Just when you thought it was safe (well not really) to dip your toe back in the ocean of European equities on the back of the LTRO-enthused hope that credit contraction will cease and growth will return, we note another (perhaps more instantaneous) drag on the economic fortitude of the long-suffering people of the EU. Belgium's Beursduivel notes that the national average price for a liter of petrol (gas) has reached a Euro-zone record high of EUR1.76 which equates to a US (not imperial) gallon cost of (drum roll please) USD8.75 (given current EURUSD levels). As Greece, for example, basks in the hope of the failing Troika talks, they unfortunately will have to pay significantly more (double from 3 years ago) for their driving (or boat fuel) as despite the faltering economies across Europe, the price of petrol, diesel, and LPG are also near record highs - and all this without an actual Iran invasion.
Less than One-Fifth of All Americans Favor Military or Covert Action Against Iran … Less than Half of Israelis Want to AttackSubmitted by George Washington on 02/03/2012 14:11 -0500
No one wants war ...
With the world ever more lethargic daily, as if in silent expectation of something big about to happen (quite visible in daily trading volumes), it is easy to forget that just about a year ago the Mediterranean region was rife with violent revolutions in virtually every country along the North African coast. That these have passed their acute phase does not mean that anything has been resolved. And unfortunately, as BMO's Don Coxe reminds us, it is very likely that the Mediterranean region, flanked on one side by the broke European countries of Greece, Italy, Spain (and implicitly Portugal), and on the other by the unstable powder keg of post-revolutionary Libya and Egypt, will likely become quite active yet again. Only this time, in addition to social and economic upheavals, a religious flavor may also be added to the mix. As Coxe says: "Today, the Mediterranean is two civilizations in simultaneous, rapidly unfolding crises. To date, those crises have been largely unrelated. That may well be about to change." Coxe bases part of his argument on the same Thermidorian reaction which we have warned about since early 2011, namely the power, social and economic vacuum that is unleashed in the aftermath of great social change. But there is much more to his argument, which looks much more intently at the feedback loops formed by the divergent collapsing economies that once were the cradle of civilization, and this time could eventually serve as the opposite. To wit: "The eurocrisis has been front and center for nearly two years, during which time the economic and financial fundamentals have continued to deteriorate. “The Arab Spring” came suddenly, in a series of outbursts of optimism. It may have come at the worst possible time for the beleaguered nations of the North Shore. The Mediterranean has entered one of the stormiest periods in recorded history. It is the major contributor to risk in global equity markets. It is too soon to predict how these crises will end. The Cradle of Civilization is rocking amid an array of winds and storms. “The Arab Spring” ...may have come at the worst possible time for the beleaguered nations of the North Shore."
Mike Krieger submits: "I’ve always loved history. Even all the way back to grade school I remember it being my favorite subject. Very early on I noticed certain patterns in history and I wondered why they occurred. When I was first exposed to European history, I recall being absolutely floored by how certain countries could become so rich and powerful and then subsequently collapse so stunningly and rapidly. The one that really boggled my mind was Spain - the homeland of my maternal grandfather who I never met. Here was a country that conquered and viciously looted essentially all South America other than Brazil (thanks to the pope being magnanimous enough to grant that part of the world to Portugal in the Treaty of Tordesillas), Mexico, Central America and parts of the United States. The gold and especially silver that was taken back to Spain was the stuff of legend, yet almost at the same time they had defeated the native peoples overseas their kingdom at home was crumbling. Not to bore anyone with too much history, but by the mid 1500s the Spanish had essentially conquered the Aztecs (Mexico) and the Incas (Peru). At the time, the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan was estimated to be larger than any city in Europe. Despite these tremendous “successes” and the riches that came with them, the battle of Rocroi in Northern France in 1643 less than one hundred years later marked the end of Spanish dominance in Europe. What is so fascinating to me is that while the conquistadors were out raping and pillaging halfway around the world the domestic economy was experiencing economic crisis. There were episodes of major currency debasements in the homeland as the crown was forced to fight wars on their borders as well as fund the excursions abroad. It is important to note that the collapse came pretty quickly as it was only in 1627 when things were still looking pretty good for the empire that The Count-Duke Olivares famously stated: “God is Spanish and fights for our nation these days.” Does this story sound familiar?"
Israel Accuses Russia Of Supporting Iran Terror Organizations, Says Iran Has Enough Material For 4 Nuclear BombsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/02/2012 09:17 -0500
Just because 3 US aircraft carriers in the Arabian Gulf are not enough, Israel's Lt General Benny Gantz hit the airwaves earlier today, with some additional pot stirring, and some fresh allegations which will hardly appeal to Russia, who is already using Syria as a military ship docking station (and allegedly supplying arms to the local regime). And while his statement that Iran has "enough material to create 4 nuclear bombs" may be debated, what is more concerning is his allegation that "[Iran terror organizations are] supported by Syria, Iran and even Russia." What next: the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier floating gingerly between the various US CVNs in the region just keeping everyone on their toes in international waters?
