With a wave of detente spilling over the Middle East, following the surprising US overture to calm relations with Syria and Iran just months after it nearly launched an offensive war in the country over a few fabricated YouTube clops Looks like Africa will be the next geopolitical hotspot. But while France is the figurehead leading the offensive over west Africa, focusing on Mali and the Central African Republic, where they are "peacekeeping" (with the support of US drones), east Africa appears set for a full-blown flare out, with the Sudan area emerging as the dominant zone of instability and future escalation. Which is perhaps why not only a US aircraft, but a UN helicopter, both came under fire in the Sudan over the past 24 hours in what is assured to generate an "appropriate" response by the US.
While a military campaign against Syria (and Iran) on the usual grounds has been postponed indefinitely, two nations in the Middle East have been seething: Saudi Arabia and, of course, Israel. Yet while Saudi Arabia rarely if ever gets its own hands dirty, instead executing its geopolitcal strategy through puppet states in need of its oil, Israel has never had a problem with engaging in offensive wars. And now that the threat of an imminent war, one which would have been largely carried out on the back of the US military, is gone Israel is preparing to do just that. According to UPI, "Israeli generals are preparing for a decisive -- and probably brief -- war against Hezbollah, one of Israel's most implacable foes, with plans to smash the Iranian-backed Lebanese movement's military power, a study says. The Israelis' primary objective will be to eradicate Hezbollah's reputedly massive arsenal of missiles and rockets "for years to come," the report by the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies in Tel Aviv said."
- China cash injection fails to calm lenders (AFP)
- European Union Stripped of AAA Credit Rating at S&P (BBG)
- Last-Minute Health-Site Enrollment Proves a Hard Sell (WSJ)
- Bernanke’s Recession-Fighting Weapon Developed by 1900s Banker (BBG)
- Asia Stocks Are Little Changed Amid China Funding Concern (BBG)
- Regulators' Guidance on Volcker Rule Gives Banks Little Relief on Debt Sales (WSJ)
- On one hand: Man Who Said No to Soros Builds BlueCrest Into Empire (BBG); on the other: Michael Platt's BlueCrest Capital Poised for Rough Close to 2013 (WSJ)
- BOJ Keeps Record Easing as Fed Taper Helps Weaken Yen (BBG)
- Bank of England becomes more cautious on economic predictions (FT)
- Gold Climbs From Lowest Close Since 2010 as Goldman Sees Losses (BBG)
Overnight one of the main stories is that the European Union has been downgraded to AA+ from AAA by S&P. While the market digests the impact of the downgrade, all eyes remain on the US treasury market. As Deutsche Bank notes, treasuries are increasingly being viewed as a potential sign of the success or not of the Fed taper in early 2014. From the lows in the immediate aftermath of Wednesday’s FOMC, 10yr UST yields have added more than 10bp. Yields continue to leak this morning (-2bp to 2.95%) though we’re still hovering at levels last seen in early September just before the Fed surprised markets with its non-taper. Despite this, US equities and credit were both reasonably well supported yesterday. However the combination of higher UST yields and a stronger dollar resulted in a fairly difficult day for EM. In EMFX, the Brazilian Real fell 1.1% against the USD, underperforming most other EM currencies. The move was exacerbated by the announcement from the BCB that it would wind back its intervention in the currency market, following the initial positive reaction to tapering on Wednesday. Other EM currencies also struggled including the TRY (-0.7%), MXN (-0.7%) and IDR (-0.3%). A number of EM equity markets struggled including in Poland (-0.7%) and Turkey (-3.5%).
Predictions are that the oil boom is temporary and is expected to level off around 2020, but by then there should be a lot more fuel efficient cars on the roads that the drop in production will not be felt. While this new development will no doubt be welcomed by most Americans, it will bring additional joy to those who are fed up with the stagnation and violence that is perpetuated in the Middle East and will welcome this news amid hopes that the US will be less dependent on that turbulent part of the world for its fuel, thus less prone to the region’s unstable politics. But here there is the need for a word of caution. Being less dependent on Middle Eastern oil does not mean the United States should become a political recluse, retrench inside fortress America and damn the rest of the world and their problems...
If yesterday's price action in the moments following (and preceding) the FOMC announcement was just a little suspicious, with a seemingly endless supply of VIX selling originating as if from nowhere (or perhaps the 9th floor of Liberty 33) the morning after has so far been a snoozer. Perhaps this is to be expected following the third biggest one-day surge in the stock market in the year (1st = Jan 2nd, 2nd = October 10th), or perhaps the market is finally focusing on Bernanke's tongue in cheek suggestion that the taper may be lowered by $10 billion per month (we disagree as described previously). Or perhaps the creep higher in 10 Year yields, at 2.915% at last check and just shy of the 3.00% psychological level, is finally being noticed. Or perhaps the fact that China, very surprisingly, is also tapering concurrently is finally being appreciated as is the fact that despite all talk of preparedness, developing economies were hardly left unscathed following yesterday's development. Whatever the reason, the euphoria this morning has "tapered."
