As if trying to figure out the impact of the central banks' balance sheets and China's record debt creation on stocks wasn't enough of a complexity (actually it really isn't that complex) for a market where fundamentals haven't mattered in 5 years, there is also the issue of ETF basket creation, best known for the daily 3:30 pm ramp when ETFs catch up with their underlying components in a rising market, giving it all a procyclical turbo boost. It is here that SocGen reports that in the past fortnight, there was record equity ETF creation, mostly focusing on the S&P 500.
Ever since going public, it appears that Markit's giddyness about life has spilled over into its manufacturing surveys: after a surge in recent Markit mfg exuberance in recent months in the US, it was first China's turn overnight to hit an 18 month high, slamming expectations and fixing the bitter taste in the mouth left by another month of atrocious Japan trade data (where even Goldman has thrown in the towel on Abenomics now) following which the euphoria spilled over to Europe just as the triple-dip recession warnings had started to grow ever louder and most economists have been making a strong case for ECB QE. Instead, German July mfg PMI printed at 52.9, above the 52.0 in June and above the 51.9 expected while the Composite blasted higher to 55.9, from 54.0, and above the 53.8 expected thanks to the strongest Service PMI in 37 months! End result: a blended Eurozone manufacturing PMI rising from 51.8 to 51.9, despite expectations of a modest decline while the Composite rose from 52.8 to 54.0, on expectations of an unchanged print. Curiously the soft survey data took place as Retail Sales declined both in Italy (-0.7%, Exp. +0.2%), and the UK (-0.1%, Exp. 0.3%), which incidentally was blamed on "hot weather." Perhaps Markit, now that it has IPOed successfully, can step off the gas or at least lobby to have surveys become part of GDP.
Just as the Federal Reserve cannot directly force you to stick the needle of monetary heroin (debt) into your arm, it also can't force employers to pay employees more. The ultimate hubris of the Keynesian Cargo Cult (which includes the global economy's central banks) is the naive notion that they can manipulate an entire system with a few levers such that the desired outcome--and only the desired outcome--is the output. The idea that you can change one input in an interconnected system of systems and only affect the one output you want is not just naive and simplistic: it requires a level of blindness and incompetence that is off the charts.
The reality of what happened in Cyprus is a far different matter. And the reason that this reality has not been featured as headline news is because doing so would reveal the following:
Those keeping track and hoping the second default would finally hit have to hold their breath again after yet another last minute bailout has now made a complete mockery of China's "deliberate" intentions to clear up the rot plaguing its bond market. As Reuters reports, Huatong avoided a "landmark bond default at the last minute on Wednesday, raising enough funds to pay off both principal and interest on a 400 million yuan ($64.51 million) bond." Who bailed it out? Why the same government which continues to say one thing and do something totally different.
- Here come the gates which we predicted in 2010: SEC Is Set to Approve Money-Fund Rules (WSJ)
- Dick's cuts 400 jobs as golf now less popular (MW)
- Kerry arrives in Israel, pushes for peace (Reuters)
- Pay Penalty Haunts Recession Grads as U.S. Economy Mends (BBG)
- Appeals Courts Issue Conflicting Rulings on Health-Law Subsidies (WSJ)
- Rebel Stronghold Donetsk Holds Breath as Shellfire Mounts (BBG)
- Business executive wins Georgia Republican runoff in U.S. Senate race (Reuters)
- Five held in China food scandal probe, including head of Shanghai Husi Food (Reuters)
- Jobs Hold Sway Over Yellen-Carney as Central Banks Splinter (BBG)
Despite yesterday's lackluster earnings the most recent market levitation on low volume was largely due to what some considered a moderation in geopolitical tensions after Europe once again showed it is completely incapable of stopping Putin from dominating Europe with his energy trump card, and is so conflicted it is even unable to impose sanctions (despite the US prodding first France with BNP and now Germany with the latest DB revelations to get their act together), as well as it being, well, Tuesday, today's moderate run-up in equity futures can likely be best attributed to momentum algos, which are also rushing to recalibrate and follow the overnight surge in the AUDJPY while ignoring any drifting USDJPY signals.
