MarketWatch/Mike Bird & Christopher Whittall/04-19-17
With the start of the French election just days away, investors are contemplating their nightmare scenario: a choice between far-left and far-right candidates.
In recent days, a surge in opinion polls has placed Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a left-wing firebrand who promises higher wages and fewer working hours, as a potential candidate to move past this Sunday’s first round of voting. That could set up a second-round vote in May 7 with Marine Le Pen, an economic nationalist who wants to pull France out of the euro.
…A runoff between Ms. Le Pen and Mr. Mélenchon “would be a disaster for France…[and] a disaster for Europe,” said Patrick Zweifel, chief economist at Pictet Asset Management.
Under that scenario, investors would dump the debt of France and of weaker European economies and send the euro sharply lower, analysts say.
PG View: Apparently some people are thinking about this possibility . . .
CNN/MJ Lee, Deirdre Walsh & Lauren Fox/04-20-17
Top House Republicans may be nearing a significant breakthrough among some key players on efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare, one month after a Republican health care bill was pulled from the House floor.
The leader of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, and the head of the moderate Tuesday Group, New Jersey Rep. Tom MacArthur, are working toward a deal that could bring 18 to 20 new “Yes” votes from the conference’s conservative wing, according to a source familiar with the talks. But it’s not clear there would be enough votes in the broader GOP House conference to pass the bill.
PG View: Stocks seem to like this news as it fosters some hope that the broader Trump agenda has not stalled completely.
Reuters/Sudip Kar-Gupta & Sarah White/04-14-17
France’s presidential race looked tighter than it has all year on Friday, nine days before voting starts, as one poll put all four main candidates within touching distance of the two-person run-off round.
The Ipsos-Sopra Sterna poll for daily Le Monde showed centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen tied on 22 percent each in the April 23 first round, with the far-left’s Jean-Luc Melenchon and conservative Francois Fillon on 20 and 19 percent respectively.
That 3 percentage point gap among the top four was within the poll’s margin of error, suggesting the election is wide open.
President Donald Trump has signaled his preference for a weaker dollar and low interest rates. He may end up with neither if the U.S. economy continues to recover and he delivers on his ambitious agenda of tax cuts and infrastructure spending.
…The bigger question is how Trump can coax the dollar lower and still promise to inject fiscal stimulus, Setser said. “Historically, a bigger fiscal deficit has put upward pressure on the dollar.”
…”I don’t see why the president shouldn’t be allowed to talk about this,” said Joseph Gagnon, a former Fed official who is now a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “The strong-dollar policy has outlived its usefulness.”
Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen is the dove that President Donald Trump needs to achieve his economic goals, central bank experts said Wednesday as they contemplated the apparent reversal in his stance.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Trump said he had respect for Yellen and said she was “not toast” when her term helming the central bank ends next year.
“I do like a low-interest rate policy, I have to be honest with you,” Trump said in the interview.
AP/Josh Boak & Stephen Ohlemacher/04-10-17
President Donald Trump has scrapped the tax plan he campaigned on and is going back to the drawing board in a search for Republican consensus behind legislation to overhaul the U.S. tax system.
The administration’s first attempt to write legislation is in its early stages and the White House has kept much of it under wraps. But it has already sprouted the consideration of a series of unorthodox proposals including a drastic cut to the payroll tax, aimed at appealing to Democrats.
Some view the search for new options as a result of Trump’s refusal to set clear parameters for his plan and his exceedingly challenging endgame: reducing tax rates enough to spur faster growth without blowing up the budget deficit.
U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan said on Wednesday that tax reform will take longer to accomplish than repealing and replacing Obamacare would, saying Congress and the White House were initially closer to agreement on healthcare legislation than on tax policy.
“The House has a (tax reform) plan but the Senate doesn’t quite have one yet. They’re working on one. The White House hasn’t nailed it down,” Ryan told an audience in Washington.
“So even the three entities aren’t on the same page yet on tax reform,” he added.
PG View: Another reason for those long stocks to be worried that the “reflation trade” is in trouble.
Republicans in Congress are pushing back against a proposal from President Donald Trump to tack funds to pay for a new wall on the US-Mexico border on to stopgap spending plans as they seek to avert a government shutdown after April 28.
While Mr Trump has asked for a $33bn increase in defence and border spending as part of a deal that will keep the US government funded beyond April, lawmakers fear that his demands could force a government shutdown as Democrats refuse to accept Republican proposals.
Britain’s departure from the European Union is an “historic moment from which there can be no turning back”, Theresa May has told MPs.
