In what the firm believes will be an improvement over other so-called dark pools because it will be a collaboration among big mutual-fund firms, WSJ reports that the giant fund manager is quietly building a new trading venue designed to let big money managers sidestep many of the problems that they argue lead to unfair or costly trading - i.e. avoid the HFT predation. Fidelity, with $1.95 trillion of assets under management, is in the initial stages of planning the trading venue and has just begun to pitch the idea to other large asset managers. It seems 5 years of vociferous exposure and a Michael Lewis book may be beginning to starve the HFTs of their prey.
But the pretty people on TV said the Fed Minutes proved they were the most dovish ever and initial claims hit recovery lows... What a total disaster - Equity markets peaked within a few minutes of the open and never looked back - yesterday's "Fed Cat Bounce" gave way to Really Red Thursday... with the Nasdaq and Russell 6.5% from their recent highs (and the S&P 3.5% off), we suspect a "markets in turmoil" special on business media any moment...
The main overnight event, which we commented on previously, was China's trade data which was a disaster. March numbers turned out to be well below market consensus with exports falling 6.6% YoY (vs +4.8% expected) and imports falling 11.3% YoY (vs +3.9% expected). The underperformance of imports caused the trade balance to spike to $7.7bn (vs -$23bn in Feb). Pricing on the Greek 5-year syndicated bond is due later today, with the final size of the bond boosted to EUR 3bln from EUR 2.5bln as order books exceed EUR 20bln (equating to a rough bid/cover ratio of over 6) as the final yield is set at 4.75% (well below the 5.3% finance ministry target and well above our "the world is a bunch of idiots managing other people's money" 3% target). Ireland sold EUR 1bln in 10y bonds, marking the third successful return to the bond market since the bailout. Also of note, this morning saw the release of lower than expected French CPI data, underpinning fears of potential deflation in the Eurozone.
All the gains that Japan's Nikkei 225 futures had achieved in the post-FOMC-Minutes exuberance have been lost as first Japan (huge miss in machine orders) and then China (huge miss in imports and exports) hit the market with a disappointing data double whammy. US futures are relatively untouched for now (even as USDJPY tumbles back below 102). Asian equity markets are mixed (China/India down notably and Japan fading fast) as another Chinese bank has "delayed payment" on a bond. Copper prices have also reverted and given up post-FOMC gains (despite rumors of PBOC bailout buying).
The positive sentiment stemming from a positive close on Wall Street and saw Shanghai Comp (+0.33%), Hang Seng (+1.09%) trade higher, failed to support the Nikkei 225 (-2.10%), which underperformed its peers and finished in the red amid JPY strength as BoJ's Kuroda failed to hint on more easing. Stocks in Europe (Eurostoxx50 +0.32%) traded higher since the open, with Bunds also under pressure amid the reversal in sentiment.
Alcoa kicked off earnings season yesterday, with shares up 3% in after-market hours. Focus now turns to the release of the FOMC meeting minutes.
Corporations continue to push the boundaries of wage and employment suppression, productivity increases and accounting gimmickry to support elevated profit margins. All of these functions are finite in nature, and despite much hope to the contrary, the current set of fundamental variables are more usually witnessed at the end of cyclical expansions rather than the beginning. With corporate profits being driven primarily by "accounting magic" rather than strongly rising revenue, the sustainability of the current level of corporate profits is in question. Fed actions leave a void in the future that must eventually be filled by organic economic growth. The problem comes when such growth doesn't appear.
It took Virtu's idiot algos some time to process that the lack of BOJ stimulus is not bullish for more BOJ stimulus - something that has been priced in since October and which sent the USDJPY up from 97.000 to 105.000 in a few months, but it finally sank in when BOJ head Kuroda explicitly stated overnight that there is "no need to add stimulus now." That, and the disappointing news from China that the middle kingdom too has no plans for a major stimulus, as we reported last night, were the final straws that forced the USDJPY to lose the tractor-beamed 103.000 "fundamental level", tripping the countless sell stops just below it, and slid 50 pips lower as of this moment to overnight lows at the 102.500 level, in turn dragging US but mostly European equity futures with it, and the Dax was last seen tripping stops below 9400.
