While China depends on only one nation for 15% or more of its exports (US 17.3%), Bloomberg's Michael McDonough notes that an incredible 35 nations depend of China for at least 15% of the exports; up from just 4 in 2001. Most are emerging markets or major commodity producers with the shift being driven by China's demand for raw materials, fueled by its investment-led growth model and the stimulus package following the global financial crisis. This gross dependence leaves the world's economy increasingly susceptible to shifts in the Chinese business cycle - most notably Australia which relies on China for a massive 30% of its export demand. This is almost double the next largest developed nation of Japan (which relies on China for 18.5% of its exports) though tensions between the two nations has led to an almost 10% decline in Chinese imports of Japanese goods since September. As we have noted, China has become a key source of FDI in Africa in recent years and 12 of the 20 most-China-dependent economies are from that continent; but as China attempts to transition from investment toward consumption, demand for commodities may slow and downside risk grows for these dependent commodity-producing nations.
In many Western industrialized nations, debt has overwhelmed or is about to overwhelm the economy's debt-servicing capacity. In the run-up to a debt crisis, bad debt tends to move to the next higher level and may ultimately accumulate in the central bank's balance sheet, provided the economy has its own currency. Many observers assume that, once bad debt is purchased by the central bank, the debt crisis is solved for good; that central banks have unlimited wealth at their disposal, or can print unlimited wealth into existence.
However, central banks can only create liquidity, not wealth. If printing money were equivalent to creating wealth, then mankind would not have to get up early on Monday morning. Only a solvent central bank can halt hyperinflation. The longer governments run large deficits, the longer central banks continue to monetize them, and the longer their balance sheets grow, the higher the potential for enormous losses and thus hyperinflation.
Necessary preconditions for hyperinflation are a quasi-bankrupt government whose debt is monetized by a central bank with insufficient assets. One way or another, owning physical gold is the safest and most effective way of insuring against hyperinflation.
Here's Bernanke's list of the costs/risks associated with further asset purchases, and his assessment about the severity of those risks:
- Italy Political Vacuum to Extend for Weeks as Bargaining Begins (BBG)
- Italian impasse rekindles eurozone jitters (FT)
- On Spending Cuts, the Focus Shifts to How, Not If (WSJ)
- Obama spending cuts strategy focused on waiting game (Reuters)
- BOE’s Tucker Says He’s Open to Expanding Asset-Purchase Program (BBG)
- Fed Faces Explaining Billion-Dollar Losses in Stress of QE3 Exit (BBG)
- Carney warns over lack of trust in banks (FT) - here's a solution: moar bank bailouts!
- Bundesbank tells France to stick to budget (FT)
- China to tighten shadow banking rules (FT)
- Saudis Step Up Help for Rebels in Syria With Croatian Arms (NYT)
- After election win, Anastasiades faces Cyprus bailout quagmire (Reuters)
- Just for the headline: Singapore’s Darwinian Budget Sparks Employer Ire (BBG)
While the market will do everything in its power to forget yesterday's Hung Parliament outcome ever happened, and merrily look forward to today's Bernanke testimony (first of two) before the Senate, Europe is not quite so forgiving. Because moments after today's Italian Bill auction in which the now government-less country sold €8.75 billion in 6 month bills at a yield of 1.237% nearly double the 0.731% yield for the same issue previously, things went bump in the night, leading Italian 2Y yields to surge +38bps to 2.086%, vs 2.063% earlier, while the benchmark Italian 10Y yields soared +28bps to 4.766%, vs 4.739% earlier, and just shy of JPM's 5% target. Spain is not immune from the Italian developments, and while it will take the market some time to realize that the next political scandal may be dropping this time in Spain (as reported yesterday), the Spanish 10 Year is already up 7% to 5.23%. Suddenly talk of parity between Italy and Spain may be on the table all over again. And while unlike yesterday there is US macro data, in the form of US consumer confidence, new homes sales and house price data, all the market will care about is soothing Wall Street sellside spin that Italy is not really as bad as everyone said it would be if precisely what happened, happened. With the EURUSD on the verge of breaking down the 1.3000 support, it is very unclear if they will succeed.
From JPM: "The market implications are not positive in our view: we see risks of no agreement or slow progress on a grand coalition over the next few days. Even if an agreement is reached we see a very weak political mandate for further austerity measures and any type of structural reforms. This coupled with recent weakness in some macro releases, is likely to halt the progress on the virtuous circle of improving financial conditions, lower volatility and increasing investor appetite for riskier assets such as peripheral bonds. Although we believe tail risk is greatly reduced relative to last summer, we recommend investors to open risk-off trades. Technicals are supportive, with our client survey showing that benchmarked investors entered the Italian elections long peripherals vs. core countries. We recommend longs in 10Y Bunds (with a 1.35% target) and find 5s/10s flatteners an attractive bullish proxy. We unwind trades with a bearish duration bias such as 3s/7s steepeners and 10s/30s flatteners in Germany. In terms of core spreads, we close 5Y overweights in Belgium and turn neutral. In peripherals, we open shorts in 10Y Italy as we believe that 10Y BTP yield could exceed 5.00% in coming days."
Italy is driving the markets. Japanese developments means the market is closer to give Abenomics its first test. Bernanke to set the record straight after many gave the regional non-voting Fed presidents too much weight in understanding trajectory of Fed policy.
