Pressure Builds Up In EU Following Italy’s Shocking Referendum Loss

This article was initially posted on The Ticker, Baruch College’s (the college I currently attend) independent, student-run newspaper.


After a defeat in a constitutional reform referendum, Italian Prime Minster Matteo Renzi has resigned as he previously promised in case of a “no” vote to the constitutional revision plan. This referendum was meant to strengthen Renzi’s hand by stripping the Senate of its many legislative powers and speeding up the decision-making process.

With 59.1 percent of the votes being “no,” an anti-establishment political force took control once again, following the example of the Brexit referendum and Donald Trump’s election. Renzi, a centrist, was accused of failing to restart the country’s flagging economy, which has barely grown since adopting the euro in 1999.

The referendum raises questions about Italy’s ability to work efficiently. Since 1946, Italy has had 41 different prime ministers and has gone through repeated political turmoils.

In response to the referendum, Brexit campaign leader Nigel Farage, who is also a vocal supporter of Donald Trump, tweeted, “This vote looks to me to be more about the euro than constitutional change.”

Parallel to Brexit and Trump’s victory, the Italian referendum showed voters the rhetoric of populist parties like the Five Star Movement, which campaigned against the constitutional reforms.

Renzi’s collapse comes after the defeat of a far-right candidate in Austria. It is a blow to the wave of anti-establishment anger across the western countries. Norbert Hofer, a far-right candidate from the Freedom Party of Austria, lost by seven points to independent candidate Alexander Van der Bellen. While the far-right may have lost this election, the rise of populism is gaining the support of the Freedom Party for the next national election in Austria, set to be held before spring 2018.

Matteo Salvini, the leader of Italy’s far-right Northern League, tweeted, “Viva Trump, viva Putin, viva la Le Pen e viva la Lega!” which translates to “Long live Trump, long live Putin, long live Le Pen and long live the Northern League!”

In addition to supporting the Trump presidency, the Five Star Movement and the Northern League favor rougher immigration policies. Both parties have promised to hold a referendum on Italy’s membership in the eurozone and renegotiate Italy’s public debt.

Markets have mostly cooled off from the aftershocks of the Brexit and the Italian referendum results, but elections in several key European countries next year’s might not make recovery easy for investors. Renzi’s departure could lead to an early election.

Italy is now another country on the list of European Union members that are likely to hold a general election in 2017, joining France, Germany, Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

Italy’s election would be held in early 2017. The potential victory of the populist party will create uncertainty about the economic prospects of the eurozone’s third biggest member state.

Italy’s banking sector, currently with $4 trillion in assets, is suffering from low profitability, lack of economic growth, ultra-low interest rates and a surplus of bad loans. The FTSE Italia All-Share Banks Sector Index is also down 51 percent over the past year. A change in the government could mean further delays in solutions to the banks’ problems.

Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena — the world’s oldest and Italy’s third largest bank — recently failed the EU bank stress test.

The bank’s stock is down 83 percent since 2007 as bad loans progressively increase. The bank is now desperately looking to raise capital and sell 28 billion euros in bad loans.

The only solution Italy has at this moment is to “rely on the EU to provide more fiscal rescue packages, to prevent Monte Dei Paschi from becoming insolvent,” said Kenneth Tjonasam, the director of portfolio management at Baruch’s student-run fund, Investment Management Group.

Italy’s debt as a percentage of its gross domestic product stands at 133 percent, second only to Greece’s 183 percent. Unlike Greece, Italy is so-called “too big to fail,” as it is also the world’s third largest government bond market.

The French vote is also crucial. National Front Leader Marine Le Pen called Brexit a “victory for freedom,” and her party is leading strongly in the polls. The two-step election for Europe’s second largest economy is scheduled for April 23 and May 7, 2017.

Even if the Five Star Movement and the Northern League win the election, they still have to hold a referendum on Italy’s membership in the eurozone and actually win it. If they do, “Italexit” and “Frexit” could be enough to destroy the entire currency bloc.

Around the same time, British Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to invoke Article 50, triggering a two-year countdown to Britain’s official exit from the European Union.

