Reigniting Fears

Good day… And a Marvelous Monday to you! And welcome to June! Hey! June is busting out all over, all over the meadow and the field… Buds are busting out of bushes and the rompin’ river pushes every little wheel that wheels beside the mill! (And you thought I was just a rocker!) We are having network problems this morning, as some heavy storms ripped through St. Louis on Saturday night. So, the Techie people need to come in and get stuff re-booted, etc. This may go out late… And it may not… At this point, I at least have my laptop working!

Well… Friday saw little movement in the currencies… As I signed off I had told you that maybe someone had said “enough” with the euro (EUR) selling… As the day went on, it certainly looked like that had happened, given the euro’s rise to 1.5550, after looking up to 1.55 early in the morning.

There’s been a return to risk aversion overnight, as some news from the United Kingdom has reignited the fears that the banks may still be sitting on a ton of bad debt… Of course, as Pfennig readers, you already know this, as I’ve told you over and over again there are many more “risk events” for the markets to digest.

Here’s the skinny on the U.K. news… The United Kingdom’s largest lender of buy-to-let mortgages, Bradford & Bingley, came forward to reveal that they had booked a pre-tax net loss of 8 million pounds (after accounting for reductions in the value of its structured investment assets. They also announced that they were going to restructure, and that TPG, Inc. would invest about 179 million pounds.

Well… There you have it… More melting of the U.K. mortgage meltdown… But, hear me now and listen to me later, this isn’t isolated to the United Kingdom.

This is a Big Central Bank meeting week around the world, with the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) meeting Tuesday, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) meeting Wednesday, the Bank of England (BOE) and European Central Bank (ECB) meeting on Thursday. I don’t expect any of these to move rates one way or another at this time. There’s a tiny light shining on the RBA to raise rates, but I think that will come at a later date.

As always, with an unchanged rate environment, the press conference following the meetings will be the more important of the events. I expect the RBA, and ECB to remain hawkish with their intentions to fight inflation, while the BOE and RBNZ are grasping at straws.

The ECB has to deal with the fastest inflation in its 10-year history… That’s not a good thing folks… Not for a Central Bank, whose mandate is to provide price stability. The economy may be cooling, which I’ll talk about in a minute, but inflation is rising – which means rates remain at current levels, or may even go higher as the summer days get hotter.

With the return to risk aversion overnight, the Japanese yen (JPY) has rebounded along with Swiss francs (CHF). It will be interesting to see if the risk aversion can set its teeth into all the “euphoria” surrounding the U.S. markets these days.

The Eurozone economy seems to be slowing down, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. I’ve said all along to expect a slowing of the economy… But not a complete shut-down/recession, and this “slowing” might just be what’s weighing on the euro these days. There’s an important thing to remember about the euro… It’s the “offset” currency to the dollar. So… Look at the two currencies… The dollar, with all the awful fundamentals, a recession, low yields, a war, etc. and then the euro, with a slowing economy… Eventually, the markets will return to the underlying trend.

But first, we might have to endure some euro weakness. But, remember, the dollar has all the bad fundamentals… Sort of like a gauntlet to get through… And while it’s getting beaten, the offset currency is likely to be in favor.

OK… A reader sent me a note about the one-year auction of Treasury Bills, and said, “This is scary isn’t it?” OK… Here’s the skinny on that… You see U.S. Treasury Secretary Paulson is feeling like he’s been “through the desert on a horse with no name” these days. The Treasury is going to issue one-year T-Bills tomorrow for the first time since 2001. With the expanding budget deficit, they have no other choice. The cheese that binds here is the fact that Paulson is indicating that the Fed Reserve, who in the past, had been a regular purchaser of the debt, may not be willing to do so… You see, the Fed is focusing on taking on all that bad debt from mortgage lenders… (Can you say, “The Fed’s focus is all screwed up?”… I knew you could!)

Want some proof that our deficit situation has become completely out of control… How about this little ditty… In the first five months of 2008, the Treasury sold $1.4 trillion of bills, an increase of 36% from the same period last year. Oh, but don’t let that get in the dollar bulls’ way of buying dollars! Deficits don’t matter, right? HOGWASH! You and I know that! But these guys running the country don’t believe it… And that’s a real shame, or sham… Pick one, either one applies!

OK… I have to spend a minute talking about the announced investigation of the CFTC (Commodities Futures). A lot of people believe the investigation will reveal some bad stuff being done to push up the price of oil… Now, I’m not going to sit here and pretend to believe there’s nothing to that… But come on! If the authorities really thought they were going to find something noteworthy, do you think they would announce to the public they were going to investigate? Wouldn’t you want to sneak around and zip the lips until you had the thieves?

I think that this has more “calm the nerves of the public” to it, than it has “to catch a thief”. I mean, come one, we don’t build refineries; we don’t drill where we KNOW there is oil; we haven’t done a darn thing about alternative fuel, despite knowing that we’ve needed to do something since 1973; and we drive gas guzzling cars… But wouldn’t it be better to “blame” someone else for the fact that gas is $4 a gallon? Let’s go after the commodities guys… There’s got to be something there!

It’s supply and demand folks… We have two large countries with billions of people that now demand oil that never really had a demand before… China and India… Take that supply and demand, and mix in a falling dollar, and you have high oil prices.

OK… Today, the data cupboard will show us the color of the ISM Manufacturing Index. You may recall this index has been holding out below the line in the sand of 50, which indicates contraction or expansion, for the past four months. The experts believe the index will have inched up to 48.5 in May – still below 50 – and that should weigh on the dollar a bit today.

We’ll have some other minor reports as the week goes on, leading into the Friday Jobs Jamboree… But I’ll talk more about the Jobs Jamboree as we get nearer to Friday.

The Aussie dollar (AUD), which has been the belle of the ball lately, showed some pimples this morning, after a report showed that retail sales in Australia had unexpectedly declined. I wouldn’t let my shorts get all bunched up over this. As I always say… One swallow does not make a summer… And this is the first “soft” economic report we’ve seen from the land down under. I don’t think we’ll see the RBA back off the rate hikes either!

Currencies today 6/2/08: A$ .9555, kiwi .7850, C$ 1.0045, euro 1.5550, sterling 1.9625, Swiss .96, ISK 75, rand 7.7175, krone 5.12, SEK 6.0175, forint 155.33, zloty 2.1750, koruna 16.15, yen 104.90, baht 32.58, sing 1.3630, HKD 7.8040, INR 42.35, China 6.9325, pesos 10.33, BRL 1.6240, dollar index 72.97, Oil $125.81, Silver $16.86, and Gold… $892.10

That’s it for today… My long time friend and colleague, Chris Gaffney, traveled to San Diego with his lovely family this past weekend to run in a marathon there. I marvel at his determination to do these marathons. Yesterday was darling daughter Dawn’s husband, Jerry’s birthday. We all celebrated at little buddy Alex’s baseball game! Alex just finished four games in five days… That’s crazy! Congratulations to Alex, as he just finished 6th grade! School’s out for Summer! School’s out for ever! OK, enough Alice Cooper for a Monday morning! Kristin’s back from Cancun today! It will be interesting to get her take of the conference! OK… Enough! Time to go! I hope you have a Marvelous Monday!

Chuck Butler
June 2, 2008