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Monthly Archives: November 2011

China Starts Monetary Policy Easing Cycle & Rest of World Provides Additional Liquidity

November 30, 2011
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China Starts Monetary Policy Easing Cycle & Rest of World Provides Additional Liquidity

Overnight, financial market sentiment turned around pretty dramatically. The China A-Share market sold-off by 3.3% and approached the vicinity of recent lows. Fears were starting to mount that Chinese central bankers were going to be slow to ease monetary policy based on continued inflation concerns. After Asian markets closed, the People’s Bank of China announced that reserve ratios were being cut by 50 basis points, from 21.5% to 21.0%. The move was somewhat of a surprise and has started a turnaround in sentiment in the financial world. The reserve ratio cut is significant because it is the first time reserve ratios have been cut since 2008. China’s central bank has been allowing reserve ratios to generally trend higher since 2006 when the ratio used to be in the high...

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Facebook Considers a Spring 2012 IPO at a $100 Billion Valuation

November 29, 2011
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Facebook Considers a Spring 2012 IPO at a $100 Billion Valuation

We all knew it was coming, a spectacular IPO at a high valuation, for one of the world’s most innovative and intriguing companies. After many years of capturing young people’s internet time around the world, Facebook is moving closer to an IPO, reportedly valued at a $100 billion. The company may potentially file before year-end and go public between April and June according to Bloomberg. Facebook would likely raise $10B, effectively listing 10% of the company. Facebook is a company and brand that investors are intimately familiar with. Many investors have uploaded wide expanses of personal data to the company’s servers and have also been regular members for a number of years. We even have feelings about the corporate history through the venture capital phase due to the success...

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Black Friday Retail Sales Strong – Demonstrate the US Economy is Nowhere Near a Recession

November 28, 2011
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Black Friday Retail Sales Strong – Demonstrate the US Economy is Nowhere Near a Recession

A number of Black Friday retail sales surveys were released over the weekend. All measures pointed to a robust start to the holiday shopping season. Strong data were received from the National Retail Federation, ShopperTrak, and Comscore. None of the individual sales measures are completely reliable, but the collective strength is likely indicative of a higher growth rate in holiday retail sales relative to a year ago. This result, if it holds through the entire holiday season, would be impressive given how US Consumers have continually (and wrongly) been expected to roll over. The National Retail Federation (NRF) estimated that Black Friday weekend sales were up strongly, achieving new highs in sales volume. The NRF puts a survey together in conjunction with BIG Research. The strong sales estimates from...

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Germany’s First Failed Bond Auction – The European Crisis Continues to Spread

November 23, 2011
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Germany’s First Failed Bond Auction – The European Crisis Continues to Spread

Germany failed to get bids for 35% of the 10-year bonds auctioned today. Yields are up about 10 basis points this morning. The increase in borrowing cost is insignificant for Germany. Yields are still well below 2%, and Germany continues to benefit from the combination of very low borrowing costs, and a declining euro which helps support export competitiveness. The first sign of German bond market stress does highlight the risk the EU-17 is flirting with; the breakdown in confidence across the entire region. What started as a crisis in Greece has spread one-by-one to the rest of the European sovereigns. The reason the crisis has spread is not based upon profligate actions by the rest of the Eurozone. On the contrary, progress has already been made across Europe...

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Emerging Market Currencies Signaling More Risk Aversion

November 22, 2011
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Emerging Market Currencies Signaling More Risk Aversion

For almost a decade, emerging markets have been in a bull market with high growth rates, declining interest rates, and capital inflows. During the financial crisis, emerging markets were hit like financial assets around the world, and capital flowed out of the asset class. Over the course of 2010, and most of 2011, emerging market currencies have been strengthening once again. Recently, the European financial crisis has cast doubts on the risk appetite for emerging market investment. EM currencies experienced a sharp, across the board, selloff in September 2011. Currencies such as; the Brazilian Real, Mexican Peso, and Indonesian Rupiah quickly declined by 20%. Part of the decline was based on the start of EM central bank rate cuts but the majority of the move was simply risk aversion....

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“Super” Committee – Lack of Progress Heightens Risks to Economy and Financial Markets

November 21, 2011
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“Super” Committee – Lack of Progress Heightens Risks to Economy and Financial Markets

The US “Super Committee” has failed to make any progress on the sole task it was created for: deficit reduction. It now appears probable that there will be an announcement today stating the committee has “failed to reach its mandated goal of reducing deficits over the next 10-years by $1.2 trillion dollars”. An announcement of this sort would be particularly discouraging because the committee looks unable to achieve even partial success. At a time when the global economy and financial markets are experiencing a crisis of confidence in the future, this result is a major letdown. The US economy has been incredibly resilient despite the confidence-sapping political ineptitude, and the political/financial breakdown in Europe. The main issue with a potential “lack of result” announcement from the Super Committee is...

