I think it's indicative of a problem when, half-jokingly, the vernacular increasingly being used in the popular media includes: being "Corzined" and "Cyprus'd". The former meaning having your money stolen from or via the equities market, and the latter being theft directly via the banking system.
When is the economic collapse going to happen? Just open up your eyes and take a look around the globe. The next wave of the economic collapse may not have reached Wall Street yet, but it is already deeply affecting billions of lives all over the planet. Much of Europe has already descended into a deep economic depression, very disturbing economic data is coming out of the second and third largest economies on the globe (China and Japan), and in most of the world economic inequality is growing even though 80 percent of the global population already lives on less than $10 a day. Just because the Dow has been setting brand new all-time records lately does not mean that everything is okay. Remember, a bubble is always the biggest right before it bursts. The next major wave of the economic collapse is already sweeping across Europe and Asia and it is going to devastate the United States as well.
Despite efforts by the government to quell the black-market (or blue-dollar) for Argentina's foreign exchange, the unofficial rate surged yesterday to 10.45 Pesos per USD. This is now double the official rate of 5.22 Pesos per USD. This implicit 50% devaluation comes amid the growing realization that there is no savings option to maintain the purchasing power of the peso in the context of sustained high inflation (no matter what the officials say) and negative real interest rates. The government is not amused, suggesting the devaluation won't happen (just as Mexico did right up until the day before they devalued), "those who seek to make money at the expense of devaluations must wait for another government." Perhaps the government should be careful with their threats? And of course, this could never happen in the US or Japan, right?
Yesterday was another less than convincing session. Indices off recent tops and Europe weaker. Treasuries tumbled then rallied part way back on less than stellar retail sales report. It rather feels like we are going through the motions with little conviction one way or another (even with today's mini-melt-up). Markets crave direction. What I'd like to see is the JGB curve bull-flatten to restore faith in Global easing and the asset grabathon. Don’t fight Kuroda – it will happen.. but when? That's the macro-trade. But the short-term trade may be to hedge some risk, like the Nikkei's recent gains, and think about how to hedge bursting bubble risks in the credit markets. Or is there something bigger going-on just behind the horizon? A "No-See-Em" that is about to confirm a particular market direction? After all... the global economy is either growing, is set for growth, or this recession is becoming a long-term depression. So let’s take a look at what's going on for signs of the hidden menace...
Why There Is So Much Pro-War Reporting
Not even the most prodigious and reckless money-printing binge can fix it
As reported earlier, at least one prominent hedge fund manager, Dan Loeb, is very bullish on Sony (or at least has played his cards well enough to buy the stock 50% lower and is using today's ramp to offload to unwitting momentum chasers as he did with Herbalife). Whether he is merely using the opportunity to earn some activism brownie points on the background of the overall levitation of the Japanese stock market, or is genuinely convinced there is upside for Sony remains to be seen. However, anyone who thinks that Japanese corporates have no place to go but up, is kindly urged to take a look at one-time Japanese electronics titan Sharp, which posted a whopping loss of $5.36 billion, the biggest loss in the company's 100 year history.
While every other hedge fund manager is bashing Bernanke, we finally found one who loves the Chairman, unabashedly. The last time the outspoken hedge fund manager appeared on CNBC it was to pump financials into his asset sale in Europe (and here). Today he could not have been more upbeat about the US economy, US banks, and US manufacturing as he is "overwhelmingly bullish," adding that "the numbers are truly amazing". Sure enough the 'Tepper rally' market responded with its ubiquitous lemming like surge as the Appaloosa manager (with $17.9bn AUM) says: The Economy is getting better; he is bullish On Japan; does not worry about Fed tapering - but does not like bonds (adding that the end of QE2 was bullish (though if you care about facts, it wasn't); his biggest holding is Citigroup; sees a great US manufacturing renaissance; and while the Middle East is a concern, expects only a 5% drop if there is war. If that's not enough for you to back up the truck, he believes the US budget deficit will shrink "massively' and housing will rise. The only thing he is not buying with both hands and feet - Apple. As he said - the numbers are truly amazing, though we suspect we are looking at different numbers.
Dan Loeb Goes Activist On Sony: Demands Partial Spin Out Of Sony Entertainment, Sees 60% Stock UpsdeSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 05/14/2013 07:18 -0400
Can Sony repeat the magic of the Walkman, the Playstation and the Trinitron? Maybe, maybe not not, and judging by the stock price, soaring recently due to the plunge in the Yen which to many implies a ramp in future profitability (the jury is still out on that), it may not have to. However, activist investor Dan Loeb is not waiting. In a letter filed overnight, Third Point announced it has accumulated 64 million shares in the one time electronics and entertainment giant, making it the largest single shareholder of Sony. As a result, Loeb has a suggestion which is to partially (15-20%) spin off Sony Entertainment, in which Third Point would backstop a $1.5-$2 billion rights offering, with the resulting liquidity could go to boost Sony Electronics, as well as push off debt into the newly-created entity, reducing leverage at the parent company. Following this, the company could focus on restructuring Sony Eletronics, where Loeb believes there is untapped value, which could be as large as ¥725/share when factoring in for EURJPY moves. End result, Loeb sees 60% upside in Sony stock. We wish him the best of luck: other firms, such as Warren Lichtenstein's Steel Partners attempts to go activist in Japan in the past decade have largely crashed and burned. Perhaps for Loeb, the time of Abenomics will be different.
