Global Macro: trade on China’s weak signs and Draghi’s Will to Power

This article deals with a few current hot topics:

  • The main one gives an update on weakening signs of giant China
  • The second one reviews the ECB Thursday’s meeting, presented with a couple of FX positioning
  • The last one is on the debt ceiling debate and risk-off sentiment

China desperately flowing…

As I am looking at the current news in the market, there has been a lot of interesting topics to study over the past couple of months. I will first start this article with an update on China and its weakening economy. Since the Chinese ‘devaluation’ on August 11th, I have been focusing much more in the EM and Asian Market as I strongly believe that the developed world is not yet ready for a China & Co. slowdown. I heard an interesting analysis lately, which was sort of describing the assets that had performed since the PBoC action more than two months ago. As you can see it on the chart below, Gold prices (XAU spot) accelerated from 1,100 to a high of 1,185 reached on October 14th, and Bitcoin recovered from its low of 200 reached in late August and now trades at $285 a piece.

ChinaandBitcoinGold

(Source: Bloomberg)

One additional explanation that I have for Gold is that I believe that the 1,100 level could be an interesting floor for long-term investors interested in the currency of the last resort. The weak macro, loose monetary policy, low interest rates and more and more currency crisis in EM countries will tend to bring back gravity in Gold, especially if prices become interesting (below $1,100 per ounce) for long-term buyers.

Looking at the CSI 300 Index, we still stand quite far from the [lower] historical high of 5,380 reached in the beginning of June last year. Since then, as a response, we had a Chinese devaluation, the PBoC cutting the minimum home down payment for buyers in cities last month (September 30th) from 30% to 25% due to weak property investment, and then a few days ago the PBoC cutting the Reserve Requirement Ratio (RRR) for all banks by 50bps to 17.50% and its benchmark lending rate by 25bps to 4.35%. Looking at all these actions concerns me on the health of the Chinese economy; it looks very artificial and speculative. In a late article, Steve Keen, a professor in economics explained that the Chinese private-debt-to-GDP ratio surged from 100% during the Great financial crisis to over 180% in the beginning of 2015, amassing the largest buildup of bad debt in history. Its addiction to over expand rapidly have left more than one in five homes vacant in China’s urban areas according to the Survey and Research for China Household Finance. Banks are well too exposed to equities and the housing market, and it looks that they have now started a similar decline as the US before 2008 and Japan before 1991. To give you an idea, the real estate was estimated to be at 6% of US GDP at the peak in 2005, whereas it represents roughly 20% of China’s GDP today.

ChinaPrivatedebt

(Source: Forbes article, Why China Had to Crash)

I wrote an article back last September where I mentioned that the Chinese economy will tend to slow down more quickly than analyst expect, therefore impacting the overall economy. We saw that GDP slide to 6.9% QoQ in the third quarter, its slowest pace since 2009 and quite far from the 7.5%-8% projection in the beginning of this year.

Draghi’s Will To Power

One fascinating event this week was the ECB meeting on Thursday. Despite a status quo on its interest rate policy, leaving deposit rate at -0.2% and the MRO at 5bps, a few words from the ECB president drove immediately the market’s attention. He said exactly that ‘The degree of monetary policy accommodation will need to be re-examined at our December policy meeting’, therefore implying that the current 1.1 trillion-euro program will be increased. As you can see it on the chart, EURUSD reacted quite sharply, declining from 1.1330 to a low of 1.0990 on Friday’s trading session, and sending equities – Euro Stoxx 50 Index – to a two-month high above 3,400. Italy 2-year yield was negative that day (hard to believe that it was trading above 7.5% in the end of November 2011).

ECBmeeting

(Source: Bloomberg)

 I am always curious and excited to see how a particular currency will fluctuate in this kind of important events (central banking meeting usually). One thing that I learned so far is to never be exposed against a central bank’s desire; you have two options, either stay out of it or be part of the trend.  I think EURUSD could continue to push to lower levels in the coming days, with the market slowly ‘swallowing’ Draghi’s comment. I think that the 1.0880 level as a first target is an interesting level with an entry level slightly below 1.1100 (stop above 1.1160).