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US Housing Permit Activity Improves – Strongest in 3-Years

November 18, 2011
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US Housing Permit Activity Improves – Strongest in 3-Years

Housing is slowly and steadily showing signs of a bottom. Housing permits are required in most states before a housing start and are a leading indicator of overall housing demand. Housing permits improved to 653k which represents a 10.8% increase from September and a 17.6% improvement vs. last year. Both single-family and multifamily permits improved. Mortgage rates falling to 4% have helped housing affordability improve to the best levels in a number of decades. The combination of lower rates, growing median incomes, and falling house prices have all contributed. The longer-term outlook for housing is sound and buyers today should generally expect price appreciation over the longer-term. The market remains almost entirely focused on Europe. The financial crisis in the Eurozone is the most important driver and risk to...

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Que Lastima – Spain in a Vice as Interest Rates and Unemployment Soar

November 17, 2011
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Que Lastima – Spain in a Vice as Interest Rates and Unemployment Soar

I’ve been writing about the impossibility of the ECB running appropriate monetary policy for 17 different nations. The dilemma couldn’t be more evident when contrasting the economy of Spain with the economy of Germany. Spain actually has less sovereign debt relative to GDP than does Germany. The problem for Spain isn’t the level of debt the country has incurred, but the depth of the current recession and the questionable capitalization of the Spanish banking system. Spanish inflation is running in a range of 1.7%-3.0% depending on how you define it (1.7% core inflation). This morning, bond auctions in Spain only attracted investors at much higher yields, approaching 7%. As a result of higher interest rates and a deepening recession (which is helping to reduce inflation), real interest rates in...

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Europe’s Crisis Spreads as Spain, Belgium, France, the Euro and EU-17 get Questioned – How Does It End?

November 16, 2011
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Europe’s Crisis Spreads as Spain, Belgium, France, the Euro and EU-17 get Questioned – How Does It End?

For a number of months, the financial crisis in Europe has been explained under the guise of sound versus unsound policy. If this were indeed the case, the fix would be simple; eliminate unsound and unsustainable policy and voila, the problems would just go away. European leaders have shifted blame continuously from one problem to the next. First the issue was speculators, then Greece, then Ireland, then Portugal, then Spain, then Belgium, then Italy, then the need for austerity, then the macro economy, and now the problem has erupted to everywhere. The current set of events will hopefully amount to a positive development as it becomes clear that the problem is the construct of the Eurozone itself. Europe’s misguided attempts to reform its way out of a crisis are...

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China’s Trade Balance is Adjusting – the Largest Imbalance in the World is no Longer Growing

November 14, 2011
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China’s Trade Balance is Adjusting – the Largest Imbalance in the World is no Longer Growing

Markets in China rallied to start the week. Part of the rally resulted from “catch up” to US markets which closed strongly. But part of the rally was based on positive economic comments coming from Chinese officials. China’s President Hu Jintao pledged to focus on building imports which would boost global economic growth. IMF Deputy Managing Director Zhu Min, and National Economic Research Director Fan Gang, told the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Honolulu that a “soft landing” for the economy was expected for China. The officials noted slowing inflation and lower bad debt at Chinese banks. To complete the string of positively toned news, there was also speculation that China was relaxing lending curbs which amounts to incremental monetary policy easing. Both the H-Shares (up 2.8%) and...

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CJF Read of the Week – Rogue Economist: “Similarity of China’s USD Peg with the EMU”

November 13, 2011
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CJF Read of the Week – Rogue Economist: “Similarity of China’s USD Peg with the EMU”

The Rogue Economist, located in Canada, wrote a provocative piece discussing the similarities between the USD/Yuan peg and the EMU construct. I agree with Rogue that currency pegs and distortions lead to predictable real world economic outcomes that become evident in the balance of trade. Many financial market participants confuse cause and effect when identifying the cause of an imbalance and debating the proper solution. Click for the full piece at Rouge Economist:

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Walt Disney (DIS) Results Strong – Outside of Europe the Global Economy is Solid

November 11, 2011
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Walt Disney (DIS) Results Strong – Outside of Europe the Global Economy is Solid

Long live Mickey Mouse! Walt Disney reported strong results last night which reflected broad strength across the economy. Disney has diversified exposure to discretionary spending with its parks, media properties, and international businesses. A consistent theme through earnings season has been broadly solid corporate earnings and DIS is another example of this from a large capitalization blue-chip multinational. Walt Disney produced the enviable combination of results demonstrating solid top line sales growth, margin expansion, and tremendous EPS growth as cash flow was used to repurchase shares. Disney’s revenues grew 7% this quarter with strength from the parks division, media properties, and product royalties. Developing markets such as Russia, China, and India were all called out as strong on the earnings conference call. Disney’s cable and media properties are expanding...

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