In the aftermath of Knight's crushing algo-driven error and subsequent cash loss, which may well prove terminal for the business - an artifact of a broken market we have been warning and writing about since 2009 - we present some informative insights into the various eras of Wall Street trading errors courtesy of that grizzled trading veteran, the Chairman of the Fermentation Committee, Art Cashin.
Whether it is central bank policy leaked as a strawman or as Stephen Roach notes, Jon Hilsenrath is the new Fed head (as what he writes - prompted by 'friends' - must be adhered to for fear of disappointing markets), UBS' Art Cashin notes a strange coincidence this week. While WSJ's Hilsenrath is the unofficial floater-of-ideas-and-saver-of-markets in the US, it appears The Economist's Greg Ip is the ECB's unofficial suggester-in-chief. As the avuncular Art notes "Mario Draghi's comments stunned the markets. What prompted the timing of the move? We'd like to present a possibility"
A few weeks ago America had to go through the supreme political theater that was the SCOTUS' unprecedented and uber-political decision on Obamacare, which in attempting to overcome allegations of partisanship, only succeeded in reinforcing these even deeper. Now, with everyone expecting Bernanke to launch QE every time there is a 1% downtick in the Russell, our honorable Chairsatan is in the same position: he needs to do something but can not afford to appear political with the presidential election just over 3 months away. In other words, from the soap opera about the Supreme Court of the US, we now move to the one about the Supreme Federal Reserve of the US. And the trouble for those whose investment strategy is hope and prayer is that the Fed is becoming aware of this reflexive phenomenon, and just for that reason may delay QE until September, by which point the US, and global economy, will be in freefall.
The avuncular Art Cashin is sounding a lot less sangune than many of his market-watching peers. UBS' main man notes that traders are particularly struck by the continued weakness in the transports group (with FedEx and UPS down 8 of the last 11 sessions - and the Dow Transports down the equivalent of 300 points for the Industrials on Friday alone). "The sharp contraction in the Transport area and recent sharp drops in several trucking statistics add to growing fears that the economy may have stalled over the last four weeks," is how he puts it, but it is his cocktail-napkin charting that concerns the most. Historically, even in years that don't have multiple "end of the world as we know it" headlines in the news, the equity markets decline in the week after July option expiration. Twice in the last five years the S&P lost more than 4% in the week after July expiration. So, does that mean we should tether the elephants? No, but we should be alert and nimble on a week with a somewhat spotty history - with 1332/1335 as his key line in the sand for more downside in cash S&P.
UBS' Art Cashin had originally intended to explore the scholarly give and take of both the opinion and of the dissent. Both have marvelous allusions to things like the Federalist papers and “original intent”. As he notes "a full reading is like a visit to the mind gym, a mental workout of the first order." However, the more he read the dissent, the more he saw the minority’s very evident concern that the Constitution was being weakened. On a very timely day, Art encourages one and all to read both the Opinion and Dissent as the venerable patriot adds: "It's important to all of us".
As always, the most pragmatic read thru of what are now day to day rescue efforts out of Europe, which in its own words has effectively given up on seeking a long-term remedy, comes from UBS' Art Cashin who as usual cuts right to the bone of the deluge of essentially hollow endless chatter out of Europe whose sole purpose is to once again baffle all the algos with binary bullshit.
While Europe is dominating headlines this week, UBS' Art Cashin suggests "mark your calendar and cross your fingers" as he notes the disproportionate prevalence of events that occur in September. Focusing on The Economist's Greg Ip's recent post on a possible seasonal pattern in banking crises, via this recent Reinhart & Rogoff extension paper by Laeven and Valencia, he notes: "The frequency with which the world goes to hell in September seems hardly random." Unfortunately the authors provide no explanation for this beyond observing, "An interesting pattern emerges: banking crises tend to start in the second half of the year, with large September and December effects." Ip and Cashin offer some thoughts on why this is so historically, and more importantly why this time is no different, as the avuncular Art concludes with: "try to enjoy your summer".
The always pragmatic Art Cashin summarizes today's 12:30pm FOMC announcement. In summary: "look for the Fed to dangle a big carrot - some semi-specific course of action that would be put in place if the labor markets continue to worsen. Net/net, he needs to keep the door wide open and maybe outline certain milestone “triggers” that will allow the Fed to act later in an election year without being accused of being overtly political." Said otherwise, the happy ending will likely be deferred one more time. The market may not be very happy.
Whether its performance-missing anxiety or premature exuberance, UBS Art Cashin notes (as we did on Friday) the disconnect between Bonds' less sanguine appearance and equity's which "seemed determined to take a victory lap even before the polls opened – forget about closed." As Cashin notes, equities were also helped by the quarterly expiration as well as the S&P reweighting which seemed to keep a bid under stocks throughout the day. As the week will be focused on attempts to form a Greek government (in a relatively light macro data week), the avuncular Art summarizes perfectly the situation as "Greek elections may just delay and not decide" as markets appear to be sensing the stalemate and yielding initial gains.
Earlier in the week, UBS' Art Cashin noted that some traders were re-reading Bernanke’s speech of November 21, 2002 on countering inflation. Prior re-readings had given clues on things like QE1 and even Operation Twist. The primary theme of the speech was - what can the Fed do to fight deflation (and stimulate the economy) if the Fed Funds rate fell to zero (aah, those simple golden years). Cashin points out that most of the operations, however, tend to be means to make money available or easy. With nearly $2 trillion in excess free reserves that doesn’t seem to be the problem. Inducing spending is the problem. Of all the suggestions, the wider inflation tolerance may be the only one that may do that.
"The most important election this weekend may have nothing to do with the Eurozone - at least directly. The election in Egypt may change the face of the Middle East. The implications to Israel, Iran and Saudi Arabia are enormous. Will the most populous Arab nation become a theocracy? This will be some weekend."
It appears that more and more people are finally waking up to the sheer farce that calling a kleptofascist crony capitalist system with socialist overtones because "deficits don't matter", a democracy, has become.
News & headlines from the day
Just as Patton surveyed Rommel's battlefield of Panzers and assumed he knew his plan (since he had 'read the book'), so UBS' Art Cashin reminds us that traders trust implicitly that Bernanke is an assumed tactical genius - capable of deploying his monetary troops at will and in a perfectly timed manner. This trust (and hope) is based on Bernanke's early speeches and one in particular - “Deflation: Making Sure 'It' Doesn’t Happen Here” (here). It was delivered back at the National Economists Club in November 2002 (Before Bernanke became Fed Chair). As Wall Street ponders what form or format the next level of quantitative easing might take, Cashin is taking time off from the fermentation committee to sift through the speech, looking for clues to the next Fed move. The primary complication is the turmoil in the European banking system. That may force Mr. B to include things like currency swap facilities in any new comprehensive easing effort. While QEx is certainly coming, we remain highly cognizant of the reflexive market reaction to any 'decent' dip as hope remaining too alive-and-well that the Bernanke-Put strike is considerably higher than it is in reality.
The pending three-day rally that has seen European and US markets soar smacks of a short-covering squeeze, notes UBS' Art Cashin, as some of the biggest percentage gains came in the most heavily shorted stocks. While this is hardly surprising in this increasingly schizophrenic economy market, it is the long-term consistency and prophetic consternation of Margaret Thatcher's view of the Euro as "perhaps the greatest folly of the modern era" that sits uncomfortably with the Merkel comment-driven rally of this morning (for now).