Japan

Japan Declares Level 3 Emergency, At Least One Dead After Volcano Erupts In Central Japan

When one thinks of Japan and natural disaster, the things that usually come to mind are earthquakes, tsunamis, radioactive lizards, the occasional massive nuclear power plant explosion. Not volcanoes - those are usually delegated to the sole country that dared to give bankers the middle finger, Iceland. And yet, overnight Japan declared a level 3 alert (on a scale of 1 to 5) when a volcano in central Japan erupted, sending ash clouds down the mountain’s slope for more than 3 kilometers. According to RT, at least one person has died and 70 were injured, while aircraft have been forced to divert to avoid the dangerous area. Medics confirmed the death of at least one person, while 70 more were reported to be injured, NHK reported. Thirty of the injured have been sent to hospital in critical condition, health officials added. One can only hope there were no nuclear power plants in the immediate vicinity of the volcano.

Goldman: "Some European Economies Already Qualify As A Japanese-Style Stagnation"

For the longest time anyone suggesting that Europe's economic collapse was nothing short of a deflationary collapse (which would only be remedied with the kind of a money paradopping response that Japan is currently experiment with and where, for example, prices of TVs are rising at a 10% clip courtesy of the BOJ before prices rise even more) aka a "Japan 2.0" event, was widely mocked by the very serious economist establishment, and every uptick in the EuroSTOXX was heralded by the drama majors posing as financial analysts as the incontrovertible sign the European recovery has finally arrived. Well, they were wrong, and Europe is now facing if not already deep in a triple-dip recession. Which also explains why now it is up to the ECB to do all those failed things that the BOJ did before the Fed convinced it it needs to do even more of those things that failed the first time around, just so the super rich can get even richer in the shortest time possible. So we were a little surprised when none other than Goldman Sachs today diverged with the ranks of the very serious economists and the drama major pundits, and declared that "recent trends in some European economies already qualify as a Japanese-style stagnation."

Oops.

It's The Dollar, Stupid!

To claim that this is the market at work makes no sense anymore. Today central banks, for all intents and purposes, are the market. Our overall impression is that the Fed has given up on the US economy, in the sense that it realizes – and mind you, this may go back quite a while - that without constant and ongoing life-support, the economy is down for the count. And eternal life-support is not an option, even Keynesian economists understand that. Add to this that the "real" economy was never a Fed priority in the first place, but a side-issue, and it becomes easier to understand why Yellen et al choose to do what they do, and when. When the full taper is finalized next month, and without rate rises and a higher dollar, the real US economy would start shining through, and what’s more important - for the Fed, Washington and Wall Street - the big banks would start 'suffering' again.

 

The Escape Velocity Delusion: Running Out Of "Next Year"

The bull case is not the recovery or the economy as it exists, it is the promise of one and the plausibility for that promise. Under that paradigm, the market doesn’t care whether orthodox economists are 'right', only that there is always next year. Other places in the world, however, are running out of “next year.” The greatest risk in investing under these conditions is the Greater Fool problem. Anyone using mainstream economic projections and thus expecting a bull market will be that Fool. That was what transpired in 2008 as the entire industry moved toward overdrive to convince anyone even thinking about mitigation or risk adjustments that it was 'no big deal'. Remember: "The risk that the economy has entered a substantial downturn appears to have diminished over the past month or so." - Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, June 9, 2008.

 

The Rise In Volatility

First it was the foreign exchange markets, then commodities, followed by fixed income markets. Now it’s the equity markets. Wherever we look, volatility has been creeping higher. To some extent, this is not surprising. At the end of the US Federal Reserve’s first round of quantitative easing, and at the end of QE2, the markets wobbled. So with QE3 now winding to a close (and with the European Central Bank (ECB) still behind the curve), a period of uncertainty and frazzled nerves should probably have been expected.

Futures Rebound Following Yesterday's Rout

It was all up to the Japanese banana market to fix things overnight: after the biggest tumble in US equities in months, and Asian markets poised for their third consecutive weekly drop, the longest streak since February, Japan reported CPI numbers that despite still surging (for example, in August TV prices soared 9.5%, but "down" from 11.8% the month before), when "adjusting" for the effects of the April tax hike, missed across the board. As a result the USDJPY was at the lows and threatening to break the recent parabolic surge higher which has helped move global equities higher in the past few weeks when the usual spate of GPIF-related headlines, because apparently the fact that Japan will and already has begun sacrificing the retirement funds of its citizens just to keep Abe's deranged monetary dream alive for a few more months has not been fully priced in yet, sent the USDJPY soaring yet again.

