Any and all negative overnight news are now completely ignored as the scramble for risk hits the usual fever pitch following Bernanke's latest attempt to transfer cash from safe point A to ponzi point B, aka stocks. First, China's industrial firms suffered a rare annual drop in profits in the first two months of 2012 mainly in petrochemicals, metals and auto firms, the latest signs of weakness in the world's No. 2 economy and reinforcing the case for policy easing, according to Reuters. This was the first Jan-Feb profits downturn since Jan-Aug 2009. Profits fell 5.2 percent so far in 2012, according to the industrial profitability indicator, published by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) every month. The last period that China reported nationwide industrial profit fall was in the first eight months of 2009. Then there was the German GfK Consumer Confidence which unlike yesterday's IFO, missed: nobody cares. Also on the negative side was an earlier auction of Spanish Bills which sold EUR 2.58 billion, just barely off the low end of a target issuance of EUR 2.5-3 billion. As noted however, neither this, nor the series of US disappointments which looks set to end March with 15 of 17 estimate misses is relevant. To wit: French consumer confidence soared to 87 on expectations of 82, as the easiest and lowest common denominator to boost risk assets is now abused everywhere, by UMich, by Germany and now by France. And why would people not be confident - stocks everywhere are higher despite fundamentals. After all if something fails, there is a central planner to fix it. Never forget - the taxpayer credit card has no limits. Net result - green across the board.
- BOJ Crosses Rubicon With Desperate Monetary Policy, Hirano Says (Bloomberg)
- Europe’s bailout bazooka is proving to be a toy gun (FT)
- Monti Signals Spanish Euro Risk as EU to Bolster Firewall (FT)
- Merkel set to allow firewall to rise (FT)
- Banks set to cut $1tn from balance sheets (FT)
- Supreme Court weighs historic healthcare law (Reuters)
- Spain PM denied symbolic austerity boost in local vote (Reuters)
- Anti-war movement stirs in Israel (FT)
- Obama to Ask China to Toughen Korea Line (WSJ)
- Pimco’s Gross Says Fed May ‘Hint’ at QE3 at April Meeting (Bloomberg)
Remember all those European PMIs which imploded over the past month, destroying any hopes of a rapid rebound from Europe's technical recession? You can forget them now because the one indicator which tracks the level of the manipulated stock market more than anything else, German IFO business survey, just came better than expected, at a whopping 109.8 compared to expectations of 109.6 print, same as the previous one. And that is all it takes for futures, and the EURUSD to ramp, which in turn plants the seeds for another confidence ramp next month and so on. Here is Goldman's take: "The assessment of current conditions remained unchanged at 117.4, while expectations increase to a level of 102.7 after 102.4. Looking at the different sectors it shows that confidence in the manufacturing sector was broadly stable on a high level (14.0 after 14.3), while construction saw a small decline after a surge over the last couple of months (2.3 after 3.3; confidence stood at -13.2 in October). Confidence in the retail sector also recorded a strong gain (106.6 after 3.7), while wholesale saw a decline (12.8 after 15.0). This is a strong report with business conditions remaining significantly above their long-term average of 101.1. The rebound in business conditions after a soft spot during October to January is indicative for a rebound in the underlying momentum in the economy." Well, no, if anything it is indactive that Germans were happy to reap the benefits of a few trillion in liquidity which in turn pushed markets higher, and making Germans even more confident despite the big miss in German PMI in March. But for now a big drop in the market is unwelcome so let's focus on reflexive, Catch 22 indicators. Even Goldman is perplexed on the spin: "Only the release of the 'hard' data in the coming weeks will show which survey is giving the correct signal with respect to the underlying momentum of the German economy. But in any case, the March IFO argues against taking, at least for now, the PMIs at face value."
Next week will be relatively light in economic reporting, and with no HFT exchange IPOs on deck, and the VVIX hardly large enough to warrant a TVIX type collapse, it may be downright boring. The one thing that will provide excitement is whether or not the US economic decline in March following modestly stronger than expected January and February courtesy of a record warm winter, will accelerate in order to set the stage for the April FOMC meeting in which Bill Gross, quite pregnant with a record amount of MBS, now believes the first QE hint will come. Naturally this can not happen unless the market drops first, but the market will only spike on every drop interpreting it for more QE hints, and so on in a senseless Catch 22 until the FRBNY is forced to crash the market with gusto to unleash the NEW qeasing (remember - the Fed is now officially losing the race to debase). For those looking for a more detailed preview of next week's events, Goldman provides a handy primer.
European cash equity markets were seen on a slight upward trend in the early hours of the session amid some rumours that the Chinese PBOC were considering a cut to their RRR. However, this failed to materialise and markets have now retreated into negative territory with flows seen moving into fixed income securities. This follows some market talk of selling in Greek PSI bonds due to the absence of CDSs. This sparked some renewed concern regarding the emergence of Greece from their recovery. Elsewhere, we saw the publication of the BoE’s financial stability review recommending that UK banks raise external capital as soon as possible. This saw risk-averse flows into the gilt, with futures now trading up around 40 ticks.
