While hopes of the J-Curve recovery in the deficit are long forgotten in the annals of Goldman Sachs history, silver-lining-seekers will proclaim the very modest beat in tonight's Japanese trade deficit a moral victory for a nation whose economic data has been nothing but abysmal for months. However, the near $1 trillion Yen deficit is the 44th month in a row as exports to US and Europe rose modestly in Yen terms but dropped to China and US in volume terms. USDJPY continues its march higher (now 118.25) but, unfoirtunately for Abe's approval ratings, Japanese stocks continue to languish an implied 1000 points behind - unable to break back above pre-GDP levels... as faith in Kuroda's omnipotence falters.
In a nation in which 1 out of every 3 homes is unaffordable, you’d think the primary goal of public policy wouldn’t be to ensure real estate becomes even more out of reach for the average citizen. It’s bad enough that American financial oligarchs have leveraged free money polices of the Federal Reserve to purchase tens of billions of dollars in real estate only to rent it back to people who were kicked out of their homes during the 2008 crisis, but the government is now going out of its way to allow Chinese (and other foreign criminals) to launder money via U.S. property.
Instead of reading between the lines of the 28 page FOMC minutes, we have The Wall Street Journal's Jon Hilsenrath to explain to us what we should believe. His message is not dovish. Despite tumult in financial markets, weak economic conditions abroad, and risks that low inflation could drift lower, Hilsenrath notes that the Fed forged ahead with a decision to end the central bank’s bond-buying program because the domestic economy and labor market appeared to be on course for further improvement. Furthermore, officials added a new twist: a debate about whether they should add new information in their official policy statement on how quickly rates will rise once increases commence.
"... members considered the advantages and disadvantages of adding language to the statement to acknowledge recent developments in financial markets. On the one hand, including a reference would show that the Committee was monitoring financial developments while also providing an opportunity to note that financial conditions remained highly supportive of growth. On the other hand, including a reference risked the possibility of suggesting greater concern on the part of the Committee than was actually the case, perhaps leading to the misimpression that monetary policy was likely to respond to increases in volatility."
With growth rates for steel products at or near record lows and prices for end-product having plunged to record lows, it is little surprise that the Steel industry would provide the largest Chinese bankruptcy yet in this cycle. As Bloomberg reports, unlisted Haixin Iron & Steel - which halted production and defaulted on CNY3 bn in March - has started bankruptcy proceedings. Having spent 8 months hoping for the government bailout that every Western onlooker believes is every firm's god-given right, a reorganization application for the Wenxi, Shanxi province-based company (with $1.7 billion of total debt) was accepted by the Yuncheng City Intermediate People’s Court. This is just the start as "Haixin Group’s bankruptcy will be followed by others," warns one analyst, adding that the major flaw of producers of iron ore, the most traded commodity after oil, is they tend to be “over-bullish.”
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Once again all eyes are on the carry-trade driving Yen, whose avalance into oblivion is picking up speed, and where the formerly unimaginable USDJPY level of 120 as presented here in September, is now looking like this week's business, with the only question how long until Albert Edwards' next target of 145 is hit leading to nuclear currency warfare between Japan, Korea, China and ultimately, the US and Europe. Unfortunately, for Japan, at this point the terminal currency collapse will do nothing to incrementally boost exports or its economy, and the former Japan finmin was on the tape warning again that the Japanese recession will persist as USDJPY over 115 is now hurting Japan, something which should by now have been clear to most.
The global power shift from the West to the East is alive and well
The authorities in Hong Kong are once again threatening to clear the protest sites. They have a legal pretext, in the form of court orders issued in response to complaints from the owners of buildings, who are losing traffic. The powers that be are in no mood for compromise. “Police urge the illegal road occupiers to obey the court order, remove obstacles and personal belongings, and stop the illegal occupation soonest.”
Iron Ore prices crashed below the critical $70/mt level overnight, lows not seen since the bottom in 2009, as China's home prices fell for the second month in a row, accelerating losses. Average property prices across China dropped 2.6% YoY in October (a bigger drop than September's 1.2% YoY slip) with only 1 out of 70 cities seeing any positive price change (Zhengzhou +0.2% MoM). What is perhaps most entertaining is the 38.6% YoY rise in new home starts China just experienced - the biggest jump ever - as the first sign of demand (or hint from PBOC that they would 'help' with mortgages) and supply floods the market. The 'market' appears not to believe the hype.
Despite the apparent economic and profit news improvements recently, JPMorgan CIO Michael Cembalest notes there are a few instances where people are still flipping out. It’s worth reviewing them, he suggests, as they're indicative of risks and opportunities in financial markets heading into 2015, and of the continued presence of central banks affecting asset prices.
From its lowest 5-day range in history and near-longest streak of closes above its short-term average, the S&P 500 broke to new record highs today (as did the Dow) above 2,050, leaving every other asset class in the dust (besides USDJPY of course). The incessant push for the stops above 117.00 dragged the S&P higher on no catalyst whatsoever. Treasury yields traded 2-3bps lower on the day (and HY credit spreads widened) in the face of equity exuberance. The USD faded on the day back to unchanged on the week on the back of EUR strength (post-Germany). Gold rallied to $1195 (+0.5% on the week) and silver rose modestly but the USD weakness did nothing for the rest of the commodity complex. Copper was whacked (after China housing data) but the big story is WTI Crude plunged again (-2% on the week) closing just shy of 4-year lows. Russell 2000 and Trannies close in the red for the week. In summary: Stocks Up, Gold Up, Bonds Up... USD Down, Oil Down, Copper Down ahead of Fed Minutes tomorrow (credit and stocks protected).
“If [They're] Right, Everything The Fed Has Been Doing To Try To Stimulate The Economy Isn’t Just Useless — It’s Backward”
And what happens when the gold ETF inflows start picking up again?
"Just when did Central Bankers become world media superstars and when do we get to put them back in their box?" Strutting the world stage, flitting from press conference to rubber chicken dinner, dispensing what passes for wisdom and prognosis as if the court astrologers have toppled the mighty Nebuchadnezzar and now rule in his place. Whatever happened to discreetly overseeing the balance of payments and facelessly staunching the worst panics only when absolutely necessary? This is clearly Japan’s last stand and there is no real exit strategy except to explicitly default on its debt. But an economic collapse and a sovereign debt default on the world’s third largest economy will contain massive economic ramifications on a global scale.