Once again oil is not even the biggest story today. It’s plenty big enough by itself to bring down large swaths of the economy, but in the background there’s an even bigger tale a-waiting. Not entirely unconnected, but by no means the exact same story either. It’s like them tsunami waves as they come rolling in. It’s exactly like that. That is, in the wake of the oil tsunami, which is a long way away from having finished washing down our shores, there’s the demise of emerging markets. And we're not talking Putin, he’ll be fine, as he showed again yesterday in his big press-op. It’s the other, smaller, emerging countries that will blow up in spectacular fashion, and then spread their mayhem around. And make no mistake: to be a contender for bigger story than oil going into 2015, you have to be major league large. This one is.
Blind faith in policymakers remains a bad trade that’s still widely held. Pressure builds everywhere we look. Not as a consequence of the Fed’s ineptitude (which is a constant in the equation, not a variable), but through the blind faith markets continuing to place bets on the very low probability outcome – that everything will turn out well this time around. And so the pressure keeps rising. Managers are under pressure to perform and missing more targets, levering up on hope. Without further delay we present our slightly unconventional annual list. Instead of the usual what you should do, we prefer the more helpful (for us at least) what we probably wouldn’t do. Five fresh new contenders for what could become some very bad trades in the coming year.
The current illusion of recovery is a result mainly of windfalls to the financial asset owning upper strata, the explosion of transfer payments funded with borrowed public money and another supply-side bubble - this time in the energy sector and its suppliers and infrastructure. But that’s not real growth or wealth. Indeed, the desultory truth about the latter is better revealed by the fact that the American economy is not even maintaining its 20th century level of breadwinner jobs. And the real state of affairs is further testified to by the lamentable trend in real median household incomes. That figure - not distorted by the bubble at the top of the income ladder - is still lower than it was two decades ago. So much for the Keynesian rap. Yet that’s about all that underpins the latest Wall Street rip.
Do you want to know if the stock market is going to crash next year? Just keep an eye on junk bonds. Prior to the horrific collapse of stocks in 2008, high yield debt collapsed first. And as you will see below, high yield debt is starting to crash again.
"At the end of the day, the Fed is confused and confusing, so if you spend too much time addressing their comments you end up confusing as well." The FOMC meeting was, simply put, slightly hawkish. Unfortunately, the markets’ outsized and illogical reactions are signs and symptoms that financial markets are broken. The FOMC’s meddling in financial market behavior could easily catch up to them in an ugly fashion.
We are currently experiencing disturbances in the force. Credit and volatility have never acted this way before, and I can quantify it exactly. Never before has the VIX gone from 11 to 20 in just four days. But it’s actually bigger than that. Volatility is itself volatile. You can measure the volatility of volatility; traders call it “vvol.” And the only times vvol has been this high since the advent of VIX options were in 2007, 2008, and 2011—all times of serious crisis. But we aren’t in a crisis now, are we? Well, we might be, if you think vvol has any predictive power, as we do.
Yellen doesn’t care about the economy. She cares about the US’s massive debt load AKA the BOND BUBBLE.
"It’s hard to say what the right price is for a commodity like oil . . . and thus when the price is too high or too low. Was it too high at $100-plus, an unsustainable blip? History says no: it was there for 43 consecutive months through this past August. And if it wasn’t too high then, isn’t it laughably low today? The answer is that you just can’t say. Ditto for whether the response of the price of oil to the changes in fundamentals has been appropriate, excessive or insufficient. And if you can’t be confident about what the right price is, then you can’t be definite about financial decisions regarding oil." - Howard Marks
Yesterday's epic market surge, the biggest Dow surge since December 2011 on the back of the most violent short squeeze in three years, highlighted just why being caught wrong side in an illiquid market can be terminal to one's asset management career (especially if on margin), and thus why hedge funds are so leery of dipping more than their toe in especially on the short side, resulting in a 6th consecutive year of underperformance relative to the confidence-boosting policy tool that is the S&P. And with today's session the last Friday before Christmas week, compounded by a quadruple witching option expiration, expect even less liquidity and even more violent moves as a few E-mini oddlots take out the entire stack on either the bid or ask side. Keep an eye on the USDJPY which, now that equities have decided to ignore both HY and energy prices, is the only driver for risk left: this means the usual pre-US open upward momentum ignition rigging will be rife to set a positive tone ahead of today's session.
The ruble is dying, and fast. Ill prepared to wait it out, the central bank is clearly a step behind the game and perhaps even out of its league. But Black Monday suggested other powers might be at play.
Monday was incidentally the day of an interesting 700 billion ruble liquidity auction. Prior to the auction, Rosneft raised 625 billion rubles (almost $11 billion) in a bond issue backed by the central bank...
The oil price drop is a big problem - not just for Russia, or for the other over-levered emerging market currencies that stand to be traumatized by a rising dollar, but ultimately even for the US itself
Deflation and the attendant risks caused by a sudden revelation about hidden debts will remain the chief concern for investors and policy makers in 2015
After drifting unchanged for much of the overnight session, US futures exploded higher shortly after the previously noted SNB's NIRP announcement, which took place at 2 am eastern, which made it explicit that yet another banks will herd the bouncing dead cats right into new all time stock market highs, and following the European open, were carried even higher as the global "risk-on" momentum ignition algos woke up, spiking all recently depressed assets higher, including energy as Brent rose almost 3% despite Saudi Arabia’s oil minister Ali al-Naimi once again saying "it is difficult if not impossible" for OPEC and his kingdom to reduce output.
Let’s see. Between July 2007 and January 2009, the median US residential housing price plunged from $230k to $165k or by 30%. That must have been some kind of super “tax cut”.
The global oil price collapse now unfolding is not putting a single dime into the pockets of American households - the CNBC talking heads to the contrary notwithstanding. What is happening is the vast flood of mispriced debt and capital, which flowed into the energy sector owning to the Fed’s lunatic ZIRP and QE policies, is now rapidly deflating. That will reduce bubble spending and investment, not add to economic growth. It’s the housing bust all over again.
"Back in the halcyon days of summer, it seemed nothing could go wrong; but now, ...the uncertainties presently being generated have the potential to undermine two crucial kinds of trust – that one must have in the merits of one’s own exposure and that equally critical faith in the reliability of one’s counterparties. If it does, the third great bull run of the 20-year age of Irrational Exuberance could well reach its culmination, after a rally of almost exactly the same magnitude as and of similar duration to the one which ushered it in, all those years ago."