Gold traded higher after the ECB interest rate cut yesterday, prior to sharp selling that came into the market at 1335 GMT. This led to gold falling 2% on the day and it is now down 1.3% on the week – again outperforming many equity indices. Market News International (MNI) reported that market sources said that the Bank for International Settlements, the Bank of England and the Federal Reserve have been “good sellers of gold” after it had popped to a fresh session high of $1,755.90/oz. The MNI report has not been explored and there have not been any official denials of official selling. From a trading perspective there is at least a ring of truth to the MNI report as the sharp fall in the gold price was counterintuitive given there was no negative gold news and indeed the news was bullish with significant risk ahead of the EU summit and continued ultra loose monetary policies and negative real interest rates. Given the scale of the coordinated intervention in markets by central banks recently one would have to be completely naïve to dismiss the report out of hand. There is of course the historical precedent of the London Gold Pool which ended in failure. However, before jumping to conclusions it would be good if the MNI report was looked at and some questions asked - in the finest traditions of journalism.
- Tensions Rise at EU Summit (WSJ)
- Cameron faces showdown with Sarkozy (FT)
- Euro Leaders’ Fiscal Union Pact Leaves Next Step to ECB (Bloomberg)
- IMF China Chief Says Worsening Crisis May Force Hong Kong to Back Banks (Bloomberg) - same China expected to bail out Europe again
- Putin blames Moscow protests on US (FT)
- Boehner: Payroll Tax Cut Can Pass U.S. House (Bloomberg)
- EU Leaders Drop Demands for Investor Write-Offs (Bloomberg)
- Japan Imposes New Iran Sanctions (WSJ)
The overnight agreement by 17 European countries to tighten euro-area budget controls and expand bailout funds fails to address key aspects of the crisis and may fall at the first hurdle, analysts and investors say. The summary of various Wall Street expert opinions is compiled and presented below from Bloomberg. It is not pretty.
In case you haven't noticed, the rest of the world continues to slow down and the negative data is accelerating. The big powerhouses of the world, the eurozone including Germany, Japan, and China are leading this trend and there is no reason to believe that the U.S. will not follow.
I've been writing about this theme frequently lately because, while we are seeing some positive numbers here in the U.S., we are also seeing signs of weakness starting to show up, and since we live in a world of international trade, the world's woes will hit us.
With most of the world’s major economies as well as the financial system bankrupt, there is only one solution that can save the world economy. Like in the Greek tragedies, Deus ex Machina is now the only way that the world can avoid a total economic collapse. This would involve God being lowered down onto the world stage and miraculously saving the plot. For those few who believe in this, may God bless them. But since this is a very unlikely solution most people will instead rely on governments and central banks to save us. But how can anyone possibly believe that totally incompetent and clueless politicians and central bankers could solve anything. They created the problem in the first place and are therefore totally unsuitable to play the role of Deus. The main objective of governments is to stay in power and thus to buy votes. Therefore they are incapable of taking the right decisions. And the opposition, aspiring to power is even less suitable since they will lie through their teeth and promise the earth in order to be elected. (We know that there are exceptions like Ron Paul, but the voters will most probably find his medicine too strong to swallow.). What about central bankers, can’t they save us? Unfortunately any sensible person who becomes a central banker loses all his senses and becomes a prisoner of the political system. So if there is no Deus ex Machina and if governments or bankers can’t rescue the world, who can and what is the solution. Let us return to the wise von Mises to look at the options available now:
“THERE IS NO MEANS OF AVOIDING THE FINAL COLLAPSE OF A BOOM BROUGHT ABOUT BY CREDIT EXPANSION. THE ALTERNATIVE IS ONLY WHETHER THE CRISIS SHOULD COME SOONER AS A RESULT OF A VOLUNTARY ABANDONMENT OF FURTHER CREDIT EXPANSION, OR LATER AS A FINAL OR TOTAL CATASTROPHE OF THE CURRENCY SYSTEM INVOLVED”
Ludwig von Mises
While one of the bigger commodity funds out there, in this case Fortress Commodities Fund, has not done too hot recently (down 7.4% in October), which it humbly admits to and says, "the month of October was a wakeup call for us and we are adjusting accordingly" here are some must read perspectives that lead the Fortress Commodity group to conclude that "We're Long Gold, Short Base Metals, Patient Crude Strength Seller & Buyer Of Corn On Any Real Flush In Prices." Oh, and that it's "macroeconomic outlook remains pessimistic."
