East Ukraine may be independent in a result which the Kremlin said it "respects" and hopes for a "civilized implementation" of the referendum results, and which assures further military escalation in the proxy war of east versus west, but stocks are happy to ignore it all again. The reason: a positive close over in Asia (ex-Japan) after China’s State Council pledged to reform markets buoyed demand for risk, although it really is just a follow through to the furious VIX slam in the last hour of US Friday trading, which said otherwise, means buying of US equities was the reason to buy US equities. More importantly and adding to the early spoo euphoria were comments by ECB's Nowotny who said that interest rate cut alone would likely be too little to combat low inflation - suggesting a European QE is coming - also acted as a catalyst for the latest uptick in stocks: when trapped like the ECB and when "guiding" to future activity, if unable to actually execute it, may as well go all the way. End result, Spoos up nearly 0.5% because, well, others are buying spoos.
Dispassionate discussion of the near-term forces at work in the foreign exchange market.
Despite Mario Draghi and Janet Yellen's (repeat) attempt to steal the show today, the first when the ECB reports its monetary decision (with zero real chance of announcing any change in policy considering all the furious, and failed, attempts to jawbone the Euro lower) as it faces the dilemma of deflationary pressure, record low bond yields and interest rates at record lows coupled with an export crushing Euro just shy of 1.40, and a practical impossibility to conduct QE even as the hawks jawbone a "potential" European QE to death, while Janet Yellen conducts the second part of the congressional testimony this time before the Senate Budget Committee where she will again, say nothing at all, it appears the world will be focused on Russia once again after the latest 24 hour "de-escalation" gambit is now once again dead and buried and on top of it is Putin waving a "come launch a nuclear attack at me, bro" flag.
Perhaps the most important "news" of the day is that it is non-Tuesday. Yes, there was actual news news, like German factory orders dropping -2.8% on expectations of a 0.3% increase, French industrial production down -0.7% on expectations of a 0.3% increase (both misses driven by a soaring Euro which is now spitting distance away from the 1.40 ECB "redline"), the Nikkei tumbling 2.9% to just above 14000, the Shanghai Composite down 0.9%, SocGen Q1 profit plunging 13% and conveniently blaming it on Russia, speaking of Russia things continue to deteriorate even though Interfax reported that the country has received the first part, some $3.2 billion, of the promised IMF bailout - money which will be used to promptly pay Gazprom... and buy gold, a sudden conflict between China and Vietnam escalating over the placement of an offshore oil rig and so forth, but in the new normal, none of this matters.
In this brave New Normal world, a Chinese contraction is somehow expected to be offset by a rebound in Europe's worst economies, because following China's latest PMI miss, overnight we were told of beats in the Service PMI in Spain (56.5, vs Exp. 54.0, a 7 year high sending the Spanish 10 Year to fresh sub 3% lows), Italy at 51.1, vs Exp. 50.5, also pushing Italian yields to record lows, and France 50.4 (Exp. 50.3). We would speculate that macro events such as these, as fabricated as they may be, are relevant or even market-moving, but they aren't - all that matters is what the JPY and VIX traders at the NY Fed do in a low volume tape, usually in the last 30 minutes of the trading day. And since the trading day today happens to be a Tuesday, and nothing ever goes down on a Tuesday, the outcome is pretty much clear, and not even the absolutely abysmal Barclays earnings report has any chance of denting the latest rigged and manufactured low-volume levitation.
This week, markets are likely to focus on US ISM Nonmanufacturing, services and composite PMIs in the Euro area (expect increases), ECB’s Monetary Policy Decision (expect no change in policy until further ahead), and Congressional testimony by Fed’s Yellen.
After months of ignoring events in Ukraine, HFT algos suddenly, if one for the time being, have re-discovered just where the former USSR country is on the map, and together with the latest economic disappointment out of China in the form of its official manufacturing PMI which missed expectations for the sixth month in a row, futures are oddly non-green at this moment now that talk of a Ukraine civil war is the new black (after two months of ignoring the elephant in the room... or rather bear in the room). Lighter volumes, courtesy of holidays in Japan and UK, have not helped the market breadth and stocks in Europe are broadly lower with the DAX (-1.33%) and CAC (-1.19%) weighed upon by risk off sentiment and market positioning for the eagerly anticipated ECB policy meeting especially after the EU cuts its Euro-Area 2014 inflation forecast from 1.0% to 0.8%. But what's bad for stocks continues to be good for equities, and moments ago the 10Y dropped to a paltry 2.57%, the lowest since February... and continuing to maul treasury shorts left and right.
