Is the reality of different time-horizons and event discounting really starting to tell on markets? Equities have now sagged back lower while Treasury yields are accelerating lower and Gold higher. It seems that stocks fully comprehend that QE does not come without more pain in the short-term and are starting to price for that - while given the low/no cost of carry for Treasuries and Gold, the eventual reality of further financial repression and money-printing can be discounted in from longer maturities. It seems somewhat in-the-stars that the Fed will do more as they have convinced themselves that all is well with their extreme policies and short-term benefits outweigh ultimate costs, but this afternoon's disconnect between the QE-to-the-moon feeling in Gold and Treasuries and the QE-not-so-soon feeling in Stocks may well be a trend to watch as the only sure thing is when not if The Fed acts.
Have no fear; Europe closed and equities leaked so a quick series of European comments are more than required... Bankia, check! Bank backstops, check! ECB Bond-Buying Plan...
- *ECB SAID TO PLAN TO GIVE GOVERNORS BOND PROPOSALS ON SEPT. 4
- *ECB SAID TO HAVE NO PREFERRED OPTION FOR BOND PURCHASE PLAN YET
So no real idea what they are actually going to do. However!
- *ECB SAID TO GIVE CENTRAL BANKS 24 HOURS TO DIGEST BOND PLAN
With Spain's new-found belief in its own incompetence omnipotence, they are now throwing bad money after bad in advance of the European bailout by pre-bailing out (bridge recap?) Bankia via the FROB (and it seems like they are in a hurry):
- *SPAIN'S FROB SAYS TO INJECT CAPITAL IN BFA-BANKIA IMMEDIATELY
which makes sense given that:
- *BANKIA GROUP BAD LOANS RATIO 11% IN JUNE VS 7.63% IN DEC. (a 44% rise!!)
- *BANKIA 1H NET LOSS EU4.45 BLN VS EU201 MLN PROFIT A YR AGO
The bottomless pit will all be 'fixed' though by October (just like Dexia was?)
*BANKIA CHAIRMAN SAYS SPAIN, EU COMMENTS ARE `GREAT SUPPORT'
Perhaps it is the weight that is lifted from having to tow the propaganda life while under the influence of the Fed, but Robert Heller (ex Fed Governor) just laid out the 'translated' version of Bernanke's speech this morning. "I don't think the Federal Reserve will take any action, certainly not until the fiscal cliff, the fiscal uncertainties are actually addressed," which is similar to our interpretation of Bernanke's comments as he added "if they're not addressed and the economy falls off the cliff; yes, then you may get QE3," but "I don't see that happening before the election!" This great interview - somewhat stunningly truthy for CNBC - is well worth five minutes of your time (on this ever-so-hectic Friday before Labor Day) as Heller discusses teh fading impact of QE, the risk of enormous losses for the Fed, and the danger of believing in a 'safe' exit strategy.
Sigh. Spain's IBEX gained over 3%; Italy's MIB gained over 2%; and all but the UK's FTSE equity index ended very nicely green today (all jerked higher by Spain's comments on their bad-bank and then Bernanke's cover). However, European Government Bonds (EGBs) failed dismally. Spain's 10Y spread to bunds ended the week 46bps wider and Italy 15bps wider and while some point to the short-end as evidence that all is well, Spain saw modest weakness in the 2Y today post Bernanke (though Italy rallied). The curve steepening was dramatic to say the least as the market appearsd to be increasingly assuming the ECB will monetize short-dated govvies - our own view - consider what the implied forward financing costs are given these steep curves as clearly noone trusts this as a solution and will merely subordinate the entire market. Spain 2s10s curve is now at its steepest on record at 328bps! and this is not helping:
*SPAIN’S CATALONIA REGION CUT TO JUNK BY S&P, OUTLOOK NEGATIVE
But buy stocks...
The market is indeed a discounting mechanism it appears. In a mere 20 milliseconds, the world's 'traders' had managed to read Bernanke's 4549-word script, interpret it (as bearish in this case - which apparently is wrong now?) and start to sell down the major equity indices. As Nanex points out, not only was the reaction lightning fast (actually faster than lightning) but it occurred in their newly created 'fantaseconds' as trades were timestamped 'before' the bids and offers were even seen in the data-feed. How long until the machines can interpret Bernanke's 'pre-QErimes' and really front-run reality?
In the immortal words of the Jackson 5: "I'll Be There" seems to be the meme du jour - which appears to us to be the same message that Bernanke (and his proxy Hilsenrath) have been on for a few years now. However, in case you hadn't had enough sycophantic central-bank-fellating 'hope', the WSJ's front-man just reiterated for one and all that Ben's our man. In our subtle opinion, it seems however that perhaps Bernanke was a little disingenuous with his talk of 'policy tool effectiveness' - as clearly his efforts have not had the desired economic effect so far (or he would not need to reiterate the ability to do more of the same).