Even if the euro-skeptic parties fail to gain power, anti-establishment sentiments in the country will not go away.

“The Italy referendum ‘no’ vote is only a small speed bump to the ideal of a far-right movement that’s taking place across northern EU countries. The time frame to restore the Italians to path of stability, both politically and financially is uncertain,” Tjonasam added.

FinTech To Halt Or Grow After Brexit?

Silicon Valley is the fintech capital of the world. London is the fintech capital of Europe. After the Brexit vote, the rise of fintech in UK might be under a threat.

Total venture capital investment in technology for UK increased to over $3.6 billion in 2015, 71.43% increase from 2014. Of that, London-based tech start-ups accounted for 62.55%

Total VC Tech Investment Amounts UK/London 2010-2015
Total VC Tech Investment Amounts UK/London 2010-2015

In the last 5 years, UK technology companies have collectively raised $9.7 billion, with London-based companies accounting for 54.52% of it or $5.3 billion.

Since 2010, investment in the British firms soared over 12-fold, while investment in the London-based firms soared over 53-fold.

Brexit can halt the growth of UK fintech industry.

Why is that? UK could lose its “passport.”

Many companies in EU, including fintech, use mechanism known as “passporting” to access Europe (European Economic Area) by getting licensed in a EU nation and be able to sell their products/services across the bloc. If the passporting privilege is lost, companies will have to submit application in every single country it wishes to operate in, which is time consuming and cost prohibitive.

Not only fintech companies, but also international banks would have to find a new legal home base. Large U.S. banks, such as Goldman Sachs (GS), Citi (C), and JP Morgan (JPM), employing thousands of people, would have to move its operations to other cities, such as Paris or Frankfurt.

Fintech companies could take the same direction as the banks. It is possible they will move to Ireland (Dublin). Ireland is European home (EU base) to Apple (AAPL), Google (GOOGL, GOOG), Microsoft (MSFT), Dell, Twitter (TWTR), Airbnb, and more. The corporate tax rate, which is one of the most important part of Irish investment attraction, is 12.5%, one of the lowest in Europe. That’s very low compared to United Kingdom’s 20% rate and Europe average of 20.24%.

One other important part of Irish investment attraction is its KDB (Knowledge Development Box). Certain intellectual propriety income, such as patent/copyright, are subject to just 6.25% tax, half of its famous 12.5% corporate tax rate. Not only that, but there is also 25% tax credit for research and development spending.

The KDB is clearly aimed at incentivizing innovate R&D. It provides 50% deduction in tax rate from qualifying profits. In other words, 50% allowance. No wonder so many U.S. tech companies are using Ireland as their European base.

In Europe, overall fintech investment increased 120% between 2014 and 2015. The number of deals increased by 51%. Both should continue to increase as states like Ireland continue to attract start-ups and talent. However, if UK files for Article 50 and other EU members plans to follow the same path, it is very possible the increased uncertainty over the EU cartel will scare away start-ups and international investors.

There’s also the issue of free movement of labor. One in three UK start-up workers are outsiders. Of the 34% workers from outside the UK, 20.7% are from the EU. 66% hold UK passport. The most common non-UK nationalities were Irish, American, and Spanish.

Brexit is likely to make it costlier and complicated for start-ups to attract and retain talent. Will the UK allow the free movement of labor? I don’t think so. One-third of leave voters stated the main reason for wanting to leave the EU “offered the best chance for the UK to regain control over immigration and its own borders.” Plus, other EU members, such as Ireland, probably want start-ups and talents to come to their cities, not stay in the UK.

In 2014, financial and related services employed nearly 2.2 million people, 7% of the UK workforce. The industry contributed 11.8% of UK economic output in 2014. London, the financial center of the UK and the world, accounted for 714,000 of the employment.

The British fintech firms employ about 61,000 people (2015 data), 2.8% of the financial and related services employment and 5.7% of financial services employment (both of which 2014 data).

The stakes are definitely high here.

Peer-to-peer (P2P), money-transfer and payments start-ups would be hardest hit by Brexit and by the end of EU passporting.

