Houston (Fed), We Have A Problem (Problems) – Part 1/2

15 seconds and counting

12….11…10…9….IGNITION SEQUENCE START….6….5….4….3….2….1….0….ALL ENGINES RUNNING….LIFTOFF….WE HAVE A LIFTOFF!

The Fed finally raised rates after nearly a decade.  On December 16, the Fed decided to raise rates – for the first time since June 2006 – by 0.25%, or 25 basis points. It was widely expected by the markets and I only expected 10bps hike. Well, I was wrong on that.

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) unanimously voted to set the new target range for the federal funds rate at 0.25% to 0.50%, up from 0% to 0.25%. In the statement, the policy makers judged the economy “has been expanding at a moderate pace.” Labor market had shown “further improvement.” Inflation, on the other hand, has continued to “run below Committee’s 2 percent longer-run objective” mainly due to low energy prices.

Remember when the Fed left rates unchanged in September? It was mainly due to low inflation. What’s the difference this time?

In September, the Fed clearly stated “…surveybased measures of longer-term inflation expectations have remained stable.”

Now, the Fed clearly states “…some survey-based measures of longer-term inflation expectations have edged down.”

So…umm…why did they raise rates this time?

Here is a statement comparison from October to December:

Fed Statment Comparation – Oct. to Dec. Source: WSJ
Fed Statement Comparison – Oct. to Dec.
Source: WSJ

On the pace of rate hikes looking forward, the FOMC says:

In determining the timing and size of future adjustments to the target range for the federal funds rate, the Committee will assess realized and expected economic conditions relative to its objectives of maximum employment and 2 percent inflation. This assessment will take into account a wide range of information, including measures of labor market conditions, indicators of inflation pressures and inflation expectations, and readings on financial and international developments. In light of the current shortfall of inflation from 2 percent, the Committee will carefully monitor actual and expected progress toward its inflation goal. The Committee expects that economic conditions will evolve in a manner that will warrant only gradual increases in the federal funds rate; the federal funds rate is likely to remain, for some time, below levels that are expected to prevail in the longer run. However, the actual path of the federal funds rate will depend on the economic outlook as informed by incoming data.

They clearly stated one of the things they look for, which is inflation expectations. But, they also did state that “inflation expectations have edged down.”

It seems to me that the Fed did not decide to raise rates. The markets forced them. Fed Funds Futures predicted about 80% chance of a rate-hike this month. If the Fed did not raise rates, they would have lost their credibility.

I believe the Fed will have to “land” (lower back) rates this year, for the following reasons:

  • Growing Monetary Policy Divergence

On December 3, European Central Bank (ECB) stepped up its stimulus efforts. The central bank decided to lower deposit rates by 0.10% to -0.30%. The purpose of lower deposit rates is to charge banks more to store excess reserves, which stimulates lending. In other words, free money for the people so they can spend more and save less.

ECB also decided to extend Quantitative Easing (QE) program. They will continue to buy 60 billion euros ($65 billion) worth of government bonds and other assets, but until March 2017, six months longer than previously planned, taking the total size to 1.5 trillion euros ($1.6 trillion), from the previous $1.2 trillion euros package size. During the press conference, ECB President Mario Draghi said the asset eligibility would be broadened to include regional and local debt and signaled QE program could be extended further if necessary.

ECB might be running out of ammunition. ECB extending its purchases to regional and local debt raises doubts about its program.

Not only ECB is going the opposite direction of the Fed. Three weeks ago, Bank of Japan (BoJ) announced a fresh round of new stimulus. The move was hardly significant, but it is still a new round of stimulus. The central bank decided to buy more exchange-traded fund (ETF), extend the maturity of bonds it owns to around 7-12 years from previously planned 7-10 years, and increase purchases of risky assets.

I previously stated in “Central Banks Smash: No Growth, No Inflation“,

The extensions of its QE are beginning to become routine or the “new normal”.

Japan's ETF Market - BoJ's holdings Source: Bloomberg
Japan’s ETF Market – BoJ’s holdings
Source: Bloomberg

The move by BoJ exposes the weakness of its past actions. It suggests the bank is also out of ammunition. Already owning 52% or more of the Japan’s ETF market and having a GDP-to-Debt ratio around 245%, it is only a matter of time before Japan’s market crashes. Cracks are already beginning to be shown. I expect the market crash anytime before the end of 2019.

So, what are the side-effects of these growing divergence?

For example, the impact of a US dollar appreciation resulting from a tightening in US monetary policy and the impact of a depreciation in other currencies resulting from easing in its monetary policies. Together, these price changes will shift global demand – away from goods and services produced here in the U.S. and toward those produced abroad. In others words, US goods and services become more expensive abroad, leading to substitution by goods and services in other countries. Thus, it will hurt the sales and profits of U.S. multinationals. To sum up everything that is said in this paragraph, higher U.S. rates relative to rates around the global harms U.S. competitiveness.

  • Emerging Markets

Emerging markets were trouble last year. It is about to get worse.

International Monetary Fund (IMF) decided to include China’s currency, renminbi (RMB) or Yuan, to its Special Drawing Rights (SDR) basket, a basket of reserve currencies. Effective October 1, 2016, the Chinese currency is determined to be “freely usable” and will be included as a fifth currency, along with the U.S. dollar, euro, Japanese yen, and pound sterling, in the SDR basket.

“Freely useable” – not so well defined, is it?

Chinese government or should I say People’s Bank Of China (PBOC), cannot keep its hands off the currency (yuan). It does not want to let market forces take control. They think they can do whatever they want. As time goes on, it is highly unlikely. As market forces take more and more control of its exchange-rate, it will be pushed down, due to weak economic fundamentals and weak outlook.

China, no need to put a wall to keep market forces out. Let the market forces determine the value of your currency. It is only a matter of time before they break down the wall.

In August, China changed the way they value their currency. PBOC, China’s central bank, said it will decide the yuan midpoint rate based on the previous day’s close. In daily trading, the yuan is allowed to move 2% above or below the midpoint rate, which is called the daily fixing. In the past, the central bank used to ignore the daily moves and do whatever they want. Their decision to make the midpoint more market-oriented is a step forward, but they still have a long way to go.

China saw a significant outflows last year. According to Institute of International Finance (IFF), an authoritative tracker of emerging market capital flows, China will post record capital outflows in 2015 of more than $500 billion. The world’s second largest economy is likely to see $150 billion in capital outflow in the fourth quarter of 2015, following the third quarter’s record $225 billion.

Ever since the devaluation in August, PBOC has intervened to prop yuan up. The cost of such intervention is getting expensive. The central bank must spend real money during the trading day to guide the yuan to the level the communists want. Where do they get the cash they need? FX reserves.

China’s foreign-exchange reserves, the world’s largest, declined from a peak of nearly $4 trillion in June 2014 to just below $3.5 trillion now, mainly due to PBOC’s selling of dollars to support yuan. In November, China’s FX (forex) reserves fell $87.2 billion to $3.44 trillion, the lowest since February 2013 and largest since a record monthly drop of $93.9 billion in August. It indicates a pick-up in capital outflows. This justifies increased expectations for yuan depreciation. Since the Fed raised rates last month, I would not be surprised if the capital flight flies higher, leading to a weaker yuan.

