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from Morning Bid:

Brazil on the grill

The idea of increased political risk when it comes to the U.S. markets has been mined before, and it’s true that the uncertainty that surrounds debates such as the renewal of the Export-Import Bank’s charter and the growing expectation that Republicans, should they take power in November in the Senate, could force another confrontation over the debt ceiling. That said, political risk in the U.S. isn’t anything when compared with Brazil as the largest South American economy gears up for its presidential election, a contest between current president Dilma Rousseff and environmentalist Marina Silva, who until last month wasn’t even running (she was the vice presidential candidate for her party, whose original candidate was killed in a plane crash).

It’s an understatement to say the markets aren’t a fan of Rousseff, who hasn’t been able to bring the country out of its current economic rut – in fact, a chart of the Bovespa stock market makes it an easy one to pick out pivot points in the election race. In a two-week stretch following the death of Eduardo Campos, the Bovespa jumped more than 11 percent as investors started to see Silva as the candidate more likely to take out Rousseff (the other candidate, Aecio Neves, has seen his support slowly erode as Silva emerged as a popular choice).

But the tables have since turned: polling that showed Silva with a narrow lead in a three-way matchup and a possible win in a second-round runoff against President Rousseff now show her slipping as Rousseff’s team has turned up the heat through damaging advertising. And the two-way polls now show Rousseff with a one-point lead against Silva (statistically insignificant), and naturally as the polls started to turn, the Bovespa did as well, with that index now down about 8.7 percent since that peak hit in early September. The Brazilian real’s pattern has been no less similar, with the dollar rising against the Brazilian currency from about 2.23 to 2.41 in September. There are plenty of factors that will resonate far past the election in just a couple of weeks – hopes for its fiscal imbalances to improve, its difficult and tight financial conditions and worrisome growth trends – GDP was down 0.9 percent in the second quarter on a year-over-year basis, while inflation is rising at more than 6.5 percent annually.

This has naturally produced volatile markets. The EWZ ETF – the iShares MSCI Brazil fund – has been jumping around like crazy, with volatility hitting a two-year high, and the real not far behind, as implied volatility is higher than 88 percent of readings over the last year as well. Concern about the outcome – that Silva will fall short against Rousseff – can be seen in the activity in the options market. In the iShares Brazil ETF, over the past week, options activity in contracts expiring at the end of this week are still dominated by call options – a ratio of 62 percent to 38 percent. That’s probably related to positions that had been opened when the market was rallying, but it does stand in stark contrast to October options that expire after the election, where puts dominant, accounting for 61 percent of activity compared with 39 percent of calls.

from Counterparties:

MORNING BID – Apres Fed, le Deluge

The Kremlinologists turned out to be right, and the Federal Reserve left its "considerable time" language in its statement to assure the markets that it would be around for a while longer with rock bottom rates. It's the divergent (to a point) reaction out of the markets themselves that is interesting to parse, and will be key to watch in coming weeks and months. The action in the stock market was to suggest the entire exercise was a snooze-fest, with stocks ending marginally higher (yes, the Dow at a new record) but not too far from where the major averages were trading just before the news. Which is to say the equity market, always the most optimistic of U.S. markets, has it in mind that low rates stay for now, and until "now" is "then," it's time to party.

Bond markets, inflation-protected securities and the currency markets saw things differently, and it's those markets that may be more instructive to watch as the days and months go on and on. The five-year TIPS note saw its yield break above zero for the first time in ages, a sign that investors are starting to worry more about inflation, or higher Fed rates, which is interesting as consumer price data showed year-over-year inflation fall to a 1.7 percent rate earlier in the day. The dollar put together another strong rally, meanwhile, with the dollar index hitting highs not seen in 14 months and big rises against its main companions, the euro and the yen. And this is where the dot matrix comes in.

from Counterparties:

MORNING BID – Sound as a pound

Global ructions are dominating asset flows right now, and we’re not even talking about violent events such as the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, the rise of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or the Israel-Palestine situation. Right now smaller events – yet uncertain ones – seem to be affecting the larger markets a bit more, contributing to a decided shift in factors that U.S. assets are reacting to.