In April 2015, London-based P2P lending company, Funding Circle secured the largest single deal of the year with a $150 million funding, valuing the startup at over $1 billion, going straight into the “unicorn” club, private companies valued at $1 billion or more. The company is online marketplace that allows investors to lend money to small and medium-sized businesses.

European Investment Bank (EIB) recently announced it would the platform to make 100 million pounds ($133.3 million) loans to UK firms. 20% of UK’s fintech firms focus on credit and lending, which P2P falls under. UK has 74.3% share of the whole EU alternative finance market, which particularly includes online alternative finance, from equity-based crowdfunding to P2P business lending and more.

In 2014, UK P2P business lending market size was 998 million euros ($1.1 trillion), 42.70% of total UK alternative finance market size. As I said above, “The stakes are definitely high here.”

Brexit could reduce lending, especially to 5.4 million small businesses in the UK accounting for 99.3% of all private sector business. Collectively small businesses account for 50% of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and 60% of employment.

Many of these businesses will encounter financial problems, leading to layoffs of employees and so on (domino effect).

In addition to above, money-transfer and payments start-ups could also be hit hard as they will lose their “passporting” privilege. 54% of UK fintech firms focus on banking and payments. To sum up what I said about “passporting” above, if you’re regulated in UK, you’re regulated across the EU.

Other EU members, such as Ireland, will try to use Brexit to their advantage. They will try to make its laws more attractive to entice fintech firms away from London.

There is also chance the UK will get to keep its fintech firms, only if it differentiates itself with streamlined regulation, tax breaks, and increased support for innovation.

The UK will have to renegotiate the financial regulation with the EU. But I don’t believe they will get what they want. EU is already playing hard-ball. UK has more to lose than the EU.

Article 50 won’t likely be triggered until late this year or early next year. If by then, anti-Brexit campaign gains momentum and the presence of pro-remain politicians increase in the UK government, it is likely UK will not leave EU.

Feel free to read my previous article, Pros and Cons of Brexit.

If you have any views, I would love to know in the comments below. If you have any questions about any issues related to Brexit, I would be happy to answer them ASAP. Don’t be surprised if the answer is 5 paragraphs long. Thank you.

Pros and Cons of Brexit

On June 23rd, Britain people will vote to stay in or leave (Brexit) the European Union. The verdict matters a lot since it is a life-changing decision. I will briefly address some of the pros and cons of Brexit, but will further address it after the vote, especially if UK leaves EU.

Brexit Pros:

  • The European Union costs United Kingdom 350 million pounds ($503 million) a week. That’s $26.2 billion a year, 4.6 times less the UK education budget of $121.1 billion in 2015. That $26.2 billion is 1% of 2015 GDP of $2.63 trillion. That $26.2 billion is 2.45% of 2015 total spending of $1.07 trillion.

Note: That 350 million pounds a week cost is before “the rebate.” In 2015, Britain actually paid under 250 million ($359 million) pounds a week. But hey, UK does not control the rebates. The cost of membership has been increasing over the years, especially after the financial crisis.

UK Payments To EU Budget Since 1973
UK Payments To EU Budget Since 1973

What happened with Greece and is still happening, is a warning sign of more economic troubles to come in Europe. That possibly will continue to increase the cost of EU membership.

  • Under EU fundamental right of free movement, Britain cannot prevent anyone from another member state coming in to the country. This has resulted in a huge increase in immigration into Britain from Europe.

In 2015, 270,000 EU citizens immigrated to the UK and 85,000 EU citizens emigrated aboard. Net-migration was 185,000.

Migration By Nationality
Migration By Nationality

2.94 million people living in the UK in 2014 were citizens of another EU member country. Those people account for 4.7% of the UK population.

2.2 million citizens of another EU member country are in work, 7.02% of working population. Majority of EU member citizens are coming to the UK for work reasons. 61% of the migration who came for work reasons were EU citizens.

