With Apple overtaking Microsoft's 'peak-market-cap' and becoming the most 'valuable' company ever traded, we thought a reflection on what humans (as opposed to machines programmed by humans) did the last time a world-changing technology company went ubiquitous.
AAPL is making headlines once again with its market-moving impact, its law-of-large-numbers-crushing daily moves, and its seeming cult of indifference among retail and hedge funds alike. As the stock price hits new all-time highs, we note that options prices are also breaking records with the complacency regarding any downside risk near post-2009 highs. The last three times we have been up at these levels has seen significant reversions in price: Nov 2010 -7.3% in 6 days, -12.68% in late July 2011, and a late Feb 2012 drop of 5.83% in 4 days.
A key sticking point in the ongoing presidential debate is what happens to US tax rates, either for just those making over an arbitrary $250,000/year, aka "the rich", or for everyone. To put this debate into perspective, here is a chart that shows how over the past 20 years the US funding needs (demonstrated previously here), have been met in terms of the only two components of US funding - tax revenue and debt issuance.
Silver has popped almost 2% today - its biggest jump in 3 weeks - as it nears its 100DMA. So what? It's still down notably from its Q1 swing highs but two things stand out to us as intriguing. First, oil priced in ounces of silver has seen a very narrow range of values since Bernanke's Jackson Hole speech in 2010 (QE2) when money-printing went full retard; and very recently the price of oil in silver had reached the upper end of that channel - and is now reverting. Second, the recent outperformance of silver over Gold has reverted the gold/silver ratio to its post-Bretton-Woods (1971) average at around 56x (up from a recent low of around 32x in April 2011). It seems there are stirrings in the real asset markets as energy and hard-money revert.
The easy answer is - well, its those dumb money 'safe' investors finally rotating from bonds to stocks; but what about fund flows provides any evidence for that reality. Alternatively, we suggest, the recent (and somewhat market-unexpected) pop in macro data (surprising to the upside) has seemingly provided a Goldilocks for equities (growth is rising and even if it drops back, Bernanke's got our back) and the inverse for Treasuries (growth is rising and if that's the case then Bernanke's Bond Buying extravaganza is over - mark 'em down). What is stunning to us is the incredibly tight correlation since LTRO2 between macro data (trend and beats/misses) and 10Y Treasury yields. While correlation is not causation, discussion of the macro thesis is strong top-down and suggests more than one person believes this correlation. Our concern - what dominant data is this macro strength based on - NFP/Claims beat? Retail Sales beat? (consider the controversy of the seasonal adjustments in both and what that would do to the macro data index.
Just two short weeks ago, we noted that Best Buy's 'news' regarding take-overs, take-unders, LBOs, MBOs, or whatever it was - was an opportunity to fade the initial spike. Today's reality-check is cracking the stock down over 7% on heavy volume - as while founder Schulze (who left in June) restates his desire to pursue his proposal, he was 'schocked' that the company has just named a new CEO - signaling the company's desire to keep operating as a going concern as a public company.
In a normal market, whatever that is, we would not feel the need to note every tick in the Spanish equity market; but today's 2% decline - its worst in 3 weeks - is the first down-day in 10 days. IBEX, the Spanish equity market index, rallied over 29% from it's lows on 7/23 (following a decent leg down after the EU-Summit disappointment) only to perfectly reach its Maginot Line at the 200DMA on Friday and this morning. The volatility regime is very reminiscent of last year with the binary (chaos or serenity) scenarios the only ones left for most market participants and with a short-selling ban doing nothing but exaggerating the whipsaws, we wonder if the IBEX is due to revert back further - more in line with its sovereign credit moves on Draghi's 'believe-me!' speech. Perhaps the realization that another rumor (rate-caps) has come and gone has broken the cycle of faith...
While the geopolitical focus is once again all over Iran and Israel, it may be time to take a quick look Egypt, where the recently elected, and pro-US president Mohamed Mursi is "preparing to use aircraft and tanks in Sinai for the first time since the 1973 war with Israel in its offensive against militants in the border area." Reuters continues: "The plans to step up the operation were being finalised by Egypt's newly appointed Defence Minister General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as he made his first visit to Sinai on Monday following the killing of 16 border guards on August 5. Egypt blamed the attack on Islamist militants and the conflict is an early test for President Mohamed Mursi - elected in June following the overthrow last year of Hosni Mubarak - to prove he can rein in militants on the border with Israel. "Al-Sisi will supervise the putting together of final plans to strike terrorist elements using aircraft and mobile rocket launchers for the first time since the beginning of the operation," an Egyptian security source said. Another security source said the army was planning to attack and besiege al-Halal mountain in central Sinai, using weapons including tanks, where militants were suspected to be hiding." Of course, what can possibly go wrong in the middle east once a government decides to escalate military expansion against militant terrorists. Look for crude to rise ever higher, and for SPR release rumors to hit the tape daily as yet another market is ensnared in price controls ahead of the election.
