It's only fitting that in a bizarro new normal, the news that passes for positive is either conflicting, reflexive or, well, simply bizarre. Last night was no exception as the "good" news came in the form of speculation that in order to promote its consumption tax hike, the Abe government would consider a corporate tax cut. How that helps the country with the 1 quadrillion yen in debt is not exactly clear, or how it makes consumer tax hikes any more palatable in a nation in which more people than anywhere in the world are retired and elderly, and thus removed from the corporate lifecycle, is just as nebulous. But the market liked it. Just as it liked the good ole' European cop out, of posting a surge in consumer confidence, or relying on reflexive indicators to represent an improvement in the economy, when in reality the only thing "improving" is the stock market. This happened when the German ZEW Economic Sentiment survey soared from 36.3 to 42.0 on expectations of a 39.9 print. So one must buy futures, or that's what the GETCO algo programming says.
The middle of the month brings a mixture of second-tier macro numbers punctuated by the market-moving (and Taper-cementing) retail sales report. We get IP, CPI and PPI from the US this coming week. In terms of hard activity numbers, US retail sales on Tuesday will be the highlight which as a reminder is, in addition to Jackson Hole, seen as one of two key pre-Taper catalysts to keep an eye on. Outside the US, the key data will be the quarterly publication of German, French and Eurozone GDP, as well as Japanese GDP, which has already been released (weaker real growth, higher inflation). The second week of the month also tends to show the first survey results with the Phily Fed and Empire surveys on Thursday. In Germany the ZEW will come on Tuesday. Finally, from an FX point of view, we will be focused on balance of payments related data, with the trade balance in India and TIC data in the US. After a few very weak TIC releases in recent months we would expect more evidence of weak capital inflows into the US.
Confidence leads to spending; spending strengthens the economy; and economic strength buttresses confidence. It’s a circular, self-fulfilling prophesy. Confidence can also fuel market movements. Belief that the price of an asset will rise causes people to buy the asset... making its price rise. This is another way in which confidence is self-fulfilling. But, of course, as Oak Tree Capital's Howard Marks points out, the confidence that underlies economic gains and price increases only has an impact as long as it exists. Once it dies, its effect turns out to be far from permanent. As the economist Herb Stein said, "If something cannot go on forever, it will stop." This is certainly true for confidence and its influence. As far as confidence today, Marks notes significant uncertainty is one of the outstanding characteristics of today’s investing environment. It discourages optimism regarding the future and limits investors’ certainty that the future is knowable and controllable. In other words, it saps confidence. This is a major difference from conditions in the pre-crisis years. In fact, Marks warns he doesn't remember when his list of 'uncertainties' was this long...
Frequent readers are aware that one of our favorite topics is forensic market evidence confirming early release of market moving data to select "buyers" of said data, who then can trade ahead of the crowd and make illegal profits. The most recent example of just this took place last Friday when someone or something was leaked the non-farm payroll data as much as three second early. But while various third party profit-seeking intermediaries such as Deutsche Boerse's MNI, UMichigan consumer confidence and others have acknowledged to presell early dissemination of specialized data to subscribers such as well-paying high frequency traders, at least government data was said to be exempt from such a profit motive. At least until now: the WSJ reports that the FBI "has discovered vulnerabilities in the government's system for preventing market-moving economic reports from leaking to traders before public release. Law-enforcement officials found "a number of operational vulnerabilities" involving "black boxes" used by several departments to control the release of sensitive economic data such as the monthly unemployment rate, according to a report by the inspector general at the Commerce Department."
Despite rising gas prices, rising mortgage rates, slowing income growth and the rise of 'low-quality' part-time jobs, 'con'sumer 'con'fidence 'con'tinues to rise to post-recession highs. However, as Citi's FX Technicals group notes, for the 3rd time in the last 17 year period we may be looking at a 4-year-4-month rise in consumer confidence before a turn lower again; and in spite of the Fed's rosy forecasts (and the market's expectations), we should be careful being too quick to believe that the sluggish economic dynamic that has 'dogged us' for the last 6 years is yet fully behind us.
It seems that just like US equities, a rising price for the booze in American's local bar has done nothing to stymie demand. As Bloomberg Businessweek notes, Americans are increasingly ordering the 'good stuff', buying more from the top-shelf than drinkers elsewhere. Among the biggest alcoholic brands, the US is making up a far greater proportion of profits than revenues (e.g. for Smirnoff Vodka, North America was 40% of profits and 33% of sales) as it seems one should never underestimate the consumer confidence of a 'classy' drunk. Beer sales may have fallen 2% but revenues for InBev (for example) rose 1.5% and profits almost 3% - so it seems, at a time of great uncertainty in the US and middle-class 'better bargains', alcohol providers are 'preying' on that stress relief demand.
After a three-month surge to 5 year highs, beating expectations month-after-month, it seems surging mortgage rate and surging gas prices trump (at least for now) the all-time record high in stock prices. This is the first drop in 5 months, the first miss in 4 months but what is most worrisome for the apparent discounting mechanisms of the 'efficient' markets is the plunge in future expectations (after a 3 month surge of hope) even as the present situation continues to rise in survey respondent's minds. This is particularly worrisome in the employment outlook as those that see fewer jobs in the future rose and those that see more jobs in the future fell for the first time in 4 months.
