In an overnight session that had little in terms of macro and news flow, the most notable event was that the Dollar-Renminbi finally crossed above 6.20 which as a reminder is the suggested "max vega" point beyond which even more max pain lies for levered accounts long the Yuan. However, in a world in which nothing is discounted and in which no news matters, the "market" broadly ignored this significant development (which as we explained further yesterday means an accelerated unwind of Chinese Commodity Funding Deals, and a potential drop in global commodity prices), and eagerly awaited today's non-event of an FOMC conference, where nothing new will be announced save for the novelty of it being Yellen's first appearance before the press as the head of the Fed. And of course the Fed will almost certainly scrap the 6.5% employment threshold, as the FOMC scrambles to make the economy appear worse than it is reported to be, in a stark reminder that the biggest optically manipulated tool meant to boost confidence in the recovery was nothing but a number meant to serve political purposes.
- Ukraine anxiety triggers flight to safety, stocks tumble (Reuters)
- Woodrow Wilson’s Ukraine Failure Foreshadows West’s Dilemmas (BBG)
- Fortress Executives Join Peers Selling Stock After Rally (BBG)
- 303 Deaths Seen in G.M. Cars With Failed Air Bags (NYT)
- Putin Deports Executives for Speeding as Sanctions Loom (BBG)
- Russia blocks internet sites of Putin critics (Reuters)
- China Bond Risk Exceeds Ireland as Defaults Unavoidable (BBG)
- China H-Shares Post Biggest Weekly Drop Since October (BBG)
- Surge in Rail Shipments of Oil Sidetracks Other Industries (WSJ)
- Blackstone’s Home Buying Binge Ends as Prices Surge (BBG)
It was another day of ugly overnight macro data, all of it ouf of China, with industrial production (8.6%, Exp. 9.5%, Last 9.7%), retail sales (11.8%, Exp. 13.5%, Last 13.1%) and fixed asset investment (17.9% YTD vs 19.4% expected) all missing badly and confirming that in a world of deleveraging, the Chinese economy will continue to sputter. Which is precisely what the "bad news is good news" algos needs and why futures levitated overnight: only this time instead of latching on to the USDJPY correlation pair, it was the AUDJPY which surged after Australia - that Chinese economic derivative - posted its third best monthly full-time jobs surge in history! One can be certain that won't last. But for now it has served its purpose and futures are once again green. How much longer will the disconnect between deteriorating global macro conditions and rising global markets continue, nobody knows, but sooner rather than later the central planner punch bowl will be pulled and the moment of price discovery truth will come. It will be a doozy.
3,000 Americans around the world renounced their citizenship last year. CNN Money introduces us to five U.S. citizens who have given up their passports -- or are thinking about it...
- Malaysia Says Stolen Passport User Had No Links to Terror Groups (BBG)
- Malaysia military tracked missing plane to west coast (Reuters)
- Freescale loss in Malaysia tragedy leads to travel policy questions (Reuters)
- Top German body calls for QE blitz to avert deflation trap in Europe (Telegraph)
- Firms Suffer 23% Drop in Asia Fees Amid Search for Cash (BBG)
- Putin Dismisses U.S. Proposal on Ukraine (WSJ)
- Lenovo says China strike an IBM matter, but it won't cut wages (Reuters)
- Congress to Investigate GM Recall (WSJ)
- New hedge funds face life or death battle for funding (FT)
- Muni Bond Costs Hit Investors in Wallet (WSJ)
- BOJ keeps stimulus in place, cuts view on exports in warning sign (Reuters)
- ECB Homes In on Risky Assets as Inspectors Fan Out Across Europe (BBG)
- Snowden: "The Constitution was violated" (Reuters)
President Obama released his 2015 budget proposal this week...and as expected, it contained even more language about his MyRA initiative. As we’ve discussed so many times in the past, IRAs are an irresistible kitty for such a bankrupt government. The US government itself estimates that over $5 trillion is tucked away in American retirement accounts. They need that money. Your money. The US government is struggling to come up with new funding sources… and retirement accounts are by far the easiest target. Why? Because the majority of retirement accounts at trapped at big Wall Street banks, which are all de facto agents of the government. All the Treasury Department has to do is make a phone call. Yesterday’s budget announcement constitutes the next phase: automatic enrollment.
"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."
