More pain in Spain has been the theme so far in the European morning as poor auction results across three lines has resulted in significant widening in the 10-yr government bond yield spreads over benchmark bunds with the Spanish 10yr yield up some 24bps on the day. In combination with this the latest Germany Factory orders also fell short of analysts’ expectations and as such the lower open in bund futures following yesterday’s less than dovish FOMC minutes has been completed retracted and we now sit above last Friday’s high at 138.58.
Today's otherwise key news event - the ECB rate announcement (which just printed at unchanged as expected) and press conference, will be trivial. As such, everyone is set to ignore the latest update from Mario Draghi, who courtesy of a $1.3 trillion liquidity injection since December has now largely wasted all his liquidity dry powder, at least until Spanish and Italian bonds are trading back at 7%, some time in the next few months. The result is that people like Citi's Steven Englander are saying to ignore the ECB, and to focus solely on the ADP (which has a horrendous predictive track record of the actual NFP print) report, to be released at 8:15 am, as it may be the only tradable hint ahead of the NFP report which as noted before is coming out on Friday, which is an equity holiday, although futures and bonds will be trading at the time of the release. More importantly, since the Fed now responds to economic data points in real time, a big miss to the consensus print of 206K will likely set the market surging as it will mean the Fed doves are back in control. Paradoxically, a meat or big beat, will be very market negative, as it will justify the withdrawal of liquidity support for at least 3-4 months, when the election fight will be in full swing, and Obama would be quite happy for another boost to the S&P in advance of November, and the repeat of the debt ceiling fiasco.
No surprise in today's ECB announcement. The Press conference in 45 minutes is also expected to be largely a non-event, although we will be delighted to hear Mario's response to the quality of Europe's collateral backing the trillions in fresh discount window borrowings spent on buying up Spanish and Italian bonds, which are gradually going underwater.
- Low cost era over for China's workshops to the world (Reuters)
- The HFT scourge never ends: SEC Probes Ties to High-Speed Traders (WSJ)
- Rehn says Portugal may need "bridge" (Reuters)
- China's GDP likely to have slowed in the first quarter (China Daily)
- Chinese Premier Blasts Banks (WSJ)
The Arabian Spring started after the self-immolation of a 26 year old fruit vendor in Tunisia to protest a life he could no longer live. Will the European Summer set off with a suicide as well? News are crossing that a few hours ago, a 77 year old Greek has killed himself in broad daylight on Athens' symbolic and inappropriately named Syntagma square to protest the "occupier government" and not wanting to be a burden to his child. As Kathimerini reports, "an elderly man committed suicide on Friday morning in Syntagma Square in Athens, in front of Parliament. Some reports said witnesses claimed the man shouted «I don't want to leave debts to my children,» before he shot himself in the head. According to Skai TV, witnesses said the man did not say anything. The incident occurred shortly before 9 a.m. when the square was full of people and commuters using Syntagma metro station. The man had positioned himself next to a big tree and was not in view of most people in the square. Two people who were sitting on a bench some 10 meters away have been questioned by the police." Will this latest tragedy provoke a groundswell popular response? We doubt it - alas the status quo appears set to continue chugging along as per usual, taking advantage of appathetic and welfare addicted societies around the world.
Oh where to begin. The weakness in the markets started late last night when Australia posted a surprising second consecutive deficit of $480MM on expectations of a $1.1 billion surplus (with the previous deficit revised even higher). This is obviously quite troubling because as we pointed out 3 weeks ago when recounting the biggest Chinese trade deficit since 1989 we asked readers to "observe the following sequence of very recent headlines: "Japan trade deficit hits record", "Australia Records First Trade Deficit in 11 Months on 8% Plunge in Exports", "Brazil Posts First Monthly Trade Deficit in 12 Months " then of course this: "[US] Trade deficit hits 3-year record imbalance", and finally, as of late last night, we get the following stunning headline: "China Has Biggest Trade Shortfall Since 1989 on Europe Turmoil." So who is exporting? Nobody knows, but everyone knows why the Aussie dollar plunged on the headline. The shock sent reverberations across Asian markets, which then spilled over into Europe. Things in Europe went from bad to worse, after Germany reported its February factory orders rose a modest 0.3% on expectations of a solid 1.5% rebound from the -1.8% drop in January. But the straw on the camel's back was Spain trying to raise €3.5 billion in bonds outside of the LTRO's maturity, where the results confirmed that it will be a long, hard summer for the Iberian country, which not only raised far less, or €2.6 billion, but the internals were quite atrocious, blowing up the entire Spanish bond curve, and sending Spanish CDS to the widest in over half a year.
