"Some color on the extent of the selling from Laine Litman on the futures desk: Starting 6 minutes before the cash close we saw a strong sell off in ESM3. As predicted, volumes and volatility were high. We sold off 7 handles before the additional quick crash of 4.25 points in the final few seconds. Over 110k contracts traded in the last minute. This is the largest non-quarter end volumes seen since November 2011 (117k) and the largest volumes since June 2012 (111k)."
There is much consternation about what triggered today's rapid escalation of selling pressure in US stocks. As the evening wends on and traders sip their Absinthe, it appears an embargoed record of the Fed's Advisory Panel minutes was at least a major concern as it raised the very real specter that those in charge are concerned at the monster they have created:
"There is also concern about the possibility of a breakout of inflation, although current inflation risk is not considered unmanageable, and of an unsustainable bubble in equity and fixed-income markets given current prices."
"Unsustainable bubble"? And this not from some fringe blog but... bankers?
Some of my first memories of television are of a series called The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, which was a witty combination of animated cartoons about the exploits of the title characters, Rocket "Rocky" J. Squirrel and Bullwinkle J. Moose and their nemeses, two Pottsylvanian nogoodniks spies, Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale. The show was filled with current event commentary, political and social satire. The show was also filled with commentary on economic and market conditions that resonated with the parents watching the show while the kids focused on the cartoons. Each show ended with the narrator describing the current cliffhanger with a pair of related titles, usually with a bad pun intended. So let's adapt some of my favorite Rocky and Bullwinkle episode titles to modern day; we might see that there are some political and economic challenges that are timeless, as it appears we have been doing the same thing over and over for decades and expecting different results.
While stocks could continue to climb higher that does not mitigate the underlying risks. In fact, it is quite the opposite. It is very likely that we are creating one, or more, asset bubbles once again. However, what is missing currently is the catalyst to spark the next major correction. That catalyst is likely something that we are not even aware of at the moment. It could be a resurgence of the Eurocrisis, a banking crisis or Japan's grand experiment backfiring. It could also be the upcoming debt ceiling debate, more government spending cuts, or higher tax rates. It could even be just the onset of an economic business cycle recession from the continued drags out of Europe and now the emerging market countries. Regardless, at some point, and it is only a function of time, reality and fantasy will collide. The reversion of the current extremes will happen devastatingly fast. When this occurs the media will question how such a thing could of happened? Questions will be asked why no one saw it coming.
The Dow Jones Utility Index is down 35% in the last two weeks - the largest drop since March 2009. Across the board, what looked like being a normal BTFD day around midday, equity markets were monkey-hammered lowered with the S&P 500's worst 2-week run in 6 months. The Dow dropped over 270 points intraday (and 400 from its Monday highs) - attributed to a large month-end sell-side imbalance. Equity markets appear to be playing catch-down to credit's warning messages (though stocks are only down 1% from Friday's close, it feels like more as they are -2.5% to 3% from the highs). JPY strengthened into the equity sell-off and commodities all legged lower (with WTI -2.5% on the week and Gold unch) even as the USD weakened 0.5% on the week. The reality of the one-way trade was very evident. Treasuries came well off their worst levels of the day but remain 11-14bps higher in yield on the week. VIX, which had also been sending its warning messages, smashed 1.75 vols higher to 16.25%. It seems a lot will be reflecting on the Dow/NKY convergence and the behavior in Japan this week as they note there was no bounce at all in today's closing crash.
While there is little gained in figuring out the vacillations in equity 'markets' from one moment to the next, there appear to be three reasons being discussed for this drop in stocks. First, this is the worst month for the long bond in absolute price deterioration since Dec 2009 - for managers in balanced portfolios, there will need to be a month-end rebalancing 'into' bonds and out of stocks to ensure the weightings remain with their mandates. Second, the index rebalancing is having some effect on the equity market (though that has been well telegraphed). Third, and perhaps more important to some, based on intraday data so far, the much-discussed Hindenburg Omen has been spotted (as it also was before QE2 was announced to save the world). The last time we were this high in stocks and the Hindenburg was spotted was October 2007...
Having shifted our communication stance from 'may' to 'will' last month, the Fed's upcoming POMO schedule offers some insights into the days when shorting (apart from the obvious Tuesdays) will be dangerous (though the BoJ now stuck may require a communication change back to 'may'). We do note that the Fed POMO'd $44 billion out outright Treasury purchases in May (as expected) and plans to do the same in June with $45 billion pegged (strongly suggesting no Taper anytime soon)... it seems next Friday is your first opportunity (though if the last hour is anything to go by... perhaps the Fed's omniptence is being challenged).
While most of the headlines this week have centered on Syria, Sweden (and Switzerland), Turkey has been cooking and today has broken into full-scale riots. As Reuters reports, Turkish police fired tear gas and water cannon on Friday at demonstrators in central Istanbul, wounding scores of people and prompting rallies in other cities in the fiercest anti-government protests for years. The growing unrest centers on disquiet at the authoritarianism of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (who just visited Obama). "We do not have a government, we have Tayyip Erdogan ... Even AK Party supporters are saying they have lost their mind, they are not listening to us." The protests somewhat surprisingly were sparked by the uprooting of trees but rapidly escalated (as seen below) into riot police, water cannon, and tear gas battles as protesters exclaim, "we're fed up... we don't like the direction the country is heading."
Perhaps there is a reason why Morgan Stanley is 'giving up' on its fixed income business. It seems, yet again Morgan Stanley has hired an ex-Goldman Sachs criminal opportunistic trader. Glenn Hadden, the very head of interest rate trading at Morgan Stanley, has been found guilty of engaging in trading that violated CME rules in Treasury futures on December 19th 2008 - while was employed by Goldman Sachs. While Goldman faces a $875,000 slap on the wrist, Hadden, somewhat remarkably will face a mere $80,000 fine and the wonderfully timed (given the summer doldrums) 10-day suspension from trading. Doing God's work wherever they trade... that'll teach him! And now, back to Glenn manipulating buying and selling the 10 Year.
Following Russia's first shipment of S-300 Rockets and the CNN-reported deaths of American and British citizens, it seems the situation in Syria is escalating 'behind-the-scenes' with little attention being paid in general. Whether it is the deaths or not, but according to the FT, the 'war-by-proxy' is growing in numbers as the UK is poised to ship arms to some rebel factions in Syria as soon as this summer. "The precise timing has not yet been finalized and no decision has yet been taken. But we are likely to be ... shipping arms to the rebels by August," one official noted, adding that "the rebels need ammunition, and a lot of it, just to keep fighting." The US had secretly undertaken significant lobbying efforts of EU member states to get the EU arms embargo amended and this week Britain and France forced through that deal opening the door for the supply of weapons. Adding to the angst, Russia's MiG aircraft makers said on Friday that it planned to sign a new agreement to ship at least 10 fighter jets to Syria.
The global Monsanto genetically modified wheat scandal is getting worse.