The bond market is no longer just about a steady belief in lower-for-forever activity from the Federal Reserve, but about the expectation for more flows from overseas as U.S. assets look more attractive and the U.S. dollar continues to strengthen. The dollar had a banner session against the pound with the threat of Scottish independence growing more and more possible (cue everyone yelling “Freedom!” while being drawn and quartered), as the messy considerations surrounding what happens to oil revenue and the diminution of the U.K. economy is considered. It also threatens to drive more flows toward the dollar as the Bank of England might be expected to hold off on raising interest rates when they had been expected to be the first central bank to act.

from Breakingviews:

Pound joins euro as weak dollar victim

By Ian Campbell

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

The pound has joined the euro in the unwanted currency strength camp. There are British factors but the main reason is that excessively loose U.S. monetary policy is distorting currency markets - and other markets besides. Trouble is in store.

from Breakingviews:

Confused Fed adds to emerging market muddle

By Andy Mukherjee

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

A confused U.S. Federal Reserve has added to the muddle in emerging markets.

At their meeting that ended on March 19, the nine voting members of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) wriggled out of a previous commitment to start increasing interest rates after unemployment had fallen to 6.5 percent. To assure markets that overnight rates will stay at near-zero levels, the committee promised instead to seek maximum employment and 2 percent inflation.

from Counterparties:

MORNING BID – Copper, China and currencies

Markets start on the back foot this morning, with weakness overseas - and particularly in emerging markets - feeding through to a bit of strain on U.S. futures and a bit of flight to quality to the U.S. bond market.

The outlook for China once again comes into play, with the most recent fears being more corporate defaults in the world's second-largest economy and the way in which copper imports are used in China as collateral to raise funds. So it's all nicely intertwined here and has had a detrimental effect on both China's stocks, stocks in various exchanges around the world, and of course the price of copper, which was down 5 percent in Shanghai.

from Breakingviews:

Scandal will reshape FX trading dynamics

By Swaha Pattanaik

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

Around the world, investigators are trying to find out if the largely unregulated foreign exchange market was manipulated. Even before the probes are completed, the pace of change will pick up in the $5 trillion-a-day market, in both what moves currencies and the way business is done.

from Counterparties:

MORNING BID – Janet Yellen’s rain (snow) check

This is the thing about delaying the new Fed chair's follow-up testimony by two weeks due to bad weather, you actually make the second hearing something that's potentially interesting. (It will depend, of course, on whether members of the Senate Committee ask provocative questions, and while you can lead a horse to water, well, you know.)

In the interim two weeks since Janet Yellen last appeared before Congress, the U.S. economic picture has gotten much more muddled. That's mostly because of poor retail sales and employment figures, and the out-of-control situation in Ukraine which has led to a regional flight of some assets. There's also been some interesting comments from the likes of Fed Governor Daniel Tarullo, who suggested the Fed should be paying more attention to the formation of asset bubbles and the use of monetary policy to curb them. That anyone is surprised at this shows how pervasive the "Fed put" option has become in the discussion of Fed activities, so we've really lowered expectations here.

from Breakingviews:

Whole FX business belongs in the dock

By Edward Hadas

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

No one has yet been accused of a crime in the foreign exchange market, but there is a lot of talk of disturbing practices, including dealing in personal accounts against clients’ interests. This could be a scandal as big as the fixing of interbank lending rates. However, the probes seem unlikely to address the hardest questions about how the whole currency business works.

from MacroScope:

A week before emerging-market turmoil, a prescient exchange on just how much the Fed cares

photo

The last seven days has been a glaring example of fallout from the cross-border carry trade. That's the sort of trade, well known in currency markets, where investors borrow funds in low-rate countries and invest them in higher-rate ones. Some $4 trillion is estimated to have flooded into emerging markets since the 2008 financial crisis to profit off the ultra accommodate policies of the U.S. Federal Reserve, Bank of Japan, European Central Bank and the Bank of England. Now that central banks in developed economies are looking to reverse course and eventually raise rates, that carry trade is unraveling fast, resulting in the brutal sell-off in emerging markets such as Turkey and Argentina over the last week.

The Fed's decision on Wednesday to keep cutting its stimulus effectively ignores the turmoil in such developing countries. And while the Fed may well be right not to overreact, it makes one wonder just how much attention major central banks pay to the carry trade and its global effects -- and it brings to mind a prescient exchange between some of the brightest lights of western economics, just a week before emerging markets were to run off the rails.

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