Global Stocks Set To Close 2017 At All Time Highs, Best Year For The Euro Since 2003

With just a few hours left until the close of the last US trading session of 2017, and most of Asia already in the books, S&P futures are trading just shy of a new all time high as the dollar continued its decline ahead of the New Year holidays.
Indeed, markets were set to end 2017 in a party mood on Friday after a year in which a concerted pick-up in global growth boosted corporate profits and commodity prices, while benign inflation kept central banks from snatching away the monetary punch bowl. As a result, the MSCI world equity index rose another 0.15% as six straight weeks and now 13 straight months of gains left it at yet another all time high.
In total, world stocks haven’t had a down month in 2017, with the index rising 22% in the year adding almost $9 trillion in market cap for the year.
Putting the year in context, emerging markets led the charge with gains of 34%. Hong Kong surged 36%, South Korea was up 22% and India and Poland both rose 27% in local currency terms. Japan’s Nikkei and the S&P 500 are both ahead by almost 20%, while the Dow has risen by a quarter. In Europe, the German DAX gained nearly 14% though the UK FTSE lagged a little with a rise of 7 percent.
Craig James, chief economist at fund manager CommSec, told Reuters that of the 73 bourses it tracks globally, all but nine have recorded gains in local currency terms this year.
‘For the outlook, the key issue is whether the low growth rates of prices and wages will continue, thus prompting central banks to remain on the monetary policy sidelines,’ said James. ‘Globalization and technological change have been influential in keeping inflation low. In short, consumers can buy goods whenever they want and wherever they are.’

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Fri, 12/29/2017 –.

Hong Kong Ship Seized After Transferring Oil To North Korea

Just days after we showed satellite images which indicated that Chinese ships were trading oil with North Korean ships in a blatant violation of UN Security Council sanctions, South Korea said Friday that it was holding a Hong Kong flagged ship suspected of doing just that.
The Lighthouse Winmore is believed to have “secretly transferred” about 600 tons of refined petroleum products to the North Korean ship, the Sam Jong 2, in international waters in the East China Sea on Oct. 19, according to Bloomberg and the Associated Press.

The Hong Kong vessel had previously visited Yeosu port on Oct. 11 to load up on Japanese oil products and departed the port while claiming its destination was Taiwan. Instead, it transferred the oil to the Sam Jong 2 and three other non-North Korean vessels in international waters

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Fri, 12/29/2017 –.

In An Unexpected Outcome, Trump Tax Reform Blew Up The Treasury Market

Over the past week we have shown on several occasions that there once again appears to be a sharp, sudden dollar-funding liquidity strain in global markets, manifesting itself in a dramatic widening in FX basis swaps, which – in this particular case – has flowed through in the forward discount for USDJPY spiking from around 0.04 yen to around 0.23 yen overnight. As Bloomberg speculated, this discount for buying yen at future dates widened sharply as non-U. S. banks, which typically buy dollars now with sell-back contracts at a future date, scrambled to procure greenbacks for the year-end.
However, as Deutsche Bank’s Masao Muraki explains, this particular dollar funding shortage is more than just the traditional year-end window dressing or some secret bank funding panic.
Instead, the DB strategist observes that the USD funding costs for Japanese insurers and banks to invest in US Treasuries – which have surged reaching a post-financial-crisis high of 2.35% on 15 Dec – are determined by three things, namely (1) the difference in US and Japanese risk-free rates (OIS), (2) the difference in US and Japanese interbank risk premiums (Libor-OIS), and (3) basis swaps, which illustrate the imbalance in currency-hedged US and Japanese investments.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 27, 2017.

The Dark Power Behind the Financial Asset Bubbles – Whose Fool Are You?

