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.
As the global equity and bond markets grind ever higher, abundant signs exist that we are once again living through an asset bubble – or rather a whole series of bubbles in a variety of markets. This makes this period quite interesting, but also quite dangerous. This can be summarized in one sentence: How could this be happening again so soon?
Preview of tomorrow's Bernanke testimony and FOMC minutes.
Fed chairman Ben Bernanke’s testimony to Congress will be important in setting the tone for the markets (particularly the dollar, equities and US treasuries), as traders hunt for clues on when the Fed is likely to ease its rate of asset purchases.
In the absence of major data releases, the focal point of the week for markets becomes the release of the minutes of the May FOMC meeting. The most notable change in the statement was the inclusion of the new language: “the Committee is prepared to increase or reduce the pace of its purchases to maintain appropriate policy accommodation as the outlook for the labor market or inflation changes.” In the May meeting minutes, the market will be looking for any clarification of the motivation behind this change as well as any evidence that the committee members may be becoming less comfortable with the unemployment rate threshold or more specific about tapering timelines and dates.
A quiet day unfolding with just Chicago Fed permadove on the wires today at 1pm, following some early pre-Japan market fireworks in the USDJPY and the silver complex, where a cascade of USDJPY margin calls, sent silver to its lowest in years as someone got carted out feet first following a forced liquidation. This however did not stop the Friday ramp higher in the USDJPY from sending the Nikkei225, in a delayed response, to a level surpassing the Dow Jones Industrial Average for the first time in years. Quiet, however, may be just how the traders at 72 Cummings Point Road like it just in case they can hear the paddy wagons approach, following news that things between the government and SAC Capital are turning from bad to worse and that Stevie Cohen, responsible for up to 10-15% of daily NYSE volume, may be testifying before a grand jury soon. The news itself sent S&P futures briefly lower when it hit last night, showing just how influential the CT hedge fund is for overall market liquidity in a world in which the bulk of market "volume" is algos collecting liquidity rebates and churning liquid stocks back and forth to one another.
Aside from light volume there’s no argument with the tape. It’s quite positive but much overbought. Earnings news is beginning to wane leaving less for bulls to respond to. Many previous reliable technical indicators are succumbing to all the money printing. Looking at those markets where QE is not taking place perhaps reveals the real market conditions.
In a day devoid of any A-grade economic data, the stop hunting GETCO USDJPY algos had no choice but to look forward to such reflexive C-grade indicators as the UMich Consumer Confidence index, where the polled "consumers" are confident if the market is up and the market is up if "consumers" are confident. Sure enough, the USDJPY literally exploded by over 50 pips and broke the 103 level (send the Yen derivative, the S&P500 spiking) when moments ago the UMich index posted a hilarious reading of 83.7, the highest since August 2007, up from 76.4, and smashing expectations of 77.9 by the most in... ever. Whether this was driven by a near record low in consumer savings, by the collapse in real wages, by the deteriorating Q1 retail results such as WalMart's showing consumers are out of cash, or if all this was irrelevant as everyone on the UMichigan rolodex was long Tesla is unknown. It just is what it is because in a world in which collapsing economic data leads to a record high "market", one buys first, buys second, then BTFD if there is D, and only then are questions asked.
Those hoping for a slew of negative news to push stocks much higher today will be disappointed in this largely catalyst-free day. So far today we have gotten only the ECB's weekly 3y LTRO announcement whereby seven banks will repay a total of €1.1 billion from both LTRO issues, as repayments slow to a trickle because the last thing the ECB, which was rumored to be inquiring banks if they can handle negative deposit rates earlier in the session, needs is even more balance sheet contraction. The biggest economic European economic data point was the EU construction output which contracted for a fifth consecutive month, dropping -1.7% compared to -0.3% previously, and tumbled 7.9% from a year before. Elsewhere, Spain announced trade data for March, which printed at yet another surplus of €0.63 billion, prompted not so much by soaring exports which rose a tiny 2% from a year ago to €20.3 billion but due to a collapse in imports of 15% to €19.7 billion - a further sign that the Spanish economy is truly contracting even if the ultimate accounting entry will be GDP positive. More importantly for Spain, the country reported a March bad loan ratio - which has been persistently underreproted - at 10.5% up from 10.4% in February. We will have more to say on why this is the latest and greatest ticking timebomb for the Eurozone shortly.
On the surface, Abenomics - the radical unlimited stimulus plan put in place by newly elected Japanese PM Shinzo Abe – appears to be working. The Nikkei is up 68% since July, 2012, the yen has weakened by 30% over the same time frame, and Japanese consumer confidence is up sharply to the highest levels in six years. The theory behind Abenomics is that the rising stock market will create capital, and the falling yen will make Japan’s export-based economy more competitive in global markets, while newly profitable companies will hire more workers. In order for Abenomics to work, four things have to happen (below). Don’t hold your breath. Japan is a bug in search of a windshield. Longer-term, Abenomics is a recipe for disaster - have no illusions about that. But short-term … that’s another matter entirely, and therein lies opportunity.
The U.S. stock market rally has recently passed its fourth anniversary after the terrifying lows of March 2009. During that time, massive and unconventional reflationary policy from the Federal Reserve has managed to lift the S&P 500 to new all-time highs. But perhaps even more improbably, it has finally (for now?) built a floor under U.S. residential real estate prices. This 'Less Bad' Recovery continues in other ways as well. Jobs have been created. Not good jobs. Not high paying jobs. Not full time jobs. But some rudimentary sets of tasks and responsibilities that could be called jobs. There has also been deleveraging. But here, too, the scale of debt reduction is nothing close to the unadjusted figures often touted in the media. Americans, and more generally, OECD citizens, remain highly burdened by debt. When combined with poor wage growth, this explains the continued suppressed demand so pervasive in developed nations. And of course, oil prices – as expressed through prices at the pump – remain stubbornly elevated and are likely to persist at their new elevated level. Combined, these factors have kept a lid on consumer confidence and make for a precarious disparity between the stock market and the real economy. Welcome to the Great Constraint - a growing failure to thrive.
There are a dozen significant economic indicators that are warning that the U.S. economy is heading into a recession. The Dow may have soared past the 15,000 mark, but the economic fundamentals are telling an entirely different story. If historical patterns hold up, the economy is heading for a very rocky stretch. But most average Americans are not that concerned with the performance of the stock market. They just want to be able to go to work, pay the bills and provide for their families. During the last recession, millions of Americans lost their jobs and millions of Americans lost their homes. If we have another major recession, that will happen again. Sadly, it appears that another major recession is quickly approaching. The following are 12 recession indicators that are flashing red...
Gluskin Sheff's David Rosenberg exclaims we are currently are witnessing the Potemkin rally (the phrase Potemkin villages was originally used to describe a fake village, built only to impress). The term, however, is now used, typically in politics and economics, to describe any construction (literal or figurative) built solely to deceive others into thinking that some situation is better than it really is. Ben Bernanke, recently proclaimed “The Hero” by Atlantic Magazine, is the “Wizard of Potemkin.” Since 2009 Bernanke has engage in massive monetary experiments. These experiments lead to future dislocations. There is no doubt that the Fed wants inflation. The problem is they may get more than they ask for. We are currently witnessing the slowest economic recovery of any post-WWII period. However, It is important to challenge your thought process. Read material that challenges your views. Here are David's rules...
The President will take questions from the White House reporters at 1015ET. Will he mention the equity market at all-time highs? The strength of the housing market? The 'rising' unemployment rate? The 'falling' macro economy?