Clint Eastwood drew a lot of ire, rhetoric, and subsequent explanations as to the real motives behind his Superbowl halftime commercial. Frankly, the commercial could and should have been much better. One proposal for what a less cynical and thus far more sincere "Halftime in America" commercial should be comes from Omid Malekan, creator of the original Bears (explaining QE for the "rest of us") cartoon. We believe this is what should have been shown during the superbowl. And certainly not presented under a Chrysler, pardon Fiat, umbrella.
The divergence between credit markets and equities accelerated today in Europe (and the US) as Senior and Subordinated financial credit spreads have increased dramatically in the last week. While risk has risen over 25% in financials, European stocks have gone sideways since the NFP print. The Subordinated financials spread has risen the most (in percentage terms) over the last 4 days since Nov2010 - and of course the broad equity markets are flat. It would seem that every trader and their mom is selling European financials and buying AAPL.
A certain flavor of econometric model dominates conventional portfolio management and financial analysis. This model can be paraphrased thusly: seasonally adjusted economic data such as the unemployment rate and financially derived data such as forward earnings and price-earnings ratios are reliable guides to future economic growth and future stock prices....If this model is so accurate and reliable, why did it fail so completely in 2008 when a visibly imploding debt-bubble brought down the entire global economy and crashed stock valuations? Of the tens of thousands of fund managers and financial analysts who made their living off various iterations of this econometric model, how many correctly called the implosion in the economy and stock prices? How many articles in Barrons, BusinessWeek, The Economist or the Wall Street Journal correctly predicted the rollover of stocks and how low they would fall? Of the tens of thousands of managers and analysts, perhaps a few dozen got it right (and that is a guess--it may have been more like a handful). In any event, the number who got it right using any econometric model was statistical noise, i.e. random flecks of accuracy. The entire econometric model of relying on P-E ratios, forward earnings, the unemployment rate, etc. to predict future economic trends and future stock valuations was proven catastrophically inadequate. The problem is these models are detached from the actual drivers of growth and stock valuations.
UBS' economics research group do not believe that Greece is saved but hope that it is at best ring-fenced. In an excellent Q&A follow up, Stephane Deo and his team address the role of the EFSF, the IMF package and its austerity measures, the ECB's participation, and finally the likelihood of the PSI being successful and its fallout. As Greek 2Y yields break 200% (obviously price is the critical part but these yields are stupendous) and bridge loan discussions appear for the March 20th maturity, perhaps UBS view of the IMF 'walking away' is more credible if they manage to ring-fence a recap of the banking sector. We would be surprised if contagion was contained and, as we have seen before, that risk leaks out somewhere and unintended consequences (or unknown unknowns) tend to pop up just when we least expect them. Perhaps the FT's note this morning (which incidentally confirms the everything that Zero Hedge warned about almost a month earlier) that deadlines are slipping rapidly is the bright yellow canary in the Piraeus coal-mine as 'time is running out' for a solution here very quickly (as seemingly is the desire).
With AAPL's stock price up another 1.5-2% today, we thought it instructive for all those index traders, hedgers, arbitrageurs, and market prognostictors to comprehend the scale. 90% of the move in the NASDAQ today is directly due to AAPL. Perhaps the drop in iAd sales rates or the drop in market share will dent expectations? Perhaps growth expectations from Europe will temper the excess? Or perhaps the 209 hedgies who rely on this stock for their year will play prisoner's dilemma (and free ride) one too many times and dismiss their recency bias to remember that the first one to migrate wins when prices go vertical.
No this is not a trick question... well maybe a little. Minutes ago the National Association of Home Builders announced that its Housing Market index soared from 25 to 29, trouncing not only expectations of a 26 print, but just like the Empire Fed, the highest forecast. This was supposedly the highest since May 2007. In other words, everyone is confident, and the commentary is that this print is "reinforcing optimism that the housing market is finding a bottom" and that "this consistency suggests that the housing market is moving toward more sustainable growth." That at least is the spin. Below we show the reality, in the form of the Mortgage Brokers' Association mortgage applications index. We somehow fail to see just where the onslaught of demand for new home loans is, and just where all this optimism comes from.
