Harry Reid’s publicly displayed dismay at the lack of progress in the fiscal cliff negotiations finally injected a dose of realism into the process after investors threw caution to the wind and seized on the optimism offered by the Senate Majority Leader and Speaker Boehner on November 16. We view yesterday’s sound bite as more negative than the aforementioned statement on the White House Lawn, for we now sit 11 days closer to the New Year’s deadline. Despite this asymmetry, equities suffered only moderate losses giving up just a modicum of the gains from last week. The relative lack of a response to the comments seem puzzling given the price action from the prior several days; however with month end looming, enough buyers kept stocks from selling off violently. My November 13 “Missive” outlined a game theory exercise that suggests this rancor will continue until very late into December and/or the capital markets dislocate thereby ensuring either a falling over the cliff or a band aid solution to avoid the crisis temporarily. Both parties unfortunately may assume that by agreeing to postpone the tough decisions, they will have prevented a rout in equities; however, the August, 2011 precedent of raising the debt ceiling out of desperation hints otherwise.
Currency wars are set to intensify as the US Senate is considering new sanctions against Iran that would prevent Iran getting paid for its natural resource exports in gold bullion. The new sanctions aimed at reducing global trade with Iran in the energy, shipping and precious metals sectors may soon be considered by the U.S. Senate as part of an annual defense policy bill, senators and aides said on Tuesday, according to Reuters. The sanctions would end "Turkey's game of gold for natural gas," Reuters reported a senior Senate aide as saying, referring to reports that Turkey has been paying for natural gas with gold due to sanctions rules. The legislation "would bring economic sanctions on Iran near de facto trade embargo levels with the hope of speeding up the date by which Iran's economy will collapse," the aide said. Last week Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan has revealed a critical detail about a widely discussed Turkey-Iran gold trade boom, disclosing that the Islamic republic was exporting gas to Turkey in exchange for payment in gold bullion. It is also reported that Iranians are buying Turkish gold with the Turkish Lira, which is deposited into their bank accounts in exchange for Turkey’s natural gas purchases, the deputy prime minister said at midnight Nov. 22 during a parliamentary session. Iran cannot transfer monetary payments to Iran in U.S. dollars due to U.S sanctions against the country’s alleged nuclear weapons program. Iran has been forced to shun the international financial system and the petrodollar as means of payment and turn to the international gold market to ensure it gets paid for its natural resources in order to prevent absolute economic collapse.
- Egypt protests continue in crisis over Mursi powers (Reuters)
- Greece hires Deutsche, Morgan Stanley to run Greek voluntary debt buy back, sources say (Kathimerini)
- Executives' Good Luck in Trading Own Stock (WSJ)
- Hollande Presents Mittal Nationalization Among Site Options (Bloomberg)
- Eurozone states face losses on Greek debt (FT)
- Spain's rescued banks to shrink, slash jobs (Reuters)
- EU Approves Spanish Banks' Restructuring Plans (WSJ)
- At SAC, Portfolio Managers Are Treated Like Stocks (BBG)
- China considers easing family planning rules (Reuters)
- European Court to Rule Over ECB’s Secret Greek File (BusinessWeek)
- And another top tick indicator: Asia Funds Buy London Offices in Bet Volatility Is Past (Bloomberg)
- Harvard Doctor Turns Felon After Lure of Insider Trading (BBG)
- Zucker Is Lead Candidate to Head CNN (WSJ) - it's not true until CNN misreports it
- Iran "will press on with enrichment:" nuclear chief (Reuters)
Every country with a central bank is by definition and without exception a currency manipulator.
Every country that devalues its country to boost exports is a currency manipulator.
Every country that bails out banks is a currency manipulator.
Every central bank purchase of treasury securities, mortgage-backed securities or equities is currency manipulation.
Every central bank that inflates away treasury debt is a currency manipulator.
And that is why America would look clownish and absurd to label China a currency manipulator, when China can throw back the exact same accusation even more forcefully. China holds trillions and trillions of dollar-denominated assets.
