In a double-whammy of mounting geopolitical tension, Channel News Asia reports that North Korea has started fueling a rocket in preparation for a launch date set for April 12 or 13. The supposed 'satellite launch' is being considered a missile test by the West and in the meantime snubbing Nobel Peace Prize winner Obama for his 'confrontational mindset'. In retaliation Pyonyang will not be receiving food aid (according to a Pentagon official). Meanwhile, Israel National News highlights that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have taken the unprecedented step of canceling the long-customary leave for Passover and will instead remain on full alert. Careful to point out that this action did not stem from any planned military action (though soldiers dismissed that as obfuscation), IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz said Wednesday he gave the order saying he "does not accept" the notion of an army-wide vacation during Passover. A growing cadre of senior security officials and former IDF chiefs have called for a major Gaza incursion to uproot the terror infrastructure there. Gantz himself has described such an operation as "increasingly inevitable."
As we head into the US open, European cash equities are seen in positive territory with strong performance observed earlier in the session from the FTSE MIB. This follows reports from the Italian press regarding commentary from the Chinese President Hu Jintao who promised to encourage Chinese industry to look towards Italy with confidence, in a conversation with the Italian PM Monti on the sidelines of the nuclear safety summit in Seoul. Markets have also been reacting to an article from Der Spiegel, citing economists who have warned that the German central bank could be facing hidden liabilities of up to EUR 500bln should there be a break up in the Eurozone. This has prompted some risk-averse flows into the Bund which has seen fluctuating trade so far in the session but remains in positive territory as North America comes to market. In individual equities news, following overnight reports from Abu Dhabi concerning buying a stake in RBS, company shares were seen up 6%. Source comments from earlier in the session regarding the sale speculated that the stake could be up to a third of RBS. Looking ahead in the session, the market awaits US Consumer Confidence data due at 1500BST.
Yesterday afternoon, Barack Obama who is currently in South Korea, briefly was within bullet range (if behind bulletproof glass) of North Korea when he stood on the edge of the DMZ separating the two feuding countries. A few minutes later he left and told the world that "Bad behaviour will not be rewarded" referring to the imminent launch of North Korea's Unha-3 rocket scheduled for a test launch in April. He added that "I will also note that every time North Korea has violated an international resolution, the Security Council resolution, it has resulted in further isolation, tightening of sanctions, stronger enforcement. I suspect that will happen this time as well." Alas, we doubt that Obama's warnings will have much of an impact and that in a few weeks NK will go ahead and hit the launch button undeterred, in the process forcing Japan to scramble its Aegis destroyers and take other countermeasures as discussed last week, in case the missile "veers of course." But just what is the trajectory? Courtesy of North Korea Tech, we now know the secret path the North Korean rocket is expected to take. All we can say is there better not be strong Westerly winds.
Japan Readies PAC-3 And AEGIS SAM Countermeasures As North Korea Missile Launch Prep Enters Final StageSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/23/2012 10:27 -0400
Moments ago Japan's Kyodo reported that the upcoming North Korean missile launch has entered a "full-fledged state of action." While not immediately clear what this means, it is not all that surprising: after all this is precisely what Un has said he would do, and so he will. What is more important is that according to VOA Japan is now actively preparing for "countermeasures" and is "preparing for contingencies" should the missile veer off course. Because if Fukushima taught us something is that gusts of wind around Japan always somehow point toward Tokyo. To wit: "The Japanese parliament has approved a resolution condemning North Korea's planned missile launch, and the country is also preparing contingencies should the missile veer off course and pose a threat to Japan. Speaking in Tokyo Friday, Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka said the Japanese military will be prepared for any eventuality. Tanaka says he is ordering officials to prepare deployment of PAC-3 surface-to-air missiles and Aegis destroyers carrying a state-of-the-art anti-missile system that could attempt to shoot down the rocket." Of course, by the time the shooting is over, ES will be at least limit up: consider the upside GDP potential resulting from rebuilding the world in the aftermath of armageddon.
European cash equity markets were seen on a slight upward trend in the early hours of the session amid some rumours that the Chinese PBOC were considering a cut to their RRR. However, this failed to materialise and markets have now retreated into negative territory with flows seen moving into fixed income securities. This follows some market talk of selling in Greek PSI bonds due to the absence of CDSs. This sparked some renewed concern regarding the emergence of Greece from their recovery. Elsewhere, we saw the publication of the BoE’s financial stability review recommending that UK banks raise external capital as soon as possible. This saw risk-averse flows into the gilt, with futures now trading up around 40 ticks.
A growing number of Americans are frustrated with the way in which their economy has been managed and are becoming increasingly concerned about future measures the government may take to keep its coffers full. A question that is arising with increasing frequency is: does expatriation offer a viable protection to those concerned about a more financially-intrusive US system? The short answer is 'yes' but while it does offer a solution to ending one's obligations to pay US taxes - it's important to understand that it's not suitable for everyone. Mark Nestmann gives a great nuts and bolts breakdown of what's involved and what the benefits and risks are
European cash equity markets are making heavy losses as we head into the midpoint of the European session. Markets got off to a bad start as participants reacted to overnight Chinese HSBC manufacturing PMI recording a steeper contraction than the previous month. The manufacturing outlook has gotten even worse as the session has progressed, with France, Germany and the Eurozone as a collective recording contractions in their respective manufacturing PMI numbers for March. As such, commodity linked currencies are trading lower with AUD/USD down around 85 pips. WTI and Brent crude futures are moving in tandem with other markets as they also record losses going into the US open. In other news, there were reports that the ECB were looking to pull out their covered bond asset purchase program as less than a quarter of the fund has been used so far. A Bundesbank spokesman commented that it will not pressure the ECB into withdrawing the covered bond purchase program as it is the central bank’s decision to make. Looking ahead in the session, the market awaits the weekly US jobs data due at 1230GMT.
