Last September, Japanese PM Shinzo Abe told Olympic dignitaries in Buenos Aires in an address that helped Tokyo win the 2020 Games: "Let me assure you the situation is under control." It would seem, just as he 'assured' his people that Abenomics would 'fix' Japan, in the case of Fukushima, he lied. As Japan Times reports, the manager of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant has embarrassingly admitted that repeated efforts have failed to bring under control the problem of radioactive water.
While hardly coming as a surprise to anyone, Russia is getting increasingly more vocal about the near certainty that the country is about to slam headfirst into a technical (at first), and then outright recession.
- RUSSIA MAY ENTER `TECHNICAL RECESSION' IN 2Q, ORESHKIN SAYS
- RUSSIAN 2014 CAPITAL OUTFLOWS MAY REACH $70B-$80B: ORESHKIN
- RUSSIAN 2014 CURRENT-ACCOUNT SURPLUS MAY EXCEED $50B: ORESHKIN
- RUSSIAN GDP MAY CONTRACT IN 2Q OR 3Q VS YR EARLIER: ORESHKIN
- Putin playing the long game over Russian kin in Ukraine (Reuters)
- U.S.-Russia Relations Come Full Circle After Ukraine (WSJ)
- Japan PM makes offering to Yasukuni Shrine, angers China, South Korea (Reuters)
- In Gold Miners' Talks, Scale Is Crucial: Combined Barrick-Newmont Would Be Able to Trim Costs (WSJ)
- SEC Said to Weigh Shining Light on Brokers’ Stock Routing (BBG)... and protmply unweigh it
- Exelon Beating Facebook in S&P 500 After Valuation Scare (BBG)
- Court Case May Help Define 'Insider Trading' (WSJ)
- Spanish banks face tough rivalry in small companies bet (Reuters)
It has been a largely event-free weekend except, of course, for the previously reported re-escalation in Ukraine following what was a lethal shooting in the east Ukraine city of Slavyansk blamed on Ukraine's Right Front, which has made a mockery, as expected, of the Geneva Ukraine de-escalation announcement from last Thursday. Overnight in Asia, Japan reported its largest ever trade deficit, providing yet more evidence that Abenomics has been an abysmal failure: all we are waiting for now is confirmation that basic Japanese wages have fallen yet again, which would make nearly 2 years in a row of declines. Still, the USDJPY, gamed as usual by HFT algos for which FX is now the last respite as the equity market crackdown gets louder, is doing its best to ramp from the overnight lows and ahead of the traditional US market open surge, as a result equity futures are modestly higher.
UPDATE: Goldman folds on "J-Curve" - the pace of that improvement will be far more modest than in past periods of yen weakness.
Another month, another colossal miss for the "waiting-for-the-j-curve" Japanese trade balance. At 1.7tn, this month's adjusted trade balance is the 2nd largest on record, and is the 36th month in a row - the worst March deficit ever. Exports missed dramatically (+1.8% vs 6.5% expected) so, so much for devaluation driving competitiveness in a globally interdependent product development cycle - nearly the lowest YoY gain in exports since Abenomics began. Imports rose more than expected (+18.1% vs 16.2%) as the devalued JPY makes living standards more difficult to maintain. The result of this dismal data - JPY weakness which can mean only one thing - a 120 point rally in the Nikkei.
Mere days before President Obama is due to visit on his Asia tour, Japan is making some rather uncomfortable 'diplomatic' moves. First, a senior Japanese cabinet official - Keiji Furuya - visited the highly controversial Yasukuni shrine (which is where "Class A" war criminals are enshrined alongside other war dead). And second, and perhaps even more concerning, is, as Reuters reports, Japan began its first military expansion at the western end of its island chain in more than 40 years on Saturday, breaking ground on a radar station on a tropical island off Taiwan. Both moves risk angering China at a time when non-Chinese Asia is looking for reassurance from Obama on his willingness to suport them.
Prak central bank balance sheets are still ahead. Interest rate increases are still several quarters out. Austerity has peaked. The output gap has peaked. What does this mean in the week ahead ?
