Back in May we revealed that the "Mystery, And Completely Indiscriminate, Buyer Of Stocks", obviously a key player in a time when the Fed's own indirect monetization of stocks was fading, was none other than corporations themselves, gorging on cheap debt and using the proceeds to buy back their own stock. And while we explained that the vast majority of companies are using up as much leverage as they can to fund said buybacks, with both total and net corporate debt levels having risen to new all time highs refuting misperceptions that corporate debt is actually declining, something even more disturbing was revealed today, when Bloomberg reported that companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, are "poised to spend $914 billion on share buybacks and dividends this year, or about 95 percent of earnings!"
- Ebola Patient Fights for Life as Contacts are Monitored (BBG)
- GPIF Unlikely To Announce New Portfolio Until November: Delay Could Rattle Investors Hoping Fund Will Invest More in Stocks (WSJ)
- High risk Ebola could reach France and UK by end-October, scientists calculate (Reuters)
- Neves to Face Rousseff in Brazil in Surprise Comeback (BBG)
- Hong Kong democracy protests fade, face test of stamina (Reuters); A Hong Kong Protest Run on Fumes and Instant Noodles (WSJ)
- Putin Clans Said Gridlocked Over Arrest as Sanctions Bite (BBG)
- Surging dollar may be triple whammy for U.S. earnings (Reuters)
- Lloyds Said to Cut Thousands of Jobs as CEO Cuts Costs (BBG)
While the biggest micro news of the weekend is certainly the report that Hewlett-Packard has finally thrown in the towel on organic growth (all those thousands laid off over the past ten years can finally breathe easily - they were not fired in vain), and has proceeded to do what so many said was its only real option: splitting into two separate companies, a personal-computer and printer business, and corporate hardware and services operations (which will certainly lead to even more stock buybacks only not at one but two companies) which in turn has sent its stock and futures higher, perhaps the most notable development in the macro world is Japan's realization finally that the weaker Yen is crushing domestic businesses, which has resulted in the USDJPY sliding to lows last seen at Friday's jobs report print, and also generally leading to across the board wekness for the dollar, whose relentless surge in the past 3 months is strongly reminiscent of the euphoria following the Plaza Accord, only in the other direction (and making some wonder if the Plaza Hotel caterer are about to see a rerun of September 22, 1985 in the coming weeks).
For the US, it’s now shooting fish in a barrel – but just for now. The three-pronged plan the Fed has started to execute is plain for everyone to see... And it will have the rest of the world begging for mercy.
Today, we now have a financial system that is even more leveraged than in 2007… backstopped by even less high quality collateral. So when the panic hits, the selling pressure will be even MORE extreme.
While the 0.001% of the world dine together and plan their next moves, here are the main events in the week ahead.
In the mid 1970's ,“experts” warned that gold would fall as interest rates rose. The opposite happened and as interest rates rose, gold rose more than 8 times in 3 years and 4 months - from $100/oz in 1976 to $850/oz in January 1980 (see chart). History does not repeat, but it frequently rhymes ...
I think this is a time where people will look back on us and see it as a period of practically central bank worship. The central bankers – Draghi, Yellen, Bernanke – have become almost celebrities in America. People have invested unreasonable hopes in what these central banks can know, and what they can do. I think that, sooner or later, the investing public will become disillusioned of these ideas.... I dare say that stock prices will not continue to rise uninterrupted at the same pace. That’s not a very interesting prediction, but the stock market is certainly a cyclical thing. I think it’s fair to observe that today’s ultra-low interest rates flatter stock market valuations. Stock prices are partly valued based on a discounted flow of dividend income. To the extent that the discount rate you use to value that stream of dividend income, which depends on interest rates, is artificially low, stock prices are artificially high. I think that the burden of proof is on anyone who would assert that we are in a new age of persistently and steadily rising stock prices.
Italy is back in recession for the third time since 2008. Germany’s economy contracted in the second quarter of 2014 and will likely be in recession before the first quarter of 2015. France has registered zero growth for six months now.
Remember Greece: the country that in 2010 launched Europe's sovereign solvency crisis and the ECB's own helpless attempts at intervention, which later was "saved", only to default shortly thereafter (but without triggering CDS as that would end the Eurozone's amusing monetary experiment and collapse the Deutsche Bank $100 trillion house of derivative cards), which later was again "saved" when every single global central bank made sure Greek bonds became the only yield-generating securities in the world? Well, the country which at last count was doing ok, is about to not be ok. Because according to none other than S&P, at some point over the next 15 months, Greek debt is about to be in default when the country is no longer able to cover its financing needs. In other words, back to square one.
"October: This is one of the particularly dangerous months to invest in stocks. Other dangerous months are July, January, September, April, November, May, March, June, December, August and February.” - Mark Twain
Despite a low-volume melt-up in stocks off yesterday's European close lows, US equities closed lower on the week with small caps once again the laggards. Even as stocks closed red, the costs of protection in credit and equity markets tumbled as the last 2 days volumeless liftathon in stocks took place against the background of very modest Treasury selling - this has the stench of high-yield bond exposure being significantly reduced (and synthetic hedges being lifted) - something we saw Wednesday into the close. The USDollar rose the most in 15 months today (up for the 12th week in a row - longest streak since Bretton Woods) led by Cable and EUR weakness. Jobs data losses in bonds today were largely reversed with TSY yields ending the week down 7-9bps. Commodities were ugly with silver and oil (under $90) joined at the hip and gold closing below $1200 for first time this year. The Russell 2000 closed lower for the 5th week in a row, the worst streak since Aug 2011.
Have the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average seen their highs for the year? At this point in 2014, it’s probably a coin toss. There are several factors in favor of a further rally, to be sure. Corporate profits are still robust, revenue expectations are modest, and long term interest rates remain equity-friendly. On the flip side of the U.S. equity market coin: long term valuations are toppy, plenty of other markets (commodities, bonds) seem to signal an impending global recession, and a host of geopolitical concerns now seem to be hitting a full boil. Also, let’s not forget that the Russell 2000 peaked in, oh, March (1209) and July (1208) and is down 8.8% from that last high. By that measure, equities are already rolling over. It is true that markets climb a wall of worry. Until it falls on them.
Carmen Segarra said, “I come from the world of legal and compliance, we deal with hard evidence. It’s like, we don’t deal with, you know, perceptions.”
How ironic. Segarra worked at the Fed.
- How you know it is all a lie: Pelosi Presses Obama to Talk Up Stronger U.S. Economy (BBG)
- Secret Goldman Sachs Tapes Put Pressure on New York Fed (NYT), Uh, no they don't
- Clashes Break Out at Hong Kong Protest Site (WSJ)
- N.Y. Fed Lawyer Says AIG Got Billions Without Paperwork (BBG)
- Ebola’s Disease Detectives Race to Track Others Exposed (BBG)
- UPS, FedEx Want Retailers to Get Real on Holiday Shipping (WSJ)
- No more mailman at the door under U.S. Postal Service plan (Reuters)