Confused about the latest disconnect between reality and propaganda, this time affecting the (foreclosure-stuffed) housing "recovery" which has become the only upside that the bulls can point to when demonstrating the effectiveness of QE now that the latest attempt at economic recovery has failed miserably both in the US and globally? Gluskin Sheff's David Rosenberg is here to clear any confusion.
With stocks short-term oversold it certainly wasn’t much of a surprise that options expiration Friday could manipulate volume and performance. Da Boyz in the options pits (mostly electronic now) were hunting down strike prices to exercise existing options as they can. It’s a technical event with an outcome that surely can mislead Main Street.
Back in 2010, Goldman's Jan Hatzius, fresh on the heels of QE2, committed rookie Economist mistake 101, and mistook a centrally-planned market response to what then was a record liquidity infusion, for an improvement in the economy (a move we appropriately mocked at the time, as it was quite clear that the Fed's intervention meant the economy was getting worse not better). It took him about 4 months to realize the folly of his ways and realize no recovery for the US or anyone else was on the horizon. He then wised up for a couple of years until some time in December he did the very same mistake again, and once again jumped the shark, forecasting an improvement to the US economy in 2013, albeit in the second half (after all nobody want to predict an improvement in the immediate future: they will be proven wrong very soon) based on consumer strength when in reality the only "reaction function" was that of the market to the Fed's QE4 (or is it 5, and does it even matter any more?). Four months later we get this...
The last decade has seen significant changes in media and communication. In a world where there is an ever louder cacophony of news sources competing for our attention, any one particular story has to be communicated at a particularly high volume if it is to attract notice. UBS' Paul Donovan warns that this perhaps gives a tendency to sensationalism. For financial markets, Donovan notes, there is a risk that these changes in the world of media will impinge on the calm and reflective world of economics. Economists rely on sentiment data as a leading indicator for future economic trends. If individuals are overreacting to events relative to the past, however, sentiment may not be as useful as a barometer of future economic activity. In the US a certain economic hysteria seems to be developing, amongst consumers in particular (especially compared to Europe) and Donovan suggests investors would be wise to treat US sentiment data (particularly consumer sentiment data) with some caution as American investors appear to react more strongly to the underlying economic events.
While China's trifecta miss of GDP, Retail Sales and Industrial Production all coming lower than expected was likely a factor in the overnight rout of gold, the initial burst of selling started well before the Chinese data hit the tape, or as soon as Japan opened for trading with forced financial institution selling to prefund cash for any and all future JGB VaR-driven margin calls. It was all downhill from there, literally, with overnight selling of gold punctured by brief burst of targeted stop hunting, sending the metal down $116 per ounce, as spot touches $1385 after trading nearly at $1500 yesterday and down $200 in 4 days. End result, whether due to a re-collapsing global economy, margin calls, fears forced Cyprus gold selling will be imposed on all other insolvent European countries, coordinated central bank slams, hedge fund positioning, long unwinds, liquidations, fears about future demand, or whatever the usual selling suspects are, is that gold tumbles an unprecedented 7.8% on 230,000 contracts in one day, and well over 10% in two days, pushing the yellow metal 14 day RSI band to 18, meaning it is now most oversold since 1999. In brief, it is an all out panic, with Goldman still telling clients to sell, i.e., buying every shiny ounce all the way down (not to mention India, where accordingto UBS Friday demand was double the average).
Friday saw panic selling in gold as the metal broke $1,500 in a free-fall move. Is this a sign of “risk on” or something more sinister? Perhaps Cyprus is a major seller or there’s a large margin call somewhere. Some even assert some countries with debt problems are selling gold to raise capital to finance their country’s needs.
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.
With every modestly positive datapoint being desperately clung to, now that even Goldman's Hatzius has once more thrown in the economic towel after proclaiming an economic renaissance in late 2012 just like he did in late 2010 only to issue a mea culpa a few months later (and just as we predicted - post coming up shortly), the key prerogative is to ignore the elephant in the room. That, of course, is that the JPY 1 quadrillion bond market had to be halted for the second day in a row as the Japanese capital markets are fast becoming a very big and sad joke. The resulting flight to safety from Japanese investors, who sense that their own bond market is on the verge of breaking down completely, has managed to send French and Belgian bonds to record lows, the Spanish 2 Year to sub 2%, the German 6 month bill negative in the primary market, the US 10/30 year constantly bid and so on. The immediate result is that the bond-equity disconnect continues to diverge until one day we may get negative 10 Year rates coupled with an all time high stock market. Gotta love the fake New Normal market, in which the Japanese penny stock market was up another 2.8% to well over 13,000 even as the Shanghai Composite plumbs ever redder territory for 2013 on fears the birdflu contagion will hurt the already struggling economy even more.
The big driver of market declines Friday was led by the Non-Farm Payrolls report. The jobs data was a dreadful miss which leads to the major “disconnect” we’ve been seeing between stock prices and overall economic data which we posted just last week. This is the nagging and confounding reality of the QE and ZIRP grand experiment for many investors.
As the holiday weekend starts and quarter ends, what better time is there to go out on a new S&P 500 Index high? The new high was in the cards.
One thing bulls should worry about is a report that pension plans may rebalance as much as $29-35 billion out of stocks to bonds and other assets with the quarter end. We’ll see how that works this coming week.
Curious why Treasury yields have ground lower this morning, considerably more than would perhaps be expected given the consumer sentiment data, and in the process have prevented the intraday "rotation" out of bonds into stocks, pushing the DJIA higher for the 11th consecutive day? The answer comes from the Fed which tipped its hand earlier and scared a few big bond shorts by issuing a Large Positions Reports from those entities which own more than $2 billion of the 2% of February 2023 (CUSIP: 912828UN8 auctioned off in February and reopened on Wednesday). In an unexpected request, and on the back of a surge in fails to deliver earlier in the week and the huge apparent buyside demand in the latest 10Y auction (Primary Dealers getting only 22.3% of the takedown in the UN8 vs typical 40-60%) which settles today, MNI reports that the Fed is now inquiring who has large chunks of the bond: something it has not done since February 2012.
It appears paying more for gasoline and higher taxes trumps the exuberance of the equity markets as UMich Consumer Sentiment crashed in February. Printing at 71.8 on expectations of 78.0 this is the biggest miss on record based on Bloomberg data. The 71.8 level is the lowest since December 2011 as it appears that the Fed's only remaining policy tool is just not sparking that animal spirit in the real economy's anchor - the US consumer - as while current conditions did drop, it is future expectations that plunged.
In the upcoming week the key focus on the data side will be the US February retail sales figures on Wednesday, which should provide clearer evidence on how the tax increases that took place on January 1 have affected the consumer. In Europe, industrial production and inflation data will be the releases to watch. On the policy side, the focus will be on the BoJ appointments in an otherwise relatively quiet week for G7 central banks. Italy’s newly elected lawmakers convene for the first time on Friday 15 March and the expectation remains that President Napolitano will formally invite Mr Bersani to try and form a new government. He may also opt for a technocrat government. Although clearly preferred by markets, winning political backing may prove challenging.
Incase you didn’t notice, the sequester is in place cutting the rise in government spending by all of 2%. I woke up this morning expecting the planet to have reversed its rotation, it was no longer winter and I had aged 30 years. But no, everything was the same, except for the bullshit emanating from various pundits or websites. One thing I’ve learned to do, whether its Obama, Boehner, or Reid is just to tune them out. If there’s a national emergency then I don’t know what I’d do or who I’d tune in—Big Sis? Good grief!