Well that escalated quickly...
While events in Ukraine have once again broken out into lethal fighting, and in a surprise development the Chinese Yuan crossed the 6.25 line for the first time in two years threatening to accelerate the unwind of carry trades which have a 6.25-6.30 point of max pain, futures remain completely focused solely on the strong after-hours results from Apple and Facebook which have helped push Spoos overnight to near record levels once again. The biggest push was given to NASDAQ futures which are back up 1% with optimism for US tech returning with the material earnings beats from both Apple ($11.62 EPS vs Est $10.17 EPS) and Facebook ($0.34 Adj EPS vs $0.24 forecast). Shares in both companies rose in afterhours trading with Facebook up +5% and Apple up more than +7% (supported further by the announcement that the company was expanding its share buyback plan to $90bn from $60bn). Not even the Nikkei being down 1%, the SHCOMP down 0.5% and the USDJPY once again treading water could put a dent in the tech-driven euphoria, which somehow also managed to slam gold and silver to month lows.
This doesn't happen very often. Marketwatch reports that Jim Bianco points out in a recent market comment that the 67 economists taking part in a regular Bloomberg survey have a unanimous forecast regarding treasury bond yields: they will be higher 6 months from now... and a separate poll of economists recently showed that exactly zero expect the economy to contract. This is an astonishing degree of consensus thinking, but it perfectly mirrors the complacency we see in stock market sentiment and positioning data. The probability that such a unanimous view will turn out to be correct is traditionally extremely low. The economy is likely resting on a much weaker foundation than is generally believed. This is not least the result of massive monetary pumping and deficit spending, both of which tend to severely weaken the economy on a structural level, even though they can create a temporary illusion of 'growth'.
As we noted earlier, The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) has continuously been overly optimistic regarding its expectations for economic growth in the United States. A major reason for the FOMC’s overly optimistic forecast for economic growth and its incorrect view of the effectiveness of quantitative easing is the reliance on the so-called 'wealth effect'. However, "There may not be a wealth effect at all. If there is a wealth effect, it is very difficult to pin down..." Since the FOMC began quantitative easing in 2009, its balance sheet has increased more than $3 trillion. This increase may have boosted wealth, but the U.S. economy received no meaningful benefit. Furthermore, the FOMC has no idea what the ultimate outcome of such an increase will be or what a return to a ‘normal’ balance sheet might entail. Given all of this, we do not see any evidence for economic growth as robust at the FOMC predicts. Without a wealth effect, the stock market is not the “key player” in the economy, and no “virtuous circle” runs through the stock market.
Despite the considerable risks created by the situation in eastern Europe, most western stock, bond and property markets, fed on massive central bank fiat liquidity, continue to flirt with new highs. This strikes me as an exercise in whistling past the graveyard. In the short term, investors may continue to profit from risk-taking in financial markets. In the larger picture, much of the geopolitical balance of power that has been in place for much of the past 25 years will be tested on the banks of the Black Sea. Investors should take a few minutes from their daily technical chart analysis to consider these major developments.
The Chinese Housing Ponzi Exposed: "As We Sell Our First Apartments, We’ll Have Cash Flow To Build The Next Stage"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 04/23/2014 14:05 -0400
Much has been said here and elsewhere about not only China's ghost cities - that final resting place where trillions in Chinese GDP "fixed investment" goes to quietly die but no before contributing to over half of China's GPD - over the past five years, but also about the bursting of the Chinese housing bubble in the past several months now that the Beijing Politburo has drastically slowed down the pace of loan creation and the country has shocked its bond investors by admitting failure is an all too real possibility. This post will therefore hardly reveal anything new, however it will provide some perspective on how from one of the most important industries for China's suddenly cooling economy, housing has becoming nothing more (or less) than one giant Ponzi scheme.
Investors take note. One of the primary market props of the last five years is being removed. What happens when the markets finally catch on?
The chart below, which summarizes 5 years of Fed "forward guidance" on that most critical of variables - the Fed Funds rate - proves two things:i) there is nothing worse in this world than being a Fed Funds, or Eurodollar, trader, considering 5 years of forecasts have been systematically destroyed by a Fed which has failed time and time and time again to stimulate the economy enough to push it away from ZIRP (and why any hope for the first rate hike in mid-2015 are idiotic), and ii) when it comes to central planning, the economists that now openly control the bond and stock market and increasingly more of global capital flows, have absolutely no idea what tomorrow brings perversely, since it is their actions that have made the required outcome - a self-sustaining, economic recovery - impossible.
