It would appear the BFTATH mentaility has morphed into a BTFICBMD perspective as the "market" shrugs off an 'apparently expected' ICBM launch to soar to new record highs with the best day in stocks for months (if not years). USDJPY was in charge intraday as 102 was flushed through (with JPY's biggest drop in 2 months) and dragged stocks (led by the "most-shorted") non-stop. Equity volumes were 20-30% below yesterday's. The USD was relatively unmoved on the day (modestly higher oddly on a risk-on day). Gold and oil prices slipped (but remain in the green on the week) as Silver slipped into the red. Copper rallied. Treasury yields surged 6-8bps (the biggest jump in 4 months) as 2s10s steepened 6bps. VIX was cracked 2 vols lower to 14%. The S&P closed at 1873, just 27 points shy of Goldman's 2014 year-end target.
Since Ukraine is the only wildcard variable in the news these past few days, it was to be expected that following i) the end of the large Russian military drill begun two weeks ago and ii) a press conference by Putin in which he toned down the war rhetoric, even if he did not actually say anything indicating Russia will difuse the tension, futures have soared and have retraced all their losses from yesterday. And not only in the US - European equity indices gapped higher at the open this morning in reaction to reports that Russian President Putin has ordered troops engaged in military exercises to return to their bases. Consequent broad based reduction in risk premia built up over the past few sessions meant that in spite of looming risk events (ECB, BoE policy meetings and NFP release this Friday), Bund also failed to close the opening gap lower. At the same time, USD/JPY and EUR/CHF benefited as the recent flight to quality sentiment was reversed, with energy and precious metal prices also coming off overnight highs.
We were perhaps even more amused than our readers by our Friday headline "Stocks Close At New Record High On Russian Invasion, GDP Decline And Pending Home Sales Miss." It appears that today the market forgot to take its lithium, and is finally focusing on the Ukraine part of the headline, at least until 3:30 pm again when everything should once again be back to market ramp normal. As expected, the PMI data from China and Europe in February, was promptly ignored and it was all about Ukraine again, where Russia sternly refuses to yield to Western demands, forcing the shocked market to retreat lower, and sending Russian stocks lower by over 11%. This is happening even as Ukraine is sending Russian gas to European consumers as normal, gas transport monopoly Ukrtransgas said on Monday. "Ukrtransgas is carrying out all its obligations, fulfilling all agreements with Gazprom. The transit (via Ukraine to Europe) totalled 200 million cubic meters as of March 1," Ukrtransgas spokesman Maksim Belyavsky said. In other words, it can easily get worse should Russia indeed use its trump card.
Yuan volatility is part of a major rebalancing of global trade. The next phase of EM turmoil will involve banking crises in several countries including China.
In addition to the already noted fireworks out of China, where the Yuan saw the biggest daily plunge since 2008 and the ongoing and very rapid newsflow out of the Ukraine, focus this morning was very much of the latest Eurozone CPI data, which despite matching previous low levels, came in above expectations and in turn resulted in an aggressive unwind of short-EUR bets as market participants were forced to re-asses the likelihood of more easing by the ECB. Still, even though the Euribor curve bear steepened and Bunds came under significant selling pressure, the EONIA forward curve remained inverted, signifying that there is still a degree of apprehension over what is unarguably very low inflation data.
Three unlucky attempts in a row to retake the S&P 500 all time high may have been all we get, at least for now, because the fourth one is shaping up to be rather problematic following events out of the Crimean in the past three hours where the Ukraine situation has gone from bad to worse, and have dragged the all important risk indicator, the USDJPY, below 102.000 once again. As a result, global stock futures have fallen from the European open this morning, with the DAX future well below 9600 to mark levels not seen since last Thursday. Escalated tensions in the Ukraine have raised concerns of the spillover effects to Western Europe and Russia, as a Russian flag is lifted by occupying gunmen in the Crimean (Southern Ukrainian peninsula) parliament, prompting an emergency session of Crimean lawmakers to discuss the fate of the region. This, allied with reports of the mobilisation of Russian jets on the Western border has weighed on risk sentiment, sending the German 10yr yield to July 2013 lows.