Ok. It’s not that the Greek deal is nothing. But then again, third strike. Eventually expected, or at least hoped for. Hence, lack of concrete follow-through. So, now it’s there. And now what? You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet? What is there to see??? Pitch the markets some input, something concrete, something to feed off, something to see!
"You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet" (Bunds 1,43% +2; Spain 5,51% -9; Stoxx 2538 -0,2%; EUR 1,293 -30)
Lately it seems that the entire world has become a complete basket case of economic data and market manipulation. On one hand, as we reminded yesterday, the disconnect between US economic fundamentals and the market has hit levels that imply the S&P is rich by 200 points. On the other, this morning the Chinese stock index, the Shanghai Composite, closed at a level of 1991: this was the first sub-2000 close since 2009 so early one can make it 2008. Yet the punchline in today's data is the report from the People's Daily, that in the first ten months of the year, a total of 11.2 million urban jobs have been created, or about 1.1 million per month on average (in context, the US has a problem with creating 150K jobs/month). Ignoring for a fact that this data is total manipulated garbage, is it now safe to say that no news has any impact whatsoever on the global monetary policy playing field once known as stock markets?
USDJPY has rallied 3.5% in 2 weeks on wide expectations that Abe will come into office on Dec 16 and force BOJ into aggressive monetary easing (target 2% inflation). Market as a result has seen one way demand for USDJPY higher options driving skew sharply higher to recent highs. The desk believes that there is significant risk in USDJPY in the next month given event risk (most notably Japan elections/BOJ meeting and US fiscal cliff), but the desk feel that with positions relatively stretched, holiday season looming and the long side of the equation almost solely dominated by short term spec guy that the PAIN TRADE is now likely USDJPY lower from here, at least much more so than what the vol curve currently indicates.
CME Group declared a force majeure at one of its New York precious metals depositories yesterday, run by bullion dealer and major coin dealer Manfra, Tordella and Brooks (MTB), due to “operational limitations” posed by Hurricane Sandy. MTB has “operational limitations” following Hurricane Sandy and can’t load gold bullion, platinum bullion or palladium bullion, CME Group Inc., the parent of the Comex and New York Mercantile Exchange, said today in a statement. MTB must provide holders with metal at Brinks Inc. in New York to meet current outstanding warrants in relevant delivery periods with compensation for costs, Chicago-based CME said. The CME said that MTB will not be able to deliver metal as the lower Manhattan company deals with "operational limitations" almost a month after the arrival of Hurricane Sandy. MTB is one of five depositories licensed to deliver gold against CME's benchmark 100-troy ounce gold contract, held 29,276 troy ounces of gold and 33,000 troy ounces of palladium as of Nov. 23, according to data from CME subsidiary Comex. In a notice to customers on Monday, CME declared force majeure for the facility, a contract clause that frees parties from liability due to an event outside of their control.
- OECD slashes 2013 growth forecast (FT)
- Fiscal Cliff Compromise Elusive as Congress Returns (Bloomberg)
- China’s PBOC Chief Search Spurs Focus on Finance Regulators (Bloomberg)
- Elected, but Still Campaigning (WSJ)
- Pentagon Readies Options for Afghanistan Force After 2014 (Bloomberg)
- Greece Wins Easier Debt Terms as EU Hails Rescue Formula (Bloomberg)
- Monti presses Cameron for EU referendum (FT)
- Welcome, Mr Carney – Britain needs you (FT)
- Argentina seeks halt to $1.3bn debt order (FT)
- Asean chief warns on South China Sea disputes (FT)
- South Korea Tightens FX Rules to Temper Won Surge (WSJ)
Not surprisingly, in the weeks since the historical hurricane made landfall, new attention is being paid to the mounting costs that coastal world megacities may face. Intriguingly, however, this new conversation about climate, energy policy, and America’s reliance on fossil fuels comes after a five-year period in which the U.S. has dramatically lowered its consumption of oil and seen an equally dramatic upturn in the growth of renewable energy. The combination of declining oil use and a greater reliance on the global powergrid is going to shape energy and climate policy. Especially at a time when the concerns of climate change – or, rather, rising seas and the greenhouse dangers of fossil fuel dependency – are being increasingly raised. This will make for a rather muddled and complex array of diverging policy initiatives. Moreover, as new oil supplies emerge from domestic American sources, the dream of resurrecting this cheap oil era will no doubt come back around several more times. But none of these new resource plays will change the trajectory of global oil supply much, nor will they lower the price of oil. So far, new oil supply mostly offsets declines elsewhere – but at substantially higher marginal cost. This should now be clear.