China Reserves Source: Capital Economics
China Reserves
Source: Capital Economics

Depreciation of its currency translates into more problems for “outsiders,” including emerging markets (EM). EMs, particularly commodities-linked countries got hit hard last year as China slowed down and commodity prices slumped. EMs will continue to do so this year, 2016.

The anticipation of tightening in the U.S. and straightening dollar put a lot of pressure on EM. EM have seen a lot of significant capital outflows because they carry a lot of dollar denominated debt. According to the October report from IFF, net capital flows to EM was negative last year for the first time in 27 years (1988). Investors are estimated to pull $540 billion from developing markets in 2015. Foreign inflows will fall to $548 billion, about half of 2014 level and lower than levels recorded during the financial crisis in 2008. Foreign investor inflows probably fell to about 2% of GDP in emerging markets last year, down from a record of about 8% in 2007.

Capital Flows to Emerging Markets, Annual Data Source: IFF
Capital Flows to Emerging Markets, Annual Data
Source: IFF, taken from Bloomberg

Also contributing to EM outflows are portfolio flows, “the signs are that outflows are coming from institutional investors as well as retail,” said Charles Collyns, IIF chief economist. Investors in equities and bonds are estimated to have withdrawn $40 billion in the third quarter, the worst quarterly figure since the fourth quarter of 2008.

A weaker yuan will make it harder for its main trading partners, emerging markets and Japan, to be competitive. This will lead to central banks of EM to further weaken their currencies. Japan will have no choice but to keep extending their QE program. And to Europe. And to the U.S.      DOMINO EFFECT

Why are EMs so important? According to RBS Economics, EMs have accounted for 50%-60 of global output and 70% of global economic growth each year since the 2008 crisis.

Emerging Markets Share of Global Economy Source: RBS Economics
Emerging Markets Share of Global Economy
Source: RBS Economics

Some EM investors, if not all, will flee as U.S. rates rise, compounding the economic pain there. Corporate debt in EM economies increased significantly over the past decade. According to IMF’s Global Financial Stability report, the corporate debt of non-financial firms across major EM economies increased from about $4 trillion in 2004 to well over $18 trillion in 2014.

Figure 3.1. Emerging Market Economies Evolving Capital
EM Corporate Debt and Market Cap. Source: IMF – Page 84

When you add China’s debt with EM, the total debt is higher than the market capitalization. The average EM corporate debt-to-GDP ratio has also grown by 26% the same period.

EM Corporate Debt (percent of GDP) - Page 84
EM Corporate Debt (percent of GDP) – Page 84

The speed in the build-up of debt is distressing. According to Standard & Poor’s, corporate defaults in EM last year have hit their highest level since 2009, and are up 40% year-over-year (Y/Y).

Corporate Defaults Source: WSJ
Corporate Defaults
Source: WSJ

According to IFF (article by WSJ), “companies and countries in EMs are due to repay almost $600 billion of debt maturing this year….of which $85 is dollar-denominated. Almost $300 billion of nonfinancial corporate debt will need to be refinanced this year.”

I would not be surprised if EM corporate debt meltdown triggers sovereign defaults. As yuan weakens, Japan will be forced to devalue their currency by introducing me QE which leaves EMs with no choice. EMs will be forced to devalue their currency. Devaluations in EM currencies will make it much harder (it already is) for EM corporate borrowers to service their debt denominated in foreign currencies, due to decline in their income streams. Deterioration of income leads to a capital flight, pushing down the value of the currency even more, which leads to much more capital flight.

Let IMF explain the situation in EM,

“Firms that have borrowed the most stand to endure the sharpest rise in their debt-service costs once interest rates begin to rise in some advanced economies. Furthermore, local currency depreciations associated with rising policy rates in the advanced economies would make it increasingly difficult for emerging market firms to service their foreign currency-denominated debts if they are not hedged adequately. At the same time, lower commodity prices reduce the natural hedge of firms involved in this business.”

According to its Global Financial Stability report, EM companies have an estimated $3 trillion in “overborrowing” loans in the last decade, reflecting a quadrupling of private sector debt between 2004  and 2014.

EM Corporate Bond Composition (Billions of U.S. dollars) - Page 86
EM Corporate Bond Composition
(Billions of U.S. dollars) – Page 86
Private Sector Debt to GDP (Percent - Page 11
Private Sector Debt to GDP
(Percent – Page 11

Rising US rates and a strengthening dollar will make things much worse for EMs. Jose Vinals, financial counsellor and director of the IMF’s Monetary and Capital Markets Department, said in his October article, “Higher leverage of the private sector and greater exposure to global financial conditions have left firms more susceptible to economic downturns, and emerging markets to capital outflows and deteriorating credit quality.”

I believe currency war will only hit “F5” this year and corporate defaults will increase, leading to the early stage of sovereigns’ defaults. I would not be surprised if some companies gets a loan denominated in euros just to pay off the debt denominated in U.S dollars. That’s likely to make things worse.

Those are some of the risks I see that will force the Fed to lower back the rates.  I will address more risks, including lack of liquidity, junk bonds, inventory, etc, in my next article. Thank you.

EXTRA: Market reactions,

EUR/USD:

EUR/USD - Hourly Chart
EUR/USD – Hourly Chart

USD/JPY:

USD/JPY - Hourly
USD/JPY – Hourly

10-Year Treasury Index:

10-Year Treasury Index (TNX on thinkorswim platform) - Hourly
10-Year Treasury Index ( “TNX” on thinkorswim platform) – Hourly

2-Year U.S. Treasury Note Futures:

2-Year U.S. Treasury Note Futures ( "/ZT" on thinkorswim platform) - Hourly
2-Year U.S. Treasury Note Futures ( “/ZT” on thinkorswim platform) – Hourly

Central Banks Smash: No Growth, No Inflation

European Central Bank:

On October 22 (Thursday), European Central Bank (ECB) left rates unchanged, with interests on the main refinancing operations, marginal lending, and deposit rate at 0.05%, 0.30% and -0.20, respectively. But the press conference gave an interesting hint. Mario Draghi, the President of ECB, was most dovish as he could be, “work and assess” (unlike “wait and see” before).

The central bank is preparing to adjust “size, composition and duration” of its Quantitative Easing (QE) program at its December meeting, “the degree of monetary policy accommodation will need to be re-examined at our December monetary policy meeting”, Draghi said during the press conference. They are already delivering a massive stimulus to the euro area, following decisions taken between June 2014 and March 2015, to cut rates and introduce QE program. In September 2014, ECB cut its interest rate, or deposit rate to -0.20%, a record low. Its 1.1 trillion euros QE program got under way in March with purchases of 60 billion euros a month until at least September 2016.

When ECB cut deposit rate to record low in September 2014, Mr. Draghi blocked the entry to additional cuts, “we are at the lower bound, where technical adjustment are not going to be possible any longer.” (September 2014 press conference). Since then, growth hasn’t improved much and other central banks, such as Sweden and Switzerland, cut their interest rates into much lower territory. Now, another deposit rate-cut is back, “Further lowering of the deposit facility rate was indeed discussed.” Mr. Draghi said during the press conference.

The outlook for growth and inflation remains weak. Mr. Draghi – famous for his “whatever it takes” line – expressed “downside risks” to both economic growth and inflation, mainly from China and emerging markets.

