There was little in terms of overnight newsflow to spook algos, but the tone is decidedly sour this morning following a lack of either the now traditional Japan or Europen-open buying ramps. The primary reason for this may well be the ongoing decline in the USDJPY which failed to breach the 100 barrier yesterday, coming as close as 99.95 before the Mrs. Watanabe onslaught had to be called off despite some more jawboning from Kuroda whose headlines are now summarily ignored, and which appears to have set a line in the sand for Japan, whose market naturally closed lower following this strengthening in its currency. Similarly troubling was the dip in the SHCOMP which closed down -0.58%, this despite the epic M2 and credit injection reported yesterday: if new liquidity can't send the market higher, what can?
The week ahead is light on major market moving data releases. From a policy perspective and in light of the recent moves in treasuries, FOMC minutes are likely to be followed by markets. Retail sales in the US are likely to print below consensus both on the headline and on the core metrics. That said, this needs to be seen against the backdrop of first quarter retail consumer spending data surprising to the upside. Producer prices are also likely to come in on the soft side of market expectations. Finally, do not expect large surprises from the U of Michigan consumer confidence.
Have you ever done something really stupid, just because you were in love? Something you look back on and cringe, thinking “why on earth did I do that?” Of course. Who hasn’t? In the world of economics and finance, they call this ‘sentiment’. Consumer confidence, business confidence, investor confidence… these are basically emotional readings. Screw the numbers. To hell with the truth. It’s all about how people feel. It seems crazy, but it’s true. Right now, for example, ‘sentiment’ is telling us that the euro crisis is over. It’s telling us that the debt ceiling is pretty much resolved. And, after taking five years to reach pre-crash levels, it’s telling us that the stock market is once again safe for the average investor. Yet the numbers tell a completely different story. Something just doesn’t add up. Investors are throwing caution to the wind right now... ignoring the basic fundamentals and focusing exclusively on euphoric sentiment. (Or central bank policy). We can personally attest, and any boxer will tell you, that it’s the punch that you don’t see coming which knocks you out.
What is the meaning of the markets hitting new all-time highs. The general consensus of the analysts and economists is that the rise in capital markets, given weak current economic data and a resurgence of the Eurozone crisis, is clearly a sign of economic strength; and, combined with rising corporate profitability, makes stocks the only investment worth having. There is, however, a more pragmatic perspective. Suppressed wage growth, layoffs, cost-cutting, productivity increases, accounting gimmickry and stock buybacks have been the primary factors in surging profitability. However, these actions are finite in nature and inevitably it will come down to topline revenue growth. However, since consumer incomes have been cannibalized by suppressed wages and interest rates - there is nowhere left to generate further sales gains from in excess of population growth. The reality is that all the stimulus and financial support available from the Fed, and the government, can't put a broken financial transmission system back together again. Eventually, the current disconnect between the economy and the markets will merge. Our bet is that such a convergence is not likely to be a pleasant one.
Succinctly summarizing the positive and negative news, data, and market events of the week...
We cautioned readers in 2011 that in a broke world in which the ridiculously named "muddle-through" has miserably failed, a global wealth tax seeking to expropriate some 30% of all financial assets is coming. Few took it seriously, and why should they - after all the market has been blissfully rising before and ever since then, which implies everything was ok, right? Wrong, as those who are lining up right now in the Cyprus late of night not to buy a shiny new iTrinket, but to access a measly €300 of their own money would promptly admit. Naturally, if more of our Cypriot readers had paid attention, they would have far more of their own money at their disposal right now, instead of having to beg Merkel's emissaries for a €300 handout tomorrow. Now, a year and a half later, the realization that the global wealth tax is not only coming but is inevitable in practically every developed country, is finally sinking in, as this interview with Marc Faber confirms: "Until now, the bailouts in Europe and the U.S. were at the expense of the taxpayer. And from now onwards, in my view, the bailouts will also be at the expense of the asset holders, the well-to-do people. So if you have money I am sure the governments will one day take away 20-30% of my wealth."
He is correct, but probably optimstic.
Cyprus Contagion Spreads As European "Omnishambles" Return; Euro Under 1.28 For First Time Since NovemberSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/27/2013 05:59 -0500
While everyone likes to hate on Cyprus, it is Italy that is the focal point of today's European "omnishambles" that has seen the EURUSD tumble to a five month low as of this writing. First it was economic data that scared investors, with Industrial Sales and Orders tumbling far below expected, posting numbers of -1.3% and -1.4%, respectively, on expectations of an increase. Retail sales were just as ugly, declining by -0.5% in January, on expectations of an unchanged print, with the December 0.2% number revised also into negative territory. Then Bersani, who has been tasked to form a government until tomorrow, said that the possibility of a broad coalition government does not exist, adding that no lasting government is possible without him as a premier, and requesting that Grillo's Five Star party not block his path to government, for which we wish him the best of luck as moments later Five Star ruled out all external support for a broad government and would vote no confidence for Bersani. Then we got news that the Italian financial police has searched the Nomura in Milan in connection with the Monte Paschi case, which means even more skeletons in the closet are about to be uncovered. Finally, Italy just held a 3.5% 5 and 4.5% 10 year bond auction in which the country raised less than the maximum targeted €7 billion, and in which the Bid to Cover on the 5 Year dumping to the lowest since 2002, with bidding quite soft and the yield rising to 3.65% versus 3.59% previously. This has resulted in a blow out in Italian yields by 16 bps to 4.73% compared to 4.705% earlier. End result, as noted yesterday, has been an acceleration in the rush out of the EUR, with the EURUSD sliding to under 1.28 for the first time since November 21, a blow out in Greek bonds with yields pushing up 55 bps to 12.68% and a push for real safety (sorry, not the DJIA) in the form of German 2 Year bonds, which have dipped to -0.018%, the lowest since December, on rising fears that despite endless lies out of its bureaucrats, Europe may not be fixed after all.
