Consumer confidence slumps in the core and Ukraine fears weighed heavily on European stocks despite getting a push from the insanity in US equity markets this morning. Europe closed at their lows of the day led by Italy and Portugal stocks fading fast. It would appear that these worried investors greatly rotated into safe-havens such as Italian government bonds - which broke to their lowest yield on record today... makes sense right?
University of Michgan Consumer Confidence soared to 8 month highs, beating expectations by the most since November led by a surge in "outlook" hope. Current conditions are back at December 2013 highs but it is the outlook that is providing the juice for this exuberant headline print. Bear in mind this is the preliminary print of this data and is due for revision in the next 2 weeks or so... which as 'consumers' see the red flashing tickers on their iPhones will be slightly less exuberant.
There is a reasonably quiet start to the week before we head into the highlights of the week including the start of US reporting season tomorrow, FOMC minutes on Wednesday and IMF meetings in Washington on Friday. On the schedule for today central bank officials from the ECB including Mersch, Weidmann and Constancio will be speaking. The Fed’s Bullard speaks today, and no doubt there will be interest in his comments from last week suggesting that the Fed will hike rates in early 2015.
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).
While the government's survey of consumer confidence saw new cycle highs - progressing the multiple expansion dream - the University of Michigan (private) survey has been falling for 3 months and is now at its lowest since November. Both current conditions (reality) and expectations (hope) missed expectations (overall index missed by the most in 5 months) but "hope" did rise modestly from 69.4 to 70.0. Must have been a 'winter stormy' week when UMich surveyed consumers...
After tumbling overnight to just around 101.80, the USDJPY managed to stage a remarkable levitating comeback, rising all the way to 102.3, which in turn succeeded in closing the Nikkei 225 at the highs, up 1% after tumbling in early trade. The Shanghai Composite was not quite as lucky and as fear continue to weigh about a collapse in China's credit pipeline, the SHCOMP was down more than 0.8% while the PBOC withdreww even more net liquidity via repos than it did last week, at CNY 98 billion vs CNY 48 billion. That said, this morning will be the fifth consecutive overnight levitation in futures, which likely will once more surge right into the US market open to intraday highs, at which point slowy at first, then rapidly, fade again as the pattern has seemingly been set into algo random access memory. Which in a market devoid of human traders is all that matters.
Another morning melt up after a less than impressive session in China which saw the SHCOMP drop again reversing the furious gains in the past few days driven by hopes of more PBOC easing (despite China's repeated warning not to expect much). A flurry of market topping activity overnight once again, with Candy Crush maker King Digital pricing at $22.50 or the projected midpoint of its price range, and with FaceBook using more of its epically overvalued stock as currency to purchase yet another company, this time virtual reality firm Oculus VR for $2 billion. Perhaps an appropriate purchase considering the entire economy is pushed higher on pro-forma, "virtual" output, and the Fed's capital markets are something straight out of the matrix. Despite today's pre-open ramp, which will be the 4th in a row, one wonders if biotechs will finally break the downward tractor beam they have been latched on to as the bubble has shown signs of cracking, or will the mad momo crowd come back with a vengeance - this too will be answered shortly.
The 'recovery' has reached a new cyclical high in consumer confidence. Despite the economic growth sapping, recovery dampening, Fed tapering, consumers have not been more exuberant since January 2008. Of course, the jump to new highs is all about the future - the Present Situation index dropped while the "Expectations" index jumped 7 points to 83.5 - its highest in 6 months.
- Putin Threatened With More Sanctions as Russia Out of G-8 (BBG)
- China Faces ‘Mini Crisis’ on Debt Defaults, Ex-PBOC Adviser Says (BBG)
- Don't laugh too hard: Obama to propose ending NSA bulk collection of phone records (Reuters)
- SEC Is Probing Dealings by Banks and Companies in Loan Securities (WSJ)
- Japan GPIF asset review not aimed at supporting domestic stocks (Reuters)
- Chinese families clash with police, slam Malaysia over lost plane (Reuters)
- Russian Capital Flight Surges in First Quarter, Fueled by Ukraine Crisis (WSJ)
- Democrats ditch Nate Silver after data whiz predicts dismal midterm outcome (DN)
- China’s Urbanization Loses Momentum as Growth Slows (BBG)
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.
