Goldman's February Final Global Leading Index places the global industrial cycle in the "Slowdown" phase, with positive but decreasing Momentum indicating a soft-patch in global growth. The infamous Swirlogram has now shifted to a more negative stance than a year ago as 8 of the 10 factors worsened in Feb. Goldman remains unapologetically optimistic that this is 'weather'-related but we do note that the weakness is global in nature. In the US, despite beats in 'select' data, the US macro surprise index has started the year with its biggest fall since 2008.
The taper program distances the bankers from responsibility for crisis in our financial framework, at least in the eyes of the general public. If a market calamity takes place while stimulus measures are still at full speed, this makes the banks look rather guilty, or at least incompetent. People would begin to question the validity of central bank methods, and they might even question the validity of the central bank’s existence. The Fed is creating space between itself and the economy because they know that a trigger event is coming. They want to ensure that they are not blamed and that stimulus itself is not seen as ineffective, or seen as the cause. We all know that the claims of recovery are utter nonsense. The taper is not in response to an improving economic environment. Rather, the taper is a signal for the next stage of collapse. The real reason stocks and other indicators are stumbling is because the effectiveness of stimulus manipulation has a shelf life, and that shelf life is over for the Federal Reserve.
Today's modest bounce in stocks - considerably removed after-hours - does not provide much hope for those looking to buy the dip with the Dow still down over 1000 points year-to-date. In fact, as we discuss below, troubling news just continues to pour in from all over the world... For those that are not interested in the technical details, what all of this means is that global financial markets are starting to become extremely unstable. Consider the following...
We are sure it's just a storm in a teacup; just a brief interlude before the IMF's ever-changing forecast for global trade growth picks right back up again and demand to ship dry goods surges back to the inventory stuffed levels of Q4. But, for now, the Baltic Dry Index (admired when it's rising, ignored when it drops) has collapsed by over 50% from its December highs and is back to August lows.
Following last week's Flash PMI print of 49.6, the Final print for January China Manufacturing dropped further to 49.5 confirming the contraction is deepening. Japanese stocks were down the most since August in the early going as Nikkei futures extended the losses from the US day-session (and rather notably decoupled from USDJPY and breaking below 15,000). The Nikkei is heading for the worst month since May 2012 (-8.66% so far). S&P futures tracked USDJPY as 102.00 was defended aggressively. Chinese stocks are also tumbling (though not as hard as Japan and US) and the PBOC will not be adding liquidity today. Furthermore the blame is being shifted as Deputy FinMin Zhu warns that the "Chinese economy faces risks from overseas uncertainty." EM FX is drifting lower still.
Have you been paying attention to what has been happening in Argentina, Venezuela, Brazil, Ukraine, Turkey and China? If you are like most Americans, you have not been. Most Americans don't seem to really care too much about what is happening in the rest of the world, but they should. In major cities all over the globe right now, there is looting, violence, shortages of basic supplies, and runs on the banks. We are not at a "global crisis" stage yet, but things are getting worse with each passing day. Many have felt that 2014 could turn out to be a major "turning point" for the global economy, and so far that is exactly what it is turning out to be. The following are 20 early warning signs that we are rapidly approaching a global economic meltdown...
If you want to get an idea of where the rest of America is heading, just take a trip through the western half of West Virginia and the eastern half of Kentucky some time. Once you leave the main highways, you will rapidly encounter poverty on a level that is absolutely staggering. Overall, about 15 percent of the entire nation is under the poverty line, but in some areas of eastern Kentucky, more than 40 percent of the population is living in poverty. After decades of decline, vast stretches of impoverished Appalachia look like they have been through a war. Those living in the area know that things are not good, but they just try to do the best that they can with what they have.
The Baltic Dry Index, a measure of commodity-shipping rates, has collapsed 39% in just the nine trading days of 2014. It has fallen from 2277 at the end of December 2013 to 1370 today (see chart). This key indicator of global economic health is a warning signal for the global economy in 2014.
