The central banks are now out of dry powder - impaled on the zero-bound. That means any resort to a massive new round of money printing can not be disguised as an effort to “stimulate” the macro-economy by temporarily driving interest rates to “extraordinarily” low levels. They are already there. Instead, a Bernanke style balance sheet explosion like that which stopped the financial meltdown in the fall and winter of 2008-2009 will be seen for exactly what it is—-an exercise in pure monetary desperation and quackery. So duck and cover. This storm could be a monster.
Not quite as many fireworks overnight, in another session dominated by central banks. First it was revealed that China had injected CNY400 billion into the banking system to add liquidity as the economy slows, which is ironic because on the other hand China is also seemingly doing everything in its power to crash its nascent stock market bubble mania, following the latest news that China’s CSRC approved 12 IPOs ahead of schedule which is seen as a pre-emptive step to tighten interbank liquidity amid the recent rise in margin trading. Another central bank that was busy overnight was Russia's, which proceeded with its 5th rate hike of the year, pushing the central rate up by 100 bps to 10.50% as expected. Elsewhere, the Bank of England wants to move to a Fed-style decision schedule and start releasing immediate minutes as Governor Mark Carney overhauls the framework set up more than 17 years ago. The Swiss National Bank predicted consumer prices will drop next year and said the risk of deflation has increased as it vowed to defend its cap on the franc. Finally Norway’s central bank cut its main interest rate for the first time in more than two years and signaled it may ease again next year as plunging oil prices threaten growth in western Europe’s biggest crude exporter.
Now that China is on the same boat as the rest of the world, and its stock market is a direct reflection of hopes for constant liquidity injections by the central banks, nothing could be better for stocks than bad news, which is precisely what it got. After the biggest crash in the Shanghai Composite in 5 years, what China got just the bad economic update it needed, when it reported a PPI of PPI (-2.7%, Exp. -2.4%), the 33rd consecutive decline and a CPI (1.4%, Exp. 1.6%), lowest since November 2009, when the big banks’ RRR rate stood at 15.5% vs. current 20%. And so hope of yet more PBOC interventions to halt China's deflation promptly reversed SHCOMP losses of over 4% on the session (at which point it was just shy of correction territory from recent highs hit just this week), and stocks surged to close up almost 3%, erasing half of yesterday's losses. This spike came despite reports Chinese regulators may limit brokerages' interbank borrowing.
Bond prices in Venezuela have totally collapsed this morning - at 45c on the dollar, they are the lowest since 1998 - as the realization of the "abyss" they are staring into sparks an exodus from all credit positions in the country. VENZ 5Y CDS rallied 130bps which signals hedgers unwinding and the simultaneous sale of the underlying bonds implies broad-based capital flight (and profit taking) as 1Y CDS surges to record highs at 4830bps.
It wasn't just China's long overdue crash last night. In addition to the Shanghai Composite suffering its biggest plunge since August 2009, there has been a sharp slide in the USDJPY which has broken its uptrend to +∞ (and hyperinflation), and around the time Chinese gamblers were panicking, the FX pair tumbled under 120, although since then the 120 tractor beam has been activated. Elsewhere, the Athens stock exchange is also crashing by over 10% this morning on the heels of news that the Greek government has accelerated the process to elect the next president and possibly, a rerun of the drama from the summer of 2012 when the Eurozone was hanging by a thread when Tsipras almost won the presidential vote and killed the world's most artificial and insolvent monetary union. And finally, the crude plunge appears to have finally caught up with ground zero, with ADX General Index in Abu Dhabi plunging 3.5%, also poised for the biggest drop since 2009. In fact the only thing that isn't crashing (at least not this moment), is Brent, which did drop to new 5 year lows earlier under $66, but has since staged a feeble rebound.
Some two weeks ago (when Venezuela CDS was trading at 2300 bps) we previewed what - with almost absolute certainty - would be the first "casualty of the crude carnage" - Nicholas Maduro's little socialist paradise that couldn't: Venezuela. As a reminder, back then we learned that the OPEC member was in such dire straits it had burned through a third of a Chinese' bailout loan in the matter of days. Since then things have gone from bad to worse to freefall and why earlier today Venezuela CDS soared again by several hundred points wider touching 3100 bps (800 wider since our first post) and is now in record wide territory - suggesting the same probability default risk as when just after the Lehman collapse, crude traded briefly as low as $30 - as the bankruptcy vultures start circling over what will most certainly be the next sovereign bankruptcy carcass.
Of all the problems with fiat currency, the most basic is that it empowers the dark side of human nature. We’re potentially good but infinitely corruptible, and giving an unlimited monetary printing press to a government or group of banks is guaranteed to produce a dystopia of ever-greater debt and more centralized control, until the only remaining choice is between deflationary collapse or runaway inflation. The people in charge at that point are in a box with no painless exit.
