If last week's disappointing global economic data, that saw Brazil added to the list of countries returning to outright recession as Europe Hamletically debates whether to be or not to be in a triple-dip, was enough to push the S&P solidly above 2000, even if on a few hundreds ES contracts (traded almost exclusively between central banks), then the overnight massacre of global manufacturing PMIs - when not one but both Chinese PMIs missed spurring calls for "more easing" and pushing the SHCOMP up 0.83% to 2,235.5 - should see the S&P cross Goldman's revised year end target of 2050 (up from 1900) sometime by Thursday (on another few hundreds ES contracts).
The global economic downturn of 2008, in particular its monetary facet, readily invites comparison between the troubles of the modern world and those of the Roman Empire; just as Western currencies have declined precipitously in value since their commodity backing was removed in stages starting roughly a century ago, Roman currencies were also troubled, and present a cautionary tale. The Roman coin in use through most of the empire was the denarius, which demonstrated a persistent decline in value, starting from the time of transition from Republic to Empire, and continuing until its decimation during the Crisis of the Third Century AD. Although efforts by Diocletian taken after the monetary collapse are commonly associated with Roman economic reform, there were other efforts by earlier, lesser known emperors that suddenly and unexpectedly improved the silver content and value of the denarius. Firsthand accounts and archeological findings provide sufficient detail to allow examination of these short, if noteworthy, periods of voluntary restorative policies – and their architects.
Last week, Ukrainian Prime Minister Yatsenyuk pushed a bill through the Verkhovna Rada that would see his country’s gas transportation system sold off to a group of international investors. The provisions of the law would permit the transit of natural gas to be blocked. This decision may hurt the fragile industrial recovery in Germany and finish off Ukraine’s potential as a gas transit route to Europe.
- Obama Cools Talk of Strikes Against Islamic State in Iraq or Syria (WSJ)
- Separatists say will allow 'trapped' Ukrainian forces to withdraw (Reuters)
- Ukraine Fighting Surges as Russian-Backed Forces Gain (BBG)
- Missouri police sued for $40 million over actions in Ferguson protests (Reuters)
- BTFDividend stocks? Tesco Slumps as Retailer Slashes Dividend 75% on Forecast (BBG)
- In town halls, U.S. lawmakers hear voter anger over illegal migrants (Reuters)
- Obamacare’s Latest Threat Nears Turning Point in Court (BBG)
- Untangling the Mess of Austrian Bank Hypo (WSJ)
- The billion-dollar fall of the house of Espirito Santo (Reuters)
- Manhattan Condo Resale Prices Reach Record High (BBG)
- California Drought Squeezes Wells: State Considers Regulating Groundwater Use for First Time (WSJ)
From Arab Spring-related uprisings in Libya or Egypt, to a civil war in Syria and now violence in Iraq and the Ukraine, geopolitics are impacting oil. True, geopolitical risk measured by combat deaths does not always correlate well with market volatility. But wars and conflict are easy to spot on an oil price series. With combat deaths rising four fold in the last 10 years, oil markets should prepare for more turmoil. BofA 's Francisco Blanch asks "Can the US preserve geopolitical stability?" America still takes up 38% of global military spending, but appetite for foreign adventures has been low. As an example, a drop in US combat deaths in recent years has been mirrored by a rise elsewhere. Following a drop to multi-decade lows, implied vol in long dated oil options at 15% looks cheap. Oil after US hegemony may not be as steady.
It seems like an eternity ago when futures tumbled last Friday on reports of Ukraine shelling, and "destroying", Russian military vehicles that had entered Ukraine (only to rebound to an unchanged print). It didn't take long for the world to forget all about this latest unsubstantiated incident and move on to "de-escalation" hopes, which this morning have catalyzed yet another rise in futures on expectations that upcoming talks between Putin and Poroshenko in Minsk next week will lead to further easing of tensions. In the meantime, the world media appears to have piled up at the border checkpoint and there is even a live feed of the Russian trucks entering Ukraine. Which is why expect this to be as exciting as watching the S&P levitate on no volume.
