Following Friday's exuberance, US equity markets traded in an extraordinarily narrow range today (Dow's 41 points is lowest in 16 months) as S&P futures had the lowest non-holiday volume day of the year - despite plethora of Fed talking heads. Treasuries were no less un-vibrant with a 2bp range ending with the short-end very modestly higher in yield and long-end -1bps. The USD closed lower with its only sizable move driven by Bullard's dovish comments on inflation credibility; most notably US equities ignored JPY crosses efforts to ignite momentum. VIX was smashed lower at the close (back to inverted). The big movers on the day were in commodity-land. WTI dipped but Brent was slammed as the spread dropped notably to 6-week lows. Gold (and even more so Silver) were the big winners (relatively speaking) ending the day +1 and +2.2% respectively. Oh and TWTR went bull retard...
Having discussed market microstructure and the parasitic impacts of high-frequency-trading for the last 5 years, it comes as no surprise that the block-trade-sniffing algos have had very significant impacts on the way institutional investors trade now. As WSJ reports, in fact the big boys are conducting more "upstairs trades," in which deals are executed among big institutions, bypassing the broader market, because the proliferation of algorithmic trading and other structural issues, including the fragmentation of the market, are hurting their ability to get the best prices and execute large trades quickly. While the concerns aren't all new, big investors say the cat-and-mouse games are growing more elaborate - and counterproductive - by the day.
"Just be long. Pretty much anything. So here’s how I understand things now that I am no longer the last bear standing. You should buy equities if you believe many European banks and their sovereign paymasters are insolvent. You should buy shares if you put a higher probability than your peers on the odds of a European democracy rejecting the euro over the course of the next few years. You should be long risk assets if you believe China will have lowered its growth rate from 7% to nearer 5% over the course of the next two years. You should be long US equities if you are worried about the failure of Washington to address its fiscal deficits. And you should buy Japanese assets if you fear that Abenomics will fail to restore the fortunes of Japan (which it probably won’t). Hey this is easy… And then it crashed"
- Hugh Hendry
Western central banks have tried to shake off the constraints of gold for a long time, which have created enormous difficulties for them. They have generally succeeded in managing opinion in the developed nations but been demonstrably unsuccessful in the lesser-developed world, particularly in Asia. It is the growing wealth earned by these nations that has fuelled demand for gold since the late 1960s. There is precious little bullion left in the West today to supply rapidly increasing Asian demand, and it is important to understand how little there is and the dangers this poses for financial stability.
With just a tad more than three weeks left in the year it is time to start focusing on what 2014 will likely bring. Of course, what really happens over the next twelve months is likely to be far different than what is currently expected but issuing prognostications, making conjectures and telling fortunes has always kept business brisk on Wall Street.
Everyone knows "you never go bull retard," but it seems Eclectica's Hugh Hendry, the hardiest of hardy Scots, has accepted that there is only one way for this farce to end. As Investment Week reports, the bear-turned-bull has bought 3D printing stocks as a play on trend-driven, QE-fuelled equity markets, and said the rise in the valuation of Bitcoin amounts to “the same thing”. Perhaps summing up the "trend-driven, QE-fueled" new normal better than anyone, Hendry added:"I say to my team 'don't tell me the valuations, it is trending'... This is the environment where Bitcoin could go to $1m. There is no qualitative reason, but it is trending. If I could own Bitcoin, I would. It gets worse: Hendry is now chasing the biggest momentum trend of all, that of Bitcoin, which he now "expects" to rise to $1 million! As for his hedge - don't laugh - 3D printing stocks... Sigh. We suspect, as he noted previously, he will be avoiding mirrors even more now. And yes, that this whole series now reeks of an Onion viral marketing campaign, is clear to everyone. Although sadly, we fear it is all too sincere, and a sad consequence of what happens when Bernanke's centrally-planned markets crush one after another talented asset manager and leave the E-Trade momo babies in charge.
The overnight session was relatively quiet as precious metals trod water while equity markets tumbled. However, as the US equity cash session looms, silver and gold are coming under renewed selling pressure (and the USD bid) in a seeming effort to provide some rotational bid to stocks into the open (just like yesterday). This is the lowest for Gold ($1218) and Silver ($19.01) since July.
The markets seem to think we live in a largely riskless world. Are risk assets now riskless assets or are they risk assets disguised as riskless?