Who says macroprudential regulation doesn't work: according to the BIS, notional amounts of outstanding OTC derivatives contracts fell by 3% to "only"
$691 trillion at end-June 2014. This is also roughly equal to the total derivative notional outstanding just before the Lehman collapse, when global central banks volunteered taxpayers to pump a few trillion in capital to meet global variation margin calls. Clearly the system, in the immortal words of Jim Cramer, is "fine."
Confused why in the lack of any horrible economic news (unless of course someone leaked a worse than expected November payrolls print which would put QE4 right back on the table) futures are higher, especially in the aftermath of yesterday's disappointing ECB conference? Then look no further than the Yen which has now lost pretty much all control and is in freeplunge mode, rising some 25 pips moments ago on no news, but merely as wave after wave of momentum ignition algos now make a joke of the Japanese currency, whose redline of 123 (as defined by SocGen)is now just 240 pips away. At this pace, Japan's economy, which as reported yesterday has just seen a record number of corporate bankruptcies due to the plummeting yen, may well be dead some time next week. Which, with Paul Krugman as its new and improved economic advisor, is precisely as expected. RIP Japan.
Venezuela "Boosts" Reserves With Rocks, Other "Easily Converted To Cash" Stuff; Suffers Major BlackoutSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 12/04/2014 14:05 -0400
With its bonds trading at 50% of face value, CDS implying an 84% chance of default, a black-market FX rate that signals massive devaluation is likely, and a teetering-on-the-brink of social unrest population entirely dependent on President Maduro's generosity (and the military junta), it is perhaps not entirely surprising that they are trying any trick in the book to bolster reserves. The Venezuelan Central Bank issued a statement today (akin to Europe's hookers-and-blow GDP adjustment) that enables them to count a whole new set of 'assets' as potential international reserves including "stones" and "precious metals held in their vaults on behalf of foreign financial institutions." Hey presto... new reserves. And if that wasn't enough, a massive blackout just hit Caracas...
Today we'll learn more about whether Mr Draghi becomes Super Mario in the near future as the widely anticipated ECB meeting is now only a few hours away. We will do another summary preview of market expectations shortly, but in a nutshell, nobody really expects Draghi to announce anything today although the jawboning is expected to reach unseen levels. The reason is that Germany is still staunchly against outright public QE, and Draghi probably wants to avoid and outright legal confrontation. As DB notes, assuming no new policy moves, the success of today's meeting will probably depend on the degree to which Draghi indicates the need for more action soon and the degree to which that feeling is unanimous within the council. Over the past weekend Weidmann's comment about falling oil prices representing a form of stimulus highlights that this consensus is still proving difficult to build. It might need a couple more months of low growth and inflation, revised staff forecasts and a stubbornly slow balance sheet accumulation to cement action.
Venezuela CDS is surging once again this morning, even as oil prices stabilize on the day, to its highest since January 2009 as traders increase hedges or speculation that the nation will be forced to default on its bonds. Current prices imply around an 85% chance of default (likely not helped by President Maduro's insistence that all is well and that he will try to destrout the black market for dollars that implies a massive devaluation is afoot for the Bolivar)
Following yesterday's dead-cat-bounce, oil prices resumed their downward push today, closing just shy of the flush lows on Friday back to a $66 handle for WTI. Gold also slipped modestly with copper and silver flat as the USD surged higher (+0.75% on the day). Stocks just melted up all day long (supported by USDJPY pushing to new cycle highs over 119), stop-hunting the whole way (with the S&P breaking back above its 5-day moving-average and back into the green on the week briefly). Yesterday's losers (Trannies and Small Caps) were today's BTFD winners. Treasury yields rose notably once again (up 11-13bps on the week) as we suspect oil-producers are selling to help support their collapsing currencies. VIX closed below 13 - slammed into the close to scrape the S&P back above its 5DMA.
A few days of near-record crude volatility (which the CME is scrambling to reduce following 2 crude margin hikes in the past week) is giving way to the New Normal default thinking: that central banks will soon take care of everything. And sure enough, just an hour earlier, US equity futures had jumped 8 points on virtually zero volume, wiping out all of yesterday's losses, driven higher by that new "old favorite", the USDJPY, which has once again resumed its climb higher, briefly rising above 119.00 once again and sending the Nikkei and the Topix to fresh 7 year highs, perfectly oblivious to both yesterday's Moody's downgrade and now open warnings from both Eisuke Sakakibara and Goldman Sachs that further declines in the Yen will accelerate the collapse of the Japanese economy. And, since there is also zero liquidity in the market, that entire gain was also just as promptly wiped out with futures now practically unchanged from yesterday's close.