Today's disappointing TIC report confirmed what Zero Hedge reported back in January, namely the record dumping of Treasurys by foreign entities as tracked by the Fed's custodial account. And while we will spare you the details of the report (found here), two things bear pointing out: the very demonstrative selling of US paper by Russia continues, and is now in its 14th consecutive month (as has been reported here consistently), as total USTs in Putin's possession declined to a fresh multi-year low of $88.4 billion, half of the $176 billion in October 2010. Also confirming that the Asian anti-USD axis is now one which consists of at least Russia and China (and certainly Iran), was the stepwise dump of US paper by Beijing which sold $32 billion in US bonds in December, bringing its total to a new post 2010 low of $1100.7 billion. And lastly, this was not isolated to just these two: in December the grand total of US Treasury holding by foreigners declined from $4.75 trillion to $4.732 trillion. The question then is: just what are China and Russia buying (ahem stockpiling) with all the dollars that are not recycled back into Treasurys?
Outspoken and oracular MEP Nigel Farage bombards his fellow unelected officials with 'you can't handle the truth' comments as he points out the total contradiction that is the European Parliament's (and 'Puppet Papademos') view of how things are going in their democracy relative to the reality of a TROIKA-ordered coup forced on the man in the street. Greece is being driven further and further into chaos and as he implores his peers: "If they don't get the Drachma back, you will be responsible for something truly truly horrible!".
Overnight, Peugeot, the struggling European car-maker, announced dismal results and significant over-capacity in Europe pushing its stocks down 6% (down almost 13% since last week). The somewhat unsurprising twist was that the CFO said they were approaching the ECB about collateralized loans. As Bloomberg notes:
- *PEUGEOT DISCUSSING WITH ECB, PRESENTING COLLATERAL, CFO SAYS
- *PEUGEOT PRESENTING COLLATERAL ABOVE EU1 BLN TO ECB
So the ECB has now managed its other unintended consequence - to replace the entire bank intermediation credit creation channel (ring any bells?) as Europe embarks on its own 'Cash-for-Clunkers', ECB-Style.
Chalk this one to "seasonal adjustments" or something, cause we no longer have any clue what is going on with the data fudging in America. When it comes to banana republic economic indicators the US is rapidly eclipsing China - case in point the Empire State Manufacturing Survey, which despite seeing the majority, or 6 out of 9 sub indices, declining in February, managed to not only rise, but beat the highest Wall Street estimate, printing at 19.53, the highest since June 2010, on expectations of 15.00, and compared to a previous print of 13.48. What lead to this epic surge? Why nothing short of a decline in just about two thirds of the components: New Orders declined from 21.69 to 22.79, Unfilled Orders declined from -5.49 to -7.06; Inventories declined from 6.59 to -4.71, Prices Paid declined from 26.37 to 25.88; Prices received declined from 23.08 to 15.29, and Number of Employees declined from 12.09 to 11.76. What increased? Shipments, Average Employee Workweek, and, drumroll, Delivery Times. And somehow this disaster of a report is supposed to bring peace and comfort to the market that things are getting better? Perhaps at the Fed's data manipulation department. And just like a 2.9 million seasonal NFP adjustment in January has resulted in an ebullient market tone, we wonder just how high 3 out of 9 subindices improving will send the market today?
S&P futures have moved more than 20 points since 3:30. The first big move was on the back of a story that Greece really will commit to the whatever the EU demands. The second move was after China re-pledged to invest in Europe. IG17 is about 1.5 bps tighter than the wides of the day and is unchanged this morning. In Europe, Main is unchanged while stocks are up about 1% across the board. Even the 10 year bond which saw yields drop from 1.98% to a low of 1.92% are only back to 1.94%. Why? Sentiment seems overly bullish, overly complacent, and the credit markets are sending a warning sign to stocks about irrational exuberance.
While the pathetic lunatics and kleptocrats in Europe debate just who wants Greece to default more, gold has had enough of the endless BS. And while one would think that the plunge in the EUR, and the resultant surge in the USD would push gold lower. Wrong. After all a strong dollar means weak gold, conventional wisdom says. Apparently a continent on the verge of dissolution is gold beneficial. Strange.
- EURO ZONE FINANCE OFFICIALS CONSIDERING PROPOSAL TO DELAY ALL OR PART OF GREEK BAILOUT YET STILL AVOID DEFAULT-EU SOURCES
Yes: Europe suggests it may be best for Greece to be partially pregnant... er, in default. But all will be "controlled" - promise. We were a little generous in our estimate for the halflife of the Chinese bail out rumor. Either way, EURUSD plunging down to under 1.3070 on the news.