"Mission Accomplished" - With CNBC now lost for countdown-able targets (though 20,000 is so close), we leave it to none other than Jim Cramer, quoting Stanley Druckenmiller, to sum up where we stand (oh and the following list of remarkable then-and-now macro, micro, and market variables), namely that "we all know it's going to end badly, but in the meantime we can make some money" - ZH translation: "just make sure to sell ahead of everyone else", just like everyone sold ahead of everyone else on October 11th 2007, the last time stocks were here...
- GDP Growth: Then +2.5%; Now +1.6%
- Regular Gas Price: Then $2.75; Now $3.73
- Americans Unemployed (in Labor Force): Then 6.7 million; Now 13.2 million
- Americans On Food Stamps: Then 26.9 million; Now 47.69 million
- Size of Fed's Balance Sheet: Then $0.89 trillion; Now $3.01 trillion
- US Debt as a Percentage of GDP: Then ~38%; Now 74.2%
- US Deficit (LTM): Then $97 billion; Now $975.6 billion
- Total US Debt Oustanding: Then $9.008 trillion; Now $16.43 trillion
Earlier we reviewed the overnight plunge in China stocks, especially those related to the real-estate market in the aftermath of the latest move by the State Council to be far more hawkish than expected, in its effort to curb property inflation. The economic and market weakness that resulted has followed through to overnight US and European futures, even as peripheral bonds are trading roughly unchanged, surprising many who thought this weekend's Beppe Grillo statement on the future of Italian debt and presence in the Eurozone would be market moving: it wasn't as Grillo said nothing that he had not already made quite clear. In other, more recent economic news, UK construction PMI imploded to recession levels, plunging to 46.8 from 49.0, far below expectations and the lowest print since October 2009, setting the stage for much more Goldman-led reflation by the BOE. Also negative was the drop in the Eurozone Sentix Investor Confidence index which tumbled to -10.6 from -3.9 on expectations of -4.3, sending the EURUSD deep into 1.29 territory. It appears the Sentix excludes the soaring German confidence, which two weeks ago was the sole driver of all upside, not once but twice in one week. Today we get the first day of the sequester being digested by the market - this togetger with an empty macro calendar in the US means rumors and headlines will determine how far GETCO's algo push the stop hunts during the first and last 30 minutes of trading.
With little on the event calendar in the overnight session, the main news many were looking forward to was Italy's auction of €2.5 billion in 5 and €4 billion in 10 year paper, to see just how big the fallout from the Hung Parliament election was in the primary market. As SocGen explained ahead of the auction: "The target of Italy's 2017 and 2023 BTP auction today is a maximum EUR6.5bn, but in order to get to that tidy amount the Tesoro may be forced to offer a hefty mark-up in yield to compensate investors for the extra risk. Note that Italian 6-month bills were marked up at yesterday's sale from 0.731% to 1.237%. Who knows what premium investors will be asking for today for paper with the kind of duration that is not covered by the ECB OMT (should that be activated)? Will Italian institutions, already long BTPs relative to overall asset size, be forced to hoover up most of the supply?" The outcome was a successful auction which, however, as expected saw yields spike with the 4 year paper pricing at 3.59% compared to 2.95% before, while the 10 Year paper priced some 60 bps wider to the 4.17% in January, yielding 4.83%. The result was a brief dip in Italian OTR BTP yield, which have since retraced all gains and are once again trading in the 4.90% range on their way to 5%+ as JPM forecast yesterday. And as expected, talk promptly emerged that the auction was carried by "two large domestic buyers" in other words, the two big local banks merely levered up on Italian paper hoping furiously that they are not the next MF Global.
Ben was in congress campaigning er, testifying mostly about the effectiveness of all things ZIRP and QE. He was grilled about possible risks with QE especially if interest rates should rise. The Bernank saying that interest rates would rise was unlikely but he then cavalierly stated if rates rise, the Fed would just “hold back on payments” er, stiff the Treasury. That’s no big deal for him since by then he’ll be down the road writing his memoirs, making speeches and joining some big Wall Street firm as a well-paid consultant. The Bernank was also asked if he noted any bubbles or market excess and said he saw none.