The prime minister said it was a “unique opportunity” to “shape a brighter future” for the UK.
She was speaking after Britain’s EU ambassador formally triggered the two year countdown to the UK’s exit by handing over a letter in Brussels.
Politico/Kyle Cheney, John Bresnahan & Rachael Bade/03-24-17
Facing a growing rebellion within his own ranks, House Speaker Paul Ryan pulled the Republican Obamacare replacement plan from the House floor on Friday just before a scheduled vote.
The decision is a staggering defeat for Ryan and President Donald Trump in their first attempt to partner on major legislation and fulfill a seven-year Republican promise to repeal Obamacare. It comes a day after Trump issued an ultimatum to House Republicans to vote for the bill or live with Obamacare.
Bloomberg/Billy House, Sahil Kapur & Anna Edgerton/03-24-17
House GOP leaders aren’t confident they have enough votes to pass their embattled health-care bill, according to a senior congressional aide, and are already considering what to do if the measure is blocked before a do-or-die vote hours away.
House Speaker Paul Ryan arrived at the White House Friday to brief President Donald Trump ahead of the vote. Vice President Mike Pence canceled a trip to Arkansas to be in Washington for the vote, a White House official said.
The Trump administration is doubling down on its demand that House Republican leaders hold a vote Friday on their embattled health-care bill without any changes and with an influential GOP member saying he’s not sure they have the votes.
Politico/Kyle Cheney, Rachael Bade & John Bresnahan/03-24-17
President Donald Trump’s ultimatum to Republicans to overturn the Democratic health care law they’ve been campaigning against for years heads to the House floor Friday for a momentous showdown that will test the GOP’s ability to govern.
And no one, not even the people in charge of counting the votes, can say what will happen.
Bloomberg/Luke Kawa, Sid Verma & Felice Maranz/03-22-17
Analysts are zeroing in on the House of Representatives vote on the American Health Care Act as a linchpin for President Donald Trump’s ability to push through pro-economic growth policies — and the market’s ability to cling to a faltering reflation trade.
A House divided over the repeal and replacement of former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act — enshrined as the Trump administration’s top legislative priority — faces an uphill battle, reckon Wall Street analysts. Failure to reform could extend the sell-off that pushed the S&P 500 lower by drop more than 1 percent Tuesday for the first time since Oct. 11 as investors pared back bets that the administration will spark growth with tax cuts and infrastructure spending.
Thursday’s vote may be a “key litmus test” for the administration, said TD Securities fixed income strategists led by Gennadiy Goldberg, arguing that its failure in the House would spark “a significant risk-off event.”
PG View: Gold tends to shine in “risk-off” events.
FT/Sam Fleming and Shawn Donnan/01-17-17
Donald Trump has threatened to overturn two decades of US economic policy by questioning the strong value of the dollar, raising fears that his presidency could set off a new round of currency wars between the world’s major economies.
On Monday the president-elect appeared to break from the longstanding “strong dollar” policy of successive administrations, declaring that the currency was too high and that this was preventing US companies from competing with Chinese counterparts. “It’s killing us,” he said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.
PG View: Let’s be honest, our so-called “strong dollar” policy has been a farce. The greenback is in long-term secular decline, like pretty much every other fiat currency. Only within the last several years has the dollar really appreciated; largely as a result of divergent monetary policy. Those gains are eroding the competitiveness of U.S. corporations, which will likely put trade policy high on the Trump administration’s agenda. Speaking in Davos, an advisor to the President-elect, suggest Mr. Trump is likely to tear-up the rulebook on trade.
Financier Anthony Scaramucci, an adviser to Donald Trump, has been speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
He said President-elect Trump is likely to tear up the old rulebook of how trade deals are done and although he wants a strong relationship with countries like China, is seeking changes to what he called “asymmetrical deals” that have been struck in recent decades.
PG View: That ought to shake things up globally . . .
Theresa May has said the UK “cannot possibly” remain within the European single market, as staying in it would mean “not leaving the EU at all”.
But the prime minister promised to push for the “greatest possible” access to the single market following Brexit.
…And Mrs May promised an end to the UK’s “vast contributions” to the EU.
But Labour said there were “enormous dangers” in the prime minister’s plans.
PG View: Sterling rebounded, encouraged by Ms. May’s assurances that Britain was not turning inward and that Parliament would get to vote on any deal stuck with the EU.
Financial Times/Gillian Tett/12-30-16
“Most notably, 2016 was the year when western markets were rocked by political shocks almost as startling as anything seen recently from the emerging markets world. In 2017 investors will probably confront even more political risk in the “developed” world that will make asset values look more volatile.