Given the extent to which the central bank provided substantial amount of stimulus, the growth in the euro area has been disappointing. The euro area fell into deflation territory in September after a few months of low inflation. In September, annual inflation fell to 0.1% from 0.1% and 0.2% in August and July, respectively. Its biggest threat to the inflation is energy, which fell 8.9% in September, down from 7.2% and 5.6% in August and July, respectively.

Inflation Rate - Annual Percentage Change Source: Eurostat
Inflation Rate – Annual Percentage Change
Source: Eurostat

Europe’s economy will slow down due to export demand decreasing from China and emerging countries, where a quarter of all euro-zone exports gets shipped to.

As the ECB left the door open for more QE, Euro took a dive. Euro took a deeper dive when Mr. Draghi mentioned that deposit rate-cut was discussed. Deposit rate cut will also weaken the euro if implemented. After the press conference, the exchange rate is already pricing in a rate-cut. Mentions of deposit rate-cut and extra QE sent European markets higher and government bond yields fell across the board. The Euro Stoxx 50 index climbed 2.6%, as probability of more easy money increased. Swiss 10-year yield fell to fresh record low of -0.3% after the ECB press conference. 2-year Italian and Spanish yields went negative for the first time. 2-year German yield hit a record low of -0.32.

Regarding the exchange rate (EUR/USD), I expect it to hit a parity level by mid-February 2016.

As I stated in the previous posts, I expect more quantitative easing by ECB (and Bank of Japan also). I’m expecting ECB to increase its QE program to 85 billion euros a month and extend it until March 2017. When ECB decides to increase and extend the scope of its QE, I also expect deposit rate-cut of 10 basis points.

ECB will be meeting on December 3 when its quarterly forecasts for inflation and economic growth will be released. The only conflict with this meeting is that U.S. Federal Reserve policy makers meets two weeks later. ECB might hold off until the decision of the Fed, but the possibility of that is low.

EUR/USD Reaction:

EUR-USD - ECB Press Conference - Nov 1 2015
EUR/USD – Hourly Chart

U.S. Federal Reserve:

On October 28 (Wednesday), the Federal Reserve left rates unchanged. The bank was hawkish overall. It signaled that rate-hike is still on the table at its December meeting and dropped previous warnings about the events abroad that poses risks to the U.S. economy.

It does not make sense to drop “Recent global economic and financial developments may restrain economic activity somewhat and are likely to put further downward pressure on inflation in the near term.” (September statement) I’m sure the events abroad has its risks (spillover effect) to the U.S. economy and the Fed will keep an eye on them.

In its statement, it said the U.S. economy was expanding at a “moderate pace” as business capital investments and consumer spending rose at “solid rates”, but removed the following “…labor market continued to improve…” (September statement). The pace of job growth slowed, following weak jobs report in the past several months.

Let’s take a look at the comparison of the Fed statement from September to October, shall we?

Fed Statment Comparation - Sept. to Oct. Source: http://projects.wsj.com/fed-statement-tracker/
Fed Statment Comparation – Sept. to Oct.
Source: http://projects.wsj.com/fed-statement-tracker/

The Fed badly wants to raise rates this year, but conditions here and abroad does not support its mission. Next Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting takes place on December 15-16. By then, we will get important economic indicators including jobs report, Gross Domestic Product (GDP), retail spending and Consumer Price Index (CPI). If we don’t see any strong rebound, rate-hike is definitely off the table, including my prediction of 0.10% rate-hike for next month.

The report caused investors to increase the possibility of a rate increase in December. December rate-hike odds rose to almost 50% after the FOMC statement.

Greenback (US Dollar) Reaction:

U.S. Dollar ( "/DX" on thinkorswim platform) - Hourly Chart
U.S. Dollar ( “/DX” on thinkorswim platform) – Hourly Chart

 

Reserve Bank of New Zealand:

On October 28 (Wednesday), Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) left rates unchanged at 2.75% after three consecutive rate-cuts since June. The central bank’s Governor Graeme Wheeler said that at present “it is appropriate to watch and wait.” “The prospects for slower growth in China and East Asia” remains a concern.

Housing market continues to pose financial stability risk. House price inflation is way higher. Median house prices are about nine times the average income. Short supply caused the house prices to increase significantly. “While residential building is accelerating, it will take some time to correct the supply shortfall.” RBNZ said in a statement. Auckland median home prices rose about 25.4% from September 2014 to September 2015, “House price inflation in Auckland remains strong, posing a financial stability risk.”

Further reduction in the Official Cash Rate (OCR) “seems likely” to ensure future CPI inflation settles near the middle of the target range (1 to 3%).

Although RBNZ left rates unchanged, Kiwi (NZD) fell because the central bank sent a dovish tone, “However, the exchange rate has been moving higher since September, which could, if sustained, dampen tradables sector activity and medium-term inflation. This would require a lower interest rate path than would otherwise be the case.” It’s a strong signal that RBNZ will cut rates to 2.5% if Kiwi continues to strengthening. I will be shorting Kiwi every time it strengthens.

“The sharp fall in dairy prices since early 2014 continues to weigh on domestic farm incomes…However, it is too early to say whether these recent improvements will be sustained.” RBNZ said in the statement. Low dairy prices caused RBNZ to cut rates. New Zealand exports of whole milk powder fell 58% in the first nine months of this year, compared with the same period in 2014. But, there’s a good news.

Recent Chinese announcement that it would abolish its one-child policy might just help increase dairy prices, as demand will increase. How? New Zealand is a major dairy exporter to China. Its milk powder and formula industry is likely to benefit from a baby boomlet in China.

NZD/USD Reactions:

NZD/USD - Hourly Chart
NZD/USD – Hourly Chart

 

Bank of Japan:

On October 30 (Friday), Bank of Japan (BoJ) maintained its monetary policy unchanged and downgraded its growth and inflation projections. BoJ left – by 8-1 majority vote – its QE program at current level of 80 trillion yen (about $660 billion) a year.

BoJ expects to hit its 2% inflation target in late 2016 or early 2017 vs. previous projection of mid-2016. Again and Again. This is the second time BoJ changed its target data. The last revision before this week was in April. It also lowered its growth projections for the current year by 0.5% to 1.2%.

They also lowered projections for Core-CPI, which excludes fresh food but includes energy. They lowered their forecasts for this fiscal year to 0.1%, down from a previous estimate of 0.7%. For the next fiscal year, they expect 1.4%, down from a previous estimate of 1.9%. Just like other central banks, BoJ acknowledged that falling energy prices were hitting them hard.

Low inflation, no economic growth, revisions, revisions, and revisions. Nothing is recovering in Japan.

Haruhiko Kuroda, the governor of BoJ, embarked on aggressive monetary easing in early 2013. So far he hasn’t had much success.

In the second quarter (April-June), Japan’s economy shrank at an annualized 1.2%. Housing spending declined 0.4% in September from 2.8% in August. Core-CPI declined for two straight months, falling 0.1% year-over-year both in September and August. Annual exports only rose 0.6% in September, slowest growth since August 2014, following 3.1% gain in August.

