A dispassionate and analytic of the macro developments for the week ahead.
- RBS plans dramatic scaling back, to fire 30,000 of its 120,000 workers (FT)
- Zuckerberg’s Data Stance Faces Privacy Backlash in Europe (BBG)
- WhatsApp Shows How Phone Carriers Lost Out on $33 Billion (BBG)
- Markets flooded with cash, should Fed prep to stamp out risk? (Reuters)
- Venezuela threatens to expel CNN over protest coverage (BBC)
- Firm Stops Giving High-Speed Traders Direct Access to Releases (WSJ)
- Obama Budget to Delete Proposal to Limit Social Security (BBG)
- Energy Holdings Prepares for a Breakup (WSJ)
- EU Struggles to Streamline Bank-Failure Plan for Weekends (BBG)
- Madoff said JPMorgan executives knew of his fraud (Reuters), and JPM admitted as much when it settled with the DOJ
This was one of the all too real Bloomberg headlines posted overnight: "Asian Shares Rally as U.S. Manufacturing Data Beats Estimates." Odd: are they refering to the crashing Philly Fed, or the just as crashing Empire Fed data? Wait, it was the C-grade MarkIt PMI that nobody ever looks at, except to confirm that where everyone else sees snow, the PMI saw sunshine and growth. Remember: if the data is weak, it's the snow; if it's strong, it's the recovery. Odder still: one would think Asian shares care about manufacturing data of, say, China. Which happens to be in Asia, and which two nights ago crashed to the lowest in months. Or maybe that only impact the SHCOMP which dropped 1.2% while all other regional markets simply do what the US and Japan do - follow the USDJPY, which at one point overnight rose as high as 102.600, and brought futures to within inches of their all time closing high. Sadly, it is this that passes for "fundamental" analysis in this broken market new normal...
The global crisis that began in 2007/8 has unmasked many unsustainable economic dispositions. Unfortunately, the proper conclusions have still not been arrived at, as evidenced by the fact that the same old Keynesian recipes that have failed over and over again are being implemented on an even grander scale. One must not be misled by the claims of 'austerity' being imposed, as this has evidently little bearing on government spending as such, but is rather an attempt to squeeze more blood out of an already shriveled turnip, namely what remains of the private sector. Puerto Rico seems – at least so far – not any different in that respect.
If you have been waiting for the "global economic crisis" to begin, just open up your eyes and look around. I know that most Americans tend to ignore what happens in the rest of the world because they consider it to be "irrelevant" to their daily lives, but the truth is that the massive economic problems that are currently sweeping across Europe, Asia and South America are going to be affecting all of us here in the U.S. very soon. Sadly, most of the big news organizations in this country seem to be more concerned about the fate of Justin Bieber's wax statue in Times Square than about the horrible financial nightmare that is gripping emerging markets all over the planet. After a brief period of relative calm, we are beginning to see signs of global financial instability that are unlike anything that we have witnessed since the financial crisis of 2008. As you will see below, the problems are not just isolated to a few countries. This is truly a global phenomenon.
No-one knows for sure how big a problem China's economy will eventually face due to the massive credit and money supply growth that has occurred in recent years and no-one know when exactly it will happen either. There have been many dire predictions over the years, but so far none have come true. And yet, it is clear that there is a looming problem of considerable magnitude that won't simply go away painlessly. The greatest credit excesses have been built up after 2008, which suggests that there can be no comfort in the knowledge that 'nothing has happened yet'. Given China's importance to the global economy, it seems impossible for this not to have grave consequences for the rest of the world, in spite of China's peculiar attributes in terms of government control over the economy and the closed capital account.
