After the banks, after the city of Detroit it will be the USA that will be going bankrupt and filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. If only that were possible! But unfortunately it won’t be.
It was a quiet overnight session, in which the Nikkei was catching up to USDJPY weakness from the past two days, while China dipped once more despite the NDRC's chief economist stating China may cut RRR or conduct more reverse repos in H2 to maintain stable credit as loan growth slows down (or in other words things go back to normal). In Europe ECB's Nowotny decided to undo some of Draghi's recent work when he said that "good economic news" removes the need for a rate cut which in turn pushed the EURUSD higher (and European exports lower), even as former Cyprus central bank Orphanides said the Euro crisis may flare up after the German elections. In the UK Q2 GDP came in slightly stronger than expected at 0.7% vs 0.6% Exp. letting the GBP outperform since a need for the BOE to ease, at least in the short run, is becoming less pertinent. In amusing news, Moody’s late yesterday put six largest U.S. banks on review as it considers the effect of evolving bank resolution policies under Dodd-Frank and international regulations. As such GS, JPM, MS and WFC may be cut.
Consumer confidence for those who earn $50,000 or more per year has recovered entirely to pre-Great Recession levels while lower income groups continue to lag. It seems, as Bloomberg's Rich Yamarone points out, money (or credit) really can buy happiness.
Numbers, Numbers Everywhere...are any true?
The week ahead will be relatively quiet with few major data releases. The main focus will be on the Flash PMIs in the Eurozone and China as well as the FOMC minutes and Jackson Hole. In the US the relatively new Preliminary PMI has been found useful by our US team in forecasting the ISM. Existing and new home sales are additional data points of interest in the US. The key focus this week will be on central bank action. Minutes from the FOMC and the RBA will be followed by rate decisions in Thailand and Turkey. Finally, on Thursday starts the annual Jackson Hole conference with lots of Fed speakers, including Yellen next weekend. Chairman Bernanke, whose term ends in January, will not attend.
It's all about rates this largely newsless morning, which have continued their march wider all night, and moments ago rose to 2.873% - a fresh 2 year wide and meaning that neither Gross, nor the bond market, is nowhere near tweeted out. As DB confirms, US treasuries are front and center of mind at the moment.... the 10yr UST yield is up another 4bp at a fresh two year high of 2.87% in Tokyo trading, adding to last week’s 20bp selloff. As it currently stands, 10yr yields are up by more than 120bp from the YTD lows in early May and more than 80bp higher since Bernanke’s now infamous JEC testimony. We should also note that the recent US rates selloff has been accompanied by a rapid steepening in the rate curve. Indeed, the 2s/10s curve is at a 2 year high of 250bp and the 2s/30s and 2s/5s are also at close to their highest level in two years.
For the first time in 2013, UMich consumer confidence missed expectations dropping from a cyclical high 85.2 to a 'mere' 80.0. However, the miss from an expectation of 85.0 is the big news - this is the biggest miss since records began in 1999. The US Consumer (so in the news this week on the back of the retail earnings) appears have finally woken up to soaring mortgage rates, rising gas prices, and only part-time job growth. We warned this might happen - just as it has happened in the previous two cycles... Both the current and future conditions indices collapsed to their lowest in 4 months.
We have the equity market surging to new highs. We now have the surge in yields. As Citi's FX Technicals group warn, that's "2 down and 1 to go"… A push above the 2011-2012 peaks in Brent crude ($127-128.40) would be the “straw” that breaks the proverbial camel’s back with the elevated likelihood of a negative feedback loop... knocking the third leg of consumer confidence out.
In a session that has been painfully boring so far (yet which should pick up with CPI, jobless claims, industrial production and the NY Empire Fed on deck, as well as Wal-Mart earnings which will no doubt reflect the continuing disappointing retail plight) perhaps the only notable news was that Japan - the nation that brought you "Fukushima is contained" - was caught in yet another lie. Recall that the upside catalyst (and source of Yen weakness) two days ago was what we classified then as "paradoxical news" that Japan would cut corporate taxes in a move that somehow would offset the upcoming consumption tax hike. Turns out that, as our gut sense indicated, this was merely yet another BS trial balloon out of Japan, which admitted overnight that the entire report was a lie.
