Recall Lenin’s quote: “The capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.” Today, of course, the capitalists don’t even sell the rope; they give it away, for nothing. But what’s not to like? Stock investors are getting rich. Bondholders are making money. The government can spend as much as it likes. And the voters are bamboozled by it; they think it helps make the economy work better. This is going to be a hard habit to break. So, here’s the gist of my conclusion: Governments won’t break the habit of getting something for nothing. It will break them. But how?
All Good Things Must End... this may not be the end of the world exactly. But the end of the fiat money system President Nixon gave birth to in 1971... when he cut the dollar loose from gold. And it may feel like the end of the world, because of the social chaos it will provoke.
Following yesterday's inexplicable ramp in stocks, which perhaps was driven by the collapse in oil (which sent energy companies higher because a 30x energy forward PE is cheap), and by the latest battery of disappointing economic data which made it less likely the Fed will proceed with a tightening move, overnight futures have given up a portion of the gains, and were trading down 0.3% at last check. And yet, if yesterday's weakness was driven by USD weakness, today's jump in the EURUSD above 1.06 (on absolutely disastrous German ZEW investor index print) is now somehow responsible for risk offness? And, adding confusion to insult, the 10 Y is down to 2.05% and in danger of re-entering a 1% handle. Sadly, nothing makes sense any more and today's conclave of central planners in the Marriner Eccles building ahead of tomorrow's 2pm FOMC "impatient" announcement isn't going to make it any better.
"While equity prices look expensive relative to real economic activity, they are arguably cheap relative to bond valuations. S&P 500 earning yields are similar to BB/B bond yields, as opposed to A/BBB yields historically, indicating excessive yield-seeking behavior in the face of reduced bond market liquidity," UBS cautions.
As noted earlier, starting early with the overnight session there was already some serious fireworks in Asia, when first the USDJPY soared then tumbled, pushing the Nikkei lower some 0.7% with it, driven entirely by the surge in Dollar which rose to a fresh 12 year high overnight after gaining as much as 0.59%, in an extension of Friday’s post-NFP gains. Additionally, the EUR/USD slipped below 1.0800 to touch its lowest level since Sept’03 while USD/JPY rose above 122.00 for the first time since Jul’07, after breaching long-term resistance at 121.85. However, in recent trade the pair has seen a straight line sell-off which in turn has sent US equity futures sliding, and the ES down about 14 points as of this moment. Meanwhile, the frontrunning of the ECB continues, with German 10 Year yields sliding -3bps to 0.281%, the lowest in series history. Also touching fresh record lows were Austrian, Belgian, Dutch, Finnish, Irish, Italian, Spanish 10 Year rates.
The belief that the market economy requires “steering” by altruistic central bankers, who make decisions influencing the entire economy based on their personal epiphanies, has rarely been more pronounced than today... Whether this is seen as good or bad by the average citizen is not even up for debate: it is simply what the political and bureaucratic elites have long ago decided is good for the citizenry, since they think they know best.
Just hours after India's 'surprise' rate cut (which saw the SENSEX surge and then dump to close red), Poland has surprised the market with a bigger-than-expected rate cut. Despite two-thirds of econmomists expecting a mere 25bps cut, the Polish Central Bank slashed its benchmarket 7-day rate to just 1.5% - the lowest on record. Today's cut "makes up for inaction in previous months" after Poland held rate flat in January and February (but echoes Poland's Oct 'surprise' greater-than-expected ease of 50bps. Polish stocks dropped on the news (but recovered), banks are weaker, and the Zloty is selling off on this news (pushing back towards record lows)...
With key economic data either behind us (with the downward revised GDP), or ahead of us (the February payrolls on deck), and the Greek situation currently shelved if only for a few days/weeks until the IMF payment comes due and the farce begins anew, stocks are focuing on the widely telegraphed 25 bps Chinese rate cut over the weekend, which however has so far failed to inspire a broad based rally either in Asia (where the SHCOMP closed up 0.8% after first dipping in the red) or across developed markets. In fact, as of this moment futures are hugging the unchanged line as the USDJPY attempted another breakout of 120.000 but with numerous option barrier expiration stop at that level, it has since retracted all the overnight gains and is back to the Sundey lows, even as the EURUSD has seen a powerful breakout from overnight lows and is currently at the highest level since the US GDP print, following the release of the final European February PMI data, as a result of USD weakness since the European open.
Overview of the major events in the week ahead.
If there isone thing that is virtually certain about today's trading (aside from the post Rig Count surge in oil because if there is one thing algos are, it is predictable) is that despite S&P futures being a touch red right now, everything will be forgotten in a few minutes and yet another uSDJPY momentum ignition ramp will proceed, which will push the S&P forward multiple to 18.0x on two things i) it's Friday, and an implicit rule of thumb of central planning is the market can't close in confidenece-sapping red territory ahead of spending heavy weekends and ii) the Nasdaq will finally recapture 5000 following a final push from Apple's bondholders whose recent use of stock buyback proceeds will be converted into recorder highs for the stock, and thus the Nasdaq's crossing into 5,000 territory because in the New Normal, the more expensive something is, the more people, or rather algos, want to buy it.
- Greece requests euro zone loan extension, offers big concessions (Reuters)
- Germany Rejects Loan Request Saying Greece Must Meet Conditions (BBG)
- Did the Fed Just Enter the Currency Wars (BBG)
- French consumer prices fall for first time since 2009 (Reuters)
- Oil falls sharply after U.S. crude inventories rise (Reuters)
- High-Speed Firm Virtu Revives IPO Plans (WSJ)
- Fed Tiptoes Into Rate-Hike Debate (Hilsenrath)
- Rajoy’s Nemesis Is Back: Anti-Graft Editor Targets Vote (BBG)
I assume that the overall costs (and risks) of Greece saying "Goodbye To All That" are considered too high by both the Eurogroup and the new Greek government. (In practice: a 5- day bank holiday, issuance of Drachmas, the conversion of euro assets into Drachmas and the announcement that 90% of outstanding debt will no longer be honoured.) Eventually, there will be a compromise aimed primarily at gaining time. The Eurogroup will continue to allow the minimum financing of the Greek state ("extension") and say that they will need time to think how a "debt restructuring" could like like. Mr Tsipras and Mr Varoufakis will be content having secured "bridge funds" for another 6-9 months while still in possession of the trump card "Grexit".
The chances of Greece being forced out of the euro zone have risen but a compromise agreement between Athens and its European partners is still possible, Greek media and investment banks said on Tuesday.
Technical outlook in the week ahead for the dollar, 10-year yields, oil and S&P 500.