- Ukraine's leaders say have U.S. backing to take on 'aggressors' (Reuters)
- Goldman Sachs Stands Firm as Banks Exit Commodity Trading (BBG)
- Obama reassures Japan, other allies on China as Asia trip begins (Reuters)
- China Challenges Obama’s Asia Pivot With Rapid Military Buildup (BBG)
- Google’s Stake in $2 Billion Apple-Samsung Trial Revealed (BBG)
- No bubble here: Numericable Set to Issue Record Junk Bond (WSJ)
- 'Bridgegate' scandal threatens next World Trade Center tower (Reuters)
- Supreme Court Conflicted on Legality of Aereo Online Video Service (WSJ)
- Barclays May Cut 7,500 at Investment Bank, Bernstein Says (BBG)
It has been exactly six days in which algos, reversing the most recent drop in the S&P with buying sparked by a casual Nikkei leak that the BOJ may, wink wink, boost its QE (subsequently denied until such time as that rumor has to be used again), have pushed the market higher in the longest buying streak since September, ignoring virtually every adverse macroeconomic news, and certainly ignoring an earnings season that is set to be the worst since 2012. Today, the buying streak may finally end on rumors even the vacuum tubes are scratching their glassy heads if more buying on bad or no news makes any sense now that even the likes of David Einhorn is openly saying the second tech bubble has arrived. Keep an eye on the USDJPY which has had seen some rather acute "trapdoor" action in early trading and is approaching 102 after breaching its 55-DMA technical support of 102.38. If the support is broken here we go again on the downside. Keep an eye on biotechs and GILD in particular - if the early strength reverts into more selling again (after the two best days for the biotech space in 30 months), the most recent euphoria phase is now over.
So far we have experienced 7 million foreclosures. Beyond that there are still 9 million homeowners seriously underwater on their mortgages and there are millions more who are stranded in place because they don’t have enough positive equity to cover transactions costs and more stringent down payment requirements. And that’s before the next down-turn in housing prices - a development which will show-up any day. In short, the socio-economic mayhem implicit in the graph below is not the end of the line or a one-time nightmare that has subsided and is now working its way out of the system as the Kool-Aid drinkers would have you believe based on the “incoming data” conveyed in the chart. Instead, the serial bubble makers in the Eccles Building have already laid the ground-work for the next up-welling of busted mortgages, home foreclosures and the related wave of disposed families and social distress.
If the great rotation out of bonds into stocks was the story of 2013, it now appears that 2014 will see another great rotation - a mirror image one, out of stocks and back into bonds, driven on one hand, of course, by the Fed which will continue to monetize the bulk of net duration issuance for the foreseeable future, but more importantly, by some $16 trillion in corporate pension assets which after (almost) recovering their post-crisis high water market are once again, will now phase out their risky holdings in favor of safe (Treasury) exposure. As Scotiabank's Guy Haselmann explains, "The rationale is quite simply that the cost/benefit equation changes as the plans’ funding status improves. In other words, the upside for a firm with a fully-funded plan is less rewarding than for an under-funded plan." As Haselmann concludes: "Given the decline in market liquidity and so many investors chasing the same crowded riskseeking trades, these pension flows could have a material impact on market prices for the remainder of the year."
US Equity markets were on a mission today... all-time highs for the S&P and Dow were in sight, green for April for the S&P, and unchanged year-to-date for the Nasdaq and Russell was just over the horizon, but... a total divergence from JPY carry, bond yields, credit, and even VIX meant that a 'warning' from David Einhorn about Tech Bubble 2.0 was just enough to take the juice out of what was already a low volume levitation. It's a Tuesday so we closed green - the 6th up day in a row - longest run in 7 months. Biotechs ripped higher on M&A "get rich quick'"fever - biggest 2-day rise in 30 months. Treasuries were mixed with 30Y bond yields ripping lower and 5s30s dropping 4bps to 1.75% - new lows since 2007. Copper made modest gains on the day but gold, silver, and worst of all WTI crude all dropped on the day (WTI -2% to $102).
While the auction overall was not fireworky just yet, a few more "dots" fiascoes and suddenly the short end of the curve is going to get a whole lot more interesting. And should European idiot asset managers, once they have taken the Spanish 10 Year to 0%, decide to bid up US paper, and inverted the 2s10s, well that is the time to quiet get out of dodge.
Pre-crisis levels of confidence... never before seen bond yields... stocks surging back toward record highs... just don't tell the record number of unemployed Europeans...