After a solid day for risk yesterday, surging higher on a continuation of the rumor that Japan's economy will deteriorate so much the BOJ will have to print more money (even though overnight ex BOJ governor Sekido said Kuroda won't print more) we have a more cautious tone this morning heading into the Easter long weekend. A double earnings miss from Google and IBM following the US market close, comments from the Chinese Premier suggesting that the government will keep its policy settings unchanged, and a press conference from Russia’s President Putin in which the Russian president as expected, has refused to back down, has put a small dampener on sentiment today. Add the fact that due to Good Friday April equities Op-Ex will take place today and trading in the next 9 hours promises to be more unrigged than ever, especially if the NY Fed trading desk manages to slam the VIX into single-digit territory
While overall the beige book was an absolute snoozer, almost as boring as Yellen's earlier appearance at the economic club of New York, and its core message were quite bullish, namely that:
EIGHT OF 12 FED DISTRICTS SAY GROWTH `MODEST OR MODERATE'
FED SAYS ECONOMIC GROWTH `INCREASED IN MOST REGIONS' OF U.S.
FED SAYS LABOR MARKET CONDITIONS `MIXED BUT GENERALLY POSITIVE'
... confirming that the Beige Book contributors did not get the "ignore the dots" memo, the only "exciting" thing that everyone was looking for: what the Fed thought about the weather. Because with 103 instances of the word "weather" in the report (granted less than the 119 in February), it sure thought a lot.
We summarized yesterday's both better and worse than expected Chinese GDP data as follows: "a substantial deterioration of the economy, one which was to be expected yet one which can be spun as either bullish thanks to the GDP "beat", and negatively if the purpose is to make a case for more PBOC stimulus." Sure enough here are the headlines that "explain" the latest overnight futures surge which has once again brought the S&P into the green on the year - a 40 point Spoo move in hours since yesterday's bottom when the Nikkei "leaked" Japan's economy is on the ropes :
- Stocks Rise on China Stimulus Speculation
Here one should of course add the comment that launched yesterday's rebound, namely the Japanese warning that its economy is about to contract, adding to calls for more BOJ stimulus, and finally this other Bloomberg headline:
- The Strengthening Case for ECB Easing
And there you have it - goodbye "fundamental" case; welcome back "central banks will once again bail everyone out" case. Hopefully today's news are absolutely abysmal to add "US economic contraction fear renew calls for untapering" to the list of headlines that should send the S&P to all time highs by the end of today.
- Australia says nothing spotted in search for plane (AP)
- Putin looks to Asia as West threatens to isolate Russia (Reuters)
- China Billionaire Builds Metals With Dreyfus, Glencore Hires (BBG)
- China Beige Book Says Economy Slowing (BBG)
- Caterpillar Said to Be Focus of Senate Overseas Tax Probe (BBG)
- US Cancels Summit With Divided Group of Gulf Nations (WSJ)
- Cyprus defense minister suffers aneurysm (AP)
- Abe to zero in on economy as tax hike looms (Nikkei)
- Europe strikes deal to complete banking union (Reuters)
The Zagat-style summary, the market is "extremely overvalued", but it will rise on an "increase in the level of profits" and "we expect an 8% rise in the level of earnings this year", even though "we expect many firms will issue negative earnings guidance ahead of 1Q 2014 reporting season that takes place from mid-April to mid-May."
The soon-to-be-renamed-Boring-Book, for its constant uniformity of mediocre Goldilocks data offered little to strengthen bulls or bears (as usual) but it seems weather was the key once again. With 119 references to "weather" (6 times more than the January report), they remind us that:
- *FED SAW ECONOMY GROW EVEN AS HARSH WEATHER SLOWED HIRING, SALES
- *FED SAYS OUTLOOK 'AMONG MOST DISTRICTS REMAINED OPTIMISTIC'
But - the "m" words continue to dominate:
- *FED SAYS MOST REPORTS OF IMPROVEMENT WERE 'MODEST TO MODERATE'
As 8 of the 12 districts "reported improved levels of activity"... but but but the weather. Healthcare concerns were cited 16 times.
