A look ahead at the major drivers in the days ahead.
A five sigma event signifies extreme conditions, or an extremely rare occurrence. To bring this discussion from sports and weather to the financial world, we can relate a 5 sigma event to the stock market. Since 1975 the largest annual S&P 500 gain and loss were 34% and -38% respectively. A 5 sigma move would equate to an annual gain or loss of 91%. With a grasp of the rarity of a 5 sigma occurrence, let us now consider the yield spread, or difference, in bond yields between Germany and The United States. As shown in graph #1 below German ten year bunds yield 0.19% (19 one-hundredths of one percent) and the U.S. ten year note yields 1.92%, resulting in a 1.73% yield spread. This is the widest that spread has been in 30 years.
After a few days of dollar weakness due to concerns that the Fed's rate hike intentions have been derailed following some undisputedly ugly economic data (perhaps the Fed should just make it clear there will never be rate hikes during the winter ever again) the USD has resumed its rise, and as a result risk assets, after surging early in the overnight session driven by the Nikkei225 and the Emini, the "strong dollar is bad for risk" trade has re-emerged, with the Nikkei dropping almost 500 points off its intraday highs, with US equity futures poised to open lower once more, sliding nearly 20 points in the overnight session, and surprising the BTFDers who have not seen five consecutive days of "risk-off" in a long time.
After three days of unexpected market weakness without an apparent cause, especially since after 7 years of conditioning, the algos have been habituated to buy on both good and bad news, overnight futures are getting weary, and futures are barely up, at least before this morning's transitory FX-driven stop hunt higher. Whether this is due to the previously noted "blackout period" for stock buybacks which started a few days ago and continues until the first week of May is unclear, but should the recent "dramatic" stock weakness persist, expect Bullard to once again flip flop and suggesting it is clearly time to hike rates, as long as the S&P does not drop more than 5%. In that case, QE4 is clearly warranted.
Janet Yellen noted that everything was awesome and that stocks were now slightly "on the high side" of their historical range. It appears no one showed her the Russell 2000 which has a valuation multiple of just about 90x LTM earnings (as reported by the 2000 companies which comprise the index, and which were certified as accurate by 4,000 CEOs and CFOs on penalty of jail time). The mystery of how the Fed remains so stubbornly bubble blind - just like it did during the dotcom and housing bubbles - is thus revealed. The self-evident reason is that the purported geniuses who comprise our monetary politburo drink the Wall Street Cool-Aid about forward ex-items EPS. The Fed is driving a two-ton bubble machine, but has no clue that it has become a financial death trap.
Following the first YoY deflation since 2009 in January, February's CPI YoY data managed to scrape its way back to unchanged (very modestly better than the 0.1% drop expected). Consumer prices rose 0.2% MoM - the most since May 2014 with gas prices up MoM for the first time since June. So what is the narrative now: if tumbling gas prices didn't get consumers to spend, rising gas costs will? Ex food and energy, prices rose 0.2% MoM (slightly hotter than the 0.1% rise expected) led by the shelter index (which increased 0.2 percent) accounting for about two-thirds of the monthly increase. The rent continues to be too damn high for most, and finally the BLS is starting to realize this.
It is a centrally-planned "market" and everyone is merely a bystander. Last night, following a dramatic China PMI miss, which as previously reported tumbled to the worst print since early 2014 and is flashing a "hard-landing" warning, the Shanghai Composite first dipped then spiked because all a "hard-landing" means is even more liquidity by the PBOC (which as we suggested a month ago will be the last entrant into the QE party before everyone falls apart). Then, this morning, a surprise beat by the German (and Eurozone) PMI was likewise interpreted by the algos as a catalyst to buy, and at this moment both European stock and US equity futures are their session highs. So, to summarize, for anyone confused: both good and bad data is a green light to buy stocks. In fact, all one needs is a flashing red headline to launch the momentum igniting algos into a buying spasm.
