Why Serial Asset Bubbles Are Now The New Normal

The problem is central banks have created a vast pool of credit-money that is far larger than the pool of sound investment opportunities.  Why are asset bubbles constantly popping up around the globe? The answer is actually quite simple. Asset bubbles are now so ubiquitous that we've habituated to extraordinary excesses as the New Normal; the stock market of the world's third largest economy (Japan) can rise by 60% in a matter of months and this is met with enthusiasm rather than horror: oh goody, another bubblicious rise to catch on the way up and  then dump before it pops. Have you seen the futures for 'roo bellies and bat guano? To the moon, Baby! The key feature of the New Normal bubbles is that they are finance-driven: the secular market demand for housing (new homes and rental housing) in post-bubble markets such as Phoenix has not skyrocketed; the huge leaps in housing valuations are driven by finance, i.e. huge pools of cheap credit seeking a yield somewhere, anywhere:

S&P Breaks 1,600 (The Wrong Way)

Just a month ago we broke above the magical 1,600 level on the S&P 500... today we broke back below, with the index now down over 5% from its 5/22 highs. From a technical perspective, the Nikkei 225 is below its 100DMA, and the Dow and S&P 500 just broke below the 50DMA. VIX has risen, now back above 18% (highest in over 3 months). No Hindenburg Omen signal (yet). What we worry about is that everyone is focused on tomorrow's NFP print as some panacea for "Taper." This is incorrect. The "Taper" jawboning from the Fed is because they are increasingly fearful of the bubbles they have created (just look at the sudden influx of frothiness discussions) and need to 'try' and talk us off the exuberant ledge. Whether the NFP is strong or weak is irrelevant - we all know the 'real' economy is weak - it doesn't matter to the Fed who can't support such disconnected markets any longer since they know that the higher it goes the worse it will end.


It's USDJPY waterfall time and Mrs Watanabe has just left the building. She is now getting familiar with the far less known cousin of the "wealth effect" - the "poverty effect." In other news, someone big just got the proverbial tap on the shoulder.

European Bonds Plunge Most In 3 Months, Stocks Slump

Portugal suffered the most - with its bond spreads now a huge 45bps wider on the week. It seems between the ever-increasing vol in Japan, a rapidly fading JPY carry funding mechanism, and lack of fresh meat from Draghi, Italian and Spanish bonds and stocks are losing their 'greater fool' bid. Sovereigns are seeing their worst day since February; stocks among their worst days since Feb - with several Spanish and Italian banks halted limit-down (as ECB's QE-like collateralization was not eased); and EUR is strengthening against the USD as risk-flows are repatriated. Italian and Spanish stocks are now at 6 week lows, and Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese credit spreads at six-week highs. European financial and corporate credit are now wider (worse) on the year and equities are catching down. And the ultimate 'greater fool' momentum trade - GGBs - is fading - now down 9.5% in the last week...

The NSA, AT&T And The Secrets Of Room 641A

Our final observation on the matter of the US government, no longer accountable to anyone, and treating its citizens as indentured debt serfs who are entitled to precisely zero privacy rights, comes from Stephen Wolfson and "The NSA, AT&T And The Secrets Of Room 641A."

USDJPY Reacquainted With Gravity

Zero-G free fall follows. But...But... the USDJPY is going to 105-110 they said. Don't fight the Japanese Fed they said. Elsewhere, the Watanabe retreat bugle just became the Watanabe gong show. For now, GETCO and DE Shaw's USDJPY-ES correlation algos are furiosuly pretending to ignore what is going over in FX land. We wish them luck...

Japanese QE Scorecard: Nikkei Unchanged, Double The Bond Yields

Two months after Kuroda's first speech at the BoJ unveiling the 2-2-2-2 awesome extravaganza of excess that will enable Abe to slay his deflation-monster, we thought it worth a quick update on the score... things are not going according to plan, we suspect...

White House Defends Its Wiretapping Of Millions Of US Citizens

Blink and you have likely missed Obama's latest Watergate moment, this time following the disclosure that the White House has instructed the NSA to collect millions of daily phone records from Verizon (and likely all other carriers). What is surprising to us is that this is even news. We reported on just this in March of 2012 with “We Are This Far From A Turnkey Totalitarian State" - Big Brother Goes Live September 2013" and then again in April 2012 "NSA Whistleblower Speaks Live: "The Government Is Lying To You" using an NSA whistleblower as a source. Still, no matter the distribution platform, it is a welcome development for the majority of the population to know that the same Stazi tactics so loathed for decades in the fringes of the "evil empire" are now a daily occurrence under the "most transparent administration in history." This is especially true in the aftermath of the recent media scandals involving the soon to be former Attorney General.

Futures Slide As Draghi Offers Little Punchbowl Hopes

While there was an initial knee-jerk bid for S&P 500 futures as Draghi set forth his unchanged policy (in fact worse, no new measures discussed amid the contraction of the ECB balance sheet), since the press-conference and Q&A began, risk markets everywhere have taken it on the chin. S&P 500 futures are at overnight lows, Nikkei futures are testing back to the 20% correction levels, Spanish and Italian bond yields are surging (back at near-two-month highs), Spaniosh bond spreads back above 300bps, and European stocks are tanking.

Guggenheim Sums Up The Fed's Dilemma

“Volatility is rising and asset prices are highly vulnerable to all incoming news... The amount of attention paid to rumors about QE highlights how vulnerable the U.S. economy is to the prospect of a tapering in asset purchases or a rise in interest rates. This is largely because the current economic expansion is dependent on further gains in housing, which would be adversely affected by a material rise in mortgage rates... This dynamic underpins the Federal Reserve’s current dilemma over how to normalize monetary policy. I do not anticipate an easy ride for policymakers or investors over the coming months.”

