The global Monsanto genetically modified wheat scandal is getting worse.
"QE detractors... see something quite different. They see QE as not responding to the collapse in the money multiplier but to some extent causing it. In this account QE – and the flatter yield curves that have resulted from it – has itself broken the monetary transmission mechanism, resulting in central banks pushing ever more liquidity on a limper and limper string. In this view, it is not inflation that’s at risk from QE, but rather, the health of the financial system. In this view, instead of central banks waiting for the money multiplier to rebound to old normal levels before QE is tapered or ended, central banks must taper or end QE first to induce the money multiplier and bank lending to increase."
Just three weeks ago we noted Apollo Group's Leon Black's comment that his firm was "selling everything not nailed down," and that he sees "the market is pricey... in our view, priced for perfection." It seems he is not alone in the 'buy-low-sell-high' crowd. If wonderful times are ahead for U.S. financial markets, then why is so much of the smart money heading for the exits? Does it make sense for insiders to be getting out of stocks and real estate if prices are just going to continue to go up?
Sadly, that "something" has nothing to do with the real economy, but it has everything to do with the stock market which is all that matters to the Fed. Presenting the Adjusted Reserves held by Fed banks: it is, logically, at a fresh all time high. This is the low-powered money that due to capital allocation preferences continues to go, every day for the past 4 years, not into the broader economy (blame it on the 2s10s, or the disastrous state of the US consumer who has no desire for loans, or what have you) but straight into the S&P500. Since the full blown launch of QE3 excess bank reserves have grown by $500 billion, or roughly a 30% increase in six months. Which is also the reason why the S&P has correlated not with any actual fundamental data, but only this chart for the past 6 or so months.
- Record unemployment, low inflation underline Europe's pain (Reuters)
- The ponzi gets bigger and bigger: Spanish banks up sovereign bond holdings by more than 10% (FT)
- California Lawmakers Turn Down Moratorium on Fracking (BBG)
- China’s Growing Ranks of Elderly Beset by Depression, Study Says (BBG)
- Tokyo Prepares for a Once-in-200-Year Flood to Top Sandy (BBG)
- Morgan Stanley Cutting Correlation Unit Added $50 Billion (BBG)
- IMF warns over yen weakness (FT)
- Rising radioactive spills leave Fukushima fishermen floundering (Reuters)
- India records slowest growth in a decade (FT)
The missing link to Japan's Abenomic recovery is and will be wage inflation: without it, soaring import costs which have more than offset any benefits from a modest rise in exports (and a still negative trade balance), will be for nothing, and if the wealth effect begins slowing or, heaven forbid, reversing, and the USDJPY slides back under 100 dragging the Nikkei down with it and all those hedge funds who scrambled into Japan with hopes of get rich quick dreams exit stage left, all bets are off. The result, ironically, would be an even worse bout of deflation than the country had in the recent past as all Abenomics will have done is pulled demand forward driven by transitory stock market gains, while far stickier import energy costs hammer the consumer's discretionary cash flow. In the meantime, corporations aren't waiting, and in a need to protect their bottom lines are doing to selling prices what they have zero intention of doing to wages and costs: hiking them. So following in the footsteps of many other luxury, and not so luxury, goods makers, Apple was the latest to announce overnight that it is hiking the prices of select iPad and iPod models by 16% and 14% respectively.
Everything was going so well in the overnight session, following some mixed Japanese data (stronger than expected production, inline inflation, weaker household spending) which kept the USDJPY 101 tractor beam engaged, and the market stable, until just before 2 am Eastern, when Tokyo professor Takatoshi Ito, formerly a deputy at the finance ministry to the BOJ's Kuroda, said overvaluation of the yen versus the dollar has been corrected, which led to a very unpleasant moment of gravity for the currency pair which somehow drives risk around the world based on what several millions Japanese housewives do in unison. The result was a slide to just 30 pips away from the key 100 support level, below which all hell breaks loose, Abenomics starts being unwound, hedge funds - short the yen and long the Nikkei - have no choice but to unwind once profitable positions, the wealth effect craters, and streams are generally crossed.
Jim Rogers was recently interviewed by GoldMoney and had plenty to say (as usual):
On Bernanke: "He doesn’t want to be around for the consequences of what he’s doing."
