With Europe still on holiday, US equity market volumes were in a word, abysmal (S&P futures only around 30% of average) but VIX saw action as volume was healthy and the machines were in charge of the action from start to finish. The Dow's intraday range (and volume) was the lowest of the year. This is the first time since Oct2013 that the S&P 500 has had 5 positive closes in a row just as we predicted this morning. Between VIX slams and JPY crosses, today's action was clearly unrigged as Biotechs pumped, dumped, then ripped 2.5% off the lows as April's largest POMO sent markets scurrying. The USD rose 0.1% (on modest EUR weakness) and commodities slid lower led by silver, gold, and copper respectively. VIX closed at 13.25% - new cycle lows.
"It's impossible to work your way through college nowadays"...is the hard-to-swallow (but not entirely surprising) conclusion of Randal Olson's research into just how extreme national tuition costs have become in the US. As The Atlantic notes, the economic cards are stacked such that today’s average college student, without support from financial aid and family resources, would need to complete at least 48 hours of minimum-wage work a week to pay for his courses.
There’s been some buzz recently about a pick-up in business lending. Unlike some pundits, though, we’re not convinced that a surge in business credit is such a good thing. We don’t doubt that more lending to small businesses, in particular, might do some good if it doesn’t go too far. Lending to large corporations, on the other hand, is a different story. Corporations are already borrowing at a pace that’s only before been seen near cyclical peaks...
What a better way to celebrate the rigged markets that are telegraphing a "durable" recovery, than with a Credit Suisse report showing, beyond a reasonable doubt, that when it comes to traditional bricks and mortar retailers, who have now closed more stores, or over 2,400 units, so far in 2014 and well double the total amount of storefront closures in 2013, this year has been the worst year for conventional discretionary spending since the start of the great financial crisis!
"Janet, we have a problem," is the resoundingly loud message from the latest Gallup poll of Americans preference (and relative enjoyment) of "saving" vs. "spending". It seems, despite all the hoop-la and exuberance about an 'economic recovery' that is pent-up due to weather but about to break out to escape velocity, the majority of Americans continue to enjoy saving money more than spending it, by 62% to 34%. The 2014 saving-spending gap is the one of the widest since Gallup began tracking Americans' preferences in 2001. How long before a discussion of negative rates re-appears as the rich and powerful Oz-ians contemplate the latest effort to 'change' people's mass psychology...
Despite tumbling volumes overall as the rally of the last few days progresses, today's terrible equity market volume is absolutely not evident in VIX - which has already traded more volume than an average day in 2014... "unrigged"
Now that everyone is breathing down the PBOC's neck to finally reveal - with a five year delay - just how much gold it does hold, the Chinese central bank has done a U-turn on its indirect transparency and, as Reuters reports, has begun allowing gold imports through its capital Beijing, sources familiar with the matter said, "in a move that would help keep purchases by the world's top bullion buyer discreet at a time when it might be boosting official reserves."
As we warned numerous times in the last few days since the "de-escalation deal" was reached over Ukraine (sparking an instantaneous risk-on short-squeeze in stocks), the de-escalation has not happened. It seems even John Kerry has faced up to that reality now:
- *KERRY SAYS GENEVA ACCORD ONLY 'PIECE OF PAPER' WITHOUT ACTION
So now what? More red-lines? More sanctions? Just don't tell the headline-buying algos... Of course, he blames the Russians for the worthlessness of the deal.
For the wealthy Chinese with 5 million Yuan (around $800,000) burning a hole in their pocket, there is a new must-have 'toy'. Instead of the latest Ferrari or Lambo, it is none other than the provocatively named "Red Flag L5" that is popping eyeballs and leaving the wealthy Chinese breathless...
A government that continually violates our rights of property and contract can fairly be descried as authoritarian. Of course, the politicians and bureaucrats take offense at this term, but how else do you describe a government that forbids Americans from grazing cattle on land they have used for over a century, from buying health insurance that does not met Obamacare’s standards, from trading with Cuba, or even from drinking raw milk! That so many in DC support the NSA spying and the TSA assaults on our privacy shows the low regard that too many in government have for our rights. History shows us that authoritarian systems, whether fascist, communist, or Keynesian, will inevitably fail.
The wonder is that more Americans are not ticked off about the state of our country than whatever is happening ten thousand miles away. The disintegration of Ukraine would be best understood by Americans as a mirror of ourselves and our sclerotic republic, poised to sink into poverty and disorder. Everything we do and say rings hollow now. What used to be called The Establishment has run out of ways to even pretend to save itself. We have no idea what’s next, but it’s not going to be more of what’s been.
Large speculators reduced ther S&P 500 positioning to net short this week and their NASDAQ longs to a one-year low as BofAML reports on CFTC data. Macros funds decreased their long exposure to S&P500 and NASDAQ to now hold short exposure. They also decreased their long exposure to US Dollar (raising their AUD longs to a record high) and maintained their long exposure to 10-year Treasuries. They decreased their long exposure to commodities and increased their long exposure to EM. Across all asset classes, positioning is at extremes.
Last September, Japanese PM Shinzo Abe told Olympic dignitaries in Buenos Aires in an address that helped Tokyo win the 2020 Games: "Let me assure you the situation is under control." It would seem, just as he 'assured' his people that Abenomics would 'fix' Japan, in the case of Fukushima, he lied. As Japan Times reports, the manager of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant has embarrassingly admitted that repeated efforts have failed to bring under control the problem of radioactive water.
Volume is light, as Europe remains on Easter holiday, but the volatility is back. Biotechs opened notably higher, dumped to unch, ripped to new highs, then dumped again... The S&P 500 managed to regain all last week's dump losses - but stalled then as POMO struck (the biggest in April) and AUDJPY took off in its front-running way but left stocks behind. Of course, there's no need to worry though - tomorrow is Tueaday after all.