Today's equity market exuberance is being pitched as due to to Asian strength... We hate to burst that bubble but... The Nikkei 225 actually fell after GDP was released; JGBs rallied (well that doesn't fit with the meme of Japanese growth); Japanese GDP missed expectations (oops); Japanese trade balance was the 3rd worst on record; Chinese imports missed expectations (as copper demand fell since liquidity has eased and less need for cash-for-copper deals). So what is the catalyst for today's S&P 500 rally... behold the EURJPY cross rate...
As macro news continues to trickle in better than expected, the latest batch being benign (if completely fake) Chinese inflation data (CPI 2.6%, Exp. 2.6%, Last 2.7%) and trade data released overnight which saw ahigher than expected trade balance ($28.5bn vs Exp. $20.0; as exports rose from 5.1% to 7.2%, and imports dipped from 10.9% to 7.0%, missing expectations), markets remain confused: is good news better or does it mean even more global liquidity will be pulled. As a result, the release of an encouraging set of macroeconomic data from China failed to have a meaningful impact on the sentiment in Europe this morning and instead stocks traded lower, with the Spanish IBEX-35 index underperforming after Madrid lost out to Tokyo to win rights to host 2020 Olympic Games. Even though the news buoyed USD/JPY overnight, the pair faced downside pressure stemming from interest rate differential flows amid better bid USTs. The price action in the US curve was partly driven by the latest article from a prolific Fed watcher Jon Hilsenrath who said many Fed officials are undecided on whether to scale back bond purchases in September. Hilsenrath added that the Fed could wait or reduce the programme by a small amount at the upcoming meeting. Going forward, there are no major macroeconomic data releases scheduled for the second half of the session, but Fed’s Williams is due to speak.
One of the most underreported sentiment shifts of the past week was JPM's announcement late on Friday, that the firm quietly went long commodities - specifically base metals and copper (in addition to energy) - and the firm also closed it "sell" (i.e., underweight) in precious metals. This is not surprising: we had noted the ongoing purchasing of gold by JPM over the past two month (in part to restore its depleted gold vault inventory) when the yellow metal not only stabilized but promptly entered a bull market, returning 20% in a short period of time. And as gold was rising, JPM was advising its clients to sell. It seems JPM now has more than enough gold stashed away, and as the September shock is set to unwind, even JPM may be seeking the safety of gold, and the usual other hard asset suspects, if and when events escalate out of control, resulting in another "risk off" phase.
The highlight of today's economic releases will be the 8:30 am non-farm payroll data, expected to print at 180K jobs, up from July's 162K, and result in an unchanged 7.4% unemployment rate. The "most important jobs number ever " is neither, because even if it comes as a wild outlier to the good or bad side, the Fed is unlikely to change its tapering intentions this late in the game. Still, it will provide fireworks in a very jittery market and if the number is far stronger than expected, expect the 10 Year to finally blow out from below the 3% range which it breached briefly overnight, and never look back, at least not until there is an August 2011 wholesale risk revulsion episode and stocks tumble. Speaking of jittery, overnight the WSJ reports that if picked as Bernanke's replscament, Larry Summers' faces an uphill battle to get the votes of three key democrats on the Senate Banking Committee (Jeff Merkley, Sherrod Brown and Elizabeth Warren). It would be only fitting that the dysfunctional Democratic dominated senate now lashes out against the president, and in the process scuttles the market's only hope of maintaining its Fed-derived gains over the past five years... And there is, of course, Syria which is becoming increasingly problematic for Obama whose support in Congress is looking ever shakier. Will he go it alone in the case of a no vote?