- Ukraine attacks rebel city, helicopter shot down (Reuters)
- Euro Unemployment Holds Near Record Amid Factory Gains (BBG)
- Yellen’s Fed Resigned to Diminished Growth Expectations (BBG)
- Junket Figure's Disappearance Shakes Macau's Gambling Industry (WSJ)
- China tried to undermine economic report showing its ascendancy (WSJ)
- Liquidity Trap Hitting AAA Bonds Has ATP CEO Sounding Alarm (BBG)
- AstraZeneca Snubs Pfizer Approach That U.K. Won’t Block (BBG)
- Missing Jet Recordings May Have Been 'Edited' (NBC)
- RBS turns corner as first-quarter profit trebles (Reuters)
- Japan household spending hits four-decade high, wages key to outlook (RTRS) while Real Incomes Drop 3.3% in March, 6th straight decline
On a closing price basis, the trading range for the US 10 year note since January 24th has been 22 basis points which is the narrowest in that length of time in over 30 years. Often times, narrow trading ranges act like coiled springs. The longer markets stay in those ranges the greater the pressure builds. Tight ranges over longer time periods cause ever-more-powerful movements once the ranges break. Over the next two weeks, there are multitudes of events and economic data which could set the tone of trading for the next several months and potentially provide the catalyst necessary for markets to break out of ranges.
If one needed a flurry of "worse than expected" macro data to "explain" why European bourses and US futures are up, one got them: first with UK Q1 GDP printing at 0.8%, below the expected 0.9%, then German consumer prices falling 0.1% in April, and finally with Spanish unemployment actually rising from a revised 25.73% to 25.93%, above the 25.85% expected. All of this was "good enough" to allow Italy to price its latest batch of 10 Year paper at a yield of 3.22%, the lowest yield on record! Either way, something else had to catalyze what is shaping up as another 0.5% move higher in US stocks and that something is the old standby, the USDJPY, which ramped higher just before the European open and then ramped some more when European stocks opened for trading. Look for at least one or two more USDJPY momentum ignition moments at specific intervals before US stocks open for trading. But all of that is moot. Remember - the biggest catalyst of what promises to be the latest buying panic rampathon is simple: it's Tuesday (oh, and the $2-$2.5 billion POMO won't hurt).
A dispassionate look at next week's events and data.
While events in Ukraine have once again broken out into lethal fighting, and in a surprise development the Chinese Yuan crossed the 6.25 line for the first time in two years threatening to accelerate the unwind of carry trades which have a 6.25-6.30 point of max pain, futures remain completely focused solely on the strong after-hours results from Apple and Facebook which have helped push Spoos overnight to near record levels once again. The biggest push was given to NASDAQ futures which are back up 1% with optimism for US tech returning with the material earnings beats from both Apple ($11.62 EPS vs Est $10.17 EPS) and Facebook ($0.34 Adj EPS vs $0.24 forecast). Shares in both companies rose in afterhours trading with Facebook up +5% and Apple up more than +7% (supported further by the announcement that the company was expanding its share buyback plan to $90bn from $60bn). Not even the Nikkei being down 1%, the SHCOMP down 0.5% and the USDJPY once again treading water could put a dent in the tech-driven euphoria, which somehow also managed to slam gold and silver to month lows.
It has been exactly six days in which algos, reversing the most recent drop in the S&P with buying sparked by a casual Nikkei leak that the BOJ may, wink wink, boost its QE (subsequently denied until such time as that rumor has to be used again), have pushed the market higher in the longest buying streak since September, ignoring virtually every adverse macroeconomic news, and certainly ignoring an earnings season that is set to be the worst since 2012. Today, the buying streak may finally end on rumors even the vacuum tubes are scratching their glassy heads if more buying on bad or no news makes any sense now that even the likes of David Einhorn is openly saying the second tech bubble has arrived. Keep an eye on the USDJPY which has had seen some rather acute "trapdoor" action in early trading and is approaching 102 after breaching its 55-DMA technical support of 102.38. If the support is broken here we go again on the downside. Keep an eye on biotechs and GILD in particular - if the early strength reverts into more selling again (after the two best days for the biotech space in 30 months), the most recent euphoria phase is now over.
Moving onto overnight markets, apart from China we are seeing broad based gains across most Asian equities. Bourses in Japan, Korea and Australia are up +0.2%, +0.2% and +0.5% respectively whereas the Hang Seng and the Shenzhen Composite indices are down -0.2% and -1.1% as we type. The gains in broader Asia Pacific followed what was another constructive session for risk assets yesterday during US trading hours. The S&P 500 (+0.38%) rose for its 5th consecutive day partly driven by better corporate earnings from the likes of GE and Morgan Stanley. Staying on the results season, we’ve had 70 of the S&P 500 companies reporting so far and the usual trend is starting to emerge in which earnings beats are faring better than revenue beats. Indeed the beat:miss ratio for earnings has been strong at 77%:23% whereas revenue beats/misses are more balanced at 50%:50%. Looking ahead, markets should get ready for another big week of US earnings.