Following December's biggest-surge-in-4-years for UMich consumer confidence (though a miss), UMich data has fallen back to 80.4 - missing expectations by the biggest margin in 8 years. This is the 4th miss in the last 5 months as hope for moar multiple expansion begins to fade. Both current conditions and the outlook indices fell (for the first time sicne October). As UPS would says, confidence dropped because there was too much confidence...
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- China to rescue Davos: Davos Teaches China to Ski as New Rich Lured to Slopes (BBG)
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- Target Hackers Wrote Partly in Russian, Displayed High Skill, Report Finds (WSJ)
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- Goldman's low-cost Utah bet buoys its bottom-line (Reuters)
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- EU Weighs Ban on Proprietary Trading at Some Banks From 2018 (BBG) - so no holding of breaths?
- Sacramento Kings to Accept Bitcoin (WSJ)
After last week's economic fireworks, this one will be far more quiet with earnings dominating investors' attention: US financials reporting this week include JPM and Wells Fargo tomorrow, BofA on Wednesday, GS and Citi on Thursday, BoNY and MS on Friday. Industrial bellwethers Intel (Thurs) and General Electric (Fri) are also on this week’s earnings docket. On the macro front, this coming week we have two MPC meetings - both in LatAm. For Brazil consensus expects a 25bps hike in the policy rate. For Chile consensus forecasts monetary policy to remain on hold. Among the data releases, one should point out inflation numbers from the US (CPI and PPI), Eurozone, the UK and India. We also have three important US producer and consumer surveys - Empire Manufacturing, Philadelphia Fed (consensus +8.5), and U. of Michigan (consensus 83.5). Among external trade and capital flow stats, we would emphasize US TIC data, as well as current account balances from Japan and Turkey. Finally, the accumulation of FX reserves in China is interesting to track as it provides an indication of CNY appreciation pressure.
Japanese consumer sentiment tumbled once again in the last quarter of 2013. The BoJ survey - released quarterly - showed the second consecutive drop in both current conditions and the outlook. This is the largest two-quarter collapse in the outlook for the Japanese consumer since 2007 as it appears the initial exuberance of Abenomics is collapsing as fast as Abe's approval ratings. We fear, perhaps, this loss of belief (which can surely only set back his hopes for firms to raise wages) is merely stoking his nationalist militarist persuasion - as indicated by his move last night.
Similar to UMich's confidence measure soaring by the most in 4 years, the Conference Board's confidence measure beat expectations and jumped the most in 6 months (though remains below the year's highs). This is the best beat in 4 months. The improvement is all based on "expectations" which soared the most in 6 months. Confidence is critical (as we noted below) especially since the massive majority of actual investors are already bullish...(and definitely not bearish)...
With both current conditions and future expectations indices jumping higher, the UMich consumer confidence headline final print rose at its equal fastest pace since Sept 2009. The surge in current conditions - the largest since Dec 2008 - has lifted it back to the highest level since July 2007. If there was anything to note that took the shine off such an exuberant surge it's the fact that the headline number did actually miss expectations (3rd miss of last 4) and the final outlook data dropped from the preliminary print. As we have noted before, it is confidence that 'inspires' the multiple-expanding hope as fundamental reality fades - bulls better hope it's different this time as we hit the year's highs in confidence.
If one believes the various US diffusion indices - among which key are the assorted regional Fed surveys the monthly PMI data - and listens to the pithy soundbites of their respondents, the US economy has hardly ever been better (of course, that 60% of "growth" in the past year has been due to inventory accumulation on hope that the consumer end demand will finally come is neither here nor there). However, we don't exactly believe said indices. Instead, to get a true sense of what is going on, it is always better to listen directly to those who are not only deep in the trenches, but are also accountable to their shareholders every quarter: the various CEOs and CFOs of America's public corporations. Below, courtesy of Bloomberg chief economist Rich Yamarone, who has compiled a selection of Q3 earnings call soundbites, is an indicative snapshot of the US economy as seen most recently through the prism of executives in a wide range of industries.
While on the surface total cash earnings posted the smallest possible monthly increase, or 0.1%, in October - the first rise in 4 months - the reality is that this was driven by overtime pay, which increased by 5.4%. However, the far more important component of worker compensation, regular pay, declined by 0.4% in the month. This was the 17th consecutive decline in core pay and is a glowing testament to just how flawed Abenomics has been since its inception due to its staunch inability to shift employer eagerness to boost pay even in an economy where unemployment is supposedly so much less than in the US and thus worker slack is far less prominent. Turns out that is not the case.
Previewing the rest of this week’s events, we have a bumper week of US data over the next five days, in part making up for two days of blackout last week for Thanksgiving. Aside from Friday’s nonfarm payroll report, the key releases to look for are manufacturing ISM and construction spending (today), unit motor vehicle sales (tomorrow), non-manufacturing ISM (Wednesday), preliminary Q3 real GDP and initial jobless claims (Thursday), as well as personal income/consumption and consumer sentiment (Friday). Wednesday’s ADP employment report will, as usual, provide a preamble for Friday’s payrolls.