Is the U.S. economy about to experience a major downturn? Unfortunately, there are a whole bunch of signs that economic activity in the United States is really slowing down right now. In many ways, what we are going through right now feels very similar to 2008 before the crash happened. Back then the warning signs of economic trouble were very obvious, but our politicians and the mainstream media insisted that everything was just fine, and the stock market was very much detached from reality. When the stock market did finally catch up with reality, it happened very, very rapidly. Sadly, most people do not appear to have learned any lessons from the crisis of 2008. Americans continue to rack up staggering amounts of debt, and Wall Street is more reckless than ever. As a society, we seem to have concluded that 2008 was just a temporary malfunction rather than an indication that our entire system was fundamentally flawed. In the end, we will pay a great price for our overconfidence and our recklessness.
JPY saw a massive correction today - gaining 3% against the USD - its biggest single-day gain since May 2010 - dragging all the carry traders with it. S&P 500 futures volume exploded to its highest since the rally began in November as it broke its uptrend and slumped 40 points from its intraday highs. VIX's term structure collapsed to its flattest in 18 months as spot surged above 19% (no - everyone wasn't hedged). The Dow, S&P, and Nasdaq are all red for the month and even the Trannies are almost unch. Treasuries soared with 10Y ending -10bps (after being +4bps at its worst of the day). Gold and Silver surged (with the latter testing near $1600 again) as WTI dropped 1%. Homebuilders (not helped by lumber's price collapse) dropped 3.5% but every sector was ugly today and closed at its lows. Risk assets led this downswing all day long and cross-asset-class correlation surged as the slump accelerated.
Who says necessity is not the mother of invention in the New Normal. While a tiny fraction of the Japanese population is enjoying the transitory effects of Abe's latest reflating "wealth effect" policy (even as China has made it clear said policy will end quite soon), the bigger problem for Japan is that even sooner, more and more of it will be reliant on hamster wheels to generate electricity, as LNG prices have just hit a record high and are rising at a breakneck pace, and as local nuclear power generation has collapsed to virtually zero. Which means one thing: electricity will soon become so unaffordable only those who are invested in the daily 2% Nikkei surges will be able to electrify their immediate surroundings. So what is Japan's solution? A quite ingenious one: as Geek.com and ASR both report, Japan's Fujifilm has created organic printed sheet that harvests energy from body heat, or in other words, converts body heat to electricity. Finally, at least one key part of the Matrix "reality" is now fully operational - the use of human beings as batteries.
Next week’s calendar is packed with important events and releases, aside of course from the biggest event of the week which are the Italian elections. In fact we already got the first one in the form of China's disappointing HSBC flash PMI which consensus expectations would print stable yet which dropped to a 4 month low. On Friday, the ISM is expected to come out mildly softer vs last month’s strong 53.1 print and consensus at 52.5. Chicago PMI will also be followed by markets on Thursday. On the central bank front markets will be primarily looking for further news on the BOJ leadership succession front. From the perspective of Fed speakers, Chairman Bernanke’s testimony ahead of the Senate Banking Committee will also be followed as markets continue to track the Fed’s assessment of the economic recovery. In the global currency warfare front, the Bank of Israel is expected to cut policy rates by 25bps on Monday, as well as the National Bank of Hungary on Tuesday.
- Risk of instability hangs over Italy poll (FT), Protest votes add to uncertainty in close Italy election (Reuters), and... Risk On
- Czech inspectors find horsemeat in IKEA meatballs (Reuters)
- China’s Slower Manufacturing Casts Shadow Over Recovery (Bloomberg)
- So much for reform: China Prepares for Government Shuffle as Zhou Stays at PBOC (Bloomberg)
- France to pause austerity, cut spending next year instead: Hollande (Reuters)
- Sinopec to buy stake in Chesapeake assets for $1.02 billion (Reuters)
- White House warns states of looming pain from March 1 budget cuts (Reuters)
- China Quietly Invests Reserves in U.K. Properties (WSJ)
- Osborne Keeps Austerity as Investors See Downgrade as Late (BBG)
- South Korea's new president demands North drop nuclear ambitions (Reuters)
- Russia accuses U.S. of double standards over Syria (Reuters)
Following last night's very disappointing China HSBC PMI numbers, one would think that the traditional EURUSD, and thus ES, overnight ramp would be missing or at least delayed, especially ahead of a very possible risk off day such as Italian election day. One would be wrong. Because some time after midnight eastern, in what can only be seen as a celebration of Argo's choice as a best picture, the EURUSD resumed its upward ramp on absolutely no news, pushing the pair higher by nearly 100 pips in a smooth diagonal line, and dragging US futures up with it as usual. The catalyst apparently is that with Italian exit polls mere hours away (due out at 2pm GMT), market talk is that Berlusconi's resurgent chances have been hobbled due to a low turnout in the pro-Berlusconi northern states (recall that Lombardia is the key state for the elections) following a quick read of a Reuters recap article. What is ignored is that the referenced Reuters article also notes the "surge in protests votes being cast" in the first day of voting, which means less votes on an absolute and relative basis for Bersani and Monti, even if Berlusconi ends up getting less of the Northern vote. Of course, nobody actually has any clue what the exit polls look like. In fact, with a hung parliament a distinct possibility even assuming a Bersani-Monti coalition, both Goldman and JPM have said a 50-100 pip widening across the Italian curve is possible should a Hung Parliament develop (for more read here). But for now hope dominates and is both squeezing the shorts and causing yet another algorithmic stop hunt in FX, and thus every other asset class. Don't be surprised all of overnight's gains, and much more to be wiped out minutes after 9 am eastern when the first Italian exit polls emerge.
Here are ten things that out to be on your radar screens this week and a view on their importance.
Traders read the headlines. They know how the price “should” react to news, and they begin buying. For a while, the prophecy fulfills itself. But then what happens next? It may take an hour or a month, but sooner or later some of the new buyers begin to sell.
Speculators can drive the price quite far in either direction, in the short term. But it is the hoarders and arbitrageurs who drive the price in the long term.