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Frontrunning: July 23

  • 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)

Overnight Futures Levitation Mode Engaged But Subdued

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.

Whi(t)ney Tilson Does It Again

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...

How Effective Have The Fed's QE Programs Been?

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.

 

Stocks Desperate To Put Ukraine In Rearview Mirror But More Russian Sanctions Loom

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.

Citi: "Asset Markets Are Ill-Prepared For Any Risk-Negative Shock"

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 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’.

Quiet Economic Calendar Means All Attention Focused On Ukraine And Gaza

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.

First Detroit, Now Flint Warns Bankruptcy "Train Is Headed For The Cliff"

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."

Why One Big Bank Is "Worried That The Market Is Stretched And Could Correct Rapidly"

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.

US Stocks Retrace All "Israel" Losses; Still Red From Ukraine

"Fixed" - well almost. US equity markets have retraced all the losses suffered post-Israel-escalation (why worry?) but remain (for now) below the levels reached before the MH17 crash headlines hit... Of course, AUDJPY is in in charge along with VIX (as it is Friday after all)...

Dazed Global Markets Respond Wearily To Yesterday's Shocking Events

For a centrally-planned market that has long since lost the ability to discount the future, and certainly respond appropriately to geopolitical events, yesterday was a rough wake up call with a two punch stunner of not only the MH 17 crash pushing the Ukraine escalation into overdrive, but Israel's just as shocking land invasion of Gaza officially marking the start of a ground war, finally dragging global stocks out of their hypnotized slumber and pushing risk broadly lower across the globe, even if the now traditional USDJPY and AUDJPY ramp algos have woken up in the past few minutes and will be eager to pretend as if nothing ever happened.

Obama's Latest Russian Sanctions Send Global Stocks Reeling

Slowly but surely, all those cans that many hoped were kicked indefinitely into the future, are coming back home to roost. The biggest impact on global risk overnight have been undoubtedly the expanded Russian sanctions announced by Obama yesterday, which have sent the Russian Micex index reeling to six week lows (as it does initially after every sanction announcement, only for the BTFDers to appear promptly thereafter), with the biggest hits saved for the named companies such as Rosneft -5.6%, Novatek -5.1%, and others Alrosa -5.7%, VTB Bank -4.3%, Sberbank -3.4% and so on. Then promptly risk off mood spilled over into broader Europe and at last check the Stoxx600 was down 0.8%, with Bund futures soaring to record highs especially following news (from the Ukraine side) that a Russian warplane attacked a Ukrainian fighter jet. Not helping matters is the end of the dead cat bounce in Portugal where after soaring by 20% yesterday on hopes of a fresh capital infusion, Espirito Santo has once again crashed, dropping as much as 11%, driven lower following downgrades by both S&P and Moodys, as well as the realization that someone was pulling everyone's legs with the rumor of an equity stake sale.