The Sun is Shining on Wall Street

This morning, the sun is shining on New York City and on Wall Street.

President-elect Barack Obama was one of the few people that could have restored confidence in the financial markets through the appointment of a Cabinet members that the market trusts and a clearer plan of action for tackling the economic crisis. On Friday, his appointments for Treasury Secretary and the Secretary of State were leaked, sending stocks soaring and according to the Washington Post, Obama and leading Democrats are planning a 2 year fiscal stimulus package that could amount to 5% of GDP. He also named former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers to head the National Economic Council. Summers is Geithner’s mentor and was one of the leading candidates for Obama’s Treasury Secretary post.

With 2 well respected powerhouses on his Economic Team, Obama has a good chance of turning the economy around in late 2009, early 2010. The new Administration is beginning to grease the wheels and the market is liking it.

Q3 GDP Could Fall as Much as 1%

However in order for the gains in the equity and currency markets to be sustained, hope needs to supersede reality because as of Tuesday, the US economy should be in a technical recession. Third quarter GDP numbers are due for release and after contracting by 0.3 % in the second quarter, first quarter GDP growth could fall as much as 1% (consensus is -0.5%). The US economy would not be a stranger to such a deep contraction as growth fell by 1.4% in the third quarter of 2001, 3% in the fourth quarter of 1990 and a whopping 6.4% in the first quarter of 1982.

Existing Home Sales Drop 3.1%

It is no secret that the housing market is in trouble and the latest existing home sales numbers confirm that. Resales dropped 3.1% to 4.98 million rate, which is the lowest since June 2008. The big story however is the drop in house prices, which was the largest on record. The combination of a slowing economy and tight credit markets has prevented real estate from recovering and with the recent layoff announcements, I expect demand to slow even further.

Another Big Bank Will Not Fail

Citigroup was another major uncertainty that made the markets nervous. The US government has announced that Citi will be receiving $20B in cash from the Treasury and $306B of asset guarantees. In return, the US government will receive preferred shares in the bank. This step indicates that the Bush Administration believes that the financial system could not afford another big bank failure which is probably right.

For those of you that are interested, here is a quote from Obama’s radio address on Saturday outlining his Economic Recovery Plan:
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EUR/USD Slips as Oil and Stocks Head Lower

Even though the lack of meaningful US economic data has kept the US dollar in flux, there is one commodity that is continuing to grind lower. Oil prices fell to the lowest level in 20 months as exporters wake up to reality that crude prices may stay at current levels for some time.

For the currency market, the decline in oil prices is bullish for the US Dollar, and Japanese Yen but bearish for the Euro and Canadian dollar. The weakness of US stocks will also add pressure on high yielding currencies Since the beginning of the year, there has been a 70 percent positive correlation between the EUR/USD and the price of oil.

With the fear of weakening global demand keeping oil prices under pressure, OPEC nations are starting to realize that production cuts may not be the answer. The strong rise in commodity prices that we have seen throughout 2006 and into the summer of 2008 was driven by the frothy expectations that the global economy will continue to expand at a healthy pace. That of course has been proved to be false.

Now that oil prices have dropped more than 50% since the summer and have refused to recover, oil exporters have resorted to hedging their oil exports at sub-$100 levels. The front page story in the Financial Times today talks about how Mexico, the world’s sixth largest oil producer is hedging nearly all of next year’s oil exports. This is a clear sign that they fear oil prices will remain below $70 a barrel in 2009. Even though the report only talks about Mexico, we doubt that they are the only oil producing country to start hedging.

In order to hedge against a drop in oil prices, oil producers need to enter into derivative contracts that basically involve selling oil prices forward.

Source: GFT Dealbook

Source: GFT Dealbook

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Don’t Pin Hopes on China, Recession Trades Still On

US equities turned as traders realize that everyone is pinning too much hope on China. The reality is that China’s stimulus plan will not save the global financial and economic crisis. Instead, the only thing that is assured is that at one fifth of 2007 GDP, China will have less money to spend on financing the US’ current account deficit.

China: Not the Answer to Everyone’s Problems

Every country is doing their best at stimulating domestic growth and that is exactly what China is focused on right now. Their priorities are at home and not abroad and their plans to invest in low-rent housing, infrastructure, rebuilding programs and tax breaks on capital spending are aimed at helping their economy cool at a more manageable pace. However it is not a bailout for the financial market and will not be enough to stimulate global growth. Some foreign manufacturing and construction companies will benefit from China’s investment in infrastructure, but the bottom line is that like the rest of the plans announced by developed governments, it shifts and not creates wealth. We also don’t think that it is a coincidence that China made its announcement ahead of a busy data week that will surely confirm the continued weakness in the Chinese economy. With a need to focus domestically, Chinese demand for dollar denominated investments will decrease, especially after some particularly nasty losses incurred at the Sovereign Wealth Fund.

Will there be Fireworks at the November 15 Meeting?

World leaders will be headed to Washington for the Economic Summit on November 14 and 15. The hope is that we will see more detailed proposals on dealing with the economic crisis. Unfortunately as the date nears, investors are starting to realize that no substantial changes may come out of the meeting. With a little more than 2 months before the leadership changes in the US, the current administration may not want to commit to any major policy changes. But if they do, that is exactly what can turn the financial markets around (US President-elect Barack Obama has announced that he will not be attending the financial Summit). Although G20 finance ministers and central bankers pledged to jointly tackle the global financial crisis at this weekend’s G20 meeting, the disagreement between more or less state controls are becoming increasingly clear. It remains to be seen whether there will be fireworks at this weekend’s emergency summit.

