While January was a bad month for the market, it was certainly one which the majority of hedge funds would also rather forget as we showed yesterday. So with volatility, the lack of a clear daily ramp higher (with the exception of the last 4 days which are straight from the 2013 play book), and, worst of all, that Old Normal staple - risk - back in the picture. what is a collector of 2 and 20 to do (especially since in the post-Steve Cohen world, one must now make their money the old-fashioned way: without access to "expert networks")? For everyone asking this question, here is Deutsche Bank with its take on which will be the best and worst performing strategies of 2014. So without further ado, here is the Deutsche Bank Asset and Wealth Management's forecast of hedge fund performance matrix...
It is not easy for one bank to anger more people with one announcement than what Barclays did in the past 24 hours. In one fell swoop, the British bank infuriated shareholders after announcing dismal earnings (an adjusted Q4 profit of about 200 million pounds and a statutory profit of less than 100 million as investment banking income slumped 37% as income fell 9% to 10.7 billion due to a fall in fixed income, and it took further charges related to a cleanup of the banking industry in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis) which sent the share price sliding, it then pissed off UK workers and taxpayers after it announced it would hike investment bank bonuses by 13% despite the abovementioned profit slump, and finally it crushed 9% of its workforce, or 12,000 workers, who are set to prepare pink slips as the bank "streamlines."
The chart below is very familiar to anyone who was observing the hourly turmoil in the European bond market in November of 2011, when Italian bonds crashed, when yields soared to record levels, and every downtick of the Euro could have been its last. What the chart may not show are the dramatic transformations in Italy's government that took place just as the Italian bond spread exploded, which saw the resignation of career-politician Sylvio Berlusconi literally days after yields soared, and the instatement of Goldman technocrat Mario Monti as Italy's next Prime Minister. In fact as some, certainly this website, had suggested the blow out in Italian yields was merely a grand plan orchestrated to usher in a new Italian government that would, with the support of yet another Goldman alum, the ECB's then brand new head Mario Draghi, unleash a new era in Italian life, supposedly one of austerity, and which would give the impression that Europe is being fixed all the while preserving the broken European monetary system for at least another year or two. In other words a grand conspiracy theory of a pre-planned bloodless coup.... And so, as lately so often happens, courtesy of the narrative by Alan Friedman of what really happened that summer, this too conspiracy theory has just become conspiracy fact.
After Friday's surge fest on weaker than expected news - perhaps expecting a tapering of the taper despite everyone screaming from the rooftops the Fed will never adjust monetary policy based on snowfall levels - overnight the carry trade drifted lower and pulled the correlated US equity markets down with it. Why? Who knows - after Friday's choreographed performance it is once again clear there is no connection between newsflow, fundamentals and what various algos decide to do. So (lack of) reasons aside, following a mainly positive close in Asia which was simply catching up to the US exuberance from Friday, European equities have followed suit and traded higher from the get-go with the consumer goods sector leading the way after being boosted by Nestle and L'Oreal shares who were seen higher after reports that Nestle is looking at ways to reduce its USD 30bln stake in L'Oreal. The tech sector is also seeing outperformance following reports that Nokia and HTC have signed a patent and technology pact; all patent litigation between companies is dismissed. Elsewhere, the utilities sector is being put under pressure after reports that UK Energy Secretary Ed Davey urged industry watchdog Ofgem to examine the profits being made by the big six energy companies through supplying gas, saying that Centrica's British Gas arm is too profitable.
Over the last year, investors have been lulled to sleep wrapped in the warmth of complacency as the Federal Reserve stoked the fires of the market with $85 billion a month in liquidity injections. I have written many times in the past that investors were likely to be rudely awakened by an unexpected event of which was likely not even on the majority of mainstream analysts radars. That occurred this past week as a revulsion in emerging markets sent the "carry trade" running in reverse. What we will need to ponder this weekend is whether the current correction is simply just a dip within an ongoing uptrend OR have the "bears" finally awakened from their winter hibernation?
Plain vanilla bank runs are as old as fractional reserve banking itself, and usually happen just before or during an economic and financial collapse, when all trust (i.e. credit) in counterparties disappears and it is every man, woman and child, and what meager savings they may have, for themselves. However, when it comes to shadow bank runs, which take place when institutions are so mismatched in interest, credit and/or maturity exposure that something just snaps as it did in the hours after the Lehman collapse, that due to the sheer size of their funding exposure that they promptly grind the system to a halt even before conventional banks can open their doors to the general public, the conventional wisdom is that this is a novel development (and one which is largely misunderstood). It isn't.
Is it any wonder Mario Draghi didn't lift a quantitative-easing finger this week? Despite record unemployment, record (and disastrous youth unemployment), record suicide rates, record non-performing loans, and an inextricably-linked banking system facing $3 trillion in exposure to emerging markets... Spanish bond yields have collapsed to their lowest since 2006 (and Italian close behind). With an entirely broken transmission mechanism of monetary policy, it seems the "market" for European bonds knows no bounds as spreads on the riskiest sovereigns drop to pre-crisis levels and 10Y Spain yields are now lower than 30Y US Treasuries.