USDJPY broke out of its two-month 119 – 121 in the middle of October down to almost 118, where it was considered as a buy-on-dip opportunity. It then levitated by 3 figures to 121.50 in the past couple of weeks spurred by a loose PBoC and ECB. The upside looks quite capped in the medium term if we don’t hear any news coming from the BoJ. The upside move on USDJPY looks almost over, 121.75 – 122 could be the key resistance level there.

USDJPYTrade

(Source: Bloomberg)

Potential volatility and risk-off sentiment coming from the debt ceiling debate

On overall, with US equities – SP500 index – quietly approaching its 2,100 key psychological resistance with a VIX slowly decreasing towards its 12.50 – 13 bargain level, I will keep an eye on the debt ceiling current debate in the US, which could trigger some risk-off sentiment in the next couple of weeks (i.e cap equities and USDJPY on the upside). Briefly, the Congress has to agree on raising the debt limit to a new high of 19.6tr USD proposed (from 18.1tr USD where it currently stands). The debt limit is the total amount of money that the United States government is authorized to borrow to meet its existing obligations, and the current debt ceiling proposal’s deadline is November 3rd. No agreement would mean that the US government could default on its debt obligations, which could potentially increase the volatility in the market.

The chart below shows the increase of the debt ceiling since the early 1970s, after the Nixon Shock announcement which led to the end of Bretton Woods and the exponential expansion of credit.

USceiling

(Source: The Burning Platform) 

Reviewing Market Carnage 2.0

Back in the middle of October last year, I wrote an article to summarize and explain the Market Carnage. It was never published on my blog, therefore I added it in the Appendix section. This morning, it seems that we experienced another ‘Black Monday’, triggered by some disappointing news coming from China. The PBoC surprised the market with no RRR cut (while a 50-100 bps cut was ‘expected’ by the participants), and then followed a market collapse with the Shanghai composite down as much as 9% at one point (the most since 1996). US Equities were down as well, trading below 1,900 as you can see it on the chart below, while USD/CHF (blue line) is down 5 figures in one week flirting with the 0.9300 level when I was writing the article.

USDCHF

(Source: FXCM)

I personally believe that you can learn a lot from a trading session like today, that tells you that the market can go anywhere. While the sell-side research was telling me that EURUSD has nowhere to go but down and that US 10Y rate will never go back below the 2% level and that it could be interesting to start buying oil at $40, last week’s session and today in particular prove you that you can have it all wrong. One thing that I am ‘happy’ to see is that the Swissie has really acted as a safe haven currency, something that I understood after the SNB removed the EURUSD floor on January 15th (and consider it as a historical event).

Volatility was considered so high that the NYSE invoked ruled 48 to avoid a panic selling at the US Opening. The rule, approved by the SEC on December 6 2007, says that market makers ‘will not have to disseminate price indications before the bell, making it easier and faster to open stocks’.

Insane moves were seen on the currency market, to begin with NZDJPY that totally collapsed from 81.50 to 72.50 earlier today (that’s a 11-percent move in a single day!). USDJPY registered a 6-figure move down to 116 (mid-January lows), and EURUSD went North breaking the 1.17 level and gaining 300 pips in hours with a huge lack of liquidity (See Chart 1).

Reaction is expected now from China in order to calm down investors, and hopefully bring the situation back to normal. I am sort of convinced that the situation will stabilize within the next couple of days, however those market flash crashes kinda worry me about the global macro situation in most of the countries. As I mentioned it in some of my previous articles, I am persuaded that the Fed is not comfortable with those types of trading sessions. Coming now to the September hike, it is much less obvious that US policymakers will start a tightening policy based on the market’s attitude on trading days like today.

The question now is: ‘What sort of tools has China got in its advantage to calm this ‘panic’ (and the BoJ and SNB) in the coming week?’ I am currently working on a article about China’s economic and financial situation and its relation to the commodity market that I will try to publish soon.

