June 17, 2019

Wilbur Ross Warns Not To Expect A US-China Deal At G-20 Meeting

To anyone expecting a major breakthrough at the June 28-29 Osaka G-20 meeting, Wilbur Ross has a simple message: "Don't."

Speaking to the WSJ, US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross sharply played down prospects of a "major" trade deal if President Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping meet at the Group of 20 summit in Japan later this month (which they very well may not as Xi has yet to commit to a meeting which would show him at a power disadvantage to Trump), but nonetheless he said he believes the two sides will ultimately get back to negotiations.

"I think the most that will come out of the G-20 might be an agreement to actively resume talks,” Ross said in a phone interview Sunday. “At the presidential level they’re not going to talk about the details of how do you enforce a trade agreement."

So what is the best case scenario? Well: a return to square one, such diplomatic relations are now well in negative territory:  “The most that might come is new ground rules for discussion and some sort of schedule for when detailed technical talks might resume,” said Mr. Ross.

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June 14, 2019

Risk on, risk off.

One day after traders were greeted by a sea of green - on potential world war news - we are back to the sea of red as global stocks struggled and safe haven bets were back in play on Friday with German bond yields plumbing record lows after the latest dismal Chinese data dump sparked fears about the health of the global economy and concerns of a new U.S.-Iran confrontation intensified (which, by the way, was somehow bullish for risk yesterday).

Beijing May activity reported overnight was very weak and painted a fairly gloomy picture of the world’s second largest economy as the trade war with the United States starts to bite. May industrial output growth slowed to a more than 17-year low, the weakest since since 2002, and well below expectations, while fixed-asset investment also fell short of forecasts. Retail sales growth accelerated and surprised to the upside however.

Industrial Output for May: 5.0%, est. +5.4% (range +5.1% to +6.4%, 35 economists), down from +5.4% last month.

May retail sales +8.6% y/y; est. +8.1% April +7.2%

Jan.-May fixed-asset investment excluding rural households +5.6% y/y; est. +6.1% (range +5.2% to +6.5%, 34 economists). Jan.-April +6.1%

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June 13, 2019

Putin Sets The Table To Leave The Dollar Behind

This is twice that Russian President Putin has said on the global stage the Federal Reserve Note no longer deserves the status and privilege of “world reserve currency” that allows unlimited printing of the currency.

The first time he made mention he actually said that it was a threat to Russia’s national security.

In a speech at the International Economic Forum, in St. Petersburg, Russia, “Russian Davos”, President Putin reaffirmed his position regarding the Federal Reserve Note and it’s international role. For the record, we see the abuse of the Federal Reserve and the Federal Reserve Note, U.S. dollar, in similar light as President Putin. The current status of “world reserve currency” should not be allowed in this day and time. The absolute abuse of power, excessive power granted and the ability to shackle entire nations through the use of a currency that is not even their own should have never been allowed but it is way past time for this system to be dissolved.

In a speech at a plenary session, Mr Putin accused Washington of seeking to “extend its jurisdiction to the whole world.”

“But this model not only contradicts the logic of normal international communication. The main thing is, it does not serve the interests of the future.”

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June 12, 2019

Nintendo Reportedly Moved Switch Production Out Of China Over Trump's Tariff Threats

Offering yet another example of the trade war will inevitably drive more companies to move manufacturing out of mainland China and to Taiwan or Vietnam instead, Nintendo is shifting production of one of its most popular gaming consoles to limit the impact of US tariffs.

Per WSJ, Nintendo is moving some of its production of its Switch hand-held console to Southeast Asia from China to limit the impact of US tariffs on Chinese-made electronics. This comes as the company plans to update the popular Switch console with two new models later this year.

Since videogame console makers tend to sell their devices at thin margins, in the hopes of earning higher profits on sales of more lucrative games, the move suggests Nintendo is trying to avoid selling its Switch handheld consoles at a loss. Over the next two holiday seasons, Nintendo is facing stiff competition from Microsoft, with both companies offering competing devices.

The fact that Nintendo's decision comes just a day after a senior Foxconn executive said Apple's biggest manufacturing partner had the capacity to move its production outside of China presents an interesting and important message about how quickly global supply chains will change as the trade spat with China intensifies, said Bill Blain of Mint Partners.