“While everyone enjoys an economic party the long-term costs of a bubble to the economy and society are potentially great. They include a reduction in the long-term saving rate, a seemingly random distribution of wealth, and the diversion of financial human capital into the acquisition of wealth.
As in the United States in the late 1920s and Japan in the late 1980s, the case for a central bank ultimately to burst that bubble becomes overwhelming. I think it is far better that we do so while the bubble still resembles surface froth and before the bubble carries the economy to stratospheric heights. Whenever we do it, it is going to be painful, however.’
Larry Lindsey, Federal Reserve Governor, September 24, 1996 FOMC Minutes
‘I recognise that there is a stock market bubble problem at this point, and I agree with Governor Lindsey that this is a problem that we should keep an eye on…. We do have the possibility of raising major concerns by increasing margin requirements. I guarantee that if you want to get rid of the bubble, whatever it is, that will do it.’
Alan Greenspan, September 24, 1996 FOMC Minutes
“Where a bubble becomes so large as to pose a threat the entire economic system, the central bank may appropriately decide to use monetary policy to counteract a bubble, notwithstanding the effects that monetary tightening might have elsewhere in the economy.
But how do we know when irrational exuberance has unduly escalated asset values, which then become subject to unexpected and prolonged contractions as they have in Japan over the past decade? And how do we factor that assessment into monetary policy? We as central bankers need not be concerned if a collapsing financi

This post was published at Jesses Crossroads Cafe on 27 DECEMBER 2017.

China To Overtake US As World’s Largest Economy By 2032

Even as China’s credit-fueled boom – which helped it surpass Japan in 2011 to become the world’s second-largest economy – is losing its efficacy as new credit creation is now failing to drive economic growth as we pointed out last week (and many times before that), many economists believe it will eventually surpass its western rivals and become the world’s largest economy.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 26, 2017.

One Bank Is Unsure If Any Humans Still Trade Stocks In Japan, Or Have All Moved To Bitcoin

While the wholesale disappearance of retail traders from stock markets is hardly a novel observation, it has taken on a whole new meaning in Japan, where the lack of carbon-based investors has prompted Deutsche Bank to ask if “Japan’s stocks are still traded at all by humans.”
As Deutsche strategist Masao Muraki writes, since the US presidential election, Japanese stocks (in this case the TOPIX index) have been almost entirely defined by just three things: US stocks (S&P 500), the implied volatility (VIX), and USDJPY. This is shown in the model correlation chart below.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 26, 2017.

Asian Stocks Slide On iPhone X Demand Fears; US Futures Flat In Thin Holiday Trading

For the second day in a row, most Asian markets – at least the ones that are open – were dragged lower by tech stocks and Apple suppliers, with the MSCI Asia Pacific Index down 0.2% led by Samsung Electronics and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing in response to the previously noted report that Apple will slash Q1 sales forecasts for iPhone X sales by 40% from 50 million to 30 million. Most Asian equity benchmarks fell except those in China. European stocks were mixed in a quiet session while U. S. equity futures are little changed as markets reopen after the Christmas holiday.
Away from Asia, stocks remained closed across the large European markets, as well as in parts of Asia including Australia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, the Philippines and New Zealand. Japanese benchmarks slipped from the highest levels since the early 1990s, helping to pull the MSCI Asia Pacific Index down, while shares in Dubai, Qatar and Russia were among the big losers in emerging markets. S&P 500 futures were flat as those for the Dow Jones slipped. The euro edged lower with the pound – although there were no reverberations from Monday’s odd EURUSD flash crash which was only observed on Bloomberg feeds, while Reuters ignored it even if the FT did note it…

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 26, 2017.

Busted Billion-Dollar-Baby Fraud Finds Another Greater Fool – Softbank Lends Theranos $100 Million!

Japan’s Softbank Group is coming to the rescue of yet another embattled Silicon Valley ‘unicorn’. The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday that Fortress Capital, the publicly traded private-equity firm that agreed to sell itself to the Japanese conglomerate earlier this year, has extended a $100 million loan to Theranos, which is still facing multiple lawsuits and investigations for misleading investors, business partners and clients about the efficacy of its core technology.
The loan, which will avert a bankruptcy filing for the former poster-child of tech-centric “disruption”, which was once one of Silicon Valley’s most valuable private companies with a valuation of $10 billion. Theranos famously marketed itself to investors by playing up its core innovation: A diagnostic machine that could supposedly run tests for hundreds of medical conditions with only a single drop of blood.
The company’s founder, Elizabeth Holmes, honed the perfect marketing pitch: A Stanford dropout, she claimed she was inspired to create the ‘nanotainer’ fingerstick that would become Theranos’s signature product by her irrational fear of needles.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 24, 2017.

