Equity markets will ebb and flow (mostly flow it seems) at the whim of central planners; and employment statistics will me X-12'd into whatever cognitive bias is required for the status quo to be maintained; but one thing that is hard to hide (harder still with Bloomberg's help) is the reality of job cut announcements. Over the past few years, there is one pronounced reality that has occurred in front of any major fiscal or monetary stimulus-related event - a huge rise in North American job cuts. It would appear, given the data below, that CEOs are wise in the ways of just-in-time only fix it when its totally broken policy-making and have front-run every major event with huge layoffs. To wit, since the start of September, announced layoffs in North American firms have soared to levels not seen since the debt-ceiling-debacle of last year (all the while - claims and the unemployment rate continue to fall). Cautiously optimistic? not!
The 2012-2013 election season is exceptional, with more than 100 elections in economies accounting for approximately 60% of global GDP. So far, Goldman notes that markets have navigated through elections in Russia, Egypt, Greece, France, Mexico and Venezuela, among others. The closely watched Presidential election in the US will take place shortly, followed by the culmination of the political transition in China. Later on, markets will see countries like Italy, Iran, and Japan go to the ballots too. This extraordinary election season brings several questions to the forefront: Why are elections important market events? What are the main factors affecting that market-driving impact and its seasonality? And which states are key? Critically, Goldman finds that a divided government has on average produced considerably tighter fiscal policy - not a good sign for the Keynesians.
In the immortal words of Bruce-the-shark from Finding Nemo: "Fish are friends, not food"; but in Fukushima, they are neither! As Bloomberg reports, radiation levels of fish caught off the coast of Northern Japan are as high as they were a year ago with contamination levels particularly high among bottom-dwellers. There remains a fishing ban on these bottom-dwelling fish as 40% are still above the limit for human consumption. As one scientist noted, "This means that even if these sources were to be shut off completely, the sediments would remain contaminated for decades to come." So, today's lesson is, Fukushima fish are neither friends nor food, but more like lava lamps we suspect.
"We have just spent 15 years learning that a policy of creating asset bubbles is a bad idea, so it is hard to imagine why the Fed wants to create another one. But perhaps the more basic question is: How fruitful is the wealth effect? Is the additional spending that these volatile paper profits are intended to induce overwhelmed by the lost consumption of the many savers who are deprived of steady, recurring interest income? We have asked several well-known economists who publicly support the Fed’s policy and found that they don’t have good answers. If Chairman Bernanke is setting distant and hard-to-achieve benchmarks for when he would reverse course, it is possibly because he understands that it may never come to that. Sooner or later, we will enter another recession. It could come from normal cyclicality, or it could come from an exogenous shock. Either way, when it comes, it is very likely we will enter it prior to the Fed having ‘normalized’ monetary policy, and we’ll have a large fiscal deficit to boot. What tools will the Fed and the Congress have at that point? If the Fed is willing to deploy this new set of desperate measures in these frustrating, but non-desperate times, what will it do then? We don’t know, but a large allocation to gold still seems like a very good idea."
Tensions between Japan and China over the Senkaku (Diaoyu) islands are continuing, as indicated by continued obstacles to Japanese businesses in China, a drastic decline in tourism, and Chinese patrols near the islands. This is both a Sino-Japanese issue and a part of a broader confrontation between China on one side and the United States and its allies on the other. Given Japan’s reliance on the U.S. security umbrella, Tokyo’s moves are to some extent constrained by American actions. Nevertheless, Japan’s size and resources mean Tokyo retains considerable autonomy in handling its relationship with Beijing. At this point, Tokyo has three options... Taking a proactive course on China policy requires stable and high-quality leadership, something which is lacking in Tokyo.
It seems engines are revving and it may be time to go forward to the past. Earlier this month, a large and well respected asset manager that has begun taking positions in gold expressions issued a report in which it began to justify gold’s relative value. One metric it used was comparing the quantity of currency in the world to the quantity of gold. The report concluded that using this metric, the relative value of gold would be about $2,500/ounce, a significant premium to its current spot price. The analysis posited gold’s value upon a return to the gold standard, posing the question: “what if the entire world’s gold were used to back the global supply of fiat currency?” We agree with the logic of dividing base money by gold holdings to find gold’s “intrinsic value” (as per Bretton Woods and our Shadow Gold Price), but we believe the reasonable value upon conversion to a gold standard would be many multiples higher than $2,500/ounce.
The 2012 US presidential election is perhaps one of the most unique and important elections in recent history from an economic perspective (with the time-line rapidly approaching). In choosing its leader for the next four years (for which we provide a handy 'where-do-they-stand' cheatsheet), we agree with Goldman that the country will likely be determining the path for near-term economic growth, medium-to-longer term fiscal stability and monetary policy at a time when the stakes are exceptionally high - whether or not the US economy returns to recessionary conditions in 2013, the US sovereign debt rating and the broader credibility of the US government to Americans and foreigners alike all hang in the balance. Goldman sees three factors that set the 2012 election apart.