How did we get here? An argument can be made that miscalculation, accident, inattention and the like are why things go bad. Those elements do have a role, but it is minor. Potential catastrophe across the board can't be the result of happenstance. When things go wrong on a grand scale, it's not just bad luck or inadvertence. It's because of serious character flaws in one or many – or even all – of the players. So is there a root cause of all the problems I've cited? If we can find it, it may tell us how we personally can best respond to the problems. In this article, I'm going to argue that the US government, in particular, is being overrun by the wrong kind of person. It's a trend that's been in motion for many years but has now reached a point of no return. In other words, a type of moral rot has become so prevalent that it's institutional in nature. There is not going to be, therefore, any serious change in the direction in which the US is headed until a genuine crisis topples the existing order. Until then, the trend will accelerate. The reason is that a certain class of people – sociopaths – are now fully in control of major American institutions. Their beliefs and attitudes are insinuated throughout the economic, political, intellectual and psychological/spiritual fabric of the US.
Heading into the North American open, EU stocks are seen lower across the board as market participants reacted to cautious comments from Moody’s rating agency on Spain, which noted that Spain’s fiscal outlook remains challenging despite easier targets. Still, the ratings agency further commented that easier targets do not affect Spain’s A3 government bond rating with a negative outlook. Separately to this, a BHP Billiton executive said that Chinese demand for iron ore is flattening, while according to China's state-backed auto association, China's vehicles sales this year will probably miss their growth forecasts. As a result, basic materials sector has been the worst performing sector today, while auto related stocks such as Daimler and VW also posted significant losses. The ONS reported that inflation in the UK fell to 3.4% in February, down from 3.6% in January. However, higher alcohol prices stopped the rate declining further. Going forward, the latter half of the session sees the release of the latest US housing data, as well as the weekly API report.
Ahead of the US open, markets are exhibiting some modest risk appetite, with all major European bourses trading higher, and financials outperforming all other sectors. There has been little in the way of key data from Europe, however we have seen the Eurozone Trade Balance coming in alongside expectations in the seasonally adjusted reading. Bund futures continue to move lower in recent trade as US participants come into the market, with the 10-year German yield crossing the 2% level to the upside, trading at a level not seen since the 10th February. Bunds may also have experienced some pressure following the release of a research note from a major US bank recommending rotation trade with the selling of bonds and the buying of equities. USD/JPY is seen trading higher ahead of the US open following the overnight release of some relatively dovish BoJ minutes, with commentary suggesting further easing in Japan in the future. Taking a look at the energy complex, The IEA have commented on yesterday’s speculation concerning the use of the US’ Special Petroleum Reserve, stating that they have not received any contact regarding any emergency oil release. As such, WTI and Brent crude futures are seen higher; however they have seen some selling off in recent trade.
European equity markets are trading higher across the board ahead of the US open, with the financials sector outstripping others and Health Care lagging behind, although still in positive territory. The main news from yesterday’s finance minister’s meeting was instruction to reduce their deficit by a further 0.5% of GDP; this is having an effect on the Spanish spread against the German bund today, underperforming against other European spreads. The main data of the European session so far comes from Germany, with the ZEW survey for Economic sentiment beating expectations for March, as well as the UK trade balance figures showing a record high in the UK’s non-EU exports. As the session progresses, participants will be looking towards the US retail sales data and the latest FOMC rate decision.
What is one sure thing sure to set triggerhappy warmonger fingers in the US and Israel on Defcon 1 more than the word Iran? The words Iran and North Korea. How about three nouns that will send crude soaring by at least $10 the second a CL trading algo sees them fly across Bloomberg? Try "Iran" "North Korea" and "Nukes." And if the following report just released by the Wiener Zeitung is even remotely correct, then Israel, the military industrial complex, and crude are all about to go ballistic, not necessarily in that order.
- China’s Holdings of Treasuries Dropped in ’11 (BusinessWeek)
- Bundesbank at Odds With ECB Over Loans (FT)
- Euro zone puts Greece's efforts under microscope (Reuters)
- Bank of America Considers a Revamp That Would Affect Millions of Customers (WSJ)
- In Days Leading Up to MF Global's Collapse, $165 Million Transfer OK'd in a Flash (WSJ)
- Greece Approves Welfare Cuts for 2nd Bailout (Bloomberg)
- Irish Minister Pushes to Cut Bail-Out Cost (FT)
- China to Support Tech Sectors (China Daily)
- Spanish Bond Yields Fall in Debt Auction After ECB (Reuters)
- China to Expand Cross-Border RMB Businesses (China Daily)