It never ceases to amaze that we vote people into positions. Those people that we have voted in elect in turn (or just go ahead and appoint without an election, making it all look very transparent) other people who are not as important but who will have the possibility of choosing (apparently in an “open, merit-based, and transparent manner”) someone who will be more important than they are, but less important than the first person that is in the voting/appointment chain.
History may not repeat but it certainly rhymes and when it comes to the animal spirits of human fear and greed, nowhere is that more evident than the 'surveys' of confidence that US citizens have undertaken for thelast 30 years. As the following two charts show, while many are exuberant at the rise in confidence of late, it is a pattern we have seen play out twice before - and both previous times - it did not end well...
Back on Monday, following the huge miss in the Manufacturing ISM, in collaboration with Nanex, we exposed yet another instance of blatant headline data frontrunning in "15 Milliseconds Of HFT Fame: Watch Today's Early Leak Of The ISM Print" where we showed aggressive trading amounting to tens of millions in notional contracts ahead of the 10am release of the key economic indicator. We assumed that just like every other lament about a market that is front-run by those "who have the means", manipulated (by the Fed of course - remember when that was just a conspiracy theory: good times) and simply broken, it would disappear in the ether forever. After all: why bring attention to facts when hopium is sufficient for the E-Trade baby to retire rich and famous before it has hit 2. We were delighted to learn that CNBC's Eamon Javers picked up the torch and actually did some further investigating, which in turn led to an actual admission out of Reuters that it "inadvertently" sent out the data to "a select group of high frequency traders, many of whom immediately traded on the information before it was available to the wider market, CNBC has learned." Inadvertently? The humor just never stops.
The airwaves are full of stories of economic recovery. One trumpeted recently has been the rapid recovery in housing, at least as measured in prices. The problem is, a good portion of the rebound in house prices in many markets has less to do with renewed optimism, new jobs, and rising wages, and more to do with big money investors fueled by the ultra-cheap money policies of the Fed. It seems entirely wrong that the Fed bailed out big banks and made money excessively cheap for institutions, and that this is being used to price ordinary people out of the housing market. Said another way, the Fed prints fake money out of thin air, and some companies use that same money to buy real things like houses and then rent them out to real people trying to live real lives. At the same time, we are also beginning to see the very same hedge funds that have re-inflated these prices slink out of the market now that the party is kicking into higher gear – all while new buyers are increasingly having to abandon prudence to buy into markets where the fundamentals simply aren't there to merit it. Didn't we just learn a few short years ago how this all ends?
Consumer confidence in the US stands at 76.2 in May 2013 (1985=100). That’s an increase from 58.4 in January. The Conference Board’s figures show that things have not looked so good for months. Things seem to be looking up. But, is the US consumer right to believe in the market and that the economy is getting better and the medicine is working?
This is no time to be complacent. Massive economic problems are erupting all over the globe, but most people seem to believe that everything is going to be just fine. In fact, a whole bunch of recent polls and surveys show that the American people are starting to feel much better about how the U.S. economy is performing. Unfortunately, the false prosperity that we are currently enjoying is not going to last much longer. Unfortunately, the majority appear to be purposely ignoring the economic horror that is breaking out all over the globe.
Worried that manipulated official data is the only thing one has to "predict" on a day to day basis in a world drenched with "Baffle with BS", where China expanding and contracting at the same time is perfectly normal, and where Chicago PMI soaring by an 8 sigma beat to multi year highs precedes by one day the lowest US manufacturing print in 4 years? Turns out that's not all - in addition to everything else, one should also realize that key market moving data continues to be disseminated ahead of its official release time to those who have the "funds" and the interest in trading on early leaks. Take today's key economic data point: the Manufacturing ISM. As Nanex shows, trading in SPY exploded at 09:59:59.985, which is 15 milliseconds before the ISM's Manufacturing number released at 10:00:00. Activity in the eMini (traded in Chicago), exploded at 09:59:59.992, which is 8 milliseconds before the news release, but 7 milliseconds after SPY. Surely someone decided to perform a massive headfake and like a plunging goaltender during a penalty kick just happened to guess the direction right. That, or the clock on the CQS tape is just a little off. Oh, and this is merely today's example of early distribution of data to those who have the means(and the funds) to trade on it. Everyone else - well, the saying involving a sucker, a poker table and confusion, is quite applicable right now...
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.