Many are confused this morning at the exuberance in US equities after dismal data and a bond market that is barely budging. Of course, the answer lies deep in the fun-durr-mentals of the JPY carry trade... but this time it's different as it would appear a note from BofA proclaiming "it's time to buy AUD" coincided perfectly with a ramp in AUDJPY and thus - new all-time highs in stocks...
Asian equities are trading lower across the board on the back of some negative credit stories from China. Shanghai Securities News noted that ICBC and some other banks have curbed loans to developers in sectors such as steel and cement. Slower gains in home property prices in China’s tier 1 cities are also not helping sentiment. Beijing and Shenzhen prices rose 0.4% in January, which looks to be the slowest monthly gain since October 2012 according to Bloomberg. Elsewhere there are reports that a property developer in Hangzhou (Tier 2 city in China) is reducing its unit prices by 19%. Our property analysts noted that given the strong gains seen in Tier-1 and some bigger Tier-2 cities in 2013, a slowdown or negative trends in price growth should not be a surprise. Nevertheless, it has been a very weak day for Chinese and HK markets with the Shanghai Composite and the Hang Seng indices down -2.0% and -1.2% lower as we type. Across the region, bourses in Japan and Korea are down -1.0% and -0.6%, respectively.
Sometimes you just have to sit back, look at some charts, and say WTF...
This week saw the continuation of the "bad news is good news" theme as one economic report after another came in far below expectations. The question remains whether it is actually all just a function of the weather? Of course, there is something inherently wrong with driving asset prices higher based on hopes that a weaker economy will keep the Fed's "liquidity fix" flowing to drug addicted Wall Street traders. Under that theory, we should be rooting for an outright "depression" to double our portfolio values. But, when put into that context, it suddenly doesn't make much sense. Yet that is the world in which we live in...for now. Therefore, as we wind down the week on this "options expiry" Friday, here is a list of things to think about over the weekend.
Step aside long-time hedge fund hotel darlings Apple and AIG, and make room for...
"The Pig In The Python Is About To Be Expelled": A Walk Thru Of China's Hard Landing, And The Upcoming Global Harder ResetSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/21/2014 09:37 -0500
The die has been cast, and it appears that the world is finally on the path to the great "carry-trade unwind" endgame. If so, this is what it will look like...
The last week or two appeared to be dominated by hope that the transitory weakness in data was weather-related, the recovery was all good, and that the Fed would un-taper to give it a helping hand just in case... Today's FOMC minutes made it clear the latter was not the case and today's macro data made it clear this weakness is not just the weather. With US macro data at six-month lows, the last 2 days saw credit and equity protection markets well bid - even as underlying stocks surged back to unchanged on the year. However, between Fed talking-heads and the FOMC minutes, hope faded... stocks tumbled, credit widened, Treasury yields surged higher, the USD jumped, and precious metals were slammed into the red on the week. Volume - surprise surprise - was the highest in over a week.
Stocks are confused. The FOMC Minutes, which clarified that a) taper is on (no matter what almost), and b) forward guidance has been replaced by some fluffy words; have sent the USD higher, bond yields higher, and precious metals lower in 'classic' un-taper unwind mode. Stocks are holding (for now) as the USD strength (and implicit JPY weakness) is supporting US equities via the idiocy of the carry trade. VIX remains well bid and credit markets are blowing wider.
“Guidance” is the new organizing credo of US financial life with Janet Yellen officially installed as the new Wizard of Oz at the Federal Reserve. Guidance refers to periodic cryptic utterances made by the Wizard in staged appearances before congress or in the “minutes” (i.e. transcribed notes) from meetings of the Fed’s Open Market Committee. The cryptic utterances don’t necessarily have any bearing on reality, but are issued with the hope that they will be mistaken for it, especially by managers in the financial markets where assets are priced and traded.
While the only fun-durr-mentals that matter appear to be global central bank liquidity injections (and thus the level of leverage entrusted to the JPY carry trade), the crowd is swayed by truthisms and "common knowledge" memes that recovery is here, that things are improving, that earnings are 'solid', that markets are still cheap, and that historical analogs are different this time. However, with monetary policy at a turning point, we also appear (fundamentally and technically) to be at "the inflection point from self-reinforcing speculation to fragile instability."
