One can spend all day watching financial media channels stuffed full of self-promoting index-hugging asset-managers and be left with the belief that all is well and that the market does indeed represent our reality... Or, as UBS' Art Cashin notes today (confirming what we first published a month ago - here, here, and here), there is more (well less) to today's global economy and markets than meets the eye or rests in the headlines. His excellent diatribe today reiterates our previous comments of investing icons such as Baupost's Seth Klarman and Oaktree's Howard Marks that "(The) underpinnings of our economy and financial system are so precarious that the un-abating risks of collapse dwarf all other factors."
As the markets once again approach historic highs - the overly exuberant tone, extreme complacency and weakness in the economic data, bring to mind Bob Farrell's 10 investment rules. These rules should be a staple for any long term successful investor. These rules are often quoted yet rarely heeded - just as they are now. Farrell became a pioneer in sentiment studies and market psychology. His 10 rules on investing stem from personal experience with dull markets, bull markets, bear markets, crashes and bubbles. In short, Farrell has seen it all and lived to tell about it. Despite endless warnings, repeated suggestions and outright recommendations - getting investors to sell, take profits and manage your portfolio risks is nearly a lost cause as long as the markets are rising. Unfortunately, by the time the fear, desperation or panic stages are reached it is far too late to act and we will only be able to say that we warned you.
Today was one of those rare days when there were no media reports describing in gruesome detail what another 24 hours in the complete social de-evolution of Greece looks like. The reason for that is that the Greek media and journalists decided to hold their first all day general strike today, which in turn happens to be in advance of tomorrow's first for 2013 general Greek strike. The journalists’ union ESIEA decided to hold the strike in solidarity with the 24-hour action called by GSEE and ADEDY, but wanted to ensure there was media coverage of the protest planned for Wednesday. So what will happen tomorrow? To a big extent, just more of the same: "State services will grind to a halt Wednesday and public transport will be disrupted in Athens as workers join a 24-hour general strike called by the country’s two main labor unions." And whereas the neo-(or paleo) Keynesians out there can spin any natural disaster as GDP accretive, not even they can transform the complete stop of all "constructive" activity as somehow benefiting Greek GDP. Furthermore, with no improvements in the Greek macroeconomic picture whatsoever, one can be assured that tomorrow's general strike is merely the first of many, now that the weather is warm enough to hold posters and slogans in broad daylight.
Over the past few years, Citi's Matt King notes that the future never seems to become quite bright enough to offset the underlying economic and political realities. When we have been in this situation before, something has happened to make the markets nervous again, and then the outlook has darkened. Typically it’s been because of back-pedalling by policymakers on reforms, or doubts about central banks’ willingness to continue injecting liquidity at tighter spread levels. Recent headlines about limiting the scope for bank recapitalization by the ESM, sequestration probabilities, and about central banks’ growing nervousness that markets are running ahead of economic reality make us doubt that this time is any different.
With the US closed today, the Shanghai Composite red after a week of partying not helped by news from China’s Ministry of Commerce showed that spending during the week-long Lunar New Year break grew at the slowest pace since 2009, and the Nikkei merely a tick-for-tick proxy of whatever the USDJPY does which in turn is a mood indicator for how any given G-7/20 statement is interpreted, the only relevant news in today's thinly traded market would come from Europe, where the EUR is once again modestly higher in overnight trading, even as Spain and Italy bonds are selling off.
The resignation of the Pope was followed by a lightning strike on the Vatican. A meteor storm has killed more than 150 people in Russia. UK retail sales collapse in January, falling 0.6% increased of rising 0.5% as the consensus expected. Insult was added to injury as the November and December series were revised lower.
Following yesterday's G-7 announcement which sent the USDJPY soaring, and its embarrassing "misinterpretation" clarification which undid the entire spike, by an anonymous source in the US who said the statement was in fact meant to state that the Yen was dropping too fast and was to discourage "currency wars", it was only a matter of time before another G-7 country stepped into the fray to provide a mis-misinterpretation of the original G-7 announcement. That someone was the BoE's outgoing head Mervyn King who at 5:30 am eastern delivered his inflation reporting which he said that "it’s very important to allow exchange rates to move," adding that "when countries take measures to use monetary stimulus to support growth in their economy, then there will be exchange rate consequences, and they should be allowed to flow through." Finally, King added that the BOE will look through CPI and relentless UK inflation to support the recovery, implicitly even if it means incurring more inflation.
With the world so obviously gripped in currency war even the hotdog guy has moved away from saying how technically undervalued AAPL stock is to opining on who is leading the global race to debase, it was only a matter of time before the G-7 confirmed the only strategy left is FX devaluation by denying it. Sure enough, a preliminary statement from the G-7 came earlier, in which the leading "developed" nations said, well, absolutely nothing:
We, the G7 Ministers and Governors, reaffirm our longstanding commitment to market determined exchange rates and to consult closely in regard to actions in foreign exchange markets. We reaffirm that our fiscal and monetary policies have been and will remain oriented towards meeting our respective domestic objectives using domestic instruments, and that we will not target exchange rates. We are agreed that excessive volatility and disorderly movements in exchange rates can have adverse implications for economic and financial stability. We will continue to consult closely on exchange markets and cooperate as appropriate.
