We are back to that phase in market euphoria where no news is good news, good news is better, and bad news is best. While there was little news over the weekend, and overnight, what news there was uniformly negative: northern China drowning in smog, the Apple fad bubble bursting, European Industrial production printing below expectations (-0.3%, exp.-0.2%, down from revised -1.0%), and ever louder rumors that the debt ceiling debate may metastasize into an actual government shutdown for at least a few days, which means the first technical default in US history. Yet nothing seems able to faze the risk on mood, still driven by a relentless surge in the EURUSD which touched on 1.34 overnight before retracing, and the EURCHF, which too has soared by over a 100 pips in recent trading action, which according to some is a result of Swatch buying the Harry Winston watch and jewelry brand for $1 billion, and an aggressively selling of CHF into USD by the company. Eventwise, today will be a quiet day in the US, although the action will pick up tomorrow as more companies report earnings as well as the all important retail sales report will put to rest all debate over just how good or bad this holiday shopping season (pre and post seasonal adjustments) truly was.
The underlying trends seen this year have continued, but after strong follow through in Asia, a more subdued tone has been seen in Europe. The US dollar is generally softer, except against the yen and sterling. Japanese markets were closed for holiday, but the MSCI Asia-Pacific Index rose almost 0.3%, lifted by more than a 3% rally in China on speculation that there may be a sharp increase in the cap on foreign investors' ability to invest in Chinese equities. In Europe, the Dow Jones Stoxx 600 is hp about 0.4%, led by a rise in financials. Spanish stock market is at its highest level in almost a year (Feb 2012) and Italy's market is at its best August 2011, though their bond markets are seeing some profit-taking today. With a light economic calendar in North America today, Bernanke's speech in Michigan after the markets close may be the highlight. We identify six key factors shaping the investment climate.
As China's major trading partners try to control rising public pension and health care costs, they may not realize they also have an important stake in China's ongoing struggle to fashion a safety net for its own rapidly aging population. Many observers assume China has no pensions or healthcare insurance for the 185 million people over the age of 60 (13.7% of population), the highest official retirement age for most workers. They may well believe this explains why Chinese families save so much–more than 30% of household income–and therefore spend less on consumer goods, including imports from trading partners.
Are German industrialists getting cold feet?
The Real Interest Rate Risk: Annual US Debt Creation Now Amounts To 25% Of GDP Compared To 8.7% Pre-CrisisSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/13/2013 18:32 -0400
By now most are aware of the various metrics exposing the unsustainability of US debt (which at 103% of GDP, it is well above the Reinhart-Rogoff "viability" threshold of 80%; and where a return to just 5% in blended interest means total debt/GDP would double in under a decade all else equal simply thanks to the "magic" of compounding), although there is one that captures perhaps best of all the sad predicament the US self-funding state (where debt is used to fund nearly half of total US spending) finds itself in. It comes from Zhang Monan, researcher at the China Macroeconomic Research Platform: "The US government is now trying to repay old debt by borrowing more; in 2010, average annual debt creation (including debt refinance) moved above $4 trillion, or almost one-quarter of GDP, compared to the pre-crisis average of 8.7% of GDP."
That China openly manipulates its economic data, especially around key political phase shifts, such as one communist regime taking over for another, is no secret. That China is also the marginal economic power (creating trillions in new loans and deposits each year) in a stagflating world, and as such must be represented by the media as growing at key inflection points (such as Q4 when Europe officially entered a double dip recession, and the US will report its first sub 1% GDP in years) as mysteriously reporting growth even without open monetary stimulus (something we have said the PBOC will not engage in due to fears of importing US, European and now Japanese inflation) is critical for preserving hope and faith in the future of the stock market, is also very well known. Which is why recent market optimism driven by "hope" from Alcoa that China is recovering and will avoid yet another hard landing, and Chinese reports of a surge in Exports last week, are very much suspect. But no longer is it just the blogosphere that is openly taking Chinese data to task - as Bloomberg reports, even the major banks: Goldman, UBS and ANZ - are now openly questioning the validity and credibility of the goalseek function resulting from C:\China\central_planning\economic_model.xls.