So far the overnight session has been a replica of yesterday, with the all important carry trade once again fizzling overnight during Japan trading hours, and dipping as low at 101.60 before staging a modest rebound to the 101.8 level. We expect the "invisible" 102.000 USDJPY tractor beam to be again engaged shortly and provide market support and/or levitate stocks higher as the now standard selling in Japan, buying in the US trade pattern repeats. On the other hand, US equity futures appear to have decoupled from the pure carry trade, and instead latched on to USD weakness and EUR strength following European Q4 GDP data, which came at 0.3% on expectations of 0.2%, up from 0.1%. Considering the constant adjustments to the European definition of GDP, at this point Mongolia would have been able to demonstrate growth if it was in Europe (but apparently not Greece which once again missed GDP expectations with Q4 GDP of -2.6% vs Exp. -2.0%). Expect ES and USDJPY to recouple shortly, as they always do - the only question if the recoupling will take place lower or higher.
Trust is gone and credit is going and debt is sitting between a rock and a hard place with its grubby hands pressed together, praying that it will be forgiven, forgotten, or overlooked a little while longer. By the way, the reason trust and credit are gone is because oil is no longer cheap and world economies can’t grow anymore. They can’t afford to run the day-to-day operations of a techno-industrial society. They can only pretend to afford it. The stock markets are mere scorecards for players who can only lie and cheat now to keep the game going. Somewhere beyond all the legerdemain and fraud, however, there remains a real world that is not going away. We just don’t know what it will look like when the smog of fraud clears.
After Friday's surge fest on weaker than expected news - perhaps expecting a tapering of the taper despite everyone screaming from the rooftops the Fed will never adjust monetary policy based on snowfall levels - overnight the carry trade drifted lower and pulled the correlated US equity markets down with it. Why? Who knows - after Friday's choreographed performance it is once again clear there is no connection between newsflow, fundamentals and what various algos decide to do. So (lack of) reasons aside, following a mainly positive close in Asia which was simply catching up to the US exuberance from Friday, European equities have followed suit and traded higher from the get-go with the consumer goods sector leading the way after being boosted by Nestle and L'Oreal shares who were seen higher after reports that Nestle is looking at ways to reduce its USD 30bln stake in L'Oreal. The tech sector is also seeing outperformance following reports that Nokia and HTC have signed a patent and technology pact; all patent litigation between companies is dismissed. Elsewhere, the utilities sector is being put under pressure after reports that UK Energy Secretary Ed Davey urged industry watchdog Ofgem to examine the profits being made by the big six energy companies through supplying gas, saying that Centrica's British Gas arm is too profitable.
Over the last year, investors have been lulled to sleep wrapped in the warmth of complacency as the Federal Reserve stoked the fires of the market with $85 billion a month in liquidity injections. I have written many times in the past that investors were likely to be rudely awakened by an unexpected event of which was likely not even on the majority of mainstream analysts radars. That occurred this past week as a revulsion in emerging markets sent the "carry trade" running in reverse. What we will need to ponder this weekend is whether the current correction is simply just a dip within an ongoing uptrend OR have the "bears" finally awakened from their winter hibernation?
Yesterday we reported a warning by BNP that "The Run On Ukrainian Deposits May Have Already Started." Obviously, while the real implications for the country's financial system should a full-blown bank run emerge would be dire , they would take some time to manifest themselves, especially since as Interfax reported, the country's central bank still has $17.8 billion in reserves as of today (if sliding at an alarming pace). To be expected, overnight the same central bank reiterated its support for the currency, knowing that the last thing it can afford is an evaporation in confidence. However, judging by the surge in Ukraine CDS ealier today, which soared by 89bps to 1,089bps today, highest since Dec. 10 on closing basis, i.e., before the Russian bailout (which may or may not be concluded), investors are hardly convinced by the local developments. And the final confirmation that very soon it will be all up to a Russian bailout to fix the situation, was news from minutes ago that the Ukraine just had a failed bond auction. Then again, Russia itself had a failed bond auction just days ago, so perhaps it has bigger fish to fry than pre-funding the Ukraine rescue package.