As we detailed previously, Bulgaria had been an enthusiastic supporter of the Russian-backed South Stream gas pipeline project, whose construction has stoked tensions between the West and Moscow as it enabled gas supply to bypass troubled Ukraine (thus squeezing the desparate economy back into Russia's hands). In early June, Bulgaria's Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski ordered an initial halt (after Europe offered the nation's suddenly collapsing banking system a lifeline). This time, Energy Minister Vasil Shtonov has ordered Bulgaria’s Energy Holding to halt any actions in regards of the project as it does not meet the requirements of the European Commission. Of course, we assume this decision (to halt a 2nd time) is entirely independent of NATO's deployment of 12 F-15s and 180 troops to Bulgaria's Graf Ignatievo Air Base.
Following a summit in Brussels, a senior NATO diplomat proudly proclaimed that 'allies' have pledged more spending and will beef up its presence in Eastern Europe. However, likely to the chagrin of President Obama (and the West's narrative), he let slip some uncomfortable truths:
- *NATO DIPLOMAT SAYS PUTIN HOLDS TACTIAL SHORT-TERM CARDS (hhmm, ok)
- *NATO DIPLOMAT SAYS LONG-TERM GEOPOLITICAL TRENDS FAVOR THE WEST (phew...)
- *NATO DIPLOMAT SAYS PUTIN WON'T BE AROUND FOREVER (threat or warning?)
So, all the west has to do is be patient? Wait out Putin? We suspect that 'strategy' may get accelerated at some point.
This is especially the case in Ukraine where the currency has lost more than half of its value versus gold (see chart above and below). Gold in Ukraine Hrvynia is up 70% since the start of 2014. People who own gold in Ukraine would laugh at you, if you said that gold is not a safe haven. As would people in many countries in South America, the Middle East and Africa.
The US is clearly now pushing Russia towards war. But if you read the signs correctly, Russia has been preparing for exactly this outcome for many years.
The western world has placed many sanctions on Russia and its economy. However, Russia holds major leverage over Europe; it has oil and Europe needs it (and may just do a 'deal').
Either Europe is run by a bunch of unelected idiots, or... well, that's about it. After blindly doing the US' bidding over all propaganda matters Ukraine-related, and following just as blindly into round after round of US-inspired sanctions, sanctions to whose retaliation Europe would be on the frontline unlike the largely insulated US, Europe appears to be absolutely shocked and is apoplectic that after several rounds of sanction escalations, Russia finally unleashed its own round of sanctions and yesterday announced a 1 year ban on all European food imports, something which will further push Europe into a triple-dip recession as already hinted by Italy yesterday.
The conflict in Ukraine and the related imposition of sanctions against Russia signal an escalation of geopolitical tensions that is already being felt in the Russian (and increasingly world) financial markets. As The IMF describes in this chartapalooza, a deterioration in the conflict, with or even without a further escalation of sanctions and counter-sanctions, could have a substantial adverse impact on the Russian economy through direct and indirect (confidence) channels. But, perhaps more importantly to the West-sponsored IMF, what would be the repercussions for the rest of Europe if there were to be disruptions in trade or financial flows with Russia, or if economic growth in Russia were to take a sharp downturn?
- As we predicted yesterday, the "big" Gaza ceasefire lasted all of a few hours (Reuters)
- To Lift Sales, G.M. Turns to Discounts (NYT)
- Espirito Santo Family’s Swift Fall From Grace Jolts Portugal (BBG)
- Argentine Debt Feud Finds Much Fault, Few Fixes (WSJ)
- Fiat Says Ciao to Italy as Merger With Chrysler Ends Era (BBG)
- Euro zone factory growth eases in July as inflation fades away (Reuters)
- CIA concedes it spied on U.S. Senate investigators, apologizes (Reuters)
- Ukraine Reports Losses After Pro-Russian Ambush Near Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 Crash Area (WSJ)
- U.S. says India refusal on WTO deal a wrong signal (Reuters)
- Why Putin Has 2006 Flash Before His Eyes After Sanctions (BBG)
For reasons that have no rational explanations at this time, the US and Europe have embarked on a concerted program to demonize Putin, ostracize Russia, and bring the world as close to a major conflict as it's been since the Cold War, a time hardly memorable to many in the current crop of our elected officials. A dangerous dynamic is brewing between the West and Russia/Putin. We are seeing a rush to war very similar to the one that led up to Saddam's ouster, but this time, we have much less justification (hard to believe) and the opponent is tremendously more capable. There is little sense in the course the West is currently pursuing, little to gain, and much to lose. The main conclusion here is that not only is the US poking the bear, but it is doing so with increasing frequency and upping the ante dangerously with each step.