There was a time three months ago, when "beating" German confidence served as an upward stock and EURUSD catalyst not once but twice in the same week. One would therefore assume a German confidence miss, such as with today's German ZEW, which barely budged from 36.3 to 36.4 on expectations of a rise to 40.0, with the current situtation dropping from 9.2 to 8.9, on expectations of a rise to 9.8, should be risk negative. Well, it wasn't: it is the new normal after all, and in fact the EURUSD jumped in a kneejerk reaction at 5 am, rising over 1.3000, albeit briefly, assisted by ZEW members saying that respondents do not see a further ECB rate cut - well, of course not - they are Germans, and Draghi isn't. Perhaps the news of a better than expected Eurozone Industrial Production print, which rose from 0.3% to 1.0%, on expectations of a more modest increase to 0.5%, is what catalyzed the subsequent drop in both the EUR, and US stock futures. The IP strength was driven by Germany, Spain and Netherlands offset be decline in France and Italy.
While most consider the Middle-East a hot-bed of geopolitical risk (prone to flare at any moment), it seems hot money flows and territorial disputes are rapidly turning the South China Sea into a powder-keg. As Japan vs China is off the front pages for a moment (and US and South Korea engage in joint naval exercises) it seems Taiwan and the Philippines are escalating rapidly following the death of a Taiwanese fisherman last week after Filipino military fired on his vessel in supposedly disputed territory between Taipei and Manila. The situation is evolving rapidly as the Philippines' un-apology (though they sent their condolences) may prompt Taiwan to send F-16 fighters, Kidd-class destroyers, and three or more warships, according to The Liberty Times. The threat of escalation is premised on a formal apology coming within 72 hours. As Stratfor notes, Taiwan's territorial 'claims' are "outrageously ambitious" but the various island nations all appear set on rattling sabres as mainland China stiffens its resolve against Japan over the Senkakus. Given the movements of the Navy (below), it would seem the US is well aware of where tensions are starting to rise...
China is in the midst of an urban revolution, with hundreds of millions of migrants moving into cities every year. Since 2011, for the first time in history, more than half of China’s 1.3 billion citizens (690 million people) are living in cities. Another 300-400 million are expected to be added to China's cities in the next 15-20 years. New Premier Li Keqiang recently proposed accelerating urbanization in China, and said urbanization is a “huge engine” of China’s future economic growth. Yet, China’s urban dream may be derailed by the lack of affordable housing in cities for the massive influx of urban residents.
ConvergEx's Nick Colas undertook a recent trip to Afghanistan. As he notes, the country has a long way to go to reestablish a viable economy and political stability, but he saw enough to be optimistic on both counts. Security around the capital is tight, and Afghan troops look professional and disciplined. There is ample food on display in countless local grocery stands. Girls go to school throughout the city, although women are a less common sight on the streets. Scarcity makes for odd economic outcomes – the only passenger car you’ll see is a Toyota Corolla, imported from different countries. No Afghan will be surprised that you are a tourist in their country – they are still very proud of its history and resilience. Westerners there will assume you are “On business.” Here are seven “Postcards from Kabul” with his last observations from this trip.
Inflation expectations (CPI this evening) have risen on expectations surrounding Prime Minister Abe’s policies and bold BOJ monetary easing under Kuroda. In developed economies, inflation expectations are often measured using the breakeven inflation rate (BEI) embodied in inflation-indexed government bonds. And sure enough much has been made of the rise in so-called JGBi's (despite their small notional outstanding and limited liquidity) as indicative that expectations are increasingly creating a virtuous cycle for Japan (encouraging domestic consumers to spend not save). However, while this all sounds jolly good in the headlines, as Goldman Sachs notes, in fact the JGBi market (when adjusted for a planned consumption tax hike in 2014) implies a considerably lower expectation of inflation (around 1%) to 2015 (the end of Abe's predicted 2Y plan). Oh well, must need moar money...
So, apparently, according to Jon Hilsenrath, "QE to Infinity" is actually "finite" after all. There is no doubt that the Federal Reserve will do everything in its power to try and "talk" the markets down and "signal" policy changes well in advance of actual action. However, that is unlikely to matter. The problem with the financial markets today is the speed at which things occur. High frequency trading, algorithmic programs, program trading combined with market participant's "herd mentality" is not influenced by actions but rather by perception. As stated above, with margin debt at historically high levels when the "herd" begins to turn it will not be a slow and methodical process but rather a stampede with little regard to valuation or fundamental measures. The reality is that the stock market is extremely vulnerable to a sharp correction. Currently, complacency is near record levels and no one sees a severe market retracement as a possibility. The common belief is that there is "no bubble" in assets and the Federal Reserve has everything under control. Of course, that is what we heard at the peak of the markets in 2000 and 2008 just before the "race for the door." This time will be no different.