Immigration To The UK By Main Reason
Immigration To The UK By Main Reason

See how EU citizens coming to the UK for work reason started to accelerate in 2013. This can be related to economic difficulties such as Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy. As I mentioned above, “What happened with Greece and is still happening, is a warning sign of more economic troubles to come in Europe.” That should lead to even more upsurge in migration for work reason, making it more competitive for UK citizens to find jobs and possibly lowering wages.

If UK decides to leave EU, the country would be able to reform immigration laws without input from the EU and increase jobs and wages for UK citizens (hopefully they have the skills).

Brexit Cons:

  • EU membership makes UK attractive for international investment and provides access to trade deals with more than 50 countries around the world (expensive makeup, isn’t it?). Because EU institutions have the ability to prevent the UK from negotiating its own trade deals outside Europe, it would have to re-negotiate some trade deals, with EU and non-EU countries including the US, China, Japan and India. It is extremely possible the Brexit will impair confidence and investment for few years.

In 2015, the EU accounted for (pdf download) 43.7% of exports and 53.1% of imports

In 2014, the EU accounted for 496 billion pounds ($712 billion) of the stock of inward Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), 48% of the total. Globally, the UK is the third largest country in terms of its absolute value of inward FDI stock ($1.7 trillion), followed by China ($2.7 trillion) and U.S. ($5.4 trillion).

Why is FDI so important? It has the potential for job creation and productivity, increasing both output and wages.

If UK were to leave EU, it would dampen FDI due to uncertainty of the future. Firms would reduce investment in UK, leading to lay offs and so on (domino effect).

3.3 million UK jobs are linked to UK exports to other EU countries. Auto industry would be particularly at risk. In 2015, 77.3% of cars built in the UK were exported, a record high. EU demand grew 11.3%, with 57.5% of exports destined for the continent. In 2014, the motor vehicle manufacturing accounted for 7.9% (pdf download) of total manufacturing, up from 5.4% in 2007. The end of free trade agreements would definitely hurt UK automotive industry.

If UK were to leave the Single Market (EU), locating production in the UK would be less attractive because it would become more costly to ship to EU members. 77% of members of SMMT (Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders) – the voice of the UK motor industry – believes remaining in EU would be the best for their business. 9% believes Brexit is the best path. 14% doesn’t know, like economists don’t know the real impact of Brexit due to a large base of issues and views.

66% believes EU important to them because of its access to EU automotive markets.

Why The EU Is Important To SMMT Members
Why The EU Is Important To SMMT Members

Brexit would send a ripple effect. For the government (less tax revenue), for businesses (rising costs) and for consumers (lower income).

There’s also the issue of UK citizens in the other EU member countries. They have the right to live, work, vote, run a business, buy a property, and use public services such as health. Some, if not all, of these rights could vanish if UK leaves the EU.

Sure, UK will try to protect them. Since one of the main goals of Brexit is stop the inflows of immigrants into UK from EU, EU might retaliate against it.

UK (the wife) has been married to EU (the husband) for 43 years (UK joined EU in 1973). Part of her wants to get out of the cage. Other part of her wants to keep some of the benefits. If Brexit, it will be very expensive and messy divorce, but may be for the good.

 

There are so many views on this “monumental” and “out-of-focus” complicated issue. Not every issue is covered in this article. If UK is the first country to leave EU, I will do much more research and analyze it.

If you have any views, I would love to know in the comments below. If you have any questions about any issues related to Brexit, I would be happy to answer them ASAP. Don’t be surprised if the answer is 5 paragraphs long. Thank you.

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

Eli Lilly (LLY) Is Overvalued – Too Costly To Buy (UPDATED)

UPDATE: This article is also posted on Seeking Alpha. For the first time, my article was accepted to be on Seeking Alpha. The link to the article on Seeking Alpha can be found here, or http://seekingalpha.com/article/3707566-eli-lilly-is-overvalued-too-costly-to-buy.