Just when the market thought it had priced in a new equilibrium without (or with - it is not quite clear) a Syria war, here comes Thursday with a data dump that will make one's head spin. Central bankers are once again on parade starting overnight, when the BOJ announced no change to its QE program and retaining its monetary base target of JPY270 trillion. The parade continues with both the BOE and ECB, the latter of which is expected to address the recent pick up in Eonia rates and take praise for the recent very much unsustainable "recovery" in the periphery even as Germany continues to slide lower (this morning's factory orders plunged 2.7% on exp. -1.0%), which in turn lead the Bund to pass above 2.0% for the first time since March 2011. Speaking of bonds blowing out, the US 10Y is now just 6 bps away from 3.00%, the widest since July 2011, and likely to breach the support level, taking out a boatload of stops and leading to the next big step spike in rates as the second selling scramble ensues. And just to keep every algo on its binary toes, today we also get a NFP preview with the ADP private payrolls at 8:15 am (Exp. 180K, down from 200K), Initial Claims (Exp. 330K), Nonfarm Productivity and Unit Labor Costs (Exp. 1.60% and 0.9%), Factory Orders (Exp. -3.4%), Non-mfg ISM (Exp. 55), Final Durable Goods, EIA Nat Gas and DOE Crude Inventories, oh and the G-20 meeting in St. Petersburg where Putin and Obama are not expected to share much pleasantries, and where John Kerry's swiftboat may not be allowed to dock.
US equities were drifting quietly lower after a modest rise overnight fadsed through Asian anxiety and European political issues in Italy but all that changed once McCain said "no" and proposed a broader-scope, deficit-growing Syrian plan. Stocks instantly rushed higher to Russia "catastrophic consequences" levels from last week with Trannies and the NASDARK having their best day in a month. Commodity markets - most notably silver, copper, gold, and crude oil - were all sliding lower before McCain, and oddly accelerated lower in his news. Treasures also rallied into the morning and then sold off significantly after McCain's comments with 10Y now up 11bps on the week at high yields with 10Y closing at its highest yield in 25 months. The USD slipped lower as AUD smashed to its best 3-days in 21 months and EUR slid but that left the USD unchanged on the week (compared with S&P's +1.6%). Stocks gave up some gains into the close but ended with Healthcare and Discretionary almost unchanged from Kerry's 8/26 speech.
Today's morning summary is a carbon copy of yesterday's. Some things happened, China continues to make up data to fit its current policy outlook, things in Europe continue to go bump in the night ever louder as we approach the German election despite reflexive diffusion indices - this time Service PMIs - desperately signalling a surge in confidence, Italy has just reminded everyone it is a big political basket case as Berlusconi is said to consider withdrawing his support for the Letta government and calling for elections this year, and so on, but it is still all about Syria. Last night the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has agreed on a resolution on using military force against Syria. The resolution would limit the duration of any US military action in Syria to 60 days, with a 30-day extension possible if Obama determines it is necessary to meet the goals of the resolution. In other words, a "surgical strike" lasting a minimum of 90 days, and then with indefinite additional extensions tacked on. Yet judging by the modest drop in crude and gold, the market may need more than just fighting words at this point to push to th next level of risk aversion.
The magic was the magnificent illusion that money printing increased wealth. It certainly looked that way, despite all the common-sense interpretation that would have you believe that it doesn't. But that's the beauty of a wonderfully performed magic trick. Something impossible seems to happen. You know it can't happen, but it looks like it did, and what's the harm in letting yourself believe? Assuming that the goal is reducing unemployment... it really was a wonderful 50 years. Pumping out money increased the labor force participation rate from about 59% in 1960 to 67% by about 2000 by creating jobs in military procurement, lobbying, and (as we went through successive bubbles) brokerages and finance, government, home construction, real estate sales, retail, etc. Now the losses in manufacturing and primary wealth creation are overwhelming the jobs created in the FIRE economy, and the US looks to be heading back to the golden era of the 50s, with labor force participation back below 60%. Too bad they'll all be low-paying jobs.
While the Dow suffered its worst monthly loss since May 2012, it is actually holding up better than the rest of the US equity indices since Kerry's speech on Monday. With the Trannies down 4% since Kerry, they cap the worst in the last 23 months. Energy outperformed (unchanged) on the week and financials were major losers down 3% but hombuilders were hammered post-Kerry also ending at the lows of the week. VIX closed at its highest in over 2 months with its biggest weekly jump in over 4 months. Away from equities, FX, commodity, and bond markets also turmoiled... The last few minutes saw stocks crater and ramp as illiquidity, month-end, and anxiety left traders (and machines) breathless.