European Indices are sliding following comments from EU’s Juncker that Greek PSI talks remain “ultra-difficult”, despite earlier gains following comments from the Chinese Premier considering further contributions to the EFSF and the ESM. The Basic Materials sector is outperforming others amid news of a possible merger between Glencore and Xstrata, causing shares in both companies to trade in strong positive territory ahead of the North American open Oil & Gas are one of the worst performing sectors in Europe today, with Royal Dutch Shell shares showing the biggest losses following disappointing corporate earnings. Elsewhere, S&P released a report suggesting Eurozone recession could end in late 2012, forecasting 1% GDP growth for the Eurozone in 2013, however these comments were not followed by significant European index movements. In terms of fixed income securities, Spain held a well received bond auction earlier in the session, with all three lines showing falling yields and strong bid/cover ratios.
Gold has risen to 8 week highs despite positive manufacturing data, higher factory activity in Germany, China and the US and the hope that a Greek debt restructuring solution is imminent. Demand for physical in Europe, Asia and internationally remains robust which is supporting gold. Investors will today watch the US weekly jobless claims data for the week ending January 28th. Adding to the very gold supportive interest rate backdrop, Japan's finance and economic ministers are putting pressure on the Bank of Japan to consider easing monetary policy even further. Negative yields on some bonds (such as TIPS) are very gold positive as is moves to let investors buy short term bills with negative yields. Gold is also being supported by central bank buying. Russia's gold and foreign exchange reserves rose to $504 billion in the week to Jan. 27 from $499.7 billion a week earlier.
While a few days ago we reported that the US was set to place a third aircraft carrier, ostensibly the USS Enterprise, in the Arabian Gulf in the indefinite future, it appears that the US is wasting little time in making preparations for this latest military escalation against Iran. As RT reports, "two ships of the US Navy, the nuclear submarine USS Annapolis and the destroyer USS Momsen have passed through the Suez Canal into the Red Sea. Although their destination is confidential, they are now getting dangerously close to the Persian Gulf. The ships’ passage was a major operation for the Suez administration as due to safety reasons they had to close off the canal to all other traffic and even shut down the bridge, disrupting the link between the banks for some four hours. The traffic on the roadways alongside the canal was also restricted, Interfax news agency reports." What's next: reports that Russian destroyers in Syria are also moving in the general direction of the Arabian Gulf?
There continues to be no coverage of silver in the non specialist financial media and little coverage of silver in the specialist financial media. However, both the Financial Times and Bloomberg cover silver today which might be a harbinger of short term weakness. The majority of articles on silver are bearish and most bank analysts remain bearish on silver again in 2012 – as they have been in recent years. Prices will average $37.50/ounce in Q4, according to a survey of 13 analysts by Bloomberg. The lack of coverage of silver and consequent “animal spirits” in the silver market is of course bullish from a contrarian perspective. Analysts look set to get the silver market wrong again as recent rocketing industrial demand for silver, from solar panels to batteries to medical applications and growing investor demand for coins, and small & large bars is “diminishing a supply surplus” according to Nicholas Larkin of Bloomberg. This has led to silver’s best January gains in 30 years with silver up over 20% from below $28/oz to nearly $34/oz. Barclay's estimates that manufacturers will need a 2.5% increase of the metric tons used last year and investment demand continues to grow due to risks posed by both inflation and systemic risks. Silver supply shortages are something we and other analysts who are bullish on silver have been warning of for some time. This is because the silver market is small versus the gold market and tiny versus equity, bond, currency and derivative markets. This is why we believe silver should rise to well over its nominal recent and 1980 high of $50/oz in the coming months.
For months now we have been following US naval developments and deployments in the Arabian Sea, which serve one purpose and one purpose only - to demonstrate US military strength in the Straits of Hormuz region and to keep Iranian 'offensive passions' subdued. Yet never has the US had a total of three aircraft carrier groups in the vicinity, always topping out at 2 in the Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet, most recently these being the CVN-70 Vinson and CVN 72 Lincoln, with a third boat present merely until a rotation in or out of the theater of operations was complete. That is about to change, and with it the prevailing price of Brent, which we are confident is about to take a new step wise price higher as the US makes it all too clear what the endgame is, because as Naval Today reports, the "US navy to deploy third carrier group to Persian Gulf", probably the CVN-77 George H.W. Bush which departed Norfolk two weeks ago according to the most recent naval update, or any other Norfolk-stationed aircraft carrier: there is a wide selection to chose from.
The week has started with a general risk averse tone as market participants remain somewhat disappointed in the progression of the Greek bond swap talks in spite of Venizelos, the Greek finance minister, suggesting that a compromise can be struck this week. The latest article writes that Troika believes Greece will need EUR 145bln of public money from the Eurozone bailout rather than the EUR 130bln originally planned. This however, has been swiftly dismissed by German lawmakers. In terms of the European equity market it is the banking stocks which have taken the brunt of the selling pressure which in turn has remained a supporting factor for higher prices in European fixed income futures. Meanwhile in the short end, Euribor, is trading higher following the release of the daily fixes which resumed a trend of sizeable declines in the 3-month fix. In other news, Italy came to market and raised EUR 7.5bln across four different BTP lines with decent demand and a fall in average yields paid. As such the Italian10yr spread over bunds has tightened from the morning’s highs with unconfirmed market talk suggesting that the ECB were also checking rates being noted by several desks. Looking ahead the main focus will likely remain on any updates regarding Greece as various European officials meet once again in Brussels. Aside from that, highlights come in the form of US personal income and spending for December with PCE data released at the same time.