Exports are part of the calculation for Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Another decline in GDP would put Japan into recession, which could force BoJ to ease its monetary policy again. Another recession would be its fourth since the 2008 financial crisis and the second since Shinzo Abe (Abenomics), the Prime Minister of Japan, came to power in December 2012.

Its exports to China, Japan’s second-biggest market after the U.S., fell 3.5% in September. The third-quarter (July-September) GDP report will be released on November 16.

April 2014 sales tax (sales tax increased from 5% to 8%) increase only made things worse in Japan. It failed to boost inflation and weakened consumer sentiment.

In April 2013, BoJ expanded its QQE (or QE), buying financial assets worth 60-70 trillion yen a year, including Exchange Traded Funds (ETF).

QQE stands for Quantitative and Qualitative Easing. Qualitative easing targets certain assets to drive up their prices and drive down their yield, such as ETF. Quantitative Easing targets to drive down interest rates. Possibility of negative interest rates has been shot down by BoJ. But, why trust BoJ for their word? Actions speak louder than words.

In October 2014, BoJ increased the QQE to an annual purchases of 80 trillion yen. When is the next expansion? December?

Did you know that the BoJ owns 52% of Japan’s ETF market?

Japan's ETF Market - BoJ's holdings Source: Bloomberg
Japan’s ETF Market – BoJ’s holdings
Source: Bloomberg

For over a decade, BoJ’s aggressive monetary easing through asset purchases did not help Japan’s economy. Since 2001, the central bank operated 9 QEs and is currently operating its current 10th QE (or QQE). The extensions of its QE are beginning to become routine or the “new normal.”

Growth and prices are slowing in China, with no inflation in United Kingdom, Euro-zone, and the U.S. The chances that Japan will crawl out of deflation are very slim.

USD/JPY Reaction:

USD/JPY - Hourly Chart
USD/JPY – Hourly Chart

US Market Reactions (ECB and FOMC):

S&P 500 ("SPX") - Hourly Chart
S&P 500 (“SPX”) – Hourly Chart

 

Next week, both Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) and Bank of England (BoE) will meet. Will be very interesting to watch.

Global Markets Crash + Asian Crisis Part 2

Global markets crash. Currency wars. What’s next? Good buying opportunity?

US markets: Markets plunged dramatically on Friday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 530.94 points (3.12%), the worst one-day loss since November 2011 (on a % basis). The index is now down 10.2% (correction territory) below the May 19 closing and all-time high of 18,312, for the first time since 2011. For the week, the index is down 5.8%, the steepest decline since September 2011.

S&P 500 fell 64.84 points (3.19%), the worst one-day loss since November 2011 (on a % basis) and falling below 2,000 level for the first time since February. For the week, the index is also down 5.8%, the steepest decline since September 2011.

NASDAQ fell 171.45 (3.52%). For the week, the index is down 6.8%, the biggest weekly decline since August 2011.

European Markets: European stocks fell into correction territory on Friday. The Stoxx European 600 1.3% to 368.59. The index is down 11% from April 15 closing and all-time high of 414.06. For the week, the index is down 4.6%, the worst weekly performance since December. Other indexes fell into correction territory also. Germany’s DAX Index is down 18% from its highs. So far, 13 out of 18 western-European markets have lost 10% or more from their highs.

US oil prices fell just below $40 for the first time since February 2009, due to demand concerns and increasing supplies. US oil prices fell for their 8th consecutive week, the longest losing streak since 1986.

The CBOE Market Volatility Index (VIX) (also known as “Fear Index”) jumped 46.45% to $28.03 on Friday. For the week, the index rose 118.47% (from $12.83 to $28.03), largest % move ever in a week.


Three factors driving the free-fall of the global markets:

  • Growing concerns (or uncertainty) about China’s economy
  • US rate-hike uncertainty. Uncertainty is the market’s worst foe
  • Plunging oil prices

There are concerns about slowing growth in emerging economies, particularly China. Economic data from China showed manufacturing PMI in China fell to a 77-month low of 47.1 in August, down from July’s final reading of 47.8. A reading below 50 represent a contraction. About two weeks ago, China’s trade data showed that July exports declined by 8.3% year-over-year (Y/Y) due to a strong yuan and lower demand from its trading partners. Exports to the Japan, European Union, and United States fell 13%, 12.3%, and 1.3%, respectively. Exports are China’s strongest growth machine. The weakness in the fundamentals started (still is) putting pressures on policymakers. Then, a surprise move came.

On August 11 (days after the exports data), the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) made a surprising move to devalue its currency (so called “one-time” move), the renminbi (RMB) (or yuan), against the US dollar (greenback) by 1.9%, the biggest devaluation since 1994 and first devaluation since the yuan was de-pegged from the dollar in 2005. PBOC decided to lower daily reference rate – which sets the value of yuan against the greenback – to make yuan more market-oriented exchange rate.

Three reasons behind China’s move:

  • Weak fundamentals, including exports
  • Desire to be included in IMF SDR basket
  • Impending US rate-hike

China’s move increased concerns over the health of its economy (second largest economy in the world) and shocked the global markets which continues today. China’s devaluation signaled that the economy there must be worse than what everybody believes. Continuous slowdown as it shifts from an export-led economy to a consumer-led economy has led Chinese government (or PBOC) to help stimulate economic activity. Over the past year, they cut interest rates four times and cut RRR (Reserve Requirement Ratio) several times. The goal is to combat slowing growth by strengthening liquidity and boosting lending (so far, unsuccessful). The recent devaluation will make imports expensive and help boost exports (reminder: exports fell 8.3% Y/Y in July).

Another reason behind China’s recent move is its desire for the yuan to be included in the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Special Drawing Rights (SDR), a basket of reserve currencies, in which the US Dollar, Euro, Japanese Yen, and British Pound are part of. Earlier this week, IMF decided to extend its scheduled revision of SDR basket (revision takes place every five years) by nine months (to September 30, 2016), giving China more time to make yuan (or Renminbi ) “freely usable”, a key requirement join the SDR basket.

Last reason behind China’s recent move is impending rate-hike in the US, which would support the greenback and would have consequences for China. The recent devaluation ended the era of Yuan appreciation which began in 2005 (reminder: yuan was de-pegged from the dollar in 2005). Ever since “Strong Yuan” policy began in 2005, Yuan (CNY) appreciated 28% against the US Dollar (USD), 30% against the Euro (EUR), and 65% against the Japanese Yen (JPY)

Rise of Yuan against most of its trading partners’ currencies has made its trading partners exports attractive. US rate-hike would have made China’s export rivals even more attractive. Now that China devalued its currency in the wake of falling exports (reminder: exports fell 8.3% Y/Y in July), its trading partners would want to protect their exports share. Therefore, China has fired the first shot to start currency wars.

Consequences of China’s actions:

Countries like Australia, Thailand, New Zealand, Malaysia and Canada are likely to suffer from China’s devaluation. These countries are largest exporter to China. Don’t also forget that these countries can affect other countries. Basically, it is “Domino Effect” economically.

Earlier this week, Kazakhstan – whose top trading partners are China and Russia – switch to a free float (which means that the central bank stopped managing the exchange rate), causing its currency, the tenge (KZT), to fall 25%. The move comes due to three reasons; crude prices (Kazakhstan is central Asia’s biggest crude exporter) fell 55% in the past year, Russian has allowed its currency (ruble) to depreciate significantly as commodity prices plummeted, and due to the yuan devaluation. The motivation for the move is to preserve its export competitiveness.

