Across the Curve
While the sight of Russian flags, pro-Russian troops, and Russian navy ships in Crimea is now a day-to-day thing; this morning brings a new normal for the eastern Ukraine region - long lines at bank ATMs as the bank runs have begun. We noted last night the dreaded inversion of Ukraine's yield curve, the greater-than-50% yields on 3-month Ukraine government debt, and the pressures on local bank debt maturities as the ability to garner dollars cost-effectively was becoming a problem but on the heels of concerns by the head of the central bank that moving cash in Crimea was difficult, ATM withdrawal limits have been cut. People in long ATM lines are reported to be concerned because "banks are closing" but it is Deutsche Bank's comments this morning that raised many an eyebrow as they suggest that Ukraine's debt is pricing in a "burden-sharing" haircut for bondholders (which as we have seen in the past - in Cyprus - can quickly ripple up the capital structure and become a depositor haircut).
While the US may be rejoicing its daily stock market all time highs day after day, it may come as a surprise to many that global equity capitalization has hardly performed as impressively compared to its previous records set in mid-2007. In fact, between the last bubble peak, and mid-2013, there has been a $3.86 trillion decline in the value of equities to $53.8 trillion over this six year time period, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Alas, in a world in which there is no longer even hope for growth without massive debt expansion, there is a cost to keeping global equities stable (and US stocks at record highs): that cost is $30 trillion, or nearly double the GDP of the United States, which is by how much global debt has risen over the same period. Specifically, total global debt has exploded by 40% in just 6 short years from 2007 to 2013, from "only" $70 trillion to over $100 trillion as of mid-2013, according to the BIS' just-released quarterly review.
While victory was declared yesterday, today was a let-down for the exuberant. High beta (NASDAQ and Russell) pushed on but the S&P, Dow, and Trannies slid leaving the NASDAQ YTD best performer (+1%) and the S&P back into the red for 2014. Financials underperformed, Utilities outperformed. Treasuries rallied all day - with the long-end underperforming and a notable flattening across the curve (30Y -2bps on the week, 5Y +2bps). The USD had a quiet day as JPY strengthened modestly (hence the weakness in the S&P) as overnight AUD weakness (poor jobs data) left that carry pair alone in the dark. VIX and credit markets have been notable underperformers relative to stocks in the last 2 days. Commodities were quiet all day with some early downside pressure in the precious metals unwound (leaving then down 0.5% on the week). Of course, it wouldn't be the US equity market without the ubiquitous VIX slam attempt to ignite momentum and get the S&P green - it failed for once!
USDJPY's medium-term trend has turned from bullish to bearish. BofAML's Macneil Curry warns that the break of the old May highs suggest weakness should extend further with the 200-day moving avarege at 99.71 as a minimum downside target. Given the JPY's weighting in the USD Index basket, this does not have specific bearish USD implications but does have significant effect on equities as the JPY carry trade comes under pressure.
According to Bill Gross the outlook for 2014 is all about inflation, and how it will impact bonds in the 1-5 maturity bucket: "I am amazed at the fascination and emphasis placed on the u-rate during employment Fridays. Bond prices will move (in some cases by points) with a minor up or down change in unemployment relative to expectations, but when it comes to the third little pig of the litter – inflation – no one seems to care. This number – the PCE annualized inflation rate – is released near the 20th of every month but you will not see CNBC or Bloomberg analysts waiting with bated breath for its release. I do. I consider it the critical monthly statistic for analyzing Fed policy in 2014. Why? Bernanke, Yellen and their merry band of Fed governors and regional presidents have told us so. No policy rate hike until both unemployment and inflation thresholds have been breached and even then “they’re not thresholds,” they’re forks in the road that may or may not lead in a different direction. If so, then 1-5 year bonds, combined with credit, volatility, curve rolldown, and a dollop of currency should float a bond investor’s boat in 2014 and avoid breaking the buck in total return space.... If PCE inflation stays below 2.0% and inflationary expectations don’t rise appreciably above 2.5%, then a 3-4% total return for 2014 is realistic. "
While shortened Christmas Eve trading is traditionally the lowest volume day of the year, based on recent trends it may be difficult for today's action to stand out from the landscape thanks to an ongoing volume collapse, which however should make the even more traditional low-volume melt up that much easier. Sure enough, futures are modestly higher driven by their favorite signal, the EURJPY. Not surprisingly there has been particularly light newsflow with market closures in Germany, Italy and Switzerland in addition to early market closures for UK, France, Netherlands and Spain. Those markets that are open are trading in positive territory with the FTSE 100 being supported by BSkyB following an upbeat pre-market report for the company and their customer base, whilst the IBEX 35 is being supported by the financial sector. Overnight in China there was news of an injection of CNY 29bln via a 7-day reverse repo, although market commentators have said that this is more of a gesture than any meaningful intervention given the size of the country's banking market. Fixed income markets are particularly light with there being no trade in the bund future given the Eurex closure, with other trading products relatively flat given the lack of newsflow. However, the short-sterling curve has bear-steepened and thus continuing the trend seen since the end of last week as a result of both UK unemployment and UK GDP coming in better than expected.
Today's 10yr auction result was a surprise for many traders. Will tomororrow be a repeat?