"If I ask you what’s the risk in investing, you would answer the risk of losing money. But there actually are two risks in investing: One is to lose money and the other is to miss opportunity. You can eliminate either one, but you can’t eliminate both at the same time. So the question is how you’re going to position yourself versus these two risks: straight down the middle, more aggressive or more defensive. I think of it like a comedy movie where a guy is considering some activity. On his right shoulder is sitting an angel in a white robe. He says: «No, don’t do it! It’s not prudent, it’s not a good idea, it’s not proper and you’ll get in trouble». On the other shoulder is the devil in a red robe with his pitchfork. He whispers: «Do it, you’ll get rich». In the end, the devil usually wins. Caution, maturity and doing the right thing are old-fashioned ideas. And when they do battle against the desire to get rich, other than in panic times the desire to get rich usually wins. That’s why bubbles are created and frauds like Bernie Madoff get money." - Howard Marks
Bank of England Governor Mark Carney surprised his audience at a conference late last year by speculating that banking assets in London could grow to more than nine times Britain’s GDP by 2050. These may be reasonable assumptions, but the estimate was deeply unsettling to many. Hosting a huge financial center, with outsize domestic banks, can be costly to taxpayers. In Iceland and Ireland, banks outgrew their governments’ ability to support them when needed. The result was disastrous. Quite apart from the potential bailout costs, some argue that financial hypertrophy harms the real economy by syphoning off talent and resources that could better be deployed elsewhere.
The tyranny of models is rampant in almost every aspect of our investment lives, from every central bank in the world to every giant asset manager in the world to the largest hedge funds in the world. There are very good reasons why we live in a model-driven world, and there are very good reasons why model-driven institutions tend to dominate their non-modeling competitors. The use of models is wonderfully comforting to the human animal because it’s what we do in our own minds and our own groups and tribes all the time. We can’t help ourselves from applying simplifying models in our lives because we are evolved and trained to do just that. But models are most useful in normal times, where the inherent informational trade-off between modeling power and modeling comprehensiveness isn’t a big concern and where historical patterns don’t break. Unfortunately we are living in decidedly abnormal times, a time where simplifications can blind us to structural change and where models create a risk that cannot be resolved by more or better modeling! It’s not a matter of using a different model or improving the model that we have. It’s the risk that ALL economic models pose when a bedrock assumption about politics or society shifts.
This was one of the all too real Bloomberg headlines posted overnight: "Asian Shares Rally as U.S. Manufacturing Data Beats Estimates." Odd: are they refering to the crashing Philly Fed, or the just as crashing Empire Fed data? Wait, it was the C-grade MarkIt PMI that nobody ever looks at, except to confirm that where everyone else sees snow, the PMI saw sunshine and growth. Remember: if the data is weak, it's the snow; if it's strong, it's the recovery. Odder still: one would think Asian shares care about manufacturing data of, say, China. Which happens to be in Asia, and which two nights ago crashed to the lowest in months. Or maybe that only impact the SHCOMP which dropped 1.2% while all other regional markets simply do what the US and Japan do - follow the USDJPY, which at one point overnight rose as high as 102.600, and brought futures to within inches of their all time closing high. Sadly, it is this that passes for "fundamental" analysis in this broken market new normal...
They have promised more than they can possibly deliver, so a lot of their promises are going to be broken before we see the end of this current bust that began in 2000. And that outcome of broken promises describes the huge task that we all face. There will be a day of reckoning. There always is when an economy and governments take on more debt than is prudent, and the world is far beyond that point. So everyone needs to plan and prepare for that day of reckoning. We can't predict when it is coming, but we know from monetary history that busts follow booms, and more to the point, that currencies collapse when governments make promises that they cannot possibly fulfill. Their central banks print the currency the government wants to spend until the currency eventually collapses, which is a key point of The Money Bubble. The world has lost sight of what money What today is considered to be money is only a money substitute circulating in place of money. J.P. Morgan had it right when in testimony before the US Congress in 1912 he said: "Money is gold, nothing else." Because we have lost sight of this wisdom, a "money bubble" has been created. And it will pop. Bubbles always do.
The winner of a currency war is the country that ends up with the most gold.
- Global makets plunge (Reuters)
- Goodbye Mrs. Watanabe - Japan Sees Worst Developed-Stock Rout as Nikkei 225 Drops (BBG)
- Who could have possibly predicted this - Firms Pinched by Pressure to Hold Down Their Prices (WSJ)
- RBA Shifts to Neutral as It Signals Comfort With Aussie’s Level (BBG)
- Fractures Emerge Between Obama, Congressional Democrats (WSJ)
- Brazil suffers record trade deficit (FT)
- El Salvador fisherman washes up in Marshall Islands after year adrift (Reuters)
- Apple Quietly Builds New Networks (WSJ)
- One-year prison sentence for 21-year-old Twitter user who glorified terrorists (El Pais)