For a company that recently had a $600 billion market cap, for which scale is everything, and for which every sentence begins with "if you exclude its cash, its multiple is" two things have to be consistent: it has to keep growing its cash, and said growth has to be proportional to the firm's scale. For Apple, in Q3 the first condition was satisfied... but just barely. Total cash and equivalents did rise from $117.2 billion to $121.3 billion, but the rate of sequential increase, which was only $4.1 billion, was the slowest increase in cash and equivalents since March 2010, when Apple's total cash load was a far more modest $41.7 billion, as was its market cap. While AAPL continues to be a growth juggernaut, in its pursuit to appease Wall Street with dividends and other gimmicks, is it starting to lose the big picture, which is and always has been about generating cash flow? And how long until the organic growth to cash generation is not even enough to cover the dividend outflow? What happens if and when AAPL actually has cash decline in one quarter? Finally, is it time for the infamous Braeburn Capital to show Simon Potter who truly is boss?
After some significantly volatile after-hours action, the wunderkinds of the Nasdaq have reverted back up to their VWAPs as all is well once again and the media narrative can play out... AAPL volume is not heavy (remember we said option-skews were near-record levels - implying everyone and their mum owns downside protection and will be unloading into the open tomorrow). QQQs are suffering more than AAPL for now - implying that's where the hedges went. AMZN's move was even more impressive wrigging back up to VWAP. Who is the marginal buyer here? As we post, both are leaking back from VWAP's safe harbor...
A week after the second most populous hedge fund hotel, Google, blew up, it is now time for good ole' Hotel Caaplefornia itself. The HF holders table below is presented without comment (as we have said all there is to say many times). Remember: orderly, cool, calm, collected single file procession through the tight exit: and nobody panic!
And so the behemoth misses... again:
- APPLE 4Q EPS $8.67, EST. $8.75 - miss
- APPLE 4Q SALES $36.0B - slight beat
- APPLE SOLD 14.0 MILLION IPADS DURING QTR, UNIT EST. 15.3M
But the uglyness is in the forecast. And this time it is not a low-ball:
- APPLE SEES 1Q EEPS $11.75, , EST. $15.49
- APPLE SEES 1Q REV. ABOUT $52B, EST. $55.07B
Stock halted so keep an eye on the QQQ as a proxy - QQQs imply AAPL $590 here (200DMA is $587)... AAPL will resume trading at 4:50ET
After defying gravity for months on end, on what we quarter after quarter warned were ever declining margins and revenue growth, the Amazon bubble (just about 300x P/E at last check) has finally popped, and investors no longer believe that the company can offset collapsing profit margins with increasing volume. And yes, the Kindle is proving to be nothing more than yet another fad rather than the latest and greatest razor-razorblade ecosystem paradigm.
UPDATE: A Plethora of ugly single-stock moves today from NYT to P, and recent IPOs from RLGY to WDAY
UPDATE: AMZN -10.25% after-hours!
Equities ended the day modestly green - with S&P futures pushing to VWAP to close the day-session right at Draghi's Dike. Once again we saw early strength fade in US stocks followed by a low volume push up to VWAP which then menadered into the close. This leaves US equities rather notably weak after QEternity and VWAP-fading weakness suggesting the over-crowded net-longs that we recently noted looking for the exits in a STFR style. Among the major asset classes, only Treasuries are green since 9/13 with the USD also up over 1% (helped by this week's 0.5% gain). Nasdaq and Russell are worst followed by the rest of the broad equity indices clustered around -3.25% but Oil's 13% drop is the most significant (even accounting for the historical precedents). Gold and Silver are topping stocks for the year but gold and stocks have hugged one another up and down since Ben hinted at infinity.
The Department of Labor's WARN (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification) website may have been exempt from layoff notices related to the fiscal cliff, but it still provides a sufficiently (bleak) complete picture about the real nature of layoffs and business cycle in general in America's busiest city. Which is why it was precisely using the WARN website that we learned that one of New York's most historic steakhouses, "NY's Prime Steakhouse since 1927" Gallagher's, located on 52nd street, and which survive the great depression, is shutting down on January 16. Surely neither the surging price of meat, nor the ability of patrons to spend charge $46.95 for an 18 ounce sirloin, has had any impact on the decision to close this iconic restuarant which survived the Great Depression, but failed to survive Tim Geithner's "recovery".
Just over a month ago - before AAPL started to fall apart - we noted the extreme levels of complacency priced into AAPL options. Heading into tonight's earnings, it seems investors are as extremely concerned as they were complacent just a few weeks ago. AAPL option prices are implying investors expect significant downside possibilities - the most concerned they have been in 18 months. Whether this is ammunition for a squeeze higher or is just the over-crowded long hedgies covering into earnings on hope - looking to reduce into strength - we will see in a few hours (but for now - the constant fading of VWAP reversions suggests the latter).