The question many of us had going into today was whether the no follow-through allowed rule would be implemented yet again by The Gold Cartel for the zillionth time in a row.
Whether it is to serve as a diversion from the ongoing deterioration in the French economy (purchases of French sovereign bonds by the SNB implying "all is well" notwithstanding), to distract public attention from the recent humiliation (and backfire) of the socialist government's "tax the rich" campaign or for whatever other reason, is unclear for now, but what is clear is that over the past two days France has launched a major airstrike and military campaign against Islamist rebels in northern Mali, the pretext being that control of northern Mali by the rebels posed a security threat to Europe. What is also clear is that even as France is protecting "European interests" deep in the heart of African darkness, elsewhere in Africa, the socialist country, whose military "expertise" is best known for building impassable fortifications all around perfectly crossable forests, suffered yet another offensive humiliation when not only was a hostage held by Somalian insurgents, al Shabaab, killed during an attempted rescue operation, but a commando from the "rescuing" team was allegedly left behind during the bungled operation. The cherry on top in president Hollande's first major foreign policy excursion is that the same insurgents subsequently released a statement that the hostage was perfectly safe, even as a French pilot was killed in the Mali airstrikes early on in the campaign, all of which probably makes France wish it had just stayed home.
Who would have thought that ultra-rapid industrialization, building entire empty cities to goalseek a supply-driven GDP number that has no reflection on demand reality, and ramming an entire country's industrial output into overdrive without any concern for the environmental impact would have a disastrous effect on smog levels. Certainly not China. Which is why earlier today people across much of northern China were warned to stay indoors as the entire region was put on health alert to avoid air pollution that, in the Beijing area, was among the worst for a decade and possibly ever, is literally off the charts and has in many areas reduced visibility to under 50 metres.
America Sets Its Sights On Controlling African Resources … And Reducing Chinese Influence
There are very few free lunches in the world, there will be some costs or unintended consequences of this newfound commitment towards a weaker Yen.
If you try to sit on a four-legged stool that has one busted leg, you fall on your ass, look surprised or stupid, and maybe get hurt.
Almost a year ago, we identified what the main stumbling block facing US (and global) corporations is in the New Normal ZIRP regime: namely corporate cash mismanagement, capital misallocation, and a serious lack of CapEx spending which leads to lack of revenue growth, secular declines in profits, further layoffs, and a broad contraction in corporate returns (absent the endless deus ex which is central-bank assisted multiple expansion). We also identified what in our view was the primary reason for this misallocation, which said simply, is the Fed's monetary policy which forces corporate executives to focus on short-term gratification of shareholders via prompt return of cash instead of reinvestment into the business - a critical requirement to assure top-line stability and growth. Today, we were happy to see that the issue of the disappearing CapEx -both in the US and globally - is the main topic of an analytical piece from UBS titled, simply enough, "Will capex come back?" And while we disagree with UBS, who has a more optimistic conclusion than ours, which we believe is a function of incorrectly identifying the reason for plunging CapEx, we are happy that more and more strategists have narrowed down what is without doubt the main hurdle to promoting a true, sustainable corporate recovery, instead of one where the only EPS beats are driven from one-time restructuring charges (which are now recurring on a quarterly basis), non-cash items, and most of all, even more layoffs of workers: something which in turn continues to eat away at the heart of any given economy, forcing even more monetary intervention, and even more CapEx spending cuts.
The investment world is convinced that China is about to engage in another massive round of stimulus. After all, this is what China did in 2008 when its economy slowed, so surely this is what they’ll do now that the economy is slowing again.
The latest escalation in the seemingly neverending saga over a strategically located rock in the East China Sea, came hours ago, when Xinhua reported that Beijing has scrambled two J-10 jets to counter "Japanese military aircraft disrupting the routine patrols of Chinese administrative aircraft."The result: "The Chinese military will be on high alert and China will resolutely protect the security of its air defense force and uphold its legitimate rights, the official said."