Overnight, the market continued to digest news out of the UK that the formerly solid pro-war alliance has splintered following a historic vote by the House of Commons, leaving Obama to "go it alone." The result was a rather sizable slamdown in both crude and gold, accelerating as Europe opened for trading, and pushing gold back under $1400. This happened even as data out of Europe showed that European unemployment remained at a record high 12.1%, while inflation missed expectations and printed at 1.3%, or below 2% for the seventh month. Earlier in the session, headline data out of Japan showed that inflation had risen at the fastest pace since 2008. However, before the deflation monster is proclaimed dead, the core-core figure (excluding foods and energy) of the Tokyo CPI was down 0.4% yoy, unchanged since June for three months, suggesting that prices are still largely driven by energy-related costs. In other words cost-push inflation is rampant, which is the worst possible scenario and means the BOJ's QE is going to all the wrong place.
Another very volatile day across asset-classes with no-one having a clue what is going on. Good-news (GDP) was instantly interpreted as bad-news (moar Taper) and bonds and stocks sold off notably but as the US equity market opened, JPY was sold and carry took over lifting stocks back to pre-FOMC-minutes levels once again... but bonds also rallied significantly with it (in a non-Taper-ing manner) as the USD rallied. But once that run-stop was covered on low volume levitation, stocks limped lower from the European (and POMO) close onwards, ending towards the lower-end of the day's cash range. Treasury yields dropped 7bps from their post-GDP highs leaving the 30Y -3bps on the day (and 7Y and less unch). VIX rose (turning higher before stocks topped), almost tagging 17% as it closed. But burying the lead, commodities were slammed with WTI slammed back under $108; gold, silver, and copper all hit with the latter -3.5% on the week. 'Average' volume day in futures.
Those curious if the Indian Rupee cratered once again in overnight trading will be disappointed: following the previously reported intervention by the RBI in which it would provide US dollars only to crude companies, the currency rose strongly at the open only to fade and trade rangebound before closing in the mid 67 range. In other words, much more will be needed by the central bank to stabilize the currency, the markets and the economy. The main overnight story, however, remains the Syrian conflict and market reactions to it. Stocks traded higher in Europe early today, with credit spreads tightening as market participants scaled back expectations of an imminent strike on Syria after US Defense Secretary Hagel said that the US will act on Syria only with international collaboration. Of note, the G-20 is set to take place next week where Syria is widely expected to be the hot topic for discussion among global world leaders. But while futures ramped in early trade following a spike in the USDJPY over 98, they have since retraced most of their upside, and crude is back to nearly unchanged.
Astute investor, Jim Rogers has warned overnight in an interview with Tara Joseph of Reuters that "oil and gold will go much, much higher" due to "market panic" regarding Syria and the coming end of free money... "when this artificial sea of liquidity ends we're gonna see panic in a lot of markets, including in the US, including in West developed markets."
The key overnight events were already discussed previously, but here they are again: the wholesale selloff in Asia (which subsequently shifted to Europe), the accelerating outflows from India (moment ago the SEBI website announced a net INR13.7 billion selling in Indian stocks yesterday and the near record collapse in the Indian Rupee to new record lows, and the ongoing uncertainty over Syria and what it will do to crude prices (if SocGen is right, nothing good). In brief: a market conditioned and habituated to a world in which Bernanke promises "to make everything ok" suddenly finds itself in the throes of uncertainty and following 4 years of dumb trend-following, has no idea what to do.
Overnight the emerging market rout continued, with the India Sensex down another 3.18%, the Philippines tumbling 4%, Jakarta down 3.7% and Dubai crashing 7%. A driving factor continues to be the fear over an imminent air campaign launched at Syria, leading both WTI and Brent higher by 1%, and gold finally breaking out above the $1400 tractor beam, and printing at $1412 at last check, a hair away from a 20% bull market from the lows. In other news, the market is once again "surprised" to learn that Summers, who as we have been showing for over three weeks is the frontrunner for the Fed chair, is the frontrunner for the Fed chair according to CNBC. Of course, there is nothing preventing this from being the latest trial balloon (and nothing that suggest Summers will actually be hawkish as conventional wisdom seems to think: the guy basically works for the financial sector) but futures aren't waiting to find out, and US traders are walking in this morning to a red screen with ES down just over 10 point and sliding. Any minute now the great unrotation from stocks into bonds (10 Year was 2.77% at last check) is about to be unleashed. And if Obama actually goes to war (without talking to Congress of course), watch the bottom fall from the market.