Conclusion: While our central planners may have ignited a short-term beta chase across Global Macro markets, our analysis of the economic fundamentals out of Asia suggest there is more downside to come for the global economy.
Shorting AYT – Trade Update: This afternoon, Keith shorted the Barclays GEMS Asia 8 ETN (AYT) in our Virtual Portfolio – a security we’ve managed risk on the short side of over the past couple of months. To refresh, the thesis is as follows: slowing growth and peaking/decelerating inflation will lead to a broad-based monetary easing cycle across the region. Refer to the following notes for more in-depth analysis:
- 10/25: Global Growth Update – Incremental Deterioration Forthcoming?: https://app.hedgeye.com/feed_items/16428
- 10/31: Shorting AYT – Trade Update: https://app.hedgeye.com/feed_items/16529
- 11/8: Covering AYT – Trade Update: https://app.hedgeye.com/feed_items/16702
- 11/22: Asia Isn’t Buying Into Santa Claus: https://app.hedgeye.com/feed_items/16957
Our proprietary quantitative levels are included among the charts below.
Asian equity markets had a strong week, closing up +5.2% wk/wk on a median basis. Gains were led by South Korea and Hong Kong, up +7.9% and +7.6%, respectively. China was the only market to close down, falling -0.8% wk/wk. We interpret this dramatic negative divergence as signal to investors that near-term expectations of broad-based monetary policy easing in China need to be dramatically tempered.
Asian currencies also showed similar strength this week, closing up +2% wk/wk vs. the USD on a median basis, led by the Aussie and Kiwi dollars (up +5.3% and +5.1%, respectively). Every single Asian currency we monitor (15 in total) finished the week flat-or-down over the last month vs. the USD.
Asian sovereign debt yields broadly declined on the week, driven by a mixture of higher risk appetite and slowing growth. China, India, Indonesia, and Thailand saw the greatest wk/wk declines across the curve (2yr: -22bps, -28bps, -16bps, and -16bps, respectively; 10yr: -14bps, -15bps, -66bps, and -13bps, respectively). Australia, whose bond market has been well ahead of the global growth slowdown, saw their yields back up +18bps wk/wk on the 2yr and +15bps wk/wk on the 10yr.
As it relates to monetary easing speculation, Chinese 1yr O/S interest rate swaps continue to support expectations for pending Chinese rate/RRR cuts: -25bps tighter wk/wk; -75bps below the benchmark deposit rate. That said, however, our stance continues to be one of patience – it likely won’t pay to get broadly bullish at the start of China’s easing cycle, using 2008 as an admittedly imperfect proxy for the current Global Macro environment.
The credit default swaps markets signaled a broad-based improvement in the perception of creditworthiness of Asian sovereign borrowers. 5yr CDS contracts tightened -14.1% wk/wk on a median percentage basis. China – whose swaps have widened nearly +100% in the YTD on growing concerns surrounding its banking system – saw its contracts tighten -27bps/-16.3% wk/wk.
CHARTS OF THE WEEK
THE LEAST YOU NEED TO KNOW
- Chinese manufacturing PMI slowed in Nov to 49 from 50.4 prior – the first sub-50 reading since Feb ’09. Looking under the hood of the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing index, we saw that the forward-looking subcomponents all declined MoM as well: new orders (45.6 vs. 48.6) and backlog of orders (45.2 vs. 46). HSBC’s unofficial PMI index also confirmed this weakness in China’s manufacturing sector, falling to 47.7 vs. 51.0.
- The lone bright spot in China’s Nov PMI report(s) was that the input price sub-index declined to the lowest level since Jan ’09 (44.4 vs. 46.2). Ahead of this decline in inflationary pressures (and economic growth), China cut bank reserve requirements -50bps to 21% for major banks starting 12/5. China continues to “fine tune” its monetary policy, but key policymakers continue to speak out against consensus expectations for a broad, near-term easing cycle. Per Xia Bin, a member of the PBOC’s monetary policy committee: “China’s policy fine-tuning doesn’t mean credit controls will be loosened and people shouldn’t hope for a reversal of curbs on the property market” (i.e. the main driver of Chinese economic growth). He continues: “High investment growth before the financial crisis can’t be sustained because it has led to property bubbles and huge latent risks in local government financing vehicles. Under such circumstances, we must maintain a relatively tight stance on credit.” Translation: Chinese demand will continue to slow over the intermediate term as the central bank and State Council maintain a largely-prudent policy stance.
- Outside of China’s weak manufacturing PMI report, we also saw quite a few other nasty Nov PMI readings throughout Asia from either a marginal or absolute perspective: Japan (49.1 vs. 50.6 prior); India (51 vs. 52 prior); Korea (47.1 vs. 48 prior); Taiwan (43.9 vs. 43.7 prior); and Australia (47.8 vs. 47.4 prior). Taken in aggregate, it’s easy to see that manufacturing is broadly contracting in Asia at a largely-accelerating rate.
- According to data from Clarkson Securities Ltd., a unit of the world’s largest shipbroker, shipping rates from China to the E.U. have fallen -39% since the end of August – more than double the -18% decline in China-to-U.S. shipping rates. As we’ve been calling for, growth in the world’s largest economic bloc continues to slow precipitously.
- Hong Kong’s M3 money supply growth slowed again in Oct to -3.8% YoY vs. -0.4%. Why do we care about the supply of money in Hong Kong? Because its sustained drop into negative territory was a stealth leading indicator of deteriorating global economic conditions in 2Q08.