Asian equities have gotten off to a rocky start to the week despite some initial optimism around the twin-Chinese PMI beats at the start of the session. That optimism has been replaced by selling in Chinese equities, particularly small-cap Chinese stocks and A-shares after the Chinese security regulator issued a reform plan for domestic IPOs over the weekend. The market is expecting the reforms to lead to a higher number of IPOs in the coming quarters, and the fear is that this will bring a wave of new supply of stock to an already-underperforming market. Indeed, the Chinese securities regulator expects about 50 firms to complete IPOs by January 2014 – and another 763 firms have already submitted their IPO applications and are currently awaiting approval. A large number of small cap stocks listed on Hong Kong’s Growth Enterprise Market were down by more than 5% this morning, while the Shanghai Composite is down by 0.9%. The Hang Seng (+0.4%), Hang Seng China Enterprises Index (+0.8%) are performing better on a relative basis, and other China-growth assets including the AUDUSD is up 0.5%. The Nikkei (-0.1%) is also a touch weaker after Japan’s Q3 capital expenditure numbers came in well below estimates (1.5% YoY vs 3.6% forecast). Elsewhere Sterling continues to forge new multi-year highs against the USD (+0.3% overnight).
Faith, hope, and confidence are the 3 key factors driving stocks at this point with fundamentals lagging an awkward 4th place. Faith in the perpetual central bank put (and bad news is thus good news); Hope that repeating the same 'experiment' following its previous failures will work this time; and confidence that the old normal is re-attainable (no matter how many times we kick the can). Year-to-date, S&P 500 earnings are up around 7% (and the trajectory is declining); accordingly, as we noted previously, confidence is ultimately responsible for levitating nominal stock prices through multiple expansion.. and is responsible for the rest of the market's gains. With confidence now fading (according to most surveys) investors will not be willing to pay increasing multiples unless they are confident that the future streams of earnings are sustainable and forecastable...
The early effects of the reform program have triggered a surge in the Japanese stock market, accelerated by the anticipation of growth revival. So far, so good for the markets and traders. But how will Abenomics accommodate public debt of over 200% GDP, and will Abe’s radical policies inspire a long-term economic recovery in Japan? Saxo Capital Markets’ new infographic explores the efficacy of Japan's prime minister's dangerous experiment to stimulate economic growth.
While moderate recovery in growth and inflation is BofAML's rates team's base case, there are numerous risks to that forecast. The risk of tapering is already quite well known and they suspect it may not result in the significant market-moving event many expect when it actually happens; however, the following downside and upside risks threaten BofAML's central scenarios for 2014 as well.
In a carry-trade driven world in which news and fundamentals no longer matter, the only relevant "variable" is whether the JPY is down (check) and the EUR is up (check) which always results in green equities around the globe and green futures in the US, with yesterday's sudden and sharp selloff on no liquidity and no news long forgotten. The conventional wisdom "reason" for the overnight JPY underperformance against all major FX is once again due to central bank rhetoric, when overnight BOJ's Kiuchi sees high uncertainty whether 2% CPI will be reached in 2 years, Shirai says bank should ease further if growth, CPI diverge from main scenario. Also the BOJ once again hinted at more QE, and since this has proven sufficient to keep the JPY selling momentum, for now, why not continue doing it until like in May it stops working. As a result EURJPY rose above the 4 year high resistance of 138.00, while USDJPY is bordering on 102.00. On the other hand, the EUR gained after German parties strike coalition accord, pushing the EURUSD over 1.36 and further making the ECB's life, now that it has to talk the currency down not up, impossible. This is especially true following reports in the German press that the ECB is looking at introducing an LTRO in order to help promote bank lending. Since that rumor made zero dent on the EUR, expect the ongoing daily litany of ECB rumors that the bank is "technically ready" for negative rates and even QE, although as has been shown in recent months this now has a half-life measured in minutes as the market largely is ignoring whatever "tools" Draghi and company believe they have left.
No matter what measure of confidence, sentiment, or animal spirits one uses, the consumer is not encouraged by the record-er and record-er highs in the US equity market. The Conference Board's consumer confidence data missed for the 2nd month in a row - its biggest miss in 8 months - as it seems in October consumers were un-confident due to the government shutdown... but in November they are un-confident-er due to its reopening. As we have noted in the past a 10 point drop in confidence has historically led to a 2x multiple compression in stocks (which suggests the Fed will need to un-Taper some more to keep the dream alive). Ironically, more respondents believe stocks will rise of stay the same over the next 12 months even as the 'expectations' sub-index collapsed to its lowest in 8 months.