"We were wearing life jackets. We had time... If people had jumped into the water... they could have been rescued. But we were told not to go out." An entire ship full of passengers dutifully followed the instructions set forth by the crew. The "experts" told them what to do...."We're putting on our life vests. They're telling us to wait and stay put, so we're waiting..." Yet as it turned out, the ferry quickly became submerged. And following orders cost many their lives. 302 are either dead or missing. Just like Sewol, many countries in the West are sinking, and it’s up to you whether you sink with them or jump ship while there’s still time.
One of the recurring themes the western media regurgitates at every opportunity is that while the western "diplomatic" sanctions against Russia are clearly a joke, one thing that will severely cripple the economy is the capital market embargo that has struck Russian companies, which are facing $115 billion of debt due over the next 12 months. Surely there is no way Russia can afford to let its major corporations - the nexus of its petroleum trade - go insolvent, which is why Putin will have to restrain himself and beg western investors to come back and chase appetiziing Russian yields (with other people's money of course). Turns out this line of thought is completely wrong.
For the first time since the bailout/restructuring, Greece will issue long-term debt to the public markets. These 5 year-term English Law bonds (which is entirely unsurprising given the total lack of protection local-law bonds suffered during the last restructuring) are expected to yield between 5 and 5.25%. That is modestly higher than Russia, below Mexico, and one-sixth of the yield investors demanded when the crisis was exploding. The secondary market has rallied to this entirely liquidity-fueled level leaving onlookers stunned (and likely Draghi et al. also). Greece must be 'fixed' right? Just don't look at the chart below...
There is a reasonably quiet start to the week before we head into the highlights of the week including the start of US reporting season tomorrow, FOMC minutes on Wednesday and IMF meetings in Washington on Friday. On the schedule for today central bank officials from the ECB including Mersch, Weidmann and Constancio will be speaking. The Fed’s Bullard speaks today, and no doubt there will be interest in his comments from last week suggesting that the Fed will hike rates in early 2015.
The risk that creditors, savers and bondholders, rather than taxpayers will bear the brunt of rescuing a bank in trouble form part of the first credit ratings given to 18 of Europe's biggest banks yesterday by new ratings agency, Scope.
The more the West attempts to "isolate" Russia and pushes it away from its "core values" and of course the US Dollar, the more Russia will seek the safety of a non-dollar based system. We have previously described how Putin has been scrambling to enmesh Russia in tight bilateral commodity-based trade with both China and India, and now it is Russia's turn to announce it would seek its own "national payment settlement system" following last week's surprising and unmandated service halts by both Visa and MasterCard, which as Vladimir Putin said earlier today, will be a "bid to reduce economic dependence on the West."
Once again there has been little fundamental news or economic data this morning in Europe with price action largely driven by expiring option contracts. In terms of key events, Putin says Russia should refrain from retaliating against US sanctions for now even as Bank Rossiya discovered Visa and MasterCard have stopped servicing its cards, and as Putin further added he would have his salary sent to the sanctioned bank - the farce will go on. Continuing the amusing "rating agency" news following yesterday's policy warning by S&P and Fitch on Russian debt (was that a phone call from Geithner... or directly from Obama), Fitch affirmed United States at AAA; outlook revised to stable from negative, adding that the US has greater debt tolerance than AAA peers. Perhaps thje most notable move was in Chinese stocks which rallied overnight after major domestic banks said to have stopped selling trust products which were blamed for encouraging reckless borrowing and diluted credit standards. Speculation of further stimulus and the potential introduction of single stock futures also helped the Shanghai Comp mark its biggest gain of 2014 closing up 2.7%.
In an overnight session that had little in terms of macro and news flow, the most notable event was that the Dollar-Renminbi finally crossed above 6.20 which as a reminder is the suggested "max vega" point beyond which even more max pain lies for levered accounts long the Yuan. However, in a world in which nothing is discounted and in which no news matters, the "market" broadly ignored this significant development (which as we explained further yesterday means an accelerated unwind of Chinese Commodity Funding Deals, and a potential drop in global commodity prices), and eagerly awaited today's non-event of an FOMC conference, where nothing new will be announced save for the novelty of it being Yellen's first appearance before the press as the head of the Fed. And of course the Fed will almost certainly scrap the 6.5% employment threshold, as the FOMC scrambles to make the economy appear worse than it is reported to be, in a stark reminder that the biggest optically manipulated tool meant to boost confidence in the recovery was nothing but a number meant to serve political purposes.
