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The rejection of the $700B bailout plan by the House of Representatives came completely out of the left field, driving a knife through both US equities and the US dollar. For the Bush Administration, it certainly feels like they are moving one step forward and taking two steps back but the severity of the financial crisis makes it absolutely necessary for Washington to put economics ahead of politics. Although traders were initially dissatisfied with Congress’ approval of Paulson’s plan, they were counting on a bailout. The combination of a huge liquidity injection by the Federal Reserve today and the hope that the bailout plan would move forward kept stocks from falling further. However those efforts and the sleepless weekend of debates turned out to be futile after the House rejected the bailout bill. For fairness, there was no was guarantee that Paulson’s plan would have helped average Americans, but at least it could have brought some stability to the financial markets. Unfortunately it is now back to the drawing board for Paulson who has to meet with Bush, Bernanke and Congress to discuss their next steps. Volatility in the financial markets benefits no one especially as more than $1 Trillion in market value has been wiped out from US stocks today. The VIX, which measures equity market volatility shot to the highest level in 6 years while gold prices jumped 3.8 percent. LIBOR rates have also skyrocketed while the TED spread continued to widen indicating that as a result of the House’s rejection of the bill, investors both domestically and internationally have become more risk averse. For those that are willing to part with their cash, they are demanding a high premium.
Dow 10,000 Could Mean 100 USD/JPY
The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down more than 770 points while the S&P500 dropped more than 8 percent. This is the largest single day drop in the Dow ever and the largest percentage decline in the S&P500 in 20 years. We have long argued that if the Dow hit 10,000, USD/JPY could fall to 100. That correlation remains intact today as the plunge in US equities drags USD/JPY towards 104.00. In the September 19th edition of the Daily Currency Focus, we argued that the US dollar could fall by another 5 percent. At that time, USD/JPY was trading at 107.40 and to many people a 5 percent move lower, which is the equivalent of 530 pips seemed like a farfetched possibility. However since then the dollar has already fallen close more than 300 pips, making a move towards 102 within reach. With the US stock market plunging and the US government looking to raise the national debt, in addition to hammering out the bailout plan, the Bush Administration will have to work extra hard to reassure foreign investors.
Gold Becomes a Hedge for Inflation and the US Economy
Now more than ever, the US needs to rely on foreign funding. If Central Banks and Sovereign Wealth Funds around the world start to lose confidence in the US financial markets or the US government, we could be looking at a complete freeze in lending that expands beyond the banking sector. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, central banks are already loading up on gold as European central banks cut their sales to the lowest level in almost 10 years. Gold prices are up more than $35 an ounce today as a hedge for inflation and a hedge for the US economy. Everyone is starting to realize that commodities are the only assets that have no counterparty or credit risk. Gold prices first jumped on inflation fears after the Federal Reserve’s liquidity injections this morning. Having more than doubled their swap limits from $290B to $620B, the Fed is trying to tell the market that they are serious about providing liquidity and given today’s sharp volatility, they will continue to do aggressively in the coming days.
TARP Drama Gets More Dramatic – Time to Play Defensive
For everyone from traders, investors, banks and the average American, the latest development in the TARP soap opera means one thing – which is that it is time to become more defensive. The Treasury has failed to restore confidence in the financial markets and it could be some time before there is stabilization.
This is the new age of conservatism which means tighter terms for loans on credit cards, cars and homes as well as more penny pinching by US consumers. Expect this to lead to more layoffs and less expansion efforts by US companies. In fact, the longer the US government takes to agree on a plan, the greater the recessionary risks. Looking ahead, we still expect more weakness for the US dollar, particularly against the Japanese Yen. House prices, Consumer confidence and Chicago PMI are due for release on Tuesday.