This follows a statement by the US Treasury's Lael Branaird yesterday in which she said that she is supportive of the effort in Japan to end deflation and “reinvigorate growth”. Lastly, the SNB's Jordan also confirmed that the Swiss National Bank will continue to do everything to crush its own currency, and will the 1.20 EURCHF floor, stating that Japan is merely doing the right thing to stimulate growth (i.e., doing what "we" are doing). In other words, let the FX wars continue and may the biggest balance sheet win, all the while everyone pretends nothing is happening.
Update: S.KOREA RAISES MILITARY READINESS LEVEL, YONHAP REPORTS, South Korean news agency Yonhap says U.S., China informed about the North Korea nuclear test on Monday
Just because it has been off the headlines for a while, the time has come for North Korea to remind everyone it is still there, somewhere, with what appears another underground nuclear test, a few short years after that last one from May 2009.
- N. KOREA TEST ‘LIKELY’ TO BE NUCLEAR: S. KOREA DEFENSE MINISTRY
- S. KOREAN DEFENSE MINISTRY CONFIRMS DPRK NUCLEAR TEST
- USGS says earthquake of 4.9 scale detected in North Korea near to known nuclear test site - RTRS
- Seismic activity has been detected in North Korea. North Korea is not prone to seismic activity, it could indicate a nuclear test - RTRS
- Seismic activity detected in DPRK... believed to be "man-made" per various ROK sources - VOA
- Artificial earthquake detected in N. Korea - Yonhap
- S. Korea's presidential office checking reports of artificial quake in N. Korea - Yonhap
Of course, since this won't have any impact on the only wars that matter, the currency ones, it is unlikely that anything but more jawboning, and hard language out of both South Korea, the US and the UN, will come out of this attempt by DPRK to appear relevant.
In what has been a quiet start to week dominated by the G-20 meeting whose only purpose is to put Japan and its upstart currency destruction in its place, many are expecting a formal G-7 statement on currencies and what is and isn't allowed in currency warfare according to the "New Normal" non-Geneva convention. Because while there may not have been much overnight news, both the EURUSD and USDJPY just waited for Europe to open, to surge right out of the gates, and while the former has been somewhat subdued in the aftermath of the ECB's surprising entry into currency wars last week, it was the latter that was helped by statements from Haruhiko Kuroda (not to be confused with a Yankee's pitcher) who many believe will be the next head of the BOJ, who said that additional BOJ easing can be justified for 2013. He didn't add if that would happen only if he is elected. Expect much more volatility in various FX pairs as the topic of global thermonuclear currency war dominates the airwaves in the coming days.
How A Previously Secret Collateral Transformation With The Bank Of Italy Prevented Monte Paschi's NationalizationSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/09/2013 20:47 -0400
The endless Italian bailout story that keeps on giving, has just given some more. It turns out Italy's insolvent Banca dei Monte Paschi, which has been in the headlines for the past month due to its role as political leverage against the frontrunning Bersani bloc, and which has been bailed out openly so many times in the past 4 years we have lost track, and whose cesspool of a balance sheet disclose one after another previously secret derivative deal on an almost daily basis, can now add a previously unannounced bailout by the Bank of Italy to its list of recent historical escapades.
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 was a busy session for Chinese "data" (more on the laughable validity of Chinese economic releases shortly), after China released January export and import data, which rose 25% and 28.8% from a year ago respectively. Futures were delighted by the data, until someone pointed out that January 2013 had some five more working days than 2012 due to the calendar shift of the Chinese new year, and that adjusted for this effect exports were a far more modest 12.5% while imports rose only 3.4%. Credit growth in January also rose to a record, with aggregate financing of 2.54 trillion, including new local-currency loans of 1.07 trillion, exceeding forecasts, as China dumped gobs of money into the economy, while somehow quite mystrriously inflation came right on top of the expected 2.0%. The Yen soared overnight following comments from Taro Aso who said that the Yen had depreciated too fast. Heading to Europe, the biggest news so far was the latest ECB LTRO repayment which saw some 21 banks repay €4.992 billion, less than the estimated €7.0 billion. Finally, trading today will be slower than usual as Nemo is finally found in the shape of some 12 inches of snow blanketing the Northeast.
Fraudclosure Fail | ROMAN PINO vs THE BANK OF NEW YORK – Florida Supreme Court: We Can't Stop the FraudSubmitted by 4closureFraud on 02/07/2013 23:17 -0400
There are no ramifications if you get caught defrauding the court. Just take a voluntary dismissal and start over. We now have a court system, an entire judicial system, that supports fraud...
Big round numbers always encourage reflection. Turning 40 or 50, for example, or making (or losing) a million dollars. Or a billion. And so it is with “Dow 14,000.” ConvergEx's Nick Colas has three critical observations as we traverse this particular “Big round number.” First, it is clear that equity prices (and volatility, for that matter) are much more a direct tool of central bank policy than in prior economic cycles. Second, the rally off the bottom in March 2009 has left the investing world with very few money managers who can legitimately claim the title of “Smart money.” Lastly, you have to consider the way forward. The roadmap from Dow 6600 (March 2009) to Dow 14,000 was – in retrospect – clearly marked by signs labeled “Follow the central bank yellow brick road.” Good enough signage to get us here, clearly. But, as Nick notes, fundamentals – corporate earnings, interest rates, and economic growth – those are the metrics which will have to guide us as central banks inevitably reduce their liquidity programs. As he considers the way forward for U.S. stocks, he reflects on Spring 1994 - U.S. stock investors thought they had it all figured out as they exited 1993, just as they do now...