Archive for April, 2017

Notes From Underground: Mario, Don’t Try to Lay No Boogie Woogie On the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll

April 27, 2017

Mario Draghi’s nonsense is a compost heap as he tries to continue his efforts to build the ECB‘s balance sheet to the point of no escape. The ECB president danced around inflation questions by generally holding to the view that inflation across the entire euro zone would have to rise to the 2% level for the central bank’s mandate to be met. Currently, Draghi holds to the view that the recent elevated levels of inflation are transitory due to higher energy costs. It was noted that there has been a decline in service sector costs, which could put downward pressure on inflation once the energy prices pass through the data. Draghi also emphasized that with the current unemployment levels in some EU countries there was far too much slack which keeps wages from rising. A positive point for the ECB is that it does not follow NAIRU as a major gatekeeper of wage levels. In his typical effort to elevate his position, Draghi applauded the ECB for saving the EU financial system and economy, but until the politicians make the needed structural changes there will be continued “substantial monetary accommodation” so the ECB can meet its inflation mandate.

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Notes From Underground: This Is a Vinny Barbarino Market (Or, I Am So Confused)

April 25, 2017

The global reaction to the first round of the French presidential election was not confusing. Capital was sitting on the sidelines as the polls reflected a possibility of a second round Le Pen/Melenchon faceoff, which would have been devastating for global investors because fear of an EU break-up would have led to a massive repricing of risk premia. The avoidance of such an outcome led to a rush of capital into European markets, which provided support to Asia and the U.S. The German/French 10-year spread reacted as expected. The yield differential narrowed by a significant 20 basis points. The BUND yields rose against all European sovereign debt as Berlin’s haven status was rendered null and void for at least another two weeks. The GOLD and YEN also performed as expected as money rushed to purchase a risk on profile in a global zero interest environment. The EURO rallied by 2% as global capital flows into European stocks forced previous short euro positions to the sidelines. There’s nothing confusing about any of these outcomes. But let me throw some confusion onto some of the other geopolitical events making the front pages:

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Notes From Underground: The Politics of the IMF and French Election

April 19, 2017

First, I am reposting part of the January 29 post as a reminder to pay attention to the narrative of Trump rolling back to the concept of Pax Americana. As the Trump administration begins to reveal its ambitions, there is a great deal of conversation about Trump becoming more presidential and that the “grown ups” are taking charge of policy. The demotion of Stephen Bannon ignited a discussion about the Wall Street crowd (Mnuchin, Ross, Cohn, Kushner) becoming aligned with the “Deep State.” The concept of the deep state is really the power of the entrenched bureaucracy as the primary source within the beltway.

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Notes From Underground: Treasury Takes a softer Approach to Global Monetary Affairs

April 16, 2017

On Friday April 14 Treasury released a report that deemed no major trading a currency manipulator but five countries have met two of the three criteria and therefore will be closely monitored. This report is very well laid out but it is not incendiary as it seeks to persuade with a very soft touch. The three criteria of meeting of being a “manipulator” are:

      1. A significant bilateral trade surplus with the U.S.of a least $20 billion;
      2. S current account surplus is at least 3% of a nations GDP; and
      3. Persistent, one-sided intervention occurs when net purchases of foreign currency are conducted repeatedly and total at least 2% of a nation’s GDP in a 12-month period.

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Notes From Underground: Trump Delivers on Using the Dollar as a Policy Tool

April 12, 2017

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, the tweeter-in-chief was reported to have said, “The DOLLAR IS GETTING TOO STRONG.” As some pundits discussed, instead of Trump calling China a currency manipulator it seems he wants to use the dollar as a cudgel to pressure others into not embarking on policies to weaken their currencies. As I wrote on April 2:

“The Trump Administration’s efforts to curb the U.S. trade deficit may see the executive branch try to depreciate the U.S. dollar if Secretary Mnuchin and Secretary Ross fail to persuade certain global actors to embark upon policies to adjust their current account and trade surpluses. The Fed’s recent tightening has not rallied the dollar–it actually closed lower on the quarter–so if the political status quo is sustained in Europe and no new political crisis emerges, the DOLLAR will become a barometer of Trump’s policies on trade.”

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Notes From Underground: The Unemployment Report Revealed Little

April 9, 2017

The headline nonfarm payroll number was much weaker than expected and confused traders because it was so wide of the April 5 ADP release of 263,000, but the rest of the data was tepid though not weak enough to dissuade the FOMC from further efforts to raise rates. The important average hourly earnings was up 0.2%, in line with expectations, but the weekly hours worked slipped 0.1, which may have been in response to the early March storms. The unemployment rate dropped to a recovery low of 4.5% but that may be because of the amount of workers having left the labor force. The markets’ initial reaction to the headline NFP was the bonds rallied, the dollar weakened and the precious metals rose. By day’s end all the moves reversed from early rallies inspired by the U.S. missiles fired at Syria. The market had deemed the cruise missiles fired at the air force base in Syria as a market destabilizing event, spurring a purchase of what are deemed safe haven assets: GOLD, YEN, BONDS. But the end of day reversal nullified Syria as a one-off event. So the market is confused as to the genuine impact of the unemployment report and we will have to wait for more economic data to weigh all the “communication” coming from FED speakers. Chair Yellen will be speaking with a Q&A session on Monday afternoon so late market action should not be discounted.

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Notes From Underground: Nothing Focuses the Mind Like a Hanging

April 5, 2017

First things first, let’s talk about the gorilla in the room, former Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker leaked confidential information and the entire FED has had its reputation tarnished (stifle your laughter). The bigger question is how much is being covered up. Who else was involved in discussing matters of great sensitivity? As my readers know I have raised the issue of the G-30 and Davos being convocations for the exchange of very privileged information. Just google the G-30 and look to see its membership. The dissemination of potentially sensitive market-moving information to highly paid analysts raises serious questions of impropriety. In an effort to the level the playing field (and yes, I was most probably harmed by the leaks to Medley), the FED should not release its speeches or market information to any journalists covering the Federal Reserve.

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Notes From Underground: The Second Quarter Begins

April 2, 2017

First, let me apologize to my readers. I erred when I said Marine Le Pen made it to the second round of the 2012 French presidential election. Reader Al 13 corrected me. It was her father Jean-Marie Le Pen who made it to the second round in 2002 and got trounced, garnering 18% of the vote to Jacque Chirac’s 82%. But read Al 13’s comment on the previous post because he notes that if the second round were to be a choice between Le Pen and one of the two far-left candidates–Melenchon or Hamon–the impact would be highly volatile for European markets.

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