Notes From Underground: A Tribute to Stanley Druckenmiller

July 31, 2014

Today’s trade was supposedly a risk on/risk off as all of July’s news that failed to impact the market became relevant today. Argentina, Gaza, Ukraine, Portuguese banks … all these issues became reasons for the 2 percent selloff in global equity markets. The problem with the pundits in search of a correlative rationale failed to find the traditional correlations. The SPOOS sold off forty points and the bonds actually closed lower. The YEN, which has been the safe harbor for global investors, remained unchanged for most of the trading session. GOLD, the ultimate haven, lost $14 and closed miserably for the month. Tomorrow’s GOLD action will be critical as we closed under the 200-day moving average. A CLOSE under 1276.50 after the unemployment report will be the end of my bullish outlook on GOLD until some other technicals provide support.

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Notes From Underground: The FED–No Rate Raises Before Wage Increases

July 30, 2014

It seems that the Fed’s FOMC statement was an effort to have it all: “LABOR MARKET CONDITIONS IMPROVED, WITH THE UNEMPLOYMENT RATE DECLINING FURTHER. HOWEVER, A RANGE OF LABOR MARKET INDICATORS SUGGESTS THAT THERE REMAINS SIGNIFICANT UNDERUTILIZATION OF LABOR RESOURCES.” This is Janet Yellen coming clean. She is a labor economist who will ensure that the FED will err on the side of labor and wage gains. The battle cry from the Fed is loud and clear: No RATE RAISES BEFORE WAGE INCREASES.

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Notes From Underground: Janet — Klaatu Barada Nikto (The Day the Earth Stood Still)

July 29, 2014

Tomorrow is a big day for disseminating information with market-moving potential. The market is bored with war, pestilence and famine so it must be FED pronouncements and GDP data that can provide a volatility boost. The markets did twitch today as the European Union and the U.S. both upgraded the sanctions against Putin’s Russia. It will be very difficult for Russian banks and large energy consortiums to raise dollar- and euro-based capital. Even with the advent of new and improved sanctions the global equity markets barely moved, especially as corporate earnings in the U.S. continued its string of “beats.” The counter to the continued strength of the equity markets is the behavior of the global debt markets as European sovereigns from Spain to Germany have reached record low yields. The U.S. yield curves continue to flatten as investors continue purchasing 10- and 30-year debt driving long-term yields lower. Again, I will state that while the curves are flattening the 2/10 U.S. curve is not historically flat.

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Notes From Underground: Its a Very Cold Day In July … When Bundesbank Capitulates

July 23, 2014

The financial press is filled with articles about the recent EURO weakness. During the last week the EU currency has fallen about 1.5 percent. Many pundits have opined that it is the Ukraine situation and Gaza that have made investors uneasy, thus the move into U.S. dollars. In a July 22 Bloomberg article, “Draghi Cedes Euro Control to Yellen on Fed Bets,” it is suggested that the DOLLAR is rising in anticipation of moves by the FED, especially now that the ECB has gone to negative yields on reserves. The problem for the Fed argument is that yields in the U.S. have actually softened during the last week and Fed communication has been muddled over when interest rates might possibly rise. When the ECB announced a negative interest rate June 5 the EURO/DOLLAR made a low of 1.3503. Today we are trading at 1.3465, a little below the 1.35 low but well below that day’s close of 1.3650.

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Notes From Underground: CNBC’s Santelli Exchange — Foreign Exchange Outlook

July 20, 2014

 

yra7-18-2014Click on image to watch Rick and I discuss the euro currency and ECB balance sheet.

Notes From Underground: The Alfred E. Neuman Equity Markets, “What, Me Worry?”

July 20, 2014

Alfred E. Neuman for President

Alfred E. Neuman, the beloved character of Mad Magazine, was famous for his deadpan look while espousing the philosophy, “What, Me Worry?”

While the world has certainly entered the madness zone, the world’s equity markets remain in bull mode, floating on a sea of central-bank provided liquidity. Russian support and arming of “rebel” groups results in the downing of a commercial airliner … no problem. An Israeli invasion of Gaza to thwart the nihilistic behavior of Hamas, and the markets shrug and offer up a bland response of, “whatever.”

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Notes From Underground: On Yellen’s Testimony

July 17, 2014

First, as I have been critical of Chair Yellen’s communication efforts prior to this weeks Congressional testimony, I will give the Chairwoman an A+ for her effort this week. She was very forthcoming in her Senate appearance on Tuesday, and, more importantly, she fended off the idiots in the House of Representatives with clarity and the patience of a saint. The problem with the House is too many ex-prosecuting attorney’s who all try to get Yellen in a gotcha moment, but the Fed Chief was not falling for the trap of providing sound bites for the elections back in the home district. The Senate questions were of a substantial nature while the House was fluff of either adulation or criticism.

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Notes From Underground: Yellen Heads To The Senate Banking Committee

July 14, 2014

Today on CNBC Rick Santelli brought up an issue that NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND has been discussing since Fed Chair Yellen spoke at a Chicago Fed Conference when she placed the names of three long-term unemployed people (as if the Chairwoman’s speech was a State of The Union Address). It is wrong for a Fed Chair to bring moral philosophy to the conduct of MONETARY POLICY IN A FIAT CURRENCY WORLD. The Fed’s role is to preserve the DOLLAR as a store of value even with the DUAL MANDATE. The United States bears an exorbitant privilege with the dollar as the world’s reserve currency, with all commodities priced in dollars. The exorbitant privilege comes with an exorbitant responsibility and that is the maintenance of the DOLLAR AS A RELIABLE STORE OF VALUE.