With US and European equities showing a strange (though small) taint of un-green this morning, we thought a quick top-down versus bottom-up look at what has been going on was worthwhile. Macro-wise, US economic data has been modestly supportive with Citi's Economic Surprise Model mean-reverting as data came slighlty better than economists had predicted - though notably a weakening trend (but second derivative green shoots are back in vogue it seems). This supportive macro picture is at total odds to the bottom-up earnings picture where upward-revisions as a percentage of total revisions has plunged - as stocks make new highs. With correlations rising as managers chase performance, it is worth reflecting on the very recent ramp in outlooks as stocks levitate (and analysts flip-flop one more time) - which came first, the market or the economy?
There was a time when getting a stable, lucrative financial job meant working for a hedge fund, preferably in the risk department. It still does: the biggest and most profitable hedge fund of all - the Federal Reserve - as well as its various adjunct "all P no L" offices, and judging by the spike in recent job wanted posting by said hedge fund et al, things are looking up for those who want to manage taxpayer funded "risk." For the job seekers our there disillusioned with a 2 and 20 model that no longer works in the new central planning normal, get involved. As for why the Fed would suddenly be fascinated with risk now, after its DV01 is well over $2 billion, we have no ready answers.
Around 1000 people per day are still losing their jobs in Greece with the percentage of the population not working now uncomfortably larger than those who are employed. This is creating drastic - or perhaps more aptly philosophical - reflections by its people. As the BBC reports, the feeling in Greece is that a "whole generation is on hold" and there is a growing trend towards the creation self-sustaining eco-communities - free of the ties of money and modern civilization. "What others saw as a global economic crisis, [Greeks] saw as a crisis of civilization" and so they are trying something different, growing their own food, bartering with one another, and exchanging surpluses with other villages. The community calls itself "Free and Real" - an acronym for Freedom of Resources for Everyone, Respect, Equality, Awareness and Learning - and it is growing as a stunning 76% of Greeks would like to emigrate. The positivist angle notes that the Greek crisis is not all bad as it shows the lives we are leading are not working and Greeks can "begin to look for alternatives." Everyone is stressed; but "Being able to work is a basic human right in a civilized society, if the government won't provide us with it then we will have to fight for it."
There is plenty of talk about the looming Fiscal Cliff, but like so many other downside risks in this market, investors are not positioned for it as they appear convinced that it won't be allowed to happen or some compromise will occur. We remain on the side of the fence where nothing will occur; no compromise reached, until the governement is 'forced' by the market to take action - by some asset value plunge that scares then into scramble mode. Unfortunately, as these two simple charts from Morgan Stanley highlight, gridlock appears guaranteed (but then again, with a market economy at multi-year highs the incumbents remain dominant).
A weekend article from Der Spiegel has been the centre of must attention this morning amid a light economic calendar on both sides of the pond. The article reported that the ECB would set limits to the yields of periphery country debt and intervene should these limits be breached. This weighed on the German Bund from the Eurex open and saw the Spanish curve trade lower by 25bps to 35b ps, as well as buoying the EUR currency and riskier assets in early trade. Risk-on moves in EUR and DAX futures were retraced as the ECB denied these reports, saying that it was misleading to report on decisions not yet taken, though it will act within its mandate. A German finance ministry spokesman also denied all knowledge of the reports a short while before hand. Furthermore, the latest monthly bulletin from the Bundesbank that once again reiterated the disapproving German stance toward the ECB's controversial bond-buying programme also dampened the mood.
Silver, wine, art and gold – or SWAG – may be the solution for investors looking to protect their wealth in the coming years according to perceptive Reuters Columnist, James Saft. In an interesting article and an interesting video for Reuters, Saft coins the term “Investing 201” which means having SWAG in your portfolio in order to protect investors from “a grim decade of money printing and financial repression.” SWAG, as in silver, wine, art and gold, are real assets that might just outperform if official policy causes the money supply to surge according to Saft. This is the idea of Joe Roseman, who says SWAG will do very well over what could be a very troubled next decade. "These assets effectively act as a money supply index tracker," said Roseman, who for 16 years was a money manager and economist at Moore Capital, run by the legendary Louis Bacon. "If the authorities are going to bail themselves out, money supply will expand. Every single time governments have been here, this is exactly what they have done."
Buy everything I say without limit. Leverage each purchase to the maximum allowed under the law. The markets will only go up and not down and 100,000 is the next stop for the S&P. It is to be Dow without Jones, assets without liabilities and wealth without poverty. The Middle Class has been evacuated and everyone is wealthy beyond belief. It is just there, of course, that the truth lies in this merry old land, “beyond belief.”
"I like fantasy---it wakes up the brain cells.”
- Dr. Seuss