Reports indicating that Americans have invested more in equity funds here in 2013 than they did all last year have given rise to talk of the "Great Rotation". The idea is that Americans are selling fixed income investments bought during the financial crisis and now buying shares. We are less sanguine. There is a third asset class that needs to be integrated into the analysis: cash. After surveying the data and various reports, it looks to us that the flows into equities is not coming out of fixed income but rather money market funds and deposits.
The Eurozone is not a debt crisis that is "fixed," it is a debt crisis waiting to implode. The happy-talk that the Eurozone debt crisis has been resolved is ubiquitous. But when did ubiquitous happy-talk make it correct? Since the crisis is about debt--too much of it, and too much of it cannot and will not be paid back--then perhaps it would be prudent to look at two charts of eurozone credit.
Following yesterday's G-7 announcement which sent the USDJPY soaring, and its embarrassing "misinterpretation" clarification which undid the entire spike, by an anonymous source in the US who said the statement was in fact meant to state that the Yen was dropping too fast and was to discourage "currency wars", it was only a matter of time before another G-7 country stepped into the fray to provide a mis-misinterpretation of the original G-7 announcement. That someone was the BoE's outgoing head Mervyn King who at 5:30 am eastern delivered his inflation reporting which he said that "it’s very important to allow exchange rates to move," adding that "when countries take measures to use monetary stimulus to support growth in their economy, then there will be exchange rate consequences, and they should be allowed to flow through." Finally, King added that the BOE will look through CPI and relentless UK inflation to support the recovery, implicitly even if it means incurring more inflation.
The price action in the foreign exchange market is choppy as short-term participants seem nervous after being whipsawed yesterday. Sterling fell nearly a cent to new multi-month lows following the BOE's inflation report that confirmed official expectations that price pressures will remain above target and King welcomed the recent depreciation of the point. Also of note the Australian dollar, which staged a sharp recovery off the year's lows yesterday and has seen follow through buying today, helped perhaps by gains in a consumer confidence measure.
The was nothing in the rogue G7 sourced comment yesterday that that Japanese Finance Minister Aso did not say prior to the G7 statement and before the weekend. The pace of the yen's depreciation was too fast. The market reacted to it at the time.
5% fewer words, slightly shorter than last year but just as hope-full. From a hike (and inflation-indexed) in the minimum wage to a 140x multiplier of genome sciences investment (now that is Keynesian awesomeness); from extending homeownership (and refinancing plans) even more to energy independence; from Apple, Ford, and CAT's US Manufacturing to Bridge-Building and infrastructure spending; and from Trans-Pacific and -Atlantic Trade to cyber-security; it's all gonna be great - because as President Obama reminded us at the start... "Our housing market is healing, our stock market is rebounding," and this won't add a dime to the deficit... oh and that Student loan bubble - no worries, there's a college scorecard so now you know where to get the biggest bang for your credit-based buck. Summing it all up: Guns 9 : 3 Freedom ; Jobs 31 : 17 Tax ; Congress 17 : 40 Work ; Recovery 2 : 0 Unicorns ; Spending 3 : 2 Cutting
As debate about currency wars heats up, there's been little talk about which currencies will prove safe havens. We think the Singapore dollar tops the list.
First domestic fiscal policy, and now global monetary policy has become an utter circus:
- G7 OFFICIAL SAYS G7 STATEMENT WAS MISINTERPRETED, STATEMENT SIGNALED CONCERN ABOUT EXCESS MOVES IN JAPANESE YEN
- G-7 OFFICIAL: G-7 CONCERNED ABOUT UNILATERAL GUIDANCE ON YEN
- G7 OFFICIAL SAYS G7 IS CONCERNED ABOUT UNILATERAL GUIDANCE ON THE YEN, JAPAN WILL BE IN SPOTLIGHT AT G20 MEETING IN MOSCOW
We already mocked the G-7's original stupidity... and now they say it was not what they meant. Because what the G-7 clarification really means it that while the G-7 will supposedly "allow the market to set rates", the G-7 was not happy with how the market set rates following the G-7 statement. And... #Ref!
Confused what the earlier released statement by the G-7 means? Fear not, because here comes Goldman with a post-mortem. And just in case anyone puts too much credibility into a few sentences by the world's developed nations (whose viability depends in how quickly each can devalue relative to everyone else) in which they say nothing about what every central bank in the world is actually doing, here is a history of four years of G-7 statements full of "affirmations" and support for an open market exchange policy yet resulting in the current round of global FX war, confirming just how 'effective' the group has been.
