Archive for the ‘Russia’ Category

Notes From Underground: It’s Good News Week (Hedgehoppers Anonymous)

December 20, 2016

The world is fraught with troubling news of assassinations, terrorist atrocities and confrontation between China and the U.S. But in the financial news it is all about the DOW PUSHING 20,000. To quote Mr. Natural: “What does the Dow 20,000 mean? It don’t mean SH*T.” We become enamored with numbers but in real financial terms 20,000 is meaningless on its own. The U.S. equity markets are enthralled with the possibilities that a Trump presidency will present. Three weeks ago Rick Santelli laid it out very well. He noted if trump was successful in reforming the ACA, realizing genuine corporate and personal tax simplification and reform, and rolling back some of the regulations burdening small and medium businesses the Trump administration would be an unmitigated success. If the Dow is the barometer, then Mr.Trump should declare victory and spend the next four years writing his autobiography.

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Notes From Underground: Low Probability, High Impact Events

April 11, 2016

When Alan Greenspan was Fed Chairman he would regularly orate on the concept of low probability events that could create disruption in the global financial system. These events are not BLACK SWANS because by definition a black swan is unknowable nor foreseeable. So it is time to take a survey of what Greenie called low probability:

1. Paul Ryan being parachuted into the candidacy for the Republican Party. There is a possibility but is a potential problem, which could rip apart the GOP. What would the fallout be for financial markets if the U.S. was splintered into a three- or four-party system? The same could be said for the Democratic Party if there was a revolt by the left-wing in response to the super delegates. The issue for the Democrats will rise to the fore if Hilary Clinton were to lose New York. Bernie Sanders is a low probability bet but his impact would be great.

2. The probability of Russia attacking Turkey, which could result in the break-up of NATO. If Putin attempts to seek revenge against President Erdogan by providing support to the Kurds against Turkey, the U.S. and its NATO allies would be forced to decide if they were willing to risk war with Russia to honor its commitment to a friend. Imagine what happens to the political situation in Europe if NATO were demolished because of its failure to honor Article 5, which asserts that an attack on one is an attack on all.

3. The June 23rd vote by the U.K. on Brexit results in a vote to leave. Not sure this is a low probability event but it will certainly have a HIGH IMPACT. The greatest outcome will be that others in the EU will request a referendum for this was certainly articulated in the recent Dutch vote on the EU’s agreement with the Ukraine. The most volatile result of a Brexit would be the pursuit of a referendum by German voters. The myriad articles on German unhappiness with the ECB are a mere prelude to what a vote in favor of Brexit would result in for the rest of EU. If you want a good sense of the arrogance of the European elite, watch Mario Monti’s CNBC appearance from today. Mr. Monti decried the outbreak of democracy in Europe and was very critical of David Cameron for falling in the trap and calling a referendum.

The critical assessment by Monti is an infamia for Mr. Monti was appointed Prime Minister of Italy by a “coup” orchestrated by the Brussels elite. Berlusconi was forced from office by threats of Italian debt downgrade and the Brussels eurocrats’ rejection of the Italian budget. When Prime Minister Monti had to call elections in 2013 after the Berlusconi term expired, Monti and his allies received a mere 11% of the vote. So Mario Monti’s views of popular democracy are subject to further review.

4. A failure of a major European bank, something on the order of Deutsche Bank or a major French institution. The cracks in the Italian financial system are well known. It is the exposure of other EU domestic banks that can cause a blind side hit to the financial system. Part of this issue is the BIS view of how sovereign debt is rated. Currently, all EU sovereign debt carries a zero risk weighting. If this were to change, EU banks would be forced to raise a great amount of capital, a total that would dwarf the amount that was recently raised to support the purchase of non-performing loans from Italian financial institutions. The European nations are struggling even with zero interest rates. Imagine what the budget deficits of Spain, Italy and France would be if borrowing rates were to dramatically increase.

This is just the beginning of analyzing low probability, high impact events. The landscape of the global macro system are rife with such possibilities. Now a black swan in an uncertain event this focus will be on those with a probability of occurring. The floor is open to all suggestions.