Future Bull

“Money amplifies our tendency to overreact, to swing from exuberance when things are going well to deep depression when they go wrong.”

"The Gig Is Up"

For investors, Fed stimulus has trumped all other factors.  It has lowered risk premia and inflated asset prices.  The gig is soon up, but investors have yet to adequately adjust. Unfortunately, they will attempt to do so with significantly compromised market liquidity.  The path to normalization is made even more challenging, because Japan and Europe are in recession, and China is slowing.

Global Bellwether: Japan's Social Depression

Beneath the surface wealth of bullet trains, cute robots and exuberant fashions, this is the Japan few outsiders understand: the one gripped by a deepening social depression. Japan is the global bellwether in social depression, and we can already see the same symptoms and official panic to mask these symptoms in Europe, China and the U.S.

Frontrunning: September 25

  • Apple CEO Cook Goes From Record Sales to IPhone Stumbles (BBG)
  • Deal With Saudis Paved Way for Syrian Airstrikes (WSJ)
  • Drone delivery: DHL 'parcelcopter' flies to German isle (Reuters)
  • Tory Burch Hires Ralph Lauren Veteran as Co-CEO (WSJ)
  • Apple releases iOS 8 workaround to fix dropped cell service (Reuters)
  • Ukraine Probes Ex-Minister Over $3 Billion Russian Bond (BBG)
  • Goldman Sachs-Led Group Near Deal to Buy Messaging Startup Perzo (WSJ)
  • U.K. Seeks to Criminalize Manipulation of 7 Benchmarks (BBG)

Paul Craig Roberts: "A Rigged Gold Price Distorts Perception Of Economic Reality"

The US economy and financial system are in worse condition than the Fed and Treasury claim and the financial media reports. Gold serves as a warning for aware people that financial and economic trouble are brewing. In the 21st century, US debt and money creation has not been matched by an increase in real goods and services. The implication of this mismatch is inflation. Without the price-rigging by the bullion banks, gold and silver would be reflecting these inflation expectations.

Hugh Hendry Is Not Having A Good Year

Having infamously "thrown in the bearish towel" late last year (must read), Hugh Hendry's Eclectica fund has not enjoyed the kind of money-printing melt-up euphoria he had hoped for in 2014. According to his August letter to investors, the fund is -10.9% year-to-date, shrinking the firm's performance since inception to a mere +0.7%. His positions are intriguing but his commentary can be summed with this sentence alone, "when central banks are actively pursuing a goal of higher prices the most rational course is to tenaciously remain invested in equities." And so he is...

Bank Of Japan Buys A Record Amount Of Equities In August

Having totally killed the Japanese government bond market, Shinzo Abe has - unlike the much less transparent Federal Reserve, who allegedly use their proxy Citadel - gone full tilt into buying Japanese stocks (via ETFs). In May, we noted the BoJ's aggressive buying as the Nikkei dropped, and in June we pointed out the BoJ's plan tobuy Nikkei-400 ETFs and so, as Nikkei news reports, it is hardly surprising that the Bank of Japan bought a record JPY 123.6 billion worth of ETFs in August. The market 'knows' that the BoJ tends to buy JPY10-20 billion ETFs when stock prices fall in the morning. The BoJ now holds 1.5% of the entire Japanese equity market cap (or roughly JPY 480 trillion worth) and is set to surpass Nippon Life as the largest individual holder of Japanese stocks. And, since even record BoJ buying was not enough to do the job, Abe has now placed GPIF reform (i.e. legislating that Japan's pension fund buys stocks in much greater size) as a primary goal for his administration. The farce is almost complete as the Japanese ponzi teeters on the brink.

Frontrunning: September 24

  • A Month of Bombs Dropped in One Night of Strikes on Syria (BBG)
  • Air strikes in Syria hit Islamic State-held areas near Turkey (Reuters)
  • Pimco ETF Draws Probe by SEC (WSJ)
  • Shadowy al Qaeda cell, hit by U.S. in Syria, seen as 'imminent' threat (Reuters)
  • Yellen Warns on Market Calm Before ‘Considerable Time’ Up (BBG)
  • Dudley Says Fed Needs U.S. Economy to Run ‘A Little Hot' (BBG)
  • Websites Are Wary of Facebook Tracking Software (WSJ)
  • Just a joke now: Barclays Fined Twice in One Day for Compliance Failures (BBG)
  • Fired UPS worker kills two supervisors, self, in Alabama shooting (Reuters)