The problem is twofold. First, current accounts are a zero sum game, so future improvements in emerging market trade balances have to come at someone else’s expense. Second, we have had, over the past year, only modest growth in global trade; so if EM balances are to improve markedly, somebody’s will have to deteriorate. When the 1994-95 “tequila crisis” struck, the US current account deficit widened to allow for Mexico to adjust. The same thing happened in 1997 with the Asian crisis, in 2001 when Argentina blew, and in 2003 when SARS crippled Asia. In 1998, oil prices took the brunt of the adjustment as Russia hit the skids. In 2009-10, it was China’s turn to step up to the plate, with a stimulus-spurred import binge that meaningfully reduced its current account surplus. Which brings us to today and the question of who will adjust their growth lower (through a deterioration in their trade balances) to make some room for Argentina, Brazil, Turkey, South Africa, Indonesia...? There are really five candidates...
Here's the global financial crisis in a nutshell: access to easy credit can solve a temporary liquidity problem, but it can't increase the value of collateral or generate income. Once the liquidity typhoon dies down, the insolvent pigs will plummet back to earth. That's what we're seeing in the periphery economies and shadow banking systems around the world.
The prominent realist international relations scholar John Mearsheimer says there is a greater possibility of the U.S. and China going to war in the future than there was of a Soviet-NATO general war during the Cold War. In contrast to the Middle East, which he characterizes as posing little threat to the United States, Mearsheimer said that the U.S. will face a tremendous challenge in Asia should China continue to rise economically.
Following last week's Flash PMI print of 49.6, the Final print for January China Manufacturing dropped further to 49.5 confirming the contraction is deepening. Japanese stocks were down the most since August in the early going as Nikkei futures extended the losses from the US day-session (and rather notably decoupled from USDJPY and breaking below 15,000). The Nikkei is heading for the worst month since May 2012 (-8.66% so far). S&P futures tracked USDJPY as 102.00 was defended aggressively. Chinese stocks are also tumbling (though not as hard as Japan and US) and the PBOC will not be adding liquidity today. Furthermore the blame is being shifted as Deputy FinMin Zhu warns that the "Chinese economy faces risks from overseas uncertainty." EM FX is drifting lower still.
The global economy’s glory days are surely over. Yet policymakers continue to focus on short-term demand management in the hope of resurrecting the heady growth rates enjoyed before the 2008-09 financial crisis. This is a mistake. When one analyzes the neo-classical growth factors – labor, capital, and total factor productivity – it is doubtful whether stimulating demand can be sustainable over the longer term, or even serve as an effective short-term policy. Instead, policymakers should focus on removing their economies’ structural and institutional bottlenecks. In advanced markets, these stem largely from a declining and aging population, labor-market rigidities, an unaffordable welfare state, high and distorting taxes, and government indebtedness.
- March 1997: In a seemingly “innocuous” move the Fed “tinkers” by raising rates 25 basis points.
- April 1997: Japan raises its consumption tax as USDJPY has rallied from a post Kobe Earthquake low of 79.7 to 127.50 . USDJPY collapse to 111 by June
- June 1997-Jan 1998: Severe reaction in Asian currencies as “hot money flees”
- August-October 1998: Russia defaults, Long term capital folds and the Fed eases aggressively as the Equity market drops 22% (S&P)
The 2008 crisis never ended as issues of excess credit and economic imbalances were never resolved. Turkey is the latest installment in the rolling crisis.
Indicators of US balance-sheet repair hardly signal the onset of the more vigorous cyclical revival that many believe is at hand. Optimists see it differently. Encouraged by sharp reductions in households’ debt-service costs and a surprisingly steep fall in unemployment, they argue that the long nightmare has finally ended. That may be wishful thinking. Notwithstanding the Fed’s claims that its unconventional policies have been the elixir of economic renewal in the US, the healing process still has years to go. This should not be surprising. Far too many US households made enormous bets on the property bubble, believing that their paper gains were permanent substitutes for stagnant labor income... and appear to be doing the same again.
Backdrops conductive to crises can drag on for so long – sometimes seemingly forever - as if they’re moving in ultra-slow motion. Invariably, they lull most to sleep. Better yet, such environments even work to embolden the optimists. This is especially the case when policy measures are aggressively employed along the way, repeatedly holding the forces of crisis at bay. In the face of mounting risk, heightened risk-taking and leveraging often work only to exacerbate underlying fragilities. But eventually a critical juncture arrives where newfound momentum has things unwinding at a more frenetic pace. It is the nature of such things that most everyone gets caught totally unprepared. Now, Bubbles are faltering right and left - and fearful “money” is heading for the (closing?) exits. And, as the global pool of speculative finance reverses course, the scale of economic maladjustment and financial system impairment begins to come into clearer focus. It’s time for the marketplace to remove the beer goggles.