 

Eli Lilly (LLY) - Past 5-Years
Eli Lilly (LLY) – Past 5-Years

On October 22, Eli Lilly (LLY) reported an increase in the third-quarter profit, as sales in its animal health segment and new drug launches offset the effect of unfavorable foreign exchange rates and patent expirations. Indianapolis-based drug maker posted a net income increase of 60% to $799.7 million, or to $0.75 per share, as its revenue increased 33% in animal health segment. In January 2015, Eli Lilly acquired Norvartis’s animal health unit for $5.29 billion in an all-cash transaction. The increase in the animal-health revenue helped offset sharp revenue decreases in osteoporosis treatment Evista and antidepressant Cymbalta, whose revenue fell 35% and 34% year-over-year, respectively. Eli Lilly lost U.S. patent protection for both drugs last year, causing patent cliffs. Lower price for the Evista reduced sales by about 2%.

Total revenue increased 2% to $4.96 billion even as currency headwinds, including strong U.S. dollar, shaved 8% off of the top line in revenue. Recently launched diabetes drug Trulicity and bladder-cancer treatment Cyramza helped increase profits, bringing a total of $270.6 billion in the third-quarter. Eli Lilly lifted its guidance for full-year 2015. They expect earnings per share in the range of $2.40 and $2.45, from prior guidance of $2.20 to $2.30.

Despite the stronger third-quarter financial results, I believe Eli Lilly is overvalued.  Eli Lilly discovers, develops, manufactures, and sells pharmaceutical products for humans and animals worldwide. The drug maker recently stopped development of the cholesterol treatment evacetrapib because the drug wasn’t effective. Eli Lilly deployed a substantial amount of capital to fund Evacetrapib, which was in Phase 3 research, until they decided to pull the plug on it. The suspension to the development of Evacetrapib is expected to result in a fourth-quarter charge to research and development expense of up to $90 million pre-tax, or about $0.05 per share after-tax. Eli Lilly’s third-quarter operating expense declined 7% year-over-year, mainly due to spending on experimental drugs that failed in late-stage testing trials.

Eli Lilly’s market capitalization skyrocketed over the past five years by 122.76% to $90 billion, but their revenue, gross profit, net-income, operating income, as well as EBITDA, declined significantly. Over the past five years, its revenue decreased 14.61% from $23.08 billion to $19.70 billion (LTM), largely due to patent expirations. Gross profit and net-income declined 26.06% and 53.48%, respectively. Its operating income fell 59.18% over the past five years.

Eli Lilly - Revenue/Gross Profit
Eli Lilly – Revenue/Gross Profit

 

Eli Lilly - Key Financials
Eli Lilly – Key Financials

Its operating margin fell a halfway over the past five years from 28.30% to 13.53% (LTM). EBITDA margin, on the other hand, fell all the way to 18.73% (LTM) from 34.05%.

Key Margins
Eli Lilly – Key Margins

Meanwhile, shares of Eli Lilly gained 144.49% over the past five years. Its price-to-sales ratio too high compared to its history and to S&P 500. Its Price/Sales ratio currently stands at 4.6, vs. at 1.7 in 2010, while S&P 500 currently stays at 1.8 and industry average at 3.9. In addition to the falling revenue, gross profit, net-income, and EBITDA, its free cash flow fell significantly over the past five years by 72.24%, or fell 22.61% on a compounded annual basis.

Not only did their cash flow fall, but their net-debt increased significantly. Its net-debt increased by a whopping 1789.87% over the past five years from $199.5 million to $3.85 billion. They now have almost twice as much of total debt than they do in cash and equivalents. I believe Eli Lilly is at a risk for poor future ratings by rating agencies, which will increase their borrowing costs.

Eli Lilly – Total Cash/Total Cash/Net-Debt
Eli Lilly – Total Cash/Total Cash/Net-Debt

Strong U.S. dollar is an issue for Eli Lilly. Over the past five years, the dollar index increased 26.75%. Last quarter, its 49.2% of revenue came from foreign countries. Its revenue in the U.S. increased 14% to $2.54 billion, while revenue outside the U.S. decreased 9% to $2.42.

