Asia has become the most important issue for the markets today. The Central Bankers’ dream of endless QE has become a nightmare for Japan while China’s “growth miracle” is rapidly falling to pieces.
The latest default bull argument supporting higher levels of growth in China than I believe possible is the urbanization argument. Beijing is planning another major urbanization push, and according to this argument China can resolve the problem of wasted investment by investing in the urbanization process, that is it can engage in a massive investment program related to the need to build infrastructure for all the newly urbanized. Like so many of the earlier bull arguments, however, this new belief that urbanization is the answer to China’s growth slowdown is based on at least one fallacy and probably more - urbanization accommodates, it doesn‘t cause, growth. It is not the act of building all this stuff that creates wealth or real, long-term growth. It is only if building the stuff caused overall productivity to rise by more than the cost of capital and labor employed in building it that a society gets richer.
- Critics Decry Risks Posed by Link Between China's Banks and Bonds (WSJ)
- U.S. retailers say uneven recovery keeps consumers cautious (Reuters) - er, what recovery?
- Easy Credit Dries Up, Choking Growth in China (NYT)
- Fed's Bullard Floats Idea of Small Cuts to Bond Buying (WSJ)
- EU wants one definition of bad loans for bank tests (Reuters) - because in Europe they can't even agree what an NPL is...
- Nagasaki Bomb Maker Offers Lessons for Fukushima Cleanup (BBG)
- With Gmail Overhaul, Not All Mail Is Equal (WSJ)
- Snowden downloaded NSA secrets while working for Dell, sources say (Reuters)
- Apollo co-founder buys into New Jersey Devils (FT)
- Republicans to vote on debate boycott because of Clinton programs (Reuters)
- J.C. Penney Heads for Ninth Quarter of Plunging Sales (BBG)
Starting with the Asian markets this morning, it appear the roller coaster ride for markets continued overnight. Asian equities started the day trading weaker but shortly after the open though, all of Asia bounced off the lows following the previously noted surge in Chinese A-shares soaring more than 5% in a matter of minutes in what was initially described as a potential “fat finger” incident. As DB notes, alternative explanations ranged from a potential restructuring of the government’s holdings in some listed companies, to market buying ahead of a rate cut this coming weekend. All indications point toward a fat finger. The A-share spike has managed to drag other indices along with it though some gains have been pared. Yet for all the drama the Shanghai Composite soared... and then closed red. The region’s underperformer is the Nikkei (-0.75%). Elsewhere, the NZDUSD dropped 0.5% after a magnitude 6.8 earthquake struck the city of Wellington this morning. Looking at the US S&P500 futures are trading modestly higher at 1660. Looking ahead to today there is very little in the way of Tier 1 data to be expected. Housing starts/permits from the US and the preliminary UofM Consumer Sentiment reading for August are the main reports. The moves in rates and perhaps oil will probably offer some markets some directional cues.
In a session that has been painfully boring so far (yet which should pick up with CPI, jobless claims, industrial production and the NY Empire Fed on deck, as well as Wal-Mart earnings which will no doubt reflect the continuing disappointing retail plight) perhaps the only notable news was that Japan - the nation that brought you "Fukushima is contained" - was caught in yet another lie. Recall that the upside catalyst (and source of Yen weakness) two days ago was what we classified then as "paradoxical news" that Japan would cut corporate taxes in a move that somehow would offset the upcoming consumption tax hike. Turns out that, as our gut sense indicated, this was merely yet another BS trial balloon out of Japan, which admitted overnight that the entire report was a lie.
TRQ stock price is 80% lower today than it was a few years ago, yet the OT project is further along and now shipping concentrate..?
The cluster of Hindenburgs is indicating a very worried market (for example 99 New Highs and 231 New Lows) and for a change a Fed speaker was unable to provide the headline-reading BTFD ammo to save us from the drop in stocks. The 6th down day in the last 8 in stocks and red on the month-to-date screens is not something we are used to seeing. The USD was flat to slightly lower on the day (even as AUD surged and JPY leaked higher) as were Treasury yields (which took a pause after 2 days of being smashed higher). While bonds were flatish, homebuilders and utilities stocks were jammed lower once again (as AAPL pulled Tech and the Nasdaq to outperform again). Copper and oil were also flat on the day but gold saw some improvement (over $1330) and Silver surged 2% (up over 6% on the week now - biggest week since Oct 2011). Yesterday's near-record steepness in VIX's term structure that we warned about seems to have been followed by the usual short-end rip as VIX broke back above 13%.
The amusing news overnight was that following slightly better than expected Q2 GDP data out of Germany (0.7% vs 0.6% expected and up from 0.0%) and France (0.5% vs 0.2% expected and up from -0.2%), driven by consumer spending and industrial output, although investment dropped again, which meant that the Eurozone which posted a 0.3% growth in the quarter has "emerged" from its double dip recession. The most amusing thing is that on an annualized basis both Germany and France grew faster than the US in Q2. And they didn't even need to add iTunes song sales and underfunded liabilities to their GDP calculation - truly a miracle! Or perhaps to grow faster the US just needs higher taxes after all? Of course, with the all important loan creation to the private sector still at a record low, and with the ECB not injecting unsterilized credit, the European depression continues and this is merely an exercise in optics and an attempt to boost consumer confidence.
