The PBOC's willingness to a) enter the global currency war (beggar thy neighbor), and b) 'allow' the Yuan to weaken and thus crush carry traders and leveraged 'hedgers' is about to get serious. The total size of the carry trades and hedges is hard to estimate but Deutsche believes it is around $500bn and as Morgan Stanley notes the ongoing weakness means things can get ugly fast as USDCNY crosses the crucial 6.25 level where losses from hedge products begin to surge. This is a critical level as it pre-dates Fed QE3 and BoJ QQE levels and these are pure levered derivative MtM losses - not a "well they will just rotate to US equities" loss - which means major tightening on credit conditions...
There is a stark difference between the states of the markets for the monetary metals. The number of open futures contracts in gold is low, while in silver it’s high. What does it mean?
USDJPY has fallen over 250 pips in the last few days and today is its biggest daily drop in 8 months as stimulus-hope premia is removed from the FX carry trade juicer. USDJPY has retraced all its post-FOMC gains in the last 2 days as the euphoria-to-disaster crowd continues to flood in and out. This dive has driven Nikkei 225 futures down almost 1000 points from Friday's highs, pressuring the Japanese stock market to near its cheapest to the Dow in 15 months.
Being that markets are unrigged and all, at least according to every single proponent of HFT that is, futures have done their overnight levitation as they have every day for the past month driven by the one staple - the Yen carry trade - even if in recent days the broader market slump during the actual daytrading session mostly impacted biotechs yesterday. And since any news is good news, we don't expect today's main event, the ECB's rate announcement and Draghi press conference, both of which are expected to announce nothing new despite Europe's outright inflationary collapse which most recently dropped to 0.5%, the lowest since 2009.
Both the entire month of March, and its last full week, particularly for biotech investors and especially hedge funds, is a time that many would rather forget and continue pretending that the saying "as January goes, so goes the year" is no longer applicable. Luckily, for all those bulls who have forgotten that in a normal market there is both return and risk, at least in pre-New Normal times, there may be some good news. As Bank of America's chief technician MacNeil Curry reminds us, April is the least cruel month for stocks, posting the highest monthly average return since 1950, returning just over 2.0%.
Since the beginning of 2013, the market has been seen as invulnerable. Despite issues in the Eurozone, rising turmoil in the Mideast, riots and political clashes, rising oil prices and weak economic data - these issues bounced off the markets will little effect. The markets craved "bad news" as it provided insurance that the Federal Reserve would continue its "liquidity drip." It is important to note in the first chart above, that some of the biggest negative annual returns eventually followed 30% up years. The current levels of margin debt, bullish sentiment, and institutional activity are indicative of an extremely optimistic view of the market. Regardless, it is important to understand that it is always just a function of "when" a mean reverting event will occur. Unfortunately for many investors who fail to understand the "risk" they have undertaken within their portfolios, when that time comes it will matter "a lot."
Oh the dashed hopes... Just as we warned earlier... the dreams that yesterday was the dip to get back in and ride the waves of central bank largesse to another double in your favorite social media or Biotech stock are fading fast. Today is an almost perecect replay of yesterday's market action so far... pre-open Gold dump, JPY pump to sustain stocks at highs, spark retail bounce buyers back in and pros sell into strength as the "high growth" momentum stocks and Biotechs all reverse earlier gains in a hurry as all major stock indices are once again red post-Yellen.
With another session in which US futures levitate into the open, despite a modest drop in the Nikkei225 (to be expected after the president of Japan’s Government Pension Investment Fund, the world’s largest pension fund, said that a review of asset allocations into stocks is not aimed at supporting domestic share prices) and an unchanged Shanghai Composite while the currency pair du jour, the USDCNY, closes higher despite tumbling in early trade (which also was to be expected after a former adviser to the People’s Bank of China said China is headed for a “mini crisis” in its local- government debt market as economic reforms lead to the first defaults) everyone is asking: will it be deja vu all over again, and after a solid ramp into 9:30 am, facilitated without doubt by the traditional Yen carry trade, will stocks roll over as first biotech and then all other bubble stocks are whacked? We will find out in just over two hours.
