While the only market moving event of note had nothing to do with the economy (as usual), and everything to do with the Fed's potential propensity to print even more dollars and inject even more reserves into the stock market (now that Summers the wrongly perceived "hawk" is out) some other notable events did take place in the Monday trading session. Of note: while India's August inflation soared far higher than the expected 5.7%, rising to 6.1% from 5.79% (making life for the RBI even more miserable, as it is fighting inflation on one hand, and a lack of liquidity on the other), in Europe inflation decelerated to 1.3% from 1.6% in July driven by a drop in energy prices, while core inflation was a tiny 1.1%. In a continent with record negative loan growth this is to be expected. Additionally, as also reported, Merkel appears to be positioned stronger ahead of this weekend's Federal election following stronger results for her CDU/CSU, if weaker for her broader coalition. In Libya, oil protesters said they would continue stoppages at oil terminals until their demands are met in yet another startling outcome for US foreign intervention. Finally, some headline on Syria noted a Kerry statement "will not tolerate avoidance of a Syria deal", while Lavrov observed that it may be time to "force Syria opposition to peace talks." And one quote of the day so far: "Don't want market to become excessively exuberant" from the ECB's Mersch- just modestly so?
Following this morning's miss on retail sales and plunge in consumer confidence, Bloomberg's Rich Yamarone points out that retailers remain anxious about the outlook as they see consumers cautious and expect a spending slowdown. The following quotes from some of the largest and most belwether names may help shed some light on the reality of the hope that is priced into markets about consumption relative to actual business expectations... perhaps best summed by Sealed Air's CEO, "we are in the fourth year of the recovery and it doesn’t feel like a recovery. Because it’s the first time ever that things, four years within a recovery, are feeling so iffy."
This is the first consecutive monthly drop in 14 months and the largest miss vs expectations on record. Printing at 76.8 (against an expectation of 82.0), this is the lowest in 5 months and points to the picture we have been painting of a consumer increasingly affected by rising rates and soaring gas prices amid stagnant incomes. As Citi notes below, this is the exact same pattern we have seen play out in the last 2 cycles and suggest significant downside risk to US equities. The economic outlook sub-index collapsed to its lowest since January.
Overnight asset classes got a jolt following a report by Nikkei that Obama was moving toward naming Summers the next Fed chairman, citing “several close US sources,” pushing stocks modestly lower in Europe, with bond yields higher. According to the report, Obama is to name Summers as next Fed chairman as early as late next week, after the Federal Open Market Committee meeting. Otherwise, risk is still digesting the news of the confidential Twitter IPO, as it is becoming quite clear that some of the largest names (Hilton also announced yesterday) are seeking to cash out in the public markets. Is this the top?
If ever there was an investor reaction that summed up just how much the Federal Reserve has broken the markets it was yesterday morning's post-dismal-jobs-report surge. As John Phelan notes, we now appear to be in a position where the interests of financial markets are precisely at odds with the interests of the rest of the economy; where the good news for us is bad news for them and bad news for us is good news for them. The one way bet of the Greenspan Put maintained, so far, by Ben Bernanke, has created a market of monetary-punch-drunk liquidityholics. On its 100th birthday the Federal Reserve has the tricky task of sneaking the punch bowl out of the party, a task it seems they’ll struggle to manage without starting a riot. They may have printed themselves into a corner.
As fast-food workers of the world unite under a common banner of "higher minimum 'livabale' wages", one can't help but reflect on the terrible jobs data this morning and the potential inability of workers to get anything but a low-skill 'part-time' job flipping burgers. But most importantly, these workers may soon not be able to afford the product they manufacture. Concerns over rising wage costs can be put aside for now as it is the soaring costs of beef (as we discussed here previously) that are causing "Dollar Menu" items to be adjusted upwards. "You can't sell a burger for $1 anymore because the cost of beef has gone up so much," and sure enough, as Bloomberg reports, McDonalds is testing a new version, dubbed 'Dollar Menu and More', that includes items selling for as much as $5. As one analyst notes, the industry's "definition of value has moved up from the Dollar Menu to $1.50 or $2.”
The Old Continent: Europe. They have always liked to pride themselves on the fact that they were quaint guys living in leafy suburbs and going to work along cobbled streets.
Throughout this year, the consensus view has been that current economic weakness is justified and we are just one or two quarters away from faster growth. Now, in the third quarter Guggenheim's Scott Minerd exclaims we are hearing the same arguments, although growth targets are starting to dip. He calls this "hope", the growth mirage. Minerd adds, that, in the heat of the desert, the eye perceives water on the horizon, but the closer one tries to get, the farther away it moves – until the traveler realizes that he has been chasing an illusion caused by shimmering layers of hot and cool air.
