Trumps plans more disorder during his final week in office. Markets are manic amid bubble warnings. Indonesia's latest plane crash highlights the country's poor safety record.
Banned from social media and abandoned by some staff after inciting a riot at the U.S. Capitol, President Donald Trump and a dwindling circle of advisers plan a defiant final week in office, according to people familiar with the matter. Trump is confident Vice President Mike Pence and members of his cabinet won’t attempt to remove him under the 25th Amendment, they say. The president and some allies also believe Democrats are overreaching by trying to once again impeach him, and think Senate conviction would be unlikely. Senator Pat Toomey, a former Trump ally, said the president had “spiraled down into a kind of madness," while Arnold Schwarzenegger offered Trump his trademark parting message. “You are terminated, Mr. President,” he told Germany’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper.
The dollar was steady in early trading Monday and Asian stocks looked set for a muted start as traders digested President-elect Joe Biden’s pledge to detail plans for huge U.S. economic aid, which spurred the S&P 500 to reach another record Friday. The greenback was little changed against the euro and pound, while the yen edged up. Equity futures pointed modestly higher in Australia and Hong Kong. Traders will be assessing earnings this week, including reports from JPMorgan and Citigroup. Elsewhere, Bitcoin retreated from the high of almost $42,000 it reached on Friday.
The crash of Sriwijaya Air Flight 182 on Saturday afternoon is another blight on Indonesia’s already poor aviation safety record. The country has had several incidents linked to safety issues in the past, including poor maintenance, pilot training and communications, or mechanical failures and air-traffic control problems. It’s the worst place in Asia to take an airplane, with 104 recorded accidents and 2,353 related fatalities, data from Aviation Safety Network show. What sent Flight SJ182 hurtling into the Java Sea shortly after take off is still being investigated. Flightradar24’s tracking data showed the plane leveling off at an altitude of about 10,000 to 11,000 feet, before a rapid descent to the water in just 14 seconds.
Throw a dart, hit a winner, so it has lately seemed in the stock market. Emboldened by Federal Reserve stimulus, vaccines and the psychological conditioning that arises when no bad patch lasts, everyone from retail newbies to institutional managers is rushing to cash in on the 10-month-old meltup. Of course, it’s possible that all of this could continue for weeks, if not months, without so much of even a little reversal. But bubble warnings are starting to blare from every corner. Meanwhile, emerging-market equities are on fire, with caution creeping into other risk assets as rising U.S. Treasury yields keep investors on edge.
Inflation in India may finally be slowing, opening the door for the central bank to resume monetary easing and helping it push back against calls for a shake up of its policy framework. CPI figures due Tuesday are expected to show a 5% increase in December from a year earlier, returning to the target range of 2% to 6%. Prices rose quicker than 6% in 11 of the 12 prior readings, hampering the RBI’s ability to counter the pandemic-driven downturn, with pressures mostly driven by factors beyond the central bank’s control: costlier food items, broken supply chains due to a strict lockdown, and hefty levies on already rising retail fuel prices.
What We’ve Been Reading
This is what’s caught our eye over the past 24 hours:
And finally, here's what Tracy's interested in today
What does it mean to hold a position in corporate bonds nowadays? Perhaps something different to what it meant a few years, or even a year, ago. Citigroup's credit strategist Daniel Sorid reminds us that "the U.S. investment-grade credit market is steadily eroding in credit quality through what might be termed natural causes." The new bonds available to the market are often of lower quality than the old bonds that are leaving it through maturation. These incoming bonds are on average rated 0.4 notches lower than the bonds leaving the market, according to Citi's calculations. And while this has been something of a long-term trend, the deterioration from just a year ago is noteworthy. The difference between incoming and outgoing debt was about 0.2 notches in the 12 months through January 2019.
Clearly this trend can't go on forever or we'll end up with an index — and ratings system — that's meaningless and just filled with the lowest-rated investment-grade bonds (triple Bs). At the same time, risk premiums on the debt are still falling as investors chase any semblance of yield. In other words, bond investors are getting less compensation to hold lower-quality assets.
You can follow Tracy Alloway on Twitter at @tracyalloway.