As we noted in the pre-open this morning, with the weekend just around the corner, it was virtually assured that the S&P would close at an all time high today - after all the people need to be confident when they go shopping at malls with money they don't have (but delighted by paper profits they haven't booked) so they boost the US non-GAAP GDP (at least before the BEA too, like Italy, changes the definition of GDP to include cocaine and hookers). Finally, assuring a (likely record) low-volume levitation today is the early closure of the bond pit ahead of Memorial Day holiday which also means only a skeleton crew of algos will be frontrunning each other to push the S&P over 1,900. Summing it all up perfectly - VIX closed at 15-month lows, Russell 2000 had its best week in 3 months, and Treasury yields are 13bps lower than when the S&P was last here... un-rigged.
If oil is “just another commodity,” then there shouldn’t be any connection between oil prices, debt levels, interest rates, and total rates of return. But there clearly is a connection. As we have seen, rising interest rates will bring an end to our current equilibrium, by raising costs in many ways, without raising salaries. It will also reduce equity values and bond prices. A rise in the cost of extraction of oil, if it isn’t accompanied by high oil prices, will also put an end to our equilibrium, because oil producers will stop drilling the number of wells needed to keep production up. If oil prices rise (regardless of reason), this will tend to put the economy into recession, leading to job loss and debt defaults. The only way to keep things going a bit longer might be negative interest rates. But even this seems “iffy.” We truly live in interesting times.
It is not too early to ask how the present US business cycle expansion, already more than five years old, will end. The history of the last great US monetary experiment in “quantitative easing” (QE) from 1934-7 suggests that the end could be violent. Autumn 1937 featured one of the largest New York stock market crashes ever accompanied by the descent of the US economy into the notorious Roosevelt Recession. As we noted previously - it's never different this time...
The key news overnight were global manufacturing PMIs which can be summarized as follows: Japan contraction; China contraction, but less than expected (as reported before); and most recently, Europe which expanded but dropped and missed, at 52.5, down from 53.4 and below the consensus estimate of 53.2. The weakness was fully driven by France which has moved back into a contraction phase in both manufacturing and services, which were 49.3 and 49.2, down from 51.2 and 50.4, respectively (although with the recent surge in train station remodelling, the mfg aspect may soon be boosted). The market soaked up the Chinese numbers with fervor, sending the algo-controlled USDJPY into a buying frenzy which in turn pushed up US equity futures, only to see a gradual fade of the Chinese euphoria when the European data hit.
Just as we saw yesterday, a pre-open buying panic in stocks has been triggered by a selling scramble in JPY against the USD (which ramped the pair to the crucial 200DMA). Treasury yields are following suit (10Y bounced off 2.50%) and pushing higher (30Y above yesterday's high yields). The USD is well bid (on EUR weakness) and precious metals are modestly lower. Copper is under pressure. Just remember how yesterday's pre-open run-stop ended...
- Eric Holder proves he is no US banker puppet by smashing another foreign bank: BNP Falls as U.S. Probe Said to Cost More Than $5 Billion (BBG)
- Fuld Was Top CEO When Fed Last Raised as New Neutral Era Beckons (BBG)
- Tymoshenko loses her magic in Ukraine presidential race (Reuters)
- GOP Sees Primaries Taming the Tea Party (WSJ)
- Heard that one before: Russian troops preparing to leave Ukraine border area (Reuters)
- Vietnam riots land another blow on the global supply chain (FT)
- Heard that one before too: Bank of England minutes show some members closer to voting for rate rise (Reuters)
- BOJ Refrains From Easing With Signs Japan Weathering Tax Rise (BBG)
- Miner Freeport Pressured by Water Costs as Copper Prices Slide (WSJ)
- Talks to end Thai crisis inconclusive, new round called (Reuters)
- Japan Court Blocks Reactor Restarts (WSJ)
Another right of perfectly round number supports: while the Shanghai Composite once again dipped below 2000 overnight to as low as 1991 only to close modestly higher, and the Nikkei followed suit, also sliding below the psychological support level of 14,000 to an intraday low of 13,964 only to close just above 14,000 if in the red, it was the USDJPY that has suffered the most technical pain when shortly after 2:30 am eastern time, the USDJPY dropped by nearly 40 pips, hours after the BOJ indicated that not only is it happy with where in the QE process it stands, but hinted there may well be no more QE, and certainly nothing imminent . In the process, the USDJPY fully smashed the 200 DMA, with the next key parallel support being the 200DMA in the EURJPY at 138.08 (which was at 138.34 last). When that too gives way, it is a straight line to double digits in the USDJPY, and the countdown to the end of the Abe regime begins in earnest.
Not much going on tonight, except for the non-coupy martial law announcement in Thailand where the government is said to still be in charge of everything except for martial law decisions taken by the army of course, which in turn is in charge of everything else apparently including the central bank which intervened so extensively in the market, the Baht was barely changed at one point. There was also news of explosions and clashes in Benghazi but as everyone knows, what difference does Libya make at this, or any other, point. Additionally overnight there were reports that the cities of Slavyansk and Kramatorsk in east Ukraine were being shelled by the Ukraine army but that too barely registered as bullish for the USDJPY (which in now traditional fashion ramped during the US day session then sold off during Asia hours).