After an incredible day in Herbalife - its best performance ever - following Bill Ackman's "death blow," none other than Whitney Tilson (who oddly has not been seen on CNBC for many months) has penned a letter to his investors explaining "why I am more confident of my Herbalife short position." As a gentle reminder, Mr. Tilson entered his Herbalife short in December 2012 in the low $20s (shortly after Ackman's initial pitch) and recently made it one of his firm's largest short positions. It appears there are now two ways by which Herbalife shares implode - Ackman buys a 'minority stake' and 'fixes it' or Whitney Tilson gets on TV and shifts to a long position...
It is quite clear that Bernanke achieved his goal of inflating asset prices by expanding the Federal Reserve's balance sheet by 371.64% since the end of the financial crisis. However, was he as successful in fulfilling his other objectives? The following charts perform the same cost/benefit analysis on real economic health... Did the Fed's monetary intervention programs keep the economy from sliding into a much deeper recession? Probably. Have the programs been effective in achieving Bernanke's stated goals? Not really.
Following the overnight ramp in various JPY crosses (dragging equity futures higher, and the Nikkei up 0.8%) it is as if the market is desperate to put all of last week's geopolitical events in the rearview mirror, and while yesterday there were no economic events of note, today's CPI and existing home prints should provide at least some distraction from the relentless barrage of one-line updates on Ukraine and Gaza. Still, that is precisely where the biggest risk remains, with an emphasis on the possibility of more Russian sanctions, this time by Europe.
This is a tricky period for asset markets, warns Citi's Steven Englander. Positioning still reflects a risk-on view but the risk-on enthusiasm is in EM, equities and Asia rather than peripheral Europe. Investors are still long risk, despite the geopolitical tensions and Fed Chair Yellen’s modest nod to the risk of faster than expected tightening, Englander cautions, concluding that investors continue to anticipate a soft landing despite all the discussion to the contrary.
They call them ‘junk bonds’ for a reason. They now constitute an offence against linguistic decency: ‘high yield’ no longer even is. “By sacrificing quality an investor can obtain a higher income return from his bonds. Long experience has demonstrated that the ordinary investor is wiser to keep away from such high- yield bonds. While, taken as a whole, they may work out somewhat better in terms of overall return than the first-quality issues, they expose the owner to too many individual risks of untoward developments, ranging from disquieting price declines to actual default.” - Ben Graham, ‘The Intelligent Investor’.
In the absence of any major economic events, it will be another day tracking geopolitical headlines out of Ukraine (lots of accusations, propaganda and fingerpointing on both sides, zero actual evidence and facts - expect more European sanctions to be announced today to match last week's latest US-led round ) and Israel (where the death toll has now risen over 500, almost entirely on the Gaza side), and then promptly spinning any bad news as great news. For now, however, futures are modestly lower from the Friday close pushed down by the AUDJPY which has rebased around 95.00. We expect the momentum ignition correlation algos will promptly take of that as soon as the US market opens, a market which has now been described as bubbly by the BIS, the Fed and the IMF.
Flint may be Michigan’s second city to plunge into bankruptcy unless retirees accept cuts in health benefits that threaten to unravel a balanced budget. As Crain's Detroit reports, Emergency Manager Darnell Earley (Flint’s third emergency leader since it was placed under state control in 2011) warned "If we have no ability to mitigate the cost of retiree health care, that’s going to make it very difficult for the city to remain financially stable over the next few years." As Eric Scorsone notes, "Flint's at the forefront, but a lot of cities are on the same train, and that train is headed for the cliff."
We show that equity markets are stretched (e.g., more than 80% of the S&P rally since last year is due to re-rating), but we also find that the fixed income market has become quite rich (we have been overweight European peripherals for more than a year on valuation grounds, we show that this argument no longer holds), and the same is true of the credit market. Second because capital has been flowing rapidly into risky assets, we document that argument and here too find evidence that the market might be ahead of itself. We read the market reaction last week to the Portuguese news as a sign that the market is indeed too complacent and could correct rapidly.