If there was one thing that the market was demanding after last night's disappointing March HSBC manufacturing PMI, which has now fallen so low, local market participants are convinced a stimulus is imminent (despite China's own warnings not to expect this), and sent both the SHCOMP and the CNY surging, it would have been further weak data out of Europe, where the other possible, if not probable, "QE-stimulus" bank is located now that the Fed is in full taper mode. It didn't get precisely that however there was a step in the right direction when overnight the Euro area Composite Flash PMI eased marginally from 53.3 to 53.2 in March, largely as expected. The country breakdown showed a narrowing of the Germany/France Composite PMI gap owing to a notable (3.7pt) increase in the French PMI while the German PMI eased somewhat (1.4pt). On the basis of past correlations, a Euro area Composite PMI of 53.2 is consistent with GDP growth of around +0.4%qoq, slightly stronger than our Current Activity Indicator (+0.35%qoq).
It took only a 60 USDJPY pip overnight ramp to send US equity futures 20 points off the overnight lows in the immediate aftermath of the Crimean referendum, which from a massive risk off event has somehow metamorphosed into a "priced in", even welcome catalyst to buy stocks. The supposed reasoning, and in a world in which Virtu algos determine the price action of the USDJPY from which all else flows based solely on momentum we use the word reasoning "loosely", is that there was little to indicate that the escalation between Russia and Ukraine was set to accelerate further. As we said: an annexation is now seen as risk off, something even Goldman appears unable to comprehend (more on that shortly). In macroeconomic news, European inflation - at least for the Keynesians - turned from bad to worse after the final February inflation print dropped from the flash, and expected, reading of 0.8% to just 0.7% Y/Y, a sequential increase of 0.3% and below the 0.4% expected, confirming that deflationary forces continue to ravage the continent. The only question is how soon until Europe comes up with some brilliant scheme that will help it join Japan in exporting its deflation.
It would appear that pending wars in Europe, freezing snow storms (and droughts) in the US, and Asian credit concerns have finaly taken their toll on US consumer confidence. At 79.9 relative to an expectation of 82.2 this is the biggest miss since Dec 2012 and lowest since Nov 2013.Current conditions rose modestly but the economic outlook fell by its most in 5 months. UMich confidence remains notably below the July 2013 peak levels (which correspond quite coincidentally to the same 4 year 4 month cycle we have seen in the prior 2 cycles) despite stocks have made higher highs since then as the decoupling remains in place.
It has been a relatively quiet overnight session, aside from the already noted news surrounding China's halt on virtual credit card payments sending Chinese online commerce stocks sliding, where despite an ongoing decline in the USDJPY which has sent the Nikkei plunging by 3.3% (and which is starting to impact Abe whose approval rating dropped in March by a whopping 5.6 points to 48.1% according to a Jiji poll), US equity futures have managed to stay surprisingly strong following yesterday's market tumble. We can only assume this has to do with short covering of positions, because we fail to see how anyone can be so foolhardy to enter risk on ahead of a weekend where the worst case scenario can be an overture to World War III following a Crimean referendum which is assured to result in the formal annexation of the peninsula by Russia.
When retail sales last month came in far weaker than expected, it was the weather's fault. A month later, we find that the January retail sales were even weaker than expected, with the headline number revised from a -0.4% drop to -0.6%, the ex autos number revised from unchanged to -0.3%, and the ex autos and gas whose drop more than doubled from -0.2% to -0.5%. Oh well: one can't go back in time and force the algos to soar even more (since everyone knows bad news is great news). So how about February? Well, apparently it warmed up because despite expectations of a 0.2% increase in headline and ex auto and gas retail sales, the actual prints were 0.3% for both, beating by the tiniest of margins, yet net lower when adding the January revision. Of course, what happens in April, when the March data too is revised lower, is irrelevant - all that will matter is the current month numbers all of which recently seem to get an odd "optimism" boost that promptly fades away in no time.