On Fiat: "Paper money doesn’t have a very glorious history, but again, nothing imposed by the government has a very long and glorious history."
On Europe's Crisis: "You can postpone it all you want, but the problems just mount."
On Capitalism: "You are not supposed to take money away from the competent people and give it to the incompetent so that the incompetent can compete with the competent people with their own money. That’s not the way capitalism is supposed to work."
In his recent presentation, Grant Williams picked out several mathematical equations that simply don't work: equities vs. fundamentals, the gold price vs. the price of gold, Chinese economic activity vs. the Chinese GDP number, and France vs. well ... logic. In his latest 'Things That Make You Go Hhmm' extravaganza, he extends this series of 'Bizarro' situations to Japan, US Housing, high-yield credit, the outlandish effects that comments by central bank policy makers have on markets, and the curious disconnect between insider trades and the broader market among others. There are countless more of these disconnects (the strength of the euro vs. EU economic data being a key one), which lead to a fundamental conclusion that is hard to deny: Sdnob, seitiuqe, setar tseretni, and seicnerruc will all eventually leave Bizarro World and come crashing back down to Earth (where they are known as bonds, equities, interest rates, and currencies); and when they do, they will likely do the opposite of what they're doing right now.
JPY is clinging sheepishly to the 101 level versus the USD almost as if there is an 'agreement'. It has been testing this level for a week now with many viewing the 100 line in the sand as a pass/fail mark for Abenomics. Tonight's heavy data flow is mixed. While we noted yesterday the inconsistencies in Abenomics, there are two interesting anecdotes this evening worth paying attention to. First, Household spending missed expectations by the largest amount in 18 months (not a good sign for real growth coming back); and second, in a brief moment on CNBC this afternoon, the CEO of Japan's mega corp Sony admitted that while, "the preconception is that a weaker Yen is good overall. Unfortunately for us, versus the USD, it goes the other way." Futures markets signal a green open (just like last night) for the equity markets and a slight red open for JGBs.
Both VIX and credit markets decoupled to the downside soon after Europe closed as equities clambered higher amid lower and lower volumes. As we headed into the last hour though both markets snapped higher to catch up to stocks and that mini-capitulation seemed enough for the equity rally to run out of steam. With the JPY strengthening all day, equities ignored the message of the carry traders until the close - when a big sell-side imbalance (and reality) smacked stocks lower to catch down to the all-important VWAP level once again. The USD saw its worst two-days since Oct 2011 giving up 3 weeks of gains. Gold and Silver are up nicely on the week (1.6 to 2%), outperforming today. Equities still managed gains on the day (despite the late-day tumble) and (oddly) Treasuries also ended very marginally in the green. The last few minutes of the day - normally kept open for some levitating algo to save the day - was a cliff-dive as news of FX margin controls on the all-important JPY carry driver smashed all risk-assets lower.
Moments ago the 101 USDJPY tractor beam was broken, sending the pair lower, as a red headline hit the tape saying that...
- JAPAN TO IMPOSE NEW RULES ON FOREX MARGIN TRADING, NIKKEI SAYS
Which incidentally was long overdue: with the BOJ scrambling to contain bond (and stock, if only to the downside) volatility, it was always the FX market that was the primary uber-levered culprit moving both asset classes. As such, it was very surprising that in a world in which all correlated asset classes (just look at the USDJPY-ES relationship) are driven by FX, that currency leverage and margin rules have remained largely untouched by regulators and central bankers whose credibility is suddenly slipping away, alongside the surge in global market volatility in the past week.
You have your fear, which might become reality; and you have Market Godzilla, which IS reality...
With both the Real Estate and Banking equity indices in Japan already in bear markets (down over 20% from recent highs) and the broad indices down over 15%, just how much pain can the massive influx of foreign capital take before the exodus really takes hold. Today's 'news' of the GPIF's allocation shift won't be enough to stem the tide as 'foreigners' (who have flooded on an epic scale into Japanese stocks) step away to the next hot-money focus... this won't end well.
"Since we're dealing with markets that are being manipulated by central bank policies, there is no such thing as economic analysis anymore. All you have is the imaginations of central bankers, and you don't know what they're going to do, so you have to be diversified."