Houston we may have a problem: with the DJIA trumpetedely hitting new all time highs day after day in March, one would expect that its traditional second derivative - US Consumer Confidence, would be at all time highs as well, or close thereby. One would be wrong, because according to the Conference Board, March consumer confidence plunged to 59.7 from 69.6, and well below expectations of a 67.5 print. Both components of the index dipped, with both the present situation and expectations indices sliding from 61.4 and 72.4, to 57.9 and 60.9, respectively. And just to make sure the S&P ramps to all time highs on ongoing miserable economic, corporate profit and, of course, sovereign insolvency news, we got both New Home Sales, dropping from 431K to 411K, missing expectations of 420K, and the Richmond Fed also missing expectations of a 6 print, dropping from last month's 6 to 3. All in all, if this latest round of ugly and rapidly getting worse economic data doesn't send the S&P to new all time highs, nothing will. Well, perhaps another European country going broke may do the trick...
Calmer markets today, but European officials are finding it hard to put the cat back in the bag.
Another session in which the market continues to be "cautiously optimistic" about Europe, but is confused about Cyprus which keeps sending the wrong signals: in the aftermath of the Diesel-Boom fiasco, the announcement that the preciously announced reopening of banks was also subsequently "retracted" and pushed back to at least Thursday, did little to soothe fears that anyone in Europe has any idea what they are doing. Additional confusion comes from the fact that the Chairman of the Bank of Cyprus moments ago submitted his resignation: recall that this is the bank that is supposed to survive, unlike its unluckier Laiki competitor which was made into a sacrificial lamb. This confusion has so far prevented the arrival of the traditional post-Europe open ramp, as the EURUSD is locked in a range below its 200 DMA and it is unclear what if anything can push it higher, despite the Yen increasingly becoming the funding currency of choice.
Well, that was a fun day, eh? Spills and thrills the whole day long.
Importantly, it’s the end of the quarter and performance bonuses are on the line. So any excuse to rally is built in to conditions.
While the news flow is dominated by Cyprus, it will be important to not lose sight of the developments in Italy, where we will watch the steps taken towards forming a government. The key release this week is likely to be US consumer confidence. Keep a watchful eye on the health of the consumer in the US after the tax rises in January. So far, household optimism and demand has held up better than expected. The IP data from Taiwan, Singapore, Korea, Thailand, Japan will provide a useful gauge on activity in the region and what it reflects about global activity, however Chinese New Year effects will need to be accounted for in the process.
All eyes should remain focused on Cyprus today, especially since there is no data being reported elsewhere. Financial markets closed Friday on a positive note, as an agreement on Cyprus appeared to be taking shape and a minor relief rally across most asset classes overnight vindicated hopes of a positive outcome as details of the detail were announced overnight. More clarity is still required on some aspects of the agreement (deposit and bondholders) but the fact that the national parliament does not need to vote again should stop the deal from unravelling as it did last week. Whether this is enough to restore confidence and prevent a possible cautionary deposit flight from Cyprus remains to be seen.
Rather than sitting nervously and passively and awaiting the coming financial dislocations and expropriations, investors and savers need to be prepared for the uncertain financial scenarios that seem increasingly likely.
Hoping for the best, but preparing for less benign scenarios remains prudent.
The Cyprus finance minister Michael Sarris may or may not have submitted his resignation after the president formally declined to accept it, but now that he is back on the saddle he is back to spreading hope, cheer and goodwill. Those wondering why both the EURUSD, and its derivative, US stock futures have surged overnight and retraced all of yesterday's losses and then some, it is not due to any anachronistic events such as "good economic news" (especially since the Spanish PM said Spain will have to cut its economic outlook once again, or rather, as usual), but due to the following phrase uttered by Sarris a few hours ago: "We are hoping for a good outcome, but we cannot really predict" regarding his views on talks with Russia. That's right - the entire overnight ramp is based on the hope of one man, who thinks Russia can be blackmailed through deposit haircuts, into bailing out the tiny island which has now said nein to Europe and bet the ranch on a well-meaning Vladimir Putin. What can possibly go wrong: according to the GETCO algos all alone in levitating stocks, absolutely nothing. What is clear is that Cyprus is fully intent on seeing Europe "blink" whether due to Russia's involvement or just because it thinks (correctly) it has all the leverage as the alternative is a breakdown of the Eurozone.