While all the attention of the world's investing public - focused on the short-term repo markets in China - has been ameliorated by the PBOC's 'fold' thanks to ~CNY600bn in liquidity provision (or an equivalent 65bp RRR cut), liquidity concerns remain high (and not so hidden if one knows where to look). Not only has there been a surge in copper imports - based on the cash-for-copper deals replacing short-term funding but concerns raised by investors and the PBOC over duration mismatches (exposed by the recent crisis) has forced Chinese banks to seek longer-term funding. Banks are now raising longer-term deposit rates in order to attract stickier term-deposits and this is causing medium-term Chinese bond yields to surge.
Intraday volatility remains extreme in almost every asset class. Today it was bonds and corn's turn as the former saw 7Y yields jump over 10bps (for the worst 2 days in 6 weeks on moar Taper talk) and the latter dropped 4% on the day to 3-year lows (on record crop expectations). Equity markets performed the now-ubiquitous intraday reversal as early shorting was squeezed back quickly to a green close. short-term VIX was smashed lower soon after the US open but faded back higher into the close to end around 12.5% (but the VIX term structure is now at 4 months steeps). FX markets were very active (JPY -2% and AUD -1% on the week) pulling the USD +0.75% but Treasuries have been battered (10Y near 2 year high yields) with 7Y adding 15bps this week (and Utility and homebuilder stocks have suffered the most). Gold dropped a little on the USD strength, silver stayed green and copper and oil were flat. Oh and Carl Icahn tweeted and pulled Tech and the Nasdaq to outperform.
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.
Aside from an opening short-squeeze that saw 'most-shorted' stocks surge 0.8% in the first 15 minutes of the day, stocks did very little for the rest of the day. Ranges were extremely narrow with whatever lift stocks got based on small AUDJPY (carry) sparks but the Dow and S&P end the day red (Nasdaq and Russell 2000 green). Nasdaq was driven by AAPL exuberance (what no a new iPhone model??) which grabbed the Tech sector to the best peformance on the day. Utes were the biggest losers as rates reversed early gains and Treasury yields (especially 30Y) surged 6-7 bps from their per-open low yields. The big story was precious metals as Silver and Gold surged on the day. Silver is now up over 9% in the last 3 days - its best run in 22 months. Interestingly, VIX was pushed notably lower on the day (but it appears investors are moving hedges further out in time - to September). Credit notably underperformed. Today was all about pre- and post-Europe (as normal).
How would America ever survive without the central planners in the Obama administration and at the Federal Reserve? What in the world would we do if there was no income tax and no IRS? Could the U.S. economy possibly keep from collapsing under such circumstances? The mainstream media would have us believe that unless we have someone "to pull the levers" our economy would descend into utter chaos, but the truth is that the best period of economic growth in U.S. history occurred during a time when there was no income tax and no Federal Reserve. We never needed a central bank, we never needed the IRS and we never needed an income tax. America would be doing just fine without any of them. But instead, America chose to go down the path of collectivization and central planning, and now we are heading toward the biggest economic disaster in the history of mankind.
The good, if fake, Chinese "data" releases continued for a second day in row, dominating the overnight headlines with a barrage that included CPI, PPI, retail sales, industrial production, fixed investment, money growth, car sales, and much more (summary recap below). Needless to say, all the data was just "good enough" or better than expected. Yet judging by both the Chinese market (which is barely up, following the drop on yesterday's "surge" in made up trade data) and the US futures, not even algos are dumb enough to fall for the goalseek function in China_economy.xls. Either that, or traders are taking the "rebound" in the Chinese economy as a further indication that the Taper (which will take place in September), will take place in September. And since global risk sentiment continues to be driven by the USDJPY, the Yen pushing to overnight highs is not helping the "China is bullish" narrative.
Equity markets gapped up at the cash open and the S&P regained 1,700 briefly, then dumped along with JPY strength on decent volume only to be rescued almost as fast after the European close (on JPY weakness) dragging the S&P back up to test 1,700 once again. Once 1,700 was regained, volume departed and until the last few minutes, stocks did nothing (ignoring JPY post-30Y Auction) with a drop at the close in the futures (but a green close to break the worst streak of 2013) The 3rd Hindenburg Omen in 4 days shows the level of anxiety in this volumeless levitation as highs/lows/advancers/decliners signal all is not well amid the major JPY-carry-unwind. Treasuries managed small gains on the day (and week) and while credit markets rallied modestly they remain notably underperforming in this afternoon's equity spike. As JPY weakened and dragged stocks higher, VIX also collapsed but going into the close, it was clear hedgers were active. Gold, Silver, and Copper all surged on the day, WTI dropped (helped by RINs dump to only 67c).