Asia is a damned excited part of the world. And Singapore is the financial epicenter of all of it. For the last 24-hours, banker and fund manager friends of mine have been telling me stories about oil refinery deals in North Korea, their crazy investments in Myanmar, and the utter exodus of global wealth that is finding its way to Singapore. In the last few weeks we are seeing two new groups moving serious money into Singapore - customers from Japan and India. The contrast is very interesting. From Japan, people who see the writing on the wall just want to be prepared with a sensible solution. They’re taking action before anything happens. From India, though, people are in a panicked frenzy. They waited until AFTER the crisis began to start taking any of these steps. As a result, they’re suffering heavy losses and taking substantial risks... some wealthy Indians are trying to smuggle out diamonds... anything they can do to skirt the government's capital controls.
With the value of the rupee plunging to new lows, the current account deficit at an all-time high and inflation running at nearly a ten-percent annual clip, India is in serious economic trouble. Indeed many are beginning to wonder whether the country is edging toward a replay of the events in the summer of 1991. Back then, an acute balance of payments crisis forced New Delhi into the indignity of pawning its gold reserves in order to secure desperately needed international financing. At a small public event the other week, Duvvuri Subbarao, the outgoing head of the central bank conceded that policymakers rarely learn from their mistakes: "...in matters of economics and finance, history repeats itself, not because it is an inherent trait of history, but because we don’t learn from history and let the repeat occur."
With US President Obama now seeking authorization from Congress to attack Syria, the already spirited debate surrounding the advisability of such military action is bound to get even more lively in the coming days.
The Obama Administration believes military action will send a powerful message. In that, they are correct. Where they are wrong is in what message it will send and in what way that message will elicit a response. In much of the world where people share the religion common to much of Syria, the message will be: America attacks yet another Moslem nation. In the rest of the world, where governments have already declined participation in any message-sending action (except for the one exhibiting the quintessential Napoleon Complex), the message will be: there they go again, doing something they would never want done to them, and demonstrating that they alone think they can decide what deaths constitute a moral obscenity and what constitute mere unfortunate collateral damage.
It seems clear that it is not "if" but "when" an attack takes place and as the following world-cloud confirms; the US "know"... as the strategy "better to ask for forgiveness than permission?" And that with the Russia meeting due next week, and a UN inspector report that appears pointless now that we have social media, that the attack will occur sooner rather than later...
French President François Hollande jumped straight in declaring in more Sarkozy-style fashion than ex-President Sarkozy himself that he would attack Syria. That was even before the UN investigators had been shot at by some unidentified people.
Americans Are Sick of War
— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) August 26, 2013
Perhaps in an effort to numb themselves of the daily grind of a delusional dictator amid widespread starvation, North Koreans have turned en masse to the 'bingdu' or ice. As the WSJ notes, a study in the Spring of 2013 found that "Almost every adult in that area (of North Korea) has experienced using ice and not just once," and the author noted that "at least 40% to 50% are seriously addicted to the drug." Unsurprisingly for the closed nation, there is no official data, but as poppy fields disappeared in the nation, meth dealers were quick to step in and 'Heisenberg' the people's needs. Now "doing ice is a social thing; it is a lot of fun," as the 'epidemic' has spread from mid-ranking officials and police officers in 2004-2008 to the general population of students and youth now.
Following yet another rout in Asia overnight, which since shifted over to Europe, US equity futures have stabilized as a result of a modest buying/short-covering spree in the 10 Year which after threatening to blow out in the 2.90% range and above, instead fell back to 2.81%. Yet algos appear confused by the seeming USD weakness in the past few hours (EURUSD just briefly rose over 1.34) and instead of ploughing head first into stock futures have only modestly bid them up and are keeping the DJIA futs just above the sacred to the vacuum tube world 15,000 mark. A lower USDJPY (heavily correlated to the ES) did not help, after it was pushed south by more comments out of Japan that a sales tax hike is inevitable which then also means a lower budget deficit, less monetization, less Japanese QE and all the other waterfall effect the US Fed is slogging through. Keep an eye on the 10 Year and on the USD: which signal wins out will determine whether equities rise or fall, and with speculation about what tomorrow's minutes bring rife, it is anybody's bet whether we get the 10th red close out of 12 in the S&P500.
Confidence leads to spending; spending strengthens the economy; and economic strength buttresses confidence. It’s a circular, self-fulfilling prophesy. Confidence can also fuel market movements. Belief that the price of an asset will rise causes people to buy the asset... making its price rise. This is another way in which confidence is self-fulfilling. But, of course, as Oak Tree Capital's Howard Marks points out, the confidence that underlies economic gains and price increases only has an impact as long as it exists. Once it dies, its effect turns out to be far from permanent. As the economist Herb Stein said, "If something cannot go on forever, it will stop." This is certainly true for confidence and its influence. As far as confidence today, Marks notes significant uncertainty is one of the outstanding characteristics of today’s investing environment. It discourages optimism regarding the future and limits investors’ certainty that the future is knowable and controllable. In other words, it saps confidence. This is a major difference from conditions in the pre-crisis years. In fact, Marks warns he doesn't remember when his list of 'uncertainties' was this long...
While many draw comparisons to 1994's Fed actions, rate rises, and the subsequent economic and equity market performance, UBS' commodity team examines the five main drivers of that mid-90s disinflationary boom and how (or if) they are applicable in the US' current new normal. Their findings "this may be a 1994 redux, but it ain't no 1995 replay," as they note, in fact, it's a bear market waiting to happen. Every one of these processes is deflationary, not disinflationary. And they are self reinforcing. And deflation, in direct contrast to disinflation, is very bad for asset prices (with a serious equity and credit bear-market). So just as we have noted previously any taper will likely eventually lead to an 'un-taper' reflation effort (which will see gold once again strengthen) along with the exposure of the fallacy that the Fed really has become.
- Bernanke Seeks to Divorce QE Tapering From Interest Rates (BBG)
- China launches crackdown on pharmaceutical sector (Reuters)
- Barclays, Traders Fined $487.9 Million by U.S. Regulator (BBG) - or a few days profit
- Barclays to fight $453 million power fine in U.S. court (Reuters)
- When an IPO fails, raise money privately: Ally Said to Weigh Raising $1 Billion to Pass Fed Stress Tests (BBG)
- Bank of England signals retreat from quantitative easing (FT) ... Let's refresh on this headline in 6 months, shall we.
- Russia's Putin puts U.S. ties above Snowden (Reuters)
- Smartphone Upgrades Slow as 'Wow' Factor Fades (WSJ)
- Snowden could leave Moscow airport in next few days (FT)
- New Egypt government may promote welfare, not economic reform (Reuters)
Congress Is Less Popular than Cockroaches, Lice, Root Canals, Colonoscopies, Genghis Khan, Communism, King GeorgeSubmitted by George Washington on 07/14/2013 14:02 -0400
Exactly HOW MUCH do Americans Hate Congress?