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Equity Blow Off Top Takes Brief Overnight Rest, Prepares For Another Session Of Low Volume LevitationSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 05/30/2014 06:03 -0500
Last night's docket of atrocious Japanese economic data inexplicably managed to push the Nikkei lower, not because the data was ugly but because the scorching inflation - the highest since 1991 - mostly driven by import costs, food and energy as a result of a weak yen, and certainly not in wages, has pushed back most banks' estimates of additional QE to late 2014 if not 2015 which is as we predicted would happen over a year ago. As a result the market, addicted to central bank liquidity, has had to make a modest reassessment of just how much disconnected from reality it is willing to push equities relative to expectations of central bank balance sheet growth. However, now that the night crew trading the USDJPY is replaced with the US session algo shift which does a great job of re-levitating the pair, and with it bringing the S&P 500 higher, we expect this brief flicker of red futures currently observable on trading terminals to be promptly replaced with the friendly, well-known and "confidence-boosting" green. The same goes for Treasurys which lately have been tracking every directional move in stocks not in yield but in price.
The melt up is accelerating and with the momentum tailwind back, newsflow is once again irrelevant: any news that are even remotely good are trumpeted, and any bad news - such as Europe's right storm rising in the northern states, and left storm surge in the states that demand more handouts from the northern states or China sinking a Vietnamese boat, the most serious bilateral incident since 2007 - are once again (and as usual) nothing more than a catalyst for even more liquidity injections. End result: the S&P futures this morning are 5 points above Goldman's year end target of 1900 and 45 points away from its June 30, 2015 target. Can this breakneck scramble on zero volume continue until Grantham's bubble peak level of 2,200 is hit? Well of course: after all anything goes in the centrally-planned new normal. To be sure, this is an equity only phenomenon: moments ago the Bund future hit its highest level since May 19, while the 10 Year remains unchanged at 2.53% as it continues to price in the new "deflationary" (and Japanese) normal. And as has been the case during all such divergences of late, either bonds or equities are making a horrible mistake: the question remains: who? Since all equities are doing is tracking FX pairs to the pip and have completely forgotten all about fundamentals, we have a pretty good idea what the answer is.
Another day where the taken for granted overnight futures levitation is missing (despite a rather rampy USDJPY), indicates that algos are likely waiting for guidance from today's NFP data (buy if beat, buy more if miss) before committing monopoly money. The consensus for today's NFP is 218K, (up from 192K), although as Goldman notes the whisper number is as high as 240K. As DB says, the honest truth is that markets are in one giant holding pattern at the moment with volatility and conviction low. One evidence of this is the AAII weekly sentiment indicator which shows the % bullish, bearish or neutral on the US stock market for the next six months. This week the neutral indicator (40.78) is at its highest level for 9 years. No wonder volumes and volatility are low if investors are lacking a directional bias. Yesterday’s reaction to the ISM manufacturing was interesting. Though the headline number came in firmer than expected (54.9 vs 54.3 expected) and more than 1pt higher than last month’s reading of 53.7, the UST and equity reaction suggested that the data had actually surprised to the downside.
The consensus for tomorrow's non-farm payrolls print is 218k (and ranges from 155k to 292k across the 94 "economists" surveyed by Bloomberg. Goldman forecasts 220k - around consensus - thanks to the long-awaited full normalization of weather conditions in April which could provide some additional boost. In addition, the employment components of all ten major business surveys released so far improved in April, in each case to a level consistent with increased employment. They expect that the unemployment rate declined to 6.6% in April and a 0.2% increase in average hourly earnings (AHE). Wages will be the object of much attention following a flat read on AHE in March, likely reflecting the unwinding of weather distortions
With the Chicago PMI yesterday beating wildly, the whisper expectation today, in a world in which baffle with BS is the dominant strategy (aside for "hope" of course), that the manufacturing ISM would be a modest miss. It wasn't, and instead while consensus expected the April ISM to rise from 53.7 to 54.3, the final print instead ended up being 54.9, with an increase reported in most indexes, except for Production, Prices and and Order Backlogs. Ahead of tomorrow's NFP, the increase in employment by 3.6 points from 51.1 to 54.7 is notable. Finally, with exports rising only 1.5% compared to the 3.5% increase in imports, the trade component of Q2 GDP is not looking like it is improving much.
It is May Day, which means half the world - the half where welfare contributions to one's standard of living are off the charts - celebrate labor, or rather the lack thereof, by taking a day off. Which means virtually all of Europe is closed, as are Eurex and Euronext futures, and most European markets expect the UK. In light of the non-existent volume, futures are relatively unchanged despite the latest Chinese Mfg PMI disappointment (50.4, below the 50.5, expected but just above the prior print of 50.3), and of course yesterday's US GDP debacle which helped push the DJIA to a record high. The good news is that with volume even more miserable than usual, the few momentum ignition algos that are operating will have a field day with the now standard low-volume levitation that happens like clockwork if the news is bad, and also happens just in case if the news is bad.
