Archive for the ‘Russia’ Category

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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Notes From Underground: Are the Sanctionists Playing Russian Roulette With the U.S. Global Financial Position?

March 25, 2014

The theme of this blog has been and will continue to be that nothing is as it seems on the surface. In an effort to be as non-partisan as possible, a question arises over the G-7’s immediacy to place sanctions on Putin’s pals as retribution for Russia’s aggression on the Ukraine and Crimea. The use of sanctions under the control of the U.S. Treasury Department and its potential harmful effects on any nation’s economy forces the question: Why would global financial entities desire to do business in dollars or with U.S. domiciled financial institutions? Any time that the U.S. government questions the foreign policy demands of another country, will sanctions be the initial response? If China tomorrow chooses a military response to the issue of the Senkaku Islands, would the U.S. push for sanctions against Chinese financial institutions out of respect for the U.S. alliance with Japan?

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Notes From Underground: The IMF Lies and Other Myths

March 16, 2014

The news out of the Crimea places the vote on the referendum at 95.5 percent in favor Russian control. The outcome was predetermined but one would think that the pro-Russian faction would have at least fixed the results to make it appear somewhat legit. Why, it makes me wonder if the Chicago boys had been secretly brought into the Crimea to garner such a ridiculous outcome. Now the EU and the U.S. are going to find sanctions to make the oligarchs and other hoarders of Russian wealth suffer the consequences of Vladimir Putin’s 19th century actions. But this will not be a one-sided affair as Russia will be able to invoke counter measures of its own. There are many things to ponder:

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Notes From Underground: The Reserve Bank of New Zealand Stands Alone

March 12, 2014

This afternoon the little bank from down under announced it was raising its overnight cash rate (OCR) by 25 basis points to 2.75%. There is no question that the New Zealand economy has been growing (as has private credit for housing) but the KIWI has been elevated by the strength of the economy and the huge global demand for New Zealand commodities–dairy and other agricultural products. Previously, the RBNZ has refrained from raising the OCR because of the strength of the KIWI versus the Aussie dollar and other commodity-based currencies. But the improvement in global financial conditions gave Governor Graeme Wheeler reassurance for increasing the interest rate. Wheeler noted that “the high exchange rate remains a headwind to the tradables sector. The bank doesn’t believe the current level of the exchange rate is unsustainable in the long run.” The market had been expecting the Bank to raise rates  so the initial market reaction was a short selloff but within two minutes the KIWI was trading higher and actually closed on its high of the day in the spot market. If the RBNZ doesn’t intervene, which it shouldn’t, the NZ currency should hold up on the crosses, especially with the high yield on its 10-year note. Finally, one bank breaks out of the pack, even in the face of a potential slowdown in China.

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