Rosenberg On Why "Things Are Getting Interesting" And What Is Ailing The Market
David Rosenberg provides the key bulletized market observations that have marked the broad capital markets over the past few months.
- $950 billion of paper equity wealth has been wiped off the map in the past six weeks.
- The Dow is below 12,000 for the first time since March 18th.
- The Transports are down more than 8% from the nearby highs and are down for the year as well
- The Transports/Utilities ratio has broken down to its lowest level since November 9th of last year.
- The Nasdaq is now down for the year (-0.3%)
- The Russell 2000 index is also down for the year (-0.5%).
- The S&P 500 is just 1.1% away from seeing the same fate.
- The S&P 500 has declined in each of the past six weeks, the longest losing streak since June-July 2008.
- The S&P 500 has fallen below its 150-day moving average after breaking below the 50-day and 100-day trendlines earlier in this corrective phase; the 200-day is the next level of support.
- For the Dow, this is the longest string of weekly declines since the Fall of 2002.
- The total six-week decline in the broad market is nearly 7% ... a slow bleed.
- Junk bond spreads widened 25 basis points last week, more evidence of risk re-rating.
- Investment-grade bond spreads widened out 14bps and new issue activity ($0.63 billion) was the lowest of the year.
- Bank of America is back to being a $10 stock after a two week 8% slide — how do the bulls dismiss this out of hand? It's the biggest consumer bank in the country.
- In the past six weeks, Energy, Industrials, Materials, Financials and Consumer Discretionary have all rolled over significantly. The defensives have outperformed dramatically — Healthcare, Utilities, Telecom, and Consumer Staples.
The last bullet point is precisely in line with our May 16 proposed QE Unwind compression trade.
And here is what Rosie believes is ailing the market. Nothing really new here:
- The economy is cooling off and there is no policy stimulus in the pipeline. Ben Bernanke did give a sombre assessment of the economy last August in Jackson Hole but at the same time threw Mr. Market a bone by hinting at a new round of liquidity expansion. Last week, the Fed Chairman delivered an even more sobering outlook and did not offer any olive branch this time around.
- So here we have it economic deceleration but with no policy response. NY Fed President Bill Dudley also gave a speech that was very similar in tone to Bernanke — maybe even more cautious, and while repeating the refrain about second-half recovery prospects he listed an array of downside risks to that forecast. He, Bernanke and Yellen ('The Big Three') would love to do another round of QE (Yellen also gave a speech on Friday on housing) but the bottom line is that they are gun-shy after receiving so many complaints from foreign governments, Congress, Wall Street and Fed Bank Presidents that they just do not have the political capital to engage in more stimulus (though it will come at some point but maybe at a similar strike price as last August; dare we say, 1,040 on the S&P 500).
- While the economists have cut their numbers, the equity analysts have yet to do that with their earnings numbers. That comes next.
- Leading indicators are suggesting that we are in more than just a "soft patch" — the jargon of Wall Street economists. The ECRI leading economic index has fallen now for four weeks in a row!
- Global cooling. The Chinese economy is also slowing down with auto sales declining now for two months in a row and the PM! perilously close to the 50 level. Retail sales in Brazil fell 0.2% in April, the first decline in a year and the news came on top of a sudden sharp slowing in industrial output. U.K. factory output fell 1.7% in April as well and France posted a surprising 0.3% drop in industrial production.
- Tightening monetary policies to combat rising inflation pressure across the emerging market world.
- The situation in Europe is untenable — Germany's finance minister is drawing a line in the sand and calling for some sort of Greek restructuring in which bond holders will also have to take a haircut. This has caused the ECB's Trichet to almost go apoplectic. Of course, the ECB is holding onto hundreds of billions of dollars of P.I.G.S. debt on its balance sheet so any haircut would render the central bank insolvent in its own right.
- Threatening not to repo restructured debt is like saying to the Greek banking industry to kiss itself goodbye (a likely prelude to Greece exiting the eurozone, by the way). But Trichet is not elected, the likes of Angela Merkel and Wolfgang Schauble (the finance minister in question here who came right out and said a Greek restructuring is "inevitable") just happen to be, and it looks like the German taxpayer-funded bailouts are coming to an end. See Rift Over Greece Deepens in Europe on page B1 of the weekend WSJ. Some markets are starting to price in the inevitability of sovereign debt defaults in Europe, with 5-year credit default swaps soaring to record highs in Greece, Ireland and Portugal.
- One can't help but think that the ECB rate hike (and the threat to do more!) will go down as a colossal mistake the same central bank made in the summer of 2008. Considering that most of Spain's mortgage market is variable-term and the housing market is beset with tremendous excess supply and downward price potential, the ECB rate hike is like a stake in the heart — to combat perceived inflationary pressures in Germany.
- The slide in U.S. bond yields is telling you that an economic slowdown is here and here to stay beyond Q2, despite consensus views to the contrary. The fact that copper was down in the same week that oil was up says two things here — the former reflects the falloff in Chinese imports; the latter tells you a thing or two about just how thinly balanced the global demand-supply for crude is given that the move back to $120/bbl was all due to discord within OPEC in terms of whether or not to bump production up (looks like the Saudis will be going it alone).
- Actually, it is all about discord here — within OPEC, Congress and the White House (see the editorial piece The Economy and Washington on page 8 of the Sunday NYT 'Week in Review' section), the confines of the Fed, the ECB and Germany, etc. Discord, instead of decision-making, in the current environment is not a good thing— leaving the financial markets in a heightened state of uncertainty.