt market has shown little reaction to FOMC minutes compared with the dollar and stocks. PBOC drained, but did not really tighten monetary policy. Euro zone PMI poor and gap between Germany and France grows. And what's up with Abe's trip to the US ?
Think Americans are the only people in the world toiling under a gargantuan debtload, which at last check was a massive $55.3 trillion, or about $175K per person? Think again. Meet Sherry Sheng, a 29-year-old Shanghai policewoman, who bought herself a 4,000 yuan ($642) black fur jacket, splurging for the last time before she starts paying off the mortgage on her first home.
Sherry is what is known as a Chinese "housing slave."
Update: FRANCE'S MONTEBOURG TELLS TAYLOR REMARKS `IGNORANT, INSULTING' - And now we know Taylor was spot on.
The French industry minister is not amused. The CEO of US tire-maker Titan International has explained to the French unions (who think he belongs in an asylum) why his company is not interested in any deal - noting "you can keep your so-called workers," adding that he would have to be stupid to take over a factory whose staff only put in three hours work a day. Maurice 'Grizz' Taylor went 'postal' at the suggestion his company invest in France: "Titan is going to buy a Chinese tire company or an Indian one, pay less than one Euro per hour wage and ship all the tires France needs." His truth-filled reality letter concluded: How stupid do you think we are? Titan is the one with the money and the talent to produce tires. What does the crazy union have? It has the French government." The flustered Frenchman refrained from immediate reply but gallicly noted, "Don’t worry, there will be a response; it's better written down." Indeed, just as long as its not the labor minister.
Confused by the latest Chinese military hacking scandal? The cartoon wizards from Taiwan's New Media Animation have it summarized for in just 150 seconds for all those US dummies who were not hacked by the Chinese.
First it was Walmart letting the truth finally slip last Friday when a leaked memo showed recent sales are a "total disaster." Today, as anyone who has looked at AAPL premarket quotes will surmise, it's Apple's turn, following a report in the FT that FoxConn, the world's largest contract electronics manufacturer, "has imposed a recruitment freeze across almost all of its factories in China 5th as it slows production of Apple's iPhone." It is not an internal memo, but in this particular case actions speak even louder than leaked words: 'The suspension in hiring by China's largest private sector employer, and the biggest assembler of Apple products, is the first search countrywide move since the 2009 downturn, prompted by the financial crisis. It underscores the weakening demand for some Apple products, Which has put pressure on the American company's battered share price. "Currently, none of the plants in mainland China have hiring plans," said Liu Kun, a company spokesman at Foxconn's largest manufacturing facility in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen." So first Walmart, the world's largest private sector employer with over 2 million workers, and now FoxConn, the world's largest tech-focused employer with 1.2 million workers, is also realizing what a cashless, consumerless "recovery" means, regardless whether it is due to Apple or not. And the markets still continues to wave it off as one off events.