- More HFT Posturing: SEC Probes Rapid Trading (WSJ)
- Fed’s Bullard Says Monetary Policy May Be at Turning Point (Bloomberg)
- Hilsenrath: Fed Hosts Global Gathering on Easy Money (WSJ)
- Dublin ‘hopeful’ ECB will approve bond deal (FT)
- EU Proposes a Beefed-Up Permanent Bailout Fund (WSJ)
- Portugal Town Halls Face Default Amid $12 Billion Debt (Bloomberg)
- Hidden Fund Fees Means U.K. Investors Pay Double US Rates (Bloomberg)
- Europe Weighs Trade Probes Amid Beijing Threats (WSJ)
- Bank of Japan Stimulus Row Fueled by Kono’s Nomination (Bloomberg)
- BHP Billiton sees China iron ore demand flattening (Reuters)
- Australia Passes 30% Tax on Iron-Ore, Coal Mining Profits (Bloomberg)
- State Capitalism in China Will Fade: Zhang (Bloomberg)
- Venizelos quits to start election campaign (FT)
- Fed’s Dudley Says U.S. Isn’t ‘Out of the Woods’ (Bloomberg)
- China Is Leading Foreign Investor in Germany (WSJ)
- Fed undecided on more easing: Dudley (Reuters)
- Martin Wolf: What is the real rate of interest telling us? (FT)
The persistent negative investment flows at U.S. listed mutual funds specializing in domestic stocks is one of the most important long-term trends catalyzed by the Financial Crisis. AUM has dropped by $473 billion since January 2007 despite the S&P 500 Index’s essentially flat performance over this period. The news is no better since the beginning of 2012 – despite the ongoing rally in domestic equities – with $6.8 billion of further outflows year to date. In today’s note Nic Colas, of ConvergEx analyzes what will reverse this trend along two vectors: the desire and ability of individuals to invest. The rally in risk assets, along with declining actual volatility, is the best hope for a reversal in money flow trends. Offsetting that factor are continued stresses on household budgets and consumer psychology combined with problematic demographic trends. Bottom line: domestic money flows have likely become more economically sensitive than in previous cycles.
While US equity futures continue to do their thing as the DJIA 13K ceiling comes into play again (two weeks ago Dow 13K was crossed nearly 80 times), ahead of today's 2:15pm Bernanke statement which will make the case for the NEW QE even more remote, none of the traditional correlation drivers are in active mode, with the EURUSD now at LOD levels, following headlines such as the following: "Euro Pares Losses vs Dollar as Germany’s ZEW Beats Ests" and 20 minutes later "EUR Weakens After German Zew Rises for 4th Month." As can be surmised, a consumer confidence circular and reflexive indicator is the basis for this Schrodinger (alive and dead) euro, and sure enough sentiment, aka the stock market, aka the ECB's balance sheet expansion of $1.3 trillion, is "improved" despite renewed concern over Spain’s fiscal outlook after better than expected German ZEW per Bloomberg. Next, investors await U.S. retail sales, which have come in consistently weaker in the past 3 month, and unless a pick up here is noted, one can scratch Q1 GDP. None of which will have any impact on the S&P 500 policy indicator whatsoever: in an election year, not even Brian Sack can push the stock market into the red.
- Tainted Libor Guessing Games Face Replacement by Real Trades (Bloomberg) - so circular, self-reported data is "tainted" - but consumer confidence is great for pumping a stock market?
- Japan Sets up $12 Billion Program for Dollar Loans, Increases Growth Fund (Bloomberg)
- China Hints at Halt to Renminbi Rise (FT)
- Spain Pressed to Cut More From Its Budget (FT)
- Bailout can make Greek debt sustainable, but risks remain: EU/IMF (Reuters)
- Banks to Face Tough Reviews, Details of Mortgage Deal Show (NYT)
- U.S. and Europe Move on China Minerals (WSJ)
- Use of Homeless as Internet Hot Spots Backfires on Marketer (NYT)
- Obama administration seeks to pressure China on exports with new trade case (AP)
"We, the people," are in deep trouble.
Markets appear to be tentatively recovering some of yesterday’s heavy losses, recording modest gains so far this morning. Comments made overnight by the German finance minister as well as senior officials from the Greek finance ministry may have mercifully given market participants some hope as they are confident the Greek PSI deal will be completed by the deadline tomorrow evening. The DAX index has underperformed the other European equity indices in recent trade following the release of some disappointing factory orders data for January, with markets expecting an expansion of 0.6%, however the reading came in at -2.7%, moving DAX stock futures into negative territory. WTI crude and Brent have also retraced some of their losses made earlier in the week following a drawdown in US gasoline inventories reported last night as well as a generally weak USD index in the FX markets today. Markets are awaiting US ADP employment change later in the session, as well as the weekly DOE oil inventories casting further light on the US energy stocks.
Last Thursday, following the second in one day GDP forecast tweak lower by Goldman on disappointing Consumer and ISM data, we said "And this, ladies and gents, is ultra high frequency economics, where HFT machines push the market up and down without reason, and where this has an immediate impact on economic indicators, all changed around in real time." Sure enough, today, following the better than expected Services ISM print, Goldman has now revised its GDP tracking number, this time higher, from 1.9% to 2.0%! At this rate GDP will soon become a coincident indicator of nothing more than consumer confidence that record high gas prices are a bullish indicator for consumption. That it is already a coincident indicator to real-time economic data, and merely shows the prevalent confusion within the strategist community, is a given.
When it comes to reporting the news, Reuters ability to get the scoop first may only be rivaled by its ability to "spin" analysis in a way that will make a normal thinking person's head spin. Such as the following piece of unrivaled headscrathing titled "The good news behind oil prices" whose conclusion, as some may have already guessed, is that "the surge in crude oil is looking more like a harbinger of better days." Let's go through the arguments.