Another week begins which means all eyes turn to Europe which is getting increasingly problematic once more, even if the central banks have lulled all capital markets into total submission, and a state of complete decoupling with the underlying fundamentals. The primary event last night without doubt was Catalonia's definitive vote for independence. While some have spun this as a loss for firebrand Artur Mas, who lost 12 seats since the 2010 election to a total of 50, and who recently made an independence referendum as his primary election mission, the reality is that his loss has only occurred as as result of his shift from a more moderate platform. The reality is that his loss is the gain of ERC, which gained the seats Mas lost, with 21, compared to 10 previously, and is now the second biggest Catalan power. The only difference between Mas' CiU and the ERC is that the latter is not interested in a referendum, and demand outright independence for Catalonia as soon as possible, coupled with a reduction in austerity and a write off of the Catalan debt. As such while there will be some serious horse trading in the coming days and week, it is idiotic to attempt to spin last night's result as anything less than a slap in the face of European "cohesion." And Catalonia is merely the beginning. Recall: "The European Disunion: The Richest Increasingly Want To Fragment From The Poorest" - it is coming to an insolvent European country near you.
If we lacked Direction last week, this week was a strong case for “The Only Way is Up!” with Risk assets soaring. Quite a cleansing process over the last weeks: weak longs stopped out, weak shorts stopped out. Volatility crushed nevertheless.
"The Only Way Is Up" (Bunds 1,44% +12; Spain 5,60% -26; Stoxx 2552 +4,8%; EUR 1,296 +260)
This objective one-stop-shop report concisely summarizes the important macro events over the past week.
Markets initially sold off on Tuesday as Bernanke's speech gave no mention of further easing programs; but rebounded on his closing remarks, which the media latched on to, regarding optimism about economic growth in 2013. This was welcome news - as long as you don't think about it too much. With debt levels continuing to spiral higher, which acts as a governor on economic growth due to the debt service requirement, the question of a return of economic growth becomes much more cloudy. The problem for Bernanke comes down to his inability to provide realistic economic forecasts as the Federal Reserve faces a severe 'communications' challenge, which is the creation of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Imagine that following an FOMC meeting Bernanke stated:
"The policies and actions that we have implemented to date have done little to curb economic weakness. The economy is in much worse shape that we have previously communicated as the transmission system of Fed policy through the economy, and the financial markets, is obviously broken."
The immediate reaction to such a statement would be a complete meltdown of the financial markets.
Yet another light ROn close of the day, crowning a ROn of a week. Worries put aside on Greece (and Cyprus) and the Periphery (and the Fiscal Cliff). Sentiment data all for the better. Last week’s nightmare obviously obliterated. It’s not like things have really changed, though.
Fly like an Eagle – for those “Free Bird” of yesterday that made it through the night…
"Fly Like An Eagle" (Bunds 1,44% +1; Spain 5,6% -4; Stoxx 2552 +0,7%; EUR 1,296 +80)
US closing fine, Asia closing fine. PMIs a tick better than expected. Fine. Spanish auction fine. Greek bonds fine. All fine. Slight Risk On. Fine. Fine, fine, fine… All is good. Free that Bird – or Eat it!
"Free Bird" (Bunds 1,43% +0; Spain 5,64% -6; Stoxx 2534 +0,6%; EUR 1,288 +60)
With America shut for Thanksgiving today, what was going to be an abysmal volume day, coupled with the usual any news is good news levitation following the lowest volume day of the year, will be even worse. Sure enough, the overnight session started off with a bang, when in the vacuum of night, a lift everything algo sent the EURUSD soaring by 40 pips higher on no news. With the entire risk complex firmly anchored to the EURUSD pair as the key driver, it pushed risk across the entire market well higher to set the early session mood with the very first trade. Followed light trading and a gradual drift lower which could not be offset even with a China HSBC Flash PMI print of 50.4, up from 49.5 in October, and the first 50+ print in 13 month (to accompany the new political regime: after all, the US is not the only nation where economic data mysteriouly levitate with key political events). This continued until about Europe open, when the monthly release of European PMIs came out, which once again were confusing to say the least with France posting the biggest and most surprising pick up, after its Manufacturing PMI rose from 43.7 to 44.7, on expectations of 44.0, while the Services PMI increased from 44.6 to 46.1, well above the expected 45.0 print. Germany was less exuberant with manufacturing rising from 45.5 to 46.2, although the Services PMI dropped from 48.4 to 48.0, missing expectations of 48.3, sending the series to its lowest in 41 months.
Greece? Sorry, what’s with Greece? French downgrade. Unexpected, but then again not that much. So what? Fiscal Cliff? As no one speaks about it, it can be ignored. Risk? If it doesn’t fall, it has to rise.