- Japan’s unemployment rate backed up to 4.5% in Oct from 4.1% prior – a meaningful increase, given that the labor force is hovering down around 1989 levels due to population decline.
- Indian real GDP growth slowed again in 3Q to +6.9% YoY vs. +7.7% prior – the lowest rate of growth in India since 2Q09. Moreover, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s latest commentary confirms exactly what we’ve been saying about India for several quarters now: “The Indian government has limited scope for a boost in spending to create demand and spur growth… When the adverse impact of the 2008 crisis was felt in the economy, we could generate domestic demand through a stimulus package. I am not in a position to provide that kind of fiscal stimulus [today].”
- South Korean industrial production and service industry output growth slowed in Oct to +6.2% YoY (vs. +6.9% prior) and +3.5% YoY (vs. +3.2% prior), respectively. The marked-to-market slowing of Korean economic growth has the Bank of Korean considering lowering its economic growth forecasts for both 2011 and 2012: “Our economy will be less than our expectation… Global economic growth is now showing a kind of downward risk so in the sense, maybe the Korean economy is a little bit downward as well.” – Lee Jong Kyu, deputy director-general at the Economic Research Institute at the Bank of Korea. Any lowering of their forecasts is likely to tilt the balance of risks towards preserving economic growth, auguring well for future monetary easing in Korea.
- Asian export growth continues to slow: India (+10.8% YoY in Oct vs. +36.4% prior); Indonesia (+16.7% YoY in Oct vs. +44% prior); and Thailand (-0.1% YoY in Oct vs. +18.4% prior) all showcased declining overseas demand for their products.
- Got Confidence?: Bank Indonesia’s consumer confidence index ticked down in Nov to 114.3 vs. 116.2, while Thailand’s business sentiment index fell in Oct to 36.7 vs. 48.5 prior.
Deflating the Inflation:
- Indonesian CPI slowed in Nov to +4.2% YoY vs. +4.4% prior. Core CPI held at a +4.4% YoY rate, however.
- South Korean CPI accelerated to +4.2% YoY vs. +3.6% prior. Core CPI accelerated as well: +3.5% YoY vs. +3.2% prior.
- Thai CPI, both headline and core, came in flat in Nov at +4.2% YoY and +2.9% YoY, respectively.
- We continue to hammer away on our view that Asia will not be there in size to help lever the EFSF or some other form of E.U. bailout. Zhu Guangyao, China’s Vice Foreign Minister in charge of European affairs, had this to say regarding the use of China’s $3.2 trillion in FX reserves: “China can’t use its $3.2 trillion in foreign exchange reserves to rescue European nations… Foreign reserves are not revenues. China can’t use its reserves to fund poverty alleviation at home or to bail out foreign countries… Now is not the time for China to have a contingency plan in the event a euro zone country defaults on its debts or exits from the 17-nation single currency. The government has already done its part to help Europe, which has the wisdom and strong economic fundamentals to solve its sovereign debt crisis.”
- China’s confirmed entry into a monetary easing cycle is weighing on expectations of yuan appreciation; 1yr USD/CNY non-deliverable forwards are now trading at a -0.3% discount to spot prices. The specter of less yuan appreciation is, in turn, weighing on the dim sum bond market, where the average issue has fallen -2% in the YTD, according the HSBC indexes. It is also driving increased investor scrutiny over the quality of the issues in a market where over 60% of the non-financial issues have no leverage limits. As we like to say, nothing focuses the mind like an ole’ hanging.
- Thailand, which, admittedly, is feeling the ill-effects of nationwide flooding, reduced its benchmark interest rate by -25bps to 3.25%.
- Demand for mortgages in Australia hit another all-time low growth rate in Oct to +5.7% YoY vs. +5.8% prior. We remain long-term bears on Australia’s housing market and see this as a structural headwind to both Australian interest rates and the Aussie dollar.
- Japanese retail sales and overall household spending growth accelerated in Oct to +1.9% YoY (from -1.1% prior) and -0.4% YoY (from -1.9% prior), respectively. As well, the country’s industrial production growth accelerated in Oct to +0.4% YoY vs. -3.3% prior. Construction orders and housing starts (earthquake/tsunami reconstruction) also accelerated in the world’s third-largest economy. Still the mere threat of slowing growth from current low levels of economic activity has driven policymakers to plan an unprecedented (post-WWII) fourth “extra budget” (i.e. stimulus package) in the current fiscal year to help support growth. Small in size (only $26 billion), it sends a large message to the international community that this country continues to be unable to grow w/o the help of deficit spending and sovereign debt buildup.
- As China enters into the thralls of its economic slowdown, we’re seeing falling growth expectations impact corporate credit spreads in the mainland. The premium investors demand to hold securities rated AA or below over AAA-rated securities has widened to 433bps – the widest since Dec ’08.
- Japan’s AAA status has been put of negative watch by a domestic ratings agency, shining light on what we’ve been saying for over a year: Japan’s eroding domestic savings tailwind and perpetual kicking of the can down the road away from cutting spending and raising taxes is a long-term headwind for JGBs. In conjunction with the ratings news, Japan’s bid-to-cover ratio on a 10yr issue declined to 2.47x – the lowest since Dec ’10. All told, we think investors are misinterpreting the [marginal] back-up in JGB yields and decline in demand as a credit event, but, in reality, it’s likely more a function of updated global growth/inflation expectations when analyzed with a globally-interconnected lens. This week’s global beta chase was simply not supportive of JGB or JPY demand.