“Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.”
-Leroy Satchel Paige
Satchel Paige was an American baseball legend who played ball from 1. He was the 1st player from the Negro Leagues to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was one of America’s great winners.
The saddest part about Paige’s success is probably that it took America too long to realize it. The man didn’t play his first game in Major League Baseball until he was 42 years old. American Groupthink isn’t new. It’s always been a part of our culture. We are human. So are the Chinese.
This morning the Chinese are reminding us that: 1. they are still wearing the pants in this relationship and 2. they aren’t leaving this new game of global financial risk anytime soon. China is heading into 2010 with a full head of political and economic steam. If America and Europe don’t let her into the major league of global finance, China may very well just start up her own.
This morning, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), plus China, Japan, and South Korea, have announced that they are moving forward with the Chiang Mai Initiative and forming a $120 billion foreign-currency reserve pool. In a joint statement, the countries said the move was intended to “strengthen the region’s capacity to safeguard against increased risks and challenges in the global economy.” In Mandarin, that means protect against American crashes.
Chiang Mai is a city in northern Thailand that sits strategically on the Ping River. This is where plenty of Asian trading has been done over the last few centuries. This is where Asia’s new economic powers decided to lock arms and play some red rover with Western leaders of Perceived Financial Wisdom.
Like MLB ignoring Satchel Paige, Westerners ignoring The New Reality of Asian economic power doesn’t mean it ceases to exist. The Asians have been working on forming their own economic safety nets since the Japanese tried to form the Asian Monetary Fund in 1997. The Chiang Mai Initiative was formed in May of 2006. Today is simply a recognition that the proactively prepared have a plan - and they are executing on it.
An analyst at Banker of America is revealing to his squadrons of consensus callers this morning that China could see her property bubble “pop.” Hello, McFly – the Chinese property stocks peaked in July of this year and have been popping for 3 months! Understand that many sell-siders on this side of the pond really don’t know what they don’t know…
China’s Premier, Wen Jiabao, is very aware of his liabilities. Unlike Bush and Obama, he seems to actually know what he doesn’t know. He, and his financial leadership team, have been explicitly targeting the property and loan markets for the last 3 months. They are not behaving as willfully blind as we were.
This morning, here’s what Wen told Xinhua, the Chinese News Agency: “Property prices have risen too quickly in some areas and we should use taxes and loan interest rates to stabilize them”…
Unlike the US, who keeps interest rates at ZERO to fuel debt fueled asset price speculation, at least China has a plan to both generate savings amongst her citizenry (with a savings rate of return greater than ZERO) and, at the same time, show some respect for the cost of capital.
On the currency front, Wen said that China will “absolutely not yield” to the Western calls for currency appreciation. He explained that the plan will remain the plan, and that China will move both her currency and interest rate policies whenever she darn well pleases. Sound familiar? It should. That’s what we do.
2010 will be here by the end of this week, and so will China overtaking Japan as the world’s second largest economy. For a long time Americans and Europeans could see this economic and political juggernaut coming. For a long time some of us chose to ignore the power of their self-directedness.
As America moves the YouTube dials to another populist debate (whether or not we should re-institute Glass-Steagall like regulation in her financial markets in 2010), be certain that the Chinese are going to be moving forward at their already decided pace.
After closing up +1.5% overnight, the Shanghai Composite Index closed at 3188. Despite the SP500 closing at a higher-YTD-high on Christmas Eve, it’s only up 24.7% YTD. Relative to China’s +75.1% gain, that’s puny. Kind of like how Satchel Paige made 20-year old men look with a curveball coming out of his 45-year old arm.
My immediate term TRADE lines of support and resistance for the SP500 are now 1112 and 1129, respectively.
Best of luck out there this week,
VXX - iPath S&P500 Volatility — For a TRADE we bought some protection at the market's YTD highs by buying volatility on 12/14.
EWZ - iShares Brazil — As Greece and Dubai were blowing up, we took our Asset Allocation on International Equities to zero. On 12/8 we started buying back exposure via our favorite country, Brazil, with the etf trading down on the day. We remain bullish on Brazil's commodity complex and believe the country's management of its interest rate policy has promoted stimulus.
GLD - SPDR Gold — We bought back our long standing bullish position on gold on a down day on 9/14 with the threat of US centric stagflation heightening.
CYB - WisdomTree Dreyfus Chinese Yuan — The Yuan is a managed floating currency that trades inside a 0.5% band around the official PBOC mark versus a FX basket. Not quite pegged, not truly floating; the speculative interest in the Yuan/USD forward market has increased dramatically in recent years. We trade the ETN CYB to take exposure to this managed currency in a managed economy hoping to manage our risk as the stimulus led recovery in China dominates global trade.
TIP - iShares TIPS — The iShares etf, TIP, which is 90% invested in the inflation protected sector of the US Treasury Market currently offers a compelling yield. We believe that future inflation expectations are currently mispriced and that TIPS are a efficient way to own yield on an inflation protected basis, especially in the context of our re-flation thesis.
RSX – Market Vectors Russia — We shorted Russia on 12/18 after a terrible unemployment report and an intermediate term TREND view of oil’s price that’s bearish.
EWJ - iShares Japan — While a sweeping victory for the Democratic Party of Japan has ended over 50 years of rule by the LDP bringing some hope to voters; the new leadership appears, if anything, to have a less developed recovery plan than their predecessors. We view Japan as something of a Ponzi Economy -with a population maintaining very high savings rate whose nest eggs allow the government to borrow at ultra low interest levels in order to execute stimulus programs designed to encourage people to save less. This cycle of internal public debt accumulation (now hovering at close to 200% of GDP) is anchored to a vicious demographic curve that leaves the Japanese economy in the long-term position of a man treading water with a bowling ball in his hands.
XLI - SPDR Industrials — We shorted Industrials again on 11/9 on the up move as the US market made a lower-high. This is the best way for us to be short the hope of a V-shaped recovery.
XLY - SPDR Consumer Discretionary — We shorted Howard Penney's view on Consumer Discretionary stocks on 10/30 and 12/2.
SHY - iShares 1-3 Year Treasury Bonds — If you pull up a three year chart of 2-Year Treasuries you'll see the massive macro Trend of interest rates starting to move in the opposite direction. We call this chart the "Queen Mary" and its new-found positive slope means that America's cost of capital will start to go up, implying that access to capital will tighten. Yields are going to continue to make higher-highs and higher lows until consensus gets realistic.