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Key News

  • Emerging‐market stocks slumped the most in nearly four weeks as the U.S. Treasury’s warning that some banks will need “large amounts” of government aid revived concern that the global financial crisis won’t end anytime soon. (Bloomberg)
  • UK household savings rate jumped to 4.8% of disposable income in the fourth
    quarter of 2008, compared to just 1.7% in the third quarter. (FT)

Key Reports (WSJ):
10:30 a.m. Feb Dallas Fed Mfg Production Index: Previous: -36.1


“Beauty will come not at the call of legislation…It will come, as always, unnoticed, and
spring up between the feet of brave and earnest men.”

                              Ralph Waldo Emerson

FX Trading – Angela sets off a smart bomb!
We expected a major G‐20 bust, and thank goodness it is shaping up to be so. We say that not because we want global economic failure, but because we believed this idea that throwing more money at our problems was only a recipe for more pain and in no way represents a solution. And we were very pleased to see real global leadership from someone who can…

“This crisis did not come about because we issued little money but because we created economic growth with too much money, and it was not sustainable,” German chancellor Angela Merkel told the Financial Times yesterday.


Ms. Merkel’s cogent comments had the impact of a precision targeted smart bomb — it exploded the idea that stimulus was the be all and end all of economic salvation. And made it very clear there are leaders out there who do get it. We hope President Obama’s Harvard boys will be taking notes.

Taxpayers and thinking people everywhere owe you a debt of gratitude Ms. Merkel — thank you! Let’s hope it helps.

Sadly, we doubt it. Instead of focusing on ways to get real people building real businesses and creating real jobs, the G‐20 will be focused on more regulation and ferreting out those evil doers who run hedge funds. It’s not that an updated financial regulatory regime may not be warranted. But all this energy wasted on regulatory environments won’t do diddlysquat to spur entrepreneurship.

In fact, the zest with which governments have now latched on to regulation as something they can all believe in, and show their constituents they are “cracking down on the bad guys,” (yes, those same bad guys that provided a whole lot of campaign contributions) may result in a whole lot less risk capital flowing to real businesses that did nothing wrong other than pursue their self interest and made very handsome profits as a result of providing something a customer values. And oh yeah, those selfish profit makers through the magic of capitalism created tons of jobs along the way.

Okay, on to the markets…

Risk aversion is back this morning. It has consistently taken this form among the key asset classes–stocks lower, bonds higher, dollar higher, yen higher, Aussie lower, and oil lower–and that is the case as we pen this piece.

AUD/JPY has been a good risk aversion trade indicator (we are not sure this correlation will hold going forward given the fundamentals in Japan as we discussed recently in Currency Currents, but it is in play this morning):

The euro is getting hit this morning, carrying over from its hit on Friday.

The euro is particularly vulnerable if the Europeans don’t get some agreement on more funding for the Eurozone banking system–either directly to the banks or to those whose loans from these banks look increasingly unlikely to be repaid … including most of eastern and central Europe. [Eurozone banking system holds an estimated 70‐75% of bank lending to developing nations.]

Germany doesn’t want to take responsibility to propping up the Eurozone fiscal basket case countries especially when their world‐beating export model seems to be crumbling before their eyes (German engineering company export orders fell 47% y‐o‐y in January).

But Germany wouldn’t mind if the IMF, through increased funding from China, Saudi Arabia, and the US took the lead there.

China and the Saudi’s have a very strong vested interest to keep things moving. China’s export model is likely crumbling faster than Germany’s. However, it is much more dangerous for China. They face a potential Tiananmen Square of major magnitude if global demand doesn’t want to rebound soon. The Saudi’s know they can’t sell as much oil when demand is low. That leaves the US. What is their vested interest here?

Well, that is the question. Instead of allowing this rebalancing to run its course, providing key stimulus where necessary, Mr. Obama’s Harvard Boys (apologies to Mr. Bernanke) seem to think they are smarter than 300 million American consumers who have decided now is the time to save instead of spend. Very strange!

Can all of this morning’s price action reverse? You bet! There’s plenty of time left. If China, Saudis, and US pony up–the dollar likely takes it on the chin for a while.

Stay tuned.