Initial Claims Come Right On Top Of Expectations

Anyone anticipating some earth-shattering release from the DOL in its weekly initial claims report as a guide what to expect tomorrow was disappointed following the release of a 346K print today, which was about as close to the 345K expected without the DOL losing all credibility. This followed last week's naturally upward revised 354K to 357K print, although the problem is that it appears this was it for the 'downward trend' in initial claims which goes back to the thesis that 7.5% unemployment is the new 4.4% unemployment. Continuing claims came better than expected at 2952K on 2974K expected. Also, damn it doesn't feel good to be a government worker - "there were 17,862 former Federal civilian employees claiming UI benefits for the week ending May 18, an increase of 551 from the previous week." Blame the sequester. There was no good news for veterans either: "Newly discharged veterans claiming benefits totaled 35,944, an increase of 614 from the prior week." Bottom line: a nebulous report which provides zero additional insight into what to expect in tomorrow's NFP and thus zero color into what the Fed may do with... "THE TAPER" dun dun dun.

Mario Draghi's ECB Press Conference - Live Webcast

While equity markets are giving up the kneejerk gains after the ECB's decision to make no decision and keep rates unchanged, we await the much more interesting twists and turns of Draghi press conference and Q&A. From EU-wide bank audits to fragmentation and from OMT's promise to easing collateral standards for ABS buying, there is bound to some fireworks (leaving aside his likely admiration for Abe) especially if he hints at negative rates. We look forward to his explanation of the dichotomy of a conditional OMT and the easing of fiscal targets across almost every nation. Popcorn, ready... His prepared remarks are doing little to help though he quotes sentiment indicators as a positive and cuts real data expectations for 2013 (while raising 2014)...

  • *ECB SEES 2013 GDP -0.6%

Point Out The "Slump" In Chinese Gold Imports On This Chart

Lately Bloomberg's reporting group (now without access to client tracking) has been hitting it out of the park when it comes to cognitive schizophrenia-inducing news article headlines. Last Friday it was the market somehow going up and down at the same time. Now, Bloomberg has shifted its deductive skills over to analyzing the gold market with the following article headline: "China’s Gold Imports From Hong Kong Slump on Quota Backlog" in which Bloomberg says: "Mainland buyers purchased 126,135 kilograms, including scrap, compared with 223,519 kilograms in March, according to Hong Kong government data yesterday. Net imports, after deducting flows from China into Hong Kong, were 75,891 kilograms, from 130,038 kilograms a month earlier, according to Bloomberg calculations." Now perhaps what would have made this "slump" more amusing is if BBG had also shown it in context. Which we are happy to do. Because the 126.1 tons of gold imports in April, or the month of the "great gold crash", was only the second highest ever, and just shy of the all time record high of 223.5 tons imported in March.

ECB Keeps Rates Unchanged As Expected

Despite some concerns that the ECB would lower rates (and maybe go negative on deposits) at today's meeting, it was certainly not the consensus. And for once, the consensus was right. Form the ECB:

At today’s meeting the Governing Council of the ECB decided that the interest rate on the main refinancing operations and the interest rates on the marginal lending facility and the deposit facility will remain unchanged at 0.50%, 1.00% and 0.00% respectively. The President of the ECB will comment on the considerations underlying these decisions at a press conference starting at 2.30 p.m. CET today.

Look for Mario to not touch on this issue at today's press conference in 45 minutes if indeed there is much disagreement among the governing council, and instead to focus on what plans the central bank has to spur European private lending which as we showed last week, just hit record lows. If any of course. We, on the other hand, are still hoping to finally get the OMT term sheet that supposedly saved Europe last summer. Because it looks kinda stupid if market participants continue to get duped by an "instrument" that officially and unofficially doesn't exist.

Frontrunning: June 6

  • Global Stocks Tumble as Treasuries Rally, Yen Strengthens (BBG)
  • China Export Gains Seen Halved With Fake-Data Crackdown (BBG) - so a crash in the GDP to follow?
  • FBI and Microsoft take down botnet group  (FT)
  • Quant hedge funds hit by bonds sell-off  (FT)
  • Russia's Syria diplomacy, a game of smoke and mirrors (Reuters)
  • Obama Confidantes Get Key Security Jobs (WSJ)
  • BMW to Mercedes Skip Summer Breaks to Keep Plants Rolling even as European auto demand slides to a 20-year low (BBG) - thank you cheap credit
  • Paris threat to block EU-US trade talks  (FT)

Markets On Edge Following No Dead Japanese Cat Bounce, Eyeing ECB And Payrolls

Another day, another sell off in Japan. The Nikkei index closed down 0.9%, just off its lows and less than 1% away from officially entering a bear market, but not before another vomit-inducing volatile session, which saw the high to low swing at nearly 400 points. Hopes that a USDJPY short-covering squeeze would push the Nikkei, and thus the S&P futures higher did not materialize. And while the weakness in Japan is well-known and tracked by all, what may come as a surprise is that the Chinese equities are down for the 6th consecutive session marking the longest declining run in a year. Elsewhere in macro land, the Aussie Dollar continues to get pounded on China derivative weakness, tumbling to multi-year lows of just above 94 as Druckenmiller, who called the AUDUSD short nearly a month ago at parity shows he still has it.