In my current FX positioning, I am long USDCHF at 0.93 and short EURUSD at 1.1665 as a believe we will see a calmer afternoon.

Chart 1 (EURUSD)

EURUSD

(Source: FXCM)

Appendix: 

For the past few years that I have been trading, I believe Wednesday was by far the most volatile and swingy session of all. It first started very quietly in the UK morning session, and then it really went out of control before the US opened. I don’t even know where to begin…

Equities continue their correction: Eurostoxx 50 index is down more than 12% (French and German market are off 12.5% and 13.5% respectively), the Footsie and the S&P 500 both down by 9.5% since the highs reached on September 19th.

If we have a look at the chart below, we can see that the VIX, which measures the 30-day volatility implied by the ATM S&P500 options prices, surged and breached the 30 level and is now trading back to November 2011 levels, taking the equity (S&P) down with him. There is clearly more room for further correction, no buy-the-dip scenario this time unfortunately.

SPVIX(Source: Reuters)

One currency that continues to strengthen in reaction to the risk-off sentiment (a real one this time) is the Japanese Yen. After the nice August/September momentum, USDJPY, which reached its peak of 110.08 on October 1st, was sold to 105.21 in the early afternoon before recovering back to 106.00. Our favourite [carry trade] pair keeps tumbling and is now trading at a 7-month low slightly below the 93.00 level. As I usually say ‘it is all about the Yen’, you better watch carefully where the currency is going at the moment [more strength!] as it will give you an idea of the overall market.

Another big ‘surprise’ was of course the 10-year US yield (blue line) that tumbled below the 2% level down to 1.86% approximately (May 2013 levels), before ‘recovering’ to 2.1%. I always ask myself ‘where does the market like to see the 10-year yield?’ Obviously not too high, but below 2% clearly means that the market participants are not confident [at all]. On the other hand, Gold (yellow bars) continued its rally, up to 1,250 before edging lower to 1,240. The 10-minute-period chart below (USDJPY in red bars) shows you that asset classes moves clearly ‘together’ under a ‘stressed market’.

GOldYenYields(Source: Reuters)

End of POMO, what to expect from the next FOMC meeting (October 28th)?

While we are ‘kindly’ approaching the last days of QE with the Fed stepping out of the bonds market at the end of this month (October 28th, see chart in appendix), I think we may have a couple of dovish FOMC meetings concerning the central bank’s ST monetary policy. To me, it looks like the US policymakers have made a ‘mistake’ by expressing themselves on that point [rate hike] as they should have let the market swallow a period without QE. True, Fed officials are willing to start tightening. For instance, we heard San Fran Williams (one of the most dovish and apparently seen as a good ‘barometer of the views of Yellen’) saying that he would hope the Fed can tighten, mentioning 9 months to see the first hike. However, it looks to me that the higher rates world is just an illusion…

In order to avoid the ON/OFF calls that we have seen since the beginning of the year (RBNZ, BoE and now the Fed), there need to be a sort of global monetary policy coordination. Otherwise, we are going to see other sharp fluctuations and especially in the FX market (remember, nobody wants a high exchange rate, not even the US, aka the Fed).

On the top of that, oil is plunging; coincidence? WTI November 2014 futures contract is now down more than 20pts since June trading slightly above 80 (as Zero Hedge mentions: ‘if Oil plunge continues, now may be a time to panic for US shale companies’). As I believe that Oil prices and the equity market are the Fed’s two most important components, I don’t only see cheap oil prices only as a benefit (stimulus) for consumers, therefore adding pressure on Yellen’s [and Co.] team.

My view goes for a Dollar pause, and I will carefully wait for the October (28th) FOMC meeting to see how US policymakers are going to deal with the current situation. An important figure to watch will be the Inflation report next Wednesday. US CPI is expected to remain steady at 1.7% YoY in September, however I think we could see some disappointment…

Appendix:
Unknown(Source: NY Fed)