Eli Lilly - 2014 Geography Revenue
Eli Lilly – 2014 Geography Revenue

Eli Lilly’s dividend yield of 2.55% or 0.50 cents per share quarterly can be attractive, but it is undesirable. From 1995 through 2009 (expectation of 2003-2004), Eli Lilly raised its dividend. Payouts of $0.26 quarterly in 2000 almost doubled to $0.49 in 2009. Then, the company kept its dividend payment unchanged in 2010, the same year when its net-income, EBITDA and earnings per share (EPS) reached an all-time high. About four years later (December 2014), Eli Lilly increased the dividend to $0.50 quarterly. I still don’t see a reason to buy shares of Eli Lilly. The frozen divided before the recent increase was a signal that the management did not see earnings growing. With expected patent expiration of Cymbalta, their top selling drug in 2010, it is no wonder Eli Lilly’s key financials declined and dividends stayed the same. Cymbalta sales were $5.1 billion in 2013, the year its patent expired. In 2014, its sales shrank all the way down to $1.6 billion. Loss of exclusivity for Evista in March 2014 immensely reduced Eli Lilly’s revenue rapidly. Sales decreased to $420 million in 2014, followed by $1.1 billion in 2013. Pharmaceuticals industry continues to lose exclusivities, including Eli Lilly.

In December 2015, Eli Lilly will lose a patent exclusivity for antipsychotic drug Zyprexa in Japan and for lung cancer drug Alimta in European countries and Japan. Both of the drugs combined accounted for revenue of $866.4 million in the third-quarter, or 17.5% of the total revenue. They will also lose a patent protection for the erectile dysfunction drug Cialis in 2017, which accounted for $2.29 billion of sales in 2014, or 11.68% of the total revenue.

Besides the pressure from patent expirations, there is also regulatory pressures on drug pricing. According to second-quarter 10Q filing, Eli Lilly believes “State and federal health care proposals, including price controls, continue to be debated, and if implemented could negatively affect future consolidated results of operations.” During the third-quarter earnings call, CEO of Eli Lilly, John C. Lechleiter, said that price increases reflects many of medicines going generic and “deep discounts” government mandates for large purchasers.

As of October 16, Eli Lilly had two drugs under regulatory review, nine drugs in Phase 3 testing, and 18 drugs in Phase 2 testing. Since the end of July, the drug maker terminated the development of few drugs, including evacetrapib in Phase 3, two drugs in Phase 2, and five in Phase 1. Out of total eight drug termination, only five drugs moved to the next stage of testing. I view the recent termination of evacetrapib as a major setback.

Eli Lilly Pipeline
Eli Lilly Pipeline – Third Quarter Earnings Presentation – Page 16

Compared to its peers, LLY’s Price-to-Earnings ratio is too high. Its P/E ratio (on GAAP basis) stands at 38.22 while industry average stands at 17.7. Four of its main peers, Pfizer (PFE), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), Merck (MRK), and Sanofi (SNY) P/E ratio stands at 24.08, 19.63, 14.41, and 22.38, respectively.

Negative trends, tighter regulations, increasing competition and slowing growth makes Eli Lilly’s current valuation unjustified. I believe it will reach an average P/E ratio of its four main competitors, at 20.12, in the next three years. I expect EPS (GAAP) to contract. With current EPS of $2.21 (LTM, GAAP) and P/E ratio of 20.12, share price would be worth $44.46, down 47.37% from current share-price of $84.47. As EPS contracts, the share price of Eli Lilly will be much further down from $44.46 in the next three years.


Disclosure: I’m not currently short on the stock, LLY, at this time (October 21, 2015).

Note: All information I used here such as revenue, margins, EBITDA, etc are found from Eli Lilly and Company’s official investor relations site, Bloomberg terminal and morningstar. The pictures you see here are my own, except “Eli Lilly Pipeline – Third Quarter Earnings Presentation – Page 16”

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.

Fed removes “patient”, and adds twists

Last Wednesday (March 18, 2015), the Federal Reserve released its statement on the monetary policy and its economic projections. The The Fed dropped from its guidance “patient” in reference to its approach to raising the federal funds rate. It was largely to be expected to be removed, which would have send U.S Dollar higher and U.S market lower. However, the opposite happened because of two twists; they lowered their economic projections, and Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Janet Yellen’s words during the press conference.

