First it was Europe that was mired in its coldest deflationary winter ever, then America promptly caught on. It was only a matter of time when cheap energy prices claimed its next victim - Britain. Unlike the Eurozone whose February CPI change settled at -0.3%, the UK saw no change in its price index from a year ago, missing estimates of a 0.1% rise and down from January's 0.3% change. The core figure (excluding food and energy) missed expectations of 1.3%, coming in at 1.2% from January's 1.4%. The market collectively expects deflation to officially strike in March. This comes on the heels of the BoE's Governor Mark Carney's comments about inflation dropping below zero in the next couple of months. Earlier in March, the Bank of England's MPC voted to keep interest rates at a record low of 0.5%, but foresaw a rate hike somewhere in 2016. The BoE is expected to trail the Fed in terms of monetary policy.
The time from when we last published our latest addition of the Daily Grail has been rather eventful. From the blistering jobs report 2 weeks ago that propelled market's expectation for a June rate hike even higher, to the continuation of monetary policy bifurcation by the world's central banks that will soon see the Euro trading at par to the Dollar, the month of March has so far endowed the financial markets with much needed cross-asset volatility.
On 22 January, the ECB unveiled something the world had never seen before. Mario Draghi, President of the European Central Bank, announced that for the first time in the 14 years of the Euro's existence, the ECB was going to monetize debt securities to the tune of €60bn/month. Just 2 short months ago, the ECB termed this open market operation the EAPP (Expanded Asset Purchase Program).
2 months and 1000 pips later, the ECB has coined a new term - the PSPP (Public Sector Purchase Program).The big question on the minds of currency traders across all trading desks is when will parity be attained on EURUSD. Not if but when.
We spoke, we warned, and it has now happened. For reference, we have included a bevy of links documenting our explanation of why deflation was going to be the elephant in the China room.
With the significance of this being the first deflationary headline figure 6 years after Lehman collapsed, low oil prices have conveniently been cast as the straw man. There is some truth to this - the energy index fell 9.7% while the gasoline index fell 18.7% in January, both over December. This marks the fiercest plunge in the 7 consecutive negative prints; the report also noted that the decline in the gasoline was "overwhelmingly the cause" for broad weakness in overall prices. When annualized, the energy index and gasoline index fell 19.6% and 35.4% respectively. Staggering figures!
What a week of utter craziness! After last week's inexhaustible flurry, we thought we'd see some respite. But no, the events just ratcheted one notch higher; with volatility in the financial markets at year-to-date highs and global developments on geopolitical, financial and economic fronts, we can barely keep up the the trance that is raving. So rather than using narrative to summarize what has been a very busy week, we thought of using charts to highlight the key talking points of the past 7 days or so.
This edition of the Daily Grail will be the first ever to feature a compendium of graphics and charts but we might indeed start to adopt a similar format in future editions for time constraints. We have tried to broaden the subjects covered under each piece while ensure each note remains relevant to our readers.
Everyone certainly knows about the blockbuster Disney animation film "Frozen" and its plot. Though we realize, rather humbly indeed, that we will never come anywhere close to Chris Buck's eloquence in personifying fictional fantasy, we nonetheless were able to connect the quaint dots of what was one of the most popular movies of 2013 & 2014, and that of the biggest stories of the global economy.
We liken Elsa to global oil prices; once the innocent commodity everyone vied for has now become the harbinger of disinflation and deflation, causing great pain and blowing a bone-chilling deflationary wind across much of the world. Anna (Elsa's beloved sister), which we liken to central banks, embarks on a journey of wanderlust and real purpose to try to rescue her dearest sister who has uncontrollably morphed into an Ice Daemon.
Once in the bliss of a dearest sisterhood with Elsa - like central banks were to elevated asset prices, Anna now frantically embarks on an unprecedented journey of uncertainties to save Arendelle from an eternal ice age - like central bankers are now embarking on extraordinary monetary programs to reverse the unintended consequence of their previous misdeeds.
- ECB to buy €60bn/month in assets
- Purchases will be conducted "until we see a sustained adjustment to path of inflation"
- Purchases to last until September 2016
- ECB rates have reached lower bound
- Sees sizable increase in ECB's balance sheet
- Eurozone risks on the downside
- Annual inflation is expected to remain very low or negative in months ahead
- Volume of QE is in ballpark of getting ECB's balance sheet ti levels of early 2012
- There has to be a program to buy GGBs; there is also an issuer limit
- Don't have any special rule for Greece
- Will buy bonds with negative yield
A quick take: Slightly more than expected per month, with a slightly shorter duration than expected, amounting to just about €1.1 trillion over 16 months, which is a tad on the low side to the super-aggressive expectations of €1 trillion per year. Furthermore, as expected there will be partial risk-sharing. It is still unclear what are the embedded conditions regarding purchasing Greek or other "risky" bonds.
What makes this move shocking is that just last month the SNB committed themselves to preventing their currency appreciating beyond 1.20 to the Euro and vowed they would enforce the policy with "the utmost determination". The risk for the global financial system is that if the SNB can make such a dramatic u-turn could other central banks follow at some point. We're not so concerned here as their situation is arguably a lot different to the ECB. The ECB might actually look at the wider market moves yesterday and be scared to disappoint.
The S&P 500 index closed at a record high of 2083 at Friday's close, capping what has been an ebullient Christmas week where equities have historically enjoyed outsized returns relative to volatility. Indeed, the S&P 500 was joined by the Russell 2000 index of stocks and the DJIA (Dow Jones Industrial Average of 30 stocks) to close Friday at their respective record highs.
Trading volumes have been thin across the board, perhaps not so in China where people apparently are told not to celebrate the festivities of Christmas, as markets there remained opened for the entire week. Apart from American markets, the Shanghai Composite surged to a record high this past week. Reason? Mainstream media has been blaring more stimuli from the PBoC. If indeed true, that the PBoC is indeed gearing up for more stimulus come 2015, it would indeed be trying to balance a very tricky scale. Readers will recall that earlier in December, the PBoC reigned in on shadow banking by tightening collateral rules; and now wants to prop up asset prices by introducing more stimulus via other conduits? Seems like some central bankers over there are a little confused on what they actually wish to achieve with their Schrödinger policies.
It just keeps coming. In this week alone we have already seen 4 central bank events starting with Russia's immense 6.5% rate hike and other policy accessories that eventually led to the chaos we saw on Tuesday; the ECB then dropped hints that it might extend its QE to sovereign bonds instead of the covered securities it currently purchases; the the planned FOMC statement and press conference with the chair woman yesterday; and then the SNB (Swiss national bank) unexpectedly cut its deposit rate.
Update: After surging 9% against the dollar in the early hours of European trading, the Ruble has resumed its slump towards 70 to the dollar, as Bloomberg reports. Seems like all is not fixed even in the surface.
Update 2: USDRUB breaches 80, RTS index down a whopping 15%. Alarm bells going off. Dollar is at session lows and safety is massively bid.
The CBR raised its main interest rate to 17% from the 10.5% last week, a 650bp hike, sending the ruble much higher as traders knew jerked to the eleventh hour decision to try halt to ruble's cataclysmic collapse amid even lower oil prices. The decision to raise the borrowing cost of interbank borrowing came at 1am local time, highlighting the desperation and intended impact of the measure