- Summers Faces Key 'No' Votes if Picked for Fed (WSJ)
- NYT Editorial Board Says Summers Would Be Wrong Fed Choice (NYT)
- Russia says it's compiled 100-page report blaming Syrian rebels for a chemical weapons attack (McClatchy)
- China says Syria crisis can't be resolved with military strike (Reuters)
- G-20 Faces Growth Threats as Syria Adds to QE Exit Risks (Bloomberg)
- Apple Supplier Fire Spurs Biggest Chip Price Rise in 3 Years (BBG)
- U.S. Decided Not to Horse-Trade With Russia on Assad (WSJ)
- Financial Crisis: For Corporations and Investors, Debt Makes a Comeback (WSJ)
- Gorman Says Chance of Another Financial Crisis ‘Close to Zero’ (BBG) and in other news, "no risk of a Us downgrade" - Tim Geithner
- A Biotech King, Dethroned (NYT)
With TrimTabs seeing real wage and salary growth at a mere 0.7% year-over-year in August, some of the more 'robust' expectations for tomorrow's non-farm payroll report appear a little exuberant. However, Goldman's 200k estimate (based on 24 labor market indicators) suggests there will be enough to provide cover (aside from the cornering via sentiment, deficits, technicals, and international resentment) for a Fed "Taper." SocGen's Brian Jones is top-dog at a stunning 220k expectations (2-sigma above the 180k median expectation for 'probably the most important data point in the world'). At the other end of the scale of 95 estimates summarized below by Bloomberg, is TrimTabs' Madeline Schnapp who sees a 5-sigma miss at a mere 79k jobs added. Goldman expects the unemployment rate to hold steady at 7.4%.
The present picture for the oil price looks increasingly bullish once more. Citi asks, is this a replay of the dynamics seen in the 1970’s? We hope not... but the feedback loop (from oil prices) to the economy and markets is undeniable...
Consumer sentiment and confidence has been a smorgasbord of confusion recently. Bloomberg's Consumer Comfort index just had its biggest 3-week plunge in 16 months falling back to its lowest since the first week of April. Conference Board confidence was 'stable' at 5.5 year highs and now UMich Confidence, which missed expectations for the first time in 2013 last month in its preliminary print, has been revised up with its final data to the best level in 4 months. The schizophrenia is completed with this little beauty from Gallup. As we have warned before, beware 'the big con' and as these two charts suggest, confidence seems very much in the eye of the beholder.
- Merkel Blames SPD’s Schroeder for Letting Greece Into Euro (BBG)
- U.S. Bank Legal Bills Exceed $100 Billion (BBG)
- U.K. to Request U.N. Action to Protect Syrians From Chemical Weapons (WSJ) - and Russia to veto any decision
- U.N. inspectors in new Syria mission as West prepares to strike (Reuters)
- Emerging-Market Rout Intensifies on Syria Jitters (WSJ)
- Rebels Without a Leader Show Limit to U.S. Role in Syria War (BBG)
- Anger at IRS Powers Tea-Party Comeback (WSJ)
- China has much at risk but no reach in Middle East (Reuters)
- 'London Whale' Penalties Put at $500 Million to $600 Million (WSJ)
- U.S. lawmaker says 'compelling' evidence of Syrian chemical attack (Reuters)
The key overnight events were already discussed previously, but here they are again: the wholesale selloff in Asia (which subsequently shifted to Europe), the accelerating outflows from India (moment ago the SEBI website announced a net INR13.7 billion selling in Indian stocks yesterday and the near record collapse in the Indian Rupee to new record lows, and the ongoing uncertainty over Syria and what it will do to crude prices (if SocGen is right, nothing good). In brief: a market conditioned and habituated to a world in which Bernanke promises "to make everything ok" suddenly finds itself in the throes of uncertainty and following 4 years of dumb trend-following, has no idea what to do.
The Richmond Fed survey surged to 14, its biggest beat since April 2010 and its highest level since January 2011. All makes perfect sense right? Just a 3.5 sigma beat of analyst expectations at 0. All sub-indices improved to multi-month highs and expectations for six months ahead also surged (even as prices paid and received collapsed). Consumer Confidence, amid surging interest rates and near-record gas prices for this time of year (and a pending war), rose (beating expectations) after falling last month. All of the gains in confidence came from 'hope' as the expectations sub-index rose from 86.0 to 88.7 as the present situation fell from 73.7 to 70.7 - the biggest drop since January. Remember, beware of the big 'con'.