Sometimes we just shake our heads. Other times, we just sob anxiously into our handkerchieves. This afternoon's rumor-ramp-denial-no-dump was absurdity at its very best. A 16pt rip in ES on the basis of rumor of another bigger bazooka from the IMF (courtesy of Nikkei not the FT this time as we all know what their rumors are full of) was ignored by pretty much every other asset class. We tweeted almost instantly that the denial would be forthcoming in 10 minutes and sure enough it was. But wondrously, what goes up, does not come down as ES gave back a measly 5pts leaving it very far bereft of broad risk asset's perspective of value. Perhaps the best perspective on the incessant IMF-and-other rumors is from Peter Tchir "This is all circular and that circularity is coming back to haunt those people desperately trying to come up with new ways to extend and pretend."
Proving once again that when it comes to fudging numbers, Japan (which previously was best known for changing the minimum legal radiation absorption dose on a daily basis following the Fukushima disaster, anyone remember that?) is leaps and bounds ahead of even China and the US, the Nikkei reports that the Japanese government will change the method it uses to calculate GDP, and the result will be an "increase" in the country's economic output by JPY 5-10 trillion. As a reminder, Japanese GDP is currently JPY 540 trillion, so in essence the math fudge could add about 2% to Japanese "growth." Accordingly, the main difference is inclusion of interest rate spread earned by financial institutions: we were wondering how long until blowing out CDS spreads would add to sovereign GDP. We now know. The new method will be applied to figures to be announced Friday. At least Japan has not yet adjusted its GDP pro forma for foreign currency gains vis-a-vis the dollar (there is time). And that's how things are done in a Keynesian world in which everything is now fraud, lies and relentless number fudging. Furthermore, we are 100% certain no analyst will look at the number on an apples to apples basis, and the result will be a miraculous Japanese golden age. Expect this experiment in excel spreadsheet modelling to come to a developed banana republic near you very soon.
Picture an industry that relies on investment income borne from bonds (primarily sovereign debt [whaaaat?] & bank/financial institution debt [whoa!!!??] for earnings as much as their core business. The perfect short?
Prime ministers get replaced every 8 to 15 months. Bureaucrats and corporate interests stay. Public debt turns into a mushroom cloud. Is it finally time to bet against Japan Inc.?
We have time and again pointed to the warning signals being sent from credit markets, FX volatility skews, and equity option volatility technicals (skews and implied correlation) but while the mainstream media is behooven to watching every tick in the 'fear index', the 'simple' VIX has consistently underpriced risk in the face of danger. Furthermore, this implicit optimism, leaves equity options among the cheapest macro hedges across asset classes currently (especially relative to FX, Rates, and Credit). FX options offer the next cheapest hedge with credit already notably stressed. BAML's research group finds Nikkei (Japan), Nifty (India), and ASX200 (AUS) puts attractive as global macro (crash beta) hedges with Copper, IG, and HY credit the least attractive at current levels. So the next time you hear the VIX is up or down or sideways, treat it with the contemporaneous weighting it deserves (or potentially discount its eternal optimism entirely) and remember that while VIX is frequently cited, the availability bias needs to be suppressed when investing.
Whether it has been investor sentiment, equity implied volatility, or sovereign bond spreads, 2011 has been a year of extremes. The roller-coaster of various spreads, prices, curves, and flows still leaves us cognitively dissonant as we anchor on recent action and forget where we came from. BofA has produced a 'stress heatmap' that at-a-glance illustrates the behavior of 20 critical cross asset class warning signals throughout 2012 and we note this Critical Stress Signal has been in risk-off mode since July 12th - which fits well with the relative perspective we have long-held that high-yield credit is pricing for considerably more concerns than equities for instance. Seven crucial aspects are highlighted throughout the year, most notably the slower than expected tail-risk hedge demands in Europe as we suspect ECB QE complacency remains far too high. Nowhere is that optimism more evident of policy maker intervention than in the money flow indicators currently which are back in non-stressed territory.