Notes From Underground: So Many Insights

November 5, 2019

On October 31, I had the pleasure of the recording a discussion with Anthony Crudele and the always insightful Jim Bianco. These spots with Futures Television provide context to many things discussed in NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND. I have been fortunate to have been chosen to appear with many high level global macro analysts.

Then on Sunday, I spoke with FRA’s Richard Bonugli and Dr. Marc Faber, one of the most heralded analysts in the global macro world. We covered the important issues for fifty-five minutes. It is my pleasure to share both of these conversations with you all.

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Notes From Underground: Symmetric Inflation Targeting?

November 3, 2019

Yes, the leaves have shed, frost is certainly on the pumpkin and there’s even six inches of snow in Chicago. The news has been clogged with positive results from the recent phone calls between Lighthizer/Mnuchin and their Chinese negotiating partners. Even Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was aglow with positive news from his ASEAN meeting in Bangkok, Thailand. President Trump was tweeting about a possible signing ceremony in Iowa.

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Notes From Underground: I Am Not Your Beast of Burden

October 29, 2019

In the global financial system, the central banks are indeed the are system’s beasts of burden. With the November FED FUNDS contract pricing in 93% chance of a rate cut, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell will attach himself to the plow and till the soil, spreading more fertilizer for equity purchases and further financial repression of creditors. As we discussed Monday, the week is filled with central bank meetings of importance and further impacted by unemployment and GDP data. But there is so much more in the political realm that we haven’t even entertained:

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Notes From Underground: The Sounds Of Silence, as Sung by Hyman Minsky

October 28, 2019

Equity markets on Monday sustained their global rally as markets across Asia, Europe and the United States powered higher, even as the political backdrop continues to foment greater uncertainty. This week brings three key central bank meetings: The Bank of Canada, the Federal Reserve and the Bank of Japan. Read the rest of this entry »

Notes From Underground: So Long, Mario

October 24, 2019

A quick summation of ECB President Mario Draghi’s final press conference:

1. The Draghi Era is ending and I have to say that this was one of his best press conferences. Draghi exited, stage left, not PURSUED BY A BEAR and he did it with grace and aplomb. He took a BOW for his self-imposed mandate of PRESERVING THE EURO BY DOING WHATEVER IT TAKES. The desire to keep on keeping on by sustaining QE, TLTRO, MTO and most significantly, NEGATIVE INTEREST RATES will be a testament to the judges at the COUNTERFACTUAL HALL OF FAME. How much QE was enough? What was the political damage that resulted from the bond buying program? This will be an issue that the cheerleaders of lower for longer will never entertain.

2. Again, Draghi stressed the need for greater synthesis of the EU in monetary, fiscal and political harmonization. He was laying the groundwork for Christine Lagarde and what I have maintained is Lagarde’s dual mandate of the creation of the true EUROBOND with a massive EUROWIDE fiscal stimulus program. Drahi urged those with budget room should ramp up spending while the deficit stressed OUGHT to get their fiscal houses in order. This is nonsense for once Germany capitulates to an infrastructure program fiscal stimulus will bloom all around the European Union. As an aside, the Financial Times had a story about how that the progenitor of the SCHWARZE NULL came out in favor of German fiscal stimulus in an effort to replace worn infrastructure. Spend while money is cheap.

3. Draghi still made a statement that the limits on each country’s bond purchases are self-imposed by the ECB so there may be room for the central bank to play with the amount of bonds purchased on any given day. The relevance of the CAPITAL KEY is in the stock of BONDS, not the FLOWS. This is important when trading any individual sovereign under duress. (I think Draghi is on thin ice here but something he failed to note as self-imposed by the ECB is the 2% inflation target.) Lagarde’s task is not to build the balance sheet. It is fiscal. Maybe President Lagarde could dispense with the new round of QE if Germany would ramp up fiscal stimulus.This seems to play to Jens Weidmann.

4. In response to a question about any mistakes the ECB made under the Draghi regime, the outgoing president said there was an overstretched commercial property market in Europe but felt that was a result of foreign investors seeking to be involved in EURO investments. Mario doesn’t see any BUBBLES. He did suggest the  SHADOW BANKING SECTOR was a blindspot because of the lack of transparency. But Draghi said the corporate bonds and leverage markets were not as significant in Europe as in the U.S. because of the structure of capital markets so he was not overly concerned. Enter Christine Lagarde and we will prepare for the change of leadership.

Notes From Underground: The Hills Are Alive With … Sounds?

October 20, 2019

There are so many sounds resonating in the global financial world it has been difficult to discern the impact of any particular tweet or headline. NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND hopes to cut through the babel to provide perspective, context and NUANCE. If we at NOTES cannot accomplish this then we’re just screaming into the chasm that is global macro finance. The impact of Chinese tariffs, Middle East maneuverings, QE programs — from the BOJ to the FEDERAL RESERVE (yes I know what the policy makers are saying — it’s not QE) to the ECB — need to be understood as they drive short-term moves but also have much longer consequences.

