Global Investing

The Big Five: themes for the week ahead

Five things to think about this week:

- The global equity market rally has stalled in June and is threatening to go into reverse. With this week effectively the last full week of the second quarter, the temptation for many funds to book profits on such a lucrative quarter will be high. Any knock on boost to volatility would pose more risks for some of the trades that looked the most attractive in a lower volatility environment, such as cyclical versus defensives plays, emerging markets, and foreign exchange carry trades.

- How the U.S. Federal Reserve will respond to the interest rate market gyrations of the past month has been a key market talking point. Questions centre on whether it will expand the size of buybacks, whether there will be any change in the length of time the buyback programme lasts, whether the central bank makes any effort to unwind the rise in bond yields seen in the past months, and whether there will be any talk of an exit strategy. Another risk to the front end will be the Treasury refinancing, which resumes after a week of no supply and will be concentrating on the shorter end.

- This week’s data will show both whether the inventory rebuilding that was priced in over recent months is actually materialising and whether there are any other drivers of economic activity out there. The flash PMI in Europe and sentiment indicators will be particularly relevant in deciding on the latter issue, with consumer and income data out from both sides of the Atlantic providing an additional window on how domestic demand is shaping up.

- There is potential for significant take up at the ECB’s first one-year tender this week and some are speculating that the injection of large amounts of money into the market could drive down short end rates sharply. Most recent anecdotal evidence suggests firms are still facing tight credit conditions but confidence in financial stabilisation is a pre-requisite if banks are to lend on. This is leading to speculation of where else the money might be parked in the interest rate or fixed income universe. There are also question marks over whether any of the money might leak outside the euro zone — and what, if any, are the potential FX implications of such seepage.

- Higher volatility spells underperformance in the emerging market universe and has raised questions over the risks in individual countries — e.g. Turkey’s IMF deal; Latvia’s political difficulties in winning acceptance for budget cuts; the possibility of the Iranian domestic upheaval gaining market attention; and ructions within the Saudi banking sector. The shifting sentiment suggests potential hurdles for heavy third quarter corporate and government refinancing needs, especially in central and eastern Europe, not least given that the heavy issuance plans of better-rated developed market sovereigns pose crowding out risks.

Exit Santa Claus, Enter the Grinch

Nomura Chief Economist David Resler has made it an annual tradition to write his year-end review and outlook set to the rhythm and rhyme of classic poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas”.

Better known by its first line “T’was the Night Before Christmas”, the 19th century poem is largely responsible for the popular conception of Santa Claus as a jolly, rotund, white-bearded man on a reindeer-pulled sleigh.

In keeping with the prevalent mood, Resler has this year substituted the merry figure of St. Nick with Dr Seuss’ Christmas-ruining, green-skinned Grinch who goes about “brewing up trouble” in the “housing price bubble” by posing as a
home mortgage lender:

Prudence and judgment the Grinch deemed simply passé
Neither income nor job would stand in his loans’ way.
For a Grinch-loan nothing had to be verified.
‘Cause in MBS bundles these risks would he hide.

Views on the Fed, Merrill and future for Wall Street investment banks

merrill.jpgThe Wall Street investment banking model is being tested. No, it’s broken. No, it’s been broken for a while and the bailout of Bear Stearns and the demise of Lehman show that it’s on the mend…

Views are coming in from across the spectrum as financial world commentators join the markets and try to piece together what the busy weekend on Wall Street will mean for stocks and the shape of the financial services industry.’s voluble Jim Cramer declares: “Nobody from the Fed has gotten ahead of this problem.” How can the Federal Reserve not cut interest rates “right now?”