- Traders Seek an Edge With High-Tech Snooping (WSJ)
- Gold Drops Below $1,200 an Ounce for First Time Since June (Bloomberg)
- SAC Manager Guilty as Insider Focus Turns to Martoma (Bloomberg)
- Why Ukraine spurned the EU and embraced Russia (Reuters)
- Target confirms major card data theft during Thanksgiving (Reuters)
- Zuckerberg is no suckerberg: Company to Sell 27 Million Class A Shares While CEO Will Offer 41.4 Million (WSJ)
- Facebook, Zuckerberg, banks must face IPO lawsuit (Reuters)
- Swiss Christmas Trees Feel Chill as Franc Helps Rivals (BBG)
- Iran, six powers to resume nuclear talks after snag (Reuters)
- Dolphins Suffering From Lung Disease Due to Gulf Oil Spill, Study Says (WSJ)
"...as an investor, nearly always if you buy panic and you know what you are doing, and then hold on for a number of years, you are going to make a lot of money.
You also have to be sure that your crisis or panic is not the end of the world, though..."
Today (like pretty much every other day), it will be all about the Fed and the start of its 2-day FOMC meeting, whose outcome will be influenced by today's 8:30 am CPI report as inflation (Exp. 0.1%) according to many is the only thing stopping the Fed from tapering in light of better than expected recent economic data as well as a clearer fiscal outlook. Or at least that's what the watercooler talk is. The hardliners now agree that since the Fed openly ignored the bond market liquidity considerations in September, that it will plough on through December with no announcement, and potentially continue into 2014 with zero chances of tapering especially now that we approach the end of the business cycle and the Fed should be adding accommodation not removing it. To that end, the consensus still is in favour of January or March for the first taper so markets are not fully set up for a move; conversely a dovish statement would probably result in yet another pre-Christmas, year end market surge, which in the lower market liquidity days of December is likely what the Fed is going for, instead of a volatile, zero liquidity sell off, despite Thursday's double POMO.
2013 was a year when Europe tried to reallign its primary source of natgas energy, from Gazpromia to Qatar, and failed. More importantly, it was a year in which Russia's Vladimir Putin undisputedly won every foreign relations conflict that involved Russian national interests, to the sheer humiliation of both John Kerry and Francois Hollande. However, it seems the former KGB spy had a Plan B in case things escalated out of control, one that fits with what we wrote a few days ago when we reported that "Russia casually announces it will use nukes if attacked." Namely, as Bloomberg reports citing Bild, Russia quietly stationed a double-digit number of SS-26 Stone, aka Iskander, tactical, nuclear-capable short-range missiles near the Polish border in a dramatic escalation to merely verbal threats issued as recently as a year ago.
As a general rule, extreme economic decline is almost always followed by extreme international conflict. Sometimes, these disasters can be attributed to the human survival imperative and the desire to accumulate resources during crisis. But most often, war amid fiscal distress is usually a means for the political and financial elite to distract the masses away from their empty wallets and empty stomachs. War galvanizes societies, usually under false pretenses. We're not talking about superficial “police actions” or absurd crusades to “spread democracy” to Third World enclaves that don’t want it. No, we're talking about REAL war: war that threatens the fabric of a culture, war that tumbles violently across people’s doorsteps. The reality of near-total annihilation is what oligarchs use to avoid blame for economic distress while molding nations and populations. Because of the very predictable correlation between financial catastrophe and military conflagration, it makes quite a bit of sense for Americans today to be concerned.
"We are evaluating the situation and will make the appropriate response," is how Iran's lead negotiator Abbas Araqchi reacted after accusing Washington on Friday of going against the spirit of a landmark agreement reached last month by expanding its sanctions blacklist. As AFP reports, Iranian negotiators quit the implementation talks late on their fourth day Thursday after Washington blacklisted a dozen companies and individuals for evading US sanctions. US Secretary of State Kerry, ever the optimist we presume, said "we’re making progress, but I think we’re at a point in those talks where folks feel a need to consult, take a moment," but Araqchi's comments on State TV give them little room for compromise, America's move "is by no means constructive and we are seriously critical of it."
- Presidential Task Force Recommends Overhaul of NSA Surveillance Tactics (WSJ)
- Monte Paschi's Largest Shareholder Says It Will Vote Against $4.1 Billion Capital Increase (WSJ)
- SAC Reconsiders Industry Relationships—and Its Name (WSJ)
- Icahn’s Apple Push Criticized by Calpers as ‘Johnny Come Lately’ (BBG)
- In Yemen, al Qaeda gains sympathy amid U.S. drone strikes (Reuters)
- Missing American in Iran was on unapproved mission (AP)
- In China, Western Companies Cut Jobs as Growth Ebbs (WSJ)
- U.S. lays out steps to smooth Obamacare coverage for January (Reuters)
- Las Vegas Sands Said to Drop $35 Billion Spanish Casino Proposal (BBG)
- Twitter Reverts Changes To Blocking Functionality After Strong Negative User Feedback (TechCrunch)
While the generic overnight futures meltup is present this morning, it is nothing compared to what the epic surge in the EURJPY early in the overnight session suggested it would be, and in fact the levitation in US equities driven as usual by Yen carry trades (just what is the P/E or PEG on the USDJPY, or the EURUSD for that matter?) is far more muted than seen in recent days. The main reason for the easing of the carry-risk signal pair is the increasing confusion over what may happen next week when increasingly more are convinced Bernanke will announce a Taper, and since everyone remembers the summer very vividly, the last thing anyone wants is to be the last Kool-aid drinker at the centrally-planned party.
"IMPORTANT: FOR ALL US DOLLAR PAYMENTS TO A COUNTRY SUBJECT TO US SANCTIONS, A PAYMENT MESSAGE CANNOT CONTAIN ANY OF THE FOLLOWING: 1. The sanctioned country name. 2. Any name designated on the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) restricted list, which can encompass a bank name, remitter or beneficiary."