The last time global equity markets were falling at this pace (on a growth scare) was the fall of 2011. That time, after a big push lower, November saw a mass co-ordinated easing by central banks to save the world... stock jumped, the global economy spurted into action briefly, and all was well. This time, it's different. The Fed is tapering (and the hurdle to change course is high), the ECB balance sheet is shrinking (and there's nothing but promises), the PBOC tonight said "anyone anticipating additional stimulus would be disappointed," and then the BoJ failed to increase their already-ridiculous QE (ETF purchase) programs. The JPY is strengthening, Asian and US stocks are dropping, CNY is weakening, and gold rising.
Employment is a function of demand by customers on businesses. As opposed to many economists and politicians, businesses do not hire employees to be "good samaritans." While such a utopian concept is fine in theory, the reality is that businesses operate from a "profit motive." The problem is quite clear. With the consumer heavily leveraged, the inability to "spend and borrow" is reducing aggregate demand. As stated, the current level of aggregate demand simply isn't strong enough to offset the rising costs of taxes, benefits and healthcare (a significant consideration due to the onset of the Affordable Care Act) associated with hiring full-time employees. Therefore, businesses initially opt for cost efficient productivity increases, and only hire as necessary to meet marginal increases in customer demand which has come from population growth.
UPDATE: V-shaped recovery in stocks as 103 USDJPY marks line in the sand...
BTFD failed and momentum has broken. Growth stocks and Biotech dreams are lying shattered in a pool of margin calls once again this morning. Nasdaq being dragged by another more-than-1% drop in Biotechs (now negative year-to-date) and nearing the 20% high-to-low drop of a bear market. Bonds are bid as JPY carry unwinds drag broad US equity markets lower... The USD is weaker (led by EUR strength) and precious metals are down modestly (gold at $1300)
In the aftermath of Michael Lewis' book "Flash Boys" there has been a renewed surge in interest in High Frequency Trading. Alas, much of it is conflicted, biased, overly technical or simply wrong. And since we can't assume that all those interested have been followed our 5 year of coverage of a topic that finally has earned its day in the public spotlight, below is a simple summary for everyone.
No Yen carry levitation overnight and, naturally, no Spoo levitation, with the futures struggling following the Nikkei's -1.7% drubbing (pushing it back to nearly -10% on the year) and down well from Friday's closing print. Risk averse sentiment following on from lower close on Wall Street on Friday, NASDAQ 100 (-2.7%) marked the worst session since 2011 dominated the price action in Asia, with JGBs up 32 ticks and the Nikkei 225 index (-1.7%). The Shanghai Composite was closed for a market holiday. Overall, stocks in Europe have recovered off lows but remain in negative territory (Eurostoxx50 -0.64%), with tech sector under performing in a continuation of sector weakness seen in the US and Asia, however Bunds remained under pressure as speculation of QE by ECB continued to undermine demand for core EU bonds. No major tier 1 releases scheduled for rest of the session, with focus likely turning to any policy related comments from ECB’s Weidmann, Constancio and Fed’s Bullard.
Dispassionate big picture overview.
Today’s nonfarm payrolls release is expected to show a "spring" renaissance of labor market activity that was weighed on by "adverse weather" during the winter months (Exp. 200K, range low 150K - high 275K, Prev. 175K). Markets have been fairly lackluster overnight ahead of non-farm payrolls with volumes generally on the low side. The USD and USTs are fairly steady and there are some subdued moves the Nikkei (-0.1%) and HSCEI (+0.1%). S&P500 futures are up modestly, just over 0.1%, courtesy of the traditional overnight, low volume levitation. In China, the banking regulator is reported to have issued a guideline in March to commercial banks, requiring them to better manage outstanding non-performing loans this year. Peripheral EU bonds continued to benefit from dovish ECB threats at the expense of core EU paper, with Bunds under pressure since the open, while stocks in Europe advanced on prospect of more easing (Eurostoxx 50 +0.14%). And in a confirmation how broken centrally-planned markets are, Italian 2 Year bonds high a record low yield, while Spanish 5 Year bonds yield dropped below US for the first time since 2007... or the last time the credit risk was priced to perfection.
Despite Draghi's explanation that a QE program in Europe (due to the greater extent of bank lending vs capital market financing) would not be "as efficient" as the Fed's program, his comment that:
*DRAGHI SAYS COUNCIL WILL REFLECT HARD ON DESIGN OF QE
Has provided just enough "hope" juice to drive the EUR lower and ramp bond and stock prices across Europe (for now). We will have to see what the half-life of this jawboning is. Of course, the EUR selling is USD buying and that is pumping USDJPY higher - and therefore a pre-open pump in US equities.