Vietnam has also allowed its currency, the dong, to weaken further due to the recent devaluation by its biggest trading partner, China. Who will be next to devalue their currency in this crisis; Asian Crisis Part 2.

Commodities denominated in US dollars will become more expensive to buyers in China, the world’s largest consumer of raw materials. When China’s economy slows, demand for raw materials, such as copper, Iron-ore, etc decreases and the lower demand puts downward pressure on commodity prices.

China, second-largest oil consumer, is causing oil prices to drop non-stop, which will hurt oil exporters, such as Canada (possibly leading to another rate-cut).

Falling commodity prices mean one other thing; deflationary pressures.

Slow growth and lower commodity prices most likely will lead other central banks, especially large commodity exporters to maintain their easy monetary policies for longer. Countries with large current account deficits and/or corporations with large amount of debt denominated in US dollars could see their economic/financial conditions worsen, causing them to further increase/expand their easy monetary policy (rate-cuts, for example). Not only commodity exporters and emerging countries will suffer, but also US companies.

US companies with significant exposure to China will suffer from China’s devaluation. Such companies are Wynn Resorts, Micron Technology, Yum Brands, and Apple, accounting for China sales exposure of 70%, 55%, 52% and 30%, respectively.


When I noticed China economic getting worse earlier this year, I knew Apple depended on China a lot, so I said that Apple was overvalued as more competitors were emerging and China’s economy was about to get worse. Even though Apple’s earnings came out better than expected, I went ahead on twitter and responded to Carl Icahn’s comments on the Apple and the market. He expected (maybe still expects) Apple’s stock price to double, which I did not (and I still don’t). More competitors are starting to emerge and China’s economic conditions are getting worse (debt bubble coming).

Mr. Icahn believed the market was extremely overheated and expected market bubble. I have to agree with him. I preferred (still prefer) to use the term “correction”. At this time, I believe current market sell-off is temporary and the dust will be settled in a month (good-buying opportunity). I expect “market bubble” after the Fed raises interest rates to the range of 0.70% and 0.80% (early 2017?). That’s when market sell-off will be much worse than the current situation.

I’m calling Mr. Icahn to respond to my questions; how do you think China’s action will affect global economies (or markets)? Do you still think Apple could double in price?


Now, let’s get back to how else China can affect global economies (deflationary pressures). I expect Europe’s economy and Japan’s economy to slow down.

Europe’s economy will slow down due to export demand decreasing and the uncertainty created by Greece (Yes, they did get a bailout deal, but it’s not over). That’s why I believe European Central Bank (ECB) will either lower interest rates even further or they will increase current Quantitative Easing (QE) program, pushing Euro currency lower. Current falling prices in the European markets are a golden opportunity. Lower interest rates and/or increased QE program will send European equity prices higher>>>all-time highs will be made.

Japan, China’s largest trading partner, will also suffer due to export demand decreasing. The devaluation of yuan (or, Renminbi) will make Japanese exports less competitive. Japan’s economy is still suffering despite Abenomics (similar to QE). Recent data showed GDP (Gross Domestic Product) falling at annual pace of 1.6% in 2nd quarter, due to slowing exports and lack of consumer spending. Abenomics has failed. Additional monetary easing coming? If the economy does not get any better in the next several months, I expect additional monetary easing by the Bank of Japan (BoJ).

I don’t believe the Federal Reserve will stop its plan to hike the rates, but it will slow the pace of it. On Wednesday (August 19), Fed minutes of July meeting (leaked earlier) showed that Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) members “…judged that the conditions for policy firming had not yet been achieved, but they noted that conditions were approaching that point.” They also said that “…the recent decreases in oil prices and the possibility of adverse spillovers from slower economic growth in China raised some concerns.” US dollar has been falling ever since the release of fed minutes, as expectations for September rate-hike decreased.

Now more troubles emerged, I wonder what the Fed will say or do. There are many US economic reports that will come until the Fed’s September meeting. The reports will decide the fate of rate-hike for September. At this time, I expect the Fed to hike the rates in September by 10 basis points (or 0.10%).

If the current China situation (or Asian Crisis Part 2) gets out of control, there will be no rate-hike for the rest of year even if there’s strong US economic reports.

All comments welcomed. Thank you.


Disclaimer: The posts are not a recommendation to buy or sell any stocks, currencies, etc mentioned. They are solely my personal opinions. Every investor/trader must do his/her own due diligence before making any investment/trading decision.

Liar’s Poker Player, Greece, Loses: Falling Further Through The Wreckage In Greece

Greece had a close call to exit from the 19-member euro-zone (Grexit) following months of uncertainty. Alex Tsipras and Yanis Varoufakis were playing creditors for fools and bluffed too much. Now, they have lost “Liar’s Poker”.

Two weeks ago, more than 61% of Greeks rejected a deal in a referendum that included pensions overhauls and sales taxes. Then on Monday morning, Greece finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, resigned after Eurogroup participants called for his resign because his absence from its meetings. Before the vote, he said he would resign if Greeks voted “Yes”. He is replaced by Euclid Tsakalotos, who has been involved in talks with European and International Monetary Fund (IMF) creditors.

Then, Euro leaders said that July 12 (Sunday) would be “deal or no deal”.  Several days before July 12, Greece Prime Minister Alex Tsipras provided the same type of deal that Greek people voted “No” for, but with little bit tougher austerity. He broke his promise to Greek people.

Over the weekend (July 11-July 12), Euro leaders clashed over the deal. On July 13 morning (Monday), deal was reached. Euro-zone leaders agreed to give Greece three-year bailout up to EUR 86 billion ($93 billion) of aid which Tsipras accepted. This time, he absolutely broke his promise to Greek people.

The deal is much tougher and harsh, for Greece and its people, than the deals in the past few weeks. The deal also includes 30-year, euro-50-billion state privatisation programme. Half of the fund will be used to recapitalise Greek banks, while the remainder will used for debt servicing and other economic needs.

On late July 15 (Wednesday), the Greek parliament approved the deal. In 300-seat chamber, 229 voted to approve the deal and 64 were against it. There was 6 abstentions and 1 absent.

On the morning of July 16 (Thursday), after leaving rates unchanged, European Central Bank (ECB) President, Mario Draghi stated in the press conference that Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) would be increased by 900 million euros ($979 million) over a week. There were reports that Greece asked for $1.5 billion ELA assistance.

On the same day, the Eurogroup finance ministers agreed to the launch of bailout talks and approved 7.2 billion euros ($7.6 billion) in bridge loans for three months. It will allow the Greek government to pay off upcoming payments. On July 20 (Monday), Greece is due to pay 3.5 billion euros ($3.8 billion) to ECB. Greece also has to pay about 2 billion euros ($2.2 billion) of arrears to the IMF. This bridge loan will “buy” time until the bailout is finalized.

Greek banks are scheduled to open on July 20 (Monday) after a 3-week closure. However, capital controls, or restrictions on cash withdrawals will remain in place.  Daily cash withdrawal is limited at 60 euros.

