An overview of the technical condition of the major currencies.
“The risk of catastrophe will be very high. The nation could erupt into insurrection or civil violence, crack up geographically, or succumb to authoritarian rule. If there is a war, it is likely to be one of maximum risk and effort – in other words, a total war. Every Fourth Turning has registered an upward ratchet in the technology of destruction, and in mankind’s willingness to use it.”
The core elements of this Fourth Turning continue to propel this Crisis: debt, civic decay, global disorder. Central bankers, politicians, and government bureaucrats have been able to fashion the illusion of recovery and return to normalcy, but their “solutions” are nothing more than smoke and mirrors exacerbating the next bloodier violent stage of this Fourth Turning. The emergencies will become increasingly dire, triggering unforeseen reactions and unintended consequences. The civic fabric of our society will be torn asunder.
It would appear that 1.39 EURUSD is the line in the sand for Mario Draghi. As pressures build on European competitiveness, Draghi appears to have finally got sick of China buying EURs to diversify its FX reserves away from USDs. This time "whatever it takes" is to drag the EUR lower - on the back of suggestions that OMT 2.0 (new measures - double the effectiveness and just as non-existent) and guarding against deflation (not worried about inflation). The jawbone is working for now as EUR breaks down through 1.39.
Unlike most trading sessions in the past month, when the overnight session saw a convenient algo assisted USDJPY/AUDJPY levitation, tonight there has been no such luck for the permabullish E-Trade babies who are conditioned that no matter what the news, the next morning the S&P 500 will open green regardless. Whether this is due to ever louder fears that what is happening in China can not be swept under the rug this time will be revealed soon, but as of this moment both the USDJPY, and its derivative, US equity futures, are looking at a sharp lower open, as gold continues to press higher, while the traditional tension points such as Russia-Ukraine, and ongoing capital flight from some of the more "fringe" emerging markets, continues. Expect more of the same today as people finally peek below the Chinese surface to realize just how profoundly bad the situation on the mainland truly is. And while we realize macro news are meaningless, especially in Europe where the ECB is now the sole supervisor of all asset classes, the fact that Cyprus, Greece, Slovakia and Portugal, are all in deflation, and many more countries lining up to join the club, probably means that absent a massive global credit impulse, we have certainly reached the upward inflection point from the most recent $1+ trillion injection of liquidity by the Fed, not to mention the ongoing QE by the BOJ.
It should now be evident that America's foreign policy is to an extent being driven by our banking mess. Again and again, we see Washington, including Wall Street's handmaiden, the Fed, exporting monetary chaos implicitely in order to weaken the status of potentially competing reserve currencies. Until democratic governments around the world become strong enough to counteract the power of the plutocrats by taxing them, both their income and their wealth (as Sweden does) the revolving looting of sovereign governments and demolition of middle classes by the plutocrats and their corporations will continue.
European sovereign bond spreads have not batted an eyelid during the recent Russia-Ukraine crisis... and why should they, Draghi will do "whatever it takes." Even HY credit in Europe is holding up - despite an ugly squeeze wider on Friday (chatter that positioning in very long credit). But with Europe's VIX above 20, the broad European stock index is now below pre-Putin levels. What is perhaps most stunning is that while investors have piled out of German, Swiss, and French stocks in the last few days, they have backed-up-the-truck in "new normal" safe-haven Portugal. The reason proferred by some - Portugal is further from Ukraine (and less dependent on Russia's gas) - which of course is the critical swing factor for an economy that remains crushed aside from trade with Germany.
European bond markets, simply put, did not blink at anything this week (and Portugal spreads actually rallied) as the insanity of that segment of the market remains. Europe's high-yield credit market moves to near record low spreads (on rumors of an aggressive hedge fund squeeze). But all of this beggars belief as we see European stocks giving up their post-Putin gains and collapsing today on the good-news-is-bad-news from the US but much more critically the Gazprom threats (which smashed Germany's DAX red for 2014 and down around 2% today).
"If you're sick in Greece, you have an expiration date," is the cheery message from Greece. As WaPo reports, while economists proclaim Europe is turning the corner, a look across the still-bleak landscape, from Greece to Spain, Ireland to Portugal, suggests a painful aftermath, where the plight of millions of Europeans is worsening even as the financial crisis passes with public health being hit in the most troubled corners of the European Union. Greece is the hardest hit and while Greek Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis is attempting to create a fund to help the most acute cases, his concluding remarks are chillingly blunt, "illnesses like cancer are not considered urgent, unless you are in the final stages."