Day two of the bounce from the biggest market drop in months is here, driven once again by weak carry currencies, with the USDJPY creeping up as high as 104.50 overnight before retracing some of the gains, and of course, the virtually non-existant volume. Whatever the reason don't look now but market all time highs are just around the corner, and the Nasdaq is back to 14 year highs. Stocks traded higher since the get-go in Europe, with financials leading the move higher following reports that European banks will not be required in upcoming stress tests to adjust their sovereign debt holdings to maturity to reflect current values. As a result, peripheral bond yield spreads tightened, also benefiting from good demand for 5y EFSF syndication, where price guidance tightened to MS+7bps from initial MS+9bps. Also of note, Burberry shares in London gained over 6% and advanced to its highest level since July, after the company posted better than expected sales data. Nevertheless, the FTSE-100 index underperformed its peers, with several large cap stocks trading ex-dividend today. Going forward, market participants will get to digest the release of the latest Empire Manufacturing report, PPI and DoE data, as well as earnings by Bank of America.
"The Fed's policies have actually led to a lot of problems around the world," Marc Faber begins his discussion with Bloomberg TV's Trish Regan, especially "people in the lower income groups [who] spend say 30% of their income on energy, transportation, and so forth, electricity and gasoline." The Gloom, Boom & Doom Report author goes on to discuss everything from how the Fed is creating a two-class system around the world, the inexorable growth of governments, buying votes, Bitcoin, interest rates, wealth taxes, and overall market valuations. "We are in a gigantic financial asset bubble," Faber explains, "everybody's bullish," but he sees a slowing global economy (as do we e.g. Baltic Dry Index); "[The bubble] could burst any day. I think we are very stretched." Faber is on fire...
Despite 'blaming' the drop in the cost of dry bulk shipping on Colombian coal restrictions, it seems increasingly clear that the 40% collapse in the Baltic Dry Index since the start of the year is more than just that. While this is the worst start to a year in over 30 years, the scale of this meltdown is only matched by the total devastation that occurred in Q3 2008. Of course, the mainstream media will continue to ignore this dour index until it decides to rise once again, but for now, 9 days in a row of plunging prices is yet another canary in the global trade coalmine and suggests what inventory stacking that occurred in Q3/4 2013 is anything but sustained.
We noted Friday that the much-heralded Baltic Dry Index has seen the worst start to the year in over 30 years. Today it got worse. At 1,395, the the Baltic Dry index, which reflects the daily charter rate for vessels carrying cargoes such as iron ore, coal and grain, is now down 18% in the last 2 days alone (biggest drop in 6 years), back at 4-month lows. The shipping index has utterly collapsed over 40% in the last 2 weeks. We are sure this is just a storm in a teacup and that all the hopes and prayers of a global manufacturing renaissance will come true. Cue, "this is not a demand issue, it's an over-capacity issue" excuses in 3...2...1... now where would the container ships get their idea to increase capacity? (hint: central planner-based mal-investment)
When this indicator of global trade rises, everything is rosy and reams of asset-gatherers and talking-heads wil quote it as indicative of how great the world is. When it drops - silence. There's always an excuse - over- or under-capacity, too many ships, too few ships, etc. However, the last 2 weeks have seen a 35% collapse in the cost to ship bulk. There is a relative seasonal pattern over the holiday period - with shipping costs rising into the holiday and falling after but... this is the biggest drop from a Christmas Eve since at least 1984, 30 years! Seems like the inventory stacking of Q4 had absolutely no follow-through whatsoever...
Another day of 'spot the difference' between AUDJPY and the S&P 500 saw an odd overnight spike in stocks fade soon after the US open, bounce higher (again) at the European close then oscillate around VWAP (with the ever-ready-to-please 330 RAMP). Stocks remain red for the year and still the worst start since 2008. "Most Shorted" names continue to outperform. Copper and WTI crude were notable underperformers (both ending an oddly similar -1.75% on the week so far) with oil rebounding modestly off 8-month lows into the close. VIX and credit markets were quiet - ending practically unch ahead of tomorrow's NFP. CAD weakness continues (-2% on the week) but the USD leaked lower to unch on the week. Treasuries rallied 2-3bps (and the curve flattened very modestly) with 2Y unch and 10Y -3bps.
After multiple months of positive acceleration, Goldman expect the Global Leading Indicator to continue to stabilize around current levels in the coming months. The infamous Swirlogram shows that the last 3 months have seen the indicator in "slowdown" mode - which Goldman optimistically notes is on the border of 'expansion' also...and while they see no clear evidence of further acceleration, they see overall level of growth at solid levels.