Notes From Underground: The Stock Market Says, “I Think Icahn, I Think Icahn”

October 15, 2015

One of the great contemporary financiers warned on September 29 that the stock market was “extremely overheated ” and was being “supported by an “unsustainable earnings mirage.” Well, since that video release from Carl Icahn, the SPOOS have rallied more than 7 percent, defying the wisdom of Ichan, as well as many other highly regarded  investors. Today’s equity rally was in the face of what has been a continuing onslaught of negative economic releases. The market has rallied off the August 21-24 lows but has paused when confronted with weak data, such as September’s unemployment report. But today the weak economic releases  failed to dent the powerful rally: a weak Empire State, a weaker-than-expected Philly Fed Manufacturing report.

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Notes From Underground: Wishing Everyone a Very Festive Holiday Season

December 23, 2014

TO MY READERS: This is the festival of lights in which the bright lights of the menorah and the festive lights of Christmas Trees and ornaments seek to brighten the day when darkness envelopes the world. It is no accident that December 21 is the shortest day in terms of sunlight. Let’s hope that there is less darkness and more light in 2015. In terms of trading and investing I hope that Notes From Underground has provided some light in an effort to sort through the global macro scene. In the coming days I will put forward some thoughts on Europe, Russia, Oil, and, of course, yield curves.

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Notes From Underground: In a 70th Anniversary Redo, I SAY NUTS to Global Financial Markets

December 21, 2014

First, as the clouds of sadness begin to lift I want to thank all of those who took time to send a note to the blog and to me in emails for the condolences on the passing of my mentor and friend. In a tribute to one of the great traders, the markets provided volatility reminiscent of a 21 gun salute, or maybe just 21% vol levels and a VIX to go with it.

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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: Is Housing a Cash For Clunkers Redux?

May 7, 2014

In today’s testimony to the Joint Economic Committee, Chair Yellen voiced concerns about the recent softness in the housing recovery. Her concern should be measured from two perspectives: One, the failure of wages to keep pace with returns on capital, or, as it is fashionable to say, R>G (the new rage inspired by Thoma Piketty). Financial markets have generated far more gains than GDP resulting in the middle-income groups not generating enough income to ignite home purchases. When Yellen worries about housing she is alluding to wage growth, especially as bank regulations have made it more difficult for buyers to secure loans. Two, last year the airwaves were filled with real estate agents raving about how the supply of homes was diminishing and therefore prices had to go higher. The problem with the rosy view from the Zillow crowd is that much of the demand was generated from foreign buyers with cash and large hedge funds and private equity groups buying large packages of distressed properties.

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Notes From Underground: Making Sense From the U.S. Dollar Post-Payrolls

May 4, 2014

The U.S. unemployment data released on Friday was extremely positive on two measures: Nonfarm payrolls increased by 288,000 and the unemployment rate dropped from 6.7 to 6.3 percent. The soft side of the numbers was that the average hours worked remained flat and the all-important average hourly earnings also stayed flat, undermining the robustness of the headline figure. The U.S. dollar and U.S. bond markets initially performed as expected as the DOLLAR strengthened and bond yields rose in response to positive news. However, by day’s end the DOLLAR was LOWER and the yields on the long end of the CURVE had also dropped while the SPOOS and DOW failed to hold gains on what was a very strong employment picture. The reason given by analysts was that the Ukraine situation was becoming more volatile and caused investors to be cautious over the weekend.

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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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Notes From Underground: Siemens Fertilizes Its Relations With Russia

March 27, 2014

First, on the geopolitical front the enforcement of sanctions on Russia is being met with disdain by some large European corporations. French energy giant Total is in talks with the largest privately held Russian energy company Lukoil to develop gas and oil fields using the latest drilling techniques. On Wednesday, Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser met directly with Russian President Putin and assured him that Siemens will not let temporal political problems upset the solid business relationship that the German conglomerate has developed with Russian technology and medical groups. The use of sanctions is problematic in a world defined by business interests. The German small and medium enterprises have vast business relations with Russia and it is estimated that 500,000 jobs are related to the export side of the equation. Russia sends energy and Germany responds with advanced, highly engineered products.

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