"Rise To The Occasion" (Bunds 1,43% +2; Spain 5,7% -9; Stoxx 2518 +0,4%; EUR 1,282 +10)
Uh… Very uncomfortable French downgrade. Not surprising per se, but uncomfortable. Ask the EFSF… Brings back the question of “Who’s Next”? European Risk (Equities & Credit), however, oblivious and taking rising yields as a sure sign for Risk On. I’d see the risk of France (and everyone else) starting to count contingent costs.
"A Tout Le Monde" (Bunds 1,41% +6; Spain 5,79% -9; Stoxx 2509 +0,6%; EUR 1,281 unch)
Those living in the dust bowl responded by doing more of what had failed rather than doing something different. Ours is a dust bowl economy. In our economy, debt is the marginal field that has been plowed up for brief exploitation and profit. In response to the drought of income and collateral that supports debt, the Federal Reserve, Congress and the Obama administration have actively made the crisis worse by doing more of what failed spectacularly: encouraging more debt with zero-interest rate policy (ZIRP), massive "socialized" subsidies of housing and mortgages, and so on. When the present path cannot possibly lead to success, regardless of the labor and treasure poured into the effort, then risking the unknown by trying something different is the only way forward.
With Thanksgiving this Thursday, trading desks will be empty on Wednesday afternoon and remain so until next Monday. So even though it is a holiday shortened week, here are the main things to expect in the next 5 days: Bank of Japan meeting, the European Council meeting and the Eurogroup meeting. Key data releases include European and Chinese Flash PMIs.
Those looking for fundamental newsflow and/or facts to justify the latest bout of overnight risk exuberance will not find it. To be sure, among the few economic indicators reported overnight in the Thanksgiving shortened week, European construction output for September tumbled -1.4% from August, after rising 0.6% previously. How long until Europe copycats the latest US foreclosure sequestration, "demand pull" gimmick and gives hedge funds risk free loans to buy up housing (aka REO-to-Rent)? More importantly, and confirming that Spain is far, far from a positive inflection point, Spanish bad loans rose to a new record high of 10.7%. This was the the highest level since the records began in 1962. The total value of these loans was €182.2 billion ($233 billion) in September, according to the Bank of Spain (more on this shortly). The relentless rise indicates that the Spanish bad bank rescue fund will be woefully insufficient and will need to be raised again and again. So while there was nothing in the facts to make investors happy, traders looked to hope and prayer, instead pushing risk higher on the much overplayed Friday "news" that politicians are willing to compromise in the cliff (which as we reported was merely a market ramping publicity stunt by Nancy Pelosi et al), and that Greece may be saved at tomorrow's Eurogroup meeting, for the third time. That this will be difficult is an understatement, with the Dutch finance minister saying no final decisions on Greece should be expected, and his German counterpart adding that a Greek debt writeoff is "inconceivable." In other words, even hoping for hope is a stretch, but the market is doing it nonetheless.
You've probably noticed the cookie-cutter format of most financial media "news": a few key "buzz words" (fiscal cliff, Bush tax cuts, etc.) are inserted into conventional contexts, and this is passed off as either "reporting" or "commentary" depending on the number of pundits sourced. Correspondent Frank M. kindly passed along a template that is "officially deny its existence" secret within the mainstream media. With this template, you could launch your own financial media channel, ready to compete with the big boys. Heck, you could hire some cheap overseas labor to make a few Skype calls to "the usual suspects," for-hire academics, hedge fund gurus, etc. and actually attribute the fluff to a real person.
Barclays' Barry Knapp has joined the growing crowd of 'sub-1400 year-end S&P 500 target' realists among sell-side equity strategists. With Morgan Stanley's Adam Parker at 1167 and Goldman's David Kostin at 1250, Knapp just reduced his target to 1325 as he notes "the election scenario that unfolded was the one with the most risk, the status quo outcome." In a brief but densely packed interview on Bloomberg TV (the likes of which we suspect we will not see on CNBC), Knapp summarizes his non-rose-colored-glasses view: "In the longer term, while U.S. growth ... remains constrained by policy uncertainty and balance sheet deleveraging. Financial repression has limited the Fed’s effectiveness... We believe a period of significant equity market valuation improvement can’t begin until the Fed initiates the exit strategy process, which is unlikely to occur until Federal government debt sustainability is addressed." From lame-duck impotence to tax-selling pressures, Knapp nails our new reality and explains, as we have been saying, that the only solution lies in a market-forced move: "We suspect, absent a market correction large enough to force compromise, the two sides will not agree on the starting point for tax rates." Must Watch...
Earlier we asked a simple question:
What time is the all time highest UMich Consumer Sentiment out?
— zerohedge (@zerohedge) November 9, 2012
the answer is 9:55... and while not an all time high, LOLfidence, pardon, CONfidence just printed the highest number since July 2007!