- The Man Who Killed Osama bin Laden... Is Screwed (Esquire)
- G7 fires currency warning shot, Japan sanguine (Reuters)
- North Korea Confirms It Conducted 3rd Nuclear Test (NYT)
- Italian Police Arrest Finmeccanica CEO (WSJ)
- Legacy, political calendar frame Obama's State of the Union address (Reuters)
- China joins U.S., Japan, EU in condemning North Korea nuclear test (Reuters)
- Wall Street Fading as Emerging-Market Banks Gain Share (BBG)
- Berlin Conference 2.0: Drugmakers eye Africa's middle classes as next growth market (Reuters)
- Barclays to Cut 3,700 Jobs After Full-Year Loss (BBG)
- US Treasury comment triggers fall in yen (FT)
- ECB Ready to Offset Banks’ Accelerated LTRO Payback (BBG)
- Fed's Yellen Supports Stimulus to Spur Jobs (WSJ)
- Libor Scrutiny Turns to Middlemen (WSJ)
- Samsung Girds for Life After Apple in Disruption Devotion (BBG)
With the world so obviously gripped in currency war even the hotdog guy has moved away from saying how technically undervalued AAPL stock is to opining on who is leading the global race to debase, it was only a matter of time before the G-7 confirmed the only strategy left is FX devaluation by denying it. Sure enough, a preliminary statement from the G-7 came earlier, in which the leading "developed" nations said, well, absolutely nothing:
We, the G7 Ministers and Governors, reaffirm our longstanding commitment to market determined exchange rates and to consult closely in regard to actions in foreign exchange markets. We reaffirm that our fiscal and monetary policies have been and will remain oriented towards meeting our respective domestic objectives using domestic instruments, and that we will not target exchange rates. We are agreed that excessive volatility and disorderly movements in exchange rates can have adverse implications for economic and financial stability. We will continue to consult closely on exchange markets and cooperate as appropriate.
This follows a statement by the US Treasury's Lael Branaird yesterday in which she said that she is supportive of the effort in Japan to end deflation and “reinvigorate growth”. Lastly, the SNB's Jordan also confirmed that the Swiss National Bank will continue to do everything to crush its own currency, and will the 1.20 EURCHF floor, stating that Japan is merely doing the right thing to stimulate growth (i.e., doing what "we" are doing). In other words, let the FX wars continue and may the biggest balance sheet win, all the while everyone pretends nothing is happening.
The G7 issued a statement that essentially endorses stimulative policies in Japan and elsewhere, but reaffirmed its commitment to market determined exchange rates. This is a green light to buy dollars against the yen and to buy euros.
Day after day, just after the US day-session close - just as traders settle down for some Ovaltine and light reading - someone (anyone) from Japan's political or financial elite sends a shot across the wires on the epic amount of easing that they will do to fight deflation. Explicitly focusing on the stock market, with the economy 'hopefully' coming along for the ride, is the cunning plan to inflate asset values into a self-fulfilling cycle of awesomeness for the structurally deadbeat Japanese economy. So far so good - given JPY's weakness and NKY's nominal rise. But loathed as we are to steal the jam from Abe's donut, there is a rather large fly in his inflation ointment - Brent VigilantesTM. Today saw the price of oil in Japan rise to its highest since September 2008. Anytime the price of oil has topped JPY10,000 per barrel, Japan's macro-economy has slumped. Just as we noted earlier, there is simply no free lunch in the competitive devaluation game - as the market's only self-regulating force remains in the price of energy.
This morning, in an understated way (of course) ahead of the G-20 group-hug at the end the week, Economic and fiscal policy minister Akira Amari stated "It will be important to show our mettle and see the Nikkei reach the 13,000 mark by the end of the fiscal year (March 31)." This level for the Nikkei implies a USDJPY level of 104.75 (or a further 12% devaluations for here). However, there is a strong correlation between the USD-JPY exchange rate and the S&P 500-to-Nikkei 225 relationship. Based on that 104.75 target (and the toungue-in-cheek belief that this will help Japan's competitiveness - which means someone else has to suffer), the ratio of the SPX to NKY would be 8.7x. So while the Nikkei would see a 17% surge (in nominal value), the S&P 500 would lose 3-4% from here.
With Abe talking his down explicitly, Weidmann talking his up explicitly, Draghi's subtle talk-down, Hollande's outright plea, and the developing world in full 'war' mode, Citi's Steven Englander sets out some brief 'rules of engagement' for the G-20 nations as competitive devaluation escalates.
As the chart below shows, in some 200 years of history, when expressed as a ratio of total sovereign debt to tax revenues, the empirical data as compiled by Reinhart and Rogoff ranges from 2x to 16x. This is shown by the blue bars in the chart below. So where are we in this cycle as the debt clock counts down? As the red bars show, we are in a very uncomfortable place, with Japan now at the highest such ratio in history, well above the highest recorded which always ended up in default, while the US, whose such ratio is over 600%, is above the long-term average of about 520% public debt/revenue. The problem is that every current and subsequent attempt to reflate merely pushes both of these higher, until one day the marginal growth creation of every dollar in new debt becomes negative. How much higher can consolidated global debt go before global GDP is not only no longer growing, but every incremental dollar in debt has a negative impact on GDP, as was the case for the US in the fourth quarter? Keep an eye on global economic growth: if and when the world enters outright recession: the most feared outcome by all central bankers who realize they are out of weapons and their only recourse is much more of the same, that may be cue to quietly leave town.