Recession Trades Still On
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Dollar Closing In on 5% Targets, Where are the Value Points?

The type of moves that we have seen in the currency market during the Asian and European trading sessions are typically what we see in a quarter or a half year. USD/JPY has fallen 5 percent, AUD/USD is down more than 8.5 percent while the NZD/USD is down 7 percent. The sell-off in the Japanese Yen crosses are even more severe with AUD/JPY down 13.5 percent and NZD/JPY down 12 percent. Here is a list of the biggest movers as of 9am ET:

Yesterday, I warned against a premature top in the EUR/USD!

Although it may be very tempting to say that the dollar has hit a top, especially against the Euro, in order for this EUR/USD rally to be real and for investors to be convinced to stop selling higher yielding currencies, we need to see stabilization in the financial markets and a return of confidence.

The mentality in the currency and stock markets is sell now, ask questions later. The low yielding US dollar and Japanese Yen continue to be the biggest beneficiaries of risk aversion. The only thing that investors want right now are safe haven plays. The dollar’s strength will force emerging market countries to rush to prevent a flight of capital out of their currencies – more rate hikes could be likely. With deleveraging being the theme of the day, when confidence is lost, it will be difficult to recover.

Where are the Value Points for the Currency Market?

In the Wed edition of my Daily GFT Report and on CNBC and Bloomberg I talked about how the dollar could rise another 5%. At that time, the EUR/USD was trading at 1.2829 and the GBP/USD at 1.6236. The GBP/USD has already hit my 5 percent target and at one point this morning even became undervalued on a purchasing parity basis. Although the UK GDP report confirms that the country is headed for a recession and validates the weakness, I believe that we have seen a near term low in the currency pair.

The EUR/USD on the other hand has only dropped 2.5 percent. The EUR/USD does not become a value play until 1.15-1.20. As for USD/JPY, it has also reached my target of 95. Although I won’t be a buyer at these levels, I won’t be a seller either. There are no rewards for heros in this type of market.

Will the BoJ Intervene?

If you are wondering about Bank of Japan intervention, don’t expect it to happen. As an export dependent nation, a strong currency is not in Japan’s best interest. However unlike in the past where the BoJ has intervened when USD/JPY fell below 105 and 100, we may not see any action by the Japanese government this time around. Since the problems are inherent in the US and the Eurozone, intervening at this time may be counterproductive for the Japanese. The Japanese government needs to stand aside and allow the US and Eurozone governments to take their measures to spur growth and not strengthen the dollar for their own short term relief.

If intervention was on the table, the Japanese PM would not make the following comment this morning:

RISE IN YEN NOT ALWAYS BAD BECAUSE IT PUSHES DOWN OIL PRICES FOR JAPAN”

Risk of Limit Down Day in US Stocks

With S&P futures already trading at limit down this morning, there is a decent chance that circuit breakers may be hit in the first hour of trading. The moves in the Dow Jones Industrial Average these days is strikingly similar to the move in 1906 and 1907 (Here is a chart from Barclays). In the last phase of the sell off between Q2 of 1907 and Q4 of 1908, the Dow dropped 37% before it bottomed out. From the August 11500 levels in the Dow, a 37% move would take the index down to a new 6 year low of 7245.

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Barclays Capital

Barclays Capital

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Bailout Plan Fails to Impress, Traders Worried More About Dominoes Effect

The Congressional agreement of the $700 Billion bailout plan has proved to be anti-climatic for the stock and currency markets. There was a relief rally in the US dollar Sunday evening, but it lasted for no more than a blink of an eye as more problems came knocking on the door for financial institutions. Investors quickly moved onto the latest problems with a string of bank bailouts announced in Europe and the practical failure of Wachovia. Being sold at $1 a share is almost the same as filing for bankruptcy.

THE DOMINOES EFFECT

The US dollar has weakened against the Japanese Yen, but its strength against the Euro and British pound indicate that the concerns for those currency pairs now shift to the prospect of further bank failures in Europe. In the Eurozone, Fortis was bailed out by Belgium, the Netherlands and the Luxembourg governments while the Hypo Real Estate group was bailed out by the German government. In the UK, Bradford and Bingley was nationalized by the UK government. If the US banking sector is a good model, then we know that this is just the beginning of bank failures as the dominoes effect triggers more losses. With the ECB interest rate decision scheduled for Thursday, the problems in the banking sector could pressure the European Central Bank to consider easing monetary policy.

On the heels of the bailout plan, the Federal Reserve has injected a tremendous amount liquidity into the global money markets by increasing their swap lines. This is driving gold prices through the roof as inflation fears soar and money flocks out of US dollars and into gold as the safe haven play. Nonetheless, the Fed is trying to tell the market that they are serious about providing liquidity with the size of today’s liquidity injection – they more than doubled their swap limits from $290B to $620B.

US COMPANIES PLAYING DEFENSE COULD BOOST RECESSION RISKS
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