GMO, Boston's $104bn asset-management firm, has 'given-up' on the bond market. However, this is not a clarion call for equity bulls, as the FT reports, GMO's head of asset-allocation Ben Inker notes the only time he has held more cash was in late 2007, before the financial crisis. Today's equity valuations, he notably points out, are predicated on today's profit margins being sustainable and he thinks US corporate profits are set to fall - even if growth picks up. Critically, this smart-money cash-hoarder rightly sees the problem as one prominent during the presidential election - that of income inequality. "One of the things that happens as profits grow as a per cent of gross domestic product is income becomes more and more unequal because the ownership of capital is extraordinarily uneven. And there's a natural tension that forms there from a societal perspective." So far, Inker adds, government spending has supported the economy and so profits. But a pick-up in growth requires higher consumption, and the only way to get that is through higher incomes, which must come from profits. So that's where the dry powder is Maria - in the smartest investors' hands.
Since September, the Currency Wars have escalated. It isn't just because of the seminal monetary events of the Federal Reserve's QE III "unlimited" and the ECB's OMT "Uncapped". It is more likely about the fact that China announced its eleventh agreement that effectively bypasses using the US dollar with China's strategic trading partners. The latest agreement with Russia places trading oil, in non-US dollars, into the spotlight. The infamous petrodollar has had its destructive profile raised. The Petrodollar has long been the cornerstone that solidified the US dollar as the key currency reserve holding. The Petrodollar strategy is arguably more important that the Bretton Woods agreement which officially made the US dollar the world's reserve currency at the end of WW II. This is now being called into question. Minimally, it suggests a weakened requirement for holdings of the current levels of US dollars in sovereign reserve accounts.
Hard pressed to find anything remotely exciting today. Equities losing a little shine, but understandable given last week’s 5% rush (and 14% tightening in Credit). Bonds stuck in range. Fiscal Cliff hailing back (in yet rather timid manner, though). Waiting on Greek rescue revelations. Yawn!
"Sailing" (Bunds 1,41% -3; Spain 5,6% unch; Stoxx 2542 -0,4%; EUR 1,296 unch)
We are in a “different moment” now than in the past several years and that is the point of my commentary today. Promises have come and gone, the central banks have supported the fiscal system as political decision making waned with indecision and the difficulties of the choices. Complacency took hold as a kind of “everything will be fine” mentality inundated the market places. Soon, in my opinion, everything will not be quite so fine as the politicians in America and Europe have to earn their salaries and the ramifications of many decisions are going to be unpleasant as they are released. If we regard America’s fiscal cliff or the pending decisions about Greece or the separatist movement in Spain or the lack of a budget for the European Union; it is all politically centered and the battlefields are rife with perhaps surprising decisions. In each of these four arenas the easy answers have now come and gone. The “can kicking” if you will is over.
- Goldman Turns Down Southern Europe Banks as Crisis Lingers (Bloomberg)
- Euro Ministers Take Third Swing at Clearing Greek Payment (Bloomberg)
- Chamber Sidestepped in Obama’s Talks on Avoiding Fiscal Cliff (Bloomberg)
- Republicans and Democrats Differ on Taxes as Fiscal Cliff Looms (Bloomberg)
- Republicans bargain hard over fiscal cliff (FT)
- Catalan Pro-Independence Parties Win Regional Vote (BBG)
- Shirakawa defends BoJ from attack (FT)
- Run-off looms in Italy’s centre-left vote (FT)
- BOJ rift surfaces over easing as political debate heats up (Reuters)
- Barnier seeks ‘political will’ on bank union (FT)
- New BOJ Members Sought More-Expansionary Wording (Bloomberg)
- Osborne May Extend U.K. Austerity to 2018, IFS Says (Bloomberg)