Ben's prepared remarks went off embargo at 10:00 am Eastern. The text (just the body, excluding appendices) had 4,549 words, 254 commas and 173 periods. It took Goldman 40 minutes to read it, write a 579 word response, proofread, get it through compliance, and shoot it to all clients. The title? "Bernanke Makes Case for Effectiveness of Unconventional Easing" of course, even though the real shocker in the speech was that Bernanke for the first time as far as we recall admitted that the sentiment that QE is not working may result in a Catch 22 where every incremental and larger QE episode has diminishing returns (just as we have been warning for years).
It's been 20 minutes and in that time we have been entirely depressed as every risk-on asset dumped to the day's lows or lower and now we are entirely euphoric - there is still hope - as Gold/Silver make new highs, stocks recover all their losses, Treasury yields continue to fall, and EURUSD does, well, we are not sure really... Meanwhile, European Sovereigns are all cracking wider...
Bernanke takes the wind out of the market's euphoric sails: "Substantial further expansions of the balance sheet could reduce public confidence in the Fed's ability to exit smoothly from its accommodative policies at the appropriate time. Even if unjustified, such a reduction in confidence might increase the risk of a costly unanchoring of inflation expectations, leading in turn to financial and economic instability."
After this morning's low volume stop-run to the highs (divergent from Spain's 10Y fulcrum security), we have gone nowhere during the day-session so far - even with a small miss on Chicago PMI and beat in Confidence. But with a few minutes to go until his big moment, markets are trading in a QE-ON mode in anticipation of Ben's big words (except FB -4%). Treasury yields down, USD down, Stocks Up, Gold Up, Oil Up. Primed for disappointment...
It is no secret that having failed repeatedly at the trickle down aspect of QE1, QE2, Op Twist 1, Op Twist 2 (and implicitly LTRO 1 and LTRO 2) as it pertains to the man in the street (if not the man in Wall Street, who was subject to 1-2 years of subpar bonuses which have since regained their upward trendline), the last effort the central planners of the world, and the administration, have is to furiously do everything in their power to reflate housing one more time, following what is already a triple dip in home prices ever since the December 2007 start of the Second Great Depression. Which is why month after month we get seasonally fudged, conflicted and outright manipulated data from various sources how housing has bottomed, for real this time, and things are finally looking up. Remember: with any con game, the key word is confidence, and the US consumers need to regain their confidence. Sadly, as the following very simple chart and accompanying explanation, the answer to the housing question is only one: there will be no housing recovery until much more debt is eliminated. $3.2 trillion to be precise. Everything else is merely fits and spurts of upward action predicated by easy money hitting the market either directly, or via the "REO-to-Rental" stimulus program du jour, which lasts for a few months then promptly evaporates.
Despite high-flying equity indices, there is some underlying concern that all is not rosy in the global economy (and that Fed/ECB/PBoC might not save the day this time). As Morgan Stanley notes, the overcrowded trades are overweight US and within US overweight defensives - implying cyclicals are starting to reflect the current global macro weakness and that there are further downgrades to global growth forecasts to come. Expectations for a repeat of H2 2011's surge in positive surprises are misplaced as several unique factors were at play last year - and are very much lacking this year; moreover global growth indicators are significantly weaker than a year ago. With this background, MS also does not expect imminent QE in the US; the Chinese policy response continues to lag expectations; and there are several hurdles to executing ECB action - all of which leave them expecting further substantial downgrades to 2013 consensus earning forecasts in the US.
We fear that the data given to us by Europe is erroneous. The resident institutions in the world where one thinks that accurate data may be found for Europe are Eurostat and the Bank for International Settlements. Spain and her official admission of "dynamic provisioning" has raised all kinds of questions in our mind and has unsettled our belief in the data provided by Europe. It is now quite apparent that the numbers for all of the Spanish banks, are inaccurate. It may well be that the EU or the ECB could bury what may be found but it would be awfully tough for the IMF to hide any material breaches. Even when considering the IMF however, certain questions are raised. Their projections for Europe and each and every country in Europe have been wrong, dead wrong and far too optimistic. This then would explain why Europe is in such trouble because if the data is not truthful then the truth, as most often happens, leaks out from underneath that which is hidden and provides the outcomes that the Europeans have tried so hard to avoid. Whatever the real numbers are, they are providing the consequences that result from their actuality.