For the second night in a row, China, and specifically its currency rate which saw the Yuan weaken once more, preoccupied investors - and certainly those who had bet on endless strenghtening of the Chinese currency - however this time it appeared more "priced in, and after trading as low as 2000, the SHCOMP managed to close modestly green, which however is more than can be said about the Nikkei which ended the session down 0.5%. Still, the USDJPY was firmly supported by the 102.00 "fundamental" fair value barrier and as a result equity futures, which had to reallign from tracking the AUDUSD to the old faithful Yen carry, have been propped up once more and are set to open at all time highs. If equities fail to breach the record barrier for the third time in a row and a selloff ensues after the open in deja vu trading, it will be time to watch out below if only purely for technical reasons.
All eyes were on China overnight, where first the PBOC drained a quite substantial CNY 100 billion in liquidity via 14 day repos in the month following the biggest credit injection on record, pushing those worried about China's credit schizophrenia to the edge, and then things got even more bizarre when in an act of clear PBOC intervention, the CNY dropped to the lowest since August 2013 as concerns about the global carry trade's impact on China (as noted here previously) start to reverberate. We will have more to say about China's Yuan intervention, but what should be noted is that the Shanghai Composite has tumbled nearly 10% in the past week, and was down another 2% overnight and is once again just barely above 2000, a level it can't seem to get away from for years (which is fine: recall that the real bubble in China is not the stock but the housing market). Chinese property stocks dropped to 8-month lows as concern continues about bank's withdrawing some liquidity for the asset class.The USDJPY drifted along and after rising to a resistance level of about 102.600 has since slide just shy of its 102.20 support area which means US equity futures are now in the red, and concerns that the S&P 500 may not close at a new record high are start to worry the technicians.
US equities tagged new highs early in the day-session sparked by USDJPY ignition and rotating to support from AUDJPY as stops were run and exuberance over shitty data reigned. "Most shorted" stocks dramatically outperformed early on providing the sacrifice required but while bond yields rose from their open last night, they end the day practically unchanged (10Y +1bps); The USD rallied into the open but EUR and AUD strength cracked it back to practically unchanged by the close. Copper flailed (on slowing China construction fears) but oil, silver, and gold all rallied around 1% on the day (though rolled over in the afternoon). VIX dropped but held 14% and remains notably divergent. Credit rallied but remains a laggard compared to equity exuberance. Stocks tanked into the close; catching down to VIX, credit, and USDJPY - what a "market" with the S&P losing its highs and closing red for 2014 once again.
The last 3 days have seen China's Shanghai Composite index tumble over 3% - its largest drop since October as sentiment comes under pressure from concerns about tightening in the real estate sector. The pace of price appreciation has slowed notably - especially 'existing' apartment sales (i.e. the speculators are exiting) - as it appears houing demand is cooling off with the number of cities with falling MoM home prices rose to six in January from two in December.The PBOC has jawboned as much and real estate sector financial condtions are tightening is slowing as a number of banks curb lending to developers. This is weighing on copper prices also as construction activity slows (exacerbating problems in the shadow banking system's collateral pools). The PBOC is getting what they wanted - but may regret it.