While the market's eyes were fixed on the near record slide in Japanese Industrial Production (even as its ears glazed over the latest commentary rerun from Aso) which did however lead to a 1.53% jump in the PenNikkeiStock market on hope of more stimulus to get floundering Abenomics back on track, the most important news from the overnight session is that the PBOC's love affair with its own tapering may have come and gone after the central bank came, looked at the surge in 7 day market repo rates, and unwilling to risk another mid-June episode where SHIBOR exploded to the mid-25% range, for the first first time since February injected RMB17 billion through a 7-day reverse repo. The PBOC also announced it would cut the RRR in the earthquake-hit Lushan area. And with that the illusion of a firm and resolute PBOC is shattered, however it did result in a tiny 0.7% bounce in the SHCOMP.
After a slow start in the week, there is a substantial pick up with announcements from the FOMC, ECB and BOE (as well as monetary policy updates from the RBI, RBA, Israel, and Czech Republic) with the possibility, if not probability, of a Fed update on tapering expectations. On Wednesday we get the much expected wholesale GDP revision which will boost "growth data" all the way back to 1929 and is expected to push current GDP as much as 3% higher, and on Friday is the "most important NFP payroll number" (at least since the last one, and before the next one), where the consensus expects a +183K print, and 7.5% unemployment. All this while earnings season comes to a close.
Hopes that Kuroda would say something substantial, material and beneficial to the "three arrow" wealth effect (about Japan's sales tax) last night were promptly dashed when the BOJ head came, spoke, and went, with the USDJPY sliding to a new monthly low, which in turn saw the Nikkei tumble another nearly 500 points. China didn't help either, where the Shanghai Composite also closed below 2000 wiping out a few weeks of gains on artificial hopes that the PBOC would step in with a bailout package, as attention turned to the reported announcement that an update of local government debt could double the size of China's non-performing loans, and what's worse, that the PBOC was ok with that. Asian negativity was offset by the European open, where fundamentals are irrelevant (especially on the one year anniversary of Draghi FX Advisors LLC "whatever it takes to buy the EURUSD" speech) and renewed M&A sentiment buoyed algos to generate enough buying momentum to send more momentum algos buying and so on. As for the US, futures are indicating weakness for the third day in a row but hardly anyone is fooled following two consecutive days of green closes on melt ups "from the lows": expect another rerun of the now traditional Friday ramp, where a 150 DJIA loss was wiped out during the day for a pre-programmed just green closing print.
Despite consumer confidence at a six-year high, the latest AP survey of the real America shows a stunning four out of five U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, are near poverty, or rely on welfare for at least parts of their lives amid signs of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream. Hardship is particularly on the rise among whites, based on several measures. Pessimism among whites about their families' economic futures has climbed to the highest point since at least 1987.
Despite more than two-third of respondents expecting interest rates to rise in the year-ahead, and inflation to increase; and despite dramatically higher current mortgage rates and a surging gas price, consumers haven't been this 'happy' since July 2007. Unfortunatley for those expecting something more, it appears the slightly-better-than-expected print is not good enough to cause the market to plunge (in a good-is-bad "we've done our job" manner) and not bad enough to cause the market to soar (in a "we need moar animal spirits manner). Of course, we've seen this before (here and here) and it doesn't end well.
For the second consecutive day futures have drifted lower following a drubbing in the Nikkei which was down nearly 3% to just above 14K (time to start talking about the failure of Abenomics again despite National CPI posting the first positive print of 0.2% in forever and rising at the fastest pace in 5 years) and the Shanghai Composite which dropped to just above 2000 once again, after PBOC governor Zhou saying that China has big economic downward pressure and further reiterated prudent monetary policy will be pursued. This is despite Hilsenrath's latest puff piece which pushed the market into the green in yesterday's last hour of trading and despite initial optimism which saw stocks open higher following forecast-beating EU earnings gradually easing and heading into the North American open stocks are now little changed. It may be up to the WSJ mouhtpiece to provide today's 3pm catalyst to BTFATH, or else it will be up to the circular and HFT-early released UMichigan confidence index to surge/plunge in order to push stocks on any red flashing news is good news.
A new Nielson survey on global consumer confidence for the 2nd quarter this year reveals that confidence is improving around the world. It works out to 55% of people around the world that believe that we are currently going through a recession, which means that this is the lowest figure surveyed for over two years.
- Biggest Banks Face Fed Restoring Barriers in Commodities (BBG)
- SAC to Employees: Cohen Didn't Read Dell Email at Heart of SEC's Case (WSJ)
- Second (and Third) liens are back, and so is 2005: As Banks Retreat, Hedge Funds Smell Profit (WSJ)
- Singapore funds benefit from Asian wealth (FT)
- 2 years later the lies haven't changed one bit - Tepco hit over slow admission of radioactive leak (FT)
- How big tech stays offline on tax (Reuters)
- Hilton Leads Rush to Africa in Fastest Boom (BBG)
- U.S. and UK fine high-speed trader for manipulation (Reuters)
- Key witness takes stand in SEC case against Goldman's Tourre (Reuters)
- Boomer Sex With Dementia Foreshadowed in Nursing Home (BBG)
- Bentley SUV gives £800m boost to UK car industry (FT)