Ahead of this Thursday's ECB meeting, speculation is rife about what Mario Draghi will announce, and as the following Nomura chart highlights most pundits are convinced that the most likely announcement is a cut in the refi and deposit rate with a probability of around 90%, an LTRO in distant third at 34%, and a full blown QE dead last with 10%. However, as SocGen predicts, which is rather aggressive in its assumptions expecting a negative deposit rate of -0.1%, a targeted LTRO to "boost lending to the private sector", and a "signal" of €300 billion in asset purchases, the bulk of this new-found liquidity will almost exclusively go to boost capital markets, and the wealth effect. As for the broader economy? "We do not expect the 5 June measures to deliver a significant impulse to the real economy."
Dispassionae look at the several events in the week ahead.
Friday's latest resignation of yet another former Obama administration faithful - that of White House press secretary Jay Carney - got us thinking: how many people have jumped off the USS Obamic? The answer is, in short, a lot. Below is a list (by no means complete) of the most prominent officials and advisors who have quietly exited the Obama administration stage left over the past 6 years.
One of the most important, but difficult to measure, concepts in macroeconomics is the natural or equilibrium real interest rate. This is the rate of interest consistent with full employment and stable inflation. The last few weeks have seen bond yields tumble and a rising cacophony of market participants questioning both the Fed's central tendency of terminal or natural rates (around 4%) and the market's perception of how fast we get there. SF Fed Williams models see a 1.8% natural rate, BofA also believes it is between 1.5 and 2%; and now Citi admits, "fair value of long-term rates may be lower than we and other market participants judged them to be."
If clichés reflect overly common (if therefore unappreciated) wisdom, then we finally have a good explanation for why risk assets continue to rally. No, there are actually not “More buyers than sellers” – money flows are negative over the last month for both U.S. equity mutual funds and ETFs. And forget about investors “Downgrading on valuation” as stocks climb higher and higher; truth be told, that’s not even really a thing (unless you work on the sell side). Nope, this is a “Flight to quality”, “don’t fight the Fed”, “never short a dull market” environment with “easy comps” from a long rough winter. Want to call a top somewhere around here? Remember that “Markets discount events 6 months in the future.” A “Santa Claus rally” in June? That would fit the one cliché we know is actually the market’s True North: it will do exactly what hurts the most “Smart” investors. And that would be to rally further as the doomsayers double down and the timid cling to their bonds and cash.
- Yellen Concerned by Housing Slowdown She Has Scant Power to Cure (BBG)
- Because snow in Q1? Citigroup’s CFO Says Trading Revenue Could Slide 25% (BBG)
- Banks Raise Caution Flag on Trading (WSJ)
- The answer is yes: Hilsenrath asks if BOJ’s Kuroda Awakening to His Limits? (WSJ)
- Google Develops Prototype Cars for Fully Autonomous Driving (WSJ)
- Amazon Expects Lengthy Hachette Dispute (WSJ)
- Tencent $1 Billion Game Shows Global Hunt for Mobile Hits (BBG)
Yes, U.S. capital markets have officially gone "Full Seinfeld"; As ConvergEX's Nick Colas notes, Tuesday’s selloff over “Nothing” reversed higher Wednesday throuygh Friday for similarly non-specific reasons. So, today we will go a little further afield and talk about words and what they tell us about shifting societal priorities and norms. Wonder what the most commonly searched word might be on the Merriam-Webster website? It is “Pragmatic”... which seems incredibly ironic given the total lack of pragmatism that appears to be shown in world markets.
In a greatly ironic moment for capital markets, minutes ahead of the Fed's Bill Dudley speaking about "low volatility in markets is a cause for concerns, indicates complacency," VIX just collapsed in a pile of "we don't need no stinking protection" volatility selling to its lowest level since December 2013 and almost its lowest since April 2013 recovery lows.
