January Chinese inflation higher than expected

Japanese machinery orders fell by -7.1% in December, far more than the expected decline of -5.0%. With falling exports, deflation, a huge (an ever increasing) public sector debt, slowing growth and an absurdly high Yen, I really believe that Japan is going to struggle. Shorting the Yen has resulted in pretty full graveyards in the past, but…….The IMF forecasts that the Japanese economy will grow by +1.7% this year – sounds pretty optimistic to little old me, though I accept that reconstruction expenditure following the earthquake/tsunami (which will increase public sector debt even more) should help the economy in the short term. I remain particularly bearish on Japan;

Chinese inflation rose unexpectedly to +4.5% YoY in January, much worse than the +4.0% expected and higher than the +4.1% reported in December. The rise in inflation was the first after 5 consecutive declines from a peak of +6.5% in summer last year. The early Chinese New Year will have impacted, as food prices rose, which rose to +10.5% YoY. Chinese authorities are planning to raise wages by 11% annually till 2015 – not going to help. Inflation exceeded the Governments target of 4.0% every month last year and, to date, Chinese authorities have not set an inflation target for the current year. Whilst the Chinese inflation data is bad news, in the past, rises in food prices during Chinese New Year have reversed relatively quickly. However, the higher inflation data will curb speculation for an immediate cut in RRR’s/reductions in interest rates, though I believe that looser monetary policy is inevitable;

A report in the FT (quoting Nomura) states that Chinese electricity use in January declined by -7.5% YoY, which they describe as “alarming”. The early Chinese New Year could well have accounted for a part of the decline, but Nomura adds that they have never (ex 2009) seen a decline in demand since 2002, in spite of Chinese New Year falling in different months. Nomura imply that Chinese industrial production may have declined significantly. However, maybe there’s a need to be a bit cautious, as we know that the refusal by the authorities to, in effect, accept higher coal prices lead to a reduction in electricity production, which would have lead to shortages. However, it still seems an awful lot…..;

The Korean Central Bank kept rates on hold at 3.25%, as expected. Interestingly, the BoK did not report that they expected inflation to decline;

Well, no deal as yet from the Greeks. The acting PM, Mr Papademos stated that all issues had been agreed, with the exception of 1 relating to pensions. There’s always 1 remaining issue, is there not. As usual, a Greek spokesman stated that all will be agreed shortly. The Euro Zone finance ministers meet at 6.00pm this evening to discuss the Greek situation, with Ms Lagarde of the IMF attending – presumably the Greeks need to agree by then. A deal looks likely – however, as I keep saying, they are the Greeks. I really hope that I can stop having to write about Greece – unfortunately, I suspect a “deal” on PSI/additional bail out funds, will prove to be a temporary reprieve, I suspect quite strongly;

Further comments by Mr Mr Frankel, the deputy CEO of the EFSF. Apparently the EFSF is considering 2 options to increase the size of the the EFSF. 2 options?, interesting;

German exports in December fell by -4.3% MoM in December, over 4 times more than the forecast decline of just -1.0%. In November, exports rose by +2.6% MoM. One months numbers, but…..;

Mr Barnier, the (French) EU Commissioner is pushing President Sarkozy’s financial transactions tax. Good luck mate – only means that there will be even better French restaurants in London to service the flood of French traders moving across the Channel (or La Manche, if I remember my French) to London. OK, Sarkozy has a Presidential election to contend with and bank bashing is politically good tactics, but French banks must be furious. An EU wide, let alone a global agreement, to introduce a financial tax, is a “mort canard” (or is it “canard mort”), Monsieur Barnier – now I’m really pushing my non existent linguistic skills;

The FT reports that the recent E489bn ECB LTRO has opened up European debt markets as investors start buying corporate debt. It is also clear that some banks are playing the carry trade. It will be interesting to see the level of bank Sovereign debt holdings, following the release of 1st Q European bank earnings reports;

US regulators have agreed a US$39.5bn (FT) or a US$25bn (WSJ) deal with banks re the mortgage foreclosure scandal. Good politically (off course there’s an impending election !!!) for the administration and banks will be released from further claims – positive news;

Good God, Mr Nouriel Roubini (Dr Doom to you and me) has turned BULLISH. Reach for the sell/panic button boys and girls and short everything immediately. Roubini getting bullish – now, I’m really getting scared;

Better results from McDonalds (mainly overseas), Disney and Time Warner – suggests that the US consumer is feeling better. US markets closed modestly higher and Asian shares, initially lower following the Chinese inflation data and delays re the Greek bail out, are reversing and are currently higher in the main – including the Shanghai index. European futures indicate a higher open (indeed strengthening), in anticipation of a “deal” on Greece.

The Euro, well currently higher at US$1.33 (completely nuts and just Greek deal related), though the higher Chinese inflation data has resulted in the A$ weakening (currently US$1.0760). Gold is trading around US$1740 and spot Brent at US$117.20 – when will it come off.

I would guess that the miners will open lower given the Chinese data (and RIO’s worse than expected results – problems with their Aluminium business and a lower than expected div) and the financials higher on the prospect of a Greek “deal”. Certainly hope so, given my positioning.

ECB and BoE to announce their decisions today – a further Sterling 50bn QE (at least) programme raising QE to date to Sterling 325bn is expected from the BoE (some suggest more targeting eg MBS’s, rather than the BoE continuing to buy just Gilts). No additional QE by the BoE (unlikely) will be very bad news. No change is expected from the ECB – however, its going to be interesting to hear what Draghi has to say about the ECB’s holding of Greek bonds.

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