Keep interest rates at zero, whilst printing trillions of dollars, pounds and yen out of thin air, and you can make investors do some pretty extraordinary things. "Central bankers control the price of money and therefore indirectly influence every market in the world. Given this immense power, the ideal central banker would be humble, cautious and deferential to market signals. Instead, modern central bankers are both bold and arrogant in their efforts to bend markets to their will. Top-down central planning, dictating resource allocation and industrial output based on supposedly superior knowledge of needs and wants, is an impulse that has infected political players throughout history." The result was always a conspicuous and dismal failure. Today’s central planners, especially the Federal Reserve, will encounter the same failure in time. The open issues are, when and at what cost to society?
Distilling an economy's success in delivering "prosperity" to a single number has outlived its purpose. Political authorities knew exactly what was happening: they realized that their own credibility could be boosted by a rigged GDP number. Thus we have the central government of China issuing blatantly bogus claims of 7+% annual GDP, as anything less will severely erode their claim of managerial brilliance. In our own propaganda-dependent state, GDP is almost always positive, much like corporate earnings always beat expectations by a penny. But we should be paying attention to an even deeper critique of GDP: that prosperity no longer depends of the "growth" of consumption, financialization, etc. but on the Degrowth of narcissistic consumerism and more efficient use of resources and capital.
"Japan’s consumer confidence fell in March to the lowest level since August 2011..." This is a worst fall than the nation suffered during the Tsunami and the fastest fall since 2009. Abe has no choice now, get long Depends...
Here’s something you don’t see very often: For a day and a half this week, the Japanese government’s benchmark 10-year bonds attracted not a single successful private sector bid. At today’s artificially-depressed yields, no one wants this paper — except of course the Bank of Japan, which is buying up the bonds with newly-created yen. In a world of markets rather than manipulations, this kind of imbalance would be an automatic short candidate. Actually, this kind of imbalance would never occur and as one trader noted "I know this could end badly."
Krugman: "There's zero evidence that the kind of extreme inequality that we have is good for economic growth. In fact, there's a lot of evidence that it is actually bad for economic growth. Nobody wants us to become Cuba." Ah yes, inequality, the same inequality that the Fed - Krugman's favorite monetary stimulus machine - has been creating at an unprecedented pace since it launched QE. Just recall: "The "Massive Gift" That Keeps On Giving: How QE Boosted Inequality To Levels Surpassing The Great Depression." So while Krugman is right in lamenting the record surge in class divide between the 1% haves and the 99% have nots, you certainly won't find him touching with a ten foot pole the root cause of America's current surge in inequality. And, tangentially, another thing you won't find him touching, is yesterday's revelation by Gawker that the Nobel laureate is the proud recipient of $25,000 per month from CUNY to... study inequality.
Surprise! This is looking more like a here-and-now problem
- Putin Doesn't Rule Out Sending Troops (WSJ)
- Japan Cuts Economic View on Tax Rise (WSJ)
- No "harsh weather" in Chipotle restaurants where comp store sales rose 13.4% (PR)
- No sanctions for you: EU sanctions push on Russia falters amid big business lobbying (FT)
- Consumer Spending on Health Care Jumps as Obamacare Takes Hold (BBG)
- China Seen Cracking on Property Controls (BBG)
- Google, IBM results raise questions about other tech-sector companies (Reuters)
- California city evacuation lifted after military ordnance found (Reuters)
- For Obama, Standoff With Moscow Jumbles Plans at Home and Abroad (WSJ)
After a solid day for risk yesterday, surging higher on a continuation of the rumor that Japan's economy will deteriorate so much the BOJ will have to print more money (even though overnight ex BOJ governor Sekido said Kuroda won't print more) we have a more cautious tone this morning heading into the Easter long weekend. A double earnings miss from Google and IBM following the US market close, comments from the Chinese Premier suggesting that the government will keep its policy settings unchanged, and a press conference from Russia’s President Putin in which the Russian president as expected, has refused to back down, has put a small dampener on sentiment today. Add the fact that due to Good Friday April equities Op-Ex will take place today and trading in the next 9 hours promises to be more unrigged than ever, especially if the NY Fed trading desk manages to slam the VIX into single-digit territory