- High Stakes Limit Bid to Cow Putin (WSJ)
- Russia says can't control Crimea troops ahead of U.S. talks (Reuters)
- Crimea Crisis Haunted by Ghosts of Bungled World War I Diplomacy (BBG)
- Putin’s Ukraine Gambit Hurts Economy as Allies Lose Billions (BBG)
- Germany Says It Provided Equipment and Training to Ukraine's Riot Police (WSJ)
- China signals focus on reforms and leaner, cleaner growth (Reuters)
- China Shares in Hong Kong Decline Amid Default Concern (BBG)
- Beijing Signals New Worry on Growth (WSJ)
With the world still on edge over developments in the Ukraine, overnight newsflow was far less dramatic than yesterday, with no "bombshell" uttered at today's Putin press conferences in which he said nothing new and simply reiterated the party line and yet the market saw it as a full abdication, he did have some soundbites saying Russia should keep economic issues separate from politics, and that Russia should cooperate with all partners on Ukraine. Elsewhere Gazprom kept the heat on, or rather off, saying Ukraine recently paid $10 million of its nat gas debt, but that for February alone Ukraine owes $440 million for gas, which Ukraine has informed Gazprom it can't pay in full. Adding the overdue amounts for prior months, means Ukraine's current payable on gas is nearly $2 billion. Which is why almost concurrently Barosso announced that Europe would offer €1.6 billion in loans as part of EU package, which however is condition on striking a deal with the IMF (thank you US taxpayers), and that total aid could be as large as $15 billion, once again offloading the bulk of the obligations to the IMF. And so one more country joins the Troika bailout routine, and this one isn't even in the Eurozone, or the EU.
"When the market is in the depressive phase of what President Lockhart referred to as a bipolar disorder, crafting policy to satisfy it is like feeding Jabba the Hutt—doing so is fruitless, if not dangerous, because it simply will insist upon more." - Fed's Dick Fisher
Selling hope, after all, is the stock and trade of the Sell Side. But we all need to take a step back and ask ourselves just where we stand on the proverbial economic timeline...
Overview of the major forces shaping the investment climate.
Overview of the dollar's outlook against the major currencies, without a preconceived notion that the US is in some kind of terminal decline.
The positive momentum in equities slowed in Asian trading with losses seen on the Nikkei (-0.4%), and HSCEI , the SCHOMP unchanged and EM indices such as the Nifty (-
0.1%). In Australia, a disappointing December employment report saw a 23k fall in jobs for the month against consensus expectations of rise of 10k. The 10yr Australian government bond has rallied 5bp and the front end is outperforming as a number of investors expect the RBA to continue its easing bias over 2014. AUDUSD has sold off -1.1% to a three year low of 0.881. The ASX200 closed up 1.2% however, boosted by mining-giant Rio Tinto (+2%) who reported better than anticipated Q4 production. Amid recent fears of a Chinese growth deceleration, Rio Tinto reported record levels of production of iron-ore, coal and bauxite. In FX, USDJPY is finding further support in Asia, adding 0.1% to yesterday’s 0.38% gain to trade not too far from the 105 level. Which is also why the S&P futures are trading modestly lower: without a major breakout in the Yen carry, there can't be a sustained ramp in the US stock market which is driven entirely by the value of the Yen, which in turn is a reflection of the expectations of future BOJ easing.
The Beige Book may well be renamed the Boring Book due to the uniformity of its monthly pronouncements, but a few things stands out in a report that saw moderate expansion in the economy across most of the US:
- the Fed said most districts reported increases in home sales... except we assume for San Francisco where home sales plunged to 6 year low,
- the Fed sees "very few reports of staff cuts of plant closings"... which we guess ignores the December jobs reports where the least jobs were added since January 2011,
- the Fed said nine districts reported an increase in retail spending... which is curious considering retail traffic plunged and the holiday spending season was the worst since 2009,
- the Fed said almost half of district reported prices were stable... which probably means the Fed's inflation benchmark is now well below 2%
- and Finally, the Fed said eight district reported upward movement in wages... which also is confusing considering real disposable income per capita just dropped into the negative.
Oh well: we suppose we will take the Fed's word for it.
Is it all about expectations about tapering, again?