Notes From Underground: It Would’ve Been Enough

April 14, 2014

In an effort to state how badly the markets are ignoring risk, we at Notes From Underground warned about being short volatility. As we head into the Passover and Easter holidays there is much on the table that financials fail to appreciate. A global market focused on the pantheon of central bankers it is the my task to remind of the major issues facing the world’s POLITICAL ECONOMY.

  1. The BOJ and the Abe government have gone to great lengths to create a recovery in Japan and with it a modicum of inflation. At this point economic growth in Japan is stalling. With the initiation of the sales tax increase of 3 percent April 1, Japan’s central bank has a great deal at stake. If growth stalls the BOJ will be hard-pressed for even more radical efforts to jump-start the economy through increased bond purchases both of a domestic and foreign nature. The YEN will be under pressure causing stress throughout the global financial system.
  2. What will happen in China as it tries to stem any debt crisis from too much credit being advanced through  the Chinese shadow banking system?
  3. The problems in the Eurasian land mass as President Putin attempts to undermine the sanction regime of the G7 nations
  4. The potential for  a banking crisis in the European system as the mass of debt becomes a larger burden in a low inflation environment. Compounding the problem is that European banks own a vast amount of sovereign debt of Greece, Spain, Italy, Ireland and Spain,resulting in an adverse feedback loop of monstrous proportions; and
  5. The Federal Reserve has adopted a position of primary concern for a high unemployment/low wage environment and is pretending that a zero interest rate policy can provide the solution. The FED is putting its credibility on the line in pursuing a jobs-at-all-cost position for if the self-imposed jobs threshold can be easily forsaken, why should investors believe that the inflation threshold will be followed? Keep an eye on the 2/10 yield curve for any signs of the market’s concern with regards to the credibility of the Yellen Fed. For now, the SPOOS and NASDAQ are the default mechanism for all investors for when in doubt, buy equities. As Jefferies’ David Zeros said on CNBC Monday afternoon, SPOOS ARE FOR LOVERS AND GOLD IS FOR HATERS, which may well be … for now. But being short volatility is for the clinically insane. Just hope I have a ticket on the volatility train since “YOU DON’T NEED NO BAGGAGE, JUST GET ON BOARD.”

Also in the spirit of the holidays:

If the U.S. Treasury had done only TARP … it would’ve been enough
If the Fed had only provided QE1 … it would’ve been enough
If the Fed had only done QE2 … it would’ve been enough
If the Fed had only done Operation Twist … it would’ve been enough
If the Fed had only done QE Infinity … it would’ve been enough
If Mario Draghi had pledged no taboos … it would’ve been enough
If Mario Draghi had pledged to do whatever it takes … it would’ve been enough
If the BOJ had only doubled the money supply … it would’ve been enough
If the BOJ had only bought massive amounts of JGBs … it would’ve been enough
If the Japanese were only buying foreign bonds … it would’ve  been enough
If  all the world’s central banks had lowered interest rates to zero … it would’ve been enough


Wishing all of our readers a happy and healthy Passover and Easter.

Notes From Underground: Measuring Your Greed Factor (CNBC’s Santelli Exchange)

April 13, 2014

Yra On Santelli Exchange, April 11, 2014

Click on the image to watch Rick and I discuss the mispricing of risk assets.

Notes From Underground: Are Markets Still the Place to Be? (CNBC)

April 10, 2014

Yra on CNBC's Closing Bell

Click on image to watch me discuss the markets, ECB and Mario Draghi.

Notes From Underground: Hello, Vladi Putin? This Is Angela Merkel

April 10, 2014
In further proof that the world is in the throes of lunacy, there is a piece in today’s London Telegraph by one of my favorite financial journalists that will certainly send you rushing for the lithium. Titled, “Germany Risks EU FINES WITH RECORD CURRENT ACCOUNT SURPLUS,” the article highlights concerns in Brussels about the Germans’ record external surplus of over 7.5 percent of GDP, even though the European technocrats in Brussels wanted the surplus at no more than 6 percent.

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Notes From Underground: Mr. Natural Says, “It Don’t Mean Sheeit”

April 9, 2014

The idea of Mr. Natural, the guru creation of R. Crumb, comes to mind as the analysts ponder today’s release of the March 18-19 FOMC Minutes. The market seemed shocked to learn that the FED had been misunderstood on its intentions to tighten soon after the conclusion of the its tapering program. When are the markets going to stop listening to the self-proclaimed seers of the Fed’s deepest secrets? The FOMC minutes let the financial world know that the summary economic projections (SEP) have as much credibility in interest forecasting as does the man behind in curtain in the Wizard of Oz. I will offer that the market must lean toward Janet Yellen being a labor economist with a strong moral bent of providing the foundation for any person desiring a job have a job. Again, that is a noble stance but not for the Fed chair. The violent move in the YIELD CURVE after the release of the minutes reflected the markets’ misinterpretation of Yellen’s press conference. If the 2/10 curve gets back above 240 basis positively sloped, it will result in a further selloff of the notes and bonds. The FED will err on staying at the ZIRP band until it is certain that the employment situation has dramatically improved. Quoting from the minutes: “Several participants cited low nominal wage growth as pointing to the existence of continued labor market slack.”