While the market will do everything in its power to forget yesterday's Hung Parliament outcome ever happened, and merrily look forward to today's Bernanke testimony (first of two) before the Senate, Europe is not quite so forgiving. Because moments after today's Italian Bill auction in which the now government-less country sold €8.75 billion in 6 month bills at a yield of 1.237% nearly double the 0.731% yield for the same issue previously, things went bump in the night, leading Italian 2Y yields to surge +38bps to 2.086%, vs 2.063% earlier, while the benchmark Italian 10Y yields soared +28bps to 4.766%, vs 4.739% earlier, and just shy of JPM's 5% target. Spain is not immune from the Italian developments, and while it will take the market some time to realize that the next political scandal may be dropping this time in Spain (as reported yesterday), the Spanish 10 Year is already up 7% to 5.23%. Suddenly talk of parity between Italy and Spain may be on the table all over again. And while unlike yesterday there is US macro data, in the form of US consumer confidence, new homes sales and house price data, all the market will care about is soothing Wall Street sellside spin that Italy is not really as bad as everyone said it would be if precisely what happened, happened. With the EURUSD on the verge of breaking down the 1.3000 support, it is very unclear if they will succeed.
Is the U.S. economy about to experience a major downturn? Unfortunately, there are a whole bunch of signs that economic activity in the United States is really slowing down right now. In many ways, what we are going through right now feels very similar to 2008 before the crash happened. Back then the warning signs of economic trouble were very obvious, but our politicians and the mainstream media insisted that everything was just fine, and the stock market was very much detached from reality. When the stock market did finally catch up with reality, it happened very, very rapidly. Sadly, most people do not appear to have learned any lessons from the crisis of 2008. Americans continue to rack up staggering amounts of debt, and Wall Street is more reckless than ever. As a society, we seem to have concluded that 2008 was just a temporary malfunction rather than an indication that our entire system was fundamentally flawed. In the end, we will pay a great price for our overconfidence and our recklessness.
Next week’s calendar is packed with important events and releases, aside of course from the biggest event of the week which are the Italian elections. In fact we already got the first one in the form of China's disappointing HSBC flash PMI which consensus expectations would print stable yet which dropped to a 4 month low. On Friday, the ISM is expected to come out mildly softer vs last month’s strong 53.1 print and consensus at 52.5. Chicago PMI will also be followed by markets on Thursday. On the central bank front markets will be primarily looking for further news on the BOJ leadership succession front. From the perspective of Fed speakers, Chairman Bernanke’s testimony ahead of the Senate Banking Committee will also be followed as markets continue to track the Fed’s assessment of the economic recovery. In the global currency warfare front, the Bank of Israel is expected to cut policy rates by 25bps on Monday, as well as the National Bank of Hungary on Tuesday.
- Risk of instability hangs over Italy poll (FT), Protest votes add to uncertainty in close Italy election (Reuters), and... Risk On
- Czech inspectors find horsemeat in IKEA meatballs (Reuters)
- China’s Slower Manufacturing Casts Shadow Over Recovery (Bloomberg)
- So much for reform: China Prepares for Government Shuffle as Zhou Stays at PBOC (Bloomberg)
- France to pause austerity, cut spending next year instead: Hollande (Reuters)
- Sinopec to buy stake in Chesapeake assets for $1.02 billion (Reuters)
- White House warns states of looming pain from March 1 budget cuts (Reuters)
- China Quietly Invests Reserves in U.K. Properties (WSJ)
- Osborne Keeps Austerity as Investors See Downgrade as Late (BBG)
- South Korea's new president demands North drop nuclear ambitions (Reuters)
- Russia accuses U.S. of double standards over Syria (Reuters)
Following last night's very disappointing China HSBC PMI numbers, one would think that the traditional EURUSD, and thus ES, overnight ramp would be missing or at least delayed, especially ahead of a very possible risk off day such as Italian election day. One would be wrong. Because some time after midnight eastern, in what can only be seen as a celebration of Argo's choice as a best picture, the EURUSD resumed its upward ramp on absolutely no news, pushing the pair higher by nearly 100 pips in a smooth diagonal line, and dragging US futures up with it as usual. The catalyst apparently is that with Italian exit polls mere hours away (due out at 2pm GMT), market talk is that Berlusconi's resurgent chances have been hobbled due to a low turnout in the pro-Berlusconi northern states (recall that Lombardia is the key state for the elections) following a quick read of a Reuters recap article. What is ignored is that the referenced Reuters article also notes the "surge in protests votes being cast" in the first day of voting, which means less votes on an absolute and relative basis for Bersani and Monti, even if Berlusconi ends up getting less of the Northern vote. Of course, nobody actually has any clue what the exit polls look like. In fact, with a hung parliament a distinct possibility even assuming a Bersani-Monti coalition, both Goldman and JPM have said a 50-100 pip widening across the Italian curve is possible should a Hung Parliament develop (for more read here). But for now hope dominates and is both squeezing the shorts and causing yet another algorithmic stop hunt in FX, and thus every other asset class. Don't be surprised all of overnight's gains, and much more to be wiped out minutes after 9 am eastern when the first Italian exit polls emerge.
