Prak central bank balance sheets are still ahead. Interest rate increases are still several quarters out. Austerity has peaked. The output gap has peaked. What does this mean in the week ahead ?
Keep interest rates at zero, whilst printing trillions of dollars, pounds and yen out of thin air, and you can make investors do some pretty extraordinary things. "Central bankers control the price of money and therefore indirectly influence every market in the world. Given this immense power, the ideal central banker would be humble, cautious and deferential to market signals. Instead, modern central bankers are both bold and arrogant in their efforts to bend markets to their will. Top-down central planning, dictating resource allocation and industrial output based on supposedly superior knowledge of needs and wants, is an impulse that has infected political players throughout history." The result was always a conspicuous and dismal failure. Today’s central planners, especially the Federal Reserve, will encounter the same failure in time. The open issues are, when and at what cost to society?
The conventional view of deflation is that if it sets in, “the banking industry, the financial markets, and much of the rest of the economy will be wiped out in a bottomless deflationary spiral.” But, such a spiral would not prove fatal to the lives and welfare of the general population. Rather, it would destroy “essentially those companies and industries that live a parasitical existence at the expense of the rest of the economy, and which owe their existence to our present money system.” Let us be more explicit. Severe deflation threatens at an existential level bankrupt banks and the bankrupt governments that perpetuate their existence. Deflation is a mortal enemy to the heavily indebted state and its embedded parasites, but it is a friend to the saver and to anyone with a positive net worth.
All Wars Are Bankers’ Wars
*YELLEN SAYS FED COMMITTED TO ACCOMMODATION TO SUPPORT RECOVERY
Markets will be hanging on every word of what is likely Janet Yellen's first monetary policy speech and even more so the Q&A afterwards as she suggests that a considerable time is more than 6 months, and the delicate balance she has to play between admitting the economy is ugly while admitting that QE is over no matter what... all the while maintaining some semblance of credibility. One has to wonder if the ripfest rally of the last 24 hours is a buy the rumor ramp ahead of a sell the Yellen news event as once again she is tested...
Yes, this is not meant to be ironic.
As we noted earlier, yesterday's ramp and the continued push higher in futures overnight has been stoked by first Japan, then China, and then Europe headlines proclaiming the great news that economic data is bad enough for the central banks to come back to refill the punchbowl... The result, as the charts below show, is 'magical' as the S&P pushes back up to the crucial for confidence positive territory for 2014.
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.
Moments ago the Nikkei strategically leaked a report that the Japanese cabinet office, quite expectedly, will downgrade its economic assessment in its April report. "Expected" because as we reported, discretionary spending following the sales tax hike, has gotten crushed. Also not unexpected, the USDJPY took the news in stride and posted a modestly bounce in the face of today's relentless selling of the pair. Why? Because to algos and many asset managers desperate for more training wheels from central banks (now that everyone has forgotten how to trade based soely on fundamentals), this means more QE from the BOJ right - after all horrible news for everyone is great news for the 1%.
Not so fast.
Combining China's aggregate domestic production and apparent imports indicates that she has now over 3,514 tonnes. Assuming the U.S. still owns all the gold held by the Fed, this would make China the world's second largest national owner... but it remains unclear whether the Fed's published Gold holdings are actually the property of other nations. Clearly the recent price rise in gold owes something to inflation fears, repressed interest rates and to the Ukrainian situation. In the meantime, a growing awareness of a possible serious and increasing shortage of physical gold and a decline in the power of western central banks to suppress the price, point to a resumption of the fundamental bull market in gold, despite a possible increase in fears of recession.
While Grant Williams can’t speak for anybody else, his nearly thirty years immersed in equity, bond, and commodity markets all around the world, have shown him enough to absolutely confirm in his own mind that the markets are rigged. Not just some of them. All of them. In different ways, to be sure, but they’re all rigged. Not only are they rigged, but they are rigged in ways that beggar belief; and in many places they are rigged by the very people who ought to be responsible for stopping any rigging... Whether Bill O’Brien (or Bob Pisani) likes it or not, Michael Lewis was speaking the truth when he said the market was rigged. He was talking about US equity markets, but rigging goes much, much deeper.
On the 'growth' side, Commercial and Industrial loans are rising at a double digit annual rate of change (although it is unclear whether this is an indication of business optimism or stress - after all, we did see a big jump in these loans leading into the last recession). On the flip side, the bond market and the US dollar index seem to be flashing some warning signs about future growth. Simply put, the outlook for the economy is decidedly uncertain right now and we think so is the confidence in Janet Yellen. We think the more dire outcome for stocks would be if Toto fully pulled back the curtain on monetary policy and revealed it to be nothing more than a bunch clueless economists sitting in a conference room with no ability to control the economy or the markets. If US growth disappoints after all the Fed has done, how could anyone continue to view the Fed wizards as omnipotent? That would send the stock market back over the rainbow to the reality of an economy with big structural problems that can only be solved through political negotiation, something that has been notable only by its absence over – at least – the last 6 years. Are we headed back to Kansas?
Futures are treading water once more now that Ukraine has stormed to center stage from the backburner after everyone was convinced Putin would let the situation cool off after annexing Crimea. Guess not. Adding the renewed geopolitical jitters to what has already been a beta stock bloodbath into a holiday shortened week assures some high volatility fireworks. Cautious sentiment was observed over in Asia (Nikkei 225 -0.36%) amid renewed fears that geopolitical tensions in Ukraine will flare up again following reports of exchange gunfire with pro-Russian militants. This sentiment carried over into the European session with stocks lower across the board (Eurostoxx50 -0.71%). EUR is lower after ECB’s Draghi said any further strengthening of the EUR would warrant further action by the ECB, including non-standard measures such as quantitative easing - it is amazing how frequently and often the Virtu algos still fall for Draghi's jawboning trick which has now become all too clear will never be implemented and certainly not if he keeps talking about it daily, as he does.
We have bad news for hedge funds who, like Hugh Hendry in December of last year, threw fundamentals and caution to the wind and, with great reservations, jumped into this momo bandwagon in which mere buying beget more buying until nobody knew why anyone bought in the first place... and then everything crashed, leading to the worst day for hedge funds in a decade: according to Goldman's David Kostin, whose job is to be a cheerleader for the intangible "wealth effect" leading to all too tangible Goldman bonuses: "The stock market will likely recover during the next few months... but not momentum stocks."
The bull market in stocks is showing more signs of fatigue. Are we about to witness a change in trend?