Technically we’re all poorer than we were before 2008 happened. Most of us are making less money. And we’re spending more just trying to get by thanks to higher food, energy, and healthcare prices. Heck, housing is now even soaring again, pricing most beginning homebuyers out of the market.
About once or twice a month for the past few years, it's been a steady ritual of mine to conduct a Google search for the words "all-time high" and "all-time low". The results provide an interesting big picture perspective on what's happening in the world.
The spin-doctors are hard at work talking up America’s subpar economic recovery. All eyes are on households. Thanks to falling unemployment, rising home values, and record stock prices, an emerging consensus of forecasters, market participants, and policymakers has now concluded that the American consumer is finally back. Don’t believe it. In short, the American consumer’s nightmare is far from over. Spin and frothy markets aside, the healing has only just begun.
Succinctly summarizing the positive and negative news, data, and market events of the week...
It doesn't get any better than this. For the fifth month in a row, UMich consumer confidence has beaten expectations and its final print at 84.5 for May is the highest in six years. This 'confidence' survey fits with the conference board's exuberance also. We can only assume that it is the one-year high mortgage rates and considerably lower-than-expected income and spending that is driving it? As a gentle reminder, the US consumer was this cock-a-hoop just before the market last topped in Q3 2007 - so we are not sure if it is 'useful' for anyone but a self-aggrandizing anchoring-biased asset-gatherer. Current economic conditions (at Oct 2007 highs) are surging (as are expectations) by their most since Sep 2009. Of course, in perfect 'correlation' with this 'confidence', these consumers decided that May was the first time in a year to cut spending...
Everything was going so well in the overnight session, following some mixed Japanese data (stronger than expected production, inline inflation, weaker household spending) which kept the USDJPY 101 tractor beam engaged, and the market stable, until just before 2 am Eastern, when Tokyo professor Takatoshi Ito, formerly a deputy at the finance ministry to the BOJ's Kuroda, said overvaluation of the yen versus the dollar has been corrected, which led to a very unpleasant moment of gravity for the currency pair which somehow drives risk around the world based on what several millions Japanese housewives do in unison. The result was a slide to just 30 pips away from the key 100 support level, below which all hell breaks loose, Abenomics starts being unwound, hedge funds - short the yen and long the Nikkei - have no choice but to unwind once profitable positions, the wealth effect craters, and streams are generally crossed.
The good old days are back, those of the last housing bubble when money grew on trees.
Following yesterday's blow out in US bond yields, which have continued to leak wider and are now at 2.20% after touching 2.23%, the overnight Japanese trading session was relatively tame, with the 10Y JGB closing just modestly wider at 0.93%, following the market stabilization due to a substantial JPY1 trillion JOMO operation which also meant barely any change to the NKY225, while the USDJPY slipped in overnight trading below the 102 support line and was trading in the mid 101s as of this moment, pulling all risk classes lower with it. There was no immediate catalyst for the sharp slide around 3am Eastern, although there was the usual plethora of weak economic data.
Because sometimes you just have to laugh...
The Conference Board's measure of just how awesome everyone feels just hit its highest level since February 2008 driven by an impressive surge in 'Expectations'. This should surprise nobody: as we previewed earlier today, "just to make sure that the market closes well green today, the only actual "data" will be yet another reading of consumer "confidence" this time from the Conference Board. Expect this to surge on news that it is Tuesday and stocks have nowhere to go but up, which in turn will send stocks, where else but, up." In short: reflexivity in all its glory. And to think it was just 10 days ago that the market reacted in absolutely the same way to a UMichigan confidence print that beat expectations by the most ever and to the highest since 2007. Perhaps if the US had one consumer confidence metric for every day of the week, all days would be like Tuesdays.
First, the important news: in a few hours the Fed will inject between $1.25-$1.75 billion into the stock market. More importantly, it is a Tuesday, which means that in order to not disturb a very technical pattern that will have held for 20 out of 20 Tuesdays in a row, the Dow Jones will close higher. Judging by the futures, this has been telegraphed far and wide: it is a Ben Bernanke risk-managed market, and everyone is a momentum monkey in it. In less relevant news, the underlying catalyst for the overnight rip higher in risk was the surge in the USDJPY, which left the gate at precisely Japan open time, and after languishing at the round number 101 support for several days, did not look back facilitated by what rumors said was a direct BOJ intervention via a Price Keeping Operation in which banks bought ETFs directly. This was catalyzed by the usual barrage of BOJ and FinMin individuals engaging in post-crash damage control and chattering from the usual script.
The biggest fear of the Federal Reserve has been the deflationary pressures that have continued to depress the domestic economy. Despite the trillions of dollars of interventions by the Federal Reserve the only real accomplishment has been keeping the economy from slipping back into an outright recession. However, when looking at many of the economic and confidence indicators, there are many that are still at levels normally associated with previous recessionary lows. Despite many claims to the contrary the global economy is far from healed which explains the need for ongoing global central bank interventions. However, even these interventions seem to be having a diminished rate of return in spurring real economic activity despite the inflation of asset prices. The risk, as discussed recently with relation to Japan, is that the Fed is now caught within a "liquidity trap." The Fed cannot effectively withdraw from monetary interventions and raise interest rates to more productive levels without pushing the economy back into a recession. The overriding deflationary drag on the economy is forcing the Federal Reserve to remain ultra-accommodative to support the current level of economic activity. What is interesting is that mainstream economists and analysts keep predicting stronger levels of economic growth while all economic indications are indicating just the opposite.
The market’s performance Thursday and Friday are misleading since there is so much destruction in many sectors globally. But the media depends on selling what’s going on with the DJIA. It’s just window dressing for the tourists frankly.
Everyone has heard of Marie-Antoinette screaming from her balcony at the Palace of Versailles in the early hours of the French Revolution: “if there’s no bread, then let them eat cake!”. Right!
Yesterday afternoon, following the rout in the US stock market, we made a spurious preview of the true main event: "So selloff in JGBs tonight?" We had no idea how right we would be because the second Japan opened, its bond futures market was halted on a circuit breaker as the 10 Year bond plunged to their lowest level since early 2012, hitting 1% and leading to massive Mark to Market losses for Japanese banks, as we also warned would happen. That was just the beginning, and suddenly the realization crept in that the plunging yen at this point is not only negative for banks, but for the entire stock market, leading to what until that point was a solid up session for the Nikkei to the first rumblings of a ris-off. Shortly thereafter we got the distraction of the Chinese Mfg PMI which dropped into contraction territory for the first time since late 2012, and which set the mood decidedly risk-offish, although the real catalyst may have been a report on copper from Goldman's Roger Yan (which we will cover in depth shortly) and whose implications may be stunning and devastating and may have just popped the Chinese credit bubble (oh, btw, short copper). And then all hell broke loose, with the Nikkei first rising solidly and then something snapping loud and clear, and sending the index crashing a massive 1,143 an intraday swing of 9% high to low, leading to an over 200 pips move lower in the USDJPY, and leading to a global risk off across the world.