Despite more aid being given to Greece, the country’s debt level is still a major problem. The country has about EUR 320 billion debt ($345 billion), close to 200% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Source can be found here 

There are many calls for a debt haircut (not what you’re thinking). Debt haircut is reducing the amount of money owned. For example, if  someone owns about $10,000, but cannot pay it all. Creditor can try to accept to get paid a fraction of $10,000, say $4,000. After all something is better than nothing.

Some people including Christine Lagarde, managing director of IMF, disagreed on debt haircut. She said debt relief was needed. Extension of Greek debt maturities, extension of grade periods, and reduction of interest rates would be enough, she said.

Even though the deal gets finalized or not, Greece loses. With the deal, life gets harder. Without the deal and exit from euro-zone, life gets much harder.

I learned one important lesson over the past few months. Anything can change anytime. Greece’s current deal might fall through any moment. So much uncertainty has caused EUR (Euro) currency to move around in different directions.

Ever since the deal was announced, EUR/USD has been falling.

EUR/USD - Hourly
EUR/USD – Hourly

I have been short on Euro for some time now and I will continue to be short. Even with deal close, tough challenges remain ahead. ECB might increase or even extend its Quantitative Easing (QE) program, giving support to the European stocks and causing Euro to weaken further. I believe EUR/USD will reach parity level in the next 6 months.

Once the Greece drama settles, more focus will be on the fundamentals in the euro-zone outside of Greece, which accounts for more than 98% of the region’s GDP.

No clear road ahead, still. What’s next?

Recap: Europe, Australia, United Kingdom, Canada, and The United States.

This week was full of financial news. I will be talking about some of them, which I consider too important to pass up. I will also give my views on them.

Europe:

Last Monday (March 2, 2015), a report showed that Consumer Price Index (CPI) Flash Estimate ticked up to -0.3% year-over-year from previous -0.6%. Markets were expecting -0.4. The data was little positive. However, It remained in negative territory for the third consecutive month. There are deflation in euro zone. The deflation might soon end later in the mid-year, as Quantitative Easing (QE) program starts this Monday (March 9, 2015).

Last Thursday (March 5, 2015), European Central Bank (ECB) kept the interest rates unchanged. During the press conference, the President of ECB, Draghi stated that the QE would start on March 9. ECB raised its projections for the euro area, “which foresee annual real GDP increasing by 1.5% in 2015, 1.9% in 2016 and 2.1% in 2017.” Remember that these are just projections and can change anytime. Plus, central banks are not right all the time. Mr. Draghi felt confident as he talked about the future of Euro zone. He believes Euro zone will greatly benefit from QE program and some areas already have since the announcement of QE last January.

This week, EUR/USD fell all the way to 1.0838, lowest level since September 2003, due to positive U.S jobs reports, Greece worries and QE program starting next week. I was already short on EUR/USD and I still believe it has a room to go further down.

EUR/USD Hourly
EUR/USD – Hourly

Australia: 

Last Monday (March 2, 2015), Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) announced that they will leave the interest rate unchanged at 2.25%. In February meeting, RBA cut by 0.25%. This time, they did not. RBA is in “wait and see” mode, for now. I believe another rate cut is coming in the two meetings, depending on future economic reports. In the Monetary Policy Decision statement by RBA Governor, Glenn Stevens stated that the Australian dollar “remains above most estimates of its fundamental value…A lower exchange rate is likely to be needed to achieve balanced growth in the economy…Further easing of policy may be appropriate…”.  I believe RBA is open to further cuts and it will come in the next two meetings. However, positive economic reports might change that direction. As economics reports come out from Australia, we will have better sense of what RBA might do.

Last Monday (March 2, 2015), Building Approvals report came out and it was very positive. It was expected at -1.8%. It came out at whooping 7.9% up 10.7% from previous -2.8%. It shows that more buildings are being built. Thus, creating jobs. However, Building Approvals reports show that building approvals tend to jump around every month. If the report continues to be positive, it might convince RBA to keep the rate unchanged.

Last Tuesday (March 3, 2015), Gross Domestic Product (GDP) came at 0.5%, up only 0.1% from previous report (0.4%). It came out little bit weak from what was expected, 0.7%. It’s still very weak and it might have larger impact on RBA’s future actions. I believe RBA will cut because GDP is not improving much.

Last Wednesday (March 4, 2015), Retail Sales and Trade Balance reports came out from Australia. Retail sales came out at 0.4% as expected from previous 0.2%.  Trade balance on goods and services were a deficit of $980 million, an increase of $480 million from December 2014 ($500 million). All these numbers are in seasonally adjusted term. I believe the gap in Trade Balance from the last two reports might convince RBA little bit to cut the rate again.

I would be short on AUD. I believe it has the potential to go further down to 0.7500. The best pair would be to short AUD/USD (Positive U.S news and upcoming rate hike).

AUD/USD Hourly
AUD/USD – Hourly

United Kingdom: 

Last Thursday, Bank of England (BoE) kept the interest rate unchanged at 0.50% and Quantitative Easing (QE) programme at £375bn. In March 2009, the BoE’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) unanimously voted to cut the interest rate to 0.50% from 1.00% (-.50%). The interest rate still stays unchanged and QE stays steady, for now. If future economic reports such as wages, and inflation declines or comes out negative, rate cut might come. If it does not, rate hike might come sooner than expected. I believe it will get better and MPC will decide to raise the rate, sending Pound (GBP) higher.

This week, Pound (GBP) fell after rising last week, due to little negative news from UK and that BoE rejected higher rate for some time being because of concerns in oil prices and inflation. I would not trade GBP at this time. If I’m going to trade GBP, I would analyze its chart first. Did you notice that last week GBP/USD had-daily bearish engulfing pattern and this week there is-weekly bearish engulfing pattern?

GBP/USD - Daily
GBP/USD – Daily
GBP/USD - Weekly
GBP/USD – Weekly

Canada:

Last Tuesday (March 3, 2015), Canadian Gross Domestic Product (GDP) came out little positive at 0.3% from previous -0.2% on monthly basis. It was expected at 0.2%. On quarterly basis, it came out at 0.6% following 0.8% in third quarter.

Last Wednesday (March 4, 2015), Bank of Canada (BoC) left the interest rate unchanged at 0.75% following 0.25% cut last month. Ever since BoC cut the rate last month due to falling oil prices; oil prices has risen and been in $50 range. If oil price continue to fall, I believe they will cut the rate again. There is strong relationship between Canada and oil. As oil gets weaker, Loonie (CAD) gets weaker. Why? Canada is ranked 3rd globally in proved oil reserves. When making a trade decision on CAD, I would look at the oil prices. Of course, I would also look at news and technical. For example, if I want to trade USD/CAD, I would look at both U.S and Canada economic news (rate hike/cut, employment, etc) and technical on chart. If U.S economic news are strong, Canada economic news are weak and USD/CAD is just above strong support line, I would definitely go long on it. However, let’s say if USD/CAD is just below strong resistance line, I would wait for confirmation of a breakout and if the news are in my favor, I would go long.

Last Friday (March 6, 2015), Building Permits and Trade Balance reports were strongly negative. Building Permits came out at -12.9%, following 6.1% the previous month, expected of -4.2%. Trade balance on goods and services were a deficit of -2.5 billion, following -1.2 billion the previous month, expected of -0.9 billion. Both reports were negative, which sent CAD lower. At the same time, U.S non-farm payrolls came out strong, which sent USD higher. As a result, USD/CAD skyrocketed. The reports will definitely be on BoC committee’s mind. As of right now, I would be short on USD/CAD.