…The coming year could be equally unpredictable. France, Germany and the Netherlands will hold elections, just as support for populist candidates is swelling. Theresa May, UK prime minister, is embarking on Brexit negotiations, creating more uncertainty; and markets are waiting nervously to see what Mr Trump does (or does not) do in office, amid a host of conflicting signals.”
PG View: It would seem that the heightened political risks — and myriad attendant risks that come along with such a condition — would significantly enhance the appeal of a safe-haven, hard asset such as gold.
17-Nov (WSJ) — New House Speaker Paul Ryan struck a confrontational stance with the Obama administration Tuesday, setting the stage for showdowns over domestic spending and national security matters as Congress works to wrap up business for the year.
Mr. Ryan, speaking at The Wall Street Journal CEO Council annual meeting, said a spending bill needed to avoid a government shutdown in December must include Republican policy measures, injecting fresh drama into the year’s final budget fight.
He also forcefully warned President Barack Obama against using executive action to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and transfer its detainees to the U.S.
The Wisconsin Republican didn’t explicitly suggest government operations could lapse when funding expires on Dec. 11, but he didn’t rule out such a possibility. He said Republicans will force Mr. Obama to accept some conservative provisions, known as “riders,” in the sweeping spending bill.
PG View: In the wake of the latest suspension of the debt ceiling, somebody needs to address spending and the mounting government debt. The omnibus spending bill will have to be passed by December 11 to avoid a government shutdown and it looks like t’s shaping up to be contentions. That deadline is less than a week before the next FOMC meeting.
02-Feb (Financial Times) — Greece’s radical new government unveiled proposals on Monday for ending the confrontation with its creditors by swapping outstanding debt for new growth-linked bonds, running a permanent budget surplus and targeting wealthy tax-evaders.
Yanis Varoufakis, the new finance minister, outlined the plan in the wake of a dramatic week in which the government’s first moves rattled its eurozone partners and rekindled fears about the country’s chances of staying in the currency union.
…But there is still deep scepticism in many European capitals, in particular Berlin, about the new government’s brinkmanship and its calls for an end to austerity policies.
02-Feb (AP, via Miami Herold) — President Barack Obama sent Congress a record $4 trillion budget Monday that would boost taxes on higher-income Americans and corporations and eliminate tight federal spending caps to shower more money on both domestic and military programs. It would provide middle-class tax relief and fund an ambitious public works effort to rebuild aging roads and bridges.
Obama’s budget, which will set off months of wrangling in Congress, proposes spending $4 trillion — $3.999 trillion before rounding — in the 2016 budget year that begins Oct. 1. That’s a 6.4 percent increase over estimated spending this year, projecting that the deficit will decline to $474 billion.
30-Jan (Reuters, via BusinessInsider) – Greece’s government will not cooperate with the EU and IMF mission bankrolling the country and will not seek an extension to the bailout program, its finance minister said on Friday.
Jeroen Dijsselbloem, head of the euro zone finance ministers’ group who is in Athens for talks with the new government, said the two sides would decide what would happen next before the program ends on Feb. 28.
“This platform enabled us to win the confidence of the Greek people,” Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis told reporters after their meeting. “Our first action as a government will not be to reject the rationale of questioning this program through a request to extend it.”
30-Jan (WashingtonPost) — The world’s worst portmanteau is back: Grexit.
That’s short for “Greek exit,” as in Greece leaving the euro. And it’s once again a possibility now that the left-wing, anti-austerity party Syriza has won power in the latest elections. The risk, as I’ve said before, is that the rest of Europe is in good enough shape that Germany finally thinks it can let Greece leave, and Greece’s budget is in good enough shape that it finally thinks it can leave too. Neither of them wants that, but neither of them doesn’t want it so much that they’d do anything to avoid it—so both might call each other’s, as it turns out, non-bluffs if Syriza tries to force Germany to renegotiate Greece’s gargantuan debt.
Cue the market freakout in three, two, oh, it’s already here? Why yes, yes it is. Greek stocks fell 11 percent on Tuesday, another 9.2 percent on Wednesday, before stabilizing up 3.2 percent on Thursday. Three-year borrowing costs shot up to 16.9 percent. And worst of all, Greek banks collapsed between 30 and 45 percent in just the last week. That’s enough, as we’ll see in a minute, to make it much more likely that Greece leaves the euro.
PG View: Even after Greece’s talks today with the EU, bond yields continue to march higher, exceeding 19%.