Despite Yellen, Bullard, and Evans on the tape, markets limped lower on the day. Of course, we had the standard POMO-based ramp but once again credit markets and VIX indicated more than a few were seeking protection rather than loading the boat at these all-time high round-numbers. Stocks had reached their 'richest' in 3 months relative to the Fed's balance sheet and so were perhaps due a little more turmoiling but Treasuries sold off all day (and not on growth expectations) to end unchanged across the curve on the week. The USD oscillated but ended lower (JPY unch on the week) and commodities dribbled higher (though all remain red on the week). Perhaps the most worrisome thing today was the total disconnect between stocks and FX carry after Europe closed...
The overnight global scramble to buy stocks, any stocks, anywhere, continued, with the Nikkei soaring higher by 2% as the USDJPY rose firmly over 100, to levels not seen since May as the previously reported speculation that more QE from the BOJ is just around the corner takes a firm hold. Sentiment that the liquidity bonanza would accelerate around the world (with possibly more QE from the ECB) was undented by news of a surge in Chinese short-term money market rates or the Moody's one-notch downgrade of four TBTF banks on Federal support review. The release of more market-friendly promises from China only added fuel to the fire and as a result S&P futures are now just shy of 1800, a level which will almost certainly be taken out today as the multiple expansion ramp continues unabated. At this point absolutely nobody is even remotely considering standing in front of the centrally-planned liquidity juggernaut that has made "market" down days a thing of the past.
When it comes to US equities today, the picture below summarizes it all... the only question is whether the NYSE breaks to celebrate the year's overhyped social media IPO.Aside from the non-event that is the going public of a company that will likely not generate profits for years, if ever, the overnight market has been quiet with all major stock indices in Asia trading modestly lower on the back of a modestly stronger dollar, although the main currency to watch will be the Euro (German Industrial production of -0.9% today was a miss of 0.0% expectations and down from 1.6% previously), when the ECB releases its monthly statement at 7:45 am Eastern when it is largely expected to do nothing but may hint at more easing in the future. On the US docket we have the weekly initial claims (expected at 335k) which now that they are again in a rising phase, have been the latest data item to be ignored in the Bizarro market, as well as the latest Q3 GDP estimate, pegged by consensus at 2.0%.
Just as Friday ended with a last minute meltup, there continues to be nothing that can stop Bernanke's runaway liquidity train, and the overnight trading session has been one of a continuing slow melt up in risk assets, which as expected merely ape the Fed's balance sheet to their implied fair year end target of roughly 1900. The data in the past 48 hours was hot but not too hot, with China Non-mfg PMI rising from 55.4 to 56.3 a 14 month high (and entirely made up as all other China data) - hot but not too hot to concern the PBOC additionally over cutting additional liquidity - while the Eurozone Mfg PMI came as expected at 51.3 up from 51.1 prior driven by rising German PMI (up from 51.1 to 51.7 on 51.5 expected), declining French PMI (from 49.8 to 49.1, exp. 49.4), declining Italian PMI (from 50.8 to 50.7, exp. 51.0), Spain up (from 50.7 to 50.9, vs 51.0 expected), and finally the UK construction PMI up from 58.9 to 59.4.
Despite NFLX giving back half its after-hours gains, the NASDAQ is surging to new 13-year highs, the S&P cash crosses 1750 (to new all-time highs), and the Dow Transports explodes higher (to yet another record) for the ninth of the last 10 days. All of this as the USD is monkey-hammered and the EUR surges to 2-year highs... Treasury yields are dropping fast (down 5-7bps across the curve). As we noted last week, US equities have caught up entirely to the Fed balance sheet. Gold (back above its 100DMA) and silver are surging and oil is pressing back up towards $100. The reason for all this exuberance: the jobs number was sufficiently horrible it has moved the tapering consensus to March 2014 of beyond...
Spot the odd 4-week bill auction out...
The last 4 days have seen the price of protection against a default on US Treasuries spike by the most in 4 years. While USA CDS trade on both a default and devaluation basis (as well as technical issues related to which Treasury is cheapest to deliver) this spike to 5-month highs (from what was extremely high levels of complacency) is very notable in light of today's Kocherlakota "whatever it takes" speech. While still well off 2011's debt ceiling debacle panic highs, this move does suggest more than just the politicians are worried about a technical default occurring on US debt. By way of comparison, Germany trades at 23bps and Japan at 61bps against USA's 32bps. But there is a way to trade the debt-ceiling debacle that doesn't invlove leveraged speculation in credit derivatives...
Another day, another POMO pump followed by a collapse to close at the the lows as the S&P 500 has its first 5-day negative closing run in 2013. Only the NASDAQ remains above Un-Taper levels with the Dow back below 'Summers' levels and the S&P heading that way. Treasury yields slid further (-4 to 5bps) to 7-week lows (down 10 of the last 11 days) as the 7Y broke back below 2.00%. Gold and Silver rallied (after the ubiquitous opening smackdown idiocy) with both positive on the week now. The USD sold off as JPY strengthened to the week's highs and EUR pushed back to unchanged on the week. WTI was slammed lower (in a seeming mirror of the PMs) ending back at $102.28 (-2.4% on the week) nearly 11 week lows. For the second day in a row VIX closed lower as stocks sold off (unwinding hedges and reducing underlying exposure perhaps?)