Today the lingering problems of the "emerging" world and concerns about the Fed's tapering take a back seat to what the European Central Bank may do, which ranges from nothing, to a rate cut (which sends deposit rates negative), to outright, unsterilized QE - we will find out shortly: with 61 out of the 66 economists polled by Bloomberg looking for no rate changes from the ECB today it virtually assures a surprise . However, despite - or perhaps in spite of - various disappointing news overnight, most notably German factory orders which missed -0.5% on expectations of a +0.2% print, down from 2.4%, the USDJPY has been supported which as everyone knows by now, is all that matters, even if it was unable to push the Nikkei 225 higher for the second day in a row and the Japanese correction persists.
It's snowing in New York so the market must be down. Just kidding - everyone know the only thing that matters for the state of global risk is the level of USDJPY and it is this that nearly caused a bump in the night after pushing the Nikkei as low as 13,995, before the Japanese PPT intervened and rammed the carry trade higher, and thus the Japanese index higher by 1.23% before the close of Japan trading. However, since then the USDJPY has failed to levitate as it usually does overnight and at last check was fluctuating within dangerous territory of 101.000, below which there be tigers. The earlier report of European retail sales tumbling by 1.6% on expectations of a modest 0.6% drop from a downward revised 0.9% only confirmed that the last traces of last year's illusionary European recovery have long gone. Then again, it's all the cold weather's fault. In Europe, not in the US that is.
- Obama warns divided Congress that he will act alone (Reuters)
- Fed Decision Day Guide From Emerging Markets to FOMC Voter Shift (BBG)
- Fed poised for $10 billion taper as Bernanke bids adieu (Reuters)
- Bernanke’s Unprecedented Rescue Unlikely to Be Repeated (BBG)
- Argentina Spends $115 Million to Steady Peso (WSJ)
- Billionaires Fuming Over Market Selloff That Sinks Magnit (BBG)
- SAC’s Counsel Testifies at Insider Trading Trial in Unexpected Move by the Defense (NYT)
- Automakers Fuel Japan’s Longest Profit Growth Streak Since 2007 (BBG)
- Turkey Crisis Puts Jailed Millionaire at Heart of Gold Trail (BBG)
- Ukraine expects $2 billion tranche of Russian aid soon (Reuters)
A slew of favorable overnight news, including a stronger than expected German IFO business climate print, reports that Draghi has signalled he would be prepared for the ECB to buy packages of bank loans to households and companies, when he said "the ECB might be able to buy securitised bank loans if they could be packaged as asset-backed securities in a transparent manner" (a QE-lite will hardly make the market happy), a largely expected bail out of the Chinese Trust Equals Gold imminent default (more in a subsequent post), as well as the announcement of Argentina's new liberalized dollar purchase capital controls (which have a monthly purchase limit as well as a minimum income threshold), not to mention the traditional USDJPY levitation which drags all risk along with it, were unable to put an end to the ongoing rout in emerging markets, which saw the Turkish Lira collapse to fresh record lows before it jumped on news the Turkish Central Bank would hold an extraordinary meeting tomorrow (if the recent intervention by the CB is any indication, watch out), not to mention the Ruble, Zloty and even the Ukraine Hryvna dump as the outflows from EMs continued over a mixture of tapering fears as well as concern that the one way fund flow would accelerate creating its own positive feedback loop. Is today the day the fund flow exodus will finally be halted? Stay tuned to find out and keep a close eye on the USDJPY - the most manipulated, confiduing-boosting "asset" in the world right now, more so than gold even.
Back in the years just before the previous housing bubble burst (not to be confused with the current, even more acute one), one person did the math on subprime, realized that the housing - and credit bubble - collapse was imminent, and warned anyone who cared to listen - almost nobody did. That man was Kyle Bass, and because he had the guts to put the money where his mouth was, he made a lot of money. Fast forward to 2014 when subprime is all the rage again and the subprime bubble is bigger than ever: it may comes as a surprise to some that in 2013, subprime debt was one of the best performing fixed income instruments, returning a whopping 17% in a year when most other debt instruments generated negative returns. And this time, while Kyle Bass is busy - collecting nickels (each costing a dime) perhaps - it is someone else who has stepped into Bass' Cassandra shoes: that someone is Jeff Gundlach. “These properties are rotting away,”
It's Risk Off time.