It was supposed to be a blistering Mega Merger Monday following the news of both AT&T'a purchase of DirecTV and Pfizer's 15% boosted "final" offer for AstraZeneca. Instead it is shaping up to be not only a dud but maybe a drubbing, with AstraZeneca plunging after its board rejected the latest, greatest and last offer, European peripheral bond spreads resume blowing out again, whether on concerns about the massive Deutsche Bank capital raise or further fears that "radical parties" are gaining strength in Greece ahead of local elections. But the worst news for BTFDers is that not only did the USDJPY break its long-term support line as we showed on Friday, but this morning it is taking even more technician scalps after it dropped below its 200 DMA (101.23) which means that a retest of double digit support is now just a matter of time, as is a retest of how strong Abe's diapers are now that the Nikkei has slid to just above 14,000, while China, following its own weak housing sales data, saw the Shanghai Composite briefly dip under 2000 before closing just above it. Overall, it is shaping up to be a less than stellar day with zero econ news (hence no bullish flashing red headlines of horrible data) for the algos who bought Friday's late afternoon VIX slam-driven risk blast off.
Underappreciated risks to electronic bitcoin and all forms of investments and savings today, including gold, that are held electronically come in the form of modern warfare - involving as it does cyberwarfare and electromagnetic warfare. No electricity and no computer or internet access and you cannot access your savings, investments and money ...
As spring unfolds here in the Northern Hemisphere, the future of the free and open Internet hangs in the balance. As such, I strongly believe everyone should have at least some understanding of what is at stake. When most people hear or read the words “net neutrality” their eyes glaze over with a feeling of confusion and despair: “I can’t remember, am I supposed to be for or against this?” This is exactly how the lawyers and lobbyists in D.C. want it, but unless the citizenry is informed we could lose the most important weapon of free speech in the history of mankind. The FCC voted on its proposal this week and it passed with a 3-2 vote... and this is a glimpse of the "room full of lawyers and cops... and a few real human beings speaking reality to them" before they were escorted out.
For the 4th day in a row, selling pressure in US equities climaxed as Europe closed. The big buying-panic today though was sparked with about an hour to go as VIX was pummeled lower and stocks levitated to save all kinds of key technical levels - (S&P unch, Nasdaq green on the week, S&P back above its 50DMA, Russell off its 7-month lows). Trouble with all that exuberance... bonds, the USD, commodities, JPY carry, and credit weren't buying it. The USD rose 0.2% for the 2nd week in a row (led by 0.5% weakness in the EUR) and JPY strengthened. Commodities all closed higher on the week, led by oil and copper (+2%) with WTI over $102. Treasuries sold off modestly into the late-day buying scramble in stocks but ended the week 10bps lower in yield (biggest weekly drop in 2mo, lowest in 6mo). VIX plunged back to almost 12 with its biggest daily drop in a month. T-Bonds and Bullion are both +7.2% YTD, S&P +1.6% YTD, Russell 2000 -5%YTD.
According to the Chinese financial publication Securities Daily, emergency real estate rescue packages have been launched in large cities such as Wuxi, Nanning, Hangzhou, Tianjin, Tongling and Zhengzhou in the last month alone..."if a borrower does not fulfill the loan repayment obligations as agreed in the contract, the guarantee institutions will have to repay the housing loans..." What a surprise – a government guarantee. The market is imploding and defaults are going through the roof. Property vacancy rates in Zhengzhou are an astounding 23%. So the government is putting taxpayers on the hook. In other words, the government is panicking. But it’s not working... so much excess inventory has built up, a major slowdown was inevitable. And like the butterfly that flaps its wings, a slowdown in China has substantial effects on the rest of the world.
The perfectly expected if completely irrational overnight ramp in various Yen carry pairs tried, and failed, and both the USDJPY and EURJPY were tumbling to overnight lows as we go to print. This is happening despite a rout in India in which Narendra Modi's opposition block is poised for the biggest Indian election win in 30 years, with his BJP party currently leading in 332 of 543 seat - an outcome that is seen as very pro business (and seemingly pro asset bubbles: the INR soared and the Sensex was up as much as 6% in intraday trading before paring virtually all gains following what many say was RBI intervention). And while the Nikkei (down 200 points) did not help the mood this move was mostly in response to yesterday's US selling, which means as usual the culprit for lack of algo risk-taking overnight has been the Yen carry, which moments ago hit intraday lows, and is increasingly flirting with the 101 level (after which double digits, and Abe's second resignation, come very quickly).
Just last month we highlighted how the collapse in China's shadow-banking system, it's concomittant credit crunch, and vicious circle of commodity-financed credit creation could spread contagiously to the rest of the world - through refusal to pay. It seems we were prophetic as Reuters confirms that money owed to Chinese firms by their customers has reached a record high. As China's economy continues to cool, companies are waiting longer and finding it harder to get paid for goods and services they've already sold, leading to record amounts of receivables - and potential write-offs - on corporate balance sheets. As one Chinese business owner exclaimed: "If you don't pay me and I pay others, aren't I just a sucker? I'm not that stupid." Receivables on average (across 2300 firms) reached $160.49 million at the end of last year, more than double the $65.9 million average at the end of 2009 and median collection time for billings crawled up from 71.4 days to 90.42 days (the first time above 90 days). "It's a pretty loud warning bell," warns a Peking professor.