This week, USD/CAD was mixed as BoC kept the interest rate unchanged, after cutting it last month (negative for USD/CAD) and strong U.S jobs report (positive for USD/CAD). I would be short on it as I said in the last paragraph.

USD/CAD - Hourly
USD/CAD – Hourly

United States:

Last Friday (March 6, 2015), U.S jobs report came out very strong except the wages. Employment increased by 295,000 (Expected: 240k) and unemployment rate went down 0.2% to 5.5% (Expected: 5.6%). However, average hourly earning fell 0.1%, following 0.5% the previous month (Expected: 0.2%). But, that hourly wages part of the report did not stop U.S Dollar from rising. It was very positive for the U.S dollar because there is little higher chance of rate hike coming in the mid-year.

Since U.S economic news tends to have impact on global markets, here’s what happened; U.S Dollar rose, U.S stock fell, European stock rose, Euro dived, Gold prices fell and Treasury Yield jumped. EUR/USD fell to 1.0838, lowest level since September 2003. USD/JPY rose to 121.28, a two-month high.

So why did U.S stocks sold off? It sold off because of upcoming rate hike, which can be negative for equities, specifically for dividend stocks. As economy is getting better, it should help boost corporate profits. At the same time, strong dollar can hurt them. Rate hike can only make dollar even stronger.

In two weeks, the Fed will be meeting and I believe they might drop the “patient” in its March policy statement.

I would be long USD. The best pairs would be to short EUR/USD (Euro zone delfation, Greece crisis and QE program) and short NZD/USD (RBNZ keeps saying that NZD is too high and they will meeting next week, rate cut?) as I’m already short NZD/USD, and long USD/JPY (Upcoming U.S rate hike and extra stimulus BoJ might announce).

Dow Jones Industrial (DJI) - Hourly
Dow Jones Industrial (DJI) – Hourly
Nasdaq - Hourly
Nasdaq – Hourly
Standard & Poor 500 (S&P 500) - Hourly
Standard & Poor 500 (S&P 500) – Hourly
USD/JPY - Hourly
USD/JPY – Hourly
NZD/USD - Daily
NZD/USD – Daily

Follow my twitter account @Khojinur30 or just click twitter icon on the top right to be directed to my twitter account, for my views that are posted any time. Thank you.

Central Bank Meeting Minutes: BoE, FOMC and ECB (Update on Greece)

During the week of February 16, 2015, BoE (Bank of England), FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) and ECB (European Central Bank) released its meeting minutes for the latest monetary decisions. Let’s go in depth of these meeting minutes and how we can apply them to our trading decisions.

 

Bank of England (BoE) – (February 18, 2015)

The Bank of England meeting minutes showed that the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) voted unanimously (9 members) to keep the benchmark interest rate unchanged at a record-low of 0.5%. There were hints it could be lowered in the next few months (yes, decrease, not increase). Two committee members, Martin Weale and Ian McCafferty who voted in favor of rate hike previously, were in favor in holding rates this time. Regarding its inflation in which Consumer Prices Index (CPI) fell to 0.3% (lowest since decades ago) last month changed the views of MPC. Some worry that it might slip below zero in the next few months. It has caused some to suggest rate cut over the next few months. The rate cut hinted in the minutes is totally different than what the Bank of England governor, Mark Carney said last week.

Mark Carney spoke to the press at Inflation Report press conference. He signaled that BoE remains on course to raise interest rates in the U.K. next year, despite decline in inflation. He also mentioned that BoE might cut the interest rate if inflation transforms into deflation (below 0). I believe if the inflation falls below 0, the BoE will cut the interest rate by 0.25, but only for short period of time. However, he pointed out that BoE still expects its next move will be raising rates, not cut them.

There are confusions going on with BoE on interest rate. I look at this way; inflation goes below 0, rate cut will come, inflation starts to increase, rate increase will come, and watch out for future statements by BoE for more clues. I would not trade Pound (GBP) based on these interest rate talks, for now. There is no clear road for interest rate for now. But, I would trade based on other news/events and charts’ technical.

 

Federal Reserve – (February 18, 2015)

The Federal Reserve meeting minutes showed that the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) expressed concerns over raising interest rates too soon, which could could halt or slow the U.S economic “recovery”. They are also worried over the impact of dropping “patient” from central bank’s rate guidance. They thought that removing “patient” from the FOMC statements in the future would put too much weight on its meaning. As a result, it would cause financial markets to overreact (Unlike Swiss National Bank, Federal Reserve cares about financial markets movements). If “patient” is dropped, I would think that interest rate hike is coming in the next two meetings. They also worried about falling inflation expectations in the U.S. If the inflation drops, I believe it’s going to halt (not cut) FOMC from raising the interest rate, but not decrease the rates.

In the minutes, it’s mentioned that there are worries about international events such as Greece (Greece got 4 month bailout) and Ukraine (There’s no “truce”). But, it’s not going to keep them from raising the interest rate, backed by strong jobs reports. However, the federal reserve signaled its willingness to keep interest rates low for longer because of strong U.S dollar and “flat” housing market. Raising interest rates will only send U.S higher, making it much stronger than ever.

On February 24 and 25, Fed Chair Janet Yellen will be speaking in congressional testimony and we should look for further clues to the timing of the interest rate hike.

Any clues of earlier rate hike will send U.S. dollar to rise in which I would go short USD/JPY, USD/CAD, and/or long GBP/USD. Remember, don’t hold your trade positions for more time if you trigger market order just based on what Yellen said, unless there are other news and technical to support your trade.

 

European Central Bank (ECB) – (February 19, 2015)

The European Central Bank first ever meeting minutes showed fears of continued deflation the euro zone, which led to launch of Quantitative Easing (QE) program which starts in March. The main goal of QE is to drag the euro zone out of deflation and near to 2% inflation target. This first minutes doesn’t reveal much of anything. Since there weren’t any new details or “surprising” details, the markets, especially Euro did not move much.

Europe has agreed to extend its financial lifeline to Greece only for 4 months. The deal was stuck last Friday (February 20, 2015). This is another bailout for Greece. How long does Euro has to keep bailing out Greece from the mess Greece made? The deal is not final if Greece does not come up with its plan by Monday (February 23, 2015). Then, it will be voted by institutions involved in the bailout by April. If the institutions do not back the plan, the “deal” becomes “no deal”.

I would still keep an eye on Greece. If you trade Euro, be careful with news coming out of Greece. It will be violent and may cause you to have losing positions or touch stop loss (or make money). When picking Euro to trade, I would pick pairs other than EUR/USD.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave comments or contact. Thank you.

European Central Bank (ECB) Announces Quantitative Easing (QE)

On Thursday (January 22, 2015), European Central Bank (ECB) announced Quantitative Easing (QE) program. They left interest rates unchanged. During the press conference, ECB governor, Mario Draghi announced quantitative easing to the tune of €60 billion ($67.5 trillion) per month from March 2015 to September 2016 (19 months). The total amount sums to €1.1 trillion ($1.25 trillion). The day before, there was reports that ECB was going to announces €50 billion per month until year end. On Thursday, we found out the truth, €60B a month until 2016. During the press conference, Draghi said “…conducted until we see a sustained adjustment in the path of inflation which is consistent with our aim of achieving inflation rates below, but close to, 2% over the medium term.” He’s saying that QE program won’t end until they achieve their goal, inflation close to 2% but below.