Three days ago it was S&P that opened the can of Puerto Rico junk worms. Moments ago it was Moody's turn to downgrade the General Obligation rating of the Commonwealth from Baa3 to Ba2, aka junk status. We note this just in case someone is confused what the catalyst was that just sent stock to a new intraday high in the aftermath of today's disappointing jobs number which until this moment barely managed to push the S&P higher by 1%. From the report: "While some economic indicators point to a preliminary stabilization, we do not see evidence of economic growth sufficient to reverse the commonwealth's negative financial trends. Without an economic revival, the commonwealth will face difficult decisions in coming years, as its debt and pension costs rise. The negative outlook signals the remaining challenges facing the commonwealth."
Last week it was the largest equity outflow in over two years. This week, following the Monday drubbing which had the temerity to push the S&P to an "unprecedented" 5% from its all time highs, the timid retail investor said enough, and ran for the hills resulting in the largest equity outflow. Ever.
Money on the sidelines? EM fixed? Expectations of a terrible jobs number tapering the taper? One thing we do know for absolute certain - this ramp in stocks has nothing whatsoever to do with fun-durr-mentals... as USDJPY 102 takes the S&P back to unch on the Taper and above its 100DMA.
Triffin’s Dilemma is that the country that issues the world’s reserve currency will have to choose between:
1 ) running a trade deficit in perpetuity - risking of a loss of confidence in its currency and solvency while the rest of the world enjoys an adequate supply of USDs.
2) running a trade surplus and enjoying an appreciation in the value of the dollar while the rest of the world suffers from a lack of liquidity and collateral.
Either way, there are negative implications for world growth. In the first example – in which the US runs a trade deficit in perpetuity – the US continues to add to its debt and risks undermining its ability to pay off that debt. In the second example – in which the US runs a trade surplus – emerging market currencies are put under pressure by the USD potentially leading to capital outflows, a higher cost of debt, and global financial instability.
The biggest fear the market currently has is not the ongoing crisis in the Emerging Markets, not the suddenly slowing economy, not even China's credit bubble popping: it is that Bernanke's successor may have suddenly reverted to the "Old Normal" - a regime in which the Fed is not there to provide the training wheels should the S&P suffer a 5%, 10% or 20% (or more) drop. Whether such fears are warranted will be tested as soon as there is indeed a bear market plunge in stocks - the first in nearly three years (incidentally the topic of the Fed's lack of vacalty was covered in a recent Reuters article). So, assuming that indeed the most dramatic change in market dynamics in the past five years has taken place, how does one trade this new world which is so unfamiliar to so many of today's "younger" (and forgotten by many of the older) traders? And, more importantly, how does one look for the signs of a bottom: an Old Normal bottom that is. Courtesy of Convergex' Nicholas Colas, here is a reminder of what to look forward to, for those who are so inclined, to time the next market inflection point.
How many times in the last few days have we been told that Turkey - or Ukraine or Venezuela or Argentina - are too small to matter? How many comparisons of Emerging Market GDP to world GDP to instill confidence that a little crisis there can't possible mean problems here. Putting aside this entirely disingenuous perspective, historical examples such as LTCM, and ignoring the massive leverage in the system, there is a simple reason why Emerging Markets matter. As Reuters reports, European banks have loaned in excess of $3 trillion to emerging markets, more than four times US lenders - especially when average NPLs for historical EM shocks is over 40%.
It is still all about the Yen carry which overnight tumbled to the lowest level since November, dragging the Nikkei down by 4.8% which halted its plunge at just overf 14,000, only to stage a modest rebound and carry US equity futures with it, even if it hasn't helped the Dax much which moments ago dropped to session lows and broke its 100 DMA, where carmakers are being especially punished following a downgrade by HSBC of the entire sector. Also overnight the Hang Seng entered an official correction phase (following on from the Nikkei 225 doing the same yesterday) amid global growth concerns and has filtered through to European trade with equities mostly red across the board. Markets have shrugged off news that ECB's Draghi is seeking German support in the bond sterilization debate, something which we forecast would happen a few weeks ago when we pointed out the relentless pace of SMP sterilization failures, with analysts playing down the news as the move would only add a nominal amount of almost EUR 180bln to the Euro-Area financial system. Elsewhere, disappointing earnings from KPN (-4.3%) and ARM holdings (-2.5%) are assisting the downward momentum for their respective sectors.
It was only a few days ago that Emerging Market FX was rallying on the back of a Turkish Central Bank rate hike that "fixed" everything. It was only a few days ago that investors were told they were "stupid" if bearish on US stocks because of EM weakness. Things have not gone as planned. That temporary blip has been demolished and EM FX has crumbled lower to fresh 5-year lows with many hitting record lows... and no, this does not mean money will flow back into US stocks (as we exclaim below).