Things got really out of control, and the USDJPY plunged by some 150 pips in the matter of hours, plunging as low as 102, when EM revulsion once again hit participants, in particular TRY and ARS which also supported bid tone in USTs. This also saw spot TRY rate print fresh record high, while 5y Turkish CDS rate advanced to its highest level since June 2012, while at the same time Argentina announced it would life currency controls and dollar purchases in the aftermath of the ARS devaluation by 13%. And since everything tracks the JPY carry pair as we have been showing for the past year, futures once again plunged overnight, for now held by 1810 support, Treasurys are bid throughout, with the same treasury yields that have "no where to go but up" sliding to 2.71% from 2.87% at the beginning of the week, while gold is finally spiking as the realization that absolutely nothing has been fixed, that apparently nobody got the taper is priced in memo, and that soon the Fed will have to untaper, begins to spread. Are the central planners finally starting to lose control?
S&P filed a declaration of McGraw yesterday in federal court in Santa Ana, California, as part of a request to force the U.S. to hand over potential evidence the company says will support its claim that the government filed a fraud lawsuit against it last year in retaliation for its downgrade of the U.S. debt two years earlier. In his court statement, McGraw said Geithner called him on Aug. 8, 2011, after S&P was the only credit ratings company to downgrade the U.S. debt. Geithner, McGraw said, told him that S&P would be held accountable for the downgrade. Government officials have said the downgrade was based on an error by S&P. “S&P’s conduct would be looked at very carefully,” Geithner told McGraw according to the filing. “Such behavior would not occur, he said, without a response from the government."
Markets have started the week on the back foot, despite a brief rally following a better-than-expected Q4 GDP print in China. Indeed, Asian equities recorded a small pop following the GDP report, but the gains were shortlived as the general negativity on China’s growth trajectory continues to weigh on Asian markets. In terms of the data itself, China’s Q4 GDP (7.7% YoY) was slightly ahead of expectations of 7.6% but it was slower than Q3’s 7.8%. DB’s China economist Jun Ma maintains his view that economic growth will likely accelerate in 2014 on stronger external demand and the benefits from deregulation. The slight slowdown was also evident in China’s December industrial production (9.7% YoY vs 10% previous), fixed asset investment (19.6% YoY vs 19.9% previous) and retail sales (13.6% vs 13.7% previous) data which were all released overnight. Gains in Chinese growth assets were quickly pared and as we type the Shanghai Composite (-0.8%), HSCEI (-1.1%) and AUDUSD (-0.1%) are all trading weaker on the day. On a more positive note, the stocks of mining companies BHP (+0.29%) and Rio Tinto (+0.26%) are trading flat to slightly firmer and LME copper is up 0.1%. Across the region, equities are generally trading lower paced by the Nikkei (-0.5%) and the Hang Seng (-0.7%). Staying in China, the 7 day repo rate is another 50bp higher to a three month high of 9.0% with many investors continuing to focus on the Chinese shadow banking system following the looming restructuring of a $500m trust product that was sold to ICBC’s customers.
Weak results from Intel, American Express and Capital One, not to mention Goldman and Citi? No problem: there's is overnight USDJPY levitation for that, which has pushed S&P futures firmly into the green after early overnight weakness: because while the components of the market may have such trivial indicators as multiples and earnings, the USDJPY to which the Emini is tethered has unlimited upside. And now that the market is back into "good news is good, bad news is better" mode, today's avalanche of macro data which includes December housing starts and building permits, industrial production, UofMichigan consumer confidence and JOLTs job openings, not to mention the up to $3 billion POMO, should make sure the week closes off in style: after all can't have the tapped out consumer enter the weekend looking at a red number on their E-trade account: they might just not spend as much (money they don't have).