Equity markets are not happy about the Fed's Charles Plosser's economic exuberance ("3% growth no matter the weather" which is 20% above consensus of 2.5%) and his 'good-news-bad-news' monetary policy hawkishness ("may need to raise rates sooner rather than later"). But perhaps the most crucial part of his speech this morning was what the headlines notably left out. Plosser admonished his global central bank brethren: "if central banks do not limit their interventionist strategies and focus on returning to more normal policymaking aimed at promoting price stability and long-term growth, then they will simply encourage the financial markets to ignore fundamentals and to focus instead on the next actions of the central bank." Simply put, he warned, "central bankers have become too sensitive and desirous of managing prices in the financial world.."
As we have discussed numerous times, the dash-for-trash in US equities has been insatiable as any and every consequence of screwing up is slowly removed from capitalism (and capital markets). As Goldman's David Kostin notes, companies with weak balance sheets have outperformed peers with strong balance sheets by 49 percentage points during the past two years (89% vs. 40%) with realized volatility of just 7%. Although the trend is daunting - to say the least - Goldman believes it will continue for three reasons...
Be afraid... be very afraid. This is not your father's - or even your older brother's equity market. As we have discussed for over 5 years and Michael Lewis dragged kicking-and-screaming into the world's eyeballs, there is something very different about the world's capital markets than ever before. ConvergEx's all-encompassing "Traders Guide to Global Equity Markets" is, simply put, everything you wanted to know (and perhaps did not) about the world's stock markets but were afraid to ask. The subtle title they chose to explain the various order types and market structure dynamics - "Trading Minefields" - you can't avoid them unless you know where they are.
While most mainstream media is focused on villainizing Putin and the ongoing 'diplomacy' in Ukraine, we warned Monday of the dramatically escalating tensions between Vietnam and China over oil-drilling in disputed waters. The initial verbal to and fro - Vietnam angry at the move and China shunning them - was followed by physical interactions (multiple rammings and water-cannon use) and the US then got involved (laying the blame firmly at China's foot calling the move "provocative"). The capital markets appear a little more concerned about where this 'tension' leads as the Vietnamese stock market crashed almost 6% - its largest drop in 13 years.
Wall Street is back in the business of lending money at the Fed’s gifted rate of zero plus a modest 80 basis point spread - so that the fast money can buy CLO paper on 9 to 1 leverage. There is your triple shuffle. It didn’t work out last time, but that doesn’t matter because the game is obvious. After enough buying on Wall Street’s triple leverage, junk loan prices might temporarily rebound. Then the brokers will put out the call to retail: The junk loan asset class is rebounding - its time to come back. For the final shearing, that is!
- Fed’s Fisher Says Economy Strengthening as Payrolls Rise (BBG)
- Russia Knows Europe Sanctions Ineffective With Tax Havens (BBG)
- EU Cuts Euro-Area Growth Outlook as Inflation Seen Slower (BBG)
- U.S. Firms With Irish Addresses Get Tax Breaks Derided as ‘Blarney’ (BBG)
- Portugal exits bailout without safety net of credit line (Euronews)
- Puzzled Malaysian Air Searchers Ponder What to Try Now (BBG)
- Barclays, Credit Suisse Battle Banker Exodus, Legal Woes (BBG)
- Germany says euro level not an issue for politicians (Reuters)
- Alibaba-Sized Hole Blown in Nasdaq 100 Amid New Stock (BBG)
- Obamacare to save large corporations hundreds of billions (The Hill)
The still-dominant consensus view that America’s economy is poised to single-handedly yank the world out of its lethargy is likely to be disappointed once again with the odds high that our economy will remain burdened by growth-inhibiting monetary policies. In addition, it will continue to be negatively impacted by various other impediments, including a populace that is increasingly under-employed, an unwieldy and inscrutable tax code, a Rube Goldberg-like healthcare system, an increasingly ossified infrastructure, and a regulatory apparatus that congests the lungs of our economy, small businesses... weaning the stock market off of casino capitalism promises to be anything but pain-free. But did any responsible adult really believe there would be no pay-back for all these years of the Fed’s force-fed gains? If you do, you probably also believe foie gras grows on trees.