There are two major factors that have emerged in the last five years that have sparked a surge in LNG investments. First is the shale gas “revolution” in the United States, which allowed the U.S. to vault to the top spot in the world for natural gas production. This caused prices to crater to below $2 per million Btu (MMBTu) in 2012, down from their 2008 highs above $10/MMBtu. Natural gas became significantly cheaper in the U.S. than nearly everywhere else in the world. The second major event that opened the floodgates for investment in new LNG capacity is the Fukushima nuclear crisis in Japan. Already the largest importer of LNG in the world before the triple meltdown in March 2011, Japan had to ratchet up LNG imports to make up for the power shortfall when it shut nearly all of its 49 gigawatts of nuclear capacity. In 2012, Japan accounted for 37% of total global LNG demand. The future of LNG may indeed be bright, especially when considering that global energy demand has nowhere to go but up. But, investors should be aware of the very large threat that Japanese nuclear reactors present to upstart LNG projects.
This week, much of the market focus will remain on the policymakers' responses to the challenges emerging out of the, well, emerging markets. In particular, the response of the Turkish Central bank will be key. This week we also have eight MPC meetings, with the US FOMC on Wednesday standing out. Consensus expects the continuation of the tapering of asset purchases – by another USD10bn, split equally between Treasuries and MBS. Other than that, the announcement should be fairly uneventful. In India GS forecasts an out-of-consensus hike of the repo rate to 8.00% after the central bank published a report on suggested changes to the monetary policy framework. In New Zealand, South Africa, Israel, Mexico, Malaysia and Colombia, consensus expects no change in the monetary policy stance. Among economic data releases, the focus will be on consumer surveys, as well as business surveys (US, Germany and Italy). There are also inflation numbers from the US, Euro Area, Japan and Brazil. Advanced Q4 GDP data prints will come out for the US and the UK. US consumption and production numbers are due at the end of the week.
- Emerging sell-off hits European shares, lifts yen (Reuters) - but not really if you hit refresh since the latest central bank bailout announcement
- Apple’s Holiday Results to Show Whether Growth Is Back (BBG)
- Israel attacked Syrian base in Latakia, Lebanese media reports (Haaretz)
- Abenomics FTW: Japan Posts Record Annual Trade Deficit as Import Bill Soars (BBG)
- When all else fails, Spain's hope lie in a 16th century saint: Saint “might help Spain out of crisis,” says interior minister (El Pais)
- Global Woes Fail to Send Cash Into U.S. Stocks (WSJ)
- IMF's Lagarde sees eurozone inflation "way below target" (Reuters)
- Minimum wage bills pushed in at least 30 states (AP)
- AT&T Gives Up Right to Offer to Buy Vodafone Within 6 Months (BBG)
As a prelude to the following dismal market update, Japan just posted the largest annual trade deficit ever (ever ever ever) at JPY 11.47 trillion... so much for Abenomics and the magic J-Curve as the year just got worse (not better). With the Nikkei 225 (cash) down over 400 points (as we would have expected given futures action) and back under 15,000; Japanese stocks are at 7-week lows but Japanese credit risk is rapidly accelerating lower at its riskiest in 10-weeks. Japanese government bonds are well bid with yields on the 20Y having dropped to 1.443% - the lowest since April 2013. Away from Japan, the iTraxx Asia index (which tracks credit risk of investment grade corporates) has soared in the last few days to almost 5-month highs. Emerging Market Sovereign CDS are all notably wider with Vietnam and Indonesia topping the relative moves so far (and most at multi-month wides). Chinese repo is stable for now (CDS are wider by 2bps at 7-month wides) but so far, no good, for those believing the contagion in EM FX will remain contained.
China and Japan’s war of words reveals a larger struggle for regional influence akin to a mini Cold War. Last week's tempestuous pissing contest in Davos, which The FT's Gideon Rachman notes left people with the belief that "this is not a situation that is getting better; it is getting worse." Following Abe's analogies to WWI, China's Yi compared Abe's visit to the Yasukuni shrine to Merkel visiting the graves of Nazi war criminals and as the rhetoric grows the US has asked for reassurance from Abe that he will not do it again. So we have two countries, each building up their militaries while insisting they must do so to counter the threat of their regional rival. Added to this, a deep distrust of each other’s different political systems coupled with a history of animosity makes the two nations deeply suspicious of each other. Each country insists it loves peace, and uses scare tactics to try to paint its opponent as a hawkish boogeyman. Sound familiar to anyone else?
Overview of forces impacting stocks, bonds and currencies.