"The Fed is a reluctant Dollar bull," explains Goldman Sachs, noting that Yellen inadvertently revealed the FOMC's expectation that coming policy changes will boost the greenback. Broadly speaking the rest of the sell-side has herded along into the strong US Dollar camp with only Unicredit (rate shift may slow recent very strong USD momentum) and Morgan Stanley (suggesting USD corrective activity) backing away from full dollar bull though most suggest adding to dollar longs on any dip as the most crowded trade in the world gets crowded-er. Then Stan Fischer added... "DOLLAR WON'T KEEP RISING FOREVER."
As previously observed (skeptically), a main reason for the surge in the DAX, and thus the S&P, on Friday was premature hope that the Greek talks earlier were a long-overdue precursor to a Greek resolution, and as we further noted yesterday, subsequent bickering and lack of any clarity as we go into today's critical "final ultimatum" meeting between Merkel and Tsipras, is also why the Dax was lower by 1.1% at last check, even if the EURUSD continues to trade like an illiquid, B-grade currency pair whose only HFT purpose is to slam all stops within 100 pips of whatever the current price may be.
Quad-witching days are volatile on normal days, so in an environment of virtually zero liquidity, in which the market careens from one extreme to another simply based on whether the Fed utters one single word, in which volatility across asset classes is soaring, and in which it is all about igniting algo momentum, today's quadruple withicng should be memorable, which is good since there is virtually no macro data today to speak of.
Talk of raising interest rates introduces a new Fed conundrum. Over the last few months, Federal Reserve Board members have maintained a less dovish tone which implies the eventuality of rate hikes despite economic data which has been slowing rapidly.... A case can be made that, excluding 2008, the economy is weaker now than prior to the announcement of the previous QE actions and Operation Twist. Further confounding the Fed stance is inflation, which as measured by CPI is running lower than at any time since 2009. Additionally the strong dollar and global deflationary trends point to lower inflation and possibly deflation in the coming months.
The only news that matters to algos today is whether Janet Yellen will include the word "patient" in the FOMC statement as a hint of a June rate hike, even though the phrase "international developments" is far more important in a world in which everyone (such as the 25 or so central banks who have cut rates in the past 80 days) is now scrambling to export deflation to everyone else. And with carbon-based traders recuperating from St. Patrick's day, few will notice that the oil tumble continues as WTI touches new 6 year highs after yesterday's shocking 10MM+ API build, and is now openly eyeing a collapse into the $30s. Just as nobody will notice that even as futures in the US and European stocks are looking a little hungover ahead of the Fed and perhaps on the latest bout of anti-austerity out of Europe, the China levitation has gone full retard, with the SHCOMP up another 2.1% yesterday and now in full-blown parabolic mode as housing data confirms the Chinese housing bubble has truly burst, and as shadow bankers dump all their funds into stocks in hopes of making up for losses due to regulatory intervention.
- Israelis vote as 'King Bibi's' reign hangs in the balance (Reuters), Factbox: Main candidates in Israel's election (Reuters)
- Iran Can Add Million Barrels a Day of Oil If Sanctions Halt (BBG)
- Kremlin rules out handing back Crimea to Ukraine (Reuters)
- Saudi Arabia Needs More Oil to Feed Local Refinery Expansion (BBG)
- How Lafarge’s CEO Went From Holcim Merger Architect to Obstacle (BBG)
- When Yellen Gets Less Predictable She’s Getting Back to Normal (BBG)
- Iran nuclear talks intensify as sides face tough issues (Reuters)
- Debunking $1.4 Trillion Europe Debt Myth in Post-Heta Age (BBG)
Following yesterday's inexplicable ramp in stocks, which perhaps was driven by the collapse in oil (which sent energy companies higher because a 30x energy forward PE is cheap), and by the latest battery of disappointing economic data which made it less likely the Fed will proceed with a tightening move, overnight futures have given up a portion of the gains, and were trading down 0.3% at last check. And yet, if yesterday's weakness was driven by USD weakness, today's jump in the EURUSD above 1.06 (on absolutely disastrous German ZEW investor index print) is now somehow responsible for risk offness? And, adding confusion to insult, the 10 Y is down to 2.05% and in danger of re-entering a 1% handle. Sadly, nothing makes sense any more and today's conclave of central planners in the Marriner Eccles building ahead of tomorrow's 2pm FOMC "impatient" announcement isn't going to make it any better.