The one-stop, comprehensive summary of the key positive and negative news and events in the past week.
This coming from the guy who a month ago called for "Dow 20,000", all we can say is... #Ref!
A listless overnight session with just the previously noted first disappointing LTRO-2 repayment and the now traditional big beat out of the "other" German confidence indicator, IFO, which beat expectations of 104.9, rising to a 10 month high of 107.4 to attempt to push the economy out of the recessionary slump (just don't mention yesterday's PMI), and nothing on today's US calendar is a fitting way to end the week, and further shows that markets are once more completely oblivious to the risks of the Hung Parliament outcome that this weekend may bring in Italy should the Berlusconi juggernaut maintain its momentum. The EURUSD and the US futures have disconnected once more, with almost all of yesterday's market weakness filled in the overnight session as the good old low-volume levitation returns. Here are the few news items worth reporting.
Overnight Summary: German Hope Soars To Three Year High As European Car Registrations Drop To Record LowSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/19/2013 08:12 -0400
Europe's double dipping economy may be continuing to implode, but at least confidence abounds. And while the conifidence game was the purvey of career politicians and ex-Goldman central bankers in January, it has now shifted to Europe's equivalent of the reflexive UMichigan consumer confidence, after Germany's ZEW investor confidence soared to 48.2 vs expectations of a modest 35.0 print, leaving January's 31.5 print in the dust, and the highest since April 2010. And all of the surge was based on the hope, with none attributed to reality, or current conditions. From SocGen: "The positive mood in both the equity and bond markets since the beginning of the year has led to a strong surge in expectations (economic sentiment) in the ZEW survey, a survey completed among German investors. This surge was entirely driven by expectations while current activity remains muted. Expectations in most surveys have recently been rising more strongly than expected, but at one point we expect some moderation. We consider that Germany and the euro area are in a situation of readjusting expectations and activity from the weakness at end-2012. The recovery in expectations may already have overshoot if hard data disappoint in the coming weeks." And while Europe is starry-eyed with hope about the future, as it is in the beginning of every year, it blithely ignored the fact that new car registrations collapsed in January by 14.2% to a new record low, while construction output in the Euroarea declined for a second month in December, tumbling by 4.8% led by slumping activity in, wait for it, Germany. But this time the future will be different.
Horsemeat Scandal Goes Global As World's Largest Food Maker Pulls Tainted Pasta From Spain And ItalySubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/18/2013 22:44 -0400
First it was Ireland, then the entire UK, then Germany, and gradually it spread to all of Europe (except for France of course, where it was always a delicacy). But it was only once its finally crossed the Alps and made its way to the Swiss factories of Nestle, the world's largest food maker, did the horsemeat scandal truly go global. The FT reports that "the escalating horsemeat scandal has ensnared two of the biggest names in the food industry, Nestlé, the world’s number-one food maker, and JBS, the largest beef producer by sales. Switzerland-based Nestlé on Monday removed pasta meals from shelves in Italy and Spain and suspended deliveries of all processed products containing meat from German supplier, H.J. Schypke, after tests revealed traces of horse DNA above 1 per cent. Nestlé said it had informed the authorities....Nestlé withdrew two chilled pasta products, Buitoni Beef Ravioli and Beef Tortellini from sale in Italy and Spain. Lasagnes à la Bolognaise Gourmandes, a frozen meat product for catering businesses produced in France, will also be withdrawn."