Has the market done it again? Two weeks ago, Putin's first speech of the Ukraine conflict was taken by the USDJPY algos - which seemingly need to take a remedial class in Real Politik - as a conciliatory step, and words like "blinking" at the West were used when describing Putin, leading to a market surge. Promptly thereafter Russia seized Crimea and is now on the verge of formally annexing it. Over the weekend, we had the exact same misreading of the situation, when the Crimean referendum, whose purpose is to give Russia the green light to enter the country, was actually misinterpreted as a risk on event, not realizing that all the Russian apparatus needed to get a green light for further incursions into Ukraine or other neighboring countries was just the market surge the algos orchestrated. Anyway, yesterday's risk on, zero volume euphoria has been tapered overnight, with the USDJPY sliding from nearly 102.00 to just above 101.30 dragging futures with it, in advance of Putin's speech to parliament, in which he is expected to provide clarity on the Russian response to US sanctions, as well as formulate the nation's further strategy vis-a-vis Crimea and the Ukraine.
It has been a relatively quiet overnight session, aside from the already noted news surrounding China's halt on virtual credit card payments sending Chinese online commerce stocks sliding, where despite an ongoing decline in the USDJPY which has sent the Nikkei plunging by 3.3% (and which is starting to impact Abe whose approval rating dropped in March by a whopping 5.6 points to 48.1% according to a Jiji poll), US equity futures have managed to stay surprisingly strong following yesterday's market tumble. We can only assume this has to do with short covering of positions, because we fail to see how anyone can be so foolhardy to enter risk on ahead of a weekend where the worst case scenario can be an overture to World War III following a Crimean referendum which is assured to result in the formal annexation of the peninsula by Russia.
- Putin rebuffs Obama as Ukraine crisis escalates (Reuters)
- Behind the $100 Billion Commodity Empire That Few Know (BBG)
- Initial Public Offerings Hit Pace Not Seen in Years (WSJ)
- Russian Parliament Will Back Crimea Split From Ukraine (WSJ)
- Nakamoto Named as Bitcoin Father Denies Involvement, Flees Press (BBG)
- Chaori Can’t Make Payment in China’s First Onshore Default (BBG)
- Zombies Spreading Shows Chaori Default Just Start (BBG)
- Pimco's Gross declares El-Erian is 'trying to undermine me' (Reuters)
- U.S. Fighters Circle Baltics as Putin Fans Fear of Russia (BBG)
Today's nonfarm payroll number is set to be a virtual non-event: with consensus expecting an abysmal print, it is almost assured that the real seasonally adjusted number (and keep in mind that the average February seasonal adjustment to the actual number is 1.5 million "jobs" higher) will be a major beat to expectations, which will crash the "harsh weather" narrative but who cares. Alternatively, if the number is truly horrendous, no problem there either: just blame it on the cold February... because after all what are seasonal adjustments for? Either way, whatever the number, the algos will send stocks higher - that much is given in a blow off top bubble market in which any news is an excuse to buy more. So while everyone is focused on the NFP placeholder, the real key event that nobody is paying attention to took place in China, where overnight China’s Shanghai Chaori Solar defaulted on bond interest payments, failing to repay CNY 89.9mln (USD 14.7mln), as had been reported here extensively previously. This marked the first domestic corporate bond default in the country's history - indicating a further shift toward responsibility and focus on moral hazard in China.
- No need to use military force in Ukraine for now: Putin (Reuters)
- Russia Orders Drill Troops Back to Bases (WSJ)
- Ukraine premier agrees to reforms for aid package (FT)
- Japan Base Wages Rise for First Time in Nearly Two Years (WSJ)
- Only the algos are trading: Citigroup Joins JPMorgan in Seeing Trading-Revenue Drop (BBG)
- Vietnam sends blogger to prison for critical posts (AP)
- At White House, Israel's Netanyahu pushes back against Obama diplomacy (Reuters)
- Obama to offer new tax breaks for workers in election year budget pitch (Reuters)
- China Banks Show Too-Connected-to-Fail Link to Shadow Loans (BBG)
- Ex-BOK Deputy Lee Named to Head South Korea Central Bank (BBG)
- No mortgage origination problem in the UK: Mortgage approvals climb to six year high (Telegraph)
Three unlucky attempts in a row to retake the S&P 500 all time high may have been all we get, at least for now, because the fourth one is shaping up to be rather problematic following events out of the Crimean in the past three hours where the Ukraine situation has gone from bad to worse, and have dragged the all important risk indicator, the USDJPY, below 102.000 once again. As a result, global stock futures have fallen from the European open this morning, with the DAX future well below 9600 to mark levels not seen since last Thursday. Escalated tensions in the Ukraine have raised concerns of the spillover effects to Western Europe and Russia, as a Russian flag is lifted by occupying gunmen in the Crimean (Southern Ukrainian peninsula) parliament, prompting an emergency session of Crimean lawmakers to discuss the fate of the region. This, allied with reports of the mobilisation of Russian jets on the Western border has weighed on risk sentiment, sending the German 10yr yield to July 2013 lows.
A dispassionate and analytic of the macro developments for the week ahead.