There are many reasons why gold is still our favorite investment – from inflation fears and sovereign debt concerns to deeper, systemic economic problems. But let's be honest: It's been rising for over 11 years now, and only the imprudent would fail to think about when the run might end. Is it time to start eyeing the exit? In a word, no. Here's why. There's one indicator that clearly signals we're still in the bull market – and further, that we can expect prices to continue to rise. That indicator is negative real interest rates.
The Deepwater Horizon incident demonstrated that most of the oil left is deep offshore or in other locations difficult to reach. Moreover, to obtain the oil remaining in currently producing reservoirs requires additional equipment and technology that comes at a higher price in both capital and energy. In this regard, the physical limitations on producing ever-increasing quantities of oil are highlighted, as well as the possibility of the peak of production occurring this decade. The economics of oil supply and demand are also briefly discussed, showing why the available supply is basically fixed in the short to medium term. Also, an alarm bell for economic recessions is raised when energy takes a disproportionate amount of total consumer expenditures. In this context, risk mitigation practices in government and business are called for. As for the former, early education of the citizenry about the risk of economic contraction is a prudent policy to minimize potential future social discord. As for the latter, all business operations should be examined with the aim of building in resilience and preparing for a scenario in which capital and energy are much more expensive than in the business-as-usual one.
In our busy days, it is all too easy to fall into the trap of hearing (and believing) the latest headline and its associated spin. For some reason, three minute videos can quickly and easily remove these 'spins' without the need for a PhD. In today's 3:06 un-spin, the broken-window-fallacy is addressed as the seen versus unseen impact of the idiocy of a broken-window's (or war, or destroying homes, or...) positive impact on an economy is explained in cartoon style. The sad fact is that this fallacy remains at the core of mainstream policy-making and as the video notes, the government's 'creation' of jobs via public works programs (or any number of stimulus-driven enterprises) it does so at the expense of the tax-payer via higher taxes or inflation and that 'spending' which would have otherwise gone to new fridges or iPads is removed and this does nothing to significantly improve aggregate demand (should there be such an amorphous thing) and in fact (as we recently noted here and here) leaves us more and more dependent on the state for corporate profit margins leaving any organic growth a dim and distant memory.
While the S&P closed lower for the day, the dramatic save as ES (the S&P 500 e-mini) hit 1399.5 (again) pushed it all the way back to the safety of VWAP and perfectly unchanged from pre-FOMC news. Meanwhile, Gold and Silver lost around 2%, Treasuries snapped 13-15bps higher in yield and the USD ripped 0.6% higher closing pretty much at their extreme levels of the day. AAPL was unphased as the rest of the world appeared to sell any and everything on news of no more Fed liquidity in the short-term as the stock clung to its VWAP ending with new all-time highs once again. VIX, which managed to surge over 16.5% once again - above yesterday's highs - recovered all the way back to practically unchanged by the close (outperforming the small loss in stocks on the day). With Treasury yields and the USD back at one-week highs and stocks just 0.5% off their multi-year highs, it looked for a moment like equities were going to reconnect with credit's much less sanguine perspective - and indeed they covered half the difference at one point - but by the close HY and IG credit remains unchanged from Friday 3/23 while the S&P is up over 2% from then. Volume was average today but concentrated in the sell-off period of the day but we note that average trade size was very near the lowest of the year (suggesting algos using small lots to tickle us up to VWAP for the close) and some larger blocks going thru in the last few minutes as we peered above VWAP - combined with the shrug from credit, significant weakness in the major US financials, and unwinds in every other asset class - make us nervous for unhedged equity longs here - especially with European weakness now a trend and not a one-off.