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June 11, 2019

For The Equity Markets To Keep Rallying, This Has To Happen...

With markets now pricing in at least three rate-cuts and expectations for a July cut surging to over 80%, belief in a pre-emptive "insurance" cut is now consensus - and The Fed had better not disappoint.

However, as Bloomberg's Ye Xie warns, while, historically, preemptive Fed rate cuts have tended to boost the stock market, this time may be different.

Any student of stock market history would tell you that the Fed’s "insurance" cuts in 1995-1996 and 1998 did extend the bull market and economic expansion.

What’s different this time is that the front-end of the yield curve is much more deeply inverted than in the 1990s. In other words, markets have more aggressively discounted policy easing. With Fed fund futures pricing in about 70 basis points of cuts by year-end, the FOMC has a high bar to keep equity investors happy without fomenting recession fears

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June 10, 2019

Chinese Exporters Dodge US Tariffs With Fake 'Made In Vietnam' Tags

Chinese exporters who are hoping to evade tariffs as high as 25% on some of their goods are hoping to capitalize on the explosion of exports from Vietnam to the US - and not by simply and legally routing their products through Vietnam as a legal transshipment point, but by masking their true origins, provoking fears that the US might seek to punish the Vietnamese for failing to crack down on this type of fraud.

On Sunday, Vietnam released a statement pledging to increase penalties on trade-related fraud. It was one of the first times an Asian government has ever alleged such misbehavior, and comes after Vietnamese authorities found dozens of fake product origin certificates and illegal transfers presumably by Chinese companies trying to sidestep US tariffs on everything from agriculture to textiles, according to Bloomberg.

The crackdown comes as Vietnam has emerged as one of the fastest growing sources of American imports.

One member of the Vietnamese national assembly's economic committee said the government is worried it could provoke the wrath of the US if it doesn't crack down on the flow of mislabeled Chinese products. The sheer magnitude of the jump in Vietnamese exports has prompted some to question how much of this could possibly be due to legitimate commerce.

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June 7, 2019

Huawei Signs Contract To Build 5G Network In Russia

In a sign that Huawei is increasingly reliant on adversaries of NATO and the West to bolster its grip om global 5G dominance as Washington conspires to run it out of the west, the Guardian reports that the Chinese telecoms giant has struck a deal with an unlikely ally, Russian Telecoms giant MTS, to develop a 5G network in Russia over the coming year.

According to the Guardian, the agreement was signed on the sidelines of a meeting between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian president Vladimir Putin in Moscow, on the sidelines of a critical annual Russian economics forum.

The deal will see “the development of 5G technologies and the pilot launch of fifth-generation networks in 2019-2020." MTS said in a statement on Wednesday.

In a statement, Huawei’s Chairman Guo Ping said he was "very happy" with the agreement "in an area of strategic importance like 5G."

During the meeting in Moscow, Putin repeatedly praised Xi as a "close friend," noting that they had met nearly 30 times over the past six years. The trip is Xi’s eighth to Russia since 2012.

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June 6, 2019

The US Economy's Dirty Big Secret

There is a dirty little secret in economics today: the United States has benefited – and continues to benefit – from the global slump.

The US economy is humming along, even while protesters in the United Kingdom hurl milkshakes at Brexiteers, French President Emmanuel Macron confronts nihilist yellow-vested marchers, and Chinese tech firms such as Huawei fear being frozen out of foreign markets.

Last year, the US economy grew by 2.9%, while the eurozone expanded by just 1.8%, giving President Donald Trump even more confidence in his confrontational style. But relatively strong US growth amid sluggishness elsewhere is not what economics textbooks would predict. Whatever happened to the tightly integrated world economy that the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have been advocating – and more recently extolling – since World War II?

The US economy is in a temporary but potent phase in which weakness abroad lifts spirits at home. But this economic euphoria has nothing to do with Trump-era spite and malice, and much to do with interest rates.

Borrowing costs are currently lower than at any time since the founding of the US Federal Reserve in 1913, or in the UK’s case since the Bank of England was established in 1694. The ten-year US Treasury bond is yielding about 2.123%, and in April, the streaming service Netflix issued junk bonds at a rate of just 5.4%.

