Large speculators reduced ther S&P 500 positioning to net short this week and their NASDAQ longs to a one-year low as BofAML reports on CFTC data. Macros funds decreased their long exposure to S&P500 and NASDAQ to now hold short exposure. They also decreased their long exposure to US Dollar (raising their AUD longs to a record high) and maintained their long exposure to 10-year Treasuries. They decreased their long exposure to commodities and increased their long exposure to EM. Across all asset classes, positioning is at extremes.
Prak central bank balance sheets are still ahead. Interest rate increases are still several quarters out. Austerity has peaked. The output gap has peaked. What does this mean in the week ahead ?
VIX-slamming, USDJPY-ramping, BTFDe-escalating muppetry and we end the week near the highs with the S&P and Trannies comfortably green YTD (though notably underperforming gold still). Treasuries were sold hard today (7Y +10bps) as the D word was bandied about by the politicians (while in reality de-escalation was anything but what was happening), but the 5s30s still flattened modestly further. 10Y saw one of its worst days of the year and yields pressed up to their 200DMA. Gold and silver were flat to modestly lower as copper and oil limped higher. FX markets were relatively calm as the USD pushed higher on the week (+0.5%). Stocks closed weak into the close but after 3 days of ramp, it's hardly surprising.
After a solid day for risk yesterday, surging higher on a continuation of the rumor that Japan's economy will deteriorate so much the BOJ will have to print more money (even though overnight ex BOJ governor Sekido said Kuroda won't print more) we have a more cautious tone this morning heading into the Easter long weekend. A double earnings miss from Google and IBM following the US market close, comments from the Chinese Premier suggesting that the government will keep its policy settings unchanged, and a press conference from Russia’s President Putin in which the Russian president as expected, has refused to back down, has put a small dampener on sentiment today. Add the fact that due to Good Friday April equities Op-Ex will take place today and trading in the next 9 hours promises to be more unrigged than ever, especially if the NY Fed trading desk manages to slam the VIX into single-digit territory
Here’s a guy you want to bet on - Li Ka-Shing. Li is reportedly the richest person in Asia with a net worth well in excess of $30 billion, much of which he made being a shrewd property investor. Li Ka-Shing was investing in mainland China back in the early 90s, way back before it became the trendy thing to do. Now, Li wants out of China. All of it.
Following yesterday's significant volume and major short-squeeze ('most shorted' ramped 4% off the lows), today saw neither with volumes light and equity performance prety much balance across the board. Most of the strength occurred overnight with stocks dumping off the open, ramped on Europe's close, modestly sold on Yellen's speech, then ramped into the close. The Dow and Trannies made it all the way back up to unchanged from the March FOMC statement/press conference. Every status quo hugging asset-getherer heard what they wanted from Yellen - except that Treasuries sold off at the short-end and flattened dramatically to near 5-year lows (not exactly the dovish hype headlines are made of). Copper jumped and oil dumped with gold and silver treading water on the day. VIX was monkey-hammered lower and stocks tracked it. Bottom line, while stock bulls hear dovishness, bond traders are calling Yellen's bluff.
Having been stopped out of his "long punt" in copper futures (which are, we remind readers, levered via margin and not a simple cash percentage loss of capital), world-renowned (for something) Dennis Gartman has issued his latest missive - ultimate contrarian call - advice... "we are sellers this morning of copper and buyers of crude oil, one relative to the other, with the problems in China weighing upon the former while crude has held impressively as other commodity prices have fallen." Crude oil longs beware... prepare to be Gartman'd.
We summarized yesterday's both better and worse than expected Chinese GDP data as follows: "a substantial deterioration of the economy, one which was to be expected yet one which can be spun as either bullish thanks to the GDP "beat", and negatively if the purpose is to make a case for more PBOC stimulus." Sure enough here are the headlines that "explain" the latest overnight futures surge which has once again brought the S&P into the green on the year - a 40 point Spoo move in hours since yesterday's bottom when the Nikkei "leaked" Japan's economy is on the ropes :
- Stocks Rise on China Stimulus Speculation
Here one should of course add the comment that launched yesterday's rebound, namely the Japanese warning that its economy is about to contract, adding to calls for more BOJ stimulus, and finally this other Bloomberg headline:
- The Strengthening Case for ECB Easing
And there you have it - goodbye "fundamental" case; welcome back "central banks will once again bail everyone out" case. Hopefully today's news are absolutely abysmal to add "US economic contraction fear renew calls for untapering" to the list of headlines that should send the S&P to all time highs by the end of today.