Bond Markets Really Are Signalling A Slowdown

Authored by Lakshman Achuthan and Anirvan Banerji via Bloomberg.com,
Analysts shouldn’t dismiss the yield curve’s message just because inflation expectations have been declining in recent years. When it comes to the economic outlook, the bond market is smarter than the stock market. That Wall Street adage appears to be on the money from a cyclical vantage point, with key indicators in the fixed-income markets independently corroborating slowdown signals from the Economic Cycle Research Institute’s leading indexes.
The yield curve is widely considered to be among the most prescient indicators. That’s why its flattening this year has been troublesome for an otherwise optimistic consensus to explain away.
This hasn’t stopped optimistic analysts from dismissing the yield curve’s message on the grounds that inflation expectations have been declining in recent years, or that foreign central banks like the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan continue to artificially suppress their bond yields, pulling down U. S. yields. We’re reminded of Sir John Templeton’s warning that ‘this time it’s different’ are the “four most costly words in the annals of investing” — but that’s effectively what it means to simply ignore the slowdown signals emanating from the fixed-income markets.
Of course, there’s no Holy Grail in the world of forecasting, which is why we look at a wide array of leading indexes that each includes many inputs. From that vantage point, the yield curve flattening actually makes a lot of sense.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 15, 2017.

Bill Blain: “I Have Never Seen So Many Extraordinary Events In One Year, And I’ve Been In Markets Since 1985!

We don’t think 2018 is going to be the End of the World. There will be opportunities and mistakes. Winners and grinners, and more than a few losers. Sure, we’re looking forward to the new MiFID regime – isn’t everyone? (US Readers…..)
Our broad brush picture is a continuation and acceleration of the Global Macro Alignment theme – a stronger global economy, cautious normalisation, continued upside for risk assets (stocks and alternatives), but a negative outlook for the bond markets with rates set to rise as Central Banks pull back from distortion. They will remain nervous about financial market instability.
If things wobble, them my personal view is the High Yield market is where we will see the most dramatic losses start in bonds. We still see a strong chance of equity market correction – and will buy into it because the global economy is expanding. Our big Macro Threat for the coming year is resurgent inflation – how quickly will it mount and will it take out market sentiment.
The devil is in the detail. We’re positive across all the developed economies and expect to see growth expectations raise. Although the US, UK and Europe will be moving into Normalisation with tightening, while inflation remains sub 2% Japan will continue its ZIRP (zero interest rate policy) which is massive yen negative and therefore stock positive – my Japan-watching macro man Martin Malone is calling for further massive gains in Japan Stocks.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 15, 2017.

Why We Should Worry About China

Many of our readers might remember the late 80s. There were hundreds of movies, songs and books about the inevitable Japanese economic invasion. The ones of you that did not live that period can see that it did not happen.
Why? Because the Japanese growth miracle was built on a massive debt bubble and, once it burst, the country fell into stagnation for the better part of two decades. It still has not recovered.
China presents many similarities in its economic model. Massive debt, overcapacity and central planned growth targets.
Many economists and investors feel relieved because China is still growing at 6.8%. They should think twice. On one side, that level of growth is clearly overestimated. By any realistic measure of growth, China’s Gross Domestic Product annual increase is significantly lower than the official figures show. Patrick Artus, global chief economist at Natixis Global Asset Management, as well as other economists have noted that there has been a significant decoupling since mid-2014 between the government’s official growth reading and more reliable indicators. On the other hand, even if we agree with the official readings, this growth has been achieved using a worryingly high level of debt.

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on December 15, 2017.