In the aftermath of yesterday's key market event, the FOMC's $10 billion tapering and elimination of QE with "QualG", not to mention the "dots" and the "6 month" comment, the USD has been on fire against all key pairs, with the EURUSD sliding below 1.38, a 150 pip move in one day which should at least give Mario Draghi some comfort, but more importantly sending the USDJPY soaring to 102.500 even as US equity futures continue to slide, and not to mention the Nikkei which tumbled -1.7% to just above 14,000 overnight. Perhaps the biggest take home message for traders from yesterday is that the Yen carry trade correlation to the Emini is now dead if only for the time being until DE Shaw and Virtu recalibrate their all-important correlation signal algos. The other big news overnight was the plunge in the Yuan, tumbling 0.5%, 6.2286, up 343 pips and crushing countless speculators now that the "max vega" point has been passed. Expect under the radar news about insolvent trading desks over the next few days, as numerous mega levered FX traders, who had bet on continued CNY appreciation are quietly carted out the back door. Elsewhere, gold and other commodities continue to be hit on rising fear the plunging CNY will accelerate the unwind of Chinese Commodity Funding Deals.
"We never should have painted ourselves so deep in this QE corner in the first place," chides David Stockman, "because the whole predicate [of Fed policy] is false." The author of The Great Deformation holds nothing back in this brief 3-minute primer of everything is wrong with the American economic system (and the CNBC anchors definitely did not want to hear). "We are already at peak debt and forcing more into the economy didn't work," and won't work as is merely funds Wall Street's latest carry trade to nowhere and fiscal irresponsibility in Washington. Simply put, "the private credit channel of monetary transmission is busted," so the Fed is exploiting the only channel it has left - "the bubble channel."
It would appear that the widening of the daily trading bands (we discussed last night) are having a directional effect on USDCNY as the devaluation continues on the back of forced carry-trade unwinds. At 6.19, CNY is its weakest in 11 months (2.5% weaker than its lows in January) and the last 2 months have seen by far the biggest weakening in the currency on record. This 'implied' easing is modestly supporting the stock market and copper for now (though we suspect that is more spillover from risk-on squeezes post-Ukraine). While Goldman and BofA are adamant that widening the bands will not mean a change in trend overall, it seems clear that hot money is outflowing and driving a trend change anyway as corporate bond prices are not rising and home-price appreciation is slowing in the major cities.
While Goldman is quickly down-playing the decision by the PBOC to double the size of the daily trading bands for USDCNY to +/2.0% as a risk-off event (just as it was in 2012 - but blame that on Greece as cause rather than symptom), BofA is a little less sanguine about the move noting a more volatile CNY/USD without trend appreciation will deter hot money inflow and perhaps will result in some unwinding of previous inflow. With 1-month volatility spiking to over 4% (its highest in over 2 years), the move is sure to remove some carry traders as risk-rewards break down on their leveraged positions.
With Chinese authorities clamping down on the shadow-banking system, taking action of their bubble-bursting reforms, and now increasing the trading bands on the Yuan (to increase volatility and hopefully unwind, in a controlled manner, the biggest and most one-sided carry trade in the world's markets), we thought it perhaps surprising that growing numbers of Chinese are using UnionPay - a state-backed bank card - to illegally funnell billion of dollars out of the country. As Reuters reports, its unclear why the PBOC has not clamped down on this as documents show they are well aware of it... and as one clerk noted "don't worry... everyone's doing it."
The "good" news this evening is that Baoding Tianwei Baobian Electric Co (TBE), the company which as recently as two days ago was rumored to be the second "imminent" Chinese corporate bond default which sent copper to multi year lows, has issued a statement that it will not default on its upcoming interest payment (due July 11th - so how the delisted company is convinced it will have enough cash four months from now is a mustery). The "bad" news is that markets don't care. There is a slight whiff of positivity in Copper futures but aside from that, weakness continues in China's corporate bond and stock market. Simply put, the market gets it - this is no longer about the next idiosyncratic bond (or trust) to default; this is about Xi's renewed confidence in efforts to 'clean up' the mounting local government and corporate debts and shrink the shadow-banking bubble. This is systemic, and the markets know it.
While the Fed's interventions have certainly bolstered asset prices by driving a "carry trade," these programs do not address the central issue necessary in a consumer driven economy which is "employment." In an economy that is nearly 70% driven by consumption, production comes first in the economic order. Without a job, through which an individual produces a good or service in exchange for payment, there is no income to consume with. With the Federal Reserve now effectively removing the "patient" from life support, we will see if the economy can sustain itself. If this recent Bloomberg poll is correct, then we are likely to get an answer very shortly, and it may very well be disappointment.