The fears over ongoing commodity-financing restrictions and slowing money supply growth are contagiously spilling over into other collateral. Copper prices are in free fall this morning, crashing through critical levels (especially Dennis Gartman's "long punt") and back below the Maginot Line of $3.00. These are near 3-week low levels and the biggest drop since the cash-for-commodity financing deals came under real pressure.
One can see that while the traditional 6:00 AM USDJPY buy program is just duying to resume aggressive upward momentum ignition, futures are still leery and confused by the recent post-open high beta selloffs. Then again, things like yesterday's ridiculous no news 3:30pm ramp happen and confused them even more just as momentum is about to take a downward direction. Stocks in Asia (ex-China) advanced amid a reversal in sentiment after Citigroup (+4.15%) inspired positive close on Wall Street, however Shanghai Comp (-1.4%) underperformed as concerns over GDP data on Wednesday following weak money supply data weighed on sentiment. Stocks remained on the back foot (Eurostoxx50 -0.42%), with Bunds supported by the release of lower than expected German ZEW survey and also ongoing concerns surrounding the stand-off between Ukraine/Russia. Short-Sterling bear steepened after UK CPI fell to its lowest level since October 2009, but house prices across Britain posted its biggest rise since June 2010, reviving concerns over an overheating market.
Today's 'bounce' in US equity markets is not translating into Asian equity market strength as China, India, Indonesia, and Thai stocks are fading. Copper is crumbling and just stopped out Dennis Gartman's long. In China, the PBOC withdrew 172bn Yuan (highest since Feb 2013) and pushed the currency back towards its weakest since Feb (which is the weakest since the PBOC began its erstwhile carry-killing-policy). Lots of odd moving-parts in Chinese data tonight with M2 YoY growth tumbling to 12.1% (missing expectations) - its slowest since Jan 2001 but Total Social Financing smashed expectations at 2.07tn Yuan (vs 1.86tn expected). It seems, try as the PBOC might to control it, credit creation continues to balloon in China.
"Copper is on the edge of resuming its downtrend," is how BofA begins it brief note on the evolution of China's crucial credit-collateral commodity (as we noted earlier). Copper futures limped lower today - fading even as the exuberant stock market ripped on 330pm fundamentals today.
The last few days have seen Western anti-Russian rhetoric and red lines escalate dramatically as the military and economic issues come to light in any push back against Putin's pressure. From NatGas export fallacies to "boomerang"-ing sanctions, the west seems stuck (for now).. which brings up the question - why is China and Russia making huge investments in commodity-miners? Russia's largest gold miner Polyus Gold is considering a complete onshoring of its activities and China is buying a huge Peruvian copper mine from Glencore. The outcome would appear to enable both firms to do away with USD but not having to buy this resource in the market... just mine it?
- Three dead in shootings at Kansas Jewish centers; man to face charges (WSJ)
- Sanctions Blowback in Russia Targets Burgers to Movies (BBG)
- Deadly Virus's Spread Raises Alarms in Mideast (WSJ)
- China group buys $6bn Glencore Peru copper mine (BBG)
- Iran lodges complaint against United States over U.N. envoy ban (Reuters)
- Russian assets down sharply on Ukraine conflict fears (Reuters)
- ECB comments knock euro, but not much (Reuters)
- World-Leading $25 Hourly Wage Roils Swiss Businesses (BBG)
Futures are treading water once more now that Ukraine has stormed to center stage from the backburner after everyone was convinced Putin would let the situation cool off after annexing Crimea. Guess not. Adding the renewed geopolitical jitters to what has already been a beta stock bloodbath into a holiday shortened week assures some high volatility fireworks. Cautious sentiment was observed over in Asia (Nikkei 225 -0.36%) amid renewed fears that geopolitical tensions in Ukraine will flare up again following reports of exchange gunfire with pro-Russian militants. This sentiment carried over into the European session with stocks lower across the board (Eurostoxx50 -0.71%). EUR is lower after ECB’s Draghi said any further strengthening of the EUR would warrant further action by the ECB, including non-standard measures such as quantitative easing - it is amazing how frequently and often the Virtu algos still fall for Draghi's jawboning trick which has now become all too clear will never be implemented and certainly not if he keeps talking about it daily, as he does.