The Running Of The Japan Bears

We’ve done a National Geographic – style deep dive into the world of the Japan bears, reading the scare stories about demographic decline, old people dying alone, underrepresentation of minorities on corporate boards, and other anecdotal ‘evidence’ of stagnant economic prospects. We tried to find the best examples of Japan bearishness: the scariest pieces of evidence we could find, stuff that portrays the world’s third largest economy as a zombie death trap for equity investors.
The two most established predictors of future equity returns are value and momentum. Academic research says buy stocks that are cheap and improving, at the fulcrum when other investors are starting to recognize that they are undervalued.
We believe Japanese equities today are at the fulcrum. Japan is the cheapest developed market in the world, and sentiment is shifting as other investors recognize the undervaluation. Japan bears are on the run.
Renowned investor and manager of the Yale endowment, David Swensen, recently highlighted his newfound enthusiasm for Japanese markets: ‘There are some very interesting things going in Japan, one of the places I’m most optimistic about. It seems like capitalism might actually be taking root, making progress there.’
Japan just hit its seventh consecutive quarter of positive GDP growth for its longest streak in 16 years. As the Wall Street Journal noted in November, ‘Japan’s economy has been remarkably consistent since the beginning of 2016, growing at an annual rate between 0.9% and 2.6% every quarter.’

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 13, 2017.

Bitcoin Mania Shows The World Financial System Is a Con

The hidden agenda in the so-called tax reform bill is to act as stop-gap quantitative easing to plug the ‘liquidity’ hole that is opening up as the Federal Reserve (America’s central bank) makes a few gestures to winding down its balance sheet and ‘normalizing’ interest rates. Thus, the aim of the tax bill is to prop up capital markets, and the apprehension of this lately is what keeps stocks making daily record highs. Okay, sorry, a lot to unpack there.
Primer: quantitative easing (QE) is a the Federal Reserve’s weasel phrase for its practice of just creating ‘money’ out of thin air, which it uses to buy US Treasury bonds (and other stuff). The Fed buys this stuff through intermediary Too Big To Fail banks which allows them to cream off a cut and, theoretically, pump the ‘money’ into the economy. This ‘money’ is the ‘liquidity.’ As it happens, most of that money ends up in the capital markets. Stocks go up and up and bond yields stay ultra low with bond prices ultra high. What remains on the balance sheets are a shit-load of IOUs.
The third round of QE was officially halted in 2014 in the USA. However, the world’s other main central banks acted in rotation – passing the baton of QE, like in a relay race – so that when the US slacked off, Japan, Britain, the European Central Bank, and the Bank of China, took over money-printing duties. And because money flies easily around the world via digital banking, a lot of that foreign money ended up in ‘sure-thing’ US capital markets (as well as their own ). Mega-tons of ‘money’ were created out of thin air around the world since the near-collapse of the system in 2008.

This post was published at Wall Street Examiner on December 8, 2017.

Bitcoin’s ‘Message’ & Tax Reform’s ‘Hidden Agenda’

Authored by James Howard Kunstler via Kunstler.com,
The hidden agenda in the so-called tax reform bill is to act as stop-gap quantitative easing to plug the ‘liquidity’ hole that is opening up as the Federal Reserve (America’s central bank) makes a few gestures to winding down its balance sheet and ‘normalizing’ interest rates. Thus, the aim of the tax bill is to prop up capital markets, and the apprehension of this lately is what keeps stocks making daily record highs. Okay, sorry, a lot to unpack there.
Primer: quantitative easing (QE) is a the Federal Reserve’s weasel phrase for its practice of just creating ‘money’ out of thin air, which it uses to buy US Treasury bonds (and other stuff). The Fed buys this stuff through intermediary Too Big To Fail banks which allows them to cream off a cut and, theoretically, pump the ‘money’ into the economy. This ‘money’ is the ‘liquidity.’ As it happens, most of that money ends up in the capital markets. Stocks go up and up and bond yields stay ultra low with bond prices ultra high. What remains on the balance sheets are a shit-load of IOUs.
The third round of QE was officially halted in 2014 in the USA. However, the world’s other main central banks acted in rotation – passing the baton of QE, like in a relay race – so that when the US slacked off, Japan, Britain, the European Central Bank, and the Bank of China, took over money-printing duties. And because money flies easily around the world via digital banking, a lot of that foreign money ended up in ‘sure-thing’ US capital markets (as well as their own ). Mega-tons of ‘money’ were created out of thin air around the world since the near-collapse of the system in 2008.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 8, 2017.