According to the “dot plot”, the Fed lowered median “dot” for 2015 to 0.625% from 1.125% (December). What is “dot plot”? The Dot Plot is part of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC)’s economics projections and it shows what each member thinks the federal funds rate should be in the future. It is released quarterly. Sometimes, it might be released more than that, depending on economic circumstances. It gives you a perspective of what each member of FOMC thinks about economic and monetary conditions in the future.

Again, the Fed lowered median “dot” for the end of 2015 to 0.625% from 1.125% in December (-0.50%). The Fed also lowered the “dot” for end of 2016 and 2017. For the end of 2016, it is at 1.875% from 2.5% in December (-0.625%). For the end of 2017, it is at 3.125% from 3.625% in December (-0.50%). Besides, the “dot”, Yellen said one thing that took a toll on the U.S Dollar.

Even though the Fed removed “patient” from the statement, Yellen had “patient” tone during the press conference. Yellen said ““Just because we removed the word “patient” from the statement does not mean we are going to be impatient,”. This sentence alone halted US Dollar from rebounding after it dropped on the statement. There are other things that complicates the timing of the rate-hike.

It’s now more complicated to predict the Fed’s next move because of three reasons; very strong US Dollar, low inflation, and economic crisis in Europe and Japan, if not United Kingdom too. US Dollar is too strong, hurting U.S exports. Inflation has declined due to falling energy prices. The struggling foreign countries economically can also hurt U.S economy. I believe two majors factor of the Fed’s next move are the strong US Dollar, and the low inflation. When both of them are combined together, it makes imports cheaper and keeps inflation lower. I believe Europe will start to get better–as Quantitative Easing (QE) fully kicks in–money starts flowing in Europe. European stocks will probably hit new highs in the coming years because of QE program. Once, the Fed raises the rates, the money will probably flow into Europe from the U.S because of negative interest rates. Low rates have been a key driver of the bull markets in the U.S stock market the past six years. Lower rates makes stocks more attractive to the investors.

Since, the “dot” has dropped harshly, I believe this could be a sign of late delivery of rate hike. They might hike the interest rate in September, not June. However, if non-farm payrolls number continue to be strong, average wage (indicator for inflation) lifts and oil prices rebound, then the door for rate-hike for June might still be open. For now, there is no sign of oil rebounding since it has dropped sharply this week. We will get the next non-farm payroll, which also includes average wage, on April 3.

In the statement, FOMC stated “The Committee anticipates that it will be appropriate to raise the target range for the federal funds rate when it has seen further improvement in the labor market and is reasonably confident that inflation will move back to its 2 percent objective over the medium term. This change in the forward guidance does not indicate that the Committee has decided on the timing of the initial increase in the target range.”

The Fed want to be cautions before raising the interest rates. They want more time to be sure; “further improvement in the labor market” and “reasonably confident that inflation will move back to its 2 percent…” Although, non-farm payrolls have been strong lately, inflation is too low. The inflation is low because of the stronger dollar and the plunge in oil prices.

The Fed is in no hurry to increase the interest rate. The Fed said it would definitely not act on rates at “…April FOMC meeting.” and might wait until later in the year. I believe September has higher chance than June, from the rate-hike.

It looks to me that the Fed planned to send US Dollar lower. They probably wanted the US Dollar to be weaker before raising the rates, which could send the US Dollar a lot higher. Their plan worked. The US Dollar dropped so much that it sent EUR/USD (Euro against US Dollar) up 400 pips (above 1.10). U.S market rose after they were down ever since the release of non-farm payrolls for February. Dow gained over 200 points, as well as other indices.

 

Dow Jones (DJI) - 30 Mins
Dow Jones (DJI) – 30 Mins
US Dollar - 30 Mins
US Dollar – 30 Mins
EUR/USD - 30 Mins
EUR/USD – 30 Mins

 

Feel to contact me and/or to leave comments. Don’t forget to follow my twitter account @Khojinur30. At any moment, I might post my view on certain things. Thank you.

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.

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.