It appears Janet Yellen's confidence-inspiring testimony that juiced stocks was interpreted as a buying opportunity for bonds. US Treasury yields are now down 10bps on the week with 10Y yields back with a 1% handle...
"Let us begin with what should be indisputable: the Eurogroup agreement that the Greek government was dragged into on Friday amounts to a headlong retreat. The memorandum regime is to be extended, the loan agreement and the totality of debt recognized, “supervision,” another word for troika rule, is to be continued under another name, and there is now little chance Syriza’s program can be implemented.... Greece will be receiving the tranche it had initially refused, but on the condition of sticking to the commitments of its predecessors.... How is it possible that, only a few weeks after the historic result of January 25, we have this countermanding of the popular mandate for the overthrow of the memorandum?"
While there are many that suggest there is "no bubble" in the financial markets at the current time, a simple look at the extreme elevation of prices over the last couple of years is eerily reminiscent of the late 90's. Given the very elevated levels of investor bullishness, margin debt and complacency, there is more than sufficient evidence that a mean reverting event is highly likely at some point. However, at the moment, the perceived "risk" by investors is "missing the run" rather than the potential destruction of capital if something goes wrong. This is the opposite of what "risk" management is about...
The reason why not only the Troika received an agreed to version of the Greek reform proposals "before midnight on Monday", but rushed these through with a favorable agreement today, is that, drumroll, the European Commission prepared and drafted the whole letter!
Despite being told by The Fed that stocks are over-valued, investors decided today was the day to take that money off the sidelines and BTFATH. Everything is surging in equity land as bad data, worse earnings, and Ukraine were trumped by a little old lady in Washington and a self-referential list of growth-destroying reforms for Greece. However, as investors sell sell sell their dollars (USD Index down hard) they are buying US Treasuries with both hands and feet...
Despite this morning's US Services PMI rise, US macro data is running at a 90% miss rate in February and Richmond Fed's tumble from 6 to 0 (11mo lows) along with The Conference Board's Consumer Confidence dropping the most since Oct 2013 merely confirm this trend. This is the biggest 4-month slump in Richmond Fed since 2010 as practically every sub index deteriorated. California, Florida and New York saw over consumer confidence collapse and Texas saw 'present situation' plunge. US Macro data is now nearing its lowest in a year...
Just in case there wasn't enough on the calendar, between Yellen, Greece, consumer confidence, housing data, Richmond Fed, and of course stocks at another all time high, the latest news out of California is that a Matrolink commuter train struck at least two trucks between Oxnard and Camarilo, in a repeat of a similar tragic accident that took place in New York two weeks ago.
Confirming last year's warning, The Fed's Monetary Policy Report has sent a broad message to the markets in what may be Yellen's Irrational Exuberance 2.0 moment: "Overall equity valuations by some conventional measures are somewhat higher than their historical average levels, and valuation metrics in some sectors continue to appear stretched relative to historical norms... price-to-earnings and price-to-sales ratios are somewhat elevated, suggesting some valuation pressures... with heightened leverage that is close to levels preceding the financial crisis."
Worst. Case. Scenario. Markit US Services (flash) PMI printed an impressive 57.0 (smashing 54.5 expectations), well up from January's 54.2 as combined with the Manufacturing (soft survey data) suggests, according to Markit, that GDP is growuing around 3.0% annualised. Of course both these 'surveys' print positive amid one of the biggest declines and series of misses in US macro data of the last few years. As Markit notes, “The Fed will no doubt be encouraged by the resilience of the economy...and increasingly minded to start the process of normalising monetary policy in June."
Fed Chair Yellen will be presenting her semi-annual monetary policy testimony - sometimes called the "Humphrey-Hawkins" testimony - today (Senate Banking Committee) and tomorrow (House Financial Services Committee). She is not expected to stray too far from the most recent FOMC statement's "On the one hand, there is recent strong labor market data; but on the other hand, the broader set of US activity data has not been as robust recently, and the inflation outlook has dimmed," uncertainty. The Q&A will of course contain the most fireworks (if last year's Yellen vs Warren deathmatch is anything to go by). Notably, The Fed will also release its semi-annual Monetary Policy Report (which last year contained the warning "valuation metrics in some sectors do appear substantially stretched.")
Case-Shiller Says "Housing Recovery Is Faltering" Despite December Home Prices Jumping Most Since MarchSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/24/2015 - 09:09
Home prices, according to Case-Shiller, rose 0.87% MoM in December (better than the expected 0.6% gain) for the biggest seasonally adjusted monthly gain since March, likely bringing the 'housing recovery is back on track' meme back into play (despite affordablity being a major driver of the slump in home sales). However, non-seasonally-adjusted the rise was a mere 0.1%, which nonetheless managed to snap the 3 consecutive months of sequential price declines. And yet, despite all this, Case Shiller was anything but optimistic: “The housing recovery is faltering. While prices and sales of existing homes are close to normal, construction and new home sales remain weak. Before the current business cycle, any time housing starts were at their current level of about one million at annual rates, the economy was in a recession”
Just over a week ago, Yanis Varoufakis would have crushed and mangled anyone who would dare suggest that Greece would extend its current bailout program, because, the myth went, the new Syriza government had a mandate to end the Troika (since renamed to "Institutions") and to crush the Memorandum (aka "existing bailout programme"). Since then much has changed, and confirming that the new government is really the old government, Europe can now rejoice, because as Bloomberg blasted moments ago:
- GREEK BAILOUT EXTENSION SAID TO BE APPROVED BY EURO AREA
Which means that as the "valiant" in words, if not deeds, new Greek government rolls over, the DAX is about to jump to new all time highs making rich Germans even richer. As for Greeks, not so much.
As the market anxiously await Janet Yellen's Humphrey-Hawkins testimony this morning, hanging on every word and intonation, ConvergEx's Nick Colas is reminded of Harry Truman’s famous request: “Give me a one-handed economist!” The U.S. central bank clearly feels challenged by the cross currents of the global economy even as it reiterates confidence in domestic growth prospects. In an effort to help clear things up, Colas brings some 21st century data to the Fed’s distinctly old-school toolset and looks at the historical popularity of 10 Google search terms with a decidedly economic twist. Bottom line: the Google data is clear. The Fed needs to wait a while longer before raising interest rates.
The nebulous threat of NIRP in the US "some time in the future" became tangible after J.P. Morgan Chase, the largest US bank by assets (and second largest in the US by total derivative notional) is preparing to charge large institutional customers for some deposits. WSJ adds that JPM "is aiming to reduce the affected deposits by billions of dollars, with a focus on bringing the number down this year. "The moves have thrown into question a cornerstone of banking, in which deposits have been seen as one of the industry’s most attractive forms of funding."