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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Notes From Underground: Should We Fear the Repo Man?

September 17, 2019

Just as Saudi Arabia was becoming less of a story the NEW YORK FED‘s mishandling of Tuesday’s repo operation has created a new round of angst for traders if not investors. The best coverage on the FED‘s recent efforts to calm the overnight funding markets (and repo turmoil) has been done by Liz Capo McCormick and Alex Harris at Bloomberg News. Now they have another article out discussing another REPO operation tomorrow morning.

Tuesday’s operation injected $53 billion of liquidity, even though $75 billion was on offer. While the FUNDS level went as high as 10% today the repo operation brought the level down to 2.50% to 2.25%, calming fears of any type of solvency/liquidity situation. Even though we’re around the 11th anniversary of the Lehman Brothers collapse, It has been a decade since the markets had to be truly focused on the FUNDING markets  so many people are left with more questions than answers.

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Notes From Underground: The King of Hearts Searches for Sanity

September 15, 2019

The inmates are running the asylum as policy makers are busy putting out old prairie fires. The European Central Bank’s move on Thursday was a final curtain call for President Draghi as he sought to cement his legacy as the man that would do whatever it takes to “preserve the Euro” and would have no taboos in his efforts. But it seems like the opposition to both the rate cut and new QE was far greater than the magician of Frankfurt let on at his final obfuscation. It is amazing how the dissidents find their voice the day after. Oh well, so it goes in the world of consensus-driven outcomes.

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Notes From Underground: The ECB and the Swan Song of Mario Draghi

September 10, 2019

We are coming to the end of Mario Draghi and the “Whatever It Takes” era. Remember, the head of the European Central Bank said he would do whatever it takes to preserve the EURO. This fealty to the currency has resulted in a -40 basis point deposit rate, a massive expansion of the ECB’s balance sheet via sovereign and corporate bond purchases.

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Notes From Underground: “Where Did I Find This Guy Jerome?”

September 8, 2019

Of all the U.S. president’s tweets (and believe he has a lot), Friday’s tweet about Federal Reserve Chairman was one of the best. Unfortunately, there probably should’ve been a comma between “guy” and “Jerome” since one could ask the question about any member of Trump’s economic team. President Trump could be asking the Fed chairman about Secretary Steven Mnuchin, or Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and certainly of Larry Kudlow or Peter Navarro. NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND has been asking that for many months. In my opinion, the only Trump pick that inspires confidence is Robert Lighthizer.

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Notes From Underground: Woody Hayes’ Advice to Mario Draghi

September 4, 2019

Football season in the U.S. is just beginning. That said, it would be appropriate for President Mario Draghi to refrain from any type of new QE program or cut in interest rates at next week’s meeting. There have been several comments from ECB members during the past week advising against more QE or additional interest rate cuts.

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