As President Obama tees off in Martha's Vineyard, The State Department has decided that its diplomats should not be allowed to have fun (for a good cause). As AP reports, US Diplomats have been barred from undertaking the #IceBucketChallenge ... there goes CNBC's ratings...
Russian stocks are now up 10 days in a row, having gained over 6% since the US unleashed Sanctions 3.0 on the 'increasingly isolated' nation. This performance handily beats Europe and the US as de-escalation hopes drive risk capital back into stocks anywhere and everywhere. However, if its all so shiny and bright in stock land, why are Bund yields (and thus all yields) plunging?
Something surprising happened in the early days of August: a person was actually held accountable for his mistake. As the WSJ reported previously, "a billion-dollar forecasting error in Walgreen Co.'s Medicare-related business has cost the jobs of two top executives and alarmed big investors." Specifically, at an April board meeting, Chief Financial Officer Wade Miquelon forecast $8.5 billion in fiscal 2016 pharmacy-unit earnings, based partly on contracts to sell drugs under Medicare. This did not pan out as expected and last month, just a few months later, the CFO unexpectedly cut that forecast by $1.1 billion. And then, In early August, the CFO of the nation's largest drugstore chain was gone. He wasn't alone: Walgreen said several days earlier that its pharmacy chief, Kermit Crawford, would retire at year-end.
After 19 days in isolation, The Fort Worth doctor who became infected with the Ebola virus while serving as a missionary in Africa will be released from an Atlanta hospital later today, the hospital announced early Thursday. As NBC reports, Dr. Kent Brantly is scheduled to make a brief statement to reporters Thursday morning before leaving to spend time with his family at an undisclosed location, the hospital said. Fellow missionary Nancy Writebol, who also became ill with Ebola while working in Liberia, is still being treated at Emory Hospital. No timetable has been given for her release.
Stocks Hit All Time Highs After Russia Announces It Has "No Plans Of Military Incursion Into Ukraine"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 08/21/2014 - 10:30
Russia has no plans of military incursion into Ukraine – Defense Ministry
— RIA Novosti (@ria_novosti) August 21, 2014
So much for extrapolating record profit margins holding up the equity "market"...
Philly Fed has beaten expectations for 6 months in a row with its biggest surge since the 2009 lows. Against expectations of 19.3, Philly Fed printed 28.0 - highest since March 2011 all-time highs. All sounds awesome right? Umm, no, 7 of 9 internal declined including - New Orders tanked, Employment tumbled, Prices Paid plunged, and Prices Received slumped. So, in case you were wondering how it is possible that Philly Fed surged given such shitty internals, the 6-month forecast index ("hope") just surged to 22-year highs. And not only that: put all hopes of that long-delayed CapEx renaissance on hold: "While most broad indicators of future growth have been improving, the survey’s future capital spending index has been slipping. Although the index decreased just 1 point this month, its reading, at 17.5, is now the lowest it has been in seven months."
Following July's drop in US Manufacturing PMI (and biggest miss in 11 months), August's Flash print hit 58.0 - its highest since April 2010, beating expectations of 55.7 and up from the 55.8 July final print. With China (biggest PMI miss on record) and Europe (13-month low PMI) both disappointing, the world needed some help and the US 'soft' survey offered it up in spades... Production levels surged, employment rose at the fastest pace since March 2013, and new orders picked up once again. This was the biggest beat on record - well above even the highest economist's estimate. Mission Accomplished...
We are sure this will end well... As CDS-based credit ETFs are launched, so the number of ways to 'sell' volatility (buy complacency) for retail equity investors have exploded in recent years as The Fed's stranglehold on uncertainty has continued. However, as Bloomberg reports, as VIX has tumbled in the last few weeks, investors are wagering on further declines - in the five weeks through Aug. 15, they put almost $320 million into the VelocityShares Daily Inverse VIX Short Term ETN (XIV): the longest stretch of weekly investments since the note began trading in 2010.
It was in June of 2011 when we reported that Bank Of America agreed to pay $8.5 billion to settle mortgage (mis)representation suit, where we said the bank was "about to part with more money than it has earned since 2008 in what will soon be the biggest financial settlement in the industry." Fast forward 3 years later when Bank of America once again makes history with its latest, and literally greatest, mortgage settlement with the US government, putting all of its MBS transgressions in the past, and which will cost the bank some $16.65 billion (of which, however, some $7 billion will be "consumer relief" and the remainder likely tax-deductible), a new record, and allow the bank to continue adding back "one-time, non-recurring" litigation charges to its adjusted, non-GAAP bottom line, thus once again "beating expectations".
The Fed minutes were hawkish - even Goldman Sachs and Jon Hilsenrath admitted it - so the exuberance in stocks (and VIX pressure) must reflect a desparate hope that Janet Yellen will indeed go full dovish tomorrow (or fear the consequences as we noted here). Record highs in stocks, however, are not being followed through by the USD (down today), Treasury yields (long-end down from FOMC minutes), gold (down), or HY credit.
It seems like an eternity ago when futures tumbled last Friday on reports of Ukraine shelling, and "destroying", Russian military vehicles that had entered Ukraine (only to rebound to an unchanged print). It didn't take long for the world to forget all about this latest unsubstantiated incident and move on to "de-escalation" hopes, which this morning have catalyzed yet another rise in futures on expectations that upcoming talks between Putin and Poroshenko in Minsk next week will lead to further easing of tensions. In the meantime, the world media appears to have piled up at the border checkpoint and there is even a live feed of the Russian trucks entering Ukraine. Which is why expect this to be as exciting as watching the S&P levitate on no volume.
Following last week's surge back over the 300k Maginot Line, the Labor Department print this week is 298k (sigh of relief heard around the world). This is also the week that BLS surveys for the Augsut NFP print. Continuing claims fell once again to 2.500 million - the lowest print since June 2007. So great news... that explains why stocks are fading modestly off the highs in reaction.
The Federal Reserve's communications and policies are a form of crazy-making double bind. No wonder the economy and everyone participating in it are beset by various manifestations of mental and physical illness. On the one hand, the Fed insists the economy is expanding and all is well. If this is true, then the Fed should allow interest rates to normalize, i.e. be unleashed from the Fed's financial prison and allowed to rise to whatever the market of borrowers and lenders sets as fair in the current climate. But the Fed also insists that it cannot allow rates to rise. The ultimate Fed crazy-making double-bind is this: you can't live without us, your financial Overlords who keep you safe from recession and the volatility of creative destruction, but you can't be free or prosperous with us in control.