Trump, Bonds, Peripheries, China and Italy

By Doug Noland

Credit Bubble Bulletin: Trump, Bonds, Peripheries, China and Italy

The trading week saw WTI crude surge 12.2%. The GSCI commodities index jumped 5.8%. Wheat dropped 3.6% and corn fell 3.1%. Italian 10-year yields fell 18 bps, and Greek yields dropped 37 bps. Meanwhile, Portuguese yields jumped 13 bps. In U.S. equities, Bank stocks (BKX) jumped 1.5%, while the Morgan Stanley High Tech index dropped 3.4%. The Biotechs (BTK) sank 6.4%. The DJIA was little changed, while the small caps fell 2.4%. Just another week for unstable global markets.

Pre-election trepidation morphed into post-election market exuberance, in only the latest demonstration of the power of an over-liquefied market backdrop. Here in the U.S., the bullish imagination has been captivated by the Trump administration’s pro-growth agenda, with its focus on tax and health-care reform, deregulation and infrastructure spending. The DJIA this week added slightly to record highs.

Meanwhile, a decidedly less halcyon reality seems to be coming into somewhat clearer focus: Trump’s victory likely marks a major inflection point for global markets. Bond yields have shot higher, while inflation expectations are being reset. The U.S. dollar has surged, while the emerging markets have come under pressure. From U.S. equity and bond ETFs to international financial flows, “money” is sloshing about chaotically.

There’s an extraordinary amount of confusion throughout the markets. For over a year I’ve posited that the global Bubble has been pierced. This view was in response to faltering EM, mounting Chinese instability, the collapse in crude and energy-related debt problems (from U.S. junk to global corporates and sovereigns). Especially in response to early-2016 global market instability, the Fed froze its baby-step “tightening” cycle, while the Bank of Japan and European Central Bank (and others) ratcheted up what were already desperate QE measures. In China, officials threw up their hands and set the Credit floodgates wide open.

It’s worth noting that the S&P500 rallied 22% from February 2016 lows. U.S. bank stocks (BKX) have surged a stunning 60%. From January lows to November highs, Brazilian stocks jumped 75%. Emerging Market equities (EEM) rallied almost 40%. Chinese stocks recovered 25%. Basically, EM stocks, bonds and currencies rallied sharply from Asia to Eastern Europe to Latin America.

Waning badly early in the year, confidence in central banking was rejuvenated by an audacious display of concerted “whatever it takes.” I believe history will view ECB and BOJ QE moves as dangerously misguided, while the Fed (again) failed to heed the lessons of leaving policy way too loose for too long. Forces that central bankers set in motion early in the year may have largely run their course.

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The Italian Job

By Danielle DiMartino Booth

“You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!”

That one line, spoken on the big screen by Michael Caine was crowned, according to a 2003 Daily Telegraph survey, Britain’s favorite one-liner of film. That kind of staying power is remarkable considering The Italian Job, the original that is, was released in 1969, two years before Mark Wahlberg, who portrayed Caine’s character, Charlie Croker, in the movie’s 2003 remake, made his 1971 debut.

As for the film’s American version and one-liners, the crown for favorite was won when Charlie’s 2003 on-screen nemesis Steve taunted: “You blew the best thing you had going for you. You blew the element of surprise.” Charlie’s reaction? A knock-out punch followed seamlessly by the understated comeback, “Surprised?”

The Italian Job

The element of surprise was on full display in the hours and days that followed Britain’s voters’ decisive move to Leave the EU. The Brexit referendum succeeded in blowing off a different set of doors, leaving taunting politicians and policymakers alike flat-footed, with a whole new fear, that of contagion, beginning to the south in Italy. Might the Italians pull of a Job of their own, following Great Britain’s lead in stealing back their own country?

The hope, stated diplomatically by Gluskin Sheff’s inimitable David Rosenberg, a dear friend, is that Brexit will prove to be a, “wakeup call for the long-awaited fundamental changes with regards to the EU – make it more democratic and make it less bureaucratic and embark on immigration rules that do not sacrifice regional security.”

Rosenberg’s concerns on security are more than justified in the case of Italy. According to the Italian Coast Guards’ latest tally, the 3,324 migrants rescued June 26 brought the total rescued in just four days to 10,000. Four days! Calm seas have triggered fresh waves of migrants, bringing the total thus far this year to 66,000. The forecast calls for 10,000 more to arrive every week until year’s end. Some 300,000 in total for 2016. The ease with which migrants can cross the seas to Italy means that country takes in 13 to 14 times more than Turkey and Greece. Is it any wonder Italians are exhausted?

At a Brussels Summit, EU leaders were urged to “speed up and increase” the return of migrants deemed to not be bona-fide refugees. In actuality, many making the crossing are simply looking for economic opportunity rather than escaping any real danger. Estimates vary, but only between six and 19 percent of those ordered back to their home countries actually leave. It is patently apparent that the EU does not have sufficient measures in place to combat the problem on behalf of its disgruntled member nations, and must become much more vigilant in its approach.

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