The amusing news overnight was that following slightly better than expected Q2 GDP data out of Germany (0.7% vs 0.6% expected and up from 0.0%) and France (0.5% vs 0.2% expected and up from -0.2%), driven by consumer spending and industrial output, although investment dropped again, which meant that the Eurozone which posted a 0.3% growth in the quarter has "emerged" from its double dip recession. The most amusing thing is that on an annualized basis both Germany and France grew faster than the US in Q2. And they didn't even need to add iTunes song sales and underfunded liabilities to their GDP calculation - truly a miracle! Or perhaps to grow faster the US just needs higher taxes after all? Of course, with the all important loan creation to the private sector still at a record low, and with the ECB not injecting unsterilized credit, the European depression continues and this is merely an exercise in optics and an attempt to boost consumer confidence.
It's only fitting that in a bizarro new normal, the news that passes for positive is either conflicting, reflexive or, well, simply bizarre. Last night was no exception as the "good" news came in the form of speculation that in order to promote its consumption tax hike, the Abe government would consider a corporate tax cut. How that helps the country with the 1 quadrillion yen in debt is not exactly clear, or how it makes consumer tax hikes any more palatable in a nation in which more people than anywhere in the world are retired and elderly, and thus removed from the corporate lifecycle, is just as nebulous. But the market liked it. Just as it liked the good ole' European cop out, of posting a surge in consumer confidence, or relying on reflexive indicators to represent an improvement in the economy, when in reality the only thing "improving" is the stock market. This happened when the German ZEW Economic Sentiment survey soared from 36.3 to 42.0 on expectations of a 39.9 print. So one must buy futures, or that's what the GETCO algo programming says.
The middle of the month brings a mixture of second-tier macro numbers punctuated by the market-moving (and Taper-cementing) retail sales report. We get IP, CPI and PPI from the US this coming week. In terms of hard activity numbers, US retail sales on Tuesday will be the highlight which as a reminder is, in addition to Jackson Hole, seen as one of two key pre-Taper catalysts to keep an eye on. Outside the US, the key data will be the quarterly publication of German, French and Eurozone GDP, as well as Japanese GDP, which has already been released (weaker real growth, higher inflation). The second week of the month also tends to show the first survey results with the Phily Fed and Empire surveys on Thursday. In Germany the ZEW will come on Tuesday. Finally, from an FX point of view, we will be focused on balance of payments related data, with the trade balance in India and TIC data in the US. After a few very weak TIC releases in recent months we would expect more evidence of weak capital inflows into the US.
Confidence leads to spending; spending strengthens the economy; and economic strength buttresses confidence. It’s a circular, self-fulfilling prophesy. Confidence can also fuel market movements. Belief that the price of an asset will rise causes people to buy the asset... making its price rise. This is another way in which confidence is self-fulfilling. But, of course, as Oak Tree Capital's Howard Marks points out, the confidence that underlies economic gains and price increases only has an impact as long as it exists. Once it dies, its effect turns out to be far from permanent. As the economist Herb Stein said, "If something cannot go on forever, it will stop." This is certainly true for confidence and its influence. As far as confidence today, Marks notes significant uncertainty is one of the outstanding characteristics of today’s investing environment. It discourages optimism regarding the future and limits investors’ certainty that the future is knowable and controllable. In other words, it saps confidence. This is a major difference from conditions in the pre-crisis years. In fact, Marks warns he doesn't remember when his list of 'uncertainties' was this long...
Frequent readers are aware that one of our favorite topics is forensic market evidence confirming early release of market moving data to select "buyers" of said data, who then can trade ahead of the crowd and make illegal profits. The most recent example of just this took place last Friday when someone or something was leaked the non-farm payroll data as much as three second early. But while various third party profit-seeking intermediaries such as Deutsche Boerse's MNI, UMichigan consumer confidence and others have acknowledged to presell early dissemination of specialized data to subscribers such as well-paying high frequency traders, at least government data was said to be exempt from such a profit motive. At least until now: the WSJ reports that the FBI "has discovered vulnerabilities in the government's system for preventing market-moving economic reports from leaking to traders before public release. Law-enforcement officials found "a number of operational vulnerabilities" involving "black boxes" used by several departments to control the release of sensitive economic data such as the monthly unemployment rate, according to a report by the inspector general at the Commerce Department."
Despite rising gas prices, rising mortgage rates, slowing income growth and the rise of 'low-quality' part-time jobs, 'con'sumer 'con'fidence 'con'tinues to rise to post-recession highs. However, as Citi's FX Technicals group notes, for the 3rd time in the last 17 year period we may be looking at a 4-year-4-month rise in consumer confidence before a turn lower again; and in spite of the Fed's rosy forecasts (and the market's expectations), we should be careful being too quick to believe that the sluggish economic dynamic that has 'dogged us' for the last 6 years is yet fully behind us.