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Gold Backed Bonds - An Alternative To European Austerity?

The World Gold Council and leading academics and international think tanks believe that using a portion of a nation's gold reserves to back sovereign debt would lower sovereign debt yields and give some of the Eurozone's most distressed countries time to work on economic reform and recovery. According to research done by the World Gold Council using the European gold reserves as collateral for new sovereign debt issues would mean that without selling an ounce of gold, Eurozone countries could raise €413 billion. This is over 20% of Italy's and Portugal's two year borrowing requirements.  The move to back sovereign bonds with gold would lower sovereign debt yields, without increasing inflation, which would help to calm markets. This should give European countries some vital breathing space to work on economic reform and recovery. Some citizens would be concerned that there may be a risk that the sovereign nations who pledge their gold as collateral could ultimately end up losing their gold reserves to the ECB, or whoever the collateral of the gold reserves are pledged to, in the event of a default. Unlike currency debasement and the printing and electronic creation of money to buy sovereign debt, under schemes such as Draghi's “outright monetary transactions” (OMT), the use of gold as collateral would not create fiscal transfers between Eurozone members, long term inflation or currency devaluation risk.

Apple Earnings Shock Offset By Good Cop/Bad Cop Macro Data

While the main topic of conversation overnight was the Apple implosion after earnings (which was mercifully spared inbound calls from repo desk margin clerks who had all gone home by the time the stock hit $460), there was some macro data to muddle up the picture, which, like everything else in this baffle with BS new normal came in "good/bad cop" pairs. In early trading, all eyes were focused on Japan, whose trade and especially exports imploded when the country posted a record trade gap of 6.93 trillion yen ($78.27 billion) in 2012 and the seventh consecutive monthly drop in exports which showed that improved sentiment has yet to translate into hard economic data. Finance ministry data on Thursday showed that exports fell 5.8 percent in the year to December, more than economists' consensus forecast of a 4.2 percent drop. Trade with China was hit particularly hard following the ongoing island fiasco, which means that all the ongoing Yen destruction has largely been for nothing as organic growth markets simply shut off Japan. This ugly news was marginally offset by a tiny beat in the HSBC China manufacturing PMI which came slighly above consensus at 51.9 vs exp. 51.7, the highest print in 24 months, but as with everything else coming out of China one really shouldn't believe this or any other number in a country that will not allow even one corporate default to prevent the credit-driven illusion from popping.

What Really Goes On In China

From a valuation perspective, Chinese equities do not, at first glance, look to be a likely candidate for trouble. The PE ratios are either 12 or 15 times on MSCI China, depending on whether you include financials or not, and do not scream 'bubble'. And yet, China has been a source of worry for GMO over the past three years and continues to be one. China scares them because it looks like a bubble economy. Understanding these kinds of bubbles is important because they represent a situation in which standard valuation methodologies may fail. Just as financial stocks gave a false signal of cheapness before the GFC because the credit bubble pushed their earnings well above sustainable levels and masked the risks they were taking, so some valuation models may fail in the face of the credit, real estate, and general fixed asset investment boom in China, since it has gone on long enough to warp the models' estimation of what "normal" is. Of course, every credit bubble involves a widening divergence between perception and reality. China's case is not fundamentally different. In GMO's extensive discussion below, they have documented rapid credit growth against the background of a nationwide property bubble, the worst of Asian crony lending practices, and the appearance of a voracious and unstable shadow banking system. "Bad" credit booms generally end in banking crises and are followed by periods of lackluster economic growth. China appears to be heading in this direction.

