With China offline celebrating its New Year, and potentially mobilizing forces in (not so) secret, and not much on the global event docket, the upcoming G20 Finance Ministers meeting in Moscow at the end of the week will be the key event for FX markets, which these days define every other aspect of risk. It should surprise nobody the last couple of weeks have seen increased attention on exchange rates and the frequent use of the “currency war” label by policymakers in many countries. No news announcements are expected at the BoJ meeting on Thursday, following the formal announcement of a 2% inflation target and an open-ended asset purchase program. On the data side, US retail sales on Wednesday will provide an important signal about the strength of the US consumer following the largest tax increase in decades. Although January auto and same store sales data was reasonably solid, new taxes will soon begin to weigh on spending. Also on Wednesday, Japan Q4 GDP will be released. On Thursday, Q4 GDP for France, Germany, Italy and the Euro area will be released. While Q4 contraction is assured, the key question mark is whether German can rebound in Q1 and avoid a full blown recession as opposed to a "brief, technical" one, as the New Normal economic term goes.
Governments Move to Destroy Online Anonymity ... Google Helps
U.S. exports and imports last year totaled $3.82 trillion, the U.S. Commerce Department said last week. China’s customs administration reported last month that the country’s total trade in 2012 amounted to $3.87 trillion. China had a $231.1 billion annual trade surplus while the U.S. had a trade deficit of $727.9 billion. For those who are still not aware of why this is such a big deal, it is essentially a turning point moment in global trade. There is no doubt that China will now be inducted into the SDR, and that their importance as a trade and consumption center will quickly lead to a move away from the dollar. To put it simply, the dollar is going to lose its world reserve status VERY soon. Many will cheer this change as necessary progress towards a more “globally conscious” economic system. However, it’s not that simple. Total centralization is first and foremost the dream of idiots, and in any mutation (or amputation) there is always considerable pain involved. The proponents of this “New World Order” (their words, not mine) seem to have placed the U.S. squarely in their crosshairs as the primary recipient of this fiscal pain.
We don't know if it merely a coincidence that a story has emerged discussing a Chinese mobilization in response to the ongoing territorial feud with Japan over the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands (and the proximal massive gas field) the very week that China celebrates its new year. We don't know how much of the story is based in reality, and how much may be propaganda or furthering someone's agenda. What we do know is that the source of the story: offshore-based, Falun Gong-affiliated NTDTV has historically been a credible source of information that the China communist party desperately tries to censor, such as breaking the news of the SARS epidemic in 2003 some three weeks before China publicly admitted it. Its motto is "to bring truthful and uncensored information into and out of China." If that is indeed the case, and its story of major troop movements and mobilization of various types of military vehicles and artillery into the Fujian and Zhejian provinces, bordering the East China Sea and closest to the Diaoyu islands, is accurate, then hostilities between China and Japan may be about to take a major turn for the worse.
We now live in an entirely fabricated fiscal environment. Every aspect of it is filtered, muddled, molded, and manipulated before our eyes ever get to study the stats. The metaphor may be overused, but our economic system has become an absolute “matrix”. All that we see and hear has been homogenized and all truth has been sterilized away. There is nothing to investigate anymore. It is like awaking in the middle of a vast and hallucinatory live action theater production, complete with performers, props, and sound effects, all designed to confuse us and do us harm. In the end, trying to make sense of the illusion is a waste of time. All we can do is look for the exits…
The fight over plant closures, layoffs, and bailouts in the collapsing auto sector
This objective report concisely summarizes important macro events over the past week. It is not geared to push an agenda. Impartiality is necessary to avoid costly psychological traps, which all investors are prone to, such as confirmation, conservatism, and endowment biases.
Currency War ... Trade War ... Hot War
After having less than half the total US deposits back in 2005, China has pumped enough cash into the economy using various public and private conduits to make even Ben Bernanke blush: between January 2005 and January 2013, Chinese bank deposits have soared by a whopping $11 trillion, rising from $4 trillion to $15 trillion! We have no idea what the real Chinese GDP number is but this expansion alone is anywhere between 200 and 300% of the real GDP as it stands now. And more: between January 2012 and January 2013 Chinese deposits rose by just over $2 trillion. In other words, while everyone focuses on Uncle Ben and his measly $1 trillion in base money creation in 2013 (while loan creation at commercial banks continues to decline), China will have created well more than double this amount of money in the current year alone!
Whether you're aware of it or not, a great battle is being waged around us. It is a war of two opposing narratives: the future of our economy and our standard of living. The dominant story, championed by flotillas of press releases and parading talking heads, tells an inspiring tale of recovery and return to growth. The other side, less visible but with a full armament of high-caliber data, tells a very different story. One of growing instability, downside risk, and inequality. As different as they are in substance, they both share one fundamental prediction – and this is why you should care: This battle is about to break. And when it does, one side will turn out to be much more 'right' than the other. The time for action has arrived. To position yourself in the direction of the break you think is most likely to happen. It's time to choose a side.
It’s getting worse
We often turn to cycles - business, solar, Kondratieff, etc. - to better understand current events. But what if this era is not just a cycle but the terminal phase of Global Capitalism 1.0? This heretical thought arises from the school of economic history pursued by Fernand Braudel and those he inspired. We need a new model, and a re-hash of the old broken models will no longer do. The road for both global capital and the State is narrowing to a rocky trail that leads to a cliff.
Overnight China reported great trade data which saw exports and imports soar by more than 20% each compared to 2012. Of course, when one adjusts for January calendar effects the "rise" was virtually non-existent but that was too much work for the Shanghai Composite algos. A few hours later, the US did the same, reporting even better trade data which saw the trade deficit plunge the most in nearly three years. So far so good: we just have one question - who is lying more. Because unlike all other sole-sourced economic manipulated data which is solely a function of some excel goal seek model and various spreadsheets, bilateral trade has to foot. One country's net exports have to equal its countepart's net imports and vice versa.
Chinese economic data is always good for a laugh. So, courtesy of some observations by Diapason's Sean Corrigan, let's laugh.
Following November's massive trade deficit surge, when the final print of $48.7 billion was far worse than the $41.3 billion expected, it was only (il)logical that the December trade number would reverse this trend to the other extreme, which it did with the December trade balance plunging from a revised $48.6 billion to a tiny $38.5 billion - the lowest deficit since January 2010, and the biggest beat to expectations of $46 billion since February 2009. The deficit was the result of December exports which were $3.9 billion more than the $182.5 billion in November, and imports some $6.2 billion less than November's total $231.1 billion. Broken down by category, the goods deficit decreased $9.4 billion from November to $56.2 billion, and the services surplus increased $0.7 billion from November to $17.7 billion. A key driver of this move was a spike in Petroleum exports which shrunk the Petroleum product trade gap to the smallest it has been since August 2009 as the US imported the least amount of crude oil since February 1997. Whether this is due to rising domestic production, or just the ongoing collapse in end demand (which is to the US economy as electricity is China's traditional "8%" GDP) remains unclear.