The Russell 2000 tumbled to its worst month since May 2012. 30 Year bond yield had the 2nd best month in a year (with the entire bond complex lower and curve flatter for 5th month in a row). Gold rallied for the month as high-yield credit spreads widened for the 2nd month in a row. US economic growth collapsed. But what really matters... what is key for the headline-makers, story-tellers, and asset-gatherers... is that the Dow Jones Industrial touched new record highs. On the day, early equity weakness gave way to exuberant buying as the Fed admitted its forecast for Q1 was shit but everything it says about the future is spot on - stocks urged, the Dow hit new all-time-highs (and green for the year) but once that level was hit, stocks began to fade but were rescued by the always-happy-to-help 330 Ramp which closed us at record highs and green year-to-date. By the close, the day saw Stocks Up, Bonds Up, Gold Unch, USD Down
Following last month's biggest miss in a year, Chicago PMI resurged to its highest level (and biggest beat) since October 2013. Optimism is rife in the report as the rise in new orders and production is now instantly extrapolated into escape velocity growth (as opposed to catch-up demand). Prices Paid dropped... which is odd if there's so much awesome demand? Employment improved, but did not offset March's decline. Of course, the 5 standard deviation beat of expectations is now considered the new normal...
Since it's not Tuesday (the only day that matters for stocks, of course), call it opposite, or rather stop hunt take out, day. First, it was the BOJ which, as we warned previously, would disappoint and not boost QE (sorry SocGen which had expected an increase in monetization today, and now expects nothing more from the BOJ until year end), which sent the USDJPY sliding, only to see the pair make up all the BOJ announcement losses and then some; and then it was Europe, where first German retail sales cratered, printing at -1.9%, down from 2.0% and on expectations of a 1.7% print, and then Eurozone inflation once again missed estimates, and while rising from the abysmal 0.5% in March printed at only 0.7% - hardly the runaway inflation stuff Draghi is praying for. What happened then: EURUSD tumbled then promptly rebounded a la the flash crash, and at last check was trading near the high of the day.
The coming week will be busy in terms of data releases in the US; highlights include an improvement in consumer confidence, anemic 1Q GDP growth, and solid non-farm payrolls (consensus expects 215K). Wednesday brings advanced 1Q GDP - consensus expected a pathetic 1.1% qoq, on the back of what Goldman scapegoats as "weather distortions and an inventory investment drag", personal consumption (consensus 1.9%), and FOMC (the meeting is not associated with economic projections or a press conference). Thursday brings PCE Core (consensus 0.20%). Friday brings non-farm payrolls (consensus of 215K) and unemployment (6.6%). Other indicators for the week include pending home sales, S&P/Case Shiller home price index, Chicago PMI, ADP employment, personal income/spending, and hourly earnings.
The early session risk on trade, which materialized after the Pfizer confirmation it was seeking to buy AstraZeneca, and which sent the GBPUSD to its highest level since 2009, and also sent the EURUSD and EURJPY soaring in the process lifting US equity futures, has started to fizzle on the most recent news out of Ukraine, where the pro-Russian mayor of Ukraine's second largest city of Kharkiv was shot in the back in an apparent assassination attempt, which happened hours before the US is set to announce more sanctions against the Kremlin and its closest financial oligarchs. As a result, futures have pared gaisn modestly, especially since AstraZeneca made it clear with its initial reponse it has no interest in Pfizer's offer in its current format.
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.
Goldman Sachs forecasts a 200k increase in non-farm payrolls for March - in line with consensus - and believe last month's 175k print supports the ongoing positive trend (in light of the weather effect). Key employment indicators looked mixed-to-better in March, and despite the continued cold temperatures, less extreme weather conditions overall should give an additional boost to job gains this month. Citi suggests the weather could have knocked 172k off payrolls overall from Dec to Jan and are more hopeful, expecting a 240k print. Their biggest fear, a greater than 275k print (which is the high bar that Joe Lavorgna has set) could see asset markets reacting badly (on the basis of quicker Fed tightening).
Among the key overnight events was the February Euro area unemployment report, which was unchanged at 11.9%, lower than the 12% median estimate; in Italy it rose to a record 13% while in Germany the locally defined jobless rate for March stayed at the lowest in at least two decades Euro zone PMI held at 53 in February, unchanged from January and matching median estimate in a Bloomberg survey HSBC/Markit’s China PMI fell to 48 in March, the lowest reading since July, from 48.5 in February; a separate PMI from the government, with a larger sample size, was at 50.3 from 50.2 the previous month NATO foreign ministers meet today to discuss their next steps after Putin began withdrawing forces stationed on Ukraine’s border Gazprom raised prices for Ukraine 44% after a discount deal expired, heaping financial pressure on the government in Kiev as it negotiates international bailouts.