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Notes From Underground: For The Sin Of …

October 7, 2019

Let me wish all those celebrating the Jewish New Year a Healthy and Happy New Year (and I wish the same for those who don’t celebrate the Jewish calendar). Tuesday night begins the Day of Atonement in which the individual is obligated to acknowledge any shortcomings, ask GOD for forgiveness and announce the desire to rise to a higher level in the coming year. There is a list of 44 sins confessed publicly, which covers the entire litany of transgressions the individual/community has most probably engaged in. (I’ve linked a list here.)

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Notes From Underground: Beware the ECB’s New Weapons

September 24, 2019

As promised, here is the clip of me and Rick Santelli talking about myriad issues in the market, from the state of U.S. dollar funding to Europe’s issues.

This is a highly relevant discussion about the tasks confronting incoming ECB President Christine Lagarde. On Tuesday, Project Syndicate published a piece by Yanis  Varoufakis titled, “New Weapons for the ECB,” offering a plan that will result in  ECB CONVERSION BONDS. It is a surprisingly TAME essay as the firebrand of the EU is offering resolution to the problem that President Lagarde has been delegated to attempt to resolve. Varoufakis is resigned to the idea that there will no coordinated “sensible fiscal policy.”

The failure of politics necessitates the need for a EUROBOND is paramount to prevent the peripheral nations from embarking on deflationary policies in an effort to avoid insolvency. Varoufakis saw Greece subjected to the terror of INTERNAL DEVALUATION as wages dropped dramatically in an effort to make the country competitive with its fellow EU nations. Primary budget surpluses for a nation struggling to create an environment for GDP growth is a recipe for political instability. A eurobond/conversion ECB bond from its existing asset pool would eliminate the fear of insolvency and allow for a more coordinated fiscal response to an EU recession.

While Varoufakis is too complimentary of Mario Draghi, his piece lays out what it is that President Lagarde must overcome to be deemed a success in her new job. It seems that “agent provocateur is bidding for a position in the Lagarde regime. The coming Lagarde program will result in increased volatility in the EURO ZONE debt markets as politics takes on the opponents from Europe’s heartland who have been financially repressed by negative interest rates. He said, “Technically speaking, ECB conversion bonds are the obvious replacement for the failing quantitative easing program. Only the misplaced fear of debt mutualization stands in their way.”

***Tuesday evening at 9 p.m. CDT, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) announces its newest interest rate decision. On August 7, we at NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND anticipated the 50 basis CUT because of the strength of the KIWI versus the Aussie dollar. The low made that night on the cross was 1.0361. Now, the cross is at 1.0752 after touching 1.0835 last week. The recent KIWI weakness OUGHT to keep the RBNZ‘s overnight cash rate on HOLD at 1%.

If the RBNZ were to actually cut rates citing global concerns it would involve an outright battle with the Aussies. They would be fighting a currency skirmish, which would force the AUSSIES to lower their rates at the next meeting — and likely generate some response from President Trump. Let’s hope the RBNZ is content with the recent weakness in the KIWI. Keep an eye on the 200-week moving average of 1.0708, which is a critical support level.

***In my analysis of the Middle East, I advise paying attention to the role of Vladimir Putin. His stature is enhanced every day as the tensions build throughout the region. It is Russia that has become the critical variable to any lessening of tensions. It is time to negotiate the SANCTIONS away for the loss of Crimea will remain an issue for the Europeans to resolve, as well as an overall lessening of violence in the Ukraine.

The sanctions have been an irritant to the Russians as Germany and others still rely on Russian energy imports. And the issue of Saudi Arabia continues to  be a “riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma,” leaving me to wonder what all the actors have as their self-interest. Watch all things Russian for a clue.

Notes From Underground: Rhapsody On the European Union

September 23, 2019

On Thursday Peter Boockvar and I gabbed on all things macro with Richard Bonugli. We covered a great deal of the global financial quilt and as we remind listeners, we have done this to clarify important issues regarding financial concerns in an effort to either reduce risk or enhance  profits.Concerns are still relevant in regards to what actually happened in Saudi Arabia as well as central bank credibility.

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Notes From Underground: Walking Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death

September 22, 2019

There is no question that the world’s central banks are all living under the shadow of doubt as investors and financial markets are questioning the efficacy of the zero lower bound. The sense of always doing more in an effort to attain a self-conjured 2% level of inflation has led to the continued downward slide in interest rates.

On this note, last week we saw the Powell Fed lower the target range for the fed funds rate by 25 basis points — and its interest on excess reserves rate by 30 basis points — as congestion in the financial plumbing sent overnight rates soaring. (For those who are interested in the nuances, I am linking to one of many splendid pieces from Bloomberg reporters Liz McCormick and Alexandra Harris detailing out the repo market mess.)

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