28-Jan (Financial Times) — Greece’s new radical leftwing-dominated government signalled on Tuesday that friction with its European partners might extend from economic to foreign policy when it distanced itself from an EU call to consider broader sanctions against Russia.
A spokesman for the ruling coalition of Alexis Tsipras, prime minister, said Greece had not approved a statement from EU heads of government that asked their foreign ministers to review further sanctions in response to the latest flare-up of violence in eastern Ukraine, blamed by the US and most European nations on Russian-backed separatists.
28-Jan (Financial Times) — Greece’s new prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, said his government would refuse to give in to international pressure over its €240bn bailout but sought to reassure markets by telling his first cabinet meeting that the country would not seek a “mutually destructive clash” with creditors.
In a message to supporters who backed his Syriza party’s anti-austerity platform, Mr Tsipras told ministers that they “must not disappoint the voters who gave us a mandate”.
“We are coming in to radically change the way that policies and administration are conducted in this country,” he said.
27-Jan (Reuters) – Greek markets endured a second day of turmoil on Tuesday, after weekend elections resulted in an anti-bailout government that looks set on a collision course with the country’s creditors.
Three-year borrowing costs spiked above 14 percent, giving up over 4 percentage points since Sunday’s vote, while a collapse in bank stocks hauled down Athens’ main bourse. .ATG
Greece’s malaise also weighed on other low-rated bonds, although the blow was cushioned by the prospect of the European Central Bank’s new bond-buying scheme due to begin in March.
“There is a general anxiety about the situation in Greece and how it is all going to play out,” said Jakob Christensen, senior economist at distressed debt brokerage Exotix.
26-Jan (BBC) — The far-left Syriza party, the winner of Greece’s election, has formed an anti-austerity coalition with a right-wing party, the Greek Independents.
The coalition will have a comfortable majority in the new parliament.
Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras has vowed to renegotiate Greece’s bailouts, worth €240bn (£179bn; $268bn).
European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker congratulated Mr Tsipras while reminding him of the challenge of “ensuring fiscal responsibility”.
“The European Commission stands ready to continue assisting Greece in achieving these goals,” Mr Juncker said in a tweet which also referred to “promoting sustainable jobs and growth”.
26-Jan (USAToday) — Fresh concerns about the future of the eurozone resurfaced to unsettle markets Monday after Greece’s far-left Syriza party swept to power supported by voters opposed to the terms of the nation’s international bailout.
Syriza party leader Alexis Tsipras agreed to form a coalition government with the Independent Greeks party, a right-wing group that is similarly opposed to the budget cuts and other austerity measures demanded by the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund in return for a massive $270 billion bailout.
That rescue package has allowed Greece to avoid bankruptcy but has come at the cost of severe cuts to spending.
Syriza failed to win in Sunday’s election the requisite 151 out of 300 parliamentary seats that would have allowed it to form a government on its own based on an absolute majority, but the Independent Greeks party’s 13 seats means it can push ahead with its agenda all the same.
19-Jan (Reuters) – Germany’s chancellor made a rare public intervention in the debate about money printing by the European Central Bank on Monday, warning it was no substitute for economic reforms in the euro zone.
Speaking to an audience near Frankfurt that included ECB President Mario Draghi, Merkel said any move by the ECB to buy government bonds with new money should not be used as an excuse to put such reforms on the back burner.
“I have only one plea … and that is aimed at all the representatives of the ECB,” Angela Merkel said at the headquarters of German stock exchange operator Deutsche Boerse.
“It must be avoided that any action taken by the ECB in any respect whatsoever could result in the impression that what needs to be done in the fiscal and competitive spheres could be pushed into the background.”
29-Dec (New York Times) — Governments and investors across Europe braced for renewed economic upheaval on Monday after the Parliament in Greece failed to avert an early general election, reviving the toxic debate over austerity as the way to cure the Continent’s economic woes.
Senior European Union officials immediately urged Greek voters — now headed to the polls on Jan. 25 — to focus on continuing the policies that have enabled the country to ride out its previous monetary crisis and remain part of the eurozone, and that have begun to restore the country’s battered reputation for fiscal management.
But with household incomes down by a third from what they were before the policies were adopted, and unemployment higher than 25 percent, polls have indicated support for Syriza, a leftist party that opposes the deep budget cuts Greece has made in recent years as a condition of financial bailouts.
Syriza has said it wants to renegotiate the two bailouts, worth 240 billion euros, or about $292 billion, obtained from Greek’s so-called troika of lenders — the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund — since 2010, and get its creditors to write off some of Greece’s crippling debts.