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Notes From Underground: Santelli Exchange–Fischer’s Fed View

July 13, 2014

Yra on Santelli ExchangeClick on the image to watch Rick and I discuss the battle between Janet Yellen and the BIS, as well as Fischer’s July 10 remarks.

Notes From Underground: Sunday’s World Cup Final = Creditor/Debtor Bowl?

July 10, 2014

There’s a little levity during a very stressful week of trading. Germany meeting Argentina in the World Cup final is symbolic of the battles being waged by the world’s central bankers. Jeremy Stein and the BIS view the threat of financial stability a potential concern of Janet Yellen and Mario Draghi. The world’s financial markets will be watching to see what style of play on the pitch prevails: The aggressive Argentinian speed or the more AUSTERE and supreme defensive style of Germany. In the spirit of global macro humor I ask these questions:

  1. Will presiding referee Thomas Griesa issue a RED CARD to the entire Argentinian team for defaulting on its debt?
  2. If the Argentinians get control of the ball will someone from Elliott Associates come and grab it as Griesa deems it an asset of the debtors?
  3. If  Argentina prevails, will the trophy be confiscated and given to the intransigent creditors for sale on E-Bay?
  4. Will Griesa suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune as he is deemed by FIFA to be a biased American judiciary with no genuine knowledge of the international beautiful game of debtor/creditor?

***The question to which we keep returning: ARE THE WORLD’S CENTRAL BANKS THREATENING THEIR CREDIBILITY? A corollary ¬†question: DOES THE FED UNDERSTAND ITS OWN FALLIBILITY? As yesterday’s FOMC minutes revealed, confusion reigns within the FED as to the strength of the real economy, especially in ways to measure the OUTPUT GAP of the employment data. How much slack exists in the labor pool to prevent a dramatic rise in wages is of paramount importance for the Fed’s “forward guidance” (and signaling to markets future FED intentions). The FED speaks with great confidence in its projections but if past performance is a guide investors should treat all Fed projections with skepticism. It was the highly regarded Ben Bernanke who maintained well into late 2007 that the housing slowdown was well contained and should pose no problems for the U.S.economy. Yet, the impact of the U.S. credit crisis was severe enough to effect banks and bondholders across the globe. The bottom line is that the FED is fraught with failings and for investors to treat all Fed releases as pearls of perfection should proceed with caution.

In an Financial Times piece published yesterday, Axel Merk wrote the following:
“Ms. Yellen told us that policy under her leadership is not rules based. As such, market participants have to rely on the Fed’s ad hoc assessment. And that is very much like reading tea leaves, as the Fed is looking at backward-looking indicators such as the most recent unemployment report. Forward-looking indicators, such as the yield curve, are less reliable as the Fed itself has actively managed gauges. That, in turn, forces market participants to try to read Ms. Yellen’s mind. Her statements make it clear that her focus is on keeping rates low to help promote job growth until inflation readings get enough over the targeted 2 percent level to warrant concern in her mind.”
So, again, the price of the FED‘s certainty can be found in a weak DOLLAR and ultimately strong precious metals. If Yellen and Bernanke admit to not understanding GOLD, I advise measuring your own fallibility and putting that into your projections.
***And now back to Europe. Readers of Notes From Underground have known that the European financial markets have never fallen off the radar as the rally in peripheral debt and certain European banks were deemed to be a fool’s paradise. Today’s news about Portuguese bank, Banco Espirito Santo, missed a bond payment sent chills through the market. Banks have never healed but have been recipients of the ECB‘s liquidity efforts. However, non-performing loans have continued to plague the balance sheets of many Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese financial institutions. (Yep, the PIIGS have returned to the headlines.) More importantly, if the ECB and the BIS continue to disagree about interest rates and financial stability, the BIS can inflict pain on Europe’s banks by pushing for sovereign debt to some type of risk-weighting, requiring the need for more bank capital. Banco Espirito Santo have only survived through the European debt crisis by loading up on Portuguese sovereign bonds. (That is, borrowing from the ECB at very low rates, buying Portuguese debt and earning the differential, all risk free.) If the BIS keeps pushing back against the ECB and the FED, more bank problems will arise.
***However, in the eyes of the French and Mario Draghi there was a positive result from the Banco Espirito Santo: the weakening of the EURO against most currencies. The move was not dramatic but did provide some respite from recent euro strength. THE KEY TO THE EURO MAY BE IN THE EURO/SWEDE CURRENCY CROSS. On July 3 the Riksbank slashed interest rates in an effort to keep the KRONER weak against the EURO (in my opinion). IF THE EUR/STOKIE TAKES OUT THE LOW OF THE CROSS FROM JULY 3 IT WILL BE A CRITICAL STATEMENT ABOUT INCREASING PROBLEMS IN THE EUROPEAN FINANCIAL SYSTEM. The range for the EUR/STOK on the day in question was: a high of 9.3580; a low of 9.1540 with a close of 9.2856. Today the close was 9.2340, which is lower, but the July 3 low of 9.1540 should become the critical number.

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