The interest rates were left unchanged and it was not much market mover. But, during the press conference, when QE was announced, global markets were violent or should I say choppy?. European markets spiked, then dropped. By Friday (the day after QE was announced), European stocks hit 7-year highs. US markets rallied on Thursday. U.S markets rallied because more money are being pumped into U.S. However on Friday, U.S markets were mostly down because of worries that strong dollar will hurt U.S corporate earnings. Announcement of QE also knocked down euro to its knees. During the first 30 minutes of press conference (where QE was announced), EUR/USD was choppy. In the next 23 hours, EUR/USD fell all the way to 1.1113 (Friday 8 A.M EST) from around 1.1600 (post ECB conference), which is almost 500 pips in a day, actually 23 hours (from 9 A.M EST to 8. A.M EST).

EUR/USD - Hourly
EUR/USD – Hourly

Tomorrow, we will find out the results of Greek Elections. I believe Greece is going to stay in Euro-zone, which is going to give EUR some relief. Then, it will be a good place to sell EUR/USD because QE (Bearish) weights more than Greek staying in Euro-zone (Bullish). If Greece leaves Euro-zone, it’s another reason to be bearish on Euro currency.

Why did ECB announce QE?

ECB announced QE to fight back low euro-zone inflation. Many Euro-zone countries are close to deflation while some of them are already there. To boost the economy, ECB will print more money and increase the amount of money available to financial institutions.

There’s also a hope that QE will boost equity markets. When Bank of Japan (BoJ) announced expansion of a large monetary-stimulus program in October 31, 2014 Japan time, Japan stocks skyrocketed and Yen tumbled.

What’s great about a weaker euro? It benefits manufacturers and exporting nations. But, it can hurt international companies such as Cisco Systems, IMB,  Pepsi, etc.

Unlike Swiss National Bank (SNB), announcement of QE by ECB was much anticipated. We all knew it was coming. Although I thought it was going to be limited for some time before full-blown QE kicks in. I thought ECB would hold off until February or March because of Greek elections. Anyway, QE is starting in a month or March.

 

SNB Shocks Global Markets

Last Thursday (January 15) around 4:30 a.m, SNB (Swiss National Bank) surprised everybody and woke the markets up by ending the minimum exchange rate of CHF 1.20 per euro and lowering interest rate to -0.75% from -0.25%. The announcement was unscheduled. It was shocking to everybody and there’s more come to the story.

After seconds of the announcement, CHF rode in fastest  bull mode in the modern history. EUR/CHF went on free fall with no ground stop. SNB’s floor rate of 1.2000 for EUR/CHF was broken. A lot of people were long EUR/CHF with stops just below 1.2000. Not only the CHF pairs were effected, but also other pairs. Stops were triggered in seconds (or minutes) and panic spread like wildfire. Imagine a highway with all the automobiles driving more than 200mph and large truck in the middle suddenly stops in a second.

In September 2011, Swiss National Bank (SNB) called its currency (Swiss Franc) “Massive Overvaluation”. They wanted to weaken the Swiss Franc to improve their economy. Therefore, they set a floor rate of 1.2000 of EUR/CHF exchange rate. In a statement, they stated “The SNB will enforce this minimum rate with the utmost determination”. They were saying that they will do everything in their power not to allow the exchange rate break the floor rate. Their tone was still same in the late 2014. Ever since, they have been buying the foreign exchange in unlimited quantities, until last thursday (January 15, 2015).

After abandoning its currency, SNB stated that “Swiss franc is still high”. Well, it is even more higher now. Immediately after the announcement, CHF pairs sky-rocketed. EUR/CHF dropped from above 1.2000 to about 0.9705, over 2000 pips drop in one day. USD/CHF dropped from around 1.0200 to 0.8350, almost 2000 pips drop in one day. The reason for SNB’s action “divergences between the monetary policies of the major currency areas have in increased significantly”. They are referring to Euro, which has depreciated a lot against USD, which has caused Swiss franc to weaken. That’s why they say that defending floor rate “no longer justified”. At the end of their statement, they said “remain active in the foreign exchange market to influence monetary conditions”. That’s what scares me. After what they did, we need to be cautious and not trade CHF pairs at this time.

 

EUR-CHF
EUR/CHF – Weekly

 

USD-CHF
USD/CHF – Weekly

 

SNB’s action looks suspicion for two reasons. First, SNB announces this sudden change of plans just a week before ECB meeting. Second, it looks like that IMF (International Monetary Fund) was not kept in loop.  I believe SNB is trying to buy time. The question is “For what?”. If they are trying to buy time, the move by SNB is only temporary (less 4 months).

 

2015-01-16-PROPHET
Comparison Chart – EUR/USD and USD/CHF

 

As to ECB, they have been decreasing the interest rates, which has caused Euro to decline a lot.. This week on Thursday (January 22, 2015), ECB will be releasing the results of their meeting. There has been a chatter (still is) that ECB will be announcing a full-blown Quantitative Easing (QE). At this time, I believe the interest rates will stay the same. Regarding to QE, I think QE will be announced, but limited. They might wait for Greek election results, which takes place on Sunday (January 25, 2015). Greece may exit Euro union and have their own currency. If they do, the currency will go down in value. I think full-blown QE will be announced in March 5.

Not only traders were effected, but also brokers such as FXCM. FXCM experienced significant losses ($225 million) and they may be in a breach of some regulatory capital requirements. When the news came out, their stock “FXCM” fell from around $12.50 to just below $1 (about 90% decline). In the morning of Friday, its stock was halt due to news pending. At 3:55, Dow Jones reported that Leucaidia National Corporation would be proving $300 million in cash to FXCM to continue normal operations. The agreement is in the form $300 million senior secured term loan with two-year maturity and an initial coupon of 10%. Immediately after the news, FXCM surged from around $1.50 to $4.50 (about 350% increase).

FXCM Ticker - SNB Effect
“FXCM” stock

 

Europe in Focus and its impact on the rest.

Earlier today, German CPI (Consumer Price Index) was released. It was weaker than expected. It’s the lowest since October, 2009. CPI is important for inflation. If it drops more (more likely will), deflation will be here both in Germany and spread to other Euro countries.

Japan is already in recession. Europe most likely will be next. It will spread to UK (United Kingdom). Japan, Europe and United Kingdom all have major impact on the economy of the US (United States). Therefore, United States might join the recession list. It’s like a domino effect. Everything starts from somewhere and spreads.

Greek crisis is worrisome. Greek may default and exit from Euro. Elections will be held 3 days after ECB, on Sunday, January 25, 2015.

On Thursday, January 22, 2015, ECB (European Central Bank) will release interest rates and there will be press conference. It will be closely watched as always. But this time, many are wondering if they will release QE (Quantitative Easing).

I believe ECB will delay QE because Greek elections are yet to be held. After the Greek elections, ECB will act on its next meeting.