Guest Post: Apparitions In The Fog

After digesting the opinions of the shills, shysters and scam artists, I am ready to predict that I have no clue what will happen during 2013. The fog of uncertainty is engulfing the nation, making consumers hesitant to spend and businesses reluctant to hire or invest. Virtually all of the mainstream media, Wall Street banks and paid shill economists are in agreement that 2013 will see improvement in employment, housing, retail spending and, of course the only thing that matters to the ruling class, the stock market. Even among the alternative media, there seems to be a consensus that we will continue to muddle through and the day of reckoning is still a few years off. Those who are predicting improvements are either ignorant of history or are being paid to predict improvement, despite the overwhelming evidence of a worsening economic climate. The mainstream media pundits, fulfilling their assigned task of purveying feel good propaganda, use the 10% stock market gain in 2012 as proof of economic recovery. The facts prove otherwise... Every day more people are realizing the con-job being perpetuated by the owners of this country. Will the tipping point be reached in 2013? I don’t know. But the era of decisiveness and confrontation has arrived. The existing social order will be swept away. Are you prepared?

China Narrowly Averts Credit Bubble Pop With Latest Government Bailout Of First Domestic Bond Default

A Chinese solar firm which nearly produced the country's first domestic bond default will complete an interest payment on schedule after a local government intervened on its behalf. Investors say the latest instance of a government riding to the rescue of a troubled Chinese firm has led to moral hazard and inefficient credit allocation. In previous near-defaults, local governments had stepped in directly to arrange bailout funding. But as in past cases, the deal flouts legal notions of debt seniority by allowing one group of creditors - bondholders - to get paid in full, even as a pre-existing default remains un-cured. Analysts say the market does not effectively price in risk because investors assume the government will never allow a default.

Tepper's "Balls To The Wall" Reappear, Lead To "Explosion Of Greatness"

Everyone's favorite bull made another magnificently arrogant appearance on TV this morning. Following his recent CNBC embarrassment, Bloomberg TV interviewed the outperforming hedge fund manager this morning - during which he explained his 'where else ya gonna go' bullish stocks thesis. From expectations for an "explosion of greatness" in the US to his gratuitous flirtation, he appears to have the inane ability to use many words where few are needed and his bullish thesis has the ring of any and every guest pumper (with nothing new to add): the same supposedly 'low' multiple, central-banks-are-printing, and wide spread between bond and equity yield argument that everyone's mom can explain. From expectations for the 'great rotation' from bonds to stocks and his 50%-upside prediction in Citi, Tepper is "balls to the wall" the best guest ever on any stock-touting network. However, one little thing gets in the way - the last time the Great-and-Powerful Tepper appeared so overtly bullish of stocks (and financials specifically), he also was dumping his holdings into the rally that followed.

China, Japan, And The US - Tying It All Together

As Japan and China increase naval and air activity around the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea, the United States is steadily increasing its active involvement to reassure Tokyo and send a warning to Beijing. But Beijing may seek an opportunity to challenge U.S. primacy in what China considers its territorial waters. In this succinst summary, Stratfor analyzes the current state of affairs, the potential for escalation, and how the US' presence in the Pacific will play tactically and strategically into the evolving crisis over the Islands.

House Votes On Debt Ceiling Suspension Wednesday As Pelosi Calls It "Gimmick Unworthy Of Challenges We Face"

While it is not news that the GOP has proposed a temporary debt ceiling extension that would suspend the provisions of the debt ceiling target until May 19, as was reported last week, however which would demand that the Senate do something unthinkable, and something it has not done for 4 years, namely pass a budget by April 15, it is news that as The Hill reports, the vote to suspend the debt ceiling in the House will take place "as soon as Wednesday." From The Hill: "While past measures to address the debt limit have simply increased the borrowing cap, the House bill would actually suspend the debt limit for three months. Then, on May 19, the debt limit would be automatically increased from $16.4 trillion to accommodate whatever additional borrowing the Treasury had done during that time frame." As we explained last week, this is merely a plan to shift fiscal (ir)responsibility into the Democrat camp, as it is virtually impossible that America can have a budget now or ever again. After all with $1 trillion deficits as far as the eye can see, the possibility to bluster and claim one is fiscally responsible while demanding $4 trillion in debt until 2016, will hardly fool the majority of the people any more of the time. Sure enough, Pelosi's response has made it quite clear this entire plan is DOA: "the proposed three-month debt- limit increase does not relieve the uncertainty faced by small businesses, the markets and the middle class. This is a gimmick unworthy of the challenges we face.