- America’s Role as Consumer of Last Resort Goes Missing (BBG)
- Holiday sales sag despite blitz of deals (WSJ)
- Abe Support Falls Below 50% for First Time Amid Secrecy Drive (BBG)
- U.S. airlines give China flight plans for defense zone (Reuters), while Japan: no change to airlines' notification policy when flying in East China Sea zone (Reuters)
- Thai protesters seek to topple PM after clashes (Reuters)
- Hilton Seeks as Much as $2.4 Billion in Biggest Hotel IPO (BBG)
- Biden on delicate mission to defuse tensions in East Asia (Reuters)
- Fed eyes financial system weak link (WSJ)
- Pentagon in line of fire in US budget war (FT)
- China’s monetary squeeze collides with housing bubble (FT)
Just as in the 1930s the Fed fueled deflation by not making credit available, today the opposite seems to be the case – low rates are fueling deflation and preventing markets from clearing.
A hungover America slowly wakes up from a day of society-mandated consumption and purchasing excess to engage in even more Fed-mandated excess in the equity markets. The only difference is that while the "90%" was engaged in the former and depleting their equity, and savings, accounts in the process, far less than 10% will be doing the latter. Overnight attention was drawn to the rapidly escalating territorial dispute between China and Japan, now in the air, Bitcoin's brief surge above the price of an ounce of gold, and the ejection of the Holland from the AAA Eurozone club (where only Germany and Finland remain), following an S&P downgrade of the Netherlands from AAA to AA+, which however had been largely priced in long ago (and was coupled with an upgrade of Spain from negative to stable outlook, as well as an upgrade of Spain from CCC+ to B-). Europe surprised pleasantly on both the inflation (better than expected) and unemployment rate (dropped from an all time high of 12.2% to 12.1%), even if youth unemployment rose to fresh record highs.
In a carry-trade driven world in which news and fundamentals no longer matter, the only relevant "variable" is whether the JPY is down (check) and the EUR is up (check) which always results in green equities around the globe and green futures in the US, with yesterday's sudden and sharp selloff on no liquidity and no news long forgotten. The conventional wisdom "reason" for the overnight JPY underperformance against all major FX is once again due to central bank rhetoric, when overnight BOJ's Kiuchi sees high uncertainty whether 2% CPI will be reached in 2 years, Shirai says bank should ease further if growth, CPI diverge from main scenario. Also the BOJ once again hinted at more QE, and since this has proven sufficient to keep the JPY selling momentum, for now, why not continue doing it until like in May it stops working. As a result EURJPY rose above the 4 year high resistance of 138.00, while USDJPY is bordering on 102.00. On the other hand, the EUR gained after German parties strike coalition accord, pushing the EURUSD over 1.36 and further making the ECB's life, now that it has to talk the currency down not up, impossible. This is especially true following reports in the German press that the ECB is looking at introducing an LTRO in order to help promote bank lending. Since that rumor made zero dent on the EUR, expect the ongoing daily litany of ECB rumors that the bank is "technically ready" for negative rates and even QE, although as has been shown in recent months this now has a half-life measured in minutes as the market largely is ignoring whatever "tools" Draghi and company believe they have left.
The mainstream media staple 'common wisdom' within the financial markets is that when the Federal Reserve "tapers," or eventually ceases, its current bond buying program that interest rates will begin to rise. However, there are three primary issues which should be considered that fail to support this widely held belief. The Federal Reserve has gotten itself trapped into creating an asset bubble in the equity markets because any reversal of policy leads to severely negative economic consequences. With the current economic recovery cycle already very extended in historical terms, along with the financial markets, it is unlikely that we have just begun a growth cycle that will allow the Federal Reserve to extract its support. The reality is quite the opposite, and the next asset rotation will not be from bonds to stocks; but just the opposite.
The correlation between stock prices and margin debt continues to rise (to new records of exuberant "Fed's got our backs" hope) as NYSE member margin balances surge to new record highs. Relative to the NYSE Composite, this is the most "leveraged' investors have been since the absolute peak in Feb 2000. What is more worrisome, or perhaps not, is the ongoing collapse in investor net worth - defined as total free credit in margin accounts less total margin debt - which has hit what appears to be all-time lows (i.e. there's less left than ever before) which as we noted previously raised a "red flag" with Deutsche Bank. Relative to the 'economy' margin debt has only been higher at the very peak in 2000 and 2007 and was never sustained at this level for more than 2 months. Sounds like a perfect time to BTFATH...
This is a macro global trend well underway and I don't see anything in the cards stopping it.