As the big questions surrounding the future of the Ukraine crisis persist, the countries neighboring the former communist nation, and especially the Baltic states which are members of NATO, are asking for safeguards should Russian ambitions end up just a little too big to be contained solely by the Ukraine. As a result, the WSJ reports, they are considering calling for a greater North Atlantic Treaty Organization presence in their countries “if the situation gets worse” in the Ukraine, Ojars Kalnins, the chairman of the foreign-affairs committee of the Latvian parliament, said Monday. Mr. Kalnins said that a worsening of the Ukraine crisis “such as an outright invasion” of areas outside Crimea would present a threat to all of Russia’s neighbors, including the Baltic states–which are members of NATO. Such an expanded conflict should be reason for NATO to “bring extra military support to the Baltic region as a safeguard.”
We were perhaps even more amused than our readers by our Friday headline "Stocks Close At New Record High On Russian Invasion, GDP Decline And Pending Home Sales Miss." It appears that today the market forgot to take its lithium, and is finally focusing on the Ukraine part of the headline, at least until 3:30 pm again when everything should once again be back to market ramp normal. As expected, the PMI data from China and Europe in February, was promptly ignored and it was all about Ukraine again, where Russia sternly refuses to yield to Western demands, forcing the shocked market to retreat lower, and sending Russian stocks lower by over 11%. This is happening even as Ukraine is sending Russian gas to European consumers as normal, gas transport monopoly Ukrtransgas said on Monday. "Ukrtransgas is carrying out all its obligations, fulfilling all agreements with Gazprom. The transit (via Ukraine to Europe) totalled 200 million cubic meters as of March 1," Ukrtransgas spokesman Maksim Belyavsky said. In other words, it can easily get worse should Russia indeed use its trump card.
While social unrest has been a thing that occurs "over there", the increasing visualization of people taking to the streets in the face of desperate economic situations amid an elite class of politicians, dictators, and tyrants is becoming clearer by the day. As the following chart shows, across 500 billion words in over 5.2 million books, the words "unemployment, "taxes", and "inequality" tend to correlate highly with "war". The 18th century saw these terms the most correlated and as the following chronology suggests, that is not a time to reflect gladly upon...
Overview of the events and data that will be of interest to investors.
The number of Americans that renounced their citizenship was 221 percent higher in 2013 than it was in 2012. That is a staggering figure, and it is symptomatic of a larger trend. In recent years, a lot of really good people with very deep roots in this country have made the difficult decision to say goodbye to the United States permanently. A few actually go to the trouble to renounce their citizenship, and that is mostly done for tax purposes. But most willingly choose to leave America for other reasons. Once upon a time, the United States was seen as "the land of opportunity" all over the globe and it seemed like everyone wanted to come here. But now that is all changing. As we have abandoned the principles that this country was founded upon, our economy has gone steadily downhill.
After Friday's surge fest on weaker than expected news - perhaps expecting a tapering of the taper despite everyone screaming from the rooftops the Fed will never adjust monetary policy based on snowfall levels - overnight the carry trade drifted lower and pulled the correlated US equity markets down with it. Why? Who knows - after Friday's choreographed performance it is once again clear there is no connection between newsflow, fundamentals and what various algos decide to do. So (lack of) reasons aside, following a mainly positive close in Asia which was simply catching up to the US exuberance from Friday, European equities have followed suit and traded higher from the get-go with the consumer goods sector leading the way after being boosted by Nestle and L'Oreal shares who were seen higher after reports that Nestle is looking at ways to reduce its USD 30bln stake in L'Oreal. The tech sector is also seeing outperformance following reports that Nokia and HTC have signed a patent and technology pact; all patent litigation between companies is dismissed. Elsewhere, the utilities sector is being put under pressure after reports that UK Energy Secretary Ed Davey urged industry watchdog Ofgem to examine the profits being made by the big six energy companies through supplying gas, saying that Centrica's British Gas arm is too profitable.
Although there are no policy making meetings, central banks will still dominate the agenda in the week ahead.