Number Of The Year: "Unlimited"

For the first time this year, Brussels is awash with the opulent optimists of Europe as the finance ministers meet to decide how much of the EUR500bn ESM funds can be funneled direct to their banks and bypass the greedy governments. However, at the core is an uncomfortable reality that all is not well, one Brussels-based think-tank noted: "It’s really about signaling, the only thing that really has an impact on markets is when the word unlimited is uttered by somebody in charge, so in the end it’s not a question of how high the big number should be." The dilemma is Draghi's 'unlimited' promise, which has now been adopted by the Fed and the BoJ, has been hailed as the "breakthrough in tackling the causes of the euro-zone crises" but has instead unraveled into a combination of "complacency and political resistance" from creditor countries.

Marc To Market's picture

An overview of the key factors and events that are shaping the investment climate in the week ahead.  It looks at some emerging market developments as well.  These are the main talking points and considerations that ought to be on your radar screen as investors or pundits.  

The World Is In Trouble

We make more than we’ve ever made, we owe more than we’ve ever owed, and we have less than we've had in decades which is distributed to those that did not earn the money. This is a working definition of Trouble. The stock market is at an all-time high while the financial condition of the country has seriously deteriorated. The world is in a gigantic bubble and it is going to get pricked. You cannot keep printing money without consequences and when absolute and intrinsic valuations replace relative valuations then the game is afoot. When the survival of the State puts its people in dire straits then, eventually, the citizens will rebel as the nation has forgotten just who composes its constituents. The people and institutions that have the capital will only go along quietly for so long when nations try to take what they have earned and dispossess it for others. The rich will become poorer and the poor will become poorer and when those with the capital have been deprived of it so that everyone is worse off then the Lords of Chaos will be in control once again.

Boehner To Obama: "No Budget, No Pay"

And the game continues as Speaker Boehner appears to be kicking the can across the corridor to the Senate (and implicitly the Democrats) as he quite specifically advises them that with no budget, there is no talk of debt-ceiling extensions. The principle is simple, he notes, "no budget, no pay." As Dow Jones reports, the 'compromise' deal is that the House will propose a three-month extension of the debt-ceiling in exchange for a budget (i.e. spending cuts from the Senate) - which of course is all but impossible given the years of inability to pass a budget anyway. Check to Obama (though we know the response)...

  • *U.S. HOUSE WILL PASS 3-MONTH DEBT LIMIT INCREASE NEXT WEEK
  • DJN - DJ U.S. HOUSE TO SEEK THREE-MONTH EXTENSION OF DEBT CEILING
  • DJN - DJ U.S. REP CANTOR: IF HOUSE AND SENATE DON'T PASS BUDGET IN 3 MONTHS LAWMAKERS WON'T GET PAID

So Much For That "Record Inflow" Into Equity Funds - Domestic Equities See $4.2 Billion Outflow In Most Recent Week

The most talked about story of the last week was undoubtedly the relentless chatter about that massive $18 billion in equity fund inflows as reported by Lipper (not ICI), which tracks primarily institutional and ETF flow of funds, and which, as we explained even before the Lipper data came out, was driven exclusively by a surge in bank deposits into the year end, to be recycled for risk investment purposes by the commercial banks' own prop desks. The details, however, were largely ignored by the mainstream media which took that inflow as an indication that the tide has finally turned and that the great rotation out of bonds into stocks is on. Turns out that just as we expected it was a year end calendar asset rebalancing. As Lipper reported earlier, the enthusiasm for US stocks appears to have abruptly ended, with a whopping $4.2 billion pumped out of domestic equities, offset by some $4.5 billion invested in non-domestic equities. The blended flow? Just $286 million going into equities. Now our math may be a little rusty, but $18 billion followed by $0.2 is not really indicative of an ongoing rotation out of bonds and into stocks, and is more indicative of a one-time, non-recurring event, just the opposite of all the Bank of America addbacks.