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.
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.
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.
What a way to start 2015. The first deflation in the EU since 2009, record low yields on German sovereign debt, global energy prices keep tanking, US equities down for 5 consecutive days, and the news (or not) keeps flowing. For the record, major equity indices have started 2015 with the worst performance since the financial crisis of 2008. Whatever remnant of the 2014 "Santa Rally" turned out to be a ghost in a shell, and has now spooked global market participants.
The past week has been all about ratcheting up the "Grexit" rhetoric across the markets. Readers should be no stranger to the situation in Greece and the entire periphery of the Euro Union, which we touched upon in our last update preceding the New Year. The risk has indeed never been greater as it seems Germany has openly voiced that it won't be blackmailed by a Greek plunger. Remember, Greece is bounded by €240bn to the Troika under the various bailout packages extended to her.
In what has to be the most heart wrenching year in modern civil aviation history, another civilian airplane has vanished without a trace over an area spanning between Indonesia and Borneo.
Earlier this year in March, Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 flying from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Beijing, China lost radio contact with Malaysian ATC while flying over the South China Sea towards Vietnam. Almost 9 months after its mysterious disappearance, the Boeing 777-200ER airplane that serviced MH370 is still not found, nor have parts that belonged to the aircraft been found despite extensive international search efforts across millions of square miles over the Indian Ocean. The conclusion of MH370 is still open ended, but consensus is that it has crashed in open waters West of Australia. MH370 was carrying 239 passengers in total, the world has never heard from them since.
The flight in question is QZ8501 operated by an affiliate of AirAsia, AirAsia Indonesia whose parent company is PT Fersindo Nusaperkasa. The firm was founded in December 2004 under the brand "Awair". As we go to print, the airplane is still missing after 48 hours since it broke contact with Jakarta ATC. No distress signal was given.
The overnight night unsecured deposit rate on BYR has exploded north of 30% as the national bank has made it too expensive to lend BYR even amongst banks. As we learned from the bank's press release, it wants to halt sales of BYR by as much as possible though pseudo and conventional capital controls. The interest on commercial and retail deposits at local banks has also spiked to encourage individuals and businesses to leave their currency in their banks. Apparently enough, we know this is not working one bit and the run on banks continues and will probably extend all the way to Christmas Eve before there is any easing of tensions.
Indeed, just a few hours after AFP broke this news, the overnight interbank BYR deposit rate has surged past 50% as the fire intensifies.
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.
China's Securities Depository Corporation announced (CSDC) Tuesday that they would no longer accept non AAA-rated corporate debt securities as collateral in repurchase transactions, essentially raising the cost of short term collateralized borrowing in the private sector. AAA-rated corporate debt securities to be pledged as collateral must also originate from AA-rated issuers.
China has hinted rather overtly it wants to drastically reduce leverage in its stock and bond markets, and is partially working on this goal by tightening monetary policy through indirect tools; fixing Yuan higher and raising collateral standards and reducing availability.