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June 5, 2019

The Fed Has No Choice But To Return To Ultra-Low Interest Rates

The current boom is heavily built on credit. This is because in today’s fiat money regime central banks, in close cooperation with commercial banks, increase the quantity of money by extending loans – loans that are not backed by ‘real savings’. The artificial increase in the supply of credit pushes market interest rates downwards – that is, below the levels that would prevail had there been no artificial increase in bank credit supply.

As a result, savings decline, consumption increases and, investment takes off, and a “boom” gets going. However, such a boom can only last so long. Its continuation rests on more and more credit being fed into the system, provided at ever lower interest rates. The last ten years provide a good illustration: The Fed’s lowering of interest rates and monetary expansion in the financial and economic crisis 2008/2009 has helped the banking industry to get back to its business of churning out more and more credit (see chart a).

As credit recovered, and stock and housing prices began to rise again (see chart b). The Fed succeeded in re-establishing the ‘asset price inflation regime’. In December 2015, however, the monetary policy makers in Washington D. C. decided to take away the punch bowl by beginning to raise interest rates. Until December 2018, the Fed had brought back the Federal Funds Rate to a band of between 2.25 to 2.5 per cent. Where to go from here?

The Fed has signaled recently that it wants to take a break as far as any further interest rate decisions are concerned. Financial markets have their own view, though: They seem to expect that the Fed’s hiking cycle is already over, and that the central bank will sooner or later lower interest rates again. The likelihood that this expectation will turn out to be correct is quite high: As the Fed wishes to keep the boom going, it has no choice but to return to the policy of suppressing interest rates.

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June 4, 2019

Multi Billion Fund Blocks Redemptions

In a moment of financial serendipity, earlier today we tweeted that as a result of the sudden collapse in the market's most crowded positions (which as we noted over the weekend, now face the biggest risk of a wipe out), "hedge fund redemption requests re-emerge."

It turns out we were very much spot on, because just a few hours later, the Financial Times reported that Neil Woodford, the UK's equivalent of David Tepper, has blocked redemptions from his £3.7bn equity income fund after serial underperformance led to an investor exodus, "inflicting a serious blow to the reputation of the UK’s highest-profile fund manager."

The freeze on redemptions, exactly five years after Woodford opened his eponymous fund management group, underlines his increasingly precarious position. It follows a steady stream of investor outflows, which have occurred each month for two years, with the fund shrinking by two-thirds to £3.7bn since a peak of £10.2bn in May 2017.

The severity of this latest hit to the hedge fund industry can not be underscored enough. The FT quoted a veteran fund manager who has known Woodford for more than 20 years, who said that "this is one of the bigger events for the UK asset management industry of the last decade. A bonfire of reputation and a terrible moment for investor confidence."

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June 3, 2019

Chinese Bank With $105 BN In Assets On Verge Of Collapse

While the western world (and much of the eastern) has been preoccupied with predicting the consequences of Trump's accelerating global trade/tech war, Beijing has had its hands full with avoiding a bank run in the aftermath of Baoshang Bank's failure, scrambling to inject massive amounts of liquidity last week in the form of a 250 billion yuan net open market operation to thaw the interbank market which was on the verge of freezing, and sent overnight funding rates spiking and bond yields and NCD rates higher.

Unfortunately for the PBOC, Beijing is now racing against time to prevent a widespread panic after it opened the Pandora's box when it seized Baoshang Bank two weeks ago, the first official bank failure in a odd replay of what happened with Bear Stearns back in 2008, when JPMorgan was gifted the historic bank for pennies on the dollar.

And with domino #1 down, the question turns to who is next, and will they be China's Lehman.

This was the question we asked last Thursday, when we published a list of regional banks that have delayed publishing 2018 reports, the biggest red flag suggesting an upcoming bank solvency "event."

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May 31, 2019

"This Is A Black Swan Event": Markets Turmoil As Trump Unleashes Tariffs On Mexico "Until Illegal Immigration Stops"

Amid negotations and escalations in the process of moving USMCA through Congress, Trump has decided to go after one on America's closest trade partners: "On June 10th, the United States will impose a 5% Tariff on all goods coming into our Country from Mexico, until such time as illegal migrants coming through Mexico, and into our Country, STOP. The Tariff will gradually increase until the Illegal Immigration problem is remedied, at which time the Tariffs will be removed. Details from the White House to follow."