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Notes From Underground: “Both Sides Now”

April 7, 2014

This is a tribute to N.B. and his continued effort to search for perspective (and his love of Joni Mitchell):

      I’ve looked at life from both sides now
      From up and down and still somehow
      It’s life’s illusions I recall
      I really don’t know life at all
I bring this up because last night’s blog elicited a great deal of comment about the 2/10 yield curve. Everything we do in trading and investing is about perspective and so much of our thought is time-based. A person using a 10-minute chart sees the financial and commodity markets from a much different series then a person relying on a daily, weekly or monthly horizon. Therefore, tonight I am posting an eight-year chart of the 2/10 yield curve, which includes the period prior to the onset of the Great Recession, as well as the Fed’s large-scale asset purchases. Before the housing crisis, note that the 2/10 curve had actually inverted, which is the paradigm of an ultra-flat curve. As the FED cut rates in an effort to “prime the liquidity pump,” the Fed was able to steepen the curve as short-term yields fell and long yields began to moderately rise in the view that the Fed would be successful in its attempt to stimulate the economy.

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Notes From Underground: Why All the Noise From Friday’s Unemployment Data?

April 6, 2014

Friday’s jobs data was almost as the pundits had predicted. Why was there so much activity when the nonfarm payrolls and average hourly earnings and length of work week were basically the right on the consensus predictions? Yes, I’m aware that the “whisper number” was 250,000-plus due to the removal of harsh weather conditions. However, if that was the case, the dollar should have weakened and the short-end of the U.S. yield curve OUGHT to have outperformed the long end resulting in a STEEPENING of the 2/10 (none of which occurred). The 2/10 curve actually flattened as the U.S. stock markets began selling off, a drop initiated by the Nasdaq 100′s key momentum stocks. The weekly charts of the S&P and the Nasdaq took different turns as the SPOOs closed higher on the week and the Nasdaq closed lower, an indication of some reallocation from the momentum-oriented stocks to the more solid large-cap, earnings-based equities.

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Notes From Underground: Mario “Act Swiftly If Need Be” Draghi

April 3, 2014

Our man in Frankfurt did not disappoint today. He was at his best as he kept the “unconventional tool” of negative interest rates in his bag of tricks. Again, the ECB President did not need to expand one euro to achieve a positive outcome. The euro rallied for a brief minute as the report came that the ECB announced “NO CHANGE” in policy. However, as traders we noticed that it was the smallest rally as market expectations were wrong. The EURO  remained offered all day once the press conference began and Mr. Draghi announced that the meeting was unanimous in its approach to the use of unconventional tools to combat the UNDER UTILIZED CAPACITY IN THE LABOR FORCE AND THE THREAT OF DEFLATION. The ECB went through his usual litany of reasons as to why the European economies remained with an output gap and subdued inflation: lower energy and food prices, plus the fact that the coming asset quality review was keeping banks from lending. The ECB is aware that bank lending is much more important to the European economy than in the U.S. as the American corporate bond market plays a much greater role in finance.

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Notes From Underground: People Get Ready There’s a Train a Comin’

April 2, 2014

This is a tribute to Curtis Mayfield and the Chambers Brothers who recorded the song and made it popular. The TRAIN THAT IS COMING IS THE ENGINE OF VOLATILITY. Tomorrow is the ECB meeting and the regularly scheduled press conference 45 minutes later at 7:30 CST in which ECB President Draghi will use nuance to explain the central bank’s decision. Currently, the market is expecting some type of action by the bank because it seems that the Germans have acquiesced to some type of ECB quantitative easing scenario. When the ECB announces its decision at 6:45 a.m., a statement that leaves policy unchanged will result in the EURO rallying against all major currencies for, based on the Bundesbank’s statement last week, the market is anticipating  at least a modest cut in the refi rate of maybe 10 basis points.

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Notes From Underground: Some Things to Ponder For the Second Quarter

March 31, 2014

As I was reading Zbigniew Brzezinski’s book, The Grand Chessboard (1997), this insight into the Russian desire to resurrect its political stature struck me for its prescience about the significance of present developments in the Eurasian heartland. Brzezinski writes, “However, if Moscow regains control over Ukraine, with its 52 million people and major resources as well as its access to the Black sea, Russia automatically again regains the wherewithal to become a powerful imperial state, spanning Europe and Asia. Ukraine’s loss of independence would have immediate consequences for Central Europe, transforming Poland into the geopolitical pivot on the eastern frontier of a united Europe.”

It is important to understand that the moves by Vladimir Putin have deeper meaning and importance the superficial analysis offered up on the network and financial news channels. This situation is going to be with the markets for a long while and its possible impact on the global financial scene should not be undervalued by the daily movements in the world’s equity markets. Putin seems to be timing his adventure on the basis of a U.S. president who has little desire to entangle itself in any foreign adventures and a Europe so is militarily weak and financially fragile. It seems that Putin has picked a propitious time to test the waters of global fortitude against Russian designs for a resurrection of its influence in the mapping out the future of the Eurasian land mass. Oh, by the way, the Russian rouble closed much stronger for the month after making all-time lows at 36.85 roubles to the dollar on March 3. The rouble ended the day at 35.03 to the dollar. Just putting perspective to overcome much of the noise.

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