- Ukraine Seeks $35 Billion as Yanukovych Warrant Is Issued (BBG)
- Ukraine's fugitive president wanted for mass murder (Reuters)
- Polar Vortex to Bring More Snow on Return to U.S. This Week (BBG)
- China property prices continue to rise (FT)
- Microsoft Said to Cut Windows Price 70% to Counter Rivals (BBG)
- Pentagon to propose shrinking Army, scrapping some jets (Reuters)
- Hedge Funds Turn Bearish on S&P 500 as VIX Advances (BBG)
- Draghi’s Data Jigsaw Takes Shape as ECB Readies Showdown (BBG)
- China, eyeing Japan, seeks WW2 focus for Xi during Germany visit (Reuters)
As we warned last week, stockpiles of iron-ore have reached record levels in China as end-demand slumps but, as Bloomberg notes, this is potentially creating massive dislocations in other markets. Record imports of iron ore and copper, driven by traders who use them as loan collateral, risk repeating the vicious cycle of repayment difficulties and falling prices already seen in the steel-trading market. A stunning 40 percent of the iron ore at China’s ports are part of finance deals (having replaced copper after China's last shadow-banking crackdown) and with the glut, prices drop (driving down the value of collateral on loans) and "borrowers, forced by their bankers to repay loans or to top up collateral, will have to sell the metals, sinking market prices even further and begetting a vicious cycle."
This was one of the all too real Bloomberg headlines posted overnight: "Asian Shares Rally as U.S. Manufacturing Data Beats Estimates." Odd: are they refering to the crashing Philly Fed, or the just as crashing Empire Fed data? Wait, it was the C-grade MarkIt PMI that nobody ever looks at, except to confirm that where everyone else sees snow, the PMI saw sunshine and growth. Remember: if the data is weak, it's the snow; if it's strong, it's the recovery. Odder still: one would think Asian shares care about manufacturing data of, say, China. Which happens to be in Asia, and which two nights ago crashed to the lowest in months. Or maybe that only impact the SHCOMP which dropped 1.2% while all other regional markets simply do what the US and Japan do - follow the USDJPY, which at one point overnight rose as high as 102.600, and brought futures to within inches of their all time closing high. Sadly, it is this that passes for "fundamental" analysis in this broken market new normal...
After learning that it snowed in China this winter following the release of the abysmal February Flash HSBC PMI numbers, we found out that there had also been snow in Europe, following misses across virtually all key French, German and composite PMIs with the exception of the German Services PMI which was the sole "beater" out of 6. To wit:
- Eurozone PMI Manufacturing (Feb A) M/M 53.0 vs Exp. 54.0 (Prev. 54.0); Eurozone PMI Services (Feb A) M/M 51.7 vs Exp. 51.9 (Prev. 51.6)
- German Manufacturing PMI (Feb A) M/M 54.7 vs. Exp. 56.3 (Prev. 56.5); German PMI Services (Feb A) M/M 55.4 vs Exp. 53.4 (Prev. 53.1)
- French PMI Manufacturing (Feb P) M/M 48.5 vs. Exp. 49.6 (Prev. 49.3); French PMI Services (Feb P) M/M 46.9 vs. Exp. 49.4 (Prev. 48.9)
Of course, economic data is the last thing that matters in a manipulated market. Instead, all that does matter is what the USDJPY does overnight, and as we forecast yesterday, the USDJPY 102 tractor beam is alive and well and managed to pull equity futures from a -10 drop overnight to nearly unchanged, despite the now traditional pattern of USDJPY selling during the overnight session and buying during the US session.
After surging yesterday for no reason whatsoever because as we explained on several occasions, there were no surprises in the Tuesday BOJ statement, and the doubling and extension of its loan facilities was implicit and factored into the doubling of its monetary policy (as goldman explained quite well), both the Nikkei and the USDJPY has been forced to revert, with the latter all important carry funding pair back to 102 and in danger of sliding lower, as a result ES is now below yesterday's lows. Which is why the 102 USDJPY "invisible hand" tractor beam will be all important today especially if the market finally starts paying attention to the proxy civil war that has gripped the Ukraine. Stocks traded lower, albeit in a relatively range-bound range this morning, with the Spanish IBEX-35 underperforming. Banking names remained under pressure, with focus still on yesterday’s reports that Spanish banks' bad loans marked a fresh record, together with comments by ECB's Weidmann, who said that sovereign debt purchases would constrain the central bank via political pressure. Similar view was also echoed by ECB’s Nowotny, who said that government bond buying US Fed-style would be difficult to do under ECB's mandate.