The White House warning that it will hike Mexico tariffs to 25% by October 1, if the border crisis persists, as Trump is activating a scorched earth approach whereby he will "punish" any offshore nation that he believes is transgressing, by imposing tariffs.

Meanwhile, moments after Trump's shock tweet, the Mexican deputy foreign minister Seade said that if President's threat to impose tariffs is carried out, "it would be disastrous", and Mexico would "respond strongly", adding that "we will not remain with out arms folded" before the tariff deadline "to see if it is serious."

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May 30, 2019

Japan Is About To Sell Its First Ever Junk Bond... With A 1% Coupon

While corporate bond yields have been plumbing ever lower lows in the yield-starved "New Normal", prompting even the world's largest bond fund Pimco to warn that this is the riskiest credit market ever, Japan is about to deliver the proverbial "hold my beer" moment to the entire world. 

Aiful, the consumer lender which almost went bankrupt a decade ago, is preparing to sell Japan’s first ever yen-denominated "high yield" - and in this case we use the term very, very loosely - in the public markets, showing how desperate for yield local investors are, and how much risk they are willing to take in exchange for virtually no return, as negative interest rates have now become the new normal.

What is most remarkable about the bond sale in the country where the 10Y yield has been trading mostly in negative territory for over half a decade, is that the 18 month yen junk bond is set to price on Friday with a coupon of, wait for it, 1%.

Another unique aspect of the upcoming issuance is that it is taking place in the first place. As Bloomberg notes, the junk bond offering will be historic for Japan's bond market, where companies haven’t felt compelled to sell below investment grade notes as they’ve traditionally had close ties with banks, who tend to be more forgiving than bondholders in tough times.

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May 29, 2019

Russian Central Bank Eyes Gold-Backed Crypto

First there was Tether; a controversial dollar-backed cryptocurrency by crypto exchange firm, Bitfinex. Then came Petro, the industry’s first oil-backed crypto issued by the Venezuelan government last year. And now we might be about to see the first gold-backed cryptocurrency—by a central bank, no less. According to Russian news agency, TASS, Russia’s central bank, the Bank of Russia will consider issuing gold-backed cryptocurrencies - a rather strange move considering how cryptocurrencies are generally anathema to central banks.

Shot in the arm

But before crypto bugs can start doing a round of high fives, the head of the Bank of Russia, Elvira Nabiullina, has revealed that the cryptocurrencies are not meant for retail use but rather for conducting big mutual settlements for entities with global jurisdictions.

In other words, only the heavyweights will get to lay their hands on them. Further, she says that she still believes that it’s better for countries to develop international settlement systems such as the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) framework that use their own national currencies noting the said framework has demonstrated good dynamics.

Finally, she admonishes that the latest twist should not be interpreted to mean that the bank supports a scenario where cryptocurrencies eventually replace fiat in the monetary system.

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May 28, 2019

American Soil Is Being Globalized: Nearly 30 Million Acres Of U.S. Farmland Is Now Owned By Foreigners

All across America, U.S. farmland is being gobbled up by foreign interests.  So when we refer to “the heartland of America”, the truth is that vast stretches of that “heartland” is now owned by foreigners, and most Americans have no idea that this is happening.  These days, a lot of people are warning about the “globalization” of the world economy, but in reality our own soil is rapidly being “globalized”.  When farms are locally owned, the revenue that those farms take in tends to stay in local communities.  But with foreign-owned farms there is no guarantee that will happen.  And while there is plenty of food to go around this is not a major concern, but what happens when a food crisis erupts and these foreign-owned farms just keep sending their produce out of the country?  There are some very serious national security concerns here, and they really aren’t being addressed.  Instead, the amount of farmland owned by foreigners just continues to increase with each passing year.

Prior to seeing the headline to this article, how much